At least 27 people have been killed in three consecutive days of U.S.
drone strikes inside Pakistan. More than half of the victims, more than
half of them—15 people—were killed Monday when U.S. missiles hit a
village in North Waziristan. The attacks bring to at least seven the
number of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan over the past two weeks. U.S.
and Pakistani officials say militants were targeted, but it’s unclear if
any civilians were killed. Monday’s strike targeted al-Qaeda’s
second-in-command, Abu Yahya al-Libi, but officials have been unable to
confirm whether he was among those hit. Pakistani officials condemned
the attacks, with the foreign ministry saying—describing the drone
strikes as, quote, "illegal attacks" on Pakistani sovereignty.
The surge in drone strikes comes just a week after the New York Times
revealed President Obama personally oversees a "secret kill list"
containing the names and photos of individuals targeted for
assassination in the U.S. drone war. ABC’s Jake Tapper and White House
spokesperson Jay Carney had an exchange about the so-called "kill list"
following the publication of the New York Timesexposé.
You know, you have a unique situation in Wisconsin where, you know, the
event—the election is a result of a recall petition, but the president
absolutely stands by Tom Barrett and, you know, hopes he prevails.
White House spokesperson Jay Carney responding to questions from ABC’s
Jake Tapper. Well, to find out more about the implications of the
increase in drone attacks, we go to London to talk to Chris Woods,
award-winning reporter with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in
London. He leads the Bureau’s drones investigation team.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Chris. Can you tell us what’s been happening in Pakistan, what you understand?
The last two weeks, as you mentioned, Amy, has seen a really
significant rise in the number of U.S. drone strikes taking place in
Pakistan. We have that number at eight, I think, since May 24th. That
compares to 16 strikes in the entire period from January through May, so
it gives you an idea of how rapidly those drone strikes have again
escalated inside Pakistan. Most of those strikes appear to have been
targeting not al-Qaeda, but groups allied to the Afghan Taliban fighting
the insurgency across the border. A number of those strikes have
targeted infrastructure that is, shall we say, unusual. We saw a mosque
hit a couple of days ago. That was widely reported. On Sunday, funeral
prayers for a victim of a previous drone strike were attacked by U.S.
drones. And there have been two reports—we’re trying to get more
information on these—of possible strikes on rescuers attending the scene
of previous CIA attacks. As I say, that’s
something we’re still trying to confirm. But it does indicate not just a
significant rise in the number of CIA strikes in Pakistan, but an aggression for those strikes that we really haven’t seen for over a year.
AMYGOODMAN: I want to go back to the correct SOT,
the correct clip of ABC’s Jake Tapper questioning White House
spokesperson Jay Carney, Jay Carney responding to his questions after
the New York Times revealed the so-called "kill list."
I don’t have the assessments of civilian casualties. I’m certainly not
saying that we live in a world where the effort in a fight against
al-Qaeda, against people who would, without compunction, murder tens of
thousands, if not millions, of innocents—
JAKETAPPER: No, no, I’m talking about the innocent people that the United States kills.
PRESSSECRETARYJAYCARNEY: No, no, no. No, but let me say—
With the assumption that if you are with a terrorist when a terrorist
gets killed, the presumption is that you are a terrorist, as well, and
even if we don’t even know who you are, right? Isn’t that part of the
reason you’re able to make these assertions?
PRESSSECRETARYJAYCARNEY: I don’t—I am not going to get into the specifics of the process by which, you know, these decisions are made.
AMYGOODMAN: Chris Woods, your response?
CHRISWOODS: I think Jake raised a really important point at that White House press briefing. The New York Times
has made clear that the U.S. seems to be following a policy where all
adult males in Waziristan would appear to be fair game. Now, they’ve
indicated through that article and through other means that so-called
terrorists who are being killed in CIA
signature strikes can posthumously be reclassified as civilians. We’re
not even seeing evidence of that. Almost a year ago, the Bureau
presented to the CIA the names of 45 civilians
we were sure that they had killed in Pakistan over the previous year.
To my knowledge, they’ve never acted on that information and continue to
assert that all of those people that they’ve killed were civilians. And
in fact, in that New York Times piece last week, I think U.S.
officials are still claiming that the number of civilians that have died
in Pakistan during President Obama’s time in office is in the single
digits, is under 10. Now, it’s our understanding that perhaps 200
civilians have died in Pakistan, including at least 60 children. So the
gulf between the media’s understanding and researchers’ understanding of
what’s taking place in Pakistan and what the CIA and the White House continue to claim is actually growing bigger, not smaller.
Can you talk about the difference in reaction in Britain and the United
States? I mean, was this big headlines, what has come out in the United
States? It’s not really known very much in the—among the general
population, but it was a big story in the New York Times about the kill list.
The kill list got really heavy coverage here. And I think what’s
interesting is that it’s not a classic left-right issue. Right-wing
newspapers, left-wing newspapers have all expressed significant concern
about the existence of the kill list, the idea of this level of
executive power. And I think also questions are starting to be asked
here now, because the U.K. is a partner with the U.S. in its drones
program. U.K. drones pilots sit alongside U.S. pilots and navigators at
Creech in Nevada.
