Skip to Content

Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2641

U.S. on Civilian Casualties: Inherent right of self-defense-national interest

Daya Gamage - Asian Tribune US National Correspondent
Washington, D.C. 03 July (

"U.S. policy on civilian casualties resulting from U.S. operations involving the use of force in armed conflict or in the exercise of the Nation's inherent right of self-defense is based on our national interest, our values, and our legal obligations", declares President Obama in an Executive Order of July 1 outlining the United States policy on civilian casualties as result of its current Global War On Terror.

President Obama in his Executive Order further states that "civilian casualties are a tragic and at times unavoidable consequences of the use of force in situations of armed conflict or in the exercise of a state's inherent right of self-defense".

However, the American president said "the U.S. Government shall maintain and promote best practices that reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties, take appropriate steps when such casualties occur, and draw lessons from our operations to further enhance the protection of civilians".

There was wide spread criticism and condemnation from global rights groups and investigative journalist organizations that the United States Government drone attacks have excessively killed civilians than targeted terrorist operatives.

The U.S. Government report acknowledged that outside groups had published “significantly higher figures,” but said their numbers relied on reports about events in remote and inaccessible areas that might be inaccurate or tainted by “terrorist propaganda.”

The Obama Executive Order maintains that the government has access to superior information when counting civilian deaths, drawing on “video observations, human sources and assets, signals intelligence, geospatial intelligence, accounts from local officials on the ground, and open source reporting” to determine whether people killed in its strikes had “undertaken certain acts that reliably connote meaningful integration” into an enemy group.

The New York Times reacting to President Obama's Executive Order said "It is an open secret that the majority of drone strikes have taken place there as Central Intelligence Agency covert operations, which has meant that the administration’s periodic pledges to be more transparent about targeted killings have not been completely fulfilled".

The administration’s count of civilian deaths is about half of the lowest estimate from independent watchdogs, which base their estimates largely on press reports and information from local officials. The Long War Journal, the Washington-based security policy organization New America and the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimate that 200 to 800 civilians have been killed by American air strikes outside war zones since 2009.

Partially lifting the secrecy that has cloaked one of the United States’ most contentious tactics for fighting terrorists, the Obama administration on Friday said that it believed that airstrikes it has conducted outside conventional war zones like Afghanistan have killed 64 to 116 civilian bystanders and about 2,500 members of terrorist groups.

What is striking in the President's Executive Order in mentioning the occurrence of civilian casualties in U.S. battle in armed conflict with terrorist is the United States inherent right of self-defense and foremost national interest.

- Asian Tribune –

President Obama's national security stalwarts Dr. Samantha Power and Dr. Susan Rice
diconary view
Share this