NYT’s Anonymous Drone Defenders

March 20, 2012   ·   0 Comments

Source: FAIR

An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle lands at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, Nov. 20. Reapers are remotely piloted and can linger over battlefields, providing persistent strike capabilities to ground force commanders. This Reaper is deployed to the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance and Attack Squadron from Creech Air Force Base, Nev. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Erik Gudmundson)

By Peter Hart:

There is a big piece in the New York Times [yesterday] (3/19/12) on the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. And, as has been the case before, the U.S. perspective comes via anonymous government officials:

A senior American official in Washington said that the CIA had consistently taken precautions to reduce the risk to civilians, and noted that some strikes had killed Pakistan’s insurgent enemies, too. “These efforts have been extremely precise and effective,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the program’s covert status.

And later readers get this:

“The overriding concern is to avoid collateral damage,”  another senior United States official said.

What’s remarkable about an article like this–written by Declan Walsh, Eric Schmitt and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud–is that it will discuss the record of U.S. officials making wildly inaccurate claims about the drone program, but nonetheless print official assurances about the program’s effectiveness:

Of the 10 confirmed strikes so far this year, six hit vehicles filled with fighters that, in several cases, were headed for the Afghan border, a senior United States official said.

“We must protect the troops, and almost all of that stuff is in Waziristan,” said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the drone program is classified.

Seventeen paragraphs later, we’re told that although White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan claimed that drones had not caused “a single collateral death” over the past year, independent observers counted scores of such deaths.

It’d worth noting the tone the Times uses when it discusses the debate within Pakistan. Readers are told that over there “public discourse rings with thunderous condemnations of breached sovereignty and civilian casualties.”  And the paper also picks up “signs are that the Pakistani debate will be dominated by strident calls for an end to drone strikes.”

You almost get the sense that those who demand that foreigners stop using unmanned planes to assassinate people in their country need to stop being so hysterical about it.


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Khader Adnan