While there is no such thing as an excusable killing of a civilian, these statistics, and the constant pressure to prevent further terror acts on American soil, somewhat mitigate the harm caused by the CIA's controversial drone assassination campaign.
Drones have entered our consciousness. The following reflections do not address legal, political, or military issues, though these have great importance. Rather I seek to begin a conversation about our relationship as human beings to these robotic objects as weapons.
Who is targeted, why, how and what civilian protection measures are put in place are unknown to anyone but a tight inner circle of policy makers -- an about-face for a president who pledged a transparent government in his first term. And Congress is following his lead.
Drone strikes are mostly killing low-level Pakistani militants, not al Qaeda leaders. This strategy is unlikely to cause the collapse of al Qaeda or even the Pakistani Taliban and may have counterproductive effects. Obama's second term may therefore require new thinking on drones.
Remember how the American public was assured that the prisoners locked up in Guantanamo were the "worst of the worst," only to find out that hundreds were innocent people who had been sold to the US military by bounty hunters?
Monday's debate may be the largest American audience to pay attention to the subject of drones strikes that are done in their name. That is, if moderator Bob Schieffer dares press the candidates on what may well be the most ominous power a president has: choosing who to kill.
While the two governments and their peoples become more suspicious and resentful of each other with every passing month, Washington and Islamabad are still locked in an awkward post-9/11 embrace that, at this juncture, neither can afford to let go of.
"The U.S. missile-attacks destroy militant training compounds and cars but they also hit mosques, homes, religious schools and civilian vehicles. I witnessed the fear, stress and depression this causes for the tribal communities on a visit to the region in May."
For the last week in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, and then in the nation's tribal areas, our delegation that came to Pakistan to protest U.S. drones has been showered with tremendous hospitality, warmth and friendship.
Most Democrats want to get U.S. troops the hell out of Afghanistan (outside of Official Washington, most Republicans agree.) But, the story goes, these Democrats have to have an "alternative," and the "alternative" is drone strikes.