And We Talk Such a Great Game

“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” –Howard Zinn

“…US drone strikes on average kill 28 unknown people for every intended target.” – Reprieve

It’s been a while since high school gym-class archery, but even I probably hit the target once in every 28 attempts. Possibly more. Not the bull’s-eye, but then we never got much practice. My government has no such excuse, after years of drone strikes. Possibly by luck, I never so much as grazed an innocent bystander. If only my government could say as much. When I missed what I had aimed for, I was always embarrassed; at best, my shooting was nothing to brag about. Yet somehow, my government seems proud of the “precision targeting” of our military drone programs. Does that mean we deliberately kill as many people as possible with drones … or that we can’t reliably hit the side of a barn with them … or do we simply not give a shit if we kill or injure innocent people — who shouldn’t be in our way in the first place?


Drone strikes kill 28 unknown people for every intended target: report * 28 November 2014
A report released by human rights charity Reprieve has found that US drone strikes on average kill 28 unknown people for every intended target.
In Yemen and Pakistan, the drone strikes have killed at least 1,147 unknown people in attempts to kill 41 named individuals, the report said.
The report takes into account the 2002-2014 timeline of drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, also identifying 41 men who appeared to have been killed multiple times.

This draws questions to the Obama administration’s claims of dubbing the drone programme as ‘precise’, the report said.
In a press statement published on its website, where the complete 16-page (PDF) report may also be viewed, Reprieve termed its assessment as the first to provide an estimate of the number of people — including children in some cases — killed each time the US attempts to assassinate a ‘high value target’.
Key findings
According to the report, 24 men in Pakistan were reported as killed, or targetted multiple times, adding that attempts on these men killed 874 other people, including 142 children.
Citing a particular case of targetting Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, the report alleged that the CIA failed twice, and killed 76 children and 29 adults. However, Zawahiri remains alive, according to some reports.
It took the US six attempts to kill Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) top-gun, Qari Hussain, the report said, adding that during these attempts, 128 people including 13 children were killed.
Each assassination target on the US government’s ‘Kill List’ — a covert US programme that selects individual targets for assassination — died on average more than three times before their actual death, the report concludes.
“These ‘high value targets’ appear to be doing the impossible — dying not once, not twice, but as many as six times. At the same time, hundreds of unknown men, women and children are also caught in the crosshairs.
“President Obama continues to insist drone strikes are ‘precise’, but when targeting one person instead kills as many as 128 others, there’s only one conclusion that can be drawn — there’s nothing targetted about the US drone program.


“The only vice that cannot be forgiven is hypocrisy.” –William Hazlitt

I’m not so sure it is the ONLY unforgivable thing, but it’s pretty damn ugly.


