For decades, the Pentagon has dropped bombs on communities from control centers thousands of miles away. The New York Times found that one in every five people killed in the Pentagon’s lethal drone strikes are ordinary people. This is a shockingly high rate, and likely even to be an undercount.
When these tragedies strike, there is little recourse for their survivors. While Congress has allocated $3 million each year for condolence, or “ex gratia,” payments, too many victims never see a cent. The Pentagon’s track record is unconscionably low: In 2021, just one ex gratia payment was made, and NONE the year before.
This system is broken, and even now, as the Pentagon updates its condolence guidelines, we’re hearing that they are unlikely to go far enough. The Pentagon is reluctant to use this money to pay victims of past strikes — preferring to pay only for future harms.
That’s why advocates and activists alike are raising the alarm: This policy leaves past victims out in the cold, excluding the exact people it should be serving. Every wrongful victim of the Pentagon’s violence deserves justice and accountability. Let’s make sure Defense Secretary Austin hears from people across the country before the ink dries on another bad policy!