Archive | May 20th, 2015

Zio-Wahhabi-led air strikes hit Yemen after truce expires

NOVANEWS

ZioWahhabi-led forces resumed military operations in Yemen after a five-day ceasefire ended late on Sunday, Zio-Wahhabi regime and the Houthis blamed each other for a failure to renew the truce.

The ceasefire ended despite appeals by the United Nations and rights groups for extra time to allow badly needed humanitarian supplies into the country of 25 million, one of the poorest in the Middle East.

“That’s what we said before – that if they start again, we will start again,”  Wahhabi puppet former Yemeni Foreign Minister Reyad Yassin Abdulla told Reuters.

He said the coalition was not considering any new ceasefire but would not target air and sea ports needed for aid shipments.

Zio-Wahhabi-led forces conducted three air strikes on Yemen’s northern Saada province on Monday, according to Houthi media, which said Zio-Wahhabi forces had fired 70 rockets and artillery shells into north Yemen.

Zio-Wahhabi-owned al-Arabiya propaganda television reported heavy shelling by Saudi forces at Houthi outposts across the border after the fighters fired mortars at an army post in Saudi Arabia’s southern Najran province.

Earlier in the day, residents said that warplanes struck the presidential palace in Yemen’s southern port of Aden as well as groups of militiamen on the western and eastern approaches to the city and the international airport where Houthis and local fighters have been fighting.

There was no word on casualties.

Zio-Wahhabi and its American puppetregime’s  have been conducting an offensive against the Houthis and units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh for more than seven weeks.

The campaign has yet to reverse the Houthis’ advance into Aden and along battlefronts across Yemen’s south, and diplomats say the group does not appear to be under enough pressure to force it into making political concessions.

AID ROUTES

Zio-Wahhabi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir expressed “regret that the truce did not achieve its humanitarian goals” and held the ‘Houthis responsible’.

The Houthis said Saudi forces had conducted air strikes and artillery attacks across the border throughout the truce.

Iran’s foreign minister on Monday called on the United Nations to take on a more active role in Yemen, including establishing a presence on the ground to ensure that humanitarian aid could be distributed.

Two Iranian warships have begun escorting an Iranian cargo ship off Yemen’s waters, the vessel’s captain said in remarks published by Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

The vessel is reportedly carrying aid to the Houthi-controlled port of Hodaida, but Zio-Wahhabi-led coalition has imposed an arms embargo on Yemen’s ports and air space and will likely block its path before its scheduled arrival on May 21.

Iran denies Zio-Wahhabi regime accusations it has armed the Houthis.

U.N. special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed called on Sunday for the five-day ceasefire to be extended during a meeting of Yemeni parties in the capital Riyadh which the Houthis did not attend. The United Nations has called for all Yemeni parties to meet in Geneva on May 28.

Austrian energy group OMV on Monday declared force majeure for the blocks it operates in Yemen’s central Masila oil field, effective April 23.

The company cited security reasons, after tribes believed to be linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) seized much of the oil-rich area in Hadramout province last month. AQAP said in a series of Tweets on Sunday and Monday it had killed 42 Houthis in 10 attacks in Lahj, Shabwa and al-Bayda in southern and eastern areas of Yemen.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Saturday that 1,820 people had died in Yemen’s conflict since March 19, 7,330 wounded and over half a million dis

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Nazi Deputy defense minister compares Palestinians to animals

NOVANEWS

 Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

jewishracism

Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan  February 3, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Nazi Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan February 3, 2014. 

Under the new job description, Ben Dahan, who served as the deputy religious affairs minister in the previous government, will also be responsible for the IDF’s Civil Administration running government affairs in the West Bank.Ben Dahan has made controversial remarks about Palestinians. While discussing the resumption of peace talks in a radio interview in 2013, Ben Dahan said that “To me, they are like animals, they aren’t human.

“The Palestinians aren’t educated towards peace, nor to they want it,” he said.The Civil Administration is an IDF unit subordinate to the Defense Ministry responsible for governing West Bank planning, building and infrastructure in Israeli-controlled Area C. In addition, it is responsible for authorizing Palestinian travel and entry permits into Israel from Gaza and the West Bank.Later that year, while discussing his opposition to Knesset legislation that would offer same-sex parents the same tax breaks as their heterosexual counterparts, Ben Dahan told Maariv that homosexual Jews were superior than gentiles — gay or straight.

“A Jew always has a much higher soul than a gentile, even if he is a homosexual,” he said.Ben Dahan said that his opposition to the bill was not based on discrimination, but stemmed from his commitment to uphold the Jewish character of Israel.“I have to keep the state Jewish. Things that contradict the values, culture or tradition will not receive a stamp of approval,” he said.

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Did white nationalists impersonate Oz lawyer Josh Bornstein at the Times of I$raHell?

NOVANEWS

By: TUT

talmud 3d Final

JEWSCHOOL/PROGRESSIVE JEWS AND VIEWS

Controversy erupted in the usual corners of the web today when, for the second time in a year, an article advocating genocide against Palestinians was published on the Times of Israel website. Entitled “Understanding the Idea of Israeli Land Under Talmudic Law,” the article was falsely attributed to Joshua Bornstein, an Australian attorney, labor activist, and President of Tzedek, an organization that advocates for survivors of childhood sexual abuse in Australia’s Jewish community.

Over-the-top in its inflamed rhetoric, the article, which was quickly removed by the Times of Israel, branded Palestinians “subhuman” “cockroaches,” and called for their “mutilat[ion], rape, beat[ing], and torture.” And that’s not even the worst of it.

“The Talmud clearly states (Bammidber raba c 21 & Jalkut 772): “Every Jew, who spills the blood of the godless (non-Jews), is doing the same as making a sacrifice to God.” Isn’t it time for a mass sacrifice of ignoble “Palestinian” scum? Isn’t it time to cleanse the land of Israel – which rightfully belongs to the Jews – of all inferior subhuman vermin? What we need to do is to round up all “Palestinian” cockroaches and slaughter them like cattle. We need to take immense pleasure in raping, torturing, and murdering “Palestinians.” We need to boil “Palestinians” alive in boiling human feces. We need to take “Palestinian” babies and stomp them to death in front of their parents. We need to cut open pregnant “Palestinian” women, put their fetuses on pikes, and leave the fetus-pikes all over “Palestinian” neighbourhoods. We need to anally rape “Palestinian” women with butcher knives in broad daylight. We need to burst into “Palestinian” hospitals and butcher “Palestinian” newborns right in front of their helpless mothers. We need to stuff pig’s heads with explosives and throw the explosive pig heads into “Palestinian” mosques and community centres. We need to take Uzis, bust into “Palestinian” preschools, and slaughter every single “Palestinian” child and teacher inside. We need to mutilate, rape, beat, and torture “Palestinians” in public, while other “Palestinians” watch helplessly. We need to massacre “Palestinian” men, women, and children without any mercy or pity. The Talmud orders us to do so, and any Jew who disagrees has clearly never read and understood the Talmud.”

What’s evident is that the author, apart from being a vile and despicable racist, has clearly “never read and understood the Talmud,” whereas the article relies heavily on false, mistranslated, and decontextualized rabbinic texts to make its case — passages frequently cited by white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and so-called “anti-Zionists” who present them as evidence of Jewish perfidy. (Gil Student has compiled an entire collection of them with rebuttals.)

The article also takes a turn towards the Mengele-esque, calling for experimentation on Palestinians, raising a red flag so high, many — after seeing through their initial rage — believed the article to be satire.

“And, by conducting medical experiments on “Palestinians,” we can obtain medical knowledge that will ultimately be useful in providing medical assistance for Jews. Not only that, but it would also be a lot of fun to do. Could there be anything more satisfying than the helpless screams of a “Palestinian” child as it’s torn apart by Jewish doctors? I certainly can’t imagine anything more enjoyable.”

Even among the most extreme right-wing Jewish rants, this seemed beyond the pale. And that’s because it wasn’t written by Bornstein, let alone any other Jew.

Gilead Ini, a research associate at CAMERA,   that Bornstein has been targeted by Australian white nationalists and their American sympathizers for his support of open immigration policy and hate crimes legislation. A post on the Daily Stormer website calls Bornstein a “Subversive Jewish parasite” against whom they are “waging an all-out war.”

The Daily Stormer’s publisher Andrew Anglin is also a member of the 8chan community. 8chan was created as a “free speech alternative” to the popular 4chan message board from which many an Internet meme, including the Anonymous hacker movement, emerged. 4chan has been called the dark underbelly of the Internet, known as a cesspool of racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, as well as child pornography. Its “free speech alternative” has become the domain of white nationalists and neo-Nazis like Anglin who use the message board to decry “Jewish cultural Marxism” and to sow “intellectual subversion.” In recent months, 8chan users plotted to impersonate Jews online by creating social media accounts with fake Jewish identities. It’s only one small step further to creating social media accounts with real Jewish identities.

On March 26, a blog was created on the Times of Israel’s site in Bornstein’s name and bearing his likeness, which over the next two weeks was filled with content actually authored by Bornstein, relating to Australian policy issues, but originally published elsewhere. It was only after the blog had seemingly established some credibility that it evinced itself to be a put-up job. A 4chan thread from early last month points to a possible culprit.

The Times of Israel commented by saying, “Earlier today, a blog post appeared briefly on our Blogs platform that we believe should not have been published to begin with. We are still looking into why it was published, but needless to say it was removed as soon as we got wind of it – and in no way do we endorse its content, whether it was meant as satire or not.”

Well, we can tell you why it was published: Because the Times of Israel has absolutely no process for vetting contributing bloggers nor for reviewing their articles before they are posted. Despite its assurances after the last fiasco that it “will take steps to prevent a recurrence,” the Times of Israel has allowed vast harm to be done not only to the reputation of one man, but to that of all of am yisrael. It’s demonstrated lack of responsiblity should not be easily forgiven. TOI, and all those, including this author, who jumped the gun in vilifying him, owe Mr. Bornstein an apology.

[Update] The Times of Israel has acknowledged falling prey to a hoax, describingthemselves as victims of their own complete lack of editorial oversight.

“We are dismayed that The Times of Israel fell victim to such a malicious and hateful hoax. Needless to say, we are appalled that the Times of Israel’s blog platform was taken advantage of in this manner.”

“We sincerely apologize to everyone who was affected, directly or indirectly. Most especially, we apologize to Josh Bornstein.”

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The Kids Aren’t All Right: The Child Soldiers of an American-Made Army in Africa

NOVANEWS

Malakal airfield, July 2014. (Photo: TomDispatch.com)

MALAKAL, South Sudan — I didn’t really think he was going to shoot me.  There was no anger in his eyes.  His finger may not have been anywhere near the trigger.  He didn’t draw a bead on me.  Still, he was a boy and he was holding an AK-47 and it was pointed in my direction.

It was unnerving.

I don’t know how old he was.  I’d say 16, though maybe he was 18 or 19.  But there were a few soldiers nearby who looked even younger — no more than 15.

When I was their age, I wasn’t trusted to drive, vote, drink, get married, gamble in a casino, serve on a jury, rent a car, or buy a ticket to an R-rated movie.  It was mandatory for me to be in school.  The law decreed just how many hours I could work and prohibited my employment in jobs deemed too dangerous for kids — like operating mixing machines in bakeries or repairing elevators.  No one, I can say with some certainty, would have thought it a good idea to put an automatic weapon in my hands.  But someone thought it was acceptable for them.  A lot of someones actually.  Their government — the government of South Sudan — apparently thought so.  And so did mine, the government of the United States.

Photo Bomb

There was a reason that boy pointed his weapon my way.  A lot of them, in fact.  In the most immediate sense, I brought it upon myself.  I was doing something I knew could get me in trouble, but I just couldn’t help myself.

I tried to take a picture.  Okay, I took a picture.  More than one.

Public photography is frequently frowned upon in South Sudan.  Take pictures of the wrong thing and the authorities might force you to delete the images, or confiscate your camera, or maybe worse.

The incident in question took place during last year’s rainy season on the outskirts of sodden Malakal, a war-ravaged town 320 miles north of the capital, Juba.  The airport, near the banks of the White Nile, had devolved into an airstrip.  Nobody seemed to use itsvintage blue and white terminal building anymore.  Instead, you drove past cold-eyed Rwandan peacekeepers, United Nations troop trucks, and an armored personnel carrier or two, right up to the tarmac.

That’s where I was when a fairly big, nondescript white plane arrived.  That in itself was hardly remarkable.  It’s de rigueur for Malakal.  If it isn’t a World Food Program flight, then it’s a big-bellied plane hauling in supplies for some non-governmental organization or a United Nations plane like the one that brought me there and that I was waiting for to whisk me away.

This nondescript white plane, however, was different from the others.  When the Canadair CRJ-100, with Cemair” written across its tail, taxied up and its door opened, it wasn’t your typical array of airline passengers who sallied down the gangway.  At least not at first.  It was a large group of young men in camouflage uniforms carrying assault rifles and machine guns.  And they were met on the runway by scores of similarly attired, similarly armed young men who had arrived in a convoy just minutes earlier.

I’d never seen anything like it, so I pulled out my phone and tried to surreptitiously take a few photos.  Not surreptitiously enough, though.  A commander spotted me, got angry, and headed my way, waving his finger “no.”  It was then that this boy with the AK-47, who had arrived in the convoy, turned toward me — following the officer’s gaze — and the rifle in his arms turned with him, and I stepped lively to put the commander between me and him, while quickly shoving my phone in my pocket and apologizing again and again.



Malakal airfield, July 2014.

Approximately 13,000 children have been recruited into armed groups in South Sudan, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  In addition, about 400,000 youngsters have been forced out of school due to the civil war that has been flaring and simmering there for almost a year and a half.  How so many children came to be affected by the conflict and why so many of them find themselves serving in the national army, the main rebel force, and other militias needs to be explained.  It has much to do with civil wars that started in the 1950s and lasted for the better part of five decades, pitting rebels in the south against the government in the north of what was then a single country: Sudan.

Other factors include the 2005 peace deal that led to an independent South Sudan and transformed a guerrilla force into a national military, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army or SPLA; a rural culture in which cows are king because they are currency and young boys are armed to defend against cattle raids, as well as to conduct them; and an armed grudge match between political rivals representing different tribal groups in South Sudan that began in December 2013.  Add all of this together and any tangible recent progress toward ridding South Sudan of the scourge of child soldiers has been obliterated.

Oh yes, and into that mix you would also have to factor the United States, a country that, as then U.S. Senator, now Secretary of State John Kerry put it, helped “midwife” South Sudan into existence.

America’s African Army

In 1996, the United States began funneling military equipment through nearby Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Uganda to rebels in southern Sudan as they battled for independence.  A decade later, after the civil war ended in a peace deal, Washington officially began offering military “assistance” to the SPLA, according to State Department documents.  At that point, without fanfare and far from the prying eyes of the press, the U.S. launched a concerted campaign to transform the SPLA from a guerrilla force into a professional army.

When I recently asked about the scope of this training, Rodney Ford, the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs spokesperson, told me: “The U.S. government began a comprehensive defense professionalization program which started in [fiscal year] 2006 [and] continued after the referendum and independence of South Sudan until December 2013.  This assistance included infrastructure, vehicles, human rights training, logistics, administration, medical, military justice, finance, and English language training among an array of other military subjects.  The U.S. government, for example, conducted a comprehensive medical program with the South Sudanese military which entailed procuring mobile field hospitals, building clinics, training nurses and improving the military’s medical infrastructure.”

Ford also emphasizedthat no “lethal equipment” was provided and noted that the lessons were designed to “give soldiers the tools and skills that would benefit the civilian population.”  It sounded almost like they were building a South Sudanese Peace Corps.

In reality, there was more to it.  U.S. support was not strictly a kumbaya effort of medical clinics and human rights instruction.  It included the training and equipping of the elite presidential guard; the construction of a new SPLA headquarters in Juba; the renovation of a training center at the SPLA Command and Staff College in Malou, a town north of the capital; and the construction of the headquarters of two SPLA divisions in the towns of Mapel and Duar.  Included as well were training programs for general officers and senior instructors; the deployment of a “training advisory team” to guide the overhaul of intelligence, communications, and other key functions; the employment of Kenyan and later Ethiopian instructors to teach basic military skills to SPLA recruits; the provision of secure voice and data communications to SPLA general headquarters; the development of riverine forces and up to 16 tactical watercraft; military police instruction; the training ofcommando forces by Ethiopian troops; and the establishment of a noncommissioned officers academy at Mapel with training from private contractors and later U.S. military personnel.  And according to a comprehensive report focusing on the years 2006-2010 by Richard Rands for the Small Arms Survey at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, this list only encompasses part of Washington’s efforts.

During the early 2000s, as thousands of refugee “Lost Boys” who had fled the civil war in southern Sudan began to be resettled in cities across the United States, their brothers and sisters back home continued to suffer as civilians or as child combatants.  Between 2001 and 2006, however, as international pressure mounted and the civil war waned, some 20,000 child soldiers were also reportedly demobilized by the SPLA, although thousands remained in the force for a variety of reasons, including an extreme lack of other opportunities.

By 2010, when the SPLA pledged to demobilize all of its child soldiers by the end of the year, there were an estimated 900 children still serving in the force.  The next year, under terms of the agreement that ended the civil war, the people of southern Sudan voted for their independence.  Six months later, on July 9th, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation, prompting a strong statement of support from President Barack Obama: “I am confident that the bonds of friendship between South Sudan and the United States will only deepen in the years to come.  As Southern Sudanese undertake the hard work of building their new country, the United States pledges our partnership as they seek the security, development, and responsive governance that can fulfill their aspirations and respect their human rights.”

While child soldiers, in fact, remained in the SPLA, the U.S. nonetheless engaged in a years-long effort to pour billions of dollars in humanitarian aid, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars of military and security assistance, into South Sudan.  Here’s the catch in all this: the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA), passed by Congress in 2008 and enacted in 2010, prohibits the United States from providing military assistance to governments using child soldiers.  This means that the Obama administration should have been barred from providing South Sudan with military assistance in 2011.  The government, however, relied on a technicality to gain an exemption — claiming the list of barred countries was created before the new nation formally came into existence.

Washington’s support for the SPLA continued even as militia groups with children under arms were folded into the force.  The U.S. flung open the doors of advanced U.S. military schools, training centers, colleges, and universities to SPLA personnel.  In 2010 and 2011, for example, U.S. taxpayers footed the bill for some of them to attend U.S. military armor, artillery, intelligence, and infantry schools; in 2012 and 2013, it was the National Defense University, the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, the Marine Corps Combat Service Support School, and the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California, among other institutions.

According to the State Department’s 2013 Congressional Budget Justification, tens of millions of dollars were also earmarked for “refurbishment, operations, and maintenance of training centers and divisional headquarters; strategic and operational advisory assistance; unit and individual professional training; and communications and other non-lethal equipment for the military.”  All of it, according to official State Department documents, was designed to promote “a military that is professionally trained and led, ethically balanced, aware of moral imperatives, and able to contribute positively to national and South-South reconciliation.”

At the same time it was attempting to transform the SPLA into a national army, the U.S. military began operating from an outpost in South Sudan’s hinterlands.  At a Combined Operations Fusion Center in Nzara, a small contingent of U.S. Special Operations forces worked with South Sudanese military intelligence as part of Observant Compass, an operation focused on degrading or destroying Joseph Kony’s murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).  Planes and helicopters, flown by private contractors, ferried U.S. troops in and out of the small camp.  It was also used by special ops personnel for training SPLA forces in everything from navigation skills to airmobile helicopter assaults and as a staging area for joint raids against the LRA in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Until just weeks before the civil war broke out in South Sudan in 2013, U.S. special operators wereconducting military assault drills at Nzara.

As the United States was pouring money and effort into building up the country’s armed forces, human rights groups repeatedly complained about its military’s use of children.  This isn’t to say that the Obama administration turned a blind eye to the practice.  It was, in fact, much worse than that.

On September 28, 2012, for example, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson issued a strong statement against the use of children as combatants.  “Protecting and assisting children affected by armed conflict and preventing abuses against them is a priority for the United States,” he announced.  “We remain committed to ending the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).”  Carson went on to note that, adhering to provisions of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, the U.S. would indeed withhold certain security assistance to the DRC (though not all of it).

That same day, President Obama issued a statement of his own, waiving the application of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act with respect to several nations (as the act indeed allows a president to do). South Sudan was included on the grounds that such a decision was in “the national interest of the United States.”  It was not, as it happens, in the interest of the children of South Sudan, not at least according to a senior United Nations official who was not authorized to speak on the record.  The U.S. waiver “was doing more harm than good because there is absolutely no political will to solve the child soldier problem,” that official explained to me.

In September 2013, Obama issued still another CSPA waiver — in the form of a memorandum to Secretary of State Kerry — keeping South Sudan eligible for U.S. military assistance and the licenses needed to buy military equipment, again citing national interest.

By the end of the year, South Sudan had collapsed into civil war with many SPLA soldiers, especially those of the Dinka tribe, remaining loyal to President Salva Kiir’s government and others, predominantly of Nuer ethnicity, joining former Vice President Riek Machar’s rebel forces.  Members of the SPLA were almost immediately implicated in mass atrocities, including the killing of Nuer civilians.  That presidential guard, trained and equipped by the U.S. a few years earlier, was especially singled out for its brutal crimes.

Machar’s opposition forces, including many Nuers formerly with the SPLA, carried out their own atrocities, including large-scale massacres of Dinka civilians and others.  The State Department soon issued a report, indignant over the fact that “since the outbreak of conflict on December 15, [2013] there have been reports of forced conscription by government forces and recruitment and use of child soldiers by both government and antigovernment forces” — precisely the behavior the president had told the secretary of state was in the American national interest just a few months earlier.

The Kids Aren’t All Right

“We worked closely with the SPLA to make sure the elimination of child soldiers or children associated with the military was a high priority,” a State Department official explained to me in a recent email.  “Right before the outbreak of the most recent conflict the U.N. had stated that there were no more ‘child soldiers’ in the South Sudanese military though some still remained on SPLA barracks cooking and cleaning, etc.”

That’s not quite how the United Nations actually put it.

Before the civil war erupted, “the United Nations verified the recruitment and use of 162 children, all boys and mostly between 14 and 17 years of age,” 99 of whom were with the SPLA, 35 with a militia allied to a commander named David Yau Yau, 25 associated with the Lou Nuer tribe, and three with South Sudan’s national police. “Children associated with SPLA were identified in military barracks, wearing SPLA uniforms as well as undergoing military training in conflict areas,” according to the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  “In addition, reports of the recruitment and use of 133 children were pending verification at the time of reporting.”

Since December 2013, the situation has become far worse.  “We have been deeply disappointed to see the progress South Sudan had achieved toward ending the unlawful recruitment and use of child soldiers since independence so gravely set back by the conflict that erupted in December,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price told me last year.  “Both government-aligned and rebel forces have recruited and used child soldiers in the current conflict, and we call on both sides to end this practice.”

By May 2014, UNICEF estimated that 9,000 children had been recruited into the armed forces of both sides in the civil war, despite the fact that under “both international and South Sudanese law, the forcible or voluntary recruitment of persons under the age of 18, whether as a member of a regular army or of an informal militia, is prohibited.”  Today, that number is estimated to have grown to 13,000.

About a year ago, Machar’s SPLA-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) pledged to end the recruitment of child soldiers.  In late June, according to the U.N., Kiir’s government agreed to “restart the implementation of the Action Plan signed in 2012 to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.”

There’s little evidence, however, that this has translated into tangible effects on the ground on either side.  “Despite renewed promises by both government and opposition forces that they will stop using child soldiers, both sides continue to recruit and use children in combat,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), earlier this year.  “In Malakal, government forces are even taking children from right outside the United Nations compound.”

A well-placed source within the United Nations offered a similar assessment.  “Even though the SPLA re-committed in June of last year, they haven’t released many kids — only a handful,” he explained.  “The SPLA aren’t releasing their kids and there doesn’t seem to be any incentive to do so.”

Skye Wheeler, an expert on South Sudan at Human Rights Watch, agrees that the government hasn’t done much.  “The SPLA is entirely aware that at least two former militiamen who are now fighting with the government and who have both been integrated into the army are using and recruiting numerous child soldiers but have not made any significant steps towards punitive action,” she told me recently by email.  She added that she also knows of no significant efforts to curb the recruitment of children by Machar’s SPLA-IO.

