Who Exactly Is Doing The Dying From Obama’s Drone Strikes?




The United States has killed more than 3,000 people in Pakistan with drone strikes. Breaking down who died and when into a clear and useful way can be tricky. Pitch Interactive, which has worked with Popular Science in the past, and its latest on drone casualties provides a straightforward look at a relatively murky war. At least, as clear a portrait as one can get from a contested area with biased witnesses, reporters, and governments all trying to shape the debate.


By email, I asked Wesley Grubbs of Pitch Interactive about the data.

Popular Science: Victims are categorized as children, civilians, “high-profile,” and “other.” Did you consider breaking up the “other,” and if so, was that a problem of unclear information? Or was it something else, like wanting to avoid assuming a clear answer when the data isn’t so much unclear as politically contested?

Grubbs:The “Other” category is really a very grey zone. The Obama administration would call these people “military combatants” because they are of-age males. However, many people in this category are actually civilians. It’s just that many of the bodies are beyond recognition or there are conflicting reports on the ground about who they are. It’s never clear exactly who they are or what threat they pose. The high-profile targets, however, are the people who [we] know have direct affiliations with the Taliban or Al Qaeda. However, say a military combatant’s house was hit and his neighbor’s house was also hit in the strike, the neighbor would be automatically termed as a military combatant if he was male. Because of this, we did not want to call these people military combatant and there is not enough data to break these men out further.”