FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Wedding Crashers Who Kill

by

shutterstock_245614075

“In Turkey, Even Joyous Wedding Can Be a Target,” ran the headline in the August 22, 2016 New York Times. Two days earlier, a suicide bomber had struck at a Kurdish wedding celebration in the Turkish city of Gaziantep, close to the Syrian border. The bomber, a boy about 14 years old, killed more than 50 wedding guests, many of them children, and wounded 100 others. Gaziantep was the deadliest bombing in Turkey this year.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames the Islamic State (IS) for the attack. Turkish military forces entered Syria on Wednesday, ostensibly, to drive IS and the fighters of the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) away from the Turkish border. Gone are the days of Erdogan’s allowing budding jihadists to cross Turkey into Syria to join IS.

As of late Wednesday, IS had not taken credit for the Gaziantep bombing. However, it’s not IS that I want to discuss. You would never know it from the Times account, but US armed drones and other aircraft have “crashed” weddings in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen. I am not suggesting that the US was behind the slaughter at Gaziantep. Instead, I want to ask a question. Why do we condemn IS for attacking a wedding and not the US for doing the same thing?

“The US Has Bombed at Least Eight Wedding Parties since 2001” according to the title of an article by Tom Engelhardt in the December 20, 2013 Nation. Engelhardt comments: “If the Taliban or the Iranians or the North Koreans had piled up such figures … [w]e would classify them as barbarians, savages, evildoers.” Yet US media gives these deaths a pass.

There are too many incidents to discuss separately. The following will be enough to sicken any reader.

On July 6, 2008, US aircraft bombed a wedding procession in the Afghan district of Deh Bala. Forty-seven civilians were killed, including the bride and 39 women and children.

On November 3, 2008, a US airstrike on a wedding party in the village of Wech Baghtu in Afghanistan killed 37 civilians. This time 26 Taliban were also killed.

A drone attack on a wedding procession in Yemen on December 12, 2013 killed 12 civilians. The New York Post gave the story the sidesplitting headline “BRIDE AND BOOM!”

Another drone strike in Yemen took place the day after a wedding while guests were still celebrating. A few days earlier, one of the guests, Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, an Imam, had delivered a sermon against the killing of innocents by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). AQAP did not overlook Salem’s defiance. On August 29, 2012, three AQAP members came calling. Salem asked his nephew Waheed, a police officer, to join him for protection while he met with the three.

Whatever harm AQAP intended, they didn’t get the chance. Four Hellfire missiles fired from a US drone killed the three Qaeda along with Salem and Waheed. The three AQAP enforcers were probably the intended targets. Salem and Waheed were just “collateral damage.”

A relative of the men, Faisal bin Ali Jaber, has been tireless in seeking justice for Salem and Waheed. Faisal offered to drop litigation against the US in exchange for an apology and an explanation for the drone strike which killed the two men. The US rejected Faisal’s offer.

President Obama did apologize for the deaths in January 2015 of two hostages taken by Al-Qaeda: Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto. The American businessman and Italian aid worker were killed when a US drone struck the Al-Qaeda compound where they were being held. Faisal’s attorney, Joe Pace with the British human rights NGO Reprieve, says that “the only time [Obama] apologizes for a drone strike is when it kills white people.”[1]

Faisal is also suing the German government for allowing the Americans’ Ramstein Air Base to coordinate drone attacks from German soil. (In June, 5000 German peace activists demonstrated at Ramstein, calling for the base to be closed.)

Whether in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, Iraq, or Syria no one has been held accountable for the lives destroyed by US drones. Sometimes the US pays restitution. Restitution was made openly to relatives of Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto. Other families have been been paid on the sly, allowing the US to deny responsibility for their relatives’ deaths. Yemeni officials handed Faisal bin Ali Jaber a plastic bag containing $100,000 in cash, telling him it was from the US.

Hawks will object that I do not distinguish inadvertent from intentional killing. The attack in Gaziantep was intentional. When the US obliterates wedding parties it’s unintentional.

Tell it to the dead. US criminal law includes the concept of “depraved indifference.” Conduct can be so reckless that it does not matter whether the defendant wanted anyone to die.

The US knows that its drones kill innocent civilians. US stalling in revealing the number of dead betrays a guilty conscience. Not until July of this year—just before the Fourth of July weekend—did the US release figures of civilians killed by drones. The 116 civilians the Obama Administration claimed had been killed by drones was suspiciously low. The British-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism claims there have been at least 800 noncombatants killed by drones. Nor do the Obama Administration figures include deaths in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq.

The US may not want civilians to die. But if you heave bricks off the top of the Empire State Building it doesn’t matter whether you wanted anyone to die.

Notes.

[1] Ta-Nehisi Coates refers in passing to US drones bombing wedding parties on page 131 of Between the World and Me (2015). Coates connects the breaking of Brown bodies overseas with the breaking of Black bodies in American cities like Ferguson, Missouri.

More articles by:

Charles Pierson is a lawyer and a member of the Pittsburgh Anti-Drone Warfare Coalition. E-mail him at Chapierson@yahoo.com.

Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
Binoy Kampmark
The War on Plastic
Cindy Sheehan – Rick Sterling
Peace Should Be Integral to the Women’s March
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
No Foreign Bases!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: Across the Boer Heartland to Pretoria
Joe Emersberger
What’s Going On in Ecuador? An Interview With Wladimir Iza
Clark T. Scott
1918, 1968, 2018: From Debs to Trump
Cesar Chelala
Women Pay a Grievous Price in Congo’s Conflict
Michael Welton
Secondly
Robert Koehler
The Wisdom of Mass Salvation
Seth Sandronsky
Misreading Edu-Reform 
Ann Garrison
Full-Spectrum Arrogance: US Bases Span the Globe
Louis Proyect
Morality Tales on the American Malaise: the Films of Rick Alverson
David Yearsley
Winston and Paddington: Marianelli’s Musical Bears
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail