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US War Crimes Becoming Routine
by Glenn Greenwald via sam - Salon Tuesday, May 8 2012, 11:25pm
international / injustice/law / other press

Favourite war crime weapon deployed by the CIA and military -- DRONES -- have done their IMPRECISE, dastardly job again and killed more women and CHILDREN. The command to launch -- deadly and imprecise by nature -- missiles was given in the full knowledge that civilians would also be killed, that ACTION constitutes a war crime in any Court on the globe, there's no avoiding the legal issue but there is avoiding RESPONSIBILITY simply because the passive American population, in the face of heinous (conscious) MURDER, allows its government to commit these crimes. The people are therefore complicit -- a condition elite cabals desperately sought to create!

drone.jpg

The unfortunates secretly selected for targeting by the US never offer a clean target in an open field etc, they are always in company, as is natural for social human beings. They are rarely on front lines as most are non-combatants, as is clear from all the civilian deaths associated with illegal Drone strikes. So what is the US doing other than killing at will anyone they 'deem' to be a 'threat' -- and to hell with INNOCENT women, children, civilians and other non-combatants.

If we hearken back to the mid-twentieth century the last nation with such an ideology and such appalling callous disregard for INNOCENT human life was CRIMINAL Nazi Germany -- need I say more?

America, as the world's leading civilian killing nation, is also the most criminal, terrorist nation in the WORLD -- there's no avoiding the MORAL and LEGAL FACTS! Now go stick your head in the sand, America, and hope you can avoid just retribution!

Report follows:

US attack kills 5 Afghan kids

Yesterday, I noted several reports from Afghanistan that as many as 20 civilians were killed by two NATO airstrikes, including a mother and her five children. Today, the U.S. confirmed at least some of those claims, acknowledging and apologizing for its responsibility for the death of that family:

The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Monday.

The attack, which took place Friday night, was first revealed by the governor of Helmand Province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on Monday. His spokesman, Dawoud Ahmadi, said that after an investigation they had determined that a family home in the Sangin district had been attacked by mistake in the American airstrike, which was called in to respond to a Taliban attack. . . . The victims were the family’s mother and five of her children, three girls and two boys, according to Afghan officials.

This happens over and over and over again, and there are several points worth making here beyond the obvious horror:

(1) To the extent these type of incidents are discussed at all — and in American establishment media venues, they are most typically ignored — there are certain unbending rules that must be observed in order to retain Seriousness credentials. No matter how many times the U.S. kills innocent people in the world, it never reflects on our national character or that of our leaders. Indeed, none of these incidents convey any meaning at all. They are mere accidents, quasi-acts of nature which contain no moral information (in fact, the NYT article on these civilian deaths, out of nowhere, weirdly mentioned that “in northern Afghanistan, 23 members of a wedding celebration drowned in severe flash flooding” — as though that’s comparable to the U.S.’s dropping bombs on innocent people). We’ve all been trained, like good little soldiers, that the phrase “collateral damage” cleanses and justifies this and washes it all way: yes, it’s quite terrible, but innocent people die in wars; that’s just how it is. It’s all grounded in America’s central religious belief that the country has the right to commit violence anywhere in the world, at any time, for any cause.

At some point — and more than a decade would certainly qualify — the act of continuously killing innocent people, countless children, in the Muslim world most certainly does reflect upon, and even alters, the moral character of a country, especially its leaders. You can’t just spend year after year piling up the corpses of children and credibly insist that it has no bearing on who you are. That’s particularly true when, as is the case in Afghanistan, the cause of the war is so vague as to be virtually unknowable. It’s woefully inadequate to reflexively dismiss every one of these incidents as the regrettable but meaningless by-product of our national prerogative. But to maintain mainstream credibility, that is exactly how one must speak of our national actions even in these most egregious cases. To suggest any moral culpability, or to argue that continuously killing children in a country we’re occupying is morally indefensible, is a self-marginalizing act, whereby one reveals oneself to be a shrill and unSerious critic, probably even a pacifist. Serious commentators, by definition, recognize and accept that this is merely the inevitable outcome of America’s supreme imperial right, note (at most) some passing regret, and then move on.

