Thursday, June 12, 2014

Obama Bombs

By Alice Ross

Cross-posted from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Two drone strikes have hit North Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal northwest, reportedly killing 16 people and ending the longest pause in drone strikes of Obama’s presidency.

Prior to these attacks there had not been a drone strike in Pakistan since Christmas Day. The Pakistani government had requested that the US stop carrying out strikes to allow peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) to take place, sources close to the negotiations told the Bureau in February.

But terrorist attacks and retaliatory air strikes by the Pakistani military continued throughout the peace talks, killing hundreds including civilians.

Any hope of the talks continuing ended on Sunday when the TTP launched an audacious ‘joint operation‘ attacking Karachi airport, with members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a group with a strong presence in North Waziristan. The five-hour assault killed at least 39, according to the BBC.

On Wednesday evening, the drone strikes resumed.

Get the data: Obama 2014 Pakistan drone strikes

The first attack hit a vehicle and houses in a village to the west of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan Agency in Pakistan’s tribal belt. A local told NBC News the attack targeted a moving vehicle but also damaged two houses. A security official told AFP the vehicle was parked outside a house and both were hit in the strike. Up to six were reportedly killed. Unnamed local officials told reporters the dead included Uzbek militants and either members of the Punjabi Taliban or the Haqqani Network.

An unnamed ‘senior intelligence official’ told AFP that following the strike, intercepted communications revealed: ‘One of the militants was asking others to reach the site and search for any one injured in the strike and also to dig out the dead bodies.’

Hours later drones attacked again, reportedly killing at least 10 alleged militants in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Reports disagreed over the details of this second strike, with AFP reporting that the drones targeted men who were digging out bodies at the site of the previous strike – a tactic previously exposed by the Bureau. ‘Three US drones fired six missiles on militants who had gathered to dig the debris of a compound,’ a security official told AFP. Two vehicles were also hit, he added. PTI also reported that the strike was at the site of the earlier attack, although it did not mention an attack on rescuers.

Related article - Bureau investigation finds fresh evidence of CIA drone strikes on rescuers

NBC News also reported that the attack took place in the same village as the previous strike, adding that it hit a house where explosives were being stored. ‘I never heard such a huge and deafening blast,’ Miranshah resident Javed Khan said. ‘It jolted the entire tribal region, and everybody thought [the] house was targeted.

But other reports, citing locals, said missiles hit four separate houses and a pick-up truck in Dande Darpakhel. Intelligence officials and locals described seeing five to ten drones overhead.

None of the dead were identified by name.

Unnamed intelligence officials told Associated Press the attack targeted the Haqqani Network, the militant group that held US soldier Bowe Bergdahl captive until his release in a controversial prisoner swap earlier this month. The LA Times and others suggested the release had eased the way to a resumption in strikes as US officials had previously feared drone strikes could ‘result in Bergdahl’s death’.

The strikes come shortly after the Pakistani defence minister called for a full-scale military operation against the TTP in North Waziristan, telling a TV interviewer: ‘The talks option has been pursued with sincerity by the government, but no result has come.’

The Pakistani foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the attacks as a ‘violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty’ – a step that has become routine in recent years. The statement added: ‘Additionally, these strikes have a negative impact on the Government’s efforts to bring peace and stability in Pakistan and the region.’

But two unnamed ‘top government officials’ told Reuters the strikes were ‘launched with the express approval of the Pakistan government and army’. 

One told the agency: ‘It is now policy that the Americans will not use drones without permission from the security establishment here. There will be complete coordination and Pakistan will be in the loop. We understand that drones will be an important part of our fight against the Taliban now.’

UPDATE: The first line originally stated that this was the longest pause of the 10-year campaign. It wasn’t. This has been amended.


Isaiah Earhart said...

The deployment of a double-tap strike is a war crime. The double-tap strike is deployed for the purpose of killing rescue personal and journalists, and it is deployed intentionally and pervasively by the Obama Administration.

stranger in a strange land said...

The first tap is loathsome, let alone the double-tap. "Legal" or not, the whole business of remote extrajudicial killing sets a deplorable standard, one that will inevitably come home to roost (though that almost seems to be the objective, doesn't it?).

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."

~ Thomas Paine, A Dissertation on the First Principles of Government (1795)

James F Traynor said...

The 'double tap' is despicable. Anyone doing it or ordering it should have his balls cut off with a rusty razor. I'll leave it up to Karen and annenigma to advise on a suitable punishment for a she criminal.

Congrats Karen on your latest Krugman comment; you even got the sacred yellow flag. Times they are a changin'.

Will said...

Chris Hedges is a plagiarist?!? Yes, Chris Hedges is a plagiarist. Ugh. :(

Zee said...


Thanks for the interesting link. The evidence seems pretty damning, though many of Hedges' defenders seem determined to remain unconvinced.

As a scientist with more than a few publications in peer-reviewed journals, plagiarism is a pretty distasteful and serious ethical breach, to me.

So it was interesting to skim the comments. Many of those who defended Hedges seem to be of the mind that because his causes are just, his serious ethical lapses should be overlooked, or are simply irrelevant.

Imagine how I would have been received in the scientific community if I had plagiarized another's work, or faked data because I knew in my heart of hearts that my hypothesis was really correct and just needed a slight "push?"

I would have been ridden out of the community on a rail, and maybe tarred and feathered, to boot.

Hedges may have viewed his intentions as noble, but if these charges stick after further investigation, he should be accorded the same treatment as Michael Bellesiles, for his fraudulent production of his book Arming America.

Bellesiles must have thought his cause was "just," too. "Just" enough to try to perpetrate a total fraud on the scholarly historical community.

Zee said...

stranger in a strange land--

Thank you for the interesting quote from Thomas Paine.

While I have read his pamphlet, Common Sense, I confess that I am unfamiliar with his later works.

Among all the other things that I need to do, I guess I need to look into his later works looking back on the American Revolution, and, then, relating to the French Revolution.

It seems to me that your quote applies as much to us in our treatment of each other domestically, as it should to our diplomatic and military policies abroad.

James F Traynor said...

I knew someone who resembled Hedges in his fervor for the cause. And in the end it was that fervor that did him in. He was a scientist that got tangled in the methodology of his opponents, the spin meisters. He forgot he was an investigator, not a prosecutor.

It must be even more difficult, much more difficult, for a journalist to avoid that snare when he sees the methods used by editors to go along to get along. Particularly the one of lying by omission rather than commission. Why is it that we are so much more outraged by Hedges' sin? Whose is the greater?

It must be that Hedges, a journalist, is like a shaman, as is a scientist, or a detective in their way. We expect the editors, the prosecutors, the administrators to bend to the wind (after all it is their real job) but not the other to do so.

annenigma said...

Re: Chris Hedges

So if all this plagiarism was so well known by so many since 2009 or earlier, why is it becoming such a big deal right now?

Is Hedges planning to run for political office? Or is he engaged in some investigation or legal action that threatens the high and mighty?

It sounds like something coming from one of those Opposition Research dirt machines or the equivalent propaganda division of the government.

Zee said...


You raise an interesting point. In fact, Hedges has recently been a thorn in the side of the government, and challenged the PWTB:

I suppose that there always is the possibility that Hedges is the victim of a clandestine government hatchet job, and perhaps time and enough digging by investigative reporters will prove it so.

But it seems to me at the moment that Hedges is being done in by his own former campadres (sp?) on the Left.

Neither the New Republic nor Harper's strike me as tools of the Right or of the deep state. Still, just about anyone can be bought if the price is right.

But NO ONE who has written anything of potential lasting significance likes to have his/her work appropriated by another, because that “theft”—and that is exactly what it is, intellectual theft —is inevitably done to boost the cred of the thief at the expense of the person who did the original heavy lifting. So I can easily understand the outrage of even former friends and colleagues over Hedges' alleged plagiarism.

Using the work of another without giving due credit is also a form of lying, both to yourself, the plagiarist, and to others—misrepresenting another's work as your own.

If the charges against Hedges prove out, then it is legitimate to ask onself, “Well, what else might he have been lying about?”

Perhaps time will tell. It took two years of detailed investigation—by special panels appointed by Emory University and Columbia University, not journalists with potential personal axes to grind—to “out” Michael Bellesiles for the fraud that he was.

The New Republic and Harper's may have gotten the ball rolling, but their accusations would be more convincing if others—without potential conflicts of interest—pursued the charges from here.

Otherwise, as one commenter at The New Republic more or less stated, it will be “He said/she said” forever.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Seems pretty clear that the article by Christopher Ketcham –– what’s in a name? –– has caught Chris Hedges plagiarizing time and time again.

Sloppily patching together a draft article in its early stages, or not keeping track of one’s source notes, just doesn’t explain all the instances cited by Ketcham to make his case. “Harper’s Magazine” did the right thing to kill that submission by Hedges years ago. Still, incredibly, the carelessness (at best) or repeated acts of plagiarism (most likely) continued in other publications.

“Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (I hasten to add that’s not my line but one from ‘Proverbs.’) Hedges relying on his on wits alone was enough to move readers to tears. Or action. And a craving for more. Why did this clearly gifted writer try to make his excellent work even better by stealing from other writers? I cannot explain the flaw. Does the vice of pride operate something like the vice of greed? The proud man will never have enough pride to satisfy himself, just as the superrich will never have enough money to be finished with getting more.

Hedges, with his haughty and dismissive demeanor, was not acting like an honest man, certainly not the prophet some called him, not even within his own journalistic circle and with sympathetic publishers burdened, as they certainly were, with legitimate questions. He was stonewalling, relying on a bullying pride to cover up dishonesty.

The rules of the game for journalists are much tighter than for many other occupations. Politicians who lie, steal and murder can hold their heads up high and get elected and re-elected, no problem. Likewise for corporate chiefs and bankers. Most journalists are blind to their crimes. However, big journalism’s investigative bulldogs are always sniffing the wind for sexual scandal and intellectual hypocrisy. Worthy targets, for sure, but not the biggest fakes and criminals on their beat. Hedges the plagiarizer may now be greatly restricted in his work. The big criminals not so much, if at all.

This is so sad, although it will lead to much fist pumping and glee in some corners. The floodgates of schadenfreude have been opened. Comes now another flood to undermine the just cause.

Karen Garcia said...

"Hell hath no fury like a writer plagiarized", she plagiarized. Then again, legend has it that the Bard himself may have been a plagiarizer.

But seriously, as someone who has been the victim of plagiarism, I don't cut Hedges any slack. Copying Hemingway (!) and then changing a word or two simply screams intent. And the mag article gives example after example after example. Some are petty overkill, to be sure, but others are egregious.

My feeling also is that Hedges probably fell victim to his own iconography and cult status. He had a history of being protected by his publishers. He got lazy, he felt pressured, he felt unable to surpass the last great thing he wrote... who the hell knows. All I know is that I just lost my respect and admiration for this man. The tragedy is that he did not have to plagiarize. He was/is brilliant.

My own rule of thumb is that, whenever I feel tired or burned out, I do not write. I take a few days. And if I don't have anything original to say, I don't say anything. I feel so strongly about plagiarism that even if one of my links to someone else's work turns out to be broken, I feel bad. When a phrase pops into my head and it sounds pretty good, I will often Google it just to make sure that I haven't inadvertently stolen it from somebody else.

One thing I don't consider plagiarism per se is self-plagiarism. I often incorporate my blog posts into my Times comments, and vice versa. Some people say that's a no-no, however. Another gray area is whether a link in a blog post is as good as a footnote. Now I am getting paranoid. So I think I'll quit while I'm ahead.

annenigma said...

Our nation's most public serial plagiarist is now serving as Vice President of the United States, personally selected by the lesser of two plagiarists, President of the United States Barack Obama.

Biden dropped out of the 1988 Presidential race related to charges of plagiarism and total fabrications. He even stole part of British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock's life story as his own.

Obama ripped off Governor Deval Patrick's 'Just Words' speech (and did a piss poor job of delivering it too, compared to Gov. Patrick). According to Obama's folks, it was due more to picking it up by osmosis from his buddy Deval than it was plagiarism.

Plagiarists seem to come a dime a dozen but politicians, because they're professional liars anyway, are usually given a free pass.