In an astonishing revelation made by a spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council, the standard set last year by President Obama barring U.S. drone strikes unless there is a “near certainty” there will be no civilian casualties will not apply to the U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, reports Michael Isikoff for Yahoo News.
Last year the president announced the “near certainty” policy, which he said was “the highest standard we can meet.”
The U.S. administration was asked about its application of the “near certainty” policy following a much-publicized and criticized Sept. 23 U.S. Tomahawk missile which hit and destroyed a home for displaced civilians, resulting in at least a dozen casualty deaths, including women and children. That strike destroyed buildings in the Syrian village of Kafr Daryan.
Caitlin Hayden, an NSA spokesperson, explained that the “near certainty” standard was only intended to apply “when we take direct action ‘outside areas of active hostilities.'” Hayden wrote this explanation in an email responding to a Yahoo News query.
“That description – outside areas of active hostilities – simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now,” she wrote.
Hmmm. Kind of like the active hostilities the Israel Defense Force encountered in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. And the active hostilities the IDF encountered during Operation Pillar of Defense. And the active hostilities the IDF encountered during Operation Cast Lead. And so on.
In response to further questions along similar lines, the NSA spokesperson explained that the U.S. military operations against ISIS in Syria, “like all U.S. military operations, are being conducted consistently with the laws of armed conflict, proportionality and distinction.”
All right then. It will be fascinating to hear how the U.S. State Department spokesperson handles tomorrow’s press briefing. At nearly every press briefing this summer during the course of Operation Protective Edge the press corps dutifully pressed the spokesperson to state whether Israel was doing all it could to avoid civilian casualties.
The state department spokesperson always said – day after day – that the U.S. insisted Israel had to do more than it was doing because civilians were still being harmed, as if that was proof Israel was not doing enough.
The Israeli government’s claims that the IDF operations are “conducted in accordance with the laws of armed conflict, proportionality and distinction” were consistently rejected out of hand.