The U.S. used drones and manned aircraft yesterday [Mar 7] to drop bombs and missiles on Somalia, ending the lives of at least 150 people. As it virtually always does, the Obama administration instantly claimed that the people killed were "terrorists" and militants -- members of the Somali group al Shabaab -- but provided no evidence to support that assertion.
Nonetheless, most U.S. media reports contained nothing more than quotes from U.S. officials about what happened, conveyed uncritically and with no skepticism of their accuracy: The dead "fighters " were assembled for what American officials believe was a graduation ceremony and prelude to an imminent attack against American troops," pronounced the New York Times. So, the official story goes, The Terrorists were that very moment "graduating" -- receiving their Terrorist degrees -- and about to attack U.S. troops when the U.S. killed them.
With that boilerplate set of claims in place, huge numbers of people today who have absolutely no idea who was killed are certain that they all deserved it. As my colleague Murtaza Hussain said of the 150 dead people: "We don't know who they are, but luckily they were all bad." For mindless authoritarians, the words "terrorist" and "militant" have no meaning other than: anyone who dies when my government drops bombs, or, at best, a "terrorist" is anyone my government tells me is a terrorist. Watch how many people today are defending this strike by claiming "terrorists" and "militants" were killed using those definitions even though they have literally no idea who was killed.
Other than the higher-than-normal death toll, this mass killing is an incredibly common event under the presidency of the 2009 Nobel Peace laureate, who has so far bombed seven predominantly Muslim countries. As Nick Turse has reported in The Intercept, Obama has aggressively expanded the stealth drone program and secret war in Africa.
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.