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Suspected Militants

I know one shouldn’t be surprised that some things never change. Things like, on matters of war, governments lie. It doesn’t matter who’s in charge. It doesn’t matter if the guy lying is the one who promised to end those lying ways. It’s just what governments do. I don’t know why. I just know. A lesson President Obama has done so much to help me learn. I mean, Nixon was a scoundrel. Bush a liar. Obama? Well, nice guy and all, but on matters of war, I’m not seeing much difference.

Remember General Westmoreland’s light at the end of the tunnel? Well, maybe you don’t. But I do. 1967. The war in Vietnam would be over soon. I was naive enough to believe it. And naive enough a few years later to think our officials wouldn’t be feeding us the same crap again. But they do. Iraq. Afghanistan. Always light. Light at the end of the tunnel.

Let’s talk about drones. The big news this past week was Tuesday’s NYT article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane about Obama’s kill list and drone policies. I wrote about it that day, quoting the following passage:

Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.

“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”

I had intended in that post to draw a link between the February killing of Trayvon Martin and the notion that if you “look” suspicious, that’s sufficient basis for being shot. It turns out the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Will Bunch made this very point, as well as a point about David Axelrod’s presence in the room with Obama when kill decisions are made:

This may be the ultimate example of something we’ve seen a lot in the last three and a half years, which we’ll call, “If President Bush did this, liberals would be outraged.” For what little it’s worth, I’m fairly outraged. I do certainly approve of the raid and killing of Osama bin Laden and believe there was a time when al-Qaeda was stronger and more of a threat that these kind of attacks could be justified with solid intelligence.

But today the harm that’s caused by raining death from machines in the sky down onto far too many civilians — including someone’s son, brother, or father who wasn’t “up to no good” at all — vastly outweighs any good. Righteous anger over the killing of civilians creates new terrorists faster than the killing of any old ones. As for the morally indefensible position that any male killed in such an attack is “probably up to no good,” isn’t the Obama administration saying the EXACT same thing that George Zimmerman said about Trayvon Martin?

Ponder that for a moment.

One more revolting thing is the news that a political adviser, David Axelrod, sat in on some of these meetings at which it was decided who would live and die.

If Karl Rove had done that (which he did, by the way). liberals would have been outraged.

Drone attacks continue:

The second U.S. drone attack in as many days killed 10 people in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, intelligence officials said, an incident likely to raise tensions in the standoff between Washington and Islamabad over NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.

The remotely-piloted aircraft fired four missiles at a suspected Islamist militant hideout in the Birmal area of the South Waziristan tribal region near the Afghanistan border, officials said.

A drone strike in the same area killed two suspected militants on Saturday.

[snip]

The CIA drone campaign fuels anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan and is counterproductive because of collateral damage, Pakistani officials say. But U.S. officials say such strikes are highly effective against militants.

What are we to think when told that a drone strike killed two suspected militants, or that such strikes are highly effective against militants? Remember, US policy is to count “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.” By definition, our drone strikes kill suspected militants and are effective.

And, what are we to think when newspapers and news agencies repeat such statements without a comment on government counting policy? It’s bad enough that the government BS’s us. It’s worse that our media follow suit.

Which brings me to where I started, recalling Vietnam 45 years ago, the phony body counts, the lies. Have we learned nothing?

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