Keeping the Rabble in Line

Banging on about representation: The would be media lens

Sunday, January 15, 2006

18 people killed: "A diplomatic embarrassment"

At the start of the BBC news broadcast, the news reader announces this act as a "military operation"....not an act of murder, or perhaps more accurately: state terrorism. This is an astonishingly blase attitude to take to the killing of innocent civillians is it not?

Ben Brown takes up the story:

"At least 18 bodies were pulled from the rubble here, they include women and children, but unfortunately for the Americans it seems they do not include Ayman al-Zawahiri, the man they were trying to kill. Missiles rained down on the village of Damadola apparently fired from CIA Predator aircraft, remote controlled drones...Ayman al-Zawahari is al Qaeda's second in command, widely considered to be the brains behind al Qaeda and the mastermind behind the September the eleventh attacks. The Americans have put a $25 million bounty on his head, but it seems he's escaped their clutches yet again, their intelligence was simply wrong. In Damadola the dead have already been buried and now the Americans are left trying to sort out the diplomatic embarrassment of having attacked a soveriegn country and a key ally. Pakistan's government has formally complained and told the Pakistani people it will not allow a repeat of what happened in this village. The government here in Pakistan does support the war on terror, but it does not permit American military operations on its soil, so tonight Pakistan had condemned the attack and the American ambassador here is being summoned to the foreign ministry. Ben Brown, BBC News, Islamabad..."

We don't really need to go through this pathetic report in too fine a detail to uncover its ideological bias do we? But for the record, Ayman al-Zawahiri was "the man they were trying to kill"...but "unfortunately for the Americans" he was not among the dead. No debate or even questioning the ethical stance of a soveriegn state attempting kill a man - no matter how repugnant an individual he may be - The fact that in the 'crossfire' eighteen people have been killed in their beds and their man was absent is merely a disappoinment, or "unfortunate" for the Americans. So attempted murder is now OK is it? There seems to be little [if any] critique of this policy, just a mildly expressed regret at its incorrect application. Had al-Zawahiri been killed, one can only assume that it would have been seen as a victory for the "good guys"? And the cherry on the cake is the "diplomatic embarrassment". Is that all? We can say it slowly Ben...IT. IS. STATE. TERRORISM/MURDER. It is so much more than a "military operation" and/or "a diplomatic embarrassment" But I'm getting carried away...I've been duped by the narrative of "the War on Terror"

It all comes back to discourse. The reason this sort of reporting happens as a matter of routine, is of course that all "operations" by western agents are framed by the war on terror. If we are in a "war without end" then each "mistaken" killing of innocent civilians can be written off as "collateral damage" in the [forever ongoing] War on Terror. In the BBC report, recreated verbatim above, the dominant image and narrative is that of Ayman al-Zawahiri. The focus quicky shifts from the innocent deaths to the
[as yet unsuccessful] hunt for "al Qeada's second in command" Note too that it suits the filmic villain characterisation and narrative to refer to him as the "mastermind" - think Bond villain again. Images of the ["Good Ol"] Wild West are also invoked by the "bounty" placed on his head. So the story has become about the evil man's escape from the "clutches" as opposed to the brutal murder of innocent men, women and children. The discourse is the war on terror, not state murder. I am afraid the "intelligence was simply wrong" will not do. Had aircraft dropped bombs on, for instance a Sussex village, killing 18 people, would our media refer to it as an intelligence failure and a diplomatic embarrassment?


  • At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Trev said…

    On the positive side, if other villages in the area are habouring this guy, or some other terrorist, they'll think twice about it now. That can only be a good thing.

  • At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There is no 'positive side' to murder you idiot. This justification was used to murder innocent civilians in Jenin, to bulldoze their houses on top of them with their children inside. It is cruel, vindictive, self-defeating and criminal. If you justify collective punishment even murder to people who harbour fugitives, you are advocating illegal acts in contravention of all human rights.

  • At 11:33 AM, Blogger Rob said…

    I think this is probably your best post yet, Chris; really managed to tease out the "dramatic" in the form. More importantly, you're right.

  • At 10:10 AM, Blogger Patrick Duffy said…

    "Images of the ["Good Ol"] Wild West are also invoked by the "bounty" placed on his head".

