Comment, Comics and the Contrary.
It seems that a US missile strike carried out by an unmanned drone has killed 18 people
. I use such cautious language as ‘it seems’ as to state it definitively is controversial, though I recognise that my choice of words might endorse the sort of ambiguity used to defend the murderous policies of the US. Nevertheless, as best we know, 18 people have been killed. None of these people were the target of the missile; Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Some might say that, as the missile was not intended to kill these 18 people, only a different person who, it turned out, was not there, to describe this action as ‘murderous’ is simply wrong. Or more, that I am guilty of ‘moral equivalence’; that denouncing US forces as murderous is somehow a statement to the effect that US forces are morally identical to an al-Qaeda terrorist. This is, plainly, not what I am writing, and such a meaning can only be inferred by a reader with a world view of absolutes, where, as al-Qaeda are utterly bad, no action taken in combating them can possibly be other than good. Such a world view is both relentlessly partisan and totalitarian. And mindlessly stupid. But regardless, explore the blogosphere and you will find it unselfconsciously pumped forth by people who style themselves as defenders of freedom.
The actions of the US are, in this instance, murderous. Just as with the policy used in Iraq, where houses, and homes, are destroyed by overwhelming firepower when a suspected insurgent is suspected of taking refuge inside
, this involves a political and military calculation. Please note the two uses of the word suspected in the previous sentence; this is a reflection of the degree of uncertainty that is accepted when committing military force to a path of action that will, almost certainly, result in civilian casualties. The people who made the decision to fire the missile in Pakistan knew, at least as certainly as anything can be known in conflict, that their actions would cause civilian deaths. They knew this to a higher degree of certainty than they knew that they would cause the death of al-Zawahiri. They accepted this and deliberately proceeded down a course of action that resulted in these civilian deaths.
Now, some have argued that the US does not make the killing of civilians the purpose of its military action. As we shall see, some justifications for this action suggest that not all supporters of the US-led War on Terror seem to think this is important. But first, what group does make the killing of civilians the purpose of its military action. The answer to this question is; only serial killers and genocideers. This does not, automatically, include terrorists, even those who target civilians in their attacks. Terrorist actions, like all military(-like) actions, have a political goal. In the case of, say, the IRA, this goal was a united Ireland. Outside of a tiny minority of truly swivel-eyed loons, the killing of British civilians was a means to this end. The US missile strike in Pakistan was an attempt to assassinate a ‘leader’ of al-Qaeda, and the killing of innocent civilians was an integral part of the means chosen to pursue this end. It is not so easy to paint a difference between those who intentionally kill civilians in the pursuit of political goals, and those who deliberately kill civilians in the pursuit of political goals. The US action, quite clearly, falls into the latter camp.
Some have attempted to justify the action by arguing that, given that some people in northern Pakistan have given refuge to al-Qeada members in the past, and that some might be sympathise with the goals of al-Qeada, this strike will work to ensure that people think twice before 'associating' with al-Qeada again. Regardless of a discussion of the morality of providing hospitality to al-Qaeda members in rural Pakistan, this line of reasoning is patently a justification for terrorism, and an argument that dissolves any division between the US deliberately killing civilians as opposed to it intentionally killing civilians. It is the application of military force to terrorise a population into obedience. In fact, this goes some way beyond ‘normal’ terrorism. A bomb delivered by the IRA or al-Qeada requires huge organisational commitment. These cannot be delivered ‘at will’. The terror they impart depends on illusion; in truth they are weak groups that cannot strike anywhere, anytime. A US missile strike, in comparison, is capable of being far more terrifying, as they can be delivered almost anywhere in the world at the organisational commitment of only a tiny fraction of US military resources. Thus, they are repeatable ad terreo, a demonstration of the genuine power by the terrorising forces.
Others arguments have blamed the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, for providing faulty intelligence designed to undermine Musharraf. The tension between Musharraf and the ISI must be known to US military planners, as must the intimacy of the ISI and radical Islamist groups. If, knowing this, these planners proceed to launch missiles into houses on the chance that their unreliable and disreputable allies are feeding them genuine, copper-bottomed intelligence, then their deliberate acceptance of civilian casualties in the pursuit of political ends is not diminished. It grows further. The planners are more murderous, not less.
There are other arguments, some springing from American exceptionalism, some plain old racist, but I have dealt with the most reasonable cases in defence of this action. I will not bother with either of these, if only because a challenge to either of these essentially unreasonable points of view is futile; if brown people are worth less than others, then discussion of paths of action that produce their deaths take on a whole different light, one that it is impossible for even soft-egalitarians to engage with; and if America is exceptional, then its actions are utterly incomparable to those of other nations and groups and thus reasonable discussion of its actions are pointless.After all that seriousness, now for something completely different
; a humorous observation on the storm raging over George Galloway. New Labour is basing much of its Galloway-bashing propaganda on the fact that he was not in Parliament at the time of a debate over the proposed Crossrail link that will, it is suggested, have a negative effect on the lives of his constituents. But;  the debate Galloway missed was a select committee debate to which he was never able to be a participant, and  the powers that are determining the route of Crossrail are those of a New Labour government.
Over at Lenin’s Tomb
, Dylan writes:“So New Labour says GG is irresponsible because he isn't around to stop them from hurting his constituents... that’s beautiful. It reminds me of Sideshow Bob’s campaign ad on The Simpsons: “Mayor Quimby even released Sideshow Bob – a man twice convicted of attempted murder. Can you trust a man like Mayor Quimby? Vote Sideshow Bob for mayor.”If you are going to smear, smear well
. This is something that the opponents of Galloway never seem to manage, though they do try very hard. I mean, forged documents? You have to go back to Arthur Scargill to find the a similarly uniform, and similarly false, media smear campaign. It is interesting to note that, in The Enemy Within by Seamus Milne, Galloway is quoted as saying, as soon as the Scargill smears began, that those would prove to be false. And they did.A previous post on deliberate killing
[At the recommendation of TimP in the comments I have tried to correct some typos in this post.]