The Obama administration has carried out a deliberately deceptive campaign accusing Iran of covertly sending arms to the Houthis by sea, a claim that Washington cites to help justify the Saudi massive air attack against the Houthis that began last year.
By repeating the accusation over and over, the administration has been largely successful in turning a dubious allegation into accepted fact, even though it is contradicted by evidence that is well-documented on the public record.
Secretary of State John Kerry introduced the new variant of the Obama administration’s familiar theme about Iran’s “nefarious activities” in the region two weeks after Saudi Arabia began its bombing in Yemen on March 26, 2015. Kerry told the PBS NewsHour, “There are obviously supplies that have been coming from Iran,” citing “a number of flights every single week that have been flying in.” Kerry vowed that the United States was “not going to stand by while the region is destabilized.”
Later, the administration began accusing Iran of using fishing boats to smuggle arms to the Houthis. The campaign unfolded in a series of four interceptions of small fishing boats or dhows in or near the Arabian Sea from September 2015 through March 2016. The four interceptions had two things in common: the boats did have illicit weapons alright, but the crews always said the ship was bound for Somalia – not Yemen and the Houthis.
But instead of acknowledging the obvious fact that the weapons were not related to the Iran-Houthi relationship, a U.S. military spokesman put out a statement in all four cases citing a U.S. “assessment” that the ultimate destination of the arms was Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen.
The choice of wording was significant. The intelligence community says that it “assesses” that something is true only when it does not have clear-cut proof on the matter. In the case of the alleged Iranian use of fishing dhows to smuggle arms to the Houthis, the U.S. spokesmen did not cite a single piece of evidence for that “assessment” in any of the four cases. In fact, when asked for some justification for it, the military spokesman refused.
The first fishing dhow was intercepted in the Arabian Sea on Sept. 25, 2015, by a member of a 31-nation coalition called the Combined Maritime Forces patrolling the Arabian Sea and nearby waters for piracy. The coalition ship found the dhow to be carrying 18 Konkurs anti-tank missiles, 71 other anti-tank shells and 54 missile-launchers.
The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet later issued a statement that said, “Based on statements from the dhow’s crew the port of origin of the dhow and its illicit weapons cache is believed to be Iran.” It also said the anti-tank missiles were thought to be of Iranian and Russian origin, and that the papers on the ship had indicated that it had been checked by ports and customs officials in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan province.
But the crew of the vessel had said that it was bound not for Yemen but for Somalia, as the spokesman for the U.S. Fifth Fleet acknowledged to The Associated Press. A Saudi military spokesman suggested that Iran intended to reroute the arms later from Somalia to Yemen, but offered no evidence.
On Feb. 27, 2016, an Australian ship intercepted a second fishing dhow off the coast of Oman. The Australians found 1,989 AK-47 assault rifles, 100 rocket-propelled grenades and 40 PKM machine guns on board. The Australian Defense Force issued an official statement on the seizure that did not mention Iranian involvement. It said the boat appeared to be “stateless” and that its cache of weapons was “destined for Somalia.” The Australian Defense Force spokesman explained to CNN that the conclusion was based on interviews with crew members.
But a spokesman for U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command, Lt. Ian McConnaughey gave an entirely different political slant to the interception. In an e-mail to NBC News, McConnaughey said. “Based on the dhow’s course, Iran is believed to be its port of origin and the source of the illicit weapon,” he said. McConnaughey said the crew was “assessed” to be Iranian – implying that the crew itself had not indicated that.
McConnaughey acknowledged to NBC and The Telegraph, “According to coalition forces it is believed that the vessel’s destination was in the vicinity of Somalia.” But the CENTCOM spokesman indicated that it didn’t matter; the U.S. was insisting on its narrative about covert Iranian arms to the Houthis.
“[T]he initial U.S. assessment is the weapons’ final destination was likely to be the Houthis in Yemen,” McConnaaughey told NBC and The Telegraph.
When this writer asked McConnaughey by e-mail why the U.S. “assessed” that the weapons were intended for Yemen, despite the evidence to the contrary, he responded, “We are not going to discuss the intelligence and other information that led us to our assessment.”
A Third Shipment
On March 20, a French navy destroyer intercepted a third fishing dhow off the Island of Socotra in the northern Indian Ocean and found several hundred AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns and antitank weapons. The official statement on the seizure from the Combined Maritime Forces stated categorically, “The dhow was spotted heading toward Somalia.”
And because the weapons were “deemed to be destined for Somalia,” it explained, they “were seized under the United Nations Security Council mandated arms embargo in accordance with UNSCR 2244(2015).” That Security Council resolution mandates an embargo on Eritrea.
Australia and other states participating in the Combined Maritime Forces were thus challenging the U.S. propaganda line. But again the U.S. military used the news media to reinforce the line about Iran smuggling arms to the Houthis. Commander Kevin Stephens, a spokesman for the Fifth Fleet, told CNN that “according to a U.S. assessment,” Yemen was the “likely destination” of the arms.
A fourth interception – the third in three weeks – occurred on March 28 by a U.S. Navy ship that was not operating as part of Combined Maritime Forces but directly under U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. That allowed the Naval Forces Central Command to issue its own news story on April 4.
