Tuesday, November 03, 2009

America kills hundreds of civilians - where's Judge Goldstone?

An assessment of President Obama's first year in office by Lexington, the Economist's American-affairs column, includes the following revelation:

In his inauguration speech, he declared: “We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” Yet roughly once a week since that day, he has ordered the assassination of suspected terrorists. These assassinations, carried out with Hellfire missiles fired from hovering drones, are often messy. According to the New America Foundation, a think-tank, it took 15 attempts to kill Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban leader in Pakistan who was finally blown to scraps in August. Hundreds of people, some of them children have died in these drone attacks. Mr Obama would presumably include “not killing children” among his ideals. Sometimes, however, he sets aside this ideal in the interests of safety.

But who, other than Lexington, has noticed? Or cares?

Let's imagine, for a moment, that Israel was ordering the targeted assassination - for that's what we're talking about - of its terrorist enemies, once a week (!), killing "hundreds of people, some of them children", in the process. Can you imagine the uproar? The media coverage? The 'experts' opining about Israel's lack of morals?

It has happened many times.

Now, don't get me wrong here. While every civilian death is a tragedy, and should be avoided where possible, I am not inherently against targeted assassinations, which are sometimes the only way to deal with very dangerous men. Civilians are sometimes killed in the process - war is "messy". (In the Israeli case, in particular, most of the men targeted have been directly responsible for attacks on Israeli civilians, by the way, which is not necessarily the case for the American targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And Israel has often given up good opportunities to assassinate terrorist leaders because of the potential civilian toll).

I hold many things against Mr Obama, this isn't one of them.

But it is funny how the world is able to understand or ignore the fact that sometimes American safety must result in civilian casualties. When Israel makes the same calculation, it is turned into a monster.

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