Archive | July 21st, 2017

Afghanistan’s Illogical Blame Game against Pakistan

NOVANEWS

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By Sajjad Shaukat
Even in the modern world of today, if any country accuses any other country of supporting terrorism or militancy, there is some logic. But, it is quite surprising that Afghanistan continues illogical blame game against Pakistan in this respect. Therefore, Kabul’s such a policy needs analysis.

On May 31, this year, a massive truck bombing of the Afghan capital’s diplomatic section killed more than 150 people and injured hundreds of others, including foreigners. It was the deadliest terror attack in the 16-year- old conflict.

Taliban denied responsibility for the terror attack. But, Afghanistan’s intelligence service accused the Haqqani network by saying that a Taliban-affiliated group in Pakistan, carried out the attack. Addressing the conference-the “Kabul Process on Peace and Security Cooperation”, held in Kabul on June 6, this year, which was attended by representatives from 26 countries and
international organizations, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that he would not be drawn “into a blame game.” But, he left no stone unturned in reviving the old blame game against Pakistan. Ghani, criticized Pakistan for a lack of cooperation in promoting Afghan peace and alleged that Taliban insurgents are using sanctuaries on Pakistani soil to wage the insurgency in
Afghanistan.

In the same speech, President Ghani offered peace talks to the Afghan Taliban by reiterating his preconditions such as recognition of the Afghan constitution, continuity of the reforms of educating and advancing the rights of women, and renunciation of violence and linkages with terrorist groups.

A Taliban spokesman rejected Ghani’s latest offer of a peace dialogue by stating that it is another attempt to endorse and prolong foreign occupation of Afghanistan.

The Taliban unofficially maintains its political office in Qatar, but Kabul does not recognize it and has been pushing Qatari authorities to close it down.
Notably, on the same of the conference, a powerful bomb went off at a main mosque in the western city of Herat, killing at least 10 people and wounding many more. Again, Taliban spokesman denied its involvement in connection with the explosion.

However, Pakistan’s special Corps Commander Conference took the stern notice of Afghanistan’s allegations and threats and vowed to defend the country the with full forces. According to the press release of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), issued on June 6, 2017, the “Special Corps Commanders Conference presided over by Chief of the Army Staff
(COAS), General Qamar Javed Bajwa has called for Afghanistan to introspect and not allege Pakistan of sponsoring terrorism…the conference reviewed the security situation under the backdrop of recent terrorism incident in Afghanistan…Strongly condemning the Kabul blast…meeting has expressed complete solidarity with Afghan government…instead of blaming Pakistan, Afghanistan needs to look forward and identify the real issues…Armed
forces will defend the country from each challenge and will continue work to establish peace in the region.”

ISPR statement further reported that the meeting took exception to the unwarranted accusations and threats against Pakistan in the aftermath of Kabul blast. While reaffirming continued support to regional peace and stability, the forum reiterated military’s resolve to defend the motherland against all types of threat.

In fact, the US and India do not want to see peace and prosperity in the region. Sadly, Pakistan’s dominant role in Afghanistan’s peace process under the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) has, deliberately, been sabotaged by killing of the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansur in CIA-operated drone attack in Balochistan. After the incident, Afghan Taliban leaders refused
to participate in the US-sponsored talks with the Afghan government. While, in the recent past, with the help of Pakistan, a series of meetings were held in Islamabad and Kabul among the representatives of Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US to develop an understanding for the earliest possible resumption of stalled talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban
with view to ending nearly 15 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan.

Owing to America’s double game, trust deficit has deepened between Islamabad and Washington. Therefore, on June 10, last year, a high-level delegation of the US visited Islamabad and met the Pakistan’s former Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif and Adviser to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz separately.

During the meeting, expressing his serious concern on the US drone strike in Balochistan as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Pakistan’s former Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif highlighted as to how it had impacted the mutual trust and was counterproductive in consolidating the gains of Operation Zarb-i- Azb against terrorists. He elaborated, “All stakeholders need to understand Pakistan’s challenges-inter- tribal linkages and decades—old presence of over three million refugees—blaming Pakistan for instability in Afghanistan is
unfortunate”.

In this context, in the recent past, new wave of terrorism in Pakistan killed several innocent people, while various terrorist outfits such as the Islamic State group (Also known as Daesh, ISIS, ISIL) and the affiliated faction of the Tehreek-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat-ur- Ahrar (TTP-JA also known as JuA) claimed responsibility for these
brutal acts. TTP based in Afghanistan has its connections with ISIL and other terrorist organizations and affiliated terror groups, including Baloch separatist elements, and all these groups are promoting the anti-Pakistan agenda of the foreign entities to destabilize Pakistan.

As part of the double game, American CIA, Indian RAW, Israeli Mossad and Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS) which are in collaboration, are using these terror outfits in weakening Pakistan and especially Balochistan, including Afghanistan through various acts of terrorism in order to fulfill their covert strategic aims against Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran.

In the recent past, the capture of secret agents of RAW and NDS by Pakistani intelligence agencies might be cited as an instance. These external secret agencies are particularly supporting the TTP which is hiding in Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. Reportedly, Mullah Fazlullah led TTP is behind several terror activities inside Pakistan, as the latter has also become
center of the Great Game due to the ideal location of Balochistan. With the tactical assistance of CIA, particularly Indian RAW is trying to damage the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.

While, India, the US and puppet rulers of Afghanistan have always blamed Islamabad for cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan to divert attention from the acts of sabotage, which they have been arranging in Pakistan. Main purpose behind is also to pacify their public, as the US-led countries have failed in their fight against the Taliban who are waging a war of liberation against the occupying forces. In this connection, besides the previous false accusations against Islamabad and Pakistan’s security agencies, blame game of these countries could be judged from some new development.

In this regard, on January 10, 2017, an explosion took place in Governor House Kandhar (Afghanistan) where diplomats of United Arab Emirates (UAE) were also present along with the Governor, Deputy Governor, Inspector General of Police (IGP) and other dignities. The blast killed 12 people—five UAE diplomats and injured 18 persons, including Governor of Kandhar
and UAE Ambassador to Afghanistan. IGP Abdul Razziq went outside the hall few minutes before the blast. IGP Razziq put blame on Pakistan’s Haqqani network and its primary intelligence agency, ISI on the very next day.

The matter was investigated by two committees, consisting of NDS and Afghan government and UAE, including Scotland Yard. IGP Razziq did not cooperate with the investigation teams, even though he was responsible for the security of Governor House.

Online reports disclosed that IGP Abdul Razziq did not enjoy good relations with the Governor over custom collection issue. All illegal taxes were collected by IGP’s dedicated persons, instead of custom officials. Governor wanted to streamline the system to benefit the Afghan government which was not liked by IGP Razziq and developed enmity with the Governor. All this led to blast
at Governor House. These developments indicate that explosion could not have occurred without facilitation by IGP Razziq and his men employed at Governor House.

The reports also revealed that Abdul Razziq is a staunch enemy of Pakistan and a dedicated planner and supporter of anti-Pakistan activities. The attack was planned by him to blame Pakistan-based anti-Afghan government group’s involvement in the incident, while the planning was done by Indians who control Razziq, and aim of the incident was also to deteriorate Pakistan
and UAE relations.

It is notable that after the recent terror attacks in Pakistan, a statement by the ISPR said that senior Afghan diplomats were summoned to the General Headquarters (Of army) and asked to ensure that immediate action was taken against the Pakistani terrorists, living in safe havens in Afghanistan.

The army, which took the lead in dealing with Kabul over the terrorist sanctuaries there, had announced closure of the border crossings with Afghanistan, citing security reasons.

According to the statement of the DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor, on February 17, 2017, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa had called Gen. John Nicholson, commander of America’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan through telephone to protest continued acts of terrorism in Pakistan, perpetrated from Afghanistan, saying that they were testing
Pakistan’s policy of cross-border restraint.

Gen. Bajwa told Gen. Nicholson that recent incidents of terrorism in Pakistan had been claimed by terrorist organizations whose leadership is hiding in Afghanistan, and asked him to play his role in “disconnecting this planning, direction, coordination and financial support”.

In a terse message, during the conversation with Nicholson, Gen. Bajwa also informed him of the list of 76 “most wanted” terrorists handed over to Afghan authorities earlier—operating from Afghan territory or hand them over to Pakistan for trying them over their involvement in terrorism.

Taking cognizance of the terror assaults, Pakistan Army targeted a training camp of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and militant hideouts located close to the Pak-Afghan border in areas adjacent to Mohmand and Khyber agencies (Tribal areas).

It is mentionable that the porous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is frequently used by human and drug traffickers, criminals and terrorists. Their easy access through unguarded porous border provides opportunity to miscreants to cause havoc inside Pakistan and Afghanistan. For effective counter terrorism measures, strong border-control management is vital at Pak-Afghan border. But, Afghan rulers are using delaying tactics in this respect.

Taking note of the anti-Pakistan intruders, Pakistan’s army had decided to build a fence along the border and to control the border crossings. In this context, the strategic project of 1,100-kilometre-long trench with the cost of Rs14 billion which was initiated along Pak-Afghan border in Balochistan by Frontier Corps in 2013 has been completed. In the next phase, the project will
be extended to the entire long border with Afghanistan which had opposed this plan.

Meanwhile, during his visit to the Pak-Afghan border regions in Mohmand and Orakzai agencies, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Bajwa who was given a detailed briefing on security arrangements, cross-border terrorist threat and recent terrorist attacks from across on the Pakistani posts (From Afghanistan) stated on March 25, 2017 that fencing on the Pak-Afghan border has commenced and the border areas of Bajaur and Mohmand agencies will be given first
priority, as they are high-threat zones.  He further added that Pakistan Army would employ all resources required for the defence of the country.

It is noteworthy that during the sixth Heart of Asia Conference which was held in the Indian city of Amritsar on December 3 and 4, 2016 proved fruitless in achieving its goals due to secret diplomacy of the US, India and Afghanistan owing to the blame game, especially of New Delhi and Kubal against Islamabad.

During his opening remarks, following American secret strategy in Asia, in his frenzy and ferocious speech, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi lashed out at Pakistan on terrorism as the central subject of the moot.

Speaking in the Indian tone, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani accused Pakistan of providing sanctuary to terrorists and cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan. By snubbing a $500 million pledge from Pakistan for development projects in Afghanistan, he said, “This amount can be spent to contain extremism…Afghanistan suffered the highest number of casualties last year.”

Pakistan’s Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz who also participated in the conference slammed baseless accusations of Modi and Ghani on Islamabad and called for evolving a joint and purposeful strategy for lasting peace in Afghanistan and to combat terrorism in the region. He explained, “It is simplistic to blame only one country for the recent upsurge in
violence. We need to have an objective and holistic view…peaceful resolution to all the longstanding issues is the only way forward for regional cooperation and connectivity…Pakistan is ready to extend every kind of cooperation for lasting peace in Afghanistan.”

The adviser added that peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban had not produced positive results, adding that Pakistan was making a serious effort to facilitate peace talks through the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG). He urged all QCG members to continue their efforts for talks between the Afghan government and Taliban.

Addressing the conference, Russian envoy Zamir Kabulov rejected the Indian and Afghan allegations against Pakistan. He stated that Afghanistan is the pivot of the conference and the agenda of the conference should not be hijacked. He added that being friends and supporters, we should avoid the blame game and work together. He also said that Sartaj Aziz’s speech at the
conference was friendly and constructive.

It is of particular attention that the armed forces of Pakistan have successfully broken the backbone of the foreign-backed terrorists by the successful military operations Zarb-e- Azb and Radd-ul- Fasaad which have also been extended to other parts of the country, including Balochistan. And Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI has broken the network of these terrorist groups by capturing several militants, while thwarting a number of terror attempts.

