A US official in the UK has indicated that he is “working with local authorities” and “examining the intelligence” that led to a drone strike late last week that took the lives of 30 customers at a restaurant in central London. It appears that the intended target of the strike was a gathering of IS leaders, and that the group attacked – at an Italian restaurant celebrating the 70th birthday of one of the confirmed dead – was mistaken for the IS cell. In addition to the dead were over 40 wounded, many with life-threatening injuries. A number of children were among the 70 casualties.
While the US government has so far refused to confirm responsibility for the strike, a State Department spokesperson has said that, should in transpire that the US is responsible for the deaths, “collateral damage, while extremely rare, is a regrettable consequence of the ongoing efforts of the US to combat international terrorism,” and that, “citizens of London should be well aware by now that there are certain areas in the city that should be avoided.” The State Department spokesperson also noted that all strikes are conducted with the “utmost care,” and that it is not unusual for civilian death tolls to be “significantly exaggerated” by authorities in the UK.
Residents of the UK have been active on social media condemning the attack, noting that the international media show little or no interest in reporting on mass civilian casualties of US drone strikes in predominantly Christian nations. “Basically, the media might report that some people were killed in an attack and that’s it. No follow-up. No discussion of guilt. It’s like the lives of white Christian bankers in London count for less than nothing,” said UKJames on Twitter. Another Twitter user asked, “How can it be that the US is allowed to attack who and where they want in England, killing civilians, without any consequences? These were innocent people eating dinner. Where’s the outrage?”
Many of the posts on Facebook and Twitter also pointed out the how the “War on Terror” deaths of wealthier Christians in Europe are ignored by the media, while poorer Muslims, killed in places like Afghanistan and Yemen, get disproportionate coverage and attention from major news outlets.
Not all comments on social media, however, were sympathetic to the victims in London. “If these people in don’t want to get killed, why do they even live in England? Move somewhere else. Just not here!” tweeted EagleUSA1990. Others were quick to note that there was no evidence that those killed in the restaurant were not, in fact, members of IS, and that, “If you take your children out at night in a place like London it’s your fault of they get killed. What kind of people are these? They shouldn’t even have kids.”
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has expressed outrage over the deaths, saying that a full investigation into the attack must take place, including criminal charges of negligent homicide against those responsible – this, despite the fact that the US has indicated it will not recognize any legal decision made outside of a US court. Khan noted that this is the fourth US drone attack in the UK in recent months: attacks that have claimed over 1,000 innocent lives in the UK in the last decade. One of these included a strike in July of this year that hit a wedding on the outskirts of the city of Manchester killing 44 participants, including the bride and her entire family. As the wedding took place in an “area of interest” to the US government, however, an internal investigation resulted in a finding of “no culpability” on the part of the United States.
Despite the US government refusal to claim responsibility, families of the Manchester victims were nevertheless offered $500 compensation each by US authorities, “in memory of the dead, and as a sign of goodwill on the part of the United States of America.”
Christian Christensen, American in Sweden, is Professor of Journalism at Stockholm University. Follow him on Twitter: @ChrChristensen. Reprinted from his blog with permission.