I’m not sure how many of you caught the segment last Friday on the Dylan Ratigan show on MSNBC featuring Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a 25 year army veteran and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Task Force STRATUS IVY and Georgetown University professor Christine Fair of the Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS). The two were discussing the alleged failed Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad and potential connections to the Taliban in Pakistan. In the discussion, Lt. Col. Shaffer raised the issue of US drone strikes against Pakistan, which Shahzad reportedly has said were part of his motivation for the attempted bombing. "The Taliban are more motivated than ever to come at us," said Shaffer, saying that "the Predator program is having the same effect in Afghanistan two years ago in killing innocents" that it is now having in Pakistan.
Professor Fair, who has also worked for the RAND Corporation and as a political officer to the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul, acted dumbfounded at the idea that the US drone strikes kill any civilians. "I take extreme exception top the way my colleague characterized the drones," Fair said. "Actually the drones are not killing innocent civilians. Many of those reports are coming from deeply unreliable and dubious Pakistani press reports, which no one takes credibly on any other issue except for some reason on this issue. There’ve actually been a number of surveys on the ground, in FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas]. The residents of FATA generally welcome the drone strikes because they know actually who’s being killed. They’re very much aware and who’s being killed and who’s not."
Here is video of the segment:
Some estimates, most of which are indeed Pakistani sources, suggest that the vast majority of Pakistanis killed are civilians. In an Op-Ed for The New York Times last year, David Kilcullen and Andrew Exum, called for a moratorium on the strikes, saying they had "killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent." They relied on "Pakistani sources," which are apparently offensive to Professor Fair. But Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation recently did a meticulous review of the strikes, citing the following methodology:
"Our analysis of the drone campaign is based only on accounts from reliable media organizations with substantial reporting capabilities in Pakistan. We restricted our analysis to reports in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, accounts by major news services and networks–the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, CNN, and the BBC–and reports in the leading English-language newspapers in Pakistan–The Daily Times, Dawn, and The News–as well as those from Geo TV, the largest independent Pakistani television network."
Bergen and Tiedemann concluded that "the real total of civilian deaths since 2006 appears to be in the range of 250 to 320, or between 31 and 33 percent." They concluded that under President Obama, who has used the drones with much greater frequency than Bush, "about a quarter [of drone-inflicted deaths] appear to have been civilians."
I expect that Professor Fair, if confronted on this, will have to retract her definitive statement "the drones are not killing innocent civilians." It just simply is false.