Besides, since the government of the Balochistan province announced general pardon and protection to the Baloch militants as part of reconciliation process, many insurgents and their leaders have surrendered their arms and decided to work for the development of Pakistan and the province, peace has been restored in Balochistan.

Nevertheless, peace has been restored in Karachi, Balochistan and other provinces of Pakistan, including the tribal areas. But, recent blasts in Balochistan and other regions of the country show that the US-led India, Afghanistan and Israel have again started acts of sabotage in to destabilize
Pakistan and to sabotage the Pak-China CPEC project.

Returning to our earlier discussion, in pursuance of anti-Pakistan agenda, President Ashraf Ghani has only revived Afghanistan’s illogical blame game against Pakistan in order to conceal the reality that external secret agencies, including Afghan intelligence are sponsoring acts of terrorism in Pakistan.

 

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Repressive Cameroon remains unchallenged

NOVANEWS

The crisis in Cameroon continues to fester without much international concern about serious human rights violations. With his close ties to France and his support for the American-led war against Boko Haram terrorism in the north of the country, President Paul Biya may ignore local pressure. But the conflict between the French-speaking and English-speaking parts of Cameroon will not simply vanish.

At a Higher Judicial Council meeting in Cameroon chaired by President Paul Biya on 7 June, it was expected that at the top of the agenda would be the Anglophone Problem and the arrest of 28 civil society leaders from Anglophone Cameroon. Amongst those detained now for five months is a sitting Chief Judge at the Cameroonian Supreme Court, Ayah Paul Abine, and several other prominent leaders with international profiles like and human rights lawyer Nkongho Felix Agbor Ball, the President of the now banned Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CASC).

The ten-member Council includes the minister of justice and, amongst other things, handles disciplinary issues in the judiciary. Yet initial reports from the Council meeting make no mention of discussions on Judge Ayah Paul Abine or the case of the 28 leaders that are being tried jointly on charges which include treason. Conveniently also on 7 June, the court case against the leaders went back into session, only to be postponed again until 29 June.

The phonic rift has its roots in Cameroon’s colonial past. At Independence, Cameroon formed a federal government between an area that had been under the French and a smaller area under the British. Confidence deteriorated amongst the Francophone political leaders that feared federalism would lead to secession of the Anglophone state. A centralised state was formed under Francophone leadership and has been consolidated under President Paul Biya who has held onto power for 35 years and has maintained close ties to France.

The current problem began in October 2016 when lawyers and teachers went on strike demanding greater inclusion of English-speaking professionals in the legal and teaching sectors. This led to rising dissent in the weeks that followed in support of the strikes and in protest against the ‘marginalization and deprivation’ of Anglophone Cameroonians by the Francophone-dominated government.

Protests in Anglophone Cameroon were very much alive three months after the initial strike but there seemed to be a chance that the impasse could be broken when in January the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium entered into dialogue with the government. The Consortium pulled out of the dialogue when four unarmed civilians were shot by security forces, and called for a stay away to create a “ghost town” in peaceful protest on 16 and 17 January 2017. The action was successful, empowered by the ability to structure, unify and share over social media. In response, the Cameroon government launched an attack on civil space, arresting leaders of the Anglophone Consortium and taking action by blocking internet and cell phone data access.

The internet blockade was used as a weapon to create more than economic hardship. It went on for months and whilst it served to demobilise, it was also punitive extended censorship and repressive control to everyone in the region. A delegation led by Kumi Naidoo, the Launching Director of Africans Rising, in February 2017 observed its devastating effects one month into the internet blockade. They observed the extensive impact of isolation in these regions, severely affecting the ability for businesses and services including healthcare and education to function.

Apart from international outcry for the brutal put-down of the 2016 actions in the Anglophone regions, the unlawful arrest and detention leaders from the Anglophone Consortium has not gained much momentum. Some human rights organisations like Frontline Defenders and Amnesty International have called for the release of some of the Anglophone Consortium leaders.

A strong statement came from the African Human and Peoples Rights Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou. He expressed concern for the deteriorating human rights situation in Cameroon in December 2016 and described the response of the government as “the disproportionate and deathly use of force and violence to dispel peaceful and unarmed lawyers, teachers, students, civilians and protesters in Bamenda, Buea and Kumba; the raping of students in Buea; the arbitrary arrests, detention and merciless beatings orchestrated by the police, gendarmerie, military and the BIR following strikes and protests that have been going on since October 2016.”

The UN has taken a quiet diplomacy approach to the Cameroonian government’s response to the Anglophone Problem. Admittedly, internet connection to the Anglophone regions, which had been blocked for four months, was reinstated in April a week after the UN Representative, François Louncény Fall, ended a visit with a press conference where he called for the re-establishment of the internet throughout Cameroon. Louncény did not openly criticise the continued detention of the Anglophone Consortium leaders; instead he said their release would create confidence building conducive to ending the crisis.

The repressive status quo it seems will continue without any meaningful international criticism because the Northern Cameroon border with Nigeria is a front on which to fight the Boko Haram. In addition to Cameroonian troops, the US has a drone base and 300 soldiers stationed here. But perhaps the continuing crisis will not escape the attention of UN representatives that are scheduled to visit Cameroon in June and they will address more than the Boko Haram with the Cameroonian government.

Time is running out for Cameroon to find its way back.  The final outcome of Biya’s Higher Judicial Council and the resolution of charges against the Anglophone Consortium leaders will determine whether the rule of law and an independent judiciary have a chance to survive this latest onslaught.

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Toivo ya Toivo: African revolutionary hero, co-founder of SWAPO passes on

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After spending years as a political prisoner the leader served as an inspiration to oppressed peoples worldwide
Pan-African News Wire

A man of strong beliefs and convictions, Cde Toivo dedicated his life to the fight against oppression by the then South Africa authorities, rejecting apartheid South Africa’s reduction of sovereign Namibia into its colony. His life was the personification of solidarity, the quest for self-determination and unyielding commitment to the liberation of his people.

Laudatory tributes and commendations poured into the Republic of Namibia over the weekend in the aftermath of the announcement of the passing of Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, the co-founder of the Ovamboland People’s Organization (OPO), the predecessor to the Southwest Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), founded in 1959-1960 respectively.

Toivo, who was 93 years old, died in his home on June 9 of an apparent heart attack. His decades of service to the people of Namibia, Southern Africa, the African Revolution as a whole, and the international community, were widely known.

The liberation icon had spent 16 years on the dreaded Robben Island prison along with African National Congress (ANC) leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada and Govan Mbeki. He had been arrested, charged and convicted of treason due to his uncompromising work aimed at the overthrow of the racist-settler colonial system in Namibia which became a colony of the former Union of South Africa during World War I.

After receiving the news of Toivo’s death, Namibian President Hage Geingob went on national television where he made the announcement to the people. He noted the profound loss personally as well as to the people of this Southern African state.

Geingob said in his broadcast to the nation: “Good evening fellow Namibians. The icon of the Namibian struggle and national hero Comrade Andimba Toivo ya Toivo is no more. He left us this evening around 18h00 at his house in Windhoek, Namibia. On behalf of the Namibian government … I express collective sorrow to the bereaved family … their loss is not only felt by the family but by us all as a country.” (Namibian Broadcasting Corporation, June 9)

Former SWAPO leader and founding president of the Republic of Namibia, Sam Nujomo, through his assistant John Nauta, indicated that the first head of state would deliver a message of condolence as part of the memorial and funeral services. Nujomo took control of the SWAPO leadership after Toivo was arrested and imprisoned by the apartheid regime in the 1960s.

The ANC ruling party in South Africa, longtime allies and strategic partners with SWAPO for decades, immediately expressed its condolences through statements amid several South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) television segments reflecting on the life, times and contributions of Toivo. The SWAPO leader had spent time in South Africa prior to his imprisonment beginning in the mid-to-late 1960s.

In fact Toivo championed the rights of African mineworkers in both South Africa and Namibia and was expelled from South Africa for collecting and circulating taped testimonies outside the country to the United Nations (UN) illustrating the harsh conditions of super-exploitation and racial oppression which was the foundation of the system of apartheid. The work of the liberation movements domestically and internationally was a key element in building a worldwide movement in defense of the ANC as well as SWAPO along with the African working class struggles inside South Africa and Namibia.

In a statement responding to the passing of the freedom fighter, the ANC described their ally as: “A man of strong beliefs and convictions, Cde Toivo dedicated his life to the fight against oppression by the then South Africa authorities, rejecting apartheid South Africa’s reduction of sovereign Namibia into its colony. His life was the personification of solidarity, the quest for self-determination and unyielding commitment to the liberation of his people.”

This same ANC tribute continued saying: “South Africa has lost a true friend in Comrade Toivo ya Toivo and we send our deepest condolences to our fraternal organization, Swapo, the people of Namibia and Comrade Ya Toivo’s family on his passing. Comrade Toivo has left an indelible mark in the history of our region and the continent. Ours is to emulate his life’s work and continue to fight for the realization of his vision of freedom for oppressed peoples of the world and of a continent at peace with itself.”

In another statement of condolences to the family of Toivo, the SWAPO Party and the Namibian government, the South African Communist Party (SACP) said: “The South African Communist Party expresses its message of heartfelt condolences to the family of Cde Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, the people of Namibia, Southern Africa and the African continent as whole on the death of the freedom fighter and co-founder and leader of the South West African People`s Organisation (Swapo). Cde Toivo died at the age of 93 in Windhoek yesterday, Friday 9 June 2017.”

The SACP went on to emphasize: “Africa is not independent yet, because of persisting imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation of its resources and people. The masses of our people remain impoverished across the board, while a few, both national and foreign exploiters are becoming rich and richer out of the exploitation. The SACP is reiterating its call for African continental unity to continue and deepen the struggle to advance the African revolution in honor of the exceptional founders and leaders of our national liberation movements, of who Cde Toivo was one.”

Namibia was initially colonized by Germany in the late 19th century. The social conditions imposed upon the African people prompted a revolt in 1904 among the Herero and Nama, which was ruthlessly suppressed.

Thousands of Africans were killed by the German imperialists during the revolt. Tens of thousands of others were forced into concentration labor camps where they died of disease and starvation.

Namibia is rich in mineral resources in addition to having access to the Atlantic Ocean and its deep water port at Walvis Bay. With the defeat of Germany in World War I, their African colonies were taken over by the British and other European imperialists. During the 1920s, the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) led by Marcus Garvey recruited thousands of people into this Pan-Africanist movement.

As conditions worsened under the apartheid settler-colonial system the consciousness of masses grew rapidly. By the conclusion of the 1950s, the people were prepared for a qualitative leap in the organization of a national liberation movement. Consequently, the OPO was later transformed into SWAPO at the beginning of the 1960s.

In 1966, Toivo recruited cadres to form the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN), the armed wing of SWAPO. The initial fighters were sent to the People’s Republic of China for training.

Through a series of legal and political maneuvers, the United Nations declared the racist apartheid regime’s governance over Namibia as being a violation of international law. A UN Council for Namibia was established in 1967. Later SWAPO was recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Namibian people through the passage of UN Resolution 435 in 1978.

With the defeat of the South African Defense Forces (SADF) in Angola in 1988 by the combined forces of the Angolan military, SWAPO/PLAN and tens of thousands of Cuban Internationalists, negotiations were held on a transferal of power to the Namibian people. UN-supervised elections were held in November 1989 and the country was declared independent under SWAPO leadership on March 21, 1990.

Today Namibia remains one of the most stable and peaceful states on the African continent and is a leading member of the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) founded inside the country in August 1992. Namibian foreign policy is Pan-Africanist in its orientation while SWAPO has maintained its control of the government for the last 27 years.

Toivo will go down as one of the great leaders of the African Revolution to emerge during the 20th century. After his release from prison in South Africa in 1984, he was appointed as Secretary General of SWAPO.

When Namibia gained its independence in 1990, Toivo was deployed in the government as the Minister of Mining. He served in government until retiring in 2006.

Just days prior to his death, he attended and co-chaired a conference of African states in solidarity with the Republic of Cuba in Havana.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This writer met Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo in October 1985 when he toured the United States. Toivo was invited by the Southern African solidarity movement at Wayne State University in Detroit where the author introduced him to the audience of students, faculty members, journalists and community activists at a public forum. Later, the following month in November 1985, this writer met and held discussions with Toivo at the UN Council for Namibia offices in New York City. This writer spent time in Namibia during the 1990s where he met the-then President Sam Nujomo and renewed bonds with other SWAPO and government officials.

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U.S. killing more civilians in Iraq, Syria than it acknowledges

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Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this article misstated how many civilian deaths the coalition has acknowledged. The correct number it has admitted to is 21.

ISTANBUL — Al Gharra is a mud-brick village built on hard, flat Syrian desert and populated by the descendants of Bedouin. It is a desolate place. Everything is dun colored: the bare, single-story houses and the stony desert they stand on. There is not much farming — it is too dry — just a few patches of cotton and tobacco.

Before the war, villagers got a little money from the government to look after the national park on Mount Abdul-Aziz, a barren rock that rises 3,000 feet behind the village and stretches miles into the distance. Mount Abdul-Aziz is named after a lieutenant of the 12th-Century Muslim warrior Saladin, who built a fort to dominate the plain below. There is a military base there today too, which changes hands according to the fortunes of Syria’s civil war. In 2011, the regime of Bashar al-Assad held the base; next it was the rebels of the Free Syrian Army; then the so-called Islamic State (ISIL or ISIS); and finally the Kurds, who advanced and took the mountain last May under the cover of American warplanes.

Abdul-Aziz al Hassan is from al Gharra, his first name the same as the mountain’s. He left the village while the Islamic State was in charge, but it is because of a bomb from an American plane that he cannot go back. What happened to his family is the story of just one bomb of the 35,000 dropped so far during 10,000 missions flown in the US-led air war against the Islamic State.

Al Hassan is in his 20s, small, soft-spoken, with chestnut-brown skin. He said the war did not affect al Gharra much back when the regime or the Free Syrian Army occupied the mountain’s military base. But he remembers the day that the Islamic State came. “I was sitting in front of the house when a jeep passed by and stopped at the shrine to Saladin’s commander,” he said. “They gathered all of the people. One said: ‘We are the Islamic State. We are here to create an emirate based on Sharia (Islamic law).’” From that day, they decreed, men had to be in the mosque, the women at home. If a woman wanted to go to the market, she had to walk with a husband, brother or son. No one outside the family could see women uncovered, even at home. “It wasn’t as if we didn’t know what Islam was. But they didn’t even like the way we prayed. Everything we did was wrong in their eyes.”

Still, the presence of Islamic State fighters in the village was rare. They largely stayed within the base. “We managed to live normal lives most of the time. We had family and friends and loved ones around us. We entered each others’ houses for gatherings or parties. We shared the same happiness and sadness.” The U.S.-led coalition occasionally launched airstrikes in the distance. The ground shook “like an earthquake;” sometimes a house fell down. But it wasn’t the bombs or even the dictates of the Islamic State that made al Hassan first leave home. It was the grinding poverty, worsened by war.

“There was no bread and no work,” he said. He took his wife and daughter and drove to Turkey. “My father stayed there to keep the house. The moment you leave, ISIL takes it. All our belongings are there.”

While al Hassan was in Turkey, as spring turned into summer last year, the war took another turn. Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, controlled territory that stopped just short of the mountain. Backed by American air power, they began an offensive to recapture it from the Islamic State. Al Gharra stood in the way. The road to the nearest town — Hasaka, held by the Kurds — was about a mile away from the village. The first bomb fell on that road between 10 and 11 in the morning on May 6 . Then a plane started circling over the village. People were afraid to stay in their homes. They ran into the open. Al Hassan’s father, Ismail, tried to run as well. But he was too late. The villagers remember seeing the plane point its nose down and dive, dropping a bomb. It then climbed away. Al Hassan’s father lay on the ground in a crumpled heap, dead, in front of the ruins of his house.

An uncle phoned to tell al Hassan what had happened. He rushed back to the village from Turkey. His father had died on the first day of the Kurdish offensive to take the mountain. It was still going on when al Hassan returned. “Most of the people had fled because a drone was still roaming around. The airstrikes didn’t stop … one every 15 to 30 minutes,” he said. There were more bombs as the Kurdish forces advanced. “Any village would be heavily bombed until the Kurds managed to get inside. Then they’d let it be. The airstrikes were unbelievable. It was complete destruction. They kept bombing until they got to the mountain.”

The Kurds told reporters covering the offensive that there were a thousand Islamic State fighters at the mountain base. But Al Hassan is adamant that no Islamic State fighters were in the village when his father died. “The Islamic State were not there at the time of the bombing,” he said. “Whenever they expected a strike, they would leave the villages.” And anyway, he went on, they had already sent their troops to try to block the Kurdish advance at the frontline close to Hasaka. “During the airstrikes there was no one. There is no need to lie about this. I don’t support any of the groups fighting this war. The only thing that matters to me is my family’s security.”

There were no independent witnesses in al Gharra to say whether or not Islamic State fighters were there. The YPG general commanding the assault on what the Kurds call Mount Kezwan thought so, or at least he was inclined to see villagers and Islamic State fighters as one and the same. He was quoted as saying that “many of the local villages are Arab and they often support ISIL.” And in the offensive against the jihadist group, the Kurds are often fighting for land they would claim as part of their own future state. They see the Arabs in some of the towns and villages they have captured as aliens with no right to be there.

Al Hassan left his village for the second time — again with his family — a day before the Kurdish forces took full control of the area. They fled over the mountain and drove through Raqqa, the place the Islamic State calls its capital, before crossing the Turkish border. “When the Kurds arrived, they kicked everybody out under the pretext that ISIL had littered the village with booby traps,” he said. “So the entire village left. Almost half of the village was destroyed — then it was completely empty.”

Before they left, they buried his father in a simple grave in the village’s small cemetery. Ismail was 55 and left behind 10 children. Al Hassan was the eldest. “Death comes for all of us. But he wasn’t old and he was the entire family’s provider.” His father’s house — now a pile of rubble — had been home for the whole extended family. “Even if we went back, where would we live? In our destroyed house?” Al Hassan asked bitterly. “Does the American government think we have money? Do they think I can just go back and rebuild our house?” He and the rest of the family are now stuck in Turkey … refugees.

The U.S. military could not confirm whether or not bombs were dropped on al Gharra (also known as al Gharba). A spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the name of the U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State, offered a vague response to our questions. He simply said the coalition had “conducted a number of airstrikes near al Hasaka” on May 6 and 7. When pressed about whether the mountain or the village was hit on those days, the spokesman replied: “We can confirm that Abdul-Aziz mountain is geographically close enough to be considered ‘near al Hasaka.’ However, we do not have a record of striking that particular mountain.”

As a result of al Hassan’s testimony provided by GlobalPost, U.S. Central Command — CENTCOM — said it would look again at whether it did bomb the village. For now, the United States has no record of killing any civilian in al Gharra. GlobalPost found other instances of U.S. airstrikes — detailed below — that probably killed civilians but which were not officially investigated, or which were investigated and dismissed. In almost a-year-and-a-half of bombing Iraq and Syria, the United States admits to killing just 21 innocent people. An independent monitoring group says the real figure could be more than a thousand.

The explanation for the U.S. military’s impossibly low number can be found in the very way it investigates its own airstrikes. A CENTCOM spokesman told us that all civilian casualties were investigated — even if something as insubstantial as an anonymous post to Twitter was the only source. But some U.S. investigations were cursory at best, amounting to what appears to be willful blindness. In an airstrike on one Syrian village — also detailed below — it seems that simple confusion over place names meant that civilian casualties were never investigated and were left uncounted. A coalition spokesman eventually said that CENTCOM would review that case too, after GlobalPost pointed out the village on a map.

Standing orders — the Rules of Engagement — give every mission in Operation Inherent Resolve the goal of causing zero civilian casualties. But given the immense firepower deployed in Iraq and Syria, killing civilians is frighteningly easy, especially from the air. American pilots and their commanding officers are heavily dependent on information from Kurdish troops. In several cases we have looked at, witnesses say civilians were at the scene but the pilots — or the Kurds calling in the strike — thought they were Islamic State fighters. In the few cases where the United States admits killing civilians, the explanation is often the same: the civilians ran into the target area just after the pilots pulled the trigger.

It is difficult — almost impossible — to visit territory controlled by the so-called Islamic State. But we know about airstrikes from witnesses, survivors, human rights activists, video uploaded to YouTube and even lists of the dead published on Facebook. If you believe that evidence, many more civilians are dying in American airstrikes than the U.S. government acknowledges. People in Iraq and Syria can see what is happening. And so can the enemy. The Islamic State portrays the conflict as a war on Sunnis and a war on Muslims. When the coalition kills civilians — and does not investigate and apologize — the Islamic State fills the void with propaganda. The war against the Islamic State is ultimately a war for Sunni public opinion. Things look very different from the ground.

War will always result in civilian casualties — and some in the U.S. military want the strategy to recognize that. Those in uniform cannot state their views openly but a former U.S. Air Force general, David Deptula, argues that the current policy is imposing restrictions on the fighting men and women in the field well beyond the laws of war. “The laws of armed conflict do not require, nor do they expect, a target of zero unintentional civilian casualties,” he told me. “There is no such thing as immaculate warfare, it’s a horrible thing, an ugly thing, and … we need to finish it as rapidly as possible…What is the logic of a policy that restricts the use of air power to avoid the possibility of collateral damage, while allowing the certainty of the Islamic State’s crimes against humanity?”

The Pentagon press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, has said: “No other military on Earth takes the concerns over collateral damage and civilian casualties more seriously than we do.” Yet as the examples below show there has been no honest official estimate of how many civilians the United States has killed in Iraq and Syria. Even if civilian casualties are an inevitable part of a “just” war, the Western public is being fed the comforting illusion that war can be fought without shedding innocent blood.

And that is simply not the case.

AL KHAN

What may be one of the worst tragedies of the campaign against the Islamic State is said to have taken place on another part of Syria’s Hasaka front in December. Al Khan is a tiny village. Most of the people have fled to Lebanon or Turkey. Perhaps a hundred stayed behind. They say the village was hit by rockets and strafed in the early hours of Dec. 7, killing some 47 civilians, half of them children. We spoke to one of the residents by phone, an Arab man in his 30s who, fearing reprisals from the Kurds, wants to be known only by his nickname, Abu Khalil. The war against the Islamic State here is, again, being waged by American aircraft above and Kurdish militia forces on the ground. Abu Khalil accepts that there was an Islamic State presence in al Khan. But he said: “There were fewer than 10 fighters in the village, including two locals. And they all stayed together at one place.”

Abu Khalil does not support the Islamic State. He is a former civil servant in the Syrian education ministry and once served in the regime army (he deserted). “People in al Khan didn’t like ISIL and always avoided talking to them,” he said. The villagers even tried to expel them. According to one report, there was an altercation that escalated into an exchange of fire. The Islamic State apparently responded by sending reinforcements to the village. This convoy, it seems, was spotted by the Kurds, who no doubt thought they were seeing a big movement of troops to the frontline — and called in air support. If this version of events is true, it is a bitter irony for the villagers. It would mean their brave opposition to the Islamic State resulted in a brutal attack by American aircraft.

Abu Khalil is haunted by that night of carnage and destruction.

“It was past midnight. We were sleeping. We were suddenly wakened by a huge explosion. The house shook. The windows shattered. There was shrapnel in the walls. I ran out and saw my neighbor’s house completely destroyed. He told me, ‘Abu Khalil, I managed to rescue my wife and son but I can’t find my six-month-old baby. Help me!’ I could hear people calling from underneath the rubble. My neighbor’s mother was crying out. She’s 70. I pulled her out, along with a boy and his mother. They were all OK.

“My mother and my aunt both came running to help dig through the rubble. But while we did this, a helicopter — an Apache — came overhead. It fired. They had machineguns with explosive bullets. I was hit. I still have the shrapnel in my body. I fell into the hole made by the airstrike. That was what saved me. The helicopter circled round again and fired a second time. My mother and aunt were killed. The woman and her son I’d rescued were killed. Everyone but me was killed.

“Three powerful rockets were used in the first airstrike. They left a two-meter deep hole in the ground. Anyone could see the hole until the Kurdish militia filled it. They don’t let anyone go near the place or take pictures. Nineteen people died in that one house.

“It was the Americans. For the past year-and-a-half, the only aircraft that fly over our area have been American.”

The U.S. military emphatically denied that they bombed al Khan on Dec. 7, though a spokesman said there were airstrikes in the area of al Hawl, a small town a few miles away. But when the spokesman showed us a map marking the location of the airstrike, it was in the same area where a group of local activists had told us al Khan was located. This was where the locals said the rocket attack had taken place. Confusion over place names happens often enough for the U.S. military to plausibly deny responsibility for civilian casualties and to avoid launching a full investigation.

There was confirmation of an airstrike on al Khan from another important source — the Kurdish forces on the ground — though they denied there had been any civilian casualties at all. Abu Khalil’s account of the attack is consistent with interviews given elsewhere, though there are still many things that are unclear about the events in al Khan. Exactly how many Islamic State fighters were there? How many of them were killed? Were they close to the house that was hit? As in al Gharra, the village in the shadow of the mountain, there are no independent witnesses. In both cases, the airstrikes were almost certainly called in by Kurdish spotters. Information from the Kurds is passed on to a coalition “targeting cell.” Though the coalition’s aircraft are capable of striking with great precision, what they hit — who they hit — depends on the quality of that information. The coalition rarely has eyes and ears on ground. It is left to the pilots to confirm the target, from thousands of feet up.

AL HATRA

The limitations of the pilot’s view are clear in the very first report the U.S. published about civilian deaths caused by Operation Inherent Resolve. A family died because two pilots could not see they were there. The report says the pilots simply did not know they were firing on civilians. It was published in November 2015. Until then, the U.S. military had not admitted to causing a single civilian casualty despite 15 months of bombing.

The report described an attack on March 13 of last year against an Islamic State checkpoint outside al Hatra in northern Iraq. Al Hatra is the site of one of the world’s oldest cities, dating back to the 3rd Century BC. Saddam Hussein restored the ruins, laying bricks stamped with his name into the ancient walls. When the Islamic State arrived, they used sledgehammers, Kalashnikovs and a bulldozer to demolish what they believe are the city’s “idolatrous” statues. Then they turned the site into a training camp, installing a checkpoint on the road nearby.

Two U.S. aircraft were given permission to fire on that checkpoint because it seemed — to the pilots and to everyone involved in the so-called “kill chain” — that no civilians were in the strike area. But a Kia sedan and a Chevy Suburban had been stopped at the checkpoint. They were there long enough for the pilots to think that the vehicles were helping the fighters there. Evidence emerged later that members of a family were in the car: two women and three children. The Suburban is thought to have had at least one other civilian and perhaps too, a family group. Through the dense thicket of military acronyms and jargon in the report, the horror of what happened emerges. The planes were A-10 “Warthogs,” snub-nosed aircraft used against tanks. The A-10s are built around a huge seven-barrel machine gun, like a Gatling gun, the “GAU Avenger,” which fires 50 to 70 rounds a second. Each shell is the size of a bottle of beer and the nose is weighted with a third of a kilogram of depleted uranium. One bullet can cut a human being in half; a stream of them can punch through armor or turn a person into red mist.

The Warthog’s cannon makes a distinctive, terrifying noise during an attack. The gun fires so rapidly it sounds like fabric tearing, or a piece of heavy furniture being dragged across a wooden floor (as one journalist described it while watching A-10s over Baghdad in 2003). The two Warthogs in al Hatra came in on their strafing run. They would have fired in two-second bursts, hitting the vehicles and checkpoint with at the very least 200 rounds, probably more. According to the report, four people got out of one of the vehicles just after the cannon was fired. The bullets hit the vehicles, which exploded in a ball of fire, incinerating everyone close by. “Post strike, both vehicles are on fire and it appears like there is one person still moving at the rear of the sedan,” the report said.

As in al Gharra and al Khan, the victims may well have been people who opposed the Islamic State. The women and children were killed as they were trying to leave territory held by the militant group, according to an email sent to the U.S. military by an Iraqi woman. (The email was sent to claim compensation for the destroyed vehicles.) Prompted by the email to investigate further, the U.S. military found its own evidence that non-combatants had been at the scene. Analysis of video from the Warthog’s camera in the “targeting pod” on the wing showed people getting out of the car and: “One of the persons observed … presents a signature smaller than the other persons. This was assessed as a possible child.” Officials determined this by measuring the height of the shadow when the image was blown up on a large screen.

The pilots could not have done such analysis in flight and the report says: “There is no evidence the aircrew had any opportunity to detect civilians prior to their strike.” The spokesman for U.S. Central Command, Col. Patrick Ryder, told reporters by video-link from Baghdad: “It’s safe to say … that if we knew there were civilians we would not have conducted a strike.” The report into al Hatra concludes, in its strangulated military language: “The NCV [Non-Combat Victims] = 0 objective was not met.”

U.S. forces, then, have orders to try not to kill civilians — it is a mission objective. But that is not the same as an absolute prohibition. And the National Security Council spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, has said that bombing in Iraq and Syria would not be held to the same safeguards used in Afghanistan, which only allow strikes when there is “near certainty” of no civilian casualties.

While the standard for strikes may be rigorous — a goal of zero civilian casualties — a target can be ruled free of non-combatants based on little more than an educated guess by the pilots. The pilots’ methods are reminiscent of the CIA’s controversial “signature” strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Those strikes are called in based not on certain intelligence but because targets have suspicious patterns of behavior, “signatures” of terrorists. Being present in a militant area could be enough.

This is exactly the kind of judgment the Warthog pilots used when targeting the two vehicles held at the Islamic State checkpoint. The report into al Hatra also said that one of the planes dropped a 500-pound bomb on a shack at the checkpoint. “Prior to weapon impact but after weapon release a single adult sized PAX (person) is seen slowly moving to the north,” the report said. “This person is knocked down by the weapon impact and not seen moving again.” Was that a fighter, or a farmer? It is impossible to say.
One other revealing finding of the report is that the people getting out of the car were glimpsed only after the pilot had fired. It would have taken three or four seconds for the cannon rounds to hit the checkpoint. Even if the pilot had realized in that time that they were civilians, he could not have done anything about it. This is the theme of several other U.S. government reports into civilian casualties published in January 2016. Here are three excerpts from a Pentagon press release (Italics added by GlobalPost):

On June 19, 2015, near Tall al Adwaniyah, Syria, during a strike against two ISIL vehicles, it is assessed that one civilian was injured when appearing in the target area after the U.S. aircraft released its weapon.

On June 29, 2015, near Haditha, Iraq, during strikes against one ISIL tactical unit and two ISIL vehicles, it is assessed that two civilians were injured. After the U.S. aircraft engaged the target and two seconds prior to impact, a car slowed in front of the ISIL vehicles while a motorcycle simultaneously passed by.

On July 4, 2015, near Ar Raqqah, Syria, during a strike against an ISIL High Value Individual, a car and a motorcycle entered the target area after the weapon was released. It is assessed that three unidentified civilians were likely killed.

In all these cases, the Pentagon’s reporting says that people wandered into the firing line after the pilot had squeezed the trigger. That is a consequence of fighting in built up areas.

Taking all the published investigations so far, the U.S. military acknowledges causing the sum total of 21 civilian deaths in the campaign against the Islamic State. Such a low number is wildly implausible. Airwars, an independent monitoring group that tracks allegations of civilians casualties, says that at least 862 and as many as 1,190 non-combatants have died in coalition strikes in Iraq and Syria. The Airwars count is made by collating reports from several sources for each strike: human rights activists and the media, Facebook posts, and testimony from survivors and relatives of the dead. Each casualty report is judged credible based on the amount of detail and whether it is consistent with other evidence.

The head of Airwars, Chris Woods, says the “smart bombs” used by Western air forces have clearly reduced the risk to civilians on the battlefield. Nevertheless, he says that in Afghanistan, for example, more civilians died in airstrikes than were killed by foreign ground troops. Airpower was the single greatest cause of civilian death by international forces, killing one civilian for every 11 airstrikes. In Iraq and Syria, the ratio could be even worse, he says, because there are more attacks on “targets of opportunity” than those based on intelligence. And the campaign is being fought mainly in built-up areas where it is hard to distinguish the enemy.

“In the end, the generals who ran Afghanistan, David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, managed to start getting civilian casualties down by admitting they were killing civilians,” he said. War fighters were only forced to change tactics when confronted with the effects of what they were doing. “Right now, we are in the denial phase with the coalition. They don’t admit to killing civilians and we think that’s wrong. … The military is starting to believe their own myth of absolute precision … this fantasy lulls Western audiences into feeling more comfortable with our countries being at war because we think we don’t kill civilians anymore. I’m afraid the reality is far from that.” He went on: “It is probably fair to say that the coalition is taking more care than we have ever seen in any air war in recent history, but that’s relative precision and civilians are still dying … hundreds of them.”

KFAR DERIAN

In September 2014, doctors at a hospital in the southern Turkish city of Iskenderun were presented with a mystery. An injured Syrian boy, four or five years old, was brought there in a coma. He had no identifying documents and no parents, or anyone else, claimed him. Doctors wrote a Turkish name on his chart and kept him in intensive care. They would learn later that the child came from a village called Kfar Derian, just over the border. He was a victim of the very first U.S. airstrikes in Syria. How the coalition responded to what happened in Kfar Derian at least partly reveals why official figures fail to show the true extent of civilian casualties.

U.S. airstrikes in Syria began in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 22, 2014. Two warships, one in the Red Sea and one in the Arabian Gulf, launched waves of cruise missiles, 47 in all. Some of them were aimed at Islamic State targets in Iraq; some at the Islamic State in Syria. But eight of those missiles were for the Khorasan group, which is part of Al Qaeda. One of them — it seems — hit the village of Kfar Derian. “The attack happened at night,” said Abu Mohammed, a 30-year-old from a neighboring village. He remembered seven or eight impacts spread across the mountainous terrain, coming 30 seconds apart, one after the other. “When the Syrian regime attacked, it was always in the day. The explosions were very big. When the people saw this they said the missiles came from the sea.”

Khorasan was unheard of until it was identified as a threat by the U.S. government. The U.S. said its members were experienced Al Qaeda operatives preparing bomb attacks on Western airlines. They were embedded with Al Qaeda’s Syrian ally, the Nusra Front (which is engaged in its own war with the Islamic State). The day after the attack, the Syrian Network for Human Rights reported that a missile hit a Nusra building, killing many fighters. But they said the explosion was so big that the blast wave also demolished a house 100 yards away — a Tomahawk cruise missile packs a 1,000 pound bomb and flies in at 550 mph. It can cause devastation over a wide area. The activists counted the bodies of 13 civilians in the house, including five women and five children. Abu Mohammed, speaking long after these events, put the number of dead much higher — “six families” — and denies there were armed men in the village: “The people were shepherds, nothing else.”

After the attacks he was asked by local people to go to Turkey to look for a mother and son whose bodies could not be found in the rubble. Three days later, he found the mother in a mortuary. After a week, he still couldn’t find the little boy. “We searched everywhere for him.” Then, having almost given up hope, he showed a picture of the boy at a hospital. Doctors recognized him.

The 5-year-old was not registered under his own name, Humam Darwish. “When I first saw him he was in intensive care, no movements, just breathing, inhaling and exhaling, nothing more. They told us they couldn’t do anything for him.”

Humam did not wake up for months. He is now an orphan — his mother, Fatima, and his father, Mohammed, are both gone — living in a children’s home, and very far from the alert, inquisitive little boy he used to be. Abu Mohammed calls him the sole survivor of a massacre. “Houses were bombed,” he said. “Families died. There were no survivors. The only one who lived was that child.” His testimony has differences with the activists’ account, most importantly his claim that no fighters were in the village. But both agree there were civilian casualties in Kfar Derian. The U.S. military says the eight missiles did not even succeed in wiping out Khorasan. The militants slipped away, tipped off by reconnaissance flights before the strike. Abu Mohammed said: “A day before, there was many scout planes over the area that was bombed.”

The Pentagon has never accepted that it killed civilians in the Khorasan strikes. Two days afterwards, the Pentagon press secretary, Admiral Kirby, was asked about civilian casualties in Kfar Derian. He replied: “We don’t have any credible operational reporting … that would sustain those allegations.” A year later, a declassified internal military document concluded, “no further inquiry required.” This was because: “A review of BDA (battle damage assessment) imagery did not credibly determine that civilians were present at the site. Open source images presented as casualties from the strikes actually came from previous GoS (government of Syria) strikes.”

The monitoring group Airwars say that coverage of Kfar Derian on one English language website did, wrongly, use a picture of a child killed in a regime bombing. But this is the only case they can find of such false reporting, while there were many other genuine images of the strike that Central Command could have used as the basis for an investigation. Woods, the head of Airwars, said such images were ignored for “pure propaganda” reasons — propaganda aimed at Americans, since Iraqis and Syrians already knew people were dying in coalition airstrikes. But Woods says it’s a mistake to think the information can be controlled, when anyone with a camera phone can post video of an airstrike online in minutes. “We know more about the civilian victims of this war, by all parties, than we’ve ever known in any conflict in history. That’s war today.”

He went on: “The Pentagon operates in this weird bubble where it pretends social media hasn’t been invented. It just ignores all these allegations of civilian casualties … If the coalition are not engaging in that territory (responding to claims of civilian casualties on social media), they are effectively ceding it to the Islamic State. The coalition needs to be more honest with Iraqis and Syrians.”

The conventional wisdom is that bombing must increase support for the Islamic State. The conventional wisdom may be wrong, although it is hard to be sure as there is no way to measure public opinion in the “Caliphate.” In the early days of the campaign in Syria, there were some anti-coalition demonstrations with placards declaring: “This is a war on all Sunnis.” But they may have been orchestrated, with people press-ganged to attend. There have been few, if any, large and spontaneous popular protests against the bombing. That maybe because the coalition has killed relatively few noncombatants in Syria compared to the Islamic State and the regime. In January 2015, a group of Syrian doctors said that indiscriminate air attacks by the regime caused 80% of civilian casualties, while the Islamic State caused 15%, and the coalition 5%.

But those who are directly affected by U.S. bombs are, as you would expect, bitter.

“You build in your countries and destroy in ours?” asked Abdul-Aziz al Hassan, who lost his father in the bombing at al Gharra. “Is this how you bring democracy? Stop it. Really, stop it. People are tired.” Abu Khalil, survivor of the devastating attack in al Khan, said he wanted compensation from the United States for the death of his mother. Abu Mohammed, who spoke to us about Kfar Derian simply condemned the United States as “Zionists,” echoing both jihadi and regime propaganda. He wanted nothing to do with America.

All of them sounded more weary than angry.

Posted in Middle East, USA, Iraq, SyriaComments Off on U.S. killing more civilians in Iraq, Syria than it acknowledges

Who Should Be Held Responsible for the Cruel Bloodshed in Syria

NOVANEWS

6734523234It goes without saying that it’s mainly due to the unprecedented courage of certain journalists that go above and beyond to report the truth, we know that that there’s a whole list of Western countries that continue arming such radical terrorist groups as Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS.

On June 15, the UN report would release a report that would state that Israeli authorities are routinely financing and supplying Islamic radical militants fighting against the legitimate government of Syria and its armed forces in the Golan Heights. The report that was penned by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) summarizes the period from March 2 to May 16, noting there’s a number of cases Israel would assist renegade armed groups. In total, there’s been sixteen such instances recorded by UNDOF.

But it goes much further that this. As it’s been reported there’s been at least 350 diplomatic Silk Way Airlines flights transporting weapons to various war zones across the world over the last 3 years. This Azerbaijani state-run company has been smuggling weapons to Syria under the pretext of shipping diplomatic pouches.

The files that were leaked to the members of the press include correspondence between the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Azerbaijan, with attached documents for weapons deals and diplomatic clearance for overflight and/or landing in Bulgaria and a great many countries, including US, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Turkey.

And there’s no need to be surprised over that since it’s been established a long while ago that the most intense weapons trafficking to radical Islamists has been run by Bulgaria. Moreover, a total of fifteen different intelligence agencies, including special services of the USA, Great Britain, France and the countries of the Persian Gulf have joined their efforts in organizing the so-called “Bulgarian Stream”. They’ve been using diplomatic flights run by American companies to supply pro-US forces on the ground with non-NATO weapons, buying them in Bulgaria and then delivering the crates to Saudi Arabia for them to be smuggled to Syria.

In the west of Mosul, more than 500 such crates with various ammunitions delivered from Saudi Arabia were discovered a while ago. It goes without saying that they were used by ISIS to continue their reign of terror. Pictures of those crates were initially published on Twitter by Iraqi Day.

At the same time, one can recall that Iraq has already tried to accuse Saudi Arabia of supporting radical Islamists last year, when Iraq’s permanent representative to the UN, Mohamed Ali Alhakim, said that ISIS was receiving funds from Riyadh that were sent under the guise of charity for the children of the city of Fallujah . According to this official figure, Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, sent a letter to Riyadh with a request to clarify why the Saudi authorities would not stop sponsoring terrorism, thus abiding numerous resolutions of the Security Council.

Yet another channel of arms trafficking has recently been exposed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kuwait. According to this information, suppliers purchased weapons and ammunition for artillery systems in Ukraine and supplied them to ISIS through Turkey. Saudi Arabia has also been using the pretty same route to supply radical militants with US-produced TOW systems. As for MANPADS, jihadists have been receiving those from Libya, those are apparently being stolen from the warehouses built back in Gaddafi years.

The American Conservative notes that the policy of arming military groups committed to overthrowing the government of President Bashar al-Assad began in September 2011, when President Barack Obama was pressed by his Sunni allies—Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—to supply heavy weapons to Syria.

Additionally, it’s been pointed out that CIA involvement in the arming of anti-Assad forces began with arranging for the shipment of weapons from the stocks of the Gaddafi regime that had been stored in Benghazi. CIA-controlled firms would ship the weapons from the military port of Benghazi to two small ports in Syria using former US military personnel to manage the logistics. The funding for the program came mainly from the Saudis.

It would then state that:

A declassified October 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report revealed that the shipment in late August 2012 had included 500 sniper rifles, 100 RPG (rocket propelled grenade launchers) along with 300 RPG rounds and 400 howitzers. Each arms shipment encompassed as many as ten shipping containers, it reported, each of which held about 48,000 pounds of cargo. That suggests a total payload of up to 250 tons of weapons per shipment. Even if the CIA had organized only one shipment per month, the arms shipments would have totaled 2,750 tons of arms bound ultimately for Syria from October 2011 through August 2012. More likely it was a multiple of that figure.

The single largest Saudi arms purchase was from the United States. In December 2013, would approve the sale of 15,000 TOW systems to Riyadh, the total worth of weapons sold back then amounted to 1 billion dollars. The TOW missiles began to arrive in Syria in 2014 and soon had a major impact on the situation on the ground.

It’s no secret that the flood of weapons into Syria, along with the entry of 20,000 foreign fighters, have largely defined the nature of the conflict. By helping its Sunni allies provide weapons to al-Nusra Front and its allies and by funneling into the war zone sophisticated weapon, Washington can be describe as the actor responsible for the spread of radical Islamists across the Syrian territory.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Who Should Be Held Responsible for the Cruel Bloodshed in Syria

What Role Has I$raHell Played In the Refugee Crisis?

NOVANEWS

56234342344Europe has been content to blame its current societal and economic decline on malfeasant leaders like EU Jean-Claude Juncker, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or France’s ex-president François Hollande. If the people of Europe only knew the real actors behind, Israel would not be unscathed in this whole Arab Spring charade. Yes, Europe has the Israelis to thank for sapping what’s left of the EU’s strength. Here’s a story you won’t read in the New York Times, but one the Wall Street Journal will hint at.

This morning I was astonished to find a Wall Street Journal story that framed Israel’s support for Syrian insurgents against the government of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad. In a strange twist of the fates, by reporters Rory Jones in Tel Aviv, Noam Raydan in Beirut and Suha Ma’ayeh in Amman, Jordan, the newspaper owned by Genie Oil investor billionaire Rupert Murdoch suddenly decided to spill some of the beans on Israel’s role in the Syria. The WSJ story is but one of the recent revelations hinting at how Israel played a key role in the conflict that has destroyed Syria, and which has flooded Europe with refugees and potential terrorists. The lead from the WSJ is telling:

“Israel has been regularly supplying Syrian rebels near its border with cash as well as food, fuel and medical supplies for years, a secret engagement in the enemy country’s civil war aimed at carving out a buffer zone populated by friendly forces.”

But Murdoch’s newspaper only skims the surface on the Israeli operations directly relating to the war to unseat Assad no matter what. For months I’ve asked the question, “How could the Arab nations’ most hated foe keep from being bloodied by ISIL?” Some of the answers now emerge. This story from Syria Deeply was probably sourced from the same informants that the WSJ used. Its intro paragraph points to a bigger story.

“Over the past five years, Israel has been quietly working to establish a foothold in southern Syria to prevent Syrian government-backed forces from controlling the area and to bolster its claim over the Golan Heights.”

There’s some clear reasons the older Syria Deeply story (June 15th versus June 17th for the WSJ version) is different from the new WSJ one. First and foremost, Israel’s claims over the Golan Heights link Rupert Murdoch and several other prominent western figures to the conflict in Syria via Genie Energy. While it’s no secret the whole Arab Spring upheaval was in part over pipelines and energy wars, the carving up of Syria for select interests has been a lesser known fact. On Genie Energy, the reader may be interested to know Genie Oil and Gas (GOGAS) found substantial oil and shale reserves in the Golan Heights. This border region is now seems to be associated with more US and British billionaires and power brokers than any stretch of land east of Manhattan. From dumped Donald Trump security adviser James Woolsey to the homicidal maniac former US VP Dick Cheney, the Genie machinates are in our face trying to profit from Syria’s destruction. By October 2015, Genie Energy Ltd.’s chief geologists assured investors that major oil reservoir were indeed in the Golan, and then in early 2016 Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began losing his mind over the deals the US, Russia and the rest of the West were discussing settlement of the Golan affair as being “Syrian land”. If you’re wondering if Netanyahu has a stake in the western oligarch play for energy in Syrian territory, his later statements were also telling:

“The Golan will always remain in Israel’s hands. Israel will never withdraw from the Golan Heights.”

