January 15, 2006
Bush's Aspirin Factory
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For the past few days, Bush has been basking in the light of seeming effectiveness with the news that we probably got al Qaeda's #2 man, al-Zawahiri, in an air strike against a location in Pakistan near the Afghan border. But as we've just found out, the intelligence was faulty and rather than hitting an "al Qaeda compound" with Zawahiri, we instead hit three homes with at least 18 civilians, including five women and five children. Pakistan is outraged, has summoned our ambassador, and relations are now greatly strained.
I bring this up mostly to contrast something: on August 20, 1998, Bill Clinton ordered an air strike against what was believed to be a plant used to produce chemical weapons in Sudan, based upon the report of a CIA agent who allegedly took soil samples from the plant that showed a precursor to VX gas being produced. It turned out that the factory was not producing chemical weapons, but instead was bottling aspirin. Conservatives made endless sport of this error, and for years (even up to the present) have used it to ridicule Clinton for his ineffectiveness against bin Laden, his stupidity in hitting the wrong target, and his wrongness in taking out an innocent target.
So what are they saying about Bush, now? Clinton killed one man in the Sudan attack; are 18 people, including five women and five children, acceptable in comparison? Are they condemning Bush like they condemned Clinton?
Of course not. The Spin Patrol is still a little uncoordinated, but they're getting the story out: it was Pakistan's fault, they were heavily involved, and besides, it was an al Qaeda hideout, Zawahiri had just stepped out for a smoke, and most of the dead were extremists. NewsMax, for example, put quotation marks around the words "innocent civilians."
Not to mention that this is hardly the first time that innocent civilians have been hit in bungled attacks against al Qaeda; there's no telling how many men, women and children have been killed in these kinds of attacks--attacks that conservatives, and most Americans, will shrug off as regrettable but necessary. After all, the people killed were dark-skinned villagers in some third-world country, right?
Think that's too harsh? Unfair? Imagine this story, but instead we had bombed a village in England where we thought al Qaeda operatives were hiding, and killed eighteen white people, including five women and children. Would we have reacted the same way? The difference in our reaction to those two stories measures who differently we value the lives of people based upon their nationality and color.
We take the killing of people in "those countries" far too lightly, as if they didn't matter or count.
Posted by: Bob at January 15, 2006 12:51 PM