‘We’re one bad day away from Russians

NOVANEWS
‘We’re one bad day away from Russians asking, ‘Why are you still in Syria?’ – top US commander

At the Aspen Security Forum on Friday, Special Operations Command chief Army General, Raymond Thomas was asked whether American forces will remain in Syria, after Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is defeated, possibly, to support the Kurdish forces in the north of the country.

Thomas acknowledged that American forces are fighting in a sovereign Syria, where they will likely “have no ability to stay” if that presence is questioned “in terms of international law,” Thomas said, replying to the Washington Postjournalist’s question.

Here’s the conundrum,” Thomas continued. “We are operating in the sovereign country of Syria. The Russians, their stalwarts, their back-stoppers, have already uninvited the Turks from Syria. We’re a bad day away from the Russians saying, ‘Why are you still in Syria, US?’

It has come up in the form of some close calls there, but it will be hard – I defer to the lawyers in the crowd and others in terms of international law on the basis for us staying there other than our CT [counterterrorism] writ. We went there for all the righteous reasons, but if the Russians play that card, we may want to stay and have no ability to do it.

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US special operations chief confirms end of CIA support for anti-Assad forces in Syria https://on.rt.com/8ig1 

Syrian President Bashar Assad has said that any uninvited foreign troops, including those from the US, are “invaders” who only prolonged the conflict.

Assad has meanwhile invited Russian forces in Syria to join the anti-terrorist operation.

BREAKING: Assad: No one invited US to Manbij, all foreign troops in Syria without permission are ‘invaders’ https://on.rt.com/85eo 

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Assad: No one invited US to Manbij, all foreign troops in Syria without permission are ‘invaders’ —…

Any foreign forces, including those from the US, that enter Syria without invitation are invaders, Syrian President Bashar Assad told Chinese media in an interview, noting that no one had given the…

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On Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said America’s presence in the war-torn country was illegitimate and accused CIA Director Mike Pompeo – who had criticized Russia’s presence in Syria – of practicing “double standards.”

READ MORE: ‘Russians find any place they can make our lives more difficult’ – CIA chief

Lavrov cited Turkish media reports of “ten US bases already having been set up in Syria” and pointed to the “hundreds of military bases of the United States all over the world.”

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The U.S. Military Bases in Syria: the Reaction Was Not Slow in Coming

NOVANEWS

As it was to be expected, the reaction of the U.S. Department of Defense (the US DoD) to the publication on the location of the U.S. military bases in Syria was not slow in coming.

Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankin-Galloway said the US Department of Defense is concerned about the disclosure of secret military bases in Syria, which was due to the publication of a map of American positions by the Turkish state news agency.

“The publication of the secret military information exposes coalition forces to unnecessary risk and may disrupt current operations to defeat ISIS. And although we cannot independently verify the sources that contributed to this publication, we would be very concerned if NATO ally officials deliberately put our forces at risk,” told the spokesman.

An expert of the Atlantic Council (Editor’s note: it is an American think tank in the field of international affairs founded in 1961 that provides a forum for international political, business, and intellectual leaders), Aaron Stein, claims the information on the location of the notorious military bases the Anadolu news agency received from the Turkish authorities. Mr. Stein, however, did not comment on why the Turkish government decided to leak damaging info about the U.S. bases in Syria.

The U.S. troops deploying at one of the bases

It should be noticed that the news source stated the data on the location of the bases was obtained not as a result of a leak but in the wake of its own investigation, as well as from publications of Kurdish fighters in social networks. The person written the article for Anadolu, correspondent Levent Tok even stated that “the U.S. leadership should have thought about the possible development of events ages ago, when Washington was only about to plan to cooperate with a terrorist organization” (Editor’s note: Kurds).

To be recalled is that the map with the pointed ten U.S. bases in the Syrian provinces of Al-Hasakah, Manbij and Raqqa, as well as in the areas of Harab-Isk and Rmeilan, was published on Tuesday by Turkey-controlled leading media, Anadolu Agency. The source also reported on the number of the U.S. servicemen deployed at these bases.
Thus, the true source of data on American bases in Syria remains unclear. It is also unknown what purpose the source of leak pursued when sharing the materials.

Who and why declassified the data on the location of the U.S. military bases in Syria we propose you reading in a special investigation report at Inside Syria Media Center that to appear soon.

Follow the latest developments by reading Inside Syria Media Center.

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US contributed to ISIS creation, now tries to claim victory over it – Iraqi VP talks tough

NOVANEWS

The recapture of Mosul is an achievement of the Iraqi people while the US is trying to highjack it and claims it was them who “led that war,” Iraq’s Vice President Nouri al-Maliki has told the RIA Novosti news agency.

Yes, they supported us with aviation, but the main credit goes to the Iraqi soldiers, people’s militia, Iraqi air force,” al-Maliki stated in his interview with the Russian news agency.

He added that he “regrets and denies [Americans] claiming the victory [in Mosul] is their achievement.”

In reality, this is the victory of the Iraqi army,” al-Maliki said, revealing that the victory came a high cost, with some 20,000 Iraqi soldiers and police officers having been either killed or wounded.

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Cost of making western Mosul ‘liveable’ double previous estimates, UN warns — RT News

The cost of stabilizing areas of western Mosul and making them liveable is double previous estimates and will be about $700 million, the UN said, adding that though the fighting has ceased, “the…

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The Iraqi military did everything possible “not to destroy the city more than it was necessary in the circumstances of war,” he said, adding, that as a result, the battle for Mosul lasted for nine months.

“We could have surrounded the city, but then its residents would have suffered from famine.”

There were some 5,000 terrorists in Iraq, with between 2,000 and 3,000 of them having been killed. Others are still hiding or have fled with the refugees, according to the Iraqi vice-president.

The victory is yet not final,” the top Iraqi official said, explaining that there are “still small terrorist hubs in the city,” as well as terrorist “sleeper cells” across the country.

READ MORE: General blasts activists who claim Mosul retaken from ISIS with excessive force

There are sleeper cells in Baghdad, from time to time they take action and perform bombings… That’s not worrying in a military sense. Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] is unable to advance or capture territories, they will not be able to hold the occupied regions, but from the security point of view there are still sleeper cells and lone wolves, used by IS,” al-Maliki said.

While the US has provided support to the Iraqi army and allied forces, it has contributed to the emergence of IS in the first place, al-Maliki claimed, adding that Washington now seeks to establish military bases on Iraqi territory in order to maintain influence in the region.

Photo published for ‘Fight far from over’: US troops expected to stay in Iraq after ISIS’ defeat — RT Trends
‘Fight far from over’: US troops expected to stay in Iraq after ISIS’ defeat — RT Trends

‘Fight far from over’: US troops expected to stay in Iraq after ISIS’ defeat on RT. Find and read the latest news and articles on RT web site. Follwow us on social networks.

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IS resembles the Taliban which was created by the US administration to counter the USSR in Afghanistan. The same way, IS was created to counter the Iraqi stance, which did not agree to blockade Syria, was against no-fly zones in Syria and against American military bases,” he stated.

The Iraqi society is against foreign military bases on the country’s territory,” al-Maliki told RIA, adding that he has already warned the Americans against “coming back to Iraq and setting up bases here.”

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Venezuela Constituent Assembly to Bring Peace, Justice

NOVANEWS
  • Thousands rally in support of the National Constituent Assembly.
    Thousands rally in support of the National Constituent Assembly. | Photo: AVN
Aimed at stemming violent attacks by the right-wing opposition and fostering a national dialogue, the ANC vote is set for Sunday, July 30.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro affirmed that the main objective of the Constituent Assembly is to guarantee peace, justice and truth, as well as the reconciliation of all Venezuelans.

RELATEDUS Sanctions Against Venezuela Could Backfire: Cuban Observer

“We need order, justice, peace, a country that is reunited. We have a single option and that is the National Constituent Assembly,” the head of state said during an interview on the television program “La Hojilla” on the Venezuelan state television channel VTV Saturday.

He urged that “politics be conducted with words, conversation, dialogue,” in reference to continued violence by the right-wing opposition.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s former foreign minister, and now a candidate for the National Constituent Assembly, Delcy Rodriguez reiterated that as soon as the body is installed, positive decisions will be taken to bring peace to the country.

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En Propatria Parroquia Sucre el Pueblo espera con ansias el 30 de Julio para salir por miles a VOTAR por la Constituyente! @DrodriguezVen

“In Propatria, Sucre the people look forward to July 30 to come out in the thousands to VOTE for the Constituent Assembly!”

Speaking in the west of the capital of Caracas, Rodriguez said, “There will be no intervention, there will be no war, there will be a Constituent Assembly.”

Elections for 545 representatives to the body are set for July 30, and whose universal, free and popular vote is being threatened by U.S. sanctions and opposition violence.

“Let’s call all those colleagues (to vote), because the Constituent Assembly is for everyone, (we) have the right to a diversified, productive economic model, for the future of younger generations, for justice to be done” added Rodriguez.

Another ANC candidate Cilia Flores said it will provide a great opportunity for discussion after all of the other avenues for talks with opponents of the Bolivarian government have been exhausted.

Flores said, “People will sit down at the table representing all sectors: pensioners, businessmen, youth, the whole town will be sitting at this great table of dialogue … We are going to prove to the world that nobody will come here to intimidate us or to impose orders, whatever problems we may have, generated by the right, we will solve them.”

RELATED: Venezuela: What You Need to Know About Elections for the Constituent Assembly

The countries which make up the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America have issued a statement calling for people to unite and support the vote by endorsing it online.

Saying that the ANC is a legitimate and popular process, it is launching a new campaign on July 24, using the hashtags #VenezuelaCorazóndeAmerica and #VamosConLaConstituyente.

Timed to coincide with the anniversary of the birth of Simon Bolivar, the South American liberator, the group is urging for people to take part in demonstrations of solidarity via street activities and messages on social media.

Supporters are also being invited to send videos explaining what the Constituent Assembly means to them. ALBA is organizing further days of action from July 28-30.

Meanwhile, the opposition said it will hold another strike starting Wednesday for 48 hours.

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Canadian media misleads public about country’s role abroad

NOVANEWS
Global Affairs Canada

Imagine if the media only reported the good news that governments and corporations wanted you to see, hear and read about. Unfortunately, that is not far from the reality of reporting about Canada’s role internationally.

The dominant media almost exclusively covers stories that portray this country positively while ignoring or downplaying information that contradicts this narrative. The result? Canadians are ignorant and confused about their country’s role in the world.

In a recent example of the ‘benevolent Canada’ bias, the Globe and Mail reported uncritically about a trip International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau made to the Congo. In a story last week headlined “Canada commits $97-million to Congo under feminist foreign-aid policy”, the Globe reported that “Canada has committed nearly $100-million to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to support women’s economic empowerment, protect street children and provide humanitarian assistance.”

A week earlier Canada’s ‘paper of record’ decided a relatively insignificant Canadian project to help miners in eastern Congo was front-page news. “New gold standard emerges for Congo’s miners, Canada’s jewellery buyers”, detailed an Ottawa-funded initiative to promote legal exports and to standardize the price paid to miners.

While Partnership Africa Canada’s ‘fair trade’ gold initiative is an interesting project and the International Development Minister’s announcement was newsworthy, the narrowness of the two articles gives readers the impression Canada helps improve the lives of people who live in a country where 87% live on less than $1.25 a day. But, an abundance of evidence suggests Canada has actually impoverished the central African nation.

What follows is a brief outline of the context within which the “good news” about Canada’s role in the Congo should be seen:

Over a century ago Royal-Military-College-of-Canada-trained officer William Grant Stairs participated in two controversial expeditions to expand European influence over the Congo. In 1887, Stairs was one of ten white officers in the first-ever European expedition to cross the interior of the continent, which left a trail of death, disease and destruction. A few years later the Halifax native led a 1,950-person mission to conquer the resource-rich Katanga region of the Congo on behalf of Belgium’s King Leopold II. Today Stairs is honoured with a street, island and multiple plaques, even though he was openly racist and barbarous and added 150,000 square kilometres to the Belgium’s King’s monstrous colony.

During this period Hamilton, Ontario’s William Henry Faulknor was one of the first white missionaries to establish a mission station in eastern Congo. Between 1887 and 1891 Faulknor worked under the ruler of the Yeke kingdom, Mwenda Msiri, who would later meet his death at the hand of Stairs. Faulknor’s Plymouth Brethren explicitly called for European rule (either Belgian or British) over Katanga and like almost all missionaries sought to undermine local ways.

Following Faulknor, Toronto-born Henry Grattan Guinness II established the Congo Balolo Mission in 1889. Congo Balolo missions were located in remote areas of the colony, where King Leopold’s Anglo-Belgian Rubber Company obligated individuals and communities to gather rubber latex and chopped off the hands of thousands of individuals who failed to fulfill their quotas.

Faced with the violent disruption of their lives, the Lulonga, Lopori, Maringa, Juapa and Burisa were increasingly receptive to the Christian activists who became “the interpreter of the new way of life”, writes Ruth Slade in English-Speaking Missions in the Congo Independent State. Not wanting to jeopardize their standing with Leopold’s representatives, the Congo Balolo Mission repeatedly refused British-based solidarity campaigners’ appeals to publicly expose the abuses they witnessed.

In the 1920s the Canadian trade commissioner in South Africa, G.R. Stevens, traveled to the Congo and reported on the Katanga region’s immense resources. In de-facto support of Belgian rule, a Canadian trade commission was opened in the colony in 1946. In response to a series of anti-colonial demonstrations in 1959, Canadian Trade Commissioner K. Nyenhuis reported to External Affairs that “savagery is still very near the surface in most of the natives.”

Ottawa backed Brussels militarily as it sought to maintain control of its massive colony. Hundreds of Belgian pilots were trained in Canada during and after World War II and through the 1950s Belgium received tens of millions of dollars in Canadian NATO Mutual Aid. Canadian Mutual Aid weaponry was likely employed by Belgian troops in suppressing the anti-colonial struggle in the Congo.

Immediately after independence Canada played an important role in the UN mission that facilitated the murder of anticolonial Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in 1961. Canadian Colonel Jean Berthiaume assisted Lumumba’s political enemies by helping recapture the popular independence leader. Lumumba was handed over to soldiers under military commander Joseph Mobutu.

Canada had a hand in Mobutu’s rise and Ottawa mostly supported his brutal three-decade rule. Then, Canada also helped get rid of Mobutu.

Ottawa supported Rwanda and Uganda’s invasion, which ultimately drove Mobutu from power. In 1996, Canada led a short-lived UN force into eastern Zaire (Congo) designed to dissipate French pressure and ensure pro-Mobutu Paris didn’t take command of a force that could impede the Rwandan-led invasion. As Rwanda has unleashed mayhem in the Congo over the past two decades, Ottawa has backed Kigali.

In 2002 a series of Canadian companies were implicated in a UN report titled “Report on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and other Forms of Wealth in the Congo”. Ottawa responded to the report by defending the Canadian companies cited for complicity in Congolese human rights violations.

At the G8 in 2010, the Canadian government pushed for an entire declaration to the final communiqué criticizing the Congo for attempting to gain a greater share of its vast mineral wealth. Earlier that year Ottawa obstructed international efforts to reschedule the country’s foreign debt, which was mostly accrued during Mobutu’s dictatorship and the subsequent wars. Canadian officials “have a problem with what’s happened with a Canadian company,” Congolese Information Minister Lambert Mende said, referring to the government’s move to revoke a mining concession that First Quantum acquired under dubious circumstances during the 1998-2003 war.

With about $4.5 billion invested in the Congo, Canadian mining companies have been responsible for numerous abuses. After a half-dozen members of the little-known Mouvement revolutionnaire pour la liberation du Katanga occupied Anvil Mining’s Kilwa concession in October 2004 the Canada-Australian company transported government troops who killed 100 people. Most of the victims were unarmed civilians.

In recent months a number of individuals have been killed at Banro’s mines in eastern Congo. Over the past two decades the secretive Toronto-based company has been accused of fuelling conflict in a region that’s seen incredible violence.

Of course one cannot expect a detailed history of Canada’s role in impoverishing Congo in a story about a government ‘aid’ announcement or a 1,300-word article about an initiative to standardize pay for some of the world’s most vulnerable miners’. But, the Globe’s failure to even mention the broader story reflects its bias and helps to explain why Canadians are so confused about their country’s role in the world.

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

NOVANEWS

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, Syria0 Comments

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

NOVANEWS

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.

 

Posted in Middle East, USA, Europe0 Comments

Hollywood’s Crusade against Muslims, Film Portrayal of Arabs

NOVANEWS
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.

Posted in USA0 Comments

Ottawa Must Seek Justice for Hassan Diab

NOVANEWS
‘By forcing Hassan Diab into legal purgatory, Canada is seriously undermining its commitment to due process’
 

GR Editor’s Note We bring to the attention of our readers the following opinion article published in theToronto Star. What this analysis raises and which requires further investigation:  Was the Harper government elected in 2006, in any way unduly pressured by the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) and B’nai Brith.  

*    *    *

With the welcome news of the $10-million apology for the travesties committed against Omar Khadr, a decade after the Canadian government apologized and awarded a similar sum to Maher Arar for his tragic ordeal, we know that Canada doesn’t always get it right. Now is the time for Canada to seek justice in the case of Hassan Diab.

Both of us were involved in the Canadian and Ottawa Jewish community in 2008 when French authorities accused Diab of having been involved in a 1980 terrorist attack on a Paris synagogue, a heinous act that killed four and injured scores more.

As Diab’s ordeal hit public consciousness, one of us (Mira Sucharov) was a columnist for Ottawa’s Jewish newspaper and later wrote for the Canadian Jewish News, and was (and remains) a professor at Carleton University where Diab taught. The other (Bernie Farber) was CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

At the time, neither of us questioned Canada’s decision to extradite Diab to France. In fact, a spokesperson for Farber’s organization had said that CJC was “very pleased” that law enforcement authorities were “never giving up in the fight against terrorism,” noting that the decision “brings comfort to the victims of terrorism as well.”

Nine years later, we realize we were wrong in not speaking out.

Casting a Canadian citizen out of the country to languish, without trial, in a foreign prison may help Canada adhere to the Extradition Act. And it may bring comfort to some, as the CJC spokesperson suggested. But we suggest that this comfort is misplaced. Most importantly, such a decision brings justice to no one.

The evidence against Diab is shaky at best. It appeared to rest on handwriting analyses that experts had discredited. The French authorities had tried to include “secret intelligence” from unidentified sources — evidence that Canadian authorities threw out. There is evidence that Diab was in Lebanon, not Paris, on the day of the attack. Fingerprints at the scene of the crime don’t seem to match those of Diab.

Robert Maranger, the Ontario Superior Court judge who agreed to the extradition, even admitted that “the prospects of conviction in the context of a fair trial seem unlikely.”

Nine years later, with absolutely no movement in sight, it is clear that Hassan Diab is not receiving justice by Canadian standards. This must change.

It is time for Canadian authorities to insist that France take proper judicial action or send him home. By forcing Diab into legal purgatory, Canada is seriously undermining its commitment to due process — one of the bedrock responsibilities of a democratic society to its citizens.

Some of you may be reading about this case for the first time. Others may have received requests to sign petitions. Some of you may have signed them; others may have deleted the email, feeling burdened by the details of an extradition case surrounding a citizen’s alleged involvement in a crime that occurred decades ago.

Neither of us is a trained lawyer. One of us is a social worker and community relations organizer; the other is a political scientist. But it doesn’t take an expert in criminal law to know when a government is falling down on its contract to its citizens. Both of us well understand the impact of false accusations on communities in any multicultural society, something all Canadians can intuitively grasp.

In the case of Hassan Diab, we have now concluded that it was all too easy to unquestioningly accept the decision to leave it in the hands of France, a fellow democracy. But a decade later, justice has not been served. Now we must get this right.

Doing so will help ensure that our country avoids living by the ugly rules of innuendo, unproven assumptions and discredited evidence — and instead protects the core values of democracy, including a robust adherence to the principles of justice.

Posted in Canada0 Comments

Venezuela: Once Again, Interference From the USA in Latin America

Remember the attempted coup d’état in Venezuela in 2002, which failed miserably as Hugo Chavez thrashed his treacherous assailants like a Grand Master of Chess humiliating a rookie with a fool’s mate in three seconds flat? Well ladies and gentlemen they are trying it on again, this time using traitors inside Venezuela (“Opposition”) to create chaos.

Fraudulent manipulation by Western stooges

This week (on Sunday) the “Opposition” organized an illegal and unofficial public consultation on Government plans to appoint a new Constituent Assembly with powers to substitute the National Assembly, giving it the possibility to alter the constitution. The other side of the coin is that the National Assembly is a bastion of Opposition members blocking Government measures, willfully sabotaging the process of Government and creating chaos to then blame the Government of President Nicolas Maduro of mismanagement.

In the 2015 legislative election, 7.7 million of Venezuela’s 19.5 million voters favored Opposition parties to the ruling PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). In this week’s unofficial election, 7,186,170 people voted, 96 per cent of these against the Government plans. However the Venezuelan Opposition and their masters in Washington have to understand that an illegal vote by 28 per cent of the electorate does not constitute a valid constitutionally-backed position or statement. It is a protest vote by those who fear they will lose their vested interests and this affirmation is backed up by the fact that most Venezuelans back the PSUV.

The Venezuelan Government has accused the Opposition of staging an illegal act which anyway is fraught with fraud, manipulation and violation of the principles of a democratic vote. Of the 102,000 registered Venezuelan voters abroad, some 600,000 voted, for instance. Jorge Rodríguez, leader of PSUV, declared that there is evidence that some people voted seven times, others 14 times.

European Union duped, swallowed nonsense hook, line and sinker

He states that the western observers, including the EU, were duped into thinking that “voters” was the same thing as “votes”. They fell for the Opposition swansong hook, line and sinker, including outrageous acts such as adding 50,000 votes to the result in the State of Aragua, a practice which was allegedly commonplace among Opposition campaign managers.

Communication from the Government of Venezuela

Venezuela repudiates erratic US communiqué

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela repudiates the unusual communiqué published by the White House, 17/07/2017.

It is a document never seen before, because of its low level and poor quality, and makes it difficult to understand the intentions of the aggressor country intellectually. Obviously, the United States government is accustomed to humiliating other nations in its international relations and believes that it will receive the subordination it is accustomed to. The gap that the United States government is digging into its relations with Venezuela hampers a rational prediction of its actions for the entire international community.

The United States government unabashedly shows its absolute partiality with the violent sectors and extremists of Venezuelan politics, who favor the use of terrorism to overthrow a popular and democratic government.

The moral ruin of the Venezuelan opposition has dragged President Trump to commit an open aggression against a Latin American country. We do not know who could have written, let alone authorized, a communiqué of so much conceptual and moral poverty.

The thin democratic veil of the Venezuelan opposition has fallen, and reveals the brutal interventionist force of the US government, which has been behind the violence suffered by the Venezuelan people in the last four months.

This is not the first time we have denounced and confronted threats as wild as those contained in this unusual document.

We call upon the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean and the free peoples of the world to understand the magnitude of the brutal threat contained in this imperial communiqué and to defend sovereignty, self-determination and independence, fundamental principles of international law.

The original constituent power is contemplated in our Magna Carta and it is only up to the Venezuelan people. The National Constituent Assembly shall be elected by the direct, universal and secret vote of all Venezuelans and all Venezuelans, under the authority of the National Electoral Council as contemplated by our legal system. It is an act of political sovereignty of the Republic, nothing and nobody can stop it. The Constituent Assembly Goes Ahead!

Today the Venezuelan people are free and will respond united before the insolent threat posed by a xenophobic and racist empire. The anti-imperialist thinking of the Liberator is more valid than ever:

“The United States seems destined by Providence to infest America with misery in the name of freedom” Simón Bolívar

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