Obama Report Covered Up Civilian Drone Deaths
January 23, 2017
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Gregory Korte / USA TODAY
The Obama Administration made a habit of dramatically underreporting civilian deaths in its assorted military operations around the world, but the Obama White House took things to a whole new level in its last such document, claiming that only one civilian had been killed in US drone strikes "worldwide" in all of 2016.
Obama's Drone Report Omits Civilians Slain in Iraq, Afghanistan
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 19, 2017) -- The Obama Administration has made a habit of dramatically underreporting civilian deaths in its assorted military operations around the world, but took things to a whole new level in what will presumably be their last such document, claiming only one civilian killed all year in US drone strikes "worldwide."
The report, which Obama requires by executive order, nominally for the sake of transparency, claims a massive decrease from the number of civilians killed the year prior in drone strikes, and managed to achieve this by deliberately excluding the overwhelming majority of the US drone strikes carried out in 2016 from the report's definition of "worldwide." Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are not counted.
The brief report insists any information to contradict the one civilian dead claim is "propaganda," and insists that no reputable NGO is actually disputing the US assessment in this regard. Of course, no reputable NGO would exclude the places where the US is conducting the most drone strikes from a report on US drone strikes.
There are numerous reports that point to how much higher the real number is, however. In April, a US drone killed 17 civilians in Afghanistan's Paktika Province, and killed another 13 in Nangarhar Province in September.
The most recent incident was in mid-December, when a US drone participating in Iraq's invasion of the city of Mosul destroyed a house full of civilians, killing a family of nine.
These of course are all just a fraction of the hundreds of civilians killed in US airstrikes over the course of 2016, but in many cases it remains uncertain if the strike was a drone or a manned aircraft, and similar systematic under-reporting of deaths by Centcom makes such determinations all but impossible.
Drone Strikes Killed One Civilian in 2016,
Obama Administration Says
Gregory Korte / USA TODAY
WASHINGTON (January 19, 2017) -- US forces conducted 53 drone strikes against terrorists last year, killing at least 431 enemy combatants and one civilian, according to an intelligence community report released Thursday night.
The annual report was required by President Obama's executive order signed last year, and comes just hours before the end of his term. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to rescind many of Obama's executive orders, so the release of the report appeared timed to get it out before the inauguration on Friday.
One US official, who requested anonymity in order to speak on a sensitive political matter, said the White House called intelligence agencies Thursday to push out the report, saying if it wasn't released now it may never be.
Most of the White House press office had left the administration by Thursday and could not be reached for comment.
The new numbers demonstrate that Obama has ordered at least 526 drone strikes during his presidency -- 10 times more than President George W. Bush, according to estimates by non-government organizations.
The 2016 report was more specific than the one released last year, which covered seven years and estimated 64 to 116 civilian casualties in 473 drone strikes. Those numbers were greeted skeptically by human rights organizations, which estimated 200 to 1,000 civilian casualties.
The Center for Civilians in Conflict said it was disappointed that the report wasn't more detailed, and noted that it falls well short of numbers reported by most independent observers. "They know, better than anybody, how many civilians are actually killed, and it's important for official figures to match reality," said the center's executive director, Federico Borello.
But he applauded the Obama administration for a step toward transparency and said he hoped the Trump administration will continue those efforts.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the report, acknowledged Thursday that there are "differences" between governmental and non-governmental numbers. And the report contained this caveat:
"The 2016 figures released today should be considered in light of the inherent limitations on the ability to determine the precise number of combatant and non-combatant deaths given the non-permissive environments in which these strikes often occur."
The numbers also do not include airstrikes in combat zones, which include Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
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