The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. troops back to the Middle East to help train Iraqi forces, defense officials said Friday.
… I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the soldiers who fought in Fallujah or took part elsewhere in this gigantic war crime thought of themselves as good people trying to do a good thing in difficult circumstances. That’s what they were told they were doing; and, poisoned from birth, like all of us, by that all-pervasive myth of exceptionalism, of special privilege for anything and everything done by the United States, most of them lacked the will — or even the conceptual tools — to question this belief. (Brave souls like Chelsea Manning and the Iraq Vets Against the War are among the exceptions.) I am sorry if some of them — and the survivors of the thousands of Americans killed in the process of unleashing this mass murder — now feel that the war was fought in vain, and that the American dead “were sacrificed for nothing,” as one “angry” ex-Marine told the Times after hearing that Fallujah was temporarily in the hands of the extremist militias engendered by the American invasion of Iraq.
This is unfortunate for them — but let us be absolutely clear on this point. To any American soldier who thought he or she was fighting in Iraq for anything other than the aggrandizement of a bloodthirsty elite, then yes, yes, a thousand times yes: you fought in vain. You fought under false premises, you were ordered to carry out a great crime — and you carried it out. And yes, yes, a thousand times yes: every American soldier who was killed in Iraq was “sacrificed for nothing.” This was true from the very first moment of the war, from the moment you set foot in Iraq. [As Arthur Silber notes here.] It did not suddenly become the truth 11 years later, when Fallujah became embroiled in the sectarian strife the war set loose.
So remember again the reality. Remember again what actually happened. The United States military, at the behest of its political leaders, carried out an abominable war crime in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Think of those innocent people who were murdered — and those who go on being murdered in the hellhole America made of Iraq — and then consider where the real tragedy lies, whom the real victims are. Some might think it was people like Artica Salim, whose young body was blown apart by an American bomb during weeks of bombardment to “soften up” the city before the Marlboro Men moved in. But the New York Times — which “stovepiped” so many helpful lies from government warmongers to help make the entirely specious case for aggression, and speaks today, as it spoke then, as the voice of the American establishment — thinks the real victims were the Marines who attacked Fallujah. [read]
January 8th, 2013
In a move that was nearly a month too late, the Obama Administration has finally gotten around to announcing an “investigation” into the December 12 drone strike against a Yemeni wedding party, which killed a large number of civilians.
The strike fueled massive opposition from locals, and also a rare rebuke from the Yemeni parliament, which has long looked the other way over civilian deaths. The Obama Administration hasn’t learned any lesson however.
That’s because even as the probe was getting underway, the US launched yet another drone strike against the Hadrawmut Province, killing two unidentified people.
Officially, both of the slain have been declared “suspected al-Qaeda militants,” but that explanation would be a lot more credible if the US hadn’t labeled the wedding party the exact same way after that hit.
Though the US has long insisted virtually no civilians are slain in their strikes, they likewise have never identified a large number of their victims, shrugging them off as suspects unless someone says otherwise.
Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them some questions. I’d start with “how many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” and “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly, “how many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAV’s [unmanned aerial vehicle] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”
… I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again, it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to, not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.
Of course, we are trained to not experience these feelings, and we fight it, and become bitter. Some troops seek help in mental health clinics provided by the military, but we are limited on who we can talk to and where, because of the secrecy of our missions. I find it interesting that the suicide statistics in this career field aren’t reported, nor are the data on how many troops working in UAV positions are heavily medicated for depression, sleep disorders and anxiety.
Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain’s secretary of state for defence Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within one of year leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.
The UAV’s in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue.
According to a report in the New York Times, Iraq has requested ten relatively low-tech ScanEagle drones along with forty-eight Raven drones in order to track al Qaeda fighters who have been operating with impunity in the vast expanses of Anbar providence and in Western Iraq, which shares a border with Syria.
All of the drones will be delivered in 2014.
Seventy-five Hellfire missiles were also delivered to Iraq last week …
… In July, the US announced over $4 billion in Foreign Military Sales to Iraq that included everything from infantry carriers to ground-to-air rockets.
The Pentagon’s request to Congress included $2.4 billion for 681 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and 40 truck-mounted launchers, Sentinel radars, and three Hawk anti-aircraft batteries with 216 Hawk missiles.
… The United States is also planning to begin delivering F-16 fighters to Iraq late next year.
U.S. intelligence, GPS bomb kits help Latin American nation cripple rebel forces
By Dana Priest
The 50-year-old Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), once considered the best-funded insurgency in the world, is at its smallest and most vulnerable state in decades, due in part to a CIA covert action program that has helped Colombian forces kill at least two dozen rebel leaders, according to interviews with more than 30 former and current U.S. and Colombian officials.
The secret assistance, which also includes substantial eavesdropping help from the National Security Agency, is funded through a multibillion-dollar black budget. It is not a part of the public $9 billion package of mostly U.S. military aid called Plan Colombia, which began in 2000.
The previously undisclosed CIA program was authorized by President George W. Bush in the early 2000s and has continued under President Obama, according to U.S. military, intelligence and diplomatic officials. Most of those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program is classified and ongoing.
The covert program in Colombia provides two essential services to the nation’s battle against the FARC and a smaller insurgent group, the National Liberation Army (ELN): Real-time intelligence that allows Colombian forces to hunt down individual FARC leaders and, beginning in 2006, one particularly effective tool with which to kill them.
That weapon is a $30,000 GPS guidance kit that transforms a less-than-accurate 500-pound gravity bomb into a highly accurate smart bomb. Smart bombs, also called precision-guided munitions or PGMs, are capable of killing an individual in triple-canopy jungle if his exact location can be determined and geo-coordinates are programmed into the bomb’s small computer brain.
In March 2008, according to nine U.S. and Colombian officials, the Colombian Air Force, with tacit U.S. approval, launched U.S.-made smart bombs across the border into Ecuador to kill a senior FARC leader, Raul Reyes. The indirect U.S. role in that attack has not been previously disclosed.
The covert action program in Colombia is one of a handful of enhanced intelligence initiatives that has escaped public notice since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. …
… White House lawyers, along with their colleagues from the CIA and the departments of Justice, Defense and State, had their own questions to work through. It was one thing to use a PGM to defeat an enemy on the battlefield — the U.S. Air Force had been doing that for years. It was another to use it to target an individual FARC leader. Would that constitute an assassination, which is prohibited by U.S. law? And, “could we be accused of engaging in an assassination, even if it is not ourselves doing it?” said one lawyer involved.
The White House’s Office of Legal Counsel and others finally decided that the same legal analysis they had applied to al-Qaeda could be applied to the FARC. [continue]
… In this country, no one bothers to count up wedding parties wiped out by U.S. air power. If they did, Soltis would have known that the accurate line, given the history of U.S. war-making since December 2001 when the first party of Afghan wedding revelers was wiped out (only two women surviving), would have been: “A U.S. drone… took out a likely target.”
After all, by the count of TomDispatch, this is at least the eighth wedding party reported wiped out, totally or in part, since the Afghan War began and it extends the extermination of wedding celebrants from the air to a third country — six destroyed in Afghanistan, one in Iraq, and now the first in Yemen. And in all those years, reporters covering these “incidents” never seem to notice that similar events had occurred previously. Sometimes whole wedding parties were slaughtered, sometimes just the bride or groom’s parties were hit. Estimated total dead from the eight incidents: almost 300 Afghans, Iraqis, and Yemenis. And keep in mind that, in these years, weddings haven’t been the only rites hit. U.S. air power has struck gatherings ranging from funerals to a baby-naming ceremony.
The only thing that made the Yemeni incident unique was the drone. The previous strikes were reportedly by piloted aircraft.
… [The] U.S. drone campaigns are said to launch what in drone-speak are called “signature strikes” — that is, strikes not against identified individuals, but against “a pre-identified ‘signature’ of behavior that the U.S. links to militant activity.” In other words, the U.S. launches drone strikes against groups or individuals whose behavior simply fits a “suspect” category: young men of military age carrying weapons, for instance (in areas where carrying a weapon may be the norm no matter who you are). In a more general sense, however, the obliterated wedding party may be the true signature strike of the post 9/11 era of American war-making, the strike that should, but never will, remind Americans that the war on terror was and remains, for others in distant lands, a war of terror, a fearsome creation to which we are conveniently blind.
A drone strike by the United States, which targeted a wedding convoy, reportedly killed anywhere from ten to seventeen people and injured as many as thirty individuals. Most of the people killed were civilians …
December 14th, 2014
At least six people were killed in a drone strike in Mach Magai area of Loe Shalman near Khyber Agency on Saturday.
According to political administration, two missiles were fired while a boat in River Kabul was targeted in the strike.
Six people were killed while two others injured in the drone attack, the administration added.
The injured identified as Hamid and Shabir were taken to Landikotal Hospital.
This is the first US drone strike in Loe Shalman area.
The last drone strike was carried out in Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that killed six people.
December 12th, 2013
When a US drone strike tears through some vehicle, building, or picnic in Yemen, the Yemeni government is quick to label all of the victims “suspected al-Qaeda fighters,” and today was no different.
That claim was stretched beyond all credibility, however, when witnesses came forward saying today’s strike, on the outskirts of Qaifa, actually hit a wedding party. The procession of vehicles was traveling together when missiles slammed into one of the middle cars, causing chaos and killing 10 civilians instantly, while wounding 12 others. Five of the wounded have since died, bringing the toll to 15.
The early indications are that this was yet another “signature” attack, where US drones target totally unidentified people doing something they thing seems terrorist-like. In this case, it was driving cars in a convoy, which is bad news for weddings and funeral processions.
The Hadi government has yet to issue an official statement, but is unlikely to be too critical of the US, having openly endorsed drone strikes repeatedly.
December 9th, 2013
Another US drone strike hit the Hadramawt Province in southeastern Yemen today, destroying a truck and killing four unidentified people within.
Yemeni officials dubbed the slain “al-Qaeda suspects,” and in some accounts “gunmen,” though they conceded that they have no idea who the four victims of the attack actually are since the bodies were burned beyond recognition in the strike. That is nothing new, as the overwhelming majority of US drone strikes kill so-called “signature” targets, people even the attackers don’t know but who simply look like they might be up to something.
Of thousands of victims of US drone strikes across the world, only a few dozen have ever been named officially, with the rest forever labeled “suspects.”
I think much ink has been spilled on these terms [terrorism and terrorist], which are fairly ideological, and I find them suspect, particularly when coming from people for whom terrorism expertise has become a career. Karim, who asked me this question, however, is not one of these people. What I found interesting about Karim’s statement, in which he calls Obama and Bush “terrorists,” is that he changes how these terms are often deployed. Usually, when these words are thrown out, they are used to refer to the violence of non-state actors. Waziris, more generally, have been consistently dehumanized not only by the governments of the US and Pakistan but also by western media. They are constantly marked as suspect. So, when Karim calls the heads of the US state, Obama and Bush, “terrorists”, he turns this terrorism talk on its head. He implies that we, as tax-paying, voting citizens are complicit in a chain of terrorism that is the calculated, systematic work of a superpower. He points out the very obvious but little stated fact that this superpower is bombing Waziris while the latter sit in their own homes. He notes that terrorism also comes in the form of advanced-weapons systems. Our technological prowess doesn’t make our violence any more humane. It makes it all the more horrifying.