Archive | June 26th, 2014

Heed the Voices for Peace Amid the Tragedy of Iraq


A sign seen at a 2007 anti-war protest. (Photo: Thiago Santos/cc/flickr)It didn’t take long this week for the architects of the disastrous U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq to apply their makeup and jump before the cable news television cameras. The militia group known as ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has swept across Iraq, conquering city after city and stopping short of Baghdad in what has been described as a “lightning advance,” summarily executing people in its wake. ISIS emerged from the festering civil war in Syria, and has exploited the instability in that country, along with the weak and famously corrupt central Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. With just several thousand armed troops, ISIS has managed to rout the Iraqi army with its hundreds of thousands of soldiers trained and equipped by the U.S. occupying forces at U.S. taxpayer expense.

Cronies of George W. Bush, like Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol and Paul Bremer, have been given airtime on the networks and space in the opinion pages to lambast President Barack Obama for the current crisis in Iraq. These pundits and politicians are no less wrong today than they were when selling the Iraq War back in 2003.

One person who knows something about the region, and who is heard far too little in the U.S. media, is Lakhdar Brahimi. He recently stepped down as the United Nations-Arab League special envoy for Syria. He worked for two years in that position, overseeing the Geneva talks aimed at bringing peace to Syria. He resigned after recognizing the abject failure of the peace process.

When interviewed this week on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, he repeated a warning he has been voicing: “The situation in Syria is like an infected wound: If it is not treated properly, it will spread. And this is what is happening.” At 80 years of age, Brahimi is a man with wide experience. An Algerian freedom fighter against the French occupation, he would later become Algeria’s foreign minister, then a U.N. envoy in numerous conflict areas, including Haiti, South Africa and Afghanistan. He is a member of “The Elders,” a group of retired diplomats recruited by Nelson Mandela to work globally for peace. I asked Brahimi what he felt was the greatest mistake made by the U.S. in Iraq since the 2003 invasion. Using the careful language of a career diplomat, he said: “The biggest mistake was to invade Iraq. Having invaded Iraq, I would be probably very, very unfair, but I am tempted to say that every time there was a choice between something right and something wrong, not very often the right option was taken.”

Brahimi echoes many critics who say the Bush administration erred in dissolving the Iraqi army after the government of Saddam Hussein was toppled. In the decade that has followed, tens of billions of dollars in weapons and military hardware have been sold, leased or given to the Iraqi government from the United States alone. Public notices of the arms deals are scattered across U.S. government websites, but include a rush shipment of 300 Hellfire missiles, along with existing deals for small arms and ammunition, up-armored Humvees, Apache attack helicopters and Iraq’s first shipment of F-16 fighter jets. All these weapons are en route to the Maliki government, which is widely condemned for alienating the Sunni population in Iraq, sowing sectarianism and conflict.

President Obama has ordered the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier and two guided-missile destroyers into the Persian Gulf. While he initially stated that there would be no U.S. military “boots on the ground,” at least 275 military personnel were deployed to protect the sprawling U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s so-called Green Zone, as well as up to 100 special operations troops. The Maliki government has called on Obama to launch airstrikes against ISIS forces.

Sami Rasouli is another of those voices not heard in the U.S. media. He is an Iraqi, but came to the United States in the 1970s and became a beloved restaurateur in the Twin Cities of Minnesota for decades. As the occupation descended into chaos in 2004, he sold his restaurant and returned to Iraq full time, founding the group Muslim Peacemaker Teams to help rebuild his country. Speaking from Najaf, Iraq, about the U.S. military, he told me: “I think they should leave the area, not to intervene … and pull out their forces, and let the Arabs and the countries of the area solve their problem. But it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to take some time, but eventually they will figure out a way.”

The voices of Iraqis on the ground and peace activists here at home teach us important lessons. In 2001, it was Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who stood alone on the floor of Congress in opposition to war in retaliation for the attacks of Sept. 11. This week, she tweeted: “Let’s be clear: US is war weary. There is no military solution to sectarian conflict in Iraq.” Then there are the new voices. Her colleague, Hawaii congressmember Colleen Hanabusa, a Buddhist, introduced an amendment to prevent combat operations in Iraq, saying, “I have opposed U.S. involvement in Iraq since 2002, and believe that further military involvement lacks an effective objective or a solid endgame.”

President Obama himself opposed the war in Iraq. He should remember that today.

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Want to Prevent PTSD? End Unbridled US Militarism


(Credit: flickr / cc / scfiasco)Because my 33​-​year-old father was on the verge of embarking for Europe and the allied invasion of Italy, my birth certificate reads: U.S. Army Hospital, Fort Benning, Georgia. When he finally returned, PFC Lee Olson’s decorations included a Purple Heart Medal for ​​shrapnel wounds suffered from a German hand grenade in the Battle of Monte Cassino, one of the longest, bloodiest and most costly land campaigns of World War II.

​After my dad died from a sudden heart attack in 1956, I recall my mother wistfully confiding to me that your “Your father was never the same person after the war.”​ A stoical Scandinavian, this was her cryptic explanation for my dad’s emotional disengagement, frightening impatience, brooding sadness and inability to hold a steady job.​ ​Like so many other spouses of returning vets, she mourned for the prewar husband who remained missing in action.​

“The massive and growing number of severe psychological maladies plaguing our veterans is yet another unconscionable cost of empire.”

