Taking her cue from the recent Stanford/NYU report that used interviews with Pakistani civilians in order to disprove White House claims of little to no "collateral damage", Ms. Sullivan posits that the lack of citizen outrage at the American killing campaign is at least partly attributable to the lack of hard-hitting coverage by the paper of record:
With its vast talent and resources, The Times has a responsibility to lead the way in covering this topic as aggressively and as forcefully as possible, and to keep pushing for transparency so that Americans can understand just what their government is doing.
The Sullivan column was published in tandem with a just-released report from the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic, which points out the flaws in the tracking of civilian deaths from drone strikes. It notes that a "non-partisan" think tank called the New America Foundation has underestimated civilian casualties, as has the aptly creepy and presciently-named Long War Journal. On the other hand, the NYU study results jibed with those of the independent London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which had effectively broken the American campaign of death-by-drone story wide open. Of course, says the NYU report,
The discrepancies in counts by the tracking organizations—credible and well-resourced institutions—underscore the difficulty of gaining an accurate understanding of the impact of drone strikes from media reports alone. The public and some policymakers are compelled to rely on these estimates to judge the impact of drone strikes because the U.S. government has not officially provided information on drone strike deaths. While touting the success of the drone program and particular high-profile strikes, U.S. officials have avoided providing specifics—and cited national security. The public has no information on how and whether the U.S.
tracks and investigates potential civilian deaths.
But about those "credible, well-sourced institutions" -- The Long War Journal is run by an outfit called the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. It touts as its vague goal "fighting terrorism and supporting freedom." Its contributors form a veritable laundry list of current and former members of the military/industrial/spy state/corporate media complex -- a who's who of those inside-the-Beltway national security pundits who go on cable TV and spew propaganda, provide quotes to reporters at the New York Times and elsewhere. The Foundation was spawned in the wake of 9/11 by a group of "visionary philanthropists" for the sole purpose, apparently, of keeping fear of The Other (a/k/a Muslims) alive amongst the American populace. This includes conducting "studies" serving to dehumanize the victims of drone strikes, ensuring that we never see the torn bodies or learn the names of the innocent women and children are being killed in our name by the hundreds or even thousands.
The New America Foundation, besides taking it upon itself to undercount victims of the targeted assassination program, also imparts wisdom on asset-building, the economy, education, health... you name it. It's run by Steve Coll, a former editor at The Washington Post. CNN National Security reporter Peter Bergen is the expert on foreign policy. Would it surprise you to learn that the New America Foundation also is in the forefront of the Beltway centrist cult of deficit reduction? Connect the dots, people! Your information is being provided to you courtesy of the shadow form of government known as the Corporatocracy. You are being made to Feel the Fear in preparation for Sharing the Sacrifice (a/k/a willingly forgoing Social Security cost of living increases, cutting back on health care, privatizing education and demonizing labor unions so that your tax money can go for financing endless war and endless profits for Superpower USA.)
It really is quite remarkable that Margaret Sullivan's column even made it into print. The online version, of course, is conveniently buried at the very bottom of the Opinion Page where nobody will see it.