LIFE AND DEATH UNDER DRONES: To live under the threat of US drone strikes is to live in terror. Communities are rendered helpless. Parents keep children home from school out of fear. Anywhere from 474 to 884 civilians have been killed by drones, and more than 1,000 have been injured. Only 2 percent of those killed are high-level militants; the rest are low-level fighters or civilians.
These are the findings of a new report from Stanford University Law School and the NYU School of Law. Titled “Living Under Drones” and based on more than 130 interviews with “victims and witnesses of drone activity,” the report concludes that the harm from drones goes “beyond death and physical injury…. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.”
Some have criticized the report’s methodology, saying the sample size is too small and criticizing the researchers for not conducting interviews in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In fact, the subjects are FATA residents who were interviewed outside the region for security reasons. Co-author Mohammad M. Ali explained that entering FATA would have required being “embedded with a Pakistani military unit,” which the authors decided against to preserve their independence.
The report shines a light on the dangerous implications of the drone program. Rather than quelling terrorism, the drone strikes anger Pakistanis, potentially inspiring new terror recruits. And since the strikes are carried out without congressional or UN approval, they make war easier to wage. As co-author Omar Shakir points out, “Because it’s cheaper, doesn’t involve US personnel, and doesn’t involve the same kind of legal approvals, drones make the recourse to force a more attractive option when other options are available.”
The full report can be found at livingunderdrones.org. ADAM HUDSON
REMEMBERING BARRY COMMONER: Once described by Time as the “Paul Revere of Ecology,” Barry Commoner, who died on September 30, followed Rachel Carson as America’s most famed modern environmentalist. But unlike Carson, Commoner viewed the environmental crisis as a symptom of a fundamentally flawed economic and social system. A biologist and research scientist, he argued that corporate greed, misguided government priorities and the misuse of technology undermined “the finely sculptured fit between life and its surroundings.”
Commoner insisted that scientists had an obligation to make information accessible to the public. Citizens, he said, have a right to know the health hazards of the consumer products and technology they use every day. Those were radical ideas in the 1950s and ’60s, when Americans were mesmerized by the seemingly infinite potential of cars, plastics, chemical sprays and atomic energy.