    The links to the old frontier wars are intriguing - an enemy slaughtered indiscriminately, a new power flexing it's muscles to make it's white folk feel safer, even the idea of offering rewards - gun for hire style. How many reports about westeners being be-headed (scalped) does it take to make sure we know the level of person 'we' are dealing with?

    Surely not a coincidence that the Commander in Chief is a Texan ranch-hand...

    The revisionism of the western genre in recent times though does throw up some questions here - how long before the 'man on the street' asks "what about the In'juns", and when will Hollywood alter it's stance?

    All of that said I felt that the terms 'bounty', 'brains' and 'clutches' were more cartoon than film. I see Yosemite Sam jumping up and down firing his guns. It is yet another way in which I as a viewer am separated from the blood stained reality or am I being protected???!!!!??? It can't be that bad if the person 'we' are after is a wascally wabbit can it?

  • At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Andy said…

    I think it is interesting that rather than reprimand America heavily for what can only be described as the pick-a-square battleships game they seem to be playing with the middle east, the report merely calls it an embarrassment - a word they might use if say the president had an affair, an event that would, no doubt, receive ten times the coverage of the murder of 18 innocent people. Apparently this tragedy is just another of Americas classic ‘whoopsies’ - the reporter may as well say ‘oh, that is so America!’ Throughout the report you get the feeling that rather than be devastated at the murder of 18 innocent people, the west is just annoyed that these pesky Muslims got in the way.

  • At 11:37 AM, Anonymous George said…

    Dear Trev, if you think that this kind of actvity will prevent people from harbouring political/terrorist leaders then you are really missing something. Why don't you go on google earth and home in on any muslim nation and see if you can find the 'other' that is so obviously to blame for all of your woe and ask the CIA to dispose of them for you. I'm sure they'd appreciate your intelligence. OR you can buy a gallon of bleach sit down with your family and friends and drink to a cleaner safer world where all of the disease is irradicated in a civil and non-violent way.

    Cheers and good health to you.
    love George.

  • At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Emily B said…

    Excellent blog, Chris. I saw this and thought it was quite an apt essay: (sorry, can't do posh links...)
    I know it's an extreme view point, but it still illustrates for me the extent to which Bush supporters are simply missing the point. And as you indicated, traces of xenophobic and ignorantly argued view points (like the attached) are feeding into our mainstream and even 'cutting edge' news reports. In addition to this, the general one-sided documentation of the war masquerading as historical fact suggests a victorious, heroic stance. I feel this furthers the 'good-guys-bad-guys' notion of conflict with a 'p.s: you're on the good side' as it is, after all, the victor who writes the history.
    Also, the very term: 'War on Terror', in all it's ironic splendour, I think, sums up beautifully the heavy handed eye-for-an-eye attitude and simplified-to-the-point-of-binary reasoning which seems to be driving 'our' side forward.

  • At 9:05 AM, Anonymous Ekk said…

    Just received this mail from a friend in NZ in response to an analyis showing the USukIsrael will want to bomb/attack Iran to prevent oil being traded in Euros, by an independent bourse soon to be opened in Theran. He makes a couple of points relevant to your latest blog entry.

    "Ekk, I think this situation is even worse than you portray. How the hell can they do it without using nukes? Are they going to set up some event to pretend Iran used one first?

    This latest disgusting episode in border Pakistan shows that they haven't even got one small elite group of soldiers who could go into a village and take out one man. Three missiles, in the hope of getting him with one and the sure knowledge that at least the other two would kill civilians. No wonder our Vietnam vets. referred to them as the "world's worst".

    It hurts me to recognise that the northern hemisphere nation for which I have the most respect is now ruled by war criminals. And with massive debts, controlled media and a corrupt political system, what hope has the ordinary citizen there for doing anything about it? Nor do I think you should refer to it as being "American" policy, when it is obvious that its government does exactly what it is told by those behind the scenes.

    In passing, as the multinationals gradually supplant nation states, I wonder how long before they have their own armed forces to do the jobs for them? Perhaps even nuclear-equipped? It would, of course, pretend to be an arm of the United Nations, as the World Bank does."

    R. J.

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