A new study by law professors at Stanford and New York University found that drones strikes have killed far more civilians in Pakistan than the U.S. has acknowledged and that the program has a "damaging and counterproductive effect." The crux of the study released on Tuesday, entitled "Living Under Drones", was interviews with 130 civilians and 69 survivors in the region of northern Pakistan where drone strikes occur. They found that interviewees have been traumatized by the drone strikes and that "real people are suffering real harm," according to one of the study's authors. The Los Angeles Times's David Zucchino adds, "The Obama administration has championed the use of remotely-operated drones for killing senior Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders, but the study concludes that only about 2% of drone casualties are top militant leaders."
One of the more disturbing facets of this study is the fact that the estimates of civilian deaths vary so wildly that it seems like blind guessing would yield a more accurate number. Estimates range from 474 to 884 civilian deaths since 2004 according to one organization, while another says 138 since 2006. And the idea of drones killing civilians and fueling anti-American sentiment among Pakistanis obviously resonates in the wake of the recent anti-American protests spurred by the incendiary anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims. "Living Under Drones" also links up with a study by the Pew Research Center from June which found that 74 percent of Pakistanis considered the U.S. an "enemy."
We've mentioned the criticism that the Obama administration has faced in the past year about the lack of clarity and thoroughness when it comes to the ever-expanding drone program, and The Huffington Post's Joshua Hersh writes that this new study adds to "the growing body of literature that argues, contrary to Obama administration claims, that numerous civilians have been killed, and many more traumatized, by the drone strike program." The CIA and Tommy Vietor, as Zucchino reports, declined to comment.