And I think some here are now saying, "Well, have the British adopted
this definition of 'civilian'?" The U.K. has claimed very low numbers
of civilians killed in its conventional drone strikes in Afghanistan.
And I think that is something that we want to start looking at here in
the U.K. Has this creeping redefinition of "civilian" crept [inaudible]
into major operations outside of Pakistan and Yemen? And I think that’s
something we’re going to be taking a good look at in the next few weeks.
AMYGOODMAN: Appearing on MSNBC over the weekend, Democracy Now! correspondent, The Nation’s
national security correspondent, Jeremy Scahill, caused a stir when he
said drone strikes that kill innocent civilians amount "murder." This is
where Jeremy explains why. Another guest, Colonel Jack Jacobs, briefly
If someone goes into a shopping mall in pursuit of one of their enemies
and opens fire on a crowd of people and guns down a bunch of innocent
people in a shopping mall, they’ve murdered those people. When the Obama
administration sets a policy where patterns of life are enough of a
green light to drop missiles on people or to use—you know, to send in
AC-130s to spray them down—
COL. JACKJACOBS: But that wasn’t the case here. You’re talking about a targeted person here.
No, no, no, no, no. That’s not—if you go to the village of al-Majalah
in Yemen, where I was, and you see the unexploded cluster bombs, and you
have the list and photographic evidence, as I do, of the women and
children that represented the vast majority of the deaths in this first
strike that Obama authorized on Yemen, those people were murdered by
President Obama, on his orders, because there was believed to be someone
from al-Qaeda in that area. There’s only one person that’s been
identified that had any connection to al-Qaeda there, and 21 women and
14 children were killed in that strike. And the U.S. tried to cover it
up and say it was a Yemeni strike. And we know from the WikiLeaks cables
that David Petraeus conspired with the president of Yemen to lie to the
world about who did that bombing. It’s murder, when you—it’s mass
murder, when you say, "We are going to bomb this area because we believe
a terrorist is there," and you know that women and children are in the
area. The United States has an obligation to not bomb that area if they
believe that women and children are there. That—I’m sorry, that’s
AMYGOODMAN: That was Jeremy Scahill on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes. Chris Woods, your response? Would you call it murder?
I think Jeremy’s strong words indicate a really—a rising concern,
particularly about these signature strikes being carried out by the CIA
and the Pentagon in Somalia, in Yemen and in Pakistan. And it’s not
just Jeremy who’s speaking out about this. We’ve had Michael Hayden,
former director of the CIA, who introduced drone strikes; Robert Grenier, former head of the Counterterrorism Center at CIA
when the drone strikes began; and Dennis Blair, who is the former
director of national intelligence for the United States. All three of
these very central characters have all made strong noises in the last
few weeks, saying, "We are concerned about this policy. We’re worried
that it’s getting out of control. We’re worried that it’s not achieving
what it’s supposed to be doing and may actually be making matters
And I think the Washington Post, just last week, very
powerful article built on investigations on the ground by their African
editor showing that drone strikes in Yemen are actually leading to an
increase in support of al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, everybody at the White
House and the CIA seems to be singing from the
same hymn sheet here. There is no voice of criticism that we’re aware
of challenging this narrative that’s driving events in Washington. And
the concern is that this is pushing America into a position that is
going to make its efforts to fight terrorism worse rather than better.
AMYGOODMAN: Chris Woods, can you talk more about the redefinition of "civilians" outlined in the New York Times
piece, President Obama embracing this disputed measure of counting
civilian casualties, in effect counting all military-age males in a
strike zone as combatants?
This revelation really is extraordinary, that any adult male killed in
effectively a defined kill zone is a terrorist, unless posthumously
proven otherwise. We think this goes a long way to explaining the gulf
between our reporting of civilian casualties in Pakistan and Yemen and
the reporting of credible international news organizations, and the
CIA’s repeated claims that it isn’t killing anyone, or rather, is
killing small numbers.
There’s still a big issue now, though. In Pakistan, we believe 175 children have been killed by the CIA
since 2004. We’ve named most of those children. Now, clearly, they fall
completely outside this definition of an adult male in a combat zone,
and yet the CIA is still saying it’s killed 50
or maybe 60 civilians across the entire period. Many women, too, have
died, and we’ve reported on that and, where possible, tried to report
the names. So, this suggestion that the definition of "civilian" has
been really radically tightened up, I still don’t think is explaining
why the CIA is not classifying people who are clearly civilians as such.
And I think it has profound implications in terms of U.S. policy,
because if you keep assuring yourself that you’re not killing civilians,
by a sleight of hand, effectively, by a redrafting of the term of
"civilian," then that starts to influence the policy and to encourage
you to carry out more drone strikes. You might be getting tactical
advantage from that, but strategically, whether this is in the long-term
interests of the United States, when you have the people of Pakistan
and Yemen expressing significant anger and concern about U.S. policy, I
think that’s a critical point.
Chris Woods, I want to thank you for being with us, award-winning
reporter with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, leading
the Bureau’s drones investigation team. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.