Yemen’s feuding parties agreed on a “people’s transitional council” to help govern the country and guide it out of a political crisis, UN mediator Jamal Benomar announced on Friday.
The move followed the takeover of power by the Houthi militia, which led to the resignation of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi last month and the paralysis of many of Yemen’s state institutions.
“This progress is not a (final) agreement, but an important breakthrough that paves the way towards a comprehensive agreement,” Benomar said in a statement.
As part of the new formula, Yemen’s old 301-member house of representatives, made up overwhelmingly of MPs from the former ruling party of deposed strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, thought to be sympathetic to the Houthis, would stay in place.
Instead of the traditional upper house, a new transitional council — whose numbers were not specified — would consist of traditionally unrepresented sectors among Yemen’s formerly independent South, women and young people.
Together the two bodies would make legislation guiding Yemen’s transition.
Arrangements for the vacated presidency and ministries along with security required further dialogue, Benomar added.
There was no immediate comment by the Houthis or the main Islamist and socialist opposition parties.
Security in Yemen has been steadily deteriorating since the Houthis invaded the capital Sanaa in September and began imposing their writ on the government.
On January 22, Hadi and his Prime Minister Khaled Bahah tendered their resignation due to the takeover of capital Sanaa.
Following their resignation, Hadi and Bahah have been held under the house arrest and Mohammed Ali al-Houthi — head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Council — has been considered as the de facto person in power.
On February 6, the Houthis issued a “constitutional declaration” dissolving Yemen’s parliament and launching a 551-member “transitional council.”
Yemen has fallen into turmoil since a 2012 uprising forced out autocratic president Saleh, who had been in power for 33 years, after a year of unrest. Following Saleh’s overthrow, the Houthis, al-Qaeda, separatists from the former independent South Yemen, and tribesmen have been fighting each other to gain power and territory in the fragile state.
The latest crisis in the Arab world’s poorest country threatens to allow al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to expand across the peninsula.The turmoil has also cast doubt over the future of a key partnership for Washington in the fight against AQAP.
The US has conducted at least four drone strikes in the country since US President Barack Obama vowed on January 25 not to let up in Washington’s campaign against militant Islamist organizations in Yemen despite the country’s political turmoil.
Human rights organizations have raised deep concerns about US drone strikes in Yemen. Critics have denounced the impact the attacks have had on Yemeni civilians, who have been killed or seen their homes destroyed.
On 26 September 1962, four tanks rumbled through a moonless night and surrounded Imam Badr’s palace in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a. Hearing the tanks Badr and his father-in-law descended from the highest room of the palace moments before it was shelled.
The coup that would plunge north Yemen into almost eight years of bloody civil war was underway. Imam Badr ordered his remaining guards to bring him Bren guns. Then Badr and his father-in-law stepped out onto a balcony and opened fire on the mutinous soldiers that surrounded the palace while gasoline soaked sandbags were ignited and hurled onto the tanks below. The soldiers momentarily fled and Badr lived on to fight from northwest Yemen’s rugged mountains until his eventual exile in the UK in 1970. Imam Badr’s exile marked the end of the Zaidi Imamate that had ruled parts of Yemen for a thousand years.
The leader of the coup was the chief of Badr’s corps of bodyguards, Colonel Abdullah al-Sallal who was supported by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Within months, several thousand Egyptian soldiers were on the ground in north Yemen to support Sallal’s republicans in their fight against Badr’s royalists. The royalists were bankrolled by Saudi Arabia and covertly supported at various times by Jordan, Israel, Iran, France, and the UK, all of whom had a strategic interest in weakening Nasser and the Egyptian Army. Nasser would eventually commit more than fifty-thousand soldiers supported by MiGs and heavy weaponry to Yemen. Despite the number of soldiers, extensive air-support, and even the Egyptians’ use of chemical weapons, the war in Yemen became what Nasser would later describe as, ‘my Vietnam.’
With the recent Houthi takeover of much of northern Yemen, there are echoes of the 1960s. There seems little likelihood of Yemen not becoming a battleground for a protracted proxy war between two regional powers: Saudi Arabia and Iran which, in contrast to the 1960s, are now on opposite sides. The Saudis are vehemently opposed to the Houthis because they are Shi’a, adherents to the Zaidi sect of Shi’a Islam. The Saudis are fearful that the Houthis’ ‘revolution’ could spread across their southern border and embolden their own restive Shi’a minority. In April 2000, the Saudis put down a Shi’a led rebellion in the province of Najran, which borders areas that are now controlled by the Houthis.
On the other side of the emerging proxy war is Iran whose material support for the Houthis is limited. The claims made about Iran supplying arms and training to the Houthis are dubious. The Houthis are in no need of weapons—they have more than they can manage—and the core Houthi fighters are battle-hardened and require no training. However, if isolated, the Houthis may increase their level of engagement with Iran.
What the Houthis do need and what Iran has likely been providing, at least in token amounts, is money. The Yemeni economy is moribund. The Central Bank of Yemen is dependent on loans and grants from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. The resignation of Yemeni President Hadi and his government and the Houthis’ unilateral and extralegal dissolution of the Yemeni Parliament have meant that money from the Gulf States has dried up. It is an open question as to where the money for the salaries for tens of thousands of Yemeni bureaucrats and soldiers will come from. The lack of funds to pay government salaries poses a serious and potentially fatal challenge for the Houthi leadership.
Saudi Arabia will take full advantage of the Houthis’ limited financial resources by providing blank checks to those tribal leaders and displaced military figures who oppose the Houthis and agree to fight them. Most worrying is the fact that some of this money could make its way to groups like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who, as militant Salafis, are the sworn enemies of the Shi’a led Houthis. AQAP is a far more amorphous organization than is commonly supposed. The Houthi takeover of Sana’a and the resignation of the government will mean that the lines between tribesmen and tribal militias opposed to the Houthis and the militants allied with AQAP will become even less distinct. Militant Salafi organizations like AQAP will be key beneficiaries of a proxy war in Yemen.
The calls by some in the Yemeni government for members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) to intervene in Yemen in order to force the Houthis to withdraw is a first step toward igniting a new proxy war in Yemen. The calls will likely go unheeded, at least in terms of an overt ground-based intervention. The members of the GCC, most particularly Saudi Arabia, do not have the capabilities or constitution for a military intervention in Yemen. Yemen is most definitely not Bahrain. However, some members of the GCC will undoubtedly fund a host of covert measures in Yemen, all of which will add fuel to the fire that threatens to wash over Yemen.
The Houthis are a distinctly Yemeni movement that is deeply rooted in the Yemeni socio-cultural context. All outside parties, including those in the US government, like Senators John McCain and Diane Feinstein, who recently called for more ‘boots on the ground’ in Yemen, would do well to remember the words—some of his last words—of Field Marshal Amer, the architect of Egypt’s disastrous campaign in north Yemen: ‘we did not bother to study the local, Arab and international implications or the political and military questions involved. After years of experience we realized that it was a war between tribes and that we entered it without knowing the nature of their land, their traditions and their ideas.’ The Egyptians became involved in Yemen thinking that they were supporting a proxy, the republicans, in what would be a short sharp war against the Saudi backed royalists, but it ended up costing them more than twenty-thousand dead soldiers. Meddling in Yemen without taking into account the country’s history, traditions, and intricate patchwork of loyalties is a dangerous game for all involved.
Michael Horton is a writer and Middle East analyst.
‘They move like ghosts through these canyons and caves. One minute we think we have their position on a hill side and moments later they’re firing on us from the opposite direction.’ This is how a senior Yemeni Army officer described what it was like to fight the Houthis when I visited the northwestern governorate of Hajjah in 2009, which was then the scene of a brutal war between the Houthis and the Yemeni government. By 2010 the Houthis had largely defeated both the Yemeni Armed Forces and elements of the Saudi Armed Forces that were sent across the Yemeni border. They showed themselves to be tenacious masters of guerrilla warfare. Since 2011, the Houthis have proved themselves to be just as adept at navigating Yemen’s labyrinthine politics.
The Houthis coalesced as a movement in the early 1990’s and were initially dedicated to reviving and defending the Zaidi sect of Shi’a Islam to which roughly thirty-percent of Yemenis belong. By 2004, the Houthis were at war with the Yemeni government, a conflict which would persist until 2011 when popular anti-government protests began. From their spiritual, martial, and political heartland in the governorate of Sa’da, the once fringe movement has determinedly and methodically expanded its power base and its territory. The capstone of the Houthis’ expansionist campaign was their largely uncontested seizure of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, in September of 2014. Fast forward to 2015 and the Houthis are responsible for the resignation of Yemen’s president and his government. The Houthis are now first among Yemen’s power brokers.
How did a fringe movement come to control a significant percentage of northern Yemen and neuter the Yemeni government? In short, the answer is by applying what they learned during their prolonged war with the Yemeni government. First and foremost, the Houthis are a well-organized and capable fighting force, one that now has access to an abundance of heavy weaponry thanks to the effective dissolution of the Yemeni Army in late 2014. The Houthi leadership understands that the key to political success in Yemen, or at least in northern Yemen, is to make sure that you have the biggest stick. They have shown that the key to maintaining power and influence is to use the stick as carefully and as little as possible, something that former president Saleh forgot. To this end, the Houthi leadership has worked assiduously to build relationships with the leadership of many of Yemen’s northern based tribes.
The Houthis have also demonstrated that they can provide a measure of security and stability in the areas that they control. Houthi controlled governorates like Sa’da and al-Jawf, once the most restive governorate in Yemen, enjoy relative security. In the case of al-Jawf, the Houthis have largely eradicated al-Qaeda and are working to diffuse the blood feuds that were one of the primary sources of instability in the governorate. Via a growing and relatively sophisticated media network, the Houthis routinely highlight these successes.
However, the Houthis’ may benefit most from the sheer desperation of many Yemenis who have endured years of insecurity and declining standards of living. ‘The Yemeni people are exhausted. The economy is a disaster. More people than ever go hungry. With conditions like these, even some of those opposed to the Houthis are ready to give them a chance,’ says a Yemeni MP. ‘What choice do we have? There is no government and there is no army. Who’s going to stop the Houthis?’
In his speeches, Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi has emphasized that the Houthis do not want to rule Yemen. Given the moves on the ground this may be somewhat disingenuous, but Abdul Malik al-Houthi is an astute strategist who realizes that officially taking up the reins of power in Sana’a could well be ruinous for the Houthis. While the Houthis have broadened their power base to include many Sunni tribal leaders and politicians, both in the north and the south, they are still viewed by most Yemenis as a Shi’a organization. A Houthi led government would be viewed as a return to the Zaidi dominated imamate that ruled north Yemen up until the 1962 revolution, and, as such, it would be deeply unpopular with the majority of Yemeni who are Sunni. While senior Houthi leadership undoubtedly recognizes the dangers of officially leading some kind of future government, Hadi’s resignation and the power vacuum in the nation’s capital may leave the Houthis with no choice.
So what would a Houthi led government look like? It might be surprisingly diverse. The Houthi leadership has cultivated relations with segments of Yemen’s southern leadership, with youth groups, and of course with those power blocs associated with the Saleh regime. While the Houthis have never clearly articulated their political agenda, the leadership does back the strong federalization of Yemen. The federalization of Yemen has been demanded by southerners for nearly twenty years and is likely the only viable solution for keeping south and north Yemen together. One of the Houthis’ demands issued to the government of President Hadi was for the government to include more representatives from the south as well as more Houthi representation.
The Houthis’ journey from a poorly equipped and at times desperate band of guerrilla fighters to a group that now governs large swaths of north Yemen, has produced a leadership that is cautious and methodical. It would be a mistake to underestimate the Houthis’ political and martial acumen. It would also be a mistake to assume that the Houthis will only add to the chaos that threatens to engulf Yemen. Regardless, the international community and the West in particular will have to engage with what, for now at least, is the best organized and most cohesive power bloc in Yemen.
Michael Horton is a Yemen analyst with a decade of experience. I have written extensively on Yemen for numerous publications including: Jane’s Intelligence Review, The Economist, Intelligence Digest, and the Christian Science Monitor.
The Houthis have outlined four conditions to end Yemen’s political crisis, the Anadolu Agency reported the group’s leader as saying.
In a televised speech broadcasted by Yemen’s Al-Maseera satellite channel yesterday, Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi called for a speedy reformation of the National Supervisory Authority which was tasked with overseeing the results of the National Dialogue Conference and which ceased to be active in January 2014.
He also called for amendments to the country’s draft constitution to be expedited, the implementation of the peace and partnership agreement and to conduct comprehensive security reform.
Al-Houthi accused Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi of “protecting corruption and lack of seriousness in implementing the peace and partnership agreement, which brought the country to the current situation”.
He also accused him of supporting Al-Qaeda and supplying it with weapons. “President Hadi refused to allow the army to fight Al-Qaeda and gave the group the opportunity to rob banks,” he said.
The Yemeni capital Sanaa was been rocked by violent clashes for the second consecutive day on yesterday between presidential guards and Al-Houthi militants who are said to have seized the presidential palace with Prime Minister Khaled Bahah inside.
Al-Houthi said: “There is a conspiracy against Yemen and its people that is led by forces targeting the entire region. Yemen in on the verge of political, security and economic collapse. The Yemeni leadership is mired in corruption” he said.”
The Houthis seized control of Sanaa in September.
A rights group says many civilians have been targeted and killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan and other countries where such raids are carried out, Press TV reports.
The UK-based rights group Reprieve revealed that civilians have been killed in Pakistan and other places before militants were targeted by US assassination drones.
Reprieve has presented several cases on how ruthlessly the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has killed civilians but declared them militants through dubious reports in the media, which regularly cite anonymous Pakistani and US officials.
In one such case, the CIA killed 221 people, including over 100 children, in Pakistan in search of just four militants. This is while three of the militants are reportedly still alive and the fourth one has died of natural causes.
In another example, the report pointed out that on average each militant was targeted and reported killed more than three times before they were actually killed.
To kill one militant, sometimes “more than 300 people have been killed,” said Mirza Shazad Akbar, Reprieve’s representative in Pakistan.
“A former US drone operator said that by looking at the monitor and looking at people’s movement, he could actually tell who is a bad person and who is a good person… This is the extent of… the [US] flawed intelligence,” Akbar added.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg of the scale of tragedy in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where more than 3,800 people have been killed with the same pattern of the so-called precise surgical drone strikes.
The US carries out targeted killings through drone strikes in several Muslim countries, such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia. Washington claims the targets of the drone attacks are militants, but local officials and witnesses maintain that civilians have been the main victims of such raids over the past few years.
The United Nations and several human rights organizations have identified the US as the world’s number-one user of “targeted killings,” largely due to its drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Reprieve | November 11, 2014
The US government has apparently made secret payments of $100,000 to the families of two Yemeni men who were mistakenly killed in a covert drone strike, an investigation by international non-profit Reprieve has found.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, a Yemeni man who lost his brother-in-law and nephew in a 2013 drone strike, was offered a bag containing US dollar bills at a meeting with the Yemeni National Security Bureau (NSB). The NSB official who had requested the meeting told a family representative that the money came from the US and that he had been asked to pass it along.
Since the deaths of his relatives, Mr bin Ali Jaber – who is represented by lawyers at Reprieve – has travelled to Washington, DC and met with Congressmen and members of the National Security Council, as well as telling his story to a number of journalists. The Yemeni NSB official reportedly cited this activity as part of the reason the family was offered the $100k payment.
The payment came after Mr bin Ali Jaber’s family had already gone through a formal compensation process, during which the Yemeni government confirmed in writing that the US carried out the drone strike and that the deaths of their civilian relatives were “a mistake”. During this formal compensation procedure the family also received a payment of 11m Yemeni Rials plus damages.
Despite the private admissions and payments to Mr bin Ali Jaber and his family, given via the Yemeni security services, the US has never publicly admitted that the strike in which Waleed bin Ali Jaber and Salim bin Ali Jaber were killed was a mistake and that the two men were innocent civilians. The deaths have never been investigated and the US has never apologised to the families.
Waleed bin Ali Jaber was a local policeman and his father was an imam who had preached against al Qaeda in the local mosque just days before he was killed.
Faisal bin Ali Jaber said: “My family received money from the US government as an admission of their guilt for ‘mistakenly’ killing our relatives in a drone strike. But this is not justice. There are many other families in Yemen who have lost innocent relatives in US drone strikes but do not receive hush money for speaking out. If the US can admit their ‘mistake’ in a back room of the Yemeni security services, they can surely admit it publicly and apologise for what they have done to my family, and many others in Yemen.”
Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director and attorney for Mr bin Ali Jaber, said: “President Obama is as reluctant as ever to admit the full extent of the US drone program in Yemen – but money talks, even if the White House won’t. Cash payments without full accountability won’t quell the outrage about civilian drone deaths, and continued US strikes will only bring further instability to Yemen. The victims’ families want and deserve an explanation, while the American people need to hear the truth about what is being done in their name.”
In transmitting President Richard Nixon’s orders for a “massive” bombing of Cambodia in 1969, Henry Kissinger said, “Anything that flies on everything that moves”. As Barack Obama ignites his seventh war against the Muslim world since he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the orchestrated hysteria and lies make one almost nostalgic for Kissinger’s murderous honesty.
As a witness to the human consequences of aerial savagery – including the beheading of victims, their parts festooning trees and fields – I am not surprised by the disregard of memory and history, yet again. A telling example is the rise to power of Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, who had much in common with today’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). They, too, were ruthless medievalists who began as a small sect. They, too, were the product of an American-made apocalypse, this time in Asia.
According to Pol Pot, his movement had consisted of “fewer than 5,000 poorly armed guerrillas uncertain about their strategy, tactics, loyalty and leaders”. Once Nixon’s and Kissinger’s B52 bombers had gone to work as part of “Operation Menu”, the west’s ultimate demon could not believe his luck.
The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They levelled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left monstrous necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors “froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told… That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over.”
A Finnish Government Commission of Enquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the “first stage in a decade of genocide”. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed. Under their bombs, the Khmer Rouge grew to a formidable army of 200,000.
ISIS has a similar past and present. By most scholarly measure, Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to the deaths of some 700,000 people – in a country that had no history of jihadism. The Kurds had done territorial and political deals; Sunni and Shia had class and sectarian differences, but they were at peace; intermarriage was common. Three years before the invasion, I drove the length of Iraq without fear. On the way I met people proud, above all, to be Iraqis, the heirs of a civilization that seemed, for them, a presence.
Bush and Blair blew all this to bits. Iraq is now a nest of jihadism. Al-Qaeda – like Pol Pot’s “jihadists” – seized the opportunity provided by the onslaught of Shock and Awe and the civil war that followed. “Rebel” Syria offered even greater rewards, with CIA and Gulf state ratlines of weapons, logistics and money running through Turkey. The arrival of foreign recruits was inevitable. A former British ambassador, Oliver Miles, wrote recently, “The [Cameron] government seems to be following the example of Tony Blair, who ignored consistent advice from the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6 that our Middle East policy – and in particular our Middle East wars – had been a principal driver in the recruitment of Muslims in Britain for terrorism here.”
ISIS is the progeny of those in Washington and London who, in destroying Iraq as both a state and a society, conspired to commit an epic crime against humanity. Like Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge, ISIS are the mutations of a western state terror dispensed by a venal imperial elite undeterred by the consequences of actions taken at great remove in distance and culture. Their culpability is unmentionable in “our” societies.
It is 23 years since this holocaust enveloped Iraq, immediately after the first Gulf War, when the US and Britain hijacked the United Nations Security Council and imposed punitive “sanctions” on the Iraqi population – ironically, reinforcing the domestic authority of Saddam Hussein. It was like a medieval siege. Almost everything that sustained a modern state was, in the jargon, “blocked” – from chlorine for making the water supply safe to school pencils, parts for X-ray machines, common painkillers and drugs to combat previously unknown cancers carried in the dust from the southern battlefields contaminated with Depleted Uranium.
Just before Christmas 1999, the Department of Trade and Industry in London restricted the export of vaccines meant to protect Iraqi children against diphtheria and yellow fever. Kim Howells, parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Blair government, explained why. “The children’s vaccines”, he said, “were capable of being used in weapons of mass destruction”. The British Government could get away with such an outrage because media reporting of Iraq – much of it manipulated by the Foreign Office – blamed Saddam Hussein for everything.
Under a bogus “humanitarian” Oil for Food Programme, $100 was allotted for each Iraqi to live on for a year. This figure had to pay for the entire society’s infrastructure and essential services, such as power and water. “Imagine,” the UN Assistant Secretary General, Hans Von Sponeck, told me, “setting that pittance against the lack of clean water, and the fact that the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, and the sheer trauma of getting from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.”
Disgusted, Von Sponeck resigned as UN Humanitarian Co-ordinator in Iraq. His predecessor, Denis Halliday, an equally distinguished senior UN official, had also resigned. “I was instructed,” Halliday said, “to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults.”
A study by the United Nations Children’s Fund, Unicef, found that between 1991 and 1998, the height of the blockade, there were 500,000 “excess” deaths of Iraqi infants under the age of five. An American TV reporter put this to Madeleine Albright, US Ambassador to the United Nations, asking her, “Is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “We think the price is worth it.”
In 2007, the senior British official responsible for the sanctions, Carne Ross, known as “Mr. Iraq”, told a parliamentary selection committee, “[The US and UK governments] effectively denied the entire population a means to live.” When I interviewed Carne Ross three years later, he was consumed by regret and contrition. “I feel ashamed,” he said. He is today a rare truth-teller of how governments deceive and how a compliant media plays a critical role in disseminating and maintaining the deception. “We would feed [journalists] factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he said, “or we’d freeze them out.”
On 25 September, a headline in the Guardian read: “Faced with the horror of Isis we must act.” The “we must act” is a ghost risen, a warning of the suppression of informed memory, facts, lessons learned and regrets or shame. The author of the article was Peter Hain, the former Foreign Office minister responsible for Iraq under Blair. In 1998, when Denis Halliday revealed the extent of the suffering in Iraq for which the Blair Government shared primary responsibility, Hain abused him on the BBC’s Newsnight as an “apologist for Saddam”. In 2003, Hain backed Blair’s invasion of stricken Iraq on the basis of transparent lies. At a subsequent Labour Party conference, he dismissed the invasion as a “fringe issue”.
Now Hain is demanding “air strikes, drones, military equipment and other support” for those “facing genocide” in Iraq and Syria. This will further “the imperative of a political solution”. Obama has the same in mind as he lifts what he calls the “restrictions” on US bombing and drone attacks. This means that missiles and 500-pound bombs can smash the homes of peasant people, as they are doing without restriction in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Somalia – as they did in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. On 23 September, a Tomahawk cruise missile hit a village in Idlib Province in Syria, killing as many as a dozen civilians, including women and children. None waved a black flag.
The day Hain’s article appeared, Denis Halliday and Hans Von Sponeck happened to be in London and came to visit me. They were not shocked by the lethal hypocrisy of a politician, but lamented the enduring, almost inexplicable absence of intelligent diplomacy in negotiating a semblance of truce. Across the world, from Northern Ireland to Nepal, those regarding each other as terrorists and heretics have faced each other across a table. Why not now in Iraq and Syria.
Like Ebola from West Africa, a bacteria called “perpetual war” has crossed the Atlantic. Lord Richards, until recently head of the British military, wants “boots on the ground” now. There is a vapid, almost sociopathic verboseness from Cameron, Obama and their “coalition of the willing” – notably Australia’s aggressively weird Tony Abbott – as they prescribe more violence delivered from 30,000 feet on places where the blood of previous adventures never dried. They have never seen bombing and they apparently love it so much they want it to overthrow their one potentially valuable ally, Syria. This is nothing new, as the following leaked UK-US intelligence file illustrates:
“In order to facilitate the action of liberative [sic] forces… a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals [and] to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria. CIA is prepared, and SIS (MI6) will attempt to mount minor sabotage and coup de main [sic] incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals… a necessary degree of fear… frontier and [staged] border clashes [will] provide a pretext for intervention… the CIA and SIS should use… capabilities in both psychological and action fields to augment tension.”
That was written in 1957, though it could have been written yesterday. In the imperial world, nothing essentially changes. Last year, the former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that “two years before the Arab spring”, he was told in London that a war on Syria was planned. “I am going to tell you something,” he said in an interview with the French TV channel LPC, “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business. I met top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria… Britain was organising an invasion of rebels into Syria. They even asked me, although I was no longer Minister for Foreign Affairs, if I would like to participate… This operation goes way back. It was prepared, preconceived and planned.”
The only effective opponents of ISIS are accredited demons of the west – Syria, Iran, Hezbollah. The obstacle is Turkey, an “ally” and a member of NATO, which has conspired with the CIA, MI6 and the Gulf medievalists to channel support to the Syrian “rebels”, including those now calling themselves ISIS. Supporting Turkey in its long-held ambition for regional dominance by overthrowing the Assad government beckons a major conventional war and the horrific dismemberment of the most ethnically diverse state in the Middle East.
A truce – however difficult to achieve – is the only way out of this imperial maze; otherwise, the beheadings will continue. That genuine negotiations with Syria should be seen as “morally questionable” (the Guardian ) suggests that the assumptions of moral superiority among those who supported the war criminal Blair remain not only absurd, but dangerous.
Together with a truce, there should be an immediate cessation of all shipments of war materials to Israel and recognition of the State of Palestine. The issue of Palestine is the region’s most festering open wound, and the oft-stated justification for the rise of Islamic extremism. Osama bin Laden made that clear. Palestine also offers hope. Give justice to the Palestinians and you begin to change the world around them.
More than 40 years ago, the Nixon-Kissinger bombing of Cambodia unleashed a torrent of suffering from which that country has never recovered. The same is true of the Blair-Bush crime in Iraq. With impeccable timing, Henry Kissinger’s latest self-serving tome has just been released with its satirical title, “World Order”. In one fawning review, Kissinger is described as a “key shaper of a world order that remained stable for a quarter of a century”. Tell that to the people of Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Chile, East Timor and all the other victims of his “statecraft”. Only when “we” recognise the war criminals in our midst will the blood begin to dry.
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Yemen’s Houthi movement signed a final peace deal with the government on Saturday, agreeing to disarm and pull back from areas they took in the past months.
The accord, which comes days after the Houthis gained the upper-hand in the capital Sanaa, is part of a comprehensive UN-brokered deal with the pro-government Islah Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen.
Thousands of armed Houthis are stationed in the capital, where they have disarmed government security forces. On Saturday, rebels attacked the Sanaa residency of the national security chief Ali al-Ahmadi.
The deal may put an end to weeks of violence and tension between the Houthis on the one hand and government troops and pro-government factions on the other. According to official estimations, the violence may have killed hundreds.
Last month thousands of Houthis flooded the streets of Sanaa, staging civil disobedience actions and demanding the government step down and fuel subsidies restored.
Earlier this month, in what the Houthis considered a victory, the government and the movement signed an agreement on the formation of a new cabinet of technocrats and the reinstatement of fuel subsidies, whose absence had been a blow to the poor.
Houthis have played a key role in ousting former U.S.-backed dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh during the mass-uprisings of the Arab Spring.
Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Bashar Ja’afari says the current tumult in the Middle East, including the crisis in his country, is a scheme by the West to safeguard Israel’s interests, Press TV reports.
“This is a geopolitical plan that is not only targeting Syria exclusively, although Syria is very important for either the success or failure of this plan, but it is targeting the whole area,” said Ja’afari Wednesday in an exclusive interview with Press TV in New York.
He said the main goal of the Western plot “is to secure for a long time the interests of Israel and preventing the establishment of Palestinian state in Palestine.”
“So they need to open up a new front, a kind of deviation, from the focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Palestinian question to another focus which might be a war between Muslims and Muslims,” he added.
He further underlined that the West intends to incite divisions among Muslims under the false notion of a Sunni-Shia conflict to provoke wars between Muslim countries in the region.
The Syrian envoy went on to reiterate that the huge participation of Syrian voters in the country’s presidential election served as big “NO” message to foreign interference in their country’s internal affairs.
“Our message would be a friendly message… [that] we want to have friends and we want to have normal, bilateral relationship with everybody. We do not interfere into the American domestic affairs. Please don’t interfere into our own domestic affairs.”
According to official figures, President Bashar al-Assad won nearly 90 percent of the votes cast in Syria’s presidential race. Syria’s Supreme Constitutional Court announced that over 73 percent of the 15.8 million eligible voters had taken part in the election.
On May 23, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) trade show in Tampa, Florida to share her vision of “smart power” and to explain the State Department’s crucial role in extending the reach and efficacy of America’s growing “international counterterrorism network.”
First, there is such a thing as a “Special Operations Forces Industry Conference trade show.” Without some keen reporting by David Axe of Wired, that peculiar get-together might’ve flown completely under the radar—much like the shadowy “industry” it both supports and feeds off of like a sleek, camouflaged lamprey attached to a taxpayer-fattened shark.
Second, “special operations” have officially metastasized into a full-fledged industry. United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and, therefore, conveniently located near the special operations trade show, which happened again this year at the Tampa Convention Center. The theme was “Strengthening the Global SOF Network” and the 600,000-square-foot facility was filled with targets of opportunity for well-connected and well-heeled defense contractors.
According to the SOFIC website, this year’s conference afforded attendees “the opportunity to engage with USSOCOM Program Executive Officers, Science and Technology Managers, Office of Small Business Programs and Technology & Industry Liaison Office representatives, and other acquisition experts who will identify top priorities, business opportunities, and interests as they relate to USSOCOM acquisition programs.”
Third, Hillary’s widely-ignored speech marked a radical departure from the widely-held perception that the State Department’s diplomatic mission endures as an institutional alternative to the Pentagon’s military planning. Instead, Secretary Clinton celebrated the transformation of Foggy Bottom into a full partner with the Pentagon’s ever-widening efforts around the globe, touting both the role of diplomats in paving the way for shadowy special ops in so-called “hot spots” and the State Department’s “hand-in-glove” coordination with Special Forces in places like Pakistan and Yemen.
Finally, with little fanfare or coverage, America’s lead diplomat stood before the shadow war industry and itemized the integration of the State Department’s planning and personnel with the Pentagon’s global counter-terrorism campaign which, she told the special operations industry, happen “in one form or another in more than 100 countries around the world.”
If this isn’t entirely unexpected, consider the fact that under then-Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the State Department fought attempts by the Pentagon to trump its authority around the globe and, as reported by the Washington Post, “repeatedly blocked Pentagon efforts to send Special Operations forces into countries surreptitiously and without ambassadors’ formal approval.”
But that was before Hillary brought her “fast and flexible” doctrine of “smart power” to Foggy Bottom and, according to her remarks, before she applied lessons learned from her time on the Senate Armed Services Committee to launch the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which she modeled on the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review. That Pentagon-style review spurred the creation of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations to “advance the U.S. government’s foreign policy goals in conflict areas.”
According to a Congressional Research Service analysis, the initial intent of the Conflict Bureau was to replace the ineffectual Office of the Coordinator of Reconstruction and Stabilization, which was created in 2004 to help manage “stabilization” efforts in two nations the U.S. was actively destabilizing—Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the new, improved bureau does more than just react to messes made by unlawful invasions or direct costly remediation efforts in war zones—it also collaborates with “relevant partners” in the Department of Defense and NATO “to harmonize civilian and military plans and operations pertaining to conflict prevention, crisis response, and stabilization.”
This integrated relationship between State and Defense was confirmed by U.S. Special Operations chief Admiral William McRaven shortly after Hillary’s speech. When asked about the “unlikely partnership,” McRaven assured DefenseNews that SOCOM has “an absolutely magnificent relationship with the State Department” and that SOCOM doesn’t “do anything that isn’t absolutely fully coordinated and approved by the U.S. ambassador and the geographic combatant commander.”
As David Axe aptly described it in Wired, “Together, Special Operations Forces and State’s new Conflict Bureau are the twin arms of an expanding institution for waging small, low-intensity shadow wars all over the world.”
In fact, during Hillary’s time as America’s chief diplomat, the State Department embraced the shadowy edge of U.S. foreign policy where decision-makers engage in activities that look like war, sound like war and, if you were to ask civilians in places like Yemen and Pakistan, feel a lot like war, but never quite have to meet the Constitutional requirement of being officially declared as war.
The Whole-of-Government Shift
Once upon a time, “low-intensity shadow wars” were the Congressionally-regulated bailiwick of the Central Intelligence Agency. But 9/11 changed everything. However, the excesses of the Bush Administration led many to hope that Obama could and would change everything back or, at least, relax America’s tense embrace of “the dark side.”
Although the new administration did officially re-brand “The War on Terror” as “Overseas Contingency Operations,” Team Obama employed an increasingly elastic interpretation of the 9/11-inspired Authorization for Use of Military Force and expanded covert ops, special ops, drone strikes and regime change to peoples and places well-beyond the law’s original intent, and certainly beyond the limited scope of CIA covert action.
Obama’s growing counter-terrorism campaign—involving, as Secretary Clinton said, “more than 100 countries”—took flight with a new, ecumenical approach called the “Whole-of-Government” strategy. Advanced by then-Secretary of Defense Bill Gates and quickly adopted by the new administration in early 2009, this strategy catalyzed an institutional shift toward inter-agency cooperation, particularly in the case of “state-building” (a.k.a. “nation building”).
During remarks to the Brookings Institution in 2010, Secretary Clinton explained the shift: “One of our goals coming into the administration was… to begin to make the case that defense, diplomacy and development were not separate entities, either in substance or process, but that indeed they had to be viewed as part of an integrated whole and that the whole of government then had to be enlisted in their pursuit.”
Essentially, the Whole-of-Government approach is a re-branded and expanded version of Pentagon’s doctrine of “Full-Spectrum Dominance.” Coincidentally, that strategy was featured in the Clinton Administration’s final Annual Report to the President and Congress in 2001. It defined “Full-Spectrum Dominance” as “an ability to conduct prompt, sustained, and synchronized operations with forces tailored to specific situations and possessing freedom to operate in all domains—space, sea, land, air, and information.”
In 2001, Full-Spectrum Dominance referred specifically to 20th Century notions of battlefield-style conflicts. But the “dark side” of the War on Terror stretched the idea of the battlefield well-beyond symmetrical military engagements. “Irregular warfare” became the catchphrase du jour, particularly as grinding campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq exposed the reality that the full spectrum still wasn’t enough.
An assessment by the Congressional Research Service identified the primary impetus for the Whole-of-Government “reforms” embraced by Team Obama as the “perceived deficiencies of previous inter-agency missions” during the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those missions failed to address a myriad of problems created—culturally, economically and politically—by the wholesale bombing and occupation of those countries. The Full-Spectrum was half-baked. Lesson learned.
But the lesson wasn’t that the U.S. should avoid intervention, regime change or unleashing nascent civil, ethnic or religious conflicts. Instead, the lesson was that the “Whole-of-Government” must be marshaled to fight a worldwide array of Overseas Contingency Operations in “more than 100 countries.”
This Whole-of-Government shift signaled a renewed willingness to engage on variety of new fronts—particularly in Africa—but in a “fast and flexible” way. With other agencies—like the State Department—integrated and, in effect, fronting the counter-terrorism campaign, the military footprint becomes smaller and, therefore, easier to manage locally, domestically and internationally.
In some ways, the Whole-of-Government national security strategy is plausible deniability writ-large through the cover of interagency integration. By merging harder-to-justify military and covert actions into a larger, civilian-themed command structure, the impact of the national security policy overseas is hidden—or at least obfuscated—by the diplomatic “stabilization” efforts run through the State Department—whether it’s the Conflict Bureau working against Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, “stabilizing” post-Gaddafi Libya or spending $27 million to organize the opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime.
The Pass Key
The cover of diplomacy has traditionally been an effective way to slip covert operators into countries and the State Department’s vast network of embassies and consulates still offers an unparalleled “pass-key” into sovereign nations, emerging hot spots and potential targets for regime change. In 2001, the Annual Report to the President and Congress foresaw the need for more access: “Given the global nature of our interests and obligations, the United States must maintain the ability to rapidly project power worldwide in order to achieve full-spectrum dominance.”
Having the way “pre-paved” is, based on Hillary’s doctrinal shift at State, a key part of the new, fuller-spectrum, Whole-of-Government, mission-integrated version of diplomacy. At the SOFIC’s Special Operations Gala Dinner in 2012, Hillary celebrated the integration of diplomatic personnel and Special Operations military units at the State Department’s recently created Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications—a “nerve center in Washington” that coordinates “military and civilian teams around the world” and serves “as a force multiplier for our embassies’ communications efforts.”
As with most doors in Washington, that relationship swings both ways and mission-integrated embassies have served as an effective force multiplier for the Pentagon’s full spectrum of activities, particularly around Africa.
In his 2011 testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Don Yamamoto noted that State had “significantly expanded the number of DoD personnel who are integrated into embassies across the continent over the past three years,” and read a surprisingly long laundry list of collaborative efforts between State and the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), including: “reduction of excess and poorly secured man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS); Defense Sector Reform in Liberia, DRC, and South Sudan; counterpiracy activities off the Somali coast; maritime safety and security capacity building; and civil-military cooperation.”
It seems that “civil-military cooperation” is a primary focus of the State Department in Africa. Most notably, Yamamoto told Congress that “embassies implement Department of State-funded Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs, which further U.S. interests in Africa by helping to professionalize African militaries, while also assisting our African partners to be more equipped and trained to work toward common security goals.”
As the ever-vigilant Nick Turse recently reported, U.S. presence on the continent has only grown since that testimony was given in 2011. On TomDispatch.com, Turse identified the infamous attack on Benghazi on September 11, 2012 as the catalyst for “Operation New Normal”—the continent-wide response to, quite ironically, the political potboiler still simmering around Secretary Clinton. Whether or not Congressional Republicans find anything more than incompetence at the root of Benghazi, the U.S. military certainly finds itself in a “new normal” of increased activity in response to the forces—and the weaponry—unleashed by U.S.-led regime change in Libya. According to Turse, the U.S. is “now conducting operations alongside almost every African military in almost every African country and averaging more than a mission a day.”
Those missions are, of course, integrated with and augmented by the State Department’s Conflict Bureau which has used a variety of state-building programs and its diplomatic “pass key” in places like Libya, Nigeria, Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and six other African nations, all to develop a growing roster of “host country partners.”
Establishing “host country partners” is the nexus where the State Department, its Conflict Bureau and the AFRICOM meet—implementing the Whole-of-Government strategy in emerging or current conflict zones to fuse a mounting counter-terrorism campaign with stabilization, modernization and state-building initiatives, particularly in oil and resource-rich areas like the Niger River Delta, Central Africa and around AFRICOM’s military foothold on the Horn of Africa.
As Richard J. Wilhelm, a Senior Vice President with defense and intelligence contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, pointed out in a video talk about “mission integration,” AFRICOM’s coordination with the Departments of State and Commerce, USAID is the “most striking example of the Whole-of-Government approach.”
And this is exactly the type of “hand-in-glove” relationship Secretary Clinton fostered throughout her tenure at State, leveraging the resources of the department in a growing list of conflict areas where insurgents, terrorists, al-Qaeda affiliates, suspected militants or uncooperative regimes threaten to run afoul of so-called “U.S. interests”.
Ultimately, it became a hand-in-pocket relationship when Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates developed the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF) to “incentivize joint planning and to pool the resources of the Departments of State and Defense, along with the expertise of other departments, to provide security sector assistance for partner countries so they can address emergent challenges and opportunities important to U.S. national security.”
Although he’s been criticized as feckless and deemed less hawkish than Secretary Clinton, President Obama’s newly-proposed Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF) is the logical extension of the Clinton-Gates Global Security Contingency Fund and epitomizes the Whole-of-Government shift.
The $5 billion Obama wants will dwarf the $250 million pooled into the GSCF and will, the President said at West Point, “give us flexibility to fulfill different missions including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.”
That “flexibility” is exactly what Hillary Clinton instituted at State and touted at the SOFIC conference in 2012. It also portends a long-term shift to less invasive forms of regime change like those in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, and an increased mission flexibility that will make the Authorization for the Use of Military Force functionally irrelevant.
Normalizing the War on Terror
The ultimate outcome of this shift is, to borrow from Nick Turse, yet another “new normal”—the new normalization of the War on Terror. What the adoption of the Whole-of-Government/mission integration approach has done is to normalize the implementation of the re-branded War on Terror (a.k.a. Overseas Contingency Operations) across key agencies of the government and masked it, for lack of the better term, under the rubric of stabilization, development and democracy building.
It is, in effect, the return of a key Cold War policy of “regime support” for clients and “regime change” for non-client states, particularly in strategically-located areas and resource-rich regions. Regimes—whether or not they actually “reflect American values”—can count on U.S. financial, military and mission-integrated diplomatic support so long as they can claim to be endangered… not by communists, but by terrorists.
And because terrorism is a tactic—not a political system or a regime—the shadowy, State Department-assisted Special Ops industry that fights them will, unlike the sullen enthusiasts of the Cold War, never be bereft of an enemy.
From the droned villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan–
Bring back our girls!
From Nigeria, and the brothels of the Philippines–
Bring back our girls!
From the ruined cities of Detroit and Newark
And the ravished American Dream–
Bring back our girls!
From “Disaster Capitalism” and twerking jerks–
Bring back our girls!
From the “Occupied Territories” of Palestine
And from Israeli Porn Kings–
Bring back our girls!
From the “royal” slave-holders of Arabia,
And the crapulous monarchs of Britain–
Bring back our girls!
From our culture of destitution and prostitution–
Bring back our girls!
From “entrepreneurs” and exploiters
Of sex and violence and from those who confound and abuse–
Bring back our girls!
Restore them to their birthright dignity:
Co-creators; mothers; sisters; daughters; friends.
Bring back our girls
From the wars that have butchered them
From the silence that has answered their prayers
From the callous hypocrisy
Of scoffed-at dreams and snuffed-out hopes–
Bring back our girls!
It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.
— Voltaire, 1694-1778
It is impossible not to gain the impression that the criteria for being awarded prestigious honors for services to “peace”, “humanity” or “distinguished public service” is a candidate who is duplicitous, vicious, stone-hearted and above all prepared to kill, plan killings or rejoice in killing on an industrial scale as brutally as can be devised.
Moments after being informed of the horrific death of Libyan Leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in October 2011, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “Wow!” then unforgettably and chillingly laughed, telling a television crew: “We came, we saw, he died.” Asked if her recent visit to Libya might have had anything to do with his death, she “… rolled her eyes” and said “I’m sure it did.”
Six months later, in April 2012, Clinton received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service. The following month she received the Champions for Change Award for Leadership, and in May 2013, the inaugural Warren Christopher Public Service Award.
Madeleine Albright’s comment, when US Ambassador to the UN, on “60 Minutes” (12th May 1996) that the price of the lives of half a million children who had died as a result of US-driven UN sanctions on Iraq, was: “a hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it”, was no bar to her receiving, under two years later, the 1998 International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award: “For extraordinary contributions to the cause of … human freedom … The list of those who have received the Freedom Award reveals the remarkable ability of an individual to shape history and change for the better a world moving toward freedom for all.”
The “freedom of the grave” comes to mind.
Other recipients have been John McCain (2001) George H.W. Bush, whose regime vowed to “reduce Iraq to a pre-industrial age” – and did, in 1991 – and Bill Clinton whose Presidency (1993-2001) in addition to several massive bombings and unending daily ones (all illegal) oversaw, manipulated and pressured the UN to continue to implement the most draconian embargo in the organization’s history and ensure that children, the sick, went on dying in ever greater numbers every year of his Presidency. They were both honored in 2005.
In 2008 the Award went to Kofi Annan, during whose tenure as UN Secretary General (1997 – 2006) involved Iraq’s tragedy and “thirty four major armed conflicts.”
Annan was entrusted with oversight of international commitment to the UN’s fine founding pledge by: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war … to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person …” In the event he merely bleated mildly from time to time that some humanitarian holocaust was “regrettable”, “unfortunate” or that he was “concerned.”
Moreover, Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo, had profited from the pitiful UN-Iraq “Oil for Food” deal as children were dying, with former US Federal Reserve Chairman saying, on behalf of a Committee set up to investigate: “Our assignment has been to look for mis- or mal-administration in the oil-for-food programme, and for evidence of corruption within the U.N. organization and by contractors. Unhappily, we found both.”
These are minimal examples of how political pigs ears become polished silk purses. Now President Obama who, as Sherwood Ross has written, “has already bombed six countries (Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq) is risking a possible escalation of the Ukraine crisis he nurtured, into World War III against Russia”, was, on 7th May, awarded the 2014 Ambassador for Humanity Award by the Shoah Foundation.
The Shoah Foundation was established by Steven Spielberg to document the Holocaust, but has since expanded to document other modern genocides. Their new Ambassador’s actions should keep them occupied for a good while.
President Obama’s commitment to democracy and human rights has long been felt”, Spielberg said in a statement. “As a constitutional scholar and as President, his interest in expanding justice and opportunity and all is remarkably evident.”
The timing of the Award may outdo even the other more farcical honors, since, as Ross points out, according to Russian expert, Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois:
Obama now has broken the promise President George H.W. Bush gave to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that if he agreed to the reunification of Germany, NATO would move no farther east, toward Russia’s boundaries. The Obama administration and NATO are maneuvering humanity into a reverse Cuban Missile Crisis right on the borders of Russia. Can World War III be far behind?
Further, NATO is planning larger number of combat forces in Eastern Europe, thus “the dreaded Cold War, with all its staggering cost, with all its immeasurable weight of fear, begins again.”
But even the first year of the Obama Presidency marked a year zero for many. In 2009 at least seven hundred Pakistani civilians were obliterated in drone strikes. Those also killed, accused of terrorism, had no trial, no lawyer, no right of reply. They were simply executed under the US Commander in Chief’s personal policy.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism to January of this year:
Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the CIA has launched 330 strikes on Pakistan – his predecessor, President George Bush, conducted 51 strikes in four years. And in Yemen, Obama has opened a new front in the secret drone war.
Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes (since 23rd January 2009) eight times as many as were launched in the entire Bush presidency. These strikes have killed more than 2,400 people …
In Yemen, under US drones: “Last year saw the highest civilian casualty rate since Obama first hit the country in 2009.”
It is not drones alone. For example, a week to the day after Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize:
On December 17 2009, a US Navy submarine launched a cluster bomb-laden cruise missile at a suspected militant camp in al Majala, southern Yemen.
The missile hit a hamlet inhabited by “one of the poorest tribes in Yemen. Shrapnel and fire left at least forty one civilians dead, including at least twenty one children and twelve women – five of whom were pregnant.
In his Nobel acceptance speech he defended the use of force as “not only necessary, but morally justified.” A constitutional lawyer who has, figuratively, burned his law books.
But the President started as he continues. Three days after becoming Ambassador for Humanity, the US announced a “pilot programme” which is sending anti-tank weapons to terrorists in Syria. Lest it be forgotten, these groups have been videoing themselves crucifying, beheading, removing and eating the organs of victims, chopping off hands and dragging people behind moving vehicles. Under the Commander in Chief aka Ambassador for Humanity, the “pilot project” is an experiment trying to establish whether the weapons will “fall into the wrong hands.” Nauseatingly farcical.
Gulag Guantanamo is still open with the untried, condemned to incarceration until time unknown and legally unaccounted for, another pre-2009 election pledge condemned to the trash bin of history.
Iraq’s citizens continue to be bombed with US missiles, under the US proxy Prime Minister.
At home, under this Presidency, the US has the highest first day of life infant mortality rate in the industrialized world, a survey released this week has found.
The US is in the top five countries with the world’s highest execution rates.
In 2011 Pew Research found that “the median black household had about seven per cent of the wealth of its white counterpart, down from nine per cent in 1984, when a Census survey first began tracking this sort of data.”
Change we can believe in?
It has to be wondered whether President Obama pondered on this as he headed to California and his Award ceremony in Air Force One, costing $228,288 per hour.
The prison population of America, at 2.4 million (2013 figures) is just the tip of the iceberg, including “around three thousand children locked up for things that aren’t crimes for adults, ‘such as running away, truancy and incorrigibility.’” See woeful details here.
As this is finished, news comes in of “Obama left alone as agents moonlight”. Shock, horror. Who protects the villagers of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia from the Ambassador for Humanity’s drones?
Perhaps the Nobel Committee could lead the way in ending these outrageous Awards by starting with rescinding a few of their own. It would be a start.