Sen. Lindsey Graham says US drones have killed nearly 5,000 people

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

For the first time ever, a senior US senator has publicly announced the number of victims of America’s ever expanding drone war — and apparently it’s even bigger than some independent researchers have suggested.

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) put a number on the United States’ growing tally of kills caused by Uncle Sam’s arsenal of drones on Tuesday this week while speaking to constituents at the Easley Rotary Club in Easley, South Carolina.

“We’ve killed 4,700,” the Council for Foreign Relations says Sen. Graham told the crowd. “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.”

The influential American lawmaker has gone on the record several times in recent months to defend the expanding role of drone warfare in America’s foreign wars, but the actual number of casualties caused by the missile-equipped robots has gone largely unreported. In fact, neither the Executive nor Legislative branches of the US have formally offered as much as an estimate regarding the number of kills, and drone-strikes led by the Central Intelligence Agency have largely gone unconfirmed by the CIA, despite first-hand accounts from survivors of the attacks.

Previously, journalists that have been tasked with putting a body count on the drone program have settled on significantly smaller figures: in October 2012, the Washington Post reported that the number of drone deaths would soon hit 3,000 according to some estimates; two months later, an analysis of tallies from the New America Foundation, the Long War Journal and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism left the Council for Foreign Relations with an estimate of around 3,430 deaths.

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