​​Perhaps she hoped that one day I’d understand why he could never be the loving father he might have been and after decades of trying to fathom and​ forgive my dad, I finally grasped how the personal had become poignantly political for one unsuspecting 12-year-old boy. In that sense, my mom and I were​ ​undocumented collateral damage.​

​World War II combat veterans rarely if ever gave voice​ ​to what they’d done or witnessed and my father was no exception. My best guess is that his emotional scars would be diagnosed today as chronic or delayed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which the American Psychiatric Association defines this way:

The person has experienced, witnessed or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened deaths or serious injury or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others, and his/her response involved fear, helplessness, or horror.​

Ellen Goosenberg Kent, a close student of PTSD, correctly observes ​“[If] you think PTSD happens because the war is good or​ bad or you come home a hero or a villain, it’s really irrelevant. What’s really relevant is that the experience of war – and experiencing man’s inhumanity to man – causes psychological damage.” Over half of the U.S. casualties in the aforementioned Italian campaign were classified as mental wounds.

​By the war’s end, sixteen million Americans had served in the​ armed forces but no more than 900,000 soldiers experienced extensive combat. For soldiers consistently in combat for twenty-eight days, the breakdown rate reached 90 percent. Importantly, the stigma and shame attached to any personal revelations caused many members of the “greatest generation” not to seek help. ​Even by the early 1990s, at least 25 percent of WWII veterans remaining in veterans’ hospitals were psychiatric cases.

Some readers might recall Audie Murphy, the most decorated U.S. combat soldier from World War II. Credited with killing 240 of the enemy and awarded the Medal of Honor, Murphy was photographed for the cover of Life Magazine in 1945, feted in parades and acted in 44 Hollywood films including To Hell and Back, based on his war memoirs. Murphy was also a serious war casualty. ​His postwar symptoms included insomnia, nightmares, hypersensitivity to loud noises, depression, and paranoia.  In addition to being addicted to Placidyl, a powerful sleeping pill, Murphy always slept with a loaded pistol next to his bed. At the time of his death in a plane crash in 1971, he was bankrupt after squandering millions of dollars on women, bad investments and gambling. Murphy was also deeply committed to obtaining better mental health care for veterans, including from Korean and Vietnam Wars. Toward that end he courageously broke the taboo on publicly disclosing the chronic mental damage caused by combat duty. Because he was a genuine war hero he couldn’t easily be admonished to “stop whining and get on with your life” or in today’s vernacular, urged to “man up!” That said, it’s instructive that his passing barely drew mention in major media outlets.

My point in this retelling is that although credible evidence​ ​suggests​ that World War II could have been prevented at earlier points, once it began there was no alternative but to defeat a monstrously evil​ enemy. As such, the massive psychiatric casualties experienced by our veterans were a heart-rending but unavoidable cost.

​Here we get to the nub of the matter.​ While there is much to admire about the United States – my freedom to write this piece is certainly one – the post-World War II foreign policy of the country and institutionalized ​military-industrial profiteering that President Eisenhower warned about do not merit inclusion ​on any list of ​​celebrated national attributes. In the 70 years since the necessary war to defeat Hitler’s Third Reich and imperial Japan, I’m unable to cite any plausible cases where U.S. ​Armed Forces or the CIA have been deployed to defend our nation’s ideals, the freedom of ordinary U.S. citizens or any plausible notion of morality.​ Therefore the massive and growing number of severe psychological maladies plaguing our veterans is yet another unconscionable cost of empire.

I​n recent years the V.A. has been overwhelmed with PTSD patients from the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars even though some 50% of those with the symptoms do not seek treatment. This already involves elite U.S. Special Operations forces, members of which operate in 134 countries. ​According to the Pentagon, commandos are experiencing alarming rates of alcoholism, spousal abuse and broken marriages, and rates are expected to climb rapidly ​​due to delayed onset PTSD. ​In the past two and one-half years 49 Special Ops have killed themselves. ​

If we accepted responsibility for the effects of combat on the psyches of our veterans and their families, we would resist allowing any more of our sons and daughters to engage in warfare that lacks an iota of the moral clarity ascribed to World War II.

Finally, it’s obvious to any objective observer that the top 0.1 percent, a permanent plutocracy of inherited wealth holds the reins of power in our country.​ Given that fact, one would hardly expect high level government officials to come clean to suffering vets about the nefarious economic motives that placed them in harm’s way.

And while it’s unclear whether truth telling by the rest of us will help set free the demons hounding the veterans of our recent wars, ending U.S. militarism is the only way to prevent the scourge of soldiers’ PTSD from reappearing in the future.

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In Praise of Michael Hastings: On the Lies and Obfuscations of the March to War in Iraq


Journalist and war correspondent Michael Hastings, who died last year in a car crash in California, in this undated publiclty photo. (Photo: Blue Rider Press / Penguin)Having read his posthumously published novel, I’m sorry I never knew Michael Hastings. That said, I’m not sure I would have wanted to hang out with him. Hastings’s leisure-time pursuits, including the one that appears to have caused his untimely death last year, were a little reckless for my taste.

Nevertheless, anyone interested in the politics of journalism — the politics that led a cavalcade of mainstream journalists and liberal “intellectuals” to support George W. Bush’s mad invasion of Iraq — should read The Last Magazine, which was discovered by Hastings’s widow after he crashed his car and died, in Los Angeles, on June 18 of last year. I can’t stop being angry about the Iraq catastrophe, no matter how much I try to ignore it. It seems to follow me, though I’ve never set foot in the country and didn’t witness any of the ugliness and gore that informed this outraged, satirical, and pornographic express-train of a book.

On June 9, I was in a beautiful, very peaceful part of rural Vermont when I casually picked up the SundayBoston Globe. The front page was quiet enough, but the Associated Press dispatch on page two made me wince — fifty-two people killed in car-bomb attacks in Baghdad and dozens of students taken hostage at Anbar University. Earlier in the day, the city of Mosul, as of this writing in the hands of Sunni rebels, had been the scene of fighting that killed twenty-one police officers and thirty-eight antigovernment militants.

Much of this unrelenting violence is the result of Sunni fury at the repressive Shiite government of Nouri al-Maliki. But the match was lit by Bush and his neoconservative advisers, as well as by their “humanitarian” handmaidens in the media and academia, whose fantasy about a democratic, subservient Iraq continues to pile corpse upon corpse.

Hastings covered post-invasion Iraq for Newsweek beginning in 2005, and something must have torn inside him when his fiancée, Andrea Parhamovich, was ambushed and killed in Baghdad in 2007. Tellingly, Parhamovich was working for the National Democratic Institute, one of those U.S. government-funded do-good front groups that Congress so loves to throw money at while the bloody lessons of bad American foreign policy go unacknowledged. Hastings’s most important legacy, I hope, will be his novel’s savage characterization of just the sort of people who encouraged his fiancée to risk her life in the service of liberal American “ideals.”

In The Last Magazine, Hastings presents himself in the form of two characters, a twenty-something intern-on-the-make actually named Michael M. Hastings, and a crazed, ambitious war correspondent named A. E. Peoria. They both work for a weekly newsmagazine that is obviously the old Newsweek in its waning years of glory. The fictional Michael Hastings is a teetotaler and risk averse — his battleground is the office politics of who’s up and who’s down, who can help his career and who can’t. Peoria is unable to control either his sex-and-pornography addiction or his huge consumption of drugs and alcohol, but he takes chances on real battlefields and is a miserable failure when it comes to ingratiating himself with the powers back at New York headquarters.

The plot builds around the march to war and its immediate aftermath in 2002–2003, and this first third of the novel is its strongest section. As Bush launches his fraudulent propaganda campaign against Saddam Hussein and his “weapons of mass destruction,” we read in amazement as high-profile volunteers from the media fall into line behind the great crusade. If there’s a question about where the author Hastings’s sympathies lie, they disappear in five pages of contemporaneous quotes from real-life writers and politicians interspersed with fictional quotes from the novel’s barely fictional characters. All of them essentially promote the president’s case for preemptive attack, beginning with Dick Cheney and ending with a series of fatuous statements from what Hastings calls “Very Important Thinkers from Very Important and Well-Funded Think Tanks.”

I could quibble about some omissions — most notably, David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, and the Canadian academic and ex-politician Michael Ignatieff — but Hastings’s selection of idiot utterances about Iraq is nearly flawless. Here’s Fareed Zakaria in the realNewsweek: “I believe that the Bush administration is right: this war will look better when it’s over. . . . Weapons of mass destruction will be found.” Then the New York Times’s Thomas Friedman: “This is really bold. . . . Mr. Bush’s audacious shake of the dice appeals to me.” And George Packer in The New York Times Magazine: “These liberal hawks could give a voice to [Bush’s] war aims. . . . They could make the case for war to suspicious Europeans and to wavering fellow Americans.”

Because the novel’s pro-Bush, liberal journalist characters are thinly disguised versions of living, still influential people, one wonders what they might do to undermine Hastings’s story.

But the message I take from The Last Magazine goes beyond the interminable bloodshed in Iraq. Zakaria and Packer, who swallowed and regurgitated the Bush lies, are considered great successes. Michael Hastings . . . well, Michael Hastings is dead.

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World’s Global Refugee Population Highest Since WWII


UNHRC reports that more than 50 million people are displaced, mostly in war-torn regions, across the globe

– Jon Queally

The UN refugee agency releases annual statistics showing that more than 51 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2013, the largest number since the end of World War II. Half of the world’s refugees in 2013 were children. (Photo: UNHRC)The United Nations agency on refugees on Friday announced that the global population of displaced people has surpassed 50 million, numbers not seen since World War II in the middle of last century.

According to the UNHRC’s annual Global Trends report (pdf)—which utilizes data compiled by governments and non-governmental partner organizations as well as its own—shows that 51.2 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2013, fully 6 million more than the 45.2 million reported in 2012.

Strikingly, nearly half of those calculated in the UNHRC’s findings are children.

As the report notes, “if displaced people had their own country it would be the 24th most populous in the world.”

The largest numbers of refugee populations, listed by country:Though more volatile in key hot spots—including Afghanistan, Syria, the Central African Republic and Somalia—the crisis is not isolated as this video released by UNHCR documents:

“We are seeing here the immense costs of not ending wars, of failing to resolve or prevent conflict,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres. “Peace is today dangerously in deficit. Humanitarians can help as a palliative, but political solutions are vitally needed. Without this, the alarming levels of conflict and the mass suffering that is reflected in these figures will continue.”

The nearly unparalleled crisis has largely been caused by the failure of individual nations and the global community at large to bring drawn-out armed conflicts to an end. The scale and widespread nature of the refugee crises, warns the agency, is pushing international NGOs and relief agencies to their breaking points.

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Talk of ‘Third Intifada’ Rises as West Bank Tensions Boil


Bombing of Gaza continues and aggressive raids by the IDF result in two Palestinian deaths overnight

– Jon Queally

The mother of Mohammed Dudin, a 14-year-old Palestinian shot dead by Israeli troops in overnight clashes in Dura, weeps during his funeral in the village south of the West Bank city of Hebron on June 20, 2014. (Photo: AFP)As the death toll rises and clashes mount between Palestinian communities and Israel security forces, the conditions for a widespread street uprising—or intifada—are again taking shape in the occupied West Bank.

Two Palestinians, a teenager and a young man, were killed in separate incidents overnight as violence escalated in the occupied territories with Israeli military units continuing a week of aggressive raids in response to three missing Israeli teenagers who are believed kidnapped.

