United States drone war kills Yemeni civilians


This video from the USA says about itself:

Turning a Wedding Into a Funeral: U.S. Drone Strike in Yemen Killed as Many as 12 Civilians

21 February 2014

Human Rights Watch has revealed as many as 12 civilians were killed in December when a U.S. drone targeted vehicles that were part of a wedding procession going towards the groom’s village outside the central Yemeni city of Rad’a. According to HRW, “some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians” and not members of the armed group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as U.S. and Yemeni government officials initially claimed.

The report concluded that the attack killed 12 men, between the ages of 20 and 65, and wounded 15 others. It cites accounts from survivors, relatives of the dead, local officials and news media reports. We speak to Human Rights Watch researcher Letta Tayler, who wrote the report, “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: U.S. Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen” and Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of the TheIntercept.org, a new digital magazine published by First Look Media. He is the producer and writer of the documentary film, “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield,” which is nominated for an Academy Award.

By Niles Williamson in the USA:

Report documents carnage of US drone war in Yemen

17 June 2015

A report released this week by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), titled “Death by Drone: Civilian Harm Caused by U.S. Targeted Killings in Yemen,” documents the deadly carnage inflicted by Hellfire missile strikes in US President Barack Obama’s criminal drone war in Yemen.

Drone and other airstrikes have been launched under the authority of either the CIA or the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command against suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) throughout the country since 2002.

These strikes were permitted by former dictator Ali Abduallah Saleh and the recently ousted Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who was installed as president by the US and Saudi Arabia.

Hadi used to be dictator Saleh’s vice president, and a senior officer in Saleh’s army. He was ‘elected’ in an election in which he was the only candidate.

The Yemeni government often claimed responsibility for attacks as a cover for the American government’s actions.

While the US supports Saudi Arabia in its campaign of daily airstrikes against Houthi rebels, who oppose AQAP, it has continued its own air campaign in Yemen. The latest American drone strike hit the city of Mukalla on Sunday, killing as many as seven people.

The first known airstrikes carried out by the Obama administration came on December 17, 2009, when a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs slammed into the village of Al Majala in Abyan province. While purportedly targeted at an AQAP training camp, it killed at least 44 civilians, including five pregnant women and 21 children. A separate strike the same day killed four people in Arhab.

Since then, there have been at least 121 drone and other airstrikes that have taken the lives of as many as 1,100 people, most of them officially classified as combatants. As a means of limiting the official civilian casualty count in any particular attack, President Obama approved the redefinition of a “combatant” as any male of military service age killed or injured by a drone strike.

In addition to strikes targeted at specific individuals, in 2012 Obama authorized the CIA to use “signature” strikes against targets in Yemen. The decision to launch a signature strike is based purely on patterns of behaviors that the CIA has determined mark a terrorist, meaning many attacks have launched against unknown persons based purely on movements observed from afar by surveillance drones, including their carrying of firearms, which is common in Yemeni tribal society.

Anwar Al Awlaki became the first US citizen to be deliberately targeted and killed by a drone strike on September 30, 2011. Last year, the Obama administration released a legal memo authored by the Justice Department to justify the killing. It asserts that the US President has the power to kill a US citizen, without charges or trial.

President Obama gave a speech at the National Defense University in 2013 in which he outlined supposed guidelines and limits on drone killings. He stated that “before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured.”

The OSJI review of nine separate drone strikes carried our between 2012 and 2014 reveals this statement to be a blatant lie. The report found that 26 civilians had been killed and 13 injured in this handful of attacks. Investigators traveled to the areas where the strikes occurred and interviewed survivors and the families of those killed.

A drone strike on April 19, 2014 in the Al Sawmaah district of Al Bayda province killed four workers and wounded five others. The men were traveling together in a car when a missile fired from a CIA drone hit a vehicle allegedly carrying AQAP militants approximately thirty meters behind them, blowing up their car as well.

Hussein Nasser Abu Bakr al-Khushm, a father of one of the victims, told investigators that he was devastated by the death of his son, Sanad Hussein, who had just gotten a visa to work in Saudi Arabia.

“The news fell on our ears like thunderbolt,” he said. “I got motionless. Even when his body was brought to the village for burial I could not go to have a last look at him. Until this moment, I’m still unable to figure out what happened to my son. They were killed by an American drone.”

Investigators spoke to Musa Ahmed Ali Al Jarraah a 15-year-old boy who survived a strike by two Hellfire missiles on a home in the village of Silat Al Jaarrah on the night of January 23, 2013.

“It was a US drone,” Al Jaraah said. “I saw it while I was on my way home. It flew so low I could view it easily. It had long wings in the rear, its size was not large and it had a head that looked like a camel’s head.”

A crowd of approximately 30 people had gathered outside the home to watch the village’s only television when the missiles struck. The strike injured five civilians including Al Jaraah, who suffered shrapnel wound to his abdomen. A ten-year-old girl, Iftikar Abdoh Mohammed, sustained minor injuries when she was hit in the head with shrapnel.

On September 2, 2012, a Hellfire missile launched by an American drone blew up a truck carrying a group of qat merchants and several others who were returning home from a day at the market in the city of Radaa. The strike killed 12 out of the 14 passengers in the truck, including Rasilah Ali Al Faqih, who was pregnant, and her 10-year-old daughter Dawlah Nasser Salah.

The truck’s driver, Nasser Mabkhout, who survived despite being severely burned, described the attack and its aftermath to the investigators:

“Before we arrived at the junction that leads to the unpaved road of the village, two aircraft approached the front of the car, one white and the other black, as far as I can remember. They approached us more closely, and we started to exchange humor that they would attack us, and we laughed. Our laughter was cut off by two shells…I saw the dead bodies scattered in and around the car, some of them beheaded. I couldn’t differentiate between the bodies of the dead.”

The Yemeni government paid $4,654 for burial expenses to each victim’s family, and eventually paid out a paltry restitution to the families: $32,578 for each individual killed and $13,962 for each person wounded.

As with other drone strikes, the attack on the merchants continues to terrorize civilians long after the victims’ bodies have been buried and restitution paid out to the families. “Since the incident, my family and I as well as the villagers live in constant fear,” one of the victims’ uncles told investigators. “The horror increases with the constant over-flights of the US aircrafts. We go to our farms in fear, our children are afraid to go to school, and at bedtime, women remain in constant fear.”

German professor praises drones, poison gas


This 1 April 2015 video from the USA is called Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars • FULL DOCUMENTARY FILM • BRAVE NEW FILMS.

By Johannes Stern in Germany:

German professor Herfried Münkler: Combat drones and poison gas are “humane” weapons

16 April 2015

About two weeks after the German and French governments decided at a joint cabinet meeting to manufacture combat drones in Europe, Humboldt University Professor Herfried Münkler praised such drones as “humane” weapons in a long interview in the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung (FAZ). He drew a historical parallel to poison gas, which was used for the first time in the First World War, describing it also as “humane.”

When the FAZ noted that poison gas is perceived “as especially terrible,” Münkler replied, “There is this striking paradox. Between three or four percent die in poison gas attacks, while the death toll from artillery wounds is around fifty percent, and the rate of mortality from rifle or machine gun fire thirty percent. That means that you could actually say that gas is a rather ‘humane’ weapon, because it has a relatively low death toll.”

Münkler added that in drone attacks the operators “have much more time for observation than the pilot of a fighter bomber,” and “the collateral damage of drone attacks” is “clearly lower than that from fighter bombers.”

It is difficult to say which is more repulsive: Münkler’s trivialization of poison gas attacks in the First World War, or his plea for combat drones today.

This video says about itself:

Deadly Battles of World War I – Ypres the Gas Inferno

7 November 2014

Poison gas killed 80,000 soldiers in World War I. Nearly a million more were victims who suffered its lingering effects. Initially the wind distributed chlorine gas across the battlefields of the western front but an arms race quickly developed until one in three shells contained some form of toxic gas.

It’s not the statistics, however, that make this a successful documentary. A surprising amount of black-and-white footage and interviews with survivors and relatives of key players tell a compelling tale of motivations and consequences. For those who adhere to the maxim that history repeats itself, it’s worth noting that despite an international convention banning chemical weapons, both sides of the Great War deployed poison gases with few reservations. As one interviewee puts it, patriotism defeated morality.

The Johannes Stern article continues:

The hundredth anniversary of the first use of poison gas as a weapon of mass extermination is just under a week away. On April 22, 1915, German troops used chlorine gas in the battle at Ypres.

The Deutsche Welle published an article a year ago that described how a yellowish cloud of 180 tons of chlorine gas wafted out of the German trenches to the enemy lines: “There began the horror. The enveloped soldiers stumbled around, turning red, blind and coughing. Three thousand of them suffocated and an additional seven thousand soldiers, who were badly burned, survived.”

In an escalating gas war, in which more and more effective chemical weapons were put into use, “about 120 thousand tons of 38 types of warfare agents were deployed, about 100 thousand soldiers [died] and 1.2 million men were wounded,” according to a paper published by the Federal Agency of Civic Education.

Science historian Ernst Peter Fischer commented on the first poison gas attack in Ypres in the Deutsche Welle account. “At that moment, science lost its innocence,” he said. Until then, the goal of science consisted of easing the conditions of life of human beings. “Now science provided the conditions for killing human life,” Fischer said.

Fischer cited the example of the Berlin chemist Fritz Haber, who founded and headed the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physical Chemistry and Electro-chemistry. Haber placed his entire scientific ability in the service of mass extermination. This proved no hindrance to his career. After the end of the war, the “father of gas warfare” won the Nobel Prize for chemistry and sat on the supervisory board of the chemistry giant I.G. Farben, which later produced the poison gas Zyklon B for the gas chambers in Auschwitz. Haber, who was himself Jewish, emigrated in 1933 and died shortly thereafter.

The use of poison gas, which Münkler praises as a “humane weapon,” was not just a new method for slaughtering millions of soldiers. Its use was then and remains today a war crime. It contravenes the Hague Convention of 1907 and was once again explicitly forbidden in the Geneva Protocol of 1925. In the war in Iraq and as part of the war threats against Syria, imperialist propaganda used the actual or alleged use of poison gas in these countries as sufficient grounds for war.

For this reason, Münkler’s parallel between poison gas and drone warfare is particularly significant. The comparison is apt, not because they are both “humane” methods of war, but because both exemplify the development of new stages in imperialist brutality.

The US-led drone wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen not only violate international law, but have taken the lives of thousands of innocent victims (Münkle’s “collateral damage”) in recent years. According to research carried out by the London based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US military has wiped out between 2.4 and 3.9 thousand people in “targeted killings” in Pakistan alone. These victims of combat drones are not infrequently women, children or innocent participants at birthday parties, weddings or funerals.

Münkler’s justification for warfare with poison gas and combat drones is utterly cynical. He accuses the opponents of gas and drone warfare of clinging to the ideal of a long bygone “heroic” age.

“The criticism of gas warfare and the criticism of drone warfare are connected in that they both have to do with the ethos of the fighter. The astounding thing is that drones are criticized in a post-heroic society, but with the arguments of the heroic society, which demands the struggle of man against man,” explained the professor.

By “post-heroic,” Münkler means that war is no longer fought man to man, but rather that soldiers and civilians of less developed states are slaughtered in cold blood by their adversaries—at the mercy of remote-controlled drones or poison gas, which soldiers cannot defend themselves against.

“We are observing the transformation of war into policing,” he said in the FAZ. “Goals are being pursued in a way that can be understood as making investments in the future of the area of intervention by minimizing losses. Hegel called the weapon ‘the essence of the fighter’—drones are the typical weapon of post-heroic society. There is no ethos or aesthetic of war. There is only effectiveness of battlefield management.”

It requires the intellectual degradation of a German professor to try to use Hegel for the purpose of celebrating combat drones as an “effective” category of weapon above any ethical or moral criticism.

Münkler’s argument is an insult to the intelligence of the vast majority of the population which opposes combat drones, but not because of any longing for a “heroic” age or a preference for fighting wars with the sword “man against man.” Rather, drones are hated because no other weapon is more closely associated with imperialist aggression, war crimes and the suffering of civilian populations.

Münkler also introduces social Darwinist arguments to justify drone warfare. The “post-heroic society” is characterized “by two elements,” he said in the FAZ interview: “A low rate of reproduction in the population. There is no longer a surplus of young men for the battlefield. And the idea of self sacrifice at the ‘altar of the fatherland’ is completely foreign to us.”

Two years ago Münkler had already presented an argument against ethical and moral objections to modern weapons of destruction. At the fourteenth annual foreign policy conference of the Green Party affiliated Heinrich Böll Stiftung, he gave a lecture titled: “New fighting systems and the ethics of war.”

At that time Münkler warned: “Post-heroic societies such as ours should be very careful when they talk about the ethics of war. They are playing with fire, especially when they use ethics to demand more from soldiers than they would demand of themselves.”

He then told the politicians and foreign policy experts in attendance: “The ‘citizen in uniform’ is much closer to war drones than the soldier of a classical army, and he prefers their use to the deployment of light infantry in hostile terrain, with the goal of eliminating an actual or supposed threat in direct contact with the enemy. To express it pointedly: in the criticism of drones, the ethics of a pre-bourgeois society is giving voice to heroic ideas in a nostalgic form. This is a critique that has not been thought out to the end.”

Irrespective of how “thought out to the end” is his own overblown pontification, the stance of the professor is very clear—his standpoint is highly militaristic. In a situation in which neither the population nor the majority of soldiers favors being slaughtered in open warfare on the battlefield, he recommends drones to the ruling elite as a suitable means of achieving the ends of German imperialism through military means.

The fact that Münkler now places poison gas in the same category as drones shows that inhumane and militaristic attitudes are once again running rampant in ruling circles in Berlin 70 years after the end of the Second World War. The report of the Böll Stiftung on the conference two years ago concluded that Münkler’s presentation of “controversial combat drones as a positive new stage in weapons technology from an ethical point of view” was seen as a “minor provocation.”

Since then, Münkler’s “minor provocation” has become a dangerous reality. The Böll Stiftung campaigns for a confrontation with Russia, the German government is acquiring combat drones and Münkler himself is giving a seminar at Humboldt University under the title “Theories of war: new wars, humanitarian interventions, drone wars.” In his new book, Macht in der Mitte (Power in the Middle), Münkler demands that Germany once again “play the difficult role of ‘taskmaster’” in Europe. The German government is working on this too!

Welsh captain rescued Spanish refugees from Franco’s butchers


This video says about itself:

Spanish families unearth their civil war dead

4 January 2012

Seventeen women, relatives of people on the Republican side, were shot by the forces of Francisco Franco at the height of Spain’s civil war 1n 1937 and tipped straight into a mass grave. Now, 74 years on, their bodies are being exhumed so that their descendants can bury them properly.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Alicante and Cardiff honour seafarer heroes

Thursday 16th April 2015

During the Spanish civil war Captain Archibald Dickson and the crew of a small frighter Stanbrook rescued 2,639 stranded republican fighters — a singular act of bravery that was commemorated in Cardiff last Sunday

ON SUNDAY, Labour International’s Costa Blanca branch delegation in Cardiff presented a memorial plaque to the city. The ceremony was hosted by the Lord Mayor of Cardiff, Councillor Margaret Jones.

The plaque was dedicated to the memory of Cardiff-born Captain Archibald Dickson and the crew of the Stanbrook, which rescued nearly 3,000 republican supporters from Alicante Port and Franco’s troops at the end of the Spanish civil war on March 28 1939.

It was jointly unveiled by Pedro Olivares Martínez and the lord mayor at the Mansion House in Cardiff on Sunday April 12.

Also present at the unveiling were Arnold Dickson and Dorothy Richardson, Captain Dickson’s children, and David Lillystone and Sandra Robinson, the great grandchildren of the ship’s engineer Henry Lillystone.

They were joined by six members of Labour International Costa Blanca and members of the Welsh section of the International Brigades Memorial Trust.

The stainless steel plaque depicts an image of the Stanbrook taken at the time, together with an inscription in English, Spanish and Welsh.

Following the ceremony, the delegation and invited guests assembled at the Welsh headquarters of Unite the union.

There they watched short film Britain Expects, about the British blockade runners during the civil war.

Civic Commission historian Francisco Moreno Saez described their work in preserving the memory of those who suffered under the repression of the fascist Franco regime.

On Saturday the delegation had placed a wreath on the memorial, in Cathays Park, Cardiff, to the Welsh members of the International Brigades who fought and died fighting for the republican cause in the Spanish civil war.

Nautilus national secretary Jonathan Havard gave the following speech

“I am proud and honoured to be here. Nautilus history spans over 150 years and during that time thousands of merchant seafarers — despite being civilians — have lost their lives in the fight for freedom and against fascism.

As we pay tribute to the heroism of Captain Archibald Dickson, we should also remember the scale of the contribution made by British seafarers — and Welsh seafarers in particular — to the defence of the Spanish republic.

During the civil war, organisations like the Aid Spain movement and the Spanish Medical Aid Committee reflected widespread popular support for the anti-fascist cause.

Around £2 million was donated in Britain during the conflict and 30 ships were chartered by British campaigners between 1936 and 1939, which were then loaded with food and sailed through the naval blockade to Spain.

Almost 4,000 Spanish and Basque children — many of them orphans — were evacuated to Britain, where political parties, trade unions and church groups combined to provide accommodation and education.

It seems hard to believe, but there are still no definitive figures on the number of British ships that were lost and the number of British seafarers who died during the Spanish civil war.

British merchant ships accounted for around 70 per cent of the vessels attacked and it is estimated that as many as 29 British-registered ships were sunk and at least 40 seafarers — probably many more — were killed and over 50 seriously injured.

Ten British ships were sunk and 37 were damaged in May and June of 1938 alone, and during the three years of the civil war 10 Welsh ships were bombed sunk or badly damaged.

What we do know for sure, however, is that merchant vessels were having to run a gauntlet of aircraft, mines and torpedoes, warships and submarines — many of them sent by Franco’s fascist allies in Germany and Italy.

Many neutral merchant ships — nine of them Welsh — were seized and detained, and even ships sent to carry refugees to safety came under attack.

The statistics, shocking as they are, tell only part of the story.

They certainly do not convey some of the extraordinary heroism and sacrifice of the seafarers serving on the blockade runners — especially those who were carrying supplies for the republicans or evacuating refugees from beleaguered Bilbao.

Their stories deserve to be remembered, perhaps none more so than Captain Dickson’s.

His ship, the Stanbrook, was the last to leave Spain before Franco’s victory and instead of departing with his planned cargo of tobacco, oranges and saffron, he left with a total of 2,639 republicans onboard.

Although the captain had been given orders not to take refugees unless they were in real need, he told how that after seeing the condition which many of them were in, he had decided from a humanitarian point of view to allow them aboard.

His desperately overloaded ship dodged U-boats and enemy aircraft to take them to Algeria, although their ordeal didn’t end with their arrival there.

Captain Dickson had to threaten to crash his ship into the dock before the French authorities allowed the passengers to disembark.

Sadly, the ship — and Captain Dickson and his crew — were to fall victims to the nazis only six months later during a U-boat attack in the North Sea.

Stories like this, though tragically neglected, remain relevant today in the face of immense geopolitical instability and at a time when merchant seafarers are once again in the forefront of humanitarian work to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean.”