The normalization of mass killings by the US government


You can be excused if you missed the story that the US military had in a drone strike bombed to death 150 people in Somalia in one fell swoop. News reports on the strike quickly disappeared from the front pages.

Glenn Greenwald writes about we in the US calmly accept the murder of the 150 people in Somalia simply because the government declares that they all deserved it because they were attending an Al-Shabaab training camp.

This particular mass killing is unlikely to get much attention in the U.S. due to (1) the election-season obsession with horse-race analysis and pressing matters such as the size of Donald Trump’s hands; (2) widespread Democratic indifference to the killing of foreigners where there’s no partisan advantage to be had against the GOP from pretending to care; (3) the invisibility of places like Somalia and the implicit devaluing of lives there; and (4) the complete normalization of the model whereby the U.S. president kills whomever he wants, wherever he wants, without regard for any semblance of law, process, accountability, or evidence.

If you’re an American who has lived under the War on Terror, it’s easy to forget how extreme this behavior is. Most countries on the planet don’t routinely run around dropping bombs and killing dozens of people in multiple other countries at once, let alone doing so in countries where they’re not at war.

But for Americans, this is now all perfectly normalized. We just view our President as vested with the intrinsic, divine right, grounded in American Exceptionalism, to deem whomever he wants “Bad Guys” and then — with no trial, no process, no accountability — order them killed. He’s the roving, Global Judge, Jury and Executioner. And we see nothing disturbing or dangerous or even odd about that. We’ve been inculcated to view the world the way a 6-year-old watches cartoons: Bad Guys should be killed, and that’s the end of the story.

So yesterday the President killed roughly 150 people in a country where the U.S. is not at war. The Pentagon issued a five-sentence boilerplate statement declaring them all “terrorists.” And that’s pretty much the end of that. Within literally hours, virtually everyone was ready to forget about the whole thing and move on, content in the knowledge — even without a shred of evidence or information about the people killed — that their government and president did the right thing. Now that is a pacified public and malleable media.

Comments

  1. moarscienceplz says

    Glenn (and you, Mano) is right to highlight this and shine a spotlight on the moral questions this demands to be asked. We should all be confronted and troubled by both the facts of these actions already taken, as well as the implications for the future.
    However, this is Al-Shabaab’s response:

    “Harakat Al Shabaab Al Mujahideen denies the claims of killing 150 fighters in recent airstrike, as was reported by the Pentagon,” the group said.

    I think it is realistic to accept the Pentagon’s claim that they killed 150 people. So, this response is telling. If 150 non-combatants had been killed, I am fairly confident that Al-Shabaab would have highlighted this and quickly called our action a war crime. Since they did not, I think it is reasonable to conclude that the killed people were actually in training to become fighters. If this is correct, they have made themselves targets.

  2. says

    You should read about how the US exports terror. We’re #1!! USA! USAAAA!!!!!

    http://www.nytimes.com/1996/09/28/opinion/school-of-the-dictators.html

    Of course you never hear of this kind of shit. If ISIS blows up 60 people it’s huge news. If the US blows up 120 people it’s exporting democracy.

    I remember watching Blackhawk Down and the prevailing narrative was about how brave the soldiers (who were horribly mis-led tactically on a strategically badly thought-out mission) were — never mind the fact that they triggered a massive firefight in a city of 2.2 million people, turning a chunk of downtown in to a free-fire zone for most of a day. The US soldiers are named and counted. The Somali militia … eh, between 500 and 1200 were the estimates I recall. Nobody counted if there were any civilians. And some Pakistanis. But none of them count.

    Fucking warmongers.

  3. says

    morascienceplz@#2 – are you saying that the US training camps are fair targets? It seems that’s what you’re saying; I just wanted to check.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    Marcus Ranum #4
    After you declared that your armchair fantasies are superior to the actual experiences of professional pilots, I lost all interest in your opinions. My new policy is to ignore all your posts, and I would appreciate it if you would reciprocate.

  5. says

    The US, Canada and others are and have falsely labelled support for BDS as “anti-semitism”. How long before they falsely reporting US terrorism (like that in Somalia or Kunduz) as “terrorism”?

  6. abear says

    What amazes me is that there is no attention paid to the recent UN report on how the savage fascist Sinhalese have oppressed and murdered the innocent Tamil minority.
    Vicious Sinhalese racists have painted the Tamils as terrorist when they desperately resorted to asymmetrical warfare and so called journalists like Glenn (Can never say anything bad about Brazilian atrocities) Greenwald haven’t even given a peep.
    I say it is time to call the non-Tamil residents and immigrants from Sri Lanka out for the collective war crimes they have committed.

  7. abear says

    Holms@8; Yes I am. Selective reporting to advance one’s own political agenda is real reporting. It is propaganda and political whoring.
    Glenn Greenwald got all those juicy CIA secrets and moved to Brazil and presto, much of the dirty secrets he made public were how those dirty Canadians were spying on the Brazilian mining industry. You would have thought there was more important stuff, but I guess it bought a sanctuary.
    Just don’t expect him to ever be critical of Brazil, but not because he sold his soul to them.
    I expect a reporter to give a balanced account and a fair viewpoint, and GG is a political whore that doesn’t believe in balance or fair perspective.

  8. Johnny Vector says

    Okay, moarscienceplz, since you’ve clearly demonstrated your unshakeable plan of ignoring Marcus Ranum there in your response to him, I’ll ask the same question. Do you think US citizens who are training to become fighters are fair game for execution by foreign agents?

  9. Ravi Venkataraman says

    MoarSciencePlz @#5:

    I echo Marcus’s question. Please enlighten us as to why you think US training camps are not fair targets?

    By the way, your refusal to answer Marcus’s question makes a mockery of (more) science and logic. You must learn to separate the person from the comment. Your dislike of the person should not prevent you from answering a legitimate question. That is the scientific temperament, in case you, marscienceplz, had fotten.

    Eagerly awaiting your response.

  10. Ravi Venkataraman says

    Last word of penultimate paragraph should be “forgotten”, not “fotten”.

  11. deepak shetty says

    @moarscienceplz
    Seriously ? If someone does not complain that innocents are being killed (because that has worked out so well) , then they must not be innocents ? Unless the pentagoncan provide hard evidence that these were in fact combatants then the pentagon has no leg to stand on.
    But lets assume they were combatants- Since you apparently agree that the US does do a bunch of objectionable stuff in a lot of countries, terrorist actions on US soil , against US military personnel are justified ? That in your view the US Army/Pentagon/Politicians “have made themselves targets. ” ?

  12. abear says

    patrick2 @#11: Greenwald wasn’t criticizing the Brazilian government at all there, he was in fact defending them and attacking a pro-American opposition member. He was still sucking up to the corrupt socialist regime.
    Interestingly, he pointed out the unpleasant homophobia of that politician, something he didn’t do to the poor innocent al Shabaab movement that would gladly take Greenwald and anyone else they suspected of being gay and stone them to death if they couldn’t find a tall building to throw them off of.
    Greenwald isn’t a real journalist, he is a one trick pony propagandist.

  13. patrick2 says

    @abear#18

    Again, he’s American so he focuses on his own country’s policies. Why you think that’s damning, I don’t know.

  14. lanir says

    This is trivial but apparently a point that escapes some people.

    It is possible to criticize both sides in a conflict. Criticisms in both directions can be meaningful and substantive.

    Greenwald’s article does not need to criticize Al-Shabaab because it is for the consumption of the western English speaking world, specifically the US. A US citizen reading this has no say in the actions and policies of Al-Shabaab but could begin to make changes in US actions and policies. It doesn’t take much to connect the dots and see why the article is focused the way it is. Attacking the person who wrote it doesn’t address the content of the article whatsoever. If anything I usually take that to mean the speaker is unable to form a coherent counter argument and must resort to distraction to muddle the issue (and perhaps is secretly afraid the point they’re arguing against is valid).

    The only reason the Israelites in the Old Testament of the Christian bible did not treat their deity as the self-serving, abusive, psychotic terror his actions made him out to be is because they constantly redefined everything he’s said to have done as good. Does it really seem like a good idea to make the same bronze age mistakes with our modern countries?

  15. Holms says

    “How dare Maryam Namazie concentrate her criticisms and comments on issues of Islamism! Having a primary subject makes her bad!” – abear, if he were at all consistent in his ridiculous criticism.

  16. abear says

    @19, 20, and 21: Glenn Greenwald writes for a far left wing American audience and is ignored by right wing and centrist audiences. He never criticizes the shortcomings of his left wing audience in spite of the damage they do to liberal, progressive causes. What is wrong with his focus on his audience is that he just feeds then the pablum they want to read, often at the expense of the facts.
    His article on the al Shabaab incident paints them as innocent victims being murdered by the evil American imperialists. He is already writing about al Shabaab, but shouldn’t give a balanced view of them because they aren’t Americans?
    The Merkins are working with the Somali government and forces of other African countries to rid the region of of a gang of murderous cutthroats.
    Lanir talks about bronze age mistakes. That sounds to me like al Shabaab and their islamist ilk, not the people that disagree with them.
    Finally, Maryam Namazie doesn’t pretend to be a journalist. She is an activist and says so, but unlike Glenn Beck Greenwald she is balanced enough to give criticism of others that are anti-islamist and calls out anti-muslim bigotry when she sees it.

  17. patrick2 says

    @abear#22

    His article on the al Shabaab incident paints them as innocent victims being murdered by the evil American imperialists.

    I notice you don’t quote the article saying this, because you can’t. The article wasn’t about al Shabaab, it was about the fact that the US believes it can kill people in any country it wants by declaring them ‘enemy combatants’. There’s no clear evidence that the 150 people killed in Somalia were part of al Shabaab, and if they were, it’s still not clear the US had the right to bomb them. The human rights record of al Shabaab in Somalia is irrelevant to this. Unless you can find something inaccurate in the article, you’re just clumsily trying to distract from the issue.

  18. StevoR says

    @ ^ patrick2 : The US doesn’t simply declare Al-Shabbab enemy combatants – they declare that themselves and make themselves who they are (Jihadst terrorist scumbags) by their own choice. The USA would rather not kill them unless they have to -and they’re not doing these attacks for teh sheer joy of it unlike peopel liek,well, AlShabbab and other Jihadists.

    Oh & Al Shabbab aren’t actually “enemy combatants” then in your view what are they? “Freedom fighters” or something? Seriously? Er ..no. They really aren’t :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Shabaab_(militant_group)

    Nor are Da’esh, Hezbollah or Al Quaida, etc .. Pretty easy rule of thumb to tell good from evil – good guys don’t do terrorism. Counter-terrorism sometimes which is the response and reaction to terrorism but not terrorism. Good guys don’t deliberately target innocent people for no good reason they do the opposite -targeting bad people for good reason instead.

    No good evidence that those killed were Al Shabbab? Really? Citation needed on your part there. The fact that they were targeted as Al Shabbab by the US military says otherwise – if they weren’t Al Shabbab why would they be targeted and the fact that the US military may keep some information classified (from you -and me – but not those who need to know) does not mean it doesn’t exist or that they don’t know who they are striking and why.

    Arguing with the US military over their targets & tactics is like arguing with your Doctor on vaccinations or the climate with climatologists or biology teachers having to argue against creationists – the experts in their area are the ones who know what they are doing and talking about and should be listened to – and if you are going to say they don’t know what they are doing then you are going to need some very extraordinary evidence and reasons to prove that.

    Finally, the right to bomb them is the same right we all have – the right of self-defence. Al Shabbab is out to kill Americans, Somalis, Yemenis and others all around this pale blue dot we call home. That is what gives the USA and others the right to stop them and, yes, to bomb them and use drones against them and prevent their terrorism from claiming innocent lives.

    These terrorists – all terrorists really – sign up for their chosen roles as “enemy combatants” fanatical would be mass-murderers and evil douchebag scum and do so knowing and even seeking their own deaths as the likely outcome of this. Again, their choice not ours and they could choose to end their terrorism and Jihad whenever they wish to do so. They could put their weapons down, surrender, walk away, give up their fight or make it a genuinely peaceful one of non-violence or negotiate or whatever, whenever they choose to do so. But they don’t. These ones at least didn’t or they wouldn’t have been bombed.

    @12. Gregory in Seattle asked : “And people wonder why America is hated and/or feared around the globe.”

    Yet migrants still keep trying to emigrate there and all the most developed and civilised nations such as Australia, Japan and Great Britain seek its leadership and are among its closest allies working with and under its democratically elected President and it is still a culture that much of the world admires, looks up to and seeks to emulate.

    Huh, go figure. Maybe the US of A and the West, imperfect and flawed as they are sometimes, ain’t so bad or so loathed as you think except by a small handful of horrible dictators and hate-filled ideological enemies.

    @15. Ravi Venkataraman : “Please enlighten us as to why you think US training camps are not fair targets?

    I’m not moarscienceplz obviously but I also think the answer to that is pretty obvious. The US aren’t terrorists and their training camps are for legitimate soldiers bound by rules of law and acting in defence of others not Jihadist terrorist scum. Killing Jihadists is justified, killing legitimate allied soldiers who are very likely working with the government in question is not. One force has legitimacy and is there legally doing the right thing by their country and the world and the other is,well, Al-Shabbab. Does this answer your question and, really, how could you have missed that reality to begin with?

    Finally, I’m going to ask that those who criticise the loss of (jihadist) life here to consider the other side of the coin in that taking out terrorists who are set on mass murder and even genocide is actually saving a lot more lives than it is taking. How many attacks that would have taken how many innocent individual human lives have been prevented by taking out these Al-Shabbab killers? Yes, it is hard to calculate (imagine if bin Laden and co had been blown away pre-9-11 or Yasser Arafat in the 1970’s before his evil career really started) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a very much valid equation and thing to consider. The world is vastly better off with more good people and fewer Jihadists in it. Isn’t it?.

  19. abear says

    Patrick2 @23. Greenwald spent the article talking about how he believes it is illegal to carry out these raids. If the killings are unjustified that implies the targets were innocent.Greenwald also makes the statement that the US didn’t know whether the targets were members of a group of murderers or not, although it’s unclear how he knows they didn’t have sufficient evidence.
    Even our host says:

    Glenn Greenwald writes about we in the US calmly accept the murder of the 150 people in …

    Mano seems to think the killings are unjustified, hence calling them murders.
    The American government is carrying out joint missions with Somali government forces to defeat the murderous al Shabaab gangsters so as an ally they have a completely legal right to help the Somalis by international law, and considering the murder and mayhem al Shabaab has wrought on the region they have a moral right as well.

  20. patrick2 says

    @StevoR
    Wow, the world’s a very simple place in your eyes. The article quoted in the OP gives plenty of reasons to oppose the drone campaign. By the US definition that’s been used in the past, if you’re a military age male in an area they declare a strike zone, you’re assumed to be a combatant unless posthumous evidence proves otherwise. There’ve been plenty of documented cases of drone strikes killing civilians. What you’re defending is the US president being able to order anyone in the world killed who they suspect are combatants, with no accountability. If the Russian or Chinese governments began doing this, I suspect you’d be less supportive of it.

  21. Mano Singham says

    abear,

    You say:

    If the killings are unjustified that implies the targets were innocent.Greenwald also makes the statement that the US didn’t know whether the targets were members of a group of murderers or not, although it’s unclear how he knows they didn’t have sufficient evidence.

    Killings can be unjustified even if the victim is not innocent. That is why the killing of someone in cold blood before a tria, even if by a police officer, is called murder even if that person was guilty of a crime.

    Also you seem to be basically placing unquestioning faith in the US government to be not only the judge, jury, and executioner, but they don’t have to even provide any evidence at all. If they kill someone, that is sufficient for you to presume that they were justified and that the victims were guilty and not even worthy of even minimal due process. You are giving the US government the right to kill anyone anywhere. Would you extend that same right to all other governments? If some governments are excluded by you, on what basis do you do so?

    And yes, any extrajudicial killings (or killings after a mock trial) even by a government, any government, should be called murder because what else can you call it?

  22. abear says

    Mano @27: In this case, the US is cooperating with the Somali government to fight against al Shabaab. Nothing illegal or extralegal about that.
    Shabaab are a paramilitary group that has committed numerous atrocities and given their tactics and the general situation it is in many cases impossible to apprehend them and arrest them. The US has recently conducted joint ground operations with the Somali government and I suspect they haven’t committed summary executions of aS prisoners of war (which would be a war crime) if they have captured any.
    The bombing of an enemy military installation is not a war crime or murder, anymore than a cop killing a criminal in a gunfight is murder.

  23. abear says

    Mano @27:
    According to Wikipedo:

    The law of war is considered distinct from other bodies of law—such as the domestic law of a particular belligerent to a conflict—that may provide additional legal limits to the conduct or justification of war.

    Extrajudicial killings happen all the time during war. You don’t need to hold a trial before you kill an enemy combatant unless they are captured, defenseless, or otherwise not a threat.
    Presently the UN is also engaged in this conflict too. Are you arguing that this is not war?

  24. Nate Carr (Totes not an imposter D:) says

    So if Parris Island gets bombed, things are totes cool then?

    As you say, extrajudicial killings happen all the time during war.

  25. abear says

    Nate@30:
    If there is a war going on I suspect training facilities qualify as a legitimate target.
    If there is an article in the Geneva Convention or other broadly recognized laws of war that say otherwise please correct me.
    At any rate, it wouldn’t be totes cool, it would be another tragedy of people dying in warfare, regardless of whether they are combatants or not.
    If the bombers are not the military of a nation officially at war with the US (IANAL) it would seem likely to be illegal by US and international law.

  26. Mano Singham says

    abear #28,

    The US is not at war with Somalia, so I do not understand where you get the idea that the laws of war are relevant here. The fact that the Somali government is ‘at war’ (which in this case is clearly being used as a metaphor by entities when engaged in intense battles with opponents) does not make it a war in any legal sense under international law. You can’t just call something a ‘war’ and then use that to justify assassination programs.

    You seem to be justifying the US being used as an assassination arm of the Somali government to fight its enemies. Would you extend that right to any and all governments? If Russia or China bombed the internal enemies of governments they are allied with, would that be fine as long as they first said that they were ‘at war’ with the people who died?

    As for the role of the UN in Somalia, it is definitely not to wage war: “The mandate of UNOSOM II stipulated that the operation was to secure continued relief efforts and, more significantly, to restore peace and rebuild the Somali state and economy.”

  27. abear says

    Mano: The US is assisting the Somali government in a campaign to suppress their opponents in a civil war.
    Likewise the UN has given credence to this by allying UNISOM with the same Somali govt. the Merkins have. What else do you need for making the involvement legal under international law?
    As for UNISOM not being there to wage war*. of course not, their mission is to establish peace using military means(LOL). They are also benefiting by having American assistance.
    Are you saying the Somali government doesn’t have the right to defend itself from a group of murderers and ask for help from the outside to do it?
    As for what I would think if Russia and China (you might add some others there too like North Korea) acted aggressively what would I think? They do already and have for a long time. That’s the facts of life.
    Do you want to compare the behavior of Russia or North Korea with that of the US?

  28. StevoR says

    @33. Mano Singham : The USA is however at war with Jihadist terrorists of all varieties because they’ve declared that Jihad against the West and the United States of America in particular.

    The USA isn’t fighting its ally Somali, it is fighting Al Shabbab – which is a good thing on both counts.

    @30. Nate Carr (Totes not an imposter D:) : Don’t know anything about Parris Island; but I do recall the horrific attacks on Paris, the French city, last year – both of them. Which were part of the Jihad which terrorists are fighting against us and was real and horrific and not cool at all.

    @26. patrick2 :

    @StevoR – Wow, the world’s a very simple place in your eyes.

    Actually it really isn’t – but some things sometimes are.

    The article quoted in the OP gives plenty of reasons to oppose the drone campaign. By the US definition that’s been used in the past, if you’re a military age male in an area they declare a strike zone, you’re assumed to be a combatant unless posthumous evidence proves otherwise. There’ve been plenty of documented cases of drone strikes killing civilians. (3) What you’re defending is the US president being able to order anyone (2) in the world killed who they suspect are combatants, with no accountability. If the Russian or Chinese governments began doing this, I suspect you’d be less supportive of it. (1)

    Numbering added for reference.

    1) I certainly trust the democratically elected and accountable US leadership much more than I trust the Russian or Chinese dictatorships which aren’t anywhere near as open or accountable or ethical. Don’t you? Which of these nations would you rather live in and which has the better human rights record? Out of President Obama, Putin or the Communist party, who do you trust more?

    2) NOT “anyone” but rather evil Jihadist scum who are threatening terrorist atrocities against other people all the time. They ain’t just targeting “anyone” and pretending they are is just ridiculous. Also you seem to think civilians are being killed deliberately when the US has no reason to do so and every reason not to do so and it makes no sense for the US to do so. So no. Yes, tragic mistakes happen in war (&, yes, that sucks especially for the victims – who have often been “friendly fire” casualties etc ..) and always have and will but I’m sure the US does the best they can to avoid them whilst saving more lives than are lost by taking out evil jihadi mass killers.

    Are the US drone pilots (etc) perfect? No.
    Are they working to improve their identifications, etc.. ? Yes, I’m sure they would be.
    Are they still on the side of good and vastly better than the Jihadists they are fighting? Do the US military forces incl. UAV pilots deserve our support and understanding as the good rational ethical side here ? Abso-flippin’-lutely to both of those!

    3) Maybe that’s the fault of the Jihadists for hiding amongst them and using their own people as their human shields? Actually, I’d say it durn well *is* just that! Its against the laws of war – just as it is to fight without uniforms and not as part of proper armies. If they are so certain Allah is going to give them victory and so keen for “martyrdom” status why don’t these pathetic cowardly scum come out and face the US forces (& others) in open battle, clearly identified and not cowering behind their wives and kids and innocents? The full blame for all the casualties of the terrorist jihadists is always on them not anyone else for waging their Jihad(s) in the first place. The Jihadists themselves have determined their strategy and thus ours by the sneaky, cowardly and outright evilly criminal means and methods they choose to fight. Blame them, not us.

    @25, 28, 34. abear : Well writ and seconded by me. Spot on.

  29. lanir says

    @abear 34: Nations that engage in warfare to support allies still declare war. If for no other reason than the people at home need some statement of what the country is willing to do and what it is getting into. These can be lies (see Bush victory lap regarding Afghanistan) but without this formality things seem to go very, very wrong (see Vietnam). Which path does it look like we’re following here? And don’t bother talking about the enemy, this part is strictly about the US and it’s internal dealings. Our leaders should still follow our laws.

  30. lanir says

    @StevoR 35: US performs deliberate acts that are not moral or legal in any sense of those words. See attack on MSF hospital in Kunduz. The response to that one has not exactly inspired confidence that it will not be repeated or even that it was not simply the latest in a series of similar acts which the government would prefer to continue. Blanket justifications are a blank check to do whatever you want.

    You’re engaged in a lot of mental gymnastics here that all revolve around motives and stories you’re telling yourself in your head. This is not complicated. Leave the made-up stories about why people do things behind and look at what’s actually being done: mass killings using apparently illegal means with little or no oversight and little or no data forthcoming to justify them. We might all agree they were justified if we knew all the data but the point is we don’t and what we do have does not look promising. And legally it appears to be on a very slippery slope. That’s it, that’s the whole point. Al-Shabaab doesn’t even enter into the picture, the whole discussion is about whether our side is doing something wrong or not and currently it appears they are.

    If you want a more pedestrian analogy to work with, this is similar to a situation where you are the victim of a terrible, violent crime. You recover from it and get out of the hospital. You find the person who did it (we’ll handwaive the possibility that you’re mistaken although that could be true in the bombing discussed in Greenwald’s article – lack of identification makes that unclear which is an odd stance for the side justifying the action). If you, like the US government, assume that anyone nearby is culpable for the crime as well, there’s no particular reason why you should not corner your abuser in a crowd and chuck grenades at them until they die. Those people near them? They didn’t help you when you needed it so obviously they must by default be supporting your abuser. Killing your abuser in a crowd is actually easier, the other people will make it harder for him to run and if he happens to get away, hopefully some of those people mattered to him… but there’s no real guarantee.

    If you see nothing wrong with this… What would you think if you and your loved ones were eating in the same cafe as some US servicemen and the place was car bombed? Would that be terrorism or would you think “Oh I see, they were just attacking enemy combatants. I don’t like it because the casualties are on my side but this is war and this is how it’s done?” Please note that the primary difference is the delivery mechanism in this case and which end of it you’re on.

    The caveat with the examples is I assumed there is probably no reasonable means of having Al-Shabaab arrested (or similarly neutralized without killing – diplomatically for instance) so I did not mention the police. I don’t categorically rule out any other method (because the only option that leaves on the table is genocide which really shouldn’t be anyone’s go-to solution) but it would need a more complex discussion and I want to keep things simple here to illustrate a point. I also didn’t address whether killing people who are not directly causing harm is justified or not. It is morally wrong. Both domestic and international law agree on that but to illustrate the viewpoint you’ve presented I do not mention this in the example. Instead I proceed to narrate a purely revenge-oriented approach. Then I reverse it in the cafe example.

  31. abear says

    lanir@36: Why is it only OK to criticize the US and not compare the actions of other countries? As I’m not a Merkin does that mean I can only criticize Canada?
    Your example for war declared without congressional approval is wrong. Bush made his “mission accomplished” blunder in reference to the Iraq war, which, like the Afghanistan war was declared and voted on by congress. The Iraq war was declared on false premises and I think may reasonably be described as an illegal war. Further, the Bush admin violated international law by ordering torture of detainees. The Guantanamo situation isn’t legally justified unless the detainees can be declared as prisoners of war. So yes. Merka can do wrong.
    The practice of the US using it’s military by presidential decree has been going on for a long time and although that is a gray area, the fact that a legal challenge has never been mounted seems to imply it doesn’t violate the constitution. At any rate I don’t believe that action violates any law of war or treaty signed by the US, at any rate according to their present actions in Somalia.
    When you say that other countries always declare war before engaging in military action that is not correct. For example, right now, there are a number of nations assisting the Iraqi government and the (unrecognized) Kurdish Peshmerga without a formal declaration of war.

  32. patrick2 says

    I certainly trust the democratically elected and accountable US leadership much more than I trust the Russian or Chinese dictatorships which aren’t anywhere near as open or accountable or ethical. Don’t you?

    No. There’s no reason other than unthinking tribalism to trust them more. The fact that people within the US have more personal liberties than people in China or Russia doesn’t mean US foreign policy is any more ethical. American foreign policy is fuelled by pretty much the same factors as any other great power in history – namely maintaining and/or expanding its power.

    Regarding drone strikes, one of the main controversies is that there is explicitly no accountability or oversight around them. They are killings carried out on the personal say-so of the president.

    NOT “anyone” but rather evil Jihadist scum who are threatening terrorist atrocities against other people all the time. They ain’t just targeting “anyone” and pretending they are is just ridiculous.

    Do you not notice the circularity here? How do you know the people killed by drone strikes are “evil jihadist scum”? All you have is the word of government officials.

    Again, the Obama administration has explicitly said that it can kill anyone anywhere if it believes they are enemy combatants. That’s a really extreme position that no other country has declared for itself. And their definition of an enemy has included any military age male in an area the US has designated a strike zone.

    With a definition like that, there’s no reason to believe they are only killing people who deserve it. There are numerous eyewitness testimonies of innocent bystanders being killed out of the blue.

    Also you seem to think civilians are being killed deliberately when the US has no reason to do so and every reason not to do so and it makes no sense for the US to do so.

    No, I agree the US is probably not deliberately targeting civilians. Rather, civilian deaths are treated as acceptable “collateral damage”, and preventing them is not a high priority. That’s not the same as deliberately targeting them, but it’s not much better in my eyes.

    It’s as if an armed group in your country were being targeted by (say) China, who partly defined their enemy as any military age male in a designated strike zone. That means if you or some family members lived unaware in a strike zone, you could one day be blown up out of the blue. And if that happened to your family, not only might you understandably hate the country that did it, you might be more sympathetic than before to the armed group fighting them. Well, that’s exactly the story that’s been told by numerous people living in areas regularly targeted by drone strikes, from Yemen to Pakistan.

    Yes, tragic mistakes happen in war…and always have and will but I’m sure the US does the best they can to avoid them

    Why are you sure of this? Everything you say seems to assume the US has honourable intentions, which is an assumption you haven’t backed up.

  33. Kreator says

    Why are you sure of this? Everything you say seems to assume the US has honourable intentions, which is an assumption you haven’t backed up.

    It’s authoritarianism, plain and simple. Bob Altemeyer’s famous book describes this in full detail. People like StevoR put their full confidence in the authorities they respect (this is important, they are quite capable of criticizing other authorities). They follow them blindly and never question them, basically letting them dictate what to think.

    Also, I can’t help but notice a strong undercurrent of enemy dehumanization/demonization going on in these comments.

  34. Kreator says

    PS: sorry for double posting, but I think it’s fair to note that most terrorists are also quite authoritarian themselves.

  35. lanir says

    @abear 38: The conversation was about potential wrongdoing by the US government. Talking about wrongdoing by others is just a distraction to keep the conversation away from answering the simple question: Did something happen here that we should be concerned about? If you’d like to discuss the wrongdoings of some other country or group that’s another conversation because wrongdoings by other groups doesn’t magically make it okay for the US government to commit wrongdoings. The nationality of the reader is also irrelevant which is why I never brought it up.

    If you continue to have no idea why this matters search on this site for articles about “Dear Muslima” and read up. It will explain more thoroughly than I can in a comment. What you’re doing is simply comparing on the other end of the victimization, effectively stating something like “There are lots of abusers, why focus on this one?” The answer is simple. This one is in front of us and is something we can potentially do something about. Being informed rather than irrelevantly distracted at every turn allows some potential for taking corrective action if and when an opportunity presents itself.

  36. lanir says

    @patrick2 #39: I don’t think I could fully agree with the statement that the US does not deliberately target civilians after the attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz. I don’t know what specifically went wrong there but it went very wrong indeed. The evidence looks pretty damning (soldiers knew it was a war crime and alerted their command structure, pentagon and forces in area were told exactly where the hospital was, etc) and the response from the administration has been nothing but incoherent blithering idiocy.

  37. Dunc says

    I don’t think I could fully agree with the statement that the US does not deliberately target civilians after the attack on the MSF hospital in Kunduz.

    We’ve known that the US will deliberately target civilians since No Gun Ri.

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