Matt Welch rounds up the actual events which were originally euphemistically described as a successful strike against “suspected” al Qaeda militants:
What enables such state-sanctioned murder? One crucial ingredient is highlighted in the next paragraph:
Quoting unnamed Yemeni officials, local and international media initially described the victims of the Sept. 2 airstrike in al-Bayda governorate as al Qaeda militants.
Follow that link to the Sept. 2 Reuters article, and you’ll see this loaded lead paragraph:
Five suspected militants linked to al Qaeda were killed by a U.S. drone attack on Sunday in central Yemen, in what appears to be stepped up strikes by unmanned aircraft on Islamists.
Note that “suspected” only modifies “militants”; Reuters treated as fact that the charred bodies were “linked to al Qaeda,” and part of a broader campaign against “Islamists” who don’t qualify as being “suspected.”
This isn’t just linguistic nitpicking of journalismese; this is how you midwife propaganda — straight from anonymous government sources who have a huge incentive to legitimize targeted death-dealing against undesirables, and unadorned with the kind of protective skepticism that such ultimate power (let alone fog of war) so richly deserves.