Chart of the Day: Civilian Drone Deaths

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The chart below comes from ProPublica reporters Justin Elliott, Cora Currier and Lena Groeger. (Click here for a larger, interactive version.) It shows the various claims about civilian drone deaths from administration sources over the years, varying from “a handful” in 2011 to 50 or 60 over the course of seven years. As Elliot shows in an accompanying piece, these claims haven’t been consistent over time.

To be honest, my initial reaction to this is that I’m surprised at how consistent the claims have been, not how inconsistent. A few of them clearly don’t add up, but with only a couple of exceptions they’ve pretty uniformly told reporters that there have been about 30 civilian deaths over the past two or three years and perhaps 50 or 60 over the life of the program.

But consistency is probably the least of the issues here. As the New York Times reported a couple of weeks ago, the Obama administration “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants […] unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” Given that methodology, it’s a miracle that the administration has fessed up to any civilian deaths. If there’s a lesson from this, I’d say it’s not that officials sometimes give differing estimates of civilian deaths. I’d say it’s the fact that, in truth, they probably don’t have the slightest idea how many civilian deaths they’ve caused.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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