Dec 18, 2012

Obama sheds tears for Sandy Hook victims: silent on child victims of drone strikes


The US has an estimated 310 million guns in circulation (2009 figures) and second amendment rights that codify the right to bear arms. Gun ownership is part of the American way... even though back in 1791 the law makers who ratified the Bill of Rights didn't have the Bushmaster AR-15 in mind, much less the number of innocent lives it is capable of extinguishing in short order.

The killings at Sandy Hook school in Newtown and earlier atrocities that preceded it in Aurora, Oak Creek, Blacksburg and Columbine come with the inevitable search for answers... the why behind seemingly senseless killings. It is convenient to point the finger at a psychiatric or other medical condition as a possible factor or to anonymize the cause by speaking of "evil." A more difficult truth lies closer to home and tracks back to a society that promotes violence in subtle and not-so-subtle ways in everything from entertainment to the gun culture to high tech ways of waging war.

Shooters-on-a-mission who kill for revenge, for the notoriety or because they're acting out some undiagnosed condition don't exist in a vacuum. They live in a society in which violence has been "normalized" to a dysfunctional degree. Never-ending wars, the brutal tactics of increasingly militarized police, extra-judicial assassinations by drone authorized by a president with a 'kill list'... these and other features of American life send the message that violence is very much a part of the American agenda both at home and abroad.

Barack Obama has been outraged and saddened by the killings of innocent children at Sandy Hook school in Newtown - children whose names and faces we have come to know and whose stories move us. Yet this is the same president who has authorized drone strikes against alleged "militants" that have also taken the lives of innocent children in Pakistan and Yemen... strikes depersonalized in the parlance of the drone operators as "bug splats."

Writing in The Guardian, George Monbiot sees a contradiction in a president who sheds tears for the child victims of Sandy Hook, yet remains silent on the equally innocent children who are victims of his drone program - most of whom we will never hear named, see in a photo or learn about through the reminiscences of grieving relatives:

"Mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts … These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change." Every parent can connect with what President Barack Obama said about the murder of 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut. There can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people of that town.

It must follow that what applies to the children murdered there by a deranged young man also applies to the children murdered in Pakistan by a sombre American president. These children are just as important, just as real, just as deserving of the world's concern. Yet there are no presidential speeches or presidential tears for them, no pictures on the front pages of the world's newspapers, no interviews with grieving relatives, no minute analysis of what happened and why.

If the victims of Mr Obama's drone strikes are mentioned by the state at all, they are discussed in terms which suggest that they are less than human. The people who operate the drones, Rolling Stone magazine reports, describe their casualties as "bug splats", "since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed". Or they are reduced to vegetation: justifying the drone war, Obama's counterterrorism adviser Bruce Riedel explained that "you've got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back".

For the full Guardian article link here.

Since the first deployment of drones for assassination purposes under the Bush administration in 2002, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that at least 178 children (up to the age of 17) have been killed as a direct result of US drone policy.

TBIJ’s analysis -- called the “best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes” by legal experts at Stanford and NYU who recently released the in-depth report Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan2, -- finds that 176 of the 178 children killed in U.S. drones strikes were Pakistani. The two non-Pakistani children were killed in Yemen.