By Keith Johnson
Obama recently defended his controversial “drone campaign” in Pakistan as a “targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists,” adding that it “has not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.” Now, a shocking new report not only disputes that claim, but also reveals that the CIA has been using drones to deliberately target civilians, including rescuers and mourners at funerals.
Since Obama took office in 2009, “between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed, including more than 60 children,” writes Chris Woods of the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. “A three-month investigation including eyewitness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up [drone] strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.”
Woods claims that the highest single civilian death toll occurred in South Waziristan, a mountainous region of northwest Pakistan,on the afternoon of June 23, 2009, during a funeral for Khwaz Wali Mehsud, a mid-ranking Taliban member whom the CIA had killed earlier in the day. According to the report: “They planned to use his body as bait to hook a larger fish—Baitullah Mehsud, then the notorious leader of the Pakistan Taliban.”
Eyewitness accounts estimate that up to 5,000 people were in attendance that day when the drones returned for a follow-up strike. Mehsud managed to escape unharmed, while up to 83 people were killed. As many as 45 of them were civilians, including 10 children and four tribal leaders. Six weeks later, the CIA killed Mehsud and his wife in an attack.
During a recent interview on Antiwar Radio, Woods told host Scott Horton that his research had found that all of the drone attacks that resulted in the deaths of rescuers and funeral goers occurred in Pakistan between May 2009 and July 2011.
“They seemed to have stopped happening when Leon Panetta stepped down from the CIA,” says Woods. “There was a defined period when these types of drone strikes were acceptable.”
Woods goes on to say he has presented the CIA with the names of approximately 100 Pakistani civilian victims of drone strikes. “You would hope the CIA would look at that and say that they need to start investigating these claims,” says Woods.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, the government responded to Woods’s findings through The New York Times reporter Scott Shane, who wrote on Feb. 4: “A senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, questioned the report’s findings, saying . . . ‘One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions—there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help al Qaeda succeed.’”
In other words, Woods and his organization are helping terrorists by criticizing the CIA for its murder of innocent civilians, in the view of the CIA.
Keith Johnson is an independent journalist and the editor of “Revolt of the Plebs,” an alternative news website that can be found at RevoltofthePlebs.com.