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U.S.-Led Airstrikes in Syria Killed Hundreds of Civilians, U.N. Panel Says June 16, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Chemical Biological Weapons, Imperialism, ISIS/ISIL, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Syria, Uncategorized.
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Roger’s note: It was Flag Day yesterday, and the entire patriotic nation was paralyzed with shock over the non-lethal shooting of a handful of Republican wannabe baseball stars.  In other news, buried in the back pages if noted at all, a report suggests that the U.S. led coalition ion in Syria may have killed up to 3,100 civilians and created 160,000 refugees with its airstrikes.  Of course, it is logical to expect a certain priority for local news.  But wait.  Is the latter not local?  Are the warplanes and bombs not Made in the USA?  Are the pilots not American?  Are they not financed with American taxes?

All lives matter.  That’s what the fake Christian bigots were saying in response to Black Lives Matter?  But of course they don’t really mean it.  When I was a Christian I believed that all lives matter (equally).  I am no longer a Christian.  Yet I still believe it.  Go figure.

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GENEVA — Airstrikes by the American-led coalition against Islamic State targets have killed hundreds of civilians around Raqqa, the militant group’s last Syrian stronghold, and left 160,000 people displaced, a United Nations panel said on Wednesday.

The findings of the panel, which has been documenting the war in Syria with periodic reports almost since the conflict began more than six years ago, reinforced fears by humanitarian groups over the heavy loss of civilian life that would result from the American-led coalition’s airstrikes.

Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, the Brazilian diplomat who leads the panel, said the airstrikes had escalated as an American-backed militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces moved recently to retake Raqqa, which Islamic State fighters seized in 2014 and made their de facto capital.

“We note in particular that the intensification of airstrikes, which have paved the ground for an S.D.F. advance in Raqqa, has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes,” Mr. Pinheiro said in a report, presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

It was the first time Mr. Pinheiro’s panel had focused on American military conduct that has led to heavy civilian casualties and other suffering.

The panel’s investigators found that 300 civilians had been killed in the airstrikes since March 21, panel member Karen Abuzayd told reporters in Geneva later. They included 200 civilians killed in a single incident in March when an airstrike hit a school in the town of Mansoura, she said.

The attack on Mansoura, shortly after midnight on March 21, hit a school building housing families that had fled the fighting around Palmyra and other towns, investigators said. Initial reports said up to 40 people had died in the bombing, but rescue workers and other witnesses interviewed by the panel said that as operations to clear the rubble progressed the death toll had climbed to around 200. The United States military has said it is aware of the reports of higher casualty figures in Mansoura and is investigating.

The Mansoura attack came on a day that the American-led coalition conducted 19 airstrikes on targets in the vicinity of Raqqa and a week after 49 people reportedly died when coalition aircraft struck the village of Al Jinah in western Aleppo Province. In that strike, residents said coalition aircraft had hit a mosque but American officials said they had hit a meeting of Al Qaeda operatives, producing satellite images which showed the mosque was still standing.

The recapture of Raqqa would be a significant step in the drive to eliminate the Islamic State’s hold on Syrian territory, and in the wider battle between President Bashar al-Assad’s government, backed by Russia and Iran, and rebel forces supported by the United States and Arab regional powers to decide the future of Syria.

Mr. Pinheiro’s panel, officially known as the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, has been chronicling evidence of war crimes and other atrocities in exhaustive detail.

Success in purging Raqqa of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, would free thousands of civilians from the group’s rule, Mr. Pinheiro said, including women from Iraq’s Yazidi minority who have been held as sex slaves for almost three years. But “the imperative to fight terrorism must not, however, be undertaken at the expense of civilians who unwillingly find themselves living in areas where ISIL is present,” Mr. Pinheiro said.

Its report echoed deepening fears among humanitarian agencies over the toll in civilian lives exacted by American and coalition forces in the campaign to eliminate the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria.

Airwars, a nonprofit group monitoring reports of civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, has estimated that at least 3,100 civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes since the onset of the war against Islamic State in August 2014 up to March 2017, more than eight times the 352 civilian casualties acknowledged by the United States military.

The number of civilians killed in coalition attacks has raised questions among human rights organizations over whether the greater autonomy the Trump administration has allowed military commanders on the battlefield has diverted attention from protection of civilians. Those concerns were further underscored by reports last week that coalition forces attacking Islamic State positions around Raqqa had used munitions containing white phosphorus, a weapon banned in populated areas under international law. United States officials said last week that the weapons were not being used against people.

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“Mother of All Bombs” Never Used Before Due to Civilian Casualty Concerns April 13, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Arms, Iraq and Afghanistan, ISIS/ISIL, Trump, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 1945; Nangarhar, 2017.  Another first for the United States of America.  We can be proud of this peace loving nation whose elected president has promised to  “bomb the shit” out of its enemy by using a weapon that is designed, according to the Pentagon, “to terrify America’s enemy into submission…”  Notice that, by the use of the word “terrify,” the US government is in effect acknowledging that it is a major terrorist, something some of us have been saying for a long time.  Also, notice the use of the euphemism, “collateral damage,” when the real meaning is the terrifying destruction of innocent human beings.  The truth is indeed the first and ongoing casualty of war.

 The MOAB, a precision-guided munition weighing 21,500 pounds, is prepared for testing at the Eglin Air Force Armament Center.

 

April 13 2017, 5:07 p.m., The Intercept

 

FULFILLING DONALD TRUMP’S campaign promise to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS, the Pentagon dropped the “mother of all bombs” — one of its largest non-nuclear munitions — for the first time on Thursday, in Afghanistan. The 21,600 pound weapon was developed over a decade ago, but was never used due to concerns of possible massive civilian casualties.

The Pentagon said it used the weapon on an ISIS-affiliated group hiding in a tunnel complex in the Nangarhar province. The group, according to the Pentagon, is made up of former members of the Taliban.

The Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” has a mile-long blast radius.

When it first introduced the bomb, the Pentagon said it was designed to terrify America’s enemy into submission. “The goal is to have the capabilities of the coalition so clear and so obvious,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2003, “that there is an enormous disincentive for the Iraqi military to fight against the [invading] coalition.”

Thursday’s attack drew condemnation from Hamid Karzai, the U.S.-backed former president of Afghanistan. “This is not the war on terror,” he said, “but the inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country as testing ground for new and dangerous weapons.”

Marc Garlasco, a former senior targeting official in the Bush-era Pentagon, told The Intercept on Thursday that the weapon was never put to use “due to collateral damage concerns.”

US never dropped the MOAB in Iraq due to collateral damage concerns. I was on the targeting team that considered it @barbarastarrcnn https://twitter.com/vicenews/status/852575670379188226 

Garlasco was the Pentagon’s chief of high-value targeting, and ran the intelligence cell whose goal was to “find, target, and kill Saddam Hussein.”

Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst for the Human Rights Watch organization gestures as he speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, on June 30, 2009.

Photo: Sebastian Scheiner/AP

The Pentagon considered using the MOAB in Iraq in 2003, he said.

“We were going after a target, I would say, in a similar manner,” said Garlasco. “But the concern there was that once the weapon was put forward as an option, we reviewed it, did a collateral damage estimate, and well let’s just say the collateral damage was impressive. It was decided that the civilian harm greatly outweighed the military gain.”

Garlasco said the strike would have been in a “high-collateral region.” And he said that to his knowledge that was the only time the use of the MOAB was ever suggested.

“It’s got a huge blast radius. I mean, it’s beyond huge,” Garlasco said. “I’m sure the collateral damage estimate is going to be fairly extensive. And you’re not talking about just blast, and people within that blast, you have to consider secondary and tertiary effects of use of the weapon. So looking at things like: How does that affect the water supply to people? Is it going to destroy power within the area?”

Thursday’s bomb drop came a week after the death of Army Special Forces Sgt. Mark De Alencar, the first combat death in Afghanistan in 2017. Alencar was assisting Afghan forces in an operation against a local ISIS group when he was hit with small-arms fire, the Pentagon said.

While the MOAB strike has attracted far more media attention, the U.S. and Afghan government forces have killed increasing numbers of people lately. According to a U.N. report in February, airstrikes from the Afghan government forces and the U.S.-led coalition killed nearly 600 civilians — almost double the number in 2015 — and have been repeatedly accused of bombing residential areas.

Alex Emmonsalex.emmons@​theintercept.com@AlexanderEmmons

Veterans For Peace condemns the illegal U.S. attack in Syria April 8, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Syria, Trump, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: Charlie Brown fell for the trick every time.  He never learned.

Lucy Football Trick

The American political and pundit class will Charlie Brown-like fall for it every time.  When a president’s popularity approaches rock bottom, launch a military attack.  It’s as predictable as night following day.  Yet most fall for it every time.

But this is no funny cartoon trick.  This is an act of war that will likely escalate into unpredictable levels of new killing.  The New York Times fell for it.  The Canadian Prime Minister fell for it.  The majority of Democrats and Republicans in Congress fell for it.  Falling all over themselves to congratulate Sociopath Trump.

As if Psychopath Trump really cares about Syrian children being killed.  As if acts of escalation can be controlled.  As if cruise missiles will not result in more refugees. As if there can be anything legitimate about the Trump Disaster Presidency.

Here is a sane analysis from those who know better.

 

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Trump’s War on Terror Has Quickly Become as Barbaric and Savage as He Promised (or, “your tax dollars at work”) March 27, 2017

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Syria, Trump, Uncategorized, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: would that the terms “barbaric” and “savage” in the title were hyperbole.  Unfortunately they are not.  Civilian casualties mean very little to the American political class or the mainstream media, unless, of course, those civilians are American, or to a slightly lesser extent, European.  Make no mistake, Trump is a killer (of course, so was Obama, the Bushes, Clinton, etc.), and maybe the only difference is that he boasts about it rather than apologizing for it. On the domestic front his health care policy would have resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans, but this was not acknowledged; and, besides, these for the most part would be working class (who, ironically, voted for Trump) and minorities, neither of which really matter to Trump and his ilk.

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March 26 2017, 10:00 a.m.

FROM THE START of his presidency, Donald Trump’s “war on terror” has entailed the seemingly indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people in the name of killing terrorists. In other words, Trump has escalated the 16-year-old core premise of America’s foreign policy — that it has the right to bomb any country in the world where people it regards as terrorists are found — and in doing so, has fulfilled the warped campaign pledges he repeatedly expressed.

The most recent atrocity was the killing of as many as 200 Iraqi civilians from U.S. airstrikes this week in Mosul. That was preceded a few days earlier by the killing of dozens of Syrian civilians in Raqqa province when the U.S. targeted a school where people had taken refuge, which itself was preceded a week earlier by the U.S. destruction of a mosque near Aleppo that also killed dozens. And one of Trump’s first military actions was what can only be described as a massacre carried out by Navy SEALs, in which 30 Yemenis were killed; among the children killed was an 8-year-old American girl (whose 16-year-old American brother was killed by a drone under Obama).

In sum: Although precise numbers are difficult to obtain, there seems little question that the number of civilians being killed by the U.S. in Iraq and Syria — already quite high under Obama — has increased precipitously during the first two months of the Trump administration. Data compiled by the site Airwars tells the story: The number of civilians killed in Syria and Iraq began increasing in October under Obama but has now skyrocketed in March under Trump.

What’s particularly notable is that the number of airstrikes actually decreased in March (with a week left), even as civilian deaths rose — strongly suggesting that the U.S. military has become even more reckless about civilian deaths under Trump than it was under Obama:

This escalation of bombing and civilian deaths, combined with the deployment by Trump of 500 ground troops into Syria beyond the troops Obama already deployed there, has received remarkably little media attention. This is in part due to the standard indifference in U.S. discourse to U.S. killing of civilians compared to the language used when its enemies kill people (compare the very muted and euphemistic tones used to report on Trump’s escalations in Iraq and Syria to the frequent invocation of genocide and war crimes to denounce Russian killing of Syrian civilians). And part of this lack of media attention is due to the Democrats’ ongoing hunt for Russian infiltration of Washington, which leaves little room for other matters.

But what is becoming clear is that Trump is attempting to liberate the U.S. military from the minimal constraints it observed in order to avoid massive civilian casualties. And this should surprise nobody: Trump explicitly and repeatedly vowed to do exactly this during the campaign.

He constantly criticized Obama — who bombed seven predominantly Muslim countries — for being “weak” in battling ISIS and al Qaeda. Trump regularly boasted that he would free the U.S. military from rules of engagement that he regarded as unduly hobbling them. He vowed to bring back torture and even to murder the family members of suspected terrorists — prompting patriotic commentators to naïvely insist that the U.S. military would refuse to follow his orders. Trump’s war frenzy reached its rhetorical peak of derangement in December 2015, when he roared at a campaign rally that he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and then let its oil fields be taken by Exxon, whose CEO is now his secretary of state.

Trump can be criticized for many things, but lack of clarity about his intended war on terror approach is not one of them. All along, Trump’s “solution” to terrorism was as clear as it was simple; as I described it in September 2016:

Trump’s anti-terror platform is explicitly 1) more bombing; 2) Israel-style police profiling; 3) say “radical Islam” http://www.haaretz.com/world-news/u-s-election-2016/1.742951 

Photo published for Trump says U.S. police need to racially profile 'like they do in Israel'

Trump says U.S. police need to racially profile ‘like they do in Israel’

‘Israel has done an unbelievable job,’ Republican candidate tells ‘Fox and Friends’ amid manhunt for N.Y. bombing suspect Ahamd Rahami.

haaretz.com

 

THE CLARITY OF Trump’s intentions regarding the war on terror was often obfuscated by anti-Trump pundits due to a combination of confusion about and distortions of foreign policy doctrine. Trump explicitly ran as a “non-interventionist” — denouncing, for instance, U.S. regime change wars in Iraq, Libya, and Syria (even though he at some points expressed support for the first two). Many commentators confused “non-interventionism” with “pacifism,” leading many of them — to this very day — to ignorantly claim that Trump’s escalated war on terror bombing is in conflict with his advocacy of non-interventionism. It is not.

To the extent that Trump is guided by any sort of coherent ideological framework, he is rooted in the traditions of Charles Lindbergh (whose “America First” motto he took) and the free trade-hating, anti-immigration, über-nationalist Pat Buchanan. Both Lindbergh and Buchanan were non-interventionists: Lindbergh was one of the earliest and loudest opponents of U.S. involvement in World War II, while Buchanan was scathing throughout all of 2002 about the neocon plan to invade Iraq.

Despite being vehement non-interventionists, neither Lindbergh nor Buchanan were pacifists. Quite the contrary: Both believed that when the U.S. was genuinely threatened with attack or attacked, it should use full and unrestrained force against its enemies. What they opposed was not military force in general but rather interventions geared toward a goal other than self-defense, such as changing other countries’ governments, protecting foreigners from tyranny or violence, or “humanitarian” wars.

What the Lindbergh/Buchanan non-interventionism opposes is not war per se, but a specific type of war: namely, those fought for reasons other than self-defense or direct U.S. interests (as was true of regime change efforts in Iraq, Libya, and Syria). Lindbergh opposed U.S. involvement in World War II on the ground that it was designed to help only the British and the Jews, while Buchanan, on the eve of the Iraq invasion, attacked neocons who “seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests” and who “have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity.”

The anti-Semitism and white nationalistic tradition of Lindbergh, the ideological precursor to Buchanan and then Trump, does not oppose war. It opposes military interventions in the affairs of other countries for reasons other than self-defense — i.e., the risking of American lives and resources for the benefits of “others.”

Each time Trump drops another bomb, various pundits and other assorted Trump opponents smugly posit that his doing so is inconsistent with his touted non-interventionism. This is just ignorance of what these terms mean. By escalating violence against civilians, Trump is, in fact, doing exactly what he promised to do, and exactly what those who described his foreign policy as non-interventionist predicted he would do: namely, limitlessly unleash the U.S. military when the claimed objective was the destruction of “terrorists,” while refusing to use the military for other ends such as regime change or humanitarianism. If one were to reduce this mentality to a motto, it could be: Fight fewer wars and for narrower reasons, but be more barbaric and criminal in prosecuting the ones that are fought.

Trump’s campaign pledges regarding Syria, and now his actions there, illustrate this point very clearly. Trump never advocated a cessation of military force in Syria. As the above video demonstrates, he advocated the opposite: an escalation of military force in Syria and Iraq in the name of fighting ISIS and al Qaeda. Indeed, Trump’s desire to cooperate with Russia in Syria was based on a desire to maximize the potency of bombing there (just as was true of Obama’s attempt to forge a bombing partnership with Putin in Syria).

What Trump opposed was the CIA’s yearslong policy of spending billions of dollars to arm anti-Assad rebels (a policy Hillary Clinton and her key advisers wanted to escalate), on the ground that the U.S. has no interest in removing Assad. That is the fundamental difference between non-interventionism and pacifism that many pundits are either unaware of or are deliberately conflating in order to prove their own vindication about Trump’s foreign policy. Nothing Trump has thus far done is remotely inconsistent with the non-interventionism he embraced during the campaign, unless one confuses “non-interventionism” with “opposition to the use of military force.”

Trump’s reckless killing of civilians in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen is many things: barbaric, amoral, and criminal. It is also, ironically, likely to strengthen support for the very groups — ISIS and al Qaeda — that he claims he wants to defeat, given that nothing drives support for those groups like U.S. slaughter of civilians (perhaps the only competitor in helping these groups is another Trump specialty: driving a wedge between Muslims and the West).

But what Trump’s actions are not is a departure from what he said he would do, nor are they inconsistent with the predictions of those who described his foreign policy approach as non-interventionist. To the contrary, the dark savagery guiding U.S. military conduct in that region is precisely what Trump expressly promised his supporters he would usher in.

CIA’s torture experts now use their skills in secret drones program June 8, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Torture, War.
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Roger’s note: I am reminded of the Richard Farina title: “I’ve been down so long, it looks like up to me.”  In our upsidedown world it has become normal to promote (and elect!) war criminals and punish those who speak and work for peace.

ab33230a-ad94-4ffb-a1d5-382226d1dc1e-620x372US drones are so secret that the White House barely mentions them by name. Photograph: MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images

There are many similarities between CIA’s use of drones and torture: Secrecy, lack of oversight and yes, even some of the people overseeing the programs

The controversy over the CIA’s secret drone program has gone from bad to worse this week. We now know that many of those running it are the same people who headed the CIA’s torture program, the spy agency can bomb people unilaterally without the president’s explicit approval and that the government is keeping the entire program classified explicitly to prevent a federal court from ruling it illegal. And worst of all, Congress is perfectly fine with it.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that many of those in charge of the CIA’s torture program – the same people whose names were explicitly redacted from the Senate’s torture report in order to avert accountability – “have ascended to the agency’s powerful senior ranks” and now run the CIA drone program under the agency’s Counterterrorism Center. Rather than being fired and prosecuted, they have been rewarded with promotions.

The longtime Counterrorism Center chief who just stepped down, Michael D’Andrea, was previously in charge of the notorious CIA prison known as the Salt Pit, where prisoners were regularly tortured and some died. His replacement, Chris Wood, was also “central to the interrogation program”, according to the Times.

The only reason we know D’Andrea and Wood’s names is because the New York Times’ executive editor Dean Baquet commendably decided to publish them – unlike the many newspapers who refused to for virtually no other reason except for the fact that the CIA asked them not to. As Baquet put it to the Huffington Post: “It would have been weird to not name the guys who run it. They’re not undercover. They’re not unknown. They’re sort of widely known.”

Adding to the disturbing nature of the CIA’s ability to kill people in complete secrecy, the agency apparently now has a carte blanche to conduct drone strikes on its own. According to the New York Times, President Obama doesn’t individually approve them anymore – he lets the CIA unilaterally decide to kill people if the strikes “fit certain criteria.” We have no idea what those conditions are since virtually everything about drone strikes at the CIA is secret.

Prior to last week’s controversial drone strike, the public at least had the general outlines of what the supposed rules constraining drone strikes were. After the last major drone controversy in 2013, the president announced the government would need to know with “near certainty” that civilians would not get killed. Obama called it: “the highest standard we can set” in a highly publicized 2013 speech.

Yet, up until the Wall Street Journal reported it on Sunday, the public did not know that Obama secretly gave the CIA a “waiver” from those rules for drone strikes in Pakistan, the place where the vast majority of the CIA’s strikes over the last decade have occurred. The publicly-touted policy was made meaningless by a classified order the public had no idea about. (Sound familiar?)

The most absurd part of this whole debate is that the White House actually refused to admit that the two hostages killed in Pakistan died in a US drone strike. Despite an almost universal acknowledgement by media reports – and a multitude of leaks by anonymous US officials – that the hostages were killed by a CIA drone, the administration has attempted to argue that it was a “counterterrorism operation” that resulted in the hostages’ deaths. This led to an awkward exchange between the press and the White House press secretary Josh Earnest, in which it was clear to everyone in the room what had happened, but the White House could not utter the word “drone.”

The reason for this denial apparently has nothing to do with legitimate secrets; the administration just wants to avoid a court ruling their program illegal. The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday: “the Attorney General’s office warned Mr. Obama that publicly disclosing the CIA’s role in this case would undermine the administration’s standing in a series of pending lawsuits challenging its legality”.

Think about that for a second: The Obama administration has promised more transparency around drone strikes, yet at the same time, won’t even acknowledge that the controversial drone strike it’s apologizing for even happened – just because such admission might force courts to hold the government accountable for its actions.

The dismal state of affairs around drone strike transparency was perfectly summed up in an exchange in early 2013, when the Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman, then writing for Wired, asked Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Dianne Feinstein why, if the CIA repeatedly and brazenly lied to Congress about torture, she trusted the spy agency to tell the truth about drone strikes. Senator Feinstein’s response still encapsulates the current debate: “That’s a good question, actually. That’s a good question.”

More than two years later, we still don’t have an answer.

‘Indiscriminate’ Killing in Gaza Was Top-Down War Plan, say Israeli Veterans May 4, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Uncategorized, War.
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Roger’s note: This speaks for itself.

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Over 60 officers and soldiers who took part in ‘Operation Protective Edge’ anonymously testify about acts they committed or witnessed

IDF soldiers deployed during “Operation Protective Edge.” (Photo: IDF/flickr/public domain)

The “massive and unprecedented harm” inflicted on the population of Gaza during last summer’s 50-day Israeli military assault stemmed from the top of the chain of command, which gave orders to shoot indiscriminately at civilians, according to the anonymous testimony of more than 60 officers and soldiers who took part in “Operation Protective Edge.”

The Israeli group Breaking the Silence, an organization of “Israeli Defense Force” veterans who engaged in combat, on Monday released the 240-page collection of testimony entitled, This is How We Fought in Gaza.

“While the testimonies include pointed descriptions of inappropriate behavior by soldiers in the field,” the report states, “the more disturbing picture that arises from these testimonies reflects systematic policies that were dictated to IDF forces of all ranks and in all zones.”

Breaking the Silence said that the war on Gaza operated under the “most permissive” rules of engagement they have ever seen.

“From the testimonies given by the officers and soldiers, a troubling picture arises of a policy of indiscriminate fire that led to the deaths of innocent civilians,” said Yuli Novak, director of the group, in a press statement. “We learn from the testimonies that there is a broad ethical failure in the IDF’s rules of engagement, and that this failure comes from the top of the chain of command, and is not merely the result of ‘rotten apples.'”

Gaza is one of the most densely-populated places on earth—home to an estimated 1.8 million people, over 60 percent of whom are children under the age of 18. Approximately 2,194 Palestinians were killed in last summer’s attack, at least 70 percent of Palestinians killed in the assault were non-combatants, according to the United Nations. The assault damaged and destroyed critical civilian infrastructure—including houses, shelters, and hospitals—and nearly a year later, hardly any reconstruction has taken place and the civilian population remains strangled by an economic and military siege.

Numerous soldiers said that, during the war, they were told that all people in given areas posed a threat and were ordered to “shoot to kill” every person they spotted.

“The instructions are to shoot right away,” said an anonymous First Sergeant who deployed to Gaza City. “Whoever you spot—be they armed or unarmed, no matter what. The instructions are very clear. Any person you run into, that you see with your eyes—shoot to kill. It’s an explicit instruction.”

Some said they were lied to by their commanders, who told them there were no civilians present.

“The idea was, if you spot something—shoot,” said an anonymous First Sergeant identified in the report as having deployed to the Northern Gaza Strip. “They told us: ‘There aren’t supposed to be any civilians there. If you spot someone, shoot.’ Whether it posed a threat or not wasn’t a question, and that makes sense to me. If you shoot someone in Gaza, it’s cool, no big deal.”

Soldiers testified that thousands of “imprecise” artillery shells were fired into civilian areas, sometimes as acts of revenge or simply to make the military’s presence known. Civilian infrastructure was destroyed on a large scale with no justification, often after an area had already been “cleared,” they said.

“The motto guiding lots of  people was, ‘Let’s show them,'” said one Lieutenant who served in Rafah. “It was  evident that that was a starting point.”

One Staff Sergeant described perverse and deadly acts committed by soldiers:

During the entire operation the [tank] drivers had this thing of wanting to run over cars – because the driver, he can’t fire. He doesn’t have any weapon, he doesn’t get to experience the fun in its entirety, he just drives forward, backward, right, left. And they had this sort of crazy urge to run over a car. I mean, a car that’s in the street, a Palestinian car, obviously. And there was one time that my [tank’s] driver, a slightly hyperactive guy, managed to convince the tank’s officer to run over a car, and it was really not that exciting– you don’t even notice you’re going over a car, you don’t feel anything – we just said on the two-way radio: “We ran over the car. How was it?” And it was cool, but we really didn’t feel anything. And then our driver got out and came back a few minutes later – he wanted to see what happened – and it turned out he had run over just half the car, and the other half stayed intact. So he came back in, and right then the officer had just gone out or something, so he sort of whispered to me over the earphones: “I scored some sunglasses from the car.” And after that, he went over and told the officer about it too, that moron, and the officer scolded him: “What, how could you do such a thing? I’m considering punishing you,” but in the end nothing happened, he kept the sunglasses, and he wasn’t too harshly scolded, it was all OK, and it turned out that a few of the other company’s tanks ran over cars, too.

While numerous human rights organizations and residents have exposed war crimes committed during last year’s assault on Gaza, this report sheds light on the top-down military doctrine driving specific attacks by ground and air.

One First Sergeant explained that soldiers were taught to indiscriminately fire during training, before their deployments. “One talk I remember especially well took place during training at Tze’elim—before entering Gaza [the Gaza Strip]—with a high ranking commander from the armored battalion to which we were assigned. He came and explained to us how we were going to fight  together with the armored forces. He said, ‘We do not take risks, we do not spare ammo—we unload, we use as much as possible.'”

No Israeli soldiers, commanders, or politicians have been held accountable for war crimes, and the Israeli government has resisted international human rights investigations, from Amnesty International to the United Nations.

Breaking the Silence says it “meticulously investigates” testimony to ensure its veracity. The group garnered global media headlines when it launched a report featuring testimony from Israeli soldiers who took part in the 2009 military assault on Gaza known as “Operation Cast Lead.” In that report, soldiers testified about indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including use of chemical weapon white phosphorous.

Targeting ISIS, US-Led Strike Kills 52 Civilians, Including 7 Children May 2, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Children, Human Rights, Imperialism, ISIS/ISIL, Syria, War.
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Roger’s note: your tax dollars at work in promotion of democracy death.

 

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Edited U.S. Air Force image of two F-15E fighters after conducting airstrikes in Syria on Sept. 23, 2014. U.S. Central Command directed the operations. (Photo by Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/USAF via Stuart Rankin/cc/flickr)

A U.S. military strike on Friday targeting fighters with the Islamic State has killed 52 civilians, including 7 children and 9 women, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Saturday.

According to the human rights watchdog group, an additional 13 Syrian civilians are missing following the attack on a village in the northern province of Aleppo. The deaths mark the highest civilian loss from a single attack since the U.S.-led coalition began its war against the Islamic State, or ISIS, in September 2014.

“[We] condemn in the strongest terms this massacre committed by the U.S led coalition under the pretext of targeting the IS in the village, and we call the coalition countries to refer who committed this massacre to the courts, as we renew our calls to neutralize all civilians areas from military operations by all parties,” the group said in a statement.

Coalition airstrikes have killed an estimated 118 civilians. However, Reuters notes, the U.S.-led attack has “had little impact on the hardline Islamic State group, slowing its advances but failing to weaken it in areas it controls.”

“Washington and its allies say their aim is to support what they call moderate rebels fighting against both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Isis,” Reuters continues. “But four years into Syria’s civil war, no side is close to victory. A third of the population has been made homeless and more than 220,000 people have been killed.”

Palestine and the ICC January 5, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: One would have to be blind (and so many are!) not to see that the current government of Israel is in no way interested in a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians, that “talks” are no more than a stalling tactic used while smothering the Palestinians via warfare and settlements.  I have always found Robert Fisk, who has lived in and reported on the Middle East for decades, to be a reliable analyst.

A Gory Pandora’s Box
by ROBERT FISK

Throw an old dog a bone and sure enough, he’ll go chasing after it. So it is with “Palestine’s” request to join the International Criminal Court. An obvious attempt by Mahmoud Abbas to try Israel for war crimes in Gaza this year, we are told.

Or maybe a “two-edged sword” – yawns are permitted for such clichés – which could also put Hamas “in the dock”. Israel was outraged. The US was “strongly opposed” to such a dastardly request by the elderly potentate who thinks he rules a state which doesn’t even exist.

But hold on a moment. That isn’t the story, is it? Surely the real narrative is totally different. The BBC didn’t get this. Nor CNN. Nor even Al Jazeera. But surely the most significant event of all is that the descendants of the PLO – excoriated only a quarter of a century ago as the most dangerous “terrorist” organisation in the world, its mendacious leader Yasser Arafat branded “our Bin Laden” by Israel’s mendacious leader Ariel Sharon – actually wants TO ABIDE BY INTERNATIONAL LAW!

Heavens preserve us from such a thought, but these chappies – after all their past calls for Israel’s extinction, after all the suicide bombings and intifadas – are asking to join one of the most prestigious judicial bodies on earth. For years, the Palestinians have demanded justice. They went to the international court in The Hague to have Israel’s apartheid wall dismantled – they even won, and Israel didn’t give a hoot. Any sane Palestinian, you might think, would long ago have turned his or her back on such peaceful initiatives.

Yet still these wretched Palestinians persist, after this most humiliating of insults, in resorting to international law to resolve their conflict with Israel. Here they go again, dutifully seeking membership of the International Criminal Court. Will these Arabs never learn?

And of course, the Americans are threatening to punish such effrontery. Stop those millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians. Stand by Israel’s refusal to accept any such approach to the International Criminal Court by “Palestine”. The EU – especially Britain and France – have gone along with this tosh. Israel has already decided to stop more than £80m in tax owed to the Palestinian authority.

The US State Department’s spokesman told us that his government is “deeply troubled” by the Palestinian application. It is “entirely counterproductive”, he informed the world. It does “nothing to further the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a sovereign state” – though one might have thought that membership of so august a judicial body would have done a lot to persuade the world that Palestinians were ready to shoulder all the burdens of statehood.

After all, the Palestinians would indeed have to abide by international law and – if the law applied retrospectively – they would have to carry the burden of opprobrium themselves for both Hamas crimes and past PLO murders. The United States, of course – and this fact oddly did not feature in the flurry of news reports on “Palestine’s” request to join – has itself refused to join the International Criminal Court. And with good reason; because, like the Israelis – although this is not quite how the whole fandango was explained to us – Washington is also worried that its soldiers and government officials will be arraigned for war crimes. Think waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, the report on CIA torture…

No wonder Jeffrey Rathke, the windbag who speaks for the State Department, says that the Palestinian request “badly damages the atmosphere” with Israel, “undermines trust” and “creates doubts about their (Palestinian) commitment to a negotiated peace”. And remember, Abbas only made his request after America had vetoed – and it has used its veto more than 40 times on Israel’s behalf to reject Palestine’s self-determination since 1975 – a UN Security Council resolution to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land by 2017.

But of course, what this whole kerfuffle is really about is quite simple. The world is tired of witnessing the suffering of Palestinians. Those with an ounce of human sympathy are sickened at being slandered as anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist (whatever that is) every time they express their outrage at Israel’s cruelty towards the Palestinians.

Killing more than 2,000 Palestinians last summer, hundreds of them children, was a mass slaughter. We’ve watched this grotesquerie so many times now – in Gaza, for the most part – that even our statistics have become spattered with blood.

Who now recalls the fatalities of the 2008-9 Gaza war? One thousand four hundred and seventeen Palestinians dead, 313 of them children, more than 5,500 wounded. That was the conflict upon which President-elect Obama had no comment to make.

And who knows what other gory Pandora’s box ICC membership would open? That bomber pilot who in 2002 killed 15 civilians, 11 of them children, in a Gaza apartment block to assassinate a Hamas official, for example? Wouldn’t that constitute a war crime? Don’t these outrages “damage the atmosphere” and “undermine trust”. Were these bloodbaths not “entirely counterproductive”? And the Jewish colonisation of the occupied West Bank?

Sure, bang up those behind Hamas and Islamic Jihad suicide attacks for war crimes. Get the Palestinian Authority thugs who torture and murder their own prisoners. But that’s not what Israel and the US are worried about. They are concerned that, after months of arguing and rowing and delving through thousands of documents, jurists may decide that Israel – horror of horror – may have to answer for itself before international justice, something which no routine US veto could prevent.

Now just imagine if Israel and America wanted the Palestinians to sign the Rome document. Conjure the thought – for a split-second only – that Israel and America insisted that the Palestinians must abide by an international treaty and become members of the International Criminal Court to qualify for statehood. Abbas’s refusal to do so would be further proof of his “terrorist” intentions. Yet when Abbas does sign the Rome document, when the Palestinians want to abide by an international treaty, they must be punished – surely a “first” in modern history.

I can only think of two phrases that fit the bill for this scandal of the West’s politicians. Confound their politics. Frustrate their knavish tricks.

The impasse in the Middle East in a nutshell

Apropos of which… Avi Shlaim, among the finest of Israeli historians, has just brought out a new edition of his great work The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World. “The prospect of a real change in American foreign policy looks slim to non-existent,” he writes. “Nor is there at present any evidence to suggest that Israel’s leaders are remotely interested in a genuine two-state solution… They seem oblivious to the damage that the occupation is doing to their society and to the reputation of their country abroad.” That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it?

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

 

New Snowden Docs Reveal Wider Net of NATO ‘Kill List’ Targets January 1, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Imperialism, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: you will note that in the first paragraph of this article the valiant armies of the free world who call themselves NATO (and for all intents and purposes serve only the interests of the United States’ imperial adventures) have been targeting and killing those “suspected of being low- and mid-level operatives as well as drug traffickers.”  I call your attention to the word “suspected.”  As the beloved Queen of Hears once said, “execution first, trial afterwards.”  The Queen is also happy to note that the United States government has officially declared the end of the War in Afghanistan, which it started.  The United States, however, are still leaving over 10,000 troops in Afghanistan (no doubt to go around the country handing out chocolate to the children), plus what is left of the NATO lapdog allies and god knows how many highly paid mercenaries (think the ubiquitous renamed Blackwater).  And NATO will continue to bomb, even though the war is over, presumably to stay in practice.  It strikes me as noteworthy that victory has not been claimed, just that the war (that really is not over) is over.  On the positive side, the Afghani opium industry is doing better than ever.  Otherwise, it continues to get curiouser and curiouser.

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Reporting by Der Spiegel shows low-level suspected Taliban, drug traffickers targeted for killing

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Newly revealed documents show that NATO’s “kill list” for Afghanistan operations included not just senior Taliban leaders but those suspected of being low- and mid-level operatives as well as drug traffickers, Der Spiegel has reported.

Some of the secret documents, which are from 2009 to 2011, are from the trove released by Edward Snowden, the German paper states.

“The documents show that the deadly missions were not just viewed as a last resort to prevent attacks, but were in fact part of everyday life in the guerrilla war in Afghanistan,” Der Spiegel reports.

As part of a strategy the White House called “escalate and exit” that started in 2009, NATO troops would start with a “cleansing” phase—killing insurgents. The paper cites Michael T. Flynn, the head of ISAF intelligence in Afghanistan, as saying during a briefing: “The only good Talib is a dead Talib.”

Among the documents cited and made publicly available by Der Spiegel is the Joint Prioritized Effects List (JPEL). It lists, with names redacted by the paper, 669 targets, their code names and one of four priority levels.  The location for some of those on the list is across the border in Pakistan.

In contrast to claims made by the U.S. government regarding those targeted for assassination, one person who was put on the list in the summer of 2010 was an Afghan soldier named Hussein. Not a senior operational leader posing an imminent threat, Hussein was merely suspected of being part of an attack on ISAF forces, and his placement on the list was meant to use his death as a deterrent, the paper reports.

Der Spiegel reports that the search for the men on the list relied sometimes on only their cell phone signal, and that the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ, maintained a list of these numbers. Voice recognition could be used to warrant an airstrike.

The paper quotes a secret British report from October 2010 as stating that the use of cell phone signals was “central to the success of operations.”

Risks of civilian casualties from strikes against those on the list were weighed, but seemed to be often accepted, and “civilian” only referred to women, children and elderly.

“The rule of thumb was that when there was estimated collateral damage of up to 10 civilians, the ISAF commander in Kabul was to decide whether the risk was justifiable,” Der Spiegel quotes an ISAF officer who worked with the lists for years as saying.

An example of civilian casualties caused by the hunt for those put on the list is given in another document cited by Der Spiegel, which reveals a botched missile strike at supposed mid-level operative Mullah Niaz Mohammed. It instead killed a boy and wounded his father.

The reporting also explains how the wide net of those targeted for assassination covered those deemed to be narcotics traffickers.

It cites an NSA document as saying insurgents “could not be defeated without disrupting the drug trade.” Drug traffickers’ names were added to the JPEL in October 2008.

This exposes a vicious death cycle. While the U.S.-led war purported to combat opium poppy cultivation, years of occupation have rendered record high cultivation levels.

As Matthieu Aikins exposes in a Rolling Stone article this month, Afghanistan: The Making of a Narco State, “the Afghan narcotics trade has gotten undeniably worse since the U.S.-led invasion,” and the U.S. has “all[ied] with many of the same people who turned the country into the world’s biggest source of heroin.”

The new reporting comes a day after the United States and NATO formally ended the 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan, though President Obama announced the extension of that war just a month ago.  Thousands of troops are remaining, and, as the Los Angeles Times reports Monday, combat operations rules will allow continued U.S. airstrikes on the country.

Endless War: Obama Secretly Extends US War on Afghanistan November 22, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
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Roger’s note: who is writing the script for this horror movie, Joseph Goebbels or George Orwell?  Who else could come up with such winners as “Operation Enduring Freedom” which has now morphed, thanks to War-Criminal-in-Chief Obama, into “Operation Resolute Support?”  To describe aggressive warfare and the murder of innocent civilians?  To maintain control over oil pipelines?

Why does that 1960s chant ring in my head: “Hey, Hey, LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?”

 

dead-children

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Obama allowed the military to dictate the terms of the endgame in Afghanistan

 

Last May 27, in an announcement in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama said:

“2014, therefore, is a pivotal year.  Together with our allies and the Afghan government, we have agreed that this is the year we will conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan… America’s combat mission will be over by the end of this year. Starting next year, Afghans will be fully responsible for securing their country.  American personnel will be in an advisory role.  We will no longer patrol Afghan cities or towns, mountains or valleys.  That is a task for the Afghan people.”

Never mind.

The president has now quietly authorized an expanded role for the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

The New York Times reported last night that Obama’s decision is the result of “a lengthy and heated debate” between the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon.

The Pentagon won. An official told the Times that “the military pretty much got what it wanted.”

Obama has also given the war in Afghanistan a new name: Operation Resolute Support.

Obama’s secret decision will keep American troops on the ground and fighting for at least another year and the US will continue using F-16 fighter jets, Predator and Reaper drones, and B-1 bombers.