Anwar al-Awlakis with Helmet Hair.
Comedian and movie star Russell Brand recently posted a video in which he played a segment by Fox News host Jeanine Pirro about the rise in Iraq of the terrorist group ISIS, and periodically interrupted the segment to respond to her remarks.
Pirro’s segment was a fear-mongering, wardrum-beating diatribe. Emphasizing each instance of the word “bomb” with a finger jab, she boomed:
“My resolution? Air strikes. Bomb them! Bomb them… Keep bombing them. Bomb then again and again!”
When she later referred to ISIS as a “fanatical terrorist organization,” Brand turned the accusation back on Pirro and Fox News, which he said is itself “a fanatical terrorist-propagandist organization,” more dangerous than even ISIS.
“That — I’m not being sensational — that is more dangerous than ISIS. That’s attitude. That’s far-reaching. That’s affecting millions and millions of people.”
Pundits like Pirro do play a big role in whipping up a war frenzy in portions of the public. And the U.S. government’s prosecution of its wars is indeed terroristic, as Glenn Greenwald recently argued in an interview with Shep Smith, another Fox News correspondent:
“When we invaded Iraq, we called our invasion ‘Shock and Awe.’ The purpose of it, Shep, was to do so much violence that we would terrorize the civilian population into submission, to surrendering. And we indiscriminately bombed Baghdad –we certainly didn’t try and kill civilians — but huge numbers of civilians were killed.”
The airstrikes Pirro calls for would surely kill civilians, not just ISIS fighters, as well.
And Obama’s “smarter, more targeted” foreign policy has been, in some ways, even more terroristic than Bush’s was, although not as murderous. In vast regions of the Muslim world, innocent people live under the constant threat of sudden attack. At any moment in the day, a drone strike might come from out of the blue, like a thunderbolt from a capricious Olympian god, and snuff them out. At any moment in the night, JSOC storm troopers might burst into their homes like vindictive Furies, and gun them down or disappear them into a secret prison.
The terror is heightened by the ominous distant hovering and the unnerving buzzing of overhead drones. The dystopian nightmare of trying to survive under the menace of robotic aerial manhunters is no longer merely the stuff of science fiction films and comics, like the The Terminator, The Matrix, and X-men: Days of Future Past. For many innocent people, the U.S. government has brought the nightmare to life.
Avoiding any involvement with insurgents or terrorists will not avail them, or allay the terror. Bad intel, unbeknownst physical proximity to targets, and “pre-crime,” no-ID, “signature strikes” have meant the dismemberment and death of countless innocents.
Of course, Fox News chickenhawks don’t actually prosecute such terrorism. They only espouse it, and get their twisted kicks by participating in it vicariously. So, rather than ISIS, a more apt analogy to Pirro and her fellow warmongerers at Fox News and elsewhere would be Anwar al-Awlaki, the pro-terrorism Muslim preacher that the Obama administration hunted and assassinated with a drone strike, even though he was an American citizen, and the administration has offered no evidence that he was directly involved in any actual terrorist activity. Awlaki gave incendiary speeches intended to motivate attacks that would kill innocents, including innocent children; but then, so do Fox News pundits (with a few exceptions, like the heroic Judge Andrew Napolitano). Awlaki was no more deserving of a drone strike than are government-terrorism-fomenters like Pirro, Bill Kristol, and John Bolton. Warmongering Fox News and talk radio pundits are the Anwar al-Awlakis of imperial terrorism.
One may object that, even if U.S. foreign policy has been tragic, the government’s terrorizing murder of innocents is less culpable than the jihadists’, because the former is “accidental,” whereas the latter is purposeful. For example, when the Obama administration also drone-bombed Awlaki’s completely innocent 16-year-old son Abdulrahman at a barbecue, officials tried to excuse it as an “accident,” because he wasn’t the actual target of the strike. Robert Higgs has refuted the fallacy that such “collateral damage” can be considered “accidental.”
“When U.S. forces employ aerial and artillery bombardment — with huge high-explosive bombs, large rockets and shells, including cluster munitions — as their principal technique of waging war, especially in densely inhabited areas, they know with absolute certainty that many innocent people will be killed. To proceed with such bombardment, therefore, is to choose to inflict these deaths.”
Think about it this way. If you take a drug, knowing the side-effects it will have, then you have chosen to take on those side-effects. You wouldn’t say that you “accidentally” made yourself drowsy when taking a Benadryl. The fact that the side-effects weren’t the purpose of the drug makes them incidental, not accidental. Similarly, if you launch a missile campaign that you know will cause collateral deaths, you have chosen, as Higgs says, to inflict those deaths. The fact that they weren’t the purpose of the campaign does make them collateral; it doesn’t make them accidental.
To put it another way, if Dick Cheney saw a quail behind his friend, and intentionally shot through his friend to get the quail, that would be attempted murder, and not an “accident.” A non-corrupt court wouldn’t let him off just because he only wanted to eat the quail, and not his friend.
Fatal collateral damage, is, as Wikileaks has termed it, “collateral murder.” And therefore, state terrorism is no less culpable than non-state terrorism. Furthermore, warmongering punditry is no less despicable than preaching non-state terrorism, and the latter is no more criminal than the former. Neither are criminal, but both are despicable.
In fact, imperial warmongering punditry is actually more deplorable. It is less surprising, although it is absolutely no excuse, when individuals who have seen their people, and even their loved ones, murdered, starved, crushed, and humiliated by a brutal empire to become so desperately vengeful that they endorse retaliatory acts of criminal brutality. Again, this is absolutely no excuse, and does not in the slightest justify what they call for.
But when media elites, living in the lap of luxury and security and nowhere near desperation, vindictively call down hellfire upon the heads of innocents abroad, it is gratuitously malicious to an incredible degree. Awlaki was a bad man, but imperial warmongers are beyond the pale.