by Joe Scarry
When you start to look at the way U.S. drone killings are reported — as I did with the September 5 drone killing in Pakistan — you notice that the U.S. government has amodus operandi for pulling the wool over our eyes, and then making us all complicit in the process.
Hence the extreme urgency that the U.S. comply with thecall by the U.N. for full accountability for its drone killing program.
Following our own modus operandi for breaking down the current U.S. practice of deception, below is a look at the Tuesday, October 29, 2013, New York Times account of a drone strike in Somalia the previous day: Pentagon Says Shabab Bomb Specialist Is Killed in Missile Strike in Somalia . As with the September 5 account from Pakistan, this short account is a case study in what is wrong with the U.S. drone wars.
(1) No due process
The most obvious fact is that people were killed by the U.S. using drones without due process of law. This can only be understood as an extrajudicial execution, i.e. a war crime.
The most prominent victim of the drone strike was Ibrahim Ali –“an explosives specialist for the Shabab known for his skill in building and using homemade bombs and suicide vests.”
We are told, “He’s been identified as someone we’ve been tracking for a long time.” (Hmmm … almost identical to the statement made about the September 5 victim.)
The newspaper account makes sure to remind us of the role of the Shabab in “the bloody siege at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, last month in which more than 60 men, women and children were killed.” Presumably we are supposed to connect the dots between that event and this execution ourselves.
Once again, the U.S. government is using the media to try, convict, and execute someone. We need to continue to insist instead on due process.
(As with my previous post, I’m focusing here on the legal issues that affect the individual. The violation of national sovereignty — including the implication that Somalia is complicit in U.S. violations — will be the subject of an entire separate post.)
As usual, the New York Times account repeats characterizations of the victims in a way that tends to imply that they “had it coming.”
And, as often happens, guilt is imputed through geography: the targeted car was “traveling to Baraawe, a coastal town that is one of the [Shabab] group’s strongholds.”
The New York Times uncritically passes along characterizations of people in a way that is damning. It is a deeply immoral course of conduct.
Following the usual m.o., the web of allegations is continued in more detail on the website of theLong War Journal.
by Alfonso Munoz
(3) Collateral damage?
There is no report of people besides the intended target being killed – unless you count the other person in the car with Ibrahim Ali.
(4) The “network” trope
As usual, the New York Times account is propelled by the notion of the “networks” that the victims were involved in.
Isn’t the implication here that this extrajudicial execution is a small price to pay in the larger project of “managing” radicalized Americans?
(5) What is the social function that “militant” leaders provide in Somalia?
To its credit, the account suggests that we need to get beyond the simple stereotypes about “militants” in other countries — particularly the stereotype that says “it’s all about us.”
(6) Are we just feeding the real source of the problem?
Most important of all, when we read accounts such as these, we should ask ourselves: “Isn’t thisexactly what feeds hatred against the United States abroad? How can this possibly be suggested as a way to make Americans safer and the world a better place?”
A September 5, 2013, U.S. drone strike in Pakistan killed six people – including Sangeen Zadran — a “senior militant commander” who was “implicated in a long-running kidnapping drama involving an American soldier.”
A new U.N. report makes it clear that the U.S. has to report fully on all its drone attacks.
If the public will join us in asking the question “Who decides?” about drone executions, I believe they will rapidly come to realize that they are utterly dissatisfied with what the government is saying.