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‘My husband kills kids with drones’: Michelle Obama’s viral pic bombed with anti-drone campaign

RT | May 14, 2014

BnQ0OUoIMAADoXGWhen US First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in a picture supporting the 270 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria, she was praised for taking a stand against Boko Haram. But others quickly subverted her message and turned it into an anti-drone campaign.

Michelle Obama appeared in the viral image last week, holding up a sign that said “#Bring Back Our Girls.” The hashtag quickly spread online, hitting home with an online audience that had read about the tragic kidnapping of the schoolgirls by a radical Islamist group.

Her contribution to the ongoing conversation did not go unnoticed by critics of President Obama. Twitter users either photoshopped the image or held their own sign, posting pictures that raised various concerns on topics ranging from American conservatism, sports, and drones.

The Britain-based non-profit Bureau of Investigative Journalism announced earlier this year that, in the five years that Obama has been in office, at least 2,400 people across the Middle East have been killed by drones. … Full article

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Colombian Army Escalates Attack on Communities near Tolemaida Military Base

By Luke Finn | Red Hot Burning Peace | May 14, 2014
Colombian soldiers uproot fruit trees (Peace Presence)

The communities of Yucala, Mesa Bajo, and Naranjala are facing a slow and deliberate process of displacement by a key army base used by the U.S. military in Colombia.

Seven military bases in Colombia fall under the U.S.-Colombia Defense Cooperation Agreement, which allows for U.S. Military access to Colombian bases, and one of those is Tolemaida, Cundinamarca. It was originally founded in 1954 by Colombia’s only ever dictator, General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (though, of course, Colombia’s list of authoritarian rulers is much longer), and modeled on Fort Benning, Georgia, home of the School of the Americas (now WHINSEC), the infamous training ground for human rights abusers throughout the hemisphere. Like the School of the Americas, Tolemaida was to become primarily a center for training, here in anti-guerrilla (and more recently counter-insurgency) warfare, specifically through its lauded “Curso de Lanceros” course run by U.S. officers and taken by amongst others the armies of the United States, France, and Panama, as well as Colombians. Tolemaida has a permanent presence of U.S. soldiers.

The Tolemaida base is located on a plateau, overlooking the river Sumapaz, an area that amongst other things contains the largest páramo ecosystem in the world, noted even within Colombia for its bio-diversity. Prior to 1954, a community on the plateau, named their settlement “El Mirador,” or “La Mesa.” One man I met, who still remembered those days, told me proudly that they had both a butcher and a soccer field. But then came La Violencia and the new military base, and the communites moved further down the hillside to the veredas of Yucala, Naranjala, and Mesa Bajo, clearing the land and planting their crops.

The community has been in a state of near constant harassment ever since the base’s construction, and even more so as the base looks to expand. For example, back in the 1980’s the military cut electricity to the community. The 150 campesino families affected today, experience three main forms of harassment as part of the Colombian Army’s petty and vindictive campaign.

The first is the economic blockade of the community. The small road (in a state of severe disrepair) up the hillside, turns off the Pan-American highway, and Policía Militar from the base, are posted daily on the road. Thus, the military prevents the community’s access to large amounts of food, materials to repair houses, and materials to prepare their stable fruit crops. Not even a single bag of cement comes through. People are going hungry, there is no money coming into the community, and their houses are falling down around their ears.

The second is the deliberate destruction of community property. On a number of occasions over the last year soldiers have come down from the base and torn up irrigation systems and fruit trees. On June 19, 2013, over 150 fruit trees were uprooted. This carnage is a further attempt to put a stranglehold on the economic life of the community, and starve them out.

Military trash pollutes stream (Peace Presence)

The third way, and perhaps the most shocking, is the deliberate contamination of the community’s water, constituting a sort of biological warfare. At the Cueca de la Quebrada Naranjala, the primary water source for the families, the Army has dumped the rubbish from the base, an estimated 30 tons. Battery packs, broken glass, and ceramics, slowly rotting camouflage patterned clothing and bedding, munitions boxes (labeled in English and produced in the United States), and electrical equipment of all sorts litters the fount of the stream, and in rainy season get washed down hill and collect in sodden clumps. The water is visibly toxic green in parts, orange in others, with an oily sheen, and chemical foam. The putrefaction fills your lungs and turns your stomach as you clamber over a mountain of rubbish in one of the most beautiful places in the country.

The charitable could imagine this to be merely neglectful and careless, were it not for the numerous complaints raised by the community, including two (ignored) petitions at local and national level, a new case in front of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and the economic harassment they have faced. But rubbish is still being dumped, and as it stands this seems to be a deliberate attack on the psychological, moral, and physical well being of these fifth generation workers of this land.

The expanding military base (and not to mention the vacationing bogotanos who buy up fincas and build condominiums in the area) has squeezed the communities of Yucala, Naranjala, and Mesa Bajo from both sides in a campaign of outrageous malice. There is no explicit violence in the area, no guerrilla, paramilitary, or bandas criminales, just the economic and environmental violence of the state against this blameless community. The fatuous, meaningless motto of the Colombian Army is “Faith in the Cause”—but if we were to take this at face value, what cause is this? Another slogan is “Yes, there are Heroes in Colombia”—is poisoning wells ever heroic?

Luke Finn is a writer and international accompanier with Fellowship of Reconciliation Peace Presence in Colombia. He graduated from the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute, University of Manchester. Follow @Peace_Presence and on Facebook.

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Environmentalism, Militarism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

President Obama Receives “Ambassador for Humanity” Award (Not Satire)

By Felicity Arbuthnot | Dissident Voice | May 13, 2014

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.

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

San Francisco Rides the $15 Wave

By Shamus Cooke | Worker’s Action | May 13, 2014

It seems that Seattle has officially passed the $15 baton to San Francisco, and they’re running with it. On May 5th San Francisco had its first public organizing meeting to prepare for a ballot measure to raise the minimum wage to $15. The Labor movement and broader community organizations were well represented, and with them all the potential to achieve a great victory.

The San Francisco $15 proposal is stronger than the Seattle mayor’s version: the time line to get to $15 is shorter, and there are fewer exceptions.

San Francisco companies with more than 100 employees would have until 2016 to raise wages to $15 an hour, but they must lift wages to $13 an hour by next January. Businesses with fewer than 100 employees have until 2017 to raise wages to $15 an hour, but must raise them to $13 an hour by 2015 and $14 by 2016.

Polling has already indicated overwhelming support (59 percent) for the initiative.

The process that San Francisco is using also has other advantages over Seattle’s. The unions and community groups are working as a united front in San Francisco, whereas in Seattle there was constant tension between the socialist city council member Kshama Sawant and her $15 Now group of supporters versus the unions: Sawant wanted a strong version of $15 and several of the unions just wanted a deal, seemingly more interested in working with the mayor towards “consensus” between the unions and the corporations.

In San Francisco “consensus” was thankfully blown to pieces. The ballot initiative process goes over the head of the City Hall corporate politicians, destroying the consensus that San Francisco mayor was desperately seeking between the Chamber of Commerce — representing the giant corporations — and the unions. This has infuriated the 1%.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

“The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce said it was ‘outraged by the preemptive minimum wage ballot measure’ designed by SEIU and its allies.”

This is exactly the kind of outrage that should warm the heart of all working people.

The ballot initiative is also superior because it opens up the doors to wider participation of various community groups, who can mobilize their members to collect signatures, organize rallies, etc., instead of simply having four or five union reps cut a backroom, watered-down deal with the mayor and corporations.

Which begs the question: why don’t unions and community groups work together on inspiring ballot initiatives more often? Half the states in the country and many municipalities have the legal authority to evoke this brand of direct democracy, yet it’s rarely done.

The answer is, sadly, that this weapon is rarely used in an inspirational way because of the “partnership” between unions and the Democratic Party. The Democrats are adversaries of anything potentially harmful to the big corporations, which any economic measure that inspires working people will inevitably be.

This is why — as Obama’s presidency proved yet again — the Democratic Party is where hope goes to die.

Which makes the events in San Francisco all the more important: the $15 dollar initiative is an example of the unions making a big break, in practice, from the Democrats, which hopefully others around the nation will follow.

And follow they must, since it would be suicide for the national labor movement to sit idly as the fight for $15 snowballs. Union and community groups should be working together across the country for similar ballot initiatives wherever possible.

For those states without ballot initiatives, $15 can still be used as a rallying cry and a mobilizing force for change. Wherever the Democratic Party blocks this process, unions should come together and form a labor party. Working people are tired of excuses.

The fight for $15 also gives a boost to organizing new workers into unions as well. For example, Wal-Mart workers would love to make $15 an hour and the labor movement has been trying in vain to organize them for years. The slogan “$15 and a union” would resonate far better with Wal-Mart workers than anything the unions have yet put forth.

There are also many other unions that have already-organized workers who don’t make $15, and now they can have the confidence to demand $15 at the bargaining table, knowing full well that the broader community will come to their aid.

The $15 demand is especially important because it’s the first time in decades that the labor movement is going on the offensive. This is crucial. Three decades of playing defense — and playing it poorly — has had a demoralizing effect on the entire working class. A big offensive victory opens the doors wide to new possibilities and new horizons. It boosts confidence. One year ago $15 seemed like a fantasy; in five years we’ll hopefully be looking back at $15 with nostalgia, having achieved many other offensive victories.

The possibilities for unions and community groups to organize around $15 are endless. And if other unions don’t follow the example of the San Francisco unions and community groups, they’ll be acting as willing participants to the ongoing corporate onslaught. Not fighting back is no longer an option.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action. He can be reached at

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment

Kidnapped Girls Become Tools of U.S. Imperial Policy in Africa

By Glen Ford | Black Agenda Report | May 14, 2014

A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the “international community” and the Nigerian military “Do something!” about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls. It is difficult to fault the average U.S. consumer of packaged “news” products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been “doing” to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three U.S. broadcast networks carried “not a single television news story about Boko Haram” in all of 2013. (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn’t mean the Nigerian army hasn’t been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country’s mostly Muslim north.

The newly aware U.S. public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read – which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband’s place on radio last weekend to pledge U.S. help in the hunt for the girls – would have learned in the New York Times of the army’s savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb “Without Asking Who They Are,” according to the NYT headline. “They don’t ask any questions,” said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. “When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot,” said a student. “They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don’t hear from them again.”

The Times’ Adam Nossiter interviewed many refugees from the army’s “all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency.” He reported:

“All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semi-desert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram — a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents — for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it.”

In just one village, 200 people were killed by the military.

In March of this year, fighters who were assumed to be from Boko Haram attacked a barracks and jail in the northern city of Maiduguri. Hundreds of prisoners fled, but 200 youths were rounded up and made to lie on the ground. A witness told the Times: “The soldiers made some calls and a few minutes later they started shooting the people on the ground. I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint.”

All told, according to Amnesty International, more than 600 people were extra-judicially murdered, “most of them unarmed, escaped detainees, around Maiduguri.” An additional 950 prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force, many at the same barracks in Maiduguri. Amnesty International quotes a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, speaking anonymously: “Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation,” he said. “There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis.”

Chibok, where the teenage girls were abducted, is 80 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.

In 2009, when the Boko Haram had not yet been transformed into a fully armed opposition, the military summarily executed their handcuffed leader and killed at least 1,000 accused members in the states of Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi, many of them apparently simply youths from suspect neighborhoods. A gruesome video shows the military at work. “In the video, a number of unarmed men are seen being made to lie down in the road outside a building before they are shot,” Al Jazeera reports in text accompanying the video. “As one man is brought out to face death, one of the officers can be heard urging his colleague to ‘shoot him in the chest not the head – I want his hat.’”

These are only snapshots of the army’s response to Boko Haram – atrocities that are part of the context of Boko Haram’s ghastly behavior. The military has refused the group’s offer to exchange the kidnapped girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. (We should not assume that everyone detained as Boko Haram is actually a member – only that all detainees face imminent and arbitrary execution.)

None of the above is meant to tell Boko Haram’s “side” in this grisly story (fundamentalist religious jihadists find no favor at BAR), but to emphasize the Nigerian military’s culpability in the group’s mad trajectory – the same military that many newly-minted “Save Our Girls” activists demand take more decisive action in Borno.

