What We’re Not Talking About

This morning there’s endless speculation on the disappearance and alleged reappearance of Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. I say “alleged” because I’m not sure he has actually reappeared yet, but aides insist they will be able to conjure him up today. The most recent report I found says the governor took a quickie, unannounced vacation to Buenos Aires to “unwind.” His wife didn’t know where he was. I say the governor has some ‘splainin’ to do.

So far there’s much less chatter about civilians killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan. A drone fired missiles into a funeral of a Taliban militant, killing at least 45 Taliban militants, reports say, but also a number of civilians. The New York Times reports that the attack may have been conducted by the Pakistani Air Force, but “local news reports uniformly attributed it to a United States drone.” This will have been the 23rd drone attack carried out in Pakistan this year.

Pierre Tristam says that most of the casualties of the 23 drones have been civilians. Tristam’s commentary is very much worth reading. I don’t criticize using force to stop the Taliban; it has to be done, and it’s probably true that there’s no other way to do it.

But what does it say about us that we go into a several-day mourning frenzy over one young woman killed in Tehran, but shrug our shoulders over civilians killed in Pakistan? And do we really want the people of Pakistan to associate the U.S. with robot killing machines? Whatever happened to sending CARE packages?

Regarding the protests in Tehran, Juan Cole makes a good point

The kind of unlicensed, city-wide demonstrations being held in Tehran last week would not be allowed to be held in the United States. Senator John McCain led the charge against Obama for not having sufficiently intervened in Iran. At the Republican National Committee convention in St. Paul, 250 protesters were arrested shortly before John McCain took the podium. Most were innocent activists and even journalists. Amy Goodman and her staff were assaulted. In New York in 2004, ‘protest zones’ were assigned, and 1800 protesters were arrested, who have now been awarded civil damages by the courts. Spontaneous, city-wide demonstrations outside designated ‘protest zones’ would be illegal in New York City, apparently.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports,

Documents gathered by lawyers for the families of Sept. 11 victims provide new evidence of extensive financial support for Al Qaeda and other extremist groups by members of the Saudi royal family, but the material may never find its way into court because of legal and diplomatic obstacles.

Back in 2002 and 2003 when the Bushies were stampeding us into the Iraq war, one heard over and over again that Saddam Hussein had to be taken out because he “supported terrorism.” And I don’t doubt he did, although not al Qaeda, and his support was minuscule compared to that of the Saudis. But back then, whenever one brought this up, one was shouted down. We weren’t allowed to talk about it.

What else are we not talking about?

Update: Oh, what the hell — via Betsy Phillips at Nashville Scene, here’s a tribute to Mark Sanford. Enjoy.

13 thoughts on “What We’re Not Talking About

  1. Yesterday, just minutes after reading your previous post, in which you pointed out the differing reactions to Iran killing innocents and the U.S. doing likewise, I read about this latest drone attack. What followed in the media was– of course– silence. While I’m encouraged that the Pakistani military is finally taking its own risks against the Taliban, I’m “surprised” (well, not really) that Obama, Gates, and the Pentagon don’t understand the negative impact of our drones killing civilians. Obama was absolutely right not to mouth off idiotically about Iran, as John McCain did, but apparently the “collateral damage” you’ve mentioned is not a diplomatic problem at all. Go figure.

    As for Mark Sanford– again, “surprised” (well, not at all) that he disappeared for some exotic downtime, and anyone who might have known was lying about it. His downfall will be amusing, and richly deserved.

  2. “Sanford didn’t make the trip to Buenos Aires alone. ”

    The following observation may or may not apply to Mark Sanford. But for all the sniping at women about our hormonal rages, I have never heard of a woman who screwed up her life because of PMS or menopause. Midlife crisis men are far more likely to do something really stupid, throw away promising careers, and crash and burn generally.

  3. Sanford says he was cheating on his wife, wha, wha, wha, oh Christ forgive me, the usual bullshit etc. What is with these overtly Christian politicians, they always hide behind their religion, just admit you screwed up and move the fuck on, your religion means nothing to the people who elected you in this context. He never said why he was down there for 5 days, did it take 5 days to end the affair? Who gives a shit, just resign already. If he has any regard for his family he’ll take a queue from Spitzer and resign then fade away gracefully.

    I called my boss today and told him that I will be unavailable for the next 5 days with no cell phone and no email, and oh by the way I wont be using any of my vacation time? My boss thought that was unacceptable. And I’m just a electrical engineer. I quess if I was a governor I could get away with it.

  4. Juan Cole is spot on. Man who live in glass house should not throw stones no matter how afflicted by pathological narcissism he might be. Those conservatives who are unable to walk the walk should be called on it each and every time they talk the talk.

  5. Midlife crisis men are far more likely to do something really stupid, throw away promising careers, and crash and burn generally.

    Absolutely true. I came close to crash/burn myself, actually, until I finally recognized it for what it was and was able to put it in some perspective (still working on that, in fact). People snark (“Oh, look! Bob bought a penis car! Must be a midlife crisis! Ha!”) but it can seriously screw you up when you’re in the middle of it, believe me. And as we’ve noted here before, guys aren’t well trained in dealing with their “feelings” when these things hit them, so they can really go off the deep end and not realize what they’re doing.

  6. As a woman cursed with a long memory I continually find myself befuddled. The original story we were told around Osama binLaden was that his original gripe was with the Saudi royal family because, as keepers of Mecca and Medina they had violated those sacred places by allowing foreign (American) troops etc. residency on the ‘sacred’ soil of Saudi Arabia.

    And now it comes out they he was accepting financial aid from the same people he originally planned to unseat? Yet again, stories abound and the truth remains shrouded in reality.

  7. I really like your post, Maha. However, I fear terms like “Taliban militants” is a catch all, easy to lump various factions. A worse term yet is “suspected Taliban militants”. Mark my words, Obama’s push into Pakistan will spell disaster for the U.S. and worse than a disaster for the Pakistani military doing Obama’s bidding.
    Looking back on this entire fiasco, the key players are the House of Saud, the Pakistani ISI, and our own CIA.Together, they created a monster.

  8. I don’t think the current drone program is enough. Some people insist on straining at gnats in US foreign policy on their blogs, but those in charge of keeping our country safe are quietly making sure that, in the future, that if Americans must be put on the front lines at all, then their abilities will be greatly enhanced to meet the needs of the global war on terror.

    I refer you to:


    which gives a summary of many interesting projects currently being carried out by DARPA IPTO.

    Relevant excerpts include:

    Automation technology (including miniaturization of sensing, augmented computation and memory, and augmented software capability) will enable us to replace pilots, either fully autonomously or with pilot­-in-the-­loop, in many dangerous warfighting missions. The uninhabited air vehicle will have an artificial brain that can [replace] a skillful fighter pilot in the performance of its missions. Tasks such as take­off, navigation, situation awareness, target identification, and safe return landing will be done autonomously, with the possible exception of circumstances requiring strategic or firing decisions. Without the human g­-force constraint and the weight of human physical support equipment (oxygen, ejection system, armor, etc.), the planes will be more maneuverable. Tanks, submarines, and other combat vehicles will experience similar benefits.


    The mission of the Augmented Cognition program is develop and demonstrate quantifiable enhancements to human cognitive ability in diverse, stressful, operational environments. Specifically, this program will measure its success by its ability to enable a single individual to successfully accomplish the functions currently carried out by three or more individuals. The program will explore the interaction of cognitive, perceptual, neurological, and digital domains to develop improved performance application concepts. Success will improve the way 21st century warriors interact with computer-­based systems, advance systems design methodologies, and fundamentally reengineer military decision making.

    No one will stand a chance against us.

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