Law school teacher Marjorie Cohn – president of the National Lawyers Guild – writes:
“Obama has killed more people with drones than died on 9/11. Many of those killed were civilians, and only a tiny percentage of the dead were al-Qaeda or Taliban leaders.”
She may be right …
The Council on Foreign Relations estimates that U.S. drone strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan have killed 3,674 people.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that up to 4,404 people have been killed – just in Pakistan and Yemen alone – between 2004 and 2014.
While it’s hard to estimate how many additional people have been killed by drone in Iraq and Afghanistan, a December 2012 report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that US and UK forces had carried out over 1,000 drone strikes in Afghanistan over the previous five years. Given that numerous people are often killed by each drone strike, it is reasonable to assume that several thousand people have been killed by drone in that country.
And many Iraqis have also been killed by drones … long before ISIS even appeared on the scene. So – altogether – the number of people killed by drone is probably well above five thousand.
In contrast, under 3,000 people were killed on 9/11.
But aren’t drone strikes targeted attacks on terrorists … unlike 9/11, which was an attack on civilians?
Unfortunately, no …
The West is intentionally targeting farmers, small-time drug dealers and very low-level Taliban memberswith drone assassination.
And the process for deciding who to put on the “kill list” is flawed. People are often targeted by the metadata on their phones, a process which a former top NSA official called the drone assassination program “undisciplined slaughter.”
Compare that to the number of beheadings by terrorists, or better yet to the number of heads that roll at the hands of one of America's favorite allies; Saudi Arabia.
According to Amnesty International at least 79 people were executed in Saudi Arabia in 2013 and between 1 January and 18 August this year 34 more people were executed, making a total of 113. This does not include any estimates for executions at the end of 2012.
Most of these beheadings are carried out as public executions at the notorious ‘Chop-Chop Square’ in Riyadh for crimes such as blasphemy, drug smuggling, sedition and ‘sorcery’, although for certain crimes such as adultery, the authorities may order death by stoning.
There were reports of a surge in beheadings in Saudi Arabia in August, with 19 people executed in just the first half of the month.
While, correctly, condemning the murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff as ‘despicable and barbaric‘, these statistics do raise the question why Britain and the US appear willing to turn a blind eye when one of their supposed allies uses the same method on a regular basis.