Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: US is guilty of uncivilised behaviour

Tell Obama his drone operations are unacceptable, writes Brian Rudman.
Between January 20, 2009 and December 31, 2015, Obama admitted that 473 American airstrikes. Illustration / Peter Bromhead
Between January 20, 2009 and December 31, 2015, Obama admitted that 473 American airstrikes. Illustration / Peter Bromhead

Osama bin Laden would be pleased. The Twin Towers World War he triggered nearly 15 years ago continues to rage, with random suicide terror bombings in Baghdad, Istanbul and Dhaka, the latest chapters. Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Libya have been laid waste.

In the aftermath, a flood of refugees of biblical proportions - 1.3 million in 2015 alone - is now pouring out of the Middle Eastern battlefields seeking safety in Europe. Thousands have perished on the journey.

The refugee crisis is one of the reasons British voters have just voted to pull up the drawbridge to Europe. Even down here in the remote South Pacific, New Zealand has been caught up in the maelstrom, late last month, jailing a pro-Isis hot head for three years nine months for possessing and distributing "objectionable material".

Imran Patel, 26, had texted 52 people with links to Isis propaganda, including videos of the executions of prisoners, including by beheading, burning, shooting and being blown up.

Judge Russell Collins said the "the glorification and celebration of violence at such a grotesque level is a matter of serious concern for the courts and must rightly be the subject of deterrence".

It was apparently the first conviction under the section of the Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act which makes it an offence to - among other things - promote or encourage criminal acts or acts of terrorism, and/or acts of torture or the infliction of extreme violence or extreme cruelty.

Judge Collins' comments came to mind over the weekend when live clips of US Government-supplied snuff videos, which show the moment missiles from remote-controlled US drone aircraft blew targets to smithereens, appeared on my television screen.

Personally, I've always found this sort of war-porn propaganda almost as grotesque as the execution movies Mr Patel was peddling. What an interesting prosecution test case that would be!

This clone-porn had been screened to illustrate President Barack Obama's pre-Independence Day confessions that despite previous denials, since he became president, many innocent civilians had died from US air strikes under his command.

Between January 20, 2009 and December 31, 2015, he admitted that 473 American airstrikes, mostly fired from pilotless drones, on targets "outside areas of active hostilities" had killed between 64 and 116 non-combatants and between 2372 and 2581 "combatants".

These innocent civilians were the victims of strikes on non-war zone countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Grotesque as these numbers are, outside investigators claim the true figure is much larger. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, for example, calculates that between 380 and 801 innocent civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia were killed by US drone attacks in the same period.

Whichever the figure, it's a very different picture from that painted by the President in May 2013, when he claimed that "before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured".

Grotesque as these numbers are, outside investigators claim the true figure is much larger.

Now he seems to see the solution is to sign a new executive order requiring the US to "acknowledge US Government responsibility for civilian casualties and offer condolences". The US will also pay blood money for deaths it mistakenly causes.

As a Vietnam War protester, such uncivilised behaviour by the so-called leaders of the Free World takes me back to their spraying of liquid petroleum - napalm - to burn out villagers, and the widespread air drops of the deadly defoliant, Agent Orange, on forests and people, even their own troops. It failed to win hearts and minds then, and there's no signs that missile-packing drones are doing any better now. Just the contrary.

Critics claim the drone revelations were released on the eve of the Independence Day holidays to ensure a minimum of publicity. It seems to have worked down here. I've noticed no reaction from their loyal little ally New Zealand.

Could we not at least drop them a note pointing out that the targeting of innocent civilians is not - and never has been - acceptable behaviour.

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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