Human rights organizations said that the United States has carried out unlawful killings in Pakistan and Yemen through drone attacks, some of which could even be equal to war crimes. The White House rejected the claims saying the U.S. government took "extraordinary care" to avoid civilian casualties.
Amnesty International documented recent strikes in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal areas and shed light on “the almost complete absence” of transparency around the U.S. drone program and civilian death toll. Human Rights Watch (HRW) strongly condemned the targeted bombings by unmanned aircrafts against alleged terrorists in Yemen saying they were promoting anti-Americanism in the region due to high number of civilian deaths.
“Secrecy surrounding the drones program gives the US administration a license to kill beyond the reach of the courts or basic standards of international law. It’s time for the USA to come clean about the drones program and hold those responsible for these violations to account,” Amnesty Int. cited in its report on Pakistan drone attacks on Tuesday.
HRW reinforced the same point in their separate investigative analysis with reference to Yemen.
“The US says it is taking all possible precautions during targeted killings, but it has unlawfully killed civilians and struck questionable military targets in Yemen.”
White House spokesperson Jay Carney said the U.S. government “strongly disagreed” with the reports that were carefully reviewed.
"The administration has repeatedly emphasized the extraordinary care that we take to make sure counter-terrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable law," Carney said.
Somehow the Obama administration is choosing to avoid the reality of drone strikes killing innocent citizens – a reality that has been mentioned by human rights organizations countless times.. It has been reiterated time and again by the United Nations as well.
Earlier this year in March, a U.N. human rights investigator said the United States violated Pakistan's sovereignty and traumatized residents of tribal areas with unmanned drone strikes in its counterterrorism operations near the Afghan border.
Drones target people who are not identified but merely “fit in” with the signature style of a terrorist. Loss of life occurs at the click of a button. Technology-driven airstrikes have minimized the trauma. The sense of guilt that comes with killing a person is missing. That’s why even a high number of civilian deaths are completely and utterly disregarded as “collateral damage” by the U.S. government and forces.
It’s not only the deaths of innocent people who get killed. It’s also the psychological distress, the paranoia that is the result of these drone bombings. The New York Times reported that Miram Shah, a northern Pakistani town has become a “virtual test laboratory for drone warfare.”
Residents in that region are victims of both militants and predator drones looming over their roofs. One shopkeeper told NYT that drones for him and other locals were like angels of death.
“Only they know when and where they will strike,” he said.
Miram Shah reportedly witnessed at least thirteen drone strikes since 2008, with an additional 25 in adjoining districts.
The same situation exists in Yemen. Given al-Qaeda’s presence in the country, Yemen has also been a key target for US drones. Only in August, around twelve separate drone attacks reportedly killed 49 people in Yemen, with locals saying the majority of the victims were civilians.
There is a bulk of reports on drones, other than human rights organizations, that suggest how drones are causing more civilian deaths than finishing off terrorists.
Getting rid of extremists and militants is certainly important in the fight against terrorism. However, steps have to be taken by the governments of Pakistan and Yemen and U.S. to avoid loss of innocent life.