At Home and Abroad, UN Report Details Abysmal US Record of Abuse
Torture, indefinite detention, excessive force, and systematic discrimination and mistreatment have become part of the nation’s modern legacy
Common Dreams * Saturday, November 29, 2014
by Jon Queally, staff writer
An official report by the United Nations Committee Against Torture released Friday found that the United States has a long way to go if it wants to actually earn its claimed position as a leader in the world on human rights.
Following a lengthy review of recent and current practices regarding torture, imprisonment, policing, immigration policies, and the overall legacy of the Bush and Obama administration’s execution of the so-called ‘War on Terror,’ the committee report (pdf) found the U.S. government in gross violation when it comes to protecting basic principles of the Convention Against Torture, which the U.S. ratified in 1994, as well as other international treaties.
This was the first full review of the U.S. human rights record by the UN body since 2006 and the release of the report follows a two-day hearing in Geneva earlier this month in which representatives of the Obama administration offered testimony and answered questions to the review panel. The report’s findings do not reflect well on the U.S., a nation that continues to tout itself as a leader on such issues despite the enormous amount of criticism aimed at policies of torture and indefinite detention implemented in the years following September 11, 2001, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq that followed, and the global military campaign taking place on several continents and numerous countries that continues to this day.
In addition to calling for full accountability for the worst torture practices that happened during the Bush administration, the panel also demanded the Obama administration end the continued harsh treatment of foreign detainees at its offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay on the island of Cuba. As Reuters notes, the panel’s report criticized what it called a continued U.S. failure to fully investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment of terrorism suspects held in U.S. custody abroad, “evidenced by the limited number of criminal prosecutions and convictions”.
According to the report:
block quote
The Committee expresses its grave concern over the extraordinary rendition, secret detention and interrogation programme operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) between 2001 and 2008, which involved numerous human rights violations, including torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance of persons suspected of involvement in terrorism-related crimes. While noting the content and scope of Presidential E.O. 13491, the Committee regrets the scant information provided by the State party with regard to the now-shuttered network of secret detention facilities, which formed part of the high-value detainee programme publicly referred to by President Bush on 6 September 2006. It also regrets the lack of information provided on the practices of extraordinary rendition and enforced disappearance; and on the extent of the CIA’s abusive interrogation techniques used on suspected terrorists, such as waterboarding.
block quote end
As The Guardian reports:
block quote
Many of the harshest criticisms are reserved for the Bush administration’s excesses between 2001 and 2009. But the committee is also critical of how the current US government has failed, in its view, to clean up the mess that was created in the wake of 9/11.
In particular, it wants to see the US acknowledge torture as a specific criminal offence at the federal level, thereby removing possible loopholes in the law. It also urges the US Senate select committee on intelligence to publish as quickly as possible its report into the CIA’s historic detention and interrogation program, that has been caught up in political wrangling for months.
block quote end
“The Obama administration needs to match its rhetoric with actions by supporting full accountability for torture,” said Jamil Dakwa, director of the ACLU’s human rights program, in response to the report. “As a start, that means allowing the release of the Senate’s torture report summary, without redactions that would defeat the report’s primary purpose, which is to expose the full extent of government abuse. It also means ensuring a top-to-bottom criminal investigation of the torture that occurred.”
The report says that though the U.S. has tough anti-torture statutes on the books, it has not gone far enough in some areas to guarantee that no loopholes exist, and has done far too little to allow redress for violations that have already occurred. In terms of recommendations, the panel’s report “calls for the declassification of torture evidence, in particular Guantanamo detainees’ accounts of torture”, and said the U.S. “should ensure that all victims of torture are able to access a remedy and obtain redress, wherever acts of torture occurred and regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator or the victim. ”
In addition to criticizing other policies related to military engagement abroad, the committee slammed the U.S. for many of its domestic policies, including prolonged solitary confinement of those in prison; charges of “prolonged suffering” for those exposed to “botched” state executions; heavy-handed and discriminatory policing practices in the nation’s cities; the treatment of juveniles in the criminal justice system; and serious problems with its immigration enforcement policies.
As protests related to the shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri continue this week, the UN panel specifically referred to the “frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals.”
Speaking with reporters, panel member Alessio Bruni said, “We recommend that all instances of police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officers are investigated promptly, effectively and impartially by an independent mechanism.”
“This report – along with the voices of Americans protesting around the country this week – is a wake-up call for police who think they can act with impunity,” said ACLU’s Dakwar. “It’s time for systemic policing reforms and effective oversight that make sure law enforcement agencies treat all citizens with equal respect and hold officers accountable when they cross the line.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License


About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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16 Responses to And We Talk Such a Great Game

  1. State terrorism at its finest.

    • “State terrorism at its finest”? May be. At its most brazen, certainly. What are chances New Zealand might welcome a few, well, political refugees? Thanks for your all-too-apt comment. – Linda

      • You would be surprised how many American refugees (fed up with the endless wars) that we have in tiny New Plymouth (pop 55,000).

        • That’s interesting. I hadn’t thought of the name “New Plymouth” in reference to our ‘Plymouth Rock’, just assumed it derived from the English Channel port. From here, it looks pretty tempting, but I’d need remedial courses in sheep-shearing, at least. – LLF

  2. Yeah, good luck with all of that! The UN has done nothing but issue statement after statement condemning the U.S. for everything from mass water shutoffs in Detroit to torture in Guantanamo to the mass incarceration of mostly minorities in prisons all across this country and now throw in Ferguson, MO. And to what effect? Zero, zilch, nada. The shit continues, unabated. The UN needs to put up or shut up. The U.S. needs to be thrown out of the UN, period, for the blatant disregard for upholding the laws the U.S. signed on to adhere to. We’re the world’s bully and therefore, we make the rules and the rest of the world just plays by OUR rules. Nobody in Washington is concerned at all about the findings of the UN. Because the UN has not a bit of bite to it.

    • Shelby, The United Nations may never need to kick us out — though we’ve more than earned it. I understand we’re way behind on our dues, and our nativists have howled and foamed at the mouth at the very idea of the UN since … the League of Nations, which you’ll recall we didn’t even join. We don’t take no shit from nobody, obviously — we just dish it out, with a heavy, heartless hand. As for “playing by our rules” … hell, we ignore them ourselves, unless it suits us. Thanks for your comment. – Linda

  3. tubularsock says:

    Wow! Tubularsock is impressed. Only 28 to get one. Sweet. That’s what Tubularsock calls precision marksmanship! So, let me see there are 300,000 IS terrorists running loose in Iraq and Syria times oh say 28 = 840,000 give or take a pregnant mother or two (you know how they can tilt the equation). So Tubularsock will add 300,000 lost terrorist’s lives with the “others” and the answer isssss ………… 1,140,000. Oh, peace at last.

    • Tubularsock, Ah, the only thing more elusive than an Isis militant may be that devilish decimal point. I hate to nitpick, but if I’m not miscounting on my fingers, 28 times 300,000 would total 8.4 million, requiring our intrepid reaper and predator drones to, well, murder something like 9 million people to achieve that peace you envision so movingly. That’s a lot of peace. Do even we exceptional Americans have that much ammunition? I wonder. If we could commandeer all the munitions so lavishly supplied to our myriad law enforcement agencies, we might manage. But the formula could be still more complicated, if killing Isis fighters would stimulate fresh terrorist volunteers. How would we keep up? Sigh. Guess achieving peace isn’t all that easy, no matter how much military might we have. But thanks for a good thought! – Linda

      • tubularsock says:

        Oh shit ………. nit picking! They’re only human!

        • Yes — that’s the hell of it — “they are only human” … as human as we are. Thousands killed, or millions … was it Stalin who said one death is a tragedy, but a million deaths is just a statistic? If we don’t see what people suffer, if we can’t sense their pain and panic, none of it is real, for too many of us. And hate and fear shut down our ability to feel anything else, or to process anything rationally. I keep thinking we should be able to get past such primitive us-them responses to a crowded complex world, but it’s not happening, or not enough. I think we are often afraid to see reality, we know it will hurt like hell. Yet nothing less will ever move us to the hard, thankless work of making a better world. Thanks for reminding us. – Linda

  4. carolahand says:

    Linda, I so appreciate the work you do to cover crucial news, distressing though it is to try to understand how we can continue behaving in such callous, brutal ways. Or more importantly, what can be done to end the craziness… But I prefer your unadorned truth to the misinformation on mainstream media, or the unending emails from “advocacy” organizations that always bury their appeal for donations somewhere in the discussion.

    • Carol, Thank you for your thoughtful comment, and I only wish there was better news to post now and then. The best I have right now is some updates I’ve tacked onto ‘Just One Look’, about the Burnaby Mountain protests in British Columbia, in which a pipeline company has been forced to abandon an expansion project, at least for the moment. – Linda

      • carolahand says:

        Very hopeful news about Barnaby Mountain! It makes it clear that communities are working together and taking forceful, peaceful action. The information about job creation in alternative energy is especially encouraging. Thank you for drawing my attention to this post, Linda 🙂

        • Yes, that does sound like good news. Shows what can be done when the cancerous growth-at-all-costs mindset doesn’t pervade every level of government and media. You will note that Canada’s First Nations have been a big part of all their pipeline resistance, out of a more sane and respectful view of our place in the world. – Linda

  5. Jeff Nguyen says:

    I share your frustrations and those of my fellow bloggers here, Linda. How much will it take before these men and women (and I use that term loosely) who have green-lit all of this death and destruction are held accountable for their actions? These drone strike operators need to have their evaluations tied to their intended target:innocent civilian ratio. If Value Added Measure (VAM) scores are good enough for teachers, it should be good enough for the military.

    • Jeff, That sounds almost reasonable to me … assuming we really NEED drone operators to start with. But I have this queasy feeling the standards may not be that rigorous. My theory is drone jockeys must collect a bounty for all casualties, they couldn’t be that sloppy by accident. And yes, there MUST be accountability for all this murder, torture, and destruction done in our name. Just waiting for karma to kick in is too damn slow! And if we fail even to condemn such atrocities, our silence makes us guilty too.

      But “Value added Measure” — no shit, it’s really called that? Wonderful. Gotta love that education jargon. Makes it sound like you’re cranking out handbags (silk purses from sows’ ears?), not teaching human beings. Thanks so much for your comments. – Linda

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