‘Double tap’

Glenn Greenwald – who’s moved from Salon.com to become the Guardian‘s columnist on civil liberties and US national security  – describes the vicious twist given to ‘rapid response‘ in US military and paramilitary operations in Iraq and Pakistan:

The US government has long maintained, reasonably enough, that a defining tactic of terrorism is to launch a follow-up attack aimed at those who go to the scene of the original attack to rescue the wounded and remove the dead. Morally, such methods have also been widely condemned by the west as a hallmark of savagery. Yet, as was demonstrated yet again this weekend in Pakistan, this has become one of the favorite tactics of the very same US government….

[A]ttacking rescuers (and arguably worse, bombing funerals of America’s drone victims) is now a tactic routinely used by the US in Pakistan. In February, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented that “the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals.”  Specifically: “at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims.” That initial TBIJ report detailed numerous civilians killed by such follow-up strikes on rescuers, and established precisely the terror effect which the US government has long warned are sown by such attacks: “Yusufzai, who reported on the attack, says those killed in the follow-up strike ‘were trying to pull out the bodies, to help clear the rubble, and take people to hospital.’ The impact of drone attacks on rescuers has been to scare people off, he says: ‘They’ve learnt that something will happen. No one wants to go close to these damaged building anymore.'”

And, as Greenwald notes, the tactic – which the Department of Homeland Security called “double tap” when it condemned Hamas for using it –  intimidates not only rescuers but also journalists…

More on the Bureau of Investigative Journalism‘s report from Democracy Now here.  At the time [February 2012] Chris Woods suggested that there were indications of a change in policy and practice:

‘…the attacks on rescuers and mourners that we note, they’ve all occurred under the Obama administration between 2009 and July 2011. I think that date is quite interesting, because that’s also when Leon Panetta stepped down as head of CIA. You have an interim CIA leader, and then David Petraeus comes in. We haven’t had any reports from Pakistan since July of last year of attacks on rescuers. So there’s an indication of a policy change, and there’s also an indication of a targeting change on the ground.’

But Greenwald notes a series of later reports showing that the dismal practice had resumed by the fall.