How Many Innocent Civilians Are Killed By Drones Every Month?

More civilians are being killed by drones than ever before. Often, we don’t see the faces or know the names of the dead. Neither do the drone operators. Which is why many have stopped caring about “the casualties of war.” Because we have simply accepted that innocent people will die in war. Or agree that terrorists are to blame for hiding among civilian populations–as if innocent people should be blamed for living in conflict. 

No matter what the argument, drones that kill extremists also destroy families, homes, and innocent lives. Here’s the data:

Under President Obama, a report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reported 473 strikes that killed 2,372 and 2,581 combatants and between 63 and 116 noncombatants. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Obama admitted that “targeted strikes” killed 4,189 persons, of which an estimated 474 were civilians. 

That number is way too low.

An earlier story reported that nearly 90 percent of people killed in drone strikes were not the target.

Under President Trump, more drones are used to hunt down ISIS. Which mean more civilians have been injured or died. Since he took office, the monthly rate of drone strikes has increased by almost four times than Obama’s average.

In a new report by the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, the U.S. government has only reported 20 percent of the total strikes. And only admitted to killing between 2,867 and 3,138 people in countries like Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.

This is not just data. These numbers are real people who have died unjustly. 

A story by the Intercept concluded that strikes that kill innocent people, including bystanders that have no existing links to alleged terrorist groups, is “one of the reasons driving the local people to join Al-Qaeda.” 

We know what this means: more anger + resentment = terrorist recruitment.



As of July 13, over 2,200 civilians have died, according to Airwars, an independent military tracking organization. If that pace continues, according to analysis by Think Progress, “the number will easily surpass the total number killed during the entirety of former President Obama’s tenure, under whom 2,300 civilians died between 2014 and 2016”–a number that is likely inaccurate and too low. But if you believe the data given, then here’s the shocking news:

While approximately 80 civilians died per month under Obama, that number is closer to 360 under Trump–a dramatic rise which comes as U.S. military involvement in both Iraq and Syria increases.” (Think Progress)

Trump’s aggressive bombing strategy justifies civilian deaths. It’s just a fact of life, said Secretary of Defense James Mattis in May. 

In my time as a U.S. military instructor, I know that officers do not intentionally kill anyone other than a combatant (i.e., violent extremist). I know officers who have risked their lives to save civilians from danger and deadly bombs. They are the heroes of war. But that’s not what the Muslim world sees.

To the Muslim family who experiences death by drones, there is rage and resentment. That animosity can compel some to turn to terrorism for revenge. Which is what one Muslim man did when he entered the United States and found the drone operator, who killed his wife and daughter–the innocent civilians–in a drone strike in northern Pakistan. I watched this horrific scene play out in a movie called “The Drone” by director Jason Bourque

This isn’t just any movie. The story reveals the impact of targeted strikes on innocent people. In this case, a Pakistani family is destroyed. The character, Khan, expresses his immense grief at losing the love of his life and the sheer hopelessness that follows. He has nothing to live for. No reason to go on. And thus, as the story unfolds, he enters the home of a Canadian contractor who fired the missile–Khan hacked into NSA sites to locate the man behind the strike, and when he finds him, he threatens to kill his family with a suicide bomb. 

The story ends unexpectedly. 

The point is we don’t see the faces of civilians killed in drone strikes. The numbers of dead civilians reported are numbers only. The sad truth is if we don’t see the dead, we are devoid of human emotion. And that’s the point of drones:

The stealth weapon fails to report lives lost.

As a citizen, wouldn’t you want to know? Isn’t it time we pay tribute to the victims of conflict?  

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