Ornery.org
  Front Page   |   About Ornery.org   |   World Watch   |   Guest Essays   |   Contact Us

The Ornery American Forum Post New Topic  Post A Reply
my profile login | register | search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » "Assassination" or "Killing"? AP's Double Standard on Counter-Terror

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: "Assassination" or "Killing"? AP's Double Standard on Counter-Terror
seagull
Member
Member # 694

 - posted      Profile for seagull   Email seagull   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
CAMERA source

quote:

How should reporters describe a targeted attack against a terrorist? A sterile "drone strike"? A neutral "killing"? Or an "assassination," with that word's negative connotations?

At the Associated Press, the answer apparently depends on who is responsible for the strike.

The Israeli military this morning killed Hamas's senior militant commander in the Gaza Strip, Ahmed al-Jabari, after days of cross border attacks from Gaza that included over 100 rockets launched toward Israeli towns and an attack on an Israeli jeep patrolling its side of the border.

Associated Press coverage of the incident referred to Israel's pinpoint air strike as an "assassination," described it as a resumption of "Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian militant leaders," pointed out that "Israeli aircraft have previously assassinated the previous commander of Hamas' military wing," and noted that "Israeli officials had said that they were considering assassinating top Hamas officials following a wave of rocket fire."

One might think AP's style book calls for describing such attacks assassinations. But the wire service has a whole different standard when it comes to U.S. drone strikes that so frequently target terrorists in Yemen and Afghanistan.

According to the Nexus news database, there have been 2,907 AP news stories mentioning one of the two countries along with the word "drone" or "drones." Of those stories, 208 also mention "assassination" or some derivative of that word. But only one of the 208 stories referred to an American drone operation as an attempted "assassination." (A May 2003 article stated, "The U.S. government last year declared Hekmatyar a terrorist, and in May 2002 a CIA drone tried to assassinate him near Kabul, but missed and killed some of his followers.") In the 9 years that followed, during which U.S. targeted killings increased dramatically, not a single AP article described American drone attacks as assassinations in the voice of the reporter.

Most of the 208 articles used the word "assassination" in describing attacks by al Qaida or other killings by anti-American insurgents. And another fewmake mention of Israel's "assassination" of Hezbollah terror leader Imad Mughniyeh and Hamas leader Ahmed Yassin.

But notwithstanding the one exception, the Associated Press is extremely cautious measured when dealing with American strikes, using the loaded term "assassination" only when paraphrasing or quoting critics of the U.S. practice. A November 2010 story, for example asserted that

The drone strikes to kill high-ranking militants is rarely officially acknowledged by Washington. The program, which U.S. officials say has killed hundreds of insurgents, has been condemned by critics who say it may constitute illegal assassinations and violate international law.

Other stories focused on the debate over how to describe the drone strikes, but refrained from weighing in on one side or the other.

A September 2011 piece referred to U.S. officials who "point out that assassinations are outlawed by the U.S., which condones drone strikes against terrorists as acts of war against combatants."

In a December 2002, article about an American list of terror leaders whom the U.S. military potentially kill, the AP reporter cited American officials who noted that the list "did not abolish a long-standing presidential executive order banning assassinations, as the terrorists are defined as ‘enemy combatants' and thus legal targets."

Likewise, a December 2005 story quoted an Americal official stating that if the U.S. was involved in the killing of a particular al Qaida leader, "This would not be an assassination." He continued, "This is not law enforcement, this is not assassination. This is going against the leadership of an organization that has declared war on the United States."

And an April 2010 story directly explored the debate over how such killings should be regarded. The piece, entitled "Legal Questions Raised Over CIA Drone Strikes," begins by asking: "Is the CIA's secret program of drone strikes against terrorists in Pakistan and Yemen a case of illegal assassinations or legitimate self defense?" Although the reporter noted that "four law professors offered conflicting views," she avoided backing any particular view.

So while the AP has recently asked whether the CIA's counter-terror drone program involves assassinations or legitimate killings, it leaves it to readers to decide. When it comes Israel's program, apparently there is no such debate. The wire service shoots first, and does not ask questions later.



[ November 16, 2012, 09:29 AM: Message edited by: seagull ]

Posts: 1910 | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
DonaldD
Member
Member # 1052

 - posted      Profile for DonaldD   Email DonaldD   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Yup - there is little question that the AP does not properly characterize US assassinations of its opponents.
Posts: 10751 | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pete at Home
Member
Member # 429

 - posted      Profile for Pete at Home   Email Pete at Home   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
welcome back, Seagull! Glad to see you here again.

To me the term assassination has connotations of a human covert shooter.

If someone in uniform does the shooting, or if it's carried out by a mechanical drone, that doesn't sound like assassination. Killing and drone strike seem more appropriate.

If the USA hired Al Qaeda insiders to kill an AQ leader, I think we'd all use the term assassination.

The only story I see here is the slant against Israel, i.e. using the term "assassination" to describe targeted rocket strikes.

Posts: 44193 | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
djquag1
Member
Member # 6553

 - posted      Profile for djquag1   Email djquag1       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
"Targeted rocket strike" has always seemed like an oxymoron to me. The fact that you can hit within a block of the target doesn't mean much unless the target is the only person in that block.
Posts: 769 | Registered: Jan 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
velcro
Member
Member # 1216

 - posted      Profile for velcro   Email velcro   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Target in the sense that there is a specific goal, e.g. an apartment building.

As opposed to the rocket attacks from Gaza that have no specific target other than something over the border.

Posts: 2096 | Registered: Sep 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pete at Home
Member
Member # 429

 - posted      Profile for Pete at Home   Email Pete at Home   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
That's right. Al Qaeda's 9/11 attacks were likewise targeted strikes, not assassinations.

It's not a moral difference.

We praise the assassins that tried to take out Adolf Hitler. Assassination is not an evil per se, and the targeted strikes of 9/11 are probably more evil than any assassination in history.

Posts: 44193 | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mason Leege
Member
Member # 1371

 - posted      Profile for Mason Leege   Email Mason Leege   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The word "Assassinate" has always implied intent, competence, and precision to me. The lackadaisical way the USA goes about killing people appears to me to lack the latter properties whereas I have always been impressed with Israel's seeming ability to kill anyone they want with little trouble.

The recent exception to this was OBL, which appeared both competent and precise but lacked killing intent. Dropping a cruise missile on his house would have been much easier.

Posts: 40 | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pete at Home
Member
Member # 429

 - posted      Profile for Pete at Home   Email Pete at Home   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by DonaldD:
Yup - there is little question that the AP does not properly characterize US assassinations of its opponents.

The USA would probably assassinate its opponents such as Mullah Omar, etc. if we had the intelligence resources to do so. The fact that we use drone strikes isn't a moral decision; it's a practical decision.
Posts: 44193 | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
DonaldD
Member
Member # 1052

 - posted      Profile for DonaldD   Email DonaldD   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
What makes this case (the killing of al-Jabari) an assassination is that he was specifically targetted for political purposes. How the killer was dressed at the time and the weapon used to kill him hardly matters. assassination has been achieved by firearms, yes, but also by explosives, umbrellas and even tea.

Surprise is also a factor, though at some point, surprise becomes moot. In this case, having the shooter positioned several kilometers away certainly makes him 'covert'.

And as mentioned above, assassination is not inherently morally different from other means of killing.

Posts: 10751 | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
DonaldD
Member
Member # 1052

 - posted      Profile for DonaldD   Email DonaldD   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
The USA would probably assassinate its opponents such as Mullah Omar, etc. if we had the intelligence resources to do so. The fact that we use drone strikes isn't a moral decision; it's a practical decision.

Correct. But using a drone does not transform an assassination into something else.
Posts: 10751 | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pete at Home
Member
Member # 429

 - posted      Profile for Pete at Home   Email Pete at Home   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Depends on how you use a drone. If you assassinate a general by having one of his subordinates, beat his head against a drone, then I agree that's still an assassination. Since there's no precedent for the word "assassination" when you have a drone carry out the killing, that's a semantic issue that's in development.
Posts: 44193 | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pete at Home
Member
Member # 429

 - posted      Profile for Pete at Home   Email Pete at Home   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
" How the killer was dressed at the time "

Sure it does. If the enemy approaches you as the enemy, that makes it feel less like an assassination.

"assassination has been achieved by firearms, yes, but also by explosives, umbrellas and even tea"

Yes, but drones are not so simple an instrumentality. No one would say that a firearm, an explosive, an umbrella, or a cup of tea assassinated someone. For right or wrong, people think of Drones, rather than the drone operator, as the agent of the assassination, rather than a mere instrumentality. The problem isn't an error in usage.

Compare:

The tea killed him. The poison on the tip of the umbrella killed him. He was killed by a drone attack.

That's all consistent.

To say that someone was assassinated by a drone attack would be absurd, like saying that TEA assassinated someone.

[ November 16, 2012, 02:31 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

Posts: 44193 | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
DonaldD
Member
Member # 1052

 - posted      Profile for DonaldD   Email DonaldD   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
No one would say that a firearm, an explosive, an umbrella, or a cup of tea assassinated someone.
No, but one would say that a firearm, an explosive, an umbrella, or a cup of tea was used to assassinate someone - in the same way as the the drone was used to kill al-Jabari (actually, it's unusual for a firearm to actually kill someone - usually, the ammunition is what does the killing.)
quote:
For right or wrong, people think of Drones, rather than the drone operator, as the agent of the assassination
I understand that could be the case, but it requires that "people" not understand that a drone is a weapon with no more moral agency or initiative than an umbrella.

Which is all beside the point, anyway, since the type of weapon has never been instrumental in identifying what is an assassination, whereas surprise, a political motivation and a prominent victim are pretty much necessary and sufficient.

Now, if a drone or robot could one day be considered to have moral agency or even just its own initiative, it could be reasonable to posit such a killing without a specific, human assassin - but it wouldn't change the fact that the killing would still be an assassination if it met those requirements.

Posts: 10751 | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pete at Home
Member
Member # 429

 - posted      Profile for Pete at Home   Email Pete at Home   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by DonaldD:
quote:
No one would say that a firearm, an explosive, an umbrella, or a cup of tea assassinated someone.
No, but one would say that a firearm, an explosive, an umbrella, or a cup of tea was used to assassinate someone - in the same way as the the drone was used to kill al-Jabari
quote:
For right or wrong, people think of Drones, rather than the drone operator, as the agent of the assassination
I understand that could be the case, but it requires that "people" not understand that a drone is a weapon with no more moral agency or initiative than an umbrella.

It's about dramatics and visualization. It's hard to imagine someone being poisoned without a poisoner, being shot without a shooter. We just don't tend to think of drone operators. We understand it at some level, but we just don't think about it.

Newspapers tell stories with the purpose of being bought and read, so they tend to follow a dramatic narrative.

Posts: 44193 | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
DonaldD
Member
Member # 1052

 - posted      Profile for DonaldD   Email DonaldD   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Again, the weapon is not what defines an assassination - the victim, the motivation, and the element of surprise do.
quote:
It's hard to imagine someone being poisoned without a poisoner, being shot without a shooter.
I would suggest that poisonings without poisoners and shootings without shooters are far more prevalent than actual assassinations [Smile]
Posts: 10751 | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pete at Home
Member
Member # 429

 - posted      Profile for Pete at Home   Email Pete at Home   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
None of which contradicts my point that the difference in usage re drones is not politically motivated.
Posts: 44193 | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
DonaldD
Member
Member # 1052

 - posted      Profile for DonaldD   Email DonaldD   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I certainly was not addressing the political motivations of using drones as an instrument of foreign policy.

All I was saying is that the killing of al-Jabari was by definition an assassination.

Posts: 10751 | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pete at Home
Member
Member # 429

 - posted      Profile for Pete at Home   Email Pete at Home   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I tend to agree with you. My response is to the title of this thread, that claimed that any other usage is a "double standard."
Posts: 44193 | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
KidTokyo
Member
Member # 6601

 - posted      Profile for KidTokyo   Email KidTokyo       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
It seems to me that this is an academic response to a moral and/or ethical question. Surely the "double standard" refers to the implied value judgement of measures taken by American forces versus those taken by Israeli forces.
Posts: 2336 | Registered: Sep 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pete at Home
Member
Member # 429

 - posted      Profile for Pete at Home   Email Pete at Home   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Well, there's moral values vs aesthetic values. Israelis tend to use more on-the-ground intelligence with their strikes, hence "assassination" whereas the US tends to overrely on technology, hence "targeted strikes." Hence our bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Serbia, and a pharaceutical plant in the Sudan, because we couldn't be bothered to use the intelligence to look in the fracking telephone book. In that respect, perhaps we're paying the Israelis a compliment when we say they assassinate whereas we lash out and strike.

[ November 16, 2012, 07:35 PM: Message edited by: Pete at Home ]

Posts: 44193 | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
KidTokyo
Member
Member # 6601

 - posted      Profile for KidTokyo   Email KidTokyo       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I don't disagree with you Pete, and I admit it's a distinction I had not thought about deeply, a potentially important one. I'm just thinking that seagull was more interested in the difference in "legitimacy" implied by the different terms. "Assassination" is still apparently pejorative even if, as you compellingly argue, it is not actually pejorative.

[ November 16, 2012, 07:56 PM: Message edited by: KidTokyo ]

Posts: 2336 | Registered: Sep 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
seagull
Member
Member # 694

 - posted      Profile for seagull   Email seagull   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
If DonaldD and Pete choose to use "Assassination" consistently as a compliment the word might have a different meaning in their respective context.

But the implied double standard in AP is unmistakable:
quote:
A September 2011 piece referred to U.S. officials who "point out that assassinations are outlawed by the U.S., which condones drone strikes against terrorists as acts of war against combatants.
I believe that the missile used in the surgical operation that targeted Ahmed Jabri was launched from a drone as well. But I do not think anyone really cares how the drone was dressed or if the pilot sat in a cockpit or on the ground.

[ November 16, 2012, 08:44 PM: Message edited by: seagull ]

Posts: 1910 | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
KidTokyo
Member
Member # 6601

 - posted      Profile for KidTokyo   Email KidTokyo       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
believe that the missile used in the surgical operation that targeted Ahmed Jabri was launched from a drone as well. But I do not think anyone really cares how the drone was dressed or if the pilot sat in a cockpit or on the ground.
I agree, which is why I second Donald D's initial response. I, too, would prefer to see the word "assassination" used to describe US operations.

[ November 16, 2012, 10:03 PM: Message edited by: KidTokyo ]

Posts: 2336 | Registered: Sep 2010  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Pete at Home
Member
Member # 429

 - posted      Profile for Pete at Home   Email Pete at Home   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by seagull:
If DonaldD and Pete choose to use "Assassination" consistently as a compliment the word might have a different meaning in their respective context.

But the implied double standard in AP is unmistakable:
quote:
A September 2011 piece referred to U.S. officials who "point out that assassinations are outlawed by the U.S., which condones drone strikes against terrorists as acts of war against combatants.
I believe that the missile used in the surgical operation that targeted Ahmed Jabri was launched from a drone as well. But I do not think anyone really cares how the drone was dressed or if the pilot sat in a cockpit or on the ground.
That may be a case of "executioners against vivisection." America is more politically controlled by the Military-Industrial Complex. A rule against "assassinations" (defined by having feet and eyes on the ground) would privilege expensive technological "solutions" which shovel money into the MIC.
Posts: 44193 | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
DonaldD
Member
Member # 1052

 - posted      Profile for DonaldD   Email DonaldD   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think it's more subtle than that; the USA does not assassinate people simply because to do so would be against the law, in much the same way that the USA does not torture, and the USA has come up with new definitions of people in order to incarcerate them indeterminately while ignoring its own laws - while still providing itself with a fig leaf for those who feel the need.

As to the AP - why alienate a market of 300 million possible readers by continuously calling to mind that its government and military are law-breakers and assassins? There is, on the other hand, a market to do so with Israel without any real down side.

Posts: 10751 | Registered: May 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
seagull
Member
Member # 694

 - posted      Profile for seagull   Email seagull   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Donald, you are obviously correct.

But (at least in theory) these double standards should alienate not only Israelis and their supporters but any "Ornery American" intelligent enough to see these distortions.

I think OSC has been making that point in his columns for several years now - and most of his examples had nothing to do with Israel. The sad thing is that apparently there are not enough intelligent readers that care enough about their news for there to be any "real down side" either.

Posts: 1910 | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
JWatts
Member
Member # 6523

 - posted      Profile for JWatts   Email JWatts   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I doubt the AP is competent enough to consistently follow such a standard. I'd chalk this up to incompetence rather than malice.
Posts: 4700 | Registered: Oct 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
seagull
Member
Member # 694

 - posted      Profile for seagull   Email seagull   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
JW, I wish you were right. But then how do you explain that:

quote:
only one of the 208 stories referred to an American drone operation as an attempted "assassination." ... In the 9 years that followed, during which U.S. targeted killings increased dramatically, not a single AP article described American drone attacks as assassinations in the voice of the reporter.
Doesn't that indicate some kind of consistency even if it is not enforced as a "standard"?
Posts: 1910 | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
TomDavidson
Member
Member # 99

 - posted      Profile for TomDavidson   Email TomDavidson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
The AP is actually pretty good at enforcing linguistic standards and official terminologies, in my experience. This particular standard has almost certainly been discussed with our government.
Posts: 22935 | Registered: Nov 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is not enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.
UBB Code™ Images not permitted.
Instant Graemlins
   


Post New Topic  Post A Reply Close Topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete Topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Contact Us | Ornery.org Front Page

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.1