President Barack Obama’s pick for CIA director, John Brennan, promised senators who will vote on his nomination more openness about U.S. counter-terrorism programs, saying the closely guarded number of civilian casualties from drone strikes should be made public, according to his written responses to questions released on Friday.
Brennan was questioned sharply by Democrats and Republicans alike during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on his nomination last week.
Along with harsh interrogation techniques, Brennan was questioned about drone strikes against terrorism suspects in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere. These strikes have increased under Obama and included the killing in Yemen of a U.S.-born cleric suspected of ties to al Qaeda and his U.S.-born son.
The U.S. government, without releasing numbers, has sought to portray civilian deaths from these strikes as minimal. But other organizations which collect data on these attacks put the number of civilians killed in the hundreds.
On Gaza Body Counts and the Numbers Game: A double standard between Israel and Gaza, Israel and the world
Over at the Atlantic, my former benevolent overseer Jeffrey Goldberg responded smartly to an editorial in the Times that, while generally well-argued, made one logical misstep.
Here was the line:
Israel has a vastly more capable military than Hamas, and its air campaign has resulted in a lopsided casualty count: three Israelis have been killed.
And here was JG’s response:
Whenever I read a statement like this, I wonder if the person writing it believes that there is a large moral difference between attempted murder and successfully completed murder. The casualty count is lopsided, but why? A couple of reasons: Hamas rockets are inaccurate; Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system is working well. But the Israeli body count isn’t low because Hamas is trying to minimize Israeli casualties. Quite the opposite: Hamas’s intention is to kill as many Israelis as possible. Without vigilance, and luck, and without active attempts by the Israeli Air Force to destroy rocket launchers before they can be used, the Israeli body count would be much higher. The U.S. judges the threat from al Qaeda based on the group’s intentions and plans, not merely on the number of Americans it has killed over the past 10 years. This is the correct approach to dealing with such a threat.
The importance of Jeffrey’s point here cannot be overstated. In addition, it’s important to note that Hamas has so enmeshed itself and its weaponry in every nook, warren, and by-place of densely populated Gaza that civilian deaths are nearly impossible to avoid. (Hamas’ crude rockets have, on multiple occasions, fallen short and killed or wounded Gazans.) That doesn’t excuse the death of any innocent people in Gaza-they are a stain on Israel, but they are also a stain on Hamas and other terrorist groups.
Very thought provoking IMO. It’s been a long war. Are we going to do this forever?
Take the following warning seriously! It’s no accident you must use the link to see them.
What follows is a sample of some of the most arresting photos. Be advised: Many of these pictures are disturbing. Some of them show dead children.
Also be aware that our sources came to us with an agenda: discrediting the drone war. “I want to show taxpayers in the Western world what their tax money is doing to people in another part of the world: killing civilians, innocent victims, children,” Behram says. Stafford Smith is threatening the U.S. embassy in Pakistan with a lawsuit over its complicity in civilian deaths from drone strikes. And anonymous U.S. officials have claimed that Akbar, whose clients are suing the CIA for wrongful deaths in the drone war, is acting at the behest of Pakistani intelligence — something he denies.
Nevertheless, after careful consideration, we chose to publish some of these images because of the inherent journalistic value in depicting a largely unseen battlefield.
Before posting Behram’s photos we took a number of measures to confirm as best we could what was being shown. We verified Behram’s bona fides with other news organizations. We sifted through the images, tossing out any pictures that couldn’t correlate with previously reported drone attacks. Then we grilled Behram in a series of lengthy Skype interviews from Pakistan, translated by Akbar, about the circumstances surrounding each of the images.