Beheading, Bombing & Western Values

Debra Sweet | September 10, 2014

Apparent United States policy on beheadings:

If “brutal” enemies do the beheading, start bombing whole regions, as Henry Kissinger said on Sunday, and respond disproportionately, in a way that “you would not analyze in terms of a normal response.”

If authoritarian “friendly” governments do the beheading, as Saudi Arabia has done 26 times since August 4, 2014 (mostly to non-Saudis and political dissidents) say and do nothing. Human Rights Watch says the U.S. maintains a “deafening silence” on human rights violations by Saudi Arabia, its key ally in the region.

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice explained her government's take on “advancing” human rights while maintaining friendships with torturers last December: “Let’s be honest: at times, as a result, we do business with governments that do not respect the rights we hold most dear. We make tough choices.”

The beheadings of two journalists from the United States by the Islamic State in Iraq & Syria were horrifying, deliberately so. The executions, for drug trafficking, inciting protest, or at the whim of a judge in Saudi Arabia's Islamic court, where there is no civil procedure, are also outrageous.

But even more outrageous are the air wars by the powerful military machines of NATO and the United States, which inevitably kill civilians, and have so far done far more damage to people.

A World to Win News Service said Monday,

"The Islamists beheaded the journalist Foley for political ends and to send a political message. The U.S., like the world's imperialist and other reactionary governments, kills for the same reasons, abroad and at home. No violent act is beyond them – the only question is what, at a given moment, suits their exploitative interests and their oppressive political power."

Glenn Greenwald wrote on American fear of ISIS in The Intercept:

“It’s easy to understand why beheading videos provoke such intense emotion: they’re savage and horrific to watch, by design. But are they more brutal than the constant, ongoing killing of civilians, including children, that the U.S. and its closest allies have been continuously perpetrating?

“...for instance, Pakistani teenager Tariq [Khan] attended an anti-drone meeting, and then days later, was “decapitated” by a U.S. missile — the high-tech version of beheading — and his 12 year old cousin was also killed by that drone. Whether “intent” is one difference is quite debatable... but the brutality is no less. It’s true that we usually don’t see that carnage, but the fact that it’s kept from the U.S. population doesn’t mean it disappears or becomes more palatable or less savage.”

Above, 16 year old Tariq Khan, beheaded by a US drone in Pakistan days after attending an anti-drone rally in 2011.

It's really key to understand that the U.S. war and occupation created the ground on which Islamic fundamentalism spread.  David Swanson, today in Warning to War Supporters:

If you want to bomb a country every time an evil group murders people in a gruesome manner, you'll have to bomb a lot of countries including our own.  ISIS draws its strength in Iraq from resentment of the Iraqi government, which bombs its own cities using U.S. weapons, and which beheads people, albeit in grainier footage with lower production values.  Allies in the region, including allies that support ISIS, including allies armed by the United States (some of which arms end up in the hands of ISIS), themselves behead people regularly. But is that worse than other types of killing?

We will learn more tonight from President Obama about his plans for retaliation against the Islamic State in Iraq, and likely in Syria as well.  We're told he will predict that a 3 year war will dismantle ISIS.

It's already begun. Centcom tweets its videos of 131 US bombing attacks on Iraq this year. Of course you don't see who gets killed. So far we know nothing specific about the use of drones, save for reports of flights and a few photos.

Nick Mottern, coordinator of kNOwdrones.org, wrote today about the similarity between U.S. and Israeli use of drones:

“In its drone use against IS in the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Fallujah and other urban areas, the US will almost certainly use Israeli procedures developed for drone use over Gaza, where drones harass the population, assassinate and direct bombing by piloted aircraft.

“The use of drones now underway in Iraq and envisioned for Syria takes US drone use beyond assassination and relatively narrow use in ground support that has occurred in Afghanistan and Libya, into wide-ranging, systematic use as a key component of US war fighting against people who have no modern air defenses. This follows the lead of Israel in drone use, and is predicated on ignoring the rights to privacy of hundreds of thousands of civilians as well as their right to freedom from fear and right to life.”

(Continue reading...)

Whether by airstrike or dronestrike, U.S. attacks on Iraq and Syria won't increase the safety of the people. But the fear-mongering continues, leading people to think that ISIS plans an attack on the U.S.  Democratic Senator Bill Nelson made these claims about ISIS in arguing for war:

“This is a terrorist group the likes of which we haven’t seen before, and we better stop them now... It ought to be pretty clear when they start cutting off the heads of journalists and say they’re going to fly the black flag of ISIS over the White House that ISIS is a clear and present danger.”

The biggest danger is that people living in the U.S. will once again get bamboozled into supporting an unjust war to strengthen the U.S. empire in the name of "stopping" Islamic fundamentalism.

How is that working in Afghanistan, 13 years later?

Debra Sweet is the Director of World Can't Wait.