Pentagon commits war crimes in Iraq, Amnesty says


This video says about itself:

28 March 2017

Hundreds of Mosul residents were killed by airstrikes in their homes following repeated instructions from Iraqi authorities not to leave, Amnesty International says. It adds coalition forces should have known they were likely to result in civilian deaths.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

US accused of war crimes in air strikes on Iraqi city of Mosul

29 March 2017

Amnesty International issued a report Tuesday charging the US-led coalition besieging Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, with war crimes involving the “disproportionate and indiscriminate” bombing of residential areas that has slaughtered hundreds of civilian men, women and children.

The report by the human rights group, which chronicles bloody incidents that took place in eastern Mosul during the end of 2016 and the beginning of this year, has been released amid mounting evidence that the Pentagon carried out one of its worst atrocities in decades in the March 17 bombing of the Jadida neighborhood in the densely populated western sector of the city.

While earlier reports spoke of some 160 dead being pulled from the rubble left by the US airstrikes in Mosul’s Jadida district, on Monday the Iraqi Civil Defense Department released a report saying that 531 bodies have been recovered thus far.

“We probably had a role in those casualties,” Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top US commander in Iraq and Syria, acknowledged to Pentagon reporters Tuesday. At the same time, however, Townsend suggested that the “the enemy had a hand in this,” alleging that there was no reason for civilians to have congregated inside buildings targeted by US warplanes other than their being exploited as “human shields.”

This attempted alibi is contradicted by multiple reports from survivors of the bombing raid, who said that entire families, terrorized by US bombs as well as mortar attacks by Iraqi government forces, had huddled in basements of homes in the neighborhood. Indeed, before launching the offensive last fall, the US-backed Iraqi military dropped leaflets on Mosul, a city of 1.8 million people, urging residents to “shelter in place” rather than flee to safety.

The US and Iraqi commanders on the ground apparently called in the air strikes to kill small numbers of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) snipers located on rooftops, in the process reducing entire city blocks to rubble.

General Townsend dismissed Washington’s responsibility for the carnage. “If the US did this,” said Townsend, it was an “unintentional accident of war.” Chillingly, he added that civilian casualties in western Mosul are “fairly predictable,” given its crowded residential neighborhoods and the intense street fighting. In other words, many more atrocities like that of March 17 are still to come.

Iraqi vice president Osama al-Nujaifi, who is from Mosul and the most senior Sunni official in the country, described the US bombing as a “humanitarian catastrophe” that had resulted in the “martyrdom of hundreds of civilians.” He called for an emergency session of the Iraqi parliament along with an official investigation of the incident. He charged that the mass civilian casualties were the result of changed rules of engagement on the part of the US-led “coalition” that have minimized any attempt to protect the lives of unarmed men, women and children trapped in Mosul.

This same charge was leveled by Iraqi officers cited by the New York Times Tuesday. According to the Times, the officers report that “the American-led coalition has been quicker to strike urban targets from the air with less time to weigh the risks for civilians. They say the change reflects a renewed push by the American military under the Trump administration to speed up the battle for Mosul.”

In a report from the scene of the devastation, the Times described “a panorama of destruction in the neighborhood of Jadida so vast one resident compared the destruction to that of Hiroshima, Japan, where the United States dropped an atomic bomb in World War II. There was a charred arm, wrapped in a piece of red fabric, poking from the rubble; rescue workers in red jump suits who wore face masks to avoid the stench, some with rifles slung over their shoulders, searched the wreckage for bodies.”

The newspaper reported that “One of the survivors, Omar Adnan, stood near his destroyed home on Sunday and held up a white sheet of paper with 27 names of his extended family members, either dead or missing, written in blue ink.”

The Amnesty International report released Tuesday indicates that the atrocity in Jadida is only the bloodiest in a series of attacks carried out by US forces resulting in mass civilian casualties.

“Evidence gathered on the ground in East Mosul points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside,” reports Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera following field investigations in the war-ravaged city.

“The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.”

The Amnesty report quoted Wa’ad Ahmad al-Tai, a resident of the al-Zahra neighborhood of East Mosul, who said he and his family were among those who had followed the advice of the US-backed Iraqi government to stay in their homes rather than flee the siege.

He recounted how his extended family had sought shelter in the two-story home of his brother: “We were all huddled in one room at the back of the house, 18 of us, three families. But when the house next door was bombed, it collapsed on us, precisely over the room we were sheltering in. My son Yusef, nine, and my daughter Shahad, three, were killed, together with my brother Mahmoud, his wife Manaya and their nine-year-old son Aws, and my niece Hanan. She was cradling her five-month-old daughter, who survived, thank God.”

Hind Amir Ahmad, a 23-year-old woman who lost 11 relatives, recounted a similar attack in eastern Mosul that took place on December 13, 2016: “We were sleeping when the house literally collapsed on us. It was a miracle none of us was killed. We ran to my uncle’s house nearby. At about 2 p.m. that house too was bombed and collapsed on us … almost everyone in the house was killed—11 people. My cousin, two aunts and I were the only ones who survived. Everyone else died. It took us six days to find only pieces of their bodies, which we buried in a mass grave in a field nearby. … I don’t know why we were bombed. All I know is that I have lost everyone who was dearest to me.”

The Amnesty report also debunked the Pentagon’s attempt to justify the killing of Iraqi civilians with claims that ISIS is using the population as “human shields.” Even if the Islamist fighters showed indifference to human life, this did not justify the indiscriminate air strikes launched by US warplanes, the human rights group said. It also pointed out that the US-backed Iraqi military is setting up its own firing positions in and around civilian homes, exposing them to return fire from ISIS forces.

As of March 21, the monitoring group Airwars had recorded over 1,000 “civilian casualty events” resulting from airstrikes by the US and its allies in both Iraq and Syria. The number of incidents has risen sharply in the course of the first three months of this year with the siege of Mosul and the preparations for a similar bloodbath in the ISIS-held Syrian city of Raqqa.

The group pointed out that the US air strikes have far eclipsed those being conducted by Russia, which intervened in Syria in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Yet the same US and Western media, which waged an intense propaganda campaign over civilian casualties caused by Russian air strikes against Al Qaeda positions in the Syrian city of Aleppo, has proven itself largely indifferent to the killing of Iraqi men, women and children in Mosul.

Nor for that matter have the changed “rules of engagement” enacted by the Pentagon under the Trump administration elicited any protest from its ostensible political opponents in the Democratic Party. This is because, as the Amnesty report documents, the carnage in Mosul was already well under way before Barack Obama left the White House.

The US escalation in Iraq and Syria enjoys bipartisan support. Launched under the pretense of a campaign against ISIS, which is itself the direct product of the US invasion and destruction of Iraq, followed by the proxy wars for regime change in Libya and Syria, the aim of the ever growing American intervention is to assert US imperialist hegemony over the entire oil-rich Middle East.

The US pursuit of this geostrategic aim has already cost millions of lives over the past quarter century. Its aggressive renewal has been launched in preparation for far more dangerous confrontations with Washington’s chief global rivals, China and Russia.

Yemen, Somalia wars and British Guardian daily


This video from the USA says about itself:

14 October 2016

The United States Navy fired missiles at sites in Yemen, continuing America’s long tradition of perpetual wars for profit.

Jimmy Dore breaks it down.

By Ian Sinclair in Britain:

Please don’t mention Western intervention

Wednesday 29th March 2017

By downplaying the West’s role in Yemen and Somalia, the Guardian is keeping its readers ignorant of the true nature of Western foreign policy, says IAN SINCLAIR

EARLIER this month Stephen O’Brien, the United Nations undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, warned the world was facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the second world war.

Speaking to the UN security council, O’Brien said more than 20 million people in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria were facing starvation and famine.

Following up on this, on March 17 2017 the Guardian published a report on Yemen, noting that aid agencies have warned the country is “at the point of no return.”

UN figures show 17 million people face severe food insecurity, the Guardian noted, including nearly seven million people deemed to be in a state of emergency.

With the article relegated to page 29 of the newspaper, there was just one oblique mention of the US and Britain, which the report explained “have influence over the Saudi-led coalition” currently attacking Yemen and blocking aid entering the country.

