In a perverse way, maybe it’s progress that the US is now admitting that it doesn’t really care about how many civilians it kills in its efforts to “decapitate” a few suspected terrorist leaders.
Still, it’s disturbing in the extreme to see this admission reported without comment in the US corporate media, which treats the information like just another announcement about how the latest war is being fought — say what kind of ammunition is being fired by the Reaper drones being sent into Syria, or what kinds of bombs the F-16s are dropping.
Here was the White House announcement, as reported by Michael IsIkoff in Yahoo News:
The White House has acknowledged for the first time that strict standards President Obama imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes will not apply to U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq.
A White House statement to Yahoo News confirming the looser policy came in response to questions about reports that as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children, were killed when a Tomahawk missile struck the village of Kafr Daryan in Syria’s Idlib province on the morning of Sept. 23.
The article then goes on to state:
Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, told Yahoo News…that a much-publicized White House policy that President Obama announced last year barring U.S. drone strikes unless there is a “near certainty” there will be no civilian casualties – “the highest standard we can meet,” he said at the time – does not cover the current U.S. airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.
The “near certainty” standard was intended to apply “only when we take direct action ‘outside areas of active hostilities,’ as we noted at the time,” Hayden said. “That description – outside areas of active hostilities – simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now.”
Isikoff goes on to write that “Hayden added that U.S. military operations against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in Syria, ‘like all U.S. military operations, are being conducted consistently with the laws of armed conflict, proportionality and distinction'”
Left unsaid is that those same laws of armed conflict — we are here really referring to the Geneva Conventions, treaties concerning the legal conduct of war that were negotiated by and signed into law by the United States and most other countries of the world — make invading another country that does not pose an imminent threat to the invader a war crime of the highest order.
What, American journalists should be asking, is the point of worrying about whether one tactic or another, whether it’s the use of depleted uranium weapons, the dropping of white phosphorus incindiary weapons, the torturing of captives, or the launching of drone-fired missiles at targets known to contain innocent civilian men, women and children?