Archive | Afghanistan

Afghanistan and Iraq: it’s the Same War

NOVANEWS

Global Research

Four years ago the U.S. and Britain unleashed war on Iraq, a nearly defenseless Third World country barely half the size of Saskatchewan.

For twelve years prior to the invasion and occupation Iraq had endured almost weekly U.S. and British bombing raids and the toughest sanctions in history, the “primary victims” of which, according to the UN Secretary General, were “women and children, the poor and the infirm.” According to UNICEF, half a million children died from sanctions related starvation and disease.

Then, in March 2003, the U.S. and Britain — possessors of more weapons of mass destruction than the rest of the world combined — attacked Iraq on a host of fraudulent pretexts, with cruise missiles, napalm, white phosphorous, cluster and bunker buster bombs and depleted uranium (DU) munitions.

The British Medical Journal The Lancet published a study last year estimating Iraqi war deaths since 2003 at 655,000, a mind-boggling figure dismissed all-too readily by the British and American governments despite widespread scientific approval for its methodology (including the British government’s own chief scientific adviser).

On April 11, 2007, the Red Cross issued a report entitled “Civilians without Protection: the ever-worsening humanitarian crisis in Iraq.” Citing “immense suffering,” it calls “urgently” for “ respect for international humanitarian law.” Andrew White, Anglican Vicar of Baghdad added, “What we see on our television screens does not demonstrate even one per cent of the reality of the atrocity of Iraq…”

The UN estimates two million Iraqis have been “internally displaced,” while another two million have fled — largely to neighbouring Syria and Jordan, overwhelming local infrastructure.

An attack such as that on Iraq, neither in self-defence nor authorized by the United Nations Security Council is, in the words of the Nuremberg Tribunal that condemned the Nazis, “the supreme international crime.” According to the Tribunal’s chief prosecutor, US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, such a war is simply mass murder.

Most Canadians are proud that Canada refused to invade Iraq. But when it comes to Afghanistan, we hear the same jingoistic bluster we heard about Iraq four years ago. As if Iraq and Afghanistan were two separate wars, and Afghanistan is the good war, the legal and just war.

In reality, Iraq and Afghanistan are the same war.

That’s how the Bush administration has seen Afghanistan from the start; not as a defensive response to 9/11, but the opening for regime change in Iraq (as documented in Richard A. Clarke’s Against all Enemies).That’s why the Security Council resolutions of September 2001 never mention Afghanistan, much less authorize an attack on it. That’s why the attack on Afghanistan was also a supreme international crime, which killed at least 20,000 innocent civilians in its first six months. The Bush administration used 9/11 as a pretext to launch an open-ended so-called  “War on Terror” — in reality a war of terror because it kills hundreds of times more civilians than the other terrorists do.

That the Karzai regime was subsequently set up under UN auspices doesn’t absolve the participants in America’s war, and that includes Canada. Nor should the fact that Canada now operates under the UN authorized International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mislead anyone. From the start, ISAF put itself at the service of the American operation, declaring “the United States Central Command will have authority over the International Security Assistance Force” (UNSC Document S/2001/1217). When NATO took charge of ISAF that didn’t change anything. NATO forces are always ultimately under US command. The “Supreme Commander” is always an American general, who answers to the American president, not the Afghan one.

Canadian troops in Afghanistan not only take orders from the Americans, they help free up more American forces to continue their bloody occupation of Iraq.

When the U.S. devastated Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (1961-1975), leaving behind six million dead or maimed, Canada refused to participate. But today Canada has become part of a U.S. war being waged not only in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in a network of disclosed and undisclosed centres of physical and mental torture, like Guantanamo Bay in — let’s not forget — illegally occupied Cuban territory. And what we know about what the U.S. government calls terrorism is that it is largely a response to foreign occupation, and what we know about American occupation is that it is a way the rich world forces the rest to surrender their resources.

General Rick Hillier bragged that Canada was going to root out the “scumbags” in Afghanistan. He didn’t mention that the Soviets, using over 600,000 troops and billions in aid over ten years, were unable to control Afghanistan. Britain, at the height of its imperial power, tried twice and failed. Now, Canada is helping another fading empire attempt to impose its will on Afghanistan.

Canadians have traditionally been able to hold their heads high when they travel the world. We did not achieve that reputation by waging war against the world’s poor; in large part we achieved it by refusing to do so.

Canada must — immediately, and at the minimum — open its doors to Iraqis and Afghanis attempting to flee the horror being inflicted on their homelands. We must stop pretending that we’re not implicated in their suffering under the bombs, death squads and torture. This means refusing to lend our name, our strength and the blood of our youth in this war without end against the Third World.

David Orchard is the author of The Fight for Canada: Four Centuries of Resistance to American Expansionism and ran twice for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative party. He farms at Borden, SK and can be reached at tel 306-652-7095davidorchard@sasktel.net  www.davidorchard.com

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US caused rise of jihadist forces

NOVANEWS

Women marching in support of Afghan revolutionary leader Taraki.

When Western politicians and pundits point the finger of blame at the people of the Middle East for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, it is especially insulting. It is US foreign policy that has led to the rise of jihadist forces. Cases in point are the examples of Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Iran

First, let’s take Iran. How did the Islamic Republic come into being? Let’s go back to the CIA’s first large scale operational success, the 1953 coup.  This is at a time when, thanks to its 1906 Constitutional Revolution, the country had a parliamentary system. In April 1951, Mohammad Mossadegh, a nationalist leader, was elected prime minister. Britain called for, and the United States supported, a worldwide embargo of Iran’s oil. Mossadegh was demonized by the imperialist media. Time Magazine called Mossadegh a “mad man.”

The CIA and the British MI6 developed a comprehensive plan called Operation AJAX. The mastermind of the plot was CIA Middle-East agent, Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt. The plot involved organizing right-wing military leaders and financing groups of criminal elements. Street riots of bands of thugs were staged, offices of newspapers loyal to Mossadegh were burned, and the parliament was attacked. Then, the CIA-designated generals arrested Mossadegh and declared Martial Law. The Shah was put on the throne as a tyrant with absolute power.

The Western media celebrated the CIA coup. The New York Times wrote: “underdeveloped countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid by one of their number which goes berserkwith fanatical nationalism.”

Following the coup, the client state unleashed a wave of arrests, torture and executions. Before the coup, the leftist Tudeh Party had been the largest organized force. The nationalists were also strong and well-organized. But now, any opposition to the Shah’s regime was repressed with extreme brutality.

Still, despite all the repression, there was bound to be resistance to the Shah’s dictatorship. And this resistance led to the revolution of February 1979. But by the time of the revolution, the left and the secular nationalist forces had been crushed, so the revolution was led by Ayatollah Khomeini.

The Islamic Republic is not an ultra-reactionary force like Al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIL. But in a country where the left used to be the strongest organized force, thanks to the CIA coup, only the clergy was in position to win power in 1979.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the US role in the rise of Islamic forces was not indirect. The US organized and funded them. Afghanistan had a communist-led social transformation, what is called the Saur Revolution. In April 1978, the government tried to crush the country’s main communist party, the Peoples Democratic Party of Afghanistan, and arrested almost its entire leadership.

An uprising by the lower ranks of the military freed the popular party leader, Nur Mohammad Taraki. On April 27, the PDPA and progressive members of the Afghan military overthrew the monarchy of Zaher Shah. Two days later, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in celebration. Many waved the red flags of the PDPA, a party with close to 50,000 members that had wide popular support in the cities.

In a country of less than 20 million, 200,000 peasants received land from the PDPA government. The revolutionary state set up extensive literacy programs. The government trained many teachers, built schools and kindergartens and instituted nurseries for orphans. By 1985, there had been an 80% increase in hospital beds. The government initiated mobile medical units and brigades of women and young people to go to the undeveloped countryside and provide medical services to the peasants for the first time.

Afghanistan made tremendous progress during this era. But the era came to a quick end. Immediately following the revolution, the CIA organized counter-revolutionary forces. Washington formed and funded a militia of mercenaries supported by feudal landowners. This militia called itself the Mujahedeen. The Carter administration called them “freedom fighters.”

Al Qaeda and other jihadists militias today trace their roots to the Mujahedeen. The US organized them, trained them and funded them. Osama bin Laden was one of the leaders of the Mujahedeen. The Mujahedeen carried out a terror campaign in the countryside, torturing and murdering teachers, doctors and women who worked outside of the home.

Western media coverage of developments in Afghanistan was simply that the Soviet Union invaded to expand its so-called empire. But the Soviet Union had no intention of conquering Afghanistan. The Afghan government insistently requested Soviet military assistance and the Soviets only reluctantly agreed to do so. Zbignew Brezhinski, at the time Carter’s national security adviser, later revealed that US support for the Mujahedeen started in July of 1979, months before the Soviet intervention.

The huge cost of Soviet military involvement in Afghanistan, their arms race with US imperialism and a shift to the right in the leadership, resulted in the Soviet Union pulling troops out of Afghanistan in 1989.

But the revolutionary Afghan government did not collapse when the Soviets pulled out. Supporters of the regime fought bravely against a better-armed and well-funded force. It wasn’t until 1992, three years later, that the Afghan government fell to the Mujahedeen. Then the rival factions of the Mujahedeen started fighting each other. In 1996, the Taliban, a faction formed from some Mujahedeen fighters, took power with backing from Pakistan’s ISI. The Taliban gained control of most of Afghanistan. When the Taliban took over, Washington moved to work with them. It was only after Sept. 2001 that the US made the Taliban its enemy. And to this day, the misery of the Afghan people continues thanks to the U.S. occupation.

Iraq 

Modern Iraq came into being in the aftermath of World War I with the Sykes-Picot agreement. The former Ottoman provinces of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul became the new British mandate of Iraq. The country was ruled by a British-installed monarchy, and continued to be occupied by British military bases.

But on July 14, 1958, a military rebellion led by Abd al-Karim Qasim and the Free Officers movement turned into a country-wide revolution. The revolution put an end to colonial domination and marked the beginning of Iraq’s real independence.

Over the next three decades, the US applied many tactics to weaken and undermine Iraq as an independent country. After Iraq completed nationalizing the Iraqi Petroleum Company in 1972 and signed a defense treaty with the USSR, the US added Iraq to its list of “terrorist states.”

Washington supported the more rightist elements within the post-revolution political structure against the communist and left-nationalist forces. For example, the US backed the overthrow and assassination of President Abd al-Karim Qasim in 1963. And Washington applauded the suppression of the left and unions by the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party governments in the 1960s and 1970s.

In the 1980s, the US encouraged and helped to fund and arm Iraq, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein, in its war against Iran. Iraq was not a client state but the US wanted to weaken the Iranian revolution and the Iraqi state both. Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger summarized the real US attitude about the war: “I hope they kill each other.”

And then there was the so-called first Gulf War in 1991, when the US destroyed much of Iraq. More than 88,500 tons of bombs were dropped on the country. The civilian infrastructure throughout the country—water, power, phone and sewage systems, food and medicine production, storage facilities, schools and hospitals, roads and bridges, and more—were targeted, often many times over.

The sanctions on Iraq were the most comprehensive in history; in reality, it was a blockade of the country that was to last for 13 years, killing more than 1 million people, half of them children under the age of five. The sanctions lasted through the presidencies of Bush I, Clinton and Bush II, up to the 2003 invasion,

Still, the desired goal of regime change was not achieved. It became clear that regime change could only be accomplished by a military invasion. After a major public relations campaign, US and British forces invaded Iraq on March 19, 2003. The entire government and state apparatus was disbanded, from the military to the government ministries to the state-run food-distribution and health-care systems.

The occupying forces ripped apart the social fabric of the country. They deliberately promoted ethnic and religious conflicts to weaken resistance. As a result, while most Iraqis primarily identified themselves as Iraqis prior to the occupation, now the occupiers have created a deep divide between Shiite and Sunni.

What finally worked for the occupiers was not military victories. It was General Petraeus’ so-called surge strategy. It wasn’t so much the actual surge of the troop numbers, however. It was putting a number of former resistance fighters on the US military payroll. Up to that time, by supporting Shiite militiamen connected to the Iraqi government, the US had effectively promoted a campaign of ethnic cleansing by US allied Shiite forces against the Sunni population, who were killed in the thousands and forced out of their homes and neighborhoods. Al Qaeda forces had also done the opposite, massacring the Shiite and destroying their holy sites. Now, fighting for their community’s survival, significant numbers of resistance fighters accepted the US offer to become part of the military.

One of the reasons that ISIL has made such impressive gains is that the military did not fight them. And the military did not fight them because much of the rank and file and the officers see Maliki as a sectarian Shiite, not as the prime minister of Iraq.

There are many other examples of the US weakening independent states in the Middle East, the most recent being Libya. Also, Israel has consistently played a key role in weakening left and nationalist Arab governments and forces.

So, on the question of why Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise, we should give credit where it’s due: The U.S. government.

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Under Cover of Secrecy, Detainees Moved From Afghanistan’s ‘Forgotten Guantanamo’

NOVANEWS

Estimated 38 detainees left to languish in Bagram prison notorious for torture and abuse

- Sarah Lazare

Multi-bed housing at Bagram prison (Photo: US State Department / Creative Commons)

The United States has moved a dozen people held at Afghanistan’s notorious Bagram prison to their countries of origin, leaving approximately 38 non-Afghan detainees to languish behind bars, Reuters revealed Friday.

President Obama informed U.S. Congress of the transfers in a letter delivered on Thursday. Information about the repatriations was not disclosed to the public, in keeping with the intense secrecy surrounding this detainee population.

According to an anonymous U.S. defense official who spoke to Reuters, detainees were returned to France, Kuwait, and Pakistan at the end of May. The conditions of their repatriation, the length of their incarceration, and the identities of those moved were not immediately clear.

While the U.S. ostensibly handed partial control over the prison to Afghan authorities last year, it continues to detain non-Afghans held at the facility, which has been referred to as the Forgotten Guantanamo.” The men are believed to have been detained in Afghanistan or transferred by the CIA to the prison, where they are stripped of their legal rights and, in many cases, held in legal limbo without charge or trial.

The prison is known for torture and abuse, including sleep deprivation, beatings, sexual assault, rape, and humiliation.

The fate and identities of the remaining detainees, who hail from Yemen, Tunisia, Pakistan, and Russia according to Reuters, are still unknown.

As Spencer Ackerman recently pointed out in the Guardian, President Obama’s announcement last month that he will extend the U.S. war in Afghanistan for at least another two years could force many of those held at Bagram prison to face longer incarceration.

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The Fundamental Lie of the Afghan War

NOVANEWS
The Bergdahl Swap and Beyond

by GARY LEUPP

As a general rule, U.S. wars are based on lies. Some of these are soon exposed; the lies about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaeda links used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq were exposed (to anyone paying attention) within a few months, or at least by the end of 2003. The lie that Spaniards mined the USS Maine in Havana Harbor in 1898, used to justify U.S. war and the colonization of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii and the Philippines, was exposed much later. The lies about the Gulf of Tonkin Incident of 1964, used to justify the escalation of the Vietnam War, were only exposed in the 80s and 90s. The Big Lie surrounding the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan has not yet been adequately exposed and discussed.

The lie was hinted at, rather than expressed outright. The lie was there that was no distinction between the Taliban and al-Qaeda. “We make no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them,” declared George W. Bush. This is the heart of the Bush Doctrine. The point was to justify the overthrow of a regime by actively confusing distinctions, encouraging people to see the Taliban as actively in cahoots with al-Qaeda plots, hence enemies of America and “terrorists” by definition.

Most people in the U.S. initially bought Barack Obama’s differentiation between the second Iraq War as “war of choice” and “strategic blunder” and the Afghan War as a “necessary war” to punish and crush al-Qaeda.. (That’s what the polls suggested; they never, unfortunately, allowed those polled to describe either conflict as neither a necessary war nor a war of choice but as a “criminal war.”)

But now (or as of February, according to a Gallop poll) 49% of people in this country consider the war beginning in 2001 as a “mistake,” while 48% disagree. If there was once a consensus that Iraq was a mistake, but Afghanistan a good cause, there is a growing realization that there is no “good war,” or at least little likelihood that U.S. troops will enter one on the right side anytime soon. Look at the splendid results of the U.S./NATO assault on Libya, and the ongoing agony of an Iraq wrecked by its encounter with would-be “liberators.”

Sen. John McCain, who is not one to apologize for any war or acknowledge the lies behind them, recently called the five Taliban leaders released from Guantanamo “hard-core military jihadists who are responsible for 9/11.” This is patently false; there is no evidence that any of these men even knew what bin Laden was up to, or had any stake in or desire for attacks on the U.S. Only if you believe that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are one, the distinctions between them unworthy of your attention, can you blithely assign responsibility for the attacks on the released men.

It needs to be repeated again and again: the Taliban is not al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is not the Taliban.

Al-Qaeda is an Islamist global terror outfit that wants to provoke and intensify conflict between the Muslim world and the West (and Israel). It had bases in Afghanistan dating back to the 1980s, when Osama bin Laden was cooperating with the CIA to overthrow the pro-Soviet regime. Bin Laden returned to Afghanistan in 1996, having been expelled at U.S. order from Sudan; he was welcomed by anti-Taliban friends. When the Taliban swept to power later that year, they allowed bin Laden to remain out of appreciation for his role in the mujahedeen efforts in the 1980s, and in accordance with the Pashtunwali code of hospitality. They accepted funds and other assistance from al-Qaeda but neither steered the other. In all likelihood the regime of Mullah Omar knew nothing about an al-Qaeda attack on the U.S. and subsequent U.S. attack.

The Taliban is a xenophobic Pashtun-nationalist movement rising out of the disorder of the period from 1978 to 1996. It is dedicated to the implementation of Sharia law in Afghanistan, which it thinks the only way to maintain peace and order. For better or worse it has a broad social base, rooted in the traditional religiosity of the culture.

(Of course the Taliban is not alone in implementing Sharia law. Saudi Arabia, once one of the Taliban regime’s major supporters—with Pakistan—also cuts off thieves’ hands and stones adulterers. But are administrators of a system of draconian punishment, specified according to the Qur’an or to their interpretation it by God Himself, necessarily “terrorists”? Does the word retain any utility when applied so broadly?)

Afghan-born U.S. State Department official Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as ambassador to both Afghanistan (2003-5) and Iraq (2005-7)—a neocon close to Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle—once welcomed the overthrow of the Northern Alliance regime and the ascension of the Taliban to power. “The Taliban does not practice the anti-US style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran,” he wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in 1996. “It is closer to the Saudi model.” As a UNOCAL executive after temporarily leaving government Khalilzad attempted to negotiate with Taliban members to construct an oil pipeline from the Caspian Sea through Afghanistan to the Indian Ocean. He entertained Taliban with a barbeque at his Texas ranch. Should he be detained for consorting with terrorists?

McCain calls the Taliban Five “the worst of the worst, the hardest of the hardest” and “the hardest and toughest of all.” He wants us to think that Obama has just unleashed five Osama bin Ladens intent on striking America at the earliest opportunity. Who are they really?

There are three considered “first tier”: one Taliban cabinet minister (former Minister of the Interior, Khalrullah Khairkhwa), and two deputy ministers (former Deputy Minister of Intelligence Abdul Haq Wasiq, and Deputy Minister of Defense Mullah Mohammed Fazl). The other two are considered “second tier” in terms of importance, both senior military commanders: Muhammed Nabi Omari and Mullah Horullah Noori.

Guantanamo documents indicate that they all had (or might have had) some connection to al-Qaeda, mostly following the U.S. invasion when the Taliban united with other, including rival, groups to resist. Wasiq, Fazl and Omari are accused of al-Qaeda ties, but also of ties to Hezb-e-Islami, a formerly a bitter foe of al-Qaeda but willing, from October 2001, to join a sort of coalition. One should not imagine that every attack on U.S./NATO forces that occurs in Afghanistan today is staged by the Taliban. Many others oppose occupation as well.

Wasiq as intelligence minister reportedly sought al-Qaeda assistance to train his ministry’s staff in “intelligence methods” at some point. But he was also in contact with Hezb-e-Islami. Khairkhwa is accused in a 2006 “threat assessment” of probable association with the mysterious al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but he is also identified as a member of a delegation that met with Iranian officials to discuss Iranian aid to the Taliban and a possible Tehran-brokered alliance between the Northern Alliance (which Iran had supported) and the Taliban against the U.S. (This came to naught.) He is also accused of narco-trafficking. (A number of warlords governing parts of Afghanistan and some of Karzai’s relatives are accused of this as well.)

In one document Noori is described as “associated with…senior al-Qaeda members and other extremist groups.” He “fought alongside al-Qaeda as a Taliban general” versus the Northern Alliance. This makes it sound like the Taliban played a supporting role to al-Qaeda. But the conflict then was principally between the Northern Alliance (the former rulers, who’d toppled the pro-Soviet regime) and the Taliban, with al-Qaeda playing a supporting role.

The worst of the worst? Kate Clark of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network disagrees. “Fazl,” she declares, “is the only one of the five to face accusations of explicit war crimes… ” But these are crimes (against Shiite Hazzara civilians) that occurred in Afghanistan before the U.S./NATO invasion. They have nothing to do with the U.S. and were not a cause for that invasion. They are simply grounds to declare Fazl some sort of “terrorist” hoping the public paying attention assumes his terror was somehow directed at the U.S. (and thus the justification for his long confinement).

Defending the Bergdahl-Taliban Five trade, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf explains that “being, you know, mid-to-high-level officials in a regime that’s grotesque and horrific also doesn’t mean they themselves directly pose a threat to the United States.” (She is perhaps thinking of the grotesque and horrific regimes that are dear friends of Washington.)

The former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo, Air Force Col. Morris Davis from 2005 to 2007, says, “I wasn’t familiar with any of these [Taliban Five] names … we had more than 12 years. If we could have proven that they had done something wrong that we could prosecute them for, I’m confident we would have done it, and we didn’t.” The unprosecutable detainees languished as hostages until they were exchanged for Bergdahl. I doubt they were sent off with apologies for years of detention and torture, during which they were not found guilty of any crimes in any court.

For years U.S. military commanders have acknowledged that the Taliban cannot be defeated militarily. There will have to be a negotiated settlement. Current Afghan president Hamid Karzai, while wary of U.S.-Taliban talks that sideline his weak government, favors negotiations with the Taliban (and even occasionally, when piqued by the U.S., threatens to join the group again, as he had in 1996 as their first foreign minister). As negotiations take place, likely in Qatar, U.S. representatives will have to treat the Taliban with some modicum of respect. (A Taliban report on the handover of Bowe Bergdahl expresses contempt for one of the three U.S. Special Forces involved for refusing to shake hands.)

Respect for reality requires that we clearly distinguish forces and resist such simplistic thinking as that represented by Sen. McCain’s remarks. You cannot tell yourself, “Well, the Taliban and al-Qaeda were aligned at the time of 9/11, so it’s true enough to say these freed men were responsible for 9/11. Or if not, there’s no harm done by saying it—since they’re all evil. You’re either for us or against us.” Such is the culture of lies that continues to churn out wars.

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Obama Human Right’s: 4-Year-Old Aisha Lost Her Face in a U.S. Drone Strike

NOVANEWS
By: MATT LEMAS
Expressen journalist Terese Cristiansson holds up a photo of Aisha after the strike.

Terese Cristiansson holds up a photo of Aisha after the strike. (Photo: Expressen)

On September 7th 2013, an American drone in Afghanistan struck a car carrying 15 passengers. Everyone was killed in the attack except for one — a four-year-old girl named Aisha.

The girl was traveling with her parents, a sibling, and other relatives to their home in Gamber, a village in the Kunar province of Aghanistan.

Referred to by the locals as “American birds,” U.S. drone strikes are a common fixture in Kunar, where the Taliban reportedly has a strong presence.

The wreckage was discovered by Aisha’s uncle, Meya Kan, and other villagers on the road after they received a phone call from a neighboring village.

Kan saw body parts strewn all around the wreckage, and assumed everyone was dead — until he he heard a voice calling out for water.

It was Aisha.

Upon being pulled from the ruined vehicle, the four-year-old girl was unrecognizable. She’d lost both eyes and her nose.

The Investigation

Journalist Terese Cristiansson came across Aisha’s story while Swedish newspaper Expressen was interviewing Afghan hospital personnel about children who were injured after being forced to plant roadside bombs.

The doctor she met with, Humayoon Zaheer, couldn’t refer her to any roadside bomb injuries within the hospital. Instead, he related one particularly gruesome tale — the story of Aisha.

“We had another case here,” Zaheer told Expressen. “She came in a couple of weeks ago, in September. A little girl who had lost her face in a drone strike. It was a very unusual case. I’ll never forget it.”

Expressen reports that Aisha was brought into the hospital with her nose, both eyes, and one hand missing.

Expressen journalist Terese Cristiansson holds up a photo of Aisha after the strike.
Terese Cristiansson holds up a photo of Aisha after the strike.

The girl was shuffled to two different hospitals in Afghanistan before being transferred to a medical facility in the capital of Kabul, the only place in the country capable of treating her severe injuries.

A few days after being in Kabul, Aisha was visited by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was at the hospital for a goodwill mission.  In an interview with the Washington Post five months after the attack, Karzai recalled that seeing Aisha at the hospital was his “worst day in office.”

“The worst of it was when I went to visit a little girl in the French hospital who had no face, who was 4 1/2 years old, who had no face, completely blown off from the chin up to the eyes. She was blinded — her eyes were there but were blinded. Her arm was also not there. And she had lost the whole family, the entire family, 14 of them, in the bombing in Kunar. And that day . . . [note: there is a 39-second pause as Karzai struggles with his emotions] . . . that day, I wished she were dead and not alive, so she could be buried with her parents and brothers and sisters.”

Following the president’s visit, Aisha was moved across the globe to a hospital in the United States — without the consent of her remaining family. The girl’s two uncles were not allowed to accompany her.

It was at this point — five weeks after the initial strike — that Cristiansson sought to find Aisha. The girl’s uncles granted the journalist power of attorney, which made her the family’s official representative.

Through her research, she discovered that Aisha had been flown to the Walter Reed Military Hospital in Washington. From there, Aisha was put in the care of Solace for Children, a relief organization that treats Afghan children with war injuries, then finds them foster families until they can be flown back to their homes.

As the representative of Aisha’s family, Cristiansson reached out to Solace, but the organization said they’d been told that the girl didn’t have any relatives. After the journalist confirmed to the organization that Aisha did in fact have living family in Afghanistan, Solace declined to participate in any further questioning.

For weeks, Cristiansson was blackballed by the organization and heard nothing about Aisha’s condition. To both the journalist and the girl’s family, it seemed like a cover-up. Aisha’s two uncles believed that the U.S. military was withholding their niece to limit negative coverage of drone strikes.

“They probably don’t want her to become a poster girl for drone repercussions,” they told Expressen.

During this time, the International Security Assistance Force told Cristiansson that the September strike was performed because there were eight Taliban affiliates in the vehicle, and that they regret the civilian casualties.

The family of Aisha, however, said otherwise.

“How could they [commission an air strike?] They are not Taliban and there were several women and children in the car,” said Hasrat Gul, one of Aisha’s uncles.

It was not until March of this year that the family was finally updated on Aisha’s condition. When Cristiansson visted them, they told her that Aisha had been placed with a Muslim foster family in the United States. They added that her wounds had healed, but she’s still without her hand, eyes and nose.

In the end, the two uncles stressed that they just want Aisha to come home, rather than being stuck “in a country that killed her mother, father and little brother.”

“She belongs at home with us,” Meya Jan said.

The Toll of The Drone Program

2014 marks the fifth year of the U.S. drone program under President Obama, and it’s estimated that over this period at least 2,400 people have been killed. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that between 416 and 951 civilians, including 168 to 200 children, were among those who’ve died in Pakistan alone.

Additionally, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International condemn the drone program, citing civilian casualties in Yemen and Pakistan that violate laws of war.

Just this March, the United Nations criticized American drone procedure for “the lack of transparency regarding the criteria for drone strikes, including the legal justification for specific attacks, and the lack of accountability for the loss of life resulting from such attacks.”

Nevertheless, the White House has held firm on their stance when it comes to drones.

In September of 2013, the same month Aisha was so badly injured in the devastating attack, the Obama administration denied claims from the aforementioned human rights organizations that laws were being broken.

Obama’s Chief Spokesman Jay Carney said current counterterrorism methods are “lawful” and “effective,” and that other methods would only increase civilian casualties.

In an interview with The New Yorker, President Obama asserted that the use of drones is only necessary when terrorists can’t be captured, and stated that his goal isn’t to “go around blowing things up.” He mentioned that he “wrestles” with the idea of civilians being caught in the crossfire.

“What I’ve tried to do is to tighten the process so much and limit the risks of civilian casualties so much that we have the least fallout from those actions,” Obama told the New Yorker. “But it’s not perfect.”

But accepting those types of imperfections is what led to Aisha’s horrific injuries. Isn’t it time we open our eyes and start to make a change?

RYOT NOTE from Matt

Tired of hearing about drones killing innocent civilians? You can tell President Obama’s administration how you feel by signing Code Pink’s petition asking the US to take away the CIA’s lethal drone program. Click the action box to sign the petition and share this story to Become the News!

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What the gov’t shutdown teaches us about the Afghanistan war

NOVANEWS

An Iraq war veteran’s perspective

BY MIKE PRYSNER
For both Republicans and Democrats, life is good playing political games while our lives are used as bargaining chips.
U.S. troops are now dying and losing limbs patrolling areas the generals and politicians know we will abandon.

Let’s look at this debate and the shutdown for what it really is, and what the attitudes about the politicians involved teach us about their management of our lives.

For veterans and service members, the government shut down means the closing down of many essential services. The Veterans Benefits Administration will be unable to process education and rehabilitation benefits, which are critical to so many vets being able to pay their bills. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals will be unable to hold hearings, extending our already outrageous wait period even longer.

If the shutdown continues, the 3.6 million veterans who receive disability and compensation payments for wounds in service—many of whom completely rely on these paychecks to eat—will not be paid. “Thank you for your service”?

The Republicans, on their quest to attack all social programs, civil rights and social rights, are mad that 50 million people will have access to healthcare who didn’t before. This is their opportunity to rally their base against “big government” to pad their pockets from lobbyist friends and boost their anti-worker election strategy.

The Democratic Party is cool with the shutdown. Instead of fighting the right-wing assault that will affect millions, they’re excited to use this towards their election strategy, too, with new ammunition to paint the Republicans as causing hardship for the “middle class”—so they’re happy to wait it out. No rush for them.

So these Congressmen, who are mostly millionaires and work only around 135 days out of the year, are playing a political chess game and in their rich-guy spat consider our lives fair game to throw on the table. Our lives and the lives of our families are expendable, to enrich the lives and careers of these rich politicians.

These same politicians gush endlessly over loving the troops and veterans, especially when it comes to justifying multi-billion-dollar contracts to defense corporations—like the recent  1.2 billion (yes, billion) dollar deal to buy 48 missiles for the United Arab Emirates. Seems like our tax money well spent, if you’re a Lockheed Martin CEO or a prince in the UAE. (NPR, Sept. 23, 2013)

At home and abroad, their careers more important than our lives

Now the let’s look at how the politicians take this same attitude in the government shutdown to the war in Afghanistan. We’re about to mark its 12th year anniversary. The vast majority of Americans oppose it. But Congress has no qualms about approving funds to keep that war going endlessly.

Those same politicians know and acknowledge from their classified foreign policy briefings that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won. Just take it from the general who commanded the war (and the CIA), David Petraeus, when he thought nobody was listening: “You have to recognize also that I don’t think you win this war. … This is the kind of fight we’re in for our lives and probably our kids’ lives.”

They tell us we’re fighting and dying and killing to keep the Taliban from coming back to power. But that isn’t actually true. The U.S. is negotiating with the Taliban behind the scenes and begging them to join a national unity government (i.e., putting them in power).

But they also  know and acknowledge that the Taliban, bolstered by a national, multi-dimensional resistance movement against the U.S./NATO occupation, doesn’t really care about the offers that include bowing to the U.S. military, because they’re committed to a long war and know, like the U.S. commanders, that they’ve created a no-win situation for the U.S. military effort.

The people of the United States do not support this ridiculous exercise and the politicians also know that the U.S. must withdraw from Afghanistan. But they don’t want to do it right away because none of them want to take responsibility for telling the truth and saying that the war is lost and that we need to leave immediately.

Neither the politicians nor the generals want to even suggest that they would tarnish the image of the U.S. military as the most invincible, powerful force ever known. They use that a lot, in their dealings with many other countries, as we know.

So they keep us there. They “end” the war in a “phased withdrawal” that lasts several years. That way they can maintain the myth that the U.S. is not retreating from the battlefield without “victory.” We die and get badly wounded just so they can save face. What makes this even more disgusting is that these politicians are mostly privileged millionaires who, except in the rarest case, never see their children go to war nor served themselves.

In the meantime, they get bought dinner at 5-star steakhouses with their defense contractor friends, going home to their families in big homes, with no worries about putting their rich-mans-club career in jeopardy. At that same time, we do something very different.

We kill the time losing legs on pointless patrols through fields we know will return to the hands of the people resisting in them; we spend the time getting blown apart by rockets in outposts we know will close down when it is politically convenient for those rich politicians.

While the generals and politicians order us to retreat in slow motion, to protect their image and the endless flow of cash to the defense industry, countless lives and limbs are sacrificed.

Like their current posturing match, they are also playing a political chess game in Afghanistan, in which our lives are expendable to suit theirs.

The government shutdown charade and the saving-face strategy in Afghanistan are both examples of how our “leaders” are incapable of managing our lives, and why we shouldn’t follow their ridiculous orders.

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Kerry Indicates Drone Targeting of Freed Taliban Soldiers

NOVANEWS

‘We have proven what we are capable of doing,’ boasts Secretary of State as controversy over release of prisoners of war continues

- Jon Queally

US Secretary of State John Kerry. (Screenshot)Responding to questions and criticisms surrounding the recent prisoner exchange of U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban soldiers, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday try to quell concerns about those fighters “returning to the battlefield” by boasting of his government’s ability to target and kill individuals overseas.

Though few in the U.S. have voiced concern that Bowe Bergdahl—still in Germany receiving treatment after five years of captivity—will ever rejoin the battlefields in Afghanistan or Pakistan, the U.S. mainstream and rightwing media have been frantic about the possibility that the freed Guantanamo prisoners will pick up arms in the future.

Kerry described some of the hand wringing over the deal as “a lot of baloney” and made a not so-veiled threat about how the U.S. would respond in the future if it decided to target the men just recently released.

“I am not telling you they don’t have the ability to go back and get involved [in the fight],” Kerry told CNN. “But they also have an ability to get killed doing that. I don’t think anybody should doubt the capacity of the United States of America to protect Americans.”

Asked if that meant killing the men, Kerry replied: “The president has always said he will do whatever is necessary in order to protect the United States of America … so these guys pick a fight with us in the future, now, or at any time, at enormous risk. We have proven what we are capable of doing with the core al-Qaida in west Pakistan, Afghanistan.”

Though he did not specifically mention drones, the area mentioned along the Pakistan border has been the scene of hundreds of U.S. drone strikes over the course of the war.

Under the surface of the controversy that has boiled since Bergdahl’s release nearly ten days ago, reporting by the Los Angeles Times on Friday showed that the five Taliban released weren’t necessarily the “worst of the worst” at Guantanamo as it described much of the concern a lot of “hype.”

And as Cori Crider, from the human rights group Reprieve argued last week, people should put less emphasis on the trading of prisoners of war than on the continued U.S. detention of 78 other individuals at Guantanamo Bay who were neither tried nor charged with any crimes and have long been cleared for release. Crider wrote:

Lost in the kerfuffle over the Bergdahl-Taliban swap is one simple and very positive development: we now know that, when push comes to shove, the Defense Department and the White House can work together to close Guantánamo Bay. No, shutting down the prison isn’t a matter of flipping a switch. But break the matter down into individual cases and achievable diplomatic solutions tend to present themselves.

Never mind the so-called “Taliban Five” – Obama’s real chance on Gitmo today is for the Cleared 78. With another stroke of Obama’s pen, many of those prisoners could be on a plane back to their families tomorrow. The president is plainly concerned with how this prison will affect his legacy; in releasing the cleared, he has a genuine opportunity to solve much of the remaining problem before the end of his term. [...]

Once you treat these men as individuals, and not the orange-jumpsuited scarecrows whom Republicans tend to deploy for political gain, solutions to the Gitmo conundrum quickly appear.

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The Endless Invasion of America

NOVANEWS
By Patrick J. Buchanan

For 10 days, Americans have argued over the wisdom of trading five Taliban senior commanders for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

President Obama handed the Taliban a victory, critics contend, and imperiled U.S. troops in Afghanistan when the five return to the battlefield. Moreover, he has inspired the Haqqani network and other Islamists to capture more Americans to trade.

But which represents the greater long-term threat to the safety and security of our people and nation: sending those five Taliban leaders to Doha, and perhaps back to Afghanistan, or releasing into the U.S. population last year 36,000 criminal illegal aliens with 88,000 convictions among them?

According to a May report of the Center for Immigration Studies, of the 36,000 criminal aliens who, while awaiting deportation, were set free by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, 193 had been convicted of homicide, 426 of sexual assault, 303 of kidnaping, 1,075 of aggravated assault, 1,160 for stolen vehicles, 9,187 for possession or use of dangerous drugs, and 16,070 for driving drunk or drugged.

Those 36,000 criminal aliens are roughly equivalent to three-and-a-half divisions of felons and social misfits released into our midst.

And this does not include the 68,000 illegal aliens against whom ICE declined to press criminal charges last year, but turned loose.

How goes the Third World invasion of the United States?

According to the AP, the U.S. Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector made 148,017 arrests from Oct. 1 to May 17, while 62,876 were caught in the Tucson sector, the second-busiest crossing point.

That is almost 211,000 illegal aliens caught in just over half a year in just two sectors of the border. And that figure only tells us how many were caught, not how many got in, or how many of those caught were released and now reside among us.

Among those caught crossing into Texas these last seven months were 47,000 unaccompanied children. Border Patrol estimates that by Sept. 30, apprehensions of children and teenagers in this fiscal year could reach 90,000.

According to Gov. Jan Brewer, the feds have begun shipping illegal aliens, adults as well as children, from Texas to Arizona, “dumping” them into her state.

“This is a humanitarian crisis and it requires a humanitarian response,” says Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski of the surge in children from Central America across the U.S. border.

Attorney General Eric Holder has risen to the crisis.

The U.S. will now provide lawyers for children who enter illegally, to fight their battle in U.S. courts to stay.

“We’re taking this historic step,” says Holder, “to protect the rights of the most vulnerable members of our society. How we treat those in need — particularly young people who are fleeing violence, persecution, abuse or trafficking — goes to the core of who we are as a nation.”

Somehow the core contention of James Burnham’s “Suicide of the West,” out 50 years ago this year, comes to mind.

“Liberalism,” wrote Burnham. “is the ideology of Western suicide.”

America and the West must face up to what is happening to our countries and our civilization. Or we are going to lose them both forever.

Treating with contempt U.S. and European laws, peoples from failed states of the Third World are steadily filling up our countries and reducing our native-born into slowly shrinking national majorities.

If this continues over many more decades, Western nations as we knew them will disappear forever, and be remade in the image of those who have newly arrived, and the countries whence they came.

When, ever, did Americans vote for this?

What would constitute a pro-American immigration policy?

A moratorium on all immigration until unemployment among U.S. citizens falls below five percent. A 15-foot security fence from San Diego to the Gulf, with Border Patrol outposts every 10 miles. Fines and community service for businessmen who hire illegal aliens.

Europe is facing the same crisis. This past weekend, 5,200 migrants were caught on boats crossing from Africa to Italy. Spain and Greece, too, are major crossing points from sub-Sahara Africa and the Arab and Islamic world into the heart of Europe.

Yet as we saw in the May European parliamentary elections, the peoples of Europe are not going quietly into that good night that their elites have prepared for them.

They want to preserve the unique countries that they once were. Frenchmen want France to remain France, as the Brits want to remain British.

And despite the names they are being called, there is nothing wrong with that. As Sophocles wrote, there is no “greater grief than the loss of one native land.”

The Republican establishment of Jeb Bush, John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and the Senate hierarchy is prepared to collaborate with Barack Obama on a halt to deportations and partial amnesty.

If so, we shall find out whether the Republican Party still has a heart and soul, or whether, in the last analysis, it comes down to the money.”

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Karzai: US Deals for Soldier, But Not for Afghan Peace?

NOVANEWS

Bergdahl prisoner swap reportedly spurs indignation from nation’s president

- Jon Queally

Jani and Bob Bergdahl speak in Boise, Idaho, about the release of their son, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured in Afghanistan and held for five years. (Otto Kitsinger / Associated Press)According to a source close to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the U.S. government went behind his back as it made a deal to exchange Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban prisoners held at the Guantanamo prison.

Karzai is angry, according to reporting by Reuters, because the deal proves that intense behind-the-scenes efforts were made for the prisoner exchange even as peace talks with the Taliban have continually failed despite nearly thirteen years of war.

“He is asking: How come the prisoner exchange worked out so well, when the Afghan peace process failed to make any significant progress?” said the source, speaking of Karzai.

Reuters adds:

Karzai has backed peace talks with the hardline Islamist Taliban movement, which ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001 and has fought a bloody insurgency since then against U.S.-led forces in the country.

But they have come to little so far, and the group has moved swiftly to dash hopes that the prisoner swap would rekindle peace talks between it and the Afghan government.

“It won’t help the peace process in any way, because we don’t believe in the peace process,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Sunday.

The palace official also said Karzai was worried about further deals being cut without his knowledge.

“It indicates that other deals could be negotiated behind the president’s back,” he said.

It was announced over the weeked that Bergdahl had been released in exchange for the Taliban members. Controversy has ensued, with Republicans in Congress accusing Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel of overstepping their authority and “negotiating” with terrorists.

“What does this tell the terrorists? That if you capture a U.S. soldier, you can trade that soldier for five terrorists,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. He called the prisoner swap “very disturbing.”

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Re-shaping the Taliban Leadership? Sustaining “America’s War on Terrorism”

NOVANEWS
Global Research

Is this a way to send back to Afghanistan five top Taliban leaders who have been “re-conditioned” and “turned” in Guantanamo and are now working for the US? Is this a move against the “unloyal” President Karzai & his successors? The Taliban leadership has been, reportedly, decimated by the drones assassinations. It is not difficult to imagine what will happen with the arrival of five of the very top Taliban political leaders after many years of detention in Guantanamo: The creation of a new leadership.

Why would the US do that after having spent so much money and blood trying to decapitate the Taliban elite and, reportedly, succeeding? You need terrorists to sustain the “war on terrorism”?

Officially, the sudden decision was taken by President Obama to rescue Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl who has been in the hands of the Taliban since 2009 and who allegedly left voluntarily to the point that many of his fellow colleague are accusing him of “desertion”. There are reports that Bergdhal did not want to leave his captivity.

If the reason of the exchange was to spare the sergeant further pain and suffering, or to give a signal that no US soldier is left behind — then why wasn’t Bergdhal freed before? Why are now – right now – the five Taliban leaders returned to an Afghanistan deprived of leaders? Is there any connection with the increasing Afghanistan willingness to forge closer links with BRICS, China, and Russia? Is there any connection with the recently established good contacts between Pakistan and Russia to the point that Russia lifted his arms embargo on Pakistan immediately before the announced Five Taliban liberation?

Is this a [desperate] way to keep some form of “strategic” presence in an area where both India and Pakistan are taking the distances from the Anglo-Americans and are looking at the BRICS instead? Is this a way to slow down the recognition that Brzezinski & Co. have lost Central Asia’s Great game?

Who are the Five Taliban?

The Freed Taliban are: Mullah Mohammad Fazl, Mullah Norullah Noori, Abdul Haq Wasiq, Khairullah Khairkhwa and Mohammed Nabi Omari. They were all top political leaders of the Taliban regime originally installed in Afghanistan with the US help.

Actually, one of them – Abdul Haq Wasiq – has been reportedly working for the US forces since US invasion in 2001. He was deputy minister of intelligence, while his cousin was the head of intelligence.

Wasiq was the deputy chief of the Taliban regime’s intelligence service. His cousin was head of the service Reportedly Wasiq cooperated with U.S. forces in Afghanistan promising he would lead to the capture of Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. In a meeting with US representatives he asked for a global positioning system (GPS) and the necessary radio frequencies to pass information back to the Americans in order to help locate the Taliban leader. Strangely enough, shortly after the meeting, US forces arrested him. (https://wikileaks.org/gitmo/pdf/af/us9af-000004dp.pdf)

An administrative review in 2007 cited a source as saying that Wasiq was also “an al Qaeda intelligence member” and had links with members of another militant Islamist group, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. Wasiq claimed, according to the review, that he was arrested while trying to help the United States locate senior Taliban figures. He denied any links to militant groups. (http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/31/us/bergdahl-transferred-guantanamo-detainees/)

Another of the Guantanamo prisoners - Khairullah Khairkhwa - is the former Interior Minister and the former Taliban governor of Heart, was considered by the Pentagon’s 2008 dossier to be one of the controllers of the heroin traffic .

The young Khairkhwa had been trained during the US sponsored war against the pro Russians government in Afghanistan, in a religious school at the border with Pakistan.

At that time, Osama Bin Laden was openly an instrument of the “Muslim Fundamentalism Card” strategy of Brzezinski, the National Security adviser of President Carter. In the context of this anti Russian alliance with the Mujahedeen/ freedom fighters embraced by President Ronald Reagan, young Afghani were sent to a series of western financed Wahhabi fundamentalist religious school located in Pakistan along the borders with Afghanistan. Talib. Here under Western and Pakistani intelligence sponsorship the future Taliban leadership (such as Khairkhwa) was created. That dossier also says he likely participated in meetings with Iranian officials after 9-11 to help plot attacks on U.S. forces following the invasion.

The future Taliban Interior minister and Guantanamo prisoner was also trained in a camp of Abu Musab al Zarqawi in North Iraq. Zarqawi known as the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, established a terrorist operation in Northern Iraq, after the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein lost completely control of that area following the No-fly zone interdiction imposed by the US. Various western intelligence became extremely active in that area but the Zarqawi operation was not disturbed and actually flourished.

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