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The Drone Wars

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The Man Behind «Unmanned»

Robert Greenwald, October 19, 2014

I was reading a newspaper story, I’m pretty sure it was in the New York Times, in which somebody was talking about how drone strikes were only killing bad guys. Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles operated by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Activities Division to launch attacks on suspected terrorists primarily in Pakistan but in Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan as well. U.S. drone warfare began in 2002 during the George W. Bush administration but strikes have dramatically increased in number under President Barack Obama. As of August, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimated that the CIA has launched at least 390 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, nearly 90 percent of them on Obama’s watch.

I’m not a military strategist, but I knew from common sense that it was not possible for drone strikes to target terrorists with pinpoint accuracy and avoid killing innocent people. The idea that there was some magical piece of weaponry that was going to solve all of our problems got my antennae up immediately.

While researching the topic, I became aware of a study being done by the Stanford University Law School and New York University School of Law, “Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians From U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan.” The study, released in 2012, presented evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of U.S. drone strike policy. I produced a short video on the study to help reach a different and larger audience than might be reached with a white paper. By then, I had developed a very strong belief that weapons were being used, people were being killed, and we were not being told the full story. I made the decision to go to Pakistan. Eleven months later, Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars was completed.



The War Against the Islamic State: The Challenge of Civilian Casualties. By Anthony H. Cordesman. Jan 8, 2015

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