The article is clearly biased against the US, as the 4% figure in the headline cherry-picks only known Al Qaeda members against a large population of unknown victims. A more fair number based on these statistics is that 41% of those identified are militants of some sort - 295 out of 704.
The Bureau’s Naming the Dead project has gathered the names and, where possible, the details of people killed by CIA drones in Pakistan since June 2004. On October 11 an attack brought the total number of drone strikes in Pakistan up to 400.
The names of the dead have been collected over a year of research in and outside Pakistan, using a multitude of sources. These include both Pakistani government records leaked to the Bureau, and hundreds of open source reports in English, Pashtun and Urdu.
Naming the Dead has also drawn on field investigations conducted by the Bureau’s researchers in Pakistan and other organisations, including Amnesty International, Reprieve and the Centre for Civilians in Conflict.
Only 704 of the 2,379 dead have been identified, and only 295 of these were reported to be members of some kind of armed group. Few corroborating details were available for those who were just described as militants. More than a third of them were not designated a rank, and almost 30% are not even linked to a specific group. Only 84 are identified as members of al Qaeda – less than 4% of the total number of people killed.
These findings “demonstrate the continuing complete lack of transparency surrounding US drone operations,” said Mustafa Qadri, Pakistan researcher for Amnesty International.
Pakistan drone strike
deaths in numbers
Total killed 2,379 Total named as militants 295 Total named as al Qaeda 84 Total named 704
When asked for a comment on the Bureau’s investigation, US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that strikes were only carried out when there was “near-certainty” that no civilians would be killed.
“The death of innocent civilians is something that the U.S. Government seeks to avoid if at all possible. In those rare instances in which it appears non-combatants may have been killed or injured, after-action reviews have been conducted to determine why, and to ensure that we are taking the most effective steps to minimise such risk to non-combatants in the future,” said Hayden.
The Obama administration’s stated legal justification for such strikes is based partly on the right to self-defence in response to an imminent threat. This has proved controversial as leaked documents show the US believes determining if a terrorist is an imminent threat “does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on US persons and interests will take place in the immediate future.”
The latest comparable numbers from the Gaza war show that 49.8% of those identified (435 out of 874) were militants.
I am not saying that the US is not justified in targeting Taliban and Al Qaeda terrorists with drones. They are. I am saying that given the much larger geographic area being targeted, the lack of the pressures of making split second decisions in an active war environment, and the lack of an imminent threat from most of these terrorists, the US record of accidentally killing civilians is far worse than Israel's.
Which makes any American criticism of Israel's actions in Gaza more than hypocritical.