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Jeremy Scahill: The Secret Story Behind Obama’s Assassination of Two Americans in Yemen | Democracy Now!

JEREMY SCAHILL: [In] December of 2009, the U.S. started bombing Yemen for the first time in seven years. Bush had bombed Yemen once. It was a drone bombing in 2002, November, and ended up killing a U.S. citizen in that strike, though he wasn’t the target of the strike. So the first time that the U.S. did a targeted strike that killed a U.S. citizen in Yemen that we know of was under Bush in November of 2002. In December of 2009, President Obama authorizes a series of missile strikes, not just drone strikes. The most deadly one that we know of was December 17th, 2009, cruise missile attack on the Yemeni village of al-Majalah, and it killed 46 people, three dozen of whom were women and children, which is stunning and horrifying. And we have video footage in our film of the aftermath of that strike, interviews with the survivors of when the missile hit. But it was in pursuit of one person that they said was an al-Qaeda operative, and they wiped out an entire Bedouin village. And we went there, and the cruise missile parts are still strewn across the desert. They’re there to this day just rusting out there. But the U.S. also used—

AMY GOODMAN: How many people were killed?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Forty-six people were killed, and I think 35 or 36 of them were women and children. And I was leaked the official parliamentary investigation in Yemen with the names and ages of all of the dead. And I have it—I have it stained in my head, the images that I’ve seen of the videos that people I met there had taken on the scene. You know, one tribal leader, Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, who’s the head of the Awlak tribe in Yemen, he went there right after the attack. And he said to me, “If someone had weak heart, they would collapse, because you saw meat, and you couldn’t tell if it was goat meat or human meat. And you saw limbs of children.” And he, himself—and he’s this older man—actually found body parts and helped to bury—try to bury people with dignity. And he’s this incredibly wealthy man who went there himself and is the main reason why there still is agitation for justice for the victims of the Majalah bombing, that—because these tribal leaders have said, “We will not forget what you did to this village of nobodies, one of the poorest tribes in all of Yemen.”

Who knows why the U.S. bombed it? It could have been that the Yemeni government was under pressure from Obama’s administration, and they said, “No one will care about these people. Let’s just say this is an al-Qaeda camp, because it’s in the middle of nowhere. No one is going to care about them, and no one’s going to go there to investigate.” But when we went there, we saw it. The cluster bombs, these are flying land mines, they’re banned. And yet the United States continues to use them, and they shred people into meat. I saw it in Yugoslavia in the ’90s, and I’ve seen it again now in Yemen.

AMY GOODMAN: So the weapons used were?

JEREMY SCAHILL: The weapons used? They used a Tomahawk cruise missile, and they used cluster bombs. And the cluster bombs are—they are like flying land mines. And they drop in these parachutes, and they explode, and they can shred people. I mean, it’s their—they’re probably the most horrifying weapon I have ever seen the aftermath of in a war zone.

So, this is the first strike that President Obama authorizes, and it’s unclear who the real target even was. They claimed it was this one man and that he was killed. When I talked to people in Yemen, they said, “That guy is old—that guy is—yeah, he was a mujahideen in Afghanistan, but he had nothing to do with the leadership.”

AMY GOODMAN: Mujahideen, who the U.S. worked with.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Who the U.S. worked with, right. You know, Yemenis went to Afghanistan in the ’80s in huge numbers. And, you know, they have a very serious fighting spirit, and there were a lot of Yemenis that had gone there and fought on the same side as the United States. But the point I’m getting at here is that—so, the Obama administration starts to intensify this bombing in Yemen. They bomb al-Majalah. And then, seven days later, they—but remember that the Yemeni government claimed responsibility for the strike, and Obama’s administration released a statement praising Yemen for this attack. Yemen doesn’t have cruise missiles. Yemen doesn’t have cluster bombs.

So, but for, you know, some brave local journalists going there and photographing it initially, we probably would—never would have been able to prove that it was a U.S. strike. And we could talk about him later, but Obama, President Obama, is directly responsible for the first Yemeni journalist to report on this story, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, continuing to be in prison. He was arrested after he exposed the Majalah bombing, and he remains in prison to this day. In fact, the last line in my book is to say that he’s still in prison, and he should be set free. This was a journalist that had worked with major U.S. media outlets, broke this huge story that the U.S. had bombed Yemen for the first time in seven years, using cluster bombs, and then he ends up in prison on trumped-up terrorism charges, put on trial in a court that was set up specifically to prosecute journalists, and then when he was going to be pardoned, President Obama called Ali Abdullah Saleh and said, “We don’t want him released,” and he remains in prison to this day. So, he was the first journalist to do that. He’s in prison. [watch]

Excerpt from "Dirty Wars" | Jeremy Scahill

… On the morning of September 30, 2011, [US citizens Anwar] al-Awlaki and [Samir] Khan, a young Pakistani-American from North Carolina who is believed to have been the editor of Inspire, finished their breakfast inside the house. US spy cameras and satellites broadcast images back to Washington and Virginia of the two men and a handful of their cohorts piling into vehicles and driving away. They were headed toward the province of Marib. As the vehicles made their way over the dusty, unpaved roads, US drones, armed with Hellfire missiles, were dispatched to hunt them down. The drones were technically under the command of the CIA, though JSOC aircraft and ground forces were poised to assist. A team of commandos stood at the ready to board V-22 helicopters. As an added measure, Marine Harrier jets scrambled in a backup maneuver.

Six months earlier, Awlaki had narrowly avoided death by US missiles. “This time eleven missiles missed [their] target but the next time, the first rocket may hit it,” he had said. As the cars sped down the road, Awlaki’s prophecy came true. Two of the Predator drones locked onto the car carrying him, while other aircraft hovered as backup. A Hellfire missile fired by a drone slammed into his car, transforming it into a fireball. A second missile hit moments later, ensuring that the men inside would never escape if they had managed to survive. [read]

Inside America's Dirty Wars | Excerpt from Jeremy Scahill's New Book

… At the White House, President Obama was faced with a decision—not of morality or legality, but of timing. He had already sentenced Anwar al-Awlaki to death without trial. A secret legal authorization had been prepared and internal administration critics sidelined or brought on board. All that remained to be sorted out was the day Awlaki would die. Obama, one of his advisers recalled, had “no qualms” about this kill. When the president was briefed on Awlaki’s location in Jawf and also told that children were in the house, he was explicit that he did not want to rule any options out. Awlaki was not to escape again. “Bring it to me and let me decide in the reality of the moment rather than in the abstract,” Obama told his advisers, according to author Daniel Klaidman. Although scores of US drone strikes had killed civilians in various countries around the globe, it was official policy to avoid such deaths if at all possible. “In this one instance,” an Obama confidant told Klaidman, “the president considered relaxing some of his collateral requirements.”

Dirty Wars: Jeremy Scahill and Rick Rowley’s New Film Exposes Hidden Truths of Covert U.S. Warfare

The drone strikes are just one part of the horror.

Rick Rowley:

[We’re] flooded with details about [the bin Laden] raid, the—on May 2nd, 2011. We know everything about it. We know how many SEALs were in the helicopters. We know what kind of helicopters they were. We know what kind of rifles they were carrying. We know that they had a dog with them that was a Belgian Malinois named Cairo. We know everything about this raid. But that same year, there were 30,000 other night raids in Afghanistan. So, we know everything about this [one raid], but those—those are all hidden from us.

Watch.

If you go to the village of Al-Majalah in Yemen, where I was, and you see the unexploded clusterbombs and you have the list and photographic evidence, as I do—the women and children that represented the vast majority of the deaths in this first strike that Obama authorized on Yemen—those people were murdered by President Obama, on his orders, because there was believed to be someone from Al Qaeda in that area. There’s only one person that’s been identified that had any connection to Al Qaeda there. And 21 women and 14 children were killed in that strike and the U.S. tried to cover it up, and say it was a Yemeni strike, and we know from the Wikileaks cables that David Petraeus conspired with the president of Yemen to lie to the world about who did that bombing. It’s murder—it’s mass murder—when you say, ‘We are going to bomb this area’ because we believe a terrorist is there, and you know that women and children are in the area. The United States has an obligation to not bomb that area if they believe that women and children are there. I’m sorry, that’s murder.

Jeremy Scahill.

h/t Jonathan Cunninghammehreenkasana

(via letterstomycountry)

"The only U.S. priority in Yemen, as has been articulated through U.S. funding, is the issue of counterterrorism. The United States is absolutely obsessed with 300 to 700 people that are members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.” - Jeremy Scahill

democracynow.org - Has U.S. counter-terrorism policy in Yemen strengthened the very threat it sought to eliminate? We speak with journalist Jeremy Scahill who reports in a new cover story for The Nation magazine that U.S. drone strikes, civilian drone casualties and deepening poverty in Yemen have all contributed to the rise of an Islamist uprising. “The arrogance of the U.S. was always thinking that whatever U.S. official was sent to Yemen was smarter than Ali Abdullah Saleh,” Scahill says. "[Saleh] was a master chess player and he milked counter-terrorism as his cash cow. … [U.S.-supplied] forces have almost never been used to actually battle anyone determined to be terrorists. They’ve existed primarily for the defense of the Saleh regime."

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Jeremy Scahill: No Accountability for US Torture

Many “detention centers” claim that they don’t practice torture tactics—for example, instead of “water boarding” they “interrogate with water”—and get away with it. Despite Obama’s claims that closing Guantanamo would take priority on his agenda as president, infamous Bush-era policies have quietly expanded under his administration. There is little to no accountability for these actions.

Watch.

How the U.S. government uses its media servants to attack real journalism | Glenn Greenwald

In sum, [Barbara] Starr [of CNN] was handed a CIA press release that falsely denied the key elements of [Jeremy] Scahill’s story, which she then disguised as an anonymous unauthorized leak that she uncovered.  She slothfully and obediently disseminated CIA claims designed to minimize its role in this prison without lifting a finger to resolve the differences between those denials and the numerous facts Scahill uncovered which proved how extensive the CIA’s control of the prison (and the rendition program that fills it) actually is.  

It’s not just lazy but deceitful: uncritically printing anonymous government denials while dressing it up as her own discovery (once Nationrepresentatives complained to CNN, she tacked on this sentence at the end: “Parts of the story initially appeared in the magazine The Nation on Tuesday”).  Whether it was Starr who contacted the CIA to obtain this “story” (unlikely) or the CIA which tapped Starr on the head and directed her to print this and she then dutifully complied (far more likely), this was a joint effort by the U.S. Government and its CNN servant to undermine Scahill and his story while appearing not to do so.