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It's Time to Challenge the Propaganda Regarding Who is Killed by U. S. Drones

"The public would not be accepting of drones, if they knew how kill decisions are made, and how many innocents are killed in the process."-- Robert Greenwald, Brave New Films
 
 
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Robert Greenwald, head of the progressive internet video and  documentary film  company, Brave New Films, recently traveled to Pakistan, supported financially by hundreds of BNF donors,  to witness first hand the stories of families who have had innocent loved ones killed by U.S. drone attacks.  Greenwald is challenging both the morality and the factual effectiveness of the U.S drone program as we learn more about the failures and questionable policies.  The  U.S. claims that drone missiles are aimed at  potential terrorists but because the ground rules of who can be targeted is both vague and has  been loosened,  the number of innocents being killed has risen sharply. Furthermore, the information that is used to target people, appears to be the result of a system of bribery at the local level, which is of questionable reliability.

It wasn't until April 2012 that John Brennan, White House counter-terrorism adviser admitted for the first time publicly, that our government has been using drones in Pakistan, and later Yemen, to attempt to  kill those  they consider as potential terrorists. This was the first public acknowledgment, despite the fact that the program had been going for at least several years. Still  far more information was withheld in Brennan's  announcement about the  the program, than was revealed.  

As The Washington Post reports: "Brennan’s speech was also noteworthy, however, for what he withheld. He did not disclose how many people have been killed, list all the locations where armed drones are being flown or mention the administration’s increasing reliance on 'signature' strikes, which allow the CIA to fire missiles even when it doesn’t know the identities of those who could be killed."

The CIA runs the drone program and it is shrouded in secrecy, which enables  people like Brennan to  characterize  the program in glowing terms,  which go mainly unchallenged by the media, and contribute to the public assumption that drones are accurate, safe, and taking out the bad guys. Thus  Brennan is able to get away with saying, as reported in the Post : Drones’ capability to linger over targets for days enables unprecedented “surgical precision,” Brennan said, “the ability, with laser-like focus, to eliminate the cancerous tumor called an al-Qaeda terrorist while limiting damage to the tissue around it — that makes this counter-terrorism tool so essential.”  This despite little evidence that active or  powerful elements of Al-Qaeda are operating in the Swat area of Pakistan which has been targeted by drones.

Nevertheless,  increasingly another story is emerging which raises fundamental questions about the wisdom and the morality of our policy vis a vis Pakistan, and Brennan's effort to pretend that the drone program isn't destructive, and hugely alienating to Pakistan.   According to Greenwald, speaking to his staff in a briefing upon his return from Pakistan, people with whom he spoke " said the Drone attacks  were a great recruiting tool for the Taliban, because powerless  people want to fight back for the losses they have suffered, as their communities and  families are attacked.  Many businesses have been destroyed in the Swat area, and schools are empty because everyone is afraid of drone attacks.    

Greenwald explains:  Let's assume for a moment the drones can be technically accurate, although that is questionable. What information are they using to establish their targets? Basically it is a form of bribery, where the CIA gives  former Pakistani military  large sums of money to pass out to sources on the ground in Swat, where  the Taliban are most active. Sometimes, -- and it is impossible to tell how much -- these bribes lead to  the settling of old and  local scores ."

So there is another painful and tragic side to the drone story -- not the one of killing so called "militant targets" but rather the slaughter of innocent civilians, as stories of drone victims have emerged in the Fata area of  Swat where the drones are targeted. 

 
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