Last fall, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power chaired a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on children and armed conflict in which she declared: “Perpetrators have to be held accountable. Groups that fail to change their behavior must be hit where it hurts.”  A State Department official who refused to be named for this piece was equally unequivocal when it came to South Sudan.  “Since the outbreak of the conflict, there have been no waivers issued,” he told me in late March, “and we have expressed our concerns about the recruitment of children by multiple parties in the current conflict.”  But months earlier — just weeks after Power’s pronouncement and nearly a year after the civil war in South Sudan began — President Obama had indeed issued another partial waiver allowing continued support for the country, despite the prohibitions of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act.

When I asked about this discrepancy, the State Department backtracked, admitting that the president had “authorized a partial waiver of the application of the prohibition in section 404(a) of the CSPA with respect to South Sudan to allow for the provision of PKO assistance,” citing a provision of the act and referring to PKO, or “peacekeeping,” funding long used to train and equip the SPLA.  In this instance, the official insisted that “none of the funds relevant to this partial waiver have been used to provide any direct assistance to the SPLA.”

Andy Burnett, a spokesperson from the Office of the Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan, then went further. “Just to apologize, the wording on our response back [to you] was confusing,” he told me.  “We were speaking about waivers that had been done as in the past — related to capacity building and assistance for the SPLA.  This partial waiver was done with a more narrow intent.”

In fact, the way that waiver was issued did not sit well with some.  “We were disappointed that a partial waiver was put in place last year again without a clear and public statement by the [U.S. government] that this was purely to allow certain activities (support to IGAD monitors and anti-LRA activities) and that the government would not be receiving any significant military support until the abuses, including use and recruitment of child soldiers, are properly addressed,” HRW’s Skye Wheeler told me.  She was referring to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s Monitoring and Verification Mechanism for South Sudan, set up in January 2014 to support mediation of the current civil war.

The State Department acknowledged the absence of such a declaration, but emphasized that the United States had expressed its “concern” about the issue to Kiir’s government.  Asked about South Sudan’s response to those concerns, Burnett foggily replied that there were “differences of opinion about the extent to which [recruitment of children by the SPLA] is happening; arguments that when it’s happening it’s done by the opposition or other armed groups that are outside of [SPLA] control.”  In other words, after years of copious aid, effort, and waivers, the U.S. can’t even get the government of South Sudan to acknowledge its wrongdoing when it comes to recruiting child fighters, let alone halt it.

Toy Guns, Real Guns, and National Interests

The war in South Sudan has been a nightmare for children.  UNICEF estimates that 600,000 have been affected by psychological distress, 235,000 are at risk of severe acute malnutrition this year, and 680 have been killed.  “Mothers are burying their children… the level of slaughter, of innocent victims, innocent civilians, is simply unacceptable by any standard whatsoever,” Secretary of State John Kerry recently told South Sudan’s Eye Radio in scolding remarks.  The leaders of South Sudan’s warring parties “Salva Kiir, the president, and Riek Machar… need to come to their senses,” he said. “They need to sign an agreement that’s real and they need to stop allowing the people to be the victims of their power struggle.”  On one thing Kerry was adamant: “We need to have accountability as this goes forward.”

But what about U.S. accountability? Does the United States, after years of waivers, bear a responsibility for helping to entrench South Sudan’s practice of using child soldiers?  “In and of itself, it could be perceived as sanctioning the practice, but in the day-to-day reality of engaging, we were a strong advocate for moving beyond the practices that had been historically taking place and removing any child soldiers within the SPLA,” says Andy Burnett.  “I’m not saying we deserve full credit,” he told me, even as he argued that the president’s waivers had led to real progress.

Whatever progress might have been made before the civil war, as he readily admitted, was soon obliterated.  So was the U.S. training effort in South Sudan a failure?  After a wall of words about the difficulties involved in “creating an accountable and professional armed force” in the available time, Burnett took some responsibility, even if he carefully extended the blame to cover America’s partners in the effort.  “Yes, that the international effort to reform the SPLA was not successful in preventing something like this [the split of the SPLA in the war] is quite obvious,” he told me.  This admission, however, does little for the children toting arms now and those who will do so in the years ahead as part of what Burnett calls “a widening problem of child-soldiering,” due to “even more incidences of recruitment of children by armed groups within this conflict.”


Young children with toy guns, Tomping Protection of Civilians Site, Juba, South Sudan, July 2014.

Walking through a camp for internally displaced persons at a U.N. base in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, one blazing hot day last summer, I watched a young girl in a bright pink dress and sporting a huge smile, and a somewhat younger boy in pink shorts and gray sandals chase each other through the muck.  Each of them was holding a tiny, black plastic pistol and pretending to shoot the other, just the type of game I reveled in as a boy.

As they raced around me, splattering mud and laughing, however, I began to wonder if one day just a few years down the road, she might be pressed into cooking or carrying water for soldiers and he might find himself with a real weapon thrust into his hands.  It’s a sad fact that, not so many years from now, I might well encounter that young boy — his toy pistol exchanged for a real assault rifle — on some out-of-the-way tarmac in the hinterlands of South Sudan.  Should that day ever come, I imagine I’ll feel just as unnerved as I did that morning in Malakal when a boy soldier turned his weapon in my direction.  I’ll then find little comfort in President Obama’s contention that looking the other way on child soldiers is in “the national interest of the United States.”  And I’m sure I’ll be just as disturbed that those “interests” — cited by a president who has his own kids — so easily trumped the interests of that boy in Malakal and the rest of South Sudan’s children.

Posted in USA, AfricaComments Off on The Kids Aren’t All Right: The Child Soldiers of an American-Made Army in Africa

Why Are We in the Middle East?

NOVANEWS

U.S. President Barack Obama hosts a working session of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at Camp David in Maryland May 14, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

To placate their pique at his effort to get a non-proliferation agreement with Iran, Barack Obama met last Thursday at Camp David with Saudi royals and leaders of the other five feudal dictatorships of the Persian Gulf. He reaffirmed the United States “ironclad” commitment to their security and promised even more military aid and cooperation. After the personal dust-up between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu settles, we can expect the Administration and Congress to add even more steel to our commitment to protect and subsidize Israel by adding more to its already vast store of sophisticated weapons.

Thus, we take another step deeper into the tragedy of U.S. intervention in the Middle East that has become a noxious farce.

Consider just one of the head-spinning subplots: We are allied with our declared enemy, Iran, against the bloody Islamic State, which was spawned from the chaos created by our own earlier decisions to invade Iraq and to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria, which has us fighting side-by-side with jihadist crazies financed by Saudi Arabia, whom we are supporting against the Houthis in Yemen, the bitter rivals of Al Qaeda — the perpetrators of 9/11!

Since 1980, we have invaded, occupied and/or bombed at least 14 different Muslim countries. After the sacrifice of thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars, the region is now a cauldron of death and destruction. Yet, we persist, with no end in sight. As a former Air Force General Charles F. Wald remarked told the Washington Post, “We’re not going to see an end to this in our lifetime.”

Democrats and Republicans snipe over tactics, but neither wants to discuss the question of whether we should be there in the first place. Even liberals counseling caution, like the New York Times editorial board, hasten to agrees that the U.S. must play a “leading role” in solving the Middle East’s many problems. In other worlds, stay the course.

The ordinary citizen trying to make sense of all this might reasonably ask: why? The president’s answer is that the war is in our “national interest.” Congress says, Amen. The phrase causes politicians and pundits on talk shows to synchronize the nodding of their heads, signaling that the national interest should not have to be explained — and certainly not debated.

When pressed for more specifics, our governing class offers four rationales for this endless war:

1. Fighting terrorism

2. Containing Iran

3. Securing oil

4. Defending Israel.

But when the citizen in whose vital interest the war is supposedly being fought takes a close look, he/she will find that none of these arguments — or all of them together — justifies the terrible cost, or even makes much sense.

Terrorism

The claim is that we will prevent another 9/11 by killing terrorists and keeping them offshore. But by now it is obvious that our interventions are counter-productive, i.e., they have vastly enlarged the pool of American-hating fanatics, willing to kill themselves in order to hurt us.

Americans are appalled when shown ISIS’s public beheadings on TV. What they are not shown is the beheadings routinely performed by the Saudi Arabian government and our “moderate” allies. Nor are they told that militias allied to the U.S.-backed government in Iraq have killed prisoners by boring holes in their skulls with electric drills. This is the way bad people behave in that part of the world. ISIS is a symptom, not a cause, of Middle East fanaticism — a problem rooted in corruption, tyranny and ignorance, which the United States cannot solve. Meanwhile, Arab governments themselves have enough firepower to defeat ISIS if they can put aside their own differences to do it. If they can’t, it is not our job to save them from their own folly.

The rationale here is embarrassingly circular — we must remain in the Middle East to protect against terrorists who hate America because we are in the Middle East. George W Bush’s often echoed claim that “They hate us for our freedoms” is nonsense. They hate us because we are foreign invaders. The longer we stay, the most likely it is that we will see another 9/11. And as the Boston Marathon bombing demonstrates, the people who carry out the next attack are more likely to live here, than there.

Iran

Iran is not a threat to U.S. security and will not be as far as one can see into the future. Its hostility to the U.S. is a product of over 50 years of our active interference in its politics, beginning in 1953 when the CIA overthrew the democratically elected prime minister and replaced him with a king.

Barack Obama is right that stopping the spread of nuclear weapons should be one of our highest international priorities. But taking sides in the Middle East’s political and religious civil wars has undercut our credibility, making it look like we are more interested in checking Iran’s influence than nuclear proliferation. Why, the inquiring American citizen might ask, is it OK for Israel and Pakistan to refuse to sign international treaties and allow inspection of their nuclear facilities, but not Iran?

In any event, the leverage that brought Iran to the negotiating table was not the U.S. military’s presence or saber rattling in Washington. It was the economic sanctions.

Oil

Oil is an international commodity. When it comes out of the ground it is sold on world markets. Producing countries need consumers. U.S. consumers buy oil at world prices, and it is available to them as it is to everyone else who can pay for it. They get no specialdiscount for having military bases in the area.

The economic motivation for the invasion of Iraq was not to assure that we Americans would have gas for our cars and oil for our furnaces, but to assure that American-based oil companies would be the ones to bring it here.

Today, we get less than 10 percent of our oil from the Persian Gulf. The U.S. is now projected to pass both Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s largest oil producer in the next two years. By 2020 North America, and likely the U.S. alone, will be self-sufficient in oil and gas.

The claim that Americans need to be in the Middle East for the oil has gone from dubious to implausible.

Israel

The United States does not need Israel to protect its security. Nor does Israel need the U.S.

Israel has by far the most powerful sophisticated military in the entire region. Its arsenal includes nuclear and chemical weapons that, because Israel has refused to ratify international nonproliferation treaties banning, it can continue to develop with no outside interference. The surrounding Arab states are dysfunctional, disorganized and caught in the brutal quasi-religious war between Sunnis led by Saudi Arabia and Shiites led by Iran that is likely to drag on for decades. Hezbollah, which arose in Lebanon as a result of Israel’s 1982 invasion, can harass, but is certainly no threat to Israel’s existence.

Even if Iran eventually builds a bomb, Israel would still have the capacity to blow that country back to the Stone Age, and there is no evidence that Iran’s political establishment is suicidal.

The security problem for Israel comes from within the territory it controls: the status of the conquered, embittered Palestinians, who in 1948 and 1967 were driven out of their homes and herded into the ghettos of the West Bank and Gaza in order make room for the Jewish state.

The Palestinians are militarily powerless. They can throw stones and occasionally talk some lost soul into becoming a suicide bomber. From Gaza they can lob wobbly mortars over the Israel border. But always at the cost of harsh retaliation. Two thousand Gazans were killed in the Israeli punitive attacks of August 2014. It will take them ten years to rebuild their homes and infrastructure.

Yet the Palestinians will not give up their own dream of an independent homeland — at least on the territory occupied by the Israel army since 1967. So for almost a half century, our governments have pushed both sides to negotiate a permanent solution, pouring billions in aid to Israel, and lesser, but substantial amounts to placate the Palestinians and to bribe Egypt and Jordan into recognizing Israel. We have paid a huge political price; our role as collaborator in the Palestinian oppression is a major source of anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.

The U.S. effort has failed. Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis — both driven by anger, mutual distrust and historical grievances — have behaved well. But, Israel is the one in control of the West Bank. So any credible solution requires that it end the apartheid system they have imposed, either by giving Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians (One-State) or by permitting the establishment of an independent Palestine (Two-States).

The Israelis will never accept a one state solution with the Palestinians. Among other reasons is a widely shared fear of the faster Palestinian birthrate. The re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu in March after he promised Israeli voters he would never accept two states, has buried that idea as well. The real Israel solution is already in motion on the ground — pushing Jewish settlements further and further into the Palestinians’ territory until there is no space left for a Palestinian state.

There are now about 600,000 people in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and their number is growing. No Israeli government in the foreseeable future will be capable of evicting a substantial share of them in order to give the Palestinians room to form an independent country. The only pressure on Israel is the fear that it might become an international pariah state — as South Africa did before it ended its apartheid. But so long as Israel is under the political protection of the U.S., it can, and will, ignore world opinion.

Our choice therefore is either to remain as enabler of Israel’s “settler” solution, or, as part of a general withdrawal from the region, to let the Israelis and Palestinians deal with the consequences of their own behavior. Indeed, U.S. disengagement might be the political jolt needed to force a change.

Thus, the real answer to the question of why our country is stuck in the Middle East will not be found in the phrase, “national interest.” Rather it will be found among a much narrower group of special interests — military contractors, oil sheikdoms, the Israel lobby, and a media that hypnotizes the electorate into equating patriotism and war.

These interests are formidable. Their fallback argument is that we are in too far even to contemplate pulling out. Much too complicated. And America’s “credibility” is at stake.

Maybe. But our credibility as a democracy is also at stake. To maintain it, responsible citizens should at least demand clarity about why we are slogging deeper and deeper into this quagmire, putting lives at risk, wasting enormous resources and diverting the attention of the U.S. government from the deterioration of our national economy — the fundamental source of national security.

America’s bi-partisan governing class has no intention of opening up their Middle East misadventure to such scrutiny. So it’s up to the citizenry. The 2016 president election campaign will force candidates into forums, town meetings and question-and-answer sessions. It may be the last chance for citizens to pierce the veils of glib rhetoric that hide the reasons our rulers have pushed us into a part of the world where we have no real business and where our presence has only made things worse.

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on Why Are We in the Middle East?

Flight of the Rohingya

NOVANEWS

Stateless refugees from Burma are risking death, rape, and drowning by the thousands on a risky escape to Malaysia.

(Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

This article is a joint publication of Foreign Policy In Focus and TheNation.com.

The names of the refugees below have been changed to protect their identities.

Imagine the choice between throwing your fate into the hands of notoriously abusive human traffickers or staying in a place facing the highest risk of genocide in the world. This is the choice faced by hundreds of thousands of people from the Rohingya minority in western Burma today.

The reality of their trials was brought to life for me recently in a crowded home of refugees in Malaysia, where an estimated 100,000 Rohingya have now fled. Each has a slightlydifferent story, but the following accounts are fairly typical.

Stage 1: Intimidation and Poverty

Salim, a 30-year-old fish and vegetable trader in western Burma, is detained by local authorities and beaten — not for any crime, but for choosing to self-identify as a “Rohingya” during the 2014 census. The government of Burma denies the existence of Rohingya, choosing to label them as undocumented “Bengalis” from neighboring Bangladesh, despite the fact that many Rohingya can trace their origins in Burma back several generations. Local authorities tell Salim he has a choice: He can either pay for passage out of the country or face the risk of death.

Bibi Khadija, 20, and her husband worry about the lack of food, medicine, and education for their children in the displacement camps they’re forced to live in.

Some 150,000 Rohingya in western Burma have fled their homes since violent clashes erupted between local Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingya in 2012, disproportionately affecting Rohingya. They’ve been forced by the government to live in displacement camps that have been described as open-air prisons. Stories spread throughout the camps of the promise of a better life in Malaysia, encouraging Bibi Khadija to approach the well-known “agent” in their camp. There’s such an agent in every camp, more than willing to help —for a price, typically the equivalent of $100 to $200.

