The Intercept: Report Finds Much Higher Civilian Death Toll in Raqqa, Syria

There is a myth that our airstrikes are so surgical do to laser targeting, advanced intelligence abilities, and other technologies that civilian deaths (or, “collateral damage”) are rare.

But these reports from Amnesty International and Airwars report differently due to better investigation techniques and a lack of U.S. PR concerns.

Also notice how quoted military leaders say these reports are aiding ISIS. Unreal…

Amnesty International and Airwars offer the most methodical estimate to date of the death toll from the U.S.-led battle to retake the city from ISIS.
— Read on theintercept.com/2019/04/25/coalition-airstrikes-in-raqqa-killed-at-least-1600-civilians-more-than-10-times-u-s-tally-report-finds/

Links to “The Battle of Algiers”

If you have not seen Pontecorvo’s 1966 masterpiece, The Battle of Algiers, I both admonish you and, yet, envy you.

I admonish you in that you have not done enough research into revolutionary art to have found this film. Yet, I envy you because you have yet to get that first breath of excitement when viewing the film the first time you only have once.

TBA is an intentionally grainy, black and white film shot in documentary style with a revolutionary heart. It is directed by Gillo Pontecorvo dramatizing the Algerian urban guerilla fighters during the fight for independence against the French colonialists. It concerns the guerilla tactics used by the NLF (FLN) and French paratroopers sent to quash the violent uprising which lasted for those three years.

Independence would finally be won by the Algerians in 1962, but this film centers around three years of bombings, assassinations, and torture allowing the French forces to end the most violent phase of the fighting.

Below are two links you can use to view the film. Watch Now!:

https://youtu.be/f_N2wyq7fCE

https://www.kanopy.com/product/battle-algiers-0

Criticizing Israel Does Not Make You A White Supremacist!

The ugly head that conflates the criticism of Israel’s actions towards the dislodged people of Palestine with anti-Semitism, has risen again. And most of it surrounds a few statements from a Muslim-refugee, who wears a head scarf within the Capitol building, representing Minnesota’s 5th District, Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Rep. Omar is a freshmen Rep who has joined the caucus of new female House members setting the U.S. political and cultural norms on fire. Along with others, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocazio-Cortez (D-NY), and Rep, Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), she supports new progressive proposals like the Green New Deal and the BDS movement. But what really caught the ire of Republicans and most Democratic leaders, are a few comments that Omar made recently criticizing Israel. For example, referring to AIPAC,


“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, Why is it ok for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby … that is influencing policy


(PHYLLIS BENNIS, In These Times, March 4th, 2019,
Why False Accusations of Anti-Semitism Against Ilhan Omar Are So Harmful )

Statements like these have people screaming anti-Semitism. They say Omar is reinforcing anti-Semitic tropes, such as that Jews have dual-loyalty to both America and Israel, and that Jews are controlling the world with their money. But this couldn’t be more untrue. A criticism of lobbying groups such as AIPAC, and America’s fanatical loyalty to Israel, are true concerns. In the U.S., if you say or do anything out of line regarding Israel’s foreign policy, you are labelled as a bigot towards Jews.

Now, we know that the blind allegiance to Israel is based on three reasons:

  1. Zionism (Jewish nationalist movement that has had as its goal the creation and support of a Jewish national state in Palestine, the ancient homeland of the Jews (Hebrew: Eretz Yisraʾel, “the Land of Israel”) is exceptionally strong among American Christians, and especially Evangelicals. They believe that the second-coming of Christ will not take place until Jews return to their homeland in Palestine.
  2. Secondly, according to In These Times, America got mixed up in the Cold War in the region when most Arab states were loyal to the U.S.S.R.
  3. And lastly, according to Chomsky (Who Rules The World, 2016), Israel serves as an available landing station for American forces if their were to be a catastrophic conflict in the Mid-East.

It has nothing to do with all that nonsense about being the only democratic state in the Middle East, or having some sort of special relationship between us and Israel.

In conclusion, another quote from the ITT’s March 4th piece sums it up in one statement:


“…(F)alse accusations of anti-Semitism—usually linked to criticism of Israel or Israel’s supporters in the United States—are on the rise as well. And we need to be clear: It is not anti-Semitic to support Palestinian rights, demand a change in U.S. policy towards Israel, expose the kind of pressure that the pro-Israel lobby brings to bear on elected officials, or call out Israel’s violations of human rights and international law.­­ “


PHYLLIS BENNIS, In These Times, March 4th, 2019,
Why False Accusations of Anti-Semitism Against Ilhan Omar Are So Harmful )

So get out there to support Rep. Omar, support the BDS movement, and form an activist group in your locality to contribute to the cause. And remember, critiques of Israeli crimes against humanity do not equate you with being anti-Semitic. That’s just a convenient and false construction used to silence the cries of the Palestinians. Don’t let it stop you. You are not a white supremacist.

“Pelosi and Democratic Leaders Condemn Omar Statements as Anti-Semitic”: How Criticism is Quashed

nyti.ms/2E4hBlN

Any time someone expresses any criticism of Israel’s criminal actions towards the Palestinians, they are labeled as anti-Semite.

This is how AIPAC wants to keep it, too.

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei Said ‘Death to America’. So, What?

As the peaceful negotiations over a nuclear deal with Iran happily make their way to a resolution, many opponents of the current deal (or any deal with Iran) raise irrelevant alarm bells over some of the rhetoric that emanates from the Iranian leadership.  A recent example was Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s agreement with a crowd chanting “Death to America” during one of his public appearances and the ensuing backlash from Western opponents over the situation.  While it may not be the most pleasing thing to hear, it should be taken for what it is in the grand scheme of things: empty rhetoric to please his people and nothing more.

“Ali Khamenei” by User:Seyedkhan. Wikimedia Commons

In fact, if we were to step back from the situation and look at it objectively, it’s a perfectly rational thing for him to say.  It’s what leaders and politicians do.  They talk tough and make promises they have no intention or capability of keeping in order to keep their people behind them.  What would it look like if he did anything else?  What would he be saying?  I’m guessing it would go something like:

“People of Iran.  This is your Supreme Leader announcing to you that we will be letting the U.S. and Israel run our country however they please.  I know.  I know.  They were directly involved in the military overthrow of our democratically elected leader in 1953 and installed a ruthless dictatorship that we had to overthrow.  They were also responsible for the Stuxnet cyber attack, an action one of these countries has officially and hypocritically declared is an act of war.  But we can totally trust them now and I’m sure we will be the best run Western colony in the history of the world!”

Yeah, it would be completely ridiculous.

But hey, let’s remember that all spoken rhetoric eventually comes true.  Just look at all the things Iranian leaders have said in the past and then carried out that have been 100% prophetic, such as “Death to Russia”, “Death to England”, “Death to France”, “Death to Israel”, and “Death to Saddam” (not Iraq).   Oh, the overwhelming nostalgia!  Remember France before Iran destroyed it?  So much culture and fancy paintings.  It was almost like being in modern day Paris!

The point is, rhetoric is just talk and it should be expected to be tough and reflect a self-interest for whoever is speaking.  The actions Iran is taking by negotiating with the P5+1 and seeking a peaceful resolution is what truly matters.  And just to drive the point home that Khamenei’s rhetoric should not be taken too literally, here are some more examples from history of rhetoric that either never came true or did not match the actions taken by the speaker.


 

“Fidel Castro8” by Antônio Milena/ABr – Agência Brasil [1]. Wikimedia
Fidel Castro, former Cuban President

I propose the immediate launching of a nuclear strike on the United States. (1992)

Yes, remember the Cuban nuclear missile strike on Florida in the ’90s?  The radiation hit some counties so hard they lost the ability to properly count votes in presidential elections.

Nikita Khrushchev, former Soviet Premier

Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will dig you in. (We will bury you.) (Remark to Western ambassadors, 1956)

It’s really unfortunate Western society was buried by Communist Russia in the 1950s.  But look at the bright side, comrades.  At least we all got really cool furry hats!

