Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 07, 2013

False Choice Propaganda As Drone War Justification

The NYT publishes an excerpt of a new book about the U.S. drone war in Pakistan. The drone war started with the killing of one of Pakistan's restive Pashtun gang leaders, not of an Al Qaeda fighter. The killing was the "payment" for being allowed by Pakistan to use further drone strikes to go after alleged Al Qaeda fighters.

But the story includes a very sorry excuse for launching these drone strikes. It presents the drone war as an alternative to the CIA's torture prisons and is thereby justifying it in a false choice:

As the negotiations were taking place, the C.I.A.’s inspector general, John L. Helgerson, had just finished a searing report about the abuse of detainees in the C.I.A.’s secret prisons. The report kicked out the foundation upon which the C.I.A. detention and interrogation program had rested. It was perhaps the single most important reason for the C.I.A.’s shift from capturing to killing terrorism suspects.
The ground had shifted, and counterterrorism officials began to rethink the strategy for the secret war. Armed drones, and targeted killings in general, offered a new direction. Killing by remote control was the antithesis of the dirty, intimate work of interrogation.
By presenting the drone war as an alternative to torture prisons it is explained as a lesser evil even though there were many other alternatives the CIA could have chosen.

For one there was no need to torture. Why not just put the wanted people into a regular prison? Why not put them in front of a court? Why not, instead or killing them and their families and thereby creating more "terrorists", remove the grievances that make them fight in the first place?

By presenting the problem as false choice the author is making a sorry propaganda excuse for an evil program.

Posted by b on April 7, 2013 at 12:50 PM | Permalink


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Posted by: Paul | Apr 7, 2013 1:48:10 PM | 1

NYT on drones: Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

Drones cheap redux: Link

Posted by: biklett | Apr 7, 2013 2:37:41 PM | 2

"By presenting the problem as false choice the author is making a sorry propaganda excuse for an evil program."

No! That can't be it. At any rate, there's a first time for everything.

Posted by: Mooser | Apr 7, 2013 2:41:25 PM | 3

The article demonstrates that the CIA is a many headed hydra. Lop off one head, torture, and another--indiscriminate drone killings--will emerge. Before torture, it should be recalled, Bill Clinton sent cruise missiles to bomb a soap factory in Sudan and to kill Bin Laden in Afghanistan.

These little boys must use their toys...

Posted by: JohnH | Apr 7, 2013 2:59:19 PM | 4

Winston Churchill stated "the Americans will always do the right thing, once they've exhausted all other options".
Sadly we have exhausted all other options and we keep repeating the same mistakes. Things will continue to fall apart because the "gods" that reside in their palaces of power do not realize that true democracy, true liberty and freedom is a slow process. Like Saif al Islam also stated that this is a fast food culture. They want fast wars, fast results. They believe that by one killing, one hundred killing they can eliminate the problem. Silence the voice, however there will be no silence and the voices just keep getting louder.

Posted by: Fernando | Apr 7, 2013 3:03:09 PM | 5

'It was perhaps the single most important reason for the C.I.A.’s shift from capturing to killing terrorism suspects.'

The operative word is suspects. Killing suspects. Imprisoning suspects ... as in Guantanamo and keeping them there until they die of old age or despair without trial because all they have is suspicions ... or nothing at all. Or worse than nothing ... are themselves evidence of US crimes of torture.

Read the names of 122 of the children he's murdered in Pakistan and Yemen alone.

The US is run by an amoral corporate lawyer, a nihilist. We're a nihilist nation.

I saved Billmon's portrait of the docket at the Anglo-American War Crimes Tribunal. I wish I had the chops to add in Obama, Brennan, Pelosi, Feinstein and the rest ... I wish I had the wherewithal to convene the tribunal. It's only got worse and worse and worse ...

Posted by: john francis lee | Apr 7, 2013 7:47:34 PM | 6

US Airstrikes Kills 11 Children in Afghan Border Village

US warplanes pounded the village of Shigal in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan today, destroying several houses in the course of a “support” operation that NATO officials bragged led to the deaths of two “senior Taliban leaders.” The village was just miles from the Pakistan border.

Provincial officials checked the houses, however, and found a grim consequence of the bombing campaign: a large number of women and children within were killed and injured beneath the rubble of their homes.

11 children in all were reported killed, and one woman. Several other women were badly wounded.

Hey! Hey! Obama-fay! How many kids did ya kill today?

Posted by: john francis lee | Apr 7, 2013 8:35:52 PM | 7

This killing as an alternative to capturing eliminates the need to have evidence that the subject actually did anything illegal. The U.S. had no proof on bin Laden, so they assassinated him. Same with Awlaki, and his son, who were American citizens. Same with people killed by explosive Hellfire rockets, and anyone near them.

The use of drones for surveillance has led to the use of drones to fire Hellfire rockets at "signature" targets, people who somebody -- Obama? -- believes is acting like an enemy of the Empire and so must be killed. It's illegal, immoral and just plain sick.

One of Obama's first acts as president was to issue an executive order barring the CIA from "detaining" and torturing people. With a wink and a nod, the CIA was then authorized by Hopey-Changey to summarily kill people, with complete secrecy. The Pentagon's special forces does it also.

Is this a "lesser evil" to kidnapping and torture? Is there a reliable scale for degrees of evil? No, as b says, it's a false choice. None_of_the_above -- is the proper choice.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 7, 2013 8:42:41 PM | 8

The UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, Ben Emmerson, who is investigating the drone killing of 4,700 people, visited Pakistan last month.

Speaking at the end of his visit, the Special Rapporteur said:

"The position of the Government of Pakistan is quite clear. It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity. . .Pakistan has called on the US to cease its campaign immediately. . . It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other States."

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 7, 2013 9:13:25 PM | 9

"By presenting the problem as false choice the author is making a sorry propaganda excuse for an evil program."

Am I the only one who wonders if it's mere coincidence that Modern American Governments behave exactly the same way as the Old American Mafia and Bootleggers? What became of all those other "families" who made a big pile of dough out of Prohibition - besides folks such as the Kennedy Klan...?

Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Apr 8, 2013 2:01:22 AM | 10

Or, in other words:

How to really create "terrorism".

Imagine being one of the men in guantanamo. Your held illegally and tortured for years and years by american scum.
Imagine being the father of a child killed by american drones.
Imagine being one of the people whose house was "raided" while you were asleep and your wife was killed and your doughter raped.

I don't know about you but I myself would kill any and all americans I could get near to (except children) and I would make sure that my sons, my brothers, my friends did the same.

Not for revenge. But because terrorists, real terrorists should be killed before they create more harm. Like rattlesnakes in your garden.

Posted by: Mr. Pragma | Apr 8, 2013 5:45:08 AM | 11

Rattlesnakes in the garden have some benefit, against rodents, unlike state-terror addicts.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Apr 8, 2013 10:06:27 AM | 12

Have a look at this:
Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Posted by: Michal | Apr 11, 2013 3:24:50 PM | 13

The use of drones is much more complex than calling it evil or supporting it with complex propaganda. It is the reality of how the war is going to be fought in the future. We should handle this technological advancement in a much more responsible way than the technologies we have used before like the nuclear bombs. We should see it as an opportunity to save the lives of the citizens and the soldiers. We should come up with the ways to move forward with it in a more humanely manner while also keeping national and international interests into account.

Posted by: Navneet Bassi | Apr 30, 2013 5:58:22 PM | 14

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