How many people have been killed by these unmanned aircraft in the Central Intelligence Agency’s strikes in Yemen and Pakistan? How many of the dead identified as “militants” are really civilians? How many are children?
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Britain has estimated that, in the first three years after President Obama took office, between 282 and 535 civilians were credibly reported killed by drone strikes — including more than 60 children. The United States government says the number of civilians killed has been far lower.
Accurate information is hard to come by. The Obama administration and the C.I.A. are secretive about the fast-growing drone program. The strikes in Pakistan are taking place in areas where reporters can’t go, or would be in extreme danger if they did.
The Taliban and Al Qaeda are much worse problems for the Pakistani and Yemeni people than American drone strikes are. But acknowledging that doesn’t answer the moral and ethical questions of this push-button combat conducted without public accountability.
With its vast talent and resources, The Times has a responsibility to lead the way in covering this topic as aggressively and as forcefully as possible, and to keep pushing for transparency so that Americans can understand just what their government is doing.
This is some good journalism.