Stage 2: Trial by Sea

Not far from the city of Sittwe, a small boat takes Bibi Khadija, her husband, and their two small children out to a larger boat with some 200 other Rohingya. Many of the ships are much larger, containing more than 1,000 passengers. Armed human traffickers typically overcrowd the ships and deny the passengers adequate food and water. The voyage is usually seven to ten days but can vary considerably.

Bibi Khadija and her family will be at sea for 33 days. Five people will die from starvation along the way.

Another boat takes off near the Bangladesh border holding Salim and nearly 700 other Rohingya. He witnesses the armed traffickers strike anyone who asks for water over the head with iron rods. Nine will succumb to the beatings and be dumped into the sea along the way. Four others will die of starvation.

rohingya-refugees-burma-bangladesh-malaysia-(Photo: AK Rockefeller / Flickr)

Stage 3: Hell in the Jungle

After over a month at sea, Bibi Khadija and her family arrive in Thailand and are forced to march for two days and two nights, deep into the jungle. They will remain there in a trafficker camp with hundreds of others for more than three months. There are thousands of Rohingya in dozens of camps in Thailand, described as “tropical gulags” in a Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters report from a few years back. Once they arrive, the women and children are separated from the men.

The men find out the money they paid at the beginning of the trip does not apply here. They’re beaten daily until they can get word to relatives to pay between $1,000 and $2,000 for their freedom. If after six or seven months no money arrives, they’re beaten and discarded or sold to rubber plantation owners.

Salim describes living with some 800 other people under a leaky plastic sheet and surviving off daily rations of just a little bit of rice. After several months, he’s able to reach relatives who pay for his release.

For the women it’s often worse. Salim tells of a beautiful woman he traveled with who was sold into prostitution. Sex trafficking is an all too common fate for the Rohingya refugees.

Sitting before Bibi Kadijah, the reality of the horror comes shockingly clear. She averts her eyes, revealing in a near whisper that she’d been raped by the traffickers. A dark mass of broken blood vessels covering the left side of her face bears testament to the recentness of the traumatic experience. Sexual assault is another all too real and all too common fate for the women who take the voyage.

Stage 4: Exile

After months in the traffickers’ camp, Salim is able to get word to family members in Malaysia, who send nearly $2,000 for his release. He’s been in Malaysia for two months now but has lost contact with his brother, who will remain in the hands of the traffickers until he can get word to his family. “I am ready to pay,” he tells me. “I just need to hear from him.”

In Malaysia, Salim finds a network of support from other Rohingya exiles, but faces the daily threat of detention as an illegal immigrant or exploitation by corrupt authorities whodemand bribes. A spokeswoman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has said it receives “regular reports of abuse, intimidation, and exploitation of Rohingya refugees” in Malaysia.

Bibi Khadijah and her family arrived in Malaysia just days ago. They now share a small house with two other Rohingya families — a total of 16 people sharing three rooms, one kitchen, and one bathroom. They face severe challenges in obtaining education and health attention. And like Salim, they live with the daily threat of detention.

The Lucky Ones?

The people I meet in Malaysia are the lucky ones. They have family who were able to pay for their freedom or were fortunate to escape when a police raid scattered the traffickers. There is a community of support here and a government that, while not exactly welcoming, does not seem intent on their eradication.

As one aid worker helping the Rohingya tells me, there is much that needs to be done to help the Rohingya in Malaysia, but the ultimate solution to this crisis must be in Burma. The government in Burma must recognize the Rohingya as a people with rights and hold accountable anyone who would persecute them.

As I absorb the stories of these various families, I ask each a final question: Given all of the dangers they’ve risked, from drowning to rape and beatings, would they recommend the journey to those still in Burma?

Without hesitation, they all answer yes.

Posted in South AsiaComments Off on Flight of the Rohingya

In Rare Move, US Commandos In Syria Kill 32 ISIS Members

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The U.S. Army raid occurred one day after the U.S.-led campaign to roll back IS gains in Iraq suffered a significant setback in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province.
By 

Map locates Omar oil field, where U.S. commandos mounted a raid; 1c x 2 inches; 46.5 mm x 50 mm;

BEIRUT  — In a rare ground attack deep into Syria, U.S. Army commandos killed a man described as the Islamic State’s head of oil operations, captured his wife and rescued a woman whom American officials said was enslaved.

A team of Delta Force commandos slipped across the border from Iraq under cover of darkness Saturday aboard Black Hawk helicopters and V-22 Osprey aircraft, according to a U.S. defense official knowledgeable about details of the raid. The official was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Americans intended to capture a militant identified by U.S. officials as Abu Sayyaf. When they arrived at his location, a multi-story building, they met stiff resistance, the U.S. official said, and a firefight ensued, resulting in bullet-hole damage to the U.S. aircraft.

Abu Sayyaf was killed, along with an estimated dozen ISIS fighters, U.S. officials said. No American was killed or wounded.

Before the sun had risen, the commandos flew back to Iraq where Abu Sayyaf’s wife, Umm Sayyaf, was being questioned in U.S. custody, officials said. The goal was to gain intelligence about ISIS operations and any information about hostages, including American citizens, who were held by the group, according to Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Council.

Abu Sayyaf was described by one official as the ISIS “emir of oil and gas,” although he also was targeted for his known association with the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

U.S. officials said it was likely, given Abu Sayyaf’s position, that he knew about more than just the financial side of the group’s operations.

Despite the U.S. claims, much about the ISIS figure was in question. The name Abu Sayyaf has rarely been mentioned in Western reports about the extremist group and he is not known to be among terrorists for whom the U.S. has offered a bounty. The name was not known to counterterrorism officials who study ISIS and does not appear in reports compiled by think tanks and others examining the group’s hierarchy.

The U.S. official said Abu Sayyaf’s death probably has temporarily halted ISIS oil-revenue operations, critical to the group’s ability to carry out military operations in Syria and Iraq and to govern the population centers it controls.

But U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, cautioned against exaggerating the long-term gain from killing Abu Sayyaf.

He said IS, like al-Qaida, “has proven adept at replacing its commanders and we will need to keep up the pressure on its leadership and financing.”

A U.S. Treasury official told Congress in October that ISIS militants were earning about $1 million a day from black market oil sales alone, and getting several million dollars a month from wealthy donors, extortion rackets and other criminal activities, such as robbing banks. Kidnappings were another large source of cash.

U.S. airstrikes in Syria since September have frequently targeted ISIS oil-collection facilities in an effort to undermine the group’s finances.

ISIS controls much of northern and eastern Syria as well as northern and western Iraq, despite months of U.S. and coalition airstrikes and efforts by the U.S.-backed Iraqi army to retake territory. ISIS holds most of the oil fields in Syria and has declared a caliphate governed by a harsh version of Islamic law.

Also Saturday, activists said ISIS fighters pushed into the Syrian town of Palmyra, home to famed 2,000-year-old ruins.

The U.S. Army raid occurred one day after the U.S.-led campaign to roll back ISIS gains in Iraq suffered a significant setback in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. ISIS fighters are reported to have captured a key government building in Ramadi and have established control over a substantial portion of the city, officials have said.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, in a written statement Saturday praising the raid into Syria, said he was “gravely concerned” by the IS assault on Ramadi and that it threatened the stability and sovereignty of Iraq.

ISIS has made major inroads at Iraq’s Beiji oil refinery complex in recent days. Reports vary, but U.S. officials have said ISIS is largely in control of the refinery, as well as the nearby town of Beiji. It’s on the main route from Baghdad to Mosul, the main ISIS stronghold in northern Iraq.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter in Washington announced the raid, followed soon after by word from the White House.

Meehan, the NSC spokeswoman, said in a statement that the woman who was freed, a Yazidi, “appears to have been held as a slave” by Abu Sayyaf and his wife. She said the U.S. intends to return her to her family.

ISIS militants captured hundreds of members of the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq during their rampage across the country last summer.

A senior Obama administration official said Umm Sayyaf was being debriefed at an undisclosed location in Iraq to obtain intelligence about ISIS operations. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the operation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The raid was the first known U.S. ground operation targeting IS militants in Syria. A U.S.-led coalition has been striking the extremists from the air for months, but the only previous time American troops set foot on the ground in Syria was in an unsuccessful commando mission to recover hostages last summer.

Syrian state TV earlier reported that Syrian government forces killed at least 40 IS fighters, including a senior commander in charge of oil fields, in an attack Saturday on the Omar field — where the U.S. raid was said to have taken place. The Syrian report, which appeared as an urgent news bar on state TV, was not repeated by the state news agency. State TV didn’t repeat the urgent news or elaborate on it.

U.S. officials said they had no knowledge of a Syrian raid and that the U.S. did not coordinate its operation with the Syrian government. Meehan said the Syrian government was not informed in advance of the raid. The U.S. has said it is not cooperating with President Bashar Assad’s government in the battle against IS.

“We have warned the Assad regime not to interfere with our ongoing efforts against ISIL inside of Syria,” Meehan said, using another acronym for IS. “As we have said before, the Assad regime is not and cannot be a partner in the fight against ISIL. In fact, the brutal actions of the regime have aided and abetted the rise of ISIL and other extremists in Syria.”

An NSC statement said President Barack Obama authorized the raid upon the “unanimous recommendation” of his national security team.

The administration clearly is concerned by the resilience of IS even as officials publicly express confidence that the extremists cannot sustain their territorial gains and ultimately will be defeated.

Saturday’s raid came as IS fighters have advanced in central and northeastern Syria. Activists said IS fighters pushed into Palmyra, home to famed 2,000-year-old ruins, after seizing an oil field and taking control of the water company on the outskirts.

IS said fighters took full control of Saker Island in the Euphrates River near Deir el-Zour, a provincial capital in eastern Syria split between IS and government forces.

Posted in USA, SyriaComments Off on In Rare Move, US Commandos In Syria Kill 32 ISIS Members

100th Anniversary Of Armenian Genocide

NOVANEWS

Reflects A Politically Inconvenient Reality

A massacre can be termed genocide in one country, an atrocity in another, or something barely worth mentioning in a third. But at what point can we all agree to use the “G”-word? The answer to that question is largely a political matter.
100photo

The recent passing of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide is a reminder that not all tragedies are counted the same, and that politics, both at home and abroad, can color our interpretation of history.

In modern Turkey, mention of the genocide is politically unpopular both inside and outside of government. Although officials today admit that atrocities took place, Turkish officialdom insists they were neither planned nor systematically coordinated so as to eradicate the Armenian population. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Turks agree that their country should not label what happened to its Armenian population in 1915 a genocide nor apologize for it.

Such are feelings on the matter in the Republic of Turkey that states wishing to do business with Ankara are well advised to avoid mentioning the “G”-word. Here in the United States, for instance, President Obama pointedly avoided calling the killing of 1.5 million Armenians a genocide even though there was some debate on the issue inside the White House. Instead, he used the term “great calamity,” which sounds like 1.5 million people were killed by accident via happenstance — they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, so to speak.

Even U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, not usually one to sound tougher on an issue, used the slightly more descriptive term “atrocity crimes” to describe the genocide.

Israel, which has tried hard to maintain good relations with Turkey in order to balance against its generally unfriendly neighbors, has also tread lightly when it comes to calling a genocidal spade a spade. Officially, Israel, like many more powerful countries, neither recognizes nor denies the Armenian genocide. And although though the Knesset has a debate on the issue every year, the body does not seem likely to change its position any time soon. Given that the founding of the State of Israel was in no small part due to the perpetration of a similar crime against European Jews, Israeli ambivalence on the subject is perhaps the most poignant reminder that national interests nearly always trump historical fact when said facts are entirely too inconvenient.

Other crimes, other times, other places

This tendency to avoid calling something what it is doesn’t just apply after the fact, either. During the Rwandan genocide, for instance, the White House told officials to avoid the use of the “G”-word during that mass slaughter in central Africa and use the euphemism “acts of genocide” instead, although just how many acts were required before a genocide could be labeled as such wasn’t something the Clinton administration was willing to say.

Lest one think this is a problem that only Democratic presidents have, during the Bush years there was also resistance to using the term to describe the goings-on in Sudan’s Darfur region until then-Secretary of State Colin Powell decided to finally call it out as such in 2004.

So, in the recent past, we have three examples of when a genocide is a genocide and when it is something different. Are there others? During the savage little Balkan wars in the 1990s and early 2000s, for instance, the term “ethnic cleansing” was more commonly used, given that atrocities were used to clear unwanted elements from certain territories rather than to eliminate a population entirely. What difference that made to the people on the ground seems rather academic, however. Likewise with the Kurds in Iraq during the 1980s, although when Saddam Hussein finally became an enemy of the U.S. after the 1990s we were quick to pin that label on Baghdad’s actions, too.

Curiously, that tends to be the case with a lot of massacres. When Cambodians were slaughtered by the hundreds of thousands by the half-mad Pol Pot and his merry band of Khmer Rouge killers — that was deemed genocide. On the other hand, when Indonesia invaded and occupied East Timor and slaughtered as much of its population as it could, that was something different, as was Jakarta’s earlier mass killing of political opponents in 1965-66. Same, too, in Central America during the 1980s, when peasants and Indians were massacred on a grand scale by right-wing regimes in Guatemala and El Salvador.

Truth is always the first casualty

This tendency to call politically inconvenient violence something other than what it happens to be is endemic to politics, regardless of who is doing the killing or trying to justify or ignore it. All countries do it, and it stems from a basic form of motivated reasoning that is simply part of human psychology. Put very simply: We ascribe good motivations and actions to our own actions and those of our friends, and bad motivations and actions to those who are our adversaries. Thus, a massacre can be termed genocide in one country, an atrocity in another, or something barely worth mentioning in a third. The truth of a given event, as always when it comes to politics, is usually a matter of perspective, regardless of how many people are actually killed.

Understanding this tendency should therefore be front and center when thinking of these grim events as well as the politics that lead up to them. We must accept, no matter how hard it is, that we are not always the “good guys” in our own story. And, indeed, it takes brutal honesty to admit when one’s own country has committed terrible sins in the name of domestic politics or international advantage. After all, no one wants to play the villain, least of all those who have so much to gain, both materially and psychologically, from being the good guy.

So, when you turn on the evening news or read about some terrible conflict in some faraway place, understand that you’re receiving at best an incomplete picture and that we quite often see what we want to believe. This is especially the case when reports from our own media come in about atrocities committed by our adversaries and crimes committed by our own government and allies. Our media almost inevitably plays up reports of the first kind, but downplays the actions of the second.

Being cynical about one’s own side may not make one popular, as those Turks who accept the reality of the Armenian genocide can no doubt attest, but it puts one far closer to the truth that most would readily admit.

Posted in EuropeComments Off on 100th Anniversary Of Armenian Genocide

Ignoring Humanitarian Crisis, Zio-Wahhabi-led Bombing oF Yemen Resumes

NOVANEWS
Calls by aid agencies and UN envoy for an extension are rebuffed as humanitarian crisis grips war-torn and poverty-stricken nation.
A boy and his sisters watch graffiti artists spray on a wall, commemorating the victims who were killed in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, May 18, 2015. Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Yemen's Shiite rebels resumed early on Monday in the southern port city of Aden after a five-day truce expired amid talks on the war-torn country's future that were boycotted by the rebels. A boy and his sisters watch graffiti artists spray on a wall, commemorating the victims who were killed in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, May 18, 2015. Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Shiite rebels resumed early on Monday in the southern port city of Aden after a five-day truce expired amid talks on the war-torn country’s future that were boycotted by the rebels.

Despite desperate pleas from the United Nations and aid agencies that a humanitarian ceasefire be extended, the Saudi-led military assault on Yemen resumed late on Sunday after only five days of a tenuous truce that began last Tuesday.

Citing eye witness accounts by local residents, Reuters reports that airstrikes by Saudi-led forces began sometime after the ceasefire ended at 11 pm:

Yemen’s foreign minister told Reuters the Saudi-led coalition had decided not to renew the truce because the agreement had been repeatedly broken by the Houthis. The rebels were not immediately available for comment.

“That’s what we said before — that if they start again, we will start again,” said Reyad Yassin Abdullah from Yemen’s exiled government in Riyadh. The coalition was not considering any new ceasefire,” he added.

Bombings struck the rebel-held presidential palace in Aden, groups of militiamen on the western and eastern approaches to the city as well as the international airport where Houthis and local fighters have been clashing, said residents.

There was no word on any casualties.

