The Campaign Spot

Drone Coverage Reveals Our Partisan, Not Merely Biased, Media

The Morning Jolt for today is full of debate reaction, but also a longer look at a topic that got only a brief mention last night – our current policy of using drones and a presidential “kill list” of targeted terrorists:

Kill Lists, Drone Attacks – Debbie Doesn’t Pay Attention to Those Things

Over at Reason, they spotlight Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a member of Congress and chair of the Democratic National Committee, appearing to have absolutely no idea about President Obama’s “kill list.”, an independent journalism outfit, snagged a quick interview with Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, at last week’s presidential debate.

The National Defense Authorization Act, infinite detention, the prosecution of journalists and similar expressions of executive authority (none of which were actually brought up in the debate) are some of We Are Change’s pet issues. When they attempt to get Wasserman Schultz to talk about the NDAA she won’t bite. She’s obviously in the “spin room” to spin the debate in President Barack Obama’s favor and certainly isn’t going to do something crazy like talk actual policy.

But when Luke Rudkowski brings up Obama’s “kill list” of terrorist targets he’s working to take out — due process be damned — the conversation turns amazingly, awesomely awful real fast. Wasserman Schultz purports to have no idea what this list even is. She may be playing dumb, but her facial expressions in the video lead me to believe that she thinks she’s being punked and that Rudkowski is some sort of Borat knockoff.

“If you missed this in Headlines this weekend, or even if you glanced at it in Headlines but didn’t watch the clip, stop what you’re doing and watch now,” urges Allahpundit. “My assumption always with DWS is that she knows the truth but is happy to lie to any extent her party needs, which is why you and I know her as America’s most lifelike talking-points robot. Not this time, though. Her ignorance is palpably genuine; she reacts the way you’d expect her to react if this guy had asked her where the government got the thermite used to blow up the World Trade Center. Two things here. One: Needless to say, this is no boutique counterterrorism issue. She’s not being asked whether she knows how many people work for JSOC, for instance. She’s being asked about the president maintaining a list of people to be targeted for death by U.S. intelligence, one of whom was a U.S. citizen. A member of Congress, not to mention chairman of the DNC, should probably have an opinion on that, no?

Permit me to offer two of the greatest paragraphs Glenn Greenwald has ever written:

Anyone who observes politics closely has a very low bar of expectations. It’s almost inevitable to become cynical – even jaded – about just how inept and inane top Washington officials are. Still, even processing this through those lowly standards, I just find this staggering. Staggering and repellent. This is an elected official in Congress, the body that the Constitution designed to impose checks on the president’s abuses of power, and she does not have the foggiest idea what is happening in the White House, and obviously does not care in the slightest, because the person doing it is part of the party she leads.

One expects corrupt partisan loyalty from people like Wasserman Schultz, eager to excuse anything and everything a Democratic president does. That’s a total abdication of her duty as a member of Congress, but that’s par for the course. But one does not expect this level of ignorance, the ability to stay entirely unaware of one of the most extremist powers a president has claimed in US history, trumpeted on the front-page of the New York Times and virtually everywhere else.

So do we on the Right have any hesitation about our current policy of drone strikes overseas? Don’t get me wrong, my sense is that every time some jihadist who wants to kill Americans encounters the business end of a Hellfire missile, it’s good news and it’s Miller time for the forces of justice and freedom.

But you figure that picking out which guy on the ground is the bad guy, and who’s within the blast range, is a really tough call. Is the jihadist du jour worth the risk to the civilians around him? What if there are kids around? How much blood does an Islamist terrorist have to have on his hands to make it worth killing some civilians in the process? Is there a formula for this?

So when you see a story like this

President Barack Obama told CNN last month that a target must meet “very tight and very strict standards,” and John Brennan, the president’s top counter-terrorism adviser, said in April that in “exceedingly rare” cases, civilians have been “accidentally injured, or worse, killed in these strikes.”

In contrast to more conservative U.S. statements, the Stanford/NYU report — titled “Living Under Drones” — offers starker figures published by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an independent organization based at City University in London.

“TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 – 1,362 individuals,” according to the Stanford/NYU study.

Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of “double-striking” a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.

Some of that is probably predictable lefty anti-war carping, but not all of it. This is a topic that is extraordinarily controversial in the overseas press, but little noticed as a serious issue here in the United States. You might argue that this is evidence that our press is not ideologically biased so much as partisan biased; liberals outside the United States are outraged by this policy (and a few inside, but not many), but the American mainstream media isn’t interested in giving Obama’s decisions much scrutiny – can’t have the voters thinking the Munificent Sun-King Lightworker is killing innocent civilians on his watch.


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