John McCain, former Maverick and current regretter of vice-presidential choices

That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, ‘Bomb Iran’.  Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah… (2007)

Really a missed opportunity here, folks.  Think of all the money the military industrial complex has missed out on with him losing in ’08.  There’s always 2016!

Hugo Chavez, former president of Venezuela

Let’s save the human race, let’s finish off the U.S. empire. (2006)

Coincidentally, he said this while in Iran.  Now we know where they got it from.  Peer pressure!

Ronald Reagan, former U.S. president

Wikimedia

President Rios Montt is a man of great personal integrity and commitment…I know he wants to improve the quality of life for all Guatemalans and to promote social justice. (1982)

Uncle Ronny was clearly a great judge of character.  Montt was, at the time, in the process of committing genocide in his own country, a crime he would eventually be found guilty for conducting (he is currently awaiting a new trial after the conviction was overturned in what appears to be a scheme to keep him out of prison until he dies).  Nicely done, Mr. Reagan!

Kim Jong-Il, former Supreme Leader of North Korea

I’m an Internet expert too. (2007)

No…just, no.  Kim was a bit of a recluse, as most know, but the state-run news agency did release direct statements that threatened to “wipe out” the United States while he was in charge.  Just another successfully unsuccessful bit of rhetoric.

Mother Nature, current ruler of Pangea

The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men… (continues)

The quote is kind of long and is still being spoken.  But she’s getting pretty close to the end and I’m assuming what happens when she is done speaking is going to be pretty ugly for her constituents…

Richard Nixon, former U.S. president

“Nixon 30-0316a” by Hartmann. Wikimedia

I did not wait for my inauguration to begin my quest for peace (in Vietnam). (1969)

An absolute lie.  We now know that Nixon actually sabotaged peace talks with Vietnam in 1968 while still a candidate for the presidency and did so to help his own political campaign at home.  Just a disgusting moment in history.


The point of all this is to simply note that rhetoric can frequently mean little while the actions of the speaker can be something very different.  This reality should be particularly considered in the case of Iran as they have been logically talking tough against the West at times but, according to  U.S. and Israeli intelligence, shut down their nuclear weapons program years ago.   We should always remember that the phrase “all politics is local” doesn’t just apply to the United States and it should be no surprise when we hear some foreign leaders score points with their people by taking shots at us.  In fact, if you don’t expect that to happen, you should really tone down the hubris a bit.

Bottom line, Iran has come to the negotiating table and is making a deal.  If the GOP warfare queens in Congress decide to kill the deal and the situation eventually disintegrates into military actions, the blood of every American and Iranian that dies will be on their hands and history should properly place the blame squarely on each and every politician that turned away from peace.

Finally! A US News Organization Analyzes Israeli Crimes

945545_492651977471625_495791703_nI love this Noam Chomsky quote:

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.

And what in the spectrum of acceptable opinion has been so strictly limited regarding American foreign policy? The opinions on the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

In America, within those limits the Israeli’s are just defending themselves from rabid savages, infected with Jihad, bent on slaughtering every non-Muslim around the globe. And the acceptable, lively debate is between with what and with how much force should the Israeli’s use.

But maybe something is changing.

The Associated Press (AP) on Friday reported on an investigation they conducted into the homes bombed by Israeli jet-fighters during the Summer’s “50-day” war. The AP investigated the vast majority of home-bombing sites, interviewed witnesses, collected death certificates, and worked with both Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups. And, amazingly, it is a damning report on  Israeli actions so well thought-out and thorough it is impossible not to be struck by the findings.  Here are some:

– Children younger than 16 made up one-third of the total: 280 killed, including 19 babies and 108 preschoolers between the ages of 1 and 5.

– In 83 strikes, three or more members of one family died.

– Among those killed were 96 confirmed or suspected militants – or just over 11 percent of the total – though the actual number could be higher since armed groups have not released detailed casualty lists.

– The remainder of the 240 dead were males between the ages of 16 and 59 whose names did not appear in connection with militant groups on searches of websites or on street posters honoring fighters.

Unlike other coverage found in the American mainstream media, the report gives hard numbers and anecdotes from survivors and witnesses explaining the disregard for Gazan life shown by the Israelis. The piece also discusses the nature of the war crimes committed by the Israelis and how they break international law, as did, it seems, Hamas with their rocket attacks.

But that’s beside the point.

The issue here, in this post,  is not the tragic and maddening findings but the fact that a major and extremely respectable American media outlet reported  outside of the spectrum.

Rise up over the study’s findings. Applaud and champion those who exposed them.

 

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Can Palestinians Start to Live on Their Feet?

mag-gaza-4-superJumboOn Dec. 30th, the UN Security Council voted down a proposal submitted by Jordan on behalf of the Palestinians that would have:

1) Set a one-year deadline for negotiations with Israel;

2) Established targets for Palestinian sovereignty, including a capital in East Jerusalem;

3) Called for the “full and phased withdrawal of Israeli forces” from the West Bank by the end of 2017.

Only 8 of the total of 15 nations voted for the resolution when at least 9 supporting members are needed for adoption. Oh, and that is irrelevant for the United States would have vetoed the resolution if it were to get the 9 votes anyways as the U.S. is a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power. Just saying… But the Palestinian Authority, led by Pres. Mahmoud Abbas, says it will apply again when members of the revolving Security Council are more sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

Also, this past Wednesday Abbas moved to join the International Criminal Court in a symbolic step to put Israel on notice regarding prosecution for violations of international law, e.g., war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. In response the Israelis have frozen $127 million in tax revenue which supports the Palestinian Authority (PA). These funds are provided to the PA under the Oslo Accords agreement to maintain stability. Israel collects $1 billion annually in customs and taxes on behalf of the PA and the money goes to the organization. It would probably collapse without it.

In light of the above actions by the Israeli government, a great analysis in the NYT yesterday explains the momentum is actually on the Palestinians’ side. And according to a couple of quotes from rank-and-file Palestinians in the article shows they may be able to live on their feet instead of their knees.

I hear it from my father for the first time: Even if we will not get our salaries and the economic situation will be worse, at least we can say we will get our rights,” Rula Salameh said of her father, who is 70 and relies on a Palestinian Authority pension.

Ms. Salameh said her sister, who is on the government payroll, “hears it also from her friends, her colleagues — they said even if we will not get our salaries, we need to feel like something is going on, tomorrow will be better than today.

 

 

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Egypt’s Lack of Democratic Values

02egypt-articleLargeOn Thursday, three journalists working for Al Jazeera’s English-language network were ordered a retrial ain Egypt after a sham proceeding in which they were given between 7-10 years in prison for “…conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast false reports.” The reason for this is two-fold:

1) Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, like all new strongmen, wants to possess as much control over the press as he can. He is afraid that a currently tumultuous political climate may sweep him out of power just as quickly as it brought him in. This is why the three were arrested in the first place.

2) Al-Jazeera is based in Qatar, a state that has long shown favor towards the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. But the Brotherhood was also former President Mohamed Morsi’s movement, who was brought in after democratic elections that resulted from the Arab Spring. Now since the ouster of Morsi, and the installation of el-SiSi, Al-Jazeera has been leading a critical viewpoint against el-SiSi for the last 18 months. But under pressure from Egypt, the Saudis, and the UAE, Qatar has put an end to its anti-el-SiSi campaign. Therefore these latest events may lead to the release of the three A-Jazeera reporters as a quid pro quo for the less critical look at el-SiSi.

So all in all, these three men were fulfilling their obligations to the essential ingredient of a functioning democracy, namely, the freedom of the press. We cannot make informed decisions without the information pertaining to the matter at hand.

The Mid-East region demanded more rights in the streets and squares just a few years ago and yet these events come right out of the old ways.

Also, for more on this cause, checkout the website for the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) where you can find a good graphic entitled “2014 prison census: 220 journalists jailed worldwide.” It is a worldwide map of states currently imprisoning journalists with the offending countries highlighted and the number of prisoners being held. The page also includes some good charts and even a listing, nation by nation, of each journalist known two be serving time their.

 

 

 

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Have to Admit, Sometimes Russia is Painfully Correct

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, had some comments for the United States government regarding Syria and the Islamic State that deserve acknowledgement.  While the future of this situation can be debated, the past cannot.  And the truth sometimes hurts.
“I think Western politicians are already realising the growing and fast-spreading threat of terrorism,” Lavrov said, referring to Islamic State advances in Syria and Iraq.
“And they will soon have to choose what is more important, a [Syrian] regime change to satisfy personal antipathies, risking deterioration of the situation beyond any control, or finding pragmatic ways to unite efforts against the common threat.”

Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov

In comments likely to irritate Washington, Lavrov said the US had made the same mistake with Islamic State as it had with al-Qaeda, which emerged in the 1980s when US-backed Islamist insurgents were fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. (Emphasis added)
“At the start the Americans and some Europeans rather welcomed [Islamic State] on the basis it was fighting against Bashar al-Assad. They welcomed it as they welcomed the mujahideen who later created al-Qaeda, and then al-Qaeda struck like a boomerang on September 11, 2001,” Lavrov said.
“The same thing is happening now.”
We have to accept, for the moment, there is no perfect solution from the U.S. government’s perspective where both the Syrian regime and the Islamic State can be ousted from the situation immediately.  At this point, the best case scenario is to only have to deal with one or the other while trying to push for the quelling of one.
And the lesser of two evils is without a doubt the Assad regime in Syria.  This, of course, means working as a partner with Russia in order to exert as much pressure as possible on Assad to hope for eventual regime change while making sure the Syrian government is stabilized enough to fight the Islamic State.
In fact, hindsight being 20/20, one has to wonder if working with Russia from the beginning on Syria would have been the better solution for the Syrian people.  While living under Assad has certainly been no picnic, it’s very likely the casualties from the fighting, now closing in on 200,000, would have been significantly less had a heavy UN peacekeeping presence been placed in the country when the violence broke out.  And in order to have done this, the U.S. would have had to accept not initially ousting Assad, with the hope change could have come later and more peacefully.
We’ll never know whether that solution would have turned out better.  One thing, however, is clear: not choosing that path has been an absolute disaster.

Some Fair Questions About Breaking of Aug. 1 Israel-Palestine Ceasefire

As the Palestinian death toll quickly closes in on 2,000, it would seem the responsibility for which side broke the August 1st ceasefire is still a bit murky.  07ISRAEL1-videoSixteenByNine540-v2

It was initially reported by Israel that Palestinian militants had emerged and opened fire and captured an Israeli soldier when IDF was destroying a tunnel around Rafah.  Two points should be noted here.

First, the Israeli military’s version of events is always taken as gospel by American media while the Palestinian version is typically brushed off by being given a sentence or two most of the time.  Any perusing of articles about the breaking of the ceasefire on Friday would certainly prove that.  But hey, Israel has no interest in giving a biased version of events, do they?

Second, one might ask why it is okay for the Israeli military to continue operations, possibly inside Gaza (most stories took the IDF’s word that the event occurred “around Rafah” but did not further specify), during the ceasefire and destroying the tunnels.  It should be noted the tunnels were largely created because of the illegal blockade of Gaza by Israel (an act of war, of course) and were used to transport “building materials, foods, medicines, drugs, and people, accounting for an estimated $700 million per year“.  If Palestinian militants were on Israeli territory blowing up important roads used for transporting weapons and ammunition being resupplied by the U.S., what would the reaction be?

Then there are the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping and killing of the IDF soldier.  It would seem exactly how the young man died should be heavily questioned and examined.  Israel claims they recovered evidence to suggest he had died but not a body.  Very little detail is given.  While on the other hand, Hamas claims it lost contact with the militants in the area possibly involved in the battle and suggest they were killed by the Israeli attack on the area after the ceasefire was declared off.

This would beg a couple of important questions: was the Israeli soldier killed by friendly-fire and is this the reason Israel knows he is dead and can’t recover the body?  Was the soldier buried under the rubble of a building Israel destroyed that day?

There doesn’t seem to be much interest in investigating this possibility.  If it were true he was killed by his own military, it would put even more pressure on Israel to explain why it is using such ferocious attacks on a civilian population it has illegally oppressed for so many years.