The latest car bombing is most likely a personal vendetta, probably more of a gang problem inside Aden over who is going to take control, the rebels or Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), political commentator Marwa Osman told RT.
Up to 60 people have been killed in a car bomb attack in the Yemeni city of Aden with dozens more injured. Most of the dead were pro-government troops.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
RT: What is ISIS trying to achieve in this attack?
Marwa Osman: First, let’s tell people where ISIS targeted. They targeted a school compound which consists of the Popular Committee Forces who are allied with Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was the president who resigned twice before the war in Yemen. So, they targeted these people who are already in war with “Ansar Allah” also known as the Houthis in the mainstream media. So, they are now targeting supposedly their own allies. And that is because there is a personal vendetta, probably more of a gang problem inside Aden over who is going to take control now. Is it the rebels who are actually backed by Saudi Arabia, who is still bombing and killing people in Saada and Sana’a? Or is it going to be ISIS which is also backed by Saudi Arabia which has been funneling money and arms by Saudi Arabia for the past seven or eight years in Yemen. Who is going to take control? That is the fight that is going on there. It is not a fight of fighting ISIS or fighting people who are there to try and liberate Yemen. No, because the actual thing is that both groups, these popular movements which are Hadi’s supporters and ISIS – they are both fighting “Ansar Allah” which is also getting beaten by the Saudi-led coalition. So, this is more of who is going to control the area.
RT: With this Saudi Arabian involvement you mentioned, is it possible that Saudi Arabia is using ISIS as some sort of proxy army to achieve its desires in that part of the world?
MO: It is not only possible, it is the only fact on the ground because up until now, since March 25, 2015 when the US coalition led by the Saudis ran… all over Yemen, they have never – not even once – targeted all of the Al-Qaeda-ISIS wilayat. They have eight wilayat inside of Yemen and not once have they targeted them. Why? Because they are actually there to run the on-ground incursion for the Saudis. And up until now they have not been able to do that; they were not able to go to Sana’a or to Saada for that matter. They only have been targeting Aden as we just saw today. It is obviously very devastating: 60 people dead because of the explosion. But these two proxy warriors for the war of Al-Saud, both rebels that supposedly represent Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, the former president and also Al-Qaeda. It is the way it is going on in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and also Libya. So, when you talk about Saudi Arabia funding ISIS, it is the only way that it is going to gain any ground incursions on the Yemeni field. And yet this is not happening…
RT: Are you saying that ISIS is de facto a proxy army of mercenaries being used to achieve regime change?
MO: Yes, of course. And that what we have been saying since the beginning of 2010 and all 2011 when Al-Qaeda was changing into ISIS based on the ideology of Wahhabism, which is diffused and brought upon us by the monarchy of Al-Saud. Where they have got their weapons from, where they were funded from? It was obvious; we had all the reports and also the statements from both Qatar and Saudi Arabia. But then Qatar last year started to back off, but Saudi Arabia is still enraged by the incapability of their forces to take any control of Yemen. By God, Yemen is taking land inside of Saudi Arabia; it is that devastating for Al-Saud now. And when we talk about Iraq, Syria as well, it is also the same thing. They are still funding the same group that has the ideology of Al-Saud which is Wahhabism because they have no other choice. They are losing in Yemen; they obviously lost a lot in Syria and Iraq. There is no other place. The Iraqis are asking the Saudis to change their ambassador because he is the main person who is in contact with Al-Qaeda and ISIS inside of Iraq. So, when we talk about this, and talk about the role of Saudi Arabia, I don’t want to just demonize them. There are facts that demonize them. There are facts that Riyadh is still issuing a bloody campaign against Yemen. And there are US and UK so-called consultants inside of Riyadh in the control room of the war on Yemen. And we are still asking if they are funding ISIS or not. How did ISIS come to be if it were not for Al-Saud?
When Bibi Netanyahu comes to New York next month for the UN General Assembly, the Hudson Institute will bestow its Herman Kahn award on him. Kahn was an early neocon intellectual who advocated U.S. first-use of nuclear weapons. He propounded this theory in his provocatively titled 1960s book, Thinking the Unthinkable.
The Institute is a leading neocon think-tank based in Washington DC. It is a wonky version of the American Enterprise Institute or the Heritage Foundation. It’s senior vice-president is Scooter Libby, a man who barely escaped spending time in a federal prison.
The Hudson Institute is the primary funder (see Didi Remez’s post for a fuller discussion of the funding and relationships) of the far-right Israeli NGO, Institute for Zionist Strategies, which advocate purging “post-Zionist” material from Israeli academic curriculum. They’ve been so successful at pressuring academia to “Zionize” the curriculum that Tel Aviv University President Joseph Klafter promised he would personally examine individual course syllabi for tainted content.
Hudson is also the primary backer of Uzi Arad’s Atlantic Forum, a shadowy Israeli think tank founded by the former Mossad officer. The NGO’s mission is to strengthen Israel’s security relationship with NATO. He’s reputed to have “run” Larry Franklin, the former Defense Department analyst caught with Steven Rosen passing U.S. secrets to the Israelis. Rosen too came within a whisker or two of landing in federal prison. Luckily for him, the Israel Lobby came to his defense and the Justice Department dropped the case against him. Arad worked with Kahn at Hudson in the 1970s.
Bush-era neocon analyst, Meyrav Wurmser, runs Hudson’s Center for Middle East Policy. That explains Hudson’s love affair with Netanyahu and the award he is to receive. In many ways it seems fitting for the Israeli leader to receive an award named for Kahn. Israel is, after all, one of the most dangerous of the nuclear states. One of those most likely to engage in first-use of nuclear weapons would the circumstances arise. One may argue whether that distinction should rather belong to North Korea or Pakistan. But the Koreans don’t yet have the capacity to destroy western Asia as Israel does the Middle East. And Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal is child’s play compared to Israel’s estimated 200 nuclear warheads.
It may be worth hearing some words said about Kahn’s work. A reader summarized another of his books: “On Thermonuclear War, was ‘a moral tract on mass murder: how to plan it, how to commit it, how to get away with it, how to justify it.’” Some other words of wisdom from Kahn on nuclear deterrence:
“If it is not acceptable to risk the lives of the three billion inhabitants of the earth in order to protect ourselves from surprise attack, then how many people would we be willing to risk?”
Another critic said that the publication of that book “should properly have caused the sequestration of its author into psychiatric care.” A science reporter, reviewing Kahn’s book called him a contemporary version of the devil:
“Not the traditional devil, reeking of brimstone and tempting men to old-fashioned sins, but a slick, talcum-scented, contemporary Satan, rationalising hideous emotions by reference to strategic studies, electronic computers, contingency planning, and all the other gimmicks of paranoiac gamesmanship.”
The following comment by Kahn to a reporter surely served as the inspiration for Terry Southern’s screenplay for Dr. Strangelove: “I can be funny on the subject of thermonuclear war.” In fact, writing in the NY Times, Fred Kaplan says:
… The real model [for the Strangelove character] was almost certainly Herman Kahn, an eccentric, voluble nuclear strategist at the RAND Corporation, a prominent Air Force think tank. In 1960, Mr. Kahn published a 652-page tome called “On Thermonuclear War,” which sold 30,000 copies in hardcover.
