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Elliott Abrams ‘Cabaled Quietly’ to Spring a CIA-Connected Drug Trafficker

By Jefferson Morley | The Deep State | February 15, 2019

Surely, this is just another “loony left” headline about Elliott Abrams, the administration’s point man on Venezuela, whom some say has been unfairly pilloried on Capitol Hill.

If you read this September 1986 National Security Council email, written by NSC staffer Oliver North, you’ll see the headline is not over-stated but factually precise and faithful to the conspiratorial tone of the original source.

When U.S. policymakers needed to spring a convicted CIA-connected drug trafficker from doing hard time in federal prison, who did they call?

Trump’s appointed special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams.

On Thursday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) scorched Abrams for his covering up the infamous El Mozote massacre and lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra conspiracy in the 1980s.

Her interrogation drew rebuke from Max Boot, the apostate conservative, and a chorus of right-wing media commentators. Boot described Omar’s comments as a “disgraceful ad hominem attack.”

Actually the impertinent Congresswoman from Minneapolis could have gone much further about Abrams’ untrustworthy behavior. One of the most revealing stories about Abram’s hypocrisy comes from an impeccably right-wing source, Oliver North, former Republican senatorial candidate and Fox News talking head.

Bagman

The year was 1986. Abrams served as assistant secretary of state for Latin America under President Reagan. He was a 39 year old lawyer and foreign policy polemicist. Even then his perennial scowl and crooked grin managed made him look furtive and self-righteous at the same time.

The Iran-Contra conspiracy was in full swing. The conspiracy, permissively labelled “a scandal,” was a Reagan White House plot to subvert the U.S. Congress’s powers of the purse. North was the coordinator of what can fairly be described as an unconstitutional covert operation, while Abrams played the role of bagman.

To bypass the so-called Boland Amendment, Abrams took payments from the Sultan of Brunei, a petroleum potentate from South Asia, and passed them to the leaders of Reagan’s counterrevolutionary army in Nicaragua. When questioned under oath, Abrams lied. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of deceiving Congress.

As part of the conspiracy, Abrams also put in a good word for a convicted drug trafficker, General Jose Bueso Rosa. He was a Honduran general who had helped the U.S. government with  “sensitive operations” in Central America. As Murray Waas and I wrote in the Washington Post, North did “a favor for a felon.”

So did Abrams.

‘Sensitive Operations’

As an episode of CIA-sanctioned drug trafficking, the Bueso story was  typical. Bueso, it turns out, had helped put together a CIA-trained military intelligence unit known as Battalion 316, which served as death squad for U.S. policymakers.  A Honduran government investigation found that Battalion 316 had captured, tortured and executed some 200 suspected leftists.

Bueso had also trafficked multi-kiloton shipments of cocaine. As CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz documented in Volume 2 of his report on contra drug trafficking, the agency did business with more than 50 suspected drug traffickers in the 1980s.

(Lazy reporters sometimes say that the CIA was cleared of the allegation. They didn’t bother to read the Sections 800-1148 of Hitz’s report which detail how the agency took no action against four dozen suspected traffickers who aided Reagan’s–and Abrams’–anticommunist crusade.)

IG report that CIA reporters prefer not to read
(Credit: CIA)

Investigating the story for the Post, I spoke on background with law enforcement officials familiar with Bueso’s case. A  wiretap had picked up Bueso repeatedly talking about shipments of “flour” into central Florida, they said.

Given Bueso’s connections, no one in the Reagan Justice Department cared to make a big deal of his cocaine shipments, no matter how hefty. They just wanted a conviction that would put him out of business. Bueso got a generous plea bargain. He would only have to serve five years.

Bueso, however, was led to believe his American friends would save him from serving any time all.

In his September 1986 email, later uncovered by Iran-contra investigators, North worried Bueso might “break his long standing silence.” He might, in other words disclose unpleasant truths about death squads and CIA drug trafficking that might taint professed U.S. ideals of human rights.

So North “cabaled quietly” with Abrams, as well as top Pentagon, CIA and Justice Department officials.  A presidential pardon was out of the question but transfer to a comfortable “Club Fed” facility was arranged.

At a time when U.S. prosecutors meted out ten-year sentences to young black men for the possession of a few ounces of cocaine, Abrams was part of a gang that thought a multi-kiloton trafficker should be treated leniently. Such was his subtle advocacy of human rights.

Bueso got out of prison early–for “good behavior.” Abrams went on to a long career in U.S. foreign policy. Hundreds of thousands of black men remained in jails for years, if not decades.

Question

Rep. Omar could have asked an even tougher question of Abrams, namely, “Does Trump’s policy toward Latin America today involve protection of drug traffickers as Reagan’s policy did in the 1980s?”

She was certainly justified in questioning his veracity.

“I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony you give today to be truthful,” she said.

————————

Here’s the Omar-Abrams exchange.

February 17, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Ní Riada Calls on EU to End Funding to Israel

IMEMC News & Agencies – February 16, 2019

Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has called for the ending of all EU funding to Israel.

The Ireland South MEP made the call as she tabled an amendment designed to close the loophole allowing Israel to use EU funds for military purposes.

“Israel must be completely excluded from receiving any funding for research and development,” she said.

“Every penny that they have received under the research and development scheme, which they have egregiously abused, makes the EU complicit in each and every murder Israel has carried out since 2000.

“That’s over 10,000 Palestinians. More than 2,000 of them children.

“The EU’s Horizon 2020 is the biggest research and development program in the world, with €80 billion dedicated to it since 2014”.

“Israel is allowed to take part in the program on the basis of the EU-Israel association agreement, signed in 2000. An outrageous agreement that we warned two decades would only give legitimacy to Israel’s campaign of genocide.

“We have been proved depressingly right. In that time, in addition to their usual litany of human rights abuses, they have launched no less than five major assaults and invasions on Palestinian territory, started a war in Lebanon and hijacked an international peace flotilla carrying humanitarian aid, massacring those on board.

“EU treaties do not allow any spending on military or defense to be charged to the EU budget. However, the European Commission has been continuously undermining this clear rule for many years now through a blatant loophole made for ‘dual-purpose’ technologies.

“Dual-purpose technology, is any technology that can also be used for military purposes. This allows Israeli arms manufacturers and military companies to apply for EU funding.

“It has been well documented that Israel systematically uses dual-purpose technology for military purposes once it is through the research and development stage.

“Today, I tabled an amendment that calls for the EU to stop funding dual-purpose technology under this program. This would immediately stop taxpayer’s money from subsidizing the Israeli arms industry, and by extension, wholesale murder, under the guise of civilian innovation.

“This, however, is only a start. The EU needs to stop all funding to Israel until we see an end to human rights violations by Israeli forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

February 16, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

US-Controlled Militants Gain Majority of UN Goods to Syria – Coordination Centre

Sputnik – February 16, 2019

US-controlled militants have gained a significant portion of goods from a humanitarian convoy, sent by the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), to the Rukban refugee camp, according to a joint statement by the Russian and Syrian interdepartmental coordination centres on returning refugees.

“Given the negative experience of the first humanitarian convoy as well as absence of any objective information about the targeted aid to refugees from the second humanitarian convoy, there are reasons to say that the major part of humanitarian cargo was received by the US-controlled armed groups, not by the Syrians temporarily deployed in the camp”, the statement said.

The UN and SARC humanitarian convoy consisted of more than 100 vehicles. On 10 February, Russian servicemen accompanied the first part of the convoy of 60 vehicles.

According to the statement, Russia will assist Syria in opening two humanitarian corridors for those refugees who want to leave the camp in US-controlled territory.

“In the current situation, having once again made sure that it is not possible to achieve any constructive position on the part of American partners… the Syrian government, with the assistance of the Russian Federation, decided to open two humanitarian corridors in residential areas, Jleb and Jabal al-Ghurab, on the border of the 55-kilometre zone, occupied by the US, where the corresponding checkpoints will be equipped for the voluntary, unimpeded and safe exit of Syrian refugees to places of their choice of residence”, the statement continued.

The centres will open in the Jleb and Jabal al-Ghurab areas on 19 February.

On Friday, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that militants were keeping people in the Rukban camp by force:

“We call on the American command and leaders of illegal militant groups in the al-Tanf zone to at least stop focribly keeping women and children most affected by cold, illness and malnutrition in the camp. All of them will be given necessary assistance”.

He announced that Russia and Syria will jointly establish a temporary housing area for refugees from the camp.

“To save the refugees of the Rukban camp, the Russian centre for Syrian reconciliation, jointly with Syria’s government, from 19 February 2019… will deploy temporary accommodation centres equipped with warm housing and provided with hot meals, other essentials and medical personnel… All refugees will be provided with motor transport for unimpeded and safe travel to their places of residence in the territory controlled by the Syrian government”, he said.

The Rukban refugee camp is situated near the Syrian-Jordanian border in the zone of responsibility of the US al-Tanf base.

Russia has repeatedly accused the US base of providing a safe haven for terrorists, who later carry out attacks on the positions of the Syrian Arab Army.

According to various estimates, there are at least 50,000 people inside the 55-kilometre security zone occupied by the United States.

February 16, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Israel training mercenaries for Yemen war in UAE camps in Negev: Haaretz

Press TV – February 16, 2019

Israel’s leading daily Haaretz says Tel Aviv is a partner to the Saudi war on Yemen and is “reaping the profits” from its partnership in the brutal aggression.

Haaretz revealed that Israeli officers are training foreign mercenaries, led by the Colombians and Nepalese, in UAE-funded camps situated in the Negev Desert.

Quoting sources in a US House Intelligence Committee, the report said the mercenaries have been recruited by Mohammed Dahlan, security adviser to Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Dahlan had “visited these camps on more than one occasion to check the progress of preparations and training received by mercenaries, under the personal supervision of the Israeli occupation army officers,” the report said.

The mercenaries, it added, later took part in the Saudi offensive against the port city of Hudaydah and other conflict zones in Yemen.

American sources were cited as saying that Israel has also sold bombs and missiles to Saudi Arabia, some of which are banned.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched the devastating military campaign against Yemen to bring the Riyadh-backed former government back to power. The invaders have, however, failed to achieve their objective in the face of Yemeni resistance.

“Israeli cyber companies, gun traders, terror-warfare instructors and even paid hit men operated by an Israeli-owned company are partners to the war in Yemen,” Haaretz said.

It further cited reports suggesting Israeli companies’ relations with Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Israeli software firm NSO Group is suspected of selling Riyadh Pegasus spyware accused of helping trace Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by a hit squad inside kingdom’s Istanbul consulate last October.

Security firm AGT International, which is owned by an Israeli businessman, won in 2007 a $6 billion bid to set up surveillance systems in Abu Dhabi.

Spearhead Operations Group, another company set up by Israeli Avraham Golan, is also responsible for assassinations in Yemen.

Last October, Golan told BuzzFeed media company that there was a plan for targeted assassinations in Yemen. “I ran it. We did it. The plan was under the UAE auspices as part of the Arab coalition,” he said.

Haaretz also referred to some reports that say Israel has sold Saudi Arabia combat drones and intends to sell the kingdom Iron Dome missile systems following US-mediated secret meetings in Washington.

Israel has recently been working behind the scenes to establish formal contact with Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Critics say Saudi Arabia’s flirtation with Israel will undermine global efforts to isolate Tel Aviv and harm the Palestinian cause.

February 16, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

US Air Freight Company that Smuggled Weapons Into Venezuela Linked to CIA “Black Site” Renditions

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | February 13, 2019

GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA – Two executives at the company that chartered the U.S. plane that was caught smuggling weapons into Venezuela last week have been tied to an air cargo company that aided the CIA in the rendition of alleged terrorists to “black site” centers for interrogation. The troubling revelation comes as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has rejected a U.S. “humanitarian aid” convoy over concerns that it could contain weapons meant to arm the country’s U.S.-backed opposition.

Last Tuesday, Venezuelan authorities announced that 19 rifles, 118 ammo magazines, 90 radios and six iPhones had been smuggled into the country via a U.S. plane that had originated in Miami. The authorities blamed the United States government for the illicit cargo, accusing it of seeking to arm U.S.-funded opposition groups in the country in order to topple the current Maduro-led government.

A subsequent investigation into the plane responsible for the weapons caché conducted by McClatchyDC received very little media attention despite the fact that it uncovered information clearly showing that the plane responsible for the shipment had been making an unusually high number of trips to Venezuela and neighboring Colombia over the past few weeks.

Steffan Watkins, an Ottawa-based analyst, told McClatchy in a telephone interview that the plane, which is operated by U.S. air cargo company 21 Air, had been “flying between Philadelphia and Miami and all over the place, but all continental U.S.” during all of last year. However, Watkins noted that “all of a sudden in January, things changed” when the plane began making trips to Colombia and Venezuela on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day.

According to Watkins’ analysis, this single plane had conducted 40 round-trip flights from Miami International Airport to Caracas and Valencia — where the smuggled weapons had been discovered — in Venezuela, as well as to Bogota and Medellin in Colombia in just the past month.

Publicly available flight radar information shows that the plane, although it has not returned to Venezuela since the discovery of its illicit cargo, has continued to travel to Medellin, Colombia, as recently as this past Monday.

Multiple CIA ties

In addition to the dramatic and abrupt change in flight patterns that occurred just weeks before U.S. Vice President Mike Pence prompted Venezuelan opposition member Juan Guaidó to declare himself “interim president,” a subsequent McClatchy follow-up investigation also uncovered the fact that two top executives at the company that owns the plane in question had previously worked with a company connected to controversial CIA “black sites.”

Indeed, the chairman and majority owner of 21 Air, Adolfo Moreno, and 21 Air’s director of quality control, Michael Steinke, both have “either coincidental or direct ties” to Gemini Air Cargo, a company previously named by Amnesty International as one of the air charter services involved in a CIA rendition program. In this CIA program, individuals suspected of terrorism were abducted by the intelligence agency and then taken abroad to third-country secret “black sites” where torture, officially termed “enhanced interrogation,” was regularly performed.

Steinke worked for Gemini Air Cargo from 1996 to 1997, according to a 2016 Department of Transportation document cited by McClatchy. Moreno, although he did not work for Gemini, registered two separate businesses at a Miami address that was later registered to Gemini Air Cargo while the CIA rendition program was active. McClatchy noted that the first business Moreno registered at the location was incorporated in 1987 while the second was created in 2001. Gemini Cargo Logistics, a subsidiary of Gemini Air Cargo, was subsequently registered at that same location in 2005.

21 Air has denied any responsibility for the weapons shipment discovered onboard the plane it operates, instead blaming a contractor known as GPS-Air for the illicit cargo. A GPS-Air manager, Cesar Meneses, told McClatchy that the weapons shipment had been “fabricated” by the Maduro-led government to paint his government as the victim. Meneses also stated that “the cargo doesn’t belong to 21 Air and it doesn’t belong to GPS-Air” and that it had been provided by third parties, whose identities Meneses declined to disclose.

Contras redux?

The revelation that the company that operates the plane caught smuggling weapons into Venezuela has connections to past controversial CIA programs is unlikely to surprise many observers, given the CIA’s decades-long history of funneling weapons to U.S.-backed opposition fighters in Latin America, Southeast Asia and other conflict areas around the globe.

One of the best-known examples of the CIA using airliners to smuggle weapons to a U.S.-backed paramilitary group occurred during the 1980s in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the Reagan administration delivered weapons to the Contra rebels in order to topple the left-leaning Sandinista movement. Many of those weapons had been hidden on flights claiming to be carrying “humanitarian aid” into Nicaragua.

The parallels between aspects of the Contra scandal and the current situation in Venezuela are striking, particularly given the recent “outrage” voiced by mainstream media and prominent U.S. politicians over Maduro’s refusal to allow U.S. “humanitarian aid” into the country. Maduro had explained his rejection of the aid as partially stemming from the concern that it could contain weapons or other supplies aimed at creating an armed opposition force, like the “rebel” force that was armed by the CIA in Syria in 2011.

Though the media has written off Maduro’s concern as unfounded, that is hardly the case in light of the fact that the Trump administration’s recently named special envoy in charge of the administration’s Venezuela policy, Elliott Abrams, had been instrumental in delivering weapons to the Nicaraguan Contras, including hiding those weapons in “humanitarian aid” shipments. In subsequent testimony after the scandal broke in the 1980s, Abrams himself admitted to funneling weapons to the Contras in exactly this way.

With the recently uncovered illicit weapons shipment from the U.S. to Venezuela now linked to companies that have previously worked with the CIA in covert operations, Maduro’s response to the “humanitarian aid” controversy is even more justified. Unfortunately for him, the U.S.-backed “interim president,” Juan Guaidó, announced on Monday that his parallel government had received the first “external” source of “humanitarian aid” into the country, but would not disclose its source, its specific contents, nor how it had entered the country.

February 14, 2019 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Collateral damage’: The Amiriyah shelter bombing in Iraq should not be forgotten

By Neil Clark | RT | February 13, 2019

On this day in 1991, over 400 people lost their lives when the US dropped two 2,000-pound smart bombs on a Baghdad air-raid shelter. But because it was the ‘good guys’ who did it, the massacre is not remembered as it should be.

‘Collateral damage’. The first time I remember those words being used was in the first Gulf War. There was plenty of ‘collateral damage’ in that conflict. In other words, lots of innocent people were killed.

At around 4:30am on Wednesday February 13, 1991, US F-117 aircraft bombed an air raid shelter in Amiriyah, a suburb of Baghdad, incinerating 408 people, many of them women and children.

“Most of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition,” the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen reported. One poor man said 11 of his family had been in the shelter. Another wept as he said he had lost his wife and children.

The US ‘defense’ was that they had thought the shelter was a command and control bunker. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was using his people as human shields. Yet, as a Human Rights Watch report later noted, the Pentagon conceded that the bunker had been used for civil defense in the Iran-Iraq war, and US officials“gave no warning that they considered its protected status as a civilian shelter to have ended.”

Award-winning anti-war journalist John Pilger noted the interrogation that Jeremy Bowen received when he reported on the crime. “‘Are you absolutely certain it wasn’t a military bunker?” he was asked, or words to that effect. Without any trace of irony the White House spokesperson Martin Fitzwater declared “Saddam Hussein does not share our sanctity for human life.’”

Of course, it’s always a ‘mistake’ or ‘tragic accident’ when the US and its allies commit such terrible crimes, even when it most clearly isn’t. And we are always told we have to ‘move on’ very quickly from these ‘mistakes’ and ‘accidents’.

“Consider the dreadful toll of Iraqi civilian deaths in the intense bombing campaign in the first Gulf War. According to American and French Intelligence reports, over 200,000 died. All this was barely mentioned at the time, even on the BBC and the ‘quality’ press, and is now all but forgotten,” writes David Cromwell of Media Lens, in his book ‘Why Are We The Good Guys?’

The Iraqi press called for the US to be tried for war crimes over the Amiriyah strike. But of course it never happened. In 2001, on the 10th anniversary of the bombing, the US-funded Radio Free Iraq broadcast an interview with an unnamed Iraqi who claimed that there was something not quite right about the air-raid shelter. But even he said he did not know whether or not the bunker was a command and control center and admitted he was not in a “position to give an expert opinion.”

Two years later, the US and its allies assaulted Iraq again – this time falsely claiming that the country possessed WMDs. The second Gulf War has led to the estimated deaths of a further 1mn people.

What is revealing is how the Amiriyah Incineration has – outside of Iraq – disappeared down the memory hole. Let’s suppose that instead of America or one of its allies carrying out the attack it had been Russia, Iran, or another ‘official enemy’. Then we’d never have heard the last of it.

We can be sure that it would have been the subject of at least one major Hollywood film and we’d have annual reminders of the heinous crime. To their credit, the British band Radiohead did write a song about the massacre entitled ‘I Will’ which included the lyric “little baby’s eyes,” but you need to search very hard for other references in popular culture.

Isn’t that shameful?

Because by not remembering the dead of Amiriyah we are saying that those killed by the US and its allies are lesser beings than those killed by its geo-strategic rivals.

It’s not just in Iraq where this has happened.

In April 1999, during the war against Yugoslavia, NATO bombed a convoy of Kosovo Albanians, killing over 60 refugees. At first they tried to blame the atrocity on Yugoslav forces. But when evidence emerged that it was a NATO strike – the alliance claimed that the pilot had believed it to be a military convoy. And of course, the blame for this “tragic accident” was passed on to the ‘official enemy’.

“NATO regrets any harm to innocent civilians, and reminds that the circumstances in which this accident occurred are wholly the responsibility of (Yugoslav) President Milosevic and his policies,” said NATO spokesperson Jamie Shea, sounding just like Martin Fitzwater eight years earlier.

The US-led war in Afghanistan has also been marked by a high level of ‘collateral damage’. On October 9, 2001, just two days after the US and UK began Operation Enduring Freedom, four Afghans working for a UN mine clearing agency were incinerated by a US cruise missile as they slept in the agency’s building in a suburb of Kabul.

“My brother is buried under here. What can we do? Our lives are ruined,” said a distraught Mohammed Afzl as he surveyed the rubble following the US strike.

The bombing of wedding parties became a noted feature of the campaign – 44 people were killed in one such attack in July 2002.

Again, the US tried to blame others – questioning whether it had really been a wedding. It’s a tradition to fire celebratory shots in the air at Pashtun weddings, but the US claimed this was “hostile fire,” so it was ok to bomb. Later, President Bush expressed his ‘sympathy’ to the mourning families and his ‘hope that such kind of accidents won’t happen again’. But of course they did, with great regularity.

Dating back to Amiriyah, we can discern a clear pattern when ‘collateral damage’ occurs:

a) The hit is described as a ‘tragic mistake/accident’, made because we were fighting ‘the bad guys’ (indirectly blaming the ‘bad guys’ for forcing us to be there).

Or…

b) The hit is blamed on the ‘bad guys’ directly. We see this happen in Gaza with the ‘human shield’ claims made by Israel when their bombs kill civilians. Everyone Israel kills is Hamas’ fault, not Israel’s, in the same way that every death during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia was the fault of Milosevic.

c) If there is a real outcry, then it’s a case of: don’t worry, we will hold our own internal inquiry! An internal inquiry which of course ends up exonerating the perpetrators.

What we don’t get and what the families of those killed in Amiriyah are still waiting for is justice.

So spare a thought for the 408 today and all the other innocent victims of ‘collateral damage’, because we’re really meant to have forgotten them.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror

By Jonathan Cook | The National | February 13, 2019

You might imagine that a report by a multinational observer force documenting a 20-year reign of terror by Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers against Palestinians, in a city under occupation, would provoke condemnation from European and US politicians.

But you would be wrong. The leaking in December of the report on conditions in the city of Hebron, home to 200,000 Palestinians, barely caused a ripple.

About 40,000 separate cases of abuse had been quietly recorded since 1997 by dozens of monitors from Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Italy and Turkey. Some incidents constituted war crimes.

Exposure of the confidential report has now provided the pretext for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to expel the international observers. He shuttered their mission in Hebron this month, in apparent violation of Israel’s obligations under the 25-year-old Oslo peace accords.

Israel hopes once again to draw a veil over its violent colonisation of the heart of the West Bank’s largest Palestinian city. The process of clearing tens of thousands of inhabitants from central Hebron is already well advanced.

Any chance of rousing the international community into even minimal protest was stamped out by the US last week. It blocked a draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council expressing “regret” at Israel’s decision, and on Friday added that ending the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was an “internal matter” for Israel.

The TIPH was established in 1997 after a diplomatic protocol split the city into two zones, controlled separately by Israel and a Palestinian Authority created by the Oslo accords.

The “temporary” in its name was a reference to the expected five-year duration of the Oslo process. The need for TIPH, most assumed, would vanish when Israel ended the occupation and a Palestinian state was built in its place.

While Oslo put the PA formally in charge of densely populated regions of the occupied territories, Israel was effectively given a free hand in Hebron to entrench its belligerent hold on Palestinian life.

Several hundred extremist Jewish settlers have gradually expanded their illegal enclave in the city centre, backed by more than 1,000 Israeli soldiers. Many Palestinian residents have been forced out while the rest are all but imprisoned in their homes.

TIPH faced an impossible task from the outset: to “maintain normal life” for Hebron’s Palestinians in the face of Israel’s structural violence.

Until the report was leaked, its documentation of Israel’s takeover of Hebron and the settlers’ violent attacks had remained private, shared only among the states participating in the task force.

However, the presence of observers did curb the settlers’ worst excesses, helping Palestinian children get to school unharmed and allowing their parents to venture out to work and shop. That assistance is now at an end.

Hebron has been a magnet for extremist settlers because it includes a site revered in Judaism: the reputed burial plot of Abraham, father to the three main monotheistic religions.

But to the settlers’ disgruntlement, Hebron became central to Muslim worship centuries ago, with the Ibrahimi mosque established at the site.

Israel’s policy has been gradually to prise away the Palestinians’ hold on the mosque, as well the urban space around it. Half of the building has been restricted to Jewish prayer, but in practice the entire site is under Israeli military control.

As the TIPH report notes, Palestinian Muslims must now pass through several checkpoints to reach the mosque and are subjected to invasive body searches. The muezzin’s call to prayer is regularly silenced to avoid disturbing Jews.

Faced with these pressures, according to TIPH, the number of Palestinians praying there has dropped by half over the past 15 years.

In Hebron, as at Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a Muslim holy site is treated solely as an obstacle – one that must be removed so that Israel can assert exclusive sovereignty over all of the Palestinians’ former homeland.

A forerunner of TIPH was set up in 1994, shortly after Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli army doctor, entered the Ibrahimi mosque and shot more than 150 Muslims at prayer, killing 29. Israeli soldiers aided Goldstein, inadvertently or otherwise, by barring the worshippers’ escape while they were being sprayed with bullets.

The massacre should have provided the opportunity for Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister of the time, to banish Hebron’s settlers and ensure the Oslo process remained on track. Instead he put the Palestinian population under prolonged curfew.

That curfew never really ended. It became the basis of an apartheid policy that has endlessly indulged Jewish settlers as they harass and abuse their Palestinian neighbours.

Israel’s hope is that most will get the message and leave.

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in power for a decade, more settlers are moving in, driving out Palestinians. Today Hebron’s old market, once the commercial hub of the southern West Bank, is a ghost town, and Palestinians are too terrified to enter large sections of their own city.

TIPH’s report concluded that, far from guaranteeing “normal life”, Israel had made Hebron more divided and dangerous for Palestinians than ever before.

In 2016 another army medic, Elor Azaria, used his rifle to shoot in the head a prone and badly wounded Palestinian youth. Unlike Goldstein’s massacre, the incident was caught on video.

Israelis barely cared until Azaria was arrested. Then large sections of the public, joined by politicians, rallied to his cause, hailing him a hero.

Despite doing very little publicly, TIPH’s presence in Hebron had served as some kind of restraint on the settlers and soldiers. Now the fear is that there will be more Azarias.

Palestinians rightly suspect that the expulsion of the observer force is the latest move in efforts by Israel and the US to weaken mechanisms for protecting Palestinian human rights.

Mr Netanyahu has incited against local and international human rights organisations constantly, accusing them of being foreign agents and making it ever harder for them to operate effectively.

And last year US President Donald Trump cut all aid to UNRWA, the United Nations’ refugee agency, which plays a vital role in caring for Palestinians and upholding their right to return to their former lands.

Not only are the institutions Palestinians rely on for support being dismembered but so now are the organisations that record the crimes Israel has been committing.

That, Israel hopes, will ensure that an international observer post which has long had no teeth will soon will soon lose its sight too as Israel begins a process of annexing the most prized areas of the West Bank – with Hebron top of the list.

February 13, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

US-led coalition bombs ‘ex-mosque’ as casualties in Baghuz offensive surge to 70

RT | February 12, 2019

At least 70 civilians were killed or injured over two days as Kurdish militias advance on an ISIS-held town in eastern Syria. The US-led coalition supports the operation with deadly airstrikes.

The offensive was launched on Monday and is touted as an attempt to capture the last remaining territory held by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist group on Syria’s border with Iraq. Al-Baghuz Fawqani is a small town on the Euphrates River that had a population of some 10,000 before the war in the country started in 2011.

The forces of the Kurd-dominated SDF are being supported by the US-led coalition, which provides air support to the militias on the ground. According to SANA, the Syrian government news agency, at least 70 civilians were killed or injured on the outskirts of the town by the airstrikes.

One of the targets for the warplanes was a local mosque, which, the coalition says, has been repurposed by the terrorists as a command and control facility, from which car-bomb attacks against the Kurdish forces were directed. In a statement UK Maj. Gen. Christopher Ghika said this made the mosque a legitimate target not protected by international law.

Decisions to conduct attacks near or against public facilities are risky for military commanders, as the coalition itself found out in March 2017, when one of its airstrikes killed dozens of civilians hiding in a mosque. The US military initially denied hitting the building despite mounting evidence to the contrary, but later acknowledged that they failed to take necessary precaution when targeting a meeting of Al Qaeda members nearby.

Last year the coalition reported targeting mosques in IS-held part in eastern Syria with a similar justification. In October, an airstrike hit the prayer house in Al-Susah village, reportedly killing dozens of relatives of militants controlling the city. The coalition insisted it was targeting combatants. In December, a mosque in the town of Hajin was attacked as part of the SDF advancement along the Euphrates.

February 12, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

With 3.8 Million Yemenis Displaced Last Year, New Report Shows Country’s Crisis Growing Worse

By Whitney Webb | Mint Press News | February 11, 2019

SANA’A, YEMEN — A report from the Sana’a-based Yemeni government has revealed that the conflict in Yemen — sometimes called the “Forgotten War,” owing to sparse international media coverage — continues to grow more dire with each passing day.

Among the report’s most troubling findings are the staggering number of people who were displaced by fighting last year, with 3.8 million people forced to flee their homes, many of them from the still-besieged port of Hodeida, over the course of 2018. Many of these refugees have sought refuge in or near the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, whose international airport remains under blockade from the Saudi Arabia-led and U.S.-supported coalition.

Another highly troubling aspect of the situation in Yemen, as revealed by this recently released report, is the continued closure of key food warehouses – including those controlled by the World Food Program and the World Health Organization – that are storing food for as many 3.5 million people. While these facilities remain closed, an estimated 18 million Yemenis face severe food insecurity and starvation, including 5 million children. Worse still, the report noted that the Saudi-led coalition bombed four such food warehouses in addition to two trucks carrying food aid, just during the month of December.

The statistics released by the government in Sana’a also reveal the continuation of the Saudi-led coalition’s targeting of critical civilian infrastructure, such as farms and water pumps. According to government figures, during December 2018, the coalition razed 94 farms and damaged another 128 while destroying 68 water pumps and water storage tanks. One hundred and thirty two livestock were also killed by coalition bombs. The U.S. military intelligence has been “fine tuning” the coalition’s airstrike target list since last June, making the U.S. complicit in these crimes against Yemeni civilians.

A graphic from the report shows Dec. 2018, targets of the Saudi Coalition in Yemen

What ceasefire?

These figures corroborate the findings of Martha Mundy, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, who recently published a report that asserted that the coalition sought to halt Yemen’s remaining food production as well as its food distribution capacity. This claim is also supported by the fact that, despite the coalition publicly claiming that it has “lifted” the naval blockade of Yemen, 90 percent of importers cannot bring goods into the port of Hodeida, through which the majority of Yemen’s imported food and essential goods passes.

The coalition has justified its targeting of critical food production and water sanitation infrastructure by claiming that Yemeni resistance fighters were hiding weapons in those areas, but have never provided evidence of weapons being found in targeted installations.

The report also notes that the bombing campaign targeting Yemen continues to result in a dizzying number of airstrikes, with a total of 1,509 airstrikes in resistance-held Yemen during last December. The government in Sana’a had previously stated that Yemen, over the course of last year, suffered over 52,000 attacks — including airstrikes, naval bombardments and artillery operations, as well as an average of 50 airstrikes per day.

However, what makes the December figure so striking is the fact that “peace negotiations” took place early on in that month, which ostensibly led to a ceasefire that the Saudi coalition went on to violate over 800 times. During the month of peace negotiations and alleged ceasefire, 61 civilians were killed by coalition attacks, including 15 children. Another 109 civilians were wounded and 2,293 civilian homes — many likely unoccupied, with their former residents now displaced refugees — were destroyed or severely damaged.

While many continue to hope for a swift and peaceful outcome to the atrocious and genocidal war against Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition’s choice to continue raining bombs down on key civilian infrastructure — specifically areas involved in food production during a time of unprecedented famine — shows that these powerful governments and their allies remain determined, in their pursuit of regional geopolitical dominance, to push the Yemeni people to the brink of annihilation by starvation, preventable disease and bombs.

Read | The December 2018 Report on the Situation in the Republic of Yemen

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and has contributed to several other independent, alternative outlets. Her work has appeared on sites such as Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire among others. She also makes guest appearances to discuss politics on radio and television. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

February 11, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Israeli and US Forces to Begin Major Military Drills

IMEMC News & Agencies – February 9, 2019

Amid growing tension along the northern border, Israeli and US forces will hold their annual joint exercise next week, to test the level of coordination between the two armies, in the event of future conflicts.

The exercise is part of a long standing agreement, between the US and Israel, to hold bilateral training exercises on a regular basis. An Israeli military spokesperson stressed that it was not associated with a particular threat or world event.

The goal of the drill – known as Juniper Falcon – is to strengthen cooperation, mutual learning, and coordination between the armies. In 2017, 12 American F-15E Strike Eagles and approximately 80 Airmen attached to the 494th Fighter Squadron flew missions with the Israeli Air Force.

The drill is expected to include over 300 US Army soldiers and 400 Israeli soldiers from different units.

The last Juniper drill, which took place in March 2018, was labeled as the largest Israeli and US European Command joint exercise in 2018, with more than 2,500 US troops deployed in Europe, participating alongside 2,000 Israeli troops, logistics units, medical forces, and other units.

On Wednesday, the United States purchased the Iron Dome missile defense system from Israel, for an immediate need of the United States Army. “This is yet another expression of the strengthening of our strong alliance with the US,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Days of Palestine further notes that the American F15 Eagle warplanes were used to kill thousands of Palestinians, during the 3 deadly wars that the Gaza Strip faced, in 2008, 2011 and 2014.

February 9, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | 16 Comments

Pompeo: America ‘obligated’ to fight ‘Hezbollah’ in Venezuela to save ‘duly elected’ Guaido

RT | February 7, 2019

Straining to explain Washington’s eagerness for regime change in Caracas, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Cuba was already occupying Venezuela, misunderstood how democracy works, and claimed Iran had a presence in the country.

While navigating extremely delicate issues like international diplomacy for most world leaders requires finesse and sophistication, Pompeo opted for a more ham-fisted approach in an interview with Fox Business on Wednesday. Weaving together a loosely-knit narrative of garish moralizing and lists of countries on America’s naughty list, President Donald Trump’s chief diplomat attempted to help American audiences understand what the State Department is doing in Venezuela.

After making the expectant accusations of Russian and Chinese interference in Venezuela, Pompeo decided to mobilize his go-to excuse for US meddling – Iran!

“People don’t recognize that Hezbollah has active cells — the Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America,” adding that “We have an obligation to take down that risk for America.”

It might seem that Pompeo merely has trouble with geography, having recently shared a bizarre map on Twitter that featured the non-existent countries of East and West Turkey, among other things. However, in the course of the interview, he also made several other puzzling declarations, such as referring to self-declared Venezuelan leader Juan Guaido as having been “duly elected,” even though the Washington-backed politician never even ran for president.

When asked why the issue was so important for “our hemisphere,” Pompeo answered that “American values are at stake,” in Venezuela. He believes US interference in internal affairs of Venezuela is an “obligation,” although last year he waxed concerned about alleged foreign interference in US elections.

US sanctions, he went on to explain, “aren’t aimed at the Venezuelan people,” but are instead aimed at “a really good outcome.” Though it was Pompeo who openly argued that US sanctions against Iran were intended to effect regime change by starving its citizens, he tried to argue that in Venezuela US sanctions are “for the good” of the Venezuelan people because they are against the “evil Mr Maduro.”

UN-appointed human rights expert Idriss Jazairy has a different opinion on the matter. While failing to spell out who is good and who is evil, he did point out that the sanctions against Venezuela may “lead to starvation and medical shortages.”

Just in case these helpful sanctions packages don’t end up being “really good” enough, the US is not ruling out plan B: military invasion. A few days ago, Trump told CBS a military option was still on the table, despite overwhelming opposition on both sides of the Venezuelan crisis.

Pompeo brushed off rumors of a possible US invasion, saying the US technically can’t invade Venezuela because “Cuba already did” and has been secretly controlling the country “for an awful long time.”

February 7, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , | 5 Comments

Finally, Washington is Now Law-Bound to Compensate its Victims!

By Grete Mautner – New Eastern Outlook – 07.02.2019

Since most of us are aware of the way Washington approaches its alleged fight against terrorism, murdering tens of thousands of civilians in the process, it seems that the relatives of all those who perished under American bombs in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria may finally get their day in court. To be specific, it has recently been reported that a US court found Damascus liable in the death of American journalist Marie Colvin, who was killed during the shelling of Baba Amr district of Homs back in 2012.

It was stated that Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia chose to double the typical compensation that the relatives of the deceased journalist would receive, bringing it up to 302.5 million dollars.

This decision was made in spite of the fact that in his interview for NBC News, Syria’s president Bashar Assad made it clear that:

“It’s a war and she came illegally to Syria. She worked with the terrorists, and because she came illegally, she’s been responsible of everything that befalls on her.”

As most of you must be aware, the US legal system is based on the so-called common law principle that America inherited from the United Kingdom. In this situation it’s only natural to ask: could the above mentioned US District Court decision force Washington to pay billions of dollars in compensations to the families of those who are being unscrupulously referred to in the West as “collateral damage”? As it’s pretty clear for everyone that a precedent has been set. Moreover, on numerous occasions, US authorities would be forced to officially describe a great many of the air raids they launched as erroneous, thus taking full responsibility for the civilian death toll those attacks inflicted.

And the number of such air strikes is growing by the day! Thus, in Afghanistan alone, there’s been an unprecedented increase in the number of civilians killed by the US Air Force, while Washington pretends to be interested in negotiations with the Taliban. Over the last two months, at least 10 of such erroneous strikes were reported, resulting in 68 people perishing. Over the last two weeks alone, some 35 peaceful Afghan citizens would die in the course of US air raids. A lot of attention should be paid to the most recent incident when a US military drone murdered 16 civilians in a single attack in the Afghan province of Helmand in late January. On the next day, the funeral procession organized by the relatives of the victims of the first strike came under fire of yet another US drone, which resulted in 13 more people perishing. So far, the Pentagon failed to provide any intelligible comment on the bloodbath its people created, while only making a remark that it was going to launch an investigation. However, as it became evident from hundreds of similar investigations, nobody in the US armed forces is ever going to be held accountable for such crimes.

In Syria, similar air raids have become a daily occurrence. For instance, as it’s been reported by the Kurdish TV-channel Rudaw, a recent air strike launched by the Pentagon in the Deir ez-Zor Governorate resulted in numerous civilian casualties, including women and children.

This attack took place on January 23, when local refugees would try to flee advancing militant groups, when they were hit by the US Air Force. A week later, 11 civilians perished in yet another attack launched by the US-led coalition in the same province. Earlier, in mid-December, a similar strike in Deir ez-Zor left 17 civilians dead.

To make the matters worse, the US-led coalition has been repeatedly accused of using white phosphorus munitions in its attacks against residential areas; which resulted in Syrian authorities filing a request to the UN last year so this blatant violation of international law would be properly investigated.

On January 19, Syria’s officials demanded the United Nations to put an end to the onslaught that the US-led coalition has been carrying on for months across numerous Syrian towns.

However, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq are not the only states that fell victims of the unscrupulous bombing raids of the US armed forces.

So it’s safe to say that countless lawyers across different countries may now have their hands full of work, filing lawsuits to numerous US courts to represent the families where people felt victims to American bombs.

If the family of Mary Colvin alone managed to receive 300 million dollars in compensation, it’s safe to say that the sky is the limit if those lawsuits start piling up across all of the US District Courts.

Grete Mautner is an independent researcher and journalist from Germany.

February 7, 2019 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment