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Christine Fair: An academic lacking critical thinking with venomous bias, bitterness, and animosity towards Pakistan

Christine Fair

An academic lacking critical thinking with venomous bitterness and animosity towards Pakistan

Carol Christine Fair (born 1968) is an associate professor at the Center for Peace and Security Studies (CPASS),
within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Fair is employed at the Security Studies Program (SSP) within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.[1][2]

Prior to this, Fair served as a senior political scientist with the RAND Corporation, a political officer with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and as a senior research associate with the United States Institute of Peace. She specializes in political and military affairs in South Asia.[3]

Fair has published several articles defending the use of drone strikes in Pakistan and has been critical of analyses by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other humanitarian organizations.[4]

Fair’s work and viewpoints have been the subject of prominent criticism.[5]Her pro-drone stance has been denounced and called “surprisingly weak” by Brookings Institution senior fellow Shadi Hamid.[5]JournalistGlenn Greenwalddismissed Fair’s arguments as “rank propaganda”, arguing there is “mountains of evidence” showing drones are counterproductive, pointing to mass civilian casualties and independent studies.[6] In 2010, Fair denied the notion that drones caused any civilian deaths, alleging Pakistani media reports were responsible for creating this perception.[7]Jeremy Scahillwrote that Fair’s statement was “simply false” and contradicted byNew America‘s detailed study on drone casualties.[7]Fair later said that casualties are caused by the UAVs, but maintains they are the most effective tool for fighting terrorism.[8]

Writing for The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorfchallenged Fair’s co-authored narrative that the U.S. could legitimize support in Pakistan for its drone program using ‘education’ and ‘public diplomacy’; he called it an “example of interventionist hubris and naivete” built upon a flawed interpretation of public opinion data.[9]An article in the Middle East Research and Information Project called the work “some of the most propagandistic writing in support of PresidentBarack Obama’s targeted kill lists to date.”[10]It censured the view that Pakistanis needed to be informed by the U.S. what is “good for them” as fraught with imperialist condescension; or the assumption that the Urdu press was less informed than the English press – because the latter was sometimes less critical of the U.S.[10]

Fair’s journalistic sources have been questioned for their credibility[11]and she has been accused of having aconflict of interestdue to her past work with U.S. government think tanks, as well the CIA.[5] In 2011 and 2012, she received funding from the U.S. embassy in Islamabad to conduct a survey on public opinion concerning militancy. However, Fair states most of the grants went to a survey firm and that it had no influence on her research.[5] Pakistani media analysts have dismissed Fair’s views as hawkish rhetoric, riddled with factual inaccuracies, lack of objectivity, and being selectively biased.[11][12][13][14] She has also been rebuked for comments on social media perceived as provocative, such as suggesting burning down Pakistan’s embassy in Afghanistan or asking India to “squash Pakistan militarily, diplomatically, politically and economically.” She has been accused of double standards, partisanship towards India, and has been criticized for her contacts with dissident leaders from Balochistan, a link which they claim “raises serious questions if her interest in Pakistan is merely academic.[13]

Controversies

Fair has been accused of harassment of former colleague Asra Nomani, after Nomani wrote a column inThe Washington Post[15]explaining why she voted forDonald Trump in the 2016 United States Presidential Election. The harassment came in the form of Tweets taking aim at Nomani with a series of emotionally charged profanity and insults that lasted 31 consecutive days.[16]

