Hàng ngàn, chục ngàn, trăm ngàn, hàng triệu phụ nữ trẻ em bị tàn sát chết thảm từng ngày đang diễn ra do chính bom đạn, hỏa tiễn từ máy bay không người lái DRONES của các nền dân chủ tiến bộ Âu Mỹ Úc Do Thái tiến hành…Nhưng KHÔNG MỘT AI, CHÍNH PHỦ, GIÁO HỘI nào lên tiếng khóc lóc chia buồn san sẻ với nạn nhân, và chỉ tay vạch mặt lên án thủ phạm!
Thế nhưng, từng trận giả địch- nhưng cứ giả thiết là thật sự khủng bố- vài chục người của Âu Mỹ Úc Do Thái là nạn nhân … thì “CẢ THẾ GIỚI”, BÁO CHÍ CHÍNH QUI, LÃNH ĐẠO QUỐC GIA, LÃNH ĐẠO TÔN GIÁO lên tiếng, sụt sùi khóc lóc đẫm lệ!
Hình ảnh tin tức ồ ạt lên trang nhất, oang oang từng giờ liên tục nơi truyền thanh truyền hình! Và rồi tất cả “chúng ta” từ dân cho đến quan chức… tiếp tục hùng hổ đe dọa dùng thêm bạo lực để giải quyết “vấn nạn khủng bố”, tác phẩm của chính “nhà nước chính phủ của chúng ta”, với sự ” đồng thuận dân chủ” của chúng ta, dù là tạo môi trường hoặc do chính chúng ta tạo ra!
“Chúng ta” thảm thiết bi ai, phẫn nộ vì những tội phạm nhỏ, nhưng lạnh lùng vô cảm, thậm chí đồng tình với những tội ác tày trời! “Chúng ta” khóc lóc hốt hoảng.. vì con mình đứt tay, và dửng dưng khi con người khác đổ ruột …bởi chính người nhà mình là thủ phạm”…Hay đây bởi vì “nhà nước chính phủ, đĩ điếm báo chí chính qui” của chúng ta đã “thông báo” rằng TẤT CẢ NHỮNG NẠN NHÂN, kể CẢ TRẺ EM PHỤ NỮ này là “phiến quân”? là “khủng bố”?
Khuất mặt ngoài tâm? Hay Chúng ta hèn mạt, đê tiện đạo đức giả -cố tình không muốn biết đến?
Hãy cứ nỉ non khóc lóc, và hãy cứ hùng hổ gào thét lên án và ủng hộ “chính phủ nhà nước cảnh sát công an” của:chúng ta”…vì trong những ngày tháng đang đến, quí vị sẽ là nạn nhân của khủng bố- không phải “khủng bố Hồi giáo”- mà chính là bọn côn đồ khủng bố cảnh sát an ninh trên đường phố, trong phi trường, và ngay trước cửa nhà của chính quí vị!
Phi Quyền Chính
NGUỒN THAM KHẢO ĐỌC THÊM
FOR DAYS NOW, American cable news has broadcast non-stop coverage of the horrific attack in Brussels. Viewers repeatedly heard from witnesses and from the wounded. Video was shown in a loop of the terror and panic when the bombs exploded. Networks dispatched their TV stars to Brussels, where they remain. NPR profiled the lives of several of the airport victims. CNN showed a moving interview with a wounded, bandage-wrapped Mormon American teenager speaking from his Belgium hospital bed.
All of that is how it should be: That’s news. And it’s important to understand on a visceral level the human cost from this type of violence. But that’s also the same reason it’s so unjustifiable, and so propagandistic, that this type of coverage is accorded only to Western victims of violence, but almost never to the non-Western victims of the West’s own violence.
A little more than a week ago, as Mohammed Ali Kalfood reported in The Intercept, “Fighter jets from a Saudi-led [U.S. and U.K.-supported] coalition bombed a market in Mastaba, in Yemen’s northern province of Hajjah. The latest count indicates that about 120 people were killed, including more than 20 children, and 80 were wounded in the strikes.” Kalfood interviewed 21-year-old Yemeni Khaled Hassan Mohammadi, who said, “We saw airstrikes on a market last Ramadan, not far from here, but this attack was the deadliest.” Over the past several years, the U.S. has launched hideous civilian-slaughtering strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and Iraq. Last July, The Intercept published a photo essay by Alex Potter of Yemeni victims of one of 2015’s deadliest Saudi-led, U.S.- and U.K.-armed strikes.
