Violence, from Ferguson, USA to Iraq


This video from the USA is called Why Did Iraq Ban Blackwater? Jeremy Scahill on Security, Fallujah, Training (2007).

By Hugh Gusterson in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in the USA:

04/15/2015 – 15:17

American violence from Ferguson to Fallujah

“The choice of weapons is important because it radically affects what we are, and at stake in that choice is the risk of losing our soul.” —Grégoire Chamayou

I was reading the book A Theory of the Drone by the French philosopher Grégoire Chamayou when I heard that yet another American black man had been killed by a white police officer, this time in South Carolina. Actually, “killed” is too generic a word. In the video of the incident, the police officer leans forward a little, raises his gun to eye level to make his aim more precise, and shoots Walter Scott in the back as he runs away. Scott was executed. Anyone who has watched the video, which was taken by a bystander, can only be disturbed by the professional methodical coldness with which Scott is taken out with eight bullets.

It is the same professional methodical coldness with which the drone operator kills. In his book, Chamayou argues that assassination, combat, and law enforcement have become jumbled together in US counterinsurgency programs. He wants to re-separate them. He points out that the Obama administration has defended drone strikes as justified by both the laws of war and the norms of law enforcement, even though the legal frameworks regulating war and policing are quite different, indeed often opposed.

Under the laws of war, combatants are excused from the usual prohibition against killing, but on condition that they kill in carefully circumscribed ways. The killing is of and by combatants, and must take place in a declared war zone, within which soldiers are free to kill their enemy counterparts at will, even shooting them in the back, unless the target is trying to surrender. Those engaged in law enforcement, on the other hand, can hunt criminals more freely across space, but killing them is considered a last resort, justified only by exceptional circumstances. Quoting UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, Chamayou writes that in law enforcement, “the use of lethal force should remain the exception … it is permissible only if it is the sole available means in the face of a threat that is ‘instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.’”

Whichever set of norms the United States chooses, according to Chamayou, US drone strikes are illegal. The civilian CIA employees killing people in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia, countries against which the United States has not declared war, are violating the laws of war: They are not combatants and they are killing outside a warzone. At the same time, given that drones can only kill their targets or let them go free, the personnel operating them are violating the fundamental axiom of law enforcement that one apprehend suspects with the least possible amount of force, killing only in exceptional circumstances.

In its use of drones for counterinsurgency, then, the United States has melded the paradigms of war and law enforcement to its convenience and given itself an overly generous license to kill.

Meanwhile at home, US domestic police forces are also increasingly integrating the paradigms of law enforcement and counterinsurgency with the result that people like Scott, stopped for a tail-light violation, end up dead. According to the New York Times, under a program that transfers military equipment to local law enforcement, US police departments—often serving communities of less than 100,000— have since 2006 taken possession of $4.3 billion worth of military equipment, including over 800 armored vehicles, 50,000 night-vision pieces, 94,000 machine guns, and 530 airplanes and helicopters. Over 100 campus police departments have also taken military equipment, including grenade-launchers. Montgomery County, Texas, bought a drone it wants to equip with tasers and rubber bullets. While in the past only major cities had SWAT teams, now 80 percent of US towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 have them, and there are 50,000 SWAT team raids a year in the United States. Some raids that have made the news have been on barber shops and animal shelters guilty of code violations. (To see how absurd this has become, watch this police force recruitment video for Springdale, Arkansas, population 70,000, playing up its SWAT team.)

US policing, in other words, is increasingly seen by the police themselves as a form of counterinsurgency, designed to control hostile populations whose lives lack value. As if they were operating in Iraq or Afghanistan, US police infiltrate and spy on adversary networks, stop and search people at will, and bust down doors in the middle of the night with guns drawn. Recently the Guardian revealed that Chicago has been operating “the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site”—a detention facility where arrestees, some of them minors, are held off the books, with no recourse to legal advice, and are often shackled for long periods and even beaten during interrogation. Just as US soldiers have killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians for not stopping at checkpoints—which are often poorly marked—so Scott lost his life for running away from a traffic stop.

For people of color and the poor, the United States is becoming a war zone. Anyone skeptical should consider the numbers. Estimates of how many insurgent and civilian foreigners the United States has killed by drone vary; the highest estimate, roughly 5,241 over 13 years, comes from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. That is 403 deaths a year. In the United States, a recent government report revealed that over eight years (2003 through 2009 plus 2011), police killed an average of 928 people each year. That’s more than twice as many as the highest estimate of drone deaths in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan combined. (Details of individual deaths can be found at Killedbypolice.net.)

The four American security contractors working for Blackwater Worldwide, who were just sentenced by a US federal judge for randomly killing 14 innocent civilians in Baghdad, claimed to be acting in self-defense, until their story broke down. Likewise, after North Charleston, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager shot Scott in the back as he ran away, Slager reported that they had struggled and that he was acting in self-defense. Had a witness not made a video of Slager shooting Scott in the back as he ran away, we would not have known the truth.

But the people at ground zero, African-Americans at home and Muslims abroad, don’t need videos to know the truth. The truth is that the American deployment of violence has gone badly off the rails. Violence is always described in carefully crafted official statements as discriminate or unavoidable; wrongful deaths as regrettable and unusual errors of judgement. The truth, though, is that violence is now often the first resort. Acting under cover of law, weaponized Americans have become a lawless force.

Another French philosopher, Michel Foucault, argued that imperial powers experiment with new techniques of social control in their colonies and then use them at home. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan have become laboratories for new techniques of order and control that, it is now clear, have definitively failed. Chamayou quotes the Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud as saying, “I spent three months trying to recruit and got only 10 to 15 persons. One US attack and I got 150 volunteers.” David Kilcullen, Gen. David Petraeus’ special adviser on counterinsurgency, made the same point in 2009 testimony to Congress: “The drone strikes are highly unpopular. They are deeply aggravating to the population. And they’ve given rise to an anger that coalesces the population around the extremists.”

When counterinsurgency fails, we can leave Iraq and Afghanistan. But we cannot leave Ferguson, Missouri and all the other American cities like it, where racially vindictive, militarized policing is costing the authorities what counterinsurgency theorists have always identified as the prize: the hearts and minds of communities. When entire communities believe that their lives do not matter to the state, the nation is in peril.

Hugh Gusterson is a professor of anthropology and international affairs at George Washington University. His expertise is in nuclear culture, international security, and the anthropology of science. He has written two books on the culture of nuclear weapons scientists and antinuclear activists: Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War (University of California Press, 1996) and People of the Bomb: Portraits of America’s Nuclear Complex (University of Minnesota Press, 2004). Gusterson also co-edited Why America’s Top Pundits Are Wrong (University of California Press, 2005) and its sequel, The Insecure American (University of California Press, 2009). He is currently writing a book on the polygraph. Previously, he taught at MIT’s program on Science, Technology, and Society, and at George Mason’s Cultural Studies program.

Not only military equipment from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan etc. has gone to local police in the USA. In quite some cases veterans from these wars, some of them suffering from PTSD, have joined local police forces.

Drone assassination news


This video from Britain says about itself:

6 November 2013

Jemima Khan, interviewed on Channel 4 News, says Barack Obama has replaced a policy of detention without trial with his policy of assassination without trial. Using drone warfare, Obama has launched over 300 attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere, killing over 3000 innocent civilians.

US government targeted second American citizen for assassination: here.

A front-page article in last Friday’s Australian reported that, for the first time, an Australian citizen—Mostafa Farag—had been placed on the Obama administration’s “kill list” for assassination by drone attack. The lack of any response, let alone criticism, from any section of the Australian political and media establishment underscores not only its support for Washington’s criminal actions but its contempt for democratic rights at home: here.

It looks like there is a double standard: fanatical Muslim preachers have a good chance of landing on a drone assassination list. Meanwhile, fundamentalist Christian ‘Reverend’ ‘Tea Party‘ preachers can preach about killing President Obama and killing gay people, without spending a single minute in jail or paying a one dollar cent fine. ‘Free speech’ for some United States (and Australian) citizens, not for others …

Stop killing my people with warplanes and drones, Yemeni human rights activist says


A Yemeni boy stands in front of a damaged house in the village of Bani Matar, a day after it was reportedly hit by an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition against Shiite Huthi rebel positions. Photograph: Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

Baraa Shiban is a Yemeni human rights activist.

Today he writes in daily The Guardian in Britain:

US-backed airstrikes on Yemen kill civilians – and hopes for peace

America saw my country primarily through a counterterrorism lens, which was a mistake. Instead of fixing the problems, drone strikes only made them worse

You can’t bomb a country into existence, however much America seems determined to try.

In the last week, 164 Yemeni civilians have lost their lives in the Saudi bombardment of my country. In media reports – full of geopolitical talk of “proxy wars” and “regional interests” – the names of the dead are absent. As always, it is ordinary Yemeni families who are left grieving, and forgotten.

The US has a central role in all of this. As US officials told the Wall Street Journal, “American military planners are using live intelligence feeds from surveillance flights over Yemen to help Saudi Arabia decide what and where to bomb”.

Investigating US drone strikes on my country, I have seen the aftermath of aerial bombardment time and time again. The weeping father; the young girl unable to walk from shrapnel wounds; the mother, mute from shock. I try to record what has taken place; most of them just ask in return what my questions will do to bring back their loved ones. The few that find words express powerlessness and confusion as to why the might of a distant US military has been visited on their simple lives.

I represented the youth in Yemen’s revolution in 2011. I had never been particularly politically interested before the revolution, but those remarkable days changed my life forever, and I was proud to take my place in the process that was set up by the international community to guide my country to democracy. Over months of hard negotiation, we created the framework for Yemen’s new constitution.

Meanwhile, inexplicably, US drones continued to drop bombs on communities across the country . The blanket claims by the American government that these attacks were clinically picking off terrorists were patently untrue: I went to the attack sites, and met the bereaved relatives of builders, children, hitchhikers.

I know my country, and my fellow countrymen; the people I was meeting were simple souls, scraping a living in Yemen’s tough agricultural hinterland. Large political questions were far from their minds. When asked, they would all condemn the terrorist groups who had provided the pretext for the attacks.

We took reports of our investigations to President Hadi, and begged him to stop the attacks. They clearly destabilised all our genuine political efforts. Hadi would try and change the subject: he knew full well that the US economic support propping up our country was dependent on turning a blind eye to American counter-terrorism activities.

Even last week, as Saudi warplanes were refuelling to fly more sorties, anti-aircraft guns were barking over the capital, and President Hadi was fleeing the country, the White House Press Secretary was still trying to defend the so-called “Yemen model” of counterterrorism that was founded on these drone attacks. I listened to his words with incredulity, that he could so blindly ignore the evidence of his own eyes.

I understand that Yemen’s problems are complicated, and need time to resolve, but America’s desire to see my country primarily through a counterterrorism lens was a grave mistake. The National Dialogue was the forum for mending Yemen; US drone attacks consistently undermined our claim to be the sole, sovereign forum for Yemenis to resolve Yemeni disputes.

Truly concerning is President Obama’s belief that Yemen should act as some sort of model for other conflicts – notably the one being waged in Iraq and Syria. Reporters have already revealed Centcom’s efforts to cover up a drone strike in el-Bab in Syria in which 50 civilians died, as well as the botched attack on Kafr Daryan in which 12 more were killed.

When I read those reports, I am taken straight back to the awful drone attack sites I have visited in Yemen: 12 dead when a wedding convoy was hit in Yakla; a mother, father and young daughter all blown up together when a minibus was hit in al-Saboul.

The surest way to ensure America’s security isn’t bombing my countrymen and women; it’s to help countries build strong institutions, which doesn’t happen through the crosshairs of a drone feed. It’s been tried in Yemen. Please take our current pain as proof it won’t work anywhere else.

13-year-old Yemeni boy dreamt about drones, killed by drone


This video says about itself:

‘My father was martyred by a drone

10 February 2015

‘My father was martyred by a drone‘: Yemeni teenager records life months before suffering a similar fate.

Mohammed Saleh Tauiman was 13 when the Guardian gave him a camera to record his family life in Marib province in northern Yemen in 2014. In this footage from the last months of 2014, Mohammed interviews his brothers and sisters about their father, killed in a US drone attack, as the unmanned CIA aircraft continued to fly sorties overhead. On 26 January Mohammed himself was killed by a US drone alongside his brother-in-law and another man.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

We dream about drones, said 13-year-old Yemeni before his death in a CIA strike

Mohammed Tuaiman becomes the third member of his family to be killed by what he called ‘death machines’ in the sky months after Guardian interview

Chavala Madlena, Hannah Patchett and Adel Shamsan in Sana’a

Tuesday 10 February 2015 07.01 GMT

A 13-year-old boy killed in Yemen last month by a CIA drone strike had told the Guardian just months earlier that he lived in constant fear of the “death machines” in the sky that had already killed his father and brother.

“I see them every day and we are scared of them,” said Mohammed Tuaiman, speaking from al-Zur village in Marib province, where he died two weeks ago.

“A lot of the kids in this area wake up from sleeping because of nightmares from them and some now have mental problems. They turned our area into hell and continuous horror, day and night, we even dream of them in our sleep.”

Much of Mohammed’s life was spent living in fear of drone strikes. In 2011 an unmanned combat drone killed his father and teenage brother as they were out herding the family’s camels.

The drone that would kill Mohammed struck on 26 January in Hareeb, about an hour from his home. The drone hit the car carrying the teenager, his brother-in-law Abdullah Khalid al-Zindani and a third man.

“I saw all the bodies completely burned, like charcoal,” Mohammed’s older brother Maqded said. “When we arrived we couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t move the bodies so we just buried them there, near the car.”

Several anonymous US government officials told Reuters that the strike had been carried out by the CIA and had killed “three men believed to be al-Qaida militants”. …

Marib province has become a flashpoint in the struggle between the Houthi rebels –who have ousted the president after overrunning the capital – and the local tribes who reject the Shia group’s attempts to bring Marib under their control. Like the other families around al-Zur and throughout Marib province, the Tuaiman men have been involved in pushing back against the Houthis.

In a secretive programme carried out by the CIA in rural, isolated parts of Yemen, it is easy for confusion to surround the particulars of those killed in a drone strike. Affiliations with al-Qaida and anti-government tribal sympathies mesh and merge depending on who is attacking whom.

Maqdad said the family had been wrongly associated with al-Qaida, and family members strongly deny that Mohammed was involved in any al-Qaida or anti-Houthi fighting. “He wasn’t a member of al-Qaida. He was a kid.”

Speaking from al-Zur the day after his brother’s death, Meqdad said: “After our father died, al-Qaida came to us to offer support. But we are not with them. Al-Qaida may have claimed Mohammed now but we will do anything – go to court, whatever – in order to prove that he was not with al-Qaida.”

When the Guardian interviewed Mohammed last September, he spoke of his anger towards the US government for killing his father. “They tell us that these drones come from bases in Saudi Arabia and also from bases in the Yemeni seas and America sends them to kill terrorists, but they always kill innocent people. But we don’t know why they are killing us.

“In their eyes, we don’t deserve to live like people in the rest of the world and we don’t have feelings or emotions or cry or feel pain like all the other humans around the world.”

Mohammed’s father, Saleh Tuaiman, was killed in 2011 in a drone strike that also killed Mohammed’s teenage brother, Jalil. Saleh Tuaiman left behind three wives and 27 children.

The CIA and Pentagon were both asked to comment on whether the teenager had been confirmed as an al-Qaida militant. Both declined to comment.

Mohammed’s 27 siblings have now lost three family members in US drone strikes and may grow up with the same sense of confusion and injustice Mohammed expressed shortly before his death.

“The elders told us that it’s criminal to kill the civilians without distinguishing between terrorists and innocents and they kill just on suspicion, without hesitation.”

For Meqdad, Mohammed’s death has reignited his determination to seek out justice for his family. “We live in injustice and we want the United States to recognise these crimes against my father and my brothers. They were innocent people, we are weak, poor people, and we don’t have anything to do with this.”

U.S. CLOSING EMBASSY IN YEMEN “The State Department confirmed late Tuesday that it has closed the U.S. Embassy in Yemen and evacuated its staff because of the political crisis and security concerns following the takeover of much of the country by Shiite rebels.” Britain and France also have closed their embassies. [AP]

CIA drone kills twelve-year-old Yemeni child


This video says about itself:

Drone attacks in Yemen mostly hit civilians

17 July 2013

US drones strikes in Yemen nearly tripled last year compared to the year before, from 18 to 53, according to the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been up to 154 strikes by US drones in Yemen since 2002, that has killed almost 800 people. But it is mostly civilians who are often injured or killed in these attacks. Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow reports from the village of Subul in Northern Yemen.

Twelve-year-old boys are not killed in Cleveland in the USA …

By Thomas Gaist:

Twelve-year-old boy among three people killed

27 January 2015

Just days after Houthi rebels in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa toppled the US-backed government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Washington has resumed its drone war against the impoverished country, killing a 12-year-old boy and two alleged Al Qaeda militants in a missile strike against a car traveling in the eastern Marib province.

The strike was carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency, US officials told the Wall Street Journal. The CIA administers one of two US targeted killing programs directed against Yemen, with the other managed by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).

New waves of drone strikes against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are currently in preparation, President Barack Obama and US military officials said Sunday. The US has launched hundreds of drone strikes against alleged terrorist targets in Yemen in recent years.

Monday’s strike comes amid indications of preparations for expanded US and NATO military action in Yemen and a growing list of other countries. US Secretary of State John Kerry pointed to Nigeria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and the Central African Republic as candidates for new US military operations in remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

President Obama announced Monday that he would cut short his visit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to travel to Riyadh for discussions with Saudi leaders focused on the situation in Yemen and the US-led war in Iraq and Syria.

Obama administration national security official Ben Rhodes told Reuters that the meetings would focus on “the leading issues where we cooperate very closely with Saudi Arabia,” so as to insure “good alignment” with regard to US-Saudi “overlapping interests.”

US efforts to train Syrian opposition fighters are being closely coordinated with the Saudi monarchy, Rhodes said.

In statements on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” program last Sunday, Senators John McCain, a Republican, and Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, highlighted the bipartisan support enjoyed by the Obama administration as it plans to unleash yet another surge of military violence across broad areas of the Middle East and Africa.

Warning that Iran is “on the move in Bahrain” and is “winning,” McCain called for new training missions, Special Forces deployments, and air and drone campaigns against Iran’s regional allies, including the Syrian government and Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). He also urged an escalation of the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Iran is on the march throughout the region,” McCain said, adding, “The Iranians are now either dominant or extremely influential in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen. AQAP and the ISIS in both Iraq and Syria are doing quite well. There is no strategy to defeat them.”

“We need more boots on the ground,” McCain said. “Thousands of young people all over the world” are flocking to the banners of ISIS and similar groups, he warned.

Acknowledging that this was “a tough thing for Americans to swallow,” McCain called for deployment of “Special Forces” and “air controllers,” as well as “intelligence” and “other capabilities” to Yemen and areas along the Syrian and Iraqi borders.

“We can’t train young people in Syria and send them back into Syria to be barrel-bombed by Bashar Assad,” McCain said, making the case for a campaign to “neutralize” Assad’s air forces with the imposition of a “no-fly zone.”

Feinstein repeatedly noted her agreement with McCain during the talk show, warning of the threat posed by growing Iranian power and saying it was necessary to take “a good look at our policy with respect to Yemen.”

She said, “My concern is, where is Iran going? Is Iran trying to begin the development of an Iranian crescent?”

Asked whether she favored new ground troop deployments, Feinstein avoided a direct answer while clearly implying her support. The US must “relook” at its policy in relation to Syria, she said, expressing agreement with McCain that the US must not “tolerate Assad.”

Speaking on behalf of the Obama administration, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told “Face the Nation” that the Obama administration is preparing to expand military operations aimed at “destroying… manifestations of Al Qaeda” in South Asia, East Africa and North Africa.

McDonough said that the White House has sought to negotiate a “political agreement” with the Houthi militants who have taken control of the Yemeni capital that would allow the US military and CIA to “keep on the offensive against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”

The US embassy in Yemen is being closed to the public and is suspending all consular services for an indefinite period of time, US officials announced Monday. The US embassy is closing because it is now surrounded by “chaos,” an anonymous State Department official told Reuters. The US already carried out a partial evacuation of embassy staff last week.

Former Central Intelligence Agency officer Jeffrey Sterling was found guilty of violating the 1917 Espionage Act Monday for providing information to the New York Times regarding covert operations conducted by the CIA against Iran. Sterling was convicted of nine felonies including illegally possessing and transferring secret government information. He could receive up to 100 years in prison after sentencing in late April: here.

Operation ‘Merlin': Another self-serving CIA project. The CIA hoped the Jeffrey Sterling trial would make “Operation Merlin” look good, but CIA cables reveal a self-interest bureaucracy at work: here.

Civilians killed in Pentagon’s re-started Iraq war


This video from the USA says about itself:

Iraq Reports Civilian Casualties in U.S. Airstrikes on ISIS

13 October 2014

Iraq has reported civilian casualties resulting from U.S. airstrikes targeting ISIS. According to the Los Angeles Times about 18 civilian casualties were found after a building was bombed in Euphrates river valley town, Hit. The U.S. military has denied that there is any evidence of the reported casualties. Are these casualties inevitable when carrying out airstrikes in highly populated areas? We discuss it, in this Lip News clip with Mark Sovel and Elliot Hill.

By Thomas Gaist in the USA:

US military admits civilian deaths in Mideast air war

8 January 2015

US airstrikes against targets in Iraq and Syria likely led to civilian deaths, US military officials with Central Command (CENTCOM) acknowledged Wednesday.

An internal investigation by CENTCOM into 18 cases of possible civilian deaths has already “dismissed” claims about civilian casualties resulting from 13 of the 18 strikes, yet five cases remain under investigation, according to the military. In an email to the New York Times from CENTCOM, a spokeswoman cited two cases specifically where civilian casualties “may have” occurred.

US warplanes have bombed 3,222 targets inside Iraq and Syria, according to an official Pentagon announcement Wednesday. “I’m confident that the destruction level is high,” said Pentagon spokesman Army Colonel Steve Warren.

The official admissions cast further doubt on previous claims made by General James Terry, a top US commander in the new war, that the US raids did not produce any civilian casualties. “We have some great capability in terms of precision… I am tracking no civilian casualties,” Terry claimed in mid-December.

The claims of the US military had already been challenged in October of last year when the Syrian Organization for Human Rights found that US airstrikes had killed at least 32 civilians.

The US air campaign, which is supported by a coalition of governments including Great Britain, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Canada as well as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE and Bahrain, began in August, and was expanded to target forces inside Syria in September.

In statements Tuesday, US Admiral John Kirby defended the dismissal of 13 possible cases of civilian casualties in US airstrikes without giving any concrete explanation.

Also Tuesday, Admiral Kirby announced that the US would begin new efforts to train fighting groups for the war against the Assad regime in Syria. The training will apparently be conducted from sites inside Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. US Special Forces General Michael Nagata is currently combing through existing Syrian rebel units in an effort to recruit fighters to the new training programs, according to the Times.

The Obama administration claims that the bombing campaign is intended to weaken and destroy the militant group Islamic State, which has taken control over portions of Iraq and Syria. Through this intervention, the US ruling elite is seeking to reassert its domination over Iraqi politics while preparing new efforts to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria.

Is it really possible that the US military could avoid causing civilian casualties while launching more than 3,200 strikes that, according to the Pentagon’s own statistics, destroyed at least 980 buildings? When it comes to assessing the number of civilian deaths produced by the American war machine, it would be foolish to take the US military at its word.

During the current bombing of Iraq and Syria, the US military has generally launched strikes without forward-deployed spotters to visually assess targets beforehand. Instead, strikes have been directed by US and Iraqi troops stationed at command and control facilities in Baghdad and Irbil.

Despite the barrage of airstrikes, targeting IS-controlled oil refineries, tanks and vehicle convoys, IS still controls Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq.

For decades, the US government has consistently sought to conceal and downplay the true extent of the mass slaughter carried out by its military against populations overseas. Despite claims about “precision munitions,” however, ample evidence shows that the US military has used its advanced weaponry to murder countless civilians in recent years through a steadily expanding global reign of terror across the Middle East and Africa.

One recent Human Rights Watch report found that fully 69 percent of the drone strike victims were civilians.

Reporting on a series of 13 drone strikes against the town of Miramshah in Northern Pakistan, the New York Times noted in 2013 that the attacks “mostly occur in densely populated neighborhoods.”

The Pakistani government released statistics in 2009 showing that in the course of 44 drone strikes against targets in the tribal regions of the country, the US killed five intended targets and some 710 innocent civilians. In its effort to kill a single Taliban leader, the CIA launched 16 failed strikes, killing more than 300 civilians in the process, according to some reports.

Some 350 US drone strikes killed as many as 900 civilians in Pakistan during the years 2004-2013, according to a source cited by an Amnesty International report, “Will I be Next? US Drone Strikes in Pakistan.”

The Amnesty report presented damning evidence that the US intentionally launches attacks when civilians are known to be present, including “double tap” follow-up strikes launched to kill rescue and recovery workers who have gathered to deal with the dead and the wounded from an initial strike.

Reports have shown that the US military and CIA possess their own “kill lists.” Under the Obama administration, the adoption of the “Disposition Matrix”—a system for orchestrating and integrating the US government’s worldwide assassination programs, reportedly designed largely by CIA Director John Brennan in his previous position as White House counterterrorism chief—has made extralegal murder a permanent and central function of the executive branch.

Far from seeking to avoid “civilian casualties,” as the military leadership claims, the mass slaughter of noncombatants is one of the main goals of US imperialist policy. By continually demonstrating their readiness to kill civilians, US military planners and their employers at the Pentagon and on Wall Street aim to terrorize masses of people into submission to US imperialism.

President Obama will send Congress a draft resolution to authorize war against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) “in the near future,” congressional leaders said after a meeting at the White House January 13. The resolution would provide the legal basis for the war that Obama launched in August, with air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq, which were extended to Syria a month later: here.

US Secretary of State John Kerry joined 20 of the 60 or so “coalition” states in London on Thursday in crisis talks over the offensive by the Sunni militants of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS): here.

2015 and the rising tide of war: here.