US military torture in Iraq, Afghanistan on photos


This video is called Iraq – Torture and prisoner abuse by American soldiers.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

US judge sets deadline in lawsuit over Iraq, Afghanistan torture photos

23 October 2014

The Obama administration is fighting a bitter rearguard action against the release of further damning evidence that the US military engaged in the torture of prisoners in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The most recent development came Tuesday in a brief hearing before US District Judge Alvin Hellerstein in Washington DC, part of a long-running Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and several journalists seeking the release of 2,100 photographs depicting the torture of people detained by the US military.

The pictures are said to be more disturbing than those released in 2004 showing the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad, which caused worldwide revulsion against the US occupation regime in Iraq.

The photographs were taken by individual soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, mainly between 2003 and 2006, for their own use and to exchange with fellow soldiers as trophies or memorabilia of their wartime activities. They were confiscated in the course of more than 200 internal investigations into charges of mistreatment and abuse of prisoners, all of which have been closed without charges being brought.

The US Army released descriptions of the photos to the ACLU plaintiffs, and even these brief captions make for chilling reading. They include soldiers pointing guns at the heads of detainees who are hooded and bound, soldiers beating detainees with their fists or objects, soldiers posing with groups of bound and restrained prisoners, soldiers posing with corpses, and, in at least one case, a female soldier pointing a broomstick at the rectum of a hooded detainee.

The Pentagon reportedly catalogued the 2,100 images in May 2009, dividing them into three categories according to the degree of political damage their release would cause. The categories were described as follows:

* Category A: Will require explanation; egregious, iconic, dramatic

* Category B: Likely to require explanation; injury or humiliation

* Category C: May require explanation; injury without context

The proceedings before Judge Hellerstein are the result of a protracted political and legal conflict going back to 2009, when President Obama released a few legal memorandums justifying torture that were written by the Bush Justice Department, and initially agreed to release the photographs as well.

After a month of intense lobbying by the military brass and former Bush administration officials, Obama reversed himself and withheld the photos, claiming, “The most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”

The administration appealed to the Supreme Court against a lower court order to release the photographs and prevailed on Congress to pass legislation giving the secretary of defense the authority to suppress such photographs for a three-year period (renewable indefinitely) by certifying that they would endanger US national security. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued that certification in November 2009, and his successor, Leon Panetta, did the same in November 2012.

The plaintiffs challenged the 2012 certification on a new ground, because Panetta had simply issued a half-page statement declaring all the photographs off-limits. Under the terms of the law, they argued, the Pentagon had to give specific reasons for withholding each photograph.

Last August, Judge Hellerstein agreed and issued an order for the administration to release the material in redacted form—that is, showing the victims but with the faces of the torturers obscured—or give specific reasons why each photograph should be kept secret.

At Tuesday’s hearing, the judge set a deadline of December 12 for the Justice Department to release the photographs or provide the explanations. He also set the date for a subsequent hearing, January 23, 2015, where the plaintiffs will be able to challenge the withholding of any photographs.

The case before Judge Hellerstein is only one of at least four different legal and political venues in which the Obama administration is engaged in an all-out defense and cover-up for American government personnel, both CIA and military, who engaged in the torture of prisoners.

The White House, Justice Department and CIA have been stalling for months the release of a massive report by the Senate Intelligence Committee on torture at CIA black sites overseas between 2003 and 2006. The committee voted to declassify the report and release it to the public last April, but Obama assigned the task of vetting the report to the agency that carried out the torture, and the CIA has continuously pushed back the deadline, now set for October 29.

According to a report last week by McClatchy News Service, the report fails to hold any officials of the Bush administration responsible for the torture of prisoners at CIA black sites, limiting its criticism to lower-level CIA personnel.

In another federal district courtroom in Washington, before Judge Gladys Kessler, the Justice Department is fighting an order to release videos of the force-feeding of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the result of a lawsuit by one of the prisoners, Abu Wa’el Dhiab.

At a hearing last week, Judge Kessler agreed to delay for 30 days her order to release the videos, giving the Obama administration time to file an appeal. (See: Judge delays order to release Guantanamo force-feeding videos).

According to a report Sunday in the New York Times, the Obama administration is now debating how to proceed at an upcoming session of the Committee Against Torture, a United Nations panel set up under the UN Convention Against Torture, which the US government ratified in 1994.

The Bush administration took the position that the torture convention applied only to actions by US personnel committed within the United States, but not to the actions taken overseas, as in war zones or CIA secret prisons. The Obama administration had distanced itself from that interpretation, which was a flagrant assertion of the “right” to torture, but officials were now said to be having second thoughts.

“But the Obama administration has never officially declared its position on the treaty, and now, President Obama’s legal team is debating whether to back away from his earlier view,” the Times wrote. “It is considering reaffirming the Bush administration’s position that the treaty imposes no legal obligation on the United States to bar cruelty outside its borders, according to officials who discussed the deliberations on the condition of anonymity.”

The author also recommends:

US Supreme Court suppresses torture photos
[2 December 2009]

Afghans demonstrate against NATO occupation and ISIS


Afghans demonstrate against NATO occupation and ISIS

From emptywheel in the USA:

Described Focus of Protest in Kabul Dependent on News Outlet

Published October 13, 2014 | By Jim White

A protest variously described as featuring “over a hundred”, “hundreds” or “over 500″ protesters took place in Kabul on Sunday. The object of the protest, however, was very dependent on whose report (or even whose headline) on the protest is being read.

The Wall Street Journal ran with the headline “Islamic State’s Siege of Kobani, Syria Sparks Protest in Kabul, Afghanistan” while Iran’s PressTV went with “Afghan protesters blast US-led forces, BSA”. Remarkably, Afghanistan’s Khaama Press did not see it necessary to spin the focus of the protest in a particular direction, using the headline “Afghans protest against Islamic State, US and NATO forces in Kabul”.

The Khaama Press article quickly sums up the protest:

Over 500 people participated in a demonstration against the Islamic State and presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The protesters were shouting slogans against the presence of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and in support of the Kurdish people who are fighting the Islamic State militants.

Protesters were also carrying signs purporting crimes committed by US and NATO forces in Afghanistan and resistance of the female Kurdish fighters against the Islamic State.

The US and NATO were also accused by protester[s] for supporting the extremist groups in Afghanistan and Kobane.

We learn in the article that the protest was organized by the Solidarity party of Afghanistan, which Khaama described as “a small and left wing political party in the country”. Presumably, since they were allowed to stage the protest, the ban on the party issued in 2012 must have been lifted.

One has to read the Wall Street Journal article very carefully to find any evidence of the US criticism that was in the protest. The article opens:

Residents of Kabul have a war on their own doorstep: The provinces around the Afghan capital have seen an upsurge in violence this year.

But the conflict in Syria was on the minds of demonstrators who marched Sunday in solidarity with the town of Kobani, Syria, currently under siege by Islamic State militants.

Over a hundred Afghans—most of them women—held placards supporting Kurdish fighters defending the city.

Near the end, the article mentions, but dismisses as “conspiracy theory”, the accusations of US involvement in the creation of ISIS:

Conspiracy theories often thrive in Afghanistan, and at Sunday’s protest, many demonstrators expressed the belief that Islamic State was a U.S. creation. Some held placards saying, “Yankee Go Home.”

The article then mentions the BSA without stating that it was also a target of the protest other than citing the “Yankee Go Home” sign.

Pajhwok news agency in Afghanistan reports:

Hundreds attend anti-US/NATO rally in Kabul

KABUL (Pajhwok): Calling the new government as undemocratically elected, hundreds of people on Sunday took to the streets in the central capital Kabul, condemning security accords with the US and NATO.

The protestors, including women, marched from the Cinema Pamir locality to the Maiwand Square in Kabul City.

They called the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the US and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with NATO as shackling the nation into chains of slavery.

The protestors claimed permanent US military bases in Afghanistan could be a step towards a third world war.

The protest was organised by the National Solidarity Party. A member of the party, Hafizullah Rasikh told Pajhwok Afghan News the demonstration was aimed at condemning the presence of US/NATO forces in Afghanistan under the BSA and SOFA.

“The new government is not based on people’s votes but a deal brokered by (US president) Obama and (secretary of state) John Kerry,” he added.

United States Iraq Veterans Against the War


This video from the USA says about itself:

Iraq Veterans Against the War: Decade-Old Group Grapples with New War, PTSD Epidemic, VA Failures

3 October 2014

Ten years ago, six members of the U.S. military came together to break their silence over what they had witnessed during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. They banded together and formed the organization Iraq Veterans Against the War, or IVAW. Over time, they gathered like-minded veterans across the United States to form a contemporary GI resistance movement. Celebrated its tenth anniversary, IVAW members say it is a bittersweet moment as the United States has resumed bombing in Iraq.

Today, IVAW chapters are in 48 states and numerous bases overseas. The group has called for reparations for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan — for both human and infrastructural damages caused by the U.S.-led invasion. They have also called for adequate healthcare to be provided at VA facilities, including mental healthcare, for all returning veterans. We host a roundtable with three IVAW members: co-founder Kelly Dougherty, who was deployed to Kuwait and Iraq from 2003-2004; Brock McIntosh, who served in Afghanistan and applied for conscientious objector status; and Scott Olsen, a former marine who served two tours in Iraq and was critically wounded after being shot in the head by a police projectile at an Occupy Oakland protest.

Take a moment to see all of the Democracy Now! reports on Iraq Veterans Against the War in our archive.

Anti-humanitarian Bahrain government, ally in ‘humanitarian’ war


This video is called Bahrain: Human rights hero Nabeel Rajab arrested for a tweet.

From LobeLog in the USA:

October 9th, 2014

Fighting for Democracy While Supporting Autocracy

ISIS and Bahrain’s F-16

by Matar E. Matar

For the second time in recent history, the United States is trading away support for democracy and fundamental human rights protections in Bahrain as part of an effort to establish democracy and human rights protections in another Muslim country.

In March 2011, while the Obama administration was building a coalition to defeat Qaddafi in Libya, Saudi and Emirati troops were rolling toward Bahrain to reinforce a massive crackdown against unarmed pro-democracy protesters.

In her book, Hard Choices, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reveals how a very senior Emirati official pressed her to mute US opposition to this invasion if she wanted the UAE to join the anti-Qaddafi campaign. “Frankly, when we have a situation with our armed forces in Bahrain it’s hard to participate in another operation if our armed forces’ commitment in Bahrain is questioned by our main ally,” she quotes him as saying. It worked. Later that same day, in stark contrast to the US State Department’s response to the Russian intervention in the Crimea, Clinton issued a statement intended to soothe Saudi/Emirati concerns, saying in essence that their intervention in Bahrain was legitimate.

At that same time, large parts of the Bahraini population were being subjected to beatings, torture and imprisonment that had never occurred in the history of our country. Given our inability to protect our people from such abuse, several colleagues and I decided to resign our positions in Parliament in protest. I was then arrested while trying to inform the world about the casualties from excessive force and extensive torture. But Secretary Clinton was at peace with the trade-off: “I felt comfortable that we had not sacrificed our values or credibility,” she wrote in her memoir.

Today Bahrain is facing a similar situation. The US needs the appearance of strong Arab cooperation against the Islamic State (not because the US actually needs assistance from Bahraini F-16s), giving the Bahraini regime an opportune time to force bad deals on the people of Bahrain without criticism from Washington.

This time the regime is moving ahead, claiming that it has achieved consensus through what has clearly been a phony “National Dialogue”—the government’s response to international pressure for reconciliation after the repression of the pro-democracy movement.

The country’s absolute monarch, King Hamad bin Isa, dominates all power centers. He appoints all senior judges, members of the upper house of Parliament, and members of the cabinet, which is headed by the world’s longest-serving prime minister, Khalifa bin Salman (first appointed when Nixon was president). In addition, the King has given himself the right to grant public lands and citizenship to whomever he wants. He has abused these powers in a wide and systematic manner by concentrating wealth among his family and allies including within Bahrain’s minority Sunni population.

On October 12, 2011, half a year after the Bahraini uprising, opposition parties representing well over half of the country’s population issued a blueprint for democratic reform in Bahrain, the Manama Document. This paper identified a path toward an orderly transition to a constitutional monarchy, ensuring an inclusive government that represents all Bahrainis in the cabinet, parliament, and security and judicial institutions. Specifically, it called for the establishment of representative electoral districts; free elections; a single elected chamber in Parliament instead of the current bi-cameral arrangement, where the upper house is appointed by the king and only the lower house is elected; an independent judiciary; and the inclusion of Shia among all ranks of the military and security forces.

Instead of embracing any of these ideas, the unaccountable king has offered up pretend reforms, and the US government, with an eye to keeping the Fifth Fleet’s headquarters in Bahrain and now on keeping Bahraini F-16s in the air over Iraq and Syria, pretends that these reforms are real. Central to this pretense is the “national dialogue” that has been running in fits and starts since July 2011. In reality, it has been a one-sided conversation, since key leaders of the opposition have been systematically arrested.

Last month, the king tapped Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad to assume his first real political role in the government—namely taking the lead in closing the door on the dialogue and submitting what he considered to be its “common ground.” Among other things, the crown prince proposed a meaningless plan for redistricting that was later imposed by the king by royal decree. Under this plan, Shia constituencies, which comprise about 65% of the total population, would receive only about 45% of the seats in Parliament. The redistricting plan was apparently designed to reduce the variation in the size of districts by scattering the opposition throughout majority loyalist districts. Moreover, the variation in the size of districts would remain huge. For example, a loyalist-majority district of less than 1,000 voters would elect one MP while an opposition-majority district with more than 10,000 voters would receive the same representation in Parliament—a ratio of more than ten to one. In fact, 13 opposition-majority districts with more than 10,000 voters each would be treated this way under the plan.

Another part of the supposed “common ground” relates to the formation of the cabinet, which must be approved by the majority of the elected chamber of Parliament. If Parliament fails to approve the appointed government three times, then Parliament would be dissolved.

Thousands of Bahrainis rejected this proposal Sept. 19 by marching in western Manama in a demonstration of determination on the part of pro-democracy forces that have not diminished despite the repression of the last three and a half years.

Nonetheless, based on the purported “common ground,” the government now intends to hold elections on Nov. 22.

Time is short for constructive engagement between the opposition and the regime to resolve these political disputes, and the US needs to be heard. Washington should not think that its interests require it to remain silent about the need for real democratic reform in Bahrain. In fact, failing to speak out is detrimental to its own stated interests in Iraq and Syria. While the regime in Bahrain is participating in F-16 sorties against the Islamic State, its policies of systematic discrimination against its majority Shia population and its ongoing incitement in the media against Bahraini Shia (as agents of Iran and the US at the same time!) create a perfect environment for incubating terrorists who consider Americans and Shia their greatest enemy. Moreover, while the US government trains Bahraini “security forces” that exclude Shia (on sectarian grounds), it appears that some Bahrainis working for these same forces have left to fight with the Islamic State.

Yet when Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist, recently tweeted that the security institutions were the ideological incubator of sectarianism and anti-American attitudes in Bahrain, he was arrested on the grounds that he had “denigrated government institutions.”

Bahrain is a small country, but it represents a major test for US credibility. The Obama administration has traded Bahraini democracy away once before. Three years of bloodshed in Bahrain has not only radicalized elements of the opposition there but has also instilled a culture of abuse and impunity in Bahrain’s government and security forces, some of whom are now looking to the Islamic State to satiate their new-found appetite for violence. Any potential benefit the US thinks it might gain from an unaccountable (Sunni) autocrat’s F16s in the bombing campaign against the Islamic State is more than offset by the sectarian extremism that these alleged allies continue to provoke (and promote) at home.

Washington should not sell out democracy in Bahrain again. With a little attention and encouragement, President Obama could help bring democracy to this Arab country and claim at least one good result for his (currently empty) “win” category.

Matar Ebrahim Matar is a former Member of Parliament who served as Bahrain’s youngest MP representing its largest constituency. In February 2011, along with 18 other members from his Al-Wefaq political party, he resigned from Parliament to protest the regime’s crackdown against pro-reform demonstrators. During the Feb. 14 uprising, he served as a major spokesman for the pro-democracy movement. Matar was subsequently arbitrarily detained, and, after his release, left Bahrain for exile in the United States. In 2012, he received the “Leaders for Democracy Award” from the Project on Middle Democracy (POMED).

United States Army in Africa, against Ebola or for militarism?


This 12 September 2014 video is called Cuba answers WHO’s call for more Ebola help.

By Niles Williamson in the USA:

US exploiting West Africa Ebola outbreak to establish military foothold

4 October 2014

Under the guise of a humanitarian mission aimed at containing the spread of the Ebola virus, the Obama administration is exploiting the outbreak to establish a solid military footing on the African continent. West Africa continues to be ravaged by the worst outbreak of Ebola since the first case was identified in northern Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976.

According to a report by the World Health Organization, as of October 1 there were 7,437 suspected, probable and confirmed cases of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone and 3,338 deaths. A separate outbreak of a different strain of the virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has to date killed 43 people including eight health care workers.

Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone have been the hardest hit by the epidemic, accounting for 99.6 percent of cases and 99.8 percent of deaths. UNICEF reported last week that at least 3,700 children have been orphaned by the epidemic. The already limited health systems of Liberia and Sierra Leone have essentially collapsed under the impact of the outbreak.

The US plan for containing the epidemic, codenamed Operation United Assistance, is being overseen by the US Armed Forces Africa Command (AFRICOM) and is expected to cost $1 billion over the next six months. So far the US government has contributed $111 million to the effort, a paltry sum compared with the $1 billion the US has already spent in two months of airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, recently extended to Syria.

AFRICOM plans to oversee the deployment of 3,200 troops, most from the 101st Airborne Division, to assist in the construction of emergency Ebola treatment units.

Last week US airmen from the Air Force’s 633rd Medical Group, working with employees from the US Public Health Service, set up a 25-bed Expeditionary Medical Support System (EMEDS) hospital for health care workers who contract the deadly virus.

A 300-bed Ebola treatment unit is currently under construction in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, on the grounds of an abandoned Ministry of Defense building built prior to the civil wars that devastated the country in the 1990s. The treatment facility and others like it are not expected to be ready to receive patients for a number of weeks.

AFRICOM has no plans to staff these Ebola treatment centers with its own doctors or nurses; instead it will be left to the US Agency for International Development and the Liberian government to properly staff them. USAID and the US State Department have pledged $10 million towards the training and deployment of 100 volunteer health care workers from African Union member states.

Because they come into regular contact with patients’ bodily fluids, the doctors and nurses who tend to those stricken by Ebola are at great risk of contracting the disease themselves. The WHO reports that as of September 28, at least 216 health care workers have been killed by the virus. Two American health care workers successfully recovered after they were flown to US hospitals where they were quarantined and treated.

The main purpose of this military operation is not to halt the spread of Ebola or restore health to those that have been infected. Rather the United States is seeking to exploit the crisis to establish a firm footing on the African continent for AFRICOM, which was established in 2008 in order to oversee US imperialist operations in the region. AFRICOM currently operates from Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany, thousands of miles from the nearest African country.

Liberia is the only country in Africa which has previously expressed interest in hosting AFRICOM headquarters. The Ebola epidemic provides a convenient excuse for the deployment of thousands of US troops and establishing a permanent presence.

US President Barack Obama announced on September 16 that a Joint Force Command Headquarters (JFCH) would be established in Liberia to coordinate and oversee Operation United Assistance. The JFCH would be the first significant base operated by AFRICOM on the continent.

Liberia is the latest in a long line of African countries where the United States has sent American military personnel and equipment in the last decade. American troops have been deployed to Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, and South Sudan. AFRICOM’s first significant operation on the African continent was the US-NATO bombing of Libya in 2011, which resulted in the overthrow and murder of Muammar Gaddafi.

The longer the epidemic goes on, the greater the chance that the disease will spread to countries beyond West Africa. This is illustrated quite clearly by the spread of the virus to the United States, which demonstrates that even the health system in an advanced country is vulnerable—to say nothing of the gaps created by long-term cutbacks in health services, particularly in public health systems.

The first confirmed case of Ebola in the US was in a man who exhibited symptoms after traveling to Dallas, Texas from Liberia, where he had helped transport another person suffering from the virus to the hospital. Thomas Eric Duncan was sent home after his initial examination, the result of an apparent computer error, further exposing his friends and family to the virus. The apartment complex where he lived has been quarantined and those he came into contact with are being monitored for symptoms.

Hospitals in the US have been proceeding with extreme caution, quarantining anyone exhibiting Ebola symptoms, including two people in Kentucky and a child in Utah who were eventually cleared. It was reported on Friday that two individuals in Washington, D.C. were being treated under quarantine for Ebola-like symptoms.

In the week since Duncan was diagnosed, the American media has focused largely on sensationalized reporting around his case, hyping the dangers to the public as a means of justifying tighter security measures against immigrants and visitors from Africa. Meanwhile, relatively little attention is being given to the affected region in Africa, where dozens are dying every day.

EBOLA UPDATES: CUBA UNLIKELY BEFELLOW IN FIGHT AGAINST DEADLY VIRUS Cuba has stepped up in the fight against Ebola. Drugmakers are struggling to bring their experimental drugs to scale in the fight against such a widespread outbreak. This is what happens to a baby when her mother dies of Ebola. The Texas Sheriff’s deputy who was feared to have contracted the virus has been cleared. And don’t joke you have Ebola on a plane, or else you’ll be escorted off by workers in hazmat suits.

People of Iraq, Syria suffer from war


This video is called Turkish Soldiers Shoot Another Child From Rojava [north Syria] On Border.

Residents of besieged Kabane have claimed that Turkey has been collaborating with Isis in a bid to “crush” Kurds in the Rojava region, even allowing Qatari support to Isis to cross the border: here.

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

US war against the people of Syria and Iraq

2 October 2014

US air strikes in Iraq and Syria will kill tens of thousands of innocent civilians, and the White House and Pentagon are fully aware of this fact. That is the only conclusion to be drawn from a remarkable public statement Tuesday by a top White House aide.

The statement coincided with the heaviest attacks so far in the air war in Syria and Iraq, with US and allied countries launching 24 strikes, 12 in each country on Tuesday, with British warplanes making their first attacks.

National Security Council press spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden, in an e-mail to Yahoo News, confirmed that the targeting restrictions announced by President Obama for US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen do not apply to the war launched against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Obama announced those restrictions in a speech to the National Defense University, claiming that the US would only conduct drone strikes against supposed Al Qaeda targets if there was a “near certainty” of no civilian casualties, which he called “the highest standard that we can meet.”

“The specific standards at issue in the NDU speech apply only when we take direct action ‘outside areas of active hostilities,’ as was noted at the time,” Hayden wrote. “That description—outside areas of active hostilities—simply does not fit what we are seeing on the ground in Iraq and Syria right now.”

Hayden was responding to concerns over casualties in the village of Kafr Daryan in Idlib Province, in northwestern Syria, where a Tomahawk cruise missile killed as many as a dozen civilians, including women and young children. The US Central Command confirmed the September 23 strike, saying it targeted the “Khorasan group,” the US-invented label for members of the Al Qaeda affiliated Al Nusra Front, one of the main Syrian “rebel” groups fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Pentagon’s top spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby, confirmed the more permissive standard for air strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq when questioned by reporters Tuesday. “When we say we’re going to go after them, we mean it,” Kirby said.

The restrictions that Obama claimed he was applying to drone missile strikes did not significantly limit the carnage inflicted by 500-pound warheads smashing into the huts of tribal villagers in rural Pakistan and Yemen. Pakistani officials and outside organizations like Amnesty International estimated the civilian death toll from more than 300 drone strikes in these areas as ranging from the high hundreds to many thousands.

After a series of studies on civilian casualties in drone missile strikes were published last year, the WSWS wrote, “The reports, in fact, provide prima facie evidence for a future war crimes tribunal whose defendants would include Obama and top officials at the National Security Council, the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.” (see: Report documents US slaughter of civilians in drone strikes).

In addition to the direct toll of dead and wounded, there is the effect of such constant attacks on the whole society. An April 2014 article in Rolling Stone observed: “The people of Yemen can hear destruction before it arrives. In cities, towns and villages across this country, which hangs off the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, the air buzzes with the sound of American drones flying overhead. The sound is a constant and terrible reminder … Over half of Yemen’s 24.8 million citizens—militants and civilians alike—are impacted every day.”

The statements of the White House and Pentagon spokesmen indicate that the death and destruction inflicted on the people of Iraq and Syria will dwarf the horrific impact of drone warfare on Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia. And not a single voice of protest against such mass killing has been raised in official Washington, in either the Democratic or Republican parties.

Representatives of US-backed Syrian groups allied to al-Nusra briefed members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Kafr Daryan strike. One Republican congressman who attended the briefing, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, dismissed concerns about civilian deaths, telling Yahoo News, “Nothing is perfect,” and arguing that any collateral damage from US strikes was “much less than the brutality of the Assad regime.”

The death toll from bombs and missiles is only the beginning. As US officials were at pains to emphasize this week—most prominently Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations—the main goal of American imperialism in Syria remains that of the overthrow of Assad and his replacement by a US-backed puppet regime in Damascus.

That goal inevitably requires the deployment of tens of thousands of ground troops—whether American, British, French, Turkish, Saudi or some combination—and the military conquest of Syria. The invasion and occupation of Iraq led to a million deaths from 2003 to 2011. A crime of even greater dimensions now looms in both Iraq and Syria.

Obama has become the fourth consecutive U.S. president to launch a war in Iraq: here.

CAR bombs targeted a school in the central Syrian city of Homs yesterday, killing at least 22 people including 10 children. The Ekremah al-Makhzoumi primary school is in an Alawite area of the city and the attack is assumed to have been the work of Sunni Islamist terror groups fighting to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad government: here.

United States Marines in Kuwait; Turkey joins US coalition. New steps to wider war in Middle East: here.