The Israeli government has said the three missing Israeli teenagers—Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaer and Naftali Frankel—were kidnapped by Hamas, but Hamas leaders deny involvement.

Leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has said that Israel is now using the teenagers’ disappearance as “a pretext to impose tough punishment against [the Palestinian] people” living in the West Bank and Gaza.

As the Ma’an news agency reports:

Israeli forces shot and killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy after clashes erupted early Friday morning during a raid on the southern West Bank village of Dura, near Hebron.

Local sources told Ma’an that Mahmoud Jihad Muhammad Dudeen was struck by live bullets in the chest before being taken to Hebron Governmental Hospital, where he was shortly pronounced dead.

The local sources said Israeli forces opened fire directly on Mahmoud during the clashes which occurred in the Haninia neighborhood of Dura.

The clashes broke out after Israeli forces stormed the village in a dawn raid and began conducting home raids. In response, local youths threw rocks at the soldiers.

Later, Ma’an reported on the second incident which took the life of 22-year-old Mustafa Hosni Aslan, who shot in the head by IDF forces during an IDF raid on the Qalandiya refugee camp south of Ramallah. Three others were also seriously wounded by gunfire.

As seemingly isolated incident now spirals, a not unfamiliar phrase is now creeping back into the fold: Third Intifada.

On Thursday, in response to the IDF raids and threats to expel Hamas members from the West Bank, a senior member of the political faction Salah Bardawil, reportedly said, “We are capable of igniting a third Intifada and this is our irrevocable right. It will go off when enough pressure is exerted on the Palestinian people.”

Conjured mostly in the Israeli press, the idea that the ongoing raids could spark a large-scale uprising among Palestinians in the West Bank is not far-fetched.

However, as Middle East expert and researcher Samer Badawi, writing at the  +972 websiteobserves: “If Israel is hoping to provoke Hamas into launching a barrage of rockets from Gaza, the tactic has so far not worked.”

So far, nearly 300 Palestinians in the West Bank have been arrested as part of the IDF’s crackdown began earlier this week. With the level of violence and tensions within Palestinian communities escalating, new talk is emerging of the possibility of a Third Intifada.

Israel’s air force has also continued to bomb targets in the Gaza Strip, with strikes overnight resulting in injuries to the civilians population in the sealed-off enclave, including children.

According to Haaretz: “Sources in Gaza report that six people, including four children, were lightly wounded by shrapnel resulting from an IAF strike. The airstrike targeted several storage facilities, which according to Palestinian sources served civilian purposes.”

Offering analysis of the overall situation that has resulted from the alleged kidnapping of the young Israeli settlers, Daoud Kuttab, a Palestinian journalist and former professor at Princeton University, says that recent events should not be viewed without the full context of the ongoing occupation in West Bank.

“It is a basic strategic recipe: If you take away hope for a political solution, you have to expect a spike in violence,” argues Kuttab. “Add to this formula a hunger strike by over 100 Palestinians imprisoned without charge or trial, that has lasted almost two months without a single attempt to negotiate or hear the prisoners’ demands and you have trouble.”

He continues:

Search for the missing Israelis is useless if it does not include a serious attempt to address the underlying causes of the violence that is the result of a sense of helplessness and despair.

As Palestinian areas enter the 48th year under a foreign military occupation that has along with it a colonial settler campaign, one should not be surprised by violent acts here and there.

The sooner all parties reflect on the larger lessons of this act the sooner we can begin the process of moving towards independence for Palestinians and security for Israelis.

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House Moves to Rein in NSA ‘Backdoor’ Spying on Americans


Passage of Massie amendment cheered by privacy advocates as step towards curbing surveillance abuses

– Andrea Germanos

A rally in 2013 against NSA spying. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/cc/flickr)The House of Representatives on Thursday approved an effort to rein in government surveillance by passing an amendment that attempts to block so-called “backdoor” searches by the NSA.

The late night vote on the amendment, whose main sponsor was Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), passed 293-123 with overwhelming bipartisan support and little debate.

Massie and amendment co-sponsors Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) called their proposal “a sure step toward shutting the back door on mass surveillance,” and stated that it would “reinstate an important provision that was stripped from the original USA FREEDOM Act to further protect the Constitutional rights of American citizens. Congress has an ongoing obligation to conduct oversight of the intelligence community and its surveillance authorities.”

Specifically, the amendment to the 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act would “prohibit use of funds by an officer or employee of the United States to query a collection of foreign intelligence information acquired under FISA using a United States person identifier except in specified instances.”

In other words, as a group of privacy advocates and tech companies wrote in a letter (pdf) to House members,

the amendment would address the “backdoor search loophole” by prohibiting the use of appropriated funds to enable government agencies to collect and search the communications of U.S. persons without a warrant using section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (50 U.S. C. 1881a), a statute primarily designed to pick up communications of individuals abroad. Although section 702 prohibits the government from intentionally targeting the communications of U.S. persons, it does not impose restrictions on querying those communications if they were inadvertently or incidentally collected under section 702. Moreover, as a result of an apparent change in the NSA’s internal practices in 2011, the NSA is now explicitly permitted under certain circumstances to conduct searches using U.S. person names and identifiers without a warrant.

The amendment would block the Defense Appropriations Bill from funding the NSA to conduct this kind of backdoor search.

Mike Masnick writes at Techdirt that the vote marks

the first time that Congress has overwhelmingly voted to defund an NSA program. Last year’s Amash Amendment came very, very close to defunding a different program (the Section 215 bulk records collection program), but by passing by an overwhelming margin, this vote is a pretty big sign that the House (on both sides of the aisle) is not happy with how the NSA has been spying on Americans. […] it’s also a big slap in the face to the White House and certain members of the House leadership who conspired to water down the USA Freedom Act a few weeks ago, stripping it of a very similar provision to block backdoor searches.

EFF said the vote marked “a great day in the fight to rein in NSA surveillance abuses.” Mark Rumold, staff attorney fir EFF, said in a statement:

The House voted overwhelmingly to cut funding for two of the NSA’s invasive surveillance practices: the warrantless searching of Americans’ international communications, and the practice of requiring companies to install vulnerabilities in communications products or services. We applaud the House for taking this important first step, and we look forward to other elected officials standing up for our right to privacy.

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Bid to Prevent New Iraq War Crushed in House


Amendments championed by Rep. Barbara Lee overwhelmingly defeated as Obama positions for potential strikes

– Sarah Lazare

A sign seen at a 2007 anti-war protest. (Photo: Thiago Santos/cc/flickr)An effort in the House of Representatives to prevent combat operations in Iraq, championed by war critic Rep. Barbara Lee (D–CA), was defeated Thursday night, in what critics warn further clears the path for a new war.

Lee on Thursday introduced amendments to the 2015 Department of Defense appropriations bill to cut off federal funding for a potential renewed war in Iraq and the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq.

“We must not let history repeat itself in Iraq,” Lee declared in a press statement about the amendments. “Because the reality is there is no military solution in Iraq.”

Lee, who issued the only congressional vote against the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force and has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq War since before it started, was defeated on both measures Thursday night, with her bid to cut off funding for combat operations in Iraq rejected 165 to 250, the Hill reports.

Stephen Miles of Win Without War told Common Dreams, “Americans, by wide margins, want to see our troops home from Afghanistan and do not support restarting the Iraq War. Unfortunately, some in Congress seem all too willing to put Americans back into the middle of a civil war in Iraq.”

Lee also introduced an amendment to end the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force—which has been interpreted expansively to justify war in Afghanistan, secret renditions, drone strikes and more—at the end of this year. That measure was defeated 157 to 260.

The defeats came the same day that President Obama announced he is deploying 300 special operations “military advisers” to Iraq, preparing for potential strikes, and increasing intelligence cooperation with the Iraqi government, in what critics warn constitute serious steps towards military attacks, including drone strikes.

“The biggest disappointment is seeing Obama sitting there saying there is no military solution in Iraq while making moves for military intervention,” said Maggie Martin of Iraq Veterans Against the War in an interview with Common Dreams. “It is upsetting that even though the public doesn’t want this and it’s not the will of the people, it feels like we’re powerless to stop it.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee pictured in 2006. (Photo: Team at / Flickr Creative Commons)

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Many Voices, One Call: ‘We Refuse US Military Intervention in Iraq’


From within Iraq and across the world, opponents condemn push for a new US military campaign in war-tattered nation

– Sarah Lazare

Yanar Mohammed, president and co-founder of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, testifies on toxic legacy of U.S. war on Iraq at the People’s Hearing for the Right to Heal in Washington, DC on Wednesday, March 27, 2014. (Photo: Cassidy Regan)”These wars are against women, and women are becoming the first victims.”

These are the words of Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, who has been working with others in Iraq to arrange emergency shelter for women and families fleeing the current violence.

In an interview with Common Dreams from Toronto, where she resides when she’s not at her home in Baghdad, Mohammed emphasized that if the U.S. intervenes militarily, it will be Iraqis—especially women—who will pay the price.

“We refuse [U.S.] military intervention,” she said. “No. Never.”

As violence in Iraq escalates, and President Obama prepares for potential military strikes, Mohammed is among those—from within Iraq and across the world—opposing U.S. air strikes, ground troops, and a new war in Iraq. She is also struggling to provide relief and humanitarian aid on the ground for people caught in Iraq’s uptick in conflict—what she says is one of the many legacies of U.S. occupation.

Organizing for Survival Under Repression and Violence

“There is a humanitarian crisis,” explained Mohammed, of “refugee women who have fled from one part of the country trying to find a safe haven.”

(Image: Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq)

OWFI aims to open houses to provide shelter and assistance to displaced families. Karbala, a city southwest of Baghdad, is a potential location for a relief house, because “there isn’t much sectarian violence and there is security,” Mohammed explained. The organization is also urging supporters in cities surrounded by militant fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to create “safe havens for threatened women” and is working to direct resources towards relief in western cities of the country that are already under threat.

According to Mohammed, however, the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has hampered the OWFI’s efforts to communicate with people affected by the violence.

Earlier this week, the government sent “police and officials” to the OWFI radio station in Baghdad to shut it down. “They threatened that if we broadcast at any point all our property will be confiscated,” said Mohammed. Explaining that the radio station is crucial for keeping in touch with supporters and at-risk women, Mohammed added, “We know [the radio shut-down] is political. They don’t want us to talk on the air.”

“We have had very bad experience with the military coming into our country and running the show the way they like according to  the U.S. government’s interests, not the interests of the Iraqi people.” —Yanar Mohammed, Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq

Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, also spoke with Common Dreamsabout the Maliki government’s history of repression and violence against Iraqis protesting against discrimination and lack of a political voice. “There have been a lot of arrests, attacks, and checkpoints,” explained Bennis. “There have been nonviolent protest encampments in several cities including Ramadi, which were brutally attacked and dismantled last fall.”

She added, “We need to challenge this idea that Iraq has a legitimate government that is fighting terrorist organizations.”

Armed with U.S. weapons, the Maliki government has launched numerous attacks on civilian-populated areas in Anbar province in the name of its military campaign against armed groups. According to a Human Rights Watch report released in late May, this has included, since January, repeated strikes against Fallujah’s main hospital and, since early May, the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in residential neighborhoods. The report notes that ISIS is also guilty of atrocities, including the deliberate targeting of civilians.

The New York Times reported last week that among the approximately 500,000 Iraqis who fled Mosul when it was overrun by ISIS fighters, many of them “seemed less fearful of the beheadings and summary justice that the group is known for than of their own government and the barrage it might unleash in an effort to take the city back.”

Ordinary Iraqis have consistently been victims of violence from both government soldiers and insurgents, including atrocities by ISIS members in Mosul who, “knocked down doors of houses and kidnapped and raped women who were not married,” said Mohammed, referring to reports that women in Mosul have been committing suicide following rape and forced marriage. In these times of violence, she said, it is women who “find themselves responsible of families and of homes.”

“We need to challenge this idea that Iraq has a legitimate government that is fighting terrorist organizations.” —Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies

U.S. Occupation and the Sectarianism it Unleashed

In response to the widespread crisis, the Iraqi government has formally asked the U.S. to launch airstrikes on ISIS and U.S. war hawks who backed the 2003 invasion—including senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and even former Vice President Dick Cheney—have endorsed further and more aggressive military action.

On Thursday Obama announced he was sending 300 special operations “military advisers” tto Iraq and “preparing to take targeted and precise military action if and when we determine situation on ground requires it,” in what some say signals a coming drone war.

Bennis cautioned that the violence in Iraq is a result not of withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011, but the U.S.-led invasion that took place in 2003. She explained:

The ISIS organization started in Iraq around 2003 to challenge the U.S. occupation. When the Syrian civil war began, its fighters moved and it morphed into a Syrian resistance movement and became more extreme as it went. But it was clearly reflecting the sectarian-based political parties and system that the U.S. put in power in Iraq after dissolving the Iraqi military and Iraqi government, which had been the core institutions of secularism and nationalism in Iraq, although they were not democratic.

The U.S. destroyed [the former Iraqi government] and sent home everybody who worked in the government—who was member of Ba’ath party, which was everyone, many of whom joined the party to get a job. When that happened, [it] was replaced by a sectarian-defined political party which eliminated the national identity in Iraq and replaced it with sectarian identity.

Iraq Veterans Against the War marching in Boston, October 2007 (Photo: Jonathan McIntosh / Wikimedia Creative Commons)

Mohammed slammed what she says is a U.S. mainstream media myth that sectarian divides in Iraq are “ancient.” She said, “They are trying to emphasize it to say Iraqis are religious fanatics who are at each other’s necks. When you are an invader who failed to build a democratic state, you need to come up with justifications, or rather new stories based on lies, and this is one of them.”

She added, “We have had very bad experience with the military coming into our country and running the show the way they like according to the U.S. government’s interests, not the interests of the Iraqi people.”

Moment for International Solidarity

“The threat of U.S. military action is the threat to escalate and make everything worse for ordinary people in Iraq,” said Bennis. “Stopping U.S. military intervention is step one. We also need to be demanding real diplomacy.”

Across the U.S., organizations are calling for mass action to stop a new Iraq War, encouraging people to contact the White House and Congress, sign petitions, and protest in the streets.

OWFI, Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and other organizations had already been organizing to address the toxic legacy of over two decades of U.S. military involvement in Iraq. Within Iraq and the United States, this coalition is urging redress and reparations for the U.S. military’s environmental poisoning of Iraq from burn pits as well as depleted uranium weapons deployed by the U.S. in the 1991 and 2003 wars.

Right to Heal on Thursday released a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry demanding an end to “disastrous” U.S. military intervention in the country.

“The many American lives that were lost in Iraq cannot be made meaningful by propping up an unpopular government with violence.” —Ross Caputi, Iraq Veterans Against the War, ISLAH

Many U.S. veterans who participated in the invasion agree. Ross Caputi, a former marine who served in the second siege of Fallujah in 2004, declared in a statement released this week,  “The many American lives that were lost in Iraq cannot be made meaningful by propping up an unpopular government with violence. Any further actions taken by the U.S. to arm the Maliki government in Baghdad or support it through military intervention and airstrikes would be completely unacceptable and immoral, as Iraqi civilians will surely suffer the most.“

In partnership with MADRE, an international women’s human rights group, organizers with OWFI have put out an international call for direct financial support to provide assistance to Iraqi women and families.

When asked how people in the U.S. can show solidarity, Mohammed emphasized the “tremendous need” to question U.S. political backing of a deeply sectarian government and to “empower other groups in society” beyond the current allies. “We want people in the [United States] to ask officials, ‘How come the government in Iraq is not democratic?’ How come a community radio run by a woman’s organization is closed?'”

And then she returned to the “very difficult humanitarian crisis” in cities across Iraq.

“We need to get help to people there,” she said.

The full interview with Yanar Mohammed is available here.

Posted in IraqComments Off on Many Voices, One Call: ‘We Refuse US Military Intervention in Iraq’

The reason why I$raHell killed so many pregnant women in Gaza


Robin Beste

Did Israel kill so many pregnant women in the assault on Gaza in Summer 2014 because they were human shields for unborn ‘terrorists’?

Mother with her dead son

This article was originally published on 16 August 2014.

AFTER FIVE weeks of Israeli bombing and invasion the United Nations reported that the death toll in Gaza was 1,973, 72% of them civilians, including 459 children and 238 women.

Not included in that figure were the nine unborn children that Israel killed.

Three pregnant mothers were among the 25 members of the Abu Jamaa family who were killed on 20 July, when Israeli forces struck a house near Khan Younis, without warning. The dead included 18 children and five women. The family was eating iftar, the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast.

Just as this family was being slaughtered, by an indisputable Israeli war crime, the US secretary of state John Kerry gave an interview in which he said, Israel’s attack on Gaza was an “appropriate and legitimate effort” to defend itself.

A little earlier in the day, Kerry’s boss, President Obama, repeated his “strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself”.

Obama gave this green light to Israel, “after speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu earlier in the day”. Predictably, Netanyahu was soon all over the media crowing about US support for Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment of the most densely populated place on Earth, and announcing that Israel planned to intensify the carnage in Gaza over the coming days.

At a press conference on 3 August, Netanyahu praised the United States for its “terrific support” and Obama for his “unequivocal stand with Israel on our right to defend ourselves”.

Britain’s prime minister David Cameron also spoke regularly to Netanyahu, to whom he repeated “our recognition of Israel’s right to take proportionate action to defend itself”.

Whether it was ‘proportionate’ to kill 459 children, or four boys playing football on a beach, or 25 family members as they sat down for a meal, David Cameron hasn’t said. Was it ‘proportionate to litter the streets of the Shujai’iya dictrict in Gaza City with dozens of bodies of mainly women and children, after it had been effectively carpet-bombed? Was it ‘proportionate’ to bomb hospitals and a home for the disabled? David Cameron didn’t say.

Cameron said he had asked Netanyahu “to do everything to avoid civilian casualties, to exercise restraint”.

This clearly did not include restraining from sending the world’s fifth most powerful military force to invade a tiny area, just 25 miles long and just a few miles wide, into which are crammed 1.8 million people, who have been held captive in a brutal siege for seven years, that has deprived the inhabitants of food, power, access to clean water, a functioning sewage system, medical supplies and other essential resources.

Israel’s justification for killing so many civilians is the claim that Hamas is using civilians as human shields for its rockets and fighters. These same accusations, were made in 2008 and 2009 during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead bombing of Gaza and were found to be without evidence by Amnesty International.

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev has been given free rein by the mainstream media to repeat this accusation, despite journalists like the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen reporting that they “saw no evidence of Hamas using Palestinians as human shields.”

In fact, the human shields’ argument is a complete myth, which is why Israel has produced no evidence to support it. It is the reason Israel gave for the missile attack on a home for the disabled in Beit Lahiya, killing two disabled residents and injuring four others. Jamilla Alaiwa, a 59 year old social worker who founded the home, said,. “If the Israelis have proof of this let them make it public. There was no one from Islamic Jihad or Hamas living there. We are not involved in politics.”

No Palestinian civilian has been found to corroborate Israel’s claim they are being forced by Hamas to become unwilling human shields. Why then, says Israel, do people stay in their homes when we drop leaflets telling them to evacuate because we are about to bomb? Abdullah al-Daweish, a relative of the family of five killed in Khan Younis, explains:

“Where do we go to? Some people moved from the outer edge of Khan Younis to Khan Younis centre after Israelis told them to, then the centre got bombed. People have moved from this area to Gaza City, and Gaza City has been bombed. It’s not Hamas who is ordering us in this, it’s the Israelis.”

The United Nations said on 22 July that 43% of the Gaza population had been affected by evacuation or no-go area warnings from Israel. By the beginning of August, the number of displaced Gaza residents was over half a million.

Over 200,000 Palestinians fled to centres set up by the United Nations. A total of 344 babies were born in UN schools designated as shelters.

But even here they were not safe, with the UN relief agency reporting that six of its facilities, including three schools were struck by Israeli shells. On 22 July at least 15 Palestinians sheltering in a UN school were killed and 200 injured, most of them women and children. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called the attack a war crime. But this didn’t stop Israel attacking another UN school a week later, this time killing a further 17 civilians.

Even the United States, supplier of the shells that did the killing, felt it needed to call the attack “disgraceful”, but at the same time it was rushing arms to Israel as its munitions stocks were running low, so much of it used to devastate Gaza.

The British government was shown to be no slouch either in supplying arms to Israel, when it was revealed that UK manufactured weapons and components were being used in Israel’s current assault, including drone technology that the Israeli airforce described as the “backbone” of its targeting and reconnaissance missions.

With the borders of Gaza sealed by the Israeli and Egyptian siege, no wonder the desperate response from its people — as Israel bombarded the whole area by land, sea and air — was, where else is there for us to go?

Nowhere, is the reply for the two families — eleven people — killed overnight on 23 July. A distraught man told the BBC how his dead relatives there had been relocated twice, first from Beit Hanoun and then from Shujai’iya, areas that received Israeli evacuation orders.

Netanyahu says another reason for so many civilians being killed by Israel, is because Hamas wants to “pile up as many civilian dead as they can to make Israel look bad. They use telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause. They want the more dead, the better.”

Netanyahu was allowed to make this despicable accusation without challenge on the mainstream media news broadcasts. But “the more dead the better” is certainly the view of not a few Israelis, including the member of the Israeli parliament, Ayelet Shaked, who said recently,

“Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

Put a little less graphically, Israeli army major general Oren Shachor, explained: If we kill their families, that will frighten them.”

So, is the reason so many pregnant women were killed in Gaza because Israel believes they were acting as human shields for unborn ‘terrorists’?

When an Israeli air strike killed an expectant mother in the early hours of 23 July, Gaza health officials told the BBC how they tried to rescue the baby from the dead mother, only for the child to die. No doubt two deaths welcomed by Ayelet Shaked and major general Shachor.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, Gaza, Human RightsComments Off on The reason why I$raHell killed so many pregnant women in Gaza

Zio-Nazi would be very happy to see Syria destroyed: Analyst

Interview with Michael Prysner, Answer Coalition

Press TV has interviewed Michael Prysner to discuss crimes committed by the Israeli regime in Tel Aviv and its key ally in Washington.

