US absolves drone killers, persecutes whistleblowers

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A man mourns during the mass funeral of the 10 family members killed in a U.S. drone strike, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 30, 2021.

Photo: Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

After the terrorist Attack on the airport in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, which killed more than 170 Afghan civilians and 13 American soldiers, President Joe Biden issued a warning to Islamic State fighters. “We are going to hunt you down and make you pay,” he said on August 26. Three days later, Biden authorized a drone strike that the United States said wiped out a dangerous cell of ISIS fighters with the intention of staging another attack on Kabul airport.

Biden presented that strike, and another the day before, as proof of his commitment to fighting terrorists in Afghanistan even as he declared the 20-year war there was over. “We struck ISIS-K from a distance, days after they murdered 13 of our military and dozens of innocent Afghans, ”he said in a speech at the White House. “And at ISIS-K: we’re not done with you yet.”

But the Kabul strike, which targeted a white Toyota Corolla, did not kill any ISIS operatives. The victims were 10 civilians, including seven children. The driver of the car, Zemari Ahmadi, was a respected employee of a US aid organization. Following a New York Times investigation that fully exposed the lie of the US version of events, the Pentagon and the White House admitted they killed innocent civilians, calling it a “horrific tragedy of war. “.

This week, the Pentagon released a summary of its classified review of the attack, which it initially hailed as a “fair strike” that foiled an impending terrorist plot. The results were predictable. The report recommended that no staff member be held responsible for the murder of 10 civilians; there was no “criminal negligence” as the report puts it. The fact that the US military spent eight hours monitoring “targets,” that a child could be seen in their own footage minutes before the strike – this was seen as a fog of war moment. The operators leading the strike “had a real conviction that there was an imminent threat to American forces,” said Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami D. Said.

They made a mistake, he said, not a crime.

The United States has pledged to compensate survivors of the drone strike. It is part of a long American tradition of treating its widespread killings of civilians in the so-called war on terror as innocent mistakes in the pursuit of peace and security. The general who conducted the review says he made recommendations on how to tinker with targeted murder operations to reduce the likelihood of other honest mistakes (as the Pentagon considers them) that wipe out entire families.

Nothing of the sort is new. It’s a cycle that accelerated under President Barack Obama (when Biden was vice president), continued during Donald Trump’s presidency, and does not abate in the Biden era.

While the Pentagon absolves itself of this crime, the Biden administration continues its persecution of whistleblowers who denounced this system of murdering innocent people. Daniel Hale, a military veteran who has pleaded guilty to leaking classified documents revealing deadly weaknesses in the drone program, is serving four years in prison. (Prosecutors said these documents formed the basis of The Drone Papers, a series of investigative articles published by The Intercept.) Among other revelations, Hale’s documents revealed that up to nine in ten victims of the strikes US drones in Afghanistan were not the targets. In the recent Biden drone strike, 10 of the 10 were innocent civilians.

While Hale was indicted under the Espionage Act during Trump’s tenure, Biden’s Justice Department pursued him with vengeance. In October, Hale was inexplicably transferred to a “communications management unit” at Marion US Penitentiary in southern Illinois. CMUs are used to severely limit an inmate’s ability to communicate with the outside world, subject them to extreme periods of isolation, and allow intensified monitoring of their communications and visits. CMUs are regularly labeled as “terrorist units”.

And as the Pentagon mountain of lies about the August drone strike in Afghanistan crumbled, the Biden administration continued its quest to extradite UK-detained WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for the offense. for publishing evidence of US war crimes. The Biden administration has made it clear that it will uphold America’s long tradition of exonerating its killers and punishing those who denounce them.


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