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Monday, January 12, 2015

A matter of massacre: Whose death, whose life, who’s mourned; whose truth, whose lies?

Yemeni suffer drone attacks
Reflecting also on impunity
Excerpts, editing, end comment by 
Carolyn Bennett

Complicit in violence, terrorism

uthor Teju Cole in the aftermath of an attack on a French magazine peddling "satire" reflected on relatively current and unending massacres.

“France is in sorrow today and will be for many weeks come,” he wrote. “We mourn with France. We ought to but it is also true that violence from ‘our’ side continues unabated.

France's Motto
“By this time next month (February 2015), in all likelihood, many more ‘young men of military age’ and many others, neither young nor male, will have been killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. If these strikes in the past are anything to go by, many of (the dead and wounded) will be innocent of wrongdoing. Their deaths will be considered as natural and incontestable (and) those of us who are writers will not consider our pencils broken by such killings.

“But that incontestability, that unmournability – as much as the massacre in Paris – is the ‘clear and present danger’ to our collective liberté.”

Selective grieving selective victims; selective villains

“The scale, intensity, and manner of the solidarity that we are seeing for the victims of the Paris killings, encouraging as it may be, indicates how easy it is in Western societies to focus on radical Islamism as the real, or the only, enemy.

“This focus is part of the consensus about mournable bodies, and it often keeps us from paying proper attention to other, ongoing, instances of horrific carnage around the world: abductions and killings in Mexico, hundreds of children (and more than a dozen journalists) killed in Gaza by Israel last year, internecine massacres in the Central African Republic, and so on.

“Even when we rightly condemn criminals who claim to act in the name of Islam, little of our grief is extended to the numerous Muslim victims of their attacks, whether in Yemen or Nigeria—in both of which there were deadly massacres this week—or in Saudi Arabia, where, among many violations of human rights, the punishment for journalists who ‘insult Islam’ is flogging.

“We may not be able to attend to each outrage in every corner of the world but we should at least pause to consider how it is that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful, more worthy of commemoration than others.”

Sustained provocation

Victims of the crimes in Paris that killed more than a dozen people “are being mourned worldwide: they were human beings, beloved by their families and precious to their friends.” Twelve of the victims had been “targeted by (assassins) for their affiliation with satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo.”

This magazine “has often aimed (its ridicule) at Muslims and has taken particular joy in flouting the Islamic ban on depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.”

The magazine has also targeted political, Christian and Jewish icons; “depicted the ‘Father, Son, and Holy Ghost’ in a sexual threesome. … In recent years the magazine has gone specifically for racist and Islamophobic provocations.  Its numerous anti-Islam images have been inventively perverse, featuring hook-nosed Arabs, bullet-ridden Korans, variations on the theme of sodomy; and mockery of the victims of a massacre.”

Cole concludes, “It is not always easy to see the difference between a certain witty dissent from religion and a bullyingly racist agenda, but it is necessary to try.”

Sustained massacre of innocents, Impunity without mourning

BIJ reports

Pakistanis suffer drone attacks
“In January 2014, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism published a leaked Pakistani government document showing details of more than 300 CIA drone strikes between 2006 and 2013.” TBIJ challenged some of the United States’ “rare public statements on its drone campaign in Pakistan.

“In one particularly glaring discrepancy, the document recorded the deaths of 10 people during a 2012 attempt to kill Abu Yahya al Libi, al Qaeda’s second-in-command. Congressional aides told LA Times reporter Ken Dilanian however that the CIA had shown footage of the strike to politicians in which only one person was seen to be killed.”  These are excerpts from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s “Monthly Updates on the Covert War: US drone war” … The CIA Pakistan drone campaign reported to have killed nearly five times more people under US President Barack Obama than under the previous president, George W. Bush. Published in All Stories, Covert Drone War, Monthly Updates on the Covert War by Jack Serle and Abigail Fielding-Smith, January 7, 2015, 2014 in numbers:

No confirmed civilian casualties in Pakistan for second year running 
Domestic buildings continue to be the most frequently hit target in Pakistan 
Highest ever number of drone strikes in a year in Somalia 
Total people killed per strike in Yemen hits highest level 
Drones were reported to have killed at least 114 people in 2014, more than in all of the previous year. The number of people killed per strike, or casualty rate, also increased slightly.

December 2014 actions
Total CIA strikes in December: 4
Total people reported killed: 14-20

All 2014 actions
Total strikes: 25
Total reported killed: 114-183
Civilians reported killed: 0-2
Children reported killed: 0-2
Total reported injured: 44-67

All actions 2004 – 2014
Total Obama strikes: 357
Total US strikes since 2004: 408
Total reported killed: 2,410-3,902
Civilians reported killed: 416-959
Children reported killed: 168-204
Total reported injured: 1,133-1,706

Yemenis suffer US drone attacks
Except one, all of these actions have taken place during the Barack Obama presidency. … Though “the frequency of strikes may have fallen in 2014, more people were killed, on average, per strike than in any previous year. The casualty rate for last year even outstrips 2012 – the bloodiest year recorded in the US’s drone campaign in Yemen when at least 173 people were reported killed in 29 strikes. In 2014 at least 82 people were reported to have died in just 13 strikes.”

December 2014 actions
Confirmed US drone strikes: 1
Other US operations: 1
Total reported killed in all US operations: 20-21
Civilians reported killed in all US operations: 8

All confirmed drone strikes in 2014

US drone strikes: 13-15
Total reported killed: 82-118
Civilians reported killed: 4-9
Children reported killed: 1
Reported injured: 7-14

All actions 2002 – 2014
Confirmed US drone strikes: 72-84
Total reported killed: 371-541
Civilians reported killed: 64-83
Children reported killed: 7
Reported injured: 81-199

Possible extra US drone strikes: 101-120
Total reported killed: 345-553
Civilians reported killed: 26-68
Children reported killed: 6-11
Reported injured: 90-123

All other US covert operations: 16-81
Total reported killed: 168-404
Civilians reported killed: 68-97
Children reported killed: 26-28
Reported injured: 22-115

“There were three confirmed US drone strikes in 2014, the most reported in any year. Each US attack reportedly killed a senior al Shabaab figure.” The first drone strike (January 26), reportedly targeting al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, missed” its target and reportedly killed “Sahal Iskudhuq – said to be one of Godane’s senior aides and a leading figure in Amniyat, al Shabaab’s intelligence unit.” The second drone attack (September 1, 2014) reportedly killed Godane. “[But] it was not clear if Godane had been killed and there was feverish speculation about whether the US had got its man in the days after the strike.”
Somalis suffer US drone attacks

All Somalia actions in 2014
Total US drone strikes: 3
Total reported killed: 10-18
Civilians reported killed: 0
Children reported killed: 0

Somalia December 2014 actions
Total reported US operations: 1
Total reported killed: 2-3

All Somalia actions 2007 – 2014

Drone strikes: 7-10
Total killed: 18-33
Civilians killed: 0-1
Children killed: 0
Injured: 2-3

Other covert operations: 8-11
Total killed: 40-141
Civilians killed: 7-47
Children killed: 0-2
Injured: 11-21
The status quo is not only to be mourned but moved, stopped straightaway.

The lives of all people, not some people, are equally valuable; and should not be taken or threatened or even ridiculed under some misguided notion or license termed individual or press "freedom".

What's more, the behavior of the United States of America, my beloved country, through its foreign relations practice, the acts and orders of officials in government and other sectors, is unspeakably cruel, criminal, murderous, indeed UNCONSCIONABLE. And it must change by changing both the guard and the ethos.  

Sources and notes

“Unmournable Bodies” by Teju Cole, New Yorker, January 9, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/unmournable-bodies

At Stop the War Coalition
“Charlie Hebdo: why are some deaths meaningful”: Teju Cole asks “How is it that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful and more worthy of commemoration than others?” January 10, 2015, Posted in News, http://stopwar.org.uk/news/charlie-hebdo-why-are-some-deaths-meaningful-and-to-be-mourned-and-others-not

Teju Cole

Nigerian-American author, writer, photographer, and art historian, Teju Cole was born in the United States to Nigerian parents, raised in Nigeria; and at 17, returned to the United States. Cole is “Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College”  and before this appointment he was “‘writer in residence’ of the Literaturhaus Zurich and the PWG Foundation in Zurich.”

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

Originating in the French Revolution, example of a tripartite motto, ‘Liberty, equality, fraternity’, became the national motto of France and of the Republic of Haiti. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libert%C3%A9,_%C3%A9galit%C3%A9,_fraternit%C3%A9

See also

Comment with George Galloway: “Which of this week’s terror attacks will you remember?”
January 9, 2015, http://www.presstv.ir/Detail/2015/01/09/392296/Which-terror-attack-will-you-remember

“George Galloway on the Paris massacre” posted by mondeoman, January 8, 2015

Independent Leyton Orient Forum, The Completely Unofficial and Independent Leyton Orient Message Board, http://leytonorientforum.co.uk/topic6663.html

NBC News

PARIS MAGAZINE ATTACK 116 STORIES Headline:"Charlie Hebdo Shooting: 12 Killed at Muhammad Cartoons Magazine in Paris," http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/paris-magazine-attack/charlie-hebdo-shooting-12-killed-muhammad-cartoons-magazine-paris-n281266

Time dot com

"Pris Jews Reel After Deadly Kosher Supermarket Attack," Vivienne Walt / Paris @vivwalt Jan. 11, 2015, http://time.com/3663060/paris-terror-attack-jews-kosher-supermarket-siege/

A lifelong American writer and writer/activist (former academic and staffer with the U.S. government in Washington), Dr. Carolyn LaDelle Bennett is credentialed in education and print journalism and public affairs (PhD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; MA, The American University, Washington, DC). Her work concerns itself with news and current affairs, historical contexts, and ideas particularly related to acts and consequences of U.S. foreign relations, geopolitics, human rights, war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Dr. Bennett is an internationalist and nonpartisan progressive personally concerned with society and the common good. An educator at heart, her career began with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since then, she has authored several books and numerous current-affairs articles; her latest book: UNCONSCIONABLE: How The World Sees Us: World News, Alternative Views, Commentary on U.S. Foreign Relations; most thoughts, articles, edited work are posted at Bennett’s Study: http://todaysinsightnews.blogspot.com/ and on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carolynladelle.bennett. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08UNCONSCIONABLE/prweb12131656.htm http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000757788/UNCONSCIONABLE.aspx Her books are also available at independent bookstores in New York State: Lift Bridge in Brockport; Sundance in Geneseo; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center in Buffalo; Burlingham Books in Perry; The Bookworm in East Aurora


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