Quotulatiousness

May 23, 2013

Identity politics and the Woolwich murderers

Filed under: Britain, Media, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:26

Brendan O’Neill on yesterday’s brutal murder in Woolwich:

One of the most shocking things about the brutal attack in Woolwich yesterday was the arrogance with which one of the bloodied knifemen claimed to be acting on behalf of all Muslims. In what sounded like a South London accent, this British-seeming, casually dressed young man bizarrely spoke as if he were a representative of the ummah. He talked about “our lands” and what “our people” have to go through every day. He presumably meant Iraqis and Afghanis, or perhaps the broader global “Muslim family”.

How can a couple of men so thoroughly convince themselves that they speak for all Muslims, to the extent that they seriously believe their savage and psychotic attack on a man in the street is some kind of glorious act of Islamic resistance? Perhaps because they live in a country in which claiming to speak “on behalf of” a community, even if you’ve never been elected by or even seriously talked to that community, is taken seriously. A country where one’s identity, one’s racial or religious or cultural make-up, now counts for everything, certainly for more than what one does or what one believes. A country in which the politics of identity, the narrow and deeply divisive communal politics of shared cultural traits, has been privileged over all other kinds of politics.

The Woolwich murderer’s impromptu claim to be acting on behalf of the grievances of Muslims everywhere echoes the statements made by the 7/7 bombers. “Your democratically elected governments continue to perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world”, said chief bomber Mohammad Siddique Khan. “My people” — what extraordinary arrogance and self-righteousness. Did Khan ever talk to “his people” or win a mandate from them? Of course not, no more than the knife-wielding nutter in Woolwich engaged with the inhabitants of what he thinks of as “his lands”. Rather, in this era in which any old fool can claim to be a “community spokesperson”, and can be treated seriously as such, these murderous loners seem to be trying a psychotic version of the same trick — claiming that by dint of shared skin colour or common religious sentiment they have the authority to speak on behalf of millions of people they have never met or whose lands they have never visited.

May 17, 2013

Greenwald: Welcome to the never-ending “War on Terror”

Filed under: Government, Military, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:26

In the Guardian, Glenn Greenwald explains why this admission by the Obama administration is much more serious than any of the other current crop of scandals sucking all the media oxygen out of the room.

That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the “war on terror” will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week’s big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of “endless war”. Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war — justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism — that is the single greatest cause of that threat.

In January, former Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson delivered a highly-touted speech suggesting that the war on terror will eventually end; he advocated that outcome, arguing:

    ‘War’ must be regarded as a finite, extraordinary and unnatural state of affairs. We must not accept the current conflict, and all that it entails, as the ‘new normal.'”

In response, I wrote that the “war on terror” cannot and will not end on its own for two reasons: (1) it is designed by its very terms to be permanent, incapable of ending, since the war itself ironically ensures that there will never come a time when people stop wanting to bring violence back to the US (the operational definition of “terrorism”), and (2) the nation’s most powerful political and economic factions reap a bonanza of benefits from its continuation. Whatever else is true, it is now beyond doubt that ending this war is the last thing on the mind of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner and those who work at the highest levels of his administration. Is there any way they can make that clearer beyond declaring that it will continue for “at least” another 10-20 years?

May 4, 2013

Why the terror-through-shipping-container threat has not materialized (yet)

Filed under: Business, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:11

Strategy Page explains why the much-discussed threat of terrorists smuggling in weapons of mass destruction using the ubiquitous shipping container has not actually happened:

