Norway killings And Our Selective Outrage
What happened in Oslo Friday is a tragedy but it is no different than what is happening in the world on a daily basis. What is different is it happened to blond-haired-blue-eyed kids. What I find outrageous is that all of a sudden we are shocked in our comfortable Western countries. There are some deaths that are worth more than others in our selective outrage. Let me explain briefly.
Every time US drones mistake a wedding or a funeral or some other party for an ‘Islamic militant gathering’, the missile fired causes carnage on the scale of Oslo. This has been going on for ten years and the number of drone strikes has doubled since Obama came into office. For example, of the 258 air strikes in Pakistan, 248 have taken place since 2008 (The Long War Journal). Drones have killed tens of thousands in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. That the US should be bombing in these countries at all is an outrage.
Drones: Should we not be outraged when American kids playing a deadly video game with joy-sticks, sometimes thousands of miles away from their target, kill people who did nothing to them, or us for that matter? And is this not one of the most cowardly acts you can think of? What if a Pakistani drone killed hundreds of people mistakenly taken for ‘Christian Fundamentalists’ in Cincinnati?
How many military videos does wekileaks have to release before we see that our soldiers are having fun killing unarmed people from a cowardly safe distance? If you have not seen one go here:
Shooting the wounded, torture, secret prisons in Bagram, Mogadishu ,Guantanamo, extra-judicial executions … where’s the outrage?
In the first six months of this year alone, Israel has shot hundreds of unarmed protesters, killing scores. For example, on June 6, Tsahal shot dead 23 unarmed people and wounded 350 more in the Golan. The Jewish state was mildly chastised for shooting before they even tried tear gas.
When western supported Bahraini and Saudi troops shoot unarmed protesters seeking better lives, there is hardly a whimper. When US trained and equipped special-forces in Yemen shot down hundreds of protesters, Washington said nothing for three months. Then the US called on the thug President Saleh to step down and hand power over to another pro-American kleptocrat while the US continued to pound the country with Hellfire missiles from drones. The ‘collateral damage’ (i.e. dead civilians) from these attacks is pushing people “who never hurt US interests” into the arms of more radical groups (interview with Abdul Jabbar, The National).
The British medical review The Lancet along with John Hopkins University published a second Iraqi survey on October 11, 2006 which estimated there were 654, 965 excess deaths related to the war (2.5% of the population). Civilians died in droves during the US invasion and subsequent street battles with Iraqi Insurgent/Resistance fighters.
How many martyred cities like Falluja, 90% destroyed, are there in Iraq and Afghanistan? We can only mimic US Army Major Phil Cannella in Vietnam who explained to Peter Arnett “we had to destroy the village to save it,” after Ben Tre was wiped off the map on February 7, 1968.
And what do we say of the 200 000 Blackwater type mercenaries in Iraq and Afghanistan; those we euphemistically call “civilian contractors”? Each and every one of them is an Anders Behring Breivik, murdering with impunity in our name. Even the idea of privatizing and subcontracting war should spark outrage.
It is estimated that the embargo on Iraq from 1990 led to the deaths of over five hundred thousand children under the age of five (UNICEF). In an interview on May 12, 1996, then US Ambassador to the UN, Madeleine Albright was asked on 60 Minutes if the embargo was worth the price in lives. Her response was “We think the price is worth it.”
And yes, the instability caused by the US (and Israel) has led to Muslims killing other Muslims on the Oslo scale daily.
Our use of selective outrage is not new.
How many people died under US bombs in the first Gulf War like the one that killed over four hundred civilians in Baghdad’s Amiriyah bomb shelter on February 13, 1991? What could be more cowardly than the US air attack on fleeing Iraqi troops on Iraq’s Highway 8 (the Highway of Death) on February 26 – 27, 1991. A US pilot said “It was a turkey shoot. Like shooting ducks in a barrel.” The war was over. The Iraqis had abandoned Kuwait. The attack was cowardly mass murder.
This year France went to war against, I believe, the legitimate government of Ivory Coast to put a puppet in power whose Coup d’Etat had failed in 2002. The French backed and armed rebels killed thousands as they marched on the capital, Abidjan. Since the take over, there have been many more killings. But the western press and governments are not nearly as interested as they were when people got killed in attacks on the forces of a government they did not like. Almost total silence. Very often ‘theirs’ and ‘ours’ determines the worthy dead from the unworthy to quote Chomsky and Hermann.
In Libya, the rebels supported by NATO systematically executed the Black African prisoners they took, accusing them of being mercenaries. Most were merely migrant workers. Where is the outrage? It is known that NATO bombs are killing civilians in Libya and all of this, I believe, because Qaddafi threatened to nationalize the country’s oil and create an African Central Bank which would make the IMF and World Bank useless and, more importantly, powerless. There was nothing spontaneous about the Benghazi revolt as far as I am concerned. The flags had been industrially made and were in the streets the first day. The posters and banners, in several languages, were professionally printed in a country without private printers and were out the first day. The ‘rebels’ were armed and ready on the very first day. How is it reporters have not picked up on this. Where is the outrage?
The reality is some deaths are worth more than others. Every now and then a Twin Towers(9/11/01), London underground bombing (7/7/07), Madrid metro bombing (11/3/05) or Oslo killing spree comes along and because more worthier people are killed, we get outraged.
By George Kazolias
George Kazolias is an American Journalist based in Paris and a Professor of Global Communications at the American University in Paris. He runs the blog kazodaily.