  1. “C. Christine Fair”. Georgetown University academic directory. Retrieved 27 June 2016.
  2. Christine, Fair (25 September 2009). “For Now, Drones Are the Best Option”. New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  3. Author information, Oxford University Press, retrieved 6 September 2016.
  4. “Ethical and methodological issues in assessing drones’ civilian impacts in Pakistan”. Washington Post. 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2015-10-16.
  5.  to:a b c d Norton, Ben (4 November 2015). “Not playing fair: How Christine Fair, defender of U.S. drone program in Pakistan, twists the facts — and may have conflicts of her own”. Salon. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
  6. “Do drone strikes create more terrorists than they kill?”. Al Jazeera. 23 October 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  7.  to:a b Scahill, Jeremy (10 May 2010). “Georgetown Professor: ‘Drones Are Not Killing Innocent Civilians’ in Pakistan”. The Nation. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  8. Shane, Scott (11 August 2011). “C.I.A. Is Disputed on Civilian Toll in Drone Strikes”. New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  9. Friedersdorf, Conor (24 January 2013). “Yes, Pakistanis Really Do Hate America’s Killer Drones”. The Atlantic. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  10.  to:a b Waheed, Sarah (25 January 2013). “Drones, US Propaganda and Imperial Hubris”. Middle East Research and Information Project. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  11.  to:a b Ahmad, Muhammad Idrees (14 June 2011). “The magical realism of body counts”. Al Jazeera. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  12. Haider, Murtaza (27 June 2012). “An unFair comment”. Dawn. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  13.  to:a b “US professor’s anti-Pak agenda?”. The News. 7 February 2016. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  14. Chandio, Khalid (6 May 2015). Prejudice Dominates Christine Discourse. Islamabad Policy Research Institute.
  15. Nomani, Asra (10 November 2016). “I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump.”. Washington Post.
  16. Frates, Katie (27 December 2016). “‘F**K YOU. GO TO HELL’: Georgetown Prof Loses It On Muslim Trump Voter”. Daily Caller.
  17. Adeney, Katherine (2015), “Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War by C. Christine Fair (Book Review)”, Political Studies Review, 13: 623–624
  18. Shaikh, Farzana (2015), “Fighting to the end: the Pakistan army’s way of war, by C. Christine Fair (Book review)”, International Affairs, 91 (3): 665–667
  19. Ghorpade, Yashodhan (2014), “C. Christine Fair and Shaun Gregory (Eds). Pakistan in National and Regional Change: State and Society in Flux (Book Review)”, Journal of South Asian Development, 9 (1): 91–97, doi:1177/0973174113520586
  20. Argon, Kemal (September 2008), “Reviewed Work: Fortifying Pakistan: The Role of U.S. Internal Security Assistance by C. Christine Fair, Peter Chalk”, International Journal on World Peace, 25 (3): 120–123, JSTOR 20752852
  21. Rizvi, Hasan-Askari (September 2008), “Fortifying Pakistan: The Role of U.S. Internal Security Assistance, by C. Christine Fair and Peter Chalk (eds) (Book review)”, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 16 (3): 169–170, doi:1111/j.1468-5973.2008.00546.x
  22. Schaffer, Teresita C. (October 2008), “Book Reviews: South Asia”, Survival, 50 (5): 195–215, doi:1080/00396330802456536

 


Not playing fair: How Christine Fair, defender of U.S. drone program in Pakistan, twists the facts — and may have conflicts of her own

Leading drone defender Christine Fair claims critics are biased, yet is widely accused of her own double standards

Not playing fair: How Christine Fair, defender of U.S. drone program in Pakistan, twists the facts — and may have conflicts of her own
(Credit: Al Jareeza/Reuters/Patrick Fallon/Photo montage by Salon)

The U.S. drone program creates more militants than it kills, according to the head of intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the U.S. military unit that oversees that very program.

 

“When you drop a bomb from a drone… you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good, remarked Michael T. Flynn. The retired Army lieutenant general, who also served as the U.S. Central Command’s director of intelligence, says that “the more bombs we drop, that just… fuels the conflict.”

Not everyone accepts the assessment of the former JSOC intelligence chief, however. Still today, defenders of the U.S. drone program insist it does more good than harm. One scholar, Georgetown University professor Christine Fair, is particularly strident in her support.

In a debate on the Al Jazeera program UpFront in October, Fair butted heads with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, a prominent critic of the U.S. drone program. Fair, notorious for her heated rhetoric, accused Greenwald of being a “liar” and insulted Al Jazeera several times, claiming the network does not appreciate “nuance” in the way she does. Greenwald, in turn, criticized Fair for hardly letting him get a word in; whenever he got a rare chance to speak, she would constantly interrupt him, leading host Mehdi Hasan to ask her to stop.

The lack of etiquette aside, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Shadi Hamid remarked that Fair’s arguments in the debate were “surprisingly weak.”

After the debate, Fair took to Twitter to mud-sling. She expressed pride at not letting Greenwald speak, boasting she “shut that lying clown down.” “I AM a Rambo b**ch,” she proclaimed.

Fair alsocalledGreenwald a “pathological liar, a narcissist, [and] a fool.” She said she would like to put Greenwald and award-winning British journalist Mehdi Hasan in a Pakistani Taliban stronghold, presumably to be tortured, “then ask ’em about drones.”

Elsewhere on social media, Fair has made similarly provocative comments.In a Facebook post, Fair called Pakistan “an enemy” and said “We invaded the wrong dog-damned country,” implying the U.S. should have invaded Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

In another Facebook post, Fair insisted that “India needs to woman up and SQUASH Pakistan militarily, diplomatically, politically and economically.” Both India and Pakistan are nuclear states.

Fair proudly identifies as a staunch liberal and advocates for a belligerent foreign policy. She rails against neo-conservatives but chastises the Left for criticizing U.S. militarism. In 2012, she told a journalist on Twitter “Dude! I am still very much pro drones. Sorry. They are the least worst option. My bed of coals is set to 11.”

Despite the sporadic jejune Twitter tirade, Fair has established herself as one of the drone program’s most vociferous proponents. Fair is a specialist in South Asian politics, culture, and languages, with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She has published extensively, in a wide variety of both scholarly and journalistic publications. If you see an article in a large publication defending the U.S. drone program in Pakistan, there is a good chance she wrote or co-authored it.

Reviewing the “mountains of evidence”

After her debate with Greenwald, Fair wrote an article for the Brookings Institution’s Lawfare blog. While making jabs at Greenwald, Hasan, and Al Jazeera; characterizing her participation in the debate as an “ignominious distinction”; and implying that The Intercept, the publication co-founded by Greenwald with other award-winning journalists, is a criminal venture, not a whistleblowing news outlet, Fair forcefully defended the drone program.

Secret government documents leaked to The Intercept by a whistleblower show that 90 percent of people killed in U.S. drone strikes in a five-month period in provinces on Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan were not the intended targets. Fair accused The Intercept of “abusing” and selectively interpreting the government’s data. In a followup piece in the Huffington Post, she maintained that the findings of the Drone Papers do not apply to the drone program in Pakistan.

Greenwald pointed out that there are “mountains of evidence” showing that the U.S. drone program is killing large numbers of civilians, not just in Pakistan, but also in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and more. In these articles and the Al Jazeera debate, Fair took issue with the many studies cited by Greenwald, arguing they are flawed.

Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians from U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan,” an intensive 2012 study conducted over nine months by the law schools at New York University (NYU) and Stanford University, found that the U.S. drone program had killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan, and “cause[d] considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury.”

The NYU/Stanford report was based on two investigations in Pakistan; hundreds of interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts; and a review of thousands of pages of government and media documents. It concluded that the U.S. drone program had “terrorize[d] men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.” The study indicated that drones have even returned to target rescuers after drone attacks, making “both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims.”

Fair accused the NYU/Stanford study of being “advocacy work,” arguing its findings were influenced by the human rights organizations Reprieve and the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. Reprieve has itself investigated the casualties of the drone program. It found that, in attempts to kill just 41 militants, the U.S. military killed 1,147 people in Pakistan and Yemen, as of November 2014.

According to Fair, Reprieve’s research is biased advocacy work, not scholarly research. She also accused the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), whose research the NYU/Stanford study cited, of being an advocacy organization.

For years, TBIJ has meticulously documented the casualties of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan. It estimates between 423 and 965 Pakistani civilians have been killed by the U.S. drone program. TBIJ has also documented how U.S. drones have targeted rescuers, and even attacked funerals of people killed in drone strikes.

I reached out to the Bureau and, although it did not want to comment on the affair, it maintained it is a journalism organization, not an advocacy group. TBIJ pointed out it has done work not just on drones, but also on political corruption in Europe, British political party funding, deaths in police custody in the U.K., and more.

Numerous other studies have found the U.S. drone program in Pakistan to be wildly unpopular and counterproductive.2012 poll conducted by leading polling agency Pew found that just 17 percent of Pakistanis supported the U.S. drone program. In an article in The Atlantic, Fair and colleagues argued this Pew report was flawed. The day after the piece was published, The Atlantic’s own Conor Friedersdorf called Fair out on her sloppy methodology, accusing her of making “strained interpretations of public opinion data.” “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a better example of interventionist hubris and naivete,” Friedersdorf observed.

In the time since Fair criticized Pew’s original survey, the polling agency has done more. A 2014 Pew poll found that 66 percent of Pakistanis opposed the U.S. drone program. And another 2014 Pew study found that 67 percent of Pakistanis agreed that U.S. drone strikes “kill too many innocent people.” Only 21% of participants said drone strikes “are necessary to defend.”

Denying civilian casualties

In 2010, Fair boldly claimed that U.S. “drones are not killing innocent civilians,” wholly writing off all reports of civilian casualties. Fair rejected the research done by David Kilcullen, a former counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, and Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security, that said otherwise.

At the time Fair insisted that civilians had not been killed, an investigation conducted by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation had found that the total of civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes from 2006 to mid-2010 was “in the range of 250 to 320, or between 31 and 33 percent.”

Since then, Fair has conceded that civilians have been killed in the U.S. drone program, but she avers that their deaths are, although unfortunate, justified in the fight against extremism in Pakistan. She rebukes any study that suggests the drone program in Pakistan makes things worse or even is unpopular.

In its research, Amnesty International came to the conclusions most scholars and journalists have. Amnesty’s Pakistan researcher Mustafa Qadri explained in 2012 that, because of the drone program, “when we researched these cases, we found people were fearful of the U.S. the way they’re fearful of the Taliban.” Qadri continued, noting Pakistanis “have told us they’re taking sleeping tablets at night. They don’t know when they’re going to be targeted if they’ll be targeted, why they’ll be targeted. That really is a shocking situation.”

Fair herself admitted in her article in Lawfare that, in general, the scholarship around the U.S. drone program in Pakistan “produces mixed results, with some work showing the efficacy of leadership decapitation while other studies find that it is sometimes effective or even counterproductive.”

Pakistani-American scholar Hassan Abbas joins a long list of experts who have argued that the U.S. drone program creates more militants than it kills.

The U.N., Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have even said the Obama administration may be guilty of war crimes for its drone program. Renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky, similarly, has characterized the U.S. government’s extrajudicial assassination of militants via drone as a massive and illegal campaign of global terrorism.

Fair’s response to most critics is to accuse them of either not being specialists (e.g., Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Prize-winning Pakistani teenager who has strongly criticized the U.S. drone program and warned President Obama it was fueling terrorism) or to claim they lack adequate data to justify their point.

After hearing Fair’s rejection of the preponderance of studies on the U.S. drone program in Pakistan, Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program at New York University School of Law, asked how Fair can “claim to be the only person who knows what Pakistanis think of drones.”

The lone study

Fair says few researchers have been to Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in northwestern Pakistan, where most U.S. drone strikes take place. She argues, therefore, that they cannot know what Pakistanis there think.

I reached out to sociologist Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, who is from Pakistan’s northwestern frontier region, near FATA, and has been researching the drone war for the past decade. Ahmad teaches at the University of Stirling and has written for years about the U.S. drone program. He is also the author ofThe Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War.

“Fair claimed that opposition to drones was a luxury indulged in by elites living in Lahore or Islamabad. In FATA, she said, drones were popular. As a matter of fact, it’s only among the elites of Islamabad and Lahore that one usually finds Pakistan’s few drone defenders,” Ahmad said. “In FATA, outside a small Shia enclave, there is little support for drones.”

 
 

“This is hardly a revelation, and it is backed up by numerous opinion polls,” Ahmad added. Fair, however, argues that these opinion polls are flawed.

In her various media appearances and articles, Fair constantly points to a single investigation conducted by an Associated Press reporter by the name of Sebastian Abbot. The AP investigation was based on interviews with approximately 80 villagers at the sites of the 10 deadliest drone strikes in North Waziristan from 2011-2012.

Critics of this study point out that the sample sizes of both the strikes and the villagers are rather small. It uses a smaller sample size than that of the NYU/Stanford study, which Fair rejects. Moreover, from 2004 to February 2012, when the results of the AP investigation were released, the U.S. carried out at least 280 attacks in Pakistan’s tribal region.

Ahmad called the AP report “dubious.” It “refers to itself as a ‘study’ when all the reporter did — even according to Fair — is to dispatch a stringer into FATA to interview people,” Ahmad said. “So we have this big chain of credibility to accept before we can credit that report. First, that the reporter has no agendas — unlike the researchers she keeps accusing of — and then that the stringer has no agenda.”

“She assumes that anyone who confirms the official narrative has unimpeachable motives, but those who raise doubts, have axes to grind,” Ahmad argued.

Questionable sources

Recalling the people he has interviewed in Pakistan, Ahmad explained that, beyond “the much-reported civilian deaths, the drones also take a heavy psychological toll. They disrupt normal life and, given their penchant for mistakes, hang over every head like a lethal sword of Damocles.”

“It would only take someone insane to suggest that people living under this terror welcome drones — and, as it happens, Fair’s source for her fatuous claims is a zany fabulist,” Ahmad remarked. “For years Fair based her claims about the drones popularity on a mythical survey carried out by Farhat Taj, a graduate student residing in Norway, for something called ‘Aryana Institute.’”

Ahmad accused Taj of making up the fact that there is support for U.S. drone strikes in FATA. He also pointed out that her “institute was a letterhead organization which only maintained a web presence for a year before vanishing. It seemed to have existed only for the purpose of this report (which was duly picked up by international media). Its claims were refuted within months by a poll conducted by the New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow,” Ahmad explained.

Leading publications including Reuters and The New York Times quoted Taj and the Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy (AIRRA) in defense of the U.S. drone program in 2009 and 2010. The Times’ link to the alleged organization’s website AIRRA.org, however, is now and has long been dead. Internet web archive the WayBack Machine shows that the website was up in 2009, but, by 2011, it had been taken down.

At the time of the controversy, Ahmad wrote in Al Jazeera about The magical realism of body counts.” He pointed out that, despite the insistence of Fair to the contrary, it was, in fact, AIRRA’s conclusions that “can fairly be described as deeply unreliable and dubious.” Ahmad also noted that AIRRA’s findings were later even debunked by another pro-drone organization.

“Few wondered why the survey’s claims were so at odds with known public opinion in the wider region where, according to a Gallup/Al Jazeera poll conducted around the same period, only nine per cent of people showed support for the drone attacks,” Ahmad wrote at the time. “Those who did wonder, such as the journalists I spoke to in Peshawar, were universally dismissive. But the Institute had served its purpose and, typical of many NGOs, it vanished after a year.”

Despite this, Fair has quoted and continues to quote Farhat Taj in numerous articles and books. Fair draws on Tajin her 2014 book Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War. Taj is also cited in Pakistan’s Enduring Challenges, a 2015 volume edited by Fair. She again cites Taj in her 2014 Political Science Quarterly article “Pakistani Opposition to American Drone Strikes.”

Squaring the circle, Farhat Taj also quoted Fair in her own book, Taliban, and Anti-Taliban.

After the Al Jazeera debate, Fair continuously shared op-eds that were written by Farhat Taj in 2009 and 2010. Fair used the six-year-old articles expressing the opinion of just one Pakistani from FATA to imply that it is representative of the opinions of Pakistanis living in the overall region.

“With the ‘survey’ rug pulled from under her feet, Fair has moved to anecdote,” Ahmad explained. “She now claims the popularity of drones is proven by the fact that FATA denizens call them ‘ababeel,’ in reference to a Quranic story about a flight of birds that destroyed the invading armies of Abraha, the King of Abyssinia, by dropping stones on them.” Fair mentioned this alleged story in her Al Jazeera interview.

The problem with this anecdote, Ahmad contended, is that there is no documentation of it. “This story also took root only in Farhat Taj’s imagination,” he said.

Government revolving door

Critics have pointed that, aside from Fair’s outright rejection of an enormous body of research and double standards vis-à-vis the studies that have results that she likes, Fair also has a history of working with the U.S. government in a way some researchers would consider problematic.

Fair worked for almost 10 years for the RAND Corporation, a U.S.-based global think tank that scholar Chalmers Johnson has described as“a key institutional building block of the Cold War American empire” and “the premier think tank for the U.S.’s role as hegemon of the Western world.” Fair also served for three years at the U.S. government’s Institute of Peace and for several months at the U.N. Assistance Mission to Afghanistan. Since 2009, Fair has taught in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program.

 

In the fall of 2011, Fair received a $330,000 grant from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad Office of Public Affairs. A year later, she received another approximately $330,000 grant from the same agency, to do a “survey of Pakistanis to understand the connection between media consumption and views towards Islamist militancy in Pakistan.”

A professor who specializes in Pakistan but who asked to remain off the record expressed surprise in a message to me that these grants were so large, explaining that researchers rarely ever get so much money.

I reached out to Christine Fair, to get her side of the story. We spoke for almost 40 minutes on the phone. Fair strongly denied that U.S. government funding has ever influenced her research, and said that the majority of the grant money went to pay a Pakistani survey firm.

The results of the survey funded by the U.S. Embassy were published in an article titled “Pakistani Political Communication and Public Opinion on U.S. Drone Attacks,” co-written by Fair and two other scholars, in the September 2015 issue of the Journal of Strategic Studies. In the piece, the authors note that “Conventional wisdom holds that Pakistanis are overwhelmingly opposed to American drone strikes in their country’s tribal areas and that this opposition is driven by mass media coverage of the loss of life and property the strikes purportedly cause.” The authors reject this “conventional wisdom” and instead “contend that awareness of drone strikes will be limited because Pakistan is a poor country with low educational attainment, high rates of illiteracy and persistent infrastructure problems that limit access to mass media.”

Despite the pro-drone conclusion of the study, Fair insisted the funding from the U.S. government did not influence it. She noted that the research was further complicated because the State Department officially “can’t acknowledge” the drone program.

I heard from a source who asked to remain anonymous that Fair has done work with the CIA. Fair told me that she did some contractual work with the CIA while she was an employee at the RAND Corporation. She said she worked on two projects with the CIA, although the findings of only one were published, and it did not involve drones. “I’m afraid I can’t say more than that,” she added.

While working at the RAND Corporation, Fair said that most of her work involved Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense policy, but not drones.

Fair affirmed that she has nothing to hide and denied any conflicts of interest. “I’m an open book, as my C.V. indicates,” she said. And, in her research, Fair argued she often comes to “conclusions that are very different from the USG line.”

Shouting loudly

I asked Greenwald what he thought about Fair’s work with the U.S. government. “I think that what destroys her credibility are her arguments and her claims, not her funding sources,” he said. “But it is incredibly ironic that the person who runs around impugning everyone else’s ‘objectivity’ and credibility has her own research funded by the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan, something she invariably forgets to mention when she’s maligning everyone else as biased.”

Fair insists that her work with the U.S. government, which she says has granted her some privileges and access to resources that other researchers do not have to their avail, has not influenced her research. She is certainly not a dogmatist, and has publicly criticized some elements of U.S. policy in Pakistan.

Yet Fair continues to steadfastly assert that the drone program in Pakistan is fundamentally different from the drone program in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. And, in order to do so, she has continuously ignored an enormous body of evidence.

Writing in the Middle East Research and Information Project, scholar Sarah Waheed characterized Fair’s work as “some of the most propagandistic writing in support of President Barack Obama’s targeted kill lists to date.”

“What Fair et al. are proposing is to educate Pakistanis about what the U.S. thinks is good for them. For these political scientists, the right kind of Pakistani possesses the right kind of knowledge: Drone strikes are for his or her own good,” Waheed wrote. “It is with U.S. intervention, through drones and propaganda, that Pakistanis can be saved from their backwardness, their tribalism, their Islamism, their nationalism — in short, themselves.”

“If there is any doubt about the morality of drone strikes,”Waheed proposes imagining “a reverse scenario: If Pakistan’s intelligence agencies were launching drone strikes into the rural Midwest with the purpose of targeting extremist militias — and in the process were killing American children with impunity — it is doubtful that most Americans would stand for it.”

Reacting to her work on drones, Ahmad ultimately summarized Fair as a “provocateur.” “It is in the unfortunate nature of our media that a person who can shout the loudest and make the most outrageous claims is seen as necessary for drawing audiences to an otherwise somnolent forum,” he said.

That Christine Fair has “become a go-to person for commentary on a subject as consequential as this,” Ahmad added, “might explain why the policy around drones is so warped.”

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at AlterNet. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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‘Drone strikes killed more civilians than publicly acknowledged’ – UN investigator

‘Drone strikes killed more civilians than publicly acknowledged’ – UN investigator

Published time: October 18, 2013 12:50 
Edited time: October 20, 2013 19:35

 
 
Pakistani protesters belonging to United Citizen Action march behind a burning US flag during a protest in Multan on September 30, 2013, against the US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas (AFP Photo / S.S Mirza)

Pakistani protesters belonging to United Citizen Action march behind a burning US flag during a protest in Multan on September 30, 2013, against the US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas (AFP Photo / S.S Mirza)

A UN report accuses the United States of downplaying the number of civilians killed in anti-terrorist drone operations, while failing to assist in the investigation by releasing its own figures.

With the increased use of remotely piloted aircraft in military operations in a number of countries, the nagging question of civilian “collateral damage” as a consequence of these deadly technologies is a growing concern for the United Nations and human right groups.

In Afghanistan, for example, the number of aerial drone strikes surged from 294 in 2011 to 447 during the first 11 months of 2012, according to data released by the US Air Force in November 2012, UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson noted in his interim report.

Pakistan officials confirmed that out of 2,200 deaths “at least 400 civilians had been killed as a result of remotely piloted aircraft strikes and a further 200 individuals were regarded as probable non-combatants.”

Although the first missile test-fired from a drone occurred in February 2001, it wasn’t until the end of 2012 that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released data showing that 16 civilians had been killed and 5 injured due to drone strikes during the course of the year.

In its latest published figures, covering the first six months of 2013, UNAMA documented 15 civilian deaths and 7 injuries in seven separate attacks by drone aircraft.

Emmerson’s 24-page document, which is due to be presented to the UN General Assembly next Friday, mentions a report by a US military advisor that contradicted official US claims that drone attacks were responsible for fewer civilian deaths compared with other aerial platforms, for example, fighter jets.

He pointed to research by Larry Lewis, a research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, who examined aerial strikes in Afghanistan from mid-2010 to mid-2011. With the help of classified military data, Lewis found that the missile strikes conducted by drones were “10 times more deadly to Afghan civilians” than those performed by fighter jets, according to a report by The Guardian newspaper.

 

Northrop Grumman / Chad Slattery / Handout via Reuters

Northrop Grumman / Chad Slattery / Handout via Reuters

 

Lots of targets, little transparency 

The United States and the United Kingdom have been reluctant to hand over information regarding drone strikes of any sort, including those that result in civilian deaths. For example, on February 21, 2010, 23 civilians were killed and 12 wounded in a Predator strike in southern Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province.

The US military released partially declassified information on the incident, suggesting “administrative and disciplinary sanctions” against the crew for providing misleading “situational information” as well as “a predisposition to engage in kinetic activity (the release of a missile).”

Emmerson said the US, which has attracted a lot of scorn in Afghanistan over the drone attacks, had created “an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency.”

“The Special Rapporteur does not accept that considerations of national security justify withholding statistical and basic methodological data of this kind,” Emmerson wrote in the report.

The United Kingdom, which also figured into the report, has officially admitted to one civilian casualty incident, in which four civilians were killed and two civilians injured in a remotely piloted aircraft strike by the Royal Air Force in Afghanistan on March 25, 2011.

However, that figure remains open to speculation given that the United Kingdom’s ‘Reaper’ drone has flown more than 46,000 hours in Afghanistan, averaging three sorties per day, with a total of 405 weapons discharged. 

Pakistan hunting ground 

Emmerson also reported that Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided him with statistics on drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan, where the US military has targeted members of Al-Qaeda since 2004.

The government noted the difficulties in determining the exact number of civilian deaths due to particular“topographical and institutional obstacles” of the Tribal Areas, including the tradition of immediately burying the bodies of the dead. So the figures are likely to be an underestimate.

The highest amount of civilian casualties, Emmerson noted, came when the CIA dramatically increased drone attacks in Pakistan between 2008 and 2010. Following intense criticism from Islamabad, however, drone strikes in Pakistan have steadily declined and “the number of civilian deaths has dropped dramatically.”

 

Pakistani schoolgirls walk along a path after school in Mingora, a town in Swat valley (AFP Photo / A Majeed)

Pakistani schoolgirls walk along a path after school in Mingora, a town in Swat valley (AFP Photo / A Majeed)

 

In September, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), a non-profit organization launched a project,“Naming the Dead,” to record properly the names and numbers of people who are killed by US drone airstrikes in Pakistan. 

Civilian fatalities attributed to US drone strikes have occurred beyond the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan, including in Yemen, where the figure is 12-58, according to Emmerson. Statistics are not yet available from Iraq or the Nato operation in Libya in 2011. 

Who’s a target? 

Meanwhile, with America’s arch-enemy Al-Qaeda looking increasingly fractured, especially with the death of its terror mastermind, Osama bin Laden, the question as to who now qualifies as a legitimate target of US strikes is becoming more pertinent. More importantly, perhaps, are the limitations that the United States and other countries must recognize as the battle against ‘terrorism’ goes global.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has noted the absence of a clear international consensus on the issue, Emmerson noted. But one thing that is generally accepted, however, is that“international humanitarian law does not permit the targeting of persons directly participating in hostilities who are located in non-belligerent States, given that, otherwise, the whole world is potentially a battlefield,” the report emphasized.

In Washington, the report got a lukewarm reception with White House spokesperson Laura Magnuson saying, “We are aware that this report has been released and are reviewing it carefully.”

She noted that at the National Defense University on May 23, “[T]he President spoke at length about the policy and legal rationale for how the United States takes action against Al-Qaeda and its associated forces. As the President emphasized, the use of lethal force, including from remotely piloted aircraft, commands the highest level of attention and care.”

The Special Rapporteur intends to submit a final report on the subject of robotic aircraft in counter-terrorism operations to the Human Rights Council in 2014. 

 Reference

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Brig(Retd)Shaukat Qadir, Pak Army: Drone attacks no longer a matter of a ‘nod and a wink’

Drone attacks no longer a matter of a ‘nod and a wink’

images-72Shaukat Qadir

Feb 17, 2013 

Speaking to journalists on February 5 at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman, gave the most unequivocal statement opposing the use of US drones that has been made during the tenure of the current Pakistan government.

She said drone strikes were “counterproductive”; that they “created more terrorists [and] extremists, and fanned anti-American feelings”. The attacks violated Pakistan’s sovereignty, were illegal, and there was no off-the-record “wink or nod” by the government to sanction them.

Previous statements had always left room for some doubt, but not this one. So, what prompted this? Let’s take a look at the historical perspective.

The first thing we do know is that former president Pervez Musharraf not only permitted drone strikes, he also gave the US the exclusive use of a couple of airbases for drone operation, probably in 2003. Any doubts on that score should have been put to rest by the revelations made by Lt Gen Shahid Aziz, a former Chief of General Staff to Mr Musharraf, in his recently published autobiography.

The first known strike by a drone in Pakistan was in 2004, targeting Taliban leader Nek Mohammed Wazir. In all probability, this “hit” was requested by Mr Musharraf.

The next thing we know is that the first resistance to US drone strikes came from the Pakistan military, after Mr Musharraf relinquished the office of the Chief of Army Staff in late 2007. A US drone turned back after it was threatened by a Pakistani aircraft, but the government told the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) to back off.

At that stage, the military’s resistance to drone strikes was evident. So much so that Pakistan’s Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed, in an unusual public statement in November 2008, stated that the PAF had the wherewithal to down drones “but it is up to the political leadership to decide”. There was no response from the political leadership.

However, in the period from late 2008 to late 2010, the drones’ “kill ratio” improved dramatically. It might have been due to inpuy from field operatives of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), since this was during the short period when intelligence cooperation between the ISI and the CIA was at its best.

Whatever the reason, the militant to “collateral damage” ratio turned upside down. From 2:10 it turned to 8:2. Perhaps the Pakistan military was also (unofficially) happy with that, since protests were muted and far between – until immediately after the release from jail in March last year of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who killed two Pakistani men he accused of trying to rob him. It was also in March that US defence secretary US Leon Panetta ordered a strike targeting a jirga (peace council) in south Waziristan, killing about 40 civilians.

This attack was followed by the first ever unequivocal protest by the Pakistan military – but still not by the government.

Since then, Pakistan has protested at regular intervals; it has raised the issue of sovereignty and the illegality of these strikes, but only mildly.

As I have previously explained on these pages, despite the drones’ vast technology, they can still be inaccurate – because they rely on human intelligence (“humint”), which the CIA lacks.

There is little doubt that drone attacks have become increasingly inaccurate since early 2011, and that they are indeed counterproductive. They are a factor in swelling the ranks of terrorists as well as multiplying the numbers of anti-US Pakistanis. These facts have been substantiated in an independent report compiled jointly by the Stanford Law School and New York University’s Global Justice Clinic, titled Living under drones.

So, we are back to the million-dollar-question: what prompted Ms Rehman’s unequivocal statement this month?

Could it be the Stanford/NYU report, or could it be a consequence of having “tried all other options with the US”? Or could it have been prompted by the fact that the White House has decided to place Pakistan in a specially privileged position as a recipient of drone attacks? Or, is it merely because domestic elections are around the corner and the ruling party’s chances don’t look too bright?

There is little doubt that the coming elections played a role in the decision to adopt this stance; but, to be fair to the ruling party, all of the above reasons must have contributed to this decision. Certainly, the growing awareness within the US and among its allies that drone attacks are murdering innocent civilians indiscriminately will help Pakistan’s cause.

But the bigger question is: how far is the Pakistan government prepared to go with this? Ms Rehman’s pleas to journalists will not deter the US. Will Pakistan raise the issue with the toothless United Nations? Is the government prepared to back this statement up by ordering the PAF to take down intruding drones?

It is doubtful that this government will go that far. And, if it isn’t prepared to go that far, Pakistan will continue to be “living under drones” for at least another four years under Barack Obama.

 

Brig Shaukat Qadir is a retired Pakistani infantry officer

Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/thenationalconversation/comment/drone-attacks-no-longer-a-matter-of-a-nod-and-a-wink#ixzz2LPWHZ8xE 
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