Fast forward to this presidency and Donald Trump’s kinship with Netanyahu and Israel. Political analyst Anthony Bellchambers encapsulated what a Trump presidency means for Golan and for Syria overall. He wrote for Global Research on what a Trump White House mean:

“It would almost certainly embolden Israel to unilaterally annex the occupied Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan Heights in gross violation of international law and in contempt of the United Nations…It would increase the likelihood of a global war between the US and Russia, and their respective allies…”

Returning to the Israeli real and logistical support for insurgents inside Syria, this recent UNDOF report spoke of “a significant increase in interaction” in between the IDF and Assad’s opposition across the alpha-beta fence in between Golan and Syria proper. The report speaks of both “personnel and supplies being observed to have been transferred in both directions.”

Instances of the Israelis treating “moderate jihadist” wounds, as well as government organized aid entities trucking in medical aid, food and clothing are well documented (US News & World Report from 2015), but what’s not so publicized are the funding and support for Israel’s own Free Syrian Army faction, known as the Golan Knights (Liwa Forsan al Joulan) made up of between 300 and 1000 fighters. On the wider scale, the Israelis have also been promoting the National Salvation Front leader Fahad al Masri, who has publicly called for Israeli intervention in Syria. All of this activity exactly mirrors what the Israelis did in Lebanon back in the early 1970’s to the mid 2000’s.

Once ISIL reared its ugly head to further the effort to unseat Assad, Israeli officials began expanding Israeli settlements in Golan, as well as infrastructure projects there. Where funding of ISIL is concerned, the Russian air forces bombing black market oil headed from ISIL held territory to Israeli ports was well documented by me and many others. Direct contact in between anti-Assad insurgents, Israel’s military and leadership, and US Senator John McCain has also been documented by Global Research founder, Professor Michel Chossudovsky and others. In the story linked here, there’s a photograph showing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon visiting a wounded mercenary at an Israeli military field hospital at the occupied Golan Heights’ border with Syria, 18 February 2014.

Finally, the underneath support from Israel to anyone opposing the Assad government was made clear by me on my personal blog some months back. Supported by reports from other sources, this was my conclusion on the Israel role in all this back in September of 2015 when the Russia air campaign was about to go into full swing. Israel is set to benefit from Assad’s downfall accordingly:

“With Assad gone, and with US duplicity in these matters, Israel would become the ultimate powerhouse of stability in this region. Her enemies dispersed like wandering nomads, the Jewish state could go ahead and eradicate the Palestinians, expand her territories uninhibited, and dictate policy for the whole region. That is, with Washington’s say so.”

Back then the Jerusalem Post revealed most of Israel’s oil actually came from Kurdistan, so my theories were not unsupported by evidence of Israel’s role. Looking at the situation today, one nation has benefitted more than any other since the onset of what became known as “Arab Spring”. Gabriel Scheinmann, Ph.D. candidate in international relations at Georgetown University, wrote a piece evidencing just such a win. “The Real Big Winner of the Arab Spring” reflects on what I would call “the subterfuge the Israeli lobby inserted” into think tank mentalities from the start, that somehow Israel lost from this upheaval in the Arab world. The article also reveals a more logical reality. To quote Scheinmann:

“There is good reason to think, however, that this assessment is largely incorrect. In fact, the changes wrought by the Arab Spring are likely to be of long-term benefit to Israel. Its most dedicated enemies, especially the Iran-led “Axis of Resistance,” have been seriously weakened, both economically and militarily. The Arab states, hostile and otherwise, will be unable to directly challenge Israel for a long time. “

Israel, surrounded by enemies, is one of a handful of neighboring states that have been totally unscathed by these wars and revolutions. Meanwhile, millions of refugees flood Europe. Terror spreads to the rest of the world. And bankers line up in anticipation of additional military spending, trillions in reconstruction costs in Syria and elsewhere, and the economic loans half a hundred nations will soon need. The EU is sinking under austerity and added pressure from this crisis, and somehow nobody looks at who is benefitting? If there is any real justice in the world, then Israel’s role in all these conflicts will be revealed.

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The Day a #Yugoslavia Hashtag Saved the World

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3423123123There’s a message and a hashtag on Twitter these days that should become the biggest meme ever. If only Yugoslavia and our world could be put back together again with a damages trial against NATO, that would be poetic justice. Unfortunately, I doubt social media will turn on its ear over a court case being built against the perpetrators of forgotten war crimes from the Bill Clinton presidency – But I can dream.

Back in February of 2016 I wrote a story about Yugoslavia and an alternative future we’d be experiencing had my country and its European puppet states destroyed that key nation. The storyline was widely cited and controversial to an extent, owing to the opinions of those from the newly established countries where Yugoslavia once stood. That report was about the loss to the peoples of those nations when a potential world power was vanished by outside forces. It said very little for the deep humanitarian scars though. When Bill Clinton authorized the destruction of the cement that held together the middle of Europe, he created a never-ending nightmare that needs to be felt. Now an international legal team has set out to get justice over NATO’s use of depleted uranium munitions, and the cancer related death and illness rising across that region since 1999.

According to these lawyers, as much as 15 tons of depleted uranium ammunition from various weapons systems deployed by NATO was used, and especially in Serbia. According to the RT report on the case, Srdjan Aleksic, is a Serbian lawyer who leads the legal team formed by the Serbian Royal Academy of Scientists and Artists, that includes lawyers from the EU, Russia, China and India. They contend that more than 30,000 people have fallen sick from exposure to the munitions in this year alone. I’ll address the munitions issue in a moment, but right here I’d like to strike the same chord I did in my earlier report on Yugoslavia by quoting award winning author of 23 books, Dr. Michael Parenti, who’s an American political scientist, political economist, and historian:

“The dismemberment and mutilation of Yugoslavia was part of a concerted policy initiated by the United States and the other Western powers in 1989. Yugoslavia was the one country in Eastern Europe that would not voluntarily overthrow what remained of its socialist system and install a free-market economic order. In fact, Yugoslavs were proud of their postwar economic development and of their independence from both the Warsaw Pact and NATO.”

My father was the Attorney General of the US state of Georgia for a time, and a constitutional lawyer, and advisor to both LBJ and Nixon. I know he would make use of this assertion by Parenti in order to establish “intent”, or in courtroom rhetoric he might say; “It goes toward establishing the intent to commit a crime, your honor”. If there were a jury present, the use of the term “mutilation” would be repeatedly drummed in, in order that the real judges might discern damages. But I digress, this is a civil liability matter amplified by a criminal act.

Wikipedia’s entry about the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia contains a photograph from an exhibit where there are three depleted uranium ordinance are on public display. There’s also a map showing the sites in Kosovo and western Serbia where these munitions were used. But that’s Wikipedia, and nobody uses Wikipedia as a viable source. So, this Le Monde diplomatique piece by Robert James Parsons is a better starting point for my report. His detailed assessment includes the allegation that investigators searching evidence of depleted uranium ordinance in Kosovo were impeded by NATO operators during their searches. For the reader, in March and April of 2001, UNEP and the World Health Organisation (WHO) published reports on the use of DU in the region based largely on investigators work on the ground, and work which was tightly supervised by NATO troops. The short version for this new legal team perhaps, is that NATO could easily have diverted investigators away from the worst areas of DU use, and probably did. Parsons’ various reports strike deep into the heart of the Serbia-Yugoslavia war crimes. Depleted uranium ordinance use in the Balkans and especially in Afghanistan are a legal time bomb about to explode. Hundreds of thousands of people may have turned themselves into internally radiated toxic waste carriers because of inhaling the dust from these munitions. I won’t go deep into Parsons’ research, but I was struck by his mentioning a US munitions factory that may have been the source of the weapons used in Yugoslavia:

“In a French TV documentary on Canal+ in January 2001 (7), a team of researchers presented the results of an investigation into a gaseous diffusion — recycling — plant in Paducah, Kentucky, US. According to the lawyer for 100,000 plaintiffs, who are past and present plant employees, they were contaminated because of flagrant non-compliance with basic safety standards; the entire plant is irrevocably contaminated, as is everything it produces. The documentary claimed that the DU in the missiles that were dropped on Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq is likely to be a product of this plant.”

The work of Parsons and other experts points to the United States of America using Iraq and other crisis areas for testing horrible weapons. The ramifications are staggering, if I am honest here. As an American and a veteran, having my belief system rebooted is not a comfortable exercise. Following the course the aforementioned researchers did, I’m led to a disturbing possibility, that the United States may have used depleted uranium not just for 30 mm and 120 mm armor and bunker piercing munitions like anti-tank rounds, but in smart bombs and missiles as well. Another independent investigator named Dai Williams pointed to the faulty UNEP report on DU use in the Balkans, and “a new generation of hard target versions of guided weapons (bombs and missiles) proposed in 1997 e.g. GBU-24, GBU-37, GBU-32, AGM-86D, AGM-65G, AGM-154C and latest versions of the BGM-109 Tomahawk.” Taken at face value, the purpose or mission of these weapons demands the capability supplied from using depleted uranium. Or in other words, the Pentagon needed depleted uranium to kill inside hardened bunkers etc. With reference to something called the “Hard or Deeply Buried Defeat Capability Program”, these reports are “at least” cause for an investigation – or a court case.

The question that arises is clear, sharp, and may lead to a damnable conclusion. “Does our government conceal from us the use of horrendous and outlawed weapons of destruction?” Given the Snowden revelations, the WikiLeaks Clinton and Podesta files, the WikiLeaks CIA leaks, and the mess in the world today…

The secrecy and the strange circumstances surrounding depleted uranium ordinance use in the Balkans, Iraq, and in Afghanistan point to cover up. The circumstances surrounding the initial UNEP and the World Health Organisation (WHO) point to a potential cover up. According to the investigators mentioned above, the Pentagon and NATO may well have carried out a “cleanup operation” in the former Yugoslavia before UNEP was even allowed in. The fact so few DU rounds were ever recovered there validates this thesis. Thousands of rounds fired at map locations absolutely traceable, and only a few DU munitions recovered? It may well be that the “lack of evidence” is really the evidence here. Turning to the medical side, every indication is that the people of these areas were affected. I’ll quote from a communication of Dai Williams from 2001:

“The population of Iraq appear to have had the highest DU exposure to date but they have also had the longest time for carcinogenic and mutagenic effects to appear.  Significant quantities of hard target guided weapons were used in the Balkans, including the regions policed by Italian and Spanish troops several of whom have died from Leukaemia.  With warheads ranging from 1000 lbs to 2 tons large quantities may have been used in Afghanistan – possibly comparable with the tonnage’s used in Iraq.  Medical evidence is bound to emerge whatever attempts the US and UK governments make to conceal the truth about these weapons.  If so the UN may need to revisit its recent resolution to ignore the DU issue in Iraq.”

Several studies from the mid-2000s showed increased levels of uranium contamination in human and environmental samples since the use of uranium weapons by US and UK forces in combat zones since 1991. Most disturbing in my research was this report from New Weapons Org that contained the following:

“… urine samples from civilians living near bombed targets in Afghanistan (UMRC 2002) showed very high levels of apparently natural uranium contamination – from 15 to 80x normal compared to the UK population (80 to 400 ng/litre compared to normal of 5 ng/litre). These observations led to the scenario that US weapons manufacturers may be using uranium alloys based on almost natural uranium feedstock instead of recycled depleted uranium.”

To sum up, I’ve alluded to a degree of “intent” being established in this current case on the use of illegal weapons in Serbia. It’s no stretch to advance the case further by showing the massive liability involved in irradiating Europe’s citizens with ordinance used in an illegal regime change at the continent’s center. Tens of thousands of people suffering health effects, no telling how many already dead, and the “motive” for covering up in such a case is immeasurable. So, if truth and equal justice is the goal of all western democracies, this new case needs to happen. And it needs to happen in full view of the people of our world. It’s time for a meme that may never come.

 

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Have Western Liberals been in Bed with Radical Militants for Far Too Long?

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4534324234Lately we’ve been witnessing an ever increasing number of reports and non-conspiratorial facts that expose an alliance that exists between Western liberals and jihadists. It’s hardly a secret that in Libya NATO fought a war on behalf of al-Qaeda and other radical groups to topple the legitimate government of what used to be the most prosperous and stable African state. Countries like Britain even used their intelligence services to help bring latent jihadists, some of whom were under police surveillance, in a bid to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi.

Even today such states as the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, and Belgium are not just sponsoring radical militants across the Middle East and arming them, they are effectively providing close air support to radical forces in Syria, while helping the Saudis to aid the Wahhabist cause in Yemen.

A prominent alternative media source The Duran would note:

ISIS and al-Qaeda want to destroy secular, progressive, modern Arab governments whether Ba’athist, Nasserist or in the case of Libya one based on the Third International Theory–western leaders want the same. Jihadists believe it is their duty to replace secular governments with theocracy–western leaders back them up. Countries like secular France, Israel, Germany the US and UK don’t like to talk about the fact that Libya was a secular state with mass literacy, women’s rights, protections and safety for black people and high living standards.

Western government have been providing all sorts of assistance to radical terrorists right under our noses, acting on the pretext that they are assisting non-existent moderate rebels groups. In reality certain detachment of ISIS would pretend to be member of the so-called opposition forces in the morning, only to butcher civilians by hundreds in the evening. It comes as no surprise that recently the Salon magazine would publish a detailed report of the crimes against humanity committed by the so-called ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria, since there’s a long list of those being committed on the daily basis.

The efforts undertaken by governments, special services, civil society institutions of the Western world to support those so-called ‘moderate forces’ will inevitably lead to the continuation of the string of terrorist attacks in Western states, leading to the ever growing hatred that most Europeans have recently experienced towards Muslims.

The divide between various social and religious groups across the EU will become even deeper with every new terrorist attack. This development will transform those Muslims who have nothing in common with radical militants into outcasts, that are going to be unwelcome in most any European state. This will make the attempts to radicalize those groups that are being routinely taken by ISIS into a pretty simple task.

This means that after some time the Islamic State will become capable of enlisting enough outcasts to create a rouge army in the EU. The question is where will this army launch a jihad against the infidels in the Middle East or in Europe itself?

The ideas voiced by certain individual experts about the need to put an end to the exodus of Muslims from the conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa look delusional at best. Judge for yourself, no European state will agree to invest massive financial resources in the rebuilding the destroyed economies of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, in a bid to create more or less decent living conditions for local residents that are fleeing their home towns in search for a better life in Europe.

Therefore, the ongoing fighting in those regions will only lead to an increase in the level of radicalization among local young people, who forced into exile and deprived of the decent and humane treatment that any individual is entitled to get.

The programs aimed at the de-radicalization introduced by a number of EU countries, in fact, are not only falling short of the expected effect, but just fail. This is especially true of the program of de-radicalization of French youth, that was adopted last May. Its failure is being manifested by the reports of two members of the French Senate: Esther Benbassa and Catherine Troendlé. Those ladies drafted a document that goes under the title of “Désendoctrinement, désensbrigadement et réinsertion des djihadistes en France et en Europe.” In short, this report subjects the attempts create centers of to deradicalization taken by the French government to an extensive amount of criticism, since local authorities have not simply failed to achieve their stated goals, but compromised the very idea of creating such centers.

Therefore, it is only logical that an ever increasing number of experts in various countries of the world has come to grips with the fact that the military defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq will not put an end to the string of terrorist attacks in Europe. That is why the problem of radicalization is, above all, the problem of European societies, and it must be solved in Europe. The Die Presse, for instance, seems convinced  that it’s the only hope the EU has to put an end to the problem of terrorism.

For Germany, the defeats that the Islamic State is suffering in Syria is major security risk, since the more pressure is exerted on jihadists, the higher the threat of terrorist attacks in Western Europe, notes Christoph Wanner, a correspondent for the German TV channel N24.

That is why today the European political forces, just like their colleagues from across the ocean, must take decisive efforts in a bid put an end to radicalization of local Muslim communities and counter the spread of ISIS’ poisonous ideology.

 

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Hollywood’s Crusade against Muslims, Film Portrayal of Arabs

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Hollywood’s Crusade against Muslims, Film Portrayal of Arabs. The Writings of Media Critic Jack Shaheen.

Featured image: Jack Shaheen (Source: NPR)

The event of 9/11 is unparalleled in history, in drama, in audacity, in the terrorific images, in deaths, in its live transmission, in its ongoing controversies. It remains a traumatizing American experience with continually unfolding consequences. One result is the rise and persistence of hostility by Americans not only towards the [alleged] perpetrators, Arab agents purportedly motivated by a religious ideologue, but also entire Arab nations and Arab and Muslim peoples worldwide.

This everlasting bitterness exaggerates the tragedy in the minds of Americans. At the same time, it interrupts and distorts Muslims’ self-identity and the daily injustices we experience.

Any conversation, private or public, with other Muslims about our current woes and anxieties– our prayers and dreams, our relations with fellow students, neighbors and co-workers– somehow finds its way back to that dreadful iconic date in 2001. It is a shadow haunting us wherever we go—to the ballot box, in our classroom, at a job interview, down our neighborhood street, on a holiday.

That event has become such a part of us, even if we think we buried it, that we unwittingly own it. We write books and magazine essays condemning terror and demonstrating our American-ness; we pen memoirs documenting our victimization; we reply to surveys testifying to our children’s bullying by classmates and teachers alike; we join interfaith sessions; we seek out grants to teach others about the calm nature of our religion and the beauty of our cultures. Even as we do so, that awful event remains the peg around which our existence rotates—favorably or otherwise.

The death of media critic Jack Shaheen earlier this month is an opportunity to offer our post-9/11 generation (there it is again) of activists and commentators an essential historical perspective on the demonizing process in which we are enmeshed.

Shaheen’s work needs to be better known by American Muslims. It warns us:

“Go beyond 9/11; that vicious blight consuming our history and humanity has been with us for a long time. It’s not only driven by our nightly news broadcasts; it is embedded in our children’s school books and our most entertaining action films starring our favorite actors”.

As powerful as the medieval Christian crusade, Hollywood’s film industry is behind a century of productions targeting Arab and Muslim peoples—in animated children’s films, exotic tales of romance, and in American war legends.

Shaheen was a professor of communications who focused his attention as a media critic on film portrayals of Arabs; his exhaustive work provides irrefutable documentation of the creation of the “bad arab” in cinema and lore. He expanded his arguments, first published in TV Arab (1984), in his later book, Reel Bad Arabs (2001 and 2012), offering hundreds of examples of the mindless belly dancer, the veiled seductress, the sword-wielding assassin, the hook-nosed desert nomad, the oil-rich despot. You know them well.

Since the early days of the silent cinema those images remain popular in today’s biggest Hollywood blockbusters. The terrifying Arab was ultimately given a tangible personality in the form of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization). As noted by Rima Najjar writing about the political manipulation of this concept “The pattern of dehumanizing Palestinian Arabs and/or deliberately obscuring their humanity are factors that have facilitated Israel’s project of designating Palestinian resistance movements as terror organizations.”

Although the PLO was distinctly secular and socialist, by the 1980s their image became layered with a religious identity conveniently found in the Gaza-based movement Hamas. As Hamas gained recognition as the image of Palestinian resistance, the threat to Israel was now ‘Islamic terror’.

In 1984 came the highly successful autobiography Not Without My Daughter which in 1991 was made into a popular film of the same name starring Sally Fields. Its promotional blurb sums up the storyline thus: “An American woman, trapped in Islamic Iran by her brutish husband, must find a way to escape with her daughter…”. Septembers of Shiraz, a 2015 film I plucked at random from my local library only yesterday, assures continuation of filmic exploitation of a ‘revolutionary Iran’ and Islam, and the racist values they perpetuate. We are reminded of our media’s role in this process with a recent admission by the New York Times.

The course by which Islam became such a fearsome concept, effectively manipulated for political purposes primarily through American media is best documented by the outstanding culture critic Edward Said in his 1981 Covering Islam. Even today, with our abundance of so-called experts on Islam, from gadflies to published professors, Covering Islam remains unsurpassed as an analysis of the role of our media in designing a frightening ogre for American consumption, a creation that daily deepens mistrust among peoples and shapes foreign policy. Nothing I have read in these decades of overwhelming attention on Islam supersedes Said’s brilliant, straightforward analysis. Along with Mahmood Mamdani’s Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, it ought to be read and used by every journalism student, every political scientist, every anthropologist, and every Muslim.

Shaheen’s exposé on the role of film in fostering and supporting racism applies to education (sic) about our Native Americans, Black Americans, Asian peoples, even Irish and Italian. Our Black citizens are hard at work using their resources and political savvy to overturn centuries of misrepresentation. Muslims can do it too. We must. Muslim comedians have broken the ground; the next step is to make our own films.

Analysis has its limits; film is a powerful artistic tool that can sweep aside all arguments and misunderstandings.

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Japan Plans to Expose Its People and 2020 Tokyo Olympians to Fukushima Radiation

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Featured image: Contaminated earth storage area within the Iitate Village evacuated zone, December 2014. Photo: Eric Schultz / EELV Fukushima via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Former nuclear industry senior vice president Arnie Gundersen, who managed and coordinated projects at 70 US atomic power plants, is appalled at how the Japanese government is handling the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

“The inhumanity of the Japanese government toward the Fukushima disaster refugees is appalling,” Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 45 years of nuclear power engineering experience and the author of a bestselling book in Japan about the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, told Truthout.

He explains that both the Japanese government and the atomic power industry are trying to force almost all of the people who evacuated their homes in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster to return “home” before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

This March Japan’s federal government announced the subsidies that have, up until now, been provided to Fukushima evacuees who were mandated to leave their homes are being withdrawn, which will force many of them to return to their contaminated prefecture out of financial necessity.

And it’s not just the Japanese government. The International Olympic Commission is working overtime to normalize the situation as well, even though conditions at Fukushima are anything but normal. The commission even has plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to have baseball and softball games played at Fukushima.

Gundersen believes these developments are happening so that the pro-nuclear Japanese government can claim the Fukushima disaster is “over.” However, he note,

“The disaster is not ‘over’ and ‘home’ no longer is habitable.”

His analysis of what is happening is simple.

“Big banks and large electric utilities and energy companies are putting profit before public health,” Gundersen added. “Luckily, my two young grandsons live in the US; if their parents lived instead in Fukushima Prefecture [a prefecture is similar to a state in the US], I would tell them to leave and never go back.”

Reports of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which began when a tsunami generated by Japan’s deadly earthquake in 2011 struck the nuclear plant, have been ongoing.

Seven more people who used to live in Fukushima, Japan were diagnosed with thyroid cancer, the government announced in June. This brings the number of cases of thyroid cancer of those living in the prefecture at the time the disaster began to at least 152.

Arnie Gundersen

While the Japanese government continues to deny any correlation between these cases and the Fukushima disaster, thyroid cancer has long since been known to be caused by radioactive iodine released during nuclear accidents like the one at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. A World Health Organization report released after the disaster started listed cancer as a possible result of the meltdown, and a 2015 study in the journal Epidemiology suggested that children exposed to Fukushima radiation were likely to develop thyroid cancer more frequently.