The bush to which the Boko Haram retreated with their captives was already a free-fire zone, where anything that moves is subject to obliteration by government aircraft. Nigerian air forces have now been joined by U.S. surveillance planes operating out of the new U.S. drone base in neighboring Niger, further entrenching AFRICOM/CIA in the continental landscape. Last week it was announced that, for the first time, AFRICOM troops will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in counterinsurgency warfare.

The Chibok abductions have served the same U.S. foreign policy purposes as Joseph Kony sightings in central Africa, which were conjured-up to justify the permanent stationing of U.S Special Forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, in 2011, on humanitarian interventionist grounds. (This past March, the U.S. sent 150 more Special Ops troops to the region, claiming to have again spotted Kony, who is said to be deathly ill, holed up with a small band of followers somewhere in the Central African Republic.) The United States (and France and Britain, plus the rest of NATO, if need be) must maintain a deepening and permanent presence in Africa to defend the continent from… Africans.

When the crowd yells that America “Do something!” somewhere in Africa, the U.S. military is likely to already be there.

Barack Obama certainly needs no encouragement to intervention; his presidency is roughly coterminous with AFRICOM’s founding and explosive expansion. Obama broadened the war against Somalia that was launched by George Bush in partnership with the genocidal Ethiopian regime, in 2006 (an invasion that led directly to what the United Nations called “the worst humanitarian crisis is Africa”). He built on Bill Clinton and George Bush’s legacies in the Congo, where U.S. client states Uganda and Rwanda caused the slaughter of 6 million people since 1996 – the greatest genocide of the post War World II era. He welcomed South Sudan as the world’s newest nation – the culmination of a decades-long project of the U.S., Britain and Israel to dismember Africa’s largest country, but which has now fallen into a bloody chaos, as does everything the U.S. touches, these days.

Most relevant to the plight of Chibok’s young women, Obama led “from behind” NATO’s regime change in Libya, removing the anti-jihadist bulwark Muamar Gaddafi (“We came, we saw, he died,” said Hillary Clinton) and destabilizing the whole Sahelian tier of the continent, all the way down to northern Nigeria. As BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka writes in the current issue, “Boko Haram benefited from the destabilization of various countries across the Sahel following the Libya conflict.” The once-“shadowy” group now sported new weapons and vehicles and was clearly better trained and disciplined. In short, the Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa – thus justifying a larger military presence for the same Americans and (mainly French) Europeans who had brought these convulsions to the region.

If Obama has his way, it will be a very long war – the better to grow AFRICOM – with some very unsavory allies (from both the Nigerian and American perspectives).

Whatever Obama does to deepen the U.S. presence in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, he can count on the Congressional Black Caucus, including its most “progressive” member, Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only member of the U.S. Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001. Lee, along with Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and fellow Californian Karen Bass, who is the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on African, gave cart blanch to Obama to “Do something!” in Nigeria. “And so our first command and demand is to use all resources to bring the terrorist thugs to justice,” they said.

A year and a half ago, when then UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s prospects for promotion to top U.S. diplomat were being torpedoed by the Benghazi controversy, a dozen Black congresspersons scurried to her defense. “We will not allow a brilliant public servant’s record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state,” said Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.

As persons who are presumed to read, Black Caucus members were certainly aware of the messy diplomatic scandal around Rice’s role in suppressing United Nation’s reports on U.S. allies’ Rwanda and Uganda’s genocidal acts against the Congolese people. Of all the high profile politicians from both the corporate parties, Rice – the rabid interventionist – is most intimately implicated in the Congo Holocaust, dating back to the policy’s formulation under Clinton. Apparently, that’s not the part of Rice’s record that counts to Delegate Norton and the rest of the Black Caucus. Genocide against Africans does not move them one bit.

So, why are we to believe that they are really so concerned about the girls of Chibok?

Glen Ford can be contacted at

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

UK grants Israel’s Livni diplomatic immunity ahead of diplomatic visit

Al-Akhbar | May 14, 2014

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni has been granted temporary diplomatic immunity for an upcoming visit to the United Kingdom, in order to protect her against arrest for her alleged war crimes, British media reported on Tuesday.

The British Foreign Office confirmed it had granted “special mission” status to Livni, The Guardian wrote, ahead of a planned meeting between the Israeli politician and Foreign Office ministers in London.

Livni’s office confirmed the news, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

The Gaza-based NGO Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) and London law firm Hickman & Rose have been leading efforts to prosecute Israeli officials accused of breaching international law.

Livni had a key role in the 2008-2009 Israeli attack on Gaza, also known as Operation Cast Lead, in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed.

Raji Sourani, PCHR director, told The Guardian that he was very disappointed at the British government’s decision to grant immunity to Livni.

“The [British government’s] stated policy of ‘ending impunity for international crimes’ can only be properly pursued if the rule of law and due process is allowed to prevail, rather than Britain giving a safe haven to suspected war criminals, even for a few hours,” Sourani said.

He noted that a British judge had ruled in December 2009 that there was sufficient evidence to justify Livni’s arrest over her role in Operation Cast Lead.

The UK’s law on universal jurisdiction – which allows for foreign leaders to be arrested on British soil for breaches of international law – was changed in recent years to make approval from the Director of Public Prosecutions mandatory before an arrest warrant can be issued.

The change in legislation took place shortly after Livni canceled a visit in 2009 over fears of arrest. She has since been granted diplomatic immunity for an October 2011 visit to the UK.

In July 2013, Israel’s army chief, Lieutenant General Benny Gantz was also granted judicial immunity during a visit to the European country in order to discuss military cooperation. Gantz has been accused of involvement in the commission of war crimes, particularly in the November 2012 assault on the Gaza Strip, codenamed Operation Pillar of Defense.

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Syria’s Aleppo faces deadly water shortage after rebels block supply

RT | May 14, 2014

Islamist militants from Syria’s opposition have cut off the water supply to most parts of the city of Aleppo by targeting pumping stations. The city has now been plunged into abject misery, as the government and NGOs race to find alternative sources.

More than two million people have been affected by the resulting water shortage after two pumping stations were shut down. Water has stopped flowing not only into government-held areas, as intended, but into practically every corner of Syria’s largest city, which is presently divided in two spheres of control.

Fighters of the Al-Nusra Front and related groups were interested in keeping the water flowing to east Aleppo and prevent it from flowing into the western parts, AFP reports. But the plan backfired, and now tons of water have been squandered irretrievably in the Quqayq river.

Both government media, and the pro-opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights are condemning the act and trading blame. The rebels say it was, in fact, a campaign by President Bashar Assad’s forces to bomb the water pumps. The Al-Nusra Front made no statements following the incident.

The misery is spreading, report various journalists on the scene.

In recent pictures from Aleppo, children can be seen scooping up water from puddles along the city’s roads, as others make use of jerry cans and various containers.

The residents queue up with all manner of receptacles in front of places like mosques, wells and ancient fountains, where the water isn’t safe for consumption, Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar daily says.

Residents have been without water for over ten days now. This comes as just last month the Al-Nusra Front targeted the electrical grid distributing power to Syria’s second city and its surroundings.

The situation in western Aleppo seems somewhat more stable, with the Red Crescent working with the government to provide a modicum of water for people.

“The situation signals a humanitarian and health disaster, but we are doing what we can to avert this risk,” a source in the Syrian Red Crescent told Al-Akhbar.

The source added it is only a temporary solution, as the water provided is not of the best quality for drinking. And the overall picture is unsanitary, as trucks normally used for waste-water disposal can be seen ferrying water around the city.
Locals have been digging wells themselves just to alleviate some of the stress on government and aid organizations, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The latest news was that activists on Tuesday reported a slight reappearance of water pressure in one of the pumps. The cause of this is as yet unknown.

Aleppo has now become a key battleground once again, after the Al-Nusra Front and related gangs lost control of Homs to the Syrian army last week, and 1,200 of them escaped the fighting in a number of buses. Currently, the only area in Syria still more or less under terrorist control is to the northwest of the old battleground of Homs. But that appears to be a temporary situation, as government forces are moving in from different sides.

Before the northern city lost its water, the Syrian Red Crescent had to coordinate between the government and the rebels in sharing what water was available. The pumping station had been dependent on diesel fuel, which the government had agreed to provide in April in exchange for the insurgents turning the electricity back on. It remains unclear what caused the latest targeting of the water pumps, and whether that signaled the end of the precarious deal between the two sides.

May 14, 2014 Posted by | War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Possible Iranian-Saudi rapprochement to impact region

By Elie Chalhoub | Al-Akhbar | May 14, 2014

Statements by Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal on Tuesday point to a significant development in the relationship with Iran. Saudi’s so called “hawk” and Iran’s number one enemy in the kingdom is now welcoming a dialogue with the Islamic Republic. But the implications will not be felt in Tehran or Riyadh, but in Baghdad, Homs, Beirut, and Vienna.

Saudi Arabia’s call for a dialogue with Iran is no small matter, neither in its substance, “to settle differences and make the region safe and prosperous,” or in its timing, regionally, internationally, and in relation to the nuclear issue, or the fact that it was issued by one of the kingdom’s most hawkish members.

Information from Tehran maintains “the Iranian position did not change.” It indicated that, “ever since President Hassan Rouhani reached power, [Iran] declared its openness to dialogue with the Saudis and announced the issue publicly several times.” This included statements during the recent tour of Gulf countries by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, in which he kept hoping to visit Riyadh. However, “the rejection was also coming from the Saudis, despite all the openness to reconciliation expressed by Iran.”

According to the same sources, several mechanisms were proposed to start a constructive dialogue, following negotiations through Omani mediation. Muscat was later forced to suspend its role after its relations with Saudi Arabia began to falter. However, a few months ago, Kuwait took up the mantle and became the main mediator between the two sides. The sources revealed that one such mechanism was suggested by the Saudis and entailed parallel trust-building steps. They would begin with a meeting between representatives of both countries’ foreign ministers, then between the two actual foreign ministers, and then to ultimately have a visit by Rouhani to Saudi Arabia to meet with King Abdullah.”

The information, which was obtained from circles concerned with relations between Tehran and Riyadh, maintained that the Saudis recently proposed through the Kuwaitis a visit by assistant Iranian foreign minister, Amir Abdel-Lahian, to hold talks. However, “Iran was not satisfied with the suggestion. They believed the atmosphere in Saudi and that surrounding the proposal, its mechanisms, and the position and authority of negotiators from either side would not lead to a serious breakthrough.”

So why did the invitation come now, at this particular time? And what are the motives behind it?

The sources point to the wider picture. “The Iraqi elections show that [Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki will have a larger parliamentary bloc than in the previous parliament and it is certain that he will continue through a third term. This is in addition to the latest developments in Homs, which means that the axis supporting [Syrian] President [Bashar] al-Assad now has the upper hand on the ground. There is also the situation in Lebanon, which shows beyond doubt that there will be no presidential elections, without the consent of the axis of resistance. It seems all those factors, including pressure by the US and the push by Kuwait, led the Saudis to take such a step.”

US pressure was manifested in the visit by US Defense Minister Chuck Hagel to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, meeting with the kingdom’s leadership to discuss the Syrian and Iranian files. Kuwait’s push, on the other hand, will be apparent during the visit by the Kuwaiti Emir to Tehran on June 1. He is expected to discuss bilateral relations, including disagreements concerning the continental shelf. But the essence of the meetings will be relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Saudis in particular, in addition to Syria and other matters.

The Saudi foreign minister had announced earlier that the kingdom sent out an invitation to Mohammed Javad Zarifi, “We want to meet with him. Iran is a neighbor with whom we have relations and we will conduct negotiations with Iran.”

Faisal was speaking at a press conference during the First Forum on Economy and Cooperation of Arab Countries with the Central Asian States and the Republic of Azerbaijan. “We will talk to them and if there are disagreements we will settle them in a manner that will satisfy both countries,” he explained. “We also hope that Iran would join the efforts to make the region safe and prosperous and not be part of the problem of a lack of security in the region.”

Saud al-Faisal also expressed the desire to resume contacts between the two countries as expressed by Iran’s president and foreign minister, “We sent out an invitation to the [Iranian] foreign minister to visit Saudi Arabia, but the will to make the visit has not become a reality yet. However, we will meet him anytime he wishes to come.”

Whether by coincidence or planning, Hagel’s visit and Faisal’s call coincided with the final phase of nuclear talks between Iran and the West. But it came at a time when Zarif had just arrived to Vienna to head the delegation to the nuclear talks.

What is certain, however, are the statements by Ali Khamenei on Tuesday and the several signals he gave, which aimed to provide an umbrella to the Vienna negotiations. He emphasized that the US is unable “to do anything rash, militarily or otherwise…We depend on our own powers, strengthening them and focusing our efforts on our own potential, which will defeat plans by the Americans and other powers to force the Iranian people to surrender through exerting pressures.”

Khamenei spoke in front of a large crowd of residents in the Ilam province on the anniversary of Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb’s birth. “The major powers ought to know that the Iranian people will not yield to their ambitions, because it is a living people and its youth are moving and acting in the right direction.”

These clear words are perhaps behind Zarif’s assertions from Vienna that “the difficult part” had only started and the desired deal might be aborted, even in the absence of a consensus on just “2 percent of the topics for discussion.” Iran’s negotiations with the P5+1 groups is entering a new highly sensitive phase, with the drafting of what has become known as the “final agreement.” Tuesday night, Zarif met with the EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton, on behalf of the P5+1 countries, over dinner. Actual negotiations will begin on May 14 and will continue until Friday.

Unlike previous sessions, Zarif and Ashton will be heading most of the meetings.

The most contentious issue in this round is the item related to the Arak heavy water reactor, which the West wants closed, and the ability to enrich uranium, which Iran hopes to keep.

The West’s belief that it could reach some kind of nuclear deal is probably due to both sides’ need for an agreement. In addition to building his foreign policy on reaching a settlement with Iran, US President Barack Obama has his hands tied in congressional midterm elections at the end of this year. It has become clear that he needs a foreign victory to ensure the victory of his party, especially after the collapse of his project for the Arab Spring and failing to reach a Palestinian-Israeli settlement or to topple Bashar al-Assad, not to mention his crisis in Ukraine.

Rouhani, on the other hand, seems to be betting on a nuclear deal that would lift the sanctions, and thus improve the economic situation inside Iran, which would give him leverage over his fundamentalist opponents. However, he realized, albeit late, that international sanctions are linked to four files, of which nuclear power is a minor issue. The other three are terrorism, human rights, and the rockets. The sanctions would only be lifted after closing all four files. And even if that happened, Obama has to solve his problems with the US Congress, which still rejects any lifting of sanctions against Iran.

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘No evidence of Berkut police behind mass killing in Kiev’ – probe head

RT | May 14, 2014

There is no forensic evidence linking the victims of mass killings in Kiev on February 20 with officers from the Berkut police unit, the head of the parliamentary commission investigating the murders told journalists.

The killings may have been committed by “members of public organizations, who went out of control,” Gennady Moskal reported, but the so-called ‘sniper case’ may end up with no airtight result, much like the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy.

The MP made the statements at a media conference on Tuesday gathered to announce preliminary results of his commission’s probe. He assured that despite the Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s office having arrested 12 Berkut officers on allegations of committing the mass killings, forensic evidence suggests their innocence.

He said the bullets that killed people in Kiev on the bloodiest day of confrontation between protesters seeking to oust President Viktor Yanukovich and riot police didn’t match any of the firearms issued to Berkut’s special unit, which, unlike the majority of riot police, was allowed to carry lethal weapons.

Moskal added that the first shot was fired at police, not the protesters. He alleged that the shooters were agents of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) acting from the ranks of the protesters, but admitted that genuine protesters could have been the culprits.

Earlier Moskal said that the investigation of the high-profile case was being stalled by the SBU and the Interior Ministry because the post-coup heads of the law enforcement don’t want to face the scandal which would ensue if the real perpetrators were exposed.

In early April, the Ukrainian authorities arrested 12 members of Berkut for alleged participation in the mass killings. The move sparked protest among their fellow officers, who picketed police HQ in Kiev, saying the arrests were made on poor evidence and accusing the authorities of denigrating them. The prosecutors called the suspects “Berkut black company” when announcing the arrest.

The sniper case is one of the hottest issues in Ukraine, where the new authorities accused the ousted president of ordering the mass killings. Both he and several former Ukrainian officials accused the new authorities of sending the snipers to provoke bloodshed and topple the government.

Yanukovich said he never ordered anyone to shoot at Ukrainian people.

The same version was voiced privately in a leaked conversation between EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet.

Russia says that activists of the radical Right Sector ultra-nationalists are the most likely culprits.

May 14, 2014 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism | | Leave a comment

Ethnic Russians Are People, Too

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | May 13, 2014

So what does the New York Times have against Ukraine’s ethnic Russians? While the newspaper has fallen over itself insisting on the “legitimacy” of the coup regime in Kiev, despite its collaboration with neo-Nazis who spearheaded the Feb. 22 ouster of elected President Viktor Yanukovych, the Times editors can’t hurl enough insults at the ethnic Russians in the east who have resisted the regime’s authority.

For weeks, the Times has called the eastern Ukrainian rebel leaders “self-declared” and ridiculed the idea that there was any significant backing for the rejection of the Kiev-appointed regional leaders; all the trouble was simply stirred up by Vladimir Putin. Now, however, the referenda in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk have demonstrated what even a Times reporter acknowledged was “substantial popular support for the pro-Russian separatists in some areas.”

But the Times editors still won’t give up their prejudices. For instance, Tuesday’s lead editorial begins: “If there were questions about the legitimacy of the separatist referendums in eastern Ukraine, the farcical names of the entities on which people were asked to vote — the self-declared People’s Republics of Donetsk or Luhansk — surely answered them.”

So, the votes – and the desires – of eastern Ukrainians shouldn’t matter because the Times disapproves of “the farcical names of the entities” that people voted for.

The Times then suggests that violence that marred the referenda was the fault of the rebels, not the Kiev regime’s National Guard, which includes the neo-Nazi militias that threw fire bombs at police during the Maidan protests in February and are now carrying out the most lethal attacks against protesters in cities in the east and south.

Of course, according to the Times’ narrative, these neo-Nazis from western Ukraine don’t exist, so the violence must be palmed off on others or be treated like the natural occurrence of a spring thunderstorm. In Tuesday’s editorial, the Times wrote: “But the gathering rumble of violence accompanying the votes is serious and is driving the Ukrainian crisis in a direction that before long no one — not President Vladimir Putin of Russia, not authorities in Kiev, not the West — will be able to control.”

However, even the Times’ own field reporter noted that the violence during the referenda on Sunday was provoked by those new National Guard forces that attacked some polling places. The Times’ editors must assume that most of the newspaper’s readers aren’t paying close attention to the details.

The other part of the Times’ Ukraine narrative is that Putin provoked the unrest in Ukraine so he could seize territory, although no less an authority on power politics than former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says that notion “isn’t possible,” adding that Putin simply was reacting to events that caught him off-guard as he was coming out of the Winter Olympics at Sochi.

Yet, the Times ignores this more realistic scenario – of a Western-pushed destabilization of the Yanukovych government that involved demands that Ukraine accept a harsh austerity plan from the International Monetary Fund and that spiraled into a violent “regime change” – and instead puts the blame on Putin, who – the Times says – must be told to get “his minions in southeastern Ukraine in line.”

Otherwise, the Times blusters “the European Union and the United States will impose sanctions that will cut Russia off for a long time from Western sources of technology, arms and finance.”

While the Times editorial accurately reflects the swaggering belligerence of Official Washington, the editors still refuse to see the Ukraine crisis in objective terms, in which both the western Ukrainians who favor closer ties with Europe and the eastern Ukrainians whose economy is dependent on trade with Russia have legitimate concerns.

The ethnic Russians in the east are not simply dupes who fall for clumsy propaganda and mindlessly follow the dictates of Vladimir Putin. They are human beings who have their own legitimate view of their political situation and who can make judgments about what course of action is best for their interests. As difficult as life in Ukraine is, it is sure to be worse once the IMF’s harsh austerity is imposed on the country’s population.

The Times and many others in the Western media insult these ethnic Russians with a disdainful treatment that treats them as lesser beings and assumes that only the pro-European Ukrainians in the west deserve respect for their opinions.


Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment