Bin Laden’s death, in Hollywood pro-torture film and reality


This video says about itself:

Zero Dark Thirty: Glorifying torture in bed with the CIA

16 dec. 2012

Writer Glenn Greenwald argues that Zero Dark Thirty, the film about the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, which is already a front-runner to win the 2013 Best Film Oscar, is politically and morally reprehensible and a glorification of torture. Hollywood and the film’s director Kathryn Bigelow have climbed into bed with the CIA and produced pernicious propaganda for the view that the USA is always on the side of “good”, whatever our enemies do is always because they are “evil”, and anyone who is a Muslim is a “terrorist suspect”.

By David Walsh in the USA:

Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal’s Zero Dark Thirty

CIA-embedded Hollywood liars and their lies

15 May 2015

Zero Dark Thirty, written by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow, was a detestable work for many reasons. The film, released in December 2012 to much critical acclaim, was promoted as the true story of the decade-long hunt for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, assassinated by the US military in Pakistan in May 2011.

Now we know, thanks to Seymour Hersh and his article in the London Review of Books, that, along with everything else, the Bigelow-Boal film was a pack of lies from beginning to end. About the only plot element of Zero Dark Thirty that remains unrefuted is that the CIA did indeed operate illegal “black sites” and horribly torture people.

As our original review noted, the film’s central figure, CIA agent Maya, is shown “conducting a single-minded pursuit of clues leading to the whereabouts of bin Laden, while bravely battling resistance from the entire male-dominated leadership of the CIA until she finally prevails.

“According to this improbable version of events, the junior female analyst single-handedly brought about the May 1, 2011 raid on the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan that ended in the assassination of bin Laden and the shooting of several other defenseless men, women and children.”

“Improbable” seems to be the key word here.

Hersh points out in his lengthy piece that bin Laden was not living secretly at the time of his killing in a well-guarded hideout, as depicted in the film, but “had been a prisoner of the ISI [Pakistani intelligence service] at the Abbottabad compound since 2006.” He further explains “that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011 [seconded by Zero Dark Thirty], but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer [a “walk-in”!] who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US.”

So there was no intense debate at CIA headquarters as to whether bin Laden was actually living at the location in question, an important sequence in Bigelow’s film. In the face of rather wishy-washy superiors, Maya boldly insists it is a “100 percent” certainty that the house’s mysterious resident is indeed the al Qaeda leader. In actual fact, Pakistani officials had acknowledged to their American counterparts he was there in Abbottabad (“less than two miles from the Pakistan Military Academy,” and “another mile or so away” from “a Pakistani army combat battalion headquarters,” observes Hersh) and even handed over a DNA sample to prove the point.

Nor was there a deadly shoot-out at the compound. The Pakistani military and intelligence deliberately stood down and let the US Navy Seal team do its dirty work. “An ISI liaison officer flying with the Seals guided them into the darkened house and up a staircase to bin Laden’s quarters,” writes Hersh. Bin Laden was unguarded and unarmed, living on the third floor of the “shabby” house “in a cell with bars on the window and barbed wire on the roof.”

Nor did any CIA official identify the body after the murder, as Maya is shown doing in Bigelow’s film, because two members of the Seal team obliterated bin Laden, an elderly, seriously ailing man. Hersh writes that “some members of the Seal team had bragged to colleagues and others that they had torn bin Laden’s body to pieces with rifle fire. The remains, including his head, which had only a few bullet holes in it, were thrown into a body bag and, during the helicopter flight back to Jalalabad, some body parts were tossed out over the Hindu Kush mountains—or so the Seals claimed.”

So much for the events that Bigelow absurdly claimed only “come along once or twice in a millennium”! So much for what Zero Dark Thirty’s director praised as “the brave work of those professionals in the military and intelligence communities”!

Bigelow and Boal hardly made a secret of the fact that they enjoyed intimate and unprecedented cooperation from the CIA and the Obama administration in the development of the project. Emails and transcripts released in May 2012 revealed that the previous July Bigelow and Boal had met with Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers and other Defense Department officials. Boal had earlier held discussions with top administration officials, including Obama’s Chief Counterterrorism Advisor John O. Brennan and Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough.

One of the released emails, from a CIA spokesperson, explained that the agency and other US government entities “have been engaging with the film’s screenwriter, Mark Boal. … Both Mark and Kathryn have told us how impressed they are with the Agency’s work in the UBL [Usama bin Laden] operation and how eager they are to bring that to the screen.”

The CIA and the administration gave the green light to the film, vetted or had changes made in its script and gloated about its usefulness as propaganda.

One of the principal lines of defense of the filmmakers and their apologists against critics was that Zero Dark Thirty did not render a judgment, was apolitical and simply presented the unadorned facts.

Boal evidently chose to believe (and pass on) every bit of information provided to him by the CIA, not exactly an organization known for its scrupulous adherence to the truth.

In an email sent May 10, 2011, Boal informs George Little of the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs that he and Bigelow “are making a film about the extraordinary effort to capture or kill Usama Bin Laden. Given the historical nature of the subject matter, we intend to make accuracy and authenticity hallmarks of the production, for we believe that this is one of those rare instances where truth really is more interesting than fiction.”

One doesn’t know whether to laugh or …

In another remarkable email from June 13, 2011, Defense Department Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Douglas Wilson wrote Under Secretary of Defense Vickers that “At the direction of Director [Leon] Panetta, CIA is cooperating fully [with the filmmakers] … For the intelligence case, they [Boal and Bigelow] are basically using the WH[White House]-approved talking points we used the night of the operation.”

And, as it turns out, those talking points were a series of fabrications.

In a February 2013 radio interview, Boal asserted: “Of course we tried to be as honest as we could. Who would go into a movie like this knowing there’s going to be the scrutiny there is, knowing the importance, knowing the deep underlying fissures in our political system on the policy issues and try to play fast and loose? You’d have to be out of your mind to do that.” Was Boal out of his mind then? Or had he simply bought into the “war on terror” so deeply that he was incapable of identifying lies when they were told him?

It is almost farcical. This is Boal, in the same radio interview, on the details of the hunt for bin Laden, now exposed as part of a White House-CIA cover story:

“I think that what led to Osama Bin Laden’s death is the work of thousands of people over the course of 10 years. We depict some of them. There were many different places that the information came from. Some of it came from the detainee program. A lot of it came out of good old-fashioned sleuthing, detective work, some of it came out of electronic surveillance. There’s a whole host of methods, but at the end of the day what the movie is really about that there’s a cerebral cortex involved here.”

Boal here admits somewhat grudgingly—after all, he is a liberal-minded man!—that only “some” of the information came from “the detainee program,” i.e., torture. And, as a result of Boal’s including this claim in the film, Zero Dark Thirty became part of the argument in certain circles for the effectiveness of “enhanced interrogation.” But, in any case, it was all made up! Interrogations and torture had nothing to do with bin Laden’s being located.

Hersh writes: “That US intelligence had learned of bin Laden’s whereabouts from information acquired by waterboarding and other forms of torture,” a complete invention, was “pushed by [John] Brennan and [CIA director] Leon Panetta.” A bunch of retired CIA officers had been called in, according to one of Hersh’s sources, “‘to help with the cover story. So the old-timers come in and say why not admit that we got some of the information about bin Laden from enhanced interrogation?’ At the time, there was still talk in Washington about the possible prosecution of CIA agents who had conducted torture.”

It is difficult to express in words the contempt one feels for individuals like Bigelow and Boal.

They were both “leftists” of a sort once upon a time. In the 1970s Bigelow (born 1951) was a radical opponent of the Vietnam War, a figure on the artistic “avant-garde scene” and a student of postmodernism at Columbia University. One of her earliest film projects was a critique of US counterinsurgency methods and the use of death squads.

According to Jordan Michael Smith in the Nation, Boal (born 1973), a graduate of Oberlin College, “began writing for The Village Voice in 1998, documenting concerns about the burgeoning US surveillance infrastructure. … Boal was also freelancing for Mother Jones. In a terrific 1999 cover story, he investigated a garment factory in Kentucky that qualified as a sweatshop because of its below-sustenance wages, dangerous working conditions and intimidation against union organizers.”

Both have evolved, along with many other former middle class protesters and dissidents, into enthusiastic defenders of the state and its brutal operations, at home and abroad.

“You gotta be kidding me.” – Seymour Hersh on the timing of the new Bin Laden documents: here.

United States warplanes killing Iraqi civilians again


The identity document of Danya Laith Hazem, eight, killed in air strike on 4 April in the village of Fadhiliya. ‘The US-led coalition needs to be far more open about who it is killing,’ says one critic. Photograph: Courtesy of Family

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Slaughter of Iraqi family in suspected US-led air strike hints at cost of war

Five members of one family, including a pregnant woman and girl aged eight, died in one village. Other victims of the anti-Isis air campaign may go unrecorded

Fazel Hawramy in Irbil and Raya Jalabi in New York

Thursday 14 May 2015 20.01 BST

Mustafa was jolted awake by the thunderous sound of two large explosions. As the ground shook beneath him, he could hear a young woman screaming in the distance.

Bolting out his front door, he found several hundred men running through the dark towards an olive farm on the outskirts of the village of Fadhiliya, 10 miles north of Mosul. The farm, home to a family of seven, had been hit by an air strike some time after midnight, the local imam said.

Outside the ruins of the two-storey farm house – now a tangled mess of iron rods and concrete slabs – the men found 16-year-old Lina Laith Hazem in hysterics.

They sifted through the rubble for hours, looking for other survivors amid the surrounding chaos. They found only one, Shahd Hazem Abdulla, Lina’s 25-year-old aunt.

“We used our bare hands to pull the bodies out,” said Mustafa, a farmer in his late 40s.

By 9am on 4 April, five corpses had been pulled from the wreckage, including a pregnant woman and an eight-year-old child. All five were members of the same family: Hazem Abdulla Shahin, 69; his wife Nadya Nouri Dawoud, 60; their son Laith Hazem Abdulla, 43; his pregnant bride Hana Ali Abdulla, 43, and their eight-year-old daughter Danya Laith Hazem.

“We wrapped the dead in blankets and buried them the same day,” said Rahim, a relative of the family who helped uncover the bodies.

Since 8 August a US-led coalition including Canada, Britain, France, Jordan and other countries, has carried out several thousand air strikes, as part of its campaign against the Islamic State militant group, which last year declared it had established a caliphate across vast swaths of Iraq and Syria. …

Until last week, the US denied that any civilians had been killed in either Syria or Iraq during the nine-month campaign. Following reports that 52 civilians had been killed in an air strike in Syria, the Pentagon announced that it would launch an investigation.

But watchdog groups, like the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, warn that many more civilian casualties have gone uncounted. By SOHR’s count, at least 66 civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes in Syria alone since last September.

A local Iraqi member of parliament said he was in no doubt that the Abdulla Shahin family were killed by a coalition air strike.

“It was a mistake,” Mala Salim Juma Mohammad said. “The coalition needs to compensate the family adequately.” Juma said that although he had not known the family personally he had ascertained they had no connection to militants.

Chris Wood, the founder of Airwars.org, a not-for-profit transparency project aimed both at tracking and archiving the international air war against Islamic State estimates that at least 167 – and as many as 455 – people have been killed during more than 2,100 air strikes in Iraq.

“It’s very difficult to be precise about civilian casualties in the context of a fast-moving air war, in which those areas being bombed by the coalition are firmly under the control of Islamic State/Daesh,” said Wood.

“What is absolutely clear is that coalition claims of no confirmed civilian deaths are untenable. The US-led coalition needs to be far more open about who it is killing – and to swiftly admit its mistakes when strikes go wrong.” …

The deaths of the Abdulla Shahin family, was but the latest misfortune for Fadhiliya, which was overrun by Islamic State militants in August 2014.

Many of the village’s residents, including the five victims of the air strike, were members of the Shabak ethnic minority. Unlike other minorities such as Christians, Turkomans and Yazidis – who are considered devil worshippers by Isis militants – the 300,000 Shabaks are predominantly Sunni Muslims, and have largely escaped being targeted by Isis. But some Shabak are Shia, and have been targeted for abuse by the militants. Many Fadhiliya residents told the Guardian they did not initially flee the Isis advance because they had nowhere else to go and because they did not consider themselves a target. …

But the men, who still live in Fadhiliya, denied there were any Isis units stationed near or around Hazem Abdulla’s olive farm.

But all current and former residents who spoke with the Guardian agreed that Hazem Abdulla and his family had no links with the militant group.

A relative of Hazem – who asked not to be named because some of his relatives still live in the village – told the Guardian that his uncle had no relationship with the militants.

“[The coalition] are killing innocent people in the name of fighting terrorism,” he said.

But he said that after the air strike, the militants used the incident in their propaganda, telling residents of the village that the attack revealed the US-led coalition’s “true” intentions for the region.

“The incident has been hard on the village,” said Mustafa, the neighbour. “It was a shock to everyone. Hazem was a good man.

The day after the bodies were recovered, relatives of Hazem who had previously fled Fadhiliya, held a memorial service for their deceased in a village near Dohuk.

A sombre black banner hung in the village, the names of the dead written in yellow.

“They were martyred with the fire from a coalition strike in the village of Fadhiliya on 04/04/2015,” the banner read. “We come from Allah, and to Him we shall return.”

Pentagon taking over policing in the USA?


This video from the USA says about itself:

The growing militarisation of police

22 December 2011

Is access to military-grade weapons changing the mentality of crowd control?

In this episode of The Stream, we examine the increasing militarisation of civilian law enforcement with Alex Vitale, associate professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, and Spencer Ackerman, senior reporter at Wired Magazine.

From MintPress News in the USA:

US Isn’t Invading Texas, But Pentagon Is Prepping For Mass Civil Unrest

The Texas governor’s overreaction to upcoming U.S. military exercises has turned the state into a laughingstock, but might there be real risks from growing Pentagon involvement in protest policing?

May 13, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — Experts agree it’s unlikely that Obama is planning to invade Texas, or that the government is secretly using a network of tunnels built under Wal-Mart stores, but Americans should still worry about the effects of increasing militarization in their lives.

Slated to begin on July 15, Jade Helm 15 is a military training exercise that will take place in multiple states throughout the Southwest. The controversial exercise generated many fears about its real intentions. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott mobilized the National Guard earlier this month, apparently to quell fears that, “President Obama is about to use Special Forces to put Texas under martial law.” The decision was met with widespread criticism and satirical comment that even included other Republican party leaders like Rick Perry and John McCain.

While some of the more extreme theories stretch the boundaries of believability, they reflect real risks about the increasing presence of the military on U.S. soil and the increasing militarization of domestic security forces like the police. This is especially apparent in light of recent National Guard deployments in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of police slayings of black Americans.

Hysteria over Jade Helm 15 has created increased government accountability where there is normally only secrecy. Congress previously failed in its attempts to investigate U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the division in charge of Jade Helm, and the Intercept’s Ryan Gallagher suggested, “very little is known about the scope and purpose of [SOCOM operations], given the extreme secrecy that often shrouds them.”

“Whom does this exercise serve: the American public? Special Forces soldiers training for some current or future mission? Defense contractors peddling new weapons for wars that are increasingly being fought by remote control?” asked Justin Peters in Slate on Monday.

He continued:

“SOCOM surely wasn’t going to volunteer this information before the Jade Helmers began complaining, and while it still might not, there is at the very least more public attention now being paid to this organization, and that’s a good thing.”

The Pentagon thinks you’re a ‘potential terrorist’

The military won’t be taking over the Southwest in July, but the Pentagon’s plans to respond to civil unrest with military tactics are real, as national security scholar and investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed revealed last year in a report for The Guardian.

In 2008, the Department of Defense first funded the “Minerva Research Initiative,” an effort that continues today. Minerva’s efforts included examining “social contagions” in order to understand how protest movements grow, with researchers studying Twitter posts by participants in the Arab Spring and other revolutionary movements.

Ahmed criticized the work funded by Minerva for failing to differentiate between constitutionally-protected protest and armed insurrection, citing a recent project that “conflates peaceful activists with ‘supporters of political violence’ who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on ‘armed militancy’ themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists.”

The idea that this research might be linked to exercises like Jade Helm 15 or used against domestic groups is not unrealistic, either. Ahmed interviewed David Price, a St. Martin’s University anthropologist, who cited examples of Pentagon exercises designed to quell protest and free speech. Ahmed reported: “One war-game, said Price, involved environmental activists protesting pollution from a coal-fired plant near Missouri, some of whom were members of the well-known environmental NGO Sierra Club.”

“Security agencies have no qualms about painting the rest of us as potential terrorists,” concluded Ahmed, underscoring that it’s only through the outcry of journalists and regular citizens that we can protect our essential freedoms from military control.

Dane County, District Attorney Ismael Ozanne announced Tuesday afternoon that he would not bring criminal charges against the Madison, Wisconsin, police officer who shot and killed unarmed 19-year-old Tony Robinson, Jr. on March 6 of this year: here.

Al Qaeda’s war in Syria, paid by United States taxpayers


Syria's provinces

By Patrick Martin in the USA:

US-Al Qaeda offensive against Syrian regime

29 April 2015

In a series of battles in which a group linked to Al Qaeda has fought alongside a group armed and backed by the United States, rebel forces have made significant gains against Syrian Army troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, taking control of most of the critical northwestern province of Idlib.

With the fall of city of Jisr al-Shughur Saturday, the remaining government forces in the province are cut off and surrounded, and can only be resupplied by air. Rebel forces captured the provincial capital, the city of Idlib, on March 28, the second of Syria’s 14 provincial capitals to be lost to the Assad regime.

Idlib province occupies a critical strategic position, separating the coastal provinces of Latakia and Tartus, where Assad has a strong political base among the predominately Alawite population (a branch of Shiite Islam), from Aleppo, the country’s largest city and one of the bloodiest battlegrounds of the four-year civil war. According to press reports, rebel forces were only five miles east of the nearest Alawite villages in Latakia province.

Syrian government media reported the fall of Jisr al-Shughur Saturday, and a nearby military base at Qarmeed the following day. The government blamed outside powers, including Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United States, with the state news agency SANA saying that its forces were “facing the terrorist groups flowing in huge numbers through the Turkish border.”

That this claim is not mere propaganda was confirmed by numerous reports in the American and European press, generally hostile to Assad, describing the alliance of Islamists and US-backed “rebels” in the struggle in Idlib province.

The headline of the McClatchy News Service report on the fall of Jisr al-Shughur left nothing to the imagination: “U.S.-backed rebels team with Islamists to capture strategic Syrian city.”

“The latest rebel victory came surprisingly quickly, apparently aided by US-supplied TOW anti-tank missiles,” McClatchy reported, adding, “accounts of the fighting made clear that US-supplied rebel groups had coordinated to some degree with Nusra, which US officials declared a terrorist organization more than two years ago.”

This article cited conflicting claims by “moderate” and Islamist groups about which had played a greater role in the capture of the city. McClatchy noted, “The battle itself was announced by the Fateh Army, an umbrella group that Ahrar al Sham [another Islamist group] and other groups established on March 24, just four days before they and the Nusra Front seized the city of Idlib.”

The rebel-linked television station Orient News reportedly showed video of rebel fighters in the central square of Jisr al-Shughur, raising the black flag that has long been the symbol of Al Qaeda and its affiliated groups. Photographs also appeared of “rebel” trucks bearing poster-sized photos of Osama bin Laden.

The New York Times and Washington Post reported many of the same facts—the fall of Jisr al-Shughur and nearby bases to the offensive of a rebel alliance—but sought to downplay the link between US-backed and Al Qaeda forces, with the Times publishing its article under the headline, “Islamists Seize Control of Syrian City in Northwest.”

McClatchy, citing many local eyewitnesses, described an active fighting alliance between Free Syrian Army forces armed with TOW missiles, destroying nearly a dozen Syrian Army tanks, and Al-Nusra suicide bombers who attacked concentrations of soldiers.

The Times sought to conceal these connections, suggesting that the TOW missiles had fallen into the wrong hands. By its account, “Last year, the United States provided a small number of TOW antitank missiles to some rebel groups. But those groups were largely routed or co-opted by the Nusra Front, further complicating what was already a murky battlefield that has left American officials wary of providing more robust aid to insurgents.”

The Post concentrated on the political benefits of the offensive from the standpoint of the US State Department, suggesting that the military setbacks had dealt a severe blow to the morale of Assad supporters in both Aleppo and the capital city, Damascus. Its account carried the headline, “Assad’s hold on power looks shakier than ever as rebels advance in Syria.”

The Post also glossed over the ties between the US-backed groups and Al Qaeda, writing, “The result has been an unexpectedly cohesive rebel coalition called the Army of Conquest that is made up of al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, an assortment of mostly Islamist brigades and a small number of more moderate battalions.”

The Idlib offensive demonstrates that the claims of successive US governments to be waging a “war on terror” are propaganda lies. Al Qaeda has its origins in the CIA-organized guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan against the Soviet Army and the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul. Osama bin Laden was one of the reactionary anticommunist mujaheddin mobilized for the Afghan struggle along with thousands of other Islamists from throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Bin Laden broke with his US allies over the influx of American troops into Saudi Arabia during the 1990-91 Gulf War, targeting US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and a US Navy warship near Yemen, and, of course, staging the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

But Al Qaeda forces were later mobilized by the CIA in support of the 2011 US-NATO war against Libya, with many of these fighters then transported to Syria for the fight against Assad. Similarly, Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, supposedly the most dangerous branch of Al Qaeda in terms of mounting attacks on the United States itself, has become a de facto ally in the US-backed Saudi war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In the Syrian civil war, the relationship between Al Qaeda and US imperialism has been even more complicated. The Al-Nusra Front was formed as the Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda, as part of the mobilization of Islamists who comprise the main fighting force against the Assad regime. Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) emerged in competition with Al-Nusra and publicly broke with Al Qaeda, in pursuit of territorial objectives in both countries.

Obama launched airstrikes last summer against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, after the group seized control of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, and staggered the US puppet regime in Baghdad. Since Al-Nusra and ISIS were engaged in bitter conflicts within Syria, the US became the de facto ally of Al-Nusra, despite protestations to the contrary.

US airstrikes in Syria killed dozens of civilians in a predominately Arab-populated village in the eastern part of Aleppo province Friday. The death toll was still rising as more bodies were found and missing family members were accounted for: here.

Some ten thousand troops began military exercises in Jordan on Tuesday, in the fifth annual “Eager Lion” war games led by the Pentagon. The drills are in preparation for a greatly expanded military conflict in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. A total of nine Arab countries—Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Lebanon, and Iraq—join the US, Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Belgium, Poland, Australia and Pakistan for the exercise: here.

US soldiers have begun training some 100 Syrian fighters in a “secure location” in Jordan in preparation for military intervention in Syria, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter confirmed Thursday. Other contingents will soon begin training at camps run by the US military in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, Carter said: here.

Noam Chomsky about United States wars


This video says about itself:

Chomsky: ‘US invades, destroys country – that’s stabilization. Someone resists – destabilization’

9 apr. 2015

While the International Criminal Court investigates and sentences African dictators, any of the crimes the US commits like the invasion of Iraq, which has destabilized an entire region, go unpunished, philosopher Noam Chomsky tells.

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.”

The White House disclosed yesterday that a counterterrorism drone operation earlier this year killed two hostages, one of whom was American. Meet the American aid worker with a passion for Pakistan, as well as his Italian counterpart. President Obama took to the briefing room to apologize to the hostages’ families. And here’s how intelligence forces discovered their grisly mistake, which has reignited the drone debate. [Jason Linkins and Ryan Grim, HuffPost]

Perhaps the most extraordinary aspect of President Obama’s announcement Thursday that two hostages of Al Qaeda, an American and an Italian, were killed in a US drone missile strike in Pakistan is the lack of any significant reaction from official political circles or the media. There was a certain amount of tut-tutting in the press and expressions of sympathy for the family of Dr. Warren Weinstein, the longtime aid worker in Pakistan who was kidnapped by Al Qaeda in 2011 and killed by the US government in January 2015. But there was no challenge to the basic premise of the drone missile program: that the CIA and Pentagon have the right to kill any individual, in any country, on the mere say-so of the president. Drone murder by the US government has become routine and is accepted as normal and legitimate by the official shapers of public opinion: here.

On Sunday, the New York Times published a lead article devoted to the Obama administration’s drone assassination program. The article describes a mechanism for state-sanctioned assassination that has become thoroughly bureaucratized and institutionalized: here.

Saudi bombs make humanitarian disaster in Yemen


This video from the USA says about itself:

Yemen: Saudi strike on military base hits school instead

7 April 2015

A violent power struggle in Yemen is plunging the country into a deepening humanitarian crisis. Reports that an airstrike from the Saudi-led coalition may have hit the wrong target are circulating. CCTV’s Jim Spellman filed this report from Washington.

By Niles Williamson:

US-backed assault creating humanitarian disaster in Yemen

8 April 2015

The United Nations warned on Monday that ongoing fighting in Yemen combined with the Saudi-led campaign of airstrikes backed by Washington is taking an “intolerable toll” on children in the deeply impoverished Middle Eastern country.

UNICEF has confirmed that at least 74 children have been killed and another 44 maimed since Saudi-led airstrikes began nearly two weeks ago. The real death toll for children is likely much higher and is expected to rise as airstrikes continue to hit civilian targets in urban areas throughout the country.

“Children are paying an intolerable price for this conflict,” UNICEF Yemen Representative Julien Harneis said in a statement Monday. “They are being killed, maimed and forced to flee their homes, their health threatened and their education interrupted.”

Grant Pritchard, Oxfam’s director in Yemen, cautioned that without a ceasefire there could be “a humanitarian disaster on our hands in the coming weeks and months.” Even before the outbreak of fighting, 16 million Yemenis relied on humanitarian aid and 53 percent of the country’s population, approximately 13 million people, lacked access to clean water.

Airstrikes began on March 26 after Houthi rebels, who had captured the capital city of Sanaa in January, advanced on the compound of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi in the southern port city of Aden.

Since then, the bombardment, as well as fighting on the ground between the Houthi militia and military elements loyal to Hadi and hostile tribal forces, has resulted in hundreds of casualties.

Hadi was installed as president in 2012 by the Sunni monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council in a bid to quell the mass uprising against the Saleh government. Lacking any real base of support, Hadi fled the country for Saudi Arabia in the face of a Houthi assault on Aden, which has continued despite the widespread campaign of bombardment.

The Saudi regime has charged that Iran is attempting to expand its influence in the region by backing the Houthis. In reality, the Houthi rebellion was sparked in large measure by Saudi Arabia’s own repressive influence over Yemen and its sectarian campaign against the Zaidi Shia Yemenis, who make up one-third of the country’s population and are the majority in the north. While they have received some aid from Iran, they are neither controlled by nor a proxy of Tehran. …

In less than two weeks of Saudi-led aerial bombardments and fighting on the ground more than 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes. Many people have fled to rural villages in hopes of avoiding the airstrikes which have pounded urban areas throughout the country, including Sanaa, the Houthi stronghold of Sadaa, the western port city of Hodeida and Aden.

Airstrikes have been launched by forces from a coalition of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and Sudan. Though they have not been involved directly in the bombing, the campaign has been given support by the governments of Turkey and Pakistan.

This bloody campaign has been facilitated by the US government, which has provided the Saudi-led coalition with intelligence and logistical support. Stepping up its direct involvement, the Pentagon announced this week that it would begin refueling jet fighters taking part in airstrikes.

Army Colonel Steve Warren told reporters in Washington on Monday that the Pentagon had authorized tankers to refuel Saudi and other coalition aircraft outside Yemeni airspace. “It’s been authorized, assets are in place. The Saudis have not requested it. Any refueling will not take place over Yemen. Any refueling will take place over Saudi Arabia or other places,” he stated.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a diplomatic visit to the Saudi capital of Riyadh, told reporters that the Obama administration was expanding its support for the assault by accelerating the delivery of weapons to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the coalition.

“As part of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center,” Blinken told reporters.

The “intelligence sharing” referred to by Blinken involves providing Saudis with intelligence from US surveillance flights over Yemen to determine what targets to strike, making Washington fully complicit in the ongoing slaughter of civilians on the ground.

The US-backed assault, approaching its third week, is severely worsening conditions in a country where food insecurity and malnutrition were already widespread amongst the most vulnerable segments of the population. According to the World Bank, more than half of Yemen’s population lived in poverty in 2012, and 45 percent were food insecure.

Airstrikes as well as fighting on the ground has knocked out electrical infrastructure, cutting off power in many urban areas and stopping the operation of crucial pumps that supply Yemen’s cities with drinking water. “We’re worried that this system will break down shortly; Aden is a dry, hot place, and without water people will really suffer,” UNICEF representative Harneis told reporters.

Aid workers have been unable to access many areas where fighting has taken place; hospitals are overflowing with casualties, while bodies have been left to fester in the streets. Hospitals and aid workers have also come under repeated assault; at least three health workers have been killed in separate attacks.

“Conditions are very dangerous right now,” Doctor Gamila Hibatullah, a UNICEF volunteer stationed in Aden said Monday. “Hospitals are overflowing, and even ambulances have been hijacked.”

Adding to the death toll on Tuesday, Yemeni officials reported that three students were killed in a Saudi airstrike that hit the Al Bastain School in Maitam, 100 miles south of Sanaa. The airstrikes were reportedly intended for the Al Hamza military base, a third of a mile from the school, which has been taken over by members of the Houthi militia. No casualties were reported at the base.

The International Committee of the Red Cross announced Tuesday that it had finally reached an agreement with Saudi Arabia to airlift 16 tons of medical supplies from Amman, Jordan into Sanaa by Wednesday morning, and a further 32 tons of supplies by Thursday afternoon. The no-fly zone and blockade enforced by Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners has effectively blocked the delivery of medical aid and supplies for the last two weeks, exacerbating the developing crisis.

Yemen: «We are living through pure horror» was how one man described the aftermath of nightly aerial bombardments: here.

The US isn’t winding down its wars – it’s just running them at arm’s length: Seumas Milne. Barack Obama is playing all sides against each other, but support for the Saudi war in Yemen will only spread conflagration in the Middle East: here.

TO SUGGEST that United States policies in Yemen are a failure is an understatement. That would imply that the US has at least attempted to succeed. But succeed at what? Here.