Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What the New York Times Talks About When It Talks About Drones

by JUSTIN DOOLITTLE

The New York Times, the most respected newspaper in the world, evidently remains unpersuaded of the illegality of American drone strikes, and continues to take a bizarre, tortured approach to discussing the matter in its news articles. That launching drone strikes in a foreign country whose government does not consent to said strikes is a violation of that country’s sovereignty is hardly in dispute. As Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism who led an investigation into U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan said in March, the drones “involve the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.” If attacking a country’s residents with missiles fired from flying robots against that country’s will does not constitute a breach of sovereignty, then nothing does.

Yes, “anonymous U.S. officials” continue to insist that the Pakistani government secretly supports these strikes. This might be prima facie plausible, but considering that the current leader of Pakistan has repeatedly and explicitly expressed his opposition, and that Pakistan’s government “made it clear” to Emmerson’s U.N. team that, in fact, it does not consent to these strikes, one can hardly throw in with “anonymous U.S. officials” who have no evidence to support their case. (Obama’s May 23 speech on the topic, surprisingly enough, did nothing to persuade Pakistan of the many benefits and advantages of the drone campaign against its people.)

The latest wave of death unleashed by the U.S. drone war in Pakistan occurred on Saturday night. Two men – “militants,” no doubt – were killed when a strike was launched in the northwest tribal region of the country at around 11:30 PM. The men were riding on a motorcycle when they were struck and killed. (Who among us hasn’t been out for a nice Saturday night ride when a flying robot appears overhead and starts targeting you with missiles?)

The Times report on the strike tells us that drones are “immensely unpopular in Pakistan and are portrayed as a violation of [Pakistan’s] sovereignty.”

Portrayed.

These strikes on a foreign country are not, apparently, a straightforward violation of sovereignty. They are only “portrayed” as such by unspecified sources. This has become the standard for how the Times discusses the issue of sovereignty vis-a-vis the U.S. drone war. The wording, for some reason, changes ever so slightly every time, but never does there appear a simple, honest assertion of the illegality of the drone war. In the paper’s report on a July 2 strike that killed sixteen people, we are told that the strikes “are hugely unpopular in Pakistan and are seen as a violation of the country’s sovereignty.” In a report on a March 21 strike that killed four people, the strikes are “deeply resented in the country and are seen as a breach of Pakistani sovereignty.”

So, according to the paper of record, drone strikes are immensely/hugely/deeply (what’s next? massively?) unpopular in Pakistan, and are seen/portrayed as a violation/breach of the country’s sovereignty. There is apparently a form sentence that Times reporters must copy and paste into every piece about drones.

We might consider how the New York Times would discuss drones and sovereignty if the roles of aggressor and victim were played by different states. Suppose, for example, that the Iranian government were engaged in a drone campaign against the United States, one that that raged for several years and ended the lives of hundreds of American men, women, and children. “Anonymous Iranian officials” were whispering to the Times that, in fact, the U.S. government privately consents to these strikes, even though U.S. leaders were on record vehemently denouncing the drone campaign and demanding its immediate cessation. Please consider what a New York Times report on an Iranian drone strike that killed sixteen Americans would look like.

No one could possibly say with a straight face that, under such circumstances, the paper would continue to hedge on the illegality of the strikes, saying only that they “are portrayed in the United States as a violation of its sovereignty.” This highly convenient, cautious tone would be dismissed, and the Iranians would be doubtless portrayed as lawless thugs. Because to the New York Times, and to virtually all other establishment media outlets in this country, global norms and the constraints of international law only apply to other countries, not to the U.S.

It’s nationalism disguised as journalism.

Justin Doolittle writes a political blog called Crimethink. He has an M.A. in public policy from Stony Brook University and a B.A. in political science from Coastal Carolina University.

 

Justin Doolittle is a freelance writer based in Long Island, New York. You can follow him on Twitter @JD1871.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail