U.S. media and public complicit in Obama’s drone doctrine

Neil Macdonald, senior Washington correspondent for CBC News, writes: In 2001, when Israel started killing militant Palestinian enemies (and, often, innocent bystanders) with missiles fired from helicopters hovering so high you could barely see them, foreign reporters were urged by the Israeli government to call the practice “targeted killing.”

Most of us, including many of my American colleagues, preferred the term “extrajudicial assassination.” We felt we were in the news business, not the euphemism business.

Today, 12 years later, the Washington Post carries a front-page headline about the U.S. drone program titled, “Targeted killings face new scrutiny.”

Yet another government document has been leaked, this time a so-called “white paper” in which the U.S. Department of Justice lays out the administration’s justification for killing American citizens it suspects of belonging to Al-Qaeda.

U.S. media outlets, it seems, are perfectly comfortable with the term “targeted killing,” now that it is a major tool for the Pentagon and CIA.

It’s also clear American media outlets are comfortable suppressing news the government does not want published. [Continue reading…]

A PublicMind poll published yesterday declares: “By a two-to-one margin (48%-24%) American voters say they think it is illegal for the U.S. government to target its own citizens living abroad with drone attacks”.

“The public clearly makes an assumption very different from that of the Obama administration or Mr. Brennan: the public thinks targeting American citizens abroad is out of bounds,” said Peter Woolley, professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and analyst for PublicMind.

The question is, among those who think that targeting Americans is out of bounds, how many are actually aware that Americans have indeed been targeted?

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that they’ve heard a lot about drones (45% compared to 29%) and overall, by a three-to-one margin, those polled support the CIA’s use of drone attacks abroad.

The way I would interpret these numbers is that they indicate that most Americans are unaware that drones have been used to kill Americans, most assume that these attacks help keep America safe and that on the basis of these two assumptions see no reason to investigate the issue more deeply.

The complicity is not simply between the media and the government; it also involves the broad-based indifference that Americans have for what happens outside this country. This is what makes drone warfare such a politically low-cost option for the Obama administration.

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One thought on “U.S. media and public complicit in Obama’s drone doctrine

  1. delia ruhe

    Neil Macdonald is perhaps the best foreign correspondent in Canada. He was stationed in Israel during the second intefadeh, and his reports were so straightforward and fair-minded that the Zionist pressured the CBC to get him out of there. So, brilliantly, the CBC sent him to Washington instead. Since Americans — including the ones in Washington — habitually ignore Canada, we Canadians get far better reporting on US politics than from anywhere else in the world, with the partial exception of Al Jazeera.

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