The excellent (though sporadic) blogger China Hand has a great new post today tracking the degree to which extensive use of extra-judicial killings has been incorporated into the “standard operating procedures” of the counter-insurgency forces fielded by Gen. Petraeus in Iraq and his former counterparts– now subordinates– running the US-led war in Afghanistan.
As I wrote in this recent JWN post,
- Extra-judicial killings, also known as assassinations, are always abhorrent. They shock the conscience of anyone who believes in the rule of law. When carried out by states they represent a quite unacceptable excess of state power.
I was writing that in response to the bland, non-questioning reception by members of the US’s elite MSM corps of the spin that the recent US killing raid into Syria was somehow “okay” because it was part of a (possibly) “targeted” killing raid against a named individual.
That is an absolutely unacceptable argument.
What China Hand has done, though is review the evidence that is already widely available that the use of deliberate, extra-judicial killings has been deeply integrated by the US military into its conduct of “counter-insurgency” operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan.
He refers mainly to two easily available sources: the Wikipedia entry on Gen. Petraeus (which CH describes as “adoring”), and Bob Woodward’s latest book on the Bush administration’s conduct of the war, titled The War Within.
One thing CH does effectively is unpack the mendacious, though apparently highly “technologized”, language that “people in the know” use to talk about such operations… They do that to hide the fact that, as he states straightforwardly, in the end their policy relies simply on deploying some form of “death squads.”
One of these terms is “targeted kinetic activity.” Personally, when I hear a slimy euphemism like that, I want to vomit.
- I guess we’ll just have to take General Petraeus’s word for it that there was some kind of vetting and due process, that people were not improperly killed because of those death squad doppelgangers, greedy and grudge-holding informants, that non-violent opponents of the occupation weren’t targeted as a matter of COIN doctrine, and that “collateral damage” was accidental, avoided when at all possible, and not used as a tool to intimidate the local populace into turning against the insurgents.
For my part, I am not prepared to take anybody’s word that such hush-hush, quite opaque deliberations have any integrity or justifiability to them at all. At all. (And to be fair to China Hand, I think he was writing there with ironic intent.)
President-elect Obama: Please pay attention to this question of extra-judicial killings! They are exactly what the word says: extra-judicial, that is, quite inimical to any concept of the rule of law.
Yes, our country has found itself in a situation where a certain number of people are working actively to harm it. There are many ways to deal with that challenge that do not involve actions that directly undermine the concept of the rule of law.
At a purely utilitarian level, there is absolutely no way the US military can ever “kill” itself successfully out of the many problems and challenges it currently faces in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan.
But beyond that, at a moral/political level, embracing the use of extra-judicial killings (i.e. death squads) as an integral part of what our troops are doing in those distant countries is directly inimical to our own self-understanding and our own interests.
So please: Stop the death squads!