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First Strikes: Bombing Civilians
Bill Moyers Journal, January 30, 2009
Bill Moyers sits down with historian Marilyn Young, author of the forthcoming "Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-century History" and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey, who developed military planes and helped found the military reform movement.
Watch the Discussion
Does it kill the person it's intended to kill? Not often. And when it does, it usually kills a bunch of other people around. And that, of course, raises the problem that the Predator and the missiles become a recruiting tool for the opposition and — beyond a shadow of a doubt — recruit more opposition than we get rid of by killing the one person at the table that we wanted to kill.
Read the Transcript, some cuts from:
BILL MOYERS: Marilyn, what did you think last weekend when four days into the Obama administration we read those reports of the strikes in Pakistan?
MARILYN YOUNG: My heart sank. It absolutely sank. It had been very high. I had been, like I think the rest of the country, feeling immensely encouraged and inspired by this new administration and by the energy and vigor with which he began. And then comes this piece of old stuff on approach to a complicated question that in comes in the form of a bomb and a bomb in the most dangerous of all places. And, yeah, my heart sank, literally.
BILL MOYERS: Our military, Pierre, says it's sure that it's striking militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan. And that they're not targeting civilians. Can they be sure? From your experience, can they be sure?
PIERRE SPREY: I'm sure that their purpose is to strike militants. I have no doubt of that whatsoever. But with the weapons they use and with the extremely flawed intelligence they have.
MARILYN YOUNG: Yes.
PIERRE SPREY: I'd be astonished if one in five people they kill or wound is in fact, a militant.
BILL MOYERS: What do you mean "flawed intelligence"?
PIERRE SPREY: You can't tell with a camera or an infrared sensor or something whether somebody's a Taliban. In the end, you're relying on either, you know, some form of intercepted communications, which doesn't point at a person. It just, you know, points at a radio or a cell phone or something like that. Or, most likely, you're relying on some Afghani of unknown veracity and unknown motivation and who may, may very well be trying to settle a blood feud rather than give you good information.
BILL MOYERS: I don't understand that because George W. Bush defined this as a war on terror. And I think Obama must be using the same invocation, you know?
PIERRE SPREY: Exactly.
BILL MOYERS: This is all part of the war on terror. He said it in his inaugural address.
PIERRE SPREY: Yes, he said that. I was appalled. You talk about our hearts sinking.
PIERRE SPREY: 9/11 was not an act of war.
BILL MOYERS: What was it?
PIERRE SPREY: It was a criminal act. It was a simple.
MARILYN YOUNG: Right.
PIERRE SPREY: Criminal act by a bunch of lunatic fanatic violent people who needed to be tracked down and apprehended and tried exactly as you would with any other lunatic violent person, like we do with our own domestic terrorists, like the guy who bombed the Oklahoma federal building.
BILL MOYERS: Federal building. Right.
PIERRE SPREY: You know? Exactly the same thing we did to him is what we should have launched on a huge basis, of course, on a huge international police basis and not called it.
MARILYN YOUNG: And there would have been totally international support.
PIERRE SPREY: It's not a war.
MARILYN YOUNG: Right.
PIERRE SPREY: We, by calling it a war, we have glorified al Qaeda. We have glorified the cause of violent radical Islam. All that tiny minority have become heroes. And we made them heroes. We made their propaganda. We made their case for them.