United Nations concerned about shooting of civilians in Turkey


This video says about itself:

Kurd Crackdown: Turkish forces allegedly fire on civilians with white flag (GRAPHIC)

22 January 2016

An incident in which several civilians with a white flag came under fire has been caught on camera. The victims are reported to be Kurds in the town of Cizre, where they were allegedly shot at by Turkish troops.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

UN wants investigation of shelling of Turkish civilians

Today, 12:37

Turkey should start an investigation into the bombardment last month of ten unarmed civilians in the southeast of the country. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights the images of the shooting are “extremely shocking”.

On the images it looks like the victims in Cizre are fired upon when they with white flags and a handcart cross a road to transport a dead person. The ten civilians were injured.

Turkish soldiers first looked from their armored vehicle and would at the last moment have opened fire on the civilians. In the region the Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK is active.

The UN Commissioner is also concerned about the injured cameraman who made the footage; he risks being arrested if he leaves the hospital.

Scottish spy base converted for whales, astronomy?


This video says about itself:

Sunfish, Basking Sharks and Minke Whale encounters with Basking Shark Scotland

27 July 2014

A small video of 2 amazing days in the Hebrides, Scotland. We had warm waters from the Gulf Stream reach our coast bringing in a lot of food and ocean giants. We had 2 Minke Whales swim 4 x under the boat, over 12 basking sharks, ranging from 3m to 6m and a very rare visitor – the ocean sunfish (Mola mola). To top it off we had an otter and sea eagles sighted on the way in, numerous porpoises and many different species of seabird. All in water interactions were guided and closely monitored to ensure they meet our code of practice.

From The Press and Journal in Scotland:

Bid to turn former island Cold War spy base into whale-listening station

31 January 2016 by Mike Merritt

A crowdfunding appeal was launched yesterday to turn a former Cold War spy base in the Outer Hebrides into a whale-listening station and star-gazing observatory.

Locals formally took ownership of the isolated surveillance station at RAF Aird Uig on the Isle of Lewis, which was built to give early warning of a Soviet attack following the end of the Second World War.

They symbolically opened the gates of the complex in a ceremony attended by Western Isles MSP Dr Alasdair Allan.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the advance of satellite technology made the base redundant and a pair of long distance radars which had protected the UK for decades were dismantled.

The Gallan Head Community Trust (GHCT) has used a £200,000 grant from the Scottish Land Fund to purchase the land from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and turn a nearby building into a visitor centre, which should be open in the summer.

The trust plans to demolish some of the buildings at Aird Uig and convert the former base into a tourist attraction featuring an astronomical observatory, gallery and visitor centre, in a project that could cost between £1m and £3m.

They will also install underwater microphones to record whales and basking sharks which swim past the peninsula, the most north westerly point of the UK.

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod said:”The fact that such a small community has taken this step into community ownership is a testament to the skills, drive and tenacity of the members and directors of GHCT.

“I’m sure that the proposed developments will make a real difference to the local economy and beyond. The Scottish Government is committed to assisting communities in taking control of their own futures, this is why we provide financial support to local communities through the Scottish Land Fund.”

Will Turkish army invade Syria?


This video says about itself:

Clashes, arrests as activists protest Turkish airstrikes in Syria & Iraq

25 July 2015

Clashes erupted after police confronted approximately 1,000 protesters who had been rallying in the centre of Ankara, Turkey, against Turkish military airstrikes in Syria and northern Iraq. Several dozen protesters were reportedly arrested.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Syrian civil war: Could Turkey be gambling on an invasion?

Kurdish forces, close to sealing the border, must beware – President Erdogan is unpredictable

Patrick Cockburn

A month before Turkey shot down a Russian bomber which it accused of entering its airspace, Russian military intelligence had warned President Vladimir Putin that this was the Turkish plan. Diplomats familiar with the events say that Putin dismissed the warning, probably because he did not believe that Turkey would risk provoking Russia into deeper military engagement in the Syrian war.

In the event, on 24 November last year a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian bomber, killing one of the pilots, in an attack that had every sign of being a well-prepared ambush. Turkey claimed that it was responding to the Russian plane entering its airspace for 17 seconds, but the Turkish fighters made every effort to conceal themselves by flying at low altitude, and they appear to have been on a special mission to destroy the Russian aircraft.

The shooting-down – the first of a Russian plane by a Nato power since the Korean War – is important because it shows how far Turkey will go to maintain its position in the war raging on the southern side of its 550-mile border with Syria. It is a highly relevant event today because, two months further on, Turkey now faces military developments in northern Syria that pose a much more serious threat to its interests than that brief incursion into its airspace, even though Ankara made fresh claims yesterday over a new Russian violation on Friday.

The Syrian war is at a crucial stage. Over the past year the Syrian Kurds and their highly effective army, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), have taken over half of Syria’s frontier with Turkey. The main supply line for Islamic State (Isis), through the border crossing of Tal Abyad north of Raqqa, was captured by the YPG last June. … the Kurds have been advancing in all directions, sealing off northern Syria from Turkey in the swath of territory between the Tigris and Euphrates.

The YPG only has another 60 miles to go, west of Jarabulus on the Euphrates, to close off Isis’s supply lines and those of the non-IS armed opposition, through Azzaz to Aleppo. Turkey had said that its “red line” is that there should be no YPG crossing west of the Euphrates river, though it did not react when the YPG’s Arab proxy, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), seized the dam at Tishrin on the Euphrates and threatened the IS stronghold of Manbij. Syrian Kurds are now weighing whether they dare take the strategic territory north of Aleppo and link up with a Kurdish enclave at Afrin.

Developments in the next few months may determine who are the long-term winners and losers in the region for decades. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces are advancing on several fronts under a Russian air umbrella. The five-year campaign by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to overthrow Assad in Damascus, by backing the armed opposition, looks to be close to defeat.

Turkey could respond to this by accepting a fait accompli, conceding that it would be difficult for it to send its army into northern Syria in the face of strong objections from the US and Russia. But, if the alternative is failure and humiliation, then it may do just that. Gerard Challiand, the French expert on irregular warfare and the politics of the Middle East, speaking in Erbil last week, said that “without Erdogan as leader, I would say the Turks would not intervene militarily [in northern Syria], but, since he is, I think they will do so”.

Erdogan has a reputation for raising the stakes as he did last year when he failed to win a parliamentary majority in the first of two elections. He took advantage of a fresh confrontation with the Turkish Kurds and the fragmentation of his opponents to win a second election in November. Direct military intervention in Syria would be risky, but Mr Challiand believes that Turkey “is capable of doing this militarily and will not be deterred by Russia”. Of course, it would not be easy. Moscow has planes in the air and anti-aircraft missiles on the ground, but Putin probably has a clear idea of the limitations on Russia’s military engagement in Syria.

Omar Sheikhmous, a veteran Syrian Kurdish leader living in Europe, says that the Syrian Kurds “should realise that the Russians and the Syrian government are not going to go to war with the Turkish army for them”. He warns that the ruling Kurdish political party, the PYD, should not exaggerate its own strength, because President Erdogan’s reaction is unpredictable.

Other Kurdish leaders believe that Turkish intervention is unlikely and that, if it was going to come, it would have happened before the Russian jet was shot down. That led to Russia reinforcing its air power in Syria and taking a much more hostile attitude towards Turkey, giving full support for Syrian Army advances in northern Latakia and around Aleppo.

For the moment, the Syrian Kurds are still deciding what they should do. They know that their quasi-state, known as Rojava, has been able to expand at explosive speed because the US needed a ground force to act in collaboration with its air campaign against Isis. Russian and American bombers have, at different times, supported the advance of the SDF towards Manbij. On the chaotic chess board of the Syrian crisis, the Kurds at this time have the same enemies as the Syrian Army, but they know that their strong position will last only as long as the war.

If there is no Turkish intervention on a significant scale then Assad and his allies are winning, because the enhanced Russian, Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah intervention has tipped the balance in their favour. The troika of regional Sunni states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – have failed, so far, to overthrow Assad through backing the Syrian armed opposition.

Their enthusiasm for doing so is under strain. Saudi Arabia has a mercurial leadership, is enmeshed in a war in Yemen, and the price of oil may stay at $30 a barrel. Qatar’s actions in Syria are even more incalculable. “We can never figure out Qatar’s policies,” said one Gulf observer in frustration. A more caustic commentator, in Washington, adds that “Qatari foreign policy is a vanity project”, comparing it to Qatar’s desire to buy landmark buildings abroad or host the football World Cup at home.

In Syrian and Iraqi politics almost everybody ends up by overplaying their hand, mistaking transitory advantage for irreversible success. This was true of a great power like the US in Iraq in 2003, a monstrous power like Isis in 2014, and a small power like the Syrian Kurds in 2016. One of the reasons that Iran has, thus far, come out ahead in the struggle for this part of the Middle East is that the Iranians have moved cautiously and step by step.

Turkey is the last regional power that could reverse the trend of events in Syria by open military intervention, a development that cannot be discounted as the Syrian-Turkish border is progressively sealed off. But, barring this, the conflict has become so internationalised that only the US and Russia are capable of bringing it to an end.

Drone, film on extra-judicial killing


This video says about itself:

DRONE TRAILER (Official version)

The secret CIA drone war. People living under the drones and young dronepilots coming to terms with killing through joysticks. DRONE uncovers crucial secrets of the CIA drone program, and shows how drones have changed war and possibly our future. See the documentary that inspired Homeland!

Directed by Tonje Hessen Schei and produced by Flimmer Film.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

Drone, a Norwegian-made documentary: “We just made orphans out of all these children”

29 January 2016

Directed by Tonje Hessen Schei

Drone, directed by Norwegian filmmaker Tonje Hessen Schei, about the illegal CIA drone program, has been screened at various documentary film festivals and played in certain theaters in North America.

The use of drones by the United States for purposes of assassinations has greatly increased over the past decade. Hessen Schei’s movie brings together opponents of this specialized killing tool, including authors, commentators, human rights attorneys and investigative journalists.

The real heart and strength of Drone lies in its interviews with two former drone operators from the US Air Force, Brandon Bryant and Michael Haas, both young men suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bryant and Haas served in time periods that straddled the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. One of Bryant’s entries in his diary: “On the battlefield there are no sides, just bloodshed. Total war. Every horror witnessed. I wish my eyes would rot.”

Hessen Schei presents images and stories focusing on the northwestern Pakistani province of Waziristan, a region that has been a particular target of homicidal American drone bombing.

Reprieve, the British human rights organization whose founder, Clive Stafford Smith, is interviewed in the film, points out: “To date, the United States has used drones to execute without trial some 4,700 people in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia—all countries against whom it has not declared war. The US’ drones programme is a covert war being carried out by the CIA.”

In the documentary, Chris Woods, author of Sudden Justice, further observes that “nowhere has been more bombed by the CIA than Waziristan. The first recorded CIA drone strike in Pakistan took place in 2004. The number of those strikes has accelerated.” He calls it “an industrialized killing program.”

In Waziristan, a young drone strike survivor, Zubair Ur Rehman, shyly tells the camera that “the drones circulate 24 hours a day. Two or three at a time. Always two, but often three or four. When we hear the sound of the drones, we get scared. We can’t work, play or go to school. It is only when it’s cloudy that we don’t hear the drones.”

The barbaric strikes, which have increased sharply under the Obama administration, are illegal under international and US law and amount to war crimes. In the Hessen Schei film, Pakistani photojournalist Noor Behram displays his dossier of devastating photographs of child victims of drone attacks: “Every time I sleep, I hear the cries of the children.”

Drone also deals with the attacks on the would-be rescuers of the victims of the drone strikes. This is what the American military refers to as a “double tap.” Missiles are launched, killing and injuring people. Moments later, when nearby residents race to the scene to help the wounded, another round of missiles is fired. As one analyst points out, the US government, in many cases, has no idea whom they are killing.

From Drone, children with missile pieces

Imran Khan, Chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, affirms that “when people gather round to save the injured [from a drone strike], there’s another drone attack! … You can hear the cries of the injured for hours because no one goes to help them.”

Another of the movie’s commentators emphasizes, “It’s never been easier for an American president to carry out killing operations at the ends of the earth … and when you define the world as a battlefield, it’s a very broad range of operations you can carry out.”

According to Woods: “You’ve got the president signing off on particular death lists; you have the US Air Force flying the drones; the Central Intelligence Agency responsible for the strikes; CENTCOM [United States Central Command] involved in launching and targeting of strikes; NSA [National Security Agency] providing intelligence for strikes … the entire apparatus of the United States government has been bent towards the process of targeted killings over the past decade.”

As a means of recruiting drone pilots, the military has developed “militainment”—war presented as entertainment. In the warped minds of the armed forces’ top brass, video gamers have skill sets that it values.

Former drone operator Bryant, who served as a sensor operator for the Predator program from 2007 to 2011, movingly explains that “I didn’t really understand what it meant to kill at first. … We sat in a box for nearly 12-hour shifts. … We’re the ultimate voyeurs. The ultimate Peeping Toms. No one is going to catch us. We’re getting orders to take these peoples’ lives. It was just a point and click.”

One of Drone’s interviewed experts argues the more distant the perpetrator is from the victim, the crueler the act of killing. The separation in space creates and encourages indifference. He refers to “the psychology of distance.”

Haas, who served in the US military from 2005 to 2011, participated in targeted killing runs from his computer at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada that ended the lives of insurgents and others in Afghanistan some 8,000 miles away: “I joined when I was barely 20 years old. I did not know what I was in for. I thought it was the coolest damn thing in the world. Play video games all day and then the reality hits you that you may have to kill somebody.

“In our control room, they had a picture of the September 11 [2001] plane hitting the second [World Trade Center] building. They make you pissed off all over again just before you go do your job. ‘These guys have to die. These guys deserve to die.’ And you’ve got to make it happen.”

As opposed to the remorse felt by the former airmen, Andy Von Flotow, chairman of Insitu, which builds unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the state of Washington, was in on the ground floor in the development of drones. He boasts that “we started this unmanned aircraft business in the early 1990s, shortly after GPS made it possible.” His company built a small airplane with a camera on it in 1999 to help tuna fisherman. While the fishermen did not buy the planes, “George Bush took us into his adventures.” Flotow claims that “we have 25 percent of unmanned flight hours in Iraq and Afghanistan. … War is an opportunity to do business.”

One of the most intense moments in the film occurs when Bryant opens up to the filmmakers: “I didn’t really understand what it meant to kill at first. It was horrible. The first time was horrible. The second time was horrible. The third time was numbing. The fourth time was numbing. But of course the first time sticks with you the longest [he describes the procedure]. … Then I watched this man bleed out … and I imagined his last moments. I knew I had ended something I had no right to end. I swore an oath, I did what I was supposed to do. I followed through with it. … It was like an image of myself was cracking up and breaking apart.

Earlier in the film, he says: “Over the last five and one half years, 1,626 people were killed in the operations I took part in. … When I looked at that number, I was ready to put a bullet in my brain.”

Fellow drone operator Haas discloses that “you never knew who you were killing because you never actually see a face—just silhouettes and it’s easy to have that detachment and that lack of sympathy for human life. And it’s easy just to think of them as something else. They’re not really people, they’re just terrorists.” His military superiors, he remarks, “don’t have to take that shot or bear the burden—I’m the one who has to bear that burden. They don’t have to do the actions or live with the repercussions … and we just made orphans out of all these children. They don’t have to live with that. I do.”

The CIA drones program is global assassination without trial. The operations of this state-run murder machine are kept shrouded in secrecy by the Obama administration. While the outlook of the creators of Drone is not strong––essentially consisting of appeals to the United Nations and the Pakistani government––the movie provides further insight into the lawless and ruthless character of US foreign policy.