Covering up homicide

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama said: “… in the last year, hundreds of al Qaeda’s fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed — far more than in 2008.”

He could have said “we have killed…” just to make it clear that he includes himself as an actor, not an observer, in the killing process. And he could also have said “and we killed a bunch of innocent bystanders as well.” But maybe when it comes to al Qaeda, there is in Obama’s mind no such person as an innocent bystander. Maybe the children, wives and grandparents are “affiliates”.

In Pakistan the concept of an innocent bystander has not been abandoned and what Obama touts as great success is perceived as an ongoing unrelenting massacre.

Here are some of the latest damning numbers – numbers that no doubt many an American journalist will hesitate to report because they haven’t been confirmed by the holiest of sources, the Pentagon:

Afghanistan-based US predators carried out a record number of 12 deadly missile strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan in January 2010, of which 10 went wrong and failed to hit their targets, killing 123 innocent Pakistanis. The remaining two successful drone strikes killed three al-Qaeda leaders, wanted by the Americans.

The rapid increase in the US drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal areas bordering Afghanistan can be gauged from the fact that only two such strikes were carried out in January 2009, which killed 36 people. The highest number of drone attacks carried out in a single month in 2009 was six, which were conducted in December last year. But the dawn of the New Year has already seen a dozen such attacks.

Note that all of these Predator attacks came after the CIA team widely reported as having been responsible for Predator targeting had been killed in the Khost bombing.

Now if it became known that the US government was responsible for sending gunmen into restaurants where mafia-style they left their targets riddled with bullets in front of horrified onlookers, even if there were no innocent bystanders killed, there would be public outrage. The government would be accused of having stooped to using the methods of gangsters.

Instead, we fire missiles, destroy the restaurant and kill everyone in it and even if it turns out the target had already left, somehow it’s OK. It was an innocent mistake. It happened in a distant country. We’ll never hear the names of the dead.

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