Obama and Hamas sink to the same moral level

Tuvia Brodie,

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Tuvia Brodie
Tuvia Brodie has a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh under the name Philip Brodie. He has worked for the University of Pittsburgh, Chatham College and American Express. He and his wife made aliyah in 2010. All of his children have followed. He believes in Israel's right to exist. He believes that the words of Tanach (the Jewish Bible) are meant for us. His blog address is http://tuviainil.blogspot.com He usually publishes 3-4 times a week on his blog and 1-3 times at Arutz Sheva. Please check the blog regularly for new posts.

During the 2014 Gaza-Israel war, more than 2,200 Gazans died. Both the UN and the US—Israel’s ‘greatest ally’—were quick to accept faked Hamas civilian casualty numbers. Both aggressively condemned Israel for killing a supposedly excessive number of Gazan civilians (Lara Jakes and Matthew Lee, “Washington scolds Israel over civilian casualties in Gaza”, Globe and Mail, July 17, 2014).

Even the New York Times—whose coverage of the war was, essentially, anti-Israel—noted problems with the Hamas   civilian death numbers (Jodi Rudoren, “Civilian or Not? New Fight in Tallying the Dead From the Gaza Conflict”, New York Times, August 5, 2015). Nevertheless, the US followed the UN’s lead and continued its ‘too many civilian deaths’ criticism (Izzy Lemberg, “Obama’s ambush of Israel”, Times of Israel, August, 14, 2015). The Obama administration complained bitterly that Israel wasn’t doing enough to reduce Gazan civilian casualties (Jakes and Lee, ibid).

You should remember this condemnation for ‘excessive casualties’ because a report has surfaced about leaked secret US documents (Ari Rusila, “The Drone Papers By The Intercept”, Ari Rusila’s Balkan Perspective, October 31, 2015). It seems that a news/opinion site called, The Intercept, has collected classified information from US government employees. It has published what it calls a Report on secret documents that detail the inner workings of a US military assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia (ibid). The Report is called, “The Drone Papers” (ibid).

 “The Drone Papers” contains eight semi-independent essays.  These essays describe how the US military used ‘killer drones’ to assassinate terrorists in ‘targeted killings’ (ibid). These essays argue that the Obama administration actively masked the true number of civilians killed in drone strikes “by categorizing unidentified people killed in a strike as enemies” (The Drone Papers, “The Assassination Complex”).

At one point in early 2012/late 2011, US counter-terrorism officials became concerned. They felt the government wasn’t being honest about drone-caused civilian deaths (Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will”, New York Times, May 29, 2012).

In 2011, a trusted White House advisor made an extraordinary claim: in a speech, he said, “not a single non-combatant had been killed in a year of strikes” (ibid).

That struck some as unbelievable. Then, in an interview, an administration official claimed that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Obama was in the ‘single digits’ (ibid).

Senior intelligence officials were appalled. They expressed “disbelief that the number could be so low” (ibid).

Now, these leaked documents—if authentic—suggest that these intelligence officials had reason to be sceptical. For example, in an operation called ‘Haymaker’, secret reports suggested that civilian death numbers (at one point) reached 90 per cent. That is, 9 of 10 people killed during ‘Haymaker’ drone strikes were ‘not the intended targets’ (The Drone Papers, “Manhunting in the Hindu Kush”). That suggests they were civilians.

These documents further suggest a high probability that, in a 12-month period ending February 2013, only 35 of 200 killed on the ground were terrorists. The remaining 165 dead were probably civilian (ibid).

There’s a reason for this civilian-death uncertainty. Drone-strike results were not verified. They were based upon a presumptive conclusion: if there was no ‘evidence’ that a killed person was civilian, he was counted as an enemy (ibid).

In practical terms, this meant that if a terrorist-target had, say, seven people around him at the time of a strike, all eight were often presumed to be ‘enemies’ (“The Drone Papers”).

Civilian death rates from these drone strikes were not ‘single-digit’. They were significantly higher.

No one knew how high they were because no one asked. No one asked because the drone-strike program had a policy: trust (that the intelligence you receive regarding targets is accurate). But do not verify (New York Times, ibid).

How did the Obama administration protect civilians in its secret drone war? It didn’t. Instead, it counted civilians as enemy targets.

The Obama administration vilified Israel for civilian death rates in the 2014 Gaza war. But two years earlier, US drone-caused civilian death rates were, at least on some occasions, significantly higher than the Israel-inflicted Gaza rate.

If these leaked documents are authentic, Obama’s behaviour towards Israel in 2014 was outrageous. While he demanded that Israel ‘do more’ to protect civilians in Gaza, he personally managed a secret drone program (New York Times, ibid) that did absolutely nothing to protect civilians in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Obama and Hamas sink to the same moral level. First, they both lied about civilian death in war zones. Hamas counted combatants as civilians in order to accuse Israel (falsely) of ‘excessive civilian deaths’; Obama, meanwhile, counted civilians as combatants in order to hide true civilian death numbers. Second, their intention was the same: to abuse laws for protecting civilians. Then, worst of all, both accused Israel of killing too many civilians when they were themselves more guilty of that crime than Israel.

I suspect that the G-d of Israel will remember this hypocrisy.