Drone killings case thrown out by US; victims convicted ‘posthumously based solely on the government’s say-so’
April 6, 2014

A US federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the government by the families of three American citizens killed by drones in Yemen, saying senior officials cannot be held personally responsible for money damages for the act of conducting war.

The families of the three – including Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born militant Muslim cleric who had joined al-Qaida’s Yemen affiliate, as well as his teenage son – sued over their 2011 deaths in US drone strikes, arguing that the killings were illegal.

Judge Rosemary Collyer of the US district court in Washington threw out the case, which had named as defendants the former defence secretary and CIA chief Leon Panetta, the former senior military commander and CIA chief David Petraeus and two other top military commanders.

"The question presented is whether federal officials can be held personally liable for their roles in drone strikes abroad that target and kill U.S. citizens," Collyer said in her opinion. "The question raises fundamental issues regarding constitutional principles and it is not easy to answer."

But the judge said she would grant the government’s motion to dismiss the case.

Collyer said the officials named as defendants “must be trusted and expected to act in accordance with the US constitution when they intentionally target a US citizen abroad at the direction of the president and with the concurrence of Congress. They cannot be held personally responsible in monetary damages for conducting war.”

Awlaki’s US-born son Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was 16 years old when he was killed. Also killed was Samir Khan, a naturalised US citizen who had moved to Yemen in 2009 and worked on Inspire, an English-language al-Qaida magazine.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Centre for Constitutional Rights, both based in New York, represented the families. They had argued that in killing American citizens the government violated fundamental rights under the US constitution to due process and to be free from unreasonable seizure.

"This is a deeply troubling decision that treats the government’s allegations as proof while refusing to allow those allegations to be tested in court," said ACLU lawyer Hina Shamsi. "The court’s view that it cannot provide a remedy for extrajudicial killings when the government claims to be at war, even far from any battlefield, is profoundly at odds with the Constitution."

Centre for Constitutional Rights lawyer Maria LaHood said the judge “effectively convicted” Anwar al-Awlaki “posthumously based solely on the government’s say-so”. LaHood said the judge also found that the constitutional rights of the son and of Khan “weren’t violated because the government didn’t target them”.

"It seems there’s no remedy if the government intended to kill you, and no remedy if it didn’t. This decision is a true travesty of justice for our constitutional democracy and for all victims of the US government’s unlawful killings," LaHood said.

Collyer ruled that the families did not have a claim under the Constitution’s fourth amendment guarantee against unreasonable seizures because the government did not seize or restrain the three who were killed. “Unmanned drones are functionally incapable of ‘seizing’ a person; they are designed to kill, not capture,” she wrote.

Collyer wrote that the families had presented a plausible claim that the government violated Awlaki’s due process rights. “Nonetheless the court finds no available remedy under US law for this claim,” the judge wrote.

"In this delicate area of war making national security and foreign relations the judiciary has an exceedingly limited role."

Allowing claims against individual federal officials in this case “would impermissibly draw the court into the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation”, she wrote. It would “require the court to examine national security policy and the military chain of command as well as operational combat decisions”.

Nasser al-Awlaki, father of Anwar al-Awlaki, said he was disappointed in the American justice system and “like any parent or grandparent would, I want answers from the government when it decides to take life, but all I have got so far is secrecy and a refusal even to explain”.

Drone attacks have killed several suspected figures in al-Qaida’s Yemen-based affiliate including Awlaki, who is accused of orchestrating plots to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner in 2009 and US cargo planes in 2010.

The United States has faced international criticism for its use of drones to attack militants in places such as Pakistan and Yemen. A UN human rights watchdog in March called on the Obama administration to limit its use of drones targeting suspected al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

Barack Obama’s administration increased the number of drone strikes after he took office in 2009 but attacks have dropped off in the past year. The US has come under pressure from critics to rein in the missile strikes and do more to protect civilians.

Source

U.S. boycotts talks on Pakistan drone strike resolutionMarch 20, 2014
Pakistan is trying to push a resolution through the United Nations Human Rights Council that would trigger greater scrutiny of whether U.S. drone strikes violate international human rights law. Washington, though, doesn’t want to talk about it.
The Pakistani draft, which was obtained by Foreign Policy, urges states to “ensure transparency” in record-keeping on drone strikes and to “conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of any violations to human rights caused by their use.” It also calls for the convening of “an interactive panel discussion” on the use of drones.
The Geneva-based human rights council held its third round of discussions about the draft on Wednesday, but the Obama administration boycotted the talks.
The White House decision to sit out the negotiations is a departure from the collaborative approach the administration promised to take when it first announced plans to join the Human Rights Council in March 2009.
The Bush administration had refused to join the body out of concern that repressive states might exercise undue influence over the council and that it would focus disproportionate attention on Israel. The Obama administration, by contrast, argued it was better to reshape an imperfect organization from within than to complain about its failings from afar.
"Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy," then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement at the time. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system…. We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.”
Rhetoric aside, though, the Obama administration has largely refused to supply U.N. experts with details about the classified U.S. drone program, which has killed hundreds of suspected militants in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and other countries over the past decade. Independent investigators say the strikes have also killed thousands of civilians, including large numbers of women and children, a charge the White House — without providing evidence to the contrary — denies.
Ben Emmerson, the U.N.’s current special rapporteur for the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, has urged the United States to provide more basic information on the U.S. program, including its own list of civilian casualties. “The single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes is lack of transparency, which makes it extremely difficult to assess claims of precision targeting objectively,” he said.
Those demands are nothing new. Micah Zenko, an FP columnist and expert on drones at the Council on Foreign Relations, recalled in a recentpiece that U.N. human rights investigators have been raising concerns about the U.S. targeted killing program since Nov. 15, 2002, just 12 days after the first confirmed American strike.
Asma Jahangir, then the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, asked the United States and Yemen for information the Nov. 3, 2002, missile strike, which killed Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi and five suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen. She also expressed concern that “an alarming precedent might have been set for extrajudicial execution by consent of government.” The United States declined to comment on the specific allegations, but it challenged any suggestion that “military operations against enemy combatants could be regarded as ‘extrajudicial executions by consent of governments.’”
It remains unclear what Washington will do when the Pakistani resolution is put forward for consideration next week.
Most resolutions in the Human Rights Council are adopted by consensus, but the United States has the option of forcing a vote on the resolution.But a State Department official made it clear that the United States would not support the resolution. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that the United States has in the past “regularly participated in negotiations on resolutions dealing with the need to protect human rights while countering terrorism. But this particular resolution deals solely with the use of remotely piloted aircraft.”
Full article

U.S. boycotts talks on Pakistan drone strike resolution
March 20, 2014

Pakistan is trying to push a resolution through the United Nations Human Rights Council that would trigger greater scrutiny of whether U.S. drone strikes violate international human rights law. Washington, though, doesn’t want to talk about it.

The Pakistani draft, which was obtained by Foreign Policy, urges states to “ensure transparency” in record-keeping on drone strikes and to “conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations whenever there are indications of any violations to human rights caused by their use.” It also calls for the convening of “an interactive panel discussion” on the use of drones.

The Geneva-based human rights council held its third round of discussions about the draft on Wednesday, but the Obama administration boycotted the talks.

The White House decision to sit out the negotiations is a departure from the collaborative approach the administration promised to take when it first announced plans to join the Human Rights Council in March 2009.

The Bush administration had refused to join the body out of concern that repressive states might exercise undue influence over the council and that it would focus disproportionate attention on Israel. The Obama administration, by contrast, argued it was better to reshape an imperfect organization from within than to complain about its failings from afar.

"Human rights are an essential element of American global foreign policy," then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement at the time. “With others, we will engage in the work of improving the U.N. human rights system…. We believe every nation must live by and help shape global rules that ensure people enjoy the right to live freely and participate fully in their societies.”

Rhetoric aside, though, the Obama administration has largely refused to supply U.N. experts with details about the classified U.S. drone program, which has killed hundreds of suspected militants in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and other countries over the past decade. Independent investigators say the strikes have also killed thousands of civilians, including large numbers of women and children, a charge the White House — without providing evidence to the contrary — denies.

Ben Emmerson, the U.N.’s current special rapporteur for the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, has urged the United States to provide more basic information on the U.S. program, including its own list of civilian casualties. “The single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of the civilian impact of drone strikes is lack of transparency, which makes it extremely difficult to assess claims of precision targeting objectively,” he said.

Those demands are nothing new. Micah Zenko, an FP columnist and expert on drones at the Council on Foreign Relations, recalled in a recentpiece that U.N. human rights investigators have been raising concerns about the U.S. targeted killing program since Nov. 15, 2002, just 12 days after the first confirmed American strike.

Asma Jahangir, then the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, asked the United States and Yemen for information the Nov. 3, 2002, missile strike, which killed Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi and five suspected al Qaeda militants in Yemen. She also expressed concern that “an alarming precedent might have been set for extrajudicial execution by consent of government.” The United States declined to comment on the specific allegations, but it challenged any suggestion that “military operations against enemy combatants could be regarded as ‘extrajudicial executions by consent of governments.’”

It remains unclear what Washington will do when the Pakistani resolution is put forward for consideration next week.

Most resolutions in the Human Rights Council are adopted by consensus, but the United States has the option of forcing a vote on the resolution.But a State Department official made it clear that the United States would not support the resolution. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said that the United States has in the past “regularly participated in negotiations on resolutions dealing with the need to protect human rights while countering terrorism. But this particular resolution deals solely with the use of remotely piloted aircraft.”

Full article

The White House has been covering up the presidency’s role in torture for yearsMarch 18, 2014
The fight between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the Committee’s Torture Report – which Dan Froomkin covered here – has now zeroed in on the White House.
Did the White House order the CIA to withdraw 920 documents from a server made available to Committee staffers, as Senator Dianne Feinstein says the agency claimed in 2010? Were those documents – perhaps thousands of them – pulled in deference to a White House claim of executive privilege, as Senator Mark Udall and then CIA General Counsel Stephen Preston suggested last fall? And is the White House continuing to withhold 9,000 pages of documents without invoking privilege, as McClatchy reported yesterday?
We can be sure about one thing: The Obama White House has covered up the Bush presidency’s role in the torture program for years. Specifically, from 2009 to 2012, the administration went to extraordinary lengths to keep a single short phrase, describing President Bush’s authorization of the torture program, secret.
Some time before October 29, 2009, then National Security Advisor Jim Jones filed an ex parte classified declaration with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in response to a FOIA request by the ACLU seeking documents related to the torture program. In it, Jones argued that the CIA should not be forced to disclose the “source of the CIA’s authority,” as referenced in the title of a document providing “Guidelines for Interrogations” and signed by then CIA Director George Tenet. That document was cited in two Justice Department memos at issue in the FOIA. Jones claimed that “source of authority” constituted an intelligence method that needed to be protected.
As other documents and reporting have made clear, the source of authority was a September 17, 2001 Presidential declaration authorizing not just detention and interrogation, but a range of other counterterrorism activities, including targeted killings.
Both former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzo have made clear that the torture program began as a covert operation. “A few days after the [9/11] attacks, President Bush signed a top-secret directive to CIA authorizing an unprecedented array of covert actions against Al Qaeda and its leadership.” Rizzo explained in 2011. One of those actions, Rizzo went on, was “the capture, incommunicado detention and aggressive interrogation of senior Al Qaeda operatives.”
As Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, noted  in 2009 – shortly after Hayden revealed that torture started as a covert operation – this means there should be a paper trail implicating President Bush in the torture program. “[T]here should be a Presidential ‘finding’ authorizing the program,” he said, “and [] such a finding should have been provided to Congressional overseers.”
The National Security Act dictates that every covert operation must be supported by a written declaration finding that the action is necessary and important to the national security. The Congressional Intelligence committees – or at least the Chair and Ranking Member – should receive notice of the finding.
But there is evidence that those Congressional overseers were never told that the finding the president signed on September 17, 2001 authorized torture. For example, a letter from then ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, to the CIA’s General Counsel following her first briefing on torture asked: “Have enhanced techniques been authorized and approved by the President?” The CIA’s response at the time was simply that “policy as well as legal matters have been addressed within the Executive Branch.”
Nevertheless, the finding does exist. The CIA even disclosed its existence in response to the ACLU FOIA, describing it as “a 14-page memorandum dated 17 September 2001 from President Bush to the Director of the CIA pertaining to the CIA’s authorization to detain terrorists.” In an order in the ACLU suit, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein confirmed that the declaration was “intertwined with” the administration’s effort to keep the language in the Tenet document hidden. When the administration succeeded in keeping that short phrase secret, all effort to release the declaration also ended.
Enduring confusion about this particular finding surely exists because of its flexible nature. As Bob Woodward described in Bush at War, CIA Director Tenet asked President Bush to sign “a broad intelligence order permitting the CIA to conduct covert operations without having to come back for formal approval for each specific operation.” As Jane Mayer described in The Dark Side, such an order not only gave the CIA flexibility, it also protected the President. “To give the President deniability, and to keep him from getting his hands dirty, the finding called for the President to delegate blanket authority to Tenet to decide on a case-by-case basis whom to kill, whom to kidnap, whom to detain and interrogate, and how.”

When George Tenet signed written guidelines for the CIA’s torture program in 2003, however, he appeared to have deliberately deprived the President of that deniability by including the source of CIA’s authorization – presumably naming the President – in a document interrogators would see. You can’t blame the CIA Director, after all; Tenet signed the Guidelines just as CIA’s Inspector General and DOJ started to review the legality of the torture tactics used against detainees like Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was threatened with a drill and a gun in violation of DOJ’s ban on mock executions.
Full article

The White House has been covering up the presidency’s role in torture for years
March 18, 2014

The fight between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the Committee’s Torture Report – which Dan Froomkin covered here – has now zeroed in on the White House.

Did the White House order the CIA to withdraw 920 documents from a server made available to Committee staffers, as Senator Dianne Feinstein says the agency claimed in 2010? Were those documents – perhaps thousands of them – pulled in deference to a White House claim of executive privilege, as Senator Mark Udall and then CIA General Counsel Stephen Preston suggested last fall? And is the White House continuing to withhold 9,000 pages of documents without invoking privilege, as McClatchy reported yesterday?

We can be sure about one thing: The Obama White House has covered up the Bush presidency’s role in the torture program for years. Specifically, from 2009 to 2012, the administration went to extraordinary lengths to keep a single short phrase, describing President Bush’s authorization of the torture program, secret.

Some time before October 29, 2009, then National Security Advisor Jim Jones filed an ex parte classified declaration with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in response to a FOIA request by the ACLU seeking documents related to the torture program. In it, Jones argued that the CIA should not be forced to disclose the “source of the CIA’s authority,” as referenced in the title of a document providing “Guidelines for Interrogations” and signed by then CIA Director George Tenet. That document was cited in two Justice Department memos at issue in the FOIA. Jones claimed that “source of authority” constituted an intelligence method that needed to be protected.

As other documents and reporting have made clear, the source of authority was a September 17, 2001 Presidential declaration authorizing not just detention and interrogation, but a range of other counterterrorism activities, including targeted killings.

Both former CIA Director Michael Hayden and former CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzo have made clear that the torture program began as a covert operation. “A few days after the [9/11] attacks, President Bush signed a top-secret directive to CIA authorizing an unprecedented array of covert actions against Al Qaeda and its leadership.” Rizzo explained in 2011. One of those actions, Rizzo went on, was “the capture, incommunicado detention and aggressive interrogation of senior Al Qaeda operatives.”

As Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, noted  in 2009 – shortly after Hayden revealed that torture started as a covert operation – this means there should be a paper trail implicating President Bush in the torture program. “[T]here should be a Presidential ‘finding’ authorizing the program,” he said, “and [] such a finding should have been provided to Congressional overseers.”

The National Security Act dictates that every covert operation must be supported by a written declaration finding that the action is necessary and important to the national security. The Congressional Intelligence committees – or at least the Chair and Ranking Member – should receive notice of the finding.

But there is evidence that those Congressional overseers were never told that the finding the president signed on September 17, 2001 authorized torture. For example, a letter from then ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Jane Harman, to the CIA’s General Counsel following her first briefing on torture asked: “Have enhanced techniques been authorized and approved by the President?” The CIA’s response at the time was simply that “policy as well as legal matters have been addressed within the Executive Branch.”

Nevertheless, the finding does exist. The CIA even disclosed its existence in response to the ACLU FOIA, describing it as “a 14-page memorandum dated 17 September 2001 from President Bush to the Director of the CIA pertaining to the CIA’s authorization to detain terrorists.” In an order in the ACLU suit, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein confirmed that the declaration was “intertwined with” the administration’s effort to keep the language in the Tenet document hidden. When the administration succeeded in keeping that short phrase secret, all effort to release the declaration also ended.

Enduring confusion about this particular finding surely exists because of its flexible nature. As Bob Woodward described in Bush at War, CIA Director Tenet asked President Bush to sign “a broad intelligence order permitting the CIA to conduct covert operations without having to come back for formal approval for each specific operation.” As Jane Mayer described in The Dark Side, such an order not only gave the CIA flexibility, it also protected the President. “To give the President deniability, and to keep him from getting his hands dirty, the finding called for the President to delegate blanket authority to Tenet to decide on a case-by-case basis whom to kill, whom to kidnap, whom to detain and interrogate, and how.”

When George Tenet signed written guidelines for the CIA’s torture program in 2003, however, he appeared to have deliberately deprived the President of that deniability by including the source of CIA’s authorization – presumably naming the President – in a document interrogators would see. You can’t blame the CIA Director, after all; Tenet signed the Guidelines just as CIA’s Inspector General and DOJ started to review the legality of the torture tactics used against detainees like Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was threatened with a drill and a gun in violation of DOJ’s ban on mock executions.

Full article

More than 2,400 dead as Obama’s drone campaign marks five years
January 23, 2014

Five years ago, on January 23 2009, a CIA drone flattened a house in Pakistan’s tribal regions. It was the third day of Barack Obama’s presidency, and this was the new commander-in-chief’s first covert drone strike.

Initial reports said up to ten militants were killed, including foreign fighters and possibly a ‘high-value target’ – a successful first hit for the fledgling administration.

But reports of civilian casualties began to emerge. As later reports revealed, the strike was far from a success. At least nine civilians died, most of them from one family. There was one survivor, 14-year-old Fahim Qureshi, but with horrific injuries including shrapnel wounds in his stomach, a fractured skull and a lost eye, he was as much a victim as his dead relatives.

Later that day, the CIA attacked again – and levelled another house. It proved another mistake, this time one that killed between five and ten people, all civilians.

Obama was briefed on the civilian casualties almost immediately and was ‘understandably disturbed’, Newsweek reporter Daniel Klaidman later wrote. Three days earlier, in his inauguration address, Obama had told the world ‘that America is a friend of each nation, and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.’

The Pakistani government also knew civilians had been killed in the strikes. A record of the strikes made by the local political administration and published by the Bureau last year listed nine civilians among the dead. But the government said nothing about this loss of life.

Yet despite this disastrous start the Obama administration markedly stepped up the use of drones. Since Obama’s inauguration in 2009, the CIA has launched 330 strikes on Pakistan – his predecessor, President George Bush, conducted 51 strikes in four years. And in Yemen, Obama has opened a new front in the secret drone war.

Lethal strikes
Across Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, the Obama administration has launched more than 390 drone strikes in the five years since the first attack that injured Qureshi – eight times as many as were launched in the entire Bush presidency. These strikes have killed more than 2,400 people, at least 273 of them reportedly civilians.

Although drone strikes under Obama’s presidency have killed nearly six times as many people as were killed under Bush, the casualty rate – the number of people killed on average in each strike – has dropped from eight to six under Obama. The civilian casualty rate has fallen too. Strikes during the Bush years killed nearly more than three civilians in each strike on average. This has halved under Obama (1.43 civilians per strike on average). In fact reported civilian casualties in Pakistan have fallen sharply since 2010, with no confirmed reports of civilian casualties in 2013.

The decline in civilian casualties could be because of reported improvements in drone and missile technology, rising tensions between Pakistan and the US over the drone campaign, and greater scrutiny of the covert drone campaign both at home and abroad.

The apparent change in targeting  is well demonstrated by comparing a strike carried out by the Bush administration in 2006 and one seven years later under Obama. On October 30 2006 at least 68 children were killed when CIA drones destroyed a madrassa – a religious school – in the Bajaur area of Pakistan’s tribal belt. The attack was reportedly targeting then-al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri. He escaped. On November 21 last year, drones again targeted a madrassa, this time in Hangu, outside the tribal regions. As many as 80 students were sleeping in the building. But the strike destroyed a specific portion of the building – just one or two rooms – and killed between six and nine people.

In Yemen, however, civilians continue to die in US drone strikes. Last year saw the highest civilian casualty rate since Obama first hit the country in 2009.

Drones were not the first weapon the administration turned to when it started to attack the country. On December 17 2009 a US Navy submarine launched a cluster bomb-laden cruise missile at a suspected militant camp in al Majala, southern Yemen.

The missile slammed into a hamlet hitting one of the poorest tribes in Yemen. Shrapnel and fire left at least 41 civilians dead, including at least 21 children and 12 women – five of them were pregnant. A week earlier President Obama had been awardedthe Nobel Peace Prize. He used his acceptance speech to defend the use of force at times as ‘not only necessary but morally justified’. He warned that ‘negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms’.

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…can we all just talk about this? Where is the outrage?

Air strike kills 15 civilians in Yemen by mistake

December 12, 2013

Fifteen people on their way to a wedding in Yemen were killed in an air strike after their party was mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy, local security officials said on Thursday.

The officials did not identify the plane in the strike in central al-Bayda province, but tribal and local media sources said that it was a drone.

"An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy, ten people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital," one security official said.

Five more people were injured, the officials said.

The United States has stepped up drone strikes as part of a campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded by Washington as the most active wing of the militant network.

Yemen, AQAP’s main stronghold, is among a handful of countries where the United States acknowledges using drones, although it does not comment on the practice.

Human Rights Watch said in a detailed report in August that U.S. missile strikes, including armed drone attacks, have killed dozens of civilians in Yemen.

Stabilizing the country, which is also struggling with southern separatists and northern rebels, is an international priority due to fears of disorder in a state that flanks top oil producer Saudi Arabia and major shipping lanes.

On Monday, missiles fired from a U.S. drone killed at least three people travelling in a car in eastern Yemen.

Source

From the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Confirmed drone strikes: 55-65
Civilians killed: 21-56
Children killed: 5
Injured: 67-150
Total killed: 269-389

Possible extra drone strikes: 85-104

Iraq war claimed half a million lives, study findsOctober 21, 2013
The number of deaths caused by the Iraq war has been a source of intense controversy, as politics, inexact science and a clamor for public awareness have intersected in a heated debate of conflicting interests. The latest and perhaps most rigorous survey, released Tuesday, puts the figure at close to 500,000.
The study, — a collaboration of researchers in the U.S., Canada and Iraq appearing in the journal PLoS Medicine — included a survey of 2,000 Iraqi households in 100 geographic regions in Iraq. Researchers used two surveys, one involving the household and another asking residents about their siblings, in an attempt to demonstrate the accuracy of the data they were collecting. Using data from these surveys, researchers estimated 405,000 deaths, with another 55,800 projected deaths from the extensive migration in and emigration from Iraq occurring as a result of the war.
The researchers estimated that 60 percent of the deaths were violent, with the remaining 40 percent occurring because of the health-infrastructure issues that arose as a result of the invasion — a point they emphasized in discussing their research, since the figure is higher than those found in previous studies.
“I hope that one of the takeaways from this paper will be that when we invade a country, there are many health consequences that aren’t directly related to violence,” said study author Amy Hagopian, program director of the community-oriented public-health practice at the University of Washington School of Public Health. She said approximately half those deaths were attributed to inadequate treatment for cardiovascular disease.
To conduct the household surveys, researchers worked with volunteer Iraqi scientists and improved on the methods used for similar surveys in the past. Because the survey was conducted in mid-2011, researchers were able to access more areas of the country safely. The households surveyed were chosen by a grid placed on Google Maps, and a home was selected by a quadrant in that grid from randomly generated numbers. Ultimately, the researchers were able to survey twice as many areas as previous studies and had a more random selection of homes, avoiding the past problems of home selection by the survey takers on the ground, who may have been more likely to approach homes along more-traveled streets.
The more thorough investigation may negate some of the criticism levied against past studies on Iraqi mortality after the invasion, which were published in the medical journal The Lancet in 2004 and 2006. The 2006 study in particular was a subject of scrutiny because it estimated a toll of 655,000 excess deaths, mostly violent, at a time when other surveys had five-digit death tolls.
Full article

Iraq war claimed half a million lives, study finds
October 21, 2013

The number of deaths caused by the Iraq war has been a source of intense controversy, as politics, inexact science and a clamor for public awareness have intersected in a heated debate of conflicting interests. The latest and perhaps most rigorous survey, released Tuesday, puts the figure at close to 500,000.

The study, — a collaboration of researchers in the U.S., Canada and Iraq appearing in the journal PLoS Medicine — included a survey of 2,000 Iraqi households in 100 geographic regions in Iraq. Researchers used two surveys, one involving the household and another asking residents about their siblings, in an attempt to demonstrate the accuracy of the data they were collecting. Using data from these surveys, researchers estimated 405,000 deaths, with another 55,800 projected deaths from the extensive migration in and emigration from Iraq occurring as a result of the war.

The researchers estimated that 60 percent of the deaths were violent, with the remaining 40 percent occurring because of the health-infrastructure issues that arose as a result of the invasion — a point they emphasized in discussing their research, since the figure is higher than those found in previous studies.

“I hope that one of the takeaways from this paper will be that when we invade a country, there are many health consequences that aren’t directly related to violence,” said study author Amy Hagopian, program director of the community-oriented public-health practice at the University of Washington School of Public Health. She said approximately half those deaths were attributed to inadequate treatment for cardiovascular disease.

To conduct the household surveys, researchers worked with volunteer Iraqi scientists and improved on the methods used for similar surveys in the past. Because the survey was conducted in mid-2011, researchers were able to access more areas of the country safely. The households surveyed were chosen by a grid placed on Google Maps, and a home was selected by a quadrant in that grid from randomly generated numbers. Ultimately, the researchers were able to survey twice as many areas as previous studies and had a more random selection of homes, avoiding the past problems of home selection by the survey takers on the ground, who may have been more likely to approach homes along more-traveled streets.

The more thorough investigation may negate some of the criticism levied against past studies on Iraqi mortality after the invasion, which were published in the medical journal The Lancet in 2004 and 2006. The 2006 study in particular was a subject of scrutiny because it estimated a toll of 655,000 excess deaths, mostly violent, at a time when other surveys had five-digit death tolls.

Full article

With little fanfare, Afghanistan War drags into 13th yearOctober 7, 2013
Monday marks 12 years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, and for a conflict that’s been seemingly forgotten by most Americans who’ve grown weary of war, it seems fitting that the anniversary should be overshadowed by a domestic story: the federal government shutdown.
More than a decade since the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom on Oct. 7, 2001, there are still 54,000 American troops in Afghanistan. That is more, by far, than at any time during the first seven years of the war, yet these days, they garner scant news coverage. Most recently, Syria’s civil war and the use of chemical weapons as well as the federal government shutdown have buried Afghanistan news, even as Americans continue to die — four were killed were killed within a week in so-called insider attacks just at the end of September.
“There is a bloody war happening, and no one is talking about it,” said Ahmad Majidyar, an Afghanistan expert at the American Enterprise Institute and a frequent adviser to the U.S. Army.
The U.S. role is diminishing and casualties among members of the U.S.-led international coalition are down as the Afghan security forces take over more of the fighting. But Americans are still fighting — and dying.
With nearly three months left in 2013, at least 106 U.S. troops had died in Afghanistan as of Oct. 1, according to independent website iCasualties.org — more than during any of the first six years of the war. The military is whittling forces down to approximately 34,000 by February and the number of coalition bases has gone from a high of 800 to about 100 now. But combat troops will be there for another 15 months, so we are likely still a long way from the last U.S. casualty in Afghanistan.
Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. sent in a small force heavily reliant on special forces able to quickly knock out the Taliban, who had sheltered the al-Qaida terrorists responsible for the attacks. But Osama Bin Laden escaped, along with many other al-Qaida leaders, and it would be nearly 10 years before the U.S. tracked him down, hiding in a safe house in neighboring Pakistan.
After several years of relative calm following then-President George W. Bush’s declaration of victory in Afghanistan in 2004 — a time when international troops were supporting nation-building efforts, and U.S. and world attention was focused on the continuing war in Iraq — the Taliban regrouped. They mounted a violent and effective guerrilla campaign that eventually pushed President Barack Obama to increase troop levels, sending a “surge” of 30,000 additional troops to the country in 2009.
Despite the surge, though, the Taliban remain entrenched, inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan forces — who have largely taken over security responsibilities from coalition forces — with little more than a year to go before all international troops are scheduled to leave.
Afghanistan is a topic seldom mentioned by the White House, and with public support for the military mission there having crumbled in the past few years, it’s easy to see why.
“President Obama talks about Afghanistan strategy maybe only once in a year,” Majidyar said. “When he does talk about it, he talks about the end of the war and talks only of positive things.”
A White House spokesman declined to discuss whether Obama is avoiding public discussion of Afghanistan, instead issuing a statement about negotiations over a bilateral security agreement to keep American troops in Afghanistan past the end of 2014.
Media interest in the war has been waning for years, driven by Obama’s silence on the issue since the end of his troop surge, said A. Trevor Thrall, a professor at George Mason University and the author of War in the Media Age, which explores the intersection of the military, media and public opinion in conflicts since the Vietnam War. Thrall said it isn’t the first time a president has tried to bury news about Afghanistan.
“Bush stopped talking about Afghanistan almost immediately after he shifted focus to Iraq,” he said. “Afghanistan was truly a forgotten war (when) Obama took over and it became it again after the surge was over. The result is the public really has no idea what’s going on there.”
In 2010, during the surge, it was hard for a reporter to find a cot at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, with journalists from around the world packed tightly into a tent that served as a media center, even battling over access to electrical outlets. Now, it’s rare that embedded reporters even need to share a room at a major base.
The new challenge is getting approval to embed with troops at all, as the U.S.-led coalition has made it much more difficult, largely cutting off access to international troops on the battlefield at a crucial moment when NATO is handing more responsibility to Afghan forces.
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, the former top military commander in Iraq, said the lack of public awareness worries him because international engagement is key to sustaining gains made in Afghanistan.
“If we continue on this [current military] path, I think Afghanistan can become a success story, and I worry that’s not being talked about at all,” he said.
Afghanistan was considered the “good war” with the just cause, the one everyone could get behind. With its clear links to the 9/11 attacks, as opposed to Iraq’s, based as it was later learned on faulty intelligence, the war in Afghanistan was much more popular at first, Majidyar said. Because of this, though, it also never generated the attention — or the outrage — of the Iraq war, which led to worldwide protests and heated debates of a kind never seen in relation to Afghanistan.
But now, many see Afghanistan as the foreign policy guest that has long overstayed its welcome.
America and its Western allies have gone from war fatigue to numbness.
There’s a “sense of exhaustion” among long-time Afghan hands in aid organizations and foreign service positions, who are often “tired and, in some cases, deeply fed up” with the situation in Afghanistan, said Graeme Smith, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst in Afghanistan and author of “The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan.”
Public ambivalence about Afghanistan stems in part from the failures of the past few years, which, despite the surge of foreign troops, saw a sharp rise in casualties; violence remained above the pre-surge levels after the additional forces left, Smith said.
“The short attention span of the West is such that if the problem hasn’t been solved by now, maybe they figure it’s unsolvable, which is too bad because I think what Afghanistan needs right now is continued engagement,” Smith said. “In a lot of ways, a lot of Afghanistan’s future depends on whether Western nations feel guilty enough about the mess they made to stay involved.”
Smith, who, as a reporter with the Toronto Globe and Mail was the only Western reporter living in the violent southern city of Kandahar, said the relative calm seen today in that city, the Taliban’s spiritual homeland, shows the stakes of continued international involvement and the fragile state of military gains.
Source

With little fanfare, Afghanistan War drags into 13th year
October 7, 2013

Monday marks 12 years since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, and for a conflict that’s been seemingly forgotten by most Americans who’ve grown weary of war, it seems fitting that the anniversary should be overshadowed by a domestic story: the federal government shutdown.

More than a decade since the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom on Oct. 7, 2001, there are still 54,000 American troops in Afghanistan. That is more, by far, than at any time during the first seven years of the war, yet these days, they garner scant news coverage. Most recently, Syria’s civil war and the use of chemical weapons as well as the federal government shutdown have buried Afghanistan news, even as Americans continue to die — four were killed were killed within a week in so-called insider attacks just at the end of September.

“There is a bloody war happening, and no one is talking about it,” said Ahmad Majidyar, an Afghanistan expert at the American Enterprise Institute and a frequent adviser to the U.S. Army.

The U.S. role is diminishing and casualties among members of the U.S.-led international coalition are down as the Afghan security forces take over more of the fighting. But Americans are still fighting — and dying.

With nearly three months left in 2013, at least 106 U.S. troops had died in Afghanistan as of Oct. 1, according to independent website iCasualties.org — more than during any of the first six years of the war. The military is whittling forces down to approximately 34,000 by February and the number of coalition bases has gone from a high of 800 to about 100 now. But combat troops will be there for another 15 months, so we are likely still a long way from the last U.S. casualty in Afghanistan.

Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. sent in a small force heavily reliant on special forces able to quickly knock out the Taliban, who had sheltered the al-Qaida terrorists responsible for the attacks. But Osama Bin Laden escaped, along with many other al-Qaida leaders, and it would be nearly 10 years before the U.S. tracked him down, hiding in a safe house in neighboring Pakistan.

After several years of relative calm following then-President George W. Bush’s declaration of victory in Afghanistan in 2004 — a time when international troops were supporting nation-building efforts, and U.S. and world attention was focused on the continuing war in Iraq — the Taliban regrouped. They mounted a violent and effective guerrilla campaign that eventually pushed President Barack Obama to increase troop levels, sending a “surge” of 30,000 additional troops to the country in 2009.

Despite the surge, though, the Taliban remain entrenched, inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan forces — who have largely taken over security responsibilities from coalition forces — with little more than a year to go before all international troops are scheduled to leave.

Afghanistan is a topic seldom mentioned by the White House, and with public support for the military mission there having crumbled in the past few years, it’s easy to see why.

“President Obama talks about Afghanistan strategy maybe only once in a year,” Majidyar said. “When he does talk about it, he talks about the end of the war and talks only of positive things.”

A White House spokesman declined to discuss whether Obama is avoiding public discussion of Afghanistan, instead issuing a statement about negotiations over a bilateral security agreement to keep American troops in Afghanistan past the end of 2014.

Media interest in the war has been waning for years, driven by Obama’s silence on the issue since the end of his troop surge, said A. Trevor Thrall, a professor at George Mason University and the author of War in the Media Age, which explores the intersection of the military, media and public opinion in conflicts since the Vietnam War. Thrall said it isn’t the first time a president has tried to bury news about Afghanistan.

“Bush stopped talking about Afghanistan almost immediately after he shifted focus to Iraq,” he said. “Afghanistan was truly a forgotten war (when) Obama took over and it became it again after the surge was over. The result is the public really has no idea what’s going on there.”

In 2010, during the surge, it was hard for a reporter to find a cot at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, with journalists from around the world packed tightly into a tent that served as a media center, even battling over access to electrical outlets. Now, it’s rare that embedded reporters even need to share a room at a major base.

The new challenge is getting approval to embed with troops at all, as the U.S.-led coalition has made it much more difficult, largely cutting off access to international troops on the battlefield at a crucial moment when NATO is handing more responsibility to Afghan forces.

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, the former top military commander in Iraq, said the lack of public awareness worries him because international engagement is key to sustaining gains made in Afghanistan.

“If we continue on this [current military] path, I think Afghanistan can become a success story, and I worry that’s not being talked about at all,” he said.

Afghanistan was considered the “good war” with the just cause, the one everyone could get behind. With its clear links to the 9/11 attacks, as opposed to Iraq’s, based as it was later learned on faulty intelligence, the war in Afghanistan was much more popular at first, Majidyar said. Because of this, though, it also never generated the attention — or the outrage — of the Iraq war, which led to worldwide protests and heated debates of a kind never seen in relation to Afghanistan.

But now, many see Afghanistan as the foreign policy guest that has long overstayed its welcome.

America and its Western allies have gone from war fatigue to numbness.

There’s a “sense of exhaustion” among long-time Afghan hands in aid organizations and foreign service positions, who are often “tired and, in some cases, deeply fed up” with the situation in Afghanistan, said Graeme Smith, the International Crisis Group’s senior analyst in Afghanistan and author of “The Dogs Are Eating Them Now: Our War in Afghanistan.”

Public ambivalence about Afghanistan stems in part from the failures of the past few years, which, despite the surge of foreign troops, saw a sharp rise in casualties; violence remained above the pre-surge levels after the additional forces left, Smith said.

“The short attention span of the West is such that if the problem hasn’t been solved by now, maybe they figure it’s unsolvable, which is too bad because I think what Afghanistan needs right now is continued engagement,” Smith said. “In a lot of ways, a lot of Afghanistan’s future depends on whether Western nations feel guilty enough about the mess they made to stay involved.”

Smith, who, as a reporter with the Toronto Globe and Mail was the only Western reporter living in the violent southern city of Kandahar, said the relative calm seen today in that city, the Taliban’s spiritual homeland, shows the stakes of continued international involvement and the fragile state of military gains.

Source

The US has no credibility dealing with chemical weaponsSeptember 9, 2013
The Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilian areas on August 21 constitutes a breach of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, one of the world’s most important disarmament treaties, which banned the use of chemical weapons.
In 1993, the international community came together to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), a binding international treaty that would also prohibit the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, and transfer or use of chemical weapons. Syria is one of only eight of the world’s 193 countries not party to the convention.
However, US policy regarding chemical weapons has been so inconsistent and politicized that the United States is in no position to take leadership in any military response to any use of such weaponry by Syria.
The controversy over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles is not new. Both the Bush administration and Congress, in the 2003 Syria Accountability Act, raised the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, specifically Syria’s refusal to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. The failure of Syria to end its chemical weapons program was deemed sufficient grounds by a large bipartisan majority of Congress to impose strict sanctions on that country. Syria rejected such calls for unilateral disarmament on the grounds that it was not the only country in the region that had failed to sign the CWC—nor was it the first country in the region to develop chemical weapons, nor did it have the largest chemical weapons arsenal in the region.
Indeed, neither of the world’s two largest recipients of US military aid - Israel and Egypt - is a party to the convention either. Never has Congress or any administration of either party called on Israel or Egypt to disarm their chemical weapons arsenals, much less threatened sanctions for their failure to do so. US policy, therefore, appears to be that while it is legitimate for its allies Israel and Egypt to refuse to ratify this important arms control convention, Syria needed to be singled out for punishment for its refusal.
The first country in the Middle East to obtain and use chemical weapons was Egypt, which used phosgene and mustard gas in the mid-1960s during its intervention in Yemen’s civil war. There is no indication Egypt has ever destroyed any of its chemical agents or weapons. The US-backed Mubarak regime continued its chemical weapons research and development program until its ouster in a popular uprising two years ago, and the program is believed to have continued subsequently.
Israel is widely believed to have produced and stockpiled an extensive range of chemical weapons and is engaged in ongoing research and development of additional chemical weaponry. (Israel is also believed to maintain a sophisticated biological weapons program, which is widely thought to include anthrax and more advanced weaponized agents and other toxins, as well as a sizable nuclear weapons arsenal with sophisticated delivery systems.) For more than 45 years, the Syrians have witnessed successive US administrations provide massive amounts of armaments to a neighboring country with a vastly superior military capability which has invaded, occupied, and colonized Syria’s Golan province in the southwest. In 2007, the United States successfully pressured Israel to reject peace overtures from the Syrian government in which the Syrians offered to recognize Israel and agree to strict security guarantees in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied Syrian territory.
The US position that Syria must unilaterally give up its chemical weapons and missiles while allowing a powerful and hostile neighbor to maintain and expand its sizable arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons is simply unreasonable. No country, whether autocratic or democratic, could be expected to accept such conditions.
This is part of a longstanding pattern of hostility by the United States toward international efforts to eliminate chemical weapons through universal disarmament agreements.
One of the most effective instruments for international arms control in recent years has been the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which enforces the Chemical Weapons Convention by inspecting laboratories, factories and arsenals and oversees the destruction of chemical weapons. The organization’s most successful director general, first elected in 1997, was the Brazilian diplomat José Bustani, praised by the Guardian newspaper as a “workaholic” who has “done more in the past five years to promote world peace than anyone.” Under his strong leadership, the number of signatories of the treaty grew from 87 to 145 nations, the fastest growth rate of any international organization in recent decades, and - during this same period - his inspectors oversaw the destruction of 2 million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world’s chemical weapons facilities. Bustani was re-elected unanimously in May 2000 for a five-year term and was complimented by Secretary of State Colin Powell for his “very impressive” work.
Full article

The US has no credibility dealing with chemical weapons
September 9, 2013

The Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons against civilian areas on August 21 constitutes a breach of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, one of the world’s most important disarmament treaties, which banned the use of chemical weapons.

In 1993, the international community came together to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), a binding international treaty that would also prohibit the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, and transfer or use of chemical weapons. Syria is one of only eight of the world’s 193 countries not party to the convention.

However, US policy regarding chemical weapons has been so inconsistent and politicized that the United States is in no position to take leadership in any military response to any use of such weaponry by Syria.

The controversy over Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles is not new. Both the Bush administration and Congress, in the 2003 Syria Accountability Act, raised the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, specifically Syria’s refusal to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention. The failure of Syria to end its chemical weapons program was deemed sufficient grounds by a large bipartisan majority of Congress to impose strict sanctions on that country. Syria rejected such calls for unilateral disarmament on the grounds that it was not the only country in the region that had failed to sign the CWC—nor was it the first country in the region to develop chemical weapons, nor did it have the largest chemical weapons arsenal in the region.

Indeed, neither of the world’s two largest recipients of US military aid - Israel and Egypt - is a party to the convention either. Never has Congress or any administration of either party called on Israel or Egypt to disarm their chemical weapons arsenals, much less threatened sanctions for their failure to do so. US policy, therefore, appears to be that while it is legitimate for its allies Israel and Egypt to refuse to ratify this important arms control convention, Syria needed to be singled out for punishment for its refusal.

The first country in the Middle East to obtain and use chemical weapons was Egypt, which used phosgene and mustard gas in the mid-1960s during its intervention in Yemen’s civil war. There is no indication Egypt has ever destroyed any of its chemical agents or weapons. The US-backed Mubarak regime continued its chemical weapons research and development program until its ouster in a popular uprising two years ago, and the program is believed to have continued subsequently.

Israel is widely believed to have produced and stockpiled an extensive range of chemical weapons and is engaged in ongoing research and development of additional chemical weaponry. (Israel is also believed to maintain a sophisticated biological weapons program, which is widely thought to include anthrax and more advanced weaponized agents and other toxins, as well as a sizable nuclear weapons arsenal with sophisticated delivery systems.) For more than 45 years, the Syrians have witnessed successive US administrations provide massive amounts of armaments to a neighboring country with a vastly superior military capability which has invaded, occupied, and colonized Syria’s Golan province in the southwest. In 2007, the United States successfully pressured Israel to reject peace overtures from the Syrian government in which the Syrians offered to recognize Israel and agree to strict security guarantees in return for a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied Syrian territory.

The US position that Syria must unilaterally give up its chemical weapons and missiles while allowing a powerful and hostile neighbor to maintain and expand its sizable arsenal of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons is simply unreasonable. No country, whether autocratic or democratic, could be expected to accept such conditions.

This is part of a longstanding pattern of hostility by the United States toward international efforts to eliminate chemical weapons through universal disarmament agreements.

One of the most effective instruments for international arms control in recent years has been the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which enforces the Chemical Weapons Convention by inspecting laboratories, factories and arsenals and oversees the destruction of chemical weapons. The organization’s most successful director general, first elected in 1997, was the Brazilian diplomat José Bustani, praised by the Guardian newspaper as a “workaholic” who has “done more in the past five years to promote world peace than anyone.” Under his strong leadership, the number of signatories of the treaty grew from 87 to 145 nations, the fastest growth rate of any international organization in recent decades, and - during this same period - his inspectors oversaw the destruction of 2 million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world’s chemical weapons facilities. Bustani was re-elected unanimously in May 2000 for a five-year term and was complimented by Secretary of State Colin Powell for his “very impressive” work.

Full article

As international support for Obama’s decision to attack Syria has collapsed, along with the credibility of government claims, the administration has fallen back on a standard pretext for war crimes when all else fails: the credibility of the threats of the self-designated policeman of the world. [T]hat aggression without UN authorization would be a war crime, a very serious one, is quite clear, despite tortured efforts to invoke other crimes as precedents.
We stand behind the Syrian people’s revolution: NO to foreign interventionSeptember 1, 2013
Over 150 thousand were killed, hundreds of thousands injured and disabled, millions of people displaced inside and outside Syria. Cities, villages, and neighborhoods were destroyed fully or partially, using all sorts of weapons, including warplanes, scud missiles, bombs, and tanks, all paid for by the sweat and blood of the Syrian people. This was under the pretext of defending the homeland and achieving military balance with Israel (whose occupation of Syrian land is, in fact, being protected by the Syrian regime, which failed to reply to any of its continuing aggressions).
Yet, despite the enormous losses mentioned above, befalling all Syrians, and the calamity inflicted on them, no international organization or major country – or a lesser one – felt the need to provide practical solidarity or support the Syrians in their struggle for their most basic rights, human dignity, and social justice.
The only exception was some Gulf countries, more specifically Qatar and Saudi Arabia. However, their aim was to control the nature of the conflict and steer it in a sectarian direction, distorting the Syrian revolution and aiming to abort it, as a reflection of their deepest fear that the revolutionary flame will reach their shores. So they backed obscurantist takfiri groups, coming, for the most part, from the four corners of the world, to impose a grotesque vision for rule based on Islamic sharia. These groups were engaged, time and time again, in terrifying massacres against Syrian citizens who opposed their repressive measures and aggressions inside areas under their control or under attack, such as the recent example of villages in the Latakia countryside.
A large block of hostile forces, from around the world, is conspiring against the Syrian people’s revolution, which erupted in tandem with the uprisings spreading through a large section of the Arab region and the Maghreb for the past three years. The people’s uprisings aimed to put an end to a history of brutality, injustice, and exploitation and attain the rights to freedom, dignity, and social justice.
However, this did not only provoke local brutal dictatorships, but also most of the imperialist forces seeking to perpetuate the theft of the wealth of our people, in addition to the various reactionary classes and forces throughout those areas and in surrounding countries.
As for Syria, the alliance fighting against the people’s revolution comprises a host of reactionary sectarian forces, spearheaded by Iran and confessional militias in Iraq, and, to much regret, Hezbollah’s strike force, which is drowning in the quagmire of defending a profoundly corrupt and criminal dictatorial regime.
This unfortunate situation has also struck a major section of the traditional Arab left with Stalinist roots, whether in Syria itself or in Lebanon, Egypt, and the rest of the Arab region – and worldwide – which is clearly biased towards the wretched alliance surrounding the Assad regime. The justification is that some see it as a “resilient” or even a “resistance” regime, despite its long history – throughout its existence in power – of protecting the Zionist occupation of the Golan Heights, its constant bloody repression of various groups resisting Israel, be it Palestinian or Lebanese (or Syrian), and remaining idle and subservient, since the October 1973 war, concerning Israel’s aggressions on Syrian territories. This bias will have serious ramifications on ordinary Syrians’ position regarding the left in general.
The United Nations and the Security Council, in particular, was unable to condemn the crimes of a regime, which the Syrian people rejected continuously and peacefully for more than seven months, while the bullets of the snipers and shabbiha took demonstrators one by one and day after day and while the most influential activists were being detained and subjected to the worst kinds of torture and elimination in the prisons and detention centers. All the while, the world remained completely silent and in a state of total negativity.
The situation persisted with small difference after the people in revolution decided to take up arms and the emergence of what became known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – whose command and soldiers came, to a large extent, from the regular army. This led to the horrific escalation of crimes by the regime.
Russian imperialism, the most important ally of the Baathist regime in Damascus, which provides it with all sorts of support, remains on the lookout to block any attempt to condemn those crimes in the Security Council. The United States, on the other hand, does not find a real problem in the continuation of the status quo, with all the apparent repercussions and destruction of the country. This is despite the threats and intimidation utilized by the US president, every time someone in the opposition raises the question of the use of chemical weapons by the regime, up until the latest escalation, when it was considered crossing a “red line.”
It is clear that Obama, who gives the impression that he will go ahead with his threats, would have felt great embarrassment if he did not do so, since it will not only impact negatively on the president, but also on the image of the mighty and arrogant state that he leads in the eyes of subservient Arab countries and the entire world.
The imminent strike against the Syrian armed forces is led by the US in essence. However, it occurs with the understanding and cooperation of allied imperialist countries, even without rationalizing it through the usual farce, known as international legitimacy (namely the decisions of the UN, which was and remains representative of the interests of major powers, whether in conflict or in alliance, depending on the circumstances, differences, and balances among them). In other words, the strike will not wait for the Security Council due to the anticipated Russian-Chinese veto.
Unfortunately, many in the Syrian opposition are gambling on this strike and the US position in general. They believe this would create an opportunity for them to seize power, skipping over the movement and of the masses and their independent decision. It should not be a surprise, then, that the representatives of this opposition and the FSA had no reservations on providing information to the US about proposed targets for the strike.
In all cases, we agree on the following:
The western imperialist alliance will strike several positions and vital parts of the military and civilian infrastructure in Syria (with several casualties, as usual). However, as it was keen to announce, the strikes will not be meant to topple the regime. They are merely intended to punish, in Obama’s words, the current Syrian leadership and save face for the US administration, after all the threats concerning the use of chemical weapons.
The US president’s intentions to punish the Syrian leadership does not stem, in any way or form, from Washington’s solidarity with the suffering of children who fell in the Ghouta massacres, but from its commitment to what Obama calls the vital interests of the US and its homeland security, in addition to Israel’s interests and security.
The Syrian army and its regional allies, led by the Iranian regime, will not have enough courage, most probably, to fulfil what seemed to be threats by their senior officials that any western attack on Syria will ignite the entire region. But this option remains on the table, as a final option with catastrophic results.
The imminent western imperialist assault does not intend to support the Syrian revolution in any way. It will aim to push Damascus into the bargaining table and allow Bashar al-Assad to retreat from the foreground, but keeping the regime in place, while greatly improving conditions to strengthen the position of US imperialism in the future Syria against Russian imperialism.
The more those participating in the continuing popular mobilization – who are more aware, principled, and dedicated to the future of Syria and its people – realize these facts, their consequences, results, and act accordingly, the more this will contribute to aiding the Syrian people to successfully pick a true revolutionary leadership. In the process of a committed struggle based on the current and future interests of their people, this would produce a radical program consistent with those interests, which could be promoted and put into practice on the road to victory.
No to all forms of imperialist intervention, whether by the US or Russia.
No to all forms of reactionary sectarian interventions, whether by Iran or the Gulf countries.
No to the intervention of Hezbollah, which warrants the maximum of condemnation.
Down with all illusions about the imminent US military strike.
Break open the arms depots for the Syrian people to struggle for freedom, dignity, and social justice.
Victory to a free democratic Syria and down with the Assad dictatorship and all dictatorships forever.
Long live the Syrian people’s revolution.
–Revolutionary Socialists (Egypt) – Revolutionary Left Current (Syria) – Union of Communists (Iraq) – Al-Mounadil-a (Morocco) – Socialist Forum (Lebanon)
Source

We stand behind the Syrian people’s revolution: NO to foreign intervention
September 1, 2013

Over 150 thousand were killed, hundreds of thousands injured and disabled, millions of people displaced inside and outside Syria. Cities, villages, and neighborhoods were destroyed fully or partially, using all sorts of weapons, including warplanes, scud missiles, bombs, and tanks, all paid for by the sweat and blood of the Syrian people. This was under the pretext of defending the homeland and achieving military balance with Israel (whose occupation of Syrian land is, in fact, being protected by the Syrian regime, which failed to reply to any of its continuing aggressions).

Yet, despite the enormous losses mentioned above, befalling all Syrians, and the calamity inflicted on them, no international organization or major country – or a lesser one – felt the need to provide practical solidarity or support the Syrians in their struggle for their most basic rights, human dignity, and social justice.

The only exception was some Gulf countries, more specifically Qatar and Saudi Arabia. However, their aim was to control the nature of the conflict and steer it in a sectarian direction, distorting the Syrian revolution and aiming to abort it, as a reflection of their deepest fear that the revolutionary flame will reach their shores. So they backed obscurantist takfiri groups, coming, for the most part, from the four corners of the world, to impose a grotesque vision for rule based on Islamic sharia. These groups were engaged, time and time again, in terrifying massacres against Syrian citizens who opposed their repressive measures and aggressions inside areas under their control or under attack, such as the recent example of villages in the Latakia countryside.

A large block of hostile forces, from around the world, is conspiring against the Syrian people’s revolution, which erupted in tandem with the uprisings spreading through a large section of the Arab region and the Maghreb for the past three years. The people’s uprisings aimed to put an end to a history of brutality, injustice, and exploitation and attain the rights to freedom, dignity, and social justice.

However, this did not only provoke local brutal dictatorships, but also most of the imperialist forces seeking to perpetuate the theft of the wealth of our people, in addition to the various reactionary classes and forces throughout those areas and in surrounding countries.

As for Syria, the alliance fighting against the people’s revolution comprises a host of reactionary sectarian forces, spearheaded by Iran and confessional militias in Iraq, and, to much regret, Hezbollah’s strike force, which is drowning in the quagmire of defending a profoundly corrupt and criminal dictatorial regime.

This unfortunate situation has also struck a major section of the traditional Arab left with Stalinist roots, whether in Syria itself or in Lebanon, Egypt, and the rest of the Arab region – and worldwide – which is clearly biased towards the wretched alliance surrounding the Assad regime. The justification is that some see it as a “resilient” or even a “resistance” regime, despite its long history – throughout its existence in power – of protecting the Zionist occupation of the Golan Heights, its constant bloody repression of various groups resisting Israel, be it Palestinian or Lebanese (or Syrian), and remaining idle and subservient, since the October 1973 war, concerning Israel’s aggressions on Syrian territories. This bias will have serious ramifications on ordinary Syrians’ position regarding the left in general.

The United Nations and the Security Council, in particular, was unable to condemn the crimes of a regime, which the Syrian people rejected continuously and peacefully for more than seven months, while the bullets of the snipers and shabbiha took demonstrators one by one and day after day and while the most influential activists were being detained and subjected to the worst kinds of torture and elimination in the prisons and detention centers. All the while, the world remained completely silent and in a state of total negativity.

The situation persisted with small difference after the people in revolution decided to take up arms and the emergence of what became known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – whose command and soldiers came, to a large extent, from the regular army. This led to the horrific escalation of crimes by the regime.

Russian imperialism, the most important ally of the Baathist regime in Damascus, which provides it with all sorts of support, remains on the lookout to block any attempt to condemn those crimes in the Security Council. The United States, on the other hand, does not find a real problem in the continuation of the status quo, with all the apparent repercussions and destruction of the country. This is despite the threats and intimidation utilized by the US president, every time someone in the opposition raises the question of the use of chemical weapons by the regime, up until the latest escalation, when it was considered crossing a “red line.”

It is clear that Obama, who gives the impression that he will go ahead with his threats, would have felt great embarrassment if he did not do so, since it will not only impact negatively on the president, but also on the image of the mighty and arrogant state that he leads in the eyes of subservient Arab countries and the entire world.

The imminent strike against the Syrian armed forces is led by the US in essence. However, it occurs with the understanding and cooperation of allied imperialist countries, even without rationalizing it through the usual farce, known as international legitimacy (namely the decisions of the UN, which was and remains representative of the interests of major powers, whether in conflict or in alliance, depending on the circumstances, differences, and balances among them). In other words, the strike will not wait for the Security Council due to the anticipated Russian-Chinese veto.

Unfortunately, many in the Syrian opposition are gambling on this strike and the US position in general. They believe this would create an opportunity for them to seize power, skipping over the movement and of the masses and their independent decision. It should not be a surprise, then, that the representatives of this opposition and the FSA had no reservations on providing information to the US about proposed targets for the strike.

In all cases, we agree on the following:

  • The western imperialist alliance will strike several positions and vital parts of the military and civilian infrastructure in Syria (with several casualties, as usual). However, as it was keen to announce, the strikes will not be meant to topple the regime. They are merely intended to punish, in Obama’s words, the current Syrian leadership and save face for the US administration, after all the threats concerning the use of chemical weapons.
  • The US president’s intentions to punish the Syrian leadership does not stem, in any way or form, from Washington’s solidarity with the suffering of children who fell in the Ghouta massacres, but from its commitment to what Obama calls the vital interests of the US and its homeland security, in addition to Israel’s interests and security.
  • The Syrian army and its regional allies, led by the Iranian regime, will not have enough courage, most probably, to fulfil what seemed to be threats by their senior officials that any western attack on Syria will ignite the entire region. But this option remains on the table, as a final option with catastrophic results.
  • The imminent western imperialist assault does not intend to support the Syrian revolution in any way. It will aim to push Damascus into the bargaining table and allow Bashar al-Assad to retreat from the foreground, but keeping the regime in place, while greatly improving conditions to strengthen the position of US imperialism in the future Syria against Russian imperialism.
  • The more those participating in the continuing popular mobilization – who are more aware, principled, and dedicated to the future of Syria and its people – realize these facts, their consequences, results, and act accordingly, the more this will contribute to aiding the Syrian people to successfully pick a true revolutionary leadership. In the process of a committed struggle based on the current and future interests of their people, this would produce a radical program consistent with those interests, which could be promoted and put into practice on the road to victory.

No to all forms of imperialist intervention, whether by the US or Russia.

No to all forms of reactionary sectarian interventions, whether by Iran or the Gulf countries.

No to the intervention of Hezbollah, which warrants the maximum of condemnation.

Down with all illusions about the imminent US military strike.

Break open the arms depots for the Syrian people to struggle for freedom, dignity, and social justice.

Victory to a free democratic Syria and down with the Assad dictatorship and all dictatorships forever.

Long live the Syrian people’s revolution.


Revolutionary Socialists (Egypt) – Revolutionary Left Current (Syria) – Union of Communists (Iraq) – Al-Mounadil-a (Morocco) – Socialist Forum (Lebanon)

Source

Syria intervention plans fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapons concernsAugust 31, 2013
On 21 August, hundreds - perhaps over a thousand - people were killed in a chemical weapon attack in Ghouta, Damascus, prompting the US, UK, Israel and France to raise the spectre of military strikes against Bashir al Assad’s forces.
The latest episode is merely one more horrific event in a conflict that has increasingly taken on genocidal characteristics. The case for action at first glance is indisputable. The UN now confirms a death toll over 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom have been killed by Assad’s troops. An estimated 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. International observers have overwhelmingly confirmed Assad’s complicity in the preponderance of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people. The illegitimacy of his regime, and the legitimacy of the uprising, is clear.
Experts are unanimous that the shocking footage of civilians, including children, suffering the effects of some sort of chemical attack, is real - but remain divided on whether it involved military-grade chemical weapons associated with Assad’s arsenal, or were a more amateur concoction potentially linked to the rebels.
Whatever the case, few recall that US agitation against Syria began long before recent atrocities, in the context of wider operations targeting Iranian influence across the Middle East.
In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorised CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. A range of US government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had “cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations” intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria,” wrote Hersh, “a byproduct” of which is “the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups” hostile to the United States and “sympathetic to al-Qaeda.” He noted that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria,” with a view to pressure him to be “more conciliatory and open to negotiations” with Israel. One faction receiving covert US “political and financial support” through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.
According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business”, he told French television:

"I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria."

The 2011 uprisings, it would seem - triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes - came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.” (Thanks to whistleblower & hacktivist Jeremy Hammond & WikiLeaks for the Stratfor leaks)
So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years”, starting with Iraq and moving on to “Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources.
Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008US Army-funded RAND report, Unfolding the Future of the Long War(pdf). The report noted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource.” As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has “motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states”:

"The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war."

In this context, the report identified several potential trajectories for regional policy focused on protecting access to Gulf oil supplies, among which the following are most salient:

"Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces… the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace… US leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world…. possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran."

Exploring different scenarios for this trajectory, the report speculated that the US may concentrate “on shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.” Noting that this could actually empower al-Qaeda jihadists, the report concluded that doing so might work in western interests by bogging down jihadi activity with internal sectarian rivalry rather than targeting the US:

"One of the oddities of this long war trajectory is that it may actually reduce the al-Qaeda threat to US interests in the short term. The upsurge in Shia identity and confidence seen here would certainly cause serious concern in the Salafi-jihadist community in the Muslim world, including the senior leadership of al-Qaeda. As a result, it is very likely that al-Qaeda might focus its efforts on targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations."

The RAND document contextualised this disturbing strategy with surprisingly prescient recognition of the increasing vulnerability of the US’s key allies and enemies - Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Syria, Iran - to a range of converging crises: rapidly rising populations, a ‘youth bulge’, internal economic inequalities, political frustrations, sectarian tensions, and environmentally-linked water shortages, all of which could destabilise these countries from within or exacerbate inter-state conflicts.
Full article

Syria intervention plans fueled by oil interests, not chemical weapons concerns
August 31, 2013

On 21 August, hundreds - perhaps over a thousand - people were killed in a chemical weapon attack in Ghouta, Damascus, prompting the US, UK, Israel and France to raise the spectre of military strikes against Bashir al Assad’s forces.

The latest episode is merely one more horrific event in a conflict that has increasingly taken on genocidal characteristics. The case for action at first glance is indisputable. The UN now confirms a death toll over 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom have been killed by Assad’s troops. An estimated 4.5 million people have been displaced from their homes. International observers have overwhelmingly confirmed Assad’s complicity in the preponderance of war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Syrian people. The illegitimacy of his regime, and the legitimacy of the uprising, is clear.

Experts are unanimous that the shocking footage of civilians, including children, suffering the effects of some sort of chemical attack, is real - but remain divided on whether it involved military-grade chemical weapons associated with Assad’s arsenal, or were a more amateur concoction potentially linked to the rebels.

Whatever the case, few recall that US agitation against Syria began long before recent atrocities, in the context of wider operations targeting Iranian influence across the Middle East.

In May 2007, a presidential finding revealed that Bush had authorised CIA operations against Iran. Anti-Syria operations were also in full swing around this time as part of this covert programme, according to Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker. A range of US government and intelligence sources told him that the Bush administration had “cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations” intended to weaken the Shi’ite Hezbollah in Lebanon. “The US has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria,” wrote Hersh, “a byproduct” of which is “the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups” hostile to the United States and “sympathetic to al-Qaeda.” He noted that “the Saudi government, with Washington’s approval, would provide funds and logistical aid to weaken the government of President Bashir Assad, of Syria,” with a view to pressure him to be “more conciliatory and open to negotiations” with Israel. One faction receiving covert US “political and financial support” through the Saudis was the exiled Syrian Muslim Brotherhood.

According to former French foreign minister Roland Dumas, Britain had planned covert action in Syria as early as 2009: “I was in England two years before the violence in Syria on other business”, he told French television:

"I met with top British officials, who confessed to me that they were preparing something in Syria. This was in Britain not in America. Britain was preparing gunmen to invade Syria."

The 2011 uprisings, it would seem - triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes - came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited. Leaked emails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor including notes from a meeting with Pentagon officials confirmed US-UK training of Syrian opposition forces since 2011 aimed at eliciting “collapse” of Assad’s regime “from within.” (Thanks to whistleblower & hacktivist Jeremy Hammond & WikiLeaks for the Stratfor leaks)

So what was this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria and Iran all about? According to retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, a memo from the Office of the US Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to “attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years”, starting with Iraq and moving on to “Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.” In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources.

Much of the strategy currently at play was candidly described in a 2008US Army-funded RAND reportUnfolding the Future of the Long War(pdf). The report noted that “the economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource.” As most oil will be produced in the Middle East, the US has “motive for maintaining stability in and good relations with Middle Eastern states”:

"The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war."

In this context, the report identified several potential trajectories for regional policy focused on protecting access to Gulf oil supplies, among which the following are most salient:

"Divide and Rule focuses on exploiting fault lines between the various Salafi-jihadist groups to turn them against each other and dissipate their energy on internal conflicts. This strategy relies heavily on covert action, information operations (IO), unconventional warfare, and support to indigenous security forces… the United States and its local allies could use the nationalist jihadists to launch proxy IO campaigns to discredit the transnational jihadists in the eyes of the local populace… US leaders could also choose to capitalize on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ trajectory by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world…. possibly supporting authoritative Sunni governments against a continuingly hostile Iran."

Exploring different scenarios for this trajectory, the report speculated that the US may concentrate “on shoring up the traditional Sunni regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan as a way of containing Iranian power and influence in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.” Noting that this could actually empower al-Qaeda jihadists, the report concluded that doing so might work in western interests by bogging down jihadi activity with internal sectarian rivalry rather than targeting the US:

"One of the oddities of this long war trajectory is that it may actually reduce the al-Qaeda threat to US interests in the short term. The upsurge in Shia identity and confidence seen here would certainly cause serious concern in the Salafi-jihadist community in the Muslim world, including the senior leadership of al-Qaeda. As a result, it is very likely that al-Qaeda might focus its efforts on targeting Iranian interests throughout the Middle East and Persian Gulf while simultaneously cutting back on anti-American and anti-Western operations."

The RAND document contextualised this disturbing strategy with surprisingly prescient recognition of the increasing vulnerability of the US’s key allies and enemies - Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Syria, Iran - to a range of converging crises: rapidly rising populations, a ‘youth bulge’, internal economic inequalities, political frustrations, sectarian tensions, and environmentally-linked water shortages, all of which could destabilise these countries from within or exacerbate inter-state conflicts.

Full article

Killing civilians to protect civilians in SyriaAugust 29, 2013
The drums of war are beating again. The Obama administration will reportedly launch a military strike to punish Syria’s Assad government for its alleged use of chemical weapons. A military attack would invariably kill civilians for the ostensible purpose of showing the Syrian government that killing civilians is wrong. “What we are talking about here is a potential response … to this specific violation of international norms,” declared White House press secretary Jay Carney. But a military intervention by the United States in Syria to punish the government would violate international law.For the United States to threaten to and/or launch a military strike as a reprisal is a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter. The Charter requires countries to settle their international disputes peacefully. Article 2(4) makes it illegal for any country to either use force or threaten to use force against another country. Article 2(7) prohibits intervention in an internal or domestic dispute in another country. The only time military force is lawful under the Charter is when the Security Council approves it, or under Article 51, which allows a country to defend itself if attacked. “The use of chemical weapons within Syria is not an armed attack on the United States,” according to Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell.The United States and the international community have failed to take constructive steps to promote peace-making efforts, which could have brought the crisis in Syria to an end. The big powers instead have waged a proxy war to give their “side” a stronger hand in future negotiations, evaluating the situation only in terms of geopolitical concerns. The result has been to once again demonstrate that military solutions to political and economic problems are no solution at all. In the meantime, the fans of enmity between religious factions have been inflamed to such a degree that the demonization of each by the other has created fertile ground for slaughter and excuses for not negotiating with anyone with “blood on their hands.”Despite U.S. claims of “little doubt that Assad used these weapons,” there is significant doubt among the international community about which side employed chemical weapons. Many view the so-called rebels as trying to create a situation to provoke U.S. intervention against Assad. Indeed, in May, Carla del Ponte, former international prosecutor and current UN commissioner on Syria, concluded that opposition forces used sarin gas against civilians.The use of any type of chemical weapon by any party would constitute a war crime. Chemical weapons that kill and maim people are illegal and their use violates the laws of war. The illegality of chemical and poisoned weapons was first established by the Hague regulations of 1899 and Hague Convention of 1907. It was reiterated in the Geneva Convention of 1925 and the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court specifically states that employing “poison or poisoned weapons” and “asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and all analogous liquids, materials or devices” are war crimes, under Article 8. The prohibition on the use of these weapons is an international norm regardless of whether any convention has been ratified. As these weapons do not distinguish between military combatants and civilians, they violate the principle of distinction and the ban on weapons which cause unnecessary suffering and death contained in the Hague Convention. Under the Nuremberg Principles, violations of the laws of war are war crimes.The self-righteousness of the United States about the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad is hypocritical. The United States used napalm and employed massive amounts of chemical weapons in the form of Agent Orange in Vietnam, which continues to affect countless people over many generations. Recently declassified CIA documents reveal U.S. complicity in Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war, according to Foreign Policy: “In contrast to today’s wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein’s widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.”In Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States used cluster bombs, depleted uranium, and white phosphorous gas. Cluster bomb cannisters contain tiny bomblets, which can spread over a vast area. Unexploded cluster bombs are frequently picked up by children and explode, resulting in serious injury or death. Depleted uranium (DU) weapons spread high levels of radiation over vast areas of land. In Iraq, there has been a sharp increase in Leukemia and birth defects, probably due to DU. White phosphorous gas melts the skin and burns to the bone. The Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War (Geneva IV) classifies “willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health” as a grave breach, which constitutes a war crime.The use of chemical weapons, regardless of the purpose, is atrocious, no matter the feigned justification. A government’s use of such weapons against its own people is particularly reprehensible. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the purported attack by Assad’s forces “defies any code of morality” and should “shock the conscience of the world.” He went on to say that “there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”  Yet the U.S. militarily occupied over 75% of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for 60 years, during which time the Navy routinely practiced with, and used, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, napalm and other toxic chemicals and metals such as TNT and mercury. This occurred within a couple of miles of a civilian population that included thousands of U.S. citizens. The people of Vieques have lived under the colonial rule of the United States now for 115 years and suffer from terminal health conditions such as elevated rates of cancer, hypertension, respiratory and skin illnesses and kidney failure. While Secretary Kerry calls for accountability by the Assad government, the U.S. Navy has yet to admit, much less seek atonement, for decades of bombing and biochemical warfare on Vieques.The U.S. government’s moral outrage at the use of these weapons falls flat as it refuses to take responsibility for its own violations.President Barack Obama admitted, “If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a UN mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it …” The Obama administration is studying the 1999 “NATO air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations,” the New York Times reported. But NATO’s Kosovo bombing also violated the UN Charter as the Security Council never approved it, and it was not carried out in self-defense. The UN Charter does not permit the use of military force for “humanitarian interventions.” Humanitarian concerns do not constitute self-defense. In fact, humanitarian concerns should spur the international community to seek peace and end the suffering, not increase military attacks, which could endanger peace in the entire region.Moreover, as Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies and David Wildman of Human Rights & Racial Justice for the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church wrote, “Does anyone really believe that a military strike on an alleged chemical weapons factory would help the Syrian people, would save any lives, would help bring an end to this horrific civil war”?Military strikes will likely result in the escalation of Syria’s civil war. “Let’s be clear,” Bennis and Wildman note. “Any U.S. military attack, cruise missiles or anything else, will not be to protect civilians – it will mean taking sides once again in a bloody, complicated civil war.” Anthony Cordesman, military analyst from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, asks, “Can you do damage with cruise missiles? Yes. Can you stop them from having chemical weapons capability? I would think the answer would be no.”The United States and its allies must refrain from military intervention in Syria and take affirmative steps to promote a durable ceasefire and a political solution consistent with international law. If the U.S. government were truly interested in fomenting peace and promoting accountability, it should apologize to and compensate the victims of its own use of chemical weapons around the world.
Source
Say NO to another US war: Hands off Syria protest today in Times Square at 6 p.m. Look out for photos on our Instagram @thepeoplesrecord

Killing civilians to protect civilians in Syria
August 29, 2013

The drums of war are beating again. The Obama administration will reportedly launch a military strike to punish Syria’s Assad government for its alleged use of chemical weapons. A military attack would invariably kill civilians for the ostensible purpose of showing the Syrian government that killing civilians is wrong. “What we are talking about here is a potential response … to this specific violation of international norms,” declared White House press secretary Jay Carney. But a military intervention by the United States in Syria to punish the government would violate international law.

For the United States to threaten to and/or launch a military strike as a reprisal is a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter. The Charter requires countries to settle their international disputes peacefully. Article 2(4) makes it illegal for any country to either use force or threaten to use force against another country. Article 2(7) prohibits intervention in an internal or domestic dispute in another country. The only time military force is lawful under the Charter is when the Security Council approves it, or under Article 51, which allows a country to defend itself if attacked. “The use of chemical weapons within Syria is not an armed attack on the United States,” according to Notre Dame law professor Mary Ellen O’Connell.

The United States and the international community have failed to take constructive steps to promote peace-making efforts, which could have brought the crisis in Syria to an end. The big powers instead have waged a proxy war to give their “side” a stronger hand in future negotiations, evaluating the situation only in terms of geopolitical concerns. The result has been to once again demonstrate that military solutions to political and economic problems are no solution at all. In the meantime, the fans of enmity between religious factions have been inflamed to such a degree that the demonization of each by the other has created fertile ground for slaughter and excuses for not negotiating with anyone with “blood on their hands.”

Despite U.S. claims of “little doubt that Assad used these weapons,” there is significant doubt among the international community about which side employed chemical weapons. Many view the so-called rebels as trying to create a situation to provoke U.S. intervention against Assad. Indeed, in May, Carla del Ponte, former international prosecutor and current UN commissioner on Syria, concluded that opposition forces used sarin gas against civilians.

The use of any type of chemical weapon by any party would constitute a war crime. Chemical weapons that kill and maim people are illegal and their use violates the laws of war. The illegality of chemical and poisoned weapons was first established by the Hague regulations of 1899 and Hague Convention of 1907. It was reiterated in the Geneva Convention of 1925 and the Chemical Weapons Convention. The Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court specifically states that employing “poison or poisoned weapons” and “asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and all analogous liquids, materials or devices” are war crimes, under Article 8. The prohibition on the use of these weapons is an international norm regardless of whether any convention has been ratified. As these weapons do not distinguish between military combatants and civilians, they violate the principle of distinction and the ban on weapons which cause unnecessary suffering and death contained in the Hague Convention. Under the Nuremberg Principles, violations of the laws of war are war crimes.

The self-righteousness of the United States about the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad is hypocritical. The United States used napalm and employed massive amounts of chemical weapons in the form of Agent Orange in Vietnam, which continues to affect countless people over many generations. Recently declassified CIA documents reveal U.S. complicity in Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war, according to Foreign Policy: “In contrast to today’s wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein’s widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.”

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States used cluster bombs, depleted uranium, and white phosphorous gas. Cluster bomb cannisters contain tiny bomblets, which can spread over a vast area. Unexploded cluster bombs are frequently picked up by children and explode, resulting in serious injury or death. Depleted uranium (DU) weapons spread high levels of radiation over vast areas of land. In Iraq, there has been a sharp increase in Leukemia and birth defects, probably due to DU. White phosphorous gas melts the skin and burns to the bone. The Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in time of War (Geneva IV) classifies “willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health” as a grave breach, which constitutes a war crime.

The use of chemical weapons, regardless of the purpose, is atrocious, no matter the feigned justification. A government’s use of such weapons against its own people is particularly reprehensible. Secretary of State John Kerry said that the purported attack by Assad’s forces “defies any code of morality” and should “shock the conscience of the world.” He went on to say that “there must be accountability for those who would use the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people.”  

Yet the U.S. militarily occupied over 75% of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for 60 years, during which time the Navy routinely practiced with, and used, Agent Orange, depleted uranium, napalm and other toxic chemicals and metals such as TNT and mercury. This occurred within a couple of miles of a civilian population that included thousands of U.S. citizens. The people of Vieques have lived under the colonial rule of the United States now for 115 years and suffer from terminal health conditions such as elevated rates of cancer, hypertension, respiratory and skin illnesses and kidney failure. While Secretary Kerry calls for accountability by the Assad government, the U.S. Navy has yet to admit, much less seek atonement, for decades of bombing and biochemical warfare on Vieques.

The U.S. government’s moral outrage at the use of these weapons falls flat as it refuses to take responsibility for its own violations.

President Barack Obama admitted, “If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a UN mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it …” The Obama administration is studying the 1999 “NATO air war in Kosovo as a possible blueprint for acting without a mandate from the United Nations,” the New York Times reported. But NATO’s Kosovo bombing also violated the UN Charter as the Security Council never approved it, and it was not carried out in self-defense. The UN Charter does not permit the use of military force for “humanitarian interventions.” Humanitarian concerns do not constitute self-defense. In fact, humanitarian concerns should spur the international community to seek peace and end the suffering, not increase military attacks, which could endanger peace in the entire region.

Moreover, as Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies and David Wildman of Human Rights & Racial Justice for the Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church wrote, “Does anyone really believe that a military strike on an alleged chemical weapons factory would help the Syrian people, would save any lives, would help bring an end to this horrific civil war”?

Military strikes will likely result in the escalation of Syria’s civil war. “Let’s be clear,” Bennis and Wildman note. “Any U.S. military attack, cruise missiles or anything else, will not be to protect civilians – it will mean taking sides once again in a bloody, complicated civil war.” Anthony Cordesman, military analyst from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, asks, “Can you do damage with cruise missiles? Yes. Can you stop them from having chemical weapons capability? I would think the answer would be no.”

The United States and its allies must refrain from military intervention in Syria and take affirmative steps to promote a durable ceasefire and a political solution consistent with international law. If the U.S. government were truly interested in fomenting peace and promoting accountability, it should apologize to and compensate the victims of its own use of chemical weapons around the world.

Source

Say NO to another US war: Hands off Syria protest today in Times Square at 6 p.m. Look out for photos on our Instagram @thepeoplesrecord

Obama DOJ asks court to grant immunity to Bush for Iraq WarAugust 27, 2013
In court papers filed on August 20 (PDF), the United States Department of Justice requested that George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz be granted procedural immunity in a case alleging that they planned and waged the Iraq War in violation of international law.
Plaintiff Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan, filed a complaint in March 2013 in San Francisco federal court alleging that the planning and waging of the war constituted a “crime of aggression” against Iraq, a legal theory that was used by the Nuremberg Tribunal to convict Nazi war criminals after World War II.
"The DOJ claims that in planning and waging the Iraq War, ex-President Bush and key members of his Administration were acting within the legitimate scope of their employment and are thus immune from suit,” chief counsel Inder Comar of Comar Law said.
The “Westfall Act certification,” submitted pursuant to the Westfall Act of 1988, permits the Attorney General, at his or her discretion, to substitute the United States as the defendant and essentially grant absolute immunity to government employees for actions taken within the scope of their employment.
In her lawsuit, Saleh alleges that:
— Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz began planning the Iraq War in 1998 through their involvement with the “Project for the New American Century,” a Washington DC non-profit that advocated for the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
— Once they came to power, Saleh alleges that Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz convinced other Bush officials to invade Iraq by using 9/11 as an excuse to mislead and scare the American public into supporting a war.
— Finally, she claims that the United States failed to obtain United Nations approval prior to the invasion, rendering the invasion illegal and an act of impermissible aggression.
“The good news is that while we were disappointed with the certification, we were prepared for it,” Comar stated. “We do not see how a Westfall Act certification is appropriate given that Ms. Saleh alleges that the conduct at issue began prior to these defendants even entering into office. I think the Nuremberg prosecutors, particularly American Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson, would be surprised to learn that planning a war of aggression at a private non-profit, misleading a fearful public, and foregoing proper legal authorization somehow constitute lawful employment duties for the American president and his or her cabinet.”
The case is Saleh v. Bush (N.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2013, No. C 13 1124 JST).
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Obama DOJ asks court to grant immunity to Bush for Iraq War
August 27, 2013

In court papers filed on August 20 (PDF), the United States Department of Justice requested that George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz be granted procedural immunity in a case alleging that they planned and waged the Iraq War in violation of international law.

Plaintiff Sundus Shaker Saleh, an Iraqi single mother and refugee now living in Jordan, filed a complaint in March 2013 in San Francisco federal court alleging that the planning and waging of the war constituted a “crime of aggression” against Iraq, a legal theory that was used by the Nuremberg Tribunal to convict Nazi war criminals after World War II.

"The DOJ claims that in planning and waging the Iraq War, ex-President Bush and key members of his Administration were acting within the legitimate scope of their employment and are thus immune from suit,” chief counsel Inder Comar of Comar Law said.

The “Westfall Act certification,” submitted pursuant to the Westfall Act of 1988, permits the Attorney General, at his or her discretion, to substitute the United States as the defendant and essentially grant absolute immunity to government employees for actions taken within the scope of their employment.

In her lawsuit, Saleh alleges that:

— Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz began planning the Iraq War in 1998 through their involvement with the “Project for the New American Century,” a Washington DC non-profit that advocated for the military overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

— Once they came to power, Saleh alleges that Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz convinced other Bush officials to invade Iraq by using 9/11 as an excuse to mislead and scare the American public into supporting a war.

— Finally, she claims that the United States failed to obtain United Nations approval prior to the invasion, rendering the invasion illegal and an act of impermissible aggression.

“The good news is that while we were disappointed with the certification, we were prepared for it,” Comar stated. “We do not see how a Westfall Act certification is appropriate given that Ms. Saleh alleges that the conduct at issue began prior to these defendants even entering into office. I think the Nuremberg prosecutors, particularly American Chief Prosecutor Robert Jackson, would be surprised to learn that planning a war of aggression at a private non-profit, misleading a fearful public, and foregoing proper legal authorization somehow constitute lawful employment duties for the American president and his or her cabinet.”

The case is Saleh v. Bush (N.D. Cal. Mar. 13, 2013, No. C 13 1124 JST).

Source