I’d start by noting that this is not the first time that children have been killed. It’s just the first time that it became visible to the rest of us, because we chose to pay attention. A single aerial bombardment by the Pakistani military in May killed 18 children. A U.S. drone attack in 2006 on a school killed 70 children. So – it would seem that not all children are equal.
Some are saying that this is Pakistan’s 9/11. I find this deeply ironic. It is Pakistan’s 9/11 in the sense that — just like 9/11 — all the violence committed by the Pakistan military and the U.S. state on marginalized Pakistanis before the Peshawar attack seems to hardly matter at all. They make that prehistory invisible just as America is fond of doing with 9/11.
The cruelest, but perhaps, the most honest op-ed (in that it succinctly captures the mood in some segments of Pakistani society in the wake of the attack) is Fahd Husain’s article in Express Tribune. “Now you are either with us or with the terrorists,” writes Husain. I wonder whether he realizes how chilling he sounds, how much like the militants he so despises.
In the U.S., the news of the attack overlapped with the publication of the (summary of) the torture report, some 600 pages of graphic descriptions of the cruelty of American forces. When I posted a link to a Salon article reporting Seymour Hersh’s claim that US forces may have sodomized children in front of their mothers at Abu Ghraib, I noted that cruelty towards children was not the sole provence of terrorists. A Pakistani journalist who reports for the American press admonished me not to make such statements because the Taliban may use it as propaganda. And, in any case, he said it was different because, he believed (as elites who see America from afar usually believe) that the soldiers would be held accountable. (America is a PR success story. Even when wave upon wave of story crashes upon foreign shores bringing news of yet another torture committed by American security forces’, yet another story of American greed, ruthlessness, callousness and cold cruelty, the idea of America as fundamentally accountable remains. Even the unspoken thread of each story is the idea that the horror is exceptional, even if it is the 100th time we are hearing that American’s have committed torture, even if we see the photos of waterboarding being pioneered by US troops in the Philippines as early as 1902.)
On CNN, the Navy Seal who killed bin Laden gives his view on the Peshawar attack. Apparently, invading a home in another country to shoot the man your own government created while his family is there, makes you an expert on militants who would kill children. The juxtaposition is clear: O’Neill’s attack, and America’s barbarism by extension is duly whitewashed. More important than what O’Neill says, is what we are being told by his presence: That was a respectable kill. This is not. That was honorable. This is not.
The discussion moves seamlessly from the Peshawar attack to the torture report:
CNN anchor : … ISIS is trying to sell James Foley’s headless body to his parents for $1 million. Anybody really care if we waterboard these low lives?
Obviously, you have rules of engagement. You had to adhere to them carefully in the field. That supposedly goes it what we did as detainees as well.
You believe that the ends justify the means?
O’NEILL: Well, what I was saying there and obviously this is a very, very broad subject and it can’t be described in a tweet but just with the given amount of characters I was able to bring up what these horrible people do, how it affects the families. You know, not only did they say they were going to behead the Foley’s son, but now they’re trying to sell it back as some sort of humanity and they can put it on YouTube, and if we have intelligence to have other people like this in a spot we can interrogate them, and if use a few techniques that make them uncomfortable, that make them confused, and it leads to protecting even an individual American like Mr. Foley or a greater attack on a country, I think the conversation should be had.
I think personally that torture does not work, that torture is vile. It is the worst act in which you can engage. However, we need to look at what we’re doing.
Interrogation is a process. It’s not like we show up waterboarding and he gave us nothing. It’s a long process of, you know, having them lose a sense of time, loud music, stress positions, and eventually, it all comes down to the good cop/bad cop thing. If we could turn down the music and let them sleep longer or sit down out of a stress position, eventually they’re going to talk. And that is how you build that sort of rapport that’s always talked about.
I don’t personally think it’s torture, and I think the conversation should be had how we can interrogate these people to save lives.
CNN anchor: And that’s the conversation that we’re having right now.
Thank you very much, sir, for the work for the country, and thank you for coming on NEW DAY.
The death penalty moratorium has been lifted. According to a report by the Justice Project Pakistan and Reprieve, nearly 88 percent of people tried on terrorism charges have nothing to do with what could sensibly be called terrorism.
They want to hang nearly 3000 people.