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Drone Strikes Leave Innocent Widows and Orphans

By Brian Cloughley | Strategic Culture Foundation | January 21, 2020

The killing of Iranian General Soleimani was big news. There were a few points made in the Western mainstream media about its legality being dubious, but nobody seems to be concerned that it contravened international law, in addition to be totally amoral. One wonders if any of the drone operators, the little key-tapping techno-dweebs thousands of miles away, were awarded a medal for their gallantry in prodding buttons to blast human beings to shards of flesh and bone.

It’s not impossible that such awards will be handed out, because there is a notorious precedent. The captain of the warship USS Vincennes which fired a missile that shot down an Iranian airliner killing 254 Iranians and 36 equally innocent citizens of other countries, was awarded the Legion of Merit for “exceptionally meritorious conduct.” And we’ll pass over the fact that those responsible for shooting down the Ukrainian airliner on January 8 are to be punished and that Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani declared the incident to have been an “unforgivable error”, while there was never an apology from the United States for killing 254 Iranians, or anyone else. Indeed, Newsweek noted that then-Vice President George HW Bush told an August 1988 election campaign rally a few weeks after the incident that “I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are. I’m not an apologize-for-America kind of guy.”

GHW Bush has a notable successor in Donald Trump, who is not the kind of guy who apologises for anything. His confused and semi-coherent reasoning for killing Soleimani included such gems as he “was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act” and “We caught a total monster and we took him out.” In a television interview he declared that “plus, he was going after — in our opinion, our very intelligent opinion, he was going after our embassies, and things could have happened.”

But as reported by the Washington Post, “No warnings were issued to staff at the embassy in Iraq or any other unnamed embassies” concerning any “imminent” attack. In other words, Trump was telling yet more lies, and in this case lying to justify an illegal killing.

The murders in Iraq were the latest in a long line of assassinations and collateral killings by US drone-fired missiles all over the world. The worst incidents last year included a video game shoot in September when in Afghanistan, according to Reuters, “a US drone strike intended to hit an Islamic State hideout . . . killed at least 30 civilians resting after a day’s labour in the fields, officials said. The attack also injured 40 people after accidentally targeting farmers and labourers who had just finished collecting pine nuts. Haidar Khan, who owns the pine nut fields, said about 150 workers were there for harvesting, with some still missing as well as the confirmed dead and injured.” There was no inquiry, no explanation, no expression of regret — it was the normal, the usual, the always-expected condescending drivel from a Pentagon spokesman that “we are aware of allegations of the death of non-combatants and are working with local officials to determine the facts.” Then silence, apart from the grieving of widows and orphans.

On December 1 the New York Times told us that “an American drone strike on a car carrying a woman who had just given birth in south-eastern Afghanistan left five people dead, including the mother, three of her relatives and the driver . . . The woman, Malana, 25, had given birth to a son, her second child, at home. But her health had deteriorated soon after and relatives had been taking her to a clinic. On their way home, their vehicle was hit.” Out trotted the usual hogwash from a US spokesman that “We are aware of the allegations of civilian casualties and working with local authorities to determine the veracity of these claims.” And ever afterwards — silence. The dead woman’s new baby wasn’t in the car that was blasted to bits by the drone-fired missile, and will no doubt grow up a lover of Western culture.

On and on they go, with one of the latest atrocity being on January 8, when “more than 60 civilians were killed or wounded in a US drone attack targeting a top Taliban splinter-group commander in the western Afghanistan province of Herat.” NATO was in on this one, and its spokesman said there had been “a defensive air strike in support of Afghan forces”, confirming it was carried out by a US drone. Nobody apart from local Afghan officials knows anything about it, because it’s too dangerous for western reporters to travel in Afghanistan trying to investigate deception and lies about drone strikes or anything else. Afghanistan’s Khaama Press agency reported that “tribal elders in southern Herat province called on the government to launch an immediate investigation about the attack that took the lives of innocent civilians” but nothing will be done. After all, there are only a few dozen utterly stricken Afghan families, and they don’t matter to the Kabul government any more than they do to the video game missile controllers launching death and hideous destruction from thousands of miles away.

The drone expert Professor Peter Lee of the University of Portsmouth in the UK put it well in early January by observing that “When Reaper [drone] crews have followed someone for days or weeks, their target is not just pixels on a screen but a living human being. Operators watch targets spend time with family and friends and even playing with their children. Crews, commanders and image analysts also continue to watch from above after a missile or bomb strike, conducting battle damage assessment. They see the bits of bodies being collected and taken for burial. They see grieving, devastated family members.”

Trump says he killed Soleimani because he was “the world’s top terrorist” who “viciously wounded and murdered thousands of US troops” which is absolute rubbish. But even if it were true, and there was something in international law that permitted his murder, what about the others who were killed by Trump’s Hellfire missiles? It is said there were nine other people blown to pieces, one of whom was head of Iraq’s militia forces. There was no explanation from Trump or any of his people concerning why these people were killed along with Soleimani, because it could hardly be claimed that they too were planning to blow up US embassies or plotting “imminent attacks”. Some were bodyguards, for example, and while it may be considered wrong that anyone should have worked for General Soleimani in that or any other capacity, their employment did not merit being killed by a US drone strike.

Which brings us to their widows and orphans, because it would be interesting to know what story Trump and his people could come up with that could possibly justify their punishment.

The assassination of Soleimani was a flagrant crime, but the general feeling in the US is that it was vindicated because he was an evil person who hated America. The button-pushing drone assassins most probably feel professionally and even morally satisfied that they carried out the orders of the president to kill him. But how can they — how can anyone — come to terms with the “grieving, devastated family members” of the anonymous people who die as what used to be called “collateral damage”? The innocent widows and orphans are on the conscience of the world, but the drone attacks will continue.

January 21, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Trump is Winding Up Tensions with North Korea

By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture Foundation | December 25, 2019

After 18 months of on-off diplomacy with North Korea, the Trump administration seems determined now to jettison the fragile talk about peace, reverting to its earlier campaign of “maximum pressure” and hostility. It’s a retrograde move risking a disastrous war.

In a visit to China this week, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Chinese leader Xi Jinping both urged for greater momentum in the diplomatic process with North Korea, saying that renewed tensions benefit no-one. The two leaders may need to revise that assertion. Tensions greatly benefit someone – Washington.

Why Trump is winding up tensions again with Pyongyang appears to involve a two-fold calculation. It gives Washington greater leverage to extort more money from South Korea for the presence of US military forces on its territory; secondly, the Trump administration can use the tensions as cover for increasing its regional forces aimed at confronting China.

In recent weeks, the rhetoric has deteriorated sharply between Washington and Pyongyang. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has resumed references to Trump being a senile “dotard”, while the US president earlier this month at the NATO summit near London dusted off his old disparaging name for Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, calling him “rocket man”.

On December 7 and 15, North Korea tested rocket engines at its Sohae satellite launching site which are believed to be preparation for the imminent test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). North Korea unilaterally halted ICBM test-launches in April 2018 as a gesture for diplomacy with the US. Its last launch was on July 4, 2017, when Pyongyang mockingly called it a “gift” for America’s Independence Day.

Earlier this month, Pyongyang said it was preparing a “Christmas gift” for Washington. That was taken as referring to resumption of ICBM test launches. However, Pyongyang said it was up to the US to decide which gift it would deliver.

On the engine testing, Trump said he was “watching closely” on what North Korea did next, warning that he was prepared to use military force against Pyongyang and that Kim Jong-un had “everything to lose”.

The turning away from diplomacy may seem odd. Trump first met Kim in June 2018 in Singapore at a breakthrough summit, the first time a sitting US president met with a North Korean leader. There were two more summits, in Hanoi in February 2019, and at the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean border in June 2019. The latter occasion was a splendid photo-opportunity for Trump, being the first American president to have stepped on North Korean soil.

During this diplomatic embrace, Trump has lavished Kim with praise and thanked him for “beautiful letters”. Back in September 2017 when hostile rhetoric was flying both ways, Trump told the UN general assembly he would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the US. How fickle are the ways of Trump.

What’s happened is the initial promises of engagement have gone nowhere, indicating the superficiality of Trump’s diplomacy. It seems clear now that the US president was only interested in public relations gimmickry, boasting to the American public that he had reined in North Korea’s nuclear activities.

When Trump met Kim for the third time in June 2019, they reportedly vowed to resume negotiations on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. North Korea had up until recently stuck to its commitment to halt ICBM testing. However, for that, Pyongyang expected reciprocation from the US side on the issue of sanctions relief, at least a partial lifting of sanctions. Kim gave Trump a deadline by the end of this year to make some concession on sanctions.

Russia and China last week proposed an easing of UN sanctions on North Korea. But Washington rebuffed that proposal, categorically saying it was a “premature” move, and that North Korea must first make irreversible steps towards complete decommissioning of its nuclear arsenal. The high-handed attitude is hardly conducive to progress.

The lack of diplomatic reciprocation from Washington over the past six months has led Pyongyang to angrily repudiate further talks. It has hit out at what it calls Trump’s renewed demeaning name-calling of Kim. There is also a palpable sense of frustration on North Korea’s part for having been used as a prop for Trump’s electioneering.

The fact that Washington has adopted an intransigent position with regard to sanctions would indicate that it never was serious about pursuing meaningful diplomacy with Pyongyang.

Admittedly, Trump did cancel large-scale US war games conducted with South Korea as a gesture towards North Korea, which views these exercises as provocative rehearsals for war. This was an easy concession to make by Trump who no doubt primarily saw the cessation of military drills as a cost-cutting opportunity for the US.

Significantly, this month US special forces along with South Korean counterparts conducted a “decapitation” exercise in which they simulated a commando raid to capture a foreign target. Furthermore, the operation was given unusual public media attention.

As the Yonhap news agency reported: “A YouTube video by the Defense Flash News shows more details of the operation, with service personnel throwing a smoke bomb, raiding an office inside the building, shooting at enemy soldiers over the course, and a fighter jet flying over the building… It is unusual for the US military to make public such materials… according to officials.”

The Trump administration appears to have run out of further use for the diplomatic track with North Korea. The PR value has been milked. The policy shift is now back to hostility. The instability that generates is beneficial for Washington in two ways.

Trump is currently trying to get South Korea to boost its financial contribution towards maintaining US forces on its territory. Trump wants Seoul to cough up an eye-watering five-fold increase in payments “for US protection” to an annual $5 billion bill. South Korea is understandably reluctant to fork out such a massive whack from its fiscal budget. Talks on the matter are stalemated, but expected to resume in January.

If US relations with North Korea were progressing through diplomacy then the lowered tensions on the peninsula would obviously not benefit Washington’s demand on South Korea for more “protection money”. Therefore, it pays Washington to ramp up the hostilities and the dangers of war as a lever for emptying Seoul’s coffers.

The other bigger strategic issue shaping US intentions with North Korea is of course Washington’s longer-term collision course with China. US officials and defense planning documents have repeatedly targeted China as the main geopolitical adversary. American forces in South Korea comprising 28,500 troops, nuclear-capable bombers, warships and its anti-missile Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system are not about protecting South Korea from North Korea. They are really about encircling China (and Russia). Washington hardly wants to scale back its military assets on the Korea Peninsula. It is driven by the strategic desire to expand them.

In media comments earlier this month, Pentagon chief Mark Esper made a curious slip-up when referring to withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan. He said they would be redeployed in Asia to confront China.

Esper said: “I would like to go down to a lower number [in Afghanistan] because I want to either bring those troops home, so they can refit and retrain for other missions or/and be redeployed to the Indo-Pacific to face off our greatest challenge in terms of the great power competition that’s vis-a-vis China.”

The logic of war profits and strategic conflict with China mean that Trump and the Washington establishment do not want to find a peaceful resolution with North Korea. Hence a return to the hostile wind-up of tensions.

December 25, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

The Mysterious Frank Taylor Report: The 9/11 Document that Launched US-NATO’s “War on Terrorism” in the Middle East

By Prof. Niels Harrit – Global Research – March 21, 2018

We call them ‘the 9/11 wars’ – the seemingly unending destruction of the Middle East and North Africa which has been going on for the last seventeen years. As revealed by Gen. Wesley Clark,[1] these wars were already anticipated in September 2001.

The legal foundation for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 has been challenged in several countries. The best known is the Chilcot Inquiry in the UK, which began in 2009 and concluded in a report in 2016. The inquiry was not about the legality of military action, but the British government was strongly criticised for not having provided a legal basis for the attack.

Even though the invasion of Iraq was planned[2] prior to 9/11, most observers note that the attack on Afghanistan in 2001 was a required precursor.

However, the legal basis for attacking Afghanistan has attracted almost no attention. One obstacle in addressing this has been the assumption that the key document was still classified.[3][4]

But as demonstrated below, this document was apparently declassified in 2008.

On the morning of 12 September 2001, NATO’s North Atlantic Council was summoned in Brussels. This was less than 24 hours after the events in USA. The council usually consists of the permanent ambassadors of the member states, but in an unprecedented move, the EU foreign ministers participated as well.[5]

Lord Robertson, Secretary General of NATO, wrote a draft resolution invoking Article 5 in the Washington treaty – the famous ‘musketeer clause’ – as a consequence of the terror attacks. The decision to do so had to be unanimously approved by the governments in all 19 NATO countries. This general agreement was obtained at 9.20 pm and Lord Robertson could read out the endorsements at a packed press conference:[6]

“The Council agreed that if it is determined that this attack was directed from abroad against the United States, it shall be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack against one or more of the Allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”

There was a reservation. Article 5 would not be formally activated before “it is determined that this attack was directed from abroad”.

Apparently NATO had a suspect. But the forensic evidence was still pending, and hence also the formal invocation of Article 5.

Formally, this evidence was provided by Frank Taylor (image on the right), a diplomat with the title of Ambassador from the US State Department. On 2 October he presented a brief to the North Atlantic Council, and Lord Robertson could subsequently conclude:[7]

“On the basis of this briefing, it has now been determined that the attack against the United States on 11 September was directed from abroad and shall therefore be regarded as an action covered by Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which states that an armed attack on one or more of the Allies in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”

“Today’s was classified briefing and so I cannot give you all the details. Briefings are also being given directly by the United States to the Allies in their capitals.”

Since the invocation of Article 5 had to be unanimous, Frank Taylor’s report would have been integral in the briefings announced to take place.

In Denmark – the country of the present author – there was a meeting in the Foreign Affairs Committee on 3 October 2001, where parliamentarians were briefed by the government about the proceedings in Brussels.

Parallel briefings must have been given in the 17 other NATO capitals. In each city, the resolution must have been approved, since Lord Robertson could announce NATO’s unanimous adoption of Article 5 and the launch of the war on terror on 4 October.[8]  The first bombs fell in Kabul on 7 October.

Article 5 of the Washington Treaty says:[9]

“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations,…..”

That is, any military action taken by NATO is confined by the restrictions in Article 51, which emphasises the right to self-defence and reads:

“Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations,….”.[10]

That is, military action is forbidden in the absence of an armed provocation, and the legality of the attack on Afghanistan depends exclusively on the evidence presented in Frank Taylor’s report. But it was classified together with the minutes from the pertinent meetings.

However, on 19 May 2008, the US State Department declassified the dispatch which was sent in 2001 to all US representations world-wide, including the ambassadors to NATO headquarters, regarding what to think and say about the 9/11 events.

It is titled: “September 11: Working together to fight the plague of global terrorism and the case against al-qa’ida”.

The text is freely accessible here.

The document is dated 01 October 2001. But as hinted by the URL, it seems to  have been distributed on 2 October five days before the invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 20101. That is, the day Frank Taylor gave his presentation for the North Atlantic Council and the EU foreign ministers, and the day before the US ambassadors were briefing the governments in the respective NATO capitals.

The text of the dispatch begins by requesting “all addressees to brief senior host government officials on the information linking the Al-Qa’ida terrorist network, Osama bin Ladin and the Taliban regime to the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93.”

The document appears to be a set of ‘talking points’. The recipients are instructed to use the information provided in oral presentations only and to never leave the hard copy document as a non-paper. Specifically, there is reference to “THE oral presentation”.

These instructions are followed by 28 pages of the specific text.

Tellingly, a section of this dispatch is copy-pasted into Lord Robertson’s statement on 2 October:7

“The facts are clear and compelling[…] We know that the individuals who carried out these attacks were part of the world-wide terrorist network of Al-Qaida, headed by Osama bin Laden and his key lieutenants and protected by the Taliban.”

The conclusion is inescapable – this dispatch IS the Frank Taylor report. It is the manuscript that served not only as the basis for Frank Taylor’s presentation, but also for the briefings given by US ambassadors to the various national governments. Identical presentations were given in all 18 capitals on 3 October, four days before the US-NATO invasion of Afghanistan

Is there any forensic evidence provided in this document to serve as a legal basis for the invocation of Article 5?

Nothing. There is absolutely no forensic evidence in support of the claim that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated from Afghanistan.

Only a small part of the introductory text deals with 9/11, in the form of summary claims like the citation in Lord Robertson’s press release. The main body of the text deals with the alleged actions of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the nineties.

On 4 October, NATO officially went to war based on a document that provided only ‘talking points’ and no evidence to support the key claim.

We are still at war seventeen years later. Five countries have been destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people killed and millions displaced. Refugees are swarming the roads of Europe, trillions of dollars have been spent on weapons and mercenaries and our grandchildren have been shackled with endless debt.

At the opening ceremony for the new NATO headquarters on 25 May 2017, all the leaders from NATO’s member states attended the inauguration of a ‘9/11 and Article 5 Memorial’.[11]

*

Prof. Niels Harrit is a retired Associate Professor at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Notes

[1] The Plan — according to U.S. General Wesley Clark (Ret.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXS3vW47mOE

[2] Bush decided to remove Saddam ‘on day one’. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/jan/12/usa.books

[3] The Unanswered Questions of 9/11. http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-unanswered-questions-of-911/5304061?print=1

[4] Was America Attacked by Afghanistan on September 11, 2001? https://www.globalresearch.ca/was-america-attacked-by-afghanistan-on-september-11-2001/5307151

[5] Being NATO’s Secretary General on 9/11. https://www.nato.int/docu/review/2011/11-september/Lord_Robertson/EN/ (from which you can deduce that the NATO-ambassadors eat lunch at 3  pm).

[6] Statement by the North Atlantic Council, https://www.nato.int/docu/pr/2001/p01-124e.htm

[7] Statement by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson. https://www.nato.int/docu/speech/2001/s011002a.htm

[8] Statement to the Press by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson, on the North Atlantic Council Decision On  Implementation  Of Article 5 of the Washington Treaty following the 11 September Attacks against the United States. https://www.nato.int/docu/speech/2001/s011004b.htm

[9] The North Atlantic Treaty. https://www.nato.int/cps/ic/natohq/official_texts_17120.htm

[10] Article 51, UN charter. http://www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-vii/

[11] Dedication of the 9/11 and Article 5 Memorial at the new NATO Headquarters, 25 May 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=3&v=augh1WqTqFs

December 25, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Afghan Papers Inadvertently Document WaPo’s Role in Spreading Official Lies

By Joshua Cho | FAIR | December 18, 2019

The Washington Post’s publication of the “Afghanistan Papers” (12/9/19) unveiled over 2,000 pages of unpublished notes of interviews with US officials involved in the Afghanistan War, from a project led by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) to investigate waste and fraud. Hailed by some as the “Pentagon Papers of Our Generation” after the Post won access to those documents under the Freedom of Information Act in a three-year legal battle, the Post’s exposé found that senior US officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign, making rosy pronouncements they knew to be false and hiding unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.

The paper published direct remarks on the war by US officials who assumed that “their remarks would not be made public”:

Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” Bob Crowley, an Army colonel who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to US military commanders in 2013 and 2014, told government interviewers. “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.

While more explicit admissions of deception on the part of US officials involved in wars are always appreciated, one question rarely discussed among the reports and opinion pieces praising the “Afghanistan Papers” is what this scoop says about the Washington Post.

If the Post is now publishing material demonstrating that US officials have been “following the same talking points for 18 years,” emphasizing how they are “making progress,” “especially” when the war is “going badly,” shouldn’t the paper acknowledge that it has been cheerleading this same line for all of those 18 years? Doesn’t it have a responsibility to examine how it served as a primary vehicle for those officials to spread these same “talking points” to spin the coverage in the desired fashion?

FAIR has been tracking the Post’s coverage of the Afghanistan War from the very beginning, when the paper—along with the rest of corporate media—was actively following the Bush administration’s “guidance” on how to cover the war. In 2001, a FAIR survey (11/2/01) of the Post’s op-ed pages for three weeks following the September 11 attacks found that

columns calling for or assuming a military response to the attacks were given a great deal of space, while opinions urging diplomatic and international law approaches as an alternative to military action were nearly nonexistent.

Eight years later, FAIR (3/1/09) found that the Post’s cheerleading coverage didn’t change much from 2001, as 7 out of 9 Post op-eds and 4 out of 5 editorials supported some kind of military escalation from the day Barack Obama was elected president (11/4/08) through March 1, 2009, as the US was debating a “surge” of additional troops in Afghanistan later that year.

Another study (Extra!11/1/09) of the first ten months of the Post’s opinion columns that same year found that

pro-war columns outnumbered antiwar columns by more than 10 to 1: Of 67 Post columns on US military policy in Afghanistan, 61 supported a continued war, while just six expressed antiwar views. Of the pro-war columns, 31 were for escalation and 30 for an alternative strategy.

The Post offered this lopsided coverage even though there were several polls at the time showing a majority of the US public opposed the war, because they believed that the Afghan War was “not worth fighting.”

The Post also has a history of facilitating official spin for the war. When WikiLeaks posted tens of thousands of classified intelligence documents related to the Afghanistan War, FAIR (7/30/10) found that the Post either dismissed them as not being as important as the Pentagon Papers (7/27/10), or absurdly spun the leaks as good news for the US war effort (7/27/10) because the “release could compel President Obama to explain more forcefully the war’s importance,” and because they “bolstered Obama’s decision in December to pour more troops and money into a war effort that had not received sufficient attention or resources from the Bush administration.”

The Post also buried attempts by whistleblowers and other journalists who were working to expose official lies and war crimes in Afghanistan. When US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning was sentenced to serve 35 years in prison for sharing intelligence documents that first exposed what the “Afghanistan Papers” are now corroborating, the Post, along with other corporate outlets, largely neglected Manning’s legal trials and punishment (FAIR, 12/4/126/18/141/18/174/1/19). The New York Times, to its credit, did give Manning space for an op-ed (6/14/19) to explain why she risked her freedom to expose matters that the US military recorded but left unreported, including hundreds of US military attacks on Afghan civilians. The Post, for its part, found room to publish frequent op-eds by the Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon (e.g., 11/16/096/26/106/3/112/10/137/12/13) spouting the same optimistic US official talking points that the Post’s “Afghanistan Papers” has now exposed as lies (FAIR, 1/3/14).

In fact, one major reason why the Afghanistan Papers are unnecessary to discern deceit from US officials is that—as Michael Parenti pointed out in The Face of Imperialism—when US officials constantly provide new and different justifications for invasions, it’s a sign that they’re being dishonest, not incompetent.

The Post (12/9/19) admits this when it mentions that the US “largely accomplished what it set out to do,” with Al Qaeda and Taliban officials “dead, captured or in hiding,” yet “veered off in directions that had little to do with Al Qaeda or 9/11.” This is consistent with FAIR’s finding (Extra!7/11) that corporate media largely ignored the question of whether to end the Afghanistan War after the ostensible goal of the invasion—to capture or kill the leader of the group that carried out the September 11 attack—was [allegedly] accomplished in the death of Osama bin Laden.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Post’s Afghanistan Papers have inadvertently exposed the Post as a subservient accomplice in disseminating US official lies; corporate media rely on official sources for free content and “scoops” to subsidize their journalism, which often spreads dishonest but convenient talking points by these same sources to retain “access” to this information, trustworthy or not (Extra!5/02; New York Times4/20/08; FAIR, 12/12/19).

Political cartoonist and journalist Ted Rall pointed out, in an account (Common Dreams12/11/19) of being marginalized by corporate outlets like the Post :

“The Afghanistan Papers” is a bright, shining lie by omission. Yes, our military and civilian leaders lied to us about Afghanistan. But they could never have spread their murderous BS—thousands of US soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghans killed, trillions of dollars wasted—without media organizations like the Washington Post, which served as unquestioning government stenographers.

Press outlets like the Post and New York Times weren’t merely idiots used to disseminate pro-war propaganda. They actively censored people who knew we never should have gone into Afghanistan and tried to tell American voters the truth.

It’s this mutually beneficial relationship between the need for corporate media outlets like the Post for “access” to US official sources, and US officials who need corporate media outlets to propagate their preferred spin on US foreign policy to manipulate public opinion, that explains what the Afghanistan Papers expose as the Post’s own role in deceiving the US public. It’s why the Post’s coverage and editorial board can argue that the Trump administration shouldn’t “abandon the country in haste” (even though it’s been 18 years), and rally around the US’s “forever war” in Afghanistan (FAIR1/31/199/11/19), even as the paper investigates the official lies the continuing occupation depends on.

Of course, this is also the reason why it’s systemically impossible for corporate outlets like the Post to take the opportunity to raise more substantive and provocative questions about whether deceit is a constant and essential aspect of US foreign policy, and not merely confined to isolated military invasions of “quagmire” countries like Vietnam and Afghanistan, despite the Afghanistan Papers providing a perfect opportunity to do so. To say nothing of challenging a worldview that invokes “winnable” wars, in which predictions of increasing numbers of (enemy) human deaths are best described as “rosy.”

There’s quite a long history of US media assisting officials in fabricating moral pretexts for invasion—from fictional accounts of North Vietnamese attacks on American destroyer ships in the Gulf of Tonkin (FAIR, 8/5/17), to conflating very different Islamic groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda, or claims that formerly US-backed dictator Saddam Hussein possessed WMDs and the intent to use them against the US (CounterPunch6/11/14; FAIR, 3/19/07).

Observers note that the Afghanistan Papers “only confirm what we already know” (Daily Beast12/14/19), or that “the shocking thing about the Post stories… is how unshocking they are” (Atlantic, 12/9/19); even the Washington Post (12/12/19) reminds us that only people who “haven’t been paying attention” to the Afghan War are “surprised” by what’s found in the Afghanistan Papers.

Perhaps instead of pursuing FOIA requests to confirm the obvious, the Post could just interrogate its own contradictory coverage of the Afghan War and stop functioning as credulous mouthpieces for the US government. But to do that would also require confronting the lie that this entire so-called “War on Terror” has any moral credibility, when the US is a leading terrorist state that consciously pursues imperial policies that inflame hatred against the US to serve corporate interests (FAIR3/13/1911/22/19).

Absent that, an exercise like the Afghanistan Papers come off more as a “please consider” note to the Pulitzer judges than as an earnest effort to use the spotlight of journalistic investigation to speak truth to power and halt the ongoing, generation-long destruction of a foreign nation.

December 22, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 2 Comments

The Afghanistan Fiasco and the Decline and Fall of the American Military

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | December 19, 2019

A devastating investigative report was published in the Washington Post on December 9th. Dubbed the “Afghanistan Papers” in a nod to the Vietnam War’s famous “Pentagon Papers,” the report relied on thousands of documents to similarly expose how the US government at the presidential level across three administrations, acting in collaboration with the military brass and civilian bureaucracy, deliberately and systematically lied repeatedly to the public and media about the situation in Afghanistan. Officials from the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations have all surged additional troops into Afghanistan while also regularly overstating the “success” that the United States was attaining in stabilizing and democratizing the country. While they were lying, the senior officers and government officials understood clearly that the war was, in fact, unwinnable.

The story should have been featured all across the US as Afghanistan continues to kill Americans and much larger numbers of Afghans while also draining billions of dollars from the United States Treasury, but the mainstream media was largely unresponsive, preferring to cover the impeachment saga. Rather more responsive were the families of Army Chief Warrant Officer Second Class David C. Knadle, 33, of Tarrant, Texas, and Chief Warrant Officer Second Class Kirk T. Fuchigami Jr., 25, of Keaau, Hawaii. Both were killed in a helicopter crash on November 20th in Afghanistan’s Logar province while assisting troops on the ground, according to a Pentagon press release. They were participating in what was characteristically dubbed Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Both men were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas. The Taliban took credit for the downing of the chopper, but the Army is still investigating the cause.

Knadle and Fuchigami are only the most recent of the more than 2,400 American service members who have been killed in Afghanistan since October 2001, together with 20,589 wounded and an estimated 110,000 Afghan dead. In the wake of the Post’s report, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1974, told a CNN reporter that the Pentagon and Afghanistan Papers exposed the same governmental dysfunction: “The presidents and the generals had a pretty realistic view of what they were up against, which they did not want to admit to the American people.”

The New Republic observes how “The documents are an indictment not only of one aspect of American foreign policy, but also of the US’s entire policymaking apparatus. They reveal a bipartisan consensus to lie about what was actually happening in Afghanistan: chronic waste and chronic corruption, one ill-conceived development scheme after another, resulting in a near-unmitigated failure to bring peace and prosperity to the country. Both parties had reason to engage in the cover-up. For the Bush administration, Afghanistan was a key component in the war on terror. For the Obama administration, Afghanistan was the ‘good war’ that stood in contrast to the nightmare in Iraq.”

The Afghan War’s true costs have never been precisely calculated, though they certainly exceed $1 trillion and counting. The documents relied upon for the Post report include more than 2,000 pages of confidential interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, including soldiers and diplomats, as well as civilian aid workers and Afghan officials. Many of the interviews were initially carried out by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The Post divided the interviews and supporting documentation into subject categories that demonstrate how the situation in Afghanistan began to deteriorate as soon as the United States followed up on its rapid invasion with a plan for nation building. Resorting to the usual American expedient, the occupiers flooded the country with money, which meant that the only thing blooming on the thin soil was corruption, apart from the poppies that have made Afghanistan the world’s leading supplier of opium.

One contractor who was involved in nation building described how he was required to spend $3 million daily for projects in an Afghan district roughly the size of a US county. He asked a visiting congressman if he could be authorized to spend that much money in the US “[The lawmaker] said hell no. ‘Well, sir, that’s what you just obligated us to spend and I’m doing it for communities that live in mud huts with no windows.’”

In another interview the report cites Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, the White House Afghan war czar during the Bush and Obama administrations, who told the interviewers in 2015. “We were devoid of a fundamental understanding of Afghanistan — we didn’t know what we were doing,” later adding “What are we trying to do here? We didn’t have the foggiest notion of what we were undertaking.”

Army Colonel Bob Crowley, who served in Kabul in 2013-4, described how at headquarters “Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible,” adding also how “Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.”

Part of the problem with Afghanistan was the rotation of American soldiers in and then out after one year or less, just as they were learning about the country and the problems they faced. It has led to the joke that the United States has not fought an eighteen-year war in Afghanistan: it has fought a one-year war eighteen times.

The Post investigative report coincides with an interesting deconstruction of the US military and how it operates. David Swanson of World BEYOND War provides a lengthy review of West Point Professor Tim Bakken’s new book The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the US Military. Per Swanson, the book “traces a path of corruption, barbarism, violence, and unaccountability that makes its way from the United States’ military academies (West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs) to the top ranks of the US military and US governmental policy, and from there into a broader US culture that, in turn, supports the subculture of the military and its leaders. The US Congress and presidents have ceded tremendous power to generals. The State Department and even the US Institute of Peace are subservient to the military. The corporate media and the public help maintain this arrangement with their eagerness to denounce anyone who opposes the generals. Even opposing giving free weapons to Ukraine is now quasi-treasonous.”

Bakken even disputes the widely held view that the military academies have high academic standards. He describes how the “system” pays to get potential athletes and accepts students nominated by congressmen commensurate with donations made to fund re-election campaigns. Swanson sums it up by observing how the academies offer “a community college-level education only with more hazing, violence, and tamping down of curiosity. West Point takes soldiers and declares them to be professors, which works roughly as well as declaring them to be relief workers or nation builders or peace keepers. The school parks ambulances nearby in preparation for violent rituals. Boxing is a required subject. Women are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted at the three military academies than at other US universities.”

Bakken concludes that appreciating the fundamental structural flaws in the US armed forces “leads to a clearer understanding of the deficiencies in the military and how America can lose wars.” In fact, he does not even seek to identify a war that the United States has won since World War 2 in spite of the country being nearly constantly engaged in conflict.

Together the Bakken book and the Afghanistan Papers reveal just how much the American people have been brainwashed by their leaders into believing a perpetual warfare national narrative that is more fiction than fact. Donald Trump may have actually appreciated that the voters were tired of the wars and was elected on that basis, but he has completely failed to deliver on his promise to retrench. It suggests that America will remain in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future and the inevitable next war, wherever it might be, will be another failure, no matter who is elected in 2020.

December 19, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | 2 Comments

What Everyone is Missing About the Afghanistan Papers

By Darius Shahtahmasebi | The Mind Unleashed | December 13, 2019

If you need more proof that lawmakers in the U.S. couldn’t care less about America’s woeful commitment to human rights abroad—or even care about the public who vote them into office—look no further than the recent Afghanistan papers and the reaction to the publications from Congress.

According to the Washington Post, the outlet had obtained 2,000 pages of notes from interviews with more than 400 generals, diplomats, and other officials directly involved in the war. The documents showed that U.S. officials were lying about the progress being made in Afghanistan, lacked a basic understanding of Afghanistan, were hiding unmistakable evidence that the war had become unwinnable, and wasted close to $1 trillion in the process.

Barely a few hours following the Post’s publication, Congress rewarded the Pentagon for its stellar efforts with a $22 billion budget increase. How can we as a society justify this?

One stand-out statistic—among the many concerning ones—is the fact that before the U.S. invasion the Taliban had almost completely put to bed Afghanistan’s illicit opium trade. Since the U.S. invasion, combined with $9 billion in U.S. funding for anti-opium programs, the Taliban is not only stronger than it ever was but sits cemented in a country that now supplies 80 percent of the world’s opium.

I can’t help but think this was done on purpose.

Still, it would be worth re-thinking our outrage over the Afghanistan papers and determining what exactly it is we are outraged about. Are we simply angry because top U.S. officials lied to us about the fact they weren’t winning the war, making it a less worthwhile venture? If the U.S. were winning the war, spending $1 trillion in the process, killing record numbers of civilians, ramping up night raids to terrorize local populations, committing war crimes left right and center, would that suddenly make it all okay? As long as the war is being won, right?

The truth is, like most wars the U.S. finds itself prosecuting; this was yet another war based entirely on lies and misconceptions—right from the outset. As Marjorie Cohn, professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and president of the National Lawyers Guild famously said:

“The UN Charter is a treaty ratified by the United States and thus part of U.S. law. Under the charter, a country can use armed force against another country only in self-defense or when the Security Council approves. Neither of those conditions was met before the United States invaded Afghanistan. The Taliban did not attack us on 9/11. Nineteen men—15 from Saudi Arabia—did, and there was no imminent threat that Afghanistan would attack the U.S. or another UN member country. The council did not authorize the United States or any other country to use military force against Afghanistan. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is illegal.”

If that was the case in 2001, how this war has continued for close to another two decades begins to beggar belief. In that time, the consequences for the Afghan civilian population has been catastrophic.

In February of 2010, a NATO night raid conducted in a village in the Paktia province of Afghanistan left seven civilians dead, including two pregnant women. NATO tried to spin the raid as an attack on a compound festering with “militant activity,” but this quickly fell apart thanks to a British reporter, Jerome Starkey, who had already reported that this was a false narrative.

The compound actually belonged to an anti-Taliban policeman trained by the United States. At the time, the family had gathered to celebrate the naming of a newborn son. In order to cover the tracks of their reckless decision to execute unarmed civilians, the American troops used knives to dig out the bullets from the bodies of the pregnant women killed.

This is the kind of activity that trillions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money has been paying for on a regular basis. More than 775,000 troops have served in Afghanistan, with 2,300 U.S. personnel deaths. Not to mention that the U.S. has not been fighting there alone, and has had assistance not just from NATO, but from so-called peaceful states like New Zealand as well (who have been accused of committing war crimes, too).

Yes, we should be outraged that officials lied about the prospects of success. But we should primarily be disturbed that they first and foremost lie in order to push our countries into these wars in the first place, killing countless innocent civilians over and over again.

We can’t let this recent publication obscure itself into nothingness. The recent reaction from Congress is a giant middle finger designed to tell you that (a) there will never be anything you can do about it and (b) they simply don’t care how you feel. Democracy at its finest from the world’s leading propagator of democratic values.

December 17, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

The Latin Alphabet in Central Asia — America’s Geopolitical Tool

By Vladimir Odintsov – New Eastern Outlook – 04.12.2019

Central Asia has long been one of the key fronts in America’s ideological battle and information war against Russia.

A year ago, the American geopolitical intelligence platform Stratfor published its forecast for US policy in Central Asia, which focuses much attention on Russia. Analysts from this agency, which is dubbed the “Shadow CIA”, indicated in this forecast that the United States is looking to strengthen ties with countries along the periphery of the former Soviet Union — from Eastern Europe to the Caucasus and Central Asia — in an effort to put more pressure on Russia. A geopolitical war is going to be waged against Russia, or a multi-domain battle to use the American military terminology, affecting the political, economic, energy and military spheres.

Washington has long identified the Central Asian republics and Afghanistan a “zone of US national interests”, which is why this region is targeted with the full spectrum of American information campaigns. In order for these campaigns to be effective, not only have so-called “independent” media outlets and pro-Western NGOs, been making a massive contribution in Central Asia over the past number of years, which the US has been busily implanting in the region, but military specialists in information warfare have also been recruited — servicemen from the United States Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group. The 8th Psychological Operations Group is responsible for work in Central Asia, which runs the Caravanserai information portal, a website specifically created to counter Russia, sponsored by the United States Central Command and targeted at residents of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The main aim shared by most of the information campaigns Washington supports is to separate the regional population from Russia, mentally and psychologically, and to undermine Russia’s position in Central Asia. The campaigns mainly target young people in the hope that the leaders of the future in these countries will have been brought up on Western “democratic” ideals and will therefore be less inclined to partner with Russia.

Special programs are being launched and implemented by NGOs and “independent” media outlets in order to counteract Russia’s influence in the CIS countries. For instance, a new five-year program called MediaCAMP was presented at the end of last year in Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, which is run in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan by an American NGO called Internews Network (California, USA), and receives heavy funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The program has a budget of $15 million. Its official goal is “to develop a more balanced information environment”, but in reality, it is used for intensive anti-Russian propaganda. Internews Network had its activity suspended in Russia back in 2007, but it has continued to operate efficiently in most Central Asian countries up to this day. The USAID Agency, funded by the United States federal government, also ran programs in Russia up until 2012 when it was banned.

One clear example of the United States’ involvement in this anti-Russian information war in Central Asia would be the material that was published at the end of January by the Pentagon’s Caravanserai information portal mentioned earlier, pushing Central Asian countries to switch to the Latin alphabet. At the same time, Washington does not try to hide the fact that specialists in information warfare are pushing people to use the Latin alphabet instead of the Cyrillic alphabet, and it is part of their plan because it primarily acts as a tool to drive a cultural wedge between Russia and the Central Asian republics, and would erase the Russian language’s historical presence in Eurasia, constricting and shrinking the Russian-speaking cultural sphere and sphere of information.

It is important to remember that the extensive process of transcribing almost all the languages spoken in the Soviet Union into Cyrillic, which began in 1935, was one of the measures the Soviet government took to unite people in the former USSR. This included transliterating languages with a rich written tradition, interrupted by the reforms of the late 1920s, and languages that had only recently adopted a written form. By 1940, the “Cyrillization of the entire country” was largely complete. Dozens of languages acquired a writing system which united them with the Russian cultural sphere, and it was essentially the first time speakers of these languages received access to a single Eurasian space to share information. After the Second World War ended with Soviet victory in 1945, the Cyrillic alphabet was further consolidated as the main alphabet in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc which was beginning to take shape (for example, the Cyrillic alphabet was introduced in Mongolia).

That is why Caravanserai’s sponsors not only see replacing the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin alphabet as a kind of symbolic act; it is also meant to drive a mental and psychological wedge between Central Asian countries and Russia. This is the precise aim of the language conflict and Russophobia Washington has been encouraging in the Baltic States, Ukraine, and in some countries in the Caucasus.

It was Washington that began stirring things up, stressing the need for Latinization in Central Asian countries through various channels under its control in Kazakhstan, where Russian is not only a native language for the ethnic Russians who live there, but also for many of the Kazakhs, Ukrainians, Germans and Koreans living in Kazakhstan. Now the Russian language has even been erased from Kazakhstan’s national tenge banknotes. Around 300 thousand people have emigrated from Kazakhstan over the past 10 years, most of them Slavs, and to some extent, it is due to this policy. As it was put in an article published in the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita in November 2017, “by abandoning the Cyrillic alphabet, Nazarbayev is cutting the umbilical cord with Russia.”

Latinization has also been foisted in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

However, as we have seen in recent years, switching to the Latin alphabet has clearly been an unhappy experience in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Thus, it is worth recalling that Uzbekistan looked to the Turkish model in its first years of independence, and switching to the Latin alphabet was viewed a sort of “basis for unity”. Transitioning to the Latin alphabet also came to symbolize national identity and independence for the new Uzbek authorities. At the time however, no one stopped to consider the financial side of this transition, the costs associated with transliterating a huge archive of literature from Cyrillic into Latin script. Another thing no one saw coming was the conflict between generations reading in different alphabets. Relations between Uzbekistan and Turkey cooled within a very short space of time, the alphabet stayed the same, but the country’s education suffered a significant loss, which even affected basic literacy.

Attempts to switch to Latin have unleashed significant problems in Kazakhstan. In the 80 years since Kazakhstan made the transition from Arabic to Cyrillic, a huge network of libraries was created in this country, even in remote villages. The country had already achieved a literacy rate of 100%, which meant that the whole “matrix” of thinking for the entire population would need to be changed in switching to a new alphabet, and that would not only entail significant financial costs, but would also create generational conflict.

People in the region have responded to the attempts the West has been making to replace the Cyrillic alphabet with the Latin alphabet in Central Asian countries as fast as possible. They have increasingly begun to realize that there is no point in making this transition. Russian is a second language in Central Asian countries anyway, these states are geographically, economically, politically and linguistically distant from the West, and they are members of the Eurasian Economic Union, where the working language is Russian. Given these circumstances, there is a growing understanding that this issue requires a logical approach and some common sense, and linguistic problems should not be politicized.

Various foreign NGOs, such as Freedom House and other similar organizations, have been interfering in the domestic affairs of Central Asian states, destroying the linguistic and cultural heritage of the people who live there, and clearly pose a threat to their constitutional order, a threat coming from outside the region, so it is therefore unsurprising that this issue has been discussed more and more heatedly over recent years, with an increasingly resounding negative tone.

December 4, 2019 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will the ICC Prosecute Perpetrators of the ‘War on Terror’?

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | November 30, 2019

On May 13 2014, the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Chief Prosecutor announced it would reopen the investigations into alleged war crimes committed by British soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, following additional submitted information pertaining to the investigation which had been concluded in 2006.

A recent BBC Panorama investigation, in collaboration with the Sunday Times, ascertained a cover-up by the UK government of British soldiers torturing and murdering Iraqi and Afghan civilians, including children since 2003, when the UK participated alongside the US in invading Iraq under the pretext of the so-called “war on terror”.

In 2010, the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) was tasked with investigating allegations of abuse in Iraq, with the possibility of prosecuting the perpetrators. However, mismanagement and corruption within the body, including claims that solicitor Phil Shiner had paid people to find clients for IHAT, failed to open a single case from its investigations. For the UK’s Ministry of Defence, the allegations against IHAT were an opportune moment to discredit the claims of human rights violations committed by British troops. Rather than prioritise the allegations of human rights violations, IHAT was deemed harmful and “making soldiers on the battlefield anxious about later legal repercussions.”

In a 2018 report issued by the ICC, UK soldiers are alleged to have committed war crimes against 61 Iraqis in custody, including killings, torture, rape and sexual violence. Seven deaths occurred in custody and 54 victims died of “mistreatment”. The ICC report specifies: “At this stance, these incidents should not be considered as either complete or exhaustive, but rather illustrative of the alleged criminal conduct.”

In July 2019, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) submitted a follow-up to the ICC Prosecutor, informing the office about the UK’s failure to investigate or prosecute those responsible for war crimes, “despite significant and growing evidence indicating that liability extends up the chain of command to senior military and civilian officials.” The ECCHR also described the closing down of IHAT as a politically motivated decision to avoid ICC prosecution.

The UK’s intention was clearly to preserve its impunity. During the course of the BBC investigation, it was revealed that “The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had no intention of prosecuting any soldier of whatever rank he was unless it was absolutely necessary, and they couldn’t wriggle their way out of it.” Among the concealed crimes, a soldier from an SAS unit shot 4 Afghan civilians, three of them children, in the head, while they were in their own home, drinking tea. “When I entered the room, the bones, teeth, blood and brain were all over the place,” a witness to the aftermath stated. The UK government dismissed the war crime allegation by stating the four Afghans were Taliban suspects and commanders.

Other war crimes were concealed through fabricated evidence in order to evade such classification. Evidence of sexual abuse was also revealed to have occurred at Camp Stephen in Basra, Iraq, which was under the command of the Black Watch.

If the ICC does investigate the UK government for these violations of the Geneva Convention, it would have set a precedent, given that the Court has, so far, focused on investigating the leaders of African nations as opposed to the crimes of Western governments and foreign intervention. The “war on terror” is characterised by two main factors – perpetual aggression and extended impunity for the perpetrators. Justice for the Iraqi and Afghan people, by now, is worse than a macabre farce. Yet the ICC must fulfil its duty to lay bare the dynamics that have so far shielded the UK military and governmental collaboration from judicial scrutiny.

December 1, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Bereft of soft power, India stands diminished in Hindu Kush and Central Asia

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 24, 2019

The dichotomy between the regime policy and public opinion is nowhere near as sharp as in the world of diplomacy. And nowhere in the contemporary situation is this maxim so sharply visible as in the dalliance of the West Asian oligarchies with Israel. The romance began at least a decade ago — perhaps, more — but it still remains an illicit affair.

Israel would have liked an open relationship. It has a lot to gain thereby. But that’s possible only when pigs fly. The reason is that the authoritarian rulers of Muslim Middle East are acutely conscious of the so-called ‘Arab Street’. This may seem a paradox — that oligarchies need to be mindful of popular opinion — but, in actuality, they do not enjoy such a big leeway as one imagines to trample upon public opinion to the extent that strong elected leadership would have.

When they defy or ignore public opinion, it must be for weighty reasons — mostly, when existential issues are involved such as the regime’s survival, for instance. Israel doesn’t fall into that exceptional category — it is not as if without a relationship with Israel, the Arab oligarchies would face extinction. The dalliance between the Arab regimes and Israel is characterised by pragmatism rather than principles or critical imperatives. So long as Israel lacks any ‘soft power’ in its Arab neighbourhood and the ‘Arab Street’ views it negatively, the hands of the authoritarian rulers are tied. They can go only thus far, and no further. In turn, it severely limited the relationship.

The Indian leadership should realise the limitations of pragmatic external relations in diplomacy. There is no gainsaying the fact that India’s ‘soft power’ is depleting at an alarming rate. The acolytes of the Modi government do not seem to care and even those amongst the few amongst them who are erudite enough to comprehend the significance of what is happening tend to put on an air of defiance or studied indifference — or worse still, become polemical.

The External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s recent remark that Imperial Britain divested India of $44 trillion is a typical remark. Faced with the quandary of searing criticism in Britain regarding the J&K situation, he takes a de tour to malign Britain. (How this round figure of $44 trillion has been arrived at is another matter — even if one doesn’t want to get into the modernisation of India under British rule that made the evolution of the Indian state as a political entity possible.)

Today, ‘soft power’ is no longer in vogue in the Indian diplomatic toolbox. The obsession with ‘macho’ image is so overpowering. Under the Modi government, the accent on ‘soft power’ began with a bang in 2014 and is quite visibly ending after five years with a whimper.

A number of mistakes have been made during the past 5-year period that dented India’s ‘soft power’ (which one doesn’t want to go into there). But it is the appalling situation in the Kashmir Valley that dealt a body blow to India’s image.

An opinion is steadily gaining ground in the Muslim countries in India’s ‘extended neighbourhood’ that the Modi government is adopting state policies that are decidedly ‘anti-Muslim’. Even the elites in friendly countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia or Turkey, who are by no means ‘Islamist’ tend to see Kashmir as a ‘Muslim issue.’

A recent opinion piece in the influential US magazine Foreign Policy is entitled Kashmir Could Wreck India’s Reputation Among Afghans. It is a nuanced analysis — by no means ‘anti-Indian’ — of how Afghan public opinion, which is traditionally friendly, is discernibly getting disenchanted with India’s repression of Kashmiri Muslims.

This is a depressing scenario, because ‘soft power’ has been historically the bedrock of India-Afghan relations, and for that reason, Delhi under successive governments right from 1947, placed great emphasis on people-to-people relations between the two countries.

Certainly, our diplomacy will be by far diminished if the Afghans perceive us as no different from Pakistan — pursuing cold, pitiless geopolitical objectives in their country. It is small comfort that Afghans will probably continue to view India as a ‘stabilising factor’.

To quote Hari Prasad, the author of the article, “The positions of political actors in Afghanistan have ranged from neutral to explicitly pro-India, primarily for India’s support for the Afghan government as well as anti-Pakistan animus. But our discussions with journalists and Afghans in the region show the popular reaction is decidedly more nuanced. Many working-class Afghans, drawing from their own experiences of conflict and oppression, identify with Kashmir’s Muslims.”

The analysis makes the foreboding conclusion: “Afghans are closely watching the actions of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in Kashmir and throughout the region. That should be a reality check for New Delhi; its courting of Afghan opinion can only go so far. India may have the funding and power to shape public opinion and support in Afghanistan, but it will take much more to overcome growing mistrust.”   

If the changing perceptions regarding India are such in Afghanistan, can it be any different in the Central Asian region? The people in the steppes are, if anything, far more deeply immersed in Islamic culture, ethos and identity than Afghans, given the historical reality that their region was also the cradle of Islam in its golden era.

The Uzbeks, for instance, take great pride that Babur set out from Fergana, which, incidentally, has a museum dedicated to Babur. One of the most evocative historical monuments in Kabul is the Bagh-e Babur (Garden of Babur), the final resting place that the great emperor chose for himself — rather than Agra.

Even if Delhi were to build half a dozen parliament buildings in Kabul, Afghans will continue to treasure the Bagh-e Babur as the living monument to their abiding links with India.

November 24, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , | Leave a comment

Afghanistan: An On-Going Story of War Crimes

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By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 09.11.2019

While the Afghan peace process has been stalled and US forces have been busy dropping more bombs on Afghanistan than any other time in the last decade or so of the Afghan war, the story of gross human rights violations and even potential war crimes, too, continues to unfold in the country. With more civilian and unarmed innocent people dying at the hands of US and Afghan forces, including CIA-trained, funded and backed paramilitary militias, the question of which side actually follows barbaric methods has gained an unusual significance. According to the UNO, only during the first half of 2019, US and Afghan forces killed more civilians than the Taliban or ISIS, known as IS-K in Afghanistan, did. This figure does not include the number of innocent people who die due to heavy bombing in isolated areas of Afghanistan, where documenting these deaths is almost impossible.

Ever since the so-called ‘reduction’ of US forces from Afghanistan–a sugar-coated pill that the US policy makers fed their public with—the US war strategy has put on a much more secretive and a lot less accountable veil. The organisation of the US and Afghan elite units that mainly operate in Afghanistan tell the story of how the war is being fought. For one thing, there is little to nothing that people generally know about them. There is no clear information available about how many Afghans and Americans belong to them, how members are recruited, what their budget is, how their hierarchy functions, or if they are subject to oversight. These groups have been organised regionally: Zero-One in central Afghanistan, Zero-Two in the east, Zero-Three in the south, and Zero-Four in the north.

While these groups, as Afghan officials themselves claim, have been effective in killing both the Taliban and ISIS fighters, they also frequently engage in extra-judicial killings. Significantly enough, these groups operate solely under the command of the CIA and are answerable not to the Afghan authorities or the Afghan military forces but to the CIA. Therefore, what they do and how they do it must directly be attributed to the CIA.

Thus the story of their activity, as recently documented by Human Rights Watch (HRW) not only reveals their atrocities but also brings to light the ugly face of the Afghan war after the so-called ‘withdrawal’ of the bulk of US forces first under the Obama administration and then the Trump administration.

This withdrawal has only led the CIA to not only expand its role but also turn itself into a rather independent actor in Afghanistan. Therefore, as many even in the main stream western media have reported, these operations are not “military operations” and it is not clear if laws governing military operations can apply to these militias.

Perhaps, they don’t and that explains the impunity with which these groups operate and shoot people summarily or disappear them for a long time. The said HRW report has documented at least 14 cases from 2017 to 2019 which clearly show the trail of abuse and anger that these ‘special operations forces’ leave behind.

However, while these operations are not technically “military operations”, a US policy shift in 2017 created a provision for these groups to call in air-strikes as and when needed, thereby implying that these operation still had US military’s blessings and aren’t just an exclusive affair of the CIA. The “zero” groups, according the 2017-policy, can call for air strike even without the US forces present on the ground alongside them to identify targets.

According to HRW report, this change of policy and discretion given to the militias has “meant that airstrikes are hitting more residential buildings, while a decreased US ground presence and a reliance on local Afghan intelligence sources has meant there is less information available about the possible presence of civilians in those buildings.”

Accordingly, the report claims, “in many of the night raids that Human Rights Watch investigated, Afghan paramilitary forces seem to have unlawfully targeted civilians because of mistaken identity, poor intelligence, or political rivalries in the locality”; hence, an increasing number of the loss of innocent lives at their hands, explaining why the Taliban continue to receive support from the public. As it stands, in many of the cases the New York Times had investigated back in 2018, one of the primary reasons behind “night raids” and disappearance and killing of people by them was their support for the Taliban, which was often confined to just providing food and shelter out of fear.

The militias’ inability to wean people away from the Taliban explains why these groups engage in what the HRW report calls “willful violation of the law” and unjustifiable use of force.

As is evident, the long trail of abuse that these operations leave behind will never let the US win the war in Afghanistan. On the other hand, a deliberate policy followed by the highest US officials, including the president, continues to encourage these acts through a systematic blockade of any attempts at war crimes investigation. In 2018, when the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court requested an investigation of possible war crimes by the US forces in Afghanistan, including abuses by the CIA, the US State Department bullied the ICC into silence by revoking the chief prosecutor’s visa and threatening the court with sanctions, thus unwittingly posing serious questions about the sincerity of usual US concerns and claims about human rights and liberty. Obviously, these concerns don’t apply to the US-occupied and CIA-managed Afghanistan.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

November 9, 2019 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

The Duplicitous Agenda Endorsed by the UN and NATO

By Ramona Wadi | Strategic Culture Foundation | October 4, 2019

To the undiscerning, the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) perform different roles in the international arena. Yet both organisations have a common aim – the promotion of foreign intervention. While the UN promotes its humanitarian façade, NATO provides the militarisation of the UN’s purported human rights agenda.

NATO’s participation at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in September provided an overview of the current collaboration the organisation has with the UN. Jens Stoltelberg, NATO’s Secretary-General, mentioned the organisations’ collaboration in “working closely to support Afghanistan and Iraq”.

Since the 1990s, the UN and NATO cooperation was based on a framework which included decision-making and strategy on “crisis management and in the fight against terrorism.” In 2001, US President George W Bush launched his ‘War on Terror’ which eventually expanded to leave the Middle East and North Africa in perpetual turmoil, as the coined euphemism morphed into the so-called Arab Spring.

While the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 were led by the US, it is worth remembering that the absence of the organisation at that time is not tantamount to the exclusion of warfare from NATO member states. Notably, the US invasion of Afghanistan invoked Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which stipulates that an attack on a NATO member state constitutes an attack on all member states.

“For NATO-UN cooperation and dialogue to remain meaningful, it must continue to evolve.” The statement on NATO’s website is a bureaucratic approach which detaches itself from the human rights violations created and maintained by both parties, which form the premise of such collaboration.

UN Security Council Resolution 1373 (2001), upon which NATO based its collaboration with the UN, reaffirms, “the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence as recognised by the Charter of the United Nations.” The resolution provides impunity for member-states and other collaborators with the UN, including NATO, to define what constitutes terrorism while eliminating foreign intervention as a terror act, despite the ramifications which last long after the aggression has been terminated or minimised.

The UN-NATO duplicity is exposed in Stoltenberg’s speech when he states, “NATO has also contributed to developing UN disposal standards to counter improvised explosive devices, which remain one of the greatest threats to peacekeepers.” Why are the UN and NATO selecting rudimentary forms of warfare over precision bombing which has killed thousands of civilians in the name of fighting terror or bringing democracy?

In 2011, the UNSC’s arms embargo was supposed to prevent the proliferation of weapons to the rebels in Libya – a contradiction given the UNSC’s authorisation for NATO to bomb Libya. France, however, defied the resolution by publicly declaring its proliferation of weapons to rebels in Libya, on the pretext of their necessity to protect Libyan civilians. NATO denied its involvement as an organisation in providing arms to the rebels, despite the fact that action was taken by a NATO member. With the UN endorsing foreign intervention and NATO implementing the atrocities, the UN can fall back on its alleged peace-building and humanitarian roles, of which there is never a decline due to the irreparable damage both organisations have wreaked upon exploited, colonised and ravaged countries. The cooperation lauded by NATO does not rest on a division of roles but rather on blurring the differentiation between war and humanitarianism, in order to generate both as a duplicitous agenda.

NATO maintains that the UNSC holds “primary responsibility” for maintaining international peace and security. What the statement evades is the individual interest of each member, as well as their collective framework as NATO members. To satisfy the UNSC, individual interests and NATO membership, a common denominator is imperative. For the perpetrators of foreign intervention, war constitutes the binding legacy.

October 4, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beware of blowback from Afghan policies

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | September 25, 2019

During an exclusive interview with the Associated Press this week, the former Afghan president Hamid Karzai has severely questioned the rationale behind the presidential election which is due to take place in his country on September 28. Those who drive the Afghan policy in the Indian establishment should take careful note.

Karzai’s opinion runs completely contrary to the Indian stance. Delhi must be probably the only world capital that is enthusiastic about the Afghan presidential election. Delhi has exhorted Afghan people (“brothers and sisters”) to turn out in large numbers to cast their ballots

The Indian calculus is that by rigging the election, the incumbent president Ashraf Ghani and his group will be able to secure another 4-years in power. What brings the Indian establishment and Ghani’s group on the same page is their common interest in preventing the Taliban from holding the levers of power in Kabul, no matter what it takes. India has emerged in the most recent years as the main patron of Ghani’s group.

Ghani’s group comprising figures like the country’s security czar Amarullah Saleh maintain a policy trajectory that is hostile toward Pakistan, which helps Delhi’s hardline policies toward Pakistan. In this ‘Chanakyan’ thinking, India stands to gain if Pakistan is bogged down in a seamless war of attrition, sandwiched between its two hostile neighbours.

A hostile regime in Kabul will never compromise on the Durand Line, which implies that Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity will remain under challenge for the foreseeable future if Ghani and his group remain in power.

Delhi blithely overlooks that the Afghan situation also impacts regional security and stability and that India’s medium and long term interests lie in the stabilisation of Afghanistan. Hopefully, the views expressed by Karzai, who is a close and longstanding friend of India, would have a salutary effect on the Indian establishment and prompt it to rethink.

Karzai is spot on in his assessment that the prevailing politico-security situation in Afghanistan is not at all conducive to the holding of a free and fair election. Ironically, the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir is nowhere near as precarious as in Afghanistan and yet the elections in the Indian state have been postponed indefinitely.

The outcome of Saturday’s election will be severely contested by the other Afghan (non-Taliban) groups and we are going to witness a replay of the 2014 charade when Ghani’s ‘victory’ under extremely controversial circumstances marred by cheating on an industrial scale stalled the transition. Washington finally deputed then US senator John Kerry to Kabul to cajole the warring factions to accept the idea of a so-called national unity government.

The spectre that is facing Afghanistan is a highly problematic political transition. Considering that more than half the country is under Taliban control and that the Taliban are viscerally opposed to the charade of election on Saturday, Ghani’s legitimacy to rule for another term is in serious doubt. Delhi should ponder over the emergent scenario.

Only through an inclusive democratic process can the Afghan transition be peacefully managed. And that is only possible if the transition is predicated on a peace agreement with the Taliban, followed by inter-Afghan dialogue (including with representatives of Ghani’s ‘government’) on a political settlement, which would be put before a Loya Jirga for approval. The elections should be held only thereafter.

On the contrary, the US President Trump’s impetuous decision to call off the negotiations with the Taliban (although a draft agreement was initialed in Doha) has been seized by Ghani’s group to front-load the presidential election. This is like putting the cart before the horse.

What will happen now is that Ghani’s group will rig the election and win it and proceed to claim a mandate to rule for another 4 years, while other Afghan groups — Taliban and non-Taliban — will not accept Ghani and his coterie for a second term.

There are signs that even Washington has distanced itself from Ghani’s government by withholding assistance to the tune of $160 million. The US state department statement announcing this was highly critical of the Ghani government.

Equally, the USG-funded Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty in a commentary on Monday was frankly skeptical of the entire exercise of Saturday’s election. It sounded a warning that “many Afghans remain wary of the landmark presidential vote, fearing Taliban violence aimed at disrupting the vote and disillusioned at the widespread fraud and corruption that has tainted other elections since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

“Analysts say voter fatigue and safety concerns could depress turnout to undermine the legitimacy of the vote and give any winner only with a weak mandate to rule a country reeling from economic turmoil, an escalating war, and political infighting.”

Where does all this leave India? Clearly, Delhi’s backing for Ghani’s group is a cynical, self-serving attempt to exploit an unstable Afghanistan to India’s advantage. It does not constitute an Afghan policy. It reflects a pitiless mindset to keep Afghanistan in civil war conditions for as long as possible. It is indifferent towards the long-suffering Afghan people (here and here.) How is such a ‘policy’ any different from Pakistan’s?

Surely, the Indian embassy in Kabul would have reported on the meeting in Kabul on Monday of prominent Afghan political figures including Mujahideen leaders and erstwhile Northern Alliance stalwarts — former President Karzai, former Vice President Yunus Qanooni, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, former Minister of Energy and Water Mohammad Ismail Khan, former National Security Advisor Rangin Dadfar Spanta and so on — which issued a formal statement calling for the deferment of the presidential election and an immediate resumption of the US-Taliban negotiations.

The statement highlighted that the Afghan people do not trust in the electoral management organisations to prevent “widespread manipulation” of the presidential election. It said, “There are many realities which show that the election will not reduce the crisis in the country, instead it will double the crisis, fuel division among the people, weaken institutions and affect the trust in democracy and political partnership.”

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment