President Obama has decided to send 300 US Marines back into Afghanistan’s Helmand Province – the first time in three years that the US military has been sent into that conflict zone.
Almost all of Helmand’s districts, except for the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, are either heavily embattled or fully controlled by the Taliban. The province is the leading opium producer in the country.
Despite all the promises to withdraw, 8,400 US troops will remain in Afghanistan as the president leaves office on January 20. If the US pulls out, the Afghan government will hardly be able to hold power.
American forces have been engaged in combat action there for over 15 years – the longest war waged by the United States – without end to hostilities in sight.
Around 200 NATO soldiers, mainly Italians, have also been deployed to Afghanistan’s volatile western province of Farah after attempts by Taliban fighters in recent months to overrun its capital city.
About a third of the country – more territory than at any time since 2001 – is either under insurgent control or in risk of coming under it. The Taliban forces have challenged Afghan security forces for a number of key cities in 2016. With fighting under way in 24 of the 34 provinces, the government’s ability to control the country is questioned.
Last December, General John Nicholson, the chief US and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said the government directly controls about 64 percent of the population of 30 million, down slightly from 68 percent earlier in 2016.
According to Robert Grenier who served as CIA’s top counter-terrorism official and was the station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, from 1999 to 2002, there are significant parts of the country, particularly in the south and the east, where it seems inevitable that the Taliban will further consolidate their control. The Afghan forces had more than 15,000 casualties in the first eight months of 2016, including more than 5,500 deaths.
The administration in Kabul lacks unity while the clout of regional leaders and warlords is growing. The UN says 7 million people in Afghanistan need aid. 2.2 million of them suffer from malnutrition. Poverty and unemployment prompt young Afghans to join extremist groups.
After the Russian forces in Syria struck the oil infrastructure under the control of Islamic State (IS), the issue of controlling heroin routes in Afghanistan became even more important for the group. According to the Russian Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), the IS militants make $1 billion a year from Afghan heroin. The possibility of alliance between the Taliban and IS is a real nightmare.
Afghan officials have approached Russia asking it to resume cooperation. Its representatives believe that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has a role to play in managing the crisis in the country. NATO officials have also made statements in support of resuming Russia-NATO cooperation in Afghanistan. The cooperation was suspended after Crimea became part of the Russian Federation in 2014.
Moscow allowed land transit though its territory of non-military freight from NATO and non-NATO ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) countries. NATO used the transit center near Ulyanovsk. The parties implemented a program of common training for the prevention of drug trade in Central Asia.
Russia sold military equipment and ammunition to support the NATO operations in Afghanistan. For instance, in 2010 NATO bought 31 Russian Mi-17 helicopters to refurbish them for the Afghan army.
Against the background of ballyhoo raised in the United States regarding the “threat” coming from Moscow, Washington has partially lifted sanctions against Russian cooperation with Afghanistan on helicopter maintenance. It was not the only time. The US has broken its own sanctions regime allowing the acquisition of Russian technology for its space program.
The Afghan government badly needs more Russian helicopters to repel Taliban and IS attacks. In 2016, it formally asked the Russian government to start the deliveries.
If Russia delivers its aviation equipment to Afghanistan, it will need to train Afghan personnel. Formally, that’s what US and NATO are doing in Afghanistan now- they are in the country on advising and training missions. In fact, it will mean the resumption of cooperation while carrying out the same mission.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently expressed concern over the situation in Afghanistan and called for taking urgent steps to tackle the problem. The instability in that country spreads to Central Asia posing a direct threat to Russia’s security. Roughly, 2,000 militants operating in the Afghan northern provinces come from the countries of the post-Soviet space.
There is a growing risk of extremist attacks on the states allied with Moscow. Fighters with combat experience received in Syria have already been spotted in the Uzbek Fergana Valley. The infiltration of Islamic State (IS) into Afghanistan threatens the Russian North Caucasus and the Volga region. Besides, Afghan heroin kills 25,000 Russians annually.
Afghanistan is a burning issue – a problem that only an international effort can solve. This is an issue of common interest for Russia and the Alliance. The situation in the country could be discussed within the framework of Russia-NATO Council. On January 4, the Russian Foreign Ministry made a very important statement saying Russia was ready to restore the relations with NATO. Afghanistan could become a starting point on the way of rebuilding the broken relationship.
As the eight-year term of America’s first black President draws to a close, the media are already in the process of myth-making. There’s room for an honest autopsy of a man who promised a new kind of world, and delivered merely warmed-over soundbites and a few fake tears.
“With Barack Obama’s exit the US is losing a saint.” writes Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, whilst Ann Perkins praises his “grace, decency and defence of democracy”. Lola Okolosie rhapsodises on his legacy of “warmth, love, resilience”.
Already the storyline is set – Obama was a good man, who tried to do great things, but was undone by a Republican senate, and his own “sharp intelligence”.
These people, as much as anybody, reflect the cognitive dissonance of the modern press. “Liberals”, to use their own tortured self-descriptor, now assign the roles of good guy and bad guy based purely on aesthetics, convenience and fuel for their vanity. Actions and consequences are immaterial.
For the sake of balance, here is a list of Saint Obama’s unique achievements:
- Obama is the first President in American history to be at war for every single day of an 8 year presidency.
- Obama has carried out 10x more drone strikes than Bush ever did. Every Tuesday a military aide presents Obama with a “kill list”, and the “decent, gracious” Obama picks a few names off a list…and kills them. And their families. And their neighbours. These illegal acts of state-sanctioned murder have killed hundreds of civilians in 5 different countries in 2016 alone. The only reason that number isn’t higher, is that the Obama administration re-classified all males over 18 as combatants, regardless of occupation.
- After declaring he wanted to build a “nuclear free world”, Obama committed to spending $1 TRILLION dollars on rebuilding America’s nuclear weapons.
- Under Obama, the NSA et al. were able to spy on, essentially, the whole world. When this was revealed, not a single intelligence officer or government official was prosecuted. Instead…
- Obama’s administration declared a “war on whistleblowers”, enacting new laws and initiating what they call the “Insider Threat Program”. Manning was prosecuted, Snowden sent into exile and Assange was set-up, discredited and (they hoped) extradited. It has never been more dangerous to be a government whistle-blower, than under Barack Obama
- In terms of foreign policy, despite his press-created and non-sensical reputation as a non-interventionist, American Special Forces are currently operating in over 70% of the world’s 138 countries. The great lie is that, where Bush was a warmonger, Obama has sought to avoid conflict. The truth is that Obama, in the grand tradition of the CIA and American Imperial power, has simply turned all America’s wars into covert wars.
- Before Obama came into office, Libya was the richest and most developed nation in Africa. It is now a hell-hole. Destroyed by war, hollowed-out by corruption. The “liberal” press allow him to agonise over this as his “greatest mistake”, and then gently pardon him for his good intentions. The truth is that Libya was not a mistake, or a misjudgment, or an unforeseen consequence. Libya is exactly what America wanted it to become. A failed state where everything is for sale, a base to pour illegal CIA weapons south into Africa and east into the ME. When war is your economy, chaos is good for business. When secrecy is your weapon, anarchy is ammunition. Libya went according to plan. A brutal plan that killed 100,000s and destroyed the lives of millions more. Libya, like Iraq, is a neocon success story. Syria on the other hand…
- Syria, probably the word that will follow Obama out of office as “Iraq” did his predecessor, is a total failure. Both of stated intent and covert goals. Where the press will mourn Obama’s “indecisive nature” and wish he’d “used his big stick”, the real story is one of evil incompetence, so great that it would be almost comical… if it hadn’t destroyed an ancient seat of civilisation and killed 100,000s of people. Syria (along with Libya, Iraq, Somalia, Iran and Sudan) was on the list of the 7 countries America intended to destroy, famously “leaked” by General Wesley Clark. After the fall of Libya, Syria was (essentially) surrounded by American military on all sides. Iraq, Israel, Turkey and America operating out of Libya could pour “freedom fighters” into Syria to bring down “the regime”. When that didn’t work they deployed the trusty “WMD” method, to demand “humanitarian intervention”… the Russians saw that off. Then “ISIS” was created by the CIA, as al-Qaida were before them, and their manufactured barbarism was used as a pretext for invasion. The Russians, again, saw to it that this would not happen.
- Perhaps in the hope of distracting Russia from the ME, or perhaps merely as a short-sighted punitive measure, the Obama administration’s next foreign policy target was Ukraine. Victoria Nuland’s own voice proves how much that “color revolution” was an American creation. Ukraine is broke, even more broke than it was, its people starve and freeze through the winter. The new “democratic government” has shelled 10,000 people to death in the East of the country…. using American weapons.
- In Yemen, the poorest country in the ME is being bombed to shreds by the richest…. again, using American (and British) weapons. Obama’s “defense of democracy” doesn’t extend to criticising, or even discussing, the abhorrent Human Rights record of America’s Saudi Arabian allies, and in an act of brazen hypocrisy, even supported their chairing of the Human Rights Council of the UN.
This is the world Saint Obama has created. Guantanamo is still open, and terrorist “suspects” are still held there without trial or charge (they are probably still tortured). Other “suspects” can be simply declared guilty, and unilaterally executed… anywhere in the world. The NSA and CIA are illegally monitoring the communications of half the world. If any other leader in the world claimed even 1% of this power, they would be decried as “autocratic”, and their country denounced as a “pariah state”.
The Middle-East is ablaze from Libya to Afghanistan, and from Yemen to Turkey. Relations with Russia are as precarious as at any time since WWII, thanks to America’s efforts to break Russia economically and shatter their global influence. There is no sign that America intends to back-down (see the recent red-scare style hysteria in the American press). Likewise America has positioned itself to have a massive conflict with China in the South China Sea. Obama is, in terms of influence, nothing more than a used-car salesman. His job is not to create policy, but to sell neocon ideas to the general public, but his lack of agency cannot excuse his lack of vision or morals. Under Obama’s notional leadership the world has moved to the very brink of self-immolation in the name of protecting American hegemony. Domestically America still crumbles.
He had a nice smile, and a good turn of phrase. He was witty, and cool, and looked good in a suit… but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t just more of the same. He could say the right things, and sound like he meant them, but he was still a monster. As he moves out to pasture, the press will try to spit-shine Obama’s tarnished halo, to try to convince us that he was a good man at heart and that, as politicians go, we can’t do any better.
But yes, we can.
Last week, as the mainstream media continued to obsess over the CIA’s evidence-free claim that the Russians hacked the presidential election, President Obama quietly sent 300 US Marines back into Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. This is the first time in three years that the US military has been sent into that conflict zone, and it represents a final failure of Obama’s Afghanistan policy. The outgoing president promised that by the end of his second term, the US military would only be present in small numbers and only on embassy duty. But more than 8,000 US troops will remain in Afghanistan as he leaves office.
When President Obama was first elected he swore that he would end the US presence in Iraq (the “bad” war) and increase US presence in Afghanistan (the “good” war). He ended up increasing troops to both wars, while the situation in each country continued to deteriorate.
Why are the Marines needed in the Helmand Province? Because although the foolish and counterproductive 15-year US war in Afghanistan was long ago lost, Washington cannot face this fact. Last year the Taliban controlled 20 percent of the province. This year they control 85 percent of the province. So billions more must be spent and many more lives will be lost.
Will these 300 Marines somehow achieve what the 2011 peak of 100,000 US soldiers was not able to achieve? Will this last push “win” the war? Hardly! The more the president orders military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, the worse it gets. In 2016, for example, President Obama dropped 1,337 bombs on Afghanistan, a 40 percent increase from 2015. According to the United Nations, in 2016 there were 2,562 conflict-related civilian deaths and 5,835 injuries. And the Taliban continues to score victories over the Afghan puppet government.
The interventionists in Washington continue to run our foreign policy regardless of who is elected. They push for wars, they push for regime change, then they push for billions to reconstruct the bombed-out countries. When the “liberated” country ends up in worse shape, they claim it was because we just didn’t do enough of what ruined the country in the first place. It’s completely illogical, but the presidents who keep seeking the neocons’ advice don’t seem to notice. Obama – the “peace” candidate and president – has proven himself no different than his predecessors.
What will a President Trump do about the 15 year failed nation-building experiment in Afghanistan? He has criticized the long-standing US policy of “regime-change” and “nation-building” while on the campaign trail, and I would like to think he would just bring the troops home. However, I would not be surprised if he accelerates US military action in Afghanistan to “win the war” once and for all. He will not succeed if he does so, as the war is not winnable – no one even knows what “winning” looks like! We may well see even more US troops killing and being killed in Afghanistan a year from now if that is the case. That would be a terrible tragedy.
The best case scenario for peace in Afghanistan is US withdrawal of forces from the country and multilateral negotiations between main stakeholders to establish a national unity government, according to Professor Dennis Etler, an American political analyst who has a decades-long interest in international affairs.
Etler, a professor of Anthropology at Cabrillo College in Aptos, California, made the remarks in an interview with Press TV on Saturday while commenting on a US military announcement which says the Pentagon will deploy a new task force of approximately 300 Marines to Afghanistan’s restive Helmand Province, marking the return to a region where hundreds of troops were killed in fierce combat.
The forces with a unit called Task Force Southwest will deploy this spring to advise the Afghan army and police, senior Marine officers said Friday. The deployment will last nine months and is expected to evolve into a series of similar rotations for the Marines, officials said.
Professor Etler said, “With the lame duck Obama administration quickly coming to an end the question of the US/NATO presence in Afghanistan comes to the fore.”
“The Afghan war which began in 2001 has been the longest that the US has fought. After thousands of casualties and billions of dollars Afghanistan is less secure than any time since the US invasion with one third of the country under Taliban control and a plethora of Takfiri terrorist groups infiltrating the territory,” he stated.
“As things now stand the interminable US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan appears to be headed for another round of escalation,” the analyst noted.
Will Trump follow through on his vow to leave Afghanistan?
Professor Etler said that “there is a new administration set to be installed in Washington.”
“Trump has vociferously stated time and time again that Afghanistan is a rat hole into which the US has heedlessly sent thousands of US soldiers and spent billions of dollars to little if any effect. Trump in a tweet from 2013 succinctly said, ‘Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA,’” he stated.
“The question is will Trump once he’s in the White House live up to his words? And if he does what will happen to Afghanistan? Will it become a hot bed of Takfiri terrorism like Iraq and Syria? The Taliban are an indigenous force motivated by nationalist fervor to expel foreign occupiers of whatever sort. They have demonstrated that they will unrelentingly persist in their resistance no matter how long it takes,” he said.
“The only way out is multinational negotiations in which the Taliban participate as fully vested members. Russia and China, hoping to stem the tide of Takfiri terrorism gaining a foothold on their borders, have already stepped into the breach,” he said.
“Late in 2016, Russian, Chinese and Pakistani officials met in Moscow calling for a flexible approach towards working with the Taliban to foster a peaceful dialogue,” the researched argued.
“The Taliban have also maintained strong links to China, having sent a delegation to discuss the situation in Afghanistan in July 2016 and declaring that they will protect Chinese interests in a $3 billion copper mining project in the northern part of the country,” he stated.
“The best case scenario for peace in Afghanistan is multilateral negotiations between the Afghan government, the Taliban, Pakistan, Russia and China to establish a government of national unity in which the Taliban are full participants,” the analyst noted.
“As with the recently brokered ceasefire in Syria there is no need for US/NATO involvement. In fact, as Trump has previously stated, it’s time for the US to get out and go home. Let the adults resolve the issues that the US and its NATO allies have only exacerbated,” he advised.
“But will Trump do as he says? Will he let others succeed where the US has failed? Only time will tell,” he concluded.
On January 1, 1988, just a year and a half before he passed away on June 3, 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini made a historic move, reaching out the Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, in a gesture of anti-imperialist solidarity, despite the long hiatus in relations with communist Russia. This was at a time of war against Iraq and continued subversion of Iran by the US and Israel.
Ayatollah Khomeini made other prescient gestures in his short and difficult decade as the leader of the Islamic revolution in Iran; in the first place, the transfer of the Israeli embassy to Palestinian representatives, the canceling of recognition of Israel, and the inauguration of al-Quds Day as an annual international holiday on the last Friday of Ramadan. He met with Fidel Castro and other third world leaders, encouraging solidarity against the imperialist foe.
The unprecedented visit of the Iranian delegation to Moscow was a sincere offer of support to the faltering Soviet leader, who had rejected the atheism of the Soviet past. It contrasts with the treatment of the supposedly friendly US to Russia, which was at the same time conspiring to subvert the Soviet Union, even as Gorbachev was sincerely reaching out to the hawkish Reagan, offering a generous plan of world nuclear disarmament. The Ayatollah’s warning not to trust the West was being brought home to Gorbachev graphically as the last Soviet troops were retreating into Uzbekistan in 1988. Despite the unilateral withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the US was continuing to arm the insurgents, killing those doomed soldiers as they crossed the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge, built in 1982. Imperialism takes no prisoners.
Iran played no part in the US-backed ‘jihad’ in Afghanistan in the 1980s that brought the collapse of the Soviet Union. Iranian leaders knew that nothing good would come from working in alliance with America.
The Ayatollah knew this well, and was alarmed at the naiveté of Gorbachev. The Ayatollah warned in his letter that the western world was an “illusory heaven”, that appeared seductive. But the truth lies elsewhere. “If you hope, at this juncture, to cut the economic Gordian knots of socialism and communism by appealing to the center of western capitalism, you will, far from remedying any ill of your society, commit a mistake which those to come will have to erase. For, if Marxism has come to a deadlock in its social and economic policies, capitalism has also bogged down, in this as well as in other respects though in a different form.”
Gorbachev was offended and objected. “This invitation is an interference in the internal issue of a country. Because every country is free for selecting its school of thought.” He took the Ayatollah’s sincere advice as interference, rather than friendly concern. “Imam Khomeini invited us to Islam; do we have to invite him to our school of thought?”
History has proved the fears that the Ayatollah expressed justified. Gorbachev was standing on the edge of the abyss. Sadly, he scoffed at the ability of the Ayatollah to see the danger and to want to help him. But it was too late by then. Gorbachev had lost control, thinking he was handing power to the people, not recognizing that such a wish was an illusion. The disaster of the collapse of the Soviet Union will reverberate for generations to come, as the Ayatollah predicted.
Gorbachev was operating on a different wavelength when he received the letter from the Ayatollah, trying to cozy up to Israel and the US, again, naively thinking goodwill gestures would be reciprocated. He opened the doors to the emigration of Soviet Jews in 1988 and prepared to renew full diplomatic relations with Israel. At the same time Gorbachev promised Arafat during a state visit that year that the Soviet Union would recognize an independent Palestinian state if proclaimed, naively hoping that Israel would show gratitude for his generosity by negotiating a genuine peace with the Palestinians. Arafat declared independence in November 1988 and got Soviet recognition the next year, but it was not much consolation. Israel was busy setting up consular offices in Moscow and elsewhere, issuing eventually a million visas to Soviet Jews to come to Israel.
Hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews got instant Israeli citizenship and emigrated, many of them settling illegally in the Occupied Territories, nominally part of a Soviet-recognized Palestinian state. By the end of 1991 when full diplomatic relations with Israel were restored, over 325,000 Soviet Jews had emigrated. Gorbachev’s hope to bring a quick peace to the Middle East were dashed as he was ousted from power, leaving the PLO abandoned and Israel stronger than ever. Just as the Zionists had hoodwinked Stalin into recognizing Israel, they once again hoodwinked a Soviet leader into re-recognizing it. Instead of increasing Soviet/Russian influence by this dual recognition, all influence was lost, the Palestinians were hurt by the Soviet betrayal, while the Israelis welcomed a million new Jewish immigrants.
Gorbachev’s trust was betrayed by both the US and Israel; the Soviet Union collapsed as Soviet Jews fled to the illusory western heaven. The world logically expected a new era free of the threat of war, a peace dividend that would improve the lot of people everywhere, ensuring that the material imperative behind war was eliminated. But the triumph of empire has never led to an end to empire, and strengthening empire has never led to improving the lot of the periphery.
This was clear in the centuries of imperialism, where the periphery was impoverished at the expense of the center. There was no reason to believe a new Great Game of empire could be any different, even Bush I’s postmodern variant, with the US firmly in control. Indeed, the impoverishment of all who are not part of the center/periphery elite has only accelerated.
Today, the US continues to work with the Saudis to destabilize the Iran-Iraq ‘Shia arc’ replaying the endgame against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, this time with clandestine operations being carried out by the US, Saudis and Israelis—all jealous of Iran’s increasing influence in the Middle East.
US support for Islamists continues to haunt the region, notably Syria and Iraq, even as US power ebbs. Following the uprisings in the Arab world in early 2011, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev suggested that the revolts in the Arab world were sparked by outside forces scheming to undermine Russia. “I won’t call any names but a whole range of countries, even those we have friendly relations with, have nevertheless been involved in terrorism in the [Russian] Caucasus.”
In the ideological vacuum created by the collapse of communism, two Russian ideologies have arisen—Atlantism and Eurasianism, both with roots in the nineteenth century, the latter, a geopolitical reaction to the decadence of the West, articulated persuasively by Nikolai Trubetskoi and Lev Gumilev in the mid-1920s and today by Alexander Dugin. Russia and Iran are already playing key roles in establishing this new reality, building on the first step taken by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1988. The world’s problems will only be solved based on a new geopolitical reality with Russia and Iran at its heart, the kernel of truth in the Ayatollah’s historic gesture in 1988.
The United States military says it will deploy an armor brigade and an aviation brigade totaling about 2,300 soldiers to Afghanistan this winter.
The Pentagon made the announcement in a statement released on Thursday, saying 1,500 soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan this winter, in addition to another 800 troops that will be deployed in support of a training mission known as Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
“This deployment is part of a regular rotation of forces in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel,” the press release stated, adding that the soldiers were “well-trained, well-led and fully prepared for the challenges this mission will bring.”
No exact date was given in the announcement for when the US troops will leave for the deployment to Afghanistan.
The United States — under Republican George W. Bush’s presidency — and its allies invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban regime from power, but after about one and-a-half-decade, the foreign troops are still deployed to the country.
After becoming the president in 2008, President Barack Obama, a Democrat, vowed to end the Afghan war — one of the longest conflicts in US history – but he failed to keep his promise.
US President-elect Donald Trump, who speaks against the Afghan war, has dubbed the 2001 invasion and following occupation of Afghanistan as “Obama’s war”.
Obama has ordered the military to take on the Taliban more directly and enable Afghan forces battling the militant group.
In October last year, Obama announced plans to keep 9,800 US troops in Afghanistan through 2016 and 5,500 in 2017, reneging on his promise to end the war there and bring home most American forces from the Asian country before he leaves office.
According to US officials, Washington would also maintain a large counter-terrorism capability of terror drones and Special Operations Forces to fight militants in Afghanistan.
There are now about 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan, as well as some 6,000 NATO service members, to “train and advise” Afghan security forces fighting Taliban.
Over the past several months, Taliban militants have intensified their pressure with numerous offensives on other key Afghan provinces, including Kunduz and Takhar.
In the military a rearguard action is defined as ‘a defensive action carried out by a retreating army’ and it is an appropriate description of the desperate scrabbling by NATO to convince the rest of the world — and especially Donald Trump — that its existence is justified.
President-elect Trump has never said that the US should actually leave NATO. Certainly Hillary Clinton declared that he ‘wants to pull out of NATO’ but this was just another of her lies, and what he said back in April was that it is ‘obsolete’ which is a gentle way of indicating that it’s hopeless. He did, after all, tell a town hall meeting in Wisconsin: «Maybe Nato will dissolve and that’s OK, not the worst thing in the world», but although that may have sent shivers up the supple spine of NATO’s Secretary General Stoltenberg, it was by no means a definitive statement of intention.
The fact remains that The Donald is unhappy with NATO, and he’s perfectly right to consider that it’s a vastly expensive and largely ineffective military grouping that indeed should be disbanded. On the other hand, the massive propaganda campaign waged against Russia has convinced much of the world that Moscow has expansionist plans and that the only way to counter its supposed ambitions is to spend more money — lots and lots more money — and deploy troops and aircraft and ships all over the place to make it look as if gallant little NATO is defending the so-called Free World against the might of an illusory aggressor.
Trump may not have examined the minutiae of the NATO shambles, but in spite of being a bit of a blowhard whose knowledge of international affairs is modest, he’s not a fool, and even he can perceive that NATO has a record of catastrophe.
The Financial Times reported him as saying «Its possible that we’re going to have to let Nato go. When we’re paying and nobody else is really paying, a couple of other countries are but nobody else is really paying, you feel like the jerk». He said that if elected president he would contact many of the other 27 NATO members and put pressure on them to make a larger financial contribution or leave. «I call up all of those countries… and say ‘fellas you haven’t paid for years, give us the money or get the hell out’», he said, to loud cheering.
This may have been populist rhetoric, but it played to the people who matter to him — to the people who elected him. When he becomes President he might well think that he owes them a lot more than he does to NATO.
In March Stoltenberg told NATO countries that «the time has come to invest more in defence» but his motives for doing so were not those of Mr Trump, because Trump, like any businessman, wants to look carefully at expenditure and go on to make a profit, while Stoltenberg wants to spend money — including a great deal of American money — to justify existence of the costly monolith that has grown larger, more expensive and less effective over the past twenty years.
Stoltenberg sought to vindicate NATO’s record by writing an article for Britain’s Observer newspaper to say that NATO had strongly supported the United States following the 9/11 atrocities by joining it in its war in Afghanistan. ‘This,’ he declared, ‘was more than just a symbol. NATO went on to take charge of the operation in Afghanistan. Hundreds of thousands of European soldiers have served in Afghanistan since. And more than 1,000 have paid the ultimate price in an operation that is a direct response to an attack against the United States.’
The truth differs from what Stoltenberg claims. He is correct in saying that NATO became heavily involved (and lost a thousand troops for no reason at all), but gives the impression that NATO was there, poised and ready to take the leap into action when the US and Britain invaded Afghanistan in October 2001. Certainly the forces of the US and the UK were joined by troops from other countries — but it wasn’t until August 2003 that NATO itself managed to become involved, when, as the BBC reported, it ‘assumed control of peacekeeping in Afghanistan – the alliance’s first ever operational commitment outside Europe.’ And things went screaming downhill from that time.
There was no need for NATO, as such, to become involved, because there were plenty of alliance countries with contingents already in Afghanistan (for example, the Germans had been there since January 2002 and Canadians and Italians since December 2001). All that NATO added to the foreign military machine in Afghanistan was yet another layer of military bureaucracy. The result was described in, among other histories, ‘The Good War’, an excellent account of the catastrophe by Jack Fairweather who describes the reaction of President Bush’s National Security Adviser, General Douglas Lute, who saw the map of NATO operations in 2008 and was of the opinion that «each nation was fighting its own private war. Nobody was running the show, and there was no common purpose».
In present-day NATO there are far too many people «running the show» and the purpose of the show itself is far from clear. Stoltenberg and other champions of the continuing existence of the expensive farce claim that there’s a threat from Russia — but if they genuinely believe that Russia is going to invade a NATO member country they belong in a lunatic asylum.
To be blunt, had Russia wanted to invade Ukraine at the time of the US-engineered coup in 2014 (recollect Obama’s admission that the US ‘brokered a deal to transition power in Ukraine’), it could have done so with ease. It would have taken about three weeks to defeat the Ukrainian military and occupy the country right up to the border with Poland. But why on earth would it have wanted to do that?
Russia would have been extremely unwise to take such action, because once you invade a country you have to occupy and pacify it, which is extremely difficult — as US-NATO has found to its enormous cost in lives and money in the Afghanistan debacle.
Similarly, for what possible reason would Russia attempt to invade Estonia or Latvia, or any other country for that matter? It would be insane to do so, yet this totally imaginary threat is trotted out as the reason for NATO’s present posture of confrontation. There is never explanation for the US-NATO expansion up to Russia’s borders that took place from 1999 to 2009, which is rightly regarded as confrontational by the Russian people. (And remember that it’s not correct in the west to refer to ‘the Russian people’. Rather, it is mandatory to call the country ‘Putin’s Russia’.)
Stoltenberg’s message to President-elect Trump is that the US-NATO military grouping must continue to confront ‘Vladimir Putin’s Russia’, but Trump has other priorities, not the least being the appalling economic circumstances in regions where he received most support. He’s no fool, and he’s going to pay attention to these voices rather than the plaintive wailing of Stoltenberg who rests his case for US expenditure on the foundation that ‘our proud history is one of common challenges overcome together’.
One thing that Secretary General Stoltenberg had better bear in mind is that President-elect Donald Trump does not care about history, and most decidedly not the history of Europe. He cares about the hard facts of here and now. Not intellectually, but practically. He is devoid of sentiment. Europe and NATO mean nothing to him in terms of nostalgia and all that sob-stuff.
And he’s not going to forget the volume of insults delivered by European political leaders and media, such as ‘loudmouth’ and ‘hatemonger’. In the British parliament he was described as a ‘buffoon, demagogue and wazzock’. The British foreign minister, Boris Johnson (who really is a buffoon), said in June that ‘the only reason I wouldn’t visit some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump’. French President Hollande (another fool) declared that Trump’s ‘excesses’ made him ‘want to retch’ and in one particularly amusing reaction to Trump’s election, Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, said ‘We hope that Donald Trump will respect the fundamental rights and rules of the European Union,’ in which, be assured, Mr Trump has not the slightest interest.
President-elect Donald Trump might not be the ideal person to enter the White House in January (although Clinton would have been a disaster), but he’s going to try to look after America. NATO’s wellbeing comes way down on his priorities. NATO Secretary General and confronter-in-chief Stoltenberg will continue fighting his rearguard action to keep his wobbly and mega-expensive military circus in existence, but it’s possible that Mr Trump might make the world a safer place by letting the whole thing collapse.
The latest massacre of many innocent people by U.S. forces in Afghanistan provides another demonstration as to why it is imperative that the American people stop deferring to the authority of the national security state and demand the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
In a war that has now gone on for 16 years, U.S. forces just killed at least 32 more civilians, many of whom were children. Another 25 people were wounded. Of course, this is on top of all the wedding parties, hospitals, and other victims of U.S. bombing attacks that have brought the death toll from U.S. interventionism in Afghanistan to more than 200,000, not to mention the wounded, maimed, homeless, and refugees. In the last seven days alone, 95 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan and 111 injured.
How many of those 30 people, including the children, who are now being buried had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks? It is a virtual certainty that none of them did.
How did this latest U.S. massacre occur? Afghan government forces, assisted by U.S. troops, decided to raid a home in a densely populated neighborhood in a village where a Taliban commander was supposedly having a meeting. The soldiers got trapped in a narrow dead-end street, where they began taking enemy fire from surrounding homes.
So, what did they do? Naturally, to save their lives, they called in air strikes, which necessarily involved firing missiles into the neighborhood, which killed those 32 people, including children.
The U.S. military’s position is the standard one: The military regrets the loss of innocent life but, they say, they didn’t really have a choice. If they didn’t fire the missiles, the U.S. and Afghan troops would be killed. If they did fire the missiles, the innocent people living in the neighborhood would die. Not surprisingly, the military chose to protect the lives of the soldiers at the expense of those innocent people living in the neighborhood.
But let’s be mindful of an important fact: If U.S. troops had not still be intervening in Afghanistan, there never would have been a U.S. bombing raid on that neighborhood.
How do the people who survived the massacre feel about what happened? Not surprisingly, they were chanting “Death to America!” Americans should think about that the next time there is a terrorist attack in the United States.
Despite the bombing attack, two U.S. soldiers — Captain Andrew Byers and Sgt. First Class Ryan Gloyer — were killed in the battle.
What did they die for? No, they did not die protecting our freedom or keeping us safe. That’s nothing but pabulum for the families of those two soldiers — to make them feel okay about losing their loved ones. They died for nothing, the same thing that those 58,000 plus U.S. soldiers died for in Vietnam.
Freedom and security of the American people have nothing to do with America’s 16-year war in Afghanistan. The Taliban are not coming to get us, any more than the North Vietnamese were coming to get us. The conflict in Afghanistan is nothing more than a civil war, one in which one side is battling to oust a regime that has been installed into power by the U.S. government.
Once the U.S. presidential race is over — a race in which the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan has barely been mentioned — the American people need to demand an immediate end to the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan. Continued U.S. interventionism is accomplishing nothing positive and is only pouring fuel on the fire, making matters worse for everyone, including innocent women, children, and others in Afghanistan.
A few days after Burundi, South Africa and The Gambia announced their intention to withdraw from the International Criminal Court an article appeared in the American journal, Foreign Policy, stating that the ICC is considering investigating allegations of war crimes that may have been committed in Afghanistan. The allegations are spread among the Afghan resistance to the western invasion and occupation of the country, the puppet government installed by the United States, and the United States itself.
This has caused some surprise among observers of the ICC who have correctly criticised the tribunal as an asset of the US and its allies since it has only gone after certain African leaders who stand in the way of western interests while providing complete immunity to other leaders who are useful agents of those interests. Some of them have accused it of racism, a charge difficult to refute but which misses the point that the objective is the projection of imperial power.
The United States, though not a member of the ICC, has established its dominating influence in the staff of the tribunal so that it and its Canadian and EU allies effectively control its machinery, most importantly the prosecution, the administration and the selection of judges. It is because of this influence that the ICC falsely accused Muammar Gadhafi with crimes in 2011 thereby helping it excuse the NATO aggression against Libya and also provoking and excusing his murder.
The ICC is meant to prevent war crimes and war but it has been used in fact to overthrow governments and throw their leaders in prison, or in the tragic case of Muammar Gadhafi, provoke war and excuse murder; just as the ICTY in The Hague was used to justify the NATO aggression against Yugoslavia and the arrest and death in NATO hands of President Milosevic. The ICC continues in that criminal tradition.
But is this announcement a surprise, a hopeful step that the ICC may live up to its claims? The answer is a clear no. The timing of the announcement and its delivery are interesting. It comes within a few days of the disastrous blows to its prestige and credibility with the withdrawal of the African countries. Something needed to be done to try to restore some credibility, some appearance of impartiality; and that is what the announcement does, or tries to do because it will soon be realised that it is a cheap trick, a charade, designed to save the ICC so that the United States and its allies can continue to use it as they see fit, as a means of control, not justice.
It is not a surprise in the first place because the ICC made public its Report on Preliminary Examination Activities on November 12, 2015. In that report there is a section on Afghanistan setting out more or less the contents in the Foreign Policy Report. It makes interesting reading and starts off with a lie that indicates where we can expect this investigation to go.
On page 26 the document states,
“After the attacks of 11 September 2001, in Washington D.C. and New York City, a United States-led coalition launched air strikes and ground operations in Afghanistan against the Taliban, suspected of harbouring Osama Bin Laden. The Taliban were ousted from power by the end of the year. In December 2001, under the auspices of the UN, an interim governing authority was established in Afghanistan.”
This is a lie because the Taliban government, a government installed by the United States in the first place, was not “harbouring” Bin Laden. They stated to the US government, when it demanded they turn him over in 2001, that he was in the country but by law they were required to demand that the US provide them with evidence that he was involved in the events in New York. The US flatly refused to provide any evidence to form the basis of a legal extradition so the Afghanistan government refused to hand him over. Any country would have been required by law to do the same. Instead of a file containing evidence they received cruise missiles and exploding bombs. Bin Laden of course was just the excuse, not the reason for the war. So for the ICC to state a lie that serves the narrative of the United States and then to continue with the joke that instead of the US overthrowing the Afghan government, (they were “ousted from power” they say, but how and by who is not said), they in fact helped to reestablish government, with the help of the peace loving UN, is to give the United States immunity from prosecution of the ultimate crime of aggression against Afghanistan that still continues today and all the war crimes that have flowed from that aggression. They bear the ultimate responsibility. But since the ICC sees fit to rewrite history in favour of the United States in its investigation of the war how can we expect it to ever prosecute that nation for the crimes it has committed?
Most of the document discusses allegations of crimes and some attention is paid to allegations against US forces and Afghan government forces but most of it is concerned with crimes of the Taliban. Where it discusses war crimes allegedly committed by the United States it points out that the US is investigating those allegations and has taken disciplinary action against those responsible in hundreds of cases. The question then is whether the United States is properly investigating and then prosecuting those cases in its military discipline system. For if the United States were in fact properly investigating and actively prosecuting soldiers and officials then the ICC cannot step into the situation. Only if this is not being done and cases appear to be sham cases can the ICC claim jurisdiction. This writer cannot imagine the United States ever accepting a finding from the ICC that it is not acting correctly, and having regard to its rewriting of history, I do not expect it to make such a finding.
That this is a public relations exercise is supported by the source of the article, Foreign Policy, which is owned by the Washington Post ; and the writer, David Bosco, who lectures on international law and the ICC at the Washington College of Law, in Washington D.C. has an interesting career. After graduating from Harvard he worked on “refugee issues” in Bosnia, first for an “NGO” then the UN and NATO and interned at NATO Military Headquarters in Belgium, then went to the State Department, and has largely been an editor at the journal and law lecturer ever since. You can understand my doubts of the bone fides of their intentions when you know that.
Why is it that this information had to come from this source and not the ICC itself? The answer is that if it came from the ICC no one would believe it. Its credibility is in tatters. It would look like the face-saving action it is. So it had to be made to look like a revelation of something daring that the ICC was reluctant to make it public, a bold step for mankind, all hush hush, so the US cannot get in the way of justice. But instead of a revelation it looks like a manipulation, a propaganda action to support the ICC as a tool of domination by the west against the rest of the world. And so, the game continues.
Christopher Black is an international criminal lawyer based in Toronto, he is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and he is known for a number of high-profile cases involving human rights and war crimes.
For the past eight years millions of people have expended billions of words speculating about exactly how the United States kills people with missiles from drones (and missiles from other sources, such as manned aircraft, targeting people identified with drones). There is good reason to believe that for each such attack there exists a video and audio record of what the drone pilots saw and what they and their colleagues said to each other as they decided to launch a missile and as they observed its results.
This is a level of documentation we rarely have with killings by domestic police officers, who are typically filmed by observers with phones, a method of documentation that excludes the leadup and the aftermath.
It’s also a level of documentation that is almost entirely denied to the public, meaning that it doesn’t actually do us much good. As far as I know we have not seen a single video or heard a single audio recording of a drone murder. The “Collateral Murder” video is a powerful record of a non-drone attack.
With drones, however, we do have one (incomplete) transcript of what was said during the hours leading up and the minutes following one particular attack. This was an attack in Afghanistan in February 2010 that killed zero fighters but numerous innocent civilians. According to survivors, 23 men, women, and children were killed. According to the U.S. military 15 or 16 were killed and 12 wounded. The U.S. military apologized and paid some $4000 to the family of each acknowledged victim.
The ACLU obtained the transcript in 2011, and it was published by the Los Angeles Times, which wrote an account of the incident, but I didn’t pay much attention until the new film, National Bird, dramatized part of it. I think it deserves a bit longer excerpt than either the Times or National Bird provided. So, here is my selection plus commentary. Feel free to read the whole thing at the links above and make of it what you may.
00:38 (JAG25): We are going to hold on containment fires and try to attempt PID, we would really like to take out those trucks.
PID means positive identification. This individual is eager to send missiles into trucks on the ground in Afghanistan but is aware of the need to identify somebody in one or more of them as an armed fighter. In fictional fantasies like Eye in the Sky or presidential speeches, targets must exclude any possibility of killing civilians and the targeted people must be known, specifically identified, be beyond any possibility of arrest, and be “immediate and continuing” threats to the United States of America. None of those criteria or anything like them are even discussed in this actual drone attack. Instead, the question of whether to launch hellfire missiles at automobiles is whether the targeted people are males over 10 years old and whether at least one of them has a gun. As we’ll see, even those standards are not met, but they are discussed.
00:38 (Slasher03): Copy that. Break, break, Slasher, we passed you coords for the vehicle on the west side of the river again you have multiple dismounts in the open break. On the east side of the river there’s an additional vehicle majority of the dismounts are inside a compound located just to the north of that vehicle if you get eyes on that compound. Compound has multiple movers as well as one pickup truck hot.
00:38 (Slasher03): Kirk97, Slasher in addition if you’re able to pick up illumination it appears the two vehicles are flashing lights signaling between.
Before anyone was murdered on this day, everyone was discussed for hours with words like “vehicle,” “compound,” “dismounts,” and “movers” — which simply has to have a different impact than “cars,” “houses,” “pedestrians,” and “people walking around.”
00:41 (Pilot): Does he have a weapon?
00:41 (Sensor): Can’t tell yet
00:41 (MC): Can’t tell
00:42 (Kirk97): Jag25/Slasher03/Kirk97 we are eyes on a vehicle, personnel in the open, definite tactical movement, cannot PID weapons at this time, how copy?
Still, they are hoping to positively identify a weapon. But, in the absence of that justification, they have spotted “definite tactical movement.” How, one wonders, given that these were a bunch of civilian commuters, does such movement differ from a handful of families and students walking about and arranging themselves into a couple of SUVs and a pickup truck?
00:43 (Sensor): possible mortars (reference to what the JTAC is trying to PID)
00:43 (Pilot): Kirk97, good copy on that, be advised personnel in the open, by the vehicles moving tactically definitely carrying objects at this time we cannot PID what they are however we’ve got eyes on and we are working our best
So now there are automobiles with objects and human beings in them, and those automobiles are moving (as they are principally designed to do).
00:44 (Jag25): Jag25, roger, ground force commander’s intent is to destroy the vehicles and the personnel, right now Kirk97 is showing that the individuals egressed the trucks holding cylindrical objects in their hands *radio static*
Personnel egressed some trucks, meaning that some people got out. And they had objects with them. As you read on, see if you notice eagerness or wariness to interpret such a phenomenon as a threat.
00:44 (Pilot): Be ready for a lot of (exploitive deleted) squirters dude
00:44 (Pilot): These guys look to be lookouts, man
People who get out and walk away from a group are “squirters” though not yet “bugsplat” (what drone pilots have sometimes called those they’ve killed). They are also “lookouts.” This identification of them as “lookouts” is made on the basis of the fuzzy little green linear shapes these people appear as in the video being observed, not on the basis of a high resolution color image in which something like binoculars or facial expressions could be identified.
00:45 (MC): See if you can zoom in on that guy, ‘cause he’s kind of like
00:45 (Pilot): what did he just leave there
00:45 (Pilot): Is that a *expletive* rifle?
00:45 (Sensor): Maybe just a warm spot from where he was sitting; can’t really tell right now, but it does look like an object
Well an object could be a rifle. There’s at least a 1% chance, as Dick Cheney would say.
00:45 (Pilot): I was hoping we could make a rifle out, never mind
Why was this man or woman hoping that? Why not fearing it? After all, it could mean being ordered to do something horrific: to kill. Even believing that killing to be somehow justified and possibly even somehow legal, the drone pilot of our imagination faces it regretfully and somberly. Not these guys.
00:45 (Sensor): The only way I’ve ever been able to see a rifle is if they move them around, when their holding them, with muzzle flashes out or slinging them across their shoulders
And yet no such identification happens on this day. Nonetheless, 23 people lose their lives while others lose their limbs. You can see the survivors and hear them tell their stories in National Bird.
00:48 (Slasher03): jaguar25, slasher03 again, on the west side you have 10 pax that are dismounts that appear to be huddled down, hunkered down, holding position they are all static on the east side, you have the original vehicle with 2 dismounts waiting outside, believe you had up to two to three to four that are still inside the vehicle, then just north of that position you have the compound where our 1 individual exited the vehicle and rendezvous, you have multiple movers within that compound as well as a hot pickup truck
Pax does not of course mean peace. It means passengers. “Hot” I believe actually means hot, as pilots are able to observe heat recorded by heat sensors. They sometimes observe the cooling of a body on the ground as the blood leaves it.
************END OF 0023z VIDEO SEGMENT********BEGINNING OF 0054z VIDEO SEGMENT*******
The line above suggests that there is a video we could be shown. Exactly whose embarrassment — er, I mean, national security — overrides our right to see it?
00:54 (Jag25): … we believe we may have a high level Taliban commander …
Don’t they always? If you want to prove they don’t always, make the videos public.
00:55 (Pilot): wouldn’t surprise me if this was one of their important guys, just watching from a distance, you know what I mean?
00:55 (Sensor): yea he’s got his security detail
A group of people, by virtue of containing multiple people, is now wishfully seen as a Taliban bigshot with a “security detail.”
00:55 (Pilot): … Be advised on the west side of the river we still have one vehicle with ten pax, two lookouts, could be definite tactical movement with a commander over watching, definitely suspicious how copy?
These bees are acting suspicious, said Winnie the Pooh.
00:56 (JAG): roger good copy, due to distance from friendlies we are trying to work on justification, we’re gonna need PID
00:56 (Pilot): Good copy on that, no PID on weapons at this time only tactical movements on the west side, can you pass coords for the east please?
00:59 (Sensor): not sure what compound they came from or what we are apparently dealing with.
These guys have no idea who they are looking at, but they are working on coming up with a “justification” to murder them.
00:59 (Pilot): what about the guy under the north arrow, does it look like he is hold’n something across his chest
00:59 (Sensor): yea it’s kind of weird how they all have a cold spot on their chest
00:59 (Pilot): It’s what they’ve been doing here lately, they wrap their *expletive* up in their man dresses so you can’t PID it
The conversation oozes with respect for the people whose country is being “liberated.”
1:00(Sensor): maybe five in the back of the bed 1:00 *broken radio chatter*
1:00 (Jag25): Jag25 have you loud and clear
1:01 (Pilot): Jag25, Slasher03, Kirk97 it looks like the dismounted pax on the hilux pickup on the east side is carrying something, but we cannot PID what it is at this time but he is carrying something
1:02 (Sensor): He slung it on his shoulder whatever it was, just switched arms with it or something, and is getting in the truck
01:03 (Sensor): the screener is reviewing, they think something is up with that dude as well. I’ll take a quick look at the SUV guys, sorry
1:03 (JAG25): Slasher03 JAG25 1:03 (Sensor): what do these dudes got, yeah I think that dude had a rifle
1:03 (Pilot): I do too
There’s a wishful guess that a group of two dozen people traveling through an extremely dangerous country might have a gun. Wait and see what that is taken to justify.
1:04 (Pilot): All players, all Players from KIRK97, from our DGS the MAM that just mounted the back of the hilux had a possible weapon, read back possible rifle
1:04 (JAG25): Kirk we notice that, but you know how it is with ROEs, so we have to be careful with those, ROE’s *broken radio chatter*
1:04 (Sensor): sounds like they need more than possible
A MAM is a military aged male and an ROE a rule of engagement. These guys are figuring out that they should come up with more than the possibility of a gun before blowing up this convoy.
1:05 (JAG25): copy, slasher03 1:05 (Sensor): that truck would make a beautiful target, ok that’s a Chevy suburban
1:05 (Pilot): yeah,
1:07 (MC): screener said at least one child near SUV 1:07 (Sensor): bull (expletive deleted)…where!?
1:07 (Sensor): send me a (expletive deleted) still, I don’t think they have kids out at this hour, I know they’re shady but come on
1:07 (Pilot): at least one child… Really? Listing the MAM, uh, that means he’s guilty
1:07 (Sensor): well maybe a teenager but I haven’t seen anything that looked that short, granted they’re all grouped up here, but.
The eagerness to spot a gun is just not matched by eagerness to spot a child. And having a child on the road with his or her family early in the morning is taken as a sign of evil deeds. Or if the child is a military aged male (later defined as having an age in the “double digits”) that is taken as “guilt.” Guilt is the language of a court. Drone piloting has often been discussed as law enforcement, although it violates numerous laws and does not enforce any.
1:07 (Pilot): Yeah review that (expletive deleted)…why didn’t he say possible child, why are they so quick to call (expletive deleted) kids but not to call (expletive deleted) a rifle
1:08 (MC): two children were at the rear of the SUV… I haven’t seen two children
1:09 (Sensor): little bit of movement by the SUV. I really doubt that children call, man I really (expletive deleted) hate that.
1:10 (MC): is this the child entering the rear of the SUV?
1:10 (Sensor): they’re moving, I’ll stay with the pickup truck
1:11 (Pilot): they just threw someone into the back of that truck, and were like, wrestling with somebody did you see that?
1:11 (Senor):Yeah I saw those two dudes wrestling.
1:11 (Pilot): they probably are really using (expletive deleted) human shields here, that’s probably what that is.
Here is an incredible case of believing ones own propaganda. People are here imagined to be forcing victims into their trucks in order to use them as “human shields,” a phenomenon as ill conceived in U.S. culture as “voter fraud.”
1:21 (Pilot):yeah, exactly man. So what’s the, we passed him potential children and potential shields, and I think those are both pretty accurate now, what’s the ROE on that?
1:21 (Sensor): Ground commander assessing proportionality, distinction
And here we are back to eye-of-the-murderer medieval “just war” theory in which someone pretends to determine that killing a certain number of children would be “proportionally” acceptable, although no empirical test of such a thing has ever been devised, and President Obama claims that no shots are fired by his drone warriors without “near certainty” that no civilians will be harmed. You can’t calculate how many civilians are acceptable to kill AND claim that you’re certain of not killing any.
01:32 (Sensor): Wonder what these other dudes at this compound are doing. Picked‐up at third vehicle on their train.
01:33 (MC): Guilty by association.
I suppose they know that’s not a legal term.
01:48 (Pilot): JAG25 just want to confirm that you copied we have about 20 pax dismounted, they are outside the trucks praying at this time and we’re 3 1⁄2 miles from the friendly location.
01:48 (Sensor): … Praying? I mean seriously, that’s what they do.
01:48 (MC): They’re gonna do something nefarious.
When I was very briefly in Afghanistan I didn’t meet anyone who didn’t pray. I also didn’t meet anyone who did anything nefarious. I have also never heard a presidential speech in which President Obama explains that he targets people who pray.
01:50 (MC): Adolescent near the rear of the SUV.
01:50 (Sensor): Well, teenagers can fight.
01:50 (MC): Pick up a weapon and you’re a combatant, it’s how that works.
01:52 (Sensor): Oh sweet target. I’d try to go through the bed, put it right dead center of the bed.
01:53 (MC): Oh that’d be perfect.
01:52 (Sensor): Like more of them from the other vehicles are around this one right now.
Such cool, level headed reluctance to use excessive force is no doubt what we would hear in police videos as well.
01:54 (Sensor): MAM near SUV appear to be holding a weapon.
01:54 (Jag25): Roger, still awaiting confirmation.
01:54 (Pilot): JAG25 be advised, our screener just called 1 MAM near the SUV in the line of 3, appears to be holding a weapon.
01:56 (MC) :one weapon on ground may have picked it up and walking around the pickup.
01:56 (Sensor): I didn’t quite catch that but I believe it.
I didn’t see it either. Should I believe it too?
02:29 (Pilot): Can’t wait till this actually happens, with all this coordination and *expletive*
(agreement noises from crew)
02:29 (Pilot): Thanks for the help, you’re doing a good job relaying everything in (muffled), MC. Appreciate it
02:48 (Sensor): Still a sweet *expletive* target, geez….Take out the lead vehicle on the run and then uhh bring the helos in
02:54 (MC): Looks like they’re bringing a Reaper in
02:54 (Sensor): *Expletive*that, man
02:54 (MC): just claim we’re here first
02:54 (MC): At least we know these guys have weapons
02:55 (Muffled talking off comms, some profanity, a chuckle)
Laughing and eagerness to be the one to pull the trigger.
02:58 (Sensor): Hey, that dude just put a weapon down right above the truck. See it?
02:59 (Pilot): See it. See if DGS will call that
DGS is an office that is supposed to approve before eager pilots push the button. A veteran in National Bird describes routinely trying to restrain the eagerness of pilots at Creech Air Force Base to kill.
03:01 (Sensor): Aww where is he going? Just pulling off the road maybe. They probably mostly left their weapons in the vehicles. I’ll be damned, it looks like a short dude back there.
No weapons? They must be inside. A child? It must be a short dude.
03:05 (Pilot): Jag 25 standby one. Kirk 97, we’re checking. Looks mostly to be military aged males. We have seen approximately two children. Standby.
03:05 (Pilot): Dude the only thing I can see if this isn’t something [expletive deleted]is the locals trying to get away. You know what I mean? But I don’t think so.
Here a pilot surmises the situation accurately but chooses not to believe it.
03:06 (Sensor): 24 or 25 at the praying stop.
03:07 (Sensor): CLASSIFIED view I saw the one that looked short enough to be a child.
03:08 (Pilot): And Jag 25, our screeners are currently calling 21 MAMs no females, and 2 possible children. How copy?
03:08 (JAG25): Roger. And when we say children, are we talking teenagers or toddlers?
03:08 (Sensor): I would say about twelve. Not toddlers. Something more towards adolescents or teens.
03:08 (Pilot): Yeah adolescents
03:10 (Pilot): And Kirk 97, good copy on that. We are with you. Our screener updated only one adolescent so that’s one double digit age range. How Copy?
03:10 (JAG25): We’ll pass that along to the ground force commander. But like I said, 12‐13 years old with a weapon is just as dangerous.
03:11 (Sensor): Oh we agree. Yea.
04:05 (Pilot) : Yeah. Alright, so the plan is man, uh, we’re going to watch this thing go down, the helo’s are going to take out as much as they can and when they Winchester we can play clean up.
04:07 (Pilot) : As long as you keep somebody that we can shoot in the field of view I’m happy.
Happy! It’s good to stay positive about your job! Everybody knows that.
04:09 (Pilot) : Yeah, well that’s what we were talking on this. I was talking to the JTAC he said the exact same thing man. Um they called them an adolescent. We called it you know… most likely double digits age range. And he was like that’s old enough to be dangerous.
04:13 (Pilot): It’s a cool looking shot
04:13 (Sensor): O, awesome
04:16 (Sensor): Roger. And, oh … and there it goes!
04:16 (unintelligible) 04:16 (Pilot): Our engagement
04:16 (Pilot): It was backing up
04:16 (Sensor): Stand by
04:16 (Sensor): Have another guy … did they get him too? Yep.
04:16 (Pilot): They took the first and uh the last out. They’re going to come back around
04:16 (Safety Observer): I see squirters at the first one
Missiles have just blown up the first and third of the three automobiles packed with people.
04:16 (Pilot): Uh, follow what you think makes the most sense. In fact, stay on the middle truck for now …
04:16 (Sensor): I will
04:16 (Pilot): … until they take that out or we do
04:17 (MC): Do we want to switch back to other frequency?
04:17 (Pilot): I tried, nobody was talking to me over there
04:17 (Sensor): Looks like they’re surrendering
04:17 (Sensor): They’re not running
04:17 (Pilot): CLASSIFIED
[NOTE: At this point, additional voices appear on the recording – presumably those of the safety observers – and identifying which individual is speaking at any given time becomes very difficult.]
04:18 (Sensor): That guy’s laid down? They’re not running.
04:18 (Safety Observer): Dude, this is weird
04:18 (Sensor): They’re just walking away
04:18 (Sensor): I think I’ve got the bulk of whoever’s left in the field of view
04:18 (Pilot): Yeah, I think so
Now we start to see that these eager killers really had convinced themselves that they were targeting dangerous enemies. When their victims behave like civilians, they are disturbed by it.
04:18 (Unknown): Oh!
04:19 (Pilot): Holy [expletive deleted]
04:19 (Sensor): I don’t know about this. This is weird.
04:19 (MC): Yeah
04:19 (Pilot): Got nowhere to go
04:19 (Pilot): Probably confused as [expletive deleted]
04:19 (Sensor): Oh yeah, they just got thrown from the vehicle, too
04:19 MIC(?): We did call, we did tell them there was adolescents in the second vehicle, so I thought that was the reason they didn’t shoot the (unintelligible) second vehicle
04:19 (Safety Observer): No
04:19 (Sensor): Current recommended target is … I just want to do the most veh‐ … either this one, the most … or the one with the guys in the front, they were in the lead vehicle
04:19 (Pilot): There’s like a trail of like three or four (unintelligible)
04:19 (Sensor): Right
04:19 (Pilot): … to the right of your crosshair
04:19 (Sensor): Yeah, and those are, that’s the most, the most, most individuals, right there
04:19 Pilot(?): Yeah, I’d say let’s do that then
04:20 (Sensor): But I’ll keep this field of view … the previous field of view, uh, so we can maintain eyes on as many as possible
And yet, the momentum here is still for killing the survivors.
04:20 (Bam Bam 41): Kirk 97, Bam Bam 41, confirm, uh, those were hits on the vehicles you were watching
04:20 (Pilot): And Bam Bam, Kirk 97, that is affirm, that is uh three good hits on all three of our vehicles. We are still tracking.
Now all three vehicles have been blown up and burned.
04:20 (Sensor): I’m going to zoom in on the rear vehicle again real quick. It looks … it looks like there’s a bunch of people just hanging out
04:23 (Safety Observer): Are they wearing burqas?
04:23 (Sensor): That’s what it looks like
04:23 (Pilot): They were all PIDed as males, though. No females in the group
04:23 (Sensor): That guy looks like he’s wearing jewelry and stuff like a girl, but he ain’t … if he’s a girl, he’s a big one
We sense reluctance to recognize that there are females among those targeted.
04:23 (Pilot): Bam Bam, uh Kirk 97, we are eyes on the squirters at this time. No weapons PIDed yet.
04:26 (Unknown): Wow 04:26 (Sensor): (unintelligible) That truck is so dead
04:26 (Unknown): Wow
04:27 (Sensor): Trying to, to PID veh‐, uh, weapons, but yeah, we can scan
04:27 (Sensor): The thing is, nobody ran
04:27 (Safety Observer): Yeah, that was weird
04:27 (Sensor): So, all the squirters are, have returned to the road at this point
04:27 (Unknown): Yeah
04:27 (Safety Observer): We need to probably let them know that
04:30 (Pilot): Bam Bam41, uh, Kirk97. We are still eyes on, uh, eyes on trying to PID [Positively Identify] any weapons, uh, on the remaining MAMs [Military Age Male]. Uh, we had previously PID’ed weapons in the group but, uh, nothing at this time. We’re still looking.
04:32 (MC): There’s one guy sitting down.
04:32 (Sensor): What you playing with? (Talking to individual on ground.)
04:32 (MC): His bone.
04:33 (Sensor): Thanks, thanks SOTF‐South.
04:34 (Sensor): So, it looks like those lumps are probably all people.
04:34 (Safety Observer): Yep.
04:34 (MC): I think the most lumps are on the lead vehicle because everybody got…the Hellfire got…
04:35 (Sensor): Yeah, there’s definitely no weapons on the guys in the middle vehicle.
04:36 (MC): Is that two? One guy’s tending the other guy?
04:36 (Safety Observer): Looks like it.
04:36 (Sensor): Looks like it, yeah.
04:36 (MC): Self‐Aid Buddy Care to the rescue.
04:36 (Safety Observer): I forget, how do you treat a sucking gut wound?
04:37 (Sensor): Don’t push it back in. Wrap it in a towel. That’ll work.
04:38 (Pilot): They’re trying to *explicative* surrender, right? I think.
04:38 (Sensor): That’s what it looks like to me.
04:38 MC: Yeah. I think that’s what they’re doing.
04:39 (UNKNOWN): On those individuals. Break.
Uh, exiting from that vehicle was probably about 4 personnel. Believe possibly two of those, maybe 3, were female. They wore bright colored clothing. Uh, those remaining personnel are gathered just west of the middle vehicle. They’re standing about 20 meters to the west.
04:40 (MC): Screener said there wasn’t any women earlier.
04:40 (Sensor): Those are all people.
04:40 (MC): Yeah.
04:40 (Sensor): That’s what I was worried about.
04:40 (Safety Observer): What?
04:40 (Sensor): What are those? They were in the middle vehicle.
04:40 (MC): Women and children.
04:40 (Sensor): Looks like a kid.
04:40 (Safety Observer): Yeah. The one waving the flag.
04:41 (Pilot): Kirk97. Uh, negative, we are still observing at this time. Still no weapons PID, everything else matches with your assessment. Uh, still looking.
04:41 (Sensor): Nah, that guy doesn’t have a weapon…just shru, shrugged off his coat. Nothing underneath.
04:42 (Pilot): Anything on ICOM?
04:42 (MC): Nothing so far. I think the rocket hit the front of the street here.
04:42 (Pilot): He’s calling females? They said 21 males, no females.
04:42 (MC): Earlier, yeah.
04:42 (Sensor): Now they’re calling 3 females and 1 child. 1 possible child.
04:42 (MC): Called him a adolescent earlier.
04:43 (Sensor): Yeah, at this point I wouldn’t…I personally wouldn’t be comfortable shooting at these people.
04:43 (MC): No.
04:43 (Sensor): Uh, esp…especially just on DGS’s…If I couldn’t tell with my own eyeball that they had weapons, I wouldn’t just go off of DGS’s, uh, (another crew member: Yeah.) assessment…for this reason.
04:43 (Pilot): That lady is carrying a kid, huh? Maybe.
04:43 (Safety Observer): No.
04:43 (MC): No. 04:43 (Sensor): Uh, yeah.
04:43 (MC): The baby, I think on the right. Yeah.
04:43 (Sensor): Yeah.
04:43 (Pilot): The middle.
04:43 (MC): Yeah.
04:43 (Sensor): Right there in the crosshairs.
04:43 (Safety Observer): *Explicative,* let them know, dude. Have them pass it to Jag. There’s…
04:43 (MC): Yeah.
04:44 (Safety Observer): Yeah, they called out the kid.
04:44 (MC): Yep. 04:44 (Sensor): I got another kid.
04:44 (Safety Observer): That’s one of the adolescents from earlier.
04:45 (Pilot): Bam Bam41, Kirk97. Uh, just be advised, uh, our DGS is calling out, uh, potential 3 females and, uh, 2 adolescents, uh, near the center vehicle. Uh, just want to confirm that you saw that and passed to Jag.
04:48 (Sensor): These guys all need to get their asses kicked.
04:48 (MC): What’s that?
04:48 (Sensor): These dudes over here. Ones that are standing up…[Radio static]
04:48 (Broken Radio Transmission) Jag25, Bam…(static)
04:48 (Sensor): All their women are over here. Kids.
04:48 (Safety Observer): I know.
04:48 (Sensor): They’re sitting around on their ass over by the blown‐up truck.
International School in Even Yehuda, Israel, on February 15, 2016. (photo: YouTube)
What is so remarkable and troubling about the presentation we’ve heard today is that what Russia really wants from the U.N. is credit. Congratulations, Russia, you’ve stopped, for a couple days, from using incendiary weapons. Thank you for not using cluster bombs in civilian areas. Thank you for staying the hand of brutality with regard to bunker buster weapons. You don’t get congratulations and get credit for not committing war crimes for a day or a week. – Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, October 26, 2016
Samantha Power is the face of American diplomacy at the UN, where she gives ardent voice to American hypocrisy, deceit, intellectual dishonesty, and mockery of the rest of the world. Appalling as her performance has been, her portrayal is accurate, right down to her denial-laden confidence in American exceptionalism.
Power’s comment above came in the midst of a discussion of the carnage in Syria, a discussion without substance or pity, without a care for ending the killing. Her tone and content were in sharp, ugly contrast to the report of UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien addressing the Security Council about the layered wars in Syria that began with peaceful protests early in 2011:
Each month, I have come before you and presented an ever-worsening record of destruction and atrocity, grimly cataloguing the systematic destruction of a country and its people. While my job is to relay to you the facts, I cannot help but be incandescent with rage. Month after month, worse and worse, and nothing is actually happening to stop the war, stop the suffering.
Stephen O’Brien is “incandescent with rage” at the outrage that is Syria, and the perhaps greater outrage of inaction by the Security Council as a body as well as its individual states. O’Brien bears witness to destruction and atrocity that the council cannot stop and to which its member states contribute. They do not express rage, incandescent or otherwise; they express the snide posturing of politics and tactical advantage.
Vitaly Churkin, the Russian Federation’s ambassador to the UN, said O’Brien had delivered a sermon, not an objective report. Churkin said that the Russian Federation continued to negotiate with armed groups, continued to deliver humanitarian aid by the ton, and continued the eight-day-old bombing pause. Churkin said Aleppo was worse because the Al Nusra Front had not yet fulfilled its promise to separate from more moderate opposition forces. Churkin said that negotiation demands were constantly changing, that fighters used civilians as human shields, that a political solution should remain the first priority, and that New Zealand should be thanked for working to build a consensus among the members to end the fighting.
The American response is as heartbreaking as ever:
What is so remarkable and troubling about the presentation we’ve heard today is that what Russia really wants from the U.N. is credit.
Samantha Power responded to the Russian assertion of facts not with rebuttal, but with sarcasm, mockery, and pettiness. Hers is an essentially ad hominem response that allows no credit for a bombing halt of any duration. And no wonder. Power speaks for a country that bombs others more or less at will for as long as it likes. The US has bombed Afghanistan without serious surcease since 2001, and Iraq almost as long. The US continues to participate in the Saudi Arabian coalition’s relentless bombing of Yemen’s hospitals, schools, and funerals, taking part in war crimes as part of a criminal war.
Congratulations, Russia, you’ve stopped, for a couple days, from using incendiary weapons.
Mockingly, the ambassador from the country of military shock and awe acts as if her hands are clean from decades of devastation visited upon the region. Power acts as if the US aerial destruction brought to bear on defenseless tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan or defenseless urban civilians in Syria, Iraq and Yemen had never happened. Power has nothing to say about American use of depleted uranium weapons that leave their targets – both people and the land – as radioactive threats to human health for generations.
Thank you for not using cluster bombs in civilian areas. Thank you for staying the hand of brutality with regard to bunker buster weapons.
The US/Saudi assault on Yemen uses cluster bombs in civilian areas, but Samantha Power has no sarcastic objection to that. The US manufactures cluster bombs – banned by most of the rest of the world – to sell to the Saudis to use in civilian areas in Yemen. The US had no hesitation using bunker-busting bombs in laying waste to Iraq.
You don’t get congratulations and get credit for not committing war crimes for a day or a week.
Beyond her heavy-handed mockery, Power offered nothing useful. She might have admitted the constant pattern of American war crimes, especially since 2001, whether torture, kidnapping, imprisonment at dark sites, drone strikes, or any of the other horrific acts of American policy throughout the Middle East since World War II. Being the United States means never having to say you’re sorry, no matter how sorry your human rights record, no matter how sorry your fidelity to international law, and worst of all in the world of power politics, no matter how sorry your actual accomplishments are. No matter how monstrous American behavior becomes, Samantha Power is paid to praise it as the necessary actions of the world’s indispensible nation.
In 2008, when Samantha Power was part of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, she famously called Hillary Clinton a “monster.” So does it take one to know one?
William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.