Here are the basic facts the Guardian chose not to highlight. Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of countries in a bombing campaign to overthrow the Houthi government in Yemen (which itself overthrew the previous government).

According to the United Nations, there have been over 10,000 civilian casualties, with the Saudi-led coalition’s air strikes responsible for the majority.

In 2016 the Yemen Data Project — a group of academics, human rights organisers and activists — reported that one third of Saudi-led air raids have hit civilian sites such as school buildings, hospitals, markets and mosques. Martha Mundy, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics, believes that “in some regions, the Saudis are deliberately striking at agricultural infrastructure in order to destroy the civil society.”

The US and Britain have been closely collaborating with Saudi Arabia in Yemen. “We’ll support the Saudis in every practical way, short of engaging in combat… political support, of course, logistical and technical support,” the then foreign secretary Philip Hammond announced a month into the bombardment.

Speaking to me last year, activist Medea Benjamin, author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the US-Saudi Connection, explained Saudi Arabia is “getting munitions from the West… The US is even refuelling their planes in the air.”

President Barack Obama, described as “the reluctant interventionist” by senior Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, sold $115 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia during his eight years in office. This makes the 44th president of the United States “the most enthusiastic arms salesman to Saudi Arabia in American history,” according to senior Brookings Institution fellow Bruce Riedel.

Speaking in January 2017, O’Brien was crystal clear about the main cause of the ongoing humanitarian crisis: “The conflict in Yemen is now the primary driver of the largest food security emergency in the world.”

The Guardian has form when it comes to (not) reporting the causes of the deepening humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Surveying the newspaper’s coverage of Yemen between June 2016 and mid-January 2017, Peace News editor Milan Rai concluded: “The critical role of the Saudi blockade in creating these conditions in Yemen has been effectively suppressed by the British media, including Britain’s most liberal mainstream newspaper, the Guardian.”

According to Rai, there were 70 stories or editorials about Yemen on the Guardian website during this period: “Most of those 70 items (42 stories, 60 per cent of the total) do not mention the humanitarian crisis — or the role of the Saudi blockade — in any way at all.” And though the other 28 articles did refer to the humanitarian crisis “most did so only in a way that effectively suppressed the information,” Rai notes.

Unsurprisingly a recent YouGov/ Independent poll found more than half of British people were unaware of the war in Yemen, with just 37 per cent of 18-24 year olds aware of the conflict.

Turning to Somalia, on March 13 the Guardian published a full-page article on the ongoing humanitarian crisis in east Africa. “As many as 6.2 million Somalis — more than half the population — need urgent food assistance,” noted the Guardian, including “some districts… under the control of Islamist rebels al-Shabab, making [aid] access complicated.” There is one mention of the US: “The US government says it has spent more than $110 million on humanitarian assistance in Somalia in 2017.”

In reality, the US has been heavily involved in Somali affairs since the 1990s. These interventions, noted BBC journalist Mary Harper in her 2012 book Getting Somalia Wrong?, are viewed by “a growing number of experts” as having “contributed towards [Somalia’s] destruction as a viable nation-state.”

Speaking to Democracy Now! in 2013, journalist Jeremy Scahill explained that in the early years of the “war on terror” the George W Bush administration “made a disastrous decision to put [Somali] warlords on the CIA payroll” and “basically had them acting as an assassination squad.”

A relative stability was created for a brief period when the Islamic Courts Union took control in 2006 — quickly shattered by the December 2006 US-supported Ethiopian invasion and occupation.

The occupation, as occupations often tend to do, energised extremists, with Somali journalist Jamal Osman explaining “al-Shabab was born when Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006 and some still see the group as a resistance movement.”

Since then the US has been trying to destroy the group its actions helped create. In 2012 the Los Angeles Times reported: “The US has been quietly equipping and training thousands of African soldiers to wage a widening proxy war against the Shabab.”

“Officially, the troops are under the auspices of the African Union,” the report explained. “But in truth, according to interviews by US and African officials and senior military officers and budget documents, the 15,000-strong force pulled from five African countries is largely a creation of the State Department and Pentagon.” The US government “is trying to achieve US military goals with minimal risk of American deaths and scant public debate,” the Los Angeles Times noted.

Since then the US has intensified its clandestine war in Somalia “using special operations troops, air strikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants,” the New York Times reported last year.

Like Yemen, the US military involvement in Somalia has harmed the country’s ability to deal with humanitarian crises. For example, though the Financial Times explains the looming famine in Somalia is primarily the result of regional drought, it goes on to note: “The lack of effective government and an insurgency by al-Shabab, an al-Qaida linked jihadist group, have not helped.”

This quick survey of the Guardian’s recent coverage of Yemen and Somalia puts the lie to Guardian regular Polly Toynbee’s claim that the newspaper is “always free to hold power to account: to take on politicians, global corporations, the secret security state or great vested interests.”

The Guardian may well be free to hold power to account but it’s currently missing some huge open goals when it comes to Western foreign policy.

To be clear, I’m not saying the Guardian never mentions Western interference in Yemen and Somalia or links this to the growing humanitarian crises — I’m arguing the newspaper’s coverage does not match the importance of the issue.

As Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky argue in their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, the fact “that the media provide some information about an issue… proves absolutely nothing about the adequacy or accuracy of media coverage… More important is the way they present a particular fact — its placement, tone, and frequency of repetition — and the framework of analysis in which it is placed.”

Indeed, by downplaying of US intervention in Yemen and Somalia, the Guardian has helped to keep the large swatches of the general public ignorant of Western foreign policy — a state of affairs that suits the US government’s interests, as the Los Angeles Times report above makes clear.

Trump increases Pentagon support for Saudi war on Yemen


This May 2015 video from the USA is called Saudi Airstrikes Kill 800 Civilians In Yemen.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

As Yemen war enters third year, Pentagon moves to escalate slaughter

28 March 2017

The Pentagon has formally asked the Trump White House to lift limited restrictions imposed by the Obama administration on US military aid to the Saudi Arabian monarchy’s near genocidal war against the impoverished people of Yemen.

The Washington Post reported Monday that Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis, a recently-retired US Marine general, had submitted a memo earlier this month to Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster, an active duty US Army lieutenant general, for the approval of stepped-up support for military operations being conducted in Yemen by both the Saudi regime and its principal Arab ally, the United Arab Emirates.

The memo, according to the Post, stressed that such US military aid would help to combat “a common threat.”

This supposed “threat” is posed by Iran, US imperialism’s principal regional rival for hegemony over the oil-rich Middle East. Both the Saudi monarchy and the Trump administration have repeatedly charged, without providing any significant supporting evidence, that Iran has armed, trained and directed the Houthi rebels who seized control of the Yemeni capital and much of the country, toppling the US-Saudi puppet regime of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in 2014.

A major escalation of the US intervention in Yemen will be directed principally at provoking a military confrontation with Tehran, with the aim of weakening Iranian influence throughout the region. Trump himself campaigned in the 2016 election denouncing the Obama administration for being too “soft” on Iran and for joining the other major powers in negotiating what he characterized as a “disastrous” nuclear agreement with Tehran. His advisers, including his ousted first national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, and Defense Secretary Mattis, have all voiced bellicose hostility to Iran.

The immediate impetus for the call for increased US aid to the Saudi-led war is reportedly a proposed Emirati operation to seize control of the key Red Sea port of Hodeida. The effect of such an offensive would be to cut off the large portion of the country and its population under Houthi control from any lifeline to the outside world. Fully 70 percent of the country’s imports now come through the port. Even before the war, Yemen was dependent upon imports for 90 percent of its food. Aid agencies have warned that a military offensive on the port could tip the country into mass starvation.

The proposed US escalation in Yemen coincides with the second anniversary of the Saudi war on the country, launched on March 26, 2015 in the form of an unending bombing campaign directed largely against civilian targets, along with a halting offensive on the ground.

The anniversary was marked in the capital of Sanaa and other Yemeni cities by demonstrations of hundreds of thousands denouncing the murderous Saudi military campaign. The Houthis have won support that extends far beyond their base in the country’s Zaidi-Shia minority because of popular hatred for the Saudi monarchy and its crimes.

As the war enters its third year, Yemen is teetering on the brink of mass starvation, confronting one of the worst humanitarian crises anywhere on the planet. This war, waged by the obscenely wealthy royal families of the gulf oil sheikdoms against what was already the poorest nation in the Arab world, has killed some 12,000 Yemenis, the overwhelming majority of them civilians, and wounded at least 40,000 more.

Saudi airstrikes have targeted hospitals, schools, factories, food warehouses, fields and even livestock. Coupled with a de facto naval blockade, the aim of this total war against Yemen’s civilian population is to starve the Yemenis into submission. A US-backed campaign to seize the port of Hodeida would serve to tighten this deadly stranglehold.

In a statement issued Monday marking the beginning of the war’s third year, the United Nations emergency relief agency reported that “nearly 19 million Yemenis—over two-thirds of the population—need humanitarian assistance. Seven million Yemenis are facing starvation.”

UNICEF, the UN’s children’s agency, reported that roughly half a million children are suffering from acute malnutrition in Yemen, while 1,546 have been killed and 2,450 have been disabled by the fighting. The agency said that the rate of child deaths had increased by 70 percent over the past year, while the rate of acute malnutrition had increased by 200 percent since 2014.

The deliberate Saudi bombing of hospitals and clinics has left 15 million people without any access to health care, while the destruction of water and sanitation facilities has led to epidemics of cholera and diarrhea. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 children have lost their lives due to the lack of clean water and medical services since 2015.

Washington, under both the Obama and the Trump administrations, has been fully complicit in the war crimes being carried out by the Saudi regime and its allies against the Yemeni people. Washington poured a staggering $115 billion worth of arms into the Saudi kingdom under the Obama administration, resupplying bombs and missiles dropped on Yemeni homes, hospitals and schools. It set up a joint US-Saudi logistical and intelligence center to guide the war and provided aerial refueling by US planes to assure that the bombing could continue round the clock.

While a part of this decisive military aid was curtailed for public relations purposes following the horrific October 2016 Saudi bombing of a funeral ceremony in Sanaa that killed over 150 people, the US Navy entered directly into the conflict that same month, firing Tomahawk missiles at Houthi targets based on unsubstantiated charges that missiles had been fired at US ships.

Nonetheless, the request by Mattis would mark a qualitative escalation of the US intervention. While the Post reported that an Emirati request for US Special Operations troops to participate directly in the siege of the port of Hodeida was not part of Mattis’s proposal, it went on to warn that the Gulf sheikdom’s military “may not be capable of such a large operation, including holding and stabilizing any reclaimed area, without sucking in US forces.” Indeed, the Emirati army is in large measure a mercenary force, having recruited former members of the Colombian, Salvadoran and Chilean military to do the ruling royal family’s dirty work.

The Post goes on to report: “A plan developed by the U.S. Central Command to assist the operation includes other elements that are not part of Mattis’s request, officials said. While Marine Corps ships have been off the coast of Yemen for about a year, it was not clear what support role they might play.”

As numerous reports have indicated, the Trump White House has essentially given free rein to Mattis and the US military commanders to conduct armed operations as they see fit. The result has been the more than doubling of the number of US troops on the ground in Syria along with an escalation of the US intervention in Iraq, as well as a request for another 5,000 troops to be deployed in Afghanistan.

In Yemen, they are preparing to drag the American people into another criminal war against one of the world’s most vulnerable populations, threatening to hasten the deaths of millions of starving people. The strategic aims underlying this vast war crime are the imposition of US imperialist hegemony over the Middle East through a military confrontation with Iran and the preparation for a global conflict with Washington’s principal rivals, Russia and China.

Reality and the U.S.-made famine in Yemen: here.

Why is Donald Trump lunching with a Saudi war criminal while Yemenis are starving? Here.

Pentagon admits killing Iraqi civilians


This video says about itself:

23 March 2017

Over 130 people trying to take shelter from the fighting in Mosul have been buried under the rubble of a building hit by a coalition airstrike, witnesses say in a video released by Associated Press.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Iraq: US admits to deadly civilian air strike

Monday 27th March 2017

THE US-led bombing coalition admitted on Saturday that it had carried out an air strike on the Iraqi city of Mosul that witnesses said killed hundreds. …

It said it had opened an investigation to determine whether reports of more than 200 casualties caused by the raid earlier this month were true. …

Rescue workers said the raid hit two houses where more than 200 people were sheltering from fierce fighting and artillery fire …

Monitoring website Airwars.org said more than 1,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed by the US-led coalition this month.

US mass murder in western Mosul is aiding, abetting and strengthening ISIS – and not defeating it: here.

The US-led “coalition” has admitted that its forces carried out the March 17 air strike in Mosul—ostensibly against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters—that slaughtered as many as 200 civilians, including numerous children. The admission was only made in the face of evidence provided by survivors to Iraqi journalists, whose accounts were reported by sections of the Western press: here.

Big Yemeni demonstration against Saudi war


This video says about itself:

Thousands rally in Sanaa, Yemen against Saudi-led airstrikes

26 March 2017

Massive crowds have hit the streets of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa in protest of the Saudi-led bombing campaign.

From Reuters news agency, 26 March 2017:

Thousands In Yemen Rally On Second Anniversary Of Civil War

Many waved national colors and denounced the U.S. and Saudi Arabia over the conflict.

SANAA (Reuters) – Thousands of Yemenis packed a square in the capital Sanaa on Sunday on the second anniversary of a war that has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.

It was the biggest gathering since a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states entered the conflict in 2015 to try to restore [Saudi appointed] President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power after he was ousted from Sanaa. …

“This is a message to the world to tell everyone that despite two years of war, the Yemeni people are still victorious, still alive and still love peace,” said Essam al-Abed.

U.S. WEIGHING GREATER INVOLVEMENT IN YEMEN WAR “U.S. military activity in Yemen until now has been confined mainly to counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda’s affiliate there, with limited indirect backing for gulf state efforts in a two-year-old war that has yielded significant civilian casualties.” [WaPo]

New Zealand taxpayer-paid war propaganda for children


ANZAC heroes book cover

By Sam Price and Tom Peters in New Zealand:

ANZAC Heroes: Promoting war to children

24 March 2017

ANZAC Heroes, written by Maria Gill and illustrated by Marco Ivancic, is a glorification of war and nationalism aimed at children. Published by Scholastic in March 2016, and designed to be used in schools, it profiles 30 men and women who were in the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzac) during World War I and II, including soldiers, air force pilots, navy officers, and nurses.

Gill received $41,033 to write the book from the New Zealand government agency Creative NZ, which had a special $1.5 million fund for projects promoting the centenary of World War I. Wellington and Canberra have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on pro-war exhibitions, books and movies over the last three years, mainly aimed at young people, to encourage patriotism and respect for the military.

ANZAC Heroes received the 2016 Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, the national award for New Zealand children’s books. According to the awards’ web site, they are given to works that build “national identity and cultural heritage” and are funded by Creative NZ and the Wellington City Council. The judges described Gill’s book as “personal, engaging, inspiring and sad” and “incredibly well-researched.”

In fact, the book is not an objective work of history. As with other centenary-related productions, it is full of distortions and falsifications. While several of the people profiled were undoubtedly interesting and brave, their stories, filtered through the prism of nationalism, come across as lifeless and formulaic.

The primary purpose of the book is to glorify participation in imperialist wars. According to the introduction, the author aimed to “show what [the Anzacs] endured and how their incredible spirit saw them rise to the challenge.” It notes that every year their “sacrifice” is remembered on April 25, Anzac Day, in Australia and New Zealand. This holiday features nationalist parades and other patriotic ceremonies dedicated to the military.

Gill falsely characterises the entry of Australia and New Zealand into WWI as defensive. “When Britain went to war, they committed themselves to defending the Empire. Politicians worried that the war would spread to their shores and wanted to support the Empire’s effort to prevent that from happening,” she states.

In reality, both countries are minor imperialist powers that entered the war to expand their colonial possessions. Soon after war was declared in 1914, Australia invaded German Papua New Guinea and New Zealand troops seized German Samoa. These territories, along with Nauru, were brutally exploited by Australian and New Zealand capitalists for decades. The Anzacs took part in World War II not to fight for “democracy” but for predatory colonial interests.

Gill gives little sense of the immense scale of the destruction in both World Wars. The fact that tens of millions of people were slaughtered is not even mentioned, only the large death tolls for Australian and New Zealand troops: in WWI they were 60,000 and 18,000 respectively; in WWII, 27,073 and 11,928.

The book’s “heroes” are generally described as excited and eager to go to war. For instance: “At 17 years old, Cyril [Bassett] couldn’t wait to join the Territorial Force;” “Like many teenagers of that era, Robert [Little] dreamed of being a pilot;” “William Sanders always wanted a seafaring life after growing up hearing tales of his grandfather Captain Wilson’s sailing adventures;” “Edward (‘Weary’) Dunlop wanted to be like the heroes in the books and comics he read” … and so on.

There was in 1914–1915 an initial period of “war fever” in which thousands of Australians and New Zealanders rushed to enlist to fight. Responsibility for the lack of organised opposition rests primarily with the trade union and Labour Party leaders in both countries, which, like their counterparts in Europe, enthusiastically supported the war and joined with the bourgeoisie in whipping up patriotism.

Following the reports of thousands of deaths, particularly at the battle of Gallipoli in 1915, enlistments began to fall sharply and anti-war sentiment spread rapidly throughout the working class. The Australian Labor government of Billy Hughes attempted to introduce conscription, but was defeated in two referenda. New Zealand’s conservative government led by William Massey imposed conscription without a referendum in 1916. In New Zealand the Labour Party was established in 1916 to contain the anti-war opposition in the working class.

There is no reference to this mass opposition in Gill’s book. Nor is there any profile of anyone who was conscripted or otherwise forced to go and fight.

Gill recounts the military exploits of each soldier, with particular emphasis on the number of “enemies” killed and the recognition and medals received. A typical passage describes how Australian soldier Albert Jacka “killed many Germans” in WWI and earned a Victoria Cross after he leapt into an Ottoman trench, “shot five and bayoneted two,” afterwards telling his commanding officer: “Well, I managed to get the beggars, sir!”

Australian pilot Hughie Edwards is praised for earning the Victoria Cross in July, 1941, after “blowing up two factories and a warehouse.” Edwards took part in the bombing of Berlin in 1943, which killed thousands of civilians.

Victims of a bombing raid in Berlin laid out for identification

The book notes that several Anzacs suffered disfiguring wounds and psychological disorders. There are also descriptions of the horrific conditions endured by prisoners of war during WWII. Australian Arthur Blackburn is said to have “fought for the rights of POWs, striving to get them better living conditions, and suffered beatings for it.” A thousand men, under the command of prisoner Edward Dunlop, were forced to work 18-hour days in a Japanese prison camp while suffering from diseases like malaria and cholera.

Gill shows no sympathy for German, Ottoman or Japanese soldiers, who are dehumanised as “the enemy” throughout the book. Nor is there any acknowledgement of war crimes committed by the British Empire, the US or their allies. In Cowra, Australia in 1944, 231 Japanese POWs were slaughtered following a breakout, while in New Zealand in 1943, 48 Japanese prisoners were massacred by machine-gun during a riot. These atrocities are not widely known, particularly among younger people.

Several profiles of women and indigenous soldiers have been included to depict WWI and WWII as central to the development of a “progressive” and egalitarian national identity.

Gill writes that Australian ambulance driver Olive King “craved adventure” and when she initially volunteered “they told her war was no place for women, but Olive didn’t let that stop her.” The profile for New Zealand doctor Jessie Scott attempts to draw a direct line between New Zealand women winning the right to vote in 1893 and Scott’s decision to become a doctor and join a military hospital in Serbia.

Working class women, however, played a major role in the anti-war movement in both countries. In Melbourne on October 21, 1916, an anti-conscription demonstration led by around 4,000 women attracted a crowd of 80,000 people. In the New Zealand city of Christchurch in 1918, a group of 2,000 women started what was reported as a riot to prevent their men being conscripted.

The statement in ANZAC Heroes that “Maori volunteered to join [WWI] as soon as the war was declared” is a gross distortion. In fact, Maori were among the bitterest opponents of war. A Native Contingent Committee was formed to co-ordinate the recruitment of Maori and included Maori parliamentarians such as Apirana Ngata. Yet only a third of the second and third drafts were actually Maori, with Pacific Islanders enlisted to meet the minimum quota.

Objectors were brutally repressed. In 1916, two were killed by police during the attempted arrest of Rua Kenana, a religious leader who discouraged Maori from recruitment. Hundreds were imprisoned and sentenced to two years of hard labour for resisting conscription.

Gill’s assertions that “Aboriginal men were keen to enlist” and “were treated equally” in the Australian army are also misleading. Laws banning Aboriginals from the armed forces were relaxed to allow enlistment by those with one parent of European descent in 1917, as a desperate measure to increase recruitment, especially after conscription was defeated in two referenda in 1916 and 1917.

Although they were paid the same as other troops, Aboriginal soldiers were kept in the lowest ranks. After the war, they were officially shunned, refused returned soldiers’ land grants and often denied war pensions and back pay. Indigenous people were among the most brutally repressed sections of Australian society, denied basic rights such as citizenship, the right to vote, to buy land or marry non-indigenous partners.

The book contains only one brief mention of opposition to war, in the profile of Australian Hugo Throssell. After recounting Throssell’s experiences in battle during WWI, Gill writes: “Over the next ten years and through the Great Depression, Hugo had numerous jobs and became an anti-war socialist. His wounds healed but his mental health grew worse.” With “mounting debts,” Throssell committed suicide in 1933.

This wording falsely implies that Throssell became a socialist during the Depression of the 1930s and that his decision was bound up with deteriorating mental health.
Hugo Throssell

Speaking to a gathering of 1,500 people in Northam, Western Australia, on July 19, 1919, Throssell said: “The war has made me a Socialist. It has made me think and inquire what are the causes of wars. And my thinking and reading have led me to the conclusion that we shall never be free of wars under a system of production for profit, with its consequent over-production, periodic crimes, unemployment and the struggle for markets….

“[I]f we want to do the things which will make for a permanent peace, we must do away with the system of production for profit, and reorganise our life in common on the lines of production for use and for the well-being of the community as a whole.”

In 1919 Throssell married the socialist writer Katherine Prichard, a founding member of the Communist Party of Australia in 1920. Both were inspired by the Russian Revolution of October, 1917, an earth-shaking event that took Russia out of the war and pointed the way forward for workers in every country. The threat of revolution throughout Europe forced the imperialist powers to agree to an armistice.

The fact that ANZAC Heroes has received such wide acclaim and won a national prize must be taken as a warning. As in the lead-up to World War I, xenophobia, militarism and extreme nationalism are being cultivated in every country. The world stands on the brink of a catastrophic war involving nuclear powers, as the US escalates its threats against Russia and China. New Zealand and Australia, both allies of the US, would inevitably be dragged into such a war.

Gill’s book is part of the strenuous efforts being made by governments, with the help of well-paid academics and hack writers, to overcome the deeply ingrained anti-war sentiment among young people.

The author also recommends:

The role of Australian schools in World War I
[25 April 2015]

New Zealand: WWI Home Front exhibition buries mass opposition to war
[22 August 2016]

Government-produced book describes WWI as “successful and profitable”
[24 April 2014]

Cambodian elephants saved from Pentagon bomb crater


The Cambodian elephants in the bomb crater, AFP photo

Translated from Dutch NOS TV:

Herd of elephants rescued from Cambodian bomb crater

Today, 16:18

A rescue team has saved a herd of elephants after four days in an old bomb crater. The endangered animals would have been killed by hunger if villagers would not have discovered them.

The eleven animals, including a youngster, got stuck when they tried to drink from the 3 meter deep crater. The pit was made many years ago [during the Vietnam war] by a United States bombing in the country.

The elephants were freed by digging a path from the pit. Meanwhile, water was also sprayed into the hole to dilute the mud. After their rescue, the animals walked back into the woods.

The rescue of 11 Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) from a mud hole inside the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia, on 24th March 2017 avoided a tragedy for wildlife conservation in Cambodia: here.