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US Frets over Pakistan’s “Extrajudicial Killings,” but Doesn’t Count US Drones

It must be Rule of Law Hypocrisy Week at the US State Department. A few days ago, the Obama State Department announced sanctions against eight Iranian officials for human rights violations — like kidnapping, beatings, torture — perpetrated against Iranian protesters, while ignoring equally criminal acts by the Bush and Obama regimes.

This week, the US is fretting over so-called “extrajudicial killings” allegedly carried out by the Pakistani Army against Pakistan’s own civilians in the provinces bordering Afghanistan, even though US policy has been to encourage Pakistan to get tough against those same people.

Meanwhile, unilateral US drone attacks on Pakistan villages are increasing, the US military is training Afghans and mercenaries to carry the war into Pakistan, NATO is conducting airstrikes near or across the border, and US units are showing increasing signs of presumably unauthorized, random murder and brutality against civilians. Yet US officials protesting Pakistan’s alleged actions can’t seem to draw any connection between these related stories.

From Thursday’s New York Times:

An Internet video showing men in Pakistani military uniforms executing six young men in civilian clothes has heightened concerns about unlawful killings by Pakistani soldiers supported by the United States, American officials said. . . .

The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, who was in Islamabad on Wednesday on a previously scheduled visit, was expected to raise the subject of the video with the chief of the Pakistani Army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the head of the Pakistani spy agency, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, American officials said.

The video adds to reports under review at the State Department and the Pentagon that Pakistani Army units have summarily executed prisoners and civilians in areas where they have opened offensives against the Taliban, administration officials said.

The video appears to have been taken in the Swat Valley, where the Pakistani military opened a campaign last year to push back Taliban insurgents. The effort was widely praised by American officials and financed in large part by the United States. . . .

The question of extrajudicial killings is particularly sensitive for Pentagon officials, who have tried in visits to Pakistan and through increased financing to improve their often-tense relationship with the Pakistani Army.

But growing word of such incidents in recent months has led to an internal debate at the State Department and the Pentagon over whether the reports are credible enough to warrant cutting off funds to Pakistani Army units, American officials said.

So, the US is concerned that Pakistan’s military is engaged in “extrajudicial killings” of Pakistan citizens, meaning that it just identifies residents in a suspected area, rounds them up and kills them on the grounds they’re suspected “militants.” There’s no apparent effort to detain the suspects and present them to any military or judicial process to verify whether they constitute threats to anyone. Just kill them. [cont’d.]

And aside from the obvious brutality, the reason we’re worried is because there’s this pesky US law that says we shouldn’t be providing military assistance to regimes that engage in such atrocities against their own citizens. Good for US laws!

But then one must ask whether there is some moral or legal distinction between what the Pakistan forces are alleged to be doing, which if true would be an egregious crime and warrant protests from all civilized nations, and what our own military teams are doing when they observe a Pakistani village or group of individuals via drone cameras and then, from targeting rooms that may be located in the US, direct the drones to bomb and kill those individuals. Because I’m having a hard time seeing a meaningful difference.

Extrajudicial killing by governments is recognized as an egregious crime by all civilized nations, and we are right to protest it elsewhere. But our protests are unlikely to sway anyone unless we ourselves observe the same rule of law. We can’t seem to grasp the principle when applied to our own government’s actions.

It’s bad enough that the Pakistan Army may be doing this, and worse they may be doing this under pressure from the US to get tough with the “militants” in their own country. But it’s just as bad or worse when we do it ourselves, unilaterally, and then pretend not to recognized it’s the same thing. It’s hard to believe our government is concerned when others engage in bloody murder when it’s being undertaken on our behalf.

And yeah, Rachel Maddow is right (see her entire segment on the war on Pakistan here): the US military is waging war in Pakistan and increasingly against Pakistan’s citizens. I don’t remember the American people or Congress saying the Executive could do that, but they don’t seem to care what we think. Someone should tell the Tea Party.

John Chandley

Follow John on Twitter: @JohnChandley

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley