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Remote control civilian killers

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The New York Times' Dexter Filkins relates a glimpse of the sanitized butchery in the State-side control rooms for the drone war. It seems that drone operators watching computer screens a half a world away from Afghanistan ignored evidence that civilians were about to be killed in their attack:

Operators of Drones Are Faulted in Afghan Deaths

KABUL, May 29 (NYT) - The American military on Saturday released a scathing report on the deaths of 23 Afghan civilians, saying that “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting by Predator drone operators helped lead to an airstrike in February on a group of innocent men, women and children. ...

The attack occurred on the morning of Feb. 21, near the village of Shahidi Hassas in Oruzgan Province ...

In this case, the military Predator operators in Nevada tracked the convoy for three and a half hours, but failed to notice any of the women who were riding along, the report said.

According to military officials in Washington and Afghanistan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters on the case, intelligence analysts who were monitoring the drone’s video feed sent computer messages twice, warning the drone operators and ground command posts that children were visible.

The report said that drone operators reported that the convoy contained only military-age men. “Information that the convoy was anything other than an attacking force was ignored or downplayed by the Predator crew,” General McHale wrote.

Immediately after the initial attack, the Kiowa helicopter’s crew spotted brightly colored clothing at the scene, and, suspecting that civilians might have been in the trucks, stopped firing.

After the attack, the Special Operations team turned over the bodies to local Afghans. Even so, General McHale said, officers on the ground failed to report the possibility of civilian casualties in a timely way. ... (link)

Note that military officers evidently attempted to avoid publicizing the civilian casualties.

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