Sunday, June 10, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #60 - Part 4

Outrage of the Week: White House lies about "militants" to hide civilian casualties from drone attacks

So, we're told, the US recently killed another #2 in al-Qaeda. How many does that make now? A couple of dozen #2s or something? US officials called the killing of Abu Yahya al Libi "a major blow to the battered core leadership" of the group. How many such "major blows" is that now?

This whole thing increasingly reminds me of reading 1984, which described a population kept in thrall partly by the constant presence of war. The nation is always at war, always under threat, always at risk. But that could get people discouraged, even - oh, the horror - defeatist. So there are victories, lots and lots of victories, yes, we are winning, forever winning! But never have won. No matter how many victories, there is never victory. The war, the threat, the need for submission to the government for the sake of safety and national unity in the face of danger always remain.

Al Libi was killed in a CIA drone strike. The spooks had targeted him in three separate missile attacks over three days, finally succeeding in strikes that destroyed a house and a vehicle. There was nothing reported about the destruction or death from the previous two attacks.

The killing of al Libi was part of a recent surge in Predator drone attacks, a surge which is causing more problems for US-Pakistan relations. Pakistan's government has condemned the CIA's use of drones, which has killed civilians and which Pakistan says has provided a recruiting tool for insurgents. In the wake of this latest wave, Pakistan's foreign ministry said they "represented a clear red line for Pakistan." The US ambassador "was informed that the drone strikes were unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. Parliament had emphatically stated that they were unacceptable."

We don't care. We don't have to care. We're like Lili Tomlin's phone operator talking about the phone company. We're the US: We don't have to care about what Pakistan thinks.

But that's not why this is the Outrage of the Week. This is:

US news accounts keep referring to "militants" killed. It seems no civilians are hurt or killed in these attacks. Indeed, the White House insists that civilian casualties are in "the single digits."

The thing is, these media outlets have no idea whatsoever about who was killed in these strikes. None. All they know is that officials, American or Pakistani, told them that they were "militants" and they blandly repeat that as fact. They report this not only without having the slightest idea whether it’s true or not but in the face of reports of civilian deaths by major international news agencies (Reuters, AP, BBC, and others). But worse, they do it with the full knowledge - but without ever mentioning - that the meaning of the word "militant" is being aggressively and deliberately distorted by US government propaganda.

Barack Obama - PHC* - has embraced what is politely called a "disputed method" for counting civilian casualties. This method regards all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, as "militants," as "terrorists," unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent. I'm very sure first that US intelligence goes to great lengths to see if the people they killed were actually "militants" or not, and I'm equally sure that their families, their parents, wives, children, that the families of the dead - and the dead themselves - are very grateful for the posthumous finding that they were innocent victims.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: People in an area of known terrorist activity, or anywhere near a top Qaeda operative, they say, are probably up to no good. And "probably," of course, is a good enough reason to kill people.

But sure, this makes perfect sense. So let's go to Mattapan, let's go to the South Bronx in New York, and take everyone living there and throw them into prison. Because, after all, we would tell them, you're not just in, you're living in an area of known criminal activity so "simple logic" we can assume you are all criminals.

Guilt by association, murder by proxy, lies, and meanings of words changed to fit government policy in another echo of 1984. What more could you need for the Outrage of the Week?


*PHC = President Hopey-Changey

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