Unrestrained savagery

In Yemen, Al Qaeda bombs a funeral of someone it killed days earlier. How can Terrorist monsters do this?

Published August 7, 2012 10:15AM (EDT)

(updated below)

Every American national security official will tell you that the most dangerous and savage Al Qaeda branch is the one in Yemen, and that group certainly supplied evidence for this claim with this heinous act over the weekend:

The death toll from a suicide bombing in southern Yemen rose to 45 on Sunday, officials said, in the latest attack against militias allied with the army.

The bomber, suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda, struck late Saturday during a funeral service attended by members of civilian militias that helped the Yemeni Army in a campaign to recapture the town of Jaar from Qaeda militants in June. . . . Yemen's state news service, Saba, said [] most of the victims were members of the civilian militias allied with the army.

AP noted that this underscores why "the United States considers the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda to be the most dangerous in the terrorist network," while Reuters said that the funeral attack "highlighted the enduring threat of Islamist militancy in Yemen and may alarm the United States and Saudi Arabia." The provincial Yemeni governor denounced the funeral bombing as "a cowardly, criminal, terrorist attack."

Indeed, it's difficult even to fathom the depth of the cold-blooded savagery -- the total disregard for all minimal concepts of humanity -- needed for Terrorist monsters to bomb funerals. Al Qaeda has used this same tactic in Iraq; in September of last year, "a car bomb exploded near the Prophet Ayoub Mosque, where a funeral service was being held, killing 25 and injuring 37 others," and "provincial officials accused al-Qaeda of carrying out the attack. 'Al-Qaeda carried out one of the ugliest terrorist attacks in the province, killing civilians and children without any reason,' said Maj. Gen. Fadhil Raddad." The Assad regime this year has also has employed this Terror tactic against Syrian rebels:

At least 85 people were killed when a car bomb exploded during a funeral procession Saturday evening in the Syrian town of Zamalka, activists and human rights groups said.

People had gathered to honor a resident of the town near Damascus who had been killed earlier in the day, said Abu Omar, an activist in Zamalka who attended the funeral. The resident, Abdul Hadi Halabi, had been killed by gunfire when government forces briefly entered the town from their checkpoints . . . . The antigovernment Local Coordination Committees put the number of dead at 85. . . .Though protests and funeral processions have been attacked with gunfire and shelling, activists said it was the first time they could recall a bomb targeting such a gathering.

When the Obama DOJ last year announced its indictment on Terror charges of the domestic Hutaree militia (an indictment that was ultimately dismissed), this was one of the plots they highlighted to convey just how evil and menacing this group is:

"Captain Hutaree," his wife and two sons planned with other militia members to kill a law enforcement official to draw the officer's colleagues to the funeral, authorities say. Then, according to an indictment unsealed Monday, the militia planned to attack the funeral procession to kick off its war against the U.S. government.

Really: what kind of Terrorist monsters are willing to bomb funerals of their victims in order to advance their aims?

The CIA's drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of  civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals, an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times has revealed.

The findings are published just days after President Obama claimed that the drone campaign in Pakistan was a "targeted, focused effort" that "has not caused a huge number of civilian casualties". . . .

A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.

With almost no public notice taken, The New York Times, on June 23, 2009, described one illustrative incident in Pakistan:

An airstrike believed to have been carried out by a United States drone killed at least 60 people at a funeral for a Taliban fighter in South Waziristan on Tuesday, residents of the area and local news reports said.

Details of the attack, which occurred in Makeen, remained unclear, but the reported death toll was exceptionally high.

The "exceptionally high" death toll for those funeral attendees included "as many as 45 were civilians, among them reportedly ten children and four tribal leaders." This year, on a three-day weekend in late June, the U.S. launched a series of drone attacks in Pakistan -- one on each day -- and the second strike targeted mourners gathered to grieve those killed in the first strike ("At the time of the attack, suspected militants had gathered to offer condolences to the brother of a militant commander killed during another US unmanned drone attack on Saturday").

Whatever one thinks of all this, I hope that nobody will even think about comparing, let alone equating, these acts. Such a comparison would be disgusting. As Rudy Giuliani taught us when asked during his 2008 presidential bid whether waterboarding was torture: "It depends on the circumstances. It depends on who does it."

Regardless of where one falls on the ideological spectrum, we must all join together to condemn the sin of moral relativism: therefore, the same act that is the hallmark of repulsive savagery when done by Al Qaeda, Assad, and the Hutaree militia is transformed into a moral and noble act when done by the Government of the United States of America. As U.S. political discourse has long taught, the crime of "moral relativism" is committed by holding everyone to the same standards -- that's "moral relativism." One can avoid that pitfall only by exempting oneself and one's own country from the moral dictates one imposes on everyone else.

* * * * *

On a different note: the author and former CIA officer Barry Eisler wrote an amazingly interesting and insightful analysis in reaction to my interview last week with Chris Hayes. I don't agree with all of the points he makes (at least not entirely as he applies them to Hayes), but it's a very provocative and smart assessment of the process of cooption and is well worth reading.


UPDATE: Evidently undeterred by last year's Supreme Court ruling that the First Amendment guarantees the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at funerals, President Obama yesterday signed a new law "enacting new restrictions on protests of service member funerals," hailing his own act as the fulfillment of a "moral sacred duty." Apparently, holding a protest outside of a funeral is a moral atrocity, but bombing a funeral and killing the mourners in attendance is a noble act in defending freedom.

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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