Nothing But Zeroes

In 2013, the Washington Post accessed a collection of secret US and Pakistani documents that chronicled the use of US drones in Pakistan. Managed by the CIA, this drone program has embraced what are called “signature strikes.” In these instances, targets are approved “based on patterns of suspicious behavior detected from drone surveillance cameras,” and strikes are ordered “even when the identities of those to be killed weren’t known.”

You may think this means the CIA doesn’t even know whom it is killing in these strikes. Not to worry. While they might not be certain whom they are killing, they are very certain whom they are not killing: civilians. That’s right. As the article suggests, “the CIA expresses remarkable confidence in its accuracy, repeatedly ruling out the possibility that any civilians were killed.” And the White House appears to share the CIA’s generally optimistic and upbeat interpretation of the program’s success. In a 2011 speech, one of Obama’s most trusted advisors assured his audience that “not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes.”

A final authoritative reassurance of the essential benignity of the drone strikes emerges from that collection of secret documents unearthed by the Post. These classified memos include tables for recording the deaths and injuries resulting from drone strikes. In a testament to the accuracy and integrity of the drone program, “Lengthy columns with spaces to record civilian deaths or injuries contain nothing but zeroes.”

Yeah. Nothing but zeroes.

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