A decade ago there was much talk about how vulnerable the United States was to a terror attack via shipping container. It never happened. It’s also unlikely because of the large number of variables the terrorists face. The problems associated with using cargo containers to move a nuclear or conventional bomb are manifold. The big problem is that these containers often don’t arrive right on schedule. Sometimes the ship breaks down or encounters bad weather. This last event leads to thousands of containers a year falling off cargo ships and going to the bottom with their cargo. Sometimes containers get lost “in the system.” More frequently containers get robbed or opened by mistake. Customs officials open a small percentage (this varies by port) for inspection. Another problem, whether the bomb goes off or not, is the fact that containers have to have documentation like bills of lading and such. These can be faked, but the problem is that a paper trail is being created and that can lead to terrorists getting arrested. All containers must officially belong to someone, they are tracked and any that aren’t being tracked tend to get noticed. Many countries do scrutinize containers coming from certain countries in an attempt to catch people smuggling drugs or arms. Large bombs, be they nuclear or conventional, are relatively fragile and may not survive (in working condition) the punishment received during a long sea voyage. If all that weren’t enough to make terrorists nervous, container ships can be delayed when trying to enter a port because of congestion. This can delay arrival by days, or even weeks.

April 30, 2013

Shikha Dalmia: This was not Rand Paul’s finest moment

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:18

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bomb attack, Republican politicians didn’t cover themselves in glory:

Remember the story about the drunk who loses his car keys in the forest but looks for them under a lamp post because that’s where the light is? Conservative calls to fight terrorism in the wake of the Boston attack by ditching immigration reform make just as much sense.

The difference is that the drunk’s efforts were merely futile. Conservative efforts are also dangerous because they ignore the security threat that Big Government poses.

No sooner was it revealed that the two bombers were Russian emigres of Chechen heritage than Iowa’s Sen. Charles Grassley declared that the attacks show that America needs to “beef up security checks,” not let more newcomers in. Rep. Steven King, also a committed restrictionist from Iowa, demanded we pause and look at “the big picture” on immigration, as if seven years since the last failed effort at reform is not enough.

Most disappointing was Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky’s switcheroo. Last month, he distanced himself from his party’s harsh anti-immigration rhetoric. This week he counseled that we rethink visas for foreign students, never mind that neither of the Brothers Tsarnaev ever obtained one.

None of this, however, would have prevented the attack given that the Tsarnaev brothers obtained asylum around 2002 at the ages of 8 and 15 along with their parents, fleeing persecution in Russia. Reportedly, the older brother Tamerlan, a boxing champion, became radicalized only eight years later, after his mother, not seriously religious then, reminded him of his Islamic faith’s strictures to wean him off alcohol and drugs. When he met his wife, Katherine Russell, at a nightclub, he was a nominally pious, somewhat confused young adult with few signs that he’d become a raving zealot.

April 23, 2013

The myth of radicalization

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:41

In sp!ked, Frank Furedi examines the recent phenomenon of “nice guys” turning into terrorists:

… homegrown terrorism is viewed as a problem of ‘radicalisation’, where young people are seen as having effectively been warped by some imam or ideology promoter. So within days of the Boston bombers being identified, a local mosque was blamed for radicalising Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Others have looked for alternative sources of radicalisation, such as jihadist courses on YouTube or extremist Islamist websites. The theory of radicalisation is based on the premise that the lure of jihad politicises otherwise disgruntled individuals and transforms them into hardened militants.

Yet it is not clear what exactly constitutes the lure of jihad. Young people who are attracted to jihadist websites rarely adopt a new worldview. In fact, their perspective is very similar to numerous non-Muslim Westerners who visit nihilistic websites and become fascinated by destructive themes and image. Those who visit jihadist sites are choosing a fad rather than a coherent ideological outlook. In this regard, it is worth noting that some radicals arrested for terrorist activities in Europe are neither religious zealots nor political idealists. A study of ‘The Mujahideen Network’, a Swedish internet forum, discovered that its members’ knowledge of Islam was ‘virtually non-existent’ and their ‘fascination with jihad seems to be dictated by their rebellious nature rather than a deep ideological conviction’ (5). In other words, these people seem to have been driven by their estrangement from society rather than being pulled by a vibrant and dynamic alternative.

[. . .]

In fact, there are formidable cultural forces that denigrate the West’s historical achievements and its traditional belief in progress and enlightenment. Some commentators argue that the West, finding it difficult to believe in itself, faces a moral crisis. In such circumstances, is it any wonder that many young people feel deeply estranged from the Western way of life? Fortunately, only a handful opt for the nihilistic course of action taken by the Boston bombers. But the real problem is not to be found in the impressionable minds of youths but in the failure of society to inspire these young people with positive and forward-looking ideals.

Young people are not being seduced by mystical jihadist ideologies; they are being driven away by a society that fails to lead or enthuse or move them. There will, of course, always be a handful of confused and disturbed individuals who opt for acts of violent destruction. But as long as their community believes in itself, the damage they cause will be contained. The experience of the post-9/11 world shows that winning the arguments for an open society is the most effective answer to the threat of terror.

What we know (so far) about the would-be Via bombers

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Railways — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:18

Maclean’s has a summary pulling together files from Nicholas Köhler, Charlie Gillis, Michael Friscolanti and Martin Patriquin on what is known about the two men arrested yesterday in a plot to commit an act of terror on a Canadian passenger train:

One of the men, Raed Jaser, is believed to have grown up in a Palestinian family with Jordanian roots. Court records seem to indicate he went on to a troubled history in Toronto, where authorities arrested him after a months’-long investigation they say ultimately leads back to al-Qaeda elements in Iran.

Although he is not a Canadian citizen, Jaser, 35, appears to have been in Ontario for at least two decades.

In October 1995, a man with the same name and year of birth was criminally charged in Newmarket, Ont., with fraud under $5,000 (the charge was withdrawn a year later). In December 2000, a week after his 24th birthday, Jaser was arrested and charged again, this time with uttering threats. Although court records show he was convicted of that charge, it’s not clear what sentence he received.

[. . .]

Details about the other man police say was involved in the plot, [Chiheb] Esseghaier, a resident of Montreal, are also coming into focus. A highly trained engineer, he had the resumé of an academic poised to go places.

As recently as last month he was publishing research papers.

The March 2013 edition of journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics published a paper on advanced HIV detection by Esseghaier, Mohammed Zourob and a fellow PhD student named Andy Ng.

According to his CV, Esseghaier was born in Tunisia. He received an engineering degree from Institut Tunisia’s National des Sciences Appliquées et de Technologie in 2007, with his masters degree following in 2008. He then moved to Université de Sherbrooke to research “SPR biosensor and gallium arsenide semi-conductor biofunctionnalization.” In November 2010, he joined Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS), a graduate institution associated with the Université du Québec.

April 22, 2013

The “public safety exception” to Miranda is a really bad idea

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

In Techdirt, Mike Masnick explains why this Obama administration innovation should not be perpetuated:

  1. Suspending basic rights and due process out of fear is exactly the kind of thing that people attacking the US want to see. Showing that we can’t live up to our most basic rights and principles in the face of a terrorist attack gives those who hate us that much more incentive to keep going. It’s not just a sign of weakness, but an encouragement for those who seek to undermine our society. In fact, it takes a step in that very direction by showing that the government is willing to throw out the rules and principles when it gets a little scared by a teenager.
  2. The slippery slope here is steep and extremely slick. There are no rules on when the DOJ can suddenly ignore Miranda. It gets to decide by itself. This is an organization with a long history of abusing its power, now allowed to wipe out one of the key protections for those they’re arresting, whenever it sees fit. The whole point of the ruling in Miranda is that it should not be up to law enforcement. A person’s rights are their rights.
  3. The part that really gets me: if anything, this opens up a really, really stupid line of defense for Dzokhar Tsarnaev if he ever faces a criminal trial. His lawyers will undoubtedly claim that the arrest and interrogation was unconstitutional due to the lack of (or delay in) Miranda rights. Why even open up that possibility of a defense for him?
  4. The guy has lived in the US for many years — chances are he actually knows the fact that he has the right to refuse to speak. So, we’re violating our principles, basic Constitutional due process, and opening up a massive opening for a defense, to avoid telling him something he likely already knows.

It’s been said before and it’ll be said again, but turning ourselves into a paranoid police state without basic rights means that those who attack us are winning. We should be better than that, and it’s a shame that our leaders have no problem confirming for the rest of the world that we’re not. What a shame.

April 20, 2013

Boston’s security theatre performance

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:20

At Popehat, Clark explains why the security theatre response to the Marathon bombers was a lot of show, but not proportional to the actual threat posed by the two fugitives:

First, just in case it’s not utterly obvious, I’m glad that the two murderous cowards who attacked civilians in Boston recently are off the streets. One dead and one in custody is a great outcome.

That said, a large percent of the reaction in Boston has been security theater. “Four victims brutally killed” goes by other names in other cities.

In Detroit, for example, they call it “Tuesday”.

…and Detroit does not shut down every time there are a few murders.

“But Clark,” I hear you say, “this is different. This was a terrorist attack.”

Washington DC, during ongoing sniper terrorist attacks in 2002 that killed twice as many people, was not shut down.

Kileen Texas, after the Fort Hood terrorist attack in 2009 that killed three times as many people, was not shut down.

London, after the bombing terrorist attack in 2005 that killed more than ten times as many people, was not shut down.

Counting the cost of the city-wide lockdown:

First, the unprecedented shutdown of a major American city may have increased safety some small bit, but it was not without a cost: keeping somewhere between 2 and 5 million people from work, shopping, and school destroyed a nearly unimaginable amount of value. If we call it just three million people, and we peg the cost at a mere $15 per person per hour, the destroyed value runs to a significant fraction of a billion dollars.

[. . .]

Third, keeping citizens off the street meant that 99% of the eyes and brains that might solve a crime were being wasted. Eric S Raymond famously said that “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow“. It was thousands of citizen photographs that helped break this case, and it was a citizen who found the second bomber. Yes, that’s right — it wasn’t until the stupid lock-down was ended that a citizen found the second murderer:

    boston.com

    The boat’s owners, a couple, spent Friday hunkered down under the stay-at-home order. When it was lifted early in the evening, they ventured outside for some fresh air and the man noticed the tarp on his boat blowing in the wind, according to their his son, Robert Duffy.

    The cords securing it had been cut and there was blood near the straps.

We had thousands of police going door-to-door, searching houses…and yet not one of them saw the evidence that a citizen did just minutes after the lock-down ended.

Come for the takedown of security theatre on a city-wide level, stay for the ultimate cops-and-donuts story.

April 19, 2013

Tracking the Boston Marathon bombers

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:07

As a one-man blogging operation, I won’t even pretend to stay on top of the story from Boston. Colby Cosh, on the other hand, has a useful post at Maclean’s to bring you up to date on the news so far:

It has been a night of extraordinary scenes from Boston as the late shift gawps at an unfolding true-crime story as extraordinary as any since the O.J. Simpson saga. Earlier in the day the FBI published photos of two suspects in Tuesday’s bombing attack on the Boston Marathon. Men closely matching the description of those individuals knocked over a 7-Eleven in the city Thursday night, then are alleged to have slain a transit cop on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and briefly taken a hostage. They were tracked to the suburb of Watertown, where they engaged in a spectacular firefight with at least a dozen different police forces. One man, the suspected marathon bomber depicted wearing a black cap in the FBI photos, seems to have rushed the police with an explosive attached to his chest; he was dead on arrival at hospital and doctors said he presented with “blast injuries to the trunk” along with an uncountable number of bullet holes. The other man, the one supposedly spotted at the marathon wearing a white cap, clambered into a vehicle, drove through the police cordon, and remains at large.

The entire city of Boston has been locked down while they search for the surviving bomber, identified as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19. The dead suspect was his older brother.

April 16, 2013

QotD: Media “experts” immediately after a tragedy

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:52

Right now, I could write segments on the idiot comments made by the usual suspects … but do you really need another piece of evidence to support the argument that, say, Cynthia McKinney is a lunatic? [...] I can’t get all that revved up about it. She is what she is. If you really put much stock in her judgment of what’s “the real story” behind a horrific news event, theories that hear this awful news and immediately jump to elaborate theories of “false flag” operations and the notion that our local and federal law-enforcement ranks are full of men and women willing to set bombs and blow up children in order to score some sort of propaganda victory … well, then I doubt there’s anything anyone can say to dissuade you of that vast worldview you’ve constructed within your mind.

The conspiracy theorist is only a couple of steps away from the person who — often on Twitter — begins discussing who was behind it with way too much certainty. As I said on Twitter yesterday, I suspect that speculation, unhelpful as it is, is a coping mechanism: People attempt to make a sudden unexpected horror fit into pattern of known facts. If we can figure out who did it, we can find someone to feel anger and rage towards and, for some people, that’s a much easier emotion to deal with than shock, horror, fear, and sorrow.

The all-too-confident speculator is only a few steps away from the ordinarily knowledgeable terrorism expert or pundit yanked into a television studio at a moment’s notice and asked to speak, extemporaneously, about what could be behind these awful events based on nothing more than initial reports and the most horrific of images playing on a monitor just beyond the camera.

Jim Geraghty, “The Morning Jolt”, 2013-04-16

March 21, 2013

The technological imbalance between security and threats

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:17

Bruce Schneier on the power of technology in a security context:

A core, not side, effect of technology is its ability to magnify power and multiply force — for both attackers and defenders. One side creates ceramic handguns, laser-guided missiles, and new-identity theft techniques, while the other side creates anti-missile defense systems, fingerprint databases, and automatic facial recognition systems.

The problem is that it’s not balanced: Attackers generally benefit from new security technologies before defenders do. They have a first-mover advantage. They’re more nimble and adaptable than defensive institutions like police forces. They’re not limited by bureaucracy, laws, or ethics. They can evolve faster. And entropy is on their side — it’s easier to destroy something than it is to prevent, defend against, or recover from that destruction.

For the most part, though, society still wins. The bad guys simply can’t do enough damage to destroy the underlying social system. The question for us is: can society still maintain security as technology becomes more advanced?

I don’t think it can.

March 20, 2013

Barack’s secret spying club

Filed under: Government, Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:23

In Reason, Jacob Sullum explains why the ruling against the promiscuous use of National Security Letters was needed:

After 9/11, Congress loosened restrictions on national security letters (NSLs), a kind of administrative subpoena, first authorized in 1986, that the FBI uses to demand information from phone companies, Internet service providers, and financial institutions. According to the Justice Department’s inspector general, NSL “requests” skyrocketed from a total of 8,500 between 1986 and 2000 to more than 56,000 in 2004 alone.

The Obama administration has made liberal use of NSLs, which in 2010 allowed the FBI to peruse information about 14,212 American citizens and permanent residents — a new record — without bothering to get clearance from a judge. If you were one of those people, the odds are that you will never know, because NSLs are almost always accompanied by instructions that prohibit recipients from discussing them.

[. . .]

Secrecy frustrates challenges to counterterrorism tactics even in the case of Obama’s most startling claim to executive power: the authority to kill people he identifies as members or allies of Al Qaeda. In January a federal judge ruled that the Freedom of Information Act does not require Obama to disclose the Justice Department memos that explain the legal rationale for this license to kill.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon expressed frustration with this result, saying, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our Government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.” In his State of the Union address the following month, Obama promised to make his “targeting” of suspected terrorists “even more transparent.” I’ll disbelieve it when I don’t see it.

March 7, 2013

Rand Paul’s filibuster and the Obama administration’s drone strike policies

Filed under: Government, Law, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:08

Nick Gillespie has three important points to take away from Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster yesterday:

For all of the late-night punch-drunkiness that eventually ensued on Twitter (well, at least on my feed), yesterday’s 12-hours-plus filibuster led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is among the most electrifying and insipiring events in recent political memory. The point of the filibuster — which derailed a confirmation vote on John Brennan as Barack Obama’s CIA head — was to call attention to the president’s insufficient answers to questions about his policy of targeted killings via drones and, one assumes, other methods.

Here are three takeaways from yesterday’s epic event:

1. It shows what one man can do to call attention to a hugely important issue that nonetheless is largley ignored by the mainstream media and the political establishment.

Elected in 2010, Rand Paul has rarely been the Republican — or the Democrat’s — media favorite. He’s been heckled big time from his own side (which initially worked against his election) and across the aisle as an irresponsible ideologue (he’s a dirty tea-bagger don’t you know!). Among a good chunk of his father’s most devoted followers, he’s been assailed as a neo-con war hawk who was willing to trim his libertarian bona fides to win favor with the D.C. party crowd. His sad-sack opponent in the general election the GOP primary, Jack Conway, set new lows with the infamous “Aqua Buddha” ad that accused Paul of everything short of devil worship; his general election opponent in the GOP primary, Trey Grayson, had already trotted out many of the same pathetic lines.

[. . .]

2. It shows the power of transpartisan thought and action. Make no mistake: Despite the presence of Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), yesterday’s filibuster was a GOP-conducted orchestra. But what was most bracing and ultimately powerful thing about the filibuster was that none of the speakers exempted the Republican Party or former President George W. Bush, whose aggrandized view of executive power still roils the sleep of the Founding Fathers, from withering criticism and scrutiny. How else to explain that hard-left groups such as Code Pink were proud to #standwithrand yesterday on Twitter? The same with reliable Rand and GOP critic Eugene Robinson and many others who up until yesterday thought little of Rand Paul.

[. . .]

3. It ties a direct line between the abuses of power and the growth of the state.

Despite using various self-identifiers over the years (he’s called himself a libertarian, a conservative, a constitutional conservative, etc.) Rand Paul has always been rightly understood as an advocate of sharply limited and small government. During his Senate race, for instance, he said questions about drug legalization should be pushed back towards the states, where different models could be tried in accordance with the wishes of the people most directly affected. He presented a budget that was heavy on spending cuts that would have balanced the budget in five years. He has called for either actually declaring war on countries such as Iraq and Libya or getting the hell out. What unites his positions is a default setting against giving the federal government a free hand to do whatever it wants irrespective of constitutional limits.

January 20, 2013

Pennsylvania quashes latest terror threat

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:59

This story is not taken from the pages of The Onion:

The incident occurred Jan. 10 while the girl was waiting in line for a school bus, said Robin Ficker, the Maryland lawyer retained by the girl’s family. He would not identify the girl or her parents, but gave this version of events:

Talking with a friend, the girl said something to the effect “I’m going to shoot you and I will shoot myself” in reference to the device that shoots out bubbles. The girl did not have the bubble gun with her and has never shot a real gun in her life, Ficker said.

Elementary school officials learned of the conversation and questioned the girls the next day, Fickler said. He said the girl did not have a parent present during the 30 minutes of questioning.

The result, he said, was that the student was labeled a “terrorist threat” and suspended for 10 days, Ficker said. The school also required her to be evaluated by a psychologist, Ficker said.

This designated terrorist is five.

H/T to Dan Mitchell for the link.

We also need to protect our kids from being exposed to bureaucrats who are jaw-droppingly stupid.

Actually, WordPress is telling me that “droppingly” isn’t a word. So maybe instead we should take Instapundit’s advice and reward these idiot officials with some tar and feathers.

And I hope the tattle-tale punk from the bus stop who ratted out the little girls is condemned to some sort of grade-school purgatory featuring never-ending wedgies.

On a more serious note, I hope the parents sue the you-know-what out of the school.

December 27, 2012

Remember this next time you hear about a drone strike on “suspected militants”

Filed under: Media, Middle East, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:39

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.

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