‘Samaritan attack’ is an expression unknown to most Americans. That’s hardly surprising given that the phrase has never appeared in U.S. media coverage of President Obama’s drone war in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.
Rasul Mana, who comes from the village of Sirkut Burakhel Supulga in Waziristan, describes the experience of living under the constant threat of a drone strike and explains what ‘Samaritan attack’ means.
Every day we hear the voice of the drones at least six or seven times. We listen for the voice 24 hours a day. We are afraid at night as we lie in our beds.
The drones are going around and around over our heads. There may be four or five at any given time. They are normally very high, but sometimes they come down if there is a dust storm or it is cloudy. They also tend to come down lower to attack, which is when you get very scared.
When the missile is launched it makes a loud noise – zzhhooo – as it drops onto its target.
Many of the strikes are in the black of night. We run to where the attack has happened, we see people dead and crying in pain. No matter what time of night, the children will all be awake and crying. When we look for the injured, or pick up the pieces of the dead bodies, we know that the Americans may do another attack. It’s called a Good Samaritan attack, aimed at anyone who tries to help the injured, as they’re assumed to be friends of the original victims, who are themselves assumed to be militants.
Glenn Greenwald picks up the issue from his new perch at The Guardian.
The US government has long maintained, reasonably enough, that a defining tactic of terrorism is to launch a follow-up attack aimed at those who go to the scene of the original attack to rescue the wounded and remove the dead. Morally, such methods have also been widely condemned by the west as a hallmark of savagery. Yet, as was demonstrated yet again this weekend in Pakistan, this has become one of the favorite tactics of the very same US government.
A 2004 official alert from the FBI warned that “terrorists may use secondary explosive devices to kill and injure emergency personnel responding to an initial attack”; the bulletin advised that such terror devices “are generally detonated less than one hour after initial attack, targeting first responders as well as the general population”. Security experts have long noted that the evil of this tactic lies in its exploitation of the natural human tendency to go to the scene of an attack to provide aid to those who are injured, and is specifically potent for sowing terror by instilling in the population an expectation that attacks can, and likely will, occur again at any time and place:
“‘The problem is that once the initial explosion goes off, many people will believe that’s it, and will respond accordingly,’ [the Heritage Foundation’s Jack] Spencer said … The goal is to ‘incite more terror. If there’s an initial explosion and a second explosion, then we’re thinking about a third explosion,’ Spencer said.”
A 2007 report from the US department of homeland security christened the term “double tap” to refer to what it said was “a favorite tactic of Hamas: a device is set off, and when police and other first responders arrive, a second, larger device is set off to inflict more casualties and spread panic.” Similarly, the US justice department has highlighted this tactic in its prosecutions of some of the nation’s most notorious domestic terrorists. Eric Rudolph, convicted of bombing gay nightclubs and abortion clinics, was said to have “targeted federal agents by placing second bombs nearby set to detonate after police arrived to investigate the first explosion”.
In 2010, when WikiLeaks published a video of the incident in which an Apache helicopter in Baghdad killed two Reuters journalists, what sparked the greatest outrage was not the initial attack, which the US army claimed was aimed at armed insurgents, but rather the follow-up attack on those who arrived at the scene to rescue the wounded. [Continue reading…]