Drone strikes and so-called ‘al-Qaeda Militants’
Matt Welch, Reason.com, Dec 27 2012
Foreignpolicy.com has a perfectly awful account of a US drone strike in Yemen this September that killed a dozen civilians. Begins like this:
SANAA, Yemen — The villagers who rushed to the road, cutting through rocky fields in central Yemen, found the dead strewn around a burning sport utility vehicle. The witnesses said the bodies were dusted with lour and sugar they were bringing home from market when the aircraft attacked. A torched woman clutched her daughter in a lifeless embrace. Four severed heads littered the pavement. Ahmed al-Sabooli, 22, a farmer whose parents and 10-year-old sister were among the dead, said: “The bodies were charred like coal. I could not recognize the faces. Then I recognized my mother, because she was still holding my sister in her lap. That is when I cried.”
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 Sep 2 airstrike in al-Bayda governorate as al-Qaeda militants.
Follow that link to the Sep 2 Reuters article, and you’ll see this loaded lead paragraph:
Five suspected militants linked to al-Qaeda were killed by a US 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 journalese; 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.