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Kushner says US Administration Will Continue with “Peace Plan” Even Without Abbas

IMEMC News & Agencies – June 24, 2018

US president Donald Trump’s senior adviser, Jared Kushne,r in an interview with Al-Quds Palestinian newspaper, said that his country will go on with a Middle East peace plan which has not been announced yet, whether Abbas agrees to participate in it or not.

Kushner questioned Abbas’s ability to make a deal, as the Palestinian Authority (PA) is boycotting the US administration for its moves, which included declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

“If President Abbas is willing to come back to the table, we are ready to engage; if he is not, we will likely air the plan publicly,” Kushner said, according to an English-language transcript released in Washington.

“However, I do question how much President Abbas has the ability to, or is willing to, lean into finishing a deal. He has his talking points which have not changed in the last 25 years,” Kushner said.

Commenting on the interview, Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Abbas, said: “The road to peace is clear – commitment to the two-state solution, a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. This is the road to any negotiations or any meetings.”

Kushner and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, visited Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt before talks on Friday and Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Arab leaders conveyed they wanted to see a Palestinian state.

Erekat: Kushner represents a policy of dictation

In response, senior PLO member, Dr. Saeb Erekat said Kushner’s interview again illustrates the US refusal to talk substance, to mention Palestinian rights or a Palestinian state.

“This is an attempt to push forward a plan that consolidates Israel’s colonial control over Palestinian land and lives while telling the Palestinian people that money will compensate for our inalienable rights. Plain and simple: Palestine and Palestinian rights are not for sale,” Erekat said in a statement, according to the PNN.

“Kushner represents a policy of dictation rather than negotiations”, he added. “It is the Trump Administration has walked away from the negotiations, from international law and UN resolutions.”

Erekat added that the PA has continuously heard the same from the Israeli government that believes that there will be a better economic situation by pulverizing the political rights of the people of Palestine. Therefore, Kushner’s interview only confirms what we have heard from every international envoy we have met with, that there’s nothing of substance coming from the Trump Administration.

He added that it is outrageous to accept such blatant disregard of international law to be replaced with business packages to resolve the struggle of a people striving for their freedom.

“The aids of the current US Administration, including Jared Kushner, have heard it clear from our fellow Arab leaders that the core of the solution should be grounded on ending Israel’s occupation of Palestine and the establishment of a sovereign and the independent State of Palestine on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. Certainly, the end of Israel’s occupation and the fulfillment of our political rights is a matter of consensus among all Palestinians that are united on the vision and will to live in freedom,” Erekat concluded.

June 24, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Atrocity Porn and Hitler Memes Target Trump for Regime Change

By James George JATRAS | Strategic Culture Foundation | 23.06.2018

American and global audiences have been bombarded with media images of wailing children in holding facilities, having been separated from adults (maybe their parents, maybe not) detained for illegal entry into the United States. The images have been accompanied by “gut-wrenching” audio of distraught toddlers screaming the Spanish equivalents of “Mommy!” and “Daddy!” – since, as any parent knows, small children never cry or call for their parents except in the most horrifying, life-threatening circumstances.

American and world media have provided helpful color commentary, condemning the caging of children as openly racist atrocities and state terrorism comparable to Nazi concentration camps and worse than FDR’s internment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans. Indeed, just having voted for Trump is now reason enough for Americans to be labeled as Nazis.

Finally, the presumptive Hitler himself, also known as President Donald Trump, citing the pleas of First Lady Melania and First Daughter Ivanka, signed an Executive Order to provide for adults and (their?) children to be detained together. However, the order is unlikely to hold up in court, with sanctuary-minded states aiming to obstruct border enforcement the way Trump’s earlier order on vetting arrivals from terrorism-prone countries has been crippled by the federal judiciary. His media and bipartisan political opposition will be happy only when all border violation detentions cease and America has gone full Merkel, starting with ending Trump’s declared zero tolerance for illegal crossings and restoration of Barack Obama’s catch-and-release policy.

Even then, Trump will be vilified for taking so long to do it. Whether or how Trump may yield further is not clear, but rather than slaking the hate campaign against him, his attempted effort at appeasement has put the smell of political blood in the water with the November 2018 Congressional midterm elections looming.

Some images of small children have become veritable icons of Trumpian brutality. One photo, reportedly of a two-year-old Honduran girl (who in fact had not been separated from her mother), graced the cover of Time magazine, confronting the black-hearted tyrant himself. Another, of a little boy in a cage, went viral before it was revealed that this kid had nothing to do with the border but rather was briefly inside a staged pen as part of a protest in Dallas.

The reality behind the pictures doesn’t matter, though. More important are the images themselves and their power, along with dishonest media spin, to produce an emotional response that short-circuits critical thinking. Never mind what the facts are! Children are suffering! Trump is guilty! We need to “do something”!

On point of comparison, let’s remember the  saturation media distribution given in 2016 to a picture of a little boyOmran Daqneesh, said to have been pulled from the rubble of Aleppo after what was dubiously reported as a Russian airstrike. Promptly dubbed “Aleppo Boy,” his pathetic dusty image immediately went viral in every prestige outlet in the United States and Europe. The underlying message: we – the “international community,” “the Free World,” the United States, you and I – must “do something” to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his main backer and fellow Hitler clone Vladimir Putin.

(Not long before, another little boy, also in the area of Aleppo, was beheaded on video by the “moderate” US-supported jihad terror group Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki. The images of his grisly demise received far less media attention than those of official Aleppo Boy. This other youngster received no catchy moniker. No one called for anyone in power to “do something.” In fact, western support for the al-Zenki murderers – which the Obama administration refused to disavow even after the beheading and allegations of chlorine gas use by al-Zenki – can itself be seen as part of “doing something” about the evil, evil Assad. (Reportedly Trump’s viewing the beheading video led to a cutoff of CIA aid to some jihad groups.) Another small detail readily available in alternative media but almost invisible in the major outlets: Mahmoud Raslan, the photographer who took the picture of Aleppo Boy and disseminated it to world acclaim, also took a smiling selfie with the beaming al-Zenki beheaders of the other kid. But, hey, says Raslan, I barely know those guys. Now let’s move on . . . )

For those who have been paying attention for the past couple of decades, the Trump border crisis kids, like Aleppo Boy before them, are human props in what is known as “atrocity porn” designed to titillate the viewers through horror and incite them to hatred of the presumed perpetrators. Atrocity propaganda has long been a part of warfare – think World War I claims of Belgian babies impaled on German bayonets – but with modern digital technology and social media the impact is immediate and universal.

It’s irrelevant whether what is identified in images corresponds to reality. What matters is their ability to evoke mindless, maudlin emotionalism, like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow choking up in tears over the border children or the similar weepy display in 2016 by CNN’s Kate Bolduan over Aleppo Boy.

Now being deployed in an American domestic context over whether or not the US should be allowed to control its borders, for decades atrocity porn has been essential for selling military action in wars of choice unconnected to the actual defense of the US: incubator babies (Kuwait/Iraq); the Racak massacre (Kosovo); the Markale marketplace bombings, Omarska “living skeletons,” and the Srebrenica massacre (Bosnia); rape as calculated instrument of war (Bosnia, Libya); and false flag poison gas attacks in Ghouta  and Douma (Syria). Never mind that the facts, to the extent they eventually become known, may later turn out to be very different from the categorical black-and-white accusations on the lips of western officials and given banner exposure within hours if not minutes of the event in question.

Atrocity porn dovetails closely with another key meme, that of Hitler-of-the-month. In painting Trump as der Führer on the border, we see coming home to America a ploy that has been an essential element to justify foreign regime change operation, each of which has been spelled out in terms of black-and-white, good-versus-evil Manichaean imperatives, with the side targeted for destruction or replacement having absolutely no redeeming qualities. This entails first of all absolute demonization of the evil leader in what is called reductio ad Hitlerum, a concept attributed to philosopher Leo Strauss in 1951. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has been characterized by name as another Hitler by Hillary Clinton and others. Among the prominent “Hitlers” since 1991 have been Saddam Hussein (Iraq), Slobodan Milosevic (Yugoslavia/Serbia), Radovan Karadzic (Republika Srpska), Moammar Qaddafi (Libya), and Bashar al-Assad (Syria), with less imposing Führer figures to be found in Mohamed Farrah Aidid (Somalia), Manuel Noriega (Panama), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran), and Omar al-Bashir (Sudan).

With apologies to Voltaire, if Hitler had not existed it would be necessary for the US-UK Deep State to invent him . . .

Today the atrocity porn and Hitler memes that have been so useful in justifying regime change in other countries are being directed with increasing intensity against America’s own duly elected president. This is at a time when the original conspiracy to discredit and unseat him, the phony “Russian collusion” story, is in the process of unraveling and being turned back on its originators. Horror of horrors, Trump is now feeling free enough to move forward on a meeting with Putin.

Keep in mind that Putin is, according to Hillary Clinton, leader of the worldwide “authoritarian, white-supremacist, and xenophobic movement” who is “emboldening right-wing nationalists, separatists, racists, and even neo-Nazis.” So he and Hitler-Trump should get on famously! The prospect of any warming of ties between Washington and Moscow has elements of the US intelligence agencies, together with their British coconspirators in MI6 and GCHQin an absolute panic.

That’s why desperate measures are in order. As noted earlier, when confronted with a reincarnation of the most evil personage in history, even the most extreme actions cannot be ruled out. Demonizing the intended target neutralizes objections to his removal – by any means necessary.

After all, how can any decent person oppose getting rid of Hitler?

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | | 1 Comment

What we can learn from the North Korea nuclear story

By Gunnar Westberg | International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War | June 23, 2018

The North Korea – USA nuclear crisis should teach us several lessons regarding nuclear weapons:

  • Nuclear weapons do not prevent nuclear proliferation.

The nuclear weapon states accepted in 1970 in the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty, NPT. In this treaty these states agree to negotiate the complete disarmament of their nuclear weapons. They have completely disregarded this pledge and insist that they must retain nuclear weapons in order to prevent other countries from acquiring them. The North Korea example shows us that this does not work.

  • Nuclear weapons are contagious.

The nuclear weapons states also insist, contrary to their pledge in the NPT, that they must keep their nukes “for their own security”. This provides an excuse for other states to acquire them. A small country such as North Korea, DPRK, has stronger reasons to build nuclear weapons than a superpower such as USA, which in a world without nuclear weapons would have an unchallenged military dominance.

  • Nuclear weapons can cause war.

Without the “fake news” of the risk of a nuclear attack on Manhattan from Iraq, the US public would probably not have accepted the war against Iraq. If DPRK had not obtained nuclear weapons the country would not have been threatened with an attack, nuclear or non-nuclear. It is often repeated that nuclear weapons kept peace in Europe during the cold war; If there had been no nuclear weapons the Soviet Union would have invaded Western Europe. This is an unproven conjecture. A deeper discussion on this subject is outside my competence and outside the mandate of IPPNW. However, most historians today agree, based on sources released after 1990, that the Soviet Union accepted the status in Europe after 1950.

  • Nuclear weapons can bring high status to the leader of a country.

This has been important for the North Korean leaders. Already the grandfather of the present leader of North Korea desired the honour of meeting personally the President of the USA. President Trump is the first to accept the invitation and, in the mind of the North Korean leader­, treat him as an equal. Nuclear weapons can also bestow superpower status to a country. This is obvious in the arguments coming from e.g. France and India.

  • Nuclear weapons, once acquired, are hard to give up.

This we will learn in the years to come.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hamas: Our people will bury US plans under their feet

Hazem Qasem
Palestine Information Center – June 23, 2018

GAZA – The Hamas Movement has said that the massive presence of citizens in the March of Return rallies on Friday, June 22, has reflected that the popular struggle in Gaza will continue until all goals are achieved.

In a press release, Hamas spokesman Hazem Qasem said the ongoing popular uprising on the Gaza border aims to entrench the Palestinian people’s right to return to every part of their land, including Jerusalem, and their right to live in dignity and with no blockade.

“Such ongoing rallies prove that the [Israeli] occupation’s attempts to terrorize our people into not participating in them have failed,” Qasem affirmed, pointing to the exposure of protesters to aerial attacks during the past week.

“These marches have sent a message to the US administration, which is trying to impose plans or projects aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause, that our revolutionary people on the border will bury such schemes under their feet and will not allow any party to detract from their rights,” he underlined.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Presbyterian Church Confronts US Legislation Targeting BDS

IMEMC News & Agencies | June 23, 2018

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States approved, during its meeting last week in St. Louis, Missouri, by unanimous consent, an action opposing congressional and state anti-BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) laws, according to a press release.

According to WAFA, the newly approved policy directs the Presbyterian Church (USA) to “oppose specific US legislation to suppress measures of economic witness…such as ‘The Israel Anti-Boycott Act’.” The action further instructs the church to join in legislation opposing state anti-BDS laws through the filing of amicus curiae briefs, in coalition with other religious and human rights groups.

Some two-dozen laws have been passed, in Congress and states across the country, that are designed to suppress BDS campaigns in protest of Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other civil liberties groups have condemned these laws as un-constitutional and an infringement on the First Amendment right to free speech.

Earlier this year, in the first decision of its kind, a Kansas judge blocked an anti-BDS law in that state, deeming it un-constitutional. In recent years, a number of US faith groups and churches, including the Presbyterian Church (USA) have adopted boycotts and divested from companies that profit from Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights.

In other actions last week, the Presbyterian Church (USA) defended the free exchange of ideas on Israel/Palestine, refusing to accept a prohibition on describing the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza as “a colonial project.” The church also, by unanimous consent, declined to censor a recent publication from its Israel/Palestine Mission Network entitled Why Palestine Matters: The Struggle to End Colonialism.

The General Assembly considered additional actions relating to Israel/Palestine including a resolution expressing “profound grief and sorrow” for the deaths of 131 Palestinians during the recent protests surrounding the Great March of Return, deploring Israel’s “targeting of more than 20 clearly marked Palestinian medics serving the wounded,” one advocating for equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and one calling on RE/MAX to stop facilitating the sale of properties in settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of international law.

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a mission network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) with a mandate from the denomination’s General Assembly (2004) to work “toward specific mission goals that will create currents of wider and deeper involvement with Israel/Palestine.”

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | 3 Comments

United States demands that Japan stops buying oil from Iran – reports

Press TV – June 23, 2018

Washington has asked Tokyo to halt all crude purchases from Iran, insisting that its allies cease all trade with the country, according to Bloomberg.

The request was made during a meeting between US and Japanese officials in Tokyo this week, according to the media. No decision has been made yet, though, and talks will continue.

This means that Washington is taking a harder stance on Iran than it did in 2012. Six years ago, before the nuclear deal, the US demanded that its allies should reduce oil purchases from sanctioned Iran, rather than stop them completely.

Japan is Asia’s fourth-largest buyer of Iranian crude, which accounts for 5.3 percent of its oil consumption, or 172,000 barrels per day.

Refiners in Japan earlier said they could substitute Iranian oil with crude from other Middle Eastern countries, even though their plants are particularly compatible with crude from Iran.

Some analysts see the demand as a negotiating tactic before trade talks begin between the US and Japan.

“It could be that the US is initially demanding a big thing before offering Japan a way to go around it in negotiations,” Satoru Yoshida, a commodity analyst at Rakuten Securities told Bloomberg. “Even if the US is asking Japan to completely stop Iranian crude imports, which is a very high hurdle, it may lower its demand later.”

June 23, 2018 Posted by | War Crimes, Economics, Wars for Israel | , , | 1 Comment

The Ups and Downs of Rebuilding Aleppo, Mosul

Veterans Today | June 23, 2018

Aleppo and Mosul, cities that endured some of the worst urban warfare in the 21st century, have quite different liberation stories, but they are alike in the way media treated them with oblivion once the post-war struggle began.

Both the Syrian city of Aleppo and Iraq’s Mosul found themselves gripped in fierce battles in late 2016. Syrian forces were trying to liberate the eastern part of Aleppo from militant groups to end the mortar shelling, which was killing civilians in the western half, and to begin rebuilding the war-ravaged districts of the city. An ambitious Russia-backed effort to evacuate civilians from the warzone set up humanitarian corridors. It was the US-backed Iraqi battle for Mosul, however, that captured the Western media’s favor as a heroic struggle to liberate civilians from Islamic State (IS, ISIS/ISIL), while the war in Aleppo was presented in a markedly different light.

‘Bombing kitten sanctuaries’ in Aleppo

It’s no secret that the mainstream media coverage of eastern Aleppo’s liberation – more often termed as the “siege” or the “fall of Aleppo” in the West – focused exclusively on alleged atrocities of the Syrian Army rather than the full picture. Reports tugged at the emotional strings of the viewers, describing children’s hospitals, schools and blood banks destroyed in the government bombing. However, they failed to mention that the former schools and hospitals often housed militant mortars, while the “last hospital in Aleppo” was destroyed multiple times as MSM readily cited militant-linked sources without verifying them.

But perhaps the most absurd of the stories spun by the media during the battle was the “bombing” of the cat sanctuary in the city. The home for orphaned felines, which was run by Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, who was referred to as an “ambulance driver” and “the Catman of Aleppo,” was repeatedly brought into the spotlight, highlighting the hardships of the rebel-held parts of the city. In November 2016, the Catman reported that the facility was “bombed,” and several cats and a dog, aptly named Hope, were killed. The incident was squarely pinned on President Bashar Assad’s air forces and Russia. The next alleged attack on the sanctuary came with the MSM’s weapon of choice – chlorine – according to the owner, who was eventually safely evacuated from Aleppo.

The man eventually settled in the militant-held western countryside of Aleppo, opening a new kitten sanctuary. The feline facility, sadly, has not received much media attention ever since. As the battle for Aleppo ended, the media largely lost its interest in the city, forgetting about the civilians who are now working hard to rebuild a peaceful life.

Hushed strikes on Mosul

The chaotic battle for Mosul, where IS terrorists ruthlessly used civilians as human shields amid relentless US-led coalition bombing, was no less of a tragic story of suffering, but the absence of evacuations for civilians made the city warfare particularly extreme. When it came to coverage, however, the MSM mostly picked military advances while the toll of the fighting was covered in a hushed and infrequent manner.

While footage and photos of the city, taken by a few real reporters on the ground, showed the vast destruction and carnage, no widespread outrage was to be seen in the aftermath of mass civilian casualties reported. Warnings from international human rights groups, including the UN bodies, which highlighted the dire refugee situation and apparent disregard for “collateral damage” by the coalition, were also left largely unaired.

But as the battle ended and the city was pronounced liberated from IS, the story of Mosul’s struggles was seemingly cut short in the media once and for all.

But what happened next?

The battle for Aleppo ended in the very end of 2016, and the city has been vigorously striving to get back to peaceful life ever since. The cafés have reopened, the World Cup is broadcasted, and people are celebrating holidays – of several different religions – in peace.

The Old City’s Sheraton Hotel, which was turned into a Syrian Army barracks during the battle, was restored to its former glory and is open for guests.

The city is rebuilding, roads have been long cleared of rubble, and they are getting new asphalt.

Mosul, which was liberated nearly a year ago, presents a more chilling picture. The authorities still haven’t managed to collect the dead – militants, civilians and those who fought against IS.

Last week, Mosul was visited by Hollywood superstar and Special Envoy of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Angelina Jolie, who found the “worst devastation” there that she has seen in her 17 years representing the UN watchdog. The streets of Mosul’s Old City are still laying in ruins, and the stench of decomposing corpses is still in the air.

“There are bodies in this rubble that stay here and you can smell the bodies and some of them have family members that are here and they are unable to move them,” Jolie said, walking the streets where the “liberators” made the last push against IS terrorists.

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie visits the Old City in West Mosul, Iraq June 16, 2018. © UNHCR / Andrew McConnell

Surely, life is picking up in Mosul, yet at a very slow pace, with destruction seen in the background of every photo.

Iraqi workers repair a building in Mosul on March 15, 2018. © Ahmad Al-Rubaye / AFP

Restoring hope & heritage

Historical sites in both cities sustained massive damage during the fighting. An iconic landmark of Mosul, the Grand al-Nuri Mosque, was blown up by IS militants a month before the city was recaptured by the coalition. The monument was effectively reduced to rubble, and, nearly a year after, it remains in the same state – showing only signs of further deterioration and weathering.

The destroyed Grand al-Nuri Mosque is seen in the Old City of Mosul on January 17, 2018. © Ari Jalal / Reuters

Aleppo Citadel, on the other hand, not only endured the battle for the city, but it actually played one of the key roles in it, serving as a stronghold for Syria’s defenders once again. While the monument was damaged during the fighting, restoration – and demining – works were launched almost immediately after the city’s liberation. Now it’s open for everyone again.

Another iconic landmark of the city – the Umayyad Great Mosque – was less lucky and sustained way more serious damage, getting pierced with shrapnel and having one of its minarets toppled. While more work needs to be done, it looks way better now – and it actually serves its purpose.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , | Leave a comment

Facebook, Twitter Shut Hezbollah-Linked Accounts – Reports

Sputnik – 23.06.2018

Facebook and Twitter accounts of a Hezbollah-affiliated news service covering the Syrian war were shut down on Friday without explanation.

Central Military Media accused the US-based websites of running an “anti-media campaign,” in a post on the Telegram messaging app. It said both accounts were closed without warning.

The agency shared links to its new profiles on Facebook, Twitter and several other social media platforms. Sputnik was unable to obtain comments from the two networks.

Hezbollah was established in the 1980s as a paramilitary and political organization originating in Lebanon’s Shiite population. The group aims to end Israel’s occupation of Lebanese territory.

Israel, has repeatedly expressed its opposition to the presence of Iranian and pro-Iranian forces and the Hezbollah movement in Syria. Earlier this year, Israel several times attacked what it called the Iranian forces’ positions in Syria, citing aggressive actions on the part of the Iranian-backed militia in the Golan Heights, annexed by the country from Syria.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 1 Comment

US-Backed Forces Claim to “Liberate” Yemenis, Instead Rape Detainees

By Randi Nord | Mint Press News | June 23, 2018

The so-called “liberators” in Yemen are sexually and physically torturing detainees at secret prisons. Survivors recall disturbing stories laden with gruesome interrogation tactics for extracting false confessions. Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen attempts to portray themselves as the bearers of freedom and reason.

As an ally of the United States’ “counter-terrorism” operation in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates established 18 prisons throughout territory under their control. An ongoing investigation from the Associated Press has so far identified instances of deranged sexual torture at five of these facilities. The Emirati headquarters in Yemen houses one of such facilities where witnesses have seen American soldiers.

The United States provides the United Arab Emirates with billions in weapons, and military equipment through the Saudi-led coalition and counter-terror operations in Yemen. Washington also has ground troops in Yemen assisting and training Emirati forces.

Americans use Emiratis as gloves to do their dirty work,” at a prison in Mukallah told the Associated Press.

Two additional prison security officials said Americans were at all locations.

Witnesses say Emirati soldiers, mercenaries, and paid Blackwater mercenaries frequently raped detainees while others filmed the act. Other sexual torture includes electrocuting or hanging rocks from detainees’ testicles and sodomy with wooden or steel poles. The goal is to extract confessions.

They strip you naked, then tie your hands to a steel pole from the right and the left so you are spread open in front of them. Then the sodomizing starts,”  said one man, a father of four.

Survivors told reporters about a mass torture event on March 10 at the Beir Ahmed prison in UAE-occupied Aden. Soldiers pulled hundreds of prisoners out of their cells, ordered them to disrobe, and searched their anal cavity looking for cell phones or contraband. One witness proclaimed, “Do you believe this! How could anyone hide a phone in there?” If anyone did not follow through with orders, soldiers threatened them with vicious dogs.

The detainee who drew the photos in the Tweet below spent time in at least three different prison centers.

They tortured me without even accusing me of anything. Sometimes I wish they would give me a charge so I can confess and end this pain,” he said. “The worst thing about it is that I wish for death every day and I can’t find it,” he said.

Unbelievable Hypocrisy

The Saudi-led coalition includes about 34 different countries from around the world. Many people don’t realize the scope of the war against Yemen. Even nations that tend to stay out of other major conflicts like Morocco, Sudan, Eritrea, and Croatia provide the Saudi coalition with military or logistic support.

The United States, United Kingdom, France, and Canada provide the bulk of the Saudi-coalition’s military support.

Considering that the available evidence linking Iran to Yemen’s resistance, Ansarullah (the “Houthis”), remains inconclusive, this is clearly a world war against Yemenis. Saudi Arabia launched this war in March of 2015 to reinstate their puppet government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi who had already resigned from protests.

Throughout the course of this war, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States have championed themselves as “liberators.” If anyone was fooled into believing a ragtag gang of head choppers and child killers were the “good guys” in this scenario, these torture prisons filled with rape should help change that perception.

Also throughout the course of this war, the Saudi coalition has peddled nonstop — and in most cases false — anti-Ansarullah (Houthi) propaganda about detaining journalists and activists. Of course, the stories about Ansarullah granting amnesty to political prisoners don’t fit the official Saudi narrative so they tend to not make headlines.

This story about rape at the secret prisons broke just as the United Arab Emirates launched their operation to take Hodeidah port from Ansarullah (indigenous Yemeni) forces. France sent special forces to assist the Saudi-UAE coalition. At this point, despite all the military might in the world behind them, coalition efforts to occupy Hodeidah remain unsuccessful.

The Saudi coalition that Ansarullah uses Hodeidah port to import Iranian weapons and military equipment under the front of aid. However, all ships entering the port must first dock at Djibouti or a neighboring port for inspection from the coalition themselves.

Experts say anywhere from 250,000 to 600,000 could die in operation “Golden Victory” to take Hodeidah port. Rough estimates put the casualty toll in Yemen at over 36,000 between killed and injured. Tens of thousands more have died from the Saudi-imposed and U.S.-enforced blockade which restricts land, sea, and air imports exports and the flow of movement.

The blockade has put between 18 and 22 million on the brink of famine and triggered a cholera epidemic completely unprecedented in modern times.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

‘Forget sanctions, G7 & Assad – Trump-Putin summit should focus on America’s Ukraine interference’

RT | June 22, 2018

Ukraine, not Syria, is going to be in the spotlight at the potential meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin after the US supplied Kiev with Javelin missiles and imposed sanctions on Russia, former US diplomat told RT.

The NATO summit set for July is already being upstaged by rumors of a separate meeting between Trump and Putin – and news that National Security Advisor John Bolton will be heading to Moscow this month has only increased speculation. RT America’s Natasha Sweatte discussed this latest development with former US diplomat Jim Jatras.

RT: What are your thoughts on Bolton going to Russia? Do you think this is going to be a similar matter to how Mike Pompeo set things up for the president with Kim Jong-un?

Jim Jatras: I think in some ways, yes. I understand that ambassador (Jon) Huntsman, our ambassador in Moscow, was here not too long ago to begin some of the prep, Bolton is supposed to be in Moscow next week and then three Republican senators are supposed to be in Moscow the week after that. I think there’s some of the groundwork being prepared for this meeting.

RT: What do you think is the most important thing for them to discuss, if they do indeed meet. Do you think something like Syria?

JJ: Certainly, Syria. But to tell the truth, I think the mere fact of the meeting, like the meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un, is the most important thing. The fact that they meet. Let’s remember, there has been a full-blown campaign of hysteria on so-called “Russian collusion” from not only the US deep state, but their friends in the United Kingdom, in MI6 and GCHQ, trying to try to sink this thing. And I think coming off of the summit with Kim and also some of the economic news, some of his domestic successes, Trump now feels he has the ability to go ahead with something he said he wanted to do during the campaign and has been frustrated from doing so.

RT: Do you think a positive meeting between the two will have any impact on Mueller’s investigation or do you see it as an important thing for Trump to block all of that out, if he does indeed meet with Putin?

JJ: I think it is going to be in the eye of the beholder. Obviously, the Trump-haters who actually believe all the nonsense about Russian collusion, they’ll just see this: He is reporting to Moscow, he is reporting to headquarters. This proves everything we’ve been alleging.”

Of course, that’ll be total nonsense. I think just as a lot of people aimed potshots at him over North Korea, the fact that he comes back with something that looks like we’re making progress on a peaceful settlement, I think will resonate with a lot more people than the naysayers.

RT: Now to the G7 summit: do you think there is a seat at the table for Russia? Do you think maybe these talks with the US is the first step in that direction?

JJ: It could be. But to tell the truth, G7 isn’t all that important. And certainly not for the Russians. The Russians are looking more toward Eurasian integration with the, One Belt, One Road, initiative with the Chinese, with the Eurasian Economic Union. Sure, they’d like a seat at the table. But they’re not going to sit there and beg for it. And they’re not going to look at it as some kind of a cookie to be thrown to them.

RT: And what’s the ultimate outcome? Do you think just the meeting itself speaks volumes?

JJ: I think, the meeting itself speaks volumes. But I think, the question of sanctions, for example, is way in the background. You’ll never get that through Congress anytime soon. Although, I think we could look at some positive action in Europe in the very near future. I think that actually the thorniest question isn’t really Syria so much. Look, Assad has won, he is going to stay in power. The real issue is going to be what to do about Ukraine. During the campaign, Trump said that is a European issue. But, of course, you know, we’ve provided the Javelin missiles, we’ve added new sanctions to the Russians. We’ve got to find some way to get the US out of the driver’s seat on aggravating the situation in Ukraine.

RT: And maybe, if (Robert) Mueller’s investigation does wrap up sometime soon, maybe Congress’s outlook would change on sanctions?

JJ: No, I don’t think so. I think, unfortunately, there are just so many people who have planted their feet in concrete in an extreme, I would say, hysterical anti-Russian position, that just isn’t going to change. I think Trump basically has to move beyond them somehow and not really focus on the sanctions, which to tell the truth, do not have the same devastating impact on Russia that a lot of people here would like to think they have.

June 23, 2018 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia | , , | Leave a comment

A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’

By Ida Audeh | CounterPunch | June 22, 2018

For weeks now, Palestinians everywhere have been galvanized by events taking place in the Gaza Strip, the site of weekly (since March 30) mass protests demanding the end of the siege and blockade of Gaza (in place now since 2007) and the right to return to the homes from which they or their elders had been kicked out. Dubbed the Great March of Return, Gazans have assembled as close as they can to the Israeli-designated buffer zone separating Gaza from Israel. Israeli soldiers at a distance, crouched behind earth barriers that they created in the days preceding the march, and at absolutely no danger of attack from the unarmed protestors, pick off demonstrators at their leisure. By June 14, at least 129 Palestinians had been killed and 13,000 injured; the dead included medics like the 21-year-old Razan al-Najjar and journalists including Yaser Murtaja—typically seen as off-limits in conflict zones but transformed by Israel into prime targets.

On June 4, Ida Audeh spoke to Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, about the popular resistance in Gaza, the Trump administration’s policy toward the question of Palestine, and Palestinian options to chart a new course. Salah Khawaja, an activist who works with the campaign, joined the conversation.

Ida Audeh: I interviewed you in August 2011 to learn more about the separation wall and its effect on communities in its path.[2] Describe Israel’s current system of control over the occupied territories, of which the wall is a part.

Jamal Juma’: It is clear that the wall was designed to isolate and lay siege to Palestinians. The project to place Palestinians under siege by means of the wall has been completed. It closed off all the dynamic areas that Israel considered necessary to isolate various areas. Eighty percent of the Wall is within the West Bank. The second part of the siege is reinforcement of the settlements. Each settlement has what Israel calls a buffer zone – a security apparatus consisting of barbed wire and roads that Palestinians are not allowed to use. This, together with the alternative (bypass) roads (which we call the apartheid roads), allows them to control the territory. Today there are two road networks: one is for Israeli settlers, about 1,400 km long, and its purpose is to connect all settlements to one another and to Israel in a kind of network. And this is complete. This network is the dominant one in the West bank, and it includes the major roads. The other, the alternative roads, are for Palestinians to use; these roads will intersect through 48 planned tunnels and bridges, some of which have been created already. The two road systems are separate. This is the basis of the racist discriminatory system we talk about: isolating Palestinians and confining them in limited spaces, control of their resources through settlements, the road network, and military installations, and the wall, which take up about 62% of the area of the West Bank.

With the extension of the settlements, we no longer just talk about Palestinians being ghettoized in the north, south and central region. There is more fragmentation of Palestinian residential areas. New settlement outposts are not being discussed in terms of whether they should be removed or not.  They are being transformed into settlements. When you see 150 outposts, you are really talking about 150 new settlements. This project is being intensified, and especially since Trump took office.

IA: So you noticed a clear acceleration after Trump?

JJ: It’s much more than an acceleration. This is a watershed moment in Palestinian history.  We consider that since Trump took office, US policy fully adopted the Zionist project and embarked on a process of liquidating the Palestinian cause, of eliminating it. It is clear program. This began with Jerusalem and the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Zionist entity, transfer of the embassy, targeting the refugees by cutting financing of UNRWA, and other forms of pressure on areas that host large numbers of refugees including getting them settled permanently in the host countries.

Israeli colonization, the geographic engineering of the political map, is another component in the liquidation of the Palestinian cause. Israeli proposals for colonization are massive. They are concentrating on the Jordan Valley – creating new settlements, expanding existing settlements, creating the supportive infrastructure, with huge incentives for Israelis who work in agriculture (including cash payments of $20,000 for anyone willing to move there). Now the settlements are on the tops of the mountain chain that overlook the Jordan Valley, which enable them to encircle lower lying towns. When you talk about Ariel, Ma’ale Adumim, and so on, it will be as though the entire West Bank is a suburb of Tel Aviv. This will make it impossible for there to be any separation in the future, for there to be any independent Palestinian entity; instead, an apartheid system of cantons will be imposed on Palestinians.  This is the reality on the ground.

Back to the new US policy: In addition to a shift in standing US positions on Jerusalem and the refugee issue, there is the use of Arab countries that are ready for normalization with Israel and eager to be aligned with the American project – first and foremost, Saudi Arabia, and also Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, which are pressuring the Palestinians to accept the US project to liquidate the Palestinian cause. This has complicated things and taken it out of the sphere of international law and the UN; everyone had previously worked within that framework. We have been demanding the implementation of resolutions. But the US dealt a blow to international law.

IA: The US now proposes the “deal of the century,” which Gulf states are eagerly endorsing. Can you describe the contours of that deal?

JJ: The proposal is to create a Palestinian state in Gaza with extensions into the Sinai Desert, to be administered by the Palestinian Authority. The West Bank and Jerusalem are not part of these calculations, although Israel might be willing to give up some areas around Jerusalem that are densely populated with Palestinians. (This part of the proposal has been floated by extremist Israeli groups even before the Trump proposal.) They might be willing to remove from Greater Jerusalem areas with high Palestinian density, like Jabal Mukkaber, Isawiya, Silwan, and Sur Bahir; there has been some discussion about removing Beit Hanina and Shufat. The Israelis would retain control of the Jewish settlements and the Old City, which together make up about 87% of the area of East Jerusalem—not exactly a small territory.

IA: What is the Palestinian response to these plans?

JJ:  On the formal political level, the PA is in a crisis. It placed its faith in the US, but now US determination to liquidate the Palestinian cause is very clear.  The only real option remaining to the PA is to cast its lot with the Palestinian people and on free people around the world, international solidarity and movements that support us. The Palestinian people have to make a decision, and so does the PA.

On the popular level, we see serious activity in search of an alternative to the status quo, the largest and the most important of which is taking place now in Gaza with the Great March of Return. These actions are important for a number of reasons. They changed the stereotypes about Gaza as a launchpad for rockets, a place of terrorism that has been hijacked by Hamas. In fact, the marches in Gaza since March 30 represent a widespread popular movement, massive popular resistance. Just like the first intifada emerged from Jabaliya in the Gaza Strip, today we have the beginnings of a mass civil disobedience movement. Gaza has a population that is resisting, and Hamas does not control this resistance. The discourse we generally hear, that Hamas is leading people to their death, should be recognized as racist and dehumanizing. People are not robots. Gazans of all ages, family situations, and economic and educational levels are taking part in these marches to raise their cause to the world.  These people are saying that the siege of Gaza cannot continue. We are human beings, we have rights, and one of those rights is to live like human beings. Gaza is no longer inhabitable. Gaza has been turned into a prison and a hell. Even the UN acknowledges that. The numbers around Gaza are just astounding.[3]

The Great March has returned focus on the refugee issue and put it squarely on the table despite all the efforts to ignore and erase it. More than 70% of Gaza residents are refugees, and they are demanding the right to return to their original hometowns.

For that reason, the marches in Gaza are very important in defining the trajectory of the Palestinian question and restoring the role of popular resistance to the forefront. They lay the popular foundation for the coming phase. They might also have prevented another massive disaster. I think Israel was preparing to implement the Trump administration’s proposals; the scenario that the Israelis were planning for was to pull Gaza into a military confrontation, which would justify more intense bombing than it has done in the past. The borders with Egypt would open, and people would flee into Egypt. But the march with its mass participation thwarted that plan.

IA: I find it hard to understand how Ramallah can be so tranquil considering the carnage in Gaza.

JJ:  It might seem that what is happening in the West Bank is not at all comparable to what is happening in Gaza. And that is true, it isn’t as massive. But actions are taking place in the West Bank, and they are also important. On a weekly basis people are gathering to protest at the checkpoints. Since 2011 there have been continuous outbursts (in Arabic, habbat); for example, in Jerusalem in the Bab al-Shams encampment and in the aftermath of the Abu Khdeir and Dawabshe killings (January 2013, July 2014, and July 2015, respectively).[4] These outbursts were significant and exemplary, the way Gaza is today. They reminded us of what the Palestinian people are capable of doing. I expect that these outbursts here and there will lead to widespread civil disobedience. Young people in Jerusalem and the West Bank have been going out to checkpoints in the hundreds, on a daily basis, and these conditions put one in the mindset of the first intifada.

We should take note of what Palestinians in Israel are doing as well. There are youth movements that are taking action in ways that are very impressive and a source of pride.  They defy the occupation and they involve large numbers of people, in Haifa and elsewhere.

IA: Let’s look at the relationship of Palestinians to formal political bodies. Recently the Palestinian National Council held its first meeting in 22 years. One might have thought that over the course of more than two decades, several issues and events warranted a meeting – regional events, the assassination of Yasir Arafat, and the status of the Oslo accords come to mind. But the convening of the PNC doesn’t seem to have generated much popular interest.

JJ: People did not pay much attention to it, but in fact they should be talking about it because it poses a threat. Meeting for the first time in 22 years, it did not even discuss what it has done since the last meeting! What it did do is effectively cancel itself, which means it is changing the structure of the PLO. There is an attempt to replace the Central Committee with a body consisting of the private sector, the political currents in the PA today, and elements of the security apparatus. No representation of Palestinians from the 1948 areas, or the diaspora, or even the Palestinian street. This is a threat to the Palestinian project.

The PLO as it has been transformed by Mahmoud Abbas threatens the national cause. It has been hijacked; our task is to restore it as a representative and unifying entity that works to support the Palestinian cause. The reform should be led by Palestinian groups and movements.

People have no confidence in the leadership; they don’t think it is capable of leading in the coming phase.  In fact, the outbursts I referred to earlier had the potential of triggering a third intifada.  People were waiting for a leadership to emerge, as happened during the first intifada; three months into the intifada, a unified leadership emerged and took charge. But this time, the PA wasn’t interested in assuming that role; three months into these protests, the PA sent its people to disrupt actions and prevent young people from gathering at checkpoints. The national factions were unable to form a unified leadership for obvious reasons.

IA: What is the alternative?

JJ: People have to create a national movement that can lead the change. What will lead the movement for change will not be a single individual. It will be a widespread national movement that has a real relationship with people on the ground, a movement that will direct the street. This is the only way change will take place. People have been waiting for a long time, but who are we waiting for? There is not going to be a great charismatic leader. We don’t talk about a heroic leader, we talk about a heroic people and a leadership of institutions.

We want a Palestinian state that represents all Palestinians. Within that broad outline, we say that right now, we have to protect the Palestinian project – the right to self-determination, and we all struggle for that right. We don’t have to get into a discussion about the final outcome. The time for the two state solution is clearly over—and in fact, that proposal provided the basis for trying to destroy our cause. The other option is clear. But like I said, we don’t want that discussion to detract from our focus now or to place us in conflict with the position of the PLO.

How do we support the Palestinian project? We have to confront what is happening in Jerusalem, the settlements. There has to be a practical program, not just slogans on paper. Palestinians in the diaspora should support these activities, get involved in the boycott movement, because we are part of that boycott movement. We are trying to keep the political work and the boycott movement separate to protect the boycott movement, because there is a Palestinian effort underway to weaken the BDS movement; through normalization, by invoking the PLO position. We consider the boycott movement an essential component of our activism.

This is what people are discussing today, here and with our people in the 1948 areas, and in the diaspora. There has to be a movement that preserves the unity of the Palestinian people and protects the national cause from liquidation. That’s what we are working on now. I expect that in the next few weeks there will be a meeting to put in writing some of the agreed upon principles underlying all of these actions. Many meetings have taken place, and they are being expanded.

SK: We are looking at all ways to get all Palestinians to participate under a banner of a common cause that unites us all. In the 1948 areas, the issue is colonization and civil rights, but Palestinians within Israel don’t find themselves too far apart from those in the West Bank and Gaza. In the West Bank, the issues are Judaization, settlements, attacks against the holy sites. Those in Gaza are concerned about 12-year siege and blockade, hunger, and murder. Those in the diaspora want the right of return. All of these are national issues that unite us, but each location faces specific threats.

The next phase will be difficult, as we figure out how to present a vision that unites all people, especially the youth, which have been marginalized, to be effective participants.  Since 2012, we have been in contact with the youth. About 76% of the population is 35 years old or younger. And yet no one is making a practical effort to involve them in political planning and decision making. As a campaign, we made a deliberate decision about this. Programs grow old, and so do people. So we need an extension, and the youth movement is part of that. Our hope is to create a mass youth activist base so that our energy will be renewed. We see in the diaspora and in the 1948 areas that the majority of activists are young – the marches in Haifa, confronting the Judaization of the Galilee, activism around the depopulated villages of 1948, the attempt to seize homes in Akka — young people are confronting these issues. We must raise the slogan of confronting colonialism, which is the main cause of what we face.  We Palestinians  have to work together, not against one another, and not expect solutions from others.

What they are doing is preparatory to a major outbreak; there will be a launch of boats to break the blockade, and not just from Gaza, and a rush toward all entry points to Palestine, without exception. Either we live with dignity, or we declare an intifada on those who deny us a life with dignity.

Everyone is targeted. In the West Bank, there are mass arrests, home demolitions, checkpoints, and people on the run. The idea of civil disobedience is not a slogan. We can rebel against all forms of Israeli control within the framework of a national program. Since the international community has not acted, what prevents Palestinians from adjacent countries from moving on mass to the border, as occurred in 2012 (and some were able to make it to Jaffa). Those in the diaspora might have ongoing marches in front of Israeli embassies and its supporters. They can paralyze Israel’s work in all countries. These are not the usual slogans or approaches to political work.  There is no need to hold on to agreements and positions that Israel long ago abandoned.

In 1948 we looked to what the international community might give us; it gave to Israel but nothing to us. There were conditions placed on it for recognition: its treatment of the Palestinian minority, accepting the Palestinian right of return, and the creation of a Palestinian state. None of them was fulfilled. After 1967, Palestinians agreed to accept 22% of historical Palestine, but even that was unacceptable for Israel. Palestinians can’t continue to think in terms of what Israel might be willing to give us.

We have a right to exist and to determine our own destiny. This is the issue that concerns us.

Notes.

[1] “Gaza protests: All the latest updates,” Al Jazeera, June 14, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/04/gaza-protest-latest-updates-180406092506561.html. See also Kate, “Israel has shot 29 medics at Gaza border, killing two,” Mondoweiss,http://mondoweiss.net/2018/06/israel-medics-killing/amp/

[2] Ida Audeh, “Interview with Jamal Juma’: PA ‘killing popular resistance.’” Electronic Intifada, August 8, 2011,https://electronicintifada.net/content/jamal-juma-pa-killing-popular-resistance/10249

[3] “Living conditions in Gaza ‘more and more wretched’ over past decade, UN finds,” UN News, 11 July 2017, https://news.un.org/en/story/2017/07/561302-living-conditions-gaza-more-and-more-wretched-over-past-decade-un-finds. Status Audio Journal Hosts, “Under siege: Daily life in Gaza with Rawan Yaghi,” Jadaliyya, May 16, 2018, http://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/37563/Under-Siege-Daily-Life-in-Gaza-with-Rawan-Yaghi. Gaza in Context Team, “Understanding Gaza in context,” Jadaliyya, May 16, 2018, http://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/37562/Understanding-Gaza

[4] The 2013 encampment known as Bab al-Shams was an attempt by Palestinians to thwart Israeli plans to establish a settlement on land in the E1 zone, between East Jerusalem and the Jewish-only settlement Ma’ale Adumim; the Israeli plan was designed to permanently sever the West Bank from East Jerusalem. Another encampment, Bab al-Karama, was set up in Beit Iksa and stormed by Israeli soldiers two days later. In July 2014, Israeli settlers in Jerusalem abducted 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdeir from Shufat and set him on fire; the ensuing demonstrations resulted in 160 Palestinians injured. Israel’s assault on Gaza began five days later. One year later, settlers set fire to a residence in Duma. The soul survivor of the attack was a 4-year-old child; the child’s parents and infant brother were killed. In 2015, a tent encampment, “Gate of Jerusalem,” was set up in Abu Dis to protest the Israeli government’s plans to displace Bedouin communities there. Beginning in September 2015 and lasting until the end of the year, protests spread from the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem throughout the West Bank; 108 Palestinians were killed and 12,260 were injured.  Palestinians in Israel demonstrated in solidarity.

Ida Audeh is a Palestinian from the West Bank who lives in Colorado. She is the editor of Birzeit University: The Story of a National Institution, published by Birzeit University in 2010. She can be reached at idaaudeh A T yahoo D O T com.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The War in Afghanistan is Killing More People Than Ever

By Edward Hunt | Lobe Log | June 20, 2018

Seventeen years into the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history, violence has never been worse. In 2017, more than 20,000 Afghans died, a new record.

The dead include an estimated 10,000 Afghan security forces, 10,000 Taliban forces, and 3,438 civilians. Although there is no reliable data on Afghan casualties available to the public, reports published by the Costs of War Project at Brown University indicate that the annual death toll for the Afghan population has never been higher than it was in 2017.

For civilians, the last four years of the war have been the deadliest, with more than 3,400 civilians killed each year from 2014-2017, according to data from the United Nations and the Costs of War Project.

“We are concerned that we will see greater harm this year unless necessary steps are taken by all parties to prevent civilian casualties,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary General’s special representative for Afghanistan.

The record violence comes as the Trump administration has intensified the war against the Taliban. Although President Trump repeatedly indicated before he was president that he opposed the war and wanted to end it, he has instructed U.S. military forces to take more aggressive action.

“In Afghanistan, I’ve lifted restrictions and expanded authorities for commanders in the field,” Trump acknowledged last year. The new approach, according to Brigadier General Lance Bunch, means that “the gloves are off.” U.S. military forces are now looking for “any opportunity to target the enemies of Afghanistan wherever we find them in the theater.”

With the new authorities, the U.S.-led coalition has been waging a more aggressive war. In 2017, U.S. forces tripled the number of airstrikes against enemy forces. They also helped Afghan security forces intensify offensive operations against the Taliban.

“In the last year, we’ve seen offensive operations, kind of unprecedented over the last few years, by the Afghan security forces,” U.S. General John Nicholson, the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, has commented.

Administration officials acknowledge that they expected the Taliban to respond to the increase in military pressure with more violence. “And so we anticipated this,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said. In March, State Department official Alice Wells remarked that “it will not come as a surprise if we see more terrorist tactics addressed at urban audiences.”

The increase in violence has been devastating for the Afghan people. According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, which tracks civilian casualties, more than 3,400 Afghan civilians have died and more than 6,800 Afghan civilians have been injured in each of the past four years of the war.

Afghan officials quietly acknowledge that about 10,000 Afghan security forces died last year, a significant increase from previous years. Fearing that the publication of the numbers could undermine morale and hinder ongoing recruitment efforts in Afghanistan, the U.S. military has begun censoring the records.

Although U.S. and Afghan officials estimate that about 10,000 Taliban forces were killed in 2017, Gen. Nicholson has said that “enemy casualty rates have been much higher.” Either way, last year’s combined death toll for Afghan combatants is about 20,000 people.

Despite the record death toll, the Trump administration remains committed to its strategy. “Progress and violence coexist in Afghanistan,” Secretary Mattis recently commented.

The U.S. military’s primary objective is to bring at least 80 percent of the Afghan population under the control of the Afghan government. According to a classified study, the Afghan government might prevail in the war if it achieves this goal. “The focus of our military operations is on increasing and expanding population control by the government of Afghanistan,” General Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, told Congress earlier this year.

The Trump administration’s approach is failing. Not only are record numbers of Afghans dying, but the Afghan government has been losing control of the population. In its latest report to Congress, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction confirmed that the Afghan government’s control has dropped from 69 percent in August 2016 to 65 percent in January 2018.

Last year, the U.S. intelligence community largely predicted the failures. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “the political and security situation in Afghanistan will almost certainly deteriorate through 2018 even with a modest increase in military assistance by the United States and its partners.”

Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has said that the war has reached a new low. “After 17 years in Afghanistan the situation is worse than it’s ever been,” Hagel commented earlier this year.

Perhaps the best hope for Afghanistan now lies with a growing Afghan peace movement, which has been calling for an immediate ceasefire and talks to end the war. Not only has it succeeded in getting Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to announce a temporary ceasefire, but the Taliban announced its own ceasefire, leading to a few days of peace and celebrations throughout the country.

“I think President Ghani is responding to and indeed reflecting the desire of a wide cross-section of Afghans… in desiring to see a reduction in violence and a way forward to an end to the conflict,” a senior State Department official said.

The Afghan government plans to maintain the ceasefire for the immediate future, despite the recent decision by Taliban officials to resume fighting.

Edward Hunt writes about war and empire. He has a PhD in American Studies from the College of William & Mary.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , | 2 Comments