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General News    H3'ed 4/8/11

Air War Turns Middle East Against U.S.

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n an attack right out of a Greek tragedy, U.S. missiles killed five people in northwest Pakistan earlier this year who had gathered to retrieve the bodies of those killed in an earlier strike. Those suspected of being enemies of USA are not allowed to bury their dead just as Creon, king of Thebes, refused to allow Antigone to bury the body of her brother, Polyneices, in the play Sophocles wrote 2500 years ago. The days when warring armies could call a truce to collect the wounded and dead from battlefields appear to be over. Detonating a second round of explosives to kill any medics come to help the survivors of the first blast or to allow a burial party to bury the dead has been a common tactic used against U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq. Now, the USA is operating on that level as well. In all, USA began the new year with an aerial strike that killed 18 people on Jan. 1, 2011. Earlier in the week, USA killed 35 suspects in like strikes, "most of them militants," Associated Press reported, bringing the total of those slain in unmanned aircraft strikes during 2010 to roughly 2,100, many of them in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan.

While the CIA may be telling AP ( if it is telling them anything) those it kills are "militants," we may assume from past dealings in the Middle East that thousands of those arrested by USA as "militants" were nothing of the sort. The vast majority of  them have never been charged, allowed legal counsel, and brought to trial---likely because they would only have been acquitted. Untold numbers of those scooped off the streets by the CIA and put in its secret prisons were never allowed visitation by the Red Cross, either, likely because they, too, were innocent and/or were being tortured. Let's also remember that CIA officials obstructed justice by destroying the tapes of torture sessions to conceal their crimes. Is this the kind of outfit whose word even a drunken idiot would take as truth when it says it is only killing "militants"?

And what of those civilians the U.S. admits it killed (in error)who are not only not militants but innocent bystanders? Whatever happened to the view that American justice was so fair it would allow a dozen criminal suspects to go free before it would convict (or execute) one innocent man? Where is that standard when missiles fired from drones are striking wedding parties and killing children? Where is the most cursory restraint when helicopter gunships fire into crowds of civilians, killing wire service correspondents, as the infamous "Collateral Damage" WikiLeaks video of a Baghdad massacre showed?

Given the hatred the drone attacks have engendered among Afghans against the U.S., it is probable that each air strike is embittering Pakistan against us as well. Afghan polls show a majority want the U.S. out now.

The CIA drone attacks were first launched by the G.W. Bush regime and were continued by President Obama, a former CIA employee, on only his third day in office. The number of CIA drone strikes soared dramatically under Obama and in the first nine months after taking office. As Jane Mayer wrote in The New Yorker, "the embrace of the Predator (drone attack) program has occurred with remarkably little public discussion, given that it represents a radically new and geographically unbounded use of state-sanctioned lethal force. And because of the C.I.A. Program's secrecy, there is no visible system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country (Pakistan) with which the U.S. is not at war."

The non-profit New America Foundation of Washington, D.C., reported CIA attacks killed between 326 and 538 people including, critics say, many innocent bystanders and children. As Mayer wrote in her New Yorker essay of Oct. 26, 2009, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, said in 2001 that the U.S. did not support Israeli targeted killing of Palestinian terrorists. Why not? "The United States government is very clearly on record as against targeted assassinations...They are extrajudicial killings, and we do not support that," Indyk said. That was then, of course. Today, President Obama believes he has the right to order the assassination of anyone, including even American citizens, anywhere on the planet without the sanction of judges and hearings. Yet these attacks are seen by the peoples of the Middle East as an "unfair" way to fight. Writing in The Nation of January 3, 2011, Anatol Lieven, professor of war studies at King's College, London, says, "More than any other factor, it is our campaign in Afghanistan that has radicalized Pakistanis and turned many of them not only against the West but against their own government and ruling system."

Since Gen. David Petraeus has replaced Gen. Stanley McChrystal as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, (the use of) "Air Power, which for a while was minimized because of the risk of civilian casualties, has increased dramatically," Michael Cohen of the American Security Project, Washington, D.C., contends. And according to the blog Danger Room, "The U.S. and its allies have unleashed a massive air campaign in Afghanistan, launching missiles and bombs from the sky at a rate rarely seen since the war's earliest days. In November (2010)alone, NATO aircraft launched 850 missions---three and a half times more than the same period in November 2009." In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas(FATA) of Pakistan, a survey last September of people in 120 villages, revealed nearly nine of 10 oppose the U.S. pursuing al-Qaeda in their region. "More than three quarters (of FATA residents) oppose American drone strikes,"the New American Foundation reported.

Meanwhile, the extrajudicial drone air strikes go on as the man in the White House seemingly gives the CIA whatever it asks for. Obama's illegal assassinations are  so despised it is difficult to recall any parallel, unless it was Italian dictator Benito Mussolini's heartless use of poison gas on Ethiopian troops in the mid-Thirties. # (Sherwood Ross formerly reported for the Chicago Daily News and wrote a weekly feature columns for several wire services. Today, he runs the Anti-War News Service.)

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Sherwood Ross worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and contributed a regular "Workplace" column for Reuters. He has contributed to national magazines and hosted a talk show on WOL, Washington, D.C. In the Sixties he was active as public (more...)
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