Monday, July 16, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 7/16/2012: New York Times Hypocrisy On Drones

From DG:
1) One politican's drone strike ...

For sheer cynicism it's hard to imagine an article more outrageous than The Moral Case for Drones appearing in the New York Times. It doesn't mean that I don't agree with the conclusion. It doesn't mean that since the article is labelled a "News Analysis" that the New York Times isn't afforded a little leeway. It's that it's hard to imagine the New York Times, under any category, publishing an unambiguous endorsement of a controversial policy except to support a politician it favors.
But most critics of the Obama administration’s aggressive use of drones for targeted killing have focused on evidence that they are unintentionally killing innocent civilians. From the desolate tribal regions of Pakistan have come heartbreaking tales of families wiped out by mistake and of children as collateral damage in the campaign against Al Qaeda. And there are serious questions about whether American officials have understated civilian deaths. 
So it may be a surprise to find that some moral philosophers, political scientists and weapons specialists believe armed, unmanned aircraft offer marked moral advantages over almost any other tool of warfare. 
“I had ethical doubts and concerns when I started looking into this,” said Bradley J. Strawser, a former Air Force officer and an assistant professor of philosophy at the Naval Postgraduate School. But after a concentrated study of remotely piloted vehicles, he said, he concluded that using them to go after terrorists not only was ethically permissible but also might be ethically obligatory, because of their advantages in identifying targets and striking with precision.
Actually, there's another question that doesn't get addressed, though it's a practical one. Are drone strikes the most effective way of fighting the war on terror given that it means that the targets are prevented from providing intelligence to the United States about their organizations. A related question would be why does the Obama administration insist that killing these terrorists is more humane than holding them as prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay? Put differently, if they are combatants (an assumption necessary to justify their killing) what is wrong with holding them as prisoners of war?

Still what's even more frustrating was this paragraph:
But even the high-end count of 20 percent was considerably lower than the rate in other settings, he found. When the Pakistani Army went after militants in the tribal area on the ground, civilians were 46 percent of those killed. In Israel’s targeted killings of militants from Hamas and other groups, using a range of weapons from bombs to missile strikes, the collateral death rate was 41 percent, according to an Israeli human rights group.
The link is to B'tselem, well known for its opposition to Israeli  counterstrikes against terrorists. But the link doesn't go to  a specific report of B'tselem.

After Israel killed Sheikh Yassin in 2004, the New York Times presented an interview with international law expert Dr. Ruth Wedgwood:
Following the assassination on Monday in Gaza of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the leader of Hamas, there has been considerable discussion of the legality of the action as well as its political and moral consequences. What are the legal arguments against it? What would be a prosecutor's charge against Israel?
Well, the argument to condemn the killing of the sheik with rockets begins by saying that criminal law should provide the framework for analyzing how a state punishes any individual, including individuals in occupied territory. And criminal law asks that you take the individual into custody and prove any case you have against him by admissible evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, and that you can't jump over that process and summarily execute him. So the phrase that would be used [to condemn the assassination], something like "extrajudicial execution," or "arbitrary killing," comes from either the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Israel belongs as a treaty party. 
The argument would be that even if Israel calls the [killing of Sheik Yassin] justified in a war, Gaza is nonetheless an occupied territory in which, even under the law of war, Israel has responsibilities as a de facto occupying power, and that it can't confuse occupation with active armed conflict itself.
Wedgwood was able to frame Israel's self-defense in such a way to make it seem controversial. At the time that suited the needs of the New York Times. Now, if the Times was searching for anyone who found Obama's policies controversial they wouldn't have to look too far. And if the New York Times had wanted to do a little digging they'd find that Israel has made refinements in their strategies to reduce the incidence of collateral damage.

The problem here isn't just shameless effort to defend a politician it likes, but that the effort was done, in part, at the expense of Israel.
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