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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
Binoy Kampmark
Cyclone Watch in Australia
Weekend Edition
March 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Michael Hudson
Trump is Obama’s Legacy: Will this Break up the Democratic Party?
Eric Draitser
Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nothing Was Delivered
Andrew Levine
Ryan’s Choice
Joshua Frank
Global Coal in Freefall, Tar Sands Development Drying Up (Bad News for Keystone XL)
Anthony DiMaggio
Ditching the “Deep State”: The Rise of a New Conspiracy Theory in American Politics
Rob Urie
Boris and Natasha Visit Fantasy Island
John Wight
London and the Dreary Ritual of Terrorist Attacks
Paul Buhle
The CIA and the Intellectuals…Again
David Rosen
Why Did Trump Target Transgender Youth?
Vijay Prashad
Inventing Enemies
Ben Debney
Outrage From the Imperial Playbook
M. Shadee Malaklou
An Open Letter to Duke University’s Class of 2007, About Your Open Letter to Stephen Miller
Michael J. Sainato
Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail