US Drone Strikes ‘Counterproductive’ and ‘Negatively Impacting Civilians’, Says NYU, Stanford Report

US drone strikes are causing “considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians” in Pakistan, according to a detailed and carefully researched report by the human rights clinics at New York University and Stanford Law School released today.

“A significant rethinking of current US targeted killing and drone strike policies is long overdue,” write the report’s authors, Sarah Knuckey of NYU and James Cavallero of Stanford University. “US policy-makers, and the American public, cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of US targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan.”

The report documents the rarely reported 474-881 civilian casualties of drone strikes and show that the constant threat of drone strikes “terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under armed drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves.” They also demonstrate that this fear has a chilling humanitarian impact, as is “makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims.”

Those in favor of drone strikes say such armed remotely piloted vehicles benefit US security interests, by projecting American power without having to deploy troops. But the NYU/Stanford report questions this conventional wisdom, arguing that the evidence that drone strikes “have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best.” Indeed, they have “undermined US-Pakistani rel­ations” and “facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups.”

Finally, the authors believe drone strikes undermine and corrode the rule of international humanitarian and human rights law, legitimizing practices of targeted assassinations.

Drones and military robots pose a fundamental challenge to our notions of accountability, responsibility and justice in war. They are part of a broader and long-term trend toward alienate the act of killing from direct control by human beings — through technology — and the ‘public body’ — through outsourcing military functions. Military technophiles will tell you this is ‘inevitable’, but technological development is never a straightforward, inevitable process. It is contingent, changing and always shaped by human societies. As with chemical weapons, biological weapons, landmines and cluster munitions, societies can develop norms that constrain and restrict the ways they use military technologies to mitigate and control their humanitarian impact.

There is an emerging civil society coalition of faith groups, advocacy organizations, media professionals, privacy activists and disarmament campaigners who are trying to raise awareness of the social, political, legal and economic implications of drone proliferation. CODEPINK has played a particularly important role in this campaign; their co-founder Medea Benjamin has written an important book on “the growing menace of drone warfare.”

For further information on the humanitarian impact of military drones, click here. For more details on efforts to control robotic and remotely-controlled weapons more generally, click here.

~ by Matthew Bolton on 25 September 2012.

3 Responses to “US Drone Strikes ‘Counterproductive’ and ‘Negatively Impacting Civilians’, Says NYU, Stanford Report”

  1. […] a few days after Stanford and NYU Human Rights Law Clinics issued a report condemning the humanitarian consequences o…, Columbia University’s Law School and Center for Civilians in Conflict has issued another […]

  2. […] editorial comes just days after reports from three influential law schools — Columbia, NYU and Stanford – raised serious reservations about the civilian impact of drone strikes. (For an earlier blog […]

  3. […] are more troubling. Just in the last few days three influential law schools — Columbia, NYU and Stanford — raised serious reservations about the civilian impact of drone strikes. (For an earlier […]

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