The 2011 disaster left 310 square miles around the plant uninhabitable, and the area’s 160,000 residents were evacuated. This April, officials began welcoming some of them back to their homes, but more than half of the evacuees in a nearby town have already said they would not return to their homes even if evacuation orders were lifted, according to a 2016 government survey.

Officials from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the company responsible for cleaning up the disaster, announced this February they were having difficulty locating nuclear fuel debris inside one of the reactors. Radiation inside the plant continues to skyrocket to the point of causing even robots to malfunction.

Cancer cases continue to crop up among children living in towns near Fukushima.

And it’s not as if the danger is decreasing. In fact, it is quite the contrary. Earlier this year, radiation levels at the Fukushima plant were at their highest levels since the disaster began.

TEPCO said atmospheric readings of 530 sieverts an hour had been recorded in one of the reactors. The previous highest reading was 73 sieverts an hour back in 2012. A single dose of just one Sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness and nausea. Five sieverts would kill half of those exposed within one month, and a dose of 10 sieverts would be fatal to those exposed within weeks.

Dr. Tadahiro Katsuta, an associate professor at Meiji University, Japan, is an official member of the Nuclear Reactor Safety Examination Committee and the Nuclear Fuel Safety Examination Committee of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Truthout asked him what he was most concerned about regarding the Japanese government’s handling of the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

“What I regard as the most dangerous, personally, is the fact that the Japanese government has chosen the national prestige and protection of electric power companies over the lives of its own citizens,” Katsuta, who wrote the Fukushima update for the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, said.

Gundersen thinks it simply makes no sense to hold the Olympics in Japan.

“Holding the 2020 Olympics in Japan is an effort by the current Japanese government to make these ongoing atomic reactor meltdowns disappear from the public eye,” Gundersen said. “I discovered highly radioactive dust on Tokyo street corners in 2016.”

According to Gundersen and other nuclear experts Truthout spoke with, the crisis is even worse.

Fukushima and Surrounding Prefectures Radioactively “Contaminated”

“The Japanese government never dedicated enough resources to trying to contain the radiation released by the meltdowns,” Gundersen said.

Gundersen said that during his first trip to Japan in 2012, he stated publicly that the cleanup of Fukushima would cost more than a quarter of a trillion dollars, and TEPCO scoffed at his estimate. But now in 2017, TEPCO has reached and announced the same conclusion, but as a result of its inaction in 2011 and 2012, the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful mountain ranges in Fukushima and surrounding prefectures are contaminated.

One of the tactics that Prime Minister Shinzō Abe‘s administration chose to deploy at Fukushima to contain radiation was an underground “ice wall.”

“As the ‘ice wall’ was being designed, I spoke out that it was doomed to fail, and was [an] incredibly expensive diversion,” Gundersen said. “There are techniques that could stop water from entering the basements of the destroyed reactors so that the radioactivity would not migrate through the groundwater to the ocean, but the Japanese government continues to resist pursuing them.”

Gundersen argues that Japan could and should build a sarcophagus over all three destroyed reactors and wait 100 years to dismantle them. This way, the radioactive exposure will be minimized for Japanese workers, and ongoing radioactive releases to the environment would be minimized as well.

Gundersen also points out that it is equally important that radioactive water continues to run out of the mountain streams into the Pacific, so a thorough cleanup of the mountain ranges should begin right now, but that is a mammoth undertaking that may never succeed.

IAEA experts depart Unit 4 of TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on 17 April 2013 as part of a mission to review Japan’s plans to decommission the facility. (Source: Greg Webb / IAEA / Wikimedia Commons)

In addition to his other roles, Arnie Gundersen serves as the chief engineer for Fairewinds Energy Education, a Vermont-based nonprofit organization founded by his wife Maggie. Since founding the organization, Maggie Gundersen has provided paralegal and expert witness services for Fairewinds. Like her husband, she’s had an inside view of the nuclear industry: She was an engineering assistant in reload core design for the nuclear vendor Combustion Engineering, and she was in charge of PR for a proposed nuclear reactor site in upstate New York.

When Truthout asked her how she felt about the Abe government’s response to Fukushima, she said,

“Human health is not a commodity that should be traded for corporate profits or the goals of politicians and those in power as is happening in Japan. The Japanese government is refusing to release accurate health data and is threatening to take away hospital privileges from doctors who diagnose radiation symptoms.”

Maggie Gundersen added that her husband also met with a doctor who lost his clinic because he was diagnosing people with radiation sickness, instead of complying with the government’s story that their illnesses were due to the psychological stress of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns.

M.V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and is also a contributing author to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report for 2016. Like the Gundersens, he is critical of the Abe administration’s mishandling of Fukushima.

“I am not sure we can expect much better from the Abe administration that has shown so little regard for people’s welfare in general and has supported the nuclear industry in the face of clear and widespread opposition,” Ramana told Truthout. “As with restarting nuclear power plants, one reason for this decision seems to be to reduce the liability of the nuclear industry, TEPCO in this case. It is also a way for the Abe administration to shore up Japan’s image, as a desirable destination for the Olympics and more generally.”

Katsuta agreed.

“Prime Minister Abe has neither the knowledge about the issue of Fukushima accident nor the interest at all,” Katsuta said. “The Abe administration has yet to clearly apologize for its responsibility for promoting the nuclear energy policy.”

Instead, according to Katsuta, the Abe administration has lifted evacuation orders in an effort to “erase the memories of the accident.”

Fukushima Evacuees “Forced” Back Home

In the immediate wake of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, 160,000 people fled areas around the plant. The Abe government has been providing housing subsidies to those who were evacuated, but its recent announcement means those subsidies will no longer be provided. Many “voluntary evacuees” will be forced to consider returning despite lingering concerns over radiation.

“This is very unfortunate,” Ramana said of the withdrawal of the subsidies. “The people who were evacuated from Fukushima have already been through a lot and for some of them to be told that the government, and presumably TEPCO, does not have any more liability for their plight seems quite callous.”

He explains that, in enacting this callous move, the Japanese government is claiming that radiation exposure is now within “safe levels” for people to return home. This claim ignores the fact that levels now are even higher than before the accident, and also disregards the widespread uncertainties plaguing the measurement of radiation in the affected areas.

Katsuta expressed similar concerns.

“The lifted evacuation area has not been restored completely, as the radiation dose is still high, and decontamination of the forest is excluded,” he said. “Besides, the decontamination waste is often stored in the neighborhood, and there were many families who did not return, and then the local community collapsed.”

Katsuta added that the subsidies only amount to $1,000 per refugee, so paying them for the next 10 years is “not expensive” in order to safeguard human lives.

Given her work in PR for the nuclear industry, Maggie Gundersen had an interesting position on the Abe government’s tactics.

When she was working for the atomic power industry, she was “carefully taught” certain misinformation about atomic power reactors by industry scientists and engineers. She said she would never have done that work if she had known the “hidden truth.” She and Arnie were both taught that atomic power was the “peaceful use of the atom” — she does not support war and believes that the use of atomic weapons or depleted uranium are horrific crimes — and she explains that she never would have worked for or promoted atomic power knowing what she knows now.

“Arnie and I immediately noticed that TEPCO and the Japanese government were using the same playbook that was used at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island (and for that matter, Deepwater Horizon),” Maggie Gundersen explained. “Governments immediately minimize the amount of radiation being released, or in the case of Deepwater Horizon, the amount of oil.”

She added that in each of these cases, the mainstream press dutifully reported shortly after the crisis that there was nothing to fear, even though there was no evidence to support these assertions. The governments’ objectives were to minimize fear and chaos, and most media simply echoed officials’ claims. The responses to the Fukushima disaster are following the same pattern.

“Is the Abe regime glossing over the seriousness of the Fukushima meltdowns and ongoing radioactivity? Absolutely,” she said. “What is happening in Japan to the known and unknown victims is a human rights violation and an environmental justice debacle.”

2020 Tokyo Olympics to Be Held Amidst “Hot Particles”

Katsuta said that the Fukushima evacuees are “extremely worried” that their plight will be overshadowed by the Olympics. He believes the Japanese government is using the Olympics to demonstrate to the world that Japan is now a “safe” country and that the Fukushima disaster “has been solved.”

“In Japan, the people are really forgetting the Fukushima accident as … the news of the Olympics increases,” he said.

Arnie Gundersen doesn’t think it makes sense to have some of the Olympic venues (soccer, baseball and possibly surfing) in Fukushima Prefecture itself.

“Radioactively ‘hot particles’ are everywhere in Fukushima Prefecture and in some of the adjacent prefectures as well,” he said. “These ‘hot particles’ present a long-term health risk to the citizens who live there and the athletes who will visit.”

Ramana, too, believes that the events held closer to Fukushima “may be adding to the radiation dose of the competitors and the spectators.”

Fukushima Disaster “Will Continue for More Than 100 Years”

Maggie Gundersen pointed out that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission consistently claims it has learned lessons from Fukushima, but she doesn’t think the commission — or the Japanese government, or corporations — learned any lessons at all.

“Energy production is all about money,” she said. “After the meltdowns, many banks in Japan invested in keeping the atomic power reactors on hold until the disaster could sort itself out. Those banks and the government supporting its access to the use of the atom have a vested interest in starting the old reactors up.”

Katsuta has a dire outlook for the future of Fukushima, and said there are already numerous evacuees who have given up hope of returning because they are aware of the crisis being unsolvable by the current means of TEPCO and the Abe administration.

“Even if decontamination and decommissioning work progresses, the problem will not be solved,” he said. “We have not yet decided how to dispose of decontamination waste and decommissioning waste.”

Ramana believes Fukushima should be a reminder of the inherent hazards associated with nuclear power, and how those hazards become worse when entities that control these technologies put profits over human wellbeing.

Arnie Gundersen had even stronger words.

“The disaster at Fukushima Daiichi will continue for more than 100 years,” he explained. “Other atomic power reactor disasters are bound to occur. Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi should have taught everyone around the world that nuclear power is a technology that can destroy the fabric of a society overnight.”

According to him, the remains of the reactor containments at Units 1, 2 and 3 are highly susceptible to damage from another severe earthquake, and any earthquake of 7.0 or higher at the Fukushima site could provoke further severe radiation releases.

Shortly after the meltdowns, Maggie and Arnie Gundersen both spoke about Japan being at a “tipping point”: It could respond to the disaster by leading the world in renewable energy while choosing to protect people and the pristine rural environment through sustainable energy economies.

But obviously it didn’t work out that way.

“The world saw Japan as technologically savvy, but instead of moving ahead and creating a new worldwide economy, it continues with an old tired 20th century paradigm of energy production,” Maggie Gundersen said. “Look at the huge success and progress of solar and wind in other countries like Germany, Nicaragua and Denmark. Why not go energy independent, creating a strong economy, producing many more jobs and protecting the environment?”

Arnie Gundersen has plans to return to Japan later this year on a crowdsourced trip with scientific colleagues in order to teach Japanese citizen scientists how to take additional radioactive samples. Fairewinds Energy Education is currently fundraising to make this possible.

In the meantime, dramatic examples of the ongoing dangers of nuclear power in Japan abound.

In June, radioactive materials were found in the urine of five workers exposed to radiation in an accident at a nuclear research facility in Japan’s Ibaraki Prefecture. In that incident, one of the workers had a large amount of plutonium in his lungs.

Recent polls in Japan show that the Japanese public has lost faith in nuclear safety regulation, and a majority of them favor phasing out nuclear power altogether.

Meanwhile in the US, President Donald Trump has put nuclear energy first on the country’s energy agenda and has announced a comprehensive study of the US nuclear energy industry. Trump’s energy secretary Rick Perry said,

“We want to make nuclear cool again.”

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