In its lead paragraph, the report said the United States “assessed” that the shipment of illicit arms on board the dhow “originated in Iran and was likely bound for Houthi insurgents in Yemen.”
An Earlier Ruse
The Obama administration also had sought to promote the charge that Iran was covertly sending weapons to the Houthis by sea more than two years earlier. In January 2013, the Yemen client government backed by the United States and Saudi Arabia had claimed that its forces had intercepted a ship with a large cargo of weaponry that came from Iran and was on its way to Yemen to deliver them to the Houthis.
The Obama administration supported that charge in briefings to journalists. After the Saudi air war against Yemen began in 2015, the U.S. pushed for a report by an experts group on sanctions against Iran that would give the charge credibility.
But the 2013 claim was soon exposed as a ruse. A Security Council Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea revealed in a June 2013 report that the crewmembers had told diplomats who interviewed them that ship’s cargo of diesel fuel was bound for Somalia, not Yemen. And, since the weapons were hidden under the diesel fuel tanks, the weapons could be accessed only after those tanks had been emptied, in other words after the ship docked in Somalia.
The monitoring group learned from authorities in the Puntland region of Somalia, where most of the smuggled weapons have entered the country, that this was a widely used method of smuggling arms into the country.
Furthermore, the monitoring group determined that the wide range of types of weapons on board the ship, which was intercepted in January 2013, as well as of their original sources indicated that the weapons cache had been assembled by arms merchants. Authorities in Puntland provided data to the monitoring group showing that most of the shipments of weapons into Puntland in the months before January 2013 had come from politically well-connected arms merchants in Yemen.
Some of the fishing boats that were intercepted with illicit arms on board in 2015-16 had Iranian owners. But the monitoring group report reveals that the real reason is the role of such Iranian fishing vessels in illegal fishing in Somali waters. The vast majority of the hundreds of fishing vessels involved in such illegal fishing networks were either Iranian or Yemeni. As many as 300 were believed to be Yemeni-owned, while Iranian-owned 180 of them.
The monitoring group said it was investigating unconfirmed reports that some of those illegal fishing vessels were also being used to carry out arms smuggling and that it had established “other connections between the illegal fishing networks and networks involved in the arms trade and connected to al-Shabaab in northeastern Somalia.”
But the Obama administration has no interest in the considerable evidence gathered by the monitoring group that provides a more credible explanation for the arms found on those four fishing dhows.
Such an explanation isn’t political useful, whereas the accusations of Iranian smuggling of arms to the Houthis fulfilled multiple political and bureaucratic interests, justifying Saudi Arabia’s bloody U.S.-backed air campaign over Yemen and endless Washington alarms about “Iranian aggression.”
Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.
Imagine if a local business in your town invented a brand new tool that was intended to have an almost magical effect thousands of miles away. However, where the tool was kept and used locally became an area unsafe for children. Children who got near this tool tended to have increased blood pressure and increased stress hormones, lower reading skills, poorer memories, impaired auditory and speech perception, and impaired academic performance.
Most of us would find this situation at least a little concerning, unless the new invention was designed to murder lots of people. Then it’d be just fine.
Now, imagine if this same new tool ruined neighborhoods because people couldn’t safely live near it. Imagine if the government had to not only compensate people but kick them out of living near the location of this tool. Again, I think, we might find that troubling if mass murder were not the mission.
Imagine also that this tool fairly frequently explodes, emitting highly toxic chemicals, particles, and fibers unsafe to breathe into the air for miles around. Normally, that’d be a problem. But if this tool is needed for killing lots of people, we’ll work with its flaws, won’t we?
Now, what if this new gadget was expected to cost at least $1,400,000,000,000 over 50 years? And what if that money had to be taken away from numerous other expenses more beneficial for the economy and the world? What if the $1.4 trillion was drained out of the economy causing a loss of jobs and a radical diminution of resources for education, healthcare, housing, environmental protection, or humanitarian aid? Wouldn’t that be a worry in some cases, I mean in those cases where the ability to kill tons of human beings wasn’t at stake?
What if this product, even when working perfectly, was a leading destroyer of the earth’s natural environment?
What if this high-tech toy wasn’t even designed to do what was expected of it and wasn’t even able to do what it was designed for?
Amazingly, even those shortcomings do not matter as long as the intention is massive murder and destruction. Then, all is forgiven.
The tool I’m describing is called the F-35. At RootsAction.org you can find a new petition launched by locally-minded people acting globally in places where the F-35 is intended to be based. Also at that link you’ll find explanations of how the tool I’ve been describing is the F-35.
The petition is directed to the United States Congress and the governments of Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Israel, Japan and South Korea from the world and from the people of Burlington, Vermont, and Fairbanks, Alaska, where the F-35 is to be based. This effort is being initiated by Vermont Stop the F35 Coalition, Save Our Skies Vermont, Western Maine Matters, Alaska Peace Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks Peace Club, North Star Chapter 146 Veterans For Peace, World Beyond War, RootsAction.org, Code Pink, and Ben Cohen.
The petition reads:
The F-35 is a weapon of offensive war, serving no defensive purpose. It is planned to cost the U.S. $1.4 trillion over 50 years. Because starvation on earth could be ended for $30 billion and the lack of clean drinking water for $11 billion per year, it is first and foremost through the wasting of resources that this airplane will kill. Military spending, contrary to popular misconception, also hurts the U.S. economy (see here) and other economies. The F-35 causes negative health impacts and cognitive impairment in children living near its bases. It renders housing near airports unsuitable for residential use. It has a high crash rate and horrible consequences to those living in the area of its crashes. Its emissions are a major environmental polluter.
Wars are endangering the United States and other participating nations rather than protecting them. Nonviolent tools of law, diplomacy, aid, crisis prevention, and verifiable nuclear disarmament should be substituted for continuing counterproductive wars. Therefore, we, the undersigned, call for the immediate cancellation of the F-35 program as a whole, and the immediate cancellation of plans to base any such dangerous and noisy jets near populated areas. We oppose replacing the F-35 with any other weapon or basing the F-35 in any other locations. We further demand redirection of the money for the F-35 back into taxpayers’ pockets, and into environmental and human needs in the U.S., other F-35 customer nations, and around the world, including to fight climate change, pay off student debt, rebuild crumbling infrastructure, and improve education, healthcare, and housing.
Reprieve | October 30, 2016
Personnel on military bases in the UK have been involved in choosing targets for a secret US drone campaign which has killed hundreds of civilians in violation of international law, documents obtained by human rights charity Reprieve indicate.
Job adverts and CVs identified from publicly-available sources show that the US Air Force has employed a “MQ-9 REAPER [drone] ISR Mission Intelligence Coordinator” at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire; while a Private Military Contractor (PMC) has advertised for an “All Source Analyst – Targeting” to work at the same base.
RAF Molesworth is leased to the US, but the UK Government has refused to answer questions on whether it plays a role in the covert drone campaign – which carries out missile strikes outside of warzones with minimal accountability.
British Ministers have said that “the US does not operate RPAS [drones] from the UK,” but have refused to answer questions on whether bases in the UK play a role in choosing targets and drawing up the US ‘kill list.’
A third job advert from contractor Leidos for someone to provide “FMV [full motion video] intelligence analysis in support of USAFRICOM… and Special Operations Command Africa,” also at Molesworth, indicates that the base may be involved in supporting illegal covert drone strikes in countries such as Somalia, where neither the US nor the UK is publicly at war. Along with the CIA, US Special Operations Command is the main player in the drone programme.
Concerns have been raised over the legality of the US covert drone programme, its lack of transparency, and reports that it has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. The UN has warned that it may violate international law, and British ministers have refused to be drawn on their view of its legality. President Obama has to date refused even to formally acknowledge that the CIA is carrying out drone strikes, because of the programme’s covert status. A 2014 study by Reprieve found that covert drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan had killed as many as 1,147 unknown people in failed attempts to kill 41 named individuals.
The revelations come on top of documents published recently by The Intercept on the role played by Menwith Hill – another UK/US intelligence base – in identifying targets in Yemen, one of the main theatres in which the covert drone programme operates. One document states that targets at Yemeni internet cafes are “tasked by several target offices at NSA and GCHQ.” The document’s header shows it was copied to the UK, meaning that the British Government must have already been aware of the role its intelligence and bases were playing.
Commenting, Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve said:
“These documents are the strongest evidence yet that the US may be conducting its illegal, secret drone war from bases on British soil. Simply to say that drones are not flown from the UK is missing the point, if it is personnel on British soil that are at the top of the so-called ‘kill chain’ and British agencies who are feeding targets into those lists.
“The US drone programme, conducted in the shadows, has killed hundreds of civilians without any accountability. The British Government has questions to answer over its own involvement in this secret war and how much responsibility it bears for those deaths.”
The army officer assigned to investigate alleged Saudi war crimes in Yemen played a key role in the 2011 crackdown on Arab Spring protesters in Bahrain, MEMO can reveal. In the wake of the start of the ongoing 2011 uprising, Bahrain’s military lawyer Colonel Mansour Al-Mansour presided over the First Instance Court of National Safety, a tribunal set up to process the trial and prosecution of hundreds of peaceful protesters and human rights and pro-democracy activists after they took to the streets calling for urgent reform of the tiny Gulf monarchy.
Al-Mansour now acts as legal adviser to the Joint Incident Assessments Team (JIAT), the body set up by the Saudi-led coalition to investigate bombings against civilian targets. He is playing a key role in assessing whether human rights violations have taken place.
Amongst Al-Mansour’s notorious convictions are the so-called “Bahraini Thirteen”, a group of activists, journalists and politicians who alleged torture, including sexual assault and beatings, during their detention. Several media and foreign human rights monitors were barred from observing their trial, the conduct of which drew strong criticism from the United Nations, European Union, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Religious leader Mirza Al-Mahroos, who was convicted by Al-Mansour to fifteen years in prison, said that he was “unable to stand due to the severity of what had happened to me.” This was a reference to the alleged daily torture and beatings during his pre-trial detention; on one occasion, he claimed that an interrogator stuffed shoes into his mouth. “I could not look at [the judges] because of the beatings on my eyes,” he recalled. Al-Mansour, he complained, had failed to respond to complaints of torture when raised.
According to Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Al-Mansour sentenced protesters vindictively on behalf of the Bahraini regime. “Rather than being held accountable,” he told MEMO, “Al-Mansour has been promoted to whitewash the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. His story is a clear marker of the descent of Bahrain and the Gulf further into dictatorship and authoritarianism.”
Others convicted by Al-Mansour include Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a human rights activist and co-founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, as well as the academic and writer Abduljalil Al-Singace, who was arrested initially on his return from Britain where he attended an event in the House of Lords in parliament in August 2010. Al-Singace was detained for six months before being released at the height of the protests, re-arrested, then sentenced by Al-Mansour to life imprisonment. Both men continue to serve their sentences and have been on several hunger-strikes in protest at their incarceration.
Human Rights Watch called the conduct of the trials “unfair”, characterised by “serious due process violations.” The organisation’s official report concluded that “serious abuses included denying defendants the right to counsel and to present a defence, and failure to investigate credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment during interrogation.” Those on trial included health workers, with one nurse convicted of “destroying moveable property in furtherance of a terrorist purpose” because she allegedly stepped on a photo of the prime minister.
Al-Mansour has since specialised in humanitarian law and attended training sessions from the Bahraini Red Crescent Society and the International Committee for the Red Cross, as well as advising his country’s Shura (Consultative) Council in March, on whether to adopt the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. This includes bans on dangerous unexploded ordinance, incendiary devices and other bombs “deemed to be excessively injurious or to have indiscriminate effects.” Before the council approved the accession, Al-Mansour reassured legislators that the convention would not apply to the use of weapons within the kingdom.
The convention is actually a watered-down version of the international treaty on “cluster bombs”; Bahrain currently refuses to sign this. Instead, the government in Manama calls for “explosive ordnance that has been primed, fused, armed or otherwise prepared for use and used in an armed conflict” to be cleared from civilian areas after being dropped, rather than banned outright. The legislation clarifies that such ordinance may have been “fired, dropped, launched or projected, and should have exploded but failed to do so.”
Opting for this diluted version of a cluster bomb ban over an outright prohibition preferred by other countries, the Saudi-led coalition has since been accused of using such munitions in Yemen. This is highly controversial because the “bomblets” often fail to explode.
As concerns have mounted internationally about alleged war crimes committed by the coalition air forces in Yemen, Al-Mansour has played a prominent role in playing down the allegations to local, regional and international media. He appeared in media briefings conducted in Riyadh while wearing civilian clothing.
In August, Al-Mansour claimed that a Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital hit by coalition air strikes had been used as a base by Houthi militias. MSF refuted the story, saying that the tented clinic had been set up in an empty field in a residential neighbourhood where many internally displaced people had gathered, noting there had been no air strike, nor any fighting in the area, for several months. The GPS coordinates of the MSF medical facilities had also been shared with the Saudis on the morning of the attack. All six of the incidents investigated by JIAT found no wrong-doing on the part of the coalition. MSF has since been forced to withdraw from Yemen after several incidents of a similar nature in which, again, there was found to be no coalition wrong-doing.
JIAT has since admitted that a recent coalition attack on a funeral, which Houthi rebels claim killed eighty-two Yemenis and the UN says could have killed up to a hundred and forty, was the result of a commander who failed to obtain permission from his seniors for the strike. “Naturally, these people must be confronted about what led to this mistake,” Al-Mansour said. “They have the right to defend themselves, but if it becomes clear that legal measures should be taken, the coalition forces are concerned with that.” This, remember, is the man assigned to investigate allegations of war crimes in the same country by the same Saudi-led coalition.
Democratic party chair Donna Brazile is no longer at CNN, as WikiLeaks revealed that she sent debate questions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign at least twice. Confirming Brazile’s dismissal, CNN said it was “completely uncomfortable” with her conduct.
Brazile’s role as a Democratic pundit at CNN was suspended in July, when she took on the role of interim chair for the Democratic National Committee following the scandal-ridden departure of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. She resigned from the network on October 14, after revelations that she had given advance notice to the Clinton campaign of questions to be asked at a CNN-hosted debate.
“We are completely uncomfortable with what we have learned about her interactions with the Clinton campaign while she was a CNN contributor,” the network said in a statement Monday, announcing Brazile’s dismissal and maintaining that they never gave her any questions or other materials in advance of debates.
Emails published by WikiLeaks earlier show otherwise, however. A March 12 email from Brazile to Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri – published by WikiLeaks on October 11 – was titled: “From time to time I get the questions in advance,” and gave the campaign notice of a question about the death penalty at the upcoming CNN-hosted town hall between Clinton and her rival for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders
Another email, published Monday, shows Brazile giving advance notice to Palmieri and Clinton campaign chief John Podesta about the upcoming debate in Flint, Michigan. Brazile was vice chair of the DNC at the time.
“One of the questions directed to HRC tomorrow is from a woman with a rash,” says the subject line of Brazile’s email dated March 5, followed by: “Her family has lead poison and she will ask what, if anything, will Hillary do as president to help the ppl of Flint.”
Both CNN and Brazile emphatically denied any wrongdoing prior to Monday’s release.
“To be perfectly clear: We have never, ever given a town hall question to anyone beforehand,” said CNN.
“As it pertains to the CNN Debates, I never had access to questions and would never have shared them with the candidates if I did,” Brazile said in a statement earlier this month.
On Monday morning, before CNN acknowledged her October 14 resignation, Brazile tweeted about “campaign hell” and quoted a Miami Herald article indicating that Donald Trump’s campaign had a “back channel” to WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange through political operative Roger Stone.
Brazile and other senior Democrats have accused Assange of being a “Russian agent” and alternately dismissed the WikiLeaks publications as either forgeries or attempts by Russia to influence US elections by backing Trump.
Stone has rejected both claims. “I bet there is no evidence of a Russian conspiracy to fix the election,” he told the Herald.
“He’s not a Russian agent,” Stone added, speaking of Assange.
In a speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee earlier this year, Hillary Clinton, who vehemently opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement warned against anyone who tries to “to shut down debate, especially in places of learning like colleges and universities.” Her concern, of course, was with reassuring pro-Israel students that she stood behind them as they battled efforts to criticize Israel from the left.
It is certainly sportsman-like of Clinton to be open to debate, but the reality is that the free exchange of ideas on campus is currently under assault, not from the left but from the right. Consider the following incident from here in Ohio.
On September 21, the Case Western Reserve University Radical Student Union showed a documentary titled “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States,” which is available to all members of the university community through the Kanopy streaming service. Today, the RSU stands accused by the AMCHA Initiative, a nonprofit pro-Israel group, of engaging in an “antisemitic expression” that “condoned terrorism,” simply for showing the film in public. One radical student critical of Israel’s policies likened the climate of fear on the CWRU campus with respect to this issue as akin to being “stalked.”
The RSU decided to host the film to raise awareness and in the words of its president, Gabriel Murcia, to give “voice to people who don’t have a voice.” Although some 100 people attended the screening, the RSU decided at the last minute not to have a formal discussion after the film when an email raising the specter of antisemitism emerged from the president of a pro-Israel student group.
I have watched this film at least four times now. There is absolutely not one shred of evidence of antisemitism in it if by that word we mean hatred or discrimination against the Jewish people. The film does, however, take Israel to task for engaging in a dishonest campaign of public diplomacy. These efforts have tended to cast the problem in Israel/Palestine in terms of terror instead of territory, and have made it seem as if Palestinians are on the whole just prone to violence instead of people with legitimate grievances about displacement and dispossession of land.
After the movie, a student fellow of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a group formed after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, noted that though “every student on this campus is entitled to express their opinion” the film was biased and “unacceptable to be presented by a student organization at our university.” The student then expressed her opposition to the BDS movement and argued that the president of CWRU had made opposition to academic boycotts the institution’s official stance.
The student’s reference is to a 2013 statement in which the president and provost, like many university administrations across the country, communicated their personal opposition to the academic boycott of Israel following the American Studies Association’s endorsement of it. They argued that the boycott compromised academic freedom. Never mind that the academic boycott was set up to help Palestinian scholars achieve academic freedom while under the Israeli occupation. The AMCHA Initiative liked their statement so much that it still links to it on its website. The statement was not, however, the official position of CWRU, simply the personal opinions of its two highest administrators.
The statement by the CWRU administration and the letter from the CAMERA fellow recall, as I pointed out in a letter to the student paper, Edward Said’s comment, nearly 40 years ago, that politically speaking, the Palestinian in the United States “does not exist.”
I thought the matter was at an end, but to my surprise the Cleveland Jewish News ran a story about the movie screening. A university administrator who directs a continuing education center dedicated to “the heritage of Jewish learning” condemned the film and the RSU, as if a radical Jewish tradition did not exist. He also implied that faculty drove the group’s agenda, implying that the students were not bright enough to think for themselves. The chairman of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Gary Gross, meanwhile, called the film a bunch of “lies and distortions” without providing any evidence in support of the assertion. In fact, the film is about a policy of using lies and distortions to advance the interests of a foreign government. Gross added that he supports free speech, but then ominously intoned, “We will follow what’s happening on [the CWRU] campus through our partner agency, Cleveland Hillel.”
The reference to Hillel was not an idle one. Cleveland Hillel just partnered with CWRU on the creation of the new Albert & Norma Geller Hillel Student Center which includes within it classrooms available for undergraduate courses. Some students on the left are dismayed that they are forced to take classes in a building run by a group that offers “Israel advocacy training.”
This incident is part of nationwide trend. Universities all over the country are under surveillance, most famously at the University of California, Berkeley, where a student-led course titled Palestine: A Settler-Colonial Analysis was canceled after AMCHA coordinated with other groups, including CAMERA, to pressure administrators. The course was later reinstated, but the intimidation continues online. An anonymous website called the Canary Mission, established in 2015, targets those on campus critical of the Israeli occupation. The site’s main goal is to harass student activists and attempt to block their admission into graduate school.
If Hillary Clinton really does care about academic freedom, she should step up and publicly condemn the blacklisting of students and faculty concerned about Palestinian human rights. And so should the university presidents who invoked academic freedom as the rationale for their opposition to the ASA’s endorsement of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions. These leaders should also learn something from the experience on the Berkeley campus and stop caving in to people who have trouble tolerating a perspective that challenges them to think.
When I informed Mr. Murcia about his group’s inclusion on the AMCHA website he was saddened. As he put it, “All we did was show a movie.”
Ted Steinberg teaches history and law at Case Western Reserve University. He is the faculty advisor to the Radical Student Union and the author, most recently, of Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has accused the bureau of hiding “explosive” information about Donald Trump’s alleged ties with Russia, which he believes might inflict “critical” damage ahead of the election.
The allegation comes after FBI Director James Comey announced on Friday that a criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server had been reopened, sending a letter notifying Congress of the email review.
In it Comey revealed the finding of some 650,000 emails which were discovered by the agency in early October on a laptop belonging to ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner and apparently also used by his wife, Clinton’s closest aide Huma Abedin.
The unexpected announcement came just 11 days before Americans head to the polls to determine the winner in the race for the White House between Democrat Clinton and Republican Trump.
Concerned by the FBI’s move to re-open the investigation that was closed in July, Reid sent a letter to Comey accusing him of double standards and potentially breaking the law.
“Your actions in recent months have demonstrated a disturbing double standard for the treatment of sensitive information, with what appears to be a clear intent to aid one political party over another,” Reid wrote on Sunday.
He added that through Comey’s “partisan actions, you may have broken the law,” namely the Hatch Act, which bars the use of an executive branch position to influence an election.
Furthermore, Reid accused the FBI chief of using a “highly selective approach” in publicizing information, and claimed that the timing of the announcement so close to election date was “intended for the success or failure of a partisan candidate or political group.”
While the alleged ties of the Republican candidate with Russia have long been touted by the Clinton camp as one of Trump’s greatest sins, no proof of such a relationship has ever been made public. Reid however once again claimed it was “clear” to him that a relation exists between Trump and the Russian government, and that Comey is hiding it.
“In my communications with you and other top officials in the national security community, it has become clear that you possess explosive information about close ties and coordination between Donald Trump, his top advisors, and the Russian government – a foreign interest openly hostile to the United States, which Trump praises at every opportunity,” Reid stated.
While Kremlin has on numerous occasions denied any links to the Trump camp, the US media continues to pursue the allegations of Moscow’s alleged involvement, which Russian President Vladimir Putin this week called “absurd.”
“I wrote to you months ago calling for this information to be released to the public…and yet, you continue to resist calls to inform the public of this critical information,” the US politician added.
Reid has sent the letter to Comey just before it was revealed that the FBI has reportedly obtained a warrant to dig through hundreds of thousands of newly-discovered emails. In the meantime, the NYT reported that senior Justice Department officials vowed to make all resources available to conduct the investigation as quickly as possible.
Meanwhile Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) urged the FBI director to resign, accusing him of restarting Clinton’s email probe “apparently before seeing any evidence.” In a statement Cohen called Comey’s move “plainly premature, careless and unprecedented in its potential impact upon a Presidential election.”
If Hillary Clinton hangs on to win the presidency, liberal Democrats have vowed to block her appointment of Wall Street-friendly officials to key Cabinet and sub-Cabinet jobs. But there has been little organized resistance to her choosing hawkish foreign policy advisers.
Indeed, Washington’s foreign policy establishment has purged almost anyone who isn’t part of the neoconservative/liberal-interventionist “group think.” That’s why pretty much everyone who “matters” agrees about the need to push around Russia, China, Syria, Iran, etc.
Reflecting that attitude, Sunday’s lead editorial in the neocon Washington Post hailed the broad consensus within the Establishment for more warlike actions once President Obama is gone, taking with him what the Post calls Obama’s “self-defeating passivity.”
The Post praised a new report from the liberal Center for American Progress which calls for bombing the Syrian military and getting tough to “counter Iran’s negative influence” in line with what all the neocons — as well as Israel and Saudi Arabia — want the next President to do.
The absence of any significant counter to this neocon/liberal-hawk “group think” represents one of the greatest dangers to the future of the human species, since this new hubris comes with a cavalier assumption that nuclear-armed Russia and China will simply accept humiliation dished out by the “indispensable nation.”
If they don’t, we can expect Official Washington to ratchet up tensions in a game of nuclear chicken with the expectation that the leaders in Moscow and Beijing will bow down to U.S. “exceptionalism’ and slink away with their tails between their legs.
Surely, that is what the armchair warriors at The Washington Post will demand and they have, of course, a spotless record of infallibility, such as their certainty that Iraq was hiding stockpiles of WMD in 2003. Editorial-page editor Fred Hiatt was so sure of that he wrote it as flat fact.
Given the Iraq War catastrophe and the failure to find the WMD, you might have assumed that Hiatt was summarily fired and has never worked in journalism again. But, of course, you’d be wrong. He is still the editorial-page editor of The Washington Post continuing to ladle out his extraordinary wisdom and brilliant insights.
The New McCarthyism
And, if you dare question those new certainties or note the risks of stumbling into a nuclear conflagration, the Post’s editorial pages label you a Moscow stooge repeating Russian propaganda.
That is what Post columnist Anne Applebaum wrote about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump when he warned about the risks of World War III if a President Hillary Clinton starts shooting down Russian planes over Syria.
Rather than acknowledge the genuine risk of getting into a shooting war with Russia, neocon Applebaum declares such concerns unacceptable and offers a whiff of McCarthyism toward anyone who thinks such a thing.
“Why is Russian state media using such extreme language?” she asks darkly. “And why is Trump repeating it?”
Then, with the typical perceptiveness of a neocon ideologue, Applebaum determines that the Kremlin is warning its citizens about the growing risks of nuclear war to scare them into line amid a recession that the U.S. helped create as part of its “regime change” strategy to destabilize Russia by making its economy scream.
A thoughtful person might stop here and wonder if the use of economic sanctions and other means to destabilize nuclear-armed Russia is such a good idea, but no mainstream person is allowed to raise such questions inside Official Washington. That would just make you a Russian puppet, in Applebaum’s view.
Applebaum then rants on with some wild conspiracy theories about Russian plans to exploit the U.S. presidential transition:
“Whatever the outcome on Nov. 8, political uncertainty will follow: the months of transition, a change of White House staff, perhaps even the violent backlash that Trump may incite. This could be an excellent moment for a major Russian offensive: a land grab in Ukraine, a foray into the Baltic states, a much bigger intervention in the Middle East — anything to ‘test’ the new president.
“If that’s coming, Putin needs to prepare his public to fight much bigger wars and to persuade the rest of the world not to stop him. He needs to get his generals into the right mind-set, and his soldiers ready to go. A little nuclear war rhetoric never fails to focus attention, and I’m sure it has.”
Perhaps the more immediate question here is why a major American newspaper runs such crazy and reckless drivel from one of its regular columnists. But the fact that the Post does so indicates how dangerous the moment is for humanity. For those of us who read the Post regularly, such insane rhetoric barely registers since we see similar nuttiness on a daily basis.
But the “group think” that the Post and other mainstream publications create and then enforce explains why there is such unity among the Establishment as it presses ahead with these dangerous policies in much the same manner that almost the same cast of insiders “group thought” their way into the disastrous Iraq War.
So, the wannabe insiders at the Center for American Progress and the more established pooh-bahs at the Brookings Institution and other preeminent think tanks know they have to promote “regime change” strategies and other forms of warmongering to appease Hiatt and his fellow neocon editorialists and columnists.
In Washington, this “group think” has moved beyond the usual careerist and conformist “conventional wisdom” into something more akin to totalitarianism, at least on foreign policy issues.
That is why it is hard to even come up with a list of sensible people who could survive the onslaught of character assassinations if they were to be proposed as senior advisers to a President Hillary Clinton.
That is also why the attention of progressives, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, only on vetting domestic officials in a prospective Hillary Clinton administration is so insufficient.
If a hawkish President Clinton surrounds herself with like-minded neocons and liberal hawks, the costs of their warmongering would surely swallow up the tax dollars necessary for domestic priorities – on infrastructure, education, health care, the environment and other pressing concerns.
And, if the McCarthyistic intolerance of The Washington Post influences or infects her administration, the genuine risks of World War III will dwarf any other worries.
Lebanon finally has a new president. Lawmakers have thrown their support behind Michel Aoun, a strong Hezbollah ally, to fill the country’s long-vacant presidency.
The parliament convened at noon (1000 GMT) Monday for the voting session in its 46th attempt to elect a head of state.
Aoun was elected after four rounds of voting during the session.
The 81-year-old Christian leader has won the support of two of his greatest rivals: Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, and ex-prime minister, Saad Hariri.
Earlier on October 20, Hariri, the leader Lebanon’s March 14 Alliance and a close ally of Saudi Arabia, voiced support for Aoun, raising hopes for the settlement of a long-running deadlock on Lebanon’s political stage.
He described his surprise endorsement of Aoun as necessary to “protect Lebanon, protect the (political) system, protect the state and protect the Lebanese people.”
Observers view Aoun’s rise to power as a political victory for Hezbollah, which will greatly diminish the Saudi influence in Lebanon’s political arena. The kingdom has been vigorously lobbying to prevent Lebanon’s presidency from being placed in the hands of Hezbollah’s allies.
Following Hariri’s announcement, Thamer al-Sabhan, the new Saudi minister for Persian Gulf affairs, paid a visit to Beirut for talks on the “political developments in Lebanon and the region.”
Sabhan used to serve as the Saudi ambassador to Iraq until recently, but Baghdad asked Riyadh to replace him after the diplomat failed to heed Iraq’s warnings for his interference in the country’s domestic affairs.
According to some Lebanese political sources, Hariri is expected to be appointed as prime minister for the second time.
Analysts say Aoun and Hariri, 46, face a formidable task to win the cross-party support needed to make a new administration a success.
Aoun, the founder of the Free Patriotic Movement, already had the endorsement of Hezbollah.
Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah (R) receives founder of the Free Patriotic Movement and presidential hopeful Michel Aoun in Beirut, Lebanon, on October 23, 2016.
Last week, Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called upon all Lebanese political parties to join forces and put a favorable end to the 30-month presidential void in the Arab country.
Nasrallah, who was speaking during a meeting with Aoun, stressed the need for concerted efforts in order to direct the upcoming presidential vote in Lebanon toward a good conclusion.
Lebanon has been without a head of state since 2014, when the term of President Michel Suleiman expired.
The Lebanese parliament has repeatedly failed to elect a president due to the lack of quorum.
Under Lebanon’s power-sharing system, the president must be a Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim and the parliament speaker a Shia Muslim.
Hezbollah has accused Saudi Arabia of thwarting political initiatives and blocking the election of a president in Lebanon.
Late last year, Hariri launched an initiative to nominate Suleiman Tony Frangieh, the leader of the Marada Movement.
His proposal, however, failed amid reservations on the part of Lebanon’s main Christian parties as well as Hezbollah.
Officially, of course, the national bird of the United States is that half-a-peace-sign that Philadelphia sports fans like to hold up at opposing teams. But unofficially, the film National Bird has it right: the national bird is a killer drone.
Finally, finally, finally, somebody allowed me to see this movie. And finally somebody made this movie. There have been several drone movies worth seeing, most of them fictional drama, and one very much worth avoiding (Eye in the Sky ). But National Bird is raw truth, not entirely unlike what you might fantasize media news reports would be in a magical world in which media outlets gave a damn about human life.
The first half of National Bird is the stories of three participants in the U.S. military’s drone murder program, as told by them. And then, just as you’re starting to think you’ll have to write that old familiar review that praises how well the stories of the victims among the aggressors were told but asks in exasperation whether any of the victims of the actual missiles have any stories, National Bird expands to include just what is so often missing, and even to combine the two narratives in a powerful way.
Heather Linebaugh wanted to protect people, benefit the world, travel, see the world, and use super cool technology. Apparently our society did not explain to her in time what it means to join the military. Now she suffers guilt, anxiety, moral injury, PTSD, sleep disorder, despair, and a sense of responsibility to speak out on behalf of friends, other veterans, who have killed themselves or become too alcoholic to speak for themselves. Linebaugh helped murder people with missiles from drones, and watched them die, and identified body parts or watched loved ones gather up body parts.
Even while still in the Air Force, Linebaugh was on a suicide watch list and had a psychologist recommend moving her to a different sort of job, but the Air Force refused. She has episodes. She sees things. She hears things. But she’s forbidden to discuss her work with friends or even with a therapist who doesn’t have the proper “security clearance.”
We let Daniel down even more than Heather. He says he actually opposed militarism but was homeless and desperate, so he joined the military. We could have given him a house for much less than we paid him to help murder people at Fort Meade.
Lisa Ling worked on a database filled by drone surveillance that compiled information on 121,000 “targets” in two years. Multiply that by a dozen years. With 90% of victims not among the targets, add up how many people would die in the targeting of the whole list. That’d be over 7 million. But it’s not numbers that have poisoned the souls of these three veterans; it’s children and mothers and brothers and uncles lying in pieces on the ground.
Ling travels to Afghanistan to see the place at ground level and to meet with drone victims. She meets a little boy who lost his leg and his 4-year-old brother and his sister and his father. On February 2, 2010, drone “pilots” at Creech Air Base murdered 23 innocent members of one family.
The filmmakers have voices read the written transcript of what the drone operators said to each other before, during, and after sending in the missiles that did the damage. This is worse than Collateral Murder. The people whose job it is to identify children and others who should not be murdered have identified children among the group of people being targeted. The “pilots” at Creech are eager to reject this information and to get on to killing as many people as they can. Their lust for blood drives the decision process. Only after they’ve killed 23 people do they recognize children among the survivors, and the lack of guns.
We see the bodies brought home to bury. Those injured describe their suffering, physical as well as mental. We see people being fitted with artificial legs. We hear Afghans describe their perception of drones. They imagine, just as many Americans may imagine, and just as viewers of Eye in the Sky would imagine, that drone operators have a clear, high resolution view of everything. In fact, they have a view of fuzzy little blobs on a computer screen that looks like it was created in the 1980s.
Linebaugh says there is no way to distinguish the little “civilian” blobs from little “militant” blobs. When Daniel hears President Obama claim that there is always near certainty that no civilians will be killed, Daniel explains that such knowledge is simply not possible. Linebaugh says she was often on the side of the conversation telling the “pilots” at Creech not to murder innocents, but that they always pushed for permission to kill.
Jesselyn Radack, attorney for whistleblowers, says in the film that the FBI told two whistleblowers that a terrorist group had put them on a kill list. She said that the FBI has also contacted Linebaugh’s family and warned her that “terrorists” have been searching for her name online, suggesting that she fix this problem by shutting up. (She had written an op-ed in the Guardian).
The FBI also raids Daniel’s house, arriving with 30 to 50 agents, badges, guns, cameras, and search warrants. They take away his papers, electronics, and phone. They tell him he is under investigation for a possible indictment under the Espionage Act. This is the World War I-era law for targeting foreign enemies that President Obama has made a routine of using to target domestic whistleblowers. While Obama has prosecuted more people under this law than did all previous presidents combined, we probably have no way of knowing how many people have been explicitly threatened with the possibility.
While we should be apologizing to, comforting, and aiding these young people rather than denying them the right to speak to anybody and threatening them with decades in prison, Lisa Ling did manage to find some kindness. Victims of drone strikes in Afghanistan told her that they forgave her. As the film ends, she’s planning another trip to Afghanistan.