Fuzzy Math

Written by Allison Kilkenny

NYT:

The Obama administration has sharply expanded the shadow war against terrorists, using both the military and the C.I.A. to track down and kill hundreds of them, in a dozen countries, on and off the battlefield.

The drone program has been effective, killing more than 400 Al Qaeda militants this year alone, according to American officials, but fewer than 10 noncombatants.

Okay, let’s unpack this.

This should read “alleged Al-Qaeda militants.” Remember those worst of the worst Masters of Destruction, who were all like totally 100 percent guilty, we locked up in Gitmo? Yeah, well

72% of Guantanamo detainees who finally were able to obtain just minimal due process (which is what a habeas hearing is) — after years of being in a cage without charges — have been found by federal judges to be wrongfully detained.

Executing people without trial is a neat way to avoid accountability, and also a way to make your drone program look like it’s succeeding with surgical precision.

Second, “noncombatants” is usually a euphemism for women and children. For example, a US drone strike in August killed seven civilians in Pakistan, including four women and three children. What do you think the headline in Pakistan was: Thirteen alleged militants killed or US assassinate women and children from the sky?

Even if US officials are being completely truthful in their pro-drone strike propaganda (an assumption any journalist would be foolish to make,) drone strikes would still be a complete PR nightmare. Don’t worry! Drones only kill the bad guys. Sometimes…maybe…I don’t know…RUN, children! RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

And of course, we must examine the caveat “this year alone.” In 2009, the Brookings Institute released a study that says for every military killed in a drone strike, 10 civilians are also slaughtered. This year, the New America Foundation published a study called ‘The Year of the Drone,” which found that in a total of 114 drone strikes in Pakistan between 2004 and early 2010 between 834 and 1,216 individuals were killed, about two thirds of whom were thought to be militants and one third were civilians. Of course, these studies examine the big picture of drone strikes whereas the NYT editorial examines a fraction of a fraction of the drone casualties.

The rest of the editorial goes on to demand greater accountability for the strikes, but I wanted to draw attention to the loaded opening paragraphs that still give the Bush and Obama administrations way too much credit for an irresponsible and immoral program of extrajudicial assassinations.
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About author Allison Kilkenny is a radio host and political humorist, a fancy way of saying writer, who makes shitty world news funny. She is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, the Beast, 236.com, and Alternet.org’s Wiretap Magazine. Her work has also appeared on The Nation and she is a regular guest on SIRIUS radio.

She doesn’t care if you’re offended by anything she has written.

Further articles can be found at: www.allisonkilkenny.com

Allison’s radio show, Citizen Radio, can be found here: Citizen Radio fan page. Citizen Radio is on every Wednesday over at Breakthru Radio.