United States killing its allies in Afghanistan


This video is called 500 Pound Bomb Dropped on U.S. Soldiers By Mistake.

From the BBC today:

Five Nato soldiers have been killed in the southern Afghan province of Zabul, with local officials saying they were mistakenly hit by a US air strike.

An Afghan army spokesman said the five troops, with an Afghan soldier and an interpreter, were killed by a bomb dropped from a coalition plane.

The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said the incident took place on Monday but gave no details.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Five American Special Operations service members and at least one Afghan soldier were killed when a United States Air Force B-1 bomber unleashed an airstrike on their position in southern Afghanistan, in one of the deadliest instances of friendly fire in more than a decade of war, Afghan and American officials said Tuesday: here.

In what may be the bloodiest “friendly fire” incident involving US troops in 13 years of war and occupation in Afghanistan, five special operations soldiers were killed Monday in an air strike they themselves had called in against Afghan insurgents who ambushed their patrol: here.

US army killing of Spanish cameraman in Iraq investigated


This video from the USA is called Leaked Cables: US Pressured Spain to Drop Case of Journalist Killed in Army Attack in Baghdad 1 of 2.

And this video is the sequel.

From Al Jazeera:

Spain can probe camer[a]man’s killing by US tank

Spanish court rules criminal investigation into killing of Jose Couso by a US tank shell in Iraq in 2003 can be pursued.

Last updated: 07 Jun 2014 10:27

Spain’s High Court has ruled that a criminal investigation into the killing of Spanish cameraman Jose Couso by a US tank shell in Iraq in 2003 can be pursued, despite a new law placing limits on judicial powers in international cases.

Judicial authorities have sought the arrest and questioning of three US soldiers accused of involvement in Couso’s death.

Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, a Ukrainian, was also killed by the shell that crashed into a Baghdad hotel.

A law passed by Spain’s centre-right government in March curbed the powers of judges to prosecute human rights cases under the principle of universal jurisdiction. The High Court must now rule on the legality of all pending cases one by one.

Cases now must be dismissed if they do not meet the new legal requirements that those accused of alleged human rights abuses must themselves be Spanish citizens.

Despite the alleged perpetrators of Couso’s death not being Spanish, the High Court ruled on Friday that the case could be continued under terms of the Geneva Convention, which defines the rights and protection afforded to civilians in war zones.

In November 2004, a US Defence Department report stated that US forces bore “no fault or negligence” in the shelling of the hotel, where about 100 international journalists were staying at the time.

Pinochet arrest

Universal jurisdiction, the principle that crimes such as genocide and torture are so serious they can be prosecuted across borders, was pioneered by Spain in 1985.

It led to the detention in London of the former Chilean military ruler General Augusto Pinochet in 1998 through an arrest warrant issued from Spain.

“It’s been said that when people could not find justice, they came to Spain,” said European University of Madrid law professor Nieves Noval.

He said about 13 cases in areas from El Salvador to Rwanda were being processed in Spanish courts.

However, China, Israel and the United States have all bristled at Spanish judicial investigations into allegations of genocide, rights abuses or war crimes.

Critics say this led to the tightening of the law to prevent diplomatic disputes.

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Released US Afghan war prisoner Bowe Bergdahl smeared by corporate media


This video from the USA says about itself:

4 June 2014

On Tuesday, “Fox and Friends” cohost Brian Kilmeade went after Robert Bergdahl over the beard the father of freed POW Bowe Berghdal grew while his son was in captivity.

“[Bergdahl] says he was growing his beard because his son was in captivity,” Kilmeade said. “Well, your son’s out now. So if you really don’t — no longer want to look like a member of the Taliban, you don’t have to look like a member of the Taliban. Are you out of razors?”

On last night’s “Daily Show,” Jon Stewart fired back with a response so perfect it should be framed:

“First of all, who the fuck are you to judge what a guy does if he thinks it might help him get his son back?” Stewart asked. “And I don’t want to complicate your hatred of facial hair there, friend, but my guess is if you gave Bob Bergdahl a bandana and a duck, you’d like him just-fucking-fine.”

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

US media campaign targets released Afghan war POW Bowe Bergdahl

4 June 2014

In the 72 hours since he was released by the Taliban in exchange for five prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has come under increasingly vitriolic attack from right-wing US political circles and the media, which have denounced him as a deserter and traitor. There have been calls for him to be tried and even shot.

His father, Bob Bergdahl, has likewise been vilified for his efforts to obtain his son’s release, which included learning Pashto and Dari, the main languages of Afghanistan, communicating via the Internet with the Taliban, and growing a long and uncut beard to mark the time his son was held captive.

Media outlets from CNN to NBC and the other major broadcasters have repeatedly run interviews with soldiers who served with Bergdahl accusing him of deserting his post. Some of them have placed the blame on Bergdahl for the death of six US troops who, they claim, were killed during a six-month intensive search for the missing soldier.

The media has also made a great deal of recent Twitter posts from Bob Bergdahl expressing sympathy for Afghans killed in the war and their families and calling for the release of all detainees being held at Guantanamo.

Prior to his disappearance, Bowe Bergdahl made clear in letters to his family and discussions with fellow soldiers his revulsion over the US war in Afghanistan and his sympathy for the Afghan people. There is little doubt that the primary factor behind the vitriol against the Bergdahls is their antiwar sentiment and the fear in ruling class circles that it will further fuel already broad popular opposition to the war in Afghanistan and the general warmongering policy of the Obama administration.

Bowe Bergdahl had been a Taliban prisoner since June 30, 2009, when he was captured while his unit was on patrol in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. The Pentagon promoted Bergdahl twice during his captivity, from private first class to corporal and then to sergeant, something the military brass would be unlikely to do for a known deserter. At the same time, the military compelled soldiers who served with Bergdahl to sign nondisclosure statements.

The Pentagon and State Department pushed aggressively to obtain Bergdahl’s release, with a series of military sweeps aimed at rescuing him, followed by on-and-off negotiations with the Taliban using the government of Qatar, a Persian Gulf sheikdom, as the intermediary.

The talks resumed last fall after a Taliban commander long opposed to any deal stepped down and the Islamic fundamentalist group supplied a “proof-of-life” video of Bergdahl. There were press reports of ongoing talks in February, suggesting the one-for-five trade that was eventually made, but the deal was not finalized until last week. The actual exchange took place on Saturday, May 31.

The initial criticism of the deal came from congressional Republicans and the right-wing press, including Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, along predictable partisan lines. The deal was held up as another example of the Obama administration’s supposed weakness in foreign policy, alongside Syria, Ukraine and Benghazi.

The Republicans are clearly hoping to use the Bergdahl case to whip up their right-wing base and sections of the military in advance of the November congressional elections.

The White House response was equally predictable—pointing to its killing of Osama bin Laden and expansion of drone warfare as proof that the administration is not “soft” on terrorism, and citing similar exchanges conducted by Israel, such as the trading of 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for a single soldier, Gilad Shalit, held in Gaza for three years.

The axis of the right-wing campaign shifted Monday and Tuesday to focus on attacks on both Sergeant Bergdahl and his family. The commentaries took on an increasingly frenzied tone, with Fox News claiming that “many members of the intelligence community suspect he may have been an active collaborator with the Taliban.” The Wall Street Journal published a column suggesting that the proper treatment for the returning soldier was a firing squad.

The circumstances under which Bergdahl was captured remain obscure. The returned POW is undergoing medical treatment in Germany at the main overseas US military hospital and has not yet spoken publicly.

Several former members of his unit have been quoted by the media claiming that Bergdahl left his post in the middle of the night, without his rifle, and went out into Taliban-controlled territory. Facebook pages with headlines like “Bergdahl is a traitor” and “Bowe Bergdahl is not a hero” have attracted tens of thousands of supportive postings.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said in a posting on his Facebook page Tuesday that the issue of rescuing Bergdahl was completely separate from any ensuing investigation into his conduct while on patrol in Afghanistan. “Like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty,” Dempsey said. “Our Army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.”

Unnamed Pentagon officials subsequently told the press that there would be a “full inquiry” into the circumstances of Bergdahl’s disappearance and capture.

According to the New York Times, Bergdahl “left behind a note in his tent saying he had become disillusioned with the Army, did not support the American mission in Afghanistan and was leaving to start a new life.”

The Wall Street Journal reported: “An Army investigation of why Sgt. Bergdahl left his post was never completed because officials were unable to talk to him. But many military officers reviewing the material gathered for the investigation concluded that he had walked off the outpost because he became disillusioned with the war, according to a senior defense official.”

Rolling Stone magazine reported in 2012, based on an interview with Bergdahl’s parents, that three days before he disappeared he sent them an e-mail that said, “I am ashamed to even be American,” and “The horror that is America is disgusting.”

“I am sorry for everything here,” Sergeant Bergdahl wrote. “These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live.”

He described seeing an Afghan child run over by a US military vehicle. “We don’t even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks,” he wrote.

Bowe Bergdahl’s father, despite his conservative religious views—Bowe was home-schooled by his mother in their hometown of Hailey, Idaho—came to deeply oppose the foreign policy of American imperialism in the Middle East and Central Asia. He openly sympathized with other long-held prisoners, including those in Guantanamo.

As for the five prisoners released from Guantanamo, four were former high-level officials of the government of Afghanistan when the Taliban was in power, captured in the initial US-led invasion in late 2001. They are Mohammad Fazl, deputy defense minister; Mullah Norullah Noori, governor of Balkh province; Khairullah Khairkhwa, governor of Herat province; and Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy minister of intelligence. The fifth prisoner, Mohammed Nabi Omari, was a military commander with ties to the Haqqani network, formed under CIA auspices to fight Soviet forces in the 1980s.

These were public officials of a state overthrown by US military action, and thus entitled to treatment as prisoners of war. Instead, they have been held indefinitely as “terrorists,” subjected to interrogation and likely tortured, all in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Some 12 years later, the Obama administration has suddenly reclassified them as POWs for the purposes of the Bergdahl trade.

Part of the bitterness in the right-wing attack on the prisoner exchange is that the Obama administration has undercut any rationale for holding Taliban captives at Guantanamo Bay after the official end of the US combat role in Afghanistan at the end of 2014. Under international law, POWs must be repatriated at the end of hostilities, and if the senior Taliban at Guantanamo are now regarded as POWs, all other Afghans held there should be eligible for release as well.

The American media is once again exhibiting its boundless capacity for dispensing propaganda and promoting the most backward and reactionary conceptions. Such is the campaign of vilification directed against Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, released May 31 in Afghanistan in a prisoner exchange with the Taliban: here.

The right-wing media is denouncing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as a “deserter” who wasn’t worth ransoming from the Taliban, but the real villains are the architects of the disastrous Iraq and Afghan wars who frivolously put the many Bergdahls in harm’s way: here.

Did Sergeant Bergdahl desert the Army or did the Army desert him? Here.

White House War-Pushers and Gutless Generals: The Real Villains of the Bergdahl Tale: here.

Tell : Quit beating up an American soldier and tell the truth about the cost of war! Here.The right-wing campaign against released Afghanistan POW Bowe Bergdahl is intensifying, with death threats to his family and vitriolic denunciations of the freed soldier in the media and on Capitol Hill: here.

United States war veterans’ bad health care


This video from the USA says about itself:

23 April 2014

40 veterans on secret waiting list died. CNN confirms up to 1,600 veterans forced to wait for months for doctor visits.

By Eric London in the USA:

VA scandal in US exposes disastrous state of veteran health care

19 May 2014

A series of recent leaks exposing the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as complicit in denying treatment to and causing the deaths of veterans at a medical center in Phoenix, Arizona have developed into a significant political crisis for the Obama administration.

So far, the affair has claimed the career of Undersecretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Petzel and has prompted calls for the resignation of VA Secretary and former Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki, who was forced under pressure to testify before Congress last Thursday.

Republicans are exploiting the scandal for their own purposes, attempting to posture as defenders of veterans. “We should all be ashamed,” Republican Senator John McCain, a leading supporter of every significant military operation carried out by the United States, said in a radio address over the weekend.

In fact, the revelations over the treatment of veterans are a damning indictment of the Obama administration and the entire political establishment, exposing the cynical character of the constant militarist drum-beating carried out in the name of “supporting the troops.” The American ruling class treats ordinary soldiers as so much cannon fodder, to be discarded after they have served their purpose.

The current scandal developed after a series of exposures made by present and former employees of the VA detailed the procedure by which the department denies healthcare to veterans and then covers-up these actions by means of a complex book-cooking scheme.

On April 30, Dr. Sam Foote, a retired doctor at the Phoenix VA medical center, revealed the existence of a “scheme” which was “deliberately put in place to avoid the VA’s own internal rules.” In an interview with CNN, Foote explained that VA administrators “developed the secret waiting list” that is used by the VA to cover up for the fact that roughly 40 veterans have died after waiting for treatment for months or years.

In the following weeks, further whistle-blowers from medical centers in Texas and Colorado stepped forward and made similar allegations regarding VA wrongdoing.

According to an April 2010 memorandum filed by lower-level VA officials to their higher-ups, practices employed by the agency include:

* canceling appointments when patients do not check-in 15 minutes early and thereby forcing patients who show up on-time or minutes early to reschedule appointments for weeks in the future.

* sending confirmation emails to patients, and if the patient does not respond, the VA “reserves the right” to cancel the appointment.

* scheduling patient appointments, canceling them, and entering the appointment into records as “cancelled by patient” instead of “cancelled by clinic” so that patients are sent to the bottom of the waitlist instead of being given preferential treatment.

* scheduling appointments with patients during times that the patients have stated they are unavailable, thereby forcing the patients to cancel and moving them to the back of the waiting list.

* scheduling appointments for a patient without notifying them and thereby “creat[ing] a very high likelihood that the patient will no-show which allows for another rebooking with a restarted wait time.”

* canceling and then re-establishing appointments on the same day in order to give the appearance that the patient’s wait time is minimal.

On top of the complex schedule-manipulation tactics, the VA also falls back on a more simple method for covering-up treatment denial. Dr. Katherine Mitchell, a VA doctor, recently disclosed that VA officials were caught shredding documents that detail wrongdoing.

The Obama administration has responded by denying the existence of wrongdoing and scrambling to minimize the scandal. Shinseki told the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on May 15 in conditional terms that “if these allegations are true” and “if they are substantiated,” then “they are completely unacceptable” and “timely action will be taken.”

Shinseki and Obama both issued choreographed statements in recent days stating that they were “mad as hell” (Shinseki) and “madder than hell” (Obama). Despite the feigned anger, nothing will be done to improve health care for veterans. After all, had it not been for a series of whistle-blowers at a widening series of VA medical centers, the executive branch would have continued to ignore the issue outright as they have been doing for years.

This is typified by the pro-forma statement issued by the White House last week, which read: “America has a sacred trust with the men and women who have served our country in uniform and he [Obama] is committed to doing all we can to ensure our veterans have access to timely, quality health care.”

But the unfolding crisis makes clear that the American ruling class is not, in fact, moved by a desire to “honor” military veterans except with condescending jingoist verbiage. Not only are veterans regularly denied the care they need, but the recent leaks reveal that the VA carries out a well-oiled cover-up to keep this fact a secret.

Deteriorating health care for veterans is not a new phenomenon, and poor living conditions amongst veterans are widespread. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that roughly 60,000 veterans are homeless on a given night, with 1.4 million at risk of homelessness.

Mental health issues are also widespread among veterans. A VA study released in 2012 showed that a US veteran kills him or herself every 80 minutes. There are more soldier suicides in a single year than soldiers killed-in-action during the entire “global war on terror.” Government-sponsored suicide hotlines receive hundreds of thousands of calls each year.

The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in particular have produced over 1 million wounded veterans who have been processed by the VA system.

To the American ruling class, the millions of surviving soldiers who have already served their purpose in the military operations of US imperialism cost more when they are alive than when they are dead.

Here’s everything you need to know about the VA scandal along with a timeline. And CNN asks why no one has been fired. [CNN]

“A growing number of lawmakers are calling for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resignation following a report that found widespread problems of delayed treatment at a Phoenix, Arizona, veterans hospital.” The report in question is damning. [HuffPost]

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Abu Ghraib torture, ten years later


This video says about itself:

8 June 2012

The Center for Latin American Studies helped facilitate the display of Fernando Botero’s “Abu Ghraib” collection at the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos in Santiago, Chile. The paintings and drawings were donated to Berkeley after the first showing at a public institution in the United States was arranged by the Center on the Berkeley campus in 2007. This video highlights the exhibition and includes footage from the opening ceremony.

By JUAN E. MÉNDEZ:

Abu Ghraib’s Ghosts

Ten years later, the United States still hasn’t come clean on its torture record.

By JUAN E. MÉNDEZ

April 27, 2014

Ten years ago today, “60 Minutes II” broadcast infamous pictures of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison then controlled by the United States. The photographs were heartbreaking. Naked men stacked up on top of each other in human pyramids. Prisoners forcibly staged in humiliating positions to mimic sex acts. Bags placed over men’s heads, denying their humanity. The most memorable image — a hooded man standing on a box, contorted Crucifixion-like with wires protruding from his hands — remains an indelible reminder that a country that long abhorred torture practiced it after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Those pictures shattered my belief that well-established democracies do not torture. I am a survivor of torture who owes his release from the Argentine junta’s notorious Unit 9 prison in part to U.S. pressure in the 1970s. If U.S. citizens and certain members of Congress had not written letters to the Argentine government inquiring about my situation, I might have become one of the thousands of people “disappeared” by the Argentine military in its Dirty War against political activists like me. I owe my life to the solidarity those Americans showed and their principled opposition to the military’s machinery of death and torture.

Unfortunately, the U.S. government that stood up to my torturers has been compromised — by both the Bush administration, which adopted torture as policy, and the Obama administration, which has kept evidence of U.S. torture hidden for years. It also is being compromised by the Central Intelligence Agency itself.

Here’s how. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s massive 6,600-page report on the CIA’s post- Sept. 11 torture program remains secret, although the committee recently voted to send the report’s executive summary, findings and conclusions to the White House for a declassification review. To be clear, the whole report should be public, not just pieces — but there’s a more urgent matter that must be dealt with immediately. According to the White House, President Barack Obama will allow the CIA to review and redact the report summary — a preposterous conflict of interest. Once again, the torturers will have the opportunity to censor what the public can know.

Already, leaked portions of the documents, obtained by McClatchy, show that CIA officers used torture methods that went beyond those approved by the Bush-era Justice Department and CIA headquarters, and that the agency evaded congressional, White House and public oversight. This isn’t surprising. Torture, you see, is a cancer that corrodes the morality of the perpetrators. It is so horrific that even its practitioners must lie to themselves and others to justify their actions, which shock not only the conscience of the world but their own. The CIA does this by rationalizing its brutality with the false argument that torture was necessary to save lives, or by simply relabeling the horrors of torture as the banal “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

This leaves an obvious question: How will the whole truth come out when the perpetrators are the ones holding the black marker? The answer is obvious, too: It will not. That not only violates solemn obligations of the United States under international law but has real consequences for human rights. As many countries with sordid histories of abuse know, those societies that reckon with their brutal pasts — Argentina, Chile and Peru, for instance — go on to have better records of protecting human rights, as well as defending their citizens from terrorists and other violent criminals. But societies that try to bury the past — including many former Soviet bloc countries — are more likely to continue their human rights violations and harm both their national and domestic security in the process.

While there are hugely important distinctions between the previously mentioned countries and the United States, the lesson still applies: The United States has a moral and legal obligation to discover and disclose the entire truth about torture committed by its agents, as a reminder to future administrations and to the world that torture is the very negation of human rights.

Just days after Obama took office in 2009, he did the right thing and immediately banned torture. But the 10th anniversary of the release of the Abu Ghraib photos, plus a still-secret report on the U.S. torture program under George W. Bush, serve as a reminder that Obama must do more before we can be confident that torture was an aberration that will never be repeated. He must take responsibility and lead the nation forward. The president — and not the CIA — must decide what is made public about the agency’s torture program. And he should release the Senate’s torture report in full.

The United States can once again become a full partner in the global movement for human rights, but only if it faces up to its dark side and atones for its torturous transgressions.

Juan E. Méndez is the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

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United States war veterans on waiting lists dying


This video from CNN in the USA is called 40 deaths result from VA hospital’s secret waiting list.

From CNN in the USA:

A fatal wait: Veterans languish and die on a VA hospital’s secret list

By Scott Bronstein and Drew Griffin, CNN Investigations

April 24, 2014 — Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)

At least 40 U.S. veterans died waiting for appointments at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs Health Care system, many of whom were placed on a secret waiting list.

The secret list was part of an elaborate scheme designed by Veterans Affairs managers in Phoenix who were trying to hide that 1,400 to 1,600 sick veterans were forced to wait months to see a doctor, according to a recently retired top VA doctor and several high-level sources.

For six months, CNN has been reporting on extended delays in health care appointments suffered by veterans across the country and who died while waiting for appointments and care. But the new revelations about the Phoenix VA are perhaps the most disturbing and striking to come to light thus far.

Internal e-mails obtained by CNN show that top management at the VA hospital in Arizona knew about the practice and even defended it.

Dr. Sam Foote just retired after spending 24 years with the VA system in Phoenix. The veteran doctor told CNN in an exclusive interview that the Phoenix VA works off two lists for patient appointments:

There’s an “official” list that’s shared with officials in Washington and shows the VA has been providing timely appointments, which Foote calls a sham list. And then there’s the real list that’s hidden from outsiders, where wait times can last more than a year.

Deliberate scheme, shredded evidence

“The scheme was deliberately put in place to avoid the VA’s own internal rules,” said Foote in Phoenix. “They developed the secret waiting list,” said Foote, a respected local physician.

The VA requires its hospitals to provide care to patients in a timely manner, typically within 14 to 30 days, Foote said.

According to Foote, the elaborate scheme in Phoenix involved shredding evidence to hide the long list of veterans waiting for appointments and care. Officials at the VA, Foote says, instructed their staff to not actually make doctor’s appointments for veterans within the computer system.

Instead, Foote says, when a veteran comes in seeking an appointment, “they enter information into the computer and do a screen capture hard copy printout. They then do not save what was put into the computer so there’s no record that you were ever here,” he said.

According to Foote, the information was gathered on the secret electronic list and then the information that would show when veterans first began waiting for an appointment was actually destroyed.

“That hard copy, if you will, that has the patient demographic information is then taken and placed onto a secret electronic waiting list, and then the data that is on that paper is shredded,” Foote said.

“So the only record that you have ever been there requesting care was on that secret list,” he said. “And they wouldn’t take you off that secret list until you had an appointment time that was less than 14 days so it would give the appearance that they were improving greatly the waiting times, when in fact they were not.”

Foote estimates right now the number of veterans waiting on the “secret list” to see a primary care physician is somewhere between 1,400 and 1,600.

Doctor: It’s a ‘frustrated’ staff

“I feel very sorry for the people who work at the Phoenix VA,” said Foote. “They’re all frustrated. They’re all upset. They all wish they could leave ’cause they know what they’re doing is wrong.

“But they have families, they have mortgages and if they speak out or say anything to anybody about it, they will be fired and they know that.”

Several other high-level VA staff confirmed Foote’s description to CNN and confirmed this is exactly how the secret list works in Phoenix.

Foote says the Phoenix wait times reported back to Washington were entirely fictitious. “So then when they did that, they would report to Washington, ‘Oh yeah. We’re makin’ our appointments within — within 10 days, within the 14-day frame,’ when in reality it had been six, nine, in some cases 21 months,” he said.

November: A dire situation in South Carolina

In the case of 71-year-old Navy veteran Thomas Breen, the wait on the secret list ended much sooner.

“We had noticed that he started to have bleeding in his urine,” said Teddy Barnes-Breen, his son. “So I was like, ‘Listen, we gotta get you to the doctor.’ “

Teddy says his Brooklyn-raised father was so proud of his military service that he would go nowhere but the VA for treatment. On September 28, 2013, with blood in his urine and a history of cancer, Teddy and his wife, Sally, rushed his father to the Phoenix VA emergency room, where he was examined and sent home to wait.

“They wrote on his chart that it was urgent,” said Sally, her father-in-law’s main caretaker. The family has obtained the chart from the VA that clearly states the “urgency” as “one week” for Breen to see a primary care doctor or at least a urologist, for the concerns about the blood in the urine.

“And they sent him home,” says Teddy, incredulously.

Sally and Teddy say Thomas Breen was given an appointment with a rheumatologist to look at his prosthetic leg but was given no appointment for the main reason he went in.

The Breens wait … and wait … and wait …

No one called from the VA with a primary care appointment. Sally says she and her father-in-law called “numerous times” in an effort to try to get an urgent appointment for him. She says the response they got was less than helpful.

“Well, you know, we have other patients that are critical as well,” Sally says she was told. “It’s a seven-month waiting list. And you’re gonna have to have patience.”

Sally says she kept calling, day after day, from late September to October. She kept up the calls through November. But then she no longer had reason to call.

Thomas Breen died on November 30. The death certificate shows that he died from Stage 4 bladder cancer. Months after the initial visit, Sally says she finally did get a call.

“They called me December 6. He’s dead already.”

Sally says the VA official told her, “We finally have that appointment. We have a primary for him.’ I said, ‘Really, you’re a little too late, sweetheart.’ “

Sally says her father-in-law realized toward the end he was not getting the care he needed.

“At the end is when he suffered. He screamed. He cried. And that’s somethin’ I’d never seen him do before, was cry. Never. Never. He cried in the kitchen right here. ‘Don’t let me die.’ “

Teddy added his father said: “Why is this happening to me? Why won’t anybody help me?”

Teddy added: “They didn’t do the right thing.” Sally said: “No. They neglected Pop.”

First hidden — and then removed

Foote says Breen is a perfect example of a veteran who needed an urgent appointment with a primary doctor and who was instead put on the secret waiting list — where he remained hidden.

Foote adds that when veterans waiting on the secret list die, they are simply removed.

“They could just remove you from that list, and there’s no record that you ever came to the VA and presented for care. … It’s pretty sad.”

Foote said that the number of dead veterans who died waiting for care is at least 40.

“That’s correct. The number’s actually higher. … I would say that 40, there’s more than that that I know of, but 40’s probably a good number.”

CNN has obtained e-mails from July 2013 showing that top management, including Phoenix VA Director Sharon Helman, was well-aware about the actual wait times, knew about the electronic off-the-books list and even defended its use to her staff.

A Colorado VA clinic falsified records in order to show that patients were being seen promptly.

“Clerks scheduling medical appointments for veterans were ‘cooking the books’ at their bosses’ behest to hide the fact some had to wait weeks, if not months, for appointments, a VA scheduler in San Antonio said Thursday…The allegations surrounding this Texas VA hospital comes as the federal department fends off claims of potentially deadly delays at other facilities, including claims of a secret wait list in Phoenix…” In response, the VA has now ordered a “face-to-face audit” of all clinics across the country. Watch the American Legion’s response to the allegations. [CNN]

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United States drone war from Germany


This 2013 video from the USA is called Jeremy Scahill – Dirty Wars: Inside America’s Covert Wars.

By Elisabeth Zimmermann in Germany:

US conducting drone war from Germany

8 April 2014

The American Ramstein military base in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate plays a central role in Washington’s global drone war. This has been revealed by research from the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, and the radio networks Norddeutsche Rundfunk (NDR) and Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR), based on details from American military documents and former drone pilot Brandon Bryant.

Already early last summer, it was revealed that drone attacks in Africa were being directed from Germany. The central role is played by the Air and Space Operation Centre at the Ramstein base in Rhineland-Palatinate, which is the largest overseas US air base. Pictures from drones circling over African countries such as Somalia are evaluated there. The men and women in the flight centre receive their orders from Stuttgart, where Africom, the headquarters of the US’s African command, has been based since 2007.

Representatives of the German and American governments have always denied that drone attacks are launched from German territory.

When US president Obama visited Germany last June, he claimed in reference to such reports that no drone attacks were conducted or ordered from German territory. “We don’t use Germany as a starting point for unmanned drones in the war on terror. I know that there have been some reports here in Germany according to which that could be the case. It is not the case,” said Obama.

German government representatives answered related questions in parliament, claiming they were not aware that such attacks were flown or directed from Germany.

Both statements were false. The latest revelations also prove that interventions in Pakistan and Yemen were handled from Ramstein. The US military base plays a crucial role in the drone war, which has executed thousands of “suspected terrorists” who had no judicial process or opportunity to defend themselves, as well as numerous civilians that even the US government admits are entirely innocent.

According to estimates from the Bureau of Investigative Journalists, approximately 1,000 civilians have been killed in Pakistan and Yemen by drone attacks since 2004. Foreign Policy magazine estimates that 2,000 “suspects” have been killed by drones since November 2001. The number of civilian deaths remains disputed and is likely many times more than the published figures.

The US Ramstein base serves as a centre for data collection in the drone war. The remote-controlled machines send their data via a satellite to the base, from where it is forwarded through fiber-optic cables to the United States.

In a bunker deep underground on the Ramstein base is the so-called distributed ground system (DGS). There are only five of these US Air Force installations globally that are permanently in operation. Three are located in the United States, one in South Korea, and another, DSG 4, has been at Ramstein since 2003. Only selected soldiers have access to this high security area. No outsider would have any idea of what is going on under their noses.

The DGS is the “central nervous system” of US drone interventions. All of the strands involved in a drone attack are brought together here. Live pictures supplied by drones from Yemen, Somalia, the Afghan-Pakistani border area or other countries are analysed and compared against intelligence information. Decisions are taken, meaning the orders for illegal killings, and then carried out in each target area.

Drone pilots, who are usually based in the US, receive analysis and instructions from DSG-4 in Ramstein through an encrypted chat system called mIRC.

“Without Germany, the US military’s entire drone war would not be possible,” former drone pilot Brandon Bryant told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. He explained on the ARD television programme Panorama, “The air base at Ramstein plays a very essential role in the global drone war. Without this base in Germany, none of it would work. It is the epicentre for the flow of information for the US’s overseas operations.”

Bryant, 28, was stationed at an airbase in New Mexico until April 2011, from where he controlled drones. According to his own figures, he participated in the deaths of 1,626 people, including alleged terrorists, terrorist suspects, and probably civilians.

In the more than 6,000 hours that he flew, there was not a single operation “in which I did not call Ramstein to connect with my drone. At the airbase, virtually all information comes together, like in a funnel,” Bryant said April 3 on the Panorama programme.

He left the air force because he had questioned the integrity of his superiors. “They broke international law and violated human rights. We were basically a killing machine,” said Bryant in explaining his departure from the US military.

The German government responded with evasions to the new evidence that the Ramstein base plays a central role in the US global drone war.

“The American government gave assurances to the federal government that such armed and remote-controlled aircraft were neither flown nor guided from American bases in Germany,” claimed government spokesman Stefan Seibert, referring to the government’s previous level of awareness. But now there was “new information reported,” which the German government wished to make the subject of discussions with the US government. The German government took these reports “seriously.”

In reality, the German government not only knew a lot more about the US drone programme than it is admitting in public, but is directly implicated in it. However, to admit this would have wide-ranging consequences, since the drone programme is in blatant violation of German and international law.

A parliamentary report from January 20, 2014, cited by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, comes to the conclusion that it was “indisputable that Germany” should not tolerate “military operations in violation of international law” that were being implemented by foreign states from German territory. If the US military executes a terror suspect by drone-fired missile outside of a combat zone and in breach of international law, this could “represent complicity in a crime against international law,” if the German government knew about it but didn’t protest.

German intelligence services pass information to the NSA and US military that assists in the identification of drone targets, receiving information in exchange. Three German citizens have also been killed as a result of such data in Pakistan.

Twenty-year-old Bünyamin E from Wuppertal lost his life on October 4, 2010, in a drone attack in Waziristan. The state prosecutor abandoned a full investigation in June 2013.

Patrick N from Offenbach, a German who had converted to Islam, travelled with his wife and two children to Pakistan in 2011 and allegedly joined the “Islamic movement of Uzbekistan.” The 27-year-old died on February 16, 2012, when rockets struck the pickup in which he was travelling near the border with Afghanistan. In addition to him, a further nine people are estimated to have lost their lives.

Samir H from Aachen was killed in a drone attack on a land rover on March 9, 2012. The 29-year-old had travelled to the Afghan-Pakistan border region with his wife and children in 2009 and allegedly also joined the “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.” The German government gave no statements on whether German security forces had passed information on Samir H to American intelligence. Investigations into his death were halted by the state prosecutor in August 2013.

These are the three cases made public. It is not known how many more cases there are where information obtained and passed on by German security forces have led to the deaths of those targeted. However, it is known that a broad range of information flows from Germany to the United States daily, including names, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses from suspects who have travelled to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria or Yemen.

The close, and in many areas illegal, collaboration of German and American security forces goes back to the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the Social Democratic-Green Party government in Germany at the time.

So-called rendition flights, which took prisoners to secret “black sites” in various locations around the world, were allowed to stop over regularly in Germany without any obstruction. The German government refused to call for the release of Morat Kurnaz, who grew up in Bremen but sat in Guantanamo Bay for four years, having committed no crime. And in 2003, when the German-Lebanese Khalid El-Masri was kidnapped in Macedonia by the CIA, the German government did not lift a finger to support him.

Last week, the German parliament established an investigatory committee to focus on the surveillance practices of the NSA, while shedding light on Ramstein’s role in the global drone war. But like the investigation of the committee into the murders by the neo-Nazi NSU, all indications are that this will be a cover-up rather than an exposure.

This is shown by the treatment of the most important witness on the NSA programmes, Edward Snowden, who exposed the NSA’s surveillance systems. Although the investigatory committee has invited him as a witness, the German government at the same time refused to give him any assurance of asylum or a secure period of residency in Germany. As a result, Snowden, who understandably fears for his life, will not be able to appear in person before the committee.

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