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Old habits die hard for European leftists, especially when it comes to criticising America.
The online edition of Germany’s leftist mainstream publication Der Spiegel (The Mirror) prominently displayed on Monday an account critical of the American drone campaign in Pakistan. The basis of the writer’s dislike for one of the most effective anti-terrorism weapons in the civilized world’s arsenal against al-Qaeda and the Taliban is that the drones are killing civilians. Naturally, in keeping with the story’s anti-American angle, both the Pakistani and American governments are accused of misleading people about the true number of innocent non-combatants who have succumbed to drone attacks in North and South Waziristan.
If it concerned only a small, fringe publication, then one could simply overlook the story’s grave shortcomings and blatant bias. But Der Spiegel is one of Europe’s largest and most influential weekly news magazines with a circulation of more than one million. It is so respected that its English-language edition is the only foreign publication linked to the New York Times website’s international news section where the story can be found.
Accompanying the article were photos taken by its one and only source, Noor Behram, a local employee of al-Jazeera, the Arab language news service. Behram stated in the account he had to first ask tribal elders and Taliban leaders for permission to take the photos. The story’s author, Hasnain Kazim, said it couldn’t be guaranteed that the pictures were genuine, since journalists can’t move about freely in North Waziristan. But the snapshots allegedly concur with the dates and locations of drone attacks.
“The photos are gruesome. One shows a boy with a shattered skull, another a child’s dismembered foot. Yet another shows a dead boy with a bandaged head. Bloody school book appear in another…,” wrote Kazim.
You get the picture. Innocent children killed and schools destroyed by those barbaric Americans. Rather than an informative news story, the article is actually an anti-American propaganda piece, the underlying thrust of which is to get the drone campaign stopped by using emotionally evocative photos of children’s corpses. The message is that the price is obviously too high and too savage for the results obtained, as Behram conveniently confirmed.
“I estimate that for every dead extremist there are some 15 civilian victims,” said Behram, who named his son Osama out of protest against the drone attacks.
Wikileaks, however, tells a different story. These documents confirm the drone attacks have been so highly effective, they were one of two factors (the other being lack of money) that was causing bin Laden and his associates great concern.
“(Al Qaeda) Organisers also complained of the strain on resources being brought by strikes from CIA unmanned aircraft,” stated one report about the Wikileaks revelations. “Bin Laden’s number three, Atiyah abd al-Rahman, said that Al Qaeda fighters were being killed faster than they could be replaced.”
But the Wikileaks statements did not find their way into Kazim’s story. Nor did it mention that drone-related casualties among experienced cadre in al Qaeda’s middle and upper ranks have been so heavy that the terrorist organization’s ability to launch attacks has been severely damaged, thus saving innumerable innocent lives. To pick a good example, Ilyas Kashmiri, the organizer of the 2008 Mumbai attack that saw 164 people perish, was reported killed by a drone attack.
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