(2) Yesterday — a week after it leaked that it was escalating its drone strikes in Yemen — the Obama administration claimed that the CIA last month disrupted a scary plot originating in Yemen to explode an American civilian jet “using a more sophisticated version of the underwear bomb deployed unsuccessfully in 2009.” American media outlets — especially its cable news networks — erupted with their predictable mix of obsessive hysteria, excitement and moral outrage. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last night devoted the bulk of his show to this plot, parading the standard cast of characters — former Bush Homeland Security adviser (and terrorist advocate) Fran Townsend and its “national security analyst” Peter Bergen — to put on their Serious and Concerned faces, recite from the U.S. Government script, and analyze all the profound implications. CNN even hauled out Rep. Peter King to warn that this shows a “new level” of Terror threats from Yemen. CNN’s fixation on this plot continued into this morning.

Needless to say, the fact that the U.S. has spent years and years killing innocent adults and children in that part of the world — including repeatedly in Yemen — was never once mentioned, even though it obviously is a major factor for why at least some people in that country support these kinds of plots. Those facts are not permitted to be heard. Discussions of causation — why would someone want to attack a U.S. airliner? – is an absolute taboo, beyond noting that the people responsible are primitive and hateful religious fanatics. Instead, it is a simple morality play reinforced over and over: Americans are innocently minding their own business — trying to enjoy our Freedoms — and are being disgustingly targeted with horrific violence by these heinous Muslim Terrorists whom we must crush (naturally, the solution to the problem that there is significant anti-American animosity in Yemen is to drop even more bombs on them, which will certainly fix this problem).

Indeed, on the very same day that CNN and the other cable news networks devoted so much coverage to a failed, un-serious attempt to bring violence to the U.S. — one that never moved beyond the early planning stages and “never posed a threat to public safety” — it was revealed that the U.S. just killed multiple civilians, including a family of 5 children, in Afghanistan. But that got no mention. That event simply does not exist in the world of CNN and its viewers (I’d be shocked if it has been mentioned on MSNBC or Fox either). Nascent, failed non-threats directed at the U.S. merit all-hands-on-deck, five-alarm media coverage, but the actual extinguishing of the lives of children by the U.S. is steadfastly ignored (even though the latter is so causally related to the former).

This is the message sent over and over by the U.S. media: we are the victims of heinous, frightening violence; our government must do more, must bomb more, must surveil more, to Keep Us Safe; we do nothing similar to this kind of violence because we are Good and Civilized. This is how our Objective, Viewpoint-Free journalistic outlets continuously propagandize: by fixating on the violence done by others while justifying — or, more often, ignoring — the more far-reaching and substantial violence perpetrated by the U.S.

(3) If one of the relatives of the children just killed in Afghanistan decided to attack the U.S. — or if one of the people involved in this Yemen-originating plot were a relative of one of the dozens of civilians killed by Obama’s 2009 cluster bomb strike — what would they be called by the U.S. media? Terrorists. Primitive, irrational, religious fanatics beyond human decency.

UPDATE: It is now confirmed that the would-be bomber of the civilian jet was, in fact, a double agent working for the CIA and Saudi intelligence. So just as virtually every “domestic Terror plot” is one conceived, directed, funded and controlled by the FBI, this new Al Qaeda plot from Yemen was directed by some combination of the CIA and its Saudi partners. So this wasn’t merely a failed, nascent plot which is causing this fear-mongering media orgy: it was one controlled at all times by the U.S. and Saudi Governments.

