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France to spend $33bn on upgrading nukes to meet NATO commitments

Press TV – February 9, 2018

France is planning to spend $33 billion (€27bn) to upgrade its arsenal of nuclear weapons as part of a massive $370 billion (€300bn) military spending over the next few years to meet the NATO military alliance’s requirements, the French defense chief has announced.

Speaking to the media on Thursday, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said Paris wanted to increase its military budget so that it can “hold its own” as a key power in Europe.

“The government’s goal is twofold: reach the target of spending two percent of GDP on defense by 2025, while also ensuring we manage our public finances,” Parly said.

France spends $42 billion (€34bn) or 1.8 percent of its GDP for military purposes, slightly less than the two-percent threshold set by NATO.

Under the new plan, President Emmanuel Macron’s government increases overall spending by $2 billion (€1.7bn) a year starting from 2019 until 2022, when it will reach $53 billion (€44bn). Then the budget would be bumped up by $3.6 billion (€3bn) a year between 2023 and 2025.

By then, Paris is supposed to have completed the expensive revamp of its nuclear arsenal, with work on a third-generation nuclear submarine program and a new generation of airborne nuclear missiles already underway today.

“We are going to make up for past shortfalls and build a modern, sustainable, protective army” that would allow France “to hold its own,” said Parly.

French military forces are currently deployed to West Africa on a declared mission to fight militant groups.

The French president says the country is ready to enhance its military presence in the Sahel region if needed.

The country is also a main contributor to a US-led coalition that has been targeting alleged terrorist positions in Iraq and Syria since 2015.

The years-long operations have put strain on France’s military forces and equipment.

With thousands of troops overseas, the new program allows the defense department to perform a host of upgrades on equipment, from bullet-proof vests to combat uniforms.

There will also be a 34-percent increase in spending on “modernizing weaponry,” which includes buying new Scorpion armored vehicles, four Barracuda attack submarines and three multi-mission frigates, as well as a new fleet of Griffon multi-role armored vehicles.

There are also plans to develop new spy satellites, light surveillance aircraft, new Rafale fighter jets and armed drones. Air tankers are also on the long list of upgrades.

The development is a major reversal in France’s military strategy over the past years and is expected to please US President Donald Trump, who has put NATO allies under pressure to increase their military budgets.

February 8, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Afghanistan War Spending, In 2018 Alone, Could End US Homelessness—TWICE

While the United States government spends $45 billion on the 17th year of the Afghanistan War, it ignores the fact that just half of that money could be used to virtually end homelessness in the U.S. annually.

By Rachel Blevins | Free Thought Project | February 7, 2018

Defense Department officials are claiming that the cost of the United States’ longest war in history will be $45 billion in 2018, which is actually double to estimate of what it would cost to end homelessness in the U.S. annually.

Randall Schriver, the assistant secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific security affairs, said that he expects the Afghanistan war to cost American taxpayers $45 billion this year, which in addition to logistical support, will include about $13 billion for U.S. forces, $5 billion for Afghan forces, and $780 million for economic aid.

Schriver made the announcement during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan also spoke, and said he believes the United States’ policy “acknowledges that there isn’t a military solution or a complete solution.”

“I understand it’s America’s longest war, but our security interests in Afghanistan, in the region are significant enough … to back the Afghan government in their struggle against the Taliban,” Sullivan said.

Over 31,000 civilian deaths have been documented in Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began documenting civilian casualties in 2009, and the combined number of civilians who were killed and injured that year was nearly 6,000. The number has steadily increased over the years, and in 2016, it reached a record high with nearly 3,500 killed and nearly 8,000 injured.

report from the UNAMA noted that in 2017, the death rate for children increased by 9 percent over the previous year, and the death rate for women increased by 23 percent. The report also claimed that an increase in airstrikes has led to a 43 percent increase in causalities.

The Hill reported that the Defense Department officials did receive some criticism from senators such as Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, who questioned why the Taliban would want a political settlement now when they already “control more territory than they did since 2001” when the U.S. invaded the country—claiming the purpose was to defeat the Taliban.

Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, also criticized the massive 2018 budget for the Afghanistan War, and argued that after 16 years, Afghans still “don’t seem to be able to defend themselves,” and for U.S. taxpayers, billions of dollars are “just being thrown down a hatch in Afghanistan.”

“I think there’s an argument to be made that our national security is actually made more perilous the more we spend and the longer we stay there. … We’re in an impossible situation,” Paul said. “I just don’t think there is a military solution.”

Paul has a history of criticizing the amount of money the U.S. government spends in foreign countries, especially on wars in the Middle East. After Trump vowed to continue the longest war in U.S. history in August 2017, Paul criticized the move and asked when the U.S. would start focusing on its own country.

“We spent billions of dollars—I think it’s over $100 billion—building roads in Afghanistan, blowing up roads in Afghanistan, building schools, blowing up schools, and then rebuilding all of them,” Paul said. “Sometimes we blow them up, sometimes someone else blows them up, but we always go back and rebuild them. What about rebuilding our country?”

