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Falling Short: An analysis of the reporting of UK drone strikes by the MoD (dronewars.net)
61 points by DyslexicAtheist 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 14 comments

This kinda reminds me of the argument made in Ken Burns Vietnam that the brass tried to "measure success" of the war by body count and that created a perverse incentive to manufacture body count. And by argument I don't mean the series as a whole but it was a thought brought up in one or more of the episodes.

Not sure where i ran into the claim (may have been the Oliver Stones series), but it went something like this:

While on patrol one of the soldiers shoots a elderly woman holding a bicycle in a village. By the time the report reached the DC it had become an ageless, genderless, Vietcong with a grenade.

I tried to watch his "Untold History of the United States" and it felt like some of it was taken out of context or attributing malice where naivety, incompetence or insufficient information would be a more plausible explanation. Can't think of any specific examples. Just what I remember from watching it before stopping.

The dead and their mourners can't tell the difference between malice and incompetence. Why does it matter?

I don't believe in consequentialism. Intent is more important imo. Not to say the consequence isn't important it is just I don't think it should be the only thing taken into account.

Edit: I was responding below to the original title of the post, which is was "Civilians have been 'airbrushed' out of reporting by the UK on its drone strikes (dronewars.net)." It has since been changed to match the title of the OP.

The "airbrushed" language seems misleading to me. The connotations are of a coverup or deliberate post-facto erasure (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Censorship_of_images_in_the_So...). What the OP describes seems to be more like an issue of insufficiently standardized reports. This is clear as the recommendation it gives to address the "airbrushing" is basically a report-writing checkbox:

> In order to improve transparency, it is suggested that each MOD report should include whether or not civilians were present in the vicinity of a strike, or whether it was unknown if civilians were in the area.

> “The fact that some air strikes are described in detail, particularly those that seem the most palatable, makes the absence of detail in others difficult to understand. It is not suggested that the MOD include detail on the legal analysis that surrounds each air strike, but it ought at least to include enough of the factual information around a strike to enable a prima facie conclusion that a strike probably adhered to international humanitarian law in terms of targeting. This is particularly so given that it only takes a small number of words to enable such a conclusion.”

I would prefer any government randomly killing people provide with each kill a legal analysis that surrounds each air strike. That way the amount of bullshit that they will have to come up with, each time they kill some random belligerent who would likely be a lot less belligerent if they had not destroyed his or her country to begin with, will slow them down a bit.

>insufficiently standardized reports

In fact, a standard has been established: in 96% of the reports, civilians are simply not mentioned.

The 'standard terms' are used instead: "terrorist" and "extremist".

This is very disturbing - we, the public, are being lied to about how much civilian damage is being caused by our ignorance of the warriors who insist they must be allowed the freedom to kill anyone they want, without culpability.

I, for one, hope to see more public oversight of the war-mongers, such that our daily efforts to produce more enemies in the war-torn regions of the world is brought to a minimum.


Intercept did a lot of good reporting on this.


Indeed that is a brilliant resource for those of us with an interest in the hidden machinations of the warrior classes. Seriously deep info.

Yeah I don't know what you mean by warrior class.

The class of people whose principle preoccupation is the fighting of war.

> In fact, a standard has been established: in 96% of the reports, civilians are simply not mentioned.

> The[se] 'standard terms' are used [for civilians] instead: "terrorist" and "extremist".

Apologies if my bracketed clarifications aren't what you meant, but it seemed clear from the context.

Your latter point is hyperbolic and tendentious, and the OP doesn't go that far:

> However, there is nothing within the term ‘terrorist’ or ‘extremist’ that indicates that a person is targetable under IHL. They are not legal terms, and, in the absence of additional facts, they do not indicate the reality of whether or not the person targeted in an air strike was a lawful target under IHL. That is not to say that those people are not targetable, but such a determination cannot be made without further information. Holding extreme views does not render a person liable to be killed, nor, necessarily, does membership of terrorist group.

The core argument of the OP is that the existing reports are not standardized to include sufficient detail to come to kind of conclusions that you've jumped to:

> While the MoD’s public reporting of air and drone strikes is to be welcomed and represents an attempt to provide transparency, it is currently falling short of what should be done in this area. We urge the MoD to improve its reporting in order to give greater public understanding and to improve accountability.

"In games without frontiers, war without tears. If looks could kill, they probably will."

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