Speaking from weekend talks that took place in Riyadh, UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on Sunday called for an extension of the pause in fighting. “I call on all parties to renew their commitment to this truce for five more days at least,” Ahmed said. “This humanitarian truce should turn into a permanent ceasefire.”

UNICEF, meanwhile, said its relief operations during the five-day lull in fighting were mildly successful, but joined Ahmed in a call to extend the official cease-fire.

“During the pause, UNICEF was able to deliver assistance to affected people across the country, however humanitarian assistance cannot replace the needs of 26 million people who have been cut off from a regular supply of commercial imports of food and fuel,” said Julien Harneis, UNICEF Yemen’s Representative, speaking from the capital city of Sanaa. “Hundreds of adults and children have already died during this conflict, many of whom could have been saved had we got supplies to them on time. We need to do everything we can to prevent any more of these unnecessary deaths.”

UNICEF reiterated its demand that all parties to the conflict live up to their commitment to protect civilians, civilian infrastructure, and humanitarian workers, and allow regular commercial imports of fuel and food to enter the country in order to prevent further deaths.

Last week, Oxfam International, also conducting relief operations in the country, made it clear that five days was simply not enough time for aid agencies to deliver the kind of relief necessary. “Life in Yemen isintolerable at the moment,” said Grace Ommer, country director for Oxfam in Yemen. “If the violence doesn’t get you, you still face a struggle to survive. Over 300,000 people have fled their homes – including many of our staff who are assisting their fellow displaced Yemenis.”

What Yemen urgently needs, Ommer continued, “is a permanent ceasefire, one that lets food, fuel, and medical supplies in sufficient quantities to meet the growing needs of the people.”

Speaking with the New York Times on Sunday, André Heller Pérache, of Doctors Without Borders in Yemen,said the brief ceasefire did little to alleviate the devastating shortage of fuel and other much-needed supplies in the country. “Hospitals are still scrambling to find fuel for generators,” he said, and without fuel for cars, people are struggling to reach hospitals. “The capital city is dark at night.”

Reporting by the Wall Street Journal indicates that with renewed bombing by Saudi Arabia and their alliesinto Monday morning, the fighting on the ground is likely to intensify. According to WSJ:

The expiration raised the possibility of more fighting on the ground. Houthi militantscontinued to clash sporadically with Saudi-supported forces during the cease-fire, including in the southern cities of Aden and Taiz.

Hussein Al Bukhaiti, a pro-Houthi activist, said if Saudi Arabia continued its bombardment of areas in northern Yemen near the Saudi border, the Houthis would intensify their retaliation.

“If the aggression increases, Ansar Allah will declare war on Saudi Arabia,” he said, using another name for the Houthis.

Offering a brief backgrounder on the situation in Yemen, CNN reports:

In the conflict, Shiite Muslim rebels from the north of the country, known as Houthis, are clashing with forces loyal to President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, whom the Houthis ousted earlier this year.

A coalition of Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia is backing Hadi and has been carrying out a campaign of airstrikes on the Houthis and their allies since late March.

Complicating the picture, the Houthis have support from some Yemeni military units that remain loyal to Hadi’s predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saudi Arabia fears that Houthi control of Yemen would strengthen the hand of its bitter regional opponent, Iran. But the exact nature of the links between the Houthis and the Iranian regime are unclear.

Yemen is also the stronghold of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has taken advantage of the increased unrest to try to expand its reach.

Talks on the conflict, called for by Hadi, were scheduled to take place Sunday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. But the Houthis and Saleh weren’t expected to attend, making it uncertain what progress could be achieved. Hadi is currently in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Posted in Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on Ignoring Humanitarian Crisis, Zio-Wahhabi-led Bombing oF Yemen Resumes

Eyewitness: Russia’s 70th V-Day

NOVANEWS
By I.V. Sta
Eyewitness: Russia’s 70th V-Day

This month, I had the tremendous honor of taking part in a Russian commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory in WWII. In addition to beautiful parades, fireworks and concerts, I was able to witness multitudes of people sharing with each other something wholly priceless: the gratitude of being alive thanks to those who fought fascism.

As a Russian person who takes pride in their Soviet heritage, I learned a great deal from others who share my history and sentiments.

I spoke with a number of WWII veterans in the city Zheleznodorozhny. They walked through the streets alongside all the other people who came to celebrate. While many veterans and active duty military members were present, WWII veterans were recognizable to all because of their age and the medals they wore.

After the march, people flocked to a Great Patriotic War monument to lay flowers at its base. Group after group of people came up, individuals and organizations announced by the chair of the event, until finally the entire enormous base of the monument was covered in flowers.The event started with a march called the Immortal Regiment, which was held in cities all across the country. Thousands of people marched holding placards with photos of their family members and loved ones who had died in the war. They were followed by coordinated marches of children and active duty military members from Moscow.

“I feel 18. I will always be 18 in my mind,” she said happily as she received flowers from a toddler. She turned to me and continued, “I’ve been through three concentration camps. I was on the front too, but I remember the camps most. We need people to remember what we did, so that this tragedy doesn’t happen again. We need people to remember.”Afterwards, people walked in the park and wished each other a happy Victory Day. Complete strangers embraced and exchanged flowers. Most people had bought bouquets specifically to give out flowers to the WWII veterans who were there. By the end of their walk in the park, the veterans’ bags were loaded with flowers, gifts and candy. I helped an 84-year-old  veteran carry her bags to the next event (a gigantic free dinner and concert for all) and heard her story.

I watched a group of young boys present an elderly veteran with flowers. He laughed happily, saluted them and told them this was their holiday as much as it was his — because they needed to learn and remember the great victory, and become heroes themselves.

I spoke to Dima Shatov, a 5-year-old who was very eager to give flowers to the veterans and learn about the war. I asked him what he would like to say to Americans who aren’t taught about the eastern front. “I would like to say that there really is such a holiday as May 9th, and I want them to know that it’s very important to us. Real soldiers fought in that war. Real soldiers died. So many people died so that the fascists didn’t win. They need to learn that.”

I asked Dima what he liked about the event, and he said “I liked seeing everyone giving gifts and flowers to the veterans and thanking them. I would like to be part of a march like that. I’ve already taken photos with veterans! And I would like to wish our veterans health and a long, happy life.”

When asked what he would like to tell people in the U.S. who think that Russian people are bad, Dima said without hesitation: “I think they need to check themselves and realize that they’re wrong. Our country, our world is full of kind people and if we can all share and love each other, we can be happy.”

Growing up constantly traveling between Russia and the U.S., I was always exposed to a painfully dishonest American version of history. In my history classes in the U.S., I was taught that “the United States and England won WWII, and some allies helped.” The Eastern front was never discussed. This was a source of immense dissonance for me because in Russian school and in my own family I had always learned about the sacrifice the people of the USSR made to overcome fascism. My own great-grandfather was a heroic partisan on the eastern front, and I did not know a single family who had not lost a loved one in the war.

One time, when I asked a teacher about the 27 million Soviet people whose lives were lost in the war, he replied that “American soldiers were better and managed not to die as much.” I received similar responses whenever I tried to raise the question of the Eastern front with American educators.

Russophobic propaganda was well rehearsed throughout the existence of the Soviet Union and is being easily picked up where it was left off now. I was always shamed for being Russian in the U.S.; shamed for being proud of our victory against fascism. I was kicked out of classrooms for stating that the U.S. waited to pick a side in the war and never really had anything against Nazism. Most immigrants from the former USSR are beaten over the head with an absurd theory of exceptional Western heroism in that war. But the beauty of the way people from the former USSR celebrate their victory is a rare, raw experience that, in the way it connects all families throughout Russia, blows that rotten imperialist revisionism to smithereens. The Russian people remember, and always will remember, the real cost of defeating fascism.

What is possibly most important is that people young and old are opening their eyes to the great feat achieved by the USSR thanks to its socialist structure. Despite the anti-Soviet propaganda dispersed throughout the former USSR and the world, the objective truth stands: it was a Soviet flag that flew victorious over the Reichstag. It was a socialist state, and proudly socialist people, that won that great victory. And so on May 9, 2015, flags with the hammer and sickle proudly flew over cities all over Russia, givingcredit, honor and memory where it is due.

Posted in RussiaComments Off on Eyewitness: Russia’s 70th V-Day

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