… When Dr. Strangelove talks of sheltering people in mine shafts, President Muffley asks him, “Wouldn’t this nucleus of survivors be so grief-stricken and anguished that they’d, well, envy the dead?” Strangelove exclaims that, to the contrary, many would feel “a spirit of bold curiosity for the adventure ahead.”
Mr. Kahn’s book contains a long chapter on mine shafts. Its title: “Will the Survivors Envy the Dead?” One sentence reads: “We can imagine a renewed vigor among the population with a zealous, almost religious dedication to reconstruction.”
So it is altogether fitting that Bibi Netanyahu be enshrined along with Herman Kahn in a sort of Nuclear War Hall of Fame, as two men prepared to see their region (in Bibi’s case) or world (in Kahn’s) go up in flames in order to “save” their country.
It’s perfectly fitting that a past recipient of the award was Dick Cheney (especially considering his former protege, Scooter Libby works for Hudson).
As the Yemen International Conference in the Support of Yemen was in full swing in the British capital, London, Yemenis came in their hundreds of thousands to pledge their support to the Resistance movement this August 20, 2016 – yet another popular show of force, yet another grand display of sovereign political will in the face of foreign diktat.
To the sounds of explosions, and flying Saudi war planes it is Yemen which came to defy its invaders; a proud nation under unprecedented duress, a land united under the banner of its resistance.
“We won’t bow down to the House of Saud” chanted the crowd. “We will never bow down to the criminal House of Saud,” millions repeated in unison.
If Yemen remains in the throes of a brutal war of attrition for its dared ambition to live free under its skies, its people are quite determined to weather whatever storm Saudi Arabia will throw, so that their right to self-govern and resist oppression could be affirmed – never to be questioned again.
However one chooses to look at Yemen’s war, it would be foolish to deny still that those brave souls corporate media still label as “rebels” are in fact the carrier of a nation’s will; the very expression of a people’s inherent right to carve its own political future, regardless of what anyone else might think.
Let me be brutally honest here – Yemen neither needs foreign approval, nor does it require foreign vetting. Yemenis want what they want because they can! It is really that simple.
Yemen needs no liberating from the Houthis, for the Houthis are Yemen. Yemen is not being overrun by Shiites, Yemen is Zaidi country. There is no Iranian agenda at play either, only a desire to disappear the suffocating influence of the House of Saud.
Standing in opposition of the most violent, radical and reactionary theocracy ever to grace the pages of our history does not make Yemen an “Iranian agent”, it makes Yemen an expectant independent nation.
Media coverage of Yemen so far has been criminal at best, misleading always.
The public has been conned into a narrative which is devoid of all humanity, and democratic courtesy. The simple fact that media feel entitled to slap derogatory adjectives before the Houthis as to direct their readers’ self-righteous sense of political morality is despicable.
I read the terms Iran-backed Shia Houthis rebels too many times not take offense. How dare you define a people whom you know nothing about? How dare you speak over and at an entire nation because their will does align with yours?
Let’s play the adjective game shall we?
When have you ever read the following statement: Wahhabi-backed-Western-sold-out- twice-resigned-once-runaway-child-killer-Sunni President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi? Likely never … Why? Because Saudi Arabia and its allies are still hiding behind this pale figure of a man to legitimize their odious genocidal military intervention against Yemen.
Let me tell you of this so-called legitimate political figure the West has canonised as Yemen’s forever president.
Hadi is a fraud and a traitor. Not only did he allow for the killing of his countrymen, he actually actively pursued their annihilation in the name of a chair he never truly was appointed to. Hadi was elected in a one-man election in 2012 for the duration of a 2-year’s mandate – not exactly what you call democratic.
Hadi was never the choice of the people, he was Riyadh’s choice through the GCC-brokered transition of power agreement (2011).
How can anyone speak of democracy and refuse Yemenis their own?
How can anyone still read corporate media and not deplore the stench of their abominable hypocrisy and bias?
Do not tell Yemen what it wants, but hear what it is telling you.
Hear what an entire nation is screaming from the top of its glorious lungs, and witness the rise of a Resistance which breadth will maybe crumble al-Saud tyranny.
“We won’t bow down to the House of Saud … We will never bow down to the criminal House of Saud!”
Can you hear them now? Can you not respect that a nation simply cannot bring itself to live the abomination which is Wahhabism? Can you not recognise that Yemen is the last line of defense for all free folks in Arabia?
Who will speak for democracy and political self-determination when radicalism will have nations at the mercy of their guns? Can you not see that what you refuse Yemen – free will, is exactly what you demand for yourself?
Do not tell me of the will of a people when under bombs millions have rallied before their appointed leaders.
Yemen is free today by the strength of its Resistance movement.
Yemen is dignified today for one man rose from the oppression of religious repression to reclaim pluralism his own coat of arms. Sheikh Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, one of the sons of Hamdan, Yemen’s very own legacy offered Yemen its Freedom to keep none for himself.
Sheikh al-Houthi liberated Yemen from al-Saud never to demand a seat at power’s table.
Do not speak of what you don’t know Mr corporate media. Do not define with your adjectives the nature of a land for which you have no respect for.
Yemen might be poor and battered but it is a grand and noble land.
Of course Saudi Arabia would want you to believe that Yemen’s political ambitions are illegitimate, unlawful and nefarious.
Have you ever bothered asking why? Have you even given the infamous “Houthis” the time of day before dismissing them under misapprehension?
I think not. What the public did is assume. What the public did is read those adjectives media associated ad nauseam to Yemen resistance movement, and automatically accept those labels as truths. Adjectives those days have become dangerous weapons of mass-destruction.
Adjectives have cost Yemen its freedom!
Yemenis this August 20, 2016 came to publicly offer their support to the new highest political council – and still Riyadh has cried foul play.
Millions took to the streets knowing full well that Saudi Arabia warplanes were up above to offer their voice and their arms to the Resistance, and still Western capitals have called for Hadi’s “restoration.”
What will it take for you to wake up?
Yemen has bled, burnt, exploded, pleaded, negotiated, mourned, cried and starved while you turned your nose up in disgust arguing what future a people should have instead of the one they want for themselves.
If you like the idea of a life spent in the shadow of Wahhabism why not book a ticket to Saudi Arabia and experience first-hand the type of democracy al-Saud have in mind for Yemen, you might find new respect then for the Houthis of Yemen.
One more thing before I go: no one said you had to love the Houthis, only that you respect that Yemenis do.
Catherine Shakdam is the Director of Programs of the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies and a political analyst specializing in radical movements.
Nuremberg: “a war of aggression … is the supreme international crime”
Waging genocidal war on a defenseless country was never so baldly and honestly put on any agenda for talks among US secretary of state John Kerry, representatives of Saudi Arabia’s dictatorship, and their mutual allies, even though they are all engaged in an endless genocidal war on Yemen. This war is a war of aggression, started by Saudi Arabia in March 2015, with crucial US blessing, participation, personnel, and ordnance. The US has been a willing, guilty partner and enabler in 18 months of military atrocities in a one-sided war that everyone involved knew – or should have known – was a pure war crime based on a paranoid delusion.
American participation in this war of aggression was a war declared by press release from the National Security Council on March 25, 2015, another example of the imperial presidency’s ability to act by fiat without fear of serious objection from the public, the media, or even Congress:
President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council]-led military operations. [emphasis added]
The fundamental crime in Yemen is waging a war of aggression, which encompasses all the subsequent war crimes including bombing civilians, using cluster bombs, bombing hospitals, bombing food supplies, and trying to starve a population to submission or death. Yemen, with a population of 26 million people, was the poorest country in the region even before it was attacked. What the US supports and sanctions against Yemen makes any US complaint about Russian actions in Crimea sound like howling hypocrisy.
For all that the Saudis frame their war on Yemen as a defense against a threat from Iran, there has never been any credible evidence of any credible threat to Saudi Arabia from any element of the miniscule Iranian presence in Yemen. Yemen is fighting a civil war, a new version of the same old civil war Yemenis have been fighting for decades, both before and after Yemen was two separate countries. The Iran “threat” is the paranoid delusion supposedly justifying a merciless war on a civil population already beset by a four-sided civil war. There is no way that those who decided to wage this war of aggression could not have known the reality in Yemen if they had wanted to know it. Presumably they knew it all full well and chose a war of aggression anyway, recklessly, perhaps even thoughtlessly, but criminally all the same.
The Saudi goal was always to get rid of a longstanding threat on its southwestern border, where the tribal land of the Houthis lay both in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. When the long-oppressed Houthis, a Shia minority in a Sunni world, drove out the Sunni government of Yemen in 2015, the Saudis, without saying in so many words, decided on a course of action that could lead to a final solution. And everyone knew, at the time, and no one objected, according to this account by the highly reliable Andrew Cockburn on Democracy NOW! (whose piece in Harper’s Magazine for September 2016, ironically titled “Acceptable Losses,” provides an excellent exegesis of the war on Yemen, but with a more elegiac tone):
I was told, very early on in the war, Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken went to Riyadh to ask the—this is two weeks—yeah, it was two weeks into the war [mid-April 2015], when they had already been bombing away, using the U.S. bombs, U.S.-supplied bombs, using U.S. weapons, killing already dozens, if not certainly, you know, hundreds of civilians, destroying factories. And finally, Blinken turns up in Riyadh and asks, “By the way, what are you trying to accomplish here?” And the Saudis effectively said, or at least the Americans understood them to say, “Well, we basically want to wipe out the Houthis.” Well, they termed it as “end all Iranian influence in Yemen.” So, the Americans—Blinken was a bit shocked by that, so I’m told, and said, “Well, you know, that’s going a bit far. But it’s—you should certainly stop the Houthis taking over the country.” And that, effectively, gave the Saudis carte blanche to continue this kind of mindless carpet bombing….
By 2015, American hands were already bloody with the US drone assassination program that had killed not only innocent civilians, but American citizens, without a trace of due process of law. In effect, already enmeshed in its own nexus of war crimes in Yemen, the US green-lighted the Saudi-led war of aggression that would make American crimes pale by comparison. As American policy over the years would have it, American weapons have been dispersed all over Yemen since 2006.
Kerry to consult on terrorism, but not US or Saudi terrorism
Terror bombing, an example of which is Saudi pilots flying American planes dropping American bombs on defenseless Yemeni civilian targets, is probably not the terrorism Secretary Kerry wants to discuss – ever – with the Saudis and their allies, never mind other weapons suppliers like France and the United Kingdom. As the official State Department notice put it in deadly opaque prose:
Secretary Kerry will travel to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for a series of meetings with senior Saudi leaders, his counterparts from the Gulf Cooperation Council, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen. His discussion will focus on the ongoing conflict in Yemen and efforts to restore peace and stability….
Those “efforts to restore peace and stability” notably include the destruction of two schools, another hospital, and a potato chip factory, along with the associated men, women, and children, especially at the schools. Perhaps the latest great military “victory” achieved by the war criminals known as the Saudi-led coalition is to drive the world’s leading medical crisis-zone organization out of Yemen by targeting its hospitals over and over and over and over since March 2015. Of course, America the Exceptional does not stand for this betrayal of human decency, and our presidential candidates of all parties have railed ceaselessly against this indiscriminate murder of patients, their families, their doctors and other medical personnel, forcing the White House to take action to bring to an end 17 months of aggressive war and other war crimes and crimes against humanity – no, wait, that’s not happening, is it?
Actually, if any presidential candidate of any political party has expressed the slightest objection to the Saudi-coalition’s genocidal war on Yemen, such evidence is so hard to come by that it may as well not exist. (In August 2015, Jill Stein of the Green Party mentioned in passing that the Saudis “are committing war crimes right now in Yemen,” and more recently she called for an end to US funding for Saudi Arabia and Israel because of their violations of human rights laws. She does not tend to make a point of the US support for a war of aggression in Yemen, but she’s better than any other candidate on Yemen.) At this point, a year and a half into our shared war of aggression, every candidate is complicit in this horrendous, unjustified war promoted and pursued with smug disdain for anything like peace by our peace prize winning President Obama. The blood drips from all their hands, their feet, their tongues and eyelashes, but most of all from every pore of our Nobel Laureate in the White House. (As the book Double Down reported in 2012: “Turns out I’m really good at killing people,” Obama said quietly, “Didn’t know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine.”)
With the US at war, Congress has nothing to say about any of it
The US is at war with Yemen, in support of the Saudi-led coalition that launched its undeclared war of aggression on March 26, 2015. US war-making includes, but is not limited to: US intelligence services providing intelligence to the aggressor nations; US military personnel participating in daily target planning and attack assessment; US tanker aircraft re-fueling aggressor nation aircraft bombing Yemen (46,500 acknowledged sorties in the first 11 months of war); US drones targeting and attacking under US control; US military contractors servicing the Saudi F-15s that bomb Yemen; US personnel training Saudi military; US military personnel operating in Yemen; and the US Navy reinforcing the Saudi blockade intent on starving Yemen into submission.
The US Congress has never debated, never authorized US participation in a war of aggression against Yemen. The US president has never asked Congress for such authorization of a war of aggression against Yemen. Neither house of Congress has acted on any bill that directly addresses the war of aggression against Yemen. More than a year after the war started, two Democratic members of Congress (joined by two Republicans) introduced identical bills intended to respond to the war. California congressman Ted Lieu (joined by Florida congressman Ted Yoho) and Connecticut senator Christopher Murphy (joined by Kentucky senator Rand Paul) asked their colleagues to address the horrors of the war (briefly enumerated in the bill), not by ending the war, but only by temporarily limiting US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. That’s it. They did not mention US participation in the war. Both their bills were referred to committee. At the time there was a spotty ceasefire in Yemen while peace talks proceeded in Kuwait (the talks were suspended in early August, leading to the Saudi escalation currently killing more civilians).
Incredibly, this non-response response to war crimes in Yemen has gotten Rep. Lieu some recent positive press coverage, in The Intercept of August 22 and elsewhere, even though his bill is designed to have no immediate impact on the carnage. Rep. Lieu is a colonel in the US Air Force Reserve. When he was on active duty he taught the law of war to other Air Force officers. His interview rhetoric, like most of his public action, is soft-edged even though he knows perfectly well his country is committing war crimes. He almost said as much in an August 15 statement objecting to the Saudi attack on a school in Haydan, Yemen, that killed 10 children:
The indiscriminate civilian killings by Saudi Arabia look like war crimes to me. In this case, children as young as 8 were killed by Saudi Arabian air strikes. By assisting Saudi Arabia, the United States is aiding and abetting what appears to be war crimes in Yemen. The Administration must stop enabling this madness now. [emphasis in original]
Rep. Lieu and others have also objected to the State Department’s certification of another arms sale to Saudi Arabia: this one is $1.15 billion for 153 tanks, hundreds of machine guns, and other war materiel. This is in addition to the record $100 billion in arms sales to the Saudis already made by the Obama administration. The latest arms deal suggested to Rep. Lieu “that the administration is, at best, callously indifferent to the mass amount of civilians dying as a result of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing.” He did not openly consider whether 153 Abrams Main Battle Tanks and other weaponry might open the way for the air war of aggression to be matched by an escalation of the ground war of aggression as well. Twenty of those new US tanks are specifically designated as replacements for tanks lost in combat, some of them in Yemen. On the other hand, the official State Department notice of the Abrams Tank sale assures Congress: “The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.” That’s hardly reassuring in a region where wars of attrition and military quagmires are killing not only thousands of Yemenis, but Palestinians, Israelis, Lebanese, Syrians, Saudis, Turks, Kurds, Iraqis, Afghans, and god knows who else, more often than not with Made-in-USA weapons and munitions.
The proposed US tank sale has drawn the attention of several NGOs (non-governmental organizations) looking to wash American hands of the war on Yemen by blocking the sale, or at least having a debate about it in Congress. Human Rights Watch (HRW) wrote a letter to Secretary Kerry August 19, with temperate language of concern about several countries, including Yemen. HRW asked Secretary Kerry “to emphasize the potential consequences if Saudi Arabia fails to improve its conduct.” But it did not suggest what those consequences might be in light of the reality that the US has coordinated and condones all Saudi conduct to date. CODEPINK is supporting a petition to support the Congressional letter that urges President Obama to postpone the US tank sale to the Saudis.
Even The New York Times is expressing something shy of anguish over “American complicity” and “carnage” and targets that are not “legitimate” under international law as it supports efforts to block the tank sale in Congress. The Times doesn’t mention that this is the same Congress that in June – supporting a White House request – refused to block the sale of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia for fear of “stigmatizing” cluster bombs. That’s a reflection of the American version of reality, since cluster bombs are already stigmatized by most countries of the world and using them on civilians, as US-Saudi forces do in Yemen, is widely understood to be a war crime. The solution, according to the Times :
Congress should put the arms sales on hold and President Obama should quietly inform Riyadh that the United States will withdraw crucial assistance if the Saudis do not stop targeting civilians and agree to negotiate peace.
That can’t happen in the real world, where the president and the Saudis all know they are war criminals and are, like Macbeth, so steeped in blood “that should I wade no more,/Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”
There is no reason to expect any good to come to Yemen until a whole lot more Americans face the reality of their country’s support for a genocidal war of aggression. When enough Americans recognize that, then they will have to do a lot more about it than stop selling tanks to the aggressors. Until then the US-sponsored atrocity of ethnic cleansing in a poverty-stricken country that threatens no one will continue unabated.
A US drone attack has killed 22 Afghan soldiers held by Taliban militants in the southern Helmand province, while Taliban have overrun a strategic district elsewhere.
Provincial officials announced the fatalities on Saturday. Taliban also confirmed the death toll, saying the airstrike had killed three of the group’s members in the Nad-e-Ali district on Thursday.
Helmand is a strategically important province for both the Afghan government and Taliban militants, who control or contest 10 of the 14 districts in the opium-rich province.
On Saturday, Taliban militants seized a strategic district in the eastern province of Paktia, from which they can surge towards several other provinces.
Officials said dozens of police and soldiers were killed as the militants captured the Jani Khel district after five days of siege.
Local governor Abdul Rahman Solamal said hundreds of militants attacked police check posts overnight, prompting security forces to flee the district.
Jani Khel sits at an intersection linking eight districts. It also connects Paktia with neighboring Khost province and Pakistan.
“If we do not retake it (Jani Khel) soon then Taliban can easily move from one province to another and can undermine security in at least three provinces,” Solamal warned.
More than 20 soldiers and police were killed and another 20 wounded in the fighting overnight, while some 200 Taliban insurgents were killed, he said.
In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said large amounts of equipment had been captured, including armored vehicles, light and heavy weapons and ammunition.
Taliban have regrouped since the death of former leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour earlier in the year and are reported to be currently in control of more than 65 percent of the country.
Fierce fighting is currently ongoing against the militants across the country, notably in Helmand and around the northern city of Kunduz, which they briefly seized last year.
Late last month, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it had recorded 1,601 civilian deaths and 3,565 injuries in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2016.
The mission warned that civilian casualties had hit a record high this year, describing them as “alarming and shameful.”
“You can’t simply deal with ISIS and not deal with Assad,” Prince Turki al-Faisal told CBS News in 2014.
The former ambassador to the United States said “if the need” for US ground troops arises in the effort to depose al-Assad he “hopes the president will change his mind.”
Asked if Saudi Arabia would send ground troops, al-Faisal said no way.
”It would be a mistake for the United States, or Great Britain… to send in ground troops and overthrow the Assad regime,” Obama told the BBC in April.
However, around the time Obama made this remark the United States sent 250 ground troops into Syria—in direct violation of that country’s national sovereignty—under the pretense of fighting the Islamic State.
The Saudis scoffed and said the move was little more than “window dressing.”
Asked about a remark by Iran that Saudi Arabia’s participation in the coalition bombing of Syria is illegal, al-Faisal said Iran’s troops on the ground “killing Syrians” is illegal.
The Saudi prince failed to mention that Russia, Syria, Iran, and Iraq formed a coalition to fight the Islamic State in September 2015. The United States was offered to join the coalition but its response was “unconstructive,” according a statement by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
As a former diplomat, al-Faisal is undoubtedly aware of the invitation by Syria, but then we have to keep in mind he was talking to an American television audience that knows virtually nothing about the real situation in Syria.
CBS did not clarify.
That would be a deviation from the script.
US sanctions are threatening to derail Russian energy major Rosneft’s acquisition of a 49 percent stake in India’s Essar Oil, reports The Times of India.
The deal was curtailed by the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, according to the daily.
In July 2014, the Department of the Treasury included Rosneft on the list of sanctioned Russian companies after Washington accused Moscow of involvement in the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine and of annexing Crimea.
Indian banks, which invested over $5 billion into Essar Oil and currently hold 17 percent, expressed concerns over the deal due to fears of the potential consequences.
“We may have to review our exposure to Essar Oil if Rosneft comes on board,” said a top banker with a state-run lender, as quoted by The Times of India.
However, Essar Oil will reportedly try to push the deal with Rosneft through, allowing the Russian company to enter the Indian energy market.
Searching to expand cooperation with Russia beyond the traditional defense buyer-supplier relationship, New Delhi has invested over $5 billion in the Russian energy sector.
The Essar-Rosneft deal aims to open up India’s retail energy business to the world’s largest oil producer.
The deal was planned to be sealed by June. The Indian company had to reduce the share intended for sale by 25 percent, but the measure failed to change the situation.
Moreover, the sale of a 25 percent stake to the Dutch multinational trader Trafigura Group risks collapse due to the close ties with Rosneft. Trafigura handles much of the crude exported by Russia.
So it’s settled, according to The New York Times: Israel was not at fault in a strike that killed 10 civilians near a United Nations school in the 2014 assault on Gaza, nor was it guilty of breaking the law in other instances that left innocent victims dead during that conflict.
This, at least, is what the Israeli military claims, and in a one-sided story in the Times this week, Isabel Kershner takes the Israeli military findings at face value, never questioning its conclusions or seeking commentary from outside sources.
She opens her piece with a summary of the military’s own account of the strike on the school, recounting it as established fact without attribution. Kershner goes on to say that the army also declared itself innocent of deliberately causing civilian deaths in two other attacks during the 51-day offensive: a strike on the Bureij refugee camp and the death of 12 members of one family in Rafah. The three cases were among seven closed without charges this week.
The school was hit, according to the army account, because militants targeted by an air-to-ground missile happened to pass by the site too late for the Israeli army to correct its aim; the Bureij bombing was “justified and legal” because the building hit was being used by Hamas as a control center; and the Rafah deaths were caused by “errant mortar fire” from Gaza militants.
Her story makes no mention of other instances that raised international outrage, such as the mortar attack that killed four boys playing soccer on a beach, the massacre in the Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City and the excessive and deadly bombardment of eastern Rafah after Palestinians captured an Israeli soldier.
The article likewise fails to include any comments by outsiders on the military decision to close seven cases. Kershner did not seek responses from Gaza residents or from human rights groups that have also investigated and documented the Israeli attacks.
Other media outlets, however, included these outside perspectives: The Guardian, for instance, sought reactions from Gaza residents affected by the strikes, and the International Business Times quoted extensively from an Amnesty International staff person.
But the Times finds no reason to look for sources beyond the Israeli military, which happens to be the entity under investigation. At the same time, it shows little concern for what the people of Gaza experience.
This week’s story, for example, concludes with two paragraphs about Israeli air and tank strikes on the beleaguered strip this week. A total of 50 bombardments hit the enclave after militants fired a single rocket toward the town of Sderot.
Kershner’s story tells us only what “Israeli analysts” have to say about the strikes. The targeted sites were “empty,” she reports, and “no deaths were reported.” Other news sources, however, state that four people were injured.
The Times insists that it provides full and fair accounts, that it is neutral and balanced, but its editors and reporters fail to follow even minimal journalistic standards in reporting on Israel. Those accused of war crimes are allowed to speak for themselves without the annoyance of outside observers to challenge any aspect of their claims. Those who bear the brunt of these alleged crimes have no voice at all.
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In the past 15 years, the U.S. military machine has attacked 17 countries. The many peace and justice organizations and individuals attacked in Terry Burke’s In These Times article [article date August 15, 2016] have a long history of opposition to ALL U.S. wars, interventions, invasions, drone attacks, military coups, blockades, and sanctions on numerous countries around the world.
The military aggression of the United States, the expansion of NATO, the efforts at encirclement of Russia and China with weapons shields, CIA destabilizations in Latin America and the massively destructive U.S. wars in Central Asia, West Asia, Middle East and North Africa, along with the massive arms deals with U.S. allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia, have created terrible destruction and millions of deaths and refugees. UNAC, a peace and justice coalition with organizations and individuals from different perspectives, seeks to counter the corporate media propaganda and politicians’ justifications for each of these wars and for expanding U.S. militarism.
These wars collectively, and each of them individually, are for U.S. economic and geopolitical domination. None of these wars have resulted in increased security or stability for the countries targeted or for the people of the U.S.
It is from this perspective that we oppose the U.S. war in Syria. We oppose the U.S. bombing that has ruined so much of the vital infrastructure, and we oppose the U.S.-coordinated arming and financing of numerous armed groups and the devastating sanctions that the U.S. has imposed on the people of Syria.
Terry Burke cites her past work in the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee as the basis of her position on Syria. However, this distorted reasoning would have led Terry and the antiwar movement to support the U.S. backed Contra forces in Nicaragua as “democratic and progressive forces”. The U.S. role in Central America was to covertly arm contra forces to impose regime change in Nicaragua while funding and arming Salvadoran and Guatemalan death squads. This destructive policy created millions of refugees from Central America in the 1980s, just as U.S. policies of regime change in the past 12 years of war in Iraq, Libya, Syria and elsewhere has created even more refugees.
The U.S. is coordinating Saudi, Israeli, Qatar, Turkish and EU efforts of bombing and of arming opposition groups. The stated goal from the beginning has been regime change in Syria. Regime change, as in Iraq and Libya, means the complete destruction of every secular state institution, including the very structures that provided full access to free education, free health care, electrification, potable water, modern infrastructure, irrigation and communication.
Years of U.S. sanctions against Iraq, Iran, Syria and Libya did not succeed in carrying out regime change, although they created great hardships and dislocations in each economy. Up to 1.5 million people died due to U.S. sanctions in Iraq alone.
Today, as we watch two candidates running for president who threaten increased and terrible interventions in Syria, we are seeing a big increase in U.S. propaganda. Take, for example, the August 11, 2016 article by Fair and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) on the breakdown of the [February 2016] ceasefire. FAIR, a media watchdog group, exposed the fact that it was groups supported by the U.S. fighting alongside the al Nusra Front – the al Qaida group in Syria – that actually broke the ceasefire, yet the media blamed the Syrian government and the Russians for the breakdown. Much of what we see in the U.S. media related to the situation in Syria is the same kind of propaganda with the goal of building greater support for war.
Terry Burke claims we are “U.S.-centric” for opposing our government’s attacks on Syria and attempts at regime change in that country. She claims that we have “ignored anti-Assad progressive Syrian voices.” But who has ignored what? Where in the U.S. corporate media are the voices of Syrians (both pro and anti-Assad) who want an end to the ISIS/Al-Qaida/U.S./NATO intervention in their country and have rallied to the side of their government to end it? The U.S. corporate media and some so-called progressives in the U.S. have focused on vilifying Assad rather than the U.S.-led war on Syria, which only leads to strengthening the forces who seek regime change and war. Should we add our voices to that chorus? Is that the best way to end U.S. intervention in Syria, which the overwhelming majority of Syrians oppose? We think not.
The March 13, 2016 UNAC protest, ‘A Day of Peace and Solidarity’ [Facebook], is the basis of Burke’s claims that “a dictator accused of monstrous war crimes is being given tacit support by major organizations in the peace movement.” Why? Because the “anti-war protest in New York City included people carrying the flag of the brutal Assad regime…”
It is true that Syrians came to that demonstration and carried the flag of their country. Do Syrians not have the right to carry their flag? Is it the place of the U.S. anti-war movement to tell people from any country that is under attack by the U.S. that they do not have the right to carry their country’s flag? That is not the role of our movement; we oppose our government’s illegal and immoral aggression against all countries and do not lecture the people of that country on whom they should support or not support.
If antiwar activists and organizations in the U.S. condemn U.S. bombings and aggression in Syria as our primary concern, rather than denouncing “Assad’s crimes”, we are branded “pro-Assad”. Burke attacks us for having signs like “U.S. Hands Off Syria” and “No U.S. War on Syria.” These she says are “U.S.-centric.” Were similar slogans used during the Vietnam War, Afghan War, and Iraq War also U.S.-centric? The U.S. is the most militarily aggressive country in the world. It has around 20 times the number of foreign military bases as all other countries in the world combined. We in the U.S. have an obligation to humanity to demand that our government stop the aggression and bring the troops home from Syria and all of the more than 130 countries where there are U.S. troops.
Burke accuses the antiwar movement of ignoring progressive Syrian voices but she is highly selective in identifying the “Syrian perspective” as those who are anti-Assad. We must ask her why she ignores the Syrian voices that seek to end the U.S./NATO/ISIS/Al-Qaida attacks on their country.
Burke believes that the primary feature of the Syrian conflict is fighting between two camps of Syrians. However, this is not the case. Syria has been invaded by extremists such as ISIS and al Nusra. Tens of thousands of mercenaries have poured into this small country to overthrow the government, a goal which the U.S. and NATO share. They have been supported by bombings, logistics and harsh sanctions against Syria from the U.S. and NATO. Though the U.S. has claimed it is there to attack the extremists, there had not been much damage to them until Russia entered the fighting– and then, in a matter of weeks, the tide turned. The oil that ISIS takes from Syria and uses to help fund their operations has been left untouched by the U.S and its allies until Russia started bombing their oil operations.
The antiwar movement can agree on non-intervention and self-determination. Aligning with those anti-Assad Syrians who support U.S. intervention in Syria can only divide and weaken our movement, which needs to be united today, perhaps more than ever.
We urge the antiwar movement to reject the ideas that Terry Burke presents in her article and demand that the U.S. and NATO stop the bombing, stop the sanctions, stop the flow of weapons and stop the funding. This will stop the extremist groups. Then the people of Syria can alone decide their fate.
 Organizations and people attacked by Terry Burke in her article in In These Times include United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), U.S. Peace Council, Syrian American Forum, Veterans for Peace, Manhattan Green Party, WarIsACrime.org, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Syrian American Will Association, ANSWER Coalition, Anti-War Committee Chicago, Minnesota Anti-War Committee, Women Against Military Madness, Workers World Party, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Mint Press News, AntiWar.com, Consortium News, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity including members William Binney, Coleen Rowley and Ray McGovern; dedicated activists like David Swanson and Kathy Kelly, as well as journalists Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn, Robert Kennedy Jr., Gareth Porter and Robert Parry.
The Administrative Committee of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC):
Marilyn Levin – UNAC co-coordinator
Joe Lombardo – UNAC co-coordinator
Margaret Kimberley – Senior columnist, Black Agenda Report
Joe Iosbaker – Chicago Anti-war Committee
Sara Flounders – Co-director, International Action Center
Bernadette Ellorin – Chairperson, BAYAN, U.S.A
Judy Bello – Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars
Abayomi Azikiwe – Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice
Phil Wilayto – Editor, The Virginia Defender
Jeff Mackler – Northern California UNAC
If you want to add your name to this statement, please email UNACpeace@gmail.com with your name and the name of your organization. If it is an organizational endorsement of the statement, please note that in your email or simply click here:
Among the right-wingers that have jumped the Republican ship and thrown their support behind Hillary Clinton in the last few months, you’ll find neoconservatives and warmongers who have vocally supported just about every heinous US foreign policy venture under the sun, from the Iraq War to Libya to torture. But though their cheerleading may have been valuable in the push for these actions, few can claim direct responsibility in the making of these disasters.
Not so for John Negroponte, the former career diplomat who served under four Republican presidents and one Democrat and whose support for Clinton was announced last week.
The endorsements of Clinton by right-wing hall-of-famers like Negroponte have not come about entirely out of nowhere. It’s true that many elements of Clinton’s foreign policy appeal to the interventionist and neocon wing of the Republican Party.
Nonetheless, as Politico reported last week, the Clinton campaign has been actively courting leading lights of the GOP, culminating in last week’s launch of “Together for America,” a site touting the growing list of high-profile Republicans and independents backing Clinton.
This is a curious development, given that in the very first Democratic debate of 2015, Clinton proclaimed that the enemies she was most proud of making throughout her career were “the Republicans,” a line that drew both raucous cheers from the crowd and a broad smile from the candidate herself.
Given her stated animosity toward Republicans, seeking out the support of someone like Negroponte presumably must be very valuable for Clinton. But who exactly is Negroponte, and why has Clinton prized the endorsement of someone like him?
Reagan’s Man in Tegucigalpa
The son of a Greek shipping magnate, Negroponte cut his diplomatic teeth in Vietnam, where he served under future Clinton mentor and war criminal Henry Kissinger (another luminary whom Clinton’s campaign is now reportedly wooing for an endorsement) during the Paris peace talks.
While Kissinger helped Nixon to win in 1968 by secretly scuttling peace negotiations with North Vietnam, once in power, both wanted eventually to get the United States out of the war, mostly out of concern for how a continuing quagmire would hurt Nixon politically. Negroponte challenged him about a concession in the peace agreement that allowed the North Vietnamese to station troops in the South after US withdrawal.
“Do you want us to stay there forever?” Kissinger asked the young Negroponte. The United States’ years of bloodletting in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos apparently wasn’t enough for Negroponte.
Negroponte worked for several years in a number of less prominent diplomatic positions, owing, at least in one observer’s view, to being “exiled” by Kissinger because of his break with the secretary of state over Vietnam.
Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 gave Negroponte his big break.
Under Reagan, Latin American politics took a hard right turn, which his administration enabled by sending aid, arms, and, in the case of Grenada, troops to assist right-wing governments and forces — nearly all of which aided in scores of human rights atrocities.
In 1981, Reagan made Negroponte the US ambassador to Honduras. Negroponte had held earlier posts in Greece and Ecuador; Honduras was the big leagues.
In 1980, neighboring El Salvador had plunged into civil war between leftist guerillas and a quasi-fascist, US-backed military government and its right-wing paramilitary forces that included death squads. A year earlier, its other neighbor, Nicaragua, had seen its US-backed dictator deposed and replaced by the socialist Sandinista government.
The Sandinistas were opposed by a coalition of brutally violent counterrevolutionaries that included former members of the National Guard, ex-soldiers, Conservative Party members, and disgruntled peasants and farmers. They were known as the Contras, later of Iran-Contra fame.
In both countries, the Reagan administration threw in with the right-wing torturers and murderers.
The action was principally in Nicaragua and El Salvador, but Negroponte had not been relegated to some insignificant backwater. Honduras was central to the Reagan administration’s efforts to halt the spread of leftist rule in Central America, serving as the home base for its covert war against the Left in the region. Honduras had one of the largest US embassies in Latin America, hosted thousands of American troops, and eventually housed the biggest CIA station in the entire world.
Although Honduras had a civilian government — its first in more than a century — the military remained powerful, and General Gustavo Alvarez, the chief of the armed forces, held considerable sway. Under Alvarez, Honduras became the training ground and headquarters for the Contras and other right-wing forces, who were then sent to wreak havoc in Nicaragua and El Salvador.
It was also where budding members of Honduran death squads received their schooling, including the notorious Battalion 3-16, responsible for the disappearance of at least 184 people, mostly leftists, and the torture of many more.
All of this was done with the support of the United States and its man on the ground, Negroponte.
US military aid to Honduras increased from $4 million to $200 million between 1980 and 1985, and the Reagan administration paid top Honduran military brass for their assistance. Repressive forces, including Battalion 3-16, were trained by the CIA and FBI, and the United States provided the money to hire Argentinian counterinsurgency officers — involved in their own US-backed, horrific, decade-long “Dirty War” against leftists — to provide further instruction.
The “coercive techniques” they learned were partly taken from CIA interrogation manuals that advocated using threats of violence and disruption of “patterns of time, space and sensory perception” against prisoners.
With this training in their back pocket, these US-backed Honduran forces proceeded to cut a swath of brutality across the country and its neighbors. Within Honduras, hundreds of people suspected of being subversives were kidnapped, tortured, disappeared, or all three. All of it was known, and quietly approved, by Negroponte.
The torture endured by prisoners covered just about the entire spectrum of depravity, including suffocation, beatings, sleep deprivation, electrocution of the genitals, rape, and the threat of rape toward family members. In one case, military forces used rope to tear off a man’s testicles before killing him.
People were picked up off the street and thrown into unmarked vans. Some victims were completely innocent, such as a union organizer who was befriended and betrayed by a battalion member who knowingly turned him over to security forces under false charges.
Military forces barged into homes, ransacked them, and arrested the occupants if they found Marxist literature. And the Contras, who Ronald Reagan called the “moral equals of our Founding Fathers,” were possibly even worse.
Negroponte played a key role in covering up all of this. As the ambassador, Negroponte’s job was to ensure that the abuses committed by Honduran forces remained unknown to US lawmakers and the general public so they could continue unabated.
Had Congress caught wind of the atrocities, the government would have had to shut off the flow of tens of millions of dollars of military aid to the country, which, under the Foreign Assistance Act, is prohibited to governments engaging in human rights violations. This was the last thing Negroponte and the Reagan administration wanted. They were bent on defeating the leftists, and if that required turning a blind eye to widespread torture, rape, and murder, so be it.
The Reagan administration’s grand strategy was enabled by a steady stream of obfuscation from the Honduran embassy and Negroponte himself.
In one 1983 cable to Thomas Enders, an assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, Negroponte chided the State Department for talking openly about the Contra presence in Honduras. “Since when, in open channel messages, do we refer to United States support for Honduran based exiles as Department does in para four reftel?” he wrote.
At the time, the Reagan administration’s support for the Contras was still secret; Negroponte likely did not want references to them to appear in state documents that were subject to open records requests.
In another, this one from 1984, he advised the secretary of state on how Washington agencies could help suppress wider knowledge of the actions of the Contras in Honduras, who had “obviously overdone things” and needed “to lower [their] profile to the absolute minimum.”
Publicly, Negroponte consistently whitewashed this “overdoing.” He wrote to the Economist in 1982 that “it is simply untrue to state that death squads have made their appearance in Honduras.”
A year later, he wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times acknowledging that while there had been “arbitrary arrests” and “some disappearances,” there was “no indication that the infrequent human rights violations that do occur are part of deliberate government policy.”
As late as 2001, he continued to insist on this point, telling the Senate at his confirmation hearing to be Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations: “I have never seen any convincing substantiation that [Battalion 3-16] were involved in death squad-type activities.”
Consequently, the annual human rights reports produced for Congress by the Honduran embassy under Negroponte’s watch were sanitized to the point of parody, as these excerpts from the 1983 edition illustrate: “There are no political prisoners in Honduras”; habeas corpus “appears to be standard practice”; “access to prisoners is generally not a problem for relatives, attorneys, consular officers or international humanitarian organizations”; “sanctity of the home is guaranteed by the Constitution and generally observed.”
Noting the obvious absurdity and transparent lies of the report, one embassy officer joked at the time, “What is this, the human rights report for Norway?”
Suppressing the Evidence
Of course, Negroponte knew very well that conditions in the country were the very opposite of how he portrayed them. It was virtually impossible for him not to.
The Honduran press put out hundreds of stories about military abuses, victims’ families protested in the streets, and both they and Honduran officials pleaded with US officials for intervention — including with Negroponte himself. As soon as Negroponte took over, Jack Binns, his predecessor, personally briefed him on the atrocities he’d learned of — and unlike Negroponte, had made noise about with higher-ups.
The ambassador stayed up to date on the latest barbarities. In 1982, when the embassy press spokesman informed Negroponte that the Honduras military had kidnapped and was busy torturing a prominent journalist and his wife, Negroponte intervened on their behalf — not out of a concern for human rights, but because of the potential damage the US program would suffer if word of the incident got out. The prisoners were released and allowed to leave to the United States on the condition they never spoke about their experience.
The episode was left out of that year’s originally damning embassy report, which high-ranking officials at the embassy cleansed of all references to Honduran abuses.
As a 1997 report by the CIA inspector general made clear, the embassy under Negroponte regularly suppressed inconvenient information about the Honduran military. In 1984–85, several reports “were identified as ‘politically sensitive’ by the Embassy, which requested either their non-publication or restricted dissemination.”
In 1983, read the report, “unspecified individuals at the Embassy did not want information concerning human rights abuses during [a Honduran military operation] to be disseminated because it was viewed as an internal Honduran matter.”
The report outlined how Negroponte personally “was sensitive to political ramifications that might have resulted” from reports on the Olancho Operation, which resulted in the death — possibly an execution — of an American priest. It also documented his concern that “over-emphasis would create an unwarranted human rights problem for Honduras.” It was all part of Negroponte’s aim “to manage the perception of Honduras,” as one officer quoted in the report put it.
In fact, embassy cables that were declassified many years later as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by the Washington Post show that Negroponte did much more than just suppress damaging information. Despite the Sandinistas’ repeatedly stated willingness to enter negotiations with the Contras to reach a settlement, the Honduran ambassador consistently argued against them, calling negotiations a “Trojan horse” that would help consolidate the Sandinista revolution.
The Contadora Process, the peace negotiations initiated by several Latin American states in 1983, would lead to “effectively shutting down our special project,” he warned. Rather than take the Sandinistas up on their offer to end the torture and bloodshed that US-backed forces were responsible for, Negroponte pushed hard to keep them going.
Straying far from the typical duties of an ambassador, Negroponte appeared at times to direct US support of the Contras. In one cable he suggested publicizing US contact with anti-Sandinista forces and stepping up action in Nicaragua’s southern front in order to counter the idea that “all of this is emanating from Honduras.”
In another, he furnished the State Department with detailed information about Sandinista military movements on the Honduran and Nicaraguan border. Speaking with Honduran president Roberto Suazo Córdova in April 1982, Negroponte “urged that strongest possible pre-emptive measure be taken” to prevent revolutionary violence from “taking on unmanageable proportions later on” — a tacit encouragement of the abuses already being committed by the Honduran military.
Negroponte’s enabling of rights violations in the country was exposed thanks to the declassification of secret documents many years after the fact, as well as a fourteen-month-long investigation by the Baltimore Sun in 1995. But what should have been a scandal only boosted Negroponte’s status in Washington.
A Diplomat’s Diplomat
Among his later career highlights, Negroponte was appointed ambassador to Mexico in 1989 by George H. W. Bush, in which position he helped facilitate the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). (Unsurprisingly, he’s also a fan of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP.)
He went on to serve in a number of different posts in the second Bush administration, including as the first ever director of national intelligence and as the first post-Saddam ambassador to Iraq. Despite faint stirrings of criticism about his past, he was easily confirmed to each position.
In establishment circles, he’s simply a “diplomat’s diplomat,” a venerated elder statesman whose hand in terrible human rights abuses is as relevant as his shoe size. As his wife put it in 2004 to the critics still taking him to task for the carnage he licensed in Central America: “Haven’t you moved on?”
Perhaps people have moved on, which is why Clinton now feels it safe to seek out and publicize Negroponte’s praise for her “leadership qualities.”
It’s hard not to see in the publicizing of the endorsement a less-than-subtle hint of what a Clinton administration foreign policy would look like, however — one that ruthlessly prioritizes US strategic and political interests at the expense of peace, human rights, and the lives of poor people in foreign countries.
Say what you will about Clinton’s shifting political beliefs over the course of this election and her entire career, but she’s been fairly consistent on foreign policy, pushing the kind of unapologetically interventionist approach that made her the darling of hawks long before Trump came along.
And like Negroponte, she has both her own dubious history in Honduras and has backed both NAFTA and the TPP (at least until she — maybe — changed her mind about the latter). On these issues, they’re kindred political spirits.
Clinton’s embrace of Negroponte’s support could be viewed as simply part of the tried-and-true process of padding one’s resume with endorsements from respected establishment figures. Some would say Negroponte’s support doesn’t really matter — that it’s just pageantry, not remotely a sign of her future foreign policy intentions.
Even if we grant this, however, seeking and embracing the support of a man who actively facilitated years of stomach-churning atrocities is particularly unseemly — as Democrats and Clinton herself have argued in the recent past. The party has smugly — and justifiably — pilloried Trump for his praise of authoritarian rulers like Putin and Saddam Hussein.
“Donald Trump’s praise for brutal strongmen seemingly knows no bounds,” read a Clinton campaign statement last month, which also criticized Trump for approvingly citing Saddam’s dismissal of legal formalities like reading people their rights. “Trump’s cavalier compliments for brutal dictators, and the twisted lessons he seems to have learned from their history, again demonstrate how dangerous he would be as Commander-in-Chief and how unworthy he is of the office he seeks.”
Compliment brutal dictators and Clinton will slam you. But actually help them carry out their abuses, as John Negroponte did, and her campaign will seek and proudly tout your support.
ABC Television’s 20/20 will air a program on Friday called “The Girl Left Behind,” the main thrust of which is already apparent on ABC’s website.
The horribly tragic story is that of Kayla Mueller, an American held hostage and reportedly raped and tortured by ISIS before dying — it’s unclear how, possibly at the hands of ISIS, possibly killed by bombs dropped by U.S. ally Jordan.
Another hostage who was freed reported that ISIS blamed Kayla Mueller for U.S. actions in the Middle East. Among those actions, we learned this week, was imprisoning future ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at Abu Ghraib, not just at Camp Bucca as previously reported.
Mueller, like fellow ISIS victim James Foley, meant well and was in Syria to try to help people nonviolently. But U.S. policy has made it unsafe for Americans to travel to many places.
ABC will seek to pin blame for what happened to Mueller on Doctors Without Borders. She was kidnapped out of a Doctors Without Borders car, and that organization negotiated the freedom of its employees while refusing to help Mueller or even to trust her family enough to share with them information intended for them from ISIS.
But Doctors Without Borders was in Syria to help people and appears to have meant well. Blaming the doctors is easy to overdo here, and not just because the United States has been bombing its hospitals — acts that may not involve rape or torture, but do involve murder and maiming. The U.S. government could have helped Mueller by never having destroyed Iraq in the first place, never having sought to overthrow Syria, never having overthrown Libya, or never having flooded the region with weapons. Or the U.S. government could have negotiated with ISIS or allowed victims’ families to do so — something it now allows, too late for Kayla Mueller. Or the U.S. government could have announced new policies that ISIS would likely have accepted as ransom.
ISIS asked, in exchange for Mueller’s freedom, for the freedom of Aafia Siddiqui or $5 million Euros. If the U.S. government had, instead, offered an apology to the victims of its wars and prison camps, and massive reparations to the region, ISIS might very well have responded in kind. Instead, the U.S. government proceeded to bomb people, including many civilians, for a cost many times greater than $5 million Euros.
The telling of Mueller’s story is, in itself, worthwhile. But the focus on an American victim of a war that is victimizing all kinds of people fuels dangerous attitudes. Focusing on the crimes of ISIS, but not of Saudi Arabia or Bahrain or, for that matter, the United States, looks like propaganda for more war. When a New Yorker like Jeffrey Epstein rapes, nobody proposes to bomb New York, but when Baghdadi allegedly rapes, the appropriate response is widely understood to be bombing people.
I don’t think the suffering of Kayla Mueller or James Foley should be used to justify the infliction of more suffering. As 9/11 victims have been used as a justification to kill hundreds of times the number of people killed on 9/11, some of the victims’ relatives have pushed back. James Foley is pushing back from the grave. Posted online is a video of Foley talking about the lies that are needed to launch wars, including the manipulation of people into thinking of foreigners as less than human. Foley’s killers may have thought of him as less than human. He may not have viewed them the same way.
The video shows Foley in Chicago helping the late Haskell Wexler with his film Four Days in Chicago — a film about a protest of NATO. I was there in Chicago for the march and rally against NATO. And I met Wexler who tried unsuccessfully to find funding for a film version of my book War Is A Lie.
In the video you can watch Foley discussing the limitations of embedded reporting, the power of veteran resistance, veterans he met at Occupy, the absence of a good justification for the wars, the dehumanization needed before people can be killed, the shallowness of media coverage — watch all of that and then try to imagine James Foley accepting the use of his killing as propaganda for more fighting.
When Foley’s mother sought to ransom him, the U.S. government repeatedly threatened her with prosecution. So, instead of Foley’s mother paying a relatively small amount and possibly saving her son, ISIS goes on getting its funding from oil sales and supporters in the Gulf and free weapons from, among elsewhere, the United States and its allies. And we’re going to collectively spend millions, probably billions, and likely trillions of dollars furthering the cycle of violence that Foley risked his life to expose.