"chicago tribune." >> thank you. good afternoon, everybody. we are here today to discuss drone warfare. it is a book entitled "drone warfare: killing by remote control." the author is medea benjamin. i know her from a long time ago and we met when we were in mexico when i was a correspondent or. medea benjamin was doing some advocacy work. so she is a longtime peace advocate and advocate. she cofounded global exchange and has been using her life for questioning and challenging some assumptions on the policies of government her book, "drone
warfare: killing by remote control." she has use as possible use of the book for other reasons you can relate to your home. this book is full first-person reporting and some of her travels are included to afghanistan and pakistan. regular sponsored research and some other sources paint a picture of where the drone use has grown to today. i would like to open with the question about what you can find when you started this and how do you characterize this piece of work? >> good afternoon, everybody. thank you.
i started this work approximately 15 years ago and i wrote this book because i had been very closely watching the evolution of the u.s. response to 9/11. oh government reports of bombs are true because i remember looking at the television and watching them in thinking that this technology is amazing and frightening. frightening and awesome and all inspiring all at once. it gives us the ability to pinpoint targets with laser like precision. a discussed the key people that we went after. i wondered if that was true.
often times what we were seeing on tv screens is was not what was happening on the ground. and it's old enough to with anti-vietnam activism and we realized early on that the government tells you one thing about things like civilian casualties. it will i went to afghanistan it was a frightening time to be there because there was a lot of bombing going on. immediately i realized that there were lots of civilians were being killed and that this was not being reported. but the u.s. has desire to get the people who attacked us on 9/11 so there was a somewhat cavalier attitude towards collateral damage.
i also realized over the evolution of these years post-9/11 that something else very different had happened, which was in the beginning there was a lot of support in both afghanistan and iraq and anyone so a lot of the organizing resulted in us finding a hostile attitude in the united states because there was so much support in this drumbeat of war that could somehow relate this to 9/11, which had nothing to do with it. he saw opinion polls that were in favor of the war as the years went by and as americans started
to get upset about the number of american lives that were being killed. we never hear much about the lives of people in the country that we have invaded. so the poll started shifting and saying americans are excited about continuing what seemed like i thought the same time there was a shift in government policy on the ground in some extensive war effort in terms of american lives and dollars to this new technology in the jones and we immediately having the state department as a diplomatic arm of the u.s. government. being in a meeting with people from the human rights area to
pakistan some of the meat people are saying that the jones our miracle weapon. this explains who got killed, but american lives and what i've got what she did not as to allow us to expand behind the backs of the american people. that is very long answer for the question of why i wrote this book. it gives americans and understanding. >> the recently we had the president talk about the program. the ability to target the
government says are high-value targets and has severely denigrated al qaeda and the taliban. and now there are some changes that can be made that will bring us back. one of the things that we have talked about, but not in detail is the control of the drone program from the cia to the pentagon. also changing a little bit of how some of the decisions were made about what targets to often one's not go after. that was three weeks ago and we haven't heard a lot about it since. desensitization change in government policy? >> well, i was there at the national defense university. [applause] >> for those of you that don't know, i was actually an audience member and i was really hanging
on every word that the president is saying. i have read a lot but this is going to be a shift in policy i was going to be a market change with what has been going on in this is something i have been working for no for 11 years. i was very anxious and i thought i might hear some of the things that you alluded to. i thought you might say that we are making this now and the u.s. will no longer have a fleet of killer drones in the military. i thought he might say that he was withdrawing the opposition to significant strikes that is not targeting an individual, but targeting people on the basis of suspicious behavior. i thought it was with relation to guantánamo, and how i thought that he would announce that he was invoking the waiver process, which would allow him on the
basis of national security grounds to release those tunnel details. i did not hear any of that. so it was coming to the end of the speech and i was really quite shocked at what i thought was going to be a significant policy and it turned out to be something that we really don't feel great about. but that we will have to keep using them and i want to close guantánamo but that is something that congress won't let me do. it was at that point i really that i really felt i had to get up and say something. i said something about guantánamo bay first because that was what he had a thought in that kind of venue that it
was important to give another side of the story because i was just imagining what the press is going to report i didn't get up and say something. which is that president obama and maybe the republicans would say, oh, you shouldn't use these drones. so you need something to avoid to say, wait a minute, you're not going nearly far enough with the use of jones and it's killing a lot of innocent people and it's counterproductive and going against national security. so i look back now at a couple of weeks and i don't see a shift in policy. there have been for john strikes since then. two in pakistan and two in yemen. once in pakistan are important to look at because there are elections in pakistan and a new prime minister was elected. number two was to come into that
election and there were a lot of campaign programs against the drones. we followed most of the tribal areas where the drones drugs are being used to speak out against them. the fact that he came in number two is very significant and also is the fact that the one who came in number one is his first talk that he was totally against the use of jones and he had been calling up united states to stop using these. the first drone attack after the president's speech is one that was touted in the u.s. since the number two taliban pursuit was killed. the reporting from pakistan is very different than the
reporting here. the reporting their says what happens when you killed a number two guy, you kill the number three guy because he becomes number two. so then we are starting to have talks and personnel is much more strenuous and they begin to talk. so that is the welcome for the new government and in the case of yemen or have a meeting a delegation going there, you have a similar situation or the people in pakistan mostly do not supported by any means the groups are extremists like al qaeda, they are also speaking out against the drones and these are a recruiting tool for extremists are in use are killing lots of our feelings and i another thing the president said was the u.s. government
should use capture instead of kill in the yemen people would say that it's just not the case and they have numerous examples given to those two countries are the highest number of german tax by five. about 80% of the drone strike has been in pakistan or yemen. >> that is not counting afghanistan, which is interesting to know that the number of john strikes in afghanistan has risen significantly. 70% between 2011 and 2012. it just seems that with the drawdown of troops, the u.s. military is increasing number of jones in a questioner prefaced his non-us battlefield because they consider most of those strikes to be battlefield strikes. numbers are very high number of
people that have been killed is very high. we're talking about 3500 people. the number of civilians is impossible to determine and i would like to talk a little bit about that. including a we have 2004 until 2001 and the number of civilians. i think it was 2300 up to nearly 3000 civilians killed during that time. can we talk about how little information is available about the civilian casualties and how we might know how many are being killed? >> those numbers would be greatly disputed the u.s. government. in 2011 we had john brennan who was the mastermind of the program and he is now the head of the cia. and then they said it was in a the single digits. the bureau of investigative
journalism says that maybe two to 4% of the people are high-value targets. then they would say that the majority of people killed are either low-level taliban supporters and that could be someone who you see on tv in the morning. >> willingly or not willingly. >> that's right. we really don't know. that is why for the bureau of investigative journalism, they have to put this down is unknown. that speaks volumes about this policy because this is a policy that drives on being secret especially in case of pakistan exclusively by the cia, which one has to question why a non-dodger organization would ever be given this kind of lethal force.
the other question is really what is in our government service and information about who is being killed except when they want to give us a high-value target and express their ability to be reaching people who were considered among leadership of al qaeda or the taliban. so otherwise until recently the definition of militants has been part of literary aids in the areas of the ground strikes. an ha it is. we have no many -- we don't know how many. but i try to do in the book and in the chapter on the victims is really to humanize them because i don't think there has been any mainstream tv and correct me if
i'm wrong talking about the "chicago tribune" but i really don't think that there is a mainstream newspaper that has given us with stories about the victims. telling us about the 200 plus children, what were their names, what do they like to do. how are their mothers coping with the death. none of the kind of stories that we would hear and children in this country are killed. so we do not know much about them read and i think we should be demanding from our government tell us who's been killed. i worked very hard in the case of afghanistan to help create a fund for innocent victims. we were actually successful and now with the help of senator leahy in congress and they created a fund in the military who also has its own slush fund for compensation.
in afghanistan, there is a system set up for families to go and see this from the government for the killing of their loved ones there is no acknowledgment by the u.s. government and certainly not any kind of apology. it is the least to say that there should be a system set up with the families were innocent people can speak about their times.
>> so those efforts allow iraq to change the way that the survivors and the community of the survivors do the government and i just want to congratulate you on those efforts. it really doesn't make a significant difference. >> i don't think it makes a huge difference in the way the military behaves. because if they know that they're going to have that knowledge and apologize and compensate, they are much more careful. i think it's one of the ways that we have to work towards an it is forcing our the government to make those kinds of emotions. >> effect of these attacks, i just want to read something from the book very briefly. the pakistan areas border
afghanistan. there are some 800,000 people living in there and many of them lived in a state of constant fear. whether they are working on their farms performing chores, going to the market, driving cars were sitting at home, they're always worried that you might strike. the inability to protect themselves and their loved ones compound the stress. so does their inability to hold anyone accountable. it's important to know not only to the families affected by the stretch themselves unaffected, are effective, but also the community as well as a whole weekend ... but you that's a very important issue that i saw when i traveled to places where the germans have been used, including in gaza were the israelis have been using drugs for quite some time. it was also the focus of nyu and stanford university and added this to the most recent edition of the book. it is so important to recognize
that it's not just the people who are killed and injured. it is also what it does to the community. these drums because of the hyper technology and for anyone who just doesn't understand, this is kind of a surreal technology where you are sitting in a vase in the united states like outside of las vegas were upstate new york or new mexico in an air-conditioned room or an ergonomic chair. occasionally pressing a button that is killing people thousands of miles away. that part of the technology it
includes these pilotless drones, but i guess they were utterly powerless, but they stay in the community they can fly low. when they fly low the community hears this on a constant basis that you keep hearing that was anything that drone is out to get you because you never know when it's going to launch a missile and who will head. for some reason you have no idea about it and this will be next year in the marketplace and you are afraid to send your kids to school because schools have been hit and they are going to community gatherings and you're free to go. also community meetings, the
traditional ways the community comes together to solve problems. so it really destroys the fabric of the community. and in addition there is the issue of who is giving the information about who should be targeted. so people start discussing this. and it could be because your political rival of somebody in this person is al qaeda or the taliban. it could be that you have a goal that is now hundreds of years old to dispute that family and so what this has done is really destroy the community network. that is why people in areas say that it's a form of collective punishment and they are terrorizing the community.
>> let me first make a, and other pilots. this could include killing somebody in their daytime job and her evening going home to their families and in good fathers and husbands and members of the community to see a significant level of ptsd i suggest that there is a gathering with an analyst of a young woman who spoke out it is
decent chance to have a green economy. for that, we need money. we can get involved in a the way that we did in afghanistan and iraq. so the drones give us the ability to get involved without doubt level of cost if you look at how it was done come it is extremely disturbing. that is the administration who went into the conflict in libya without letting congress discuss
it. that is because the administration said there is no american lives at risk and this is not a war. so congress doesn't really have a say about this. so it set a precedent for the next administration to get us involved in conflicts without going to congress. i think that it is dangerously seductive with former officials of the obama administration. it seems so effortless but lives at risk. he's just getting involved in somalia and bases now being peppered around the middle east and in africa as well as well as the pacific rim. why are john bases being set up
because they must be planned in the future as well. there is something to conserve the proliferation of jones. that is something that she has known about. >> talk a little bit about the cost. it is seen as a low cost option with significant dimensions. would you like to talk about that? >> there a lot of ways to look at this issue of cost. one is to say, all right, and f-15 cost $130 million. but a drone only costs $30 million and there are significant savings. except that i spend a lot more time in the air and the costs are somewhere between 2000 and $3500 per hour.
counterintuitively because you think well, you are saving. but you actually need a lot more people to maintain the drones and it seems like they need one hour of maintenance and a lot more people seem to be doing the analysis of intelligence and the endless data. because it is recording constantly and sending back images. then there is the little discussed fact that the drums crash a lot. you're constantly hearing about drums crashing. as they crash in pakistan and
afghanistan. then there's the fact that the drones can be brought down to be hacked. the iranians showed a very sophisticated production themselves. a professor from the university of texas in austin showed was a thousand dollars worth of equipment that he and his students to work on to hack into a drone and then there is the cost in terms of anti-american sentiment. it is a real cost. if you look at pakistan, three out of four pakistanis in the poll say they consider the united states an enemy and when the prime minister was asked why so many take this as way in the united states and she had an answer, which is drones. it is part of a u.s. base but they were using in the cost of
that has been over a billion dollars and that should be considered a cost as well. there are all kinds of ways to look at the cost. then i would say that one way is perhaps the biggest cost of all, not at the cost of not searching for nonmilitary alternatives. here we have on one hand the boots on the ground, where u.s. soldiers get killed. then you have the alternative. that is the drones. now cyberwarfare and special operations as well. those keep us looking at the third alternative, which is diplomacy. which is nonviolence and resolution of conflict, which is sitting down. after 11 years when we moved to third option. >> i think that is a key point. i think it is important you're not suggesting that the drone
warfare had a convention of warfare. you're talking about lowering the bar for some sort of armed conflict. there are 3000 civilian casualties in iraq during the active time. so talk a little bit more about that. he talked about a british study that did raise the question of whether or not if i was being set too low by drums or armed conflict and that has made unresponsive much more easy response. almost too easy for a response. can you talk about that? >> there is the other issue about violating other countries sovereignty that it is much harder to send in troops. it is really not going to last for very long because local people will find out.
sending a manned aircraft we have a past history of them being shot down and pilots being captured. so the drones are way to violate the sovereignty. in some cases without the local people knowing about it. in the cases of pakistan and yemen, the only reason the local people found out about it was thanks to bradley manning and wiki leaks. the reason is because when the cables were linked to the show correspondence between the leadership in pakistan and in yemen that said you use the drones and we will pretend that it is our military doing them. when that information came out of the to the public in most countries, it caused quite an outcry and it is one of the reasons for the arab spring through the dictatorship because people were so upset that they had that kind of deal with the
united states behind the backs of the people. so that is one way in which this technology does make it easier to get involved in other conflicts. because it can be done in a covert way in terms of the american people. the local people don't know either. >> speaking of yemen, this is where and why are was killed and he was targeted as opposed to being someone but he had suspected activities. this caused consternation in congress. so there is a legal issue there was an american being targeted. is that too much emphasis placed the fact that this is an american citizen and the implication is it okay to kill other citizens do not have your
own? talk a little bit about that. >> well, if any of you recall the 13 hour filibuster and a ram caught at the time of the hearing when johnson was the new head of the cia, he really focused on this issue of can you use drones to kill americans here in the united states. during the 13 hours, he educated the public a lot about how the drones were being used in his focus was on american citizens and particularly here in the united states. i think that our concern should be about innocent people who are being killed anywhere in the world read and in terms of not just innocent people but people who are being killed instead of being captured. because we should be capturing people. we should be giving them a fair trial. the fact that we suspect them of being terrorists does not mean that they are terrorists and is very concerned going back to the president's speech got referencing that the policies of this administration have been to
capture and not kill because that is just not true. unlike the almost thousand people who are captured and put into guantánamo bay, the alternative has been to kill them instead of capture them. so it is unfortunate, i think, that the obama administration has not been capturing people and when you bring up the case of the man who is captured, his father's been on u.s. television. not on mainstream television. but on some very fantastic tv led democracy now that amy goodman hosts. and you heard him say that his son could easily have been captured. there were never any charges against him. he was just considered a killer. even more tragic is the fact
that senior old american and his son was killed in a separate drone strike with a bunch of teenagers from yemen. all we did is say that there is a bunch of militants there was a 21-year-old militant so i think it is important to look at u.s. citizens we do not have something which most of us thought that we did have.
and this includes the right to a trial. but to have eric holder, and the attorney general to tell a group of northwestern students here in illinois that should've been something that just kind of woke up the entire legal community. and the rest of us who would would really like to make sure that we do have the right to a fair trial. so i do think that while we are at a point right now where there is a lot more scrutiny of the policies of the obama administration in terms of surveillance of the american people and going after
journalists and in terms of things like going after bradley manning, a young man who faces his entire life in prison. it is a good idea to maybe try to pressure government to go back to the rule of law to capture this in fair trials. >> that is a good start to talk about. so what are the potential threats, kind of looking out at them, what is the potential threat from the drone industry and the use of drums. what we see out there that is a potential danger? >> or two things happening. one is the proliferation of drums around the world because this is not nuclear technology. it is much simpler technology. it is being sold by the united states and israel and china and even south africa is now in the business of selling drones, including armed drones. so we should be concerned about how other countries will respond.
we have given him off the rest of the world so that we can go anywhere you want, kill anyone that we want on the basis of secret information, what are other countries going to do in the future. the other concern that we should have his drones being used at home. there is an extremely strong lobby of the drone industry. that is because of the multibillion dollar industry and they see the war in iraq winding down in afghanistan, they're looking for other outlets for selling drones. the surveillance drones, commercial drones, many potential and positive commercial uses of drones. terms used by governments were putting out fires and those used to track endangered species and lots of positive potential uses of drones. there is also potential dangers here in the united states. while the u.s. government doesn't seem too concerned about drums crashing in the mountains
of afghanistan, the federal aviation administration, which is in charge of your space is pinched and 10 concerned about them crashing over people's homes in the united states. so they have been very reluctant to give out lots of permits. with their friends in congress, the lobby performed a drone caucus to push for the proliferation of these drones. by the way, these kinds of people in the caucus have been getting a lot of money from the drone industry. they have passed legislation thursday september 2015 our airspace must be opened up to drones. there has been a scramble to see how to do that. if you are the potential users of drones, not only the commercial ones and others that i mentioned. there are about 18,000 police forces in the united states and the drone industry like to cater to every one of those and we
should be very concerned now that we know that the phone companies have given out our data to the government and we know about google and facebook giving our data to the government. the next step would be 24 sevenths surveillance by drones. on that note, what is very exciting is because this legislation has not gone into effect yet, there are communities and states that are fighting back against this preemptively. it is very exciting to see coalitions left and right, civil, libertarian, coming together at florida, idaho, montana, virginia, tennessee, not particularly blue states. they have all passed legislation against law enforcement agencies using drones without a court order and there are dozens of others here in illinois that are in the process of doing this.
>> on that note we will end it. i do want to say but one key point of this is that the author is not going to putting the genie back in the bottle before debate. >> this includes real regulation and regulating the use of drones to affect privacy. >> thank you everyone for coming. we thank you very much. it is so nice to see one. >> thank you. >> anyone want to get