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/

Expert on Venezuela Stand-off says Attempted Aid Delivery: “It was a farce, and it failed.”

Mark Weisbrot, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who advocates a negotiated end to the political crisis (said),

”The ‘humanitarian aid’ this weekend was a public relations stunt, since the aid was just tiny fraction of the food and medicine that they are depriving Venezuelans of with the sanctions….As the Trump administration admitted, it was an attempt to get the Venezuelan military to disobey Maduro. It was a farce, and it failed.”

https://apnews.com/fda32cb8f5b944a989f6c2443c5c8084

Maduro Critic Even Argues A U.S. Coup Attempt is Occurring in Venezuela

A great Democracy Now! interview with a Caracas professor who, though being a Maduro critic, explains how U.S. aid is an attempt to incite the Venezuelan publics support for a Guaido/U.S. coup.

Also explains how U.S. sanctions are true cause for Venezuelan economic crisis.

Plus, for good measure, they have snippets of Trump spewing lies at one of his rallies calling Maduro a “Cuban Puppet.”

www.democracynow.org/2019/2/22/this_is_not_humanitarian_aid_a

Americans Should be Envious: “Why Infants May Be More Likely to Die in America Than Cuba”

nyti.ms/2HieZUR

A great op-Ed by Nick Kristoff at the NYT explaining how, though lacking in first rate medical technology, the infant mortality rates are actually lower in Cuba. We could take away many good practices from the Socialist, island nation so close to our shores.

“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.

“AP Explains: Venezuela’s humanitarian aid standoff”: Where’s the sanctions part?

From the AP: https://apnews.com/6c66de0a22944b58b276d43eef91c093

The suffering of the Venezuelan people is heartbreaking. But:

A) This is not a result of a failing socialist system but rather an economic strangling committed by the U.S. and the International community, who are in our pocket, through strong sanctions, and,

B) If Maduro lets in the U.S. aid, it would be seen as a gift from Guaido which would strengthen him immensely. And Guaido would be a U.S. puppet.

The only thing that should solve this is the delivery of aid by Russia or China. Where are they at?

Obama Admin Failing to Follow ‘Don’t Do Stupid S***’ Policy in Egypt

One of the promises the Obama administration made when it came to foreign policy was simple and straightforward: Don’t do stupid s*** (stuff).  While they’ve been successful in living up to that mantra by doing things like making the nuclear deal with Iran, they’ve failed miserably and disgracefully in Egypt.

A recent piece from the AP not only illustrates this fact but should be very disturbing from a national security perspective.  The article points out how the young in Egypt, who supported the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood, are now disillusioned with the idea of democracy and are turning to jihad.  A startling tidbit from the story says it all:

Once sympathetic to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, some of them resent it as weak and ineffectual.

“Now we know there is only one right way: jihad,” said the law student, Abdelrahman, showing off scars from pellets fired at him by police shotguns during protests…He spoke bitterly about the series of ballot box victories in 2011 and 2012 that gave the Muslim Brotherhood political dominance and made Morsi the country’s first freely elected president.

Democracy doesn’t work. If we win, the powers that be, whoever they are, just flip things over,” he said. “The Brotherhood thought they could play the democratic game, but in the end, they were beaten.” (Emphasis added)

The article goes on to describe some of the brutal tactics the state has employed against protesters and notes the young man quoted above is on his way to supporting and joining ISIS.

And what has the Obama administration done about this abuse of human rights that is driving more people toward extremism?  Supported and armed the abusers even further and has now boasted about those arms in a YouTube video, which was recently pointed out by Glen Greenwald.

Greenwald also adds a quote from a recent piece in the NYT (mostly fluff) about Secretary of State John Kerry supposedly taking a stand (but not really) against Egypt’s human rights abuses.  The quote should not just be noted.  It should be burned into the brain of everyone that thinks the U.S. is always on the right side of things when it comes to who we support around the world.  It just speaks volumes and no democracy with any morals should allow this type of thinking from their elected government:

“American officials . . . signaled that they would not let their concerns with human rights stand in the way of increased security cooperation with Egypt.”

That quote should turn everyone’s stomach.

And this isn’t to say the Muslim Brotherhood would have been a perfect friend to the U.S. or that they didn’t do  things that were seen as utterly awful in the eyes of many.  It was a fledgling democracy and things got very ugly and even fatal at times.  But it was the choice of the people of Egypt at the time and, most importantly, the alternative appears to be incredibly worse with the disaffected now looking toward joining ISIS.

The cycle of violence here is as black and white as it gets.  The Muslim Brotherhood is overthrown and an authoritarian regime takes power and abuses human rights.  The United States then backs that regime by arming them and allowing them to abuse their power even more.  The angry youth who lose faith in democracy take up arms and choose a path of violence.  The U.S. sells more arms to a brutal regime to crackdown further.

This is the equivalent of handing Jack the Ripper a set of knives, knowing he’s already killed people, but politely asking him to just use these on food.  There’s no mystery as to how this will work out.

Egypt looks like a bad situation getting worse at the moment and the United States is exacerbating the problem by knowingly arming an abusive government.  We’ve done it many times before and many innocent people have been slaughtered by U.S.-backed regimes around the world.  It’s yet another example of how not to do foreign policy yet the Obama administration is doing the same old stupid s*** we’ve seen too many times before.

Some Lessons Society Still Hasn’t Learned From Martin Luther King, Jr.

As I listened to the newly discovered recording of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech from December 7, 1964 in London, I couldn’t help but notice how many different lessons from his speech we still haven’t learned as a society.  It’s a little more than 50 years later and we still struggle to get over so many hurdles that should have been accomplished so long ago.  Here’s a few instances from the speech that jump out for me.

With the growth of slavery, it became necessary to give some justification for it. You know, it seems to be a fact of life that human beings cannot continue to do wrong without eventually reaching out for some thin rationalization to clothe an obvious wrong in the beautiful garments of righteousness.

While slavery is obviously an evil of the distant past, as it was at the time of the speech, there are still instances where wrongs are thinly justified by almost irrational justifications.  What has really struck me lately has been the white justification of recent police killings of African-American men and children.  One of the commonly shared themes on social media I have witnessed by white posters has been the sharing of horrific stories of African-American men committing crimes against white people and asking, “Where’s the media on this?”  “Where’s the public outcry?”  “Where’s the protest?”  “Where’s Al Sharpton?”

The problem with this, obviously, is it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison.  Criminals are criminals and they will commit horrific acts that are unacceptable to society, regardless of the color of their skin or the color of the victim’s skin.  Police officers, however, are supposed to be highly trained peace officers that keep the public safe and respect the rights of all, also regardless of skin color.  There have been some clear instances where this hasn’t been happening and for white people to justify the criminal actions of those that have been trained to act within the law (and have paid no price for it) by posting stories of black-on-white crime is despicable.  This is the definition of “reaching out for some thin rationalization to clothe an obvious wrong”.

The Negro in the United States turned his eyes and his mind to Africa, and he noticed the magnificent drama of independence taking place on the stage of African history…And with this new sense of dignity and this new sense of self-respect, a new Negro came into being with a new determination to suffer, to struggle, to sacrifice, and even to die, if necessary, in order to be free.

I can’t help but notice how these same words could be spoken about the Arab Spring and the quick changes that came to so many countries in the Arab world.  While things are still in the process of changing in many of those countries and conditions are far from perfect, U.S. actions in relation to the events were (and continue to be) deplorable.  Instead of embracing the people and protesters who put their lives on the line for what our government says it loves, the U.S. government continued to back certain authoritarian regimes and turned a blind-eye (or continued to arm regimes) as countries like Bahrain brutally put down protests to maintain their grasp on power.  Our government officials can pay all the lip service they want to freedom but their actions are a much clearer indicator of their true feelings.

We all know what happened as a result of the old Plessy doctrine: There was always the strict enforcement of the separate, without the slightest intention to abide by the equal.

To say that equality in the overall system reigns supreme today is simply ignoring reality.  The justice system became incredibly lopsided in terms of incarceration rates shortly after King gave this speech as the drug war was ramped up.  Pew Research notes, “In 2010, all black men were six times as likely as all white men to be incarcerated in federal, state and local jails”.  It shouldn’t be surprising that is coupled with disparities in education spending.  The Center for American Progress found U.S. “schools spent $334 more on every white student than on every nonwhite student”.  While the days of overt segregation may be done, the covert methods of segregation are far from gone.

…all types of conniving methods are still being used to keep Negroes from becoming registered voters.

The only words that need to be changed to relate it to Republican and Tea Party actions of present day are the last three.  Just delete those and insert “voting”.  And using the miniscule amount of voter fraud as justification is just another instance of thin rationalization.

So we can see that there is still a great gulf between the haves, so to speak, and the have-nots. And if America is to continue to grow and progress and develop and move on toward its greatness, this problem must be solved.

We just found out the top 1% will own more than half of the world’s wealth by next year soooo, this has not only not changed for the better, it’s gotten incredibly worse.  I’m sure Dr. King would be rightfully appalled.

Today, great leaders, like Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe, are among the many hundreds wasting away in Robben Island prison. Against a massive, armed and ruthless state, which uses torture and sadistic forms of interrogation to crush human beings, even driving some to suicide.

While King might not be surprised torture and sadistic forms of interrogation are still being used today, he would probably be shocked to know the U.S. government was using them recently and using rendition to allow more harsh methods.  How could the people we elected choose to commit crimes that we knew were reprehensible so long ago?  Still an astounding decision.

If the United Kingdom and the United States decided tomorrow morning not to buy South African goods, not to buy South African gold, to put an embargo on oil, if our investors and capitalists would withdraw their support for that racial tyranny that we find there, then apartheid would be brought to an end. Then the majority of South Africans of all races could at last build the shared society they desire.

A few situations around the world come to mind here but none more prominent than Israel and the continued support given to it by the U.S. despite the crimes it commits against so many in the West Bank and Gaza.  The U.S. has the power to pressure the Israeli government into allowing the formation of a Palestinian state yet does the exact opposite by continuing to arm Israel, who then uses those arms to kill thousands of Palestinians using incredibly questionable justifications (there’s that word again…).  The U.S. has the answer to the problem but chooses to ignore it.

…we will be able to speed up the day when all of God’s children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, Hindus and Muslims, theists and atheists—will be able to join hands and sing…

Religious tolerance?!  Blasphemer!!

I’m kidding, of course, but this is certainly a lesson that still hasn’t made its way into the psyche of America, and that definitely includes parties on both sides of the political spectrum.  The amount of Islamophobia running rampant in the Western world right now is startling.  King would be heartbroken, for sure, but would fight on as always.

…there are some things in the world, to which I am proud to be maladjusted and to which I call upon all men of goodwill to be maladjusted until the good society is realized. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation, discrimination, colonialism and these particular forces. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to religious bigotry. I must honestly say to you that I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. I must say to you tonight that I never intend to become adjusted to the madness of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence.

Maybe the most powerful words to live by in the speech.  Certainly worth the quote.  If only we could all be so lucky as to be so maladjusted…

 

Conservatives Criticizing Obama for Paris Photo-op Forget World Hates Their Foreign Policy

It’s not surprising that conservatives have jumped on the Obama administration for sending ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, to the photo-op of free-press-hating world leaders (an issue that, in all fairness, the Obama administration has its own black eyes).  It’s not even surprising that a conservative has stooped to the point of making a ridiculous, childish, and brainless Hitler comparison.  It’s just politics and one side will criticize the other for…anything.

What is surprising is that conservatives think the Obama administration would even want their opinion when it comes to foreign policy, particularly when it deals with Europe.

A conveniently forgotten fact for conservatives is they pretty much got their way on foreign policy with the previous administration…and it was a complete disaster that the world mostly came to hate them for for implementing, especially Europe.  Let take a quick look at some numbers from the chart linked and displayed to back up that fact.

European opinion of the U.S. was riding rather high toward the end of the Clinton administration in ’99 and ’00 with most of the countries listed well over 70% favorable.  By 2002, the drop under the Bush administration had already begun despite this being prior to the Iraq debacle and coming off the sympathy the world showed after the 9/11 attacks.  By 2007, four of the seven countries of which there is data had dropped below 50% with Germany coming in at a whopping 48% drop to 30%.

Enter the Obama administration.  By 2012, all seven countries had returned to more than 50% favorable opinions with four countries at 60% or more.  And this occurred despite widespread disapproval of U.S. drone strikes.

On top of all that is the other conveniently forgotten fact conservatives are ignoring: Bush administration torture policies helped radicalize the attackers.

Conservatives can choose to ignore these realities all they want but facts are facts no matter how inconvenient.

Indefensible and Illegal Israeli Land Seizure Given Laughable Reasoning

Yesterday, Israel showed the world just how much it wants peace in its land by taking more land away from the Palestinians, a move sure to make matters worse.  And they did this by giving a stunningly laughable reason for the seizure:

Israel Radio said the step was taken in response to the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teens by Hamas militants in the area in June. (Emphasis added)

This reasoning begs the question: if Israel gets more land for the killing of three teens, how much land does Palestine get for Israel’s killing of over 2,000 people, including nearly 600 children, in recent weeks?

The move is, of course, completely illegal according to international law, as noted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

“The seizure of such a large swathe of land risks paving the way for further settlement activity, which — as the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions — is illegal under international law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-state solution,” he said in a statement Monday. (Emphasis added)

A map provided by Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, clearly shows the territory being across the Green Line, the border derived between Israel and Palestine in 1949.

The U.S. response, at this point, has been typical: nothing.  An anonymous official made a statement that is sure to let Israel know the U.S. has absolutely no problem with further illegal Israeli expansion:

“We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity,” said the State Department official, who declined to be identified.

“This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve and construction tender they issue, is counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians,” the official said.

If the U.S. government did truly agree the expansion was illegal and Israel should stop this action along with its violence against Palestinians, it might stop arming Israel or, at the very least, call for damaging economic sanctions against the country.  But it doesn’t because it is clearly okay with the seizure along with all past Israeli actions.  Actions that will continue in the future, without a doubt…