© 2011 Salon Media Group, Inc

Straight from the Horse's mouth


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Government smear campaigns against reporters exposing drone wars
by John Hanrahan via reed - Nieman Watchdog Monday, May 14 2012, 12:00am

Why is the New York Times enabling a U.S. government smear campaign against reporters exposing the drone wars?

The Times let government officials anonymously attack a group of journalists and a lawyer who have uncovered evidence that belies the White House's claim that drones aren't killing many civilians. Was their rationale for that justified?

A human rights lawyer and a group of investigative journalists who have exposed the extensive civilian casualties from CIA drone strikes in Pakistan are being smeared by anonymous U.S. government officials, who have even accused them of being sympathetic to al Qaeda.

Two of the anonymous accusations came in articles in The New York Times, despite the paper's own rules against personal attacks by unnamed sources.

Pakistani human rights attorney Shahzad Akbar and the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) say the campaign is intended to deter mainstream news organizations from reporting that the White House is lying about how many innocent people are being killed by the drone strikes.

President Obama's top terrorism adviser John O. Brennan recently contended that civilian deaths were "exceedingly rare." The BIJ, though, puts total drone deaths in Pakistan since 2004 at between 2,440 and 3,113, and they say between 479 and 821 of the dead were civilians, including 174 children. Drone attacks in Pakistan have dramatically increased since Obama took office: President Bush was responsible for 52; Obama for 270 and counting.

Relying on the BIJ’s comprehensive research and his own investigations in support of a number of clients who are drone victims or families of victims and who are suing the CIA, Akbar has for the last two years sharply challenged U.S. government assertions regarding civilian casualties, most recently by filing two lawsuits in Pakistan, demanding a criminal investigation into the killings by Hellfire missile of some 50 people, including tribal elders in Waziristan in March 2011. (See Niemanwatchdog.org's May 10 story, Civilian drone victims, unrecognized by the U.S. government and public, seek justice.)

Akbar's public criticisms of the program, including naming the CIA station chief in Pakistan and calling for his trial on murder charges for drone killings of civilians, has made him a particular thorn in the side of U.S. officials.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism is a not-for-profit organization made up of former editors and reporters for major U.K. news organizations that undertakes investigations on a variety of subjects for various print and broadcast outlets in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Akbar and BIJ senior reporter Chris Woods both spoke recently at an international drone conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the peace group Code Pink, the U.K.-based human rights group Reprieve, and the Pakistan-based Foundation for Fundamental Rights, which Akbar heads.

Woods told the conference audience that his organization had been subjected to an anonymous smear campaign by the CIA. The agency, he said, has attacked his organization’s findings aggressively “and has asked our partners” -- newspapers and broadcasters who have collaborated with BIJ -- not to use BIJ’s reports.

Two of the anonymous smears came from unnamed U.S. government sources quoted in two separate New York Times articles reporting on Akbar’s and BIJ’s findings. The writer of both stories was the Times's highly regarded national security reporter, Scott Shane.

Brennan, in June 2011, asserted that in the preceding 12 months, "there hasn't been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we've been able to develop."

In an August 11, 2011 Times article, Shane reported Akbar and BIJ's evidence to the contrary. But he also wrote: “American officials accuse Mr. Akbar of working to discredit the drone program at the behest of the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the Pakistani spy service. Mr. Akbar and others who know him strongly deny the accusation.”

Shane quoted another human rights lawyer who worked with Akbar in Pakistan and who described the anonymous charges of ISI connections as “not credible at all.” But the article also allowed unnamed officials to take a shot at BIJ: “American officials said the Bureau of Investigative Journalism report was suspect because it relied in part on information supplied by Mr. Akbar, who publicly named the C.I.A.’s undercover Pakistan station chief in December when announcing his legal campaign against the drones.”

More recently, on February 8, the Times reported the BIJ’s findings that the CIA’s drone attacks in Pakistan “have repeatedly targeted rescuers who responded to the scene of a strike, as well as mourners at subsequent funerals.” But after highlighting BIJ’s report, the article then allowed a “senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity” to not just question the report’s findings, but to state: “One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions -- there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help al Qaeda succeed.”

That latter direct quote essentially allowed the anonymous source to declare critics of the drone program as traitors and dupes.

Shane, in written responses to a number of questions that Nieman Watchdog posed to him about the two articles, said he believes this particular quote was not necessarily directed at BIJ, calling it “ambiguous, and I wish I had been able to clarify it.” He added: “Based on all my reporting over the last couple of years, I believe U.S. government officials have in mind not BIJ or other journalists as sympathizers of Al Qaeda but militants and perhaps ISI officers who supply what they consider disinformation on strikes to journalists.”

The Times’ own “Confidential News Sources Policy,” in an effort to stop the overuse or unfair use of anonymous sources, states, among other things: “We do not grant anonymity to people who use it as cover for a personal or partisan attack.”

But Shane defended the use of the anonymous quotes in the two articles, saying that he and his editors agreed that the quotes were needed to give “some voice from the other side” -- that is, the government -- in articles reporting allegations of civilian deaths. Until the drone-strike program is made overt and government officials can talk more freely about it, Shane said, “journalists often have a choice of quoting anonymous officials or writing stories about accusations of bad strikes and innocent deaths and including no response at all. I feel it's important to include some voice from the other side, and my editors have agreed. In addition, it seems to me important to citizens to know what the government says, even if some citizens find the statements unpersuasive or worse.”

The problem, though, with the U.S. government as the anonymous “voice from the other side,” is that the real unrepresented “voice from the other side” in the mainstream news media is that of the civilian victims. Their voices and names seldom appear in the mainstream media.

Shane should be credited for writing the two articles that gave headlines and space to the drone-strike critics. But those government officials are not so oppressed that they should be allowed to anonymously trash their critics’ reputations and motivations. Readers might reasonably assume that the Times wouldn’t run such quotes anonymously and without proof unless there were some truth to them.

Because the drone strikes occur in remote, inaccessible areas, Akbar said at the conference, “The CIA is the only source as to what’s happening on the ground in Waziristan,” so U.S. officials always tell western reporters that only armed “militants” were targeted and killed. Relying on that as the truth would be comparable, he said, to reporters relying on only the Taliban’s or other militants’ version of events when they “administer horrible punishment on citizens.” His goal, Akbar said, is to publicize cases of drone killings of civilians, using the names of the civilian dead, to force the “American president to admit that he is klling children and women in your name” and to show that the drone attacks “are not making America safer, because you are only creating more enemies.”


* * *

Since Shane’s response sheds light on what he describes as the dilemma of dealing with government officials on programs that are classified, but nevertheless very public, here is his response in full to our questions:

“The drone program, as I have written, is in the strange category of classified but public information, which creates difficulties both for government officials and for journalists. Many outsiders and some government officials think the situation is untenable and that the program should be made overt, so that real debates could take place on Congress and the public on these issues.

“In the meantime, journalists often have a choice of quoting anonymous officials or writing stories about accusations of bad strikes and innocent deaths and including no response at all. I feel it's important to include some voice from the other side, and my editors have agreed. In addition, it seems to me important to citizens to know what the government says, even if some citizens find the statements unpersuasive or worse.

“In the first [August 11] story you mention, read carefully everything about Shahzad Akbar. The story subjects to scrutiny the claim that he's an ISI tool and presents evidence to the contrary. The quote in the second story is ambiguous, and I wish I had been able to clarify it. Based on all my reporting over the last couple of years, I believe US government officials have in mind not BIJ or other journalists as sympathizers of Al Qaeda but militants and perhaps ISI officers who supply what they consider disinformation on strikes to journalists.

“It's interesting and useful to criticize journalists struggling with such dilemmas -- it's a sport I have often enjoyed myself -- but for a reporter this story poses real challenges without easy choices.”

© 2012 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College


 
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