You’ll almost never hear any of those victims’ names on CNN, NPR, or most other large U.S. media outlets. No famous American TV correspondents will be sent to the places where those people have their lives ended by the bombs of the U.S. and its allies. At most, you’ll hear small, clinical news stories briefly and coldly describing what happened — usually accompanied by a justifying claim from U.S. officials, uncritically conveyed, about why the bombing was noble — but, even in those rare cases where such attacks are covered at all, everything will be avoided that would cause you to have any visceral or emotional connection to the victims. You’ll never know anything about them — not even their names, let alone hear about their extinguished life aspirations or hear from their grieving survivors — and will therefore have no ability to feel anything for them. As a result, their existence will barely register.
That’s by design. It’s because U.S. media outlets love to dramatize and endlessly highlight Western victims of violence, while rendering almost completely invisible the victims of their own side’s violence.
Perhaps you think there are good — or at least understandable — reasons to explain this discrepancy in coverage. Maybe you believe humans naturally pay more attention to, and empathize more with, the suffering of those they regard as more similar to them. Or you may want to argue that victims in cities commonly visited by American elites (Paris, Brussels, London, Madrid) are somehow more newsworthy than those in places rarely visited (Mastaba, in Yemen’s northern province of Hajjah). Or perhaps you’re sympathetic to the claim that it’s easier for CNN or NBC News to send on-air correspondents to glittery Western European capitals than to Waziristan or Kunduz. Undoubtedly, many believe that the West’s violence is morally superior because it only kills civilians by accident and not on purpose.
But regardless of the rationale for this media discrepancy, the distortive impact is the same: By endlessly focusing on and dramatizing Western victims of violence while ignoring the victims of the West’s own violence, the impression is continually bolstered that only They, but not We, engage in violence that kills innocent people. We are always the victims and never the perpetrators (and thus Good and Blameless); They are only the perpetrators and never the victims (and thus Villainous and Culpable). In April 2003, Ashleigh Banfield, then a rising war-correspondent star at MSNBC, returned from Iraq, gave a speech critiquing the one-sided, embedded U.S. media coverage of the war, and was shortly thereafter demoted and then fired. This is part of what she said:
That said, what didn’t you see? You didn’t see where those bullets landed. You didn’t see what happened when the mortar landed. A puff of smoke is not what a mortar looks like when it explodes, believe me. There are horrors that were completely left out of this war. … It was a glorious, wonderful picture that had a lot of people watching and a lot of advertisers excited about cable news. But it wasn’t journalism, because I’m not so sure that we in America are hesitant to do this again, to fight another war, because it looked like a glorious and courageous and so successful, terrific endeavor, and we got rid of horrible leader: We got rid of a dictator, we got rid of a monster, but we didn’t see what it took to do that. …
I think there were a lot of dissenting voices before this war about the horrors of war, but I’m very concerned about this three-week TV show and how it may have changed people’s opinions. It was very sanitized. … War is ugly and it’s dangerous, and in this world, the way we are discussed on the Arab street, it feeds and fuels their hatred and their desire to kill themselves to take out Americans.
In other words, the death, carnage, and destruction the U.S. invasion was causing was generating huge amounts of anti-American hatred and a desire to bring violence to Americans, even if meant sacrificing lives to accomplish that. But the U.S. media never showed any of that, so Americans had no idea it existed, and were thus incapable of understanding why people were eager to do violence to Americans. They therefore assumed that it must be because they are primitive or inherently hateful or driven by some inscrutable religious fervor.
That’s because the U.S. media, by showing only one side of the conflict, by presenting only the nationalistic viewpoint, propagandized — deceived — American viewers by making them more ignorant rather than more enlightened. As a result, when the trains of London and Madrid were attacked in 2004 and 2005 as retaliation for those countries’ participation in the invasion of Iraq, that causal connection (which even British intelligence acknowledged) was virtually never discussed because Western media outlets ensured it was unknown. The same was true of attempted attacks on the U.S.: in Times Square, the New York City subway system, an airliner over Detroit, all motivated by rage over Western violence. In the absence of any media discussion of those victims and motives, these attacks were was simply denounced as senseless, indiscriminate slaughter without any cause, and people were thus deprived of the ability to understand why they happened.
That’s exactly what’s happening still. Because I was traveling in the U.S. this week, I was subjected to literally dozens of hours of cable and network news coverage of the Brussels attacks. The most minute angles of the attack were dissected. But there was not one moment devoted to the question of why Belgium — and the U.S., France, and Russia before it — were targeted by ISIS (as opposed to a whole slew of non-Muslim, democratic countries around the world that ISIS doesn’t target), even though ISIS explicitly stated the reason and it is, in any event, self-evident: because those countries have been bombing ISIS in Syria and Iraq and these bombings were intended as retaliation and vengeance. Nor was there any discussion of why ISIS seems to have little trouble attracting support among some in Western countries: As even a Rumsfeld-commissioned study found in 2004, it is in large part because of widespread anger among Muslims over ongoing Western violence and interference in that part of the world.
The point, as always, isn’t justification: It is always morally unjustified to deliberately target civilians with violence (see the update here on that point). Nor does it prove that the bombing of ISIS in Iraq and Syria is unjustified or should cease. The point, instead, is that the war framework in which much of this violence takes place — one side that declares itself at war and uses violence as part of that war is inevitably attacked by the other side that it targets — is completely suppressed by one-sided media coverage that prefers a self-flattering, tribalistic cartoon narrative.
The ultimate media taboo is self-examination: the question of whether there are actions we take that exacerbate the problem we say we are trying to resolve. Such a process would not dilute the evil of ISIS’s civilian-targeting violence, but it would enable a more honest and complete understanding of the role Western governments’ policies play and the inevitable costs they entail. Perhaps those costs are worth enduring, but that question can only be rationally answered if the costs are openly discussed.
But whatever else is true, if we are constantly bombarded with images and stories and dramatic narratives highlighting our own side’s victims, while the victims of our side’s violence are rendered invisible, it’s only natural that large numbers of us will conclude that only They, but not We, are committing civilian-killing violence. That’s a really pleasing thing to believe, no matter how false it is. Having media outlets perpetrate self-pleasing and tribal-affirming — but utterly false — narratives is the very definition of propaganda. And that’s what largely drives Western media coverage of these terrorist attacks every time they occur in the West.
West’s Media Outlets Continue to Describe Unknown US Drone Victims As “Militants”
It has been more than two years since The New York Times revealed that “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties” of his drone strikes which “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants…unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”
The paper noted that “this counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths,” and even quoted CIA officials as deeply “troubled” by this decision: “One called it ‘guilt by association’ that has led to ‘deceptive’ estimates of civilian casualties. ‘It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants. They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.’”
But what bothered even some intelligence officials at the agency carrying out the strikes seemed of no concern whatsoever to most major media outlets. As I documented days after the Times article, most large western media outlets continued to describe completely unknown victims of U.S. drone attacks as “militants”—even though they (a) had no idea who those victims were or what they had done and (b) were well-aware by that point that the term had been “re-defined” by the Obama administration into Alice in Wonderland-level nonsense.
Like the U.S. drone program itself, this deceitful media practice continues unabated. “Drone strike kills at least four suspected militants in northwest Pakistan,” a Reuters headline asserted last week. The headline chosen by ABC News, publishing an AP report, was even more definitive: “U.S. Drone in Northwest Pakistan Kills 6 Militants.”
In July, The Wall Street Journal‘s headline claimed: “U.S. Drone Strike Kills Five Militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan.” Sometimes they will turn over their headlines to “officials,” as this AP reportfrom July did: “Officials: US drone kills 7 militants in Pakistan.”
Since its 2012 report, the Times itself has tended to avoid the “militant” language in its headlines, but often lends credence to dubious official claims, as when it said this about a horrific U.S. drone strike last December on a Yemeni wedding party that killed 12 people and wounded at least 15 others, including the bride: “Most of the dead appeared to be people suspected of being militants linked to Al Qaeda, according to tribal leaders in the area, but there were also reports that several civilians had been killed.”
Other U.S. media accounts of that strike were just as bad, if not worse. The controversies over the definition of “militant” are almost never mentioned in any of these reports.
A new article in The New Yorker by Steve Coll underscores how deceptive this journalistic practice is. Among other things, he notes that the U.S. government itself—let alone the media outlets calling them “militants”—often has no idea who has been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan.
That’s because, in 2008, George W. Bush and his CIA chief, Gen. Michael Hayden, implemented “signature strikes,” under which “new rules allowed drone operators to fire at armed military-aged males engaged in or associated with suspicious activity even if their identities were unknown.”
The Intercept previously reported that targeting decisions can even be made on the basis of nothing more than metadata analysis and tracking of SIM cards in mobile phones.
The journalist Daniel Klaidman has noted that within the CIA, they “sometimes call it crowd killing…. If you don’t have positive ID on the people you’re targeting with these drone strikes.” The tactic of drone-killing first responders and rescuers who come to the scene of drone attacks or even mourners at funerals of drone victims—used by the Obama administration and designated “terror groups” alike—are classic examples.
Nobody has any real idea who the dead are, but they are nonetheless routinely called “militants” by the American government and media. As international law professor Kevin Jon Heller documented in 2012, “The vast majority of drone attacks conducted by the U.S. have been signature strikes—those that target ‘groups of men who bear certain signatures, or defining characteristics associated with terrorist activity, but whose identities aren’t known.’”
Coll also describes the critical work of Noor Behram, a photojournalist who has spent years traveling to drone strike scenes in North Waziristan to document—as a 2011 Guardian profile put it—”that far more civilians are being injured or dying than the Americans and Pakistanis admit”; that “the world’s media quickly reports on how many militants were killed in each strike” even though “reporters don’t go to the spot, relying on unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials”; and that “for every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant.”
Coll describes the propagandistic process that continues to shape U.S. media reports on these strikes:
I picked up a photo that showed Behram outdoors, in a mountainous area, holding up a shredded piece of women’s underwear. He said it was taken during his first investigation, in June, 2007, after an aerial attack on a training camp.
American and Pakistani newspapers reported at the time that drone missiles had killed Al Qaeda-linked militants. There were women nearby as well. Although he was unable to photograph the victims’ bodies, he said, “I found charred, torn women’s clothing—that was the evidence.”
Since then, he went on, he has photographed about a hundred other sites in North Waziristan, creating a partial record of the dead, the wounded, and their detritus. Many of the faces before us were young.
Behram said he learned from conversations with editors and other journalists that if a drone missile killed an innocent adult male civilian, such as a vegetable vender or a fruit seller, the victim’s long hair and beard would be enough to stereotype him as a militant. So he decided to focus on children.
There’s simply no doubt that U.S. media outlets have continuously and repeatedly—and falsely—described innocent civilians killed by U.S. drone attacks as “militants.” Just last month, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented that “fewer than 4% of the people killed have been identified by available records as named members of al Qaeda,” directly contrary to “John Kerry’s claim last year that only ‘confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level’ were fired at.”
It’s certainly true that reporting is extremely difficult in those places where U.S. drone strikes are most common. But that’s all the more reason to exercise caution when making claims about who the victims are. Instead, these media outlets reflexively adopt the extremely dubious claims of U.S. officials and those of allied governments (such as Yemen and Pakistan) about the identity of the victims.
That practice, standing alone, is indefensible enough as pro-government stenography, but the fact that it continues even two years after the Times revealed that the U.S. government has formally adopted a completely propagandistic definition of “militant” makes this behavior willfully misleading.
All of this has achieved the desired effect. Any time you discuss U.S. drone attacks, you inevitably will be told that the U.S. government is killing “terrorists” and “militants”—even though the people making that claim have absolutely no idea who the government is actually killing.
It’s easy to dismiss that mindset as supreme irrationality and authoritarianism—what kind of person runs around claiming their government is killing “terrorists” and “militants” when they have no idea who the victims are?—but they’re just adopting the formula for how the U.S. government and media have consciously chosen to propagandize on this issue.
* * * * *
Coll’s article also discusses an oft-ignored aspect of drone warfare: its psychologically terrorizing effects on the targeted population.
A joint 2012 report from the law schools of Stanford University and NYU, “Living Under Drones,” documented that “U.S. drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury”—specifically, they “hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning.
Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.” Coll’s article similarly notes:
Being attacked by a drone is not the same as being bombed by a jet. With drones, there is typically a much longer prelude to violence. Above North Waziristan, drones circled for hours, or even days, before striking.
People below looked up to watch the machines, hovering at about twenty thousand feet, capable of unleashing fire at any moment, like dragon’s breath. “Drones may kill relatively few, but they terrify many more,” Malik Jalal, a tribal leader in North Waziristan, told me. “They turned the people into psychiatric patients.”
The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff just released their annual “counterterrorism” report and it defined “terrorism” this way:
Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence or threat of violence, often motivated by religious, political, or other ideological beliefs, to instill fear and coerce governments or societies in pursuit of goals that are usually political.
There is, to put it generously, enormous doubt about the legality of both “signature strikes” and the targeting of rescuers and mourners. The UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, has even said some U.S. drone attacks may constitute “war crimes.”
Given their intended effects—both physical and psychological—on entire populations, there is a very compelling case to make that continual, sustained drone warfare in places such as Pakistan and Yemen meet the U.S.’s formal definition of “terrorism” found in its latest strategy document.
By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept
Correction: This post initially claimed that the bride was among those killed in the so-called “Wedding Strike” in Yemen in December 2013. In fact, the bride was injured but not killed.
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