U.N. report criticizes U.S. over CIA ‘targeted killings’¹
By David S. Cloud, TRIBUNE WASHINGTON BUREAU
GENEVA, Switzerland – The escalating campaign of CIA drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan has made the United States “the most prolific user of targeted killings” in the world today, according to a U.N. official who said the spy agency should not be in charge of the program.
Philip Alston, a New York University law professor and the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, made the comments Wednesday as he released a report on targeted killings that criticized the United States for asserting “an ever-expanding entitlement for itself to target individuals across the globe” as part of its antiterror fight.
The findings, which Alston is due to present Thursday to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva, form one of the most critical assessments to date of U.S. drone strikes, a tactic that has been stepped up significantly under the Obama administration and that U.S. officials have credited with inflicting severe blows against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
As the drone attacks have expanded, they have drawn increasing criticism from human-rights groups and international legal scholars. Some say aspects of the program violate international law and risk generating a backlash in Pakistan and other countries where the strikes are carried out.
Although the United States does not officially acknowledge the CIA drone strikes, much of the report was dismissed by Obama administration officials.
One U.S. counterterrorism official who was not authorized to comment publicly, and spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “We have a way to get at dangerous terrorists operating in areas otherwise inaccessible to the central government or to conventional military units. It’s effective, exact, and essential.”
What, they would prefer we do it the old-fashioned way, send in an army to push through and conquer and slowly encircle, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, to get to the leadership?
The Predator drone attacks aren’t quite “exact,” as the anonymous “U.S. counterterrorism official” said; there is often collateral damage, and it has happened more than once that the targeted terrorist leader wasn’t in the location we thought he was when the missiles struck. But the drones have successfully killed several al Qaeda and Taliban leaders who would otherwise have been safe.
Let’s be completely honest here: the objection isn’t that the United States is using armed drones to eliminate terrorist leaders, but that the United States is fighting the terrorists, period. When you are dealing with people who would like to, and are trying to, kill you, the soothing words that the United Nations would apparently like us to use aren’t all that effective.
Administration officials explained our policies:
In fact, two officials said, the Obama administration has limited who may be targeted in drone strikes outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan to members of al-Qaeda and allied terror groups — a tighter standard than existed during the Bush administration.
U.S. officials say that careful precautions are taken to avoid civilian casualties and that each target is carefully vetted, sometimes by hours of aerial surveillance that is matched against other intelligence to create a portrait of a potential target, known as a “pattern of life” analysis.
Such air strikes, officials say, are one of the few viable options for going after extremists who have taken refuge in the lawless border region.
What the “officials” didn’t seem to acknowledge is that, for the critics, it doesn’t matter how tightly controlled the weapons are or how thoroughly vetted the targeting is; if the weapons could be guaranteed to be 100% effective in killing or injuring only those terrorists targeted, they would still protest because we were fighting our enemies in the first place. If the CIA could develop a Star Trek device that would simply disintegrate Osama bin Laden, without the man standing next to him so much as smelling a whiff of smoke, the United Nations’ Human Rights Commission would still object!
It isn’t just the United States which is the subject of the righteous ire, however. No, Israel must be blamed as well. Some so-called “peace activists,” on a flotilla including a boat named the MV Rachel Corrie, after the
complete idiot brave woman trying to be a human shield by standing in front of a bulldozer, tried to run a blockade to deliver “humanitarian supplies” to Hamas in Gaza, and the Israelis enforced their blockade, much more peacefully than they might have; they could — and should — have simply sunk those boats. Fortunately, a couple of op-ed pieces in demonstrate why Israel was right to take the action she did:
An Assault, Cloaked in Peace
By Michael B Oren²
Published: June 2, 2010
PEACE activists are people who demonstrate nonviolently for peaceful co-existence and human rights. The mob that assaulted Israeli special forces on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday was not motivated by peace. On the contrary, the religious extremists embedded among those on board were paid and equipped to attack Israelis — both by their own hands as well as by aiding Hamas — and to destroy any hope of peace.
Millions have already seen the Al Jazeera broadcast showing these “activists” chanting “Khaibar! Khaibar!”— a reference to a Muslim massacre of Jews in the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century. YouTube viewers saw Israeli troops, armed with crowd-dispersing paintball guns and side arms for emergency protection, being beaten and hurled over the railings of the ship by attackers wielding iron bars.
What the videos don’t show, however, are several curious aspects Israeli authorities are now investigating. First, about 100 of those detained from the boats were carrying immense sums in their pockets — nearly a million euros in total. Second, Israel discovered spent bullet cartridges on the Mavi Marmara that are of a caliber not used by the Israeli commandos, some of whom suffered gunshot wounds. Also found on the boat were propaganda clips showing passengers “injured” by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred.
The investigations of all this evidence will be transparent, in accordance with Israel’s security needs.
There is little doubt as to the real purpose of the Mavi Marmara’s voyage — not to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, but to create a provocation that would put international pressure on Israel to drop the Gaza embargo, and thus allow the flow of seaborne military supplies to Hamas. Just as Hamas gunmen hide behind civilians in Gaza, so, too, do their sponsors cower behind shipments of seemingly innocent aid.
Much more at the link. Also see A Botched Raid, a Vital Embargo. The activists repeatedly refused Israeli offers to inspect the cargo for military contraband, and then allow the inspected cargo — stripped of any weapons or other contraband — to be delivered. They were trying to create an incident, and in that, they succeeded. Israel would have done better to simply sink the boats and be done with it; the outcry would have been no worse, but the next flotilla would never be launched.
There are times that I wonder what sort of concise term could be put on such sympathetic idiocy from our friends on the left. Stockholm Syndrome doesn’t quite fit, in that the victims of such leftist lunacy were never actual captives of the terrorists. Yet, if they were never actual captives, so many seem to have made themselves vicarious captives, full of sympathy for the downtrodden, for the underdogs, and all the while ignoring the fact that the downtrodden are out there trying to kill their enemies.
With the Palestinians, it is more obvious. They are the only people of whom I can think who could win their war for independence by simply ceasing to fight. If the Palestinians simply quit fighting, they’d get their Palestinian state, in Gaza and the West Bank, fairly quickly. But, of course, though the educated Western mind sees that as the obvious, split-the-differences solution, Hamas doesn’t see that as a solution at all; to Hamas, the only acceptable solution is for all of the Levant to become an Islamic, and Islamic-ruled, state.³ The liberal Westerners sympathetic to Hamas and what they see as the Palestinian struggle rarely understand what the motivations and goals of Hamas are, and seem to think that, somehow, some way, Hamas really is willing to compromise if only those stubborn Israelis were.
Similarly, the liberal Westerners who seem to have some sympathy for the Islamic extremists really have no flaming idea just what it is they are supporting. Were the Islamists to actually win, to actually get their way, the cherished Western ideals of racial equality, of equality for women, of religious freedom and freedom of speech, of acceptance of homosexuality, and of democracy itself, would be submerged in a sea of blood.
The Jews learned their lesson, the hard way: they learned that, when it comes to their own defense and security, relying upon the reasonableness of others, and counting on other people not to try to kill them, in the final extreme simply does not work. The Westerners who are so sympathetic to the Palestinian cause ought to understand that, given that it was we good Christian Westerners who taught the Jews that lesson.
And while we in the United States are not in the vulnerable position of the European Jews of the 1930s and 1940s, the lesson they learned applies to us as well: it does no good to coddle an enemy, it accomplishes nothing to be nice to those who want to kill you.
¹ – The Philadelphia Inquirer, Thursday, 3 June 2010, p. A-2
² – Mr Oren is Israel’s Ambassador to the United States
³ – See the Hamas Charter, specifically Article XI.