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Western Asia ("Middle East")


Will the Gulf of Tonkin Fit into the Red Sea?

Just a geography question. Or maybe it's a different sort of question.

Do a web search for "USS Mason" and you will find countless "news" reports about how this poor innocent U.S. ship has been fired upon, and fired upon again, and how it has fired back "countermeasures" in self-defense.

But you might stumble onto one article from CNN (don't watch the totally misleading video posted just above the text) that says:

"Officials Saturday night were uncertain about what exactly happened, if there were multiple incoming missiles or if there was a malfunction with the radar detection system on the destroyer."

So, was the poor wittle innocent destroyer fired at or not?

Russia: Fly Over Syria at Your Own Risk

Russia Reads US Bluster as Sign of War

 

 


 

 

Editor Note: As U.S. politicians and pundits have fun talking tough about Russia and demonizing President Putin, they are missing signs that Moscow isn’t amused and is preparing for actual conflict.

By Ray McGovern

The Saudi 203 Pages

For years and years, activists demanded that the U.S. government make public 28 (turned out to be 29) pages it had censored from a report, because it was suspected they would show a Saudi Arabian role in funding and facilitating the crimes of September 11, 2001. When the pages were finally made public, they showed a great deal of evidence of exactly that. But the U.S. government and its pet media outlets buried the story on a Friday evening, declared that verily this is that, and moved on.

If you happen to have caught wind of this and smelled a rat, you'll be interested in another 203 pages, those making up Medea Benjamin's new book, Kingdom of the Unjust. If you live in the United States, you should be aware of how much effort your government puts into facilitating and defending the crimes of Saudi Arabia in the United States, in Saudi Arabia, and in places like Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, Nigeria, etc. If you pay U.S. taxes, you should know what you're buying. If you work for a U.S. weapons maker, you should know who's buying what you make, and what they're using it for. If you drive a car, you may be helping to destroy the earth's climate while funding the Saudi royalty.

The Saudi royals keep millions poor while blowing fortunes. They send religion police around to beat the hell out of people, while they themselves party with alcohol, cocaine, prostitutes, and gambling. Like many a televangelist closer to home, they don't believe their own bull, but they use it to abuse the people of Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. The religious police don't just want you to be religious. In fact most religions are banned and you can be imprisoned, tortured, mutilated, or beheaded for being a follower of them. And they don't just want you to be a fundamentalist Muslim of the proper variety. They want puritanical misogynist conformity -- or death. They beat a man to death for possessing alcohol, locked up a woman for riding alone in a taxi, and killed 15 girls by refusing to allow them to flee a burning building because they were not wearing their abayas, garments to completely hide their bodies.

With U.S. support, Saudi Arabia manages to be both the only nation that bans all churches and any non-Muslim religious building, and the leading proponent of global terrorism. Saudi Arabia actually bans Jews from entering the country, perhaps inspiring Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States, while still creating at least an inconvenience for U.S. humanitarian warriors who are constantly wanting to bomb new countries in order to supposedly avoid a repeat of the holocaust -- even while urging Saudi Arabia to spend more on wars (as Trump and Bernie Sanders and President Barack Obama have done most prominently). In fact, Saudi Arabia spends three times as much per person as the U.S. does on its military, and it spends the biggest chunk of it buying weapons from U.S. profiteers.

An "indefinite waiver" upheld by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama lets Saudi Arabia off the hook in the U.S. State Department for its religious cruelty. Waivers by Bush and Obama also allow the U.S. military to go on training the Saudi military. A waiver created by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton allows U.S. weapons sales. Clinton made that her personal mission after Saudi Arabia put at least $10 million into the Clinton Foundation. As the U.S. State Department was and is well aware, there are no civil liberties in Saudi Arabia. People are jailed, whipped, and killed for speech, and speech is tightly censored. Saudi Arabia didn't even ban slavery until 1962 and maintains a labor system referred to as "a culture of slavery." The "sharia law" that U.S. bigots are constantly fearing will appear in their town actually takes a truly nasty form in Saudi Arabia under a brutal government propped up by U.S. funds and arms.


MEDEA BENJAMIN AT A RALLY

Saudi Arabia doesn't put its own atrocities on Youtube the way ISIS does, and doing so is a tremendous risk for ordinary people in Saudi Arabia. Nonetheless it is starting, and there are outrages you can watch if you are so inclined.

Saudi Arabia has yet to become a target of the Clintonite cabal of philanthropic warriors claiming to overthrow governments for women's rights, yet Saudi Arabia practices gender apartheid, with women forbidden most of the rights of men, women controlled by men utterly, women's testimony in court sometimes valued at half the worth of men's, and a woman's reporting of an attack by a man is considered to be a crime by the woman. You don't see Saudi women at the Olympics because they are forbidden to wear the attire required for the competitions. Saudi restaurants have front and back sections, with the front for men only.  Saudi Arabia lives off fueling cars, yet is the only country in the world where women are forbidden to drive.

Are Saudi's made happy by their sadistic society? There are many indications otherwise, including emigration, travel, courageous protest, and including this: men who practice polygamy in Saudi Arabia are four times more likely to have heart disease.

Happy or not, Saudis have been proficient at exporting their madness. Hollywood could take lessons (and has helped out). Saudi schools have helped to create branches of Al Qaeda and other extremist groups across Western Asia and Northern Africa at least since the joint U.S.-Saudi operation in Afghanistan that created the Taliban, not to mention the Saudi role in Iran-Contra, but also including Boko Haram in Nigeria, and including in Europe. The terrorists who attacked in Paris last year and in Belgium this year came from an area in Belgium with strong Saudi influence. In 2014 the Saudi Interior Ministry conservatively estimated 1,200 Saudis had gone to Syria to join ISIS. A 2014 study by the Washington Institute found that private Saudi donations were critical to the growth of ISIS.

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a 2009 cable (thank you, WikiLeaks), "Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. . . . More needs to be done. . . ." So, what did Clinton do? Sold Saudi Arabia more weapons, of course! Saudi Arabia is now the biggest weapons customer for the United States, and therefore for anyone. That includes about $100 billion in U.S. weapons sales under the Obama regime, with more pending. Benjamin quotes Obama officials who have praised these sales as a means of creating jobs. This is of course despite the fact that peaceful spending creates more jobs, and the fact that the weapons create something else as well: death.

The United States keeps rushing more weapons to Saudi Arabia as it uses them -- with help from the U.S. military -- to bomb houses, hospitals, and schools in Yemen, killing civilians by the thousands and non-civilians by the thousands, including with the use of cluster bombs.

When Tunisia overthrew a dictatorship without a war in 2011, Saudi's royal thugs got excited. They offered refuge to the Tunisian ruler. They sent funds to Jordan and Morocco to prop up their brutal governments. They backed a military coup in Egypt. They smashed a nonviolent popular uprising in Bahrain with murder, torture, and imprisonment -- still underway. And, of course, they started bombing Yemen, once U.S. drone killings had done their damage and helped to distabilize that country. In fact, U.S. drones flying over Yemen take off from a U.S. base in Saudi Arabia, something Obama created after Bush pulled U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia and closed the bases -- a move motivated by the crimes of 9/11 and the explicit and widely available answer to the stupid lament "Why do they hate us?" They said what they hated: the U.S. bases that Bush The First had put in Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia had refused to kick them out when bin Laden demanded it because the Saudi government depends on the United States to maintain its unjust existence.

Obama, who recreated this fuel for violence, and who claims to be outraged by Saudi Arabia's atrocities, claims to back Saudi Arabia for the cause of "stability." "Sometimes," says Obama, "we have to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns that we have in terms of countering terrorism or dealing with regional stability." Yet Saudi Arabia is possibly the biggest cause (outside of the United States itself) of instability in its region, al Qaeda and ISIS are wreaking havoc within Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi government itself is about as stable as a cork in a volcano. To Obama's credit, he hardly ever means anything he says, and in fact he has backed down on holding Saudi Arabia to account when the Saudis have threatened to pull investments out of the United States, not when they have somehow appeared to be a source of stability and safety.

Still, some would take offense when a foreign government and its elites backed terrorism in your country (on 9/11) and then threatened to hurt you financially if you even said anything about it. But why doesn't anyone say anything about it? In 2015, according to The Hill, the Saudis employed eight DC lobbying firms including the Podesta Group, run by top Hillary Clinton fundraiser Tony Podesta, and cofounded by Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. Saudi Arabia dumps money into U.S. "think tanks" that would be forbidden to exist in Saudi Arabia, and other institutions including the Middle East Institute, Harvard, Yale, the Clinton Foundation, the Carter Center, etc.

For a further 275 Saudi Pages try Robert Vitalis's America's Kingdom: Mythmaking on the Saudi Oil Frontier. But start with Medea Benjamin's 203, which even includes some thoughts on what can be done moving forward. Saudi Arabia's oil, plus all the fossil fuels from everywhere else, is going to make Saudi Arabia uninhabitable long before much of the United States becomes so. Really looking forward, I think, means looking at the future of over 30 million refugees and our capacity to understand the society they are fleeing, our own role in creating it, and our responsibility to welcome them.

Photo by Thomas Good.

Sue Saudi for 9/11 and U.S. for all its wars

By David Swanson, American Herald Tribune

saudi obama 8fbf2

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry say that allowing family members of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for its complicity in that crime would set a terrible precedent that would open the United States up to lawsuits from abroad.

Wonderful! Let the lawsuits rain down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream!

Suing Saudis over 9/11 will only set a precedent if it succeeds, which is to say if there is evidence of Saudi complicity. We know that there is, according to former Senator Bob Graham and others who have read 28 pages censored from a U.S. Senate report. Pressure is building in Congress both to reveal those 28 pages and to allow lawsuits. And yet another Senate bill gaining support would block further U.S. arming of Saudi Arabia.

The precedent of allowing international victims to sue those complicit in murder would not place you, dear reader, or I at risk of any lawsuits. It would, however, put numerous top U.S. officials and former officials at risk of suits from many corners of the globe, including from the seven nations that President Obama has bragged about bombing: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya. It's not as if any of these wars is legal under Kellogg-Briand or the U.N. Charter.

Combined with the possible precedent of allowing victims of U.S. domestic gun violence to sue gun manufacturers, the possibility could emerge for countless parents, children, and siblings of U.S. killings in countless countries to begin suing Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, etc.  

Even just the precedent of allowing suits against Saudi Arabia could have far-reaching consequences before expanding it to other countries. Imagine if Yemenis could sue Saudis for the current slaughter from the air? If they could, then what about Boeing? And what about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who allowed Boeing to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia after Boeing gave her family foundation $900,000 and Saudi Arabia gave over $10 million?

In her last ditch effort at the presidency, Clinton has joined Senator Bernie Sanders in claiming that she supports allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia -- something she is highly unlikely to take any other steps to advance.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is threatening to sell off $750 billion worth of U.S. properties. (No word on whether Hillary Clinton is listed among those properties.) I say let the sales commence! Let the U.S. government take three-quarter's of one-year's military spending, buy those properties, and give them to the public or use them to compensate the people of Yemen. Or freeze those assets now without buying them, and give them to the U.S. and Yemeni people.

Of course, Obama and Kerry may be raising the notion of a precedent for suing the U.S. mostly as cover for the fact that they are showing greater loyalty to the Saudi royalty than to 9/11 victims. The U.S. public needs only the slightest excuse to avoid recognizing where its rulers true loyalties lie. Italy has convicted CIA agents of kidnapping to torture, and never sought their extradition. Pakistani courts have already ruled against U.S. drone murders, and the U.S. has failed to so much as yawn in response. The U.S. has refused to join the International Criminal Court, and claims a unique status outside the rule of law -- a rogue status for which it would urge sanctions on any other nation claiming something similar while possessing too much oil or not enough U.S. weaponry.

Still, precedents can be set politically and legally, even against the will of one of the parties involved. For U.S. foreign policy to be compelled to treat 9/11 as the crime that it was, a crime committed by certain individuals, could mean a few important things: (1) a serious investigation of 9/11, (2) rejection of the idea that 9/11 was part of a war launched by the entire world, or the Muslim portion of the world, and in which the United States is entitled to seek revenge thousands of times over and without limits in time or space, (3) greater understanding that U.S. terrorism, just like 9/11 but on a larger scale, is criminal activity for which particular individuals can be held accountable.

What could answer the deepest needs of the 9/11 victims and family members could also answer many needs of U.S. victims in Yemen, Pakistan, Iraq, etc., and that is a truth and reconciliation commission. Getting to that will be accomplished by precedents and changes in thinking in our culture, not by any particular legal development. Such a procedure would be a success if afterwards the U.S. and Saudi and other governments began paying reparations in the form of humanitarian aid, costing them far less than they are now putting into wars, but doing a world of good for people rather than the criminal harm being done right now and for years past.

Détente and the New Cold Wars, a Global Policy Perspective

By Karl Meyer

                The possibility of war between nuclear armed powers is returning as a real threat to the security of people all over the world. Climate change, waste of limited resources, and the economic pressures of excess population growth on the carrying capacity of Earth are fueled by military spending. These threats are felt first by the most economically vulnerable regions and countries. They also drive local civil wars and regional resource and territorial wars.

                In our view, the expansionist exceptionalism of United States neo-imperialist policies is the principal driver in the renewal of Cold War hostilities among the United States, Russia and China.

                To solve these problems will require agreement and cooperation among all affected countries, with strong leadership by the world’s major powers. Given the present Charter structure of the United Nations, this means, at the very least, the five permanent members of the Security Council.
 

                The policy fantasy that stands in the way of addressing major world problems cooperatively is the idea among ignorant or venal politicians that the United States can retain and expand the boundaries of “sole superpower” domination that were achieved briefly after the collapse and dissolution of the Soviet Union. The most damaging foreign policy error of Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama, all foreign policy novices, was that they yielded to entrenched bureaucratic military/ industrial/ Congressional/governmental establishment advice and pressure to take advantage of temporary Russian weakness, and the less developed military strength of China, in order to extend the military umbrella of NATO membership into Eastern Europe and Central Asia. They pushed to ring the frontiers of Russia with new alliances, missile sites and military bases, and to extend military alliances and bases around the Pacific perimeter of China. These actions have sent a very aggressive and threatening message to the governments of Russia and China, which are getting stronger every year, and are pushing back.
 

                A second harmful error of the Bush and Obama regimes has been their belief that they could take advantage of popular unrest and revolts in Middle Eastern countries to knock off dictatorial governments and, by aiding oppressed rebel groups, establish friendly client governments in these countries. They failed to secure a stable, reliable client government in Iraq, in fact brought in a government more influenced by Iran. They are well on the road to a similar failure in Afghanistan. They failed miserably in Libya, and are failing in a terribly tragic way in Syria. How many successive tragic failures do U.S. policy elites have to experience before learning that they have neither the right nor the capability to control the future political development of these countries? Each country must sort out political and economic arrangements according to its unique balances of power and social context, without excessive outside interference. Those forces that have the strength and organization to prevail do not intend to become subservient neo-colonial clients of the United States, once their temporary need for patronage has been resolved.
 

                United States policy must stop poking and provoking Russia and China along their frontiers, and return to a strategy of seeking negotiated peaceful coexistence, and balancing of regional interests among the major powers, the United States, Russia and China, with appropriate respect for the interests of secondary powers, India, Pakistan, Iran, Brazil, Britain, Germany, France, Indonesia, Japan, etc. (Incidentally, in spite of their horrible, homicidal record of brutalizing the people of weaker countries, Nixon and Kissinger were balance-of-power realists who advanced a strategy of détente, and negotiated weapons control treaties with Russia and China, and Reagan acceded to Gorbachev’s initiatives, leading to the end of the earlier Cold Wars. These gains have been undermined by the policies of succeeding administrations.)

                With active cooperation among the great powers and large reductions in wasteful competitive military spending, all countries could cooperatively address the threats from climate change, water shortages, regional underdevelopment, and economic pressures caused by population growth.  They might also resolve civil wars and smaller scale regional wars (such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Palestine/Israel and Ukraine) through unified international pressure for  negotiated  settlements based on power sharing among all major political factions and forces within each country.

                Peace movements and civil society movements cannot dictate the policies of governments or multi-national corporations. Our role, through agitation and education, is to restrain their abuses of power as much as may be possible, and to influence the political context of their decision making as much as may be possible, through mass organization and mobilization.

                In summary, the essential key to addressing real threats to international security and peace, as well as to resolving smaller wars and regional conflicts, is to reverse the present trend toward Cold Wars with Russia and China. The world needs active cooperation among the United States, Russia, China and other influential countries, through agreement and cooperation within the United Nations framework. We need to return actively to the vision set forth in the United Nations Charter, and abandon the fantasy of unipolar world domination.
 

Karl Meyer, a longtime colleague of and adviser to Voices for Creative Nonviolence, is a fifty year veteran of nonviolent action for peace and justice and the founding coordinator of Nashville Greenlands environmental and social justice community.

Turkey Supports ISIS

From Huffington Post

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK

INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF HUMAN RIGHTS

Research Paper: ISIS-Turkey Links

By David L. Phillips

Introduction

Is Turkey collaborating with the Islamic State (ISIS)? Allegations range from military cooperation and weapons transfers to logistical support, financial assistance, and the provision of medical services. It is also alleged that Turkey turned a blind eye to ISIS attacks against Kobani.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu strongly deny complicity with ISIS. Erdogan visited the Council on Foreign Relations on September 22, 2014. He criticized "smear campaigns [and] attempts to distort perception about us." Erdogan decried, "A systematic attack on Turkey's international reputation, "complaining that "Turkey has been subject to very unjust and ill-intentioned news items from media organizations." Erdogan posited: "My request from our friends in the United States is to make your assessment about Turkey by basing your information on objective sources."

Columbia University's Program on Peace-building and Rights assigned a team of researchers in the United States, Europe, and Turkey to examine Turkish and international media, assessing the credibility of allegations. This report draws on a variety of international sources -- The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, BBC, Sky News, as well as Turkish sources, CNN Turk, Hurriyet Daily News, Taraf, Cumhuriyet, and Radikal among others.

William Blum Explains the Middle East

By William Blum

Are you confused by the Middle East? Here are some things you should know. (But you’ll probably still be confused.)

  • The US, France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the Gulf monarchies have all in the recent past supported al Qaeda and/or the Islamic State (ISIS) with arms, money, and/or manpower.

  • The first example of this was in 1979 when the United States began covert operations in Afghanistan, six months before the Russians arrived, promoting Islamic fundamentalism across the southern tier of the Soviet Union against “godless communism”. All the al-Qaeda/Taliban shit then followed.

  • In addition to Afghanistan, the United States has provided support to Islamic militants in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, the Caucasus, and Syria.

  • The United States overthrew the secular governments of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya and is trying to do the same with Syria, thus giving great impetus to the rise of ISIS. Said Barack Obama in March of this year: “ISIS is a direct outgrowth of al-Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion. Which is an example of unintended consequences. Which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.”

  • More than a million refugees from these wars of Washington are currently over-running Europe and North Africa. God Bless American exceptionalism.

  • The Iraqi, Syrian and Turkish Kurds have all fought against ISIS, but Turkey – close US ally and member of NATO – has fought against each of them.

  • Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanese factions have each supported the Syrian government in various ways in Damascus’s struggle against ISIS and other terrorist groups, including the (much celebrated but seldom seen) “moderate” ones. For this all four countries have been sharply criticized by Washington.

  • The United States has bombed ISIS in Syria, but has used the same occasions to damage Syria’s infrastructure and oil-producing capacity.

  • Russia has bombed ISIS in Syria, but has used the same occasions to attack Syria’s other enemies.

  • The mainstream media almost never mentions the proposed Qatar natural-gas pipelines – whose path to Europe Syria has stood in the way of for years – as a reason for much of the hostility toward Syria. The pipelines could dethrone Russia as Europe’s dominant source of energy.

  • In Libya, during the beginning of the 2011 civil war, anti-Gaddafi rebels, many of whom were al-Qaeda affiliated militias, were protected by NATO in “no-fly zones”.

  • US policy in Syria in the years leading up to the 2011 uprising against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, which began the whole current mess, was designed to promote sectarianism, which in turn led to civil war with the goal of regime change.

  • US Secretary of State John Kerry declared on October 22 that in resolving Syria’s civil war the country “should not be broken up, that it must remain secular, and that Syrians should choose their future leader.” (All of which actually describes Syria under Assad.) Then Kerry said: “One thing stands in the way of being able to rapidly move to implement that, and it’s a person called Assad, Bashar Assad.”

Why does the government of the United States hate Syrian president Bashar al-Assad with such passion?

Is it because, as we’re told, he’s a brutal dictator? But how can that be the reason for the hatred? It would be difficult indeed to name a brutal dictatorship of the second half of the 20th Century or of the 21st century that was not supported by the United States; not only supported, but often put into power and kept in power against the wishes of the population; at present the list would include Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Indonesia, Egypt, Colombia, Qatar, and Israel.

The United States, I suggest, is hostile to the Syrian government for the same reason it has been hostile to Cuba for more than half a century; and hostile to Venezuela for the past 15 years; and earlier to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; and to Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Chile; and so on continuing through the world atlas and history books.

What these governments have had in common can be summarized in a single word – independence … independence from American foreign policy; the refusal to be a client state of Washington; the refusal to be continuously hostile to Washington’s Officially Designated Enemies; insufficient respect and zeal for the capitalist way of life.

Tom Petty Releases New Song on Refugee Crisis

We done somethin' we both know it
We don't talk too much about it
Yeah it ain't no real big secret all the same
Somehow we get around it
Iraq wasn't really hiding WMD baby
We believed what we want to believe
You see the wars are what make all the refugees
... the wars are what make all the refugees

Somewhere, somehow somebody
Liberated you from your home
Now you're on the move to survive
Far from the graves of your loved ones
Libya's hell since we killed Gadaffi baby
Everybody's dead or hurt, not free
You see the wars are what make all the refugees
... the wars are what make all the refugees

Baby this ain't the first
Bombs fixed a million lands by making em worse
The latest lie seems real to you
But it's one of those things
You gotta die to make true

Somewhere, somehow somebody
Liberated you from your home
Who knows, maybe you were kidnapped
Tied up, taken away and held for ransom
It won't make it on the BBC baby
But everybody's dead or hurt, not free
You see the wars are what make all the refugees
... the wars are what make all the refugees

(apologies to Tom Petty who actually had nothing to do with this)

Yemeni drone victim appeals to court to end German role in US strikes

From REPRIEVE

A Yemeni family whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike have appealed to a German court to ensure that a US base in the country is not used for further attacks, which might endanger their lives.
 
In May 2014, a court in Cologne heard evidence from Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Sana’a, following revelations that Ramstein air base is used by the US to facilitate American drone strikes in Yemen. Mr Jaber is bringing the case against Germany – represented by international human rights organization Reprieve and its local partner the European Center for Human Rights (ECCHR) – for failing to stop the bases on its territory from being used for the attacks that have killed civilians.
 
Although the court ruled against Mr bin Ali Jaber in the May hearing, it gave him immediate permission to appeal the decision, while the judges agreed with his assertion that it is ‘plausible’ Ramstein air base is crucial in facilitating drone strikes in Yemen. Today’s appeal, filed at the Higher Administrative Court in Münster, asks the German government to end the country’s complicity in the extrajudicial killings.
 
Mr Jaber lost his brother-in-law Salim, a preacher, and his nephew Waleed, a local police officer, when a US strike hit the village of Khashamir on 29 August 2012. Salim often spoke out against extremism, and had used a sermon just days before he was killed to urge those present to reject Al Qaeda.
 
Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve said: “It is now clear that US bases on German territory, such as Ramstein, provide a crucial hub for the launching of drone strikes in countries like Yemen – leading to scores of civilians being killed. Faisal bin Ali Jaber and the countless other victims like him are right to call for an end to European countries’ complicity in these terrible attacks. The German courts have already signalled their serious concerns – now the government must be held accountable for allowing the use of German soil to carry out these killings.”  
 
Andreas Schüller of the ECCHR said: “Drone strikes carried out outside of conflict zones are nothing but extrajudicial targeted killings – the implementation of death sentences without any trial. German authorities are under an obligation to protect individuals – including people living in Yemen – from suffering harm caused by breaches of international law involving Germany, but the exchange of diplomatic notes between the German and US government has to date proven to be wholly unsuitable. There needs to be a public debate on whether Germany is really doing enough to prevent violations of international law and the murder of innocent people.”
 

How to win hearts and minds in the Middle East

By Tom H. Hastings

In the field in which I teach, Peace and Conflict Studies, we examine alternatives to violence or the threat of violence in the management of conflict. We are a transdisciplinary field, that is, we don't only draw from an interdisciplinary set of research findings--e.g. Anthropology, Economics, Education, History, Law, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Sociology--but we do so with certain provisos.

Our stance favors fairness, justice, and nonviolence. Our research examines both why humans use destructive methods of conflict and why and how we use constructive, creative, transformative, nonviolent methods of handling conflict. We look at interpersonal conflict and social (group-to-group) conflict.

Yemeni man granted permission to continue case against German government over role in US drone strikes

From REPRIEVE
 
A German court has granted ‘immediate permission to appeal’ to a Yemeni man in his case seeking to expose and put an end to the German government’s role in the U.S. covert drone programme in Yemen.
 
Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Sana’a who had two relatives killed in a 2012 drone strike, had his evidence heard in a Cologne court today. Mr bin Ali Jaber - represented by international human rights charity Reprieve and its local partner the European Center for Human Rights (ECCHR) brought the case against Germany, following revelations that Ramstein air base is crucial to facilitating American covert drone strikes in Yemen.

Saudis condemned for bombing airport, Alkhalifa will be challenged on Rajab

The Saudis have lost their war on Yemen, militarily, morally and politically. Yet they continue to bomb the remains of their earlier bombings. On Monday 4th May The United Nations condemned the Saudi-led coalition's airstrikes on Yemen's Sanaa airport on Monday, saying it hindered the travel of humanitarian aid workers.  "No flights can take off or land while the runways are being repaired," the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, said in a statement. "I strongly urge the coalition to stop targeting Sanaa international airport and to preserve this important lifeline - and all other airports and seaports - so that humanitarians can reach all those affected by the armed conflict in Yemen." On Monday 4th Mary residents of The Eastern Province buried Martyr Abdullah Al Ramadhan. He was killed two weeks ago by regime’s forces who attacked a group of young men preparing to watch car race outside their town of Taroot in Qatif Prov ince.

The Alkhalifa, on their part, have extended the detention of Nabeel Rajab for two more weeks until 14th May in revenge for his tweets against their intensive campaign of torture at Jaw Prison. On that day President Obama will meet the GCC leaders in Washington. Appeal letters have been sent urging him to discuss human rights and democracy in their countries and to demand the release of the Bahrain 13, Nabeel Rajab, Sheikh Ali Salman and other prisoners of conscience. The appeals were made despite the fact that the US is the main supporter of Arab dictators especially the Saudis and Alkhalifa. Hussain Abdullah, of ADHRB wrote a personal letter to Mr Obama urging him to take up the case of Nabeel Rajab with the Alkhalifa dictators attending that meeting.

On 30th April 68 Members of The European Parliament signed a letter to Federica Mogherini,E the Head of the European External Action Service urging her to take action against the Bahraini regime: The letter says: We are writing to you to express our deep concern over continuing human rights violations in Bahrain, and namely the repeated arrests of Nabeel Rajab, prominent human rights defender and President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). Mr. Rajab was recently arrested on April 2nd for "disseminating false or malicious news, statements or rumours in time of war” and for "insulting a statutory body.” We demand that strong and urgent action is taken by the EU to pressure the Bahraini government for his immediate and unconditional release, and revocation of his travel ban. Likewise the Bahraini government must release all political prisoners and cease all human rights violations.

On 5th May regime’s forces snatched a native under-aged Bahraini boy, Hassan Hamid Al Rayes in a raid on a swimming pool at Barbar Town. From Sanad Town three people were detained in house raids. They are Hussain Najeh, Mohammed Majeed and Hussain Ali Hassan. On 30th April ten people were arrested from Aali Town: Sheikh Mohammad Khalil Naysar, Sayed Ibrahim AlGhuraifi, Ali Shamtoot, Mahmood Ahmad, Jaffar AlAmm, Ali Saleh AlJamri, Kumail AlAdraj, Mortadha AlAali, Ali Hussain AlAmm and Ali Abdul Rahim AlAmm.

In its 2015 Annual Report, Freedom House has downgraded Bahrain in the democracy and human rights scale. Bahrain’s political rights rating declined from 6 to 7 due to grave flaws in the 2014 legislative elections and the government’s unwillingness to address long-standing grievances among the majority Shiite community about the drawing of electoral districts and the possibility of fair representation.

On Saturday 2nd May, The Independent published an article titled: “Dissidents’ fury at Hammond’s 'secret' Bahrain visit” in which it said: Bahraini dissidents, human rights activists and Labour have condemned Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond for secretly visiting the repressive Gulf state’s leaders on the same day that Bahrain extended the detention of its most prominent critic.” It further added: “While Mr Hammond exchanged pleasantries with Prince Salman al-Khalifa, Nabeel Rajab was remanded in custody for a further two weeks on charges of spreading “false news” on Twitter.”

On 29th April the Alkhalifa regime sentenced 12 native Bahrainis from El Ekr Town for their anti-regime activities. Salman Isa was sentenced to death for the false accusation of participating in the killing of one of the mercenaries. Seven were given life sentences; Ali Makki, Isa Moosa, Abdulla Abdul Jalil, Abdul Hadi Ali Hassan, Yousuf Abdulla Al Nata’ei, Abdul Amir Hassan Radhi and Hassan Abdulla Batti. Four were given ten years jail sentence: Jaffar Yousuf Jassim, Jaffar Abdul Amir Jaffar, Hussain Abdul Latif Mansoor and Hassan Ahmad Sharaf.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

Talk Nation Radio: Sheila Carapico: Stop the Saudi (and U.S.) War on Yemen

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-sheila-carapico-stop-the-saudi-and-us-war-on-yemen

Sheila Carapico is a Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va. She discusses the state of affairs in Yemen.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

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American Imperialism and Islamic Extremism: Partners in Crime

By Brett S. Morris

What is the source of Islamic extremism? Critics point to the religion itself: As Sam Harris claimed on Real Time With Bill Maher in October, Islam is “the mother load of bad ideas.” “That’s just a fact,” Maher responded.

This view of Islam, as a fundamentally backward religion, is woefully simplistic and ignorant, and affords those making the criticism the opportunity to ignore the responsibility they have for their own governments’ foreign policies and roles in, ironically, strengthening Islamic extremism.

A brief history lesson and a hard look at inconvenient facts would seem to be in order. The simple truth is that, were it not for Western intervention and Western support for Islamic extremists in the Middle East over the last several decades, the region would be much more secular today.

In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower noted in internal discussions that “we have a campaign of hatred against us, not by the governments but by the people” in the Middle East. The reason, explained a National Security Council report issued that same year, is because Arabs believe “the United States is seeking to protect its interest in Near East oil by supporting the status quo and opposing political or economic progress” and “desires to keep the Arab world disunited and is committed to work with ‘reactionary’ elements to that end.”

The “reactionary” elements the report refers to are dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia, a US ally. After the death of King Abdullah, he was mourned the world over by supposedly democratic-loving governments. Barack Obama issued a statement explaining that he “always valued King Abdullah’s perspective and appreciated our genuine and warm friendship.” The United Kingdom ordered flags to be flown at half-mast.

Abdullah, of course, presided over a horrible human rights record. And according to Hillary Clinton, as revealed in cables released by WikiLeaks, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” More recently, donors in Saudi Arabia funded ISIS in Syria, to which the government turned a blind eye.

The relationship (which is sustained through huge arms sales) dates back several decades. First backed by Britain, the Saudi government became the center of and inspiration for the reactionary Wahhabist strain of Sunni Islam. One of the purposes of the US-Saudi relationship was to serve as a counterweight to the secular nationalist Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, “an extremely dangerous fanatic,” in the words of the secretary of state at the time, John Foster Dulles. Nasser was pursuing an independent course who sought to maintain control of Egypt’s oil resources, an intolerable outcome for Western powers.

Later, the United States would prop up the Hosni Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt for several decades. Though ousted in the 2011 Arab Spring, the United States is now supporting the new military government, which overthrew Egypt’s democratically elected president in 2013.

According to a report issued in 2004 from the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board, “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies.” The report notes that “there is one overarching goal” Islamists share; namely, “the overthrow of what Islamists call the ‘apostate’ regimes: the tyrannies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan, and the Gulf states. … The United States finds itself in the strategically awkward–and potentially dangerous–situation of being the longstanding prop and alliance partner of these authoritarian regimes.”

By supporting these governments, the United States is helping sustain Islamic extremist movements, both directly and indirectly. Directly, because propping up these governments allows them to spread their dangerous ideologies. Indirectly, because supporting them breeds resentment in the region.

Another government that received the ire of the West for taking control of its own resources was Iran. The democratically elected and secular prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddegh, nationalized the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company there. So, the United States and United Kingdom decided to orchestrate a coup against him in 1953. The shah (“king”) was installed as dictator and presided over a secret police unit known as SAVAK, which engaged in widespread torture. This set the stage for the takeover of Iran by Shiite fundamentalists in 1979.

Also in 1979, the Carter administration began funneling aid to the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Contrary to popular belief, this was not done to liberate Afghanistan from Soviet rule. In fact, aid was first ordered to the mujahideen six months before the Soviet invasion. According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, “we knowingly increased the probability that they [the Soviets] would” intervene. Brzezinski believed that “this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.”

Aid was funneled to the most extremist factions possible. One warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, received more aid than any other, despite his known penchant for throwing acid in women’s faces.

In any case, after the Soviets withdrew, aid continued to the mujahideen, for the purpose of overthrowing the Afghan government, the most progressive in Afghanistan’s history. The People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), in power from 1978 to 1992, instituted widespread reforms, including the emancipation of women, land reform, the cancellation of peasant debts, and the building of schools and clinics.

After the PDPA collapsed in 1992, Afghanistan fell into chaos, setting the stage for the takeover of the Taliban in 1996.

Meanwhile in Pakistan, where the aid program (known as Operation Cyclone) was organized, the Reagan administration was supporting a brutal dictator known as Zia-ul-Haq, an Islamic extremist who had come to a power in a coup in 1978, overthrowing a secular government. Zia carried out an Islamization project in Pakistan, with the building of hundreds of madrassas that preached intolerant variants of Islam and declaring judicial decisions must be based on Sharia law. The Reagan administration funded Zia’s government with $5 billion ($2 billion of which was military aid), as well as a further $3 billion to fund the mujahideen in Afghanistan. The stalwart US ally, Saudi Arabia, agreed to fund the mujahideen dollar for dollar for whatever the United States spent.

After Saddam Hussein (a US-backed dictator in the 1980s) invaded Kuwait in 1990, Osama bin Laden tried convincing the Saudi government to allow him and his mujahideen forces to defend Saudi Arabia. He was rebuffed, and the Saudis instead decided to allow American troops to be stationed on their soil. This incensed bin Laden, who was exiled from Saudi Arabia after speaking out against them.

In 1998, bin Laden issued a fatwa, explaining his reasons for wanting to attack the United States: First, the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia and US support for that government, which uses its oil wealth to enrich the ruling class there by exporting it to the West. Second, US aggression against Iraq. The United States ignored any potential diplomatic settlements of the conflict that led to the Gulf War. During the war itself, civilian infrastructure was deliberately targeted. Harsh sanctions were placed on Iraq after the war, causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children. And third, support for Israel’s colonization program of Palestine.

Israel is an interesting case. It maintains a brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, including an illegal settlement expansion program. The United States bankrolls these activities, and continues to block a diplomatic settlement of the conflict. Hamas, the fundamentalist group that Israel now complains about, was actually founded with the help of the Israelis for the purpose of undermining secular Palestinian factions.

The US is virtually alone in the world in its support for Israel, and earns much contempt for it. As Michael Scheuer, a former CIA intelligence officer and Chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station, explains, “our relationship with the Israelis … cause[s] us to have dead Americans and extraordinary expenses in fighting the Muslim world.”

More generally, Scheuer argues that the reasons Islamic terrorists attack the United States have nothing “to do with our freedom, liberty, and democracy, but everything to do with U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world.”

After the 9/11 attacks, (which bin Laden explained happened because “you attacked us and continue to attack us”), the Bush administration launched its disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, falling right into Al-Qaeda’s trap. Bin Laden’s strategy was to provoke the United States into invading Muslim countries, arousing Muslim anger and forcing the United States into a long war of attrition, which, eventually, bin Laden hoped, would bankrupt the United States and force it to leave the Mideast forever.

According to the Chicago Project on Security & Terrorism’s Suicide Attack Database, before the United States invaded Afghanistan, there had only been one suicide attack in its history. Since 2001, there have been over 1,000 such attacks. Tens of thousands of civilians have died in the war. Opium production is now at an all-time high, a reversal from the late 1990s when the Taliban had eradicated cultivation.

The invasion of Iraq precipitated a huge increase in worldwide terrorism, as could have been predicted. Before the US invasion in 2003, there had never been a single suicide bombing in Iraq’s history. Since that time, there have been over 1,700 such attacks. In fact, the invasion resulted in a 607 percent increase in terrorist attacks worldwide. A survey conducted by PLOS Medicine found that the war killed approximately half a million Iraqis. Another survey put the number killed at over one million.

From of the ashes of Iraq arose ISIS, which is now spreading its destruction across Iraq and Syria. Graham E. Fuller, a former senior CIA analyst, explains that “the United States is one of the key creators of this organization. The United States did not plan the formation of ISIS, but its destructive interventions in the Middle East and the war in Iraq were the basic causes of the birth of ISIS.”

After all of this–the millions dead, the destabilization of multiple countries, the invasions and bombings, the overthrow of governments, the inevitable rise of Islamic extremists as a reaction to Western interventions–you would think the West would have finally learned its lesson.

But you would be wrong.

In 2011, NATO bombed Libya to oust the secular government of Muammar Gaddafi, using the Arab Spring movement there as a fig leaf (meanwhile, the Obama administration ignored Arab Spring movements in allies Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which were crushed by force). According to a study from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, “NATO’s action magnified the conflict’s duration about sixfold and its death toll at least sevenfold, while also exacerbating human rights abuses, humanitarian suffering, Islamic radicalism, and weapons proliferation in Libya and its neighbors.”

The conflict in Libya soon spread to Mali. According to the Belfer study, “After Qaddafi’s defeat, his ethnic Tuareg soldiers of Malian descent fled home and launched a rebellion in their country’s north,” a rebellion soon hijacked by Islamic extremists. Weapons from the destabilized Libyan state found their way into extremists’ hands in Mali. Indeed, the weapons may have tipped the balance in favor of the Islamic extremists. In 2013, France began bombing Mali, apparently under the strange impression that yet more violence would solve the problem.

After the uprisings in Syria in 2011, the Obama administration dedicated itself to undermining the secular government of Bashar al-Assad, putting itself on the same side as jihadists. Military aid was funneled to the “moderate” rebels (who are actually not so moderate). Although the Obama administration has now publicly backed off from demanding Assad’s ouster, it is now training a “moderate” rebel force for the purpose of going after ISIS–even though the rebels would rather fight Assad.

When ISIS invaded Iraq, it gained a huge stockpile of weapons. The weapons came from none other than the United States, which had armed the Iraqi government with said weapons.

This insane cycle of violence seems set to continue. The US and its coalition are bombing Iraq and Syria on a regular basis. Drone strikes have recently targeted Pakistan and Yemen. Yet more reactions on the part of Islamic extremists are inevitable. When will enough be enough?

Obama the war president -- War: Where 69¢ of Each Tax Dollar Goes

By Dave Lindorff

 

         The Nobel Peace Laureate President Barack Obama, the guy who once campaigned claiming one US war -- the one against Iraq -- was a “bad” one, and the other -- against Afghanistan -- was a “good” one, turns out to be a man who, once anointed commander-in-chief, can’t seem to find a war he doesn’t consider to be a “good” idea.

The Key That Is the Saudi Kingdom

Was the United States compelled to attack Afghanistan and Iraq by the events of September 11, 2001?

A key to answering that rather enormous question may lie in the secrets that the U.S. government is keeping about Saudi Arabia.

Some have long claimed that what looked like a crime on 9/11 was actually an act of war necessitating the response that has brought violence to an entire region and to this day has U.S. troops killing and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Could diplomacy and the rule of law have been used instead? Could suspects have been brought to trial? Could terrorism have been reduced rather than increased? The argument for those possibilities is strengthened by the fact that the United States has not chosen to attack Saudi Arabia, whose government is probably the region's leading beheader and leading funder of violence.

But what does Saudi Arabia have to do with 9/11? Well, every account of the hijackers has most of them as Saudi. And there are 28 pages of a 9/11 Commission report that President George W. Bush ordered classified 13 years ago.

Senate Intelligence Committee former chair Bob Graham calls Saudi Arabia "a co-conspirator in 911," and insists that the 28 pages back up that claim and should be made public.

Philip Zelikow, chair of the 9/11 Commission, has noted the "likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to Al Qaeda."

Zacarias Moussaoui, a former al Qaeda member, has claimed that prominent members of Saudi Arabia's royal family were major donors to al Qaeda in the late 1990s and that he discussed a plan to shoot down Air Force One using a Stinger missile with a staff member at the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

Al Qaeda donors, according to Moussaoui, included Prince Turki al-Faisal, then the Saudi intelligence chief; Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the longtime Saudi ambassador to the United States; Prince al-Waleed bin Talal, a prominent billionaire investor; and many of the country's leading clerics.

Bombing and invading Iraq has been a horrible policy. Supporting and arming Saudi Arabia is a horrible policy. Confirming Saudi Arabia's role in funding al Qaeda should not become an excuse to bomb Saudi Arabia (of which there's no danger) or for bigotry against Americans of Saudi origin (for which there's no justification).

Rather, confirming that the Saudi government allowed and quite possibly participated in funneling money to al Qaeda should wake everyone up to the fact that wars are optional, not necessary. It might also help us question Saudi pressure on the U.S. government to attack new places: Syria and Iran. And it might increase support for cutting off the flow of U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia -- a government that takes no second place to ISIS in brutality.

I've often heard that if we could prove that there weren't really any hijackers on 9/11 all support for wars would vanish. One of many hurdles I'm unable to leap to arrive at that position is this one: Why would you invent hijackers to justify a war on Iraq but make the hijackers almost all be Saudi?

However, I think there's a variation that works. If you could prove that Saudi Arabia had more to do with 9/11 than Afghanistan (which had very little to do with it) or Iraq (which had nothing to do with it), then you could point out the U.S. government's incredible but very real restraint as it chooses peace with Saudi Arabia. Then a fundamental point would become obvious: War is not something the U.S. government is forced into, but something it chooses.

That's the key, because if it can choose war with Iran or Syria or Russia, it can also choose peace.

What laws of war? We do what we want!: Obama Admits US Bombing Attacks in Syria Pay Little Heed to Protecting Civilians

By Dave Lindorff

 

In a perverse way, maybe it's progress that the US is now admitting that it doesn't really care about how many civilians it kills in its efforts to "decapitate" a few suspected terrorist leaders.

Yemen Could Throw Out Its Government Over Support for U.S. Drone Murders

From REPRIEVE:


Drone attacks bring Yemeni government to brink of no confidence vote

Yemeni parliamentarians are today challenging the legitimacy of President Hadi's government, following the administration's failure to stop repeated US drone attacks.
 
MPs are planning a vote of no confidence if President Hadi's ministers do not attend parliament to answer questions on the drone program; some are calling for an immediate dissolution of the government.
 
The parliament’s attack on the Hadi administration follows a particularly deadly drone strike on Al Bayda on April 19, in which Reprieve has discovered that four builders were killed on their way to work, leaving 20 children without fathers. The Yemeni government has admitted that their killing was a mistake.

The strike violated last December's parliamentary resolution banning the use of drones on Yemeni territory. Yemeni lawmakers are furious that the administration has repeatedly failed to enforce the ban, and that President Hadi's Minister of Defence, Minister of the Interior and Minister of Oil have refused to attend several parliamentary meetings on the subject.  

Shawki al-Qadhi, an MP in the Yemeni parliament and a member of the parliament’s Committee on Freedoms and Human Rights said: “How can we talk about the rule of law when another country kills our citizens without charge or trial? How can we talk about governance when Parliament's resolutions are ignored by the both the US and Yemeni administrations? We Yemenis are the people who suffer most from the unrest in our country, and as we have heard recently, the majority of people causing the unrest are foreigners who come from outside Yemen. We would obviously welcome external help in dealing with the problem, but only if Yemen has clear agreements and control over what takes place. As MPs we have a responsibility to protect our constituents and to uphold the values of our country. Drones undermine both. Our citizens are less safe with drones in the air-- not only are they vulnerable to mistaken targeting but we have seen time and time again that when civilians are killed, it immediately swells the ranks of the armed groups. We even lack a clear law about compensating the families of the victims, which is something we urgently need. Drones are undermining our nascent democratic institutions.”

Yemeni lawmakers angered by Easter violation of parliamentary drone ban, as US pledges to maintain secrecy

Yemeni MPs have voted to summon the Yemeni Minister of Interior and Minister of Defense over drone strikes which occurred over the Easter weekend killing at least four civilians. These strikes contravened a parliamentary resolution passed in December 2013 banning the use of drones on Yemeni territory.

In a parliamentary session on Sunday, MPs described the ongoing drone program as illegal, beyond the pale of international norms, and a violation of Yemeni sovereignty.

A Yemeni news source reported that the MP for Al-Bayda, the region in which four civilians were killed in a strike on April 19, stated that ongoing drone strikes are a primary motivation for locals to join Al-Qaeda.

Yemen's parliamentary vote came only days before it was revealed that the US Senate has axed a legal provision which would have required the Administration to report on drone casualties.

The Yemeni government has admitted that the Easter weekend killings mistakenly killed civilians. The US has made no comment, either to Yemeni lawmakers or the Yemeni people.

Yemeni MP Zaid Alshami said: “The US and Yemeni governments bear the responsibility for these utterly counterproductive killings which only increase sympathy for Al-Qaeda and revenge. These attacks continue to take place without warning, information or parliamentary approval. All we see is killing outside of the rule-of-law, which has increased the retaliatory violence, explosions and instability which are destroying Yemen and its people and destabilizing its economy. At the same time, Yemenis are only getting angrier at their government and the United States. These two governments must compensate bereaved Yemeni families, and end their drone attacks.”

Reprieve's Strategic Director Cori Crider said:  “We’re still largely in the dark about who died in the massive strikes over Easter, but Reprieve’s initial findings about al-Bayda are worrying. Meanwhile, drones are driving a dangerous wedge between the US and Yemen. The Obama administration claims to support democracy in Yemen; it’s time for the US put its money where its mouth is, and bring its counter-terrorism policies within the rule of law.”

ENDS
 
Notes to editors
 
1. For further information, please contact katherine.oshea@reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064.

2. The two ministers summoned by Yemeni parliamentarians were the Minister of Defence, Major General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed and the Minister of Interior, Major General Abdo Hussein Al-Tareb.

3. Reprieve US opened in New York City in February 2014. A partner organization to Reprieve UK, Reprieve US provides advocacy and litigation aimed at stopping abuses in the death penalty and in counter-terrorism. For information about the work of Reprieve US please visit reprieve.org or contact Katherine O’Shea on katherine.oshea@reprieve.org or +1 917 855 8064.

Fear is fear, no matter where you are from

By Atiaf Alwazir

Earlier this month, I spoke at a panel in Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. During the talk, I showed a photo of a young Yemeni boy in the province of Mareb (which was hit by five drone strikes this month), demonstrating how he ducked in his school as soon as he heard the sound of a plane. He was not sure whether it was a drone or a fighter jet, but he has become used to ducking this way ever since his village was hit and his friend hit with a shrapnel.

The next day, I received an e-mail from David Swanson who was on the same panel. He pointed out that the photo of the Yemeni boy reminded him of the photo below, of children in the US in the 1950s ducking in schools for fear of a nuclear explosion.



photo on left via David Swanson from http://airminded.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/brighton-tech-1942.jpeg, photo on right by Atiaf Alwazir, taken in Mareb on Feb 28, 2013 

The two photos are strikingly similar, both children ducking to save themselves from bombs that kill, wound, and displace people.  From the early 1950s until the end of the Cold War, the US government taught "duck and cover" to generations of school children and adults as a method of personal protection in the event of a nuclear war.

In 1951, the American Civil Defense film, "Duck and Covered" geared towards children, portrayed the act of ducking and covering by Bert The Turtle. Wouldn't it be ironic, if we use the lyrics of this American film to teach children in Yemen today how to "duck and cover" from American planes?!



A Duck and Cover movie poster, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/52/Bert2.png
 



BERT THE TURTLE [THE DUCK AND COVER SONG] 

"There was a turtle by the name of Bert 
And Bert the Turtle was very alert
When danger threatened him he never got hurt
He knew just what to do
He’d duck and cover, duck and cover…”
“Now, you and I don’t have shells to crawl into like Bert the Turtle, so we have to cover up in our own way.”
"Sundays, holidays, vacation time, we must be ready every day, all the time, to do the right thing if the atomic bomb explodes. Duck and cover!”
“First you duck, then you cover. Duck and cover tight. Duck and cover under the table.”

Yemeni children living in areas of conflict have the same feeling of fear that has engulfed millions of children around the world. However, unlike their brothers and sisters around the globe, their own government has also abandoned them. No films are being made to teach methods of self protection, no warnings given before US and Yemeni planes strike, and when wounded or when their houses are demolished, no apology or compensation is given.

It shouldn't matter where the person is from, where he/she is living, what religion they follow or don't; human lives are equal, and they all deserve a chance to live in peace and with freedom to move and enjoy this earth that we call home.

Misplaced Lessons of Tahrir

I still want Dirty Wars to win the Oscar, but The Square is a documentary worth serious discussion as we hit the three-year point since the famous occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo that overthrew Mubarak -- in particular because a lot of people seem to get a lot of the lessons wrong.

I suppose some people will leave Dirty Wars imagining that we need clean wars, whatever those would be.  But too many people seem to be drawing from The Square lessons they brought with them to it, including these: Thou shalt have a leader; thou shalt work within a major political party; thou shalt have an identifiable group of individuals ready to take power.  I don't think following these commandments would have easily changed the past three years in Egypt; I don't think they're where Egyptians should be heading; and I'm even more confident they're blind alleys in the United States -- where they serve as supposed remedies for the supposed failings of Occupy.

Many lessons that might be drawn from The Square seem right to me.  Did the people leave the square too early? Hell yes.  Was the movement divided when the Muslim Brotherhood sought to claim victory exclusively for itself and not for all of the people of Egypt? Of course it was.  Let that be a lesson to us indeed.  We agree, virtually all of us in the U.S., on a lot of needed reforms.  We're all getting collectively screwed.  But we divide ourselves over stupid petty stuff, irrelevant stuff, secondary stuff -- cultural issues, ideologies, superficial identities, and -- yes -- big-name leaders (think how many opponents of militarism and Big Brother you could agree with if they weren't "Ron Paulers").  Preferring one tyrant to another because of their religion or race is not a flaw the Egyptians have a monopoly on (think of all the Christian support for Bush and African-American support for Obama). 

Was trusting the military a horrible idea? No. It wasn't a horrible idea.  It was the most catastrophically stupendously stupid notion ever to enter a human skull.  Militaries don't support people.  People support militaries through their useful and exploited labor.  Costa Rica had to disband its military to stop having coups.  When a military exists, appealing to the humanity of its individual members is wise indeed.  But expecting the military as a whole to be democratic to the point of handing over power before it's compelled to do so is decidedly foolish.  None of which is to say the Egyptians have had much choice or that their project is yet completed.  Between them and us the question of which group is learning faster is no contest at all.

Do the people of Egypt need a Constitution rather than a pharaoh? Yes, absolutely. Does the Occupy movement need demands? Yes, of course it does.  Must we all create an ongoing culture of nonviolent action? Yes, sir-ee.  While The Square doesn't explicitly make the point, would better nonviolent discipline help? Undoubtedly.  Is the key lesson to never give up? Indeed.  All of these lessons should soak in deep.

But other points are less clear, in both The Square and common discussions of Egyptian revolution.  Tahrir Square didn't begin in 2011, and neither did the Muslim Brotherhood.  The foundations for the popular movement and for the religious party were laid over a period of years.  Foundations are being laid for nonviolent revolution in other places now. 

Did the Egyptians fail? And did they fail because they are great protesters but bad democrats who should be condescended to by enlightened Americans?  No.  First, it isn't over.  Second, the United States has a failed system of government itself, as 80-90 percent of the people here have been telling pollsters for years.  Third, although I caught only one very quick little hint at it in The Square, the major financial and military backer of the brutal, corrupt regimes in Egypt -- before Tahrir and since -- is the United States government.  To the extent that Egyptians have failed they've failed with our help.  And whether we're unaware of the billions of dollars of our grandchildren's unearned wages that we give to Egyptian thugs to assault the Egyptian people every year, or aware and unable to do anything about it -- either way, our democracy hardly shines out as a model for the world.

A leader would have divided the Tahrir movement or the Occupy movement.  That we don't think of ourselves as having leaders is a function of the corporate media giving no microphones to people who favor major improvements to the world.  Ironically, just like coverage of New York Police Department brutality, this helps us to build a stronger movement.  That is to say, it helps us in so far as it allows a movement not focused on a leader.  Yes, we'd be much stronger with major media coverage, but the possible development of leaders recognized and named as such would be a downside.  And a successful movement behind a leader would only be able to put that leader into power if it succeeded far beyond where Egypt arrived in 2011 -- and it would only be able to get that leader back out of power again if it succeeded even further.

Is the lesson of Tahrir that Occupiers should back candidates in the Democratic Party?  Is an organized party that can challenge the Muslim Brotherhood or the Democrats the answer?  Not within a corrupt system it isn't.  When our goal is not a better regime but something approaching democracy, then what's needed is the nonviolent imposition of democracy on whatever individuals are in power, and the development of a culture of eternal vigilance to maintain it.  You can't elect your way out of a system of corrupt elections.  You can't impose a group of populist leaders on a government by coup d'etat and then write a democratic constitution afterwards. 

No, that is not what happened in the United States, and not just because the old government got on ships and sailed away, but because the Constitution was fundamentally anti-democratic.  The United States has gained democracy through nonviolent movements of public pressure, imposed reforms, amendments, court rulings, and the changing of the culture.  Reforms are needed more badly than ever now, and whether they're imposed at the federal level or through the states or through secession, they must come through popular nonviolent pressure, as bullets and ballots are virtually helpless here.

The lesson I take away from The Square is that we must prevent the operation of business as usual until the institution itself, not its face, is fixed.  We can put up giant posters of a black man followed by a white woman followed by some other demographic symbol, but the posters will still be on the walls of prisons, barracks, and homeless shelters, unless we fix the structure of things.  That means:

  • Rights for people, and for the natural environment, not for corporations.
  • Spending money on elections is not a human right of free speech.
  • Elections entirely publicly financed.
  • The right to vote, to have time off work to vote, and to vote on a paper ballot publicly counted at the polling place.
  • Free air time, ballot access, and debate participation to all candidates who have collected sufficient signatures of potential constituents.
  • A citizens branch and public initiative power by signature collection.
  • The application of criminal laws to authorities who commit crimes or abuse their office.
  • Mandatory impeachment and recall votes for officials facing prosecution.
  • The right to a decent income, housing, healthcare, education, peace, a healthy environment, and freedom from debt.
  • The rights of the natural environment to continue and thrive.
  • The institution of minimum and maximum wages and a ban on extreme wealth.
  • Demilitarization.
  • Dismantling of the prison industry.

Give me all of that or give me death.  Take your bullshit rhetoric about "liberty" and name a square after it.

Outlaw drone strikes, says Yemeni National Dialogue

From REPRIEVE:

Yemen’s National Dialogue Conference (NDC), the body appointed to chart a post-revolutionary course for the country, has recommended that the new Yemeni constitution make a criminal offence of extra-judicial killing. The recommendations, issued today by the National Issues and Transitional Justice Working Group, would outlaw the US drone strikes that have killed and injured hundreds of people in Yemen, including the December targeting of a wedding party that killed 12 and injured 14.

The news comes amid an apparent ramping up of US drone strikes in Yemen; there have been eight strikes in the last two months alone. Last week, a Yemeni delegation to the United Nations admitted that the Government has had to establish a counselling centre for children because the level of trauma caused by drone attacks in the country is so high.
Meanwhile, a growing clamour of voices is urging the US government to reconsider the controversial policy. This week, former US commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal told the BBC that drone strikes risked creating “a tremendous amount of resentment” in places like Yemen.    

The NDC was established in 2012 as part of an internationally-sponsored initiative that led to President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepping down in February 2012, following the 2011 uprising. It was designed to be representative of all Yemeni society, and met throughout 2013 to agree a way forward for a new constitution for Yemen.

Baraa Shiban, a Reprieve Associate based in Yemen and a leading member of the group, said: 

“To date, there has been little to no accountability in Yemen for the suffering caused by drone strikes, which have terrorised local populations.   

“We welcome this move to take real steps towards protecting the rights and security of Yemen’s citizens, and urge the Yemeni Government to ensure that these recommendations are included in the country’s new constitution.   

“It’s disheartening, however, to see the US intensifying drone strikes in Yemen at the very moment the Yemeni people are working to criminalise them. The US has supported the NDC process, but persists in ignoring its outcomes when inconvenient.”

Yemen 'set up a counselling centre' for children because of drone strikes

From REPRIEVE:
 
A Yemeni delegation to the UN yesterday admitted that it has had to establish a counselling centre for children because the level of traumatisation caused by US drone attacks in the country is so high. 
 
At a periodic review of Yemen by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child yesterday, the Yemeni delegation was asked by the Committee about the psychological impact of drone strikes on children. The Yemeni official said that following a drone attack on a residential area, they had found it necessary to set up a counselling centre.
 
The delegation also stressed that the country's Parliament has voted to stop US drone strikes, saying:
 
“The Yemeni Parliament one month ago adopted a prohibition of American drones carrying out attacks in Yemen and we will continue to review and discuss this issue.”
 
When asked by a member of the committee how Yemen is trying to prevent drone strikes, the delegation said:
 
“We have signed an agreement with the US and other countries to fight terrorism…We will fight terrorism wherever it occurs in conformity with our agreement with the US.” The delegation then went on to admit that, “Of course mistakes have been made.”
 
These statements follow on from a report from UN Secretary General, Ban-ki Moon to the Security Council last year by stating that drones were violating a range of children’s rights from their right to life to their right to education.
 
CIA drone strikes in Yemen have killed an estimated 42 children. In March last year Dr Peter Schaapveld, an expert in psychological trauma assessment and treatment told British MPs, following a trip assessing victims and communities in Yemen, that US drones in the country were “causing a psychological emergency.” 
 
Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said: “In places like Yemen, the US drone programme is terrorising entire civilian populations, nearly half of which are children. President Hadi's agreements with the US are trumping Yemen's responsibility to protect its children. Instead of allowing the US to bomb his country to pieces and then setting up a recovery centre, President Hadi should listen to his Parliament and stop the drone strikes.”

Human rights activist in Yemen receives death threat for investigating drone attack

Baraa Shiban, an investigator in Yemen for human rights charity Reprieve, received an anonymous death threat yesterday (Thursday) relating to his investigation of a US drone strike which killed 12 wedding guests and injured 14 others in al-Baydah province, on December 12, 2013.
 
The anonymous caller demanded that Mr. Shiban abandon his investigation of the drone strike and then threatened his life.
 
The investigation to which the caller referred exposed that the drone strike had hit a wedding procession, rather than Al-Qaeda militants as the US and Yemeni governments had initially claimed. The findings of Reprieve’s investigation, which were broadcast on the US network NBC on Tuesday, have sparked the US administration to launch an internal investigation. 
 
Reprieve has written to governmental officials calling on them to investigate the threat and take any steps required by Yemeni law. Reprieve Legal Director Kat Craig said: “Our primary concern is, of course, for the safety of our colleague. We have asked President Hadi to take a stand to protect Baraa and other human rights advocates who are so vital to Yemen’s democratic transition. But the nature of the threat, and the proximity of it to the high profile coverage of this recent strike procured by Baraa, only makes us more determined to continue our work to expose the unlawfulness of drones in Yemen, how they are killing civilians and terrorising entire communities. We hope that the Yemeni and international community will continue to assist our colleague in his brave work.”

Yemeni drone victim requests meeting with Obama during Washington visit

From Reprieve:
 
A Yemeni man who lost two members of his family to a US drone strike one year ago has asked President Obama to meet with him when he visits Washington DC this week.
 
Faisal bin Ali Jaber lost his brother in law, a preacher who publicly opposed al Qaeda, and nephew, a local policeman, in a strike that took place in the Hadhramout region on August 29, 2012.
 
Just days before he was killed, Salim bin Ali Jaber had preached at the local mosque against al Qaeda.  He was killed, along with police officer Waleed bin Ali Jaber, in a strike which may have been targeted at three strangers who visited the village demanding to speak to Salem following his sermon.
 
Mr Jaber is visiting Washington DC from Thursday November 14 to Wednesday November 20 in order to hold meetings with members of Congress and address conferences of academics and activists regarding his experiences.  His visa has been sponsored by peace group Code Pink, at whose conference he is speaking on Saturday.
 
Writing to President Obama on behalf of Mr Jaber, his legal representative, Cori Crider, an attorney at human rights charity Reprieve said:
 
“As well as killing innocent Yemenis, Faisal believes the drone strikes are counter-productive.  His village is peaceful.  They bore the US no ill-will, quite the contrary as can be seen from Salim’s brave stand five days before he died.  Yet today the villagers associate the US with the brutal murder of two of their own. 
 
“Faisal is visiting the US as a representative of the victims’ families to bring attention to the true cost of the drone war, not only in terms of Yemeni lives and but in terms of America’s reputation in the region.  I know that you are very busy, but I hope that you might make time to meet him, in order to understand the cost of the US’ drone programme for those on the ground in Yemen.”

Yemeni Man To Tell Congress About Drone Strike That Killed Brother Who Stood Up To Al Qaeda

Faisal bin ali Jaber, a Yemeni man whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike, is traveling to the United States this week to tell his story to Congress and human rights activists at this weekend’s Drone Summit (which I’m covering for Truthout, FYI).

Jaber’s brother-in-law, 49-year-old Sheik Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, was killed in a covert drone strike on Hadhramout in August 2012. Salem was a Yemeni cleric and father of seven who preached loudly against the extremism exhibited by Al Qaeda, which his family feared would invite violent retribution from Al Qaeda linked militants. But in the end, it was US violence that ended Salem’s life as well as that of Waleed bin ali Jaber, a local policeman who was with Salem at the time of strike.

Read the rest at Dispatched from the Underclass.

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https://act.rootsaction.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12501

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