Paul has a point, and the money that is being used to kill innocent civilians in Afghanistan is desperately needed in the United States. According to estimates from Mark Johnston, the acting assistant housing secretary for community planning and development, “homelessness could be effectively eradicated in the United States at an annual cost of about $20 billion.”

If the United States government cut its budget for the Afghanistan War in half, and put half of the money towards ending homeless in America, it could make a difference. If the government gave the entirety of the money it is using for endless proxy wars in the Middle East back to the taxpayers it was originally stolen from so that they could invest it in helping the individuals in need in their own communities, it could work wonders.

Rachel Blevins is an independent journalist from Texas, who aspires to break the false left/right paradigm in media and politics by pursuing truth and questioning existing narratives. Follow Rachel on Facebook, TwitterYouTube, Steemit and Patreon.

February 8, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , | 4 Comments

Associated Press Double Standard in Israel-Palestine Reporting

By Kathryn Shihadah and Alison Weir | If Americans Knew | February 8, 2018

More than half the world’s population reads Associated Press content every day.

But a study of news reports so far in 2018 indicates that this trusted news source has been presenting the deaths of Israelis at the hands of Palestinians, and of Palestinians at the hands of Israelis, in two completely different ways.

This pattern may be a factor in how readers perceive the players in this decades-old issue. It is also, quite likely, a factor in how editors all over the U.S., who read AP stories daily, view the conflict.

So far in 2018, eleven Palestinians have been killed and two Israelis.

(Since December 4th, when President Trump announced that the US would recognize Israel as “the capital of Israel,” overturning decades of US policy, 27 Palestinians and 9 Israelis have died.)

In AP’s 2018 news reports, Palestinian deaths have been reported in far shorter news articles than Israeli deaths, averaging 181 words in length vs. 551.

In addition to the number of words, AP’s choice of words, context, and which facts to report and which to omit appears to tell two totally different kinds of stories for Israelis and Palestinians.

Reports on Israeli deaths included statements by high officials condemning the attacks. These were often strongly worded, politically charged statements that conveyed the Israeli narrative: “[Israel will] do everything possible in order to apprehend the despicable murderer”; “There is no justification for terror… This is not the path to peace!” “Hamas praises the killers and PA laws will provide them financial rewards. Look no further to why there is no peace.”

By contrast, these AP reports rarely included statements by Palestinian officials condemning the killing of Palestinians, which would have provided another perspective for readers. For example, Fatah spokesman Osama Qawassmeh released a statement that Israel was guilty of a long list of actions that “contravene international law.”

Another Palestinian official condemned Israel’s “extrajudicial killings” and warned of Israel’s tendency to turn the West Bank into a “scene for escalation and security tension so as to pressure our people and leaders, and divert attention from colonialist expansion in our state.”

Such Palestinian viewpoints, largely accurate and readily available, were never reported in the AP articles on deaths.

A Palestinian boy weeps during the funeral of Hani Wahdan, killed during “clashes.”

Israeli victims are human beings, Palestinian victims are “gunmen” or anonymous

Israeli victims were also personalized in AP reports: one was characterized as “a 29-year-old father of four”; the attempted rescue of another was described: “immense efforts were made to save the man’s life, but his wounds were too severe.”

On the other hand, AP reported Palestinian victims with impersonal, often negative descriptions: “armed protester,” “instigators,” and “protesters who were hurling massive amounts of rocks.”

Nowhere did AP describe efforts to save the victims’ lives, although certainly those efforts were made. Elsewhere there were reports of noteworthy turns of events from the scene. This is unfortunately a common occurrence at the scene of Palestinian injuries and deaths: “Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers …. fired gas bombs at the Palestinian ambulances and medics that arrived on the scene.” In another incident, “soldiers refused to allow ambulances and firefighters to enter the area.” These descriptions would have been valuable additions to the AP reports.

Palestinian relatives of 16-year-old Layth Abu Naeem weep during his funeral, Jan 31, 2018. The boy was killed by Israeli soldiers who had invaded his village.  (EPA-EFE/ALAA BADARNEH)

To its credit, AP did identify the five Palestinian teenagers killed as “teens” – in the past this has not always been the case, where the youth of Palestinian victims has often not been mentioned.

The actual killings of the Palestinians were often reported passively, e.g. “shot in the head during a stone-throwing confrontation” or “died in the violence.”

In two of the Palestinian deaths, AP reported that the Israeli military “denied using live fire.” The men were still dead, and no questions were asked.

In fact, other sources paint entirely different pictures of the killing of the Palestinians. For example, one young man named Ali was only described by AP as “shot in the head” during a violent riot.

But according to eyewitnesses, as reported elsewhere, a number of armed Israeli settlers had infiltrated a Palestinian town, and Ali was part of a group that were forcing them out of town – at which time Israeli soldiers began firing at the group. Ali was reportedly killed by an army sharp-shooter.

In another incident, Israeli soldiers were searching for the man who had killed a settler a few days earlier. The AP article explains that they found and killed a suspect and then demolished three homes belonging to his extended family.

The article does not reveal that they killed the wrong man. It also does not mention that at least 30 vehicles participated in the invasion of the wrong home, and that soldiers confiscated surveillance videos from stores in the area.

AP headlines give Israeli spin

The headlines of the news reports are tellingly different as well.

In the cases of Israeli deaths, the headlines indicate one innocent party and one guilty party: “Israeli killed in West Bank shooting attack”; “Israeli killed by Palestinian in West Bank stabbing attack.”

On the other hand, most of the Palestinian death headlines suggest two equal parties in conflict: “Palestinian teen killed in clashes”; “2 teens killed in clashes with Israeli army”; “Troops kill Palestinian teen in West Bank clash.”

In one case, “Palestinians say Israeli army kills 19-year-old rock thrower,” the victim was at least acknowledged as an individual, but the situation in which Ahmad’s death occurred was misrepresented. The article claims that he was “shot in the head during a stone-throwing confrontation,” but there is much more to the story.

Israeli forces raid the village of Wadi Burqin. [Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

According to IMEMC, Ahmad was killed

during a massive military invasion…carried out by twenty-two armored military vehicles, and two bulldozers…the soldiers also shot two other young Palestinian men with live rounds in their legs, and six with rubber-coated steel bullets, in addition to causing dozens to suffer the severe effects of teargas inhalation…soldiers broke into and searched many homes, and used K9 units in searching the properties, causing anxiety attacks among many Palestinians, especially children…

Some of the villagers protested this aggression, and it was in this context that  an Israeli soldier shot Ahmad in the head.

In this incident, the Israeli army was searching for the killer of a settler named Rabbi Raziel Shevach, who had been killed three weeks earlier, and AP again recounted this older death. In fact, there was more about the settler’s death, which had already been reported on several times, than about the innocent man killed in the manhunt.

According to AP, “The Israeli military had no immediate comment about the casualty.”

AP stories about Shevach reported that he taught in a religious school in Yitzhar and lived in the outpost of Havat Gilad. None, however, bothered to mention that Yitzhar has long been known as “an extremist bastion” of settler violence against Palestinians, home of the notorious Yitzchak Ginsburgh, and that Havat Gilad is similarly notorious for violence against Palestinians.

The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported in 2014, for example, that close to 100 people had been been involved in “a wave of hate crimes against Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Most of the culprits are known as far-right activists from the Yitzhar settlement and hilltop outposts north of Ramallah and the south Hebron Hills in the West Bank.” This is just one of many such incidents (see video here).

Such context likely would have been included by AP if it had been about Palestinian violence.

AP omits essential context

Palestinian women attempt to pass the Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Aug. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

AP reports often leave out critical facts. For example, its news reports on a Palestinian girl imprisoned by Israel for slapping armed Israeli soldiers, almost always left out or minimized the fact that her anger was triggered by the fact that shortly before the incident, an Israeli soldier had shot her cousin in the face.

Perhaps more significant, essential facts about the greater issue are virtually never included.

Nowhere in these reports does AP tell readers that the U.S. gives Israel over $10 million per day. Without this information, American readers will incorrectly feel this is a foreign issue that has nothing to do with them.

Basic information that would give the reader an understanding of the context of the hostility is absent.

Nowhere in any of the articles does the word “occupation” occur, although the illegal Israeli occupation is a 50-year-old fact of life that affects every aspect of Palestinian life. Omitting the fact that Palestinians are living under Israeli military control leaves readers ignorant of one of the most significant aspects of the conflict.

Nowhere in these reports does AP note that many Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza were pushed out by Israel during the 1948 war that created the Jewish state, their properties confiscated by Israel. These refugees have not been allowed to return and reclaim their homes, a violation of international law. This, too, is essential information.

Israelis soldiers arrest Palestinian teen Fawzi Muhammad Al-Juneidi in Jerusalem, Dec. 8, 2017

Nowhere does AP use the word “resistance,” the usual term for people fighting against military occupation. Instead, Palestinians are always “militants,” “gunmen,” “stone throwers,” etc. Americans fighting against the British in the 18th century, French fighting against the German occupation in the 20th century, etc. were resistance forces. So are Palestinians.

The word “settlement” is used 19 times in the AP reports. According to international law these settlements are illegal. However, only once does AP mention this fact, and even here it does so in a somewhat diluted manner: “most of the international community considers settlements illegal.”

Nowhere in these reports does AP inform readers that Israel is steadily stealing Palestinian land and imprisoning Palestinians who object to this. Nowhere do these report that Palestinians have virtually no freedom of movement, that some 70 percent of Palestinian families have had one or more family members serve time in an Israeli prison, that hundreds of Palestinian children are in prison, and that Israel is known for its physical abuse of prisoners.

