Three Troubling Lessons from the Latest U.S. Drone Strikes

The ‘Forever War’ continues in Pakistan and Yemen even as public focus shifts to Iraq

As the deteriorating security situation in Iraq once again dominates headlines in the U.S., America’s dirty wars in the Middle East and South Asia continue with no sign of abating. Last week, the United States carried out one drone strike in Yemen and two in Pakistan, killing an estimated total of between 15 and 22 people, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an organization that tracks drone strikes closely. All of the dead were reported to be militants; human rights advocates note, however, that such claims are often discovered to be inaccurate or misleading following further investigation.


The attacks received relatively scant media attention compared to the worsening violence in Iraq. But despite President Obama’s rhetoric that “this war, like all wars, must end,” there seems to be no end in sight in the often-amorphous war on terrorism. Some observers have christened this ongoing conflict the “Forever War.” In a recent hearing, a top Pentagon lawyer reiterated that the list of organizations the U.S. considers itself at war with is classified.


The two strikes in Pakistan were the first of 2014, breaking a nearly six-month pause in the CIA’s drone campaign there. As Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations noted in a recent blog post, June 17th, 2014 marks 10 years of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. “Never before in U.S. history has such a lengthy and lethal military campaign been so inadequately described or justified by the government, which retains the fiction that these strikes are ‘covert’ and unworthy of public examination,” wrote Zenko.

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