What follows is a rough transcription of that interview:

Press TV: Mr. Prysner, before we hear your side, or your view on this, I would just like to refer you to a 2012 Brookings Institution’s report that said and I am quoting here, “Israel could posture forces on or near the Golan Heights and, in so doing, might divert regime forces from suppressing the opposition. This posture may conjure fears in the Assad regime of a multi-front war, particularly if Turkey is willing to do the same on its border and if the Syrian opposition is being fed a steady diet of arms and training.” Now, this policy, it looks like in full operation, do you see similarities and do you think this is what the Israeli presence and the Israeli attacks in the Golan Heights are about?

Prysner: Well, our other guest said that Israel doesn’t want to be involved in the conflict in Syria, but this is not the first time that Israel has bombed Syria, in favor of those who are fighting the government there. I think in this situation, retaliation is a motivation. Someone in Israel was killed and so the Israeli government says, “We have to kill somebody; we have to kill anybody in retaliation for it.” So, those Syrian soldiers who were killed were the ones that were the deaths that Israel chose to be in retaliation.

But there is more to this too. Israel would be very, very happy to see a Syria destroyed, a Syria shredded, a Syria thrown further into chaos and so of course the bombings are also in support of that, in support of Syria being destroyed as a country, which is in Israel’s interest.

And then if this was something carried out with consultation with the United States, this is precisely the reason that Israel receives so many billions and billions of dollars of US taxpayer money, is to play this role in the Middle East. To be this attack dog on the leash of the United States, to act in its interests when the United States does not want to be openly carrying out airstrikes, they have Israel, a loyal client, to act in its interests for them.

Press TV: I’d like to hear your response to that first.

Prysner: Well, first that democratic uprising in Syria you’re talking about. You’re talking about the many thousands of foreign fighters who are carrying out terrorist attacks on civilians all over the country. You are talking about the region being on fire, maybe assuming to Iraq right now. Many of those forces who are fighting and creating the chaos in Iraq right now, are those fighters being supported right now, are those types of airstrikes in Syria facilitating there military victories or attempted military victories in Syria?

To say that Israel wants peace in the region, I mean look at what Israel is doing right now? Carrying out raids on homes of innocent people, gunning down civilians, mass arresting people… If Israel was really worried about protecting its civilians within its borders, it wouldn’t be taking out these types of actions to further stoke the flames in Syria, which is precisely what it is doing, with these airstrikes.

Press TV: Mr. Richard Millet is telling us that Israel has not violated international law and second of all, he says that it is Iran that is creating all this instability in the region. Iran is to blame here. Your response to that.

Prysner: I would say that those to blame for the mass amounts of violence in the region would be those who are funding and supporting the funnel of weapons and support into the groups that are creating the chaos in the region. And this is the United States and its allies, Saudi Arabia and others. This is responsible for the long, long war that has been going on in Syria now.

Israel is absolutely violating the international law. The international community itself admits that Israel is violating international law with its illegal settlements, its human rights violations and treatment of prisoners. The fact that you can be arrested in an occupied territory and brought without trial into an Israeli jail… that is a violation of international law. And you know, you talk about and you have all this concern for these three Israeli teenagers that are missing, in fact there is no evidence that they were kidnapped by Hamas or kidnapped by anybody, but three missing Israeli teenagers are… What about the 70 times more than that, Israeli jails?

What about the 210 Palestinian minors under the age of 18 who have been kidnapped by Israel and kept in Israeli jails under the most deplorable conditions, who are tortured, who are denied sleep, who are denied food, who are denied all the basic necessities of life. You know, the Israeli politicians right now, you know in a cynical way, want to use these three Israeli youths, something that the whole world needs to rising up and crying about, but you have 70 times more than that of young Palestinians, of Palestinians children teenagers who have been detained for quite a bit longer and knowingly, under really horrific torture-like conditions.

Press TV: Mr. Prysner, let’s hear your reasons for saying that Israel is actually benefiting from a breakup of Syria and civil war in Syria, or rather war on Syria by external factors.

Prysner: Israel has a very congruent interest with the United States. They don’t have the exact same interests, of course, Israel wants land, it wants all the land it is currently, illegally annexing from the Palestinians, because it really requires the direct mass support of the United States government and the billions and billions of dollars it uses to make Israel able to exist at all and able to fund that massive military power.

US interests in the region are carried out by the Israeli government and the US mission in the region, throughout the entire world, and right now in particular in the Middle East, is to overthrow all of the independent governments that broke themselves from colonial and imperialist domination over the decades.

Syria is one of those countries. Iraq was one of those countries. Iran is one of those countries. Any country that has stood up and said, “We will not follow dictates from Washington. We will not follow the dictates of the US empire,” they are targeted for destruction.

Syria is one of those countries that is independent of US imperialism and the destruction of Syria and the destruction of the Syrian state absolutely is in the interest of the United States and its allies, in particular Israel, because it is part of the Western domination of the entire region.

Press TV: Tell us, is this a problem of democracy now in Syria? We know an election was held there. We know that President Bashar al-Assad did win that election. We also know that not everyone managed to take part, but is this about democracy now?

Prysner: Israel and the United States do not care about democracy whatsoever and that has been proven in who they ally within the region and who they will not ally within the region. You know monarch-type dictatorships like in Saudi Arabia and Qatar are some of the closest allies of Western imperialism, absolutely not democracies at all, but countries with internationally-monitored elections like in Iran and like this election in Syria, which was monitored by observers. They don’t care actually who is in power, or by means to get in power. They care about whether or not they follow along with the dictates of the West and if you don’t, you are targeted for destruction, you are targeted for bombing, whether it’s US bombs or Israeli bombs.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Zio-Nazi would be very happy to see Syria destroyed: Analyst

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