Maali, daughter of jailed Islamic Jihad spokesman Khader Adnan, stands next to a picture of her father outside Israel’s Ofer prison.

Without these and other critical details, it is impossible for readers to have a clear picture of the basis of the conflict and the context of the deaths.

At the end of one AP article is this statement:

Since 2015, Palestinians have killed over 50 Israelis, two visiting Americans and a British tourist in stabbings and other attacks. Over 260 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in that time. Israel says most were attackers and the others died in clashes.

To many editors and readers around the country, this means that 260 guilty Palestinians were killed. “Attackers” are guilty by default (“alleged attackers” might be innocent); people in “clashes” are reckless mobs, confronting soldiers and policemen allegedly working to keep the peace. Readers are left to glean on their own, with next to zero evidence, that these Israeli forces are one of the world’s most powerful militaries putting down protests by an occupied, unarmed population.

Astute, knowledgeable readers might wonder how many of those dead Palestinians were really attackers? How many were cases of mistaken identity? And what about those who actually were attacking heavily armed soldiers and settlers… why were they doing this?  Could it be because Israel was stealing their land and had killed, injured, and/or imprisoned hundreds of Palestinian children?

And what about the unarmed protesters so often shot in the head by Israeli soldiers? Did they have families who grieve for them? Children who are now orphans? Widows who will weep and struggle? Parents who will forever miss them? We will never know.

A Palestinian boy in Gaza weeps for dead family members.

How many of those dead Palestinians were children themselves? Answer: Since January 2015, at least 100 Palestinian children and 1 Israeli child have been killed in the hostilities. (Between 2000 and 2014, 2,079 Palestinian children and 133 Israeli children lost their lives.)

In the time it has taken to write this article, sadly another Palestinian has been killed.

The headline for this death, “Israeli troops kill Palestinian suspect in settler’s killing,” refers to Rabbi Raziel Shevach’s death in early January. Apparently this time the Israeli military finally found the person they “suspected of being behind the killing” that they had been pursuing. They stormed the house where he was staying, and shot him dead (this may be referred to as “trial by assassination” or “extrajudicial killing”).

The AP article recalls that Israeli troops had already demolished the suspect’s residence (and those of his extended family), but somehow neglects to mention that they had also killed his cousin, who had done nothing wrong, as well as another innocent man, during the course of the aggressive manhunt.

And once again, the article mostly discusses the death of the Israeli settler (as well as repeating details about the other Israeli death that occurred in 2018), and mentions nothing about the Palestinian who had just been killed. Did he have children? Parents? A wife? And if he actually was “behind the killing,” what had motivated him?

In the very last paragraph of the article, AP finally mentions that “19 Palestinians have been killed in the violence since Trump’s announcement.” In reality, it was Israelis who killed these people, and it was actually 24 Palestinians at that time, seven of them teenagers, plus a small boy who died on the day of the announcement.

The Associated Press claims on its website:

For 170 years, we have been breaking news and covering the world’s biggest stories, always committed to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.

It is possible that the time has come for AP to take a good, hard look at its objectivity and accuracy when it comes to reporting in Israel-Palestine.

AP’s system of reporting

AP Bureau Chief Josef Federman speaking on C-Span.

AP’s main bureau for Israel-Palestine is in Israel. Reports from Gaza and the West Bank are phoned in to this bureau, where its editors choose and write the news stories that are sent out.

Many (possibly most) of the journalists in this main bureau are Israeli citizens or have partners who are. Some (possibly most) have served in the Israeli military and/or have relatives that have done so. While this doesn’t guarantee pro-Israel bias (some Israeli journalists for Ha’aretz, for example, are excellent, accurate writers on this issue) it does suggest the possibility of partiality influencing their work, either consciously or unconsciously.

It is essential that AP be transparent about its reporting on this extremely important issue.

Whatever the cause of the distortion that continuously characterizes its reporting on this region (see this 2005 report on AP reporting on deaths), it is critical that AP remedy it. Americans, who give Israel over $10 million per day, need full, accurate, unbiased reporting.

Last-minute updates: Two more Palestinians killed

Sadly, during the final edit of this piece, two more Palestinians were killed.

IMEMC, the International Middle East Media Center, has posted the following:

“Israeli soldiers killed, on Tuesday at night, a young Palestinian man, and injured 110, including 32 who were shot with live ammunition, in Nablus city, in the northern part of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Health Ministry has identified the Palestinian as Khaled Waleed Tayeh, 22, from Iraq-Tayeh village, east of Nablus. Khaled succumbed to his wounds, after being shot with a live round in the chest.”

Khaled Waleed Tayeh, 22

AP also reports the story: “Israeli guard kills Palestinian after West Bank stabbing” but fails to report the victim’s name, age, or anything else about him.

A few hours later Israeli guards in front of an Israeli outpost shot dead 19-year-old Hamza Yousef No’man Zama’ra, who had attacked one of the armed guards with a knife, cutting the man’s hand. AP reported the death but again failed to give Hamza’s name, age, or additional information about him.

Hamza Yousef No’man Zama’ra, 19

AP also fails to mention that Israel plans to level dozens of Palestinian schools in the West Bank, that Israeli forces have just detained a 52-year-old Palestinian mother and shot a teenager in the face, and that 54 Palestinian patients in critical need of specialized medical care patients died in 2017 when Israel wouldn’t let them leave Gaza.

Perhaps to to AP editors, these stories are of no importance.

However, for many Americans, most of whom believe in justice, fair play, and human rights, such information might diminish the willingness to give Israel massive amounts of their tax money.

*   *   *

For a list of all Palestinians and Israelis who have been killed by the other side since 2000, see this timeline.

For 2-minute videos of recent Palestinian victims, go here.

February 8, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Ex-Egypt envoy: Evacuation of Sinai serves ‘deal of the century’

MEMO | February 8, 2018

A former Egyptian ambassador said that the current displacement of residents of the Sinai Peninsula sets the stage for the implementation of “the deal of the century”, adding that the Egyptian authorities are spreading “lies” by saying that the displacement is being carried out in the context of the fight against  Daesh.

Abdallah Al-Ashaal told Al-Resalah that there is no explanation for the displacement operations except that there is a conspiracy taking place at the hands of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority.

The conspiracy, according to Al-Ashaal, aims at establishing an entity and not a state for Palestinians under the pretext of expanding the Gaza Strip.

A Saudi-backed developmental plan seeks to establish infrastructure projects in Northern Sinai, such as the King Salman University and desalination and power plants, he added. These projects are “definitely not being worked on for those who are being displaced in the Sinai.”

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas is part of the deal, Al-Ashaal said. “If this was not the case, there would be a search for another person who would accept it, and [dismissed Palestinian Liberation Organisation member] Dahlan is related to … this deal.”

In Al-Ashaal’s view, the plan also includes the two Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi handed over to Saudi Arabia in 2016.

The developmental plan that Sisi talks about includes expanding the Gaza Strip, Ashaal said. “Why the expansion and how can it be useful for Gaza that its borders stretch to the border of Arish [the Sinai city]?” Ashaal asked.

Using “security concerns”, Egypt has been emptying Sinai of its residents beginning with the border town of Rafah near the besieged Gaza Strip.

Local media reported yesterday that the Egyptian Ministry of Defence has asked the Ministry of Health to be ready for a state of emergency and for all hospitals in Ismailiyah to be prepared for a wide-scale military operation in northern Sinai.

February 8, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering Fallujah: The War Crimes Committed under Command of Jim Molan and Jim Mattis

Defending Australian Values in Iraq

By David Macilwain | American Herald tribune | February 8, 2018

Ross Caputi, a former Marine who was “witness and accomplice to the atrocities” committed in Fallujah in November 2004 during “Operation Phantom Fury”, wrote this about his unit’s entry into the city:

Perhaps it was just too painful of a realization for many of us to make, because we saw ourselves as the liberators, the good guys, and to admit that we were hurting innocent people would have contradicted everything that we claimed to stand for. I can only speculate about what the motives were for the people who dreamed up that mission and decided to make the people of Fallujah flee into the desert. Was it also too painful for the decision makers to admit to themselves that we were hurting innocent people? Or were they so evil that they just did not care who we were hurting? Whatever their reasons for doing it were, the fact of the matter is that our entire command was aware that we had forced the majority of the city’s population, about 200,000 people, into refugee status, but nobody took responsibility for their wellbeing, as international law required of us.

Central to that command was Major General Andrew “Jim” Molan, an Australian who was seconded to the US military in 2004 and took overall command of US coalition forces in Iraq, alongside the current US defence secretary Jim Mattis.

What happened in the so-called “second battle of Falluja” however, went far beyond a failure to attend to the needs of the civilian population who were able to flee the city before the US assault. Those who remained found themselves imprisoned in a “free-fire zone” for 10,500 US troops and 850 UK special forces, along with 2000 Iraqis loyal to the Occupation government in Baghdad.

While the “Battle for Falluja” has been glorified and celebrated as the most destructive and significant US battle since Vietnam, intended to be a final stand against insurgents who had become concentrated there, it has also been recognised as one of the worst war crimes committed by US coalition forces during the whole occupation of Iraq.

Although the insurgents included the progenitors of those now fighting in Syria, – AQI and Ansar al Sunna, there was significant popular backing for them amongst the local Sunni population, who saw US forces as oppressors rather than liberators. In the “first battle of Falluja” eight months earlier, when legitimate public protests against oppressive actions by US forces drew a lethal response and the deaths of 17 innocent civilians, this popular resistance solidified. As Ross Caputi describes it:

After the resistance movement in Fallujah successfully repelled the first U.S. led siege of their city in April of 2004, Fallujah became a symbol of heroism and resistance to Iraqis. In the United States Fallujah was made into a symbol of terrorism. The U.S. mainstream media described Fallujah as a “hotbed of anti-Americanism” and an “insurgent stronghold”, and gave little mention of the 300,000 civilians that lived there. In November of 2004, the U.S. launched a massive siege on Fallujah that killed anywhere between 800 and 6,000 civilians, forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, and left much of the city in ruins. From that point on Fallujah became a symbol to much of the world of cruelty, devastation, and occupation.

The suffering inflicted on Fallujah did not end in 2004. Life for the people who chose to return to their city never improved. The U.S. imposed security measures and curfews that made living a normal life in Fallujah impossible. Residents already had to struggle to make ends meet in their dilapidated city, but the constant security check-points, ID card scans, and arrests only made life harder. Food and Medicine were scarce, and they remain scarce to this day.

It is impossible to read these accounts, both of what happened to Fallujah in 2004 and of the way it was portrayed by US leaders and US media, without comparing it with the current “battles” in both Iraq and Syria – Mosul, Raqqa, Aleppo and Idlib. Looking at the gaping chasm between the current reality perceived by Syrians and their allies, and that presented in Western media one can only lament for the lessons unlearned, and be incensed at the depth of deception that marks today’s battles.

But one question remains as hard to answer. As Caputi asked:

Was it also too painful for the decision makers to admit to themselves that we were hurting innocent people? Or were they so evil that they just did not care who we were hurting? Whatever their reasons for doing it were, the fact of the matter is that our entire command was aware… (of the refugees’ plight)

A similar question was asked in the Australian Parliament this week of the now former General Jim Molan, who has just entered the parliament as a Liberal party senator. Greens leader Richard Di Natale was reacting to Molan’s apparent sympathy for anti-Muslim and anti-immigration groups, but chose to draw attention to Molan’s questionable record in Iraq, and in the battle of Falluja.

Di Natale said the attack on Fallujah was a disaster for civilians, and Senator Molan had to bear responsibility:

“At the time of the assault on Fallujah under the command of now-Senator Molan, a UN special rapporteur said coalition forces used hunger and deprivation as a weapon of war against the civilian population — a flagrant violation of international law,” Senator Di Natale said.

“Minister, given Senator Molan’s extreme views, do you have a concern these views influenced the decisions he made while executing the military campaign in Fallujah?”

The defence minister Maurice Payne, who also has a military background avoided addressing Di Natale’s legitimate demands altogether – hardly surprising given her own defence of the indefensible over Australian actions in Syria. Di Natale doesn’t know “what it takes to lead your nation in a uniform”, she said, while PM Turnbull echoed with his own paean to the defence of “Australian values”:

I want to remind the honourable member that in this parliament, on both sides, there are men and women who have served Australia in our uniform, putting their lives on the line, to defend those values. They haven’t just defended them, they’ve fought for them.

Should we assume that those Australian values are represented by Molan’s actions in Fallujah, which appear to have not merely condoned atrocities but to have contributed to them? Molan himself went on the front foot in his maiden speech to the Senate this week, including this claim:

I spent one year in Iraq when I ran the war in Iraq. I fought for Muslims in Iraq, and many Iraqis were alive when I left because of the actions that I took—not racist, not anti-Islam. Linking me to Britain First is absolutely absurd.

No doubt many similar statements could be found in Molan’s book about his year in Iraq, published in 2008 – “Running the War in Iraq”. The truth of what happened however, and Molan’s apparent shared responsibility for the crimes, is revealed in an article from the time by an Australian academic, Chris Doran. (An abbreviated version was posted more recently here)

Doran details the many parts of the US coalition’s brutal and vindictive assault on Fallujah, which led to the deaths of up to 6000 trapped civilians, as well as the most devastating ongoing health problems from the use of chemical weapons including White Phosphorus and Depleted or undepleted Uranium. The terrible effects of the latter have been investigated at length by Dr Chris Busby, but fourteen years later remain unacknowledged and unanswered crimes of the Empire.

While providing as much evidence as might be necessary for an accusation of criminal complicity in these crimes, Chris Doran also finishes with a generous statement:

Under the international legal doctrine of command responsibility, a commander can be held liable if they knew, or should have known, that anyone under their command was committing war crimes and they failed to prevent them. The consistency and similarity of the attacks at Najaf, Samarra, and Fallujah display a deliberate disregard for civilian casualties in the planning and implementation of those military assaults. By Molan’s own admission, he was responsible for not only planning, but also directing, these attacks. It is not conceivable that Molan was unaware of the serious and well documented accusations of atrocities being committed under his command.

While admirable that General Molan is so quick to admit responsibility for Fallujah, it is disconcerting that he does not seem to feel that he has done anything wrong, or should in any way be held accountable, for his actions. It is this utter hubris that most accurately characterises his writing. Sanitised as it is though, Molan has written an excellent brief regarding why it is crucial we start holding our political and military leaders accountable for their actions in Iraq. He would be an excellent place to start.

Sadly we can now say that not only have our political and military leaders still not been held to account for their actions in Iraq, but in the ten years since this was written, they have gone on to commit crimes in both Iraq and Syria which are not even recognised, yet in total threaten to exceed all those of the previous decade.

February 8, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Maldives crisis: US-Indian strategic alliance forming

By M.K. BHADRAKUMAR | Asia Times | February 7, 2018

Developments in Maldives have begun unfolding according to script. India, the United States and Britain are spearheading the demand that Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen comply with the order by his country’s Supreme Court to release his political opponents from prison and reinstate 12 former lawmakers as members of Parliament.

The script has a striking resemblance to what happened in Sri Lanka in 2014, with some minor variations on the fundamental theme – regime change. Thus, as in Sri Lanka, sworn enemies who had been at each other’s throats for decades suddenly made strange bedfellows to oust the strongman in the presidential palace, and as dawn broke one fine day, the ground beneath the regime shifted dramatically.

In the earlier case, a defecting faction of the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party aligned with its sworn enemy, the United National Party, undermining thereby the towering incumbent president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s grip on power. Now a similar realignment has happened in Maldives, which now threatens President Yameen’s continuance in power.

This latest unholy alliance is between two former presidents, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (a cousin of the incumbent president) and a man who once overthrew Gayoom, Mohamed Nasheed. Gayoom and Nasheed have been sworn enemies. What adds to the intrigue is the mysterious role by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Abdullah Saeed – who was, incidentally, appointed to the top court in 2009 by Nasheed when he was in power.

To what extent external powers promoted this opportunistic alliance to dethrone Yameen is a moot point. The US ambassador (based in Colombo) has been working closely with New Delhi to “promote” democracy. Nasheed and Saeed have visited Delhi in recent months at India’s invitation. Nasheed even addressed a panel at Brookings India to present his case for regime change in his country. Nasheed is a cult figure in London and Washington.

In sum, there is close coordination between New Delhi and Washington to get rid of Yameeen, who is branded as “pro-China.” Indeed, geopolitics is at the root of the current crisis in Maldives.

The missing link has been the secret move by the administration of US president Barack Obama in early 2013 to negotiate with Maldives about a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which would have led to increased military cooperation between the two countries, possibly including US bases there. But someone leaked a draft of the agreement to the press, and the US was forced to concede that such talks were indeed going on.

The negotiations got derailed when Yameen was elected president in November 2013 by narrowly defeating Nasheed. If Nasheed returns to power, the negotiations for the conclusion of the SOFA would be back on the table. Despite China’s firm and repeated denials that it has any intention of setting up a military base in Maldives, the China bogey has been whipped up by India.

The real US-Indian game plan is to create a “second island chain” (similar to the one in the Western Pacific) connecting Maldives with Diego Garcia (and Seychelles, where India has a base on one of the islands and has just concluded an agreement to build an airstrip and a sophisticated “monitoring station” at a cost of US$45 million) to curb the presence of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean and to control the sea lanes through which China conducts the bulk of its foreign trade. By the way, the US and India closely cooperate in monitoring the presence of Chinese submarines in the Indian Ocean.

As part of the overall US-Indian strategy, New Delhi signed a Bilateral Agreement for Navy Cooperation with Singapore last November that provides Indian Navy ships temporary deployment facilities and logistics support at Singapore’s Changi naval base, which is near the disputed South China Sea, enabling India to engage in more activity in the Strait of Malacca through which China’s oil and natural-gas imports pass.

India also maintains a big naval base in the Bay of Bengal in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands near the Strait of Malacca. Clearly, institutionalized mechanisms are being put in place to monitor Chinese naval activities in both the Strait of Malacca and the Arabian Sea – and to develop “chokepoints” to strangulate the Chinese economy in the event of a confrontation.

Suffice to say, control of the Maldivian atolls is a crucial template of the overall US-Indian strategy to counter China’s rapidly growing blue-water navy and its capacity to project power in the Indian Ocean.

The big question is whether India will intervene in Maldives and chase the recalcitrant Yameen out of power and put some amiable face like Nasheed in power, who can be trusted to act as “our man in the Arabian Sea.” Of course, any such intervention would constitute a violation of international law and the UN Charter.

Traditionally, India has taken a pragmatic approach toward “democracy deficits” in its neighborhood – in Myanmar and Bangladesh, for instance – or its extended neighborhood of West Asia or Central Asia. But the US has been encouraging India to shed its shyness and become assertive, worthy of a great power in the making.

To be sure, if India intervenes in Maldives, no matter its legality or legitimacy, New Delhi can be 100% certain of Anglo-American backing.

In Washington’s calculus, a unilateral Indian intervention in Maldives would signify a leap of faith on New Delhi’s part in the direction of a strategic alliance with the US. The Donald Trump administration has identified India as a key partner in its Asian strategies, but has found that getting India to shed its “strategic autonomy” and “independent foreign policies” has been an exasperating experience so far. An intervention in Maldives would signify that India is willing to cross the Rubicon, finally, and act shoulder-to-shoulder as America’s ally in Asia. To be sure, Maldives presents a defining moment for Indian foreign policy.

However, this is India’s Haiti moment, too. Simply put, the mulattoes and blacks of the Arabian Sea have locked horns and are seeking foreign intervention. The US Navy sent ships to Haiti 19 times between 1857 and 1913 to “protect American lives and property” and finally occupied Haiti in 1915 – until, ultimately, Haitians united in resistance of the US occupation and American forces had to leave in 1934. A repressive dictatorship took over from that point.

February 8, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Indian diplomacy faces tropical summer in Male

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | February 8, 2018

Writing in the Guardian newspaper, J. J. Robinson, the well-known journalist and author of Maldives: Islamic Republic, Tropical Autocracy, reflected as follows:

  • Ultimately the ongoing telenovela of Maldivian political intrigue is a distraction from the real crisis – the illegitimacy of the judiciary. Handpicked by Gayoom during his rule and illegally given life tenure under the new constitution in 2010, the judges have been at the centre of most of the Maldives’ recent ills; at least 50% of the 200-odd judges and magistrates have less than seventh-grade education, while a quarter had actual criminal records, including convictions for sexual misconduct, embezzlement, violence and disruption of public harmony.
  • Resoundingly discredited by groups such as the International Committee of Jurists and the UN’s special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the institution demands wholesale reform, and likely the presence of foreign judges on the bench. However excited the opposition at their recent good fortune, current events are far from a triumph of judicial independence.

The Maldives President Abdulla Yameen hit the nail on the head when he disclosed on Tuesday that the Chief Justice of Supreme Court Abdulla Saeed was bribed to give such a ruling on February 1, by ordering the release of a clutch of politicians viscerally opposed to the regime and reinstating 12 erstwhile lawmakers (which would have made the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives forfeit majority support in the parliament.) Yameen didn’t say who bribed Saeed but he referred to a plot to overthrow him and vowed to get to the bottom of it.

One can only hope that Yameen doesn’t mention India in a fit of rancor. He has an alibi if he wants to put India on the mat, since Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed  (who is in police custody) had paid an extended official visit to New Delhi in late October, soon after the visit by former president Mohamed Nasheed to India in end-August. By the way, while in Delhi, Nasheed addressed a panel at Brookings India to present his case for regime change in Maldives, openly soliciting Indian support. Like icing on the cake, subsequently, the US ambassador in Colombo Arun Kashyap (who is accredited to Male) also dropped by for consultations over the situation in Maldives with the then Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar.

Nasheed himself is based in Colombo. But why would Sri Lankan government encourage Nasheed to overthrow Yameen? To my mind, all this looks like a replay of the botched-up attempt by the CIA to eliminate Turkish President Recep Erdogan in July 2015. The US state department statement on Tuesday, here, betrays a sense of fury and despair that Yameen survived.

India should distance itself from the tragic happenings in Maldives. Importantly, we should nip in the bud any misperceptions arising of being party even remotely to an American plot to overthrow the leadership of a friendly neighboring country. Therefore, we should reach out to Yameen quickly, decisively and demonstrably. After all, he had sent his foreign minister as special envoy to Delhi only recently (soon after Nasheed, Saeed and Kashyap’s visit) in an extraordinary diplomatic gesture to convey to PM Modi that ‘India first’ has been, still is and will forever be the cornerstone of Male’s foreign policy priorities. See the reports on the special envoy’s talks with the Indian leadership on January 11 in New Delhi — here, here and here.)

A hot summer lies ahead for Indian diplomacy since elections are due in the Maldives and Yameen will pull out all the stops to consolidate his position. Delhi’s approach should be ditto what the UPA government took when Sheikh Hasina got re-elected as prime minister in January 2014 in Bangladesh – the boycott of the main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the abysmally low voter turnout (22%) notwithstanding. We had rejected Washington’s entreaties to join its campaign to arm-twist Hasina and get a ‘pro-American’ leadership installed in Dhaka.

But the heart of the matter is that times have changed during the past three years. The Indian establishment seemed to think that what was good for Uncle Sam was ditto what India should work for and that all that crap about ‘strategic autonomy’ had become archaic. Basically, bureaucrats had a field day setting their own agenda in the absence of assertive political leadership.

We should never have entertained Kashyap and Brookings India (franchise of a notorious American think tank of Cold War vintage with links to the US intelligence) should never have sponsored activities directed against India’s friendly neighbors. We do not realize that India’s small neighbors take us very seriously and read meanings and motives into our behavior.

February 8, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bill Clinton Raped Me” – Juanita Broaddrick Tells Her Story

The Jimmy Dore Show | February 6, 2018

“Bill Clinton Raped Me” – Juanita Broaddrick Tells Her Story

Read Her Full Story Here ▶ http://nym.ag/2E6SwnR

February 8, 2018 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | 1 Comment