Archive | June 17th, 2014

Blaming Obama for Iraq’s Chaos


As Islamic militants gain ground in Iraq, Official Washington’s neocons and the mainstream media are blaming President Obama for ending the U.S. military occupation, but they ignore their own role in destabilizing Iraq with the 2003 invasion

Former President George W. Bush speaking on the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003. (Reuters/Larry Downing)After Islamic militants captured the major Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday, the danger of Official Washington’s false narratives again asserted itself, a direct consequence of the failure to enforce any meaningful accountability on the neocons and others who pushed the Iraq War.

The emerging neocon-preferred narrative is that the jihadist victory in the northern city of Mosul and the related mess in neighboring Syria are the fault of President Barack Obama for not continuing the U.S. military occupation of Iraq indefinitely and for not intervening more aggressively in Syria’s civil war.

For instance, the New York Times on Wednesday wrote that “the swift capture of large areas of [Mosul] by militants aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria represented a climactic moment on a long trajectory of Iraq’s unraveling since the withdrawal of American forces at the end of 2011.”

What is perhaps most striking about such accounts, which are appearing across the major U.S. media, is that the narrative doesn’t go back to the most obvious starting point: President George W. Bush’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was that invasion and the ensuing occupation that hurtled Iraq and – to an extent – Syria into their current chaos.

Bush’s invasion, which was justified by bogus claims about Iraq hiding weapons of mass destruction, was in clear violation of international law, lacking the explicit approval of the United Nations Security Council. Yet, even after the WMD falsehoods were exposed and the body counts soared, there was almost no accountability enforced either on the public officials who carried out the aggressive war or on the opinion leaders who rationalized it.

In many cases, the same pundits and pols continue to shape U.S. public opinion today and are dominating the narratives on Iraq and Syria. Thus, there is almost no attention to the fact that before the U.S. overthrow (and subsequent hanging) of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, there was no al-Qaeda threat in Iraq or Syria.

That threat emerged only after the U.S. invasion and the Bush administration’s rash decision to disband the Iraqi army. Then, as U.S. forces fought to crush Sunni resistance to Iraq’s new U.S.-backed Shiite-dominated government, Iraq became a magnet for Sunni extremists from across the Middle East, a force that coalesced into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Yet, the great divide in the Iraq War narrative came in 2007-08 when the neocons sought to salvage their blood-spattered reputations by inserting the myth of the “successful surge,” hailing Bush’s decision to escalate the war by dispatching some 30,000 additional U.S. troops. Though the “surge” initially was accompanied by a surge in killing, the gradual reduction in the violence was cited as proof of Bush’s heroic wisdom.

Other explanations for the decline in Iraqi violence were ignored, including the fact that some key policies, such as buying-off Sunni tribes in Anbar Province and applying high-tech methods for hunting down al-Qaeda leaders, were initiated before the surge although their impact only became clear later. And, the violence also subsided because the Iraqi people finally recognized that a timetable was being set for the removal of all U.S. troops, a process completed in 2011.

However, across Official Washington, the simplistic – and self-serving — conventional wisdom was that the “surge” was the sole explanation for the drop in the killings, a myth that had lethal consequences in 2009 when pro-surge hardliners, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Gen. David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton maneuvered President Obama into adopting a similar “surge” in Afghanistan.

The Unsuccessful Surges

It should now be clear that neither “surge” was successful in altering the strategic arc of those two conflicts. At best, one could say that the military “surges” – paid for by about 1,000 U.S. military deaths each and many tens of billions of dollars – bought time for Bush and his neocon advisers to depart the government before the ultimate failures of their war polices became obvious, a “decent interval” that now has enabled these war architects to reframe the narrative and shift the blame to Obama.

The new narrative, which you can find across the media spectrum, is that Obama is to blame for the unfolding disaster in Iraq because he didn’t insist on continuing the U.S. military occupation indefinitely. He’s also being blamed for the spread of Islamic militancy in Syria because he resisted demands from Official Washington’s opinion leaders for a major U.S. intervention aimed at overthrowing Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

Thus, the same U.S. news media that fumes over speculation that Russia may somehow be aiding separatists in eastern Ukraine and sputters about Moscow’s violations of international law has been openly lusting for an expanded U.S. military intervention in Syria in clear violation of international law.

Though U.S. assistance to Syrian rebels has so far been limited to light arms and non-lethal supplies, U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey have been the principal supporters of radical Sunni jihadists who have flocked from around the Middle East to wage war against Syria’s government, which is run by Assad, an Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Regarding Syria, Official Washington’s narrative is that if only Obama had intervened earlier in support of “moderate” rebels or if he had launched a full-scale bombing campaign last summer as he threatened, everything would have worked out just wonderfully – Assad would be gone and “moderates” would be governing Syria.

The fact that none of the U.S. interventions in the Middle East have had such a happy ending doesn’t deter this latest “group think” on Syria.

Besides the bloody examples of Iraq and Afghanistan, there is the case of Libya where Obama acceded to the demands of his war hawks, including Secretary Clinton and now-Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power. He committed U.S. air power to remove Muammar Gaddafi (who was later captured and murdered), only to see Libya descend into chaos, violence that has fed Islamic radicalism (including the lethal attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012) and has spread to Mali and other nearby African countries.

Obama’s Real Failure

If Obama is to be criticized for his handling of the Middle East, it would make more sense to excoriate him for not making a clean break with the neocon strategies of the Bush years and for not purging the U.S. government of hawks who are too eager to use military force.

Rather than adopt realistic approaches toward achieving political solutions, Obama has often caved in when confronted with pressure from Official Washington’s still influential neocons and the mainstream media that follows their lead.

For instance, Obama could accept help from Iran and Russia in achieving a negotiated settlement of the Syrian civil war but that would require him getting down off his high horse about how “Assad must go.” This month’s Syrian elections – despite their shortcomings – showed that Assad retains significant public support from the Alawites, Shiites, Christians, secularists, and even some Sunnis.

But a workable peace negotiation also would require Obama to acknowledge that Shiite-ruled Iran has legitimate interests in the region, and he might have to shake hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the current bete noire of all the smart people in Washington.

Rather than dealing with the real world where the United States might have to settle for the best of the worst options, there are signs that Obama is again falling in line with the preferred neocon strategy of expanded U.S. military assistance to Syria’s supposedly “moderate” opposition, thus widening and prolonging the civil war and resulting in more chaos and death.

The notion that Syria’s “moderates” can somehow fight a two-front war against both Assad’s army and the Islamists who have been the most effective force against Assad has become the latest wishful thinking of Official Washington’s best and brightest, similar to their earlier certainty that the U.S. invading army in Iraq would be greeted with flowers and candies.

As the Washington Post’s David Ignatius – often a mouthpiece for U.S. intelligence – put it on Wednesday, “The administration is finally developing a serious strategy for Syria, which will include a CIA-trained guerrilla army to fight both President Bashar al-Assad and al-Qaeda extremists. In addition, (if skittish Arab allies agree), U.S. Special Operations forces will train Free Syrian Army units to create a stabilization force for liberated areas. If the ambitious plan moves forward, the hope is to train 9,600 fighters by the end of this year.”

Similar delusional thinking about a two-front war has been at the forefront of the State Department’s deliberations on Syria. Ex-U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford wrote on the  New York Times’ op-ed page on Wednesday, “with partner countries from the Friends of Syria group like France, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, we must ramp up sharply the training and material aid provided to the moderates in the armed opposition.”

But it has been Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia that have been most directly implicated in helping al-Qaeda-linked jihadists to flood Syria in the first place. Their thinking was that it would be better to have Sunni extremists controlling Syria than Assad because the Sunni powers and Israel see the spread of Iran’s regional influence as their greatest threat. [See’sIsrael Sides with Syrian Jihadists.”]

There is also the question of whether there remains any real nucleus of “moderate” Syrian rebels who could carry out this two-front war. Last September, 11 leading rebel groups repudiated the U.S.-backed civilian opposition and sided with al-Qaeda-connected Islamists in their demands for a religious state to replace Assad’s more secular regime.

The New York Times reported then that the rebel groups were “distancing themselves from the exile opposition’s call for a democratic, civil government to replace Mr. Assad” and urging “all military and civilian groups in Syria to ‘unify in a clear Islamic frame.’” [See’s Syria Rebels Embrace Al-Qaeda.”]

Going back at least to 2003, this more complete – and more troubling – narrative would better inform the debate that Official Washington should be having about the twin crises in Iraq and Syria, a discussion that should not shy away from the devastating role that the neocons have played in undermining real U.S. interests in the Middle East and around the world.

However, if you rely on the mainstream media, you can look forward to the more truncated narrative, the one that the neocons prefer, the one that starts in 2011 and pins the blame on President Obama.

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Uncle Sam Doesn’t Want You — He Already Has You


The militarized realities of Fortress America

(Library of Congress)I spent four college years in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and then served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force.  In the military, especially in basic training, you have no privacy.  The government owns you.  You’re “government issue,” just another G.I., a number on a dogtag that has your blood type and religion in case you need a transfusion or last rites.  You get used to it.  That sacrifice of individual privacy and personal autonomy is the price you pay for joining the military.  Heck, I got a good career and a pension out of it, so don’t cry for me, America.

But this country has changed a lot since I joined ROTC in 1981, was fingerprinted, typed for blood, and otherwise poked and prodded. (I needed a medical waiver for myopia.)  Nowadays, in Fortress America, every one of us is, in some sense, government issue in a surveillance state gone mad.

Unlike the recruiting poster of old, Uncle Sam doesn’t want you anymore — he already has you.  You’ve been drafted into the American national security state.  That much is evident from Edward Snowden’s revelations. Your email?  It can be read.  Your phone calls?  Metadata about them is being gathered.  Your smartphone?  It’s a perfect tracking device if the government needs to find you.  Your computer?  Hackable and trackable.  Your server?  It’s at their service, not yours.

Many of the college students I’ve taught recently take such a loss of privacy for granted.  They have no idea what’s gone missing from their lives and so don’t value what they’ve lost or, if they fret about it at all, console themselves with magical thinking — incantations like “I’ve done nothing wrong, so I’ve got nothing to hide.”  They have little sense of how capricious governments can be about the definition of “wrong.”

Consider us all recruits, more or less, in the new version of Fortress America, of an ever more militarized, securitized country.  Renting a movie?  Why not opt for the first Captain Americaand watch him vanquish the Nazis yet again, a reminder of the last war we truly won?  Did you head for a baseball park on Memorial Day?  What could be more American or more innocent?  So I hope you paid no attention to all those camouflaged caps and uniforms your favorite players were wearing in just another of an endless stream of tributes to our troops and veterans.

Let’s hear no whining about militarized uniforms on America’s playing fields.  After all, don’t you know that America’s real pastime these last years has been war and lots of it?

Be a Good Trooper

Think of the irony.  The Vietnam War generated an unruly citizen’s army that reflected an unruly and increasingly rebellious citizenry.  That proved more than the U.S. military and our ruling elites could take.  So President Nixon ended the draft in 1973 and made America’s citizen-soldier ideal, an ideal that had persisted for two centuries, a thing of the past.  The “all-volunteer military,” the professionals, were recruited or otherwise enticed to do the job for us.  No muss, no fuss, and it’s been that way ever since.  Plenty of war, but no need to be a “warrior,” unless you sign on the dotted line.  It’s the new American way.

But it turned out that there was a fair amount of fine print in the agreement that freed Americans from those involuntary military obligations.  Part of the bargain was to “support the pros” (or rather “our troops”) unstintingly and the rest involved being pacified, keeping your peace, being a happy warrior in the new national security state that, particularly in the wake of 9/11, grew to enormous proportions on the taxpayer dollar.  Whether you like it or not, you’ve been drafted into that role, so join the line of recruits and take your proper place in the garrison state.

If you’re bold, gaze out across the increasingly fortified and monitored borders we share with Canada and Mexico.  (Remember when you could cross those borders with no hassle, not even a passport or ID card?  I do.)  Watch for those drones, home from the wars and already hovering in or soon to arrive in your local skies — ostensibly to fight crime.  Pay due respect to your increasingly up-armored police forces with their automatic weapons, their special SWAT teams, and their converted MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles).  These vintage Iraqi Freedom vehicles are now military surplus given away or sold on the cheap to local police departments.  Be careful to observe their draconian orders for prison-like “lockdowns” of your neighborhood or city, essentially temporary declarations of martial law, all for your safety and security.

Be a good trooper and do what you’re told.  Stay out of public areas when you’re ordered to do so.  Learn to salute smartly.  (It’s one of the first lessons I was taught as a military recruit.)  No, not that middle-finger salute, you aging hippie.  Render a proper one to those in authority.  You had best learn how.

Or perhaps you don’t even have to, since so much that we now do automatically is structured to render that salute for us.  Repeated singings of “God Bless America” at sporting events.  Repeated viewings of movies that glorify the military.  (Special Operations forces are a hot topic in American multiplexes these days from Act of Valor to Lone Survivor.)  Why not answer the call of duty by playing militarized video games like Call of Duty?  Indeed, when you do think of war, be sure to treat it as a sport, a movie, a game.

Surging in America 

I’ve been out of the military for nearly a decade, and yet I feel more militarized today than when I wore a uniform.  That feeling first came over me in 2007, during what was called the “Iraqi surge” — the sending of another 30,000 U.S. troops into the quagmire that was our occupation of that country. It prompted my first article for TomDispatch.  I was appalled by the way our civilian commander-in-chief, George W. Bush, hid behind the beribboned chest of his appointed surge commander, General David Petraeus, to justify his administration’s devolving war of choice in Iraq.  It seemed like the eerie visual equivalent of turning traditional American military-civilian relationships upside down, of a president who had gone over to the military.  And it worked.  A cowed Congress meekly submitted to “King David” Petraeus and rushed to cheer his testimony in support of further American escalation in Iraq.

Since then, it’s become a sartorial necessity for our presidents to don military flight jacketswhenever they address our “warfighters” as a sign both of their “support” and of the militarization of the imperial presidency.  (For comparison, try to imagine Matthew Brady taking a photo of “honest Abe” in the Civil War equivalent of a flight jacket!)  It is now de rigueur for presidents to praise American troops as “the finest military in world history” or, as President Obama typically said to NBC’s Brian Williams in an interview from Normandy last week, “the greatest military in the world.”  Even more hyperbolically, these same troops are celebrated across the country in the most vocal way possible as hardened “warriors” andbenevolent freedom-bringers, simultaneously the goodest and the baddest of anyone on the planet — and all without including any of the ugly, as in the ugliness of war and killing.  Perhaps that explains why I’ve seen military recruitment vans (sporting video game consoles) at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.  Given that military service is so beneficent, why not get the country’s 12-year-old prospects hopped up on the prospect of joining the ranks?

Too few Americans see any problems in any of this, which shouldn’t surprise us.  After all, they’re already recruits themselves.  And if the prospect of all this does appall you, you can’t even burn your draft card in protest, so better to salute smartly and obey.  A good conduct medal will undoubtedly be coming your way soon.

It wasn’t always so.  I remember walking the streets of Worcester, Massachusetts, in my freshly pressed ROTC uniform in 1981.  It was just six years after the Vietnam War ended in defeat and antiwar movies like Coming HomeThe Deer Hunter, and Apocalypse Now were still fresh in people’s minds.  (First Blood and the Rambo stab-in-the-back myth wouldn’t come along for another year.)  I was aware of people looking at me not with hostility, but with a certain indifference mixed occasionally with barely disguised disdain.  It bothered me slightly, but even then I knew that a healthy distrust of large standing militaries was in the American grain.

No longer.  Today, service members, when appearing in uniform, are universally applauded and repetitiously lauded as heroes.

I’m not saying we should treat our troops with disdain, but as our history has shown us, genuflecting before them is not a healthy sign of respect.  Consider it a sign as well that we really are all government issue now.

Shedding a Militarized Mindset

If you think that’s an exaggeration, consider an old military officer’s manual I still have in my possession.  It’s vintage 1950, approved by that great American, General George C. Marshall, Jr., the man most responsible for our country’s victory in World War II.  It began with this reminder to the newly commissioned officer: “[O]n becoming an officer a man does not renounce any part of his fundamental character as an American citizen.  He has simply signed on for the post-graduate course where one learns how to exercise authority in accordance with the spirit of liberty.”  That may not be an easy thing to do, but the manual’s aim was to highlight the salutary tension between military authority and personal liberty that was the essence of the old citizen’s army.

It also reminded new officers that they were trustees of America’s liberty, quoting an unnamed admiral’s words on the subject: “The American philosophy places the individual above the state.  It distrusts personal power and coercion.  It denies the existence of indispensable men.  It asserts the supremacy of principle.”

Those words were a sound antidote to government-issue authoritarianism and militarism — and they still are.  Together we all need to do our bit, not as G.I. Joes and Janes, but as Citizen Joes and Janes, to put personal liberty and constitutional principles first.  In the spirit of Ronald Reagan, who told Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this [Berlin] wall,” isn’t it time to begin to tear down the walls of Fortress America and shed our militarized mindsets?  Future generations of citizens will thank us, if we have the courage to do so.

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Iraq Is a Place Where Americans Suffered


CNN suggested that the trouble in Mosul started when the US “left the Iraqis on their own.” (cc photo DoD/Jason Robertson)The invasion of the major Iraqi city of Mosul by the Sunni militant group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has US reporters recalling the Iraq War–and showing once again how they see that deadly conflict mostly through the prism of US sacrifice and suffering.

On ABC World News (6/10/14), Martha Raddatz declared that “Mosul was once a focal point of America’s fight to bring peace and stability to this country.” It is hard to imagine many Iraqis would think of the Iraq invasion as an effort to bring peace, but this is not a new approach for ABC. When militants seized control of Fallujah in January, ABC‘s Terry Moran spoke of  “a decade of US-led war to plant democracy in Iraq” (Extra!2/14).

Raddatz went on to talk about ab out how more than 200 Americans had “given their lives to secure this city,” and that Mosul “is just the latest city to spiral out of control after the US pulled out”–which might suggest that Iraqi cities were in fine shape when they were occupied by US troops.

Her report closed: “So 11 years after the US invaded Iraq–lost nearly 4,500 American lives and spent over $730 billion–Iraq is in crisis.”

Iraq is in crisis not in spite of the US war, but because of it. And it’s beyond perverse to frame the ongoing catastrophe in Iraq through the prism of US suffering, as if Iraqi lives are of secondary concern. According to the most comprehensive study (PLOS Medicine,10/15/13), approximately half a million Iraqis lost their lives as a result of the Iraq War–a hundred times the number of Americans killed there.

Still, US news programs tended to focus on US deaths, ignoring or downplaying the much larger number of Iraqis killed in the war the US launched. As NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams (6/10/14) put it, “After all the American lives there were lost, all those who came home grievously wounded, Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, has now fallen under the control of an Al-Qaeda offshoot. ” And CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley told viewers (6/10/14), “Another major piece of what America fought for in Iraq was lost today.”

And here’s CNN host Wolf Blitzer (6/10/14):

This is heartbreaking. The United States spent 10 years there. We assumed that Iraq would emerge a peaceful, stable democracy after the hundreds of billions of dollars the US invested, the 4,500 US troops killed, tens of thousands who came home without arms or legs or burned, post-traumatic stress, and look at this disaster.

Blitzer was interviewing Peter Brookes of the right-wing Heritage Foundation, who refused to concede that the war was a mistake because Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. “We didn’t know that at the time,” he told Blitzer–which of course depends on who “we” are. But it’s not as if Brookes thinks US government should avoid blame–just not the Bush administration: “The real blunder is when the Obama administration got out in 2009 and left the Iraqis on their own.”

Brookes goes on to reject arguments about starting the Iraq War based on hindsight, since it’s clearly not fair to re-assess Iraq based on what politicians know now about how the war would go. At one point, Brookes says that predictions are difficult–it’s “especially hard about the future, right?”

But right before the Iraq War started, it wasn’t so hard. In fact, Brookes told CNN (3/5/03) that the Iraq War was “going to last a couple of weeks.”

He was wrong, of course–but he’s still an Iraq expert in the corporate media.

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Friendly? All Deaths Are Shameful in a War That Shouldn’t Be


U.S. soldier makes a radio call in this battlefield file photo. (Credit: DoD photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway, U.S. Air Force)Twenty-four hours after reading the news that five U.S. soldiers were killed in yet another friendly fire incident in Afghanistan, I fear this response is already old news.

And it is old news, Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire 10 years ago last April. It has been 12-years since the first friendly fire incident occurred in Afghanistan, when an American fighter pilot dropped a 225-kilogram laser-guided bomb on four Canadian soldiers in what is known as the Tarnak Farm incident.” 

It has been said countless times that friendly fire is an inevitable fact of war. Time called the friendly fire incident that happened on Monday in Afghanistan, “a curse of the technologically advanced”   A curse is something that is out of the control of the alleged cursed. The US is in complete control of its actions in Afghanistan. What we need to start saying and hearing is, ‘friendly fire is an unnecessary fact during unnecessary wars.‘

There have been 25 officially reported friendly fire incidents since 2001 in Afghanistan.  However, after the cover up of Pat Tillman’s death we can only assume there have been more. This officially reported number does not include the unspecified number of innocent Afghans who have been killed or captured and sent to Guantanamo indefinitely as a result of bad U.S. intelligence, outright negligence, or war crimes. Anand Gopal reports extensively on this largely unacknowledged number in his latest book No Good Men Among the Living. The capture and detention of innocent Afghans is something I can attest to firsthand.

US taxpayers have spent $557 billion between 2001 and 2011 on the war in Afghanistan, as Gopal reports in his bookMost of this money was spent after the Taliban had surrendered, and al-Qaeda had fled to Pakistan following the initial US invasion in 2001.  In light of these facts polls now show that only 14% of Americans have a favorable view of the war in Afghanistan.

Declaring a war unnecessary and thus unjust does not diminish the sacrifices of the young soldiers who died in them. Most soldiers do the best with the information they are given by their chain of command and the media they are exposed to. However, 12 years into this war there is little justification for any US soldier to be fighting in Afghanistan. Thus there is no excuse or inevitability in these ongoing friendly fire incidents.

If we don’t label something by its real name then it will happen again. What is happening in Afghanistan is imperialism not self-defense. Those who continue to die in friendly fire incidents in Afghanistan do so unnecessarily.

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Palestinian boy’s autopsy: wounds consistent with live ammunition

Israeli military denies using live rounds on the day Nadeem Nawara and Mohammad Salameh were killed at demonstration.
Wounded Palestinian protester

A wounded Palestinian protester is carried during clashes with Israeli troops near Israel’s Ofer prison. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

A postmortem examination of the exhumed body of one of two Palestinian teenagers killed by Israeli forces at a demonstration last month has reportedly identified wounds consistent with live ammunition, despite the Israeli military’s denial that it used live rounds that day.

The killings of 17-year-old Nadeem Nawara and 16-year-old Mohammad Salameh caused international outrage and calls from the US for a full investigation after their deaths were caught on video camera footage that made clear the boys posed no threat to Israeli forces at the time of their deaths.

This week Human Rights Watch issued a report suggesting that the killing of the two boys was a war crime. “The wilful killing of civilians by Israeli security forces as part of the occupation is a war crime,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, the group’s Middle East and North Africa director.

Israel has a responsibility to prosecute the forces who targeted these teens, and also those responsible for assigning the use of live ammunition to police a demonstration.”

Israeli security forces have consistently denied that border police present at the Nakba Day demonstration used live ammunition, insisting only plastic-coated steel rounds were used. It said it was continuing its investigation.

According to leaks from the autopsy team, forensic scientists identified entry and exit wounds as well as bullet fragments in Nadeem’s body consistent with live ammunition.

Nadeem’s family had sought permission from religious authorities to have the boy’s body exhumed and examined on Wednesday by a joint forensic team, including the head of the Palestinian forensic institute and two senior Israeli forensic scientists.

Although Nadeem’s father, Siam, told the Guardian on Wednesday that he had not received an official autopsy report, details began leaking out later in the evening.

According to Israeli military sources quoted by Israel’s Channel 10, one possibility under examination was that officers interviewed over the killings had lied to military investigators about the fact that live rounds had not been deployed.

The wounds identified by the forensic scientists were said to be consistent with images taken at the hospital and seen by local NGOs showing an exit wound in Nadeem’s back from a bullet that had entered his chest close to his nipple.

The case gained international prominence because the video footage of the two teenagers’ fatal wounding appeared to clearly demonstrate that neither of the boys posed a threat to Israeli soldiers at the time they were targeted, and that one was walking away from Israeli troops when he was shot.

Anonymous senior Israeli military officials quoted in the local media attempted in the aftermath of the killings to suggest the footage had been forged or a mystery Palestinian gunmen had actually killed the boys – shooting four rounds over a period of more than two hours, apparently without being noticed by several dozen Israeli soldiers and police.

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Use of Live Ammunition Confirmed in Nawarah Shooting


Wounded Palestinian protester

After undertaking an autopsy of the body of Nadim Nawarah, 17, on Wednesday, forensic pathologists have determined that a live bullet was the cause of his death. The Palestinian teenager was killed by Israeli forces on May 15 during clashes in the West Bank town of Beitunia. The autopsy, which was undertaken at Al-Quds University’s Institute of Forensic Medicine in Abu Dis, revealed the entry and exit wounds caused by the bullet, as well as recovering metallic fragments, which are presumed to be lead from the bullet’s core.

Chief Palestinian pathologist, Dr. Saber al-Aalul, conducted the autopsy in the presence of two Israeli forensic pathologists, Dr. Chen Kugel and Dr. Ricardo Nachman, from the National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Abu Kabir, and two international forensic pathologists from the U.S. and Denmark. At the request of the Nawarah family, Al Haq, Defense for Children International-Palestine, Physicians for Human Rights, and B’Tselem coordinated the attendance of the international forensic pathologists.

Responding to the conclusions of the autopsy, the four non-government organizations stated: “These findings underline the urgency of our demand that the criminal investigation into the Beitunia killings be conducted efficiently and concluded promptly. Rather than attempting to discredit those who called for an investigation, the Israeli military should now focus on uncovering the truth about the shootings, and holding those responsible to account.” Nawarah’s body was exhumed for the autopsy with his family’s consent. The family also provided the Palestinian prosecutor’s office with the bullet recovered from Nawarah’s backpack, which he was wearing at the time of his death. Israeli forces have consistently denied that live ammunition was employed during the incident, maintaining that only rubber-coated metal bullets and tear gas canisters were used.

The autopsy findings, however, rule out a rubber bullet injury as the cause of death. The full autopsy report will include an assessment of the bullet’s trajectory. The family of Muhammad Salameh (Abu Daher), 16, the second victim killed during the clashes on May 15, declined an autopsy. Field research and medical evidence, however, strongly suggest that he too was shot with live ammunition.

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Detainees at Pinal County Jail Demand ICE End Detention Contract


Advocates Stand With Detainees to Denounce Inhumane Conditions

Earlier this week, 150 men detained at the Pinal County Jail (PCJ) in Florence, Arizona signed and released a letter documenting the facility’s deplorable conditions and calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to end its detention contract with the jail. Approximately 70 men at the jail also began a hunger strike to protest the conditions at the jail. As of Wednesday, June 11, the men suspended their hunger strike, as ICE has committed to review their demands.

In their letter, the men document abuses including no contact visits with family, no outdoor recreation, verbal abuse and failure to accommodate religious needs. The letter from the men states in part:

“We believe ICE puts us in this county jail as punishment and in discrimination to us. It is a form of mental and psychological torture to put us in this jail so detainees don’t fight their cases and just give up and get deported. And indeed, many detainees choose not to fight their cases than to be incarcerated in these conditions […] We are humans and have rights, our families should not be separated and destroyed due to this money making scheme ICE has with Pinal County jail.”

While ICE officials and the agency’s detention standards describe immigration detention as non-punitive, conditions at PCJ can only be described as extreme and abusive. In addition to the letters sent by people detained at the jail over many years, serious and persistent human rights violations have been well-documented by the ACLU of Arizona, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the University of California Davis School of Law, Human Rights First, and the Detention Watch Network.

ICE currently maintains a contract with Pinal County for 625 detention beds, part of the nationwide 34,000 detention bed quota. This unprecedented quota guarantees the need for detention and essentially forces the use of facilities that have poor track records like PCJ.

Earlier this year, Pinal County submitted a letter to ICE demanding an increase in the rate they receive for detaining immigrants. Given the extensive documentation of substandard and abusive conditions, advocates call on ICE to end its immigration detention contract with the county.

The Arizona advocacy groups, which include the ACLU of Arizona, Corazón de Tucson, Puente Movement, Southside Worker Center, Rainbow Defense Fund, Casa Mariposa, the Restoration Project and Protection Network Coalition encourage community members to support the men detained at PCJ by signing a public petition directed to ICE available here.

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Government ‘Needs More Time’ to Explain Kenya Torture Role



UK officials have delayed responding to allegations that they were complicit in the torture and sentencing to death of a Kenyan tribesman.

Lawyers for the Home Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Metropolitan Police exceeded their deadline to respond to pre-action letters from legal charity Reprieve and law firm Leigh Day. The letters relate to their involvement in the death sentence handed to Ali Babitu Kololo, a 35-year-old father of two from a village in Lamu, Kenya.

Mr Kololo was sentenced to death for robbery with violence by a Kenyan court in August 2013 after he was tortured by local police into ‘confessing’ to leading kidnappers to the camp where the 2011 kidnapping of British tourist Judith Tebbutt, and the murder of her husband David took place.

Following the sentencing, British officials from the Metropolitan Police and Foreign Office praised the “great skill and tenacity” of the British police team, calling the outcome “welcome” and a “positive development”.

Reprieve and Leigh Day are seeking a judicial review of the official UK support for the Kenyan investigation. A letter sent to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, head of the Metropolitan Police, says: “The support provided by the British authorities to the prosecution in Mr Kololo’s case was unlawful […] The unfairness is particularly acute in a context where it entails a real risk to an individual’s life, as it did in the present case.”

This week, lawyers for the Metropolitan Police declined to respond to the allegations by their own deadline of 9 June, while the Home Office and Foreign Office recently asked for a further three weeks.

Maya Foa, head of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “There is strong evidence that Mr Kololo is innocent of this crime. The fact that the British government supported his unfair trial and sentencing to death is alarming enough – but the government’s failure to respond to questions in a timely manner suggests a dangerous reluctance to be held accountable for its actions, all while Ali Kololo languishes on death row. The Home Office, FCO and the Met must respond to these very serious allegations without delay.”

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Torture in American Prisons: Class Action Law Suit Approved


Glen Ford: The media has focused on Taliban torture but ignores more than 80,000 prisoners held in solitary confinement across the United States.

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Protesters Clash with Police in Brazil – Dave Zirin on World Cup 2014


Author of “Dancing with The Devil”, on why Brazilian protesters are fighting against the sport they love






Dave Zirin is author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, the Olympics, and the Fight for Democracy. Named one of UTNE Reader’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Our World”, Zirin writes about the politics of sports for the Nation Magazine.

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