Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

How Many Have We Killed?

leave a comment »

Many people choose ignorance rather than knowledge when the information is painful or conflicts with their treasured beliefs—or, indeed, might conflict with their treasured beliefs: the GOP and NRA, for example, are implacably opposed to any scientific studies of gun violence: they fear the knowledge might not agree with their stated positions, I assume. Fracking companies vigorously oppose publishing what they are pumping into our soil (and groundwater): if people don’t know what it is, they will not object. Some states (e.g., Oklahoma) refuse to state what chemicals they are using in their lethal injections for the death penalty—it could be simply chlorine and lye, for all we know.

And now this, reported in the NY Review of Books by David Cole:

On Monday, The New York Times reported that “the Senate has quietly stripped a provision from an intelligence bill that would have required President Obama to make public each year the number of people killed or injured in targeted killing operations in Pakistan and other countries where the United States uses lethal force.” National security officials in the Obama administration objected strongly to having to notify the public of the results and scope of their dirty work, and the Senate acceded. So much for what President Obama has called “the most transparent administration in history.”

The Senate’s decision is particularly troubling in view of how reticent the administration itself continues to be about the drone program. To date, Obama has publicly admitted to the deaths of only four people in targeted killing operations. That came in May 2013, when, in conjunction with a speech at the National Defense University, and, in his words, “to facilitate transparency and debate on the issue,” President Obama acknowledged for the first time that the United States had killed four Americans in drone strikes. But according to credible accounts, Obama has overseen the killing of several thousand people in drone strikes since taking office. Why only admit to the four Americans’ deaths? Is the issue of targeted killings only appropriate for debate when we kill our own citizens? Don’t all human beings have a right to life?

In the NDU speech, President Obama also announced new limits on the use of drones “beyond the Afghan theater.” He proclaimed that drone strikes would be authorized away from the battlefield only when necessary to respond to “continuing and imminent threats” posed by people who cannot be captured or otherwise countermanded. Most important, he said, “before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured—the highest standard we can set.” Yet in December, a US drone strike in Yemen reportedly struck a wedding party. The New York Times reported that while some of the victims may have been linked to al-Qaeda, the strike killed “at least a half dozen innocent people, according to a number of tribal leaders and witnesses.”

The decision to drop the requirement to report on the number of people we kill in drone strikes fittingly if depressingly came on the ten-year anniversary of CBS’s airing of the photos of torture and prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. To this day, the United States has not held accountable any senior official for torture inflicted during the “war on terror”—not at Abu Ghraib, not at Guantanamo, not at Bagram Air Force Base, and not in the CIA’s secret prisons, or “black sites.” President Obama has stuck to his commitment to look forward, not backward, and his administration has opposed all efforts to hold the perpetrators of these abuses to account. Indeed, the administration has classified even the memories of the survivors of torture in CIA black sites, now housed at Guantanamo, maintaining that they and their lawyers cannot under any circumstance even talk publically about their mistreatment.

To be fair, Obama deserves some credit for both banning torture and achieving some transparency on the subject.. .

Continue reading.

I’ll say it again: trying to resolve political problems by killing people doesn’t work. I would think that every strike with people who are clearly innocent are killed or maimed must convert the victims’ entire extended families to an anti-American view. Some proportion will doubtless become at least terrorists of opportunity. Non-violent methods of resolution should be exhausted before war, which truly is the last resort—not the first resort.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2014 at 12:01 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: