As in many cities around the country, Black Lives Matter held a demonstration in Dallas to protest the police shootings of two more black men, Alton Sterling of Louisiana and Philando Castile of Minnesota. During the demonstration, Micah Xavier Johnson, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, mounted his own personal, deadly protest by shooting police officers guarding the nonviolent rally. Five officers were killed and seven wounded.
After negotiating for some time with Johnson, who was holed up in a community college parking garage, police sent in a robot armed with explosives and killed him. Dallas police chief David Brown said, “We saw no other option but to use our bomb robot and place a device on its extension for it to detonate where the subject was,” adding, “Other options would have exposed our officers to grave danger.”
The legal question is whether the officers reasonably believed Johnson posed an imminent threat of death or great bodily injury to them at the time they deployed the robot to kill him.
Johnson was apparently isolated in the garage, posing no immediate threat. If the officers could attach explosives to the robot, they could have affixed a tear gas canister to the robot instead, to force Johnson out of the garage. Indeed, police in Albuquerque used a robot in 2014 to “deploy chemical munitions,” which compelled the surrender of an armed suspect barricaded in a motel room.
But the Dallas police chose to execute Johnson with their killer robot. This was an unlawful use of force and a violation of due process.
The right to due process is a bedrock guarantee, not just in the U.S. Constitution, but also in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty we have ratified, making it part of our domestic law. Due process means arrest and fair trial. It is what separates democracies from dictatorships, in which the executive acts as judge, jury and executioner.
During the standoff, Johnson reportedly told police there were “bombs all over” downtown Dallas. The police didn’t know if that was true. In order to protect the public, they could have interrogated him about the location of the bombs after getting him out of the garage with tear gas.
Apprehension and interrogation are recommended in a 2013 study conducted by the Pentagon’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force. The study was cited in “The Drone Papers,” leaked to The Intercept by an anonymous whistleblower who was a member of the intelligence community. It concluded, “kill operations significantly reduce the intelligence available from detainees and captured material” and recommended capture and interrogation rather than killing in aerial drone strikes.
The Obama administration currently uses unmanned armed drones to kill people in seven countries, effectively denying them due process.
There is a slippery slope from police use of armed robots to domestic use of armed drones. The Dallas police department’s robot was apparently manufactured by Northrup Grumman, the same company that makes the Global Hawk drones, used for surveillance in Obama’s drone program.
More than half the U.S.-Mexico border is patrolled with surveillance drones. Customs and Border Protection is considering arming them with “non-lethal” weapons. That could include rubber bullets, which can put out an eye.
The killing of Johnson is evidently the first time domestic law enforcement has utilized an armed robot to kill a suspect. It will not be the last. Police departments are becoming increasingly militarized, using assault weapons, armored personnel carriers, grenade launchers, and ear-splitting sirens known as LRADs. Much of this equipment is purchased from the Pentagon at a significant discount.
But the answer to our national epidemic of racist police killings is not to further militarize law enforcement. We must completely rethink and restructure policing. That means requiring advanced degrees for police officers, intensive screening for racism, and rigorous training in how to handle cross-racial situations. It means moving toward community-based policing and citizens police-review boards with independent authority. And it means coming to grips with the pernicious racism that permeates our society.
Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. She writes, speaks and does media about human rights and U.S. foreign policy. Her most recent book is “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.” Follow her on Twitter.
Donald Trump is erratic. We all know that. It is insulting to assert, in the words of Britain’s new Foreign Secretary, the erratic Boris Johnson, that he is «frankly unfit to hold the office of President of the United States», but he’s certainly unpredictable and says some things that are, to put it mildly, intriguing. The fact remains that he could be next president of the United States, which makes it important to look at what he might do if that comes about, especially in the light of America’s military catastrophes so far this century.
Obama followed his predecessors in expanding America’s iron fist as self-appointed global policeman. He vastly increased the US military presence around the world and intensified the Pentagon’s aggressive confrontations with China and Russia.
In China’s case this was effected by sending US Naval E-P3 electronic surveillance aircraft on missions close to the mainland, deploying EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft to Clark Air Base in the Philippines, ordering B-52 nuclear bombers to overfly the South China Sea where the US Navy also carried out extended manoeuvres by massive strike groups of nuclear-armed aircraft carriers and guided missile cruisers. All this in a region where the US has not the slightest territorial interest or claim. China’s Sea is 12,000 kilometres, 7,000 miles, from the American mainland, yet Washington considers it the sacred right and duty of the United States to act as a global gendarme and give orders to China about its posture in its own back yard, where there has not been one instance of interference with commercial shipping passing through that region.
As to confrontation with Russia, the US has ensured that its Brussels sub-office, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, will go on playing its toy-soldier games right up to Russia’s borders. The official statement after NATO’s war drum-thumping conclave in Warsaw on July 8-9 is indicative of its determination to continue its attempts to menace Russia, which has not made the slightest move to threaten a single NATO member. It is absurd to claim that «the security situation has deteriorated» in the Black Sea and the Baltic because of Russian action.
These regions would be perfectly calm if it were not for constant provocations by US-NATO warships and combat and electronic warfare aircraft which deliberately trail their coasts in attempts to incite reaction by Russian forces. NATO’s Warsaw Declaration is a farrago of contrived accusations compiled to justify the existence of the farcical grouping that destroyed Libya and proved incapable of overcoming a few thousand raggy baggy insurgents in Afghanistan. So the military alliance is spending vast sums to deploy soldiers, aircraft, ships and missiles right up to Russia’s borders in deliberate confrontation. As Russian spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained «Russia is not looking [for an enemy] but it actually sees it happening. When NATO soldiers march along our border and NATO jets fly by, it’s not us who are moving closer to NATO’s borders».
There’s no answer to that, but the Obama-Pentagon administration is not going to relax its anti-China and anti-Russia attitude, and if Hillary Clinton becomes president – she of the infamous «We came; We saw; He died» giggling interview in which she rejoiced in the savage murder of President Gaddafi of Libya – there will be more of the same. In fact, probably a lot more of the same, only harder, faster and of more financial benefit to US manufacturers of weapons systems. She described President Putin as «someone that you have to continuously stand up to because, like many bullies, he is somebody who will take as much as he possibly can unless you do. And we need to get the Europeans to be more willing to stand up».
So might The Donald be different?
He’s arrogant and impulsive, but although the official Republican stance on China is predictably belligerent, it isn’t likely that The Donald will support confrontation by the nuclear-armed armadas that at the moment plough so aggressively around China’s shores. And he isn’t likely to endorse the Pentagon’s happy fandangos concerning Russia, either.
His comments about the US-contrived shambles in Ukraine are illuminating, in that he says «we’re the ones always fighting [figuratively] on the Ukraine. I never hear any other countries even mentioned and we’re fighting constantly. We’re talking about Ukraine, get out, do this, do that. And I mean Ukraine is very far away from us. How come the countries near the Ukraine, surrounding the Ukraine, how come they’re not opening up and they’re not at least protesting? I never hear anything from anybody except the United States».
They’re not protesting because they have to bow the knee to the Pentagon and its palatial branch office in Brussels (recently built at a cost of over a billion euros) – but The Donald made a good point: Why on earth does the US meddle in Ukraine? Has it benefited economically, politically, socially or culturally from its blatant interference?
Not only that, but The Donald says that the United States has to «fix our own mess» before «lecturing» other nations on how to behave.
No matter how extreme he may be in some of his statements, that one strikes a truly sensible note. Why does America consider that it has the right to hector and lecture China and Russia and so many other countries? It is, of course, because, as Obama announced, America considers itself the «one indispensable nation in world affairs».
What crass conceit. And Obama laboured the point in declaring that «I see an American century because no other nation seeks the role that we play in global affairs, and no other nation can play the role that we play in global affairs». This comes from the president of the country that destroyed Iraq and Libya, and is now itself in chaos caused by deliberate killing of black people by police and a surge in black protests against such slaughter.
Certainly The Donald shouts that he wants to «Make America Great Again» and such xenophobic nonsense – but that’s for the sake of vote-catching. As he rightly said, «When the world sees how bad the United States is and we start talking about civil liberties, I don’t think we are a very good messenger».
Then The Donald went further in common sense and suggested that as president he might close some of the hundreds of US military bases abroad because «if we decide we have to defend the United States, we can always deploy» from American soil, which would be «a lot less expensive». How very sensible.
Hillary came back with the predictable rejoinder that the president of the United States «is supposed to be the leader of the Free World. Donald Trump apparently doesn’t even believe in the Free World». This is straight out of the Cold War vocabulary of divisive confrontation – and if she becomes president, there will be even more pugnacious patronising baloney about «leadership of the Free World» and «the one indispensable nation». As The Donald said, «How are we going to lecture when you see the riots and the horror going on in our own country».
So there might be hope for the future if The Donald drops his more outlandish ideas about Muslims and Mexicans and institutes a policy of rapprochement and live-and-let-live with China and Russia. He’s a better bet on that score than confrontational Hillary.
It just might be that The Donald would be good for rapprochement and peace.
I just appeared for an extensive live commentary on Press TV on events in Munich, Germany, where a terrorist attack has taken place. I pointed out that today is the 22nd of July, the most important date in the history of the Zionist entity. There are reports of 6 people dead so far. On this day in 1946, Israel carried out its first false flag terrorist attack on the King David Hotel. This day five years ago, Anders Brevik, a far-right patsy massacred dozens of pro-Palestinian activists in Norway. Professor Ola Tunander wrote a detailed study of the event for a peer-reviewed Security Studies journal. His conclusion was that the attack had been orchestrated by Israeli intelligence (Mossad).
The attacks in Munich have taken place in the Olympia Shopping Mall. Today is the 72nd anniversary of the false flag terrorist attack which led to the founding of the Jewish State. I have suggested that the planners may want to pay hommage to the 1972 Munich Olympic Massacre, carried out by two Jewish double agents Abu Nidal and Luttif Affiv and blamed on the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. The attacks in Munich may be random, meaningless, though tragic events. But they may also be about criminalising the exposure of coercive engineered migration, Zionism’s covert war on Germany and driving hatred and suspicion between Muslims and Christian/secularists, all to the benefit of the Zionist entity and its never-ending ‘War on terror’. I will be posting the video soon and the full analysis of this new episode of Gladio.
Update: The Zionists think we are stupid; it is their fatal flaw. A friend has just informed me that the German journalist I mentioned in my last piece on the Nice Attack, Richard Gutjahr, is at the scene in Munich! This guy gets around! He is married to Mossad agent Einat Wilf, a close confidante of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gutjahr is tweeting from the scene with a tweet in German which reads ”Stehe vor dem OEZ” I’m standing outside the Olympia Einkaufzentrum( shopping mall).” Being an intelligence journalist is obviously an exciting job.
Richard, es ist ein sehr gutes Jahr fur dich!
President Barack Obama made the White House press corps giggle while speaking about the deadly Munich attack, shifting the tragic topic to his personal feelings about his daughters. The shooting rampage in Germany saw nine people killed and 16 injured.
Obama was speaking to law enforcement agents at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building as news from Germany got to the White House.
“We don’t know exactly what’s happening there, but obviously our hearts go out to those who may have been injured,” he told reporters.
However the president, in his final months in office, did not dwell on the tragedy for long. He quickly changed the topic, calling the Munich tragedy “a good reminder” of his recent words, that “our way of life, our freedoms,” are threatened.
That’s when Obama began to ramble about children growing and “leaving their dad,” obviously referring to his older daughter, Malia.
“I’m sorry. I’m getting a little too personal. Getting a little too personal there,” Obama cut himself short, drawing the audience’s laughter.
He then collected himself, going back to serious issues and praising the “men and women in uniform every single day, who are under some of the most adverse circumstances imaginable at times, making sure to keep us safe.”
Elizabeth Richard, 65, seems interested to operate in Lebanon, where she commenced her missions last week. And she, according to the video introducing her at the US embassy, is “interested to get introduced to Lebanon’s natural and cultural heritage (in the video’s background, there are scenes showing the cedars, the Bay Rock and women stuffing vine leaves, edited in a bad and unrefined manner.) The new American ambassador, who visited the “land of cedars” in 2007 under an American initiative to train Internal Security Forces and arm them, seems assertive in her first message to the Lebanese people: “As Lebanon works to save its security and build the strong government’s institutions (…) the American people will stay by your side.” It was a nice diplomatic speech that covers unplanned intentions of the new ambassador, especially regarding her concept of “saving security” and “the state’s strong institutions.” Richard was clearer in her attestation at the congress after she was nominated for the post months ago. Thereat, the specialized in law announced her actual agenda, classifying the “main” problems in Lebanon; all what the Lebanese are suffering from currently in economics, security and politics is because of one single thing: the resistance.
In economics, Richard uncovered a magic equation to deal with the crisis in Lebanon, saying: “our target is to dismantle Hezbollah’s international financial network and help the Lebanese institutions and the Lebanese people, which will contribute directly to activating the economic prosperity in Lebanon.” How would targeting the international funding for resistance lead to refreshing the country’s economy?! Richard didn’t explain this in her testimony; she was not asked to do so in her country, neither the Lebanese government, nor diplomats moved to hold accountable a diplomat who publicly announced that she is going to work from inside Lebanon to fight one of the Lebanese parties that is represented in the parliament and participating in the government! Nobody even dared to demand explanation of the ambassador’s words. Richard, as if she is holding everything in her hands, with the old American unashamed boldness, said she will work hard “not to let Hezbollah break through the Lebanese banking sector” because this is “the interest of Lebanon and the United States.” The new ambassador raised her wand in front of the Lebanese state before she arrived at the host country, yet none of the officials’ sovereignty was touched.
On the security level, Richard had her own philosophy as well. Of course, “Israel” was absent from her speech regarding the security threats Lebanon is subject to, yet ISIL and al-Nusra threats were present. However, the ambassador seems assured in threatening the two organizations that were brought by al-Qaeda. She is convinced that “partnership between the United States and the Lebanese Security Forces, through the generous Congress support, played a decisive role in saving Lebanon’s security facing such threats.” Therefore, there is no fear on the Lebanese people from ISIL and al-Nusra, so what is the first threat Lebanon is subject to according to Richard? The answer is: Hezbollah. “Hezbollah’s activities in Syria create serious security threats in Lebanon,” the ambassador said as she vowed to support the Lebanese army since it is “the only legitimate protector of Lebanon.”
The third “main problem” the Lebanese are suffering from, as Richard identified, is the political void and decrying Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty, which she will also work on solving, this time in cooperation with “the voices calling for moderation and progress.” Against whom? Against “Hezbollah that is still interfering in Syria without the Lebanese consent,” Richard explains. The new ambassador’s swaggering made her talk on behalf of the Lebanese people, without the need to use numeric evidences, even if fabricated, to verify her announcement on the Lebanese people’s accepting or rejecting Hezbollah’s interference in Syria. The conclusion, as Richard informed the congressmen: Hezbollah went to Syria despite the will of most of the Lebanese, which decries Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence.
Usually, western diplomats complain that they couldn’t understand the happenings in Lebanon, and complain about its complicated social structure, economic system and political scene. However, it seems that Elizabeth Richard doesn’t suffer from any of this. Her vision is clear, and so is her single goal: to target the Lebanese resistance through its party, people and money using every possible means.
In her latest post before being appointed to custodianship on the Lebanese people, Richard was the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department. In her testimony at the congress in July 2015, she boasted the State Department’s achievements; counting the projects she supervised, such as: the initiative to qualify and develop industrial cities, creating job opportunities, activating exportation in Egypt, Jordan and “Israel”, the General Motors agreement to provide Egypt with huge amounts of electric energy, qualifying the railways in Algeria, buying tons of Iraqi rice, encouraging investments in the Gulf countries, supporting the youth initiatives and medical cooperation with “Israel” and the Arab Emirates… Most of the Middle Eastern and North African countries were present, yet Lebanon was absent from the achievements of Richard and her department last year, and now she comes to the weakest country in the region, having in her pocket a single (non-developmental) political project, promises of armament… and a raised wand!
Breathless reports are again circulating that Iran will deploy warships to the Atlantic Ocean. Based on a mid-June announcement by Iranian Navy chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, news is spreading that Iran plans to establish a naval base somewhere along the Atlantic coast. Sayyari said, “We have yet to determine which country will assist us regarding the presence of our naval fleet. When the name of the chosen country is confirmed and announced, our strategic naval forces will deploy a training and military flotilla to the Atlantic Ocean.”
Taking this declaration at face value, Al-Monitor contributor Abbas Qaidaari noted that while “Iran’s limited fleet is incapable of facing possible threats of much stronger naval fleets… the presence of a middle power such as Iran in the Atlantic Ocean could have a major psychological impact on its rivals, especially the United States.” Qidaari continues, “It thus appears that Iran, just as is the case with its missile program, is trying to use its navy to achieve the goals of its broader gunboat diplomacy,” speculating that “countries such as Venezuela and Cuba would be likely hosts.”
But this kind of talk from Iranian military officials is nothing new (Qaidaari even points this out in his own report). In fact, news of an imminent Persian Armada docked off American shores has been floating around for years, despite never actually holding water. Here’s a quick look back at previous iterations of the same story, beginning with the latest:
Arutz Sheva, June 19, 2016:
The Algemeiner, March 22, 2016:
Trend, March 18, 2016:
The Iranian bogeyman establishing a foot (or flipper) hold in the Western hemisphere is a tried-and-true trope of right-wing alarmism, seen now for years in Israeli propaganda, the press and overwrought political theatrics.
In September 2012, Congressman Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina, argued in favor of passing his own “Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act of 2012,” warning of an “emerging Iranian-backed terror network here in the Western Hemisphere” and insisting that the “U.S. must have the capabilities to defend itself from a potential Iranian attack on the homeland.”
In his litany of nefarious Iranian activity, Duncan lamented, “Since 2005, Iran has increased its embassies from 6 to 11 and built 17 cultural centers in Latin America. Iran’s diplomacy has led to soaring trade with Latin American countries. Brazil increased its exports to Iran seven-fold over the past decade to an annual level of $2.12 billion. Iranian trade with Argentina and Ecuador has grown, and economic contracts between Iran and Venezuela have exploded to more than $20 billion in trade and cooperation agreements.”
Oh, the horror.
Still, the hysteria worked. Not only did both houses of Congress pass the bill, President Obama actually signed it into law in December of that year.
Duncan hasn’t let up his crusade to play Paul Revere warning of the coming Iranian invasion. Hyping the threat of bloodthirsty Iranians lurking beneath our southern border is an obsession of his. On June 9, 2013, he held a House Subcommittee hearing, entitled, “Threat to the Homeland: Iran’s Extending Influence in the Western Hemisphere,” featuring a who’s-who of neocon think tankers like Douglas Farah, Matthew Levitt of AIPAC-offshoot WINEP and Ilan Berman of the American Foreign Policy Council.
In March 2015, he held another hearing about the same thing.
As always, what’s missing from all of these terrifying tales of America-based Iranian argonauts and agents is the fact that Iran – like most nations on the planet – doesn’t actually have a single permanent overseas base. When it comes to foreign military outposts, however, no one even comes close to the United States.
“Despite recently closing hundreds of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan,” American University professor David Vines wrote last year, “the United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad—from giant ‘Little Americas’ to small radar facilities. Britain, France and Russia, by contrast, have about 30 foreign bases combined.” This means that “the United States has approximately 95% of the world’s foreign bases.”
Based primarily on the Pentagon’s annual Base Structure Report, Vines mapped the global footprint of the US military. (Graphic by 5W Infographics / Politico)
Vines, author of Base Nation, explains that “[a]lthough few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.” Consequently, our own imperialism goes unquestioned and ignored as “we consider the situation normal and accept that US military installations exist in staggering numbers in other countries, on other peoples’ land. On the other hand, the idea that there would be foreign bases on US soil is unthinkable.”
Even the US Navy’s own recruitment commercials boast of omnipresence. Not only self-labelled “a global force for good” that’s “100% on watch” across the seven seas, the Navy is also positioned as operating without limitation or restraint in the American bathtub known as Planet Earth.
Just check out this creepy ad:
And that’s what this hysteria about Iran is all about, really. The threat doesn’t actually exist, but the mere implication by Iran that it would dare send soldiers or sailors so far from home and so close to the shores of the US empire is so unimaginable that bills must be passed, sanctions imposed, walls built, troops deployed, and brows furrowed. In essence, all reactions to Iranian pronouncements echo a similar tune: just who do they think they are and why don’t they know their place?
So, no, the Iranians aren’t coming. But, fear not, more frenzied headlines and incredulous pearl-clutching surely will be.
The longest war in US history just got even longer. As NATO wrapped up its 2016 Warsaw Summit, the organization agreed to continue funding Afghan security forces through the year 2020. Of course with all that funding comes US and NATO troops, and thousands of contractors, trainers, and more.
President Obama said last week that the US must keep 3,000 more troops than planned in Afghanistan. The real reason is obvious: the mission has failed and Washington cannot bear to admit it. But Obama didn’t put it that way. He said:
“It is in our national security interest, especially after all the blood and treasure we’ve invested over the years, that we give our partners in Afghanistan the best chance to succeed.”
This is how irrational Washington’s logic is. Where else but in government would you see it argued that you cannot stop spending on a project because you have already spent so much to no avail? In the real world, people who invest their own hard-earned money in a failed scheme do something called “cut your losses.” Government never does that.
Isn’t 15 years of US “blood and treasure” enough of a “best chance” to succeed?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced at the summit that thanks to an additional billion dollars in NATO member-country donations, the organization had come up with close to the $5 billion per year that it has pledged to the Afghan government. Of that $5 billion you can guess who is paying the lion’s share. That’s right, we are. We send $3.45 billion every year to, according to Transparency International, the third most corrupt country on earth — while Americans struggle with unemployment, stagnant wages, and inflation. That is why I always say that foreign aid is money stolen from poor people in the United States and sent to rich people overseas.
NATO head Stoltenberg said, “Our message is clear: Afghanistan doesn’t stand alone. We’re committed for the long haul.” How nice of the Norwegian politician to commit Americans to financing the war in Afghanistan for “the long haul.”
When I suggested in a recent interview that the only sensible US policy in Afghanistan would be to bring all the troops home, the host asked whether I was worried the Taliban would rush in to fill the vacuum. That’s what has already happened, I said. The Taliban are stronger than ever in Afghanistan. They control more territory than at any time since the original US invasion in 2001. Despite 15 years of US interventionism, nearly 2,500 dead US soldiers, and well over a trillion dollars, Afghanistan is no closer to being a model democracy than it was before 9/11. It’s a failed policy. It’s a purposeless war. It is a failed program.
The neocons argue that Iraq, Libya, and other US interventions fell apart because the US did not stay long enough. As usual they are wrong. They failed and they will continue to fail because they cannot succeed. You cannot invade a country, overthrow its government, and build a new country from the ground up. It is a fool’s errand and Washington has turned most Americans into fools. It’s time to end this game and get back to the wise foreign policy of the founders: non-intervention in the affairs of others.
Nothing exposes the fraud of so-called “peace candidate” Barack Obama more than his handling of the illegal government propaganda campaign and eventual war on Iraq. As the UK reads and debates the Chilcot report investigating the Blair government’s role in lying that country into the war, there is no notice in the US that Obama announced before taking office in late 2008 there would be no similar investigation in the US.
It was of course George Bush and his neocons from the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) gang that seized on the September 11, 2001 attacks to manipulate events into an opportunity to wage offensive war on Iraq. And it was the Democrats in the U.S. Senate, led by Clinton, Kerry, Biden et. al., who provided the votes a year after 9/11 that green-lighted the war.
We can know because of a rather small number of journalists including this writer the extent and depth of the massive propaganda campaign, coordinated with and exploiting a willing corporate news media, that greased the skids for the war. I co-authored books in 2003 and 2006 summarizing what was known at the time, and in 2008 David Barstow released his mind-blowing and Pulitzer winning investigation of the Pentagon Pundits program that turned the major TV networks, beginning in 2002, into third party advocates for Cheney and Rumsfeld, through puppetry using retired military analysts who were fed and regurgitated the Bush talking points.
But the overwhelming majority of Americans never received this information and are still awash in the continuing propaganda campaign. The last time I looked at a poll most Americans were so duped by the bipartisan and major media propaganda that a majority still believe the non-existant Weapons of Mass Destruction were found.
Obama of course won election to the White House in 2008 by beating Hillary Clinton over the head, and over and over and over, because she voted for war. Obama had the good fortune to still be stuck in state politics in Illinois, not even in the Congress, when Hillary voted for war in 2002. Who knows how he would have voted had he actually been there, but he was never put to that test.
I have written previously about how beginning in 2006 the Democrats progressive front group MoveOn, who had the money and PR to position themselves as the leading antiwar organization, worked with Nancy Pelosi to co-opt the movement into a campaign vehicle for the party, making sure the war was funded all the while Bush was in office, and using it like a gift to attack Republicans in 06 and 08.
In the pathetic giddiness that overtook progressives after Obama’s election, there was little notice given to his announcement that there would be no investigation of how America was led to and lied into war, that page would be turned and we would move forward. After all, the war was a bipartisan venture, and his soon to be cabinet members Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Clinton, and future Secretary of State Kerry were all pro-war culprits.
In late 2011, Obama pulled a George Bush type PR stunt, and declared the Iraq war had ended, welcoming home the troops. That news story now reads like the front page of The Onion.
So no Chilcot type investigation for America, the source of the war. Thirteen years after the launch of the illegal, first-strike offensive attack that created ISIS and has killed and displaced millions, some are asking why not. Blame Obama the peace poser and his pro-war Democrats. American Exceptionalism strikes again.
John Stauber is an independent writer, activist and author. His books include Toxic Sludge Is Good for You, Mad Cow USA and Weapons of Mass Deception.
An obvious and oft-sighted criticism of the Nobel Peace Prize is just how many of its recipients have virtually no connection to the cause of peace or its advancement. If anything often it seems a reward for its negation. Henry Kissinger, recipient in 1973, would have to be the gold standard here. That very year saw Kissinger orchestrate the destruction of democracy in Chile and that was only after the secret bombing of Cambodia was concluded. Of Course stretch it forward and backward a couple of years and Kissinger’s trail of destruction extends from Bangladesh to East Timor.
A few years later Mother Theresa made an odd choice given the extra pain deliberately inflicted on the poor in her clinics and her support for Indira Gandhi’s suspension of civil liberties and in 1994 the triumvirate of Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, and Yitzhak Rabin can hardly be deemed inspiring. Barack Obama got the nod less than a year into his presidency. It’s a good bet there are many in Pakistan, Yemen, and Honduras that would question the wisdom of that selection.
The year 1986 saw the Nobel go to recently deceased Elie Wiesel. Wiesel was famous for his novel/memoir Night and for being, according to the Nobel Prize’s webpage, ‘the leading spokesman on the Holocaust’, therefore seemingly by definition an alleged spokesman on human rights. A quick scan through many of the obituaries written for Wiesel the past couple of days show this quote from his Nobel acceptance speech given prominent status:
I swore never to be silent whenever human beings
Endure suffering and humiliation. We must always
Take side. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
A noble sentiment indeed but not one that seemed to inspire Wiesel to live up to his peace prize, in fact evidence suggests Wiesel had a soft spot for war, at least war in the Middle East. Four years before giving his acceptance speech of Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, where even an Israel commission found the Israeli military indirectly responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacre, “I support Israel-period. I identify with Israel-period.” When asked to comment of the massacre: ‘I don’t think we should even comment’, then commenting he felt ‘sadness with Israel, not against Israel’ with nary a peep about the actual victims. Some years later Wiesel would be wheeled into the spotlight by the Bush administration to endorse the forthcoming invasion of Iraq. His statement at the time read: ‘Isn’t war forever cruel, the ultimate form of violence…. And yet, this time I support President Bush’s policy of intervention when, as is this case because of Hussein’s equivocations and procrastinations, no other option remains’.
In the midst of another Israeli operation in Lebanon, this one in 2006, Wiesel stood in front of a crowd in Manhattan (along with then Senator Hillary Clinton) and declared “Israel defends herself, and we must say to Israel ‘Go on defending yourself.’” His final years didn’t slow him down. Wiesel took out a full page ad in newspapers across the country during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict fully supporting Israel’s effort (Human Rights Watch went on to document several instances of war crimes by the Israeli military) without a syllable about diplomacy except that ‘before diplomats can begin in earnest the crucial business of rebuilding dialogue… the Hamas death cult must be confronted for what it is’. That ad was criticized by a large group of Nazi holocaust survivors in a subsequent ad in the New York Times which stated ‘Furthermore we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and murder more than 2000 Palestinians, including hundreds of children.’
If being consistently hawkish on matters in the Middle East wasn’t enough for the press and governing elites to question Wiesel’s peace credentials, after all there aren’t too many wars the estates don’t get behind, it is hard to believe Wiesel wasn’t pushing his luck with some of his pieces in the Times over the years. Consider his 2001 piece Jerusalem in My Heart. Wiesel began with the following:
As a Jew living in the United States, I have long denied myself the right to intervene in Israel’s internal debates. I consider Israel’s destiny as mine as well, since my memory is bound up with its history. But the politics of Israel concern me only indirectly.
Strange as it was to be claiming neutrality not only in the face of his constant support for wars involving Israel and in light of his famous stand of neutrality as evil, Wiesel goes on in the same essay to renounce any such neutrality on the question of Jerusalem.
Now, though the topic is Jerusalem. Its fate affects not only Israelis, but also Diaspora Jews like myself. The fact that I do not live in Jerusalem is secondary; Jerusalem lives in me… That Muslims might wish to maintain close ties with this city unlike any other is understandable.
But for Jews it remains the first. Not just the first; the only.
This ode to fundamentalist thought, enhanced further by Wiesel pointing out that Jerusalem is mentioned more than 600 times in the Bible (a statement that ignores the fact that up to a fifth of Palestinians are Christians, and it’s worth asking how many times Jerusalem is mentioned in the Torah if this line of thought is to be pursued), is followed by the blatant lie, long universally known to be false, that “incited by their leaders 600,000 Palestinians left the country (in 1948) convinced that, once Israel was vanquished, they would be able to return home”.
Wiesel then ended with a call to defer the question of Jerusalem until all other pending questions are resolved, perhaps for 20 years to allow “human bridges” to be built between the two communities- which would figure to leave the city completely in Israeli hands until these bridges are built or at least until the rest of the world accepts that it belonged there all along.
About five years later (August 21, 2005) Wiesel was at it again with a bizarre piece titled The Dispossessed. It was another putrid effort that spoke of peace while covertly praising the worst of Zionist mythology. The title referred to the last holdouts of Israeli settlements in Gaza and reading between the lines Wiesel hints that the evacuation, where the settlers received generous compensation packages from the government, had the aura of a pogrom.
The images of the evacuation itself are heart-rending. Some of them unbearable. Angry men, crying women. Children led away on foot or in the arms of soldiers who are sobbing themselves.
Those “dispossessed” by Israeli soldiers were the hardcore remnant of a Greater Israel ideology more committed to fleeting territorial dreams than individual homes- most of the Gaza settlers saw the writing on the wall and left prior to the events Wiesel describes with such anguish. Of course Israel has long subsidized its settlements that have been declared illegal by the international community (including the U.S.). But of this remnant Wiesel reminds his readers: “Let’s not forget: these men and woman lived in Gaza for 38 years in the eyes of their families they were pioneers, whose idealism was to be celebrated”. Given the complete lack of interest Wiesel displays to Palestinian feelings on the same issue can it be reasonably assumed that Wiesel shares that same sentiment?
And here they are, obliged to uproot themselves, to take their holy and precious belongings, their memories and their prayers, their dreams and their dead, to go off in search of a bed to sleep in, a table to eat on, a new home, a future among strangers.
When Wiesel does turn to the Palestinians it is to criticize a lack of gratefulness in the face of noble Israeli concessions:
And here I am obliged to step back. In the tradition I claim, the Jew is ordered by King Solomon “not to rejoice when the enemy falls”. I don’t know whether the Koran suggests the same… I will perhaps be told that when the Palestinians cried at the loss of their homes, few Israelis were moved. That’s possible. But how many Israelis rejoiced?
After this demonization, ‘perhaps be told’ of ‘possible’ Palestinian suffering (and King Solomon may have been correct about not rejoicing when enemies fall but that isn’t quite how one recalls the conquering of the Canaanites as recorded by scripture), Wiesel again ends his essay with a call for a “lull” to allow “wounds to heal”- during which time Israel can presumably redraw the borders of the West Bank making a functional Palestinian state impossible. Again, like in the previous, essay he mentions the sadness he feels over Palestinian hatred of Jews; so much for neutrality.
All this reactionary thought, the worst of which would find few defenders outside the extreme Zionist right, didn’t make its way into Obama’s statement on Wiesel’s death (‘He raised his voice, not just against anti-Semitism, but against hatred, bigotry, and intolerance in all its forms’), nor did the fact that Wiesel opposed Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran (again with a full page ad in the Times). The Times itself conveniently overlooked the words Wiesel wrote for the paper in its very long obituary. If it is a timeless truism that the greatest gift modern marketing can bestow on anyone in its graces is the luxury of being judged by reputation and not by actual words and deeds, is it ever truer than for another Nobel ‘Peace’ prize winner?
The leaders of America’s towns and cities issued a resolution warning the Obama administration and NATO that continued anti-Russian provocations place humanity at greater risk of nuclear annihilation.
The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), the official non-partisan organization for city leaders administering populations greater than 30,000, moved to condemn NATO’s Anaconda War Games on Russia’s border as increasing the threat of nuclear conflict.
“The largest NATO war games in decades, involving 14,000 US troops, and activation of US missile defenses in Eastern Europe are fueling growing tensions between nuclear-armed giants,” said the USCM warning in the lead up to the military alliance’s summit on July 8-9 in Warsaw, Poland.
The resolution adopted at the USCM’s 84th Annual Conference from June 24-27 in Indianapolis stated: “More than 15,000 nuclear weapons, most orders of magnitude more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs, 94% held by the United States and Russia, continue to pose an intolerable threat to cities and humanity.”
The US Conference of Mayors went on to criticize President Obama for capitulating to the defense establishment and “laying the groundwork for the United States to spend one trillion dollars over the next three decades” on the so-called nuclear modernization effort that will result in a net increase in America’s atomic stockpile in contravention to the spirit of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT).
“The Obama administration has not only reduced the US nuclear stockpile less than any post-Cold War presidency, but also decided to spend on trillion dollars to maintain and modernize its nuclear bombs and warheads, production facilities, delivery systems, and command and control,” read the resolution.
America’s mayors called into the question the development and maintenance of nuclear weapons with yields in excess of 1 megaton, or 75 times the force of the Hiroshima bomb that killed nearly 150,000 people, at a time when “federal funds are desperately needed in our communities to build affordable housing, create jobs with livable wages, improve public transit, and develop sustainable energy sources.”
To underscore the resolution, the USCM acknowledged and apologized for America’s genocidal acts against Japanese civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki towards the end of World War II stating that the “US atomic bombings indiscriminately incinerated tens of thousands of ordinary people, and by the end of 1945 more than 210,000 people – mainly civilians, were dead, and the surviving hibakusha, their children and grandchildren continue to suffer from physical, psychological and sociological effects.”
The country’s mayors continue to be a voice of peace and reason in the face of mounting influence by the foreign policy establishment and defense lobbyists having rendered similar resolutions calling for the United States to pursue a less threatening foreign policy for 11 consecutive years.
The Republican dominated House Select Committee on Benghazi has released its long awaited final report on the 2012 Benghazi attack which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. And, surprise, the report reveals absolutely nothing of substance that wasn’t already known.
Naturally, Democrats running interference for Hillary Clinton have continually charged that the probe was simply an act of partisan politics designed more to hurt Clinton in the presidential campaign than to uncover the truth about what happened. No doubt there is truth to such an allegation.
But the most important fact about this whole manufactured drama, the one that neither Democrats nor Republicans want to touch, is the simple fact that what happened in Benghazi was perhaps the most complete encapsulation of everything wrong and criminal about the illegal US war against Libya. Moreover, it exposes the uncomfortable truth that the US harnesses terrorism, using it as one of the most potent weapons it has against nations that refuse to submit to the will of Washington and Wall Street. In effect, it was not merely terrorists that killed the four Americans in Benghazi, it was US policy.
The Benghazi Report: 800 Pages of Almost Nothing
Despite the triumphal pronouncements of Republican political opportunists, the new report reveals very little that is new. As the Wall Street Journal noted:
“Congressional Republicans’ most comprehensive report yet on the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, outlined few new criticisms of Hillary Clinton, highlighting more broadly what it called an array of failings by the Obama administration… The report largely confirmed the existing story line—that a group of anti-American Libyan militants stormed U.S. installations in a carefully planned assault, killing four Americans, including Christopher Stevens, the ambassador to Libya…The latest document presented few notable facts not found in earlier investigations…”
As the Wall Street Journal correctly notes, the new report is mostly just a rehashing of prior conclusions reached from previous reports, while doing yeoman’s service for the political establishment by confirming and, consequently, concretizing a completely distorted narrative about what happened. Essentially, the final report amounts to a whitewash that is more about scoring political points than revealing the truth about what happened. Why? Well, put simply, the truth of what happened in Benghazi implicates both wings of the single corporate Republicrat party.
There is mention of the CIA facility near the ‘US diplomatic facility’ in Benghazi, but absolutely no context for what exactly the CIA was involved in there, and how it relates to a much larger set of policies executed by the Obama administration, of which Hillary Clinton was a key player. Indeed, the very fact that this critical piece of the puzzle is conspicuously missing from the Official NarrativeTM demonstrates that the House Select Committee on Benghazi report is more about concealing the truth than revealing it.
Take for instance the fact that the report totally ignores the connection between the CIA facility and mission in Benghazi and the smuggling of arms and fighters from Libya to Syria in an attempt to export to Syria the same sort of regime change that wrought death and destruction on Libya. As Judicial Watch noted in regard to the declassified material it obtained:
Judicial Watch… obtained more than 100 pages of previously classified “Secret” documents from the Department of Defense (DOD)and the Department of State revealing that DOD almost immediately reported that the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was committed by the al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood-linked “Brigades of the Captive Omar Abdul Rahman” (BCOAR), and had been planned at least 10 days in advance… The new documents also provide the first official confirmation that shows the U.S. government was aware of arms shipments from Benghazi to Syria. The documents also include an August 2012 analysis warning of the rise of ISIS and the predicted failure of the Obama policy of regime change in Syria.
Just this one small excerpt from a set of publicly available documents sheds more light on the real story of Benghazi and the Obama administration’s disastrous and criminal wars in Libya and Syria than 800 pages of the House report. Were it really the mission of the House committee to expose the truth of what happened, perhaps they could have started with a Google search.
Indeed, the connection goes further. As a Department of Defense memo in 2012 indicated, “During the immediate aftermath of, and following the uncertainty caused by, the downfall of the [Qaddafi] regime in October 2011 and up until early September of 2012… weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya, to the ports of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria.”
This revelation should be a bombshell; the US and its proxies inside Libya were actively shipping weapons to Syria for the purposes of fomenting war and effecting regime change. Further, it would be shockingly negligent to omit the fact that “early September 2012” is when the shipments stopped – the attack on the CIA annex in Benghazi, not coincidentally, took place on September 11, 2012 – and not connect it to the Benghazi incident. One could almost forgive such an omission if one were naïve enough to believe that it was simply an error, and not a deliberate obfuscation.
A serious analysis of these events would reveal an international network of arms and fighters being smuggled from Libya to Syria, all under the auspices of the Obama administration and the agencies under its control. But of course, the report focuses instead on the utterly irrelevant negligence on the part of the Obama administration which really obscures the far greater crime of deliberate warmongering. But hey, political point scoring is really what the House committee was looking for.
The Larger Story Completely Ignored
As if it weren’t offensive enough that the House committee report has completely whitewashed the events in Benghazi, the congressional hearings and subsequent report do absolutely nothing to bring clarity to what exactly the US was doing with respect to the arming, financing, and backing of terrorists affiliated with al-Qaeda and other well-known terror groups.
There is no discussion of the fact that Washington was knowingly collaborating with some of the nastiest al-Qaeda elements in the region, including the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group led by Abdelhakim Belhadj. This terror group, which was in the vanguard of the US-backed effort to topple the government of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and Muammar Gaddafi, was a known quantity to all counterterrorism experts specializing in that part of the world. As the New York Times reported in July 2011, in the midst of the war against the Libyan Government:
The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group was formed in 1995 with the goal of ousting Colonel Qaddafi. Driven into the mountains or exile by Libyan security forces, the group’s members were among the first to join the fight against Qaddafi security forces… Officially the fighting group does not exist any longer, but the former members are fighting largely under the leadership of Abu Abdullah Sadik [aka Abdelhakim Belhadj].
Perhaps the enlightened truthseekers of the House committee would have thought it prudent to note that the Benghazi incident was the direct outgrowth of a criminal US policy of collaboration with terrorists, the leader of whom is now, according to some sources, connected to ISIS/Daesh in Libya. But, alas, such explosive information, publicly available to those who seek it out, would have been deeply embarrassing to the undisputed grandmasters of wrongheaded political posturing, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both of whom gleefully posed for pictures with the hardened terrorist leader Belhadj. Oops.
It would also have been nice had the House committee bothered to look at the studies conducted on that part of Libya vis-à-vis terrorist recruitment, to get a sense of the scale of the issue with which they were allegedly dealing. They might have considered examining a 2007 study from the Combating Terrorism Center at the US Military Academy at West Point entitled “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look at the Sinjar Records” which explained quite clearly that:
“Almost 19 percent of the fighters in the Sinjar Records came from Libya alone. Furthermore, Libya contributed far more fighters per capita than any other nationality in the Sinjar Records, including Saudi Arabia… The apparent surge in Libyan recruits traveling to Iraq may be linked [to] the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’s (LIFG) increasingly cooperative relationship with al-Qa’ida which culminated in the LIFG officially joining al-Qa’ida on November 3, 2007… The most common cities that the fighters called home were Darnah [Derna], Libya and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with 52 and 51 fighters respectively. Darnah [Derna] with a population just over 80,000 compared to Riyadh’s 4.3 million, has far and away the largest per capita number of fighters in the Sinjar records.”
It certainly might have been useful had the House committee taken even a cursory look at a map to see the Benghazi-Derna-Tobruk triangle (the stronghold of the anti-Gaddafi terrorist forces linked to al-Qaeda) and to understand the broader context of the events of September 11, 2012. The investigators – that term being used rather loosely, and somewhat ironically, in this case – should have been able to discern the larger significance of what they were examining. One could almost assume that, like the proverbial ostriches, House Republicans were busy hiding their heads in the sand, or perhaps in other, more uncomfortable places.
Ultimately, the House Select Committee on Benghazi report will achieve absolutely nothing. It will not even score the political points that the Republicans leading the effort have been after for three years now. Hillary Clinton will continue her presidential bid completely unaffected by the information and, if anything, will likely benefit from this charade as it will lend credence to her endless assertions of a “vast right wing conspiracy” against her. Never mind the fact that she is a right wing neoconservative herself. Never mind the fact that the blood of tens of thousands of Libyans is on her hands. Never mind the fact that, as President, she will undoubtedly unleash more death and destruction on the people of the Middle East and North Africa.
There is only one lasting achievement upon which the House committee can hang its hat: it has done an excellent job of cementing an utterly shallow and superficial narrative about the events of September 11, 2012 in Benghazi, one which will be endlessly repeated by the mouthpieces of corporate media and mainstream historians.
Indeed, a false history will be written, with the US as a victim of incompetence and its own poor planning. Nothing will be said of the blatant criminality of the US effort in Libya. But, as Kurt Vonnegut was fond of saying, “So it goes…”
The US government today claimed it has killed between 64 and 116 “non-combatants” in 473 counter-terrorism strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya between January 2009 and the end of 2015.
This is a fraction of the 380 to 801 civilian casualty range recorded by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from reports by local and international journalists, NGO investigators, leaked government documents, court papers and the result of field investigations.
While the number of civilian casualties recorded by the Bureau is six times higher than the US Government’s figure, the assessments of the minimum total number of people killed were strikingly similar. The White House put this figure at 2,436, whilst the Bureau has recorded 2,753.
Since becoming president in 2009, Barack Obama has significantly extended the use of drones in the War on Terror. Operating outside declared battlefields, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, this air war has been largely fought in Pakistan and Yemen.
The White House’s announcement today is long-awaited. It comes three years after the White House first said it planned to publish casualty figures, and four months after President Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, said the data would be released.
The figures released do not include civilians killed in drones strikes that happened under George W Bush, who instigated the use of counter-terrorism strikes outside declared war zones and in 58 strikes killed 174 reported civilians.
Today’s announcement is intended to shed light on the US’s controversial targeted killing programme, in which it has used drones to run an arms-length war against al Qaeda and Islamic State.
The US Government also committed to continued transparency saying it will provide an annual summary of information about the number of strikes against terrorist targets outside areas of active hostilities as well as the range of combatants and non-combatants killed.
But the US has not released a year-by-year breakdown of strikes nor provided any detail on particularly controversial strikes which immediately sparked criticism from civil liberty groups.
Jamel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union said: “While any disclosure of information about the government’s targeted-killing policies is welcome, the government should be releasing information about every strike—the date of the strike, the location, the numbers of casualties, and the civilian or combatant status of those casualties. Perhaps this kind of information should be released after a short delay, rather than immediately, but it should be released. The public has a right to know who the government is killing—and if the government doesn’t know who it’s killing, the public should know that.”
The gap between US figures and other estimates, including the Bureau’s data, also raised concerns.
Jennifer Gibson, staff attorney at Reprieve said: “For three years now, President Obama has been promising to shed light on the CIA’s covert drone programme. Today, he had a golden opportunity to do just that. Instead, he chose to do the opposite. He published numbers that are hundreds lower than even the lowest estimates by independent organisations. The only thing those numbers tell us is that this Administration simply doesn’t know who it has killed. Back in 2011, it claimed to have killed “only 60” civilians. Does it really expect us to believe that it has killed only 4 more civilians since then, despite taking hundreds more strikes?
“The most glaring absence from this announcement are the names and faces of those civilians that have been killed. Today’s announcement tells us nothing about 14 year old Faheem Qureshi, who was severely injured in Obama’s first drone strike. Reports suggest Obama knew he had killed civilians that day.”
The US government said in a statement: “First, although there are inherent limitations on determining the precise number of combatant and non-combatant deaths, particularly when operating in non-permissive environments, the US Government uses post-strike methodologies that have been refined and honed over years and that use information that is generally unavailable to non-government organsations.”
Bibi Mamana was a grandmother and midwife living in the the tribal region of North Waziristan on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.
On October 24 2012, she was preparing for the Muslim festival of Eid. She used to say that the joy of Eid was the excitement it brought to children. Her eight-year-old granddaughter Nabeela was reported to be in a field with her as she gathered vegetables when a drone killed Mamana.
“I saw the first two missiles coming through the air,” Nabeela later told The Times. “They were following each other with fire at the back. When they hit the ground, there was a loud noise. After that I don’t remember anything.” Nabeela was injured by flying shrapnel.
At the sound of the explosion, Mamana’s 18-year-old grandson Kaleem ran from the house to help. But a few minutes later the drones struck again, he told the BBC. He was knocked unconscious. His leg was badly broken and damaged by shrapnel, and needed surgery.
Atiq, one of Mamana’s sons, was in the mosque as Manama gathered vegetables. On hearing the blast and seeing the plume of smoke he rushed to the scene. When he arrived he could not see any sign of his mother.
“I started calling out for her but there was no reply,” Atiq told the Times. “Then I saw her shoes. We found her mutilated body a short time afterwards. It had been thrown quite a long distance away by the blast and it was in pieces. We collected many different parts from the field and put a turban over her body.”
Atiq’s brother Rafiq told Al Jazeera English he received a letter after the strike from a Pakistani official that said the attack was a US drone strike and that Mamana was innocent. But nothing more came of it, he said. The following year Rafiq, a teacher, travelled to the US to speak to Congress about the strike.
“My job is to educate,” he said in an emotional testimony. “But how do I teach something like this? How do I explain what I myself do not understand?”
Picture credit: BBC
Evaluating the numbers
The administration has called its drone programme a precise, effective form of warfare that targets terrorists and rarely hits civilians.
With the release of the figures today President Obama said, “All armed conflict invites tragedy. But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.”
In June 2011 Obama’s then counter terrorism chief, now CIA director, John Brennan made a similar statement. He also declared drones strikes were “exceptionally precise and surgical” and had not killed a single civilian since August 2010. A Bureau investigation in July 2011 demonstrated this claim was untrue.
Most of the Bureau’s data sources are media reports by local and international news outlets, including Reuters, Associated Press and The New York Times.
The US Government suggests it has a much clearer view of post-strike situations than such reporting, suggesting this is the reason why there is such a gap between the numbers that have been recorded by the Bureau, and similar organisations, and those released today.
But the Bureau has also gathered essential information from its own field investigations.
The tribal areas have long been considered a difficult if not impossible area for journalists to access. However, occasionally reporters have been able to gain access to the site of the strikes to interview survivors, witnesses and relatives of people killed in drone strikes.
The Bureau conducted a field investigation through the end of 2011 into 2012, in partnership with The Sunday Times. Through extensive interviews with local villagers, the Bureau found 12 strikes killed 57 civilians.
The Associated Press also sent reporters into the Fata, reporting its findings in February 2012. It found 56 civilians and 138 militants were killed in 10 strikes.
Access to affected areas is a challenge in Yemen too. But in December 2009 a deputation of Yemeni parliamentarians sent to the scene of a strike discovered the burnt remnants of a camp, which had been set up by several families from one of Yemen’s poorest tribes.
A subsequent investigation by journalist Jeremy Scahill revealed a deception that hid US responsibility for the deaths of 41 civilians at the camp – half of them children, five of them pregnant women.
The reality on the ground flew in the face of the US government’s understanding of events. A leaked US diplomatic record of a meeting in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, between General David Petraeus and the Yemeni president revealed the US government was ignorant of the civilian death toll.
Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber
Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, a 40-year-old father of seven, was exactly the kind of man the US needed in Yemen. A widely respected cleric in rural Yemen, he delivered sermons in his village mosque denouncing al-Qaida.
He gave just such a speech in August 2012 and earned the attention of the terrorist group. Three anonymous fighters arrived in his village two days later, after dark, calling for Jaber to come out and talk.
He went to meet them, taking his policeman cousin, Walid Abdullah bin Ali Jaber, with him for protection. The five men stood arguing in the night air when Hellfire missiles tore into them.
A “huge explosion” rocked the village, a witness said. Jaber’s father, Ahmad bin Salim Salih bin Ali Jaber, 77, arrived on the scene to find people “wrapping up body parts of people from the ground, from here and there, putting them in grave clothes like lamb.”
All the dead were al Qaeda fighters, unnamed Yemeni officials claimed. However Jaber’s family refused to allow him to be smeared as a terrorist.
For three years they fought in courts in America and Germany for recognition that he was an innocent civilian. In November 2013 they visited Washington and even managed to arrange a meeting in the White House to plead their case. In 2014 the family said it was offered a bag containing $100,000 by a Yemen national security official. The official said it was a US strike and it had been a mistake.
By late 2015 the family offered to drop their lawsuits against the US government if the administration would apologise. The Department of Justice refused. In February 2016 the court dismissed the family’s suit but they have not stopped fighting: in April they announced they would appeal.
Picture credit: Private
Falling numbers of civilian casualties
The White House stressed that it was concerned to protect civilians and that best practices were in place to help reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties.
The Bureau’s data does show a significant decline in the reports of civilian casualties in recent years.
In Pakistan, where the largest number of strikes have occurred, there have been only three reported civilian casualties since the end of 2012. Two of these casualties – Warren Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto – were Western hostages held by al Qaeda. The US, unaware they were targeting the American and Italian’s captors, flattened the house they were being held in.
The accidental killing of a US citizen spurred Obama to apologise for the strike – the first and only time he had publicly discussed a specific CIA drone strike in Pakistan. With the apology of a “condolence payment to both the families,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price told the Bureau. However, they have yet to receive any compensation from the US government for their loss.
Families who have lost relatives in Pakistan have not reported being compensated for their loss. In Yemen, money has been given to families for their loss but it is not clear whether it actually comes from the US. The money is disbursed by Yemeni government intermediaries, nominally from the Yemeni government’s coffers.
Tariq Khan was a 16-year-old from North Waziristan who attended a high-profile anti-drone rally in Islamabad in October 2011. Only days later, he and his cousin were killed in a drone strike.Tariq was the youngest of seven children. He was described by relatives as a quiet teenager who was good with computers. His uncle Noor Kalam said: “He was just a normal boy who loved football.”
On 27 October, Tariq made the eight-hour drive to Islamabad for a meeting convened by Waziri elders to discuss how to end civilian deaths in drone strikes. The Pakistani politician Imran Khan, his former wife Jemima, members of the legal campaign group Reprieve and several western journalists also attended the meeting.
Neil Williams from Reprieve said Tariq seemed very introverted at the meeting. He asked the boy if he had ever seen a drone. Tariq replied he saw 10 or 15 every day. He said they prevented him from sleeping. “He looked absolutely terrified,” Williams said.
After a four-hour debate, the audience joined around 2,000 people at a protest rally outside the Pakistani parliament. After the rally, the tribesmen made the long journey home. The day after he got back, Tariq and his cousin Wahid went to pick up his newly married aunt, according a Bureau reporter who met Tariq at the Islamabad meeting. When they were 200 yards from the house two missiles slammed into their car. The blast killed Tariq and Wahid instantly.
Some reports suggested Wahid was 12 years old.
An anonymous US official acknowledged the CIA had launched the strike but denied they were children. The occupants of that car were militants, he said.
Picture credit: Neil Williams/Reprieve
Most of the dead from CIA strikes in Pakistan are unnamed Pakistanis and Afghans, according to Naming the Dead – a research project by the Bureau. Over three years the Bureau has painstakingly gathered names of the dead from US drone strikes in Pakistan. The project has recorded just 732 names of people killed since 2004 – 329 of which were civilians.
The fact that so many people are unnamed adds to the confusion about who has been killed.
A controversial US tactic, signature strikes, demonstrates how identities of the dead, and their status as a combatant or non-combatant, eludes the US. These strikes target people based on so-called pattern of life analysis, built from surveillance and intelligence but not the actual identity of a person.
And the CIA’s own records leaked to the news agency McClatchy show the US is sometimes not only ignorant of the identities of people it has killed, but also of the armed groups they belong to. They are merely listed as “other militants” and “foreign fighters” in the leaked records.
Former Deputy US Secretary of State, Richard Armitage outlined his unease with such internal reporting in an interview with Chris Woods for his book Sudden Justice. “Mr Obama was popping up with these drones left, right and down the middle, and I would read these accounts, ’12 insurgents killed.’ ’15!’ You don’t know that. You don’t know that. They could be insurgents, they could be cooks.”
Follow Jack Serle and Abigail Fielding-Smith on Twitter and sign up for the monthly update from the Bureau’s Covert War project.
“I am persuaded no constitution was never before as well calculated as ours for extensive empire and self-government.” –Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, April 27, 1809.
“We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people — the Israel of our time.” –Herman Melville, 1850.
“I chant the new empire.” –Walt Whitman, 1860.
“Our frontiers today are on every continent.” –John F. Kennedy, 1960.
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” –Frederick Douglas.
If you haven’t been hiding under a partisan rock for the past several years, you’re aware that President Barack Obama has given himself the sort-of legalish right to murder anyone anywhere with missiles from drones.
He’s not the only one who wants that power.
Yes, President Obama has claimed to have put restrictions on whom he’ll murder, but in no known case has he followed any of his self-imposed non-legal restrictions. Nowhere has someone been arrested instead of killed, while in many known cases people have been killed who could have easily been arrested. In no known case has someone been killed who was an “imminent and continuing threat to the United States,” or for that matter just plain imminent or just plain continuing. It’s not even clear how someone could be both an imminent and a continuing threat until you study up on how the Obama administration has redefined imminent to mean theoretically imaginable someday. And, of course, in numerous cases civilians have been killed in large numbers and people have been targeted without identifying who they are. Lying dead from U.S. drone strikes are men, women, children, non-Americans, and Americans, not a single one of them charged with a crime or their extradition sought.
Who else would like to be able to do this?
One answer is most nations on earth. We now read news stories from Syria of people dying from a drone strike, with the reporter unable to determine if the missile came from a U.S., U.K., Russian, or Iranian drone. Just wait. The skies will be filled if the trend is not reversed.
Another answer is Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders, but not Jill Stein. Yes, those first three candidates have said they want this power.
Another answer, however, should be just as disturbing as those already mentioned. Military commanders around the world want the authority to murder people with drones without bothering to get approval from civilian officials back home. Here’s a fun quiz:
How many zones has the United States divided the globe into for purposes of complete military domination, and what are their names?
Answer: Six. They are Northcom, Southcom, Eucom, Pacom, Centcom, and Africom. (Jack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack and Quack were already taken.) In normal English they are: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Western Asia, and Africa.
Now here comes the hard question. Which of those zones has a new would-be commander who was just encouraged by a prominent Senator in an open Congressional hearing to acquire the authority to murder people in his zone without getting approval from the U.S. president?
Clue #1. It’s a zone with the empire’s headquarters not even located in the zone, so that this new commander speaks of killing people there as playing “an away game.”
Clue #2. It’s a poor zone that does not manufacture weapons but is saturated with weapons made in the United States plus France, Germany, the U.K., Russia, and China.
Clue #3. Many of the people in this zone have skin resembling people who are disproportionately targets of U.S. police department killings.
Did you get it right? That’s correct: Africom is being encouraged by Senator Lindsay Graham, who a short time back wanted to be president, to blow people up with missiles from flying robots without presidential approval.
Now here’s where the morality of war can wreak havoc with humanitarian imperialism. If a drone killing is not part of a war, then it looks like murder. And handing out licenses to murder to additional people looks like a worsening of the state of affairs in which just one person claims to hold such a license. But if drone killing is part of a war, and Captain Africom claims to be at war with Somalia, or with a group in Somalia, for example, well then, he wouldn’t need special permission to blow up a bunch of people with manned aircraft; so why should he need it when using robotic unmanned bombers?
The trouble is that saying the word “war” doesn’t have the moral or legal powers often imagined. No current U.S. war is legal under either the U.N. Charter or the Kellogg-Briand Pact. And the intuition that murdering people with a drone is wrong can’t be a useful one if murdering people with a piloted plane is right, and vice versa. We actually have to choose. We actually have to set aside the scale of the killing, the type of technology, the role of robots, and all other extraneous factors, and choose whether it’s acceptable, moral, legal, smart, or strategic to murder people or not.
If that seems too much of a mental strain, here’s an easier guide. Just imagine what your response would be if the ruler of Europe Command asked for the authority to murder at will people of his choosing along with anybody too close to them at the time.