Posts Tagged ‘military operations’

Death squads, disappearances and torture in Pakistan

September 16, 2009

Washington’s  “good war”

Bill Van Auken, wsws.org, Sept 16, 2009

As the Obama administration prepares a major escalation of the so-called AfPak war, reports from Pakistan’s Swat Valley, near Afghanistan’s eastern border, provide a gruesome indication of the kind of war that the Pentagon and its local allies are waging.

While touted by Obama and his supporters as the “good war,” there is mounting evidence that the Pentagon and the CIA are engaged in a war against the population of the region involving death squads, disappearances and torture.

The Pakistani army sent 20,000 troops into Swat, part of the country’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), last April to wage war against ethnic Pashtun Islamist movements (routinely described as the Pakistani Taliban) that have supported fellow Pashtuns across the border who are resisting the US-NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

Continues >>

Sri Lanka’s war of terror

February 20, 2009

Nagesh Rao explains the historical background to the Sri Lankan government’s latest war crimes against the Tamil minority.

A group of made refugees in Sri Lanka's civil warA group of made refugees in Sri Lanka’s civil war

THE SRI LANKAN military is intensifying its war on the country’s Tamil minority–but the international media is focused far more on the violence of the Tamil resistance.

Just as the Israelis did during their most recent invasion of Gaza, Sri Lankan authorities have prevented journalists from entering war zones. Consequently, the media has largely followed official Sri Lankan pronouncements and viewed this decades-old conflict through the relatively new lens of the “war on terror.”

Meanwhile, human rights organizations, various NGOs, and Tamil organizations worldwide have produced evidence of a brutal military campaign by the Sri Lankan state directed against the Tamil population at large.

A January 28 Amnesty International press release about the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe in Sri Lanka stated:

“Recent fighting has placed more than a quarter of a million civilians at great risk. People displaced by the conflict are experiencing acute shortages of humanitarian aid, especially food, shelter and medical care. There has been no food convoy in the area since 16 January,” said Yolanda Foster, Amnesty International’s Sri Lanka researcher.

The Government of Sri Lanka is carrying out military operations in areas with a civilian population. The aerial and artillery bombardment has reportedly led to civilian deaths, injuries, the destruction of property and mass displacement on this island nation off India’s southeastern coast.

Sri Lankan government forces have pushed the Tamil Tigers out of all major urban areas they had held for nearly a decade and into a small pocket of land. More than 300,000 civilians who have fled the oncoming government troops are also trapped in this small area. They have been displaced multiple times and are increasingly vulnerable as fighting moves closer.

Hundreds of people have been killed or injured and such medical care as has been available is threatened due to danger to the few health workers and damage to hospitals.

The government had declared “safe zones” to allow civilians to seek shelter, but information made available to Amnesty International indicates that several civilians in the so-called safe zone have been killed or sustained injuries as a result of artillery bombardment.

A doctor working in a hospital in a “safe zone” says that about 1,000 shells fell around the hospital.

Yet even though Amnesty International demonstrated that the overwhelming responsibility for the violence lay with government authorities, it titled its press release, “Government and Tamil Tigers violating laws of war.” According to Amnesty, “in at least one instance,” the rebel Tamil Tigers blocked the movement of a Red Cross convoy of injured and at-risk people out of the war zone. The statement ends by quoting Yolanda Foster again:

The immediate priority is medical attention for the seriously wounded. The Tamil Tigers must let injured civilians go. Preventing civilians from accessing medical care constitutes a war crime.

The Amnesty International statement thus offers a lengthy list of crimes committed by the Sri Lankan military, only to end by suggesting that the obstacle to meeting the most “immediate priority” is the “war crime” being committed by the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) group. Nowhere in the statement are the words “war crime” associated with the government’s actions, which are instead referred to as “a military campaign.”

In response, many Tamil activists and organizations have urged the international community to recognize the Sri Lankan government’s latest military assault on the Tamils as constituting, at a minimum, “acts of genocide” as defined by the Geneva Convention.

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ON THE streets of the capital Colombo, roving gangs of political thugs have waged a campaign of terror designed to intimidate any and all opposition to the Sri Lankan state. On January 28, human rights lawyer and activist Amitha Ariyaratne received death threats from police officers at a police station just north of Colombo. Three days later, his office was burned down by an unknown arsonist.

This came on the heels of the sensational assassination on January 8 of a leading journalist and critic of the government and editor of the Sunday Leader newspaper. Lasantha Wickramatunga was assassinated by unidentified assailants during his morning commute in rush-hour traffic. His car window was smashed in, and he was shot in the head, the chest and the stomach. He died on the way to the hospital.

Wickramatunga’s last article, “And then they came for me,” was a moving and passionate letter to his readers predicting his own death at the hands of his government. Not surprisingly, Reporters Without Borders ranks Sri Lanka 165th (out of 173 countries) in its index of press freedom around the world.

The Sri Lankan government has turned a deaf ear to international human rights organizations and Tamil NGOs who have complained about innumerable human rights violations and the ongoing humanitarian disaster in the northeast. Using “war on terror” rhetoric, Sri Lankan state propaganda has instead deflected international media attention towards war crimes allegedly committed by the LTTE.

However, the Sri Lankan government has absolved itself of its own obligation to respect human rights. In 2006 the Supreme Court declared that “[T]he Human Rights Committee at Geneva…is not reposed with judicial power under our constitution,” (see the text of the ruling here) providing a legal fig-leaf for the government’s draconian crackdown on the Tamils. The Asian Human Rights Commission has declared, “The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka is a part of the human rights violation mechanism.”

About 74 percent of the Sri Lankan population consists of Sinhala-speaking Buddhists, while the rest are Tamil-speaking Hindus and Muslims. Since the 1980s, a brutal civil war between the government forces and the Tamil Tigers has claimed over 70,000 lives, with hundreds of thousands more injured and displaced, the majority of them Tamils.

Most media reports date the origins of the conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese to the founding of the LTTE in the 1980s, but the Tamils have faced discrimination and repression at the hands of Colombo’s Sinhala-dominated government ever since Sri Lanka achieved its independence from Britain in 1948.

One of the first acts of the newly independent state in 1949 was to disenfranchise, at the stroke of a pen, some 1 million Tamils who had arrived in Sri Lanka in the twentieth century. They were declared non-citizens and told to return to India. Many of these “Indian Tamils” had been brought in by the British from India to not only labor in the tea plantations but to serve in the colonial administrative bureaucracy. British divide-and-rule policies resulted in special privileges for middle-class Tamils who had been educated in English in India. This bred resentment among sections of the Sinhala majority, and right-wing Sinhalese chauvinism began to gain ground during the waning years of British rule.

By disenfranchising the “Indian Tamils,” the newly-independent Sri Lankan state had resorted to a despicably ethnic-chauvinist policy, and encouraged the growth of the far right. In 1956, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) rode this wave of Sinhalese-Buddhist chauvinism to come to power and unleashed the first anti-Tamil pogrom, leaving some 100 Tamils dead and thousands displaced from their homes. The pogroms were led, and egged on, by militant and fascistic Buddhist monks.

Another wave of anti-Tamil hysteria in the 1960s resulted in the declaration of Sinhala as the only official language of the state. More pogroms followed in the early 1970s, with the monks and their allies periodically terrorizing and intimidating the Tamil population, while their political patrons reaped the rewards of a ready-made majority at the polls. In 1981, in an act that often referred to as “cultural genocide,” rioting policemen burned down the Jaffna Library, which housed much of the cultural memory of the Tamil population.

Continued >>

Pakistan refugee camps swell after battles

October 21, 2008

Refugees may be forced to spend the winter in tents

BY SAEED SHAH • MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS • October 21, 2008

TIMERGARA, Pakistan — A Pakistani military assault on Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists near the Afghan border has unleashed a flood of at least 190,000 displaced people who may be forced to spend the approaching winter in tents and could be marooned for years.

Pakistani authorities claim to have killed more than 1,000 militants in Bajaur, with 17 more reported killed in the last two days, but what was supposed to be a quick military assault against the Islamic extremists along the border with Afghanistan is now in its third month and could be Pakistan’s biggest offensive since 9/11.

Washington has criticized Pakistan for appeasing the extremists, but on Monday, Richard Boucher, a visiting U.S. assistant secretary of state, said: “I think it is good that Pakistan is taking serious action against terrorists.”

However, if the military extends the action to other areas, the streams of displaced people and the resentment of Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States in the war on terrorism are likely to grow.

Many of the newly displaced people are living in squalid, makeshift camps in the adjoining North West Frontier Province, where they have no running water, no electricity, no toilets and no heat. Aid workers and officials fear that they may be trapped for years. Others have fled to Afghanistan, according to the United Nations.

Bajaur has been virtually emptied of its inhabitants, officials said. At least 10 camps run by the government now house tens of thousands from Bajaur; others have taken shelter with family and friends, and as many as 100,000 have fled hundreds of miles to the southern port city of Karachi.

A grim settlement has taken shape on a hillside outside the town of Timergara, which borders Bajaur. The month-old camp there has just started a rudimentary open-air school for younger children, taught by the older kids, and a clinic has been established.

There now are 880 families at the Timergara camp, or about 6,260 individuals, most of them children, according to the official in charge. Most families are allotted one tent each, which means that eight or more people must share it.

“We don’t have enough water to drink, let alone the chance to bathe,” said Gul Mohammad, 25, who arrived with seven family members. “We brought nothing. We just came here to save our lives.”

Toilet facilities, so far, are a communal ditch or a trip to the nearby river. There’s no electricity, and water is trucked in. Food is distributed by the government and aid agencies, but the refugees said it was inadequate and that they had to scavenge or buy wood to cook it.

“First we thought this would be for a month. It looks like years to me now,” said Abdul Hameed, the Pakistani official who runs the facility. “We have stopped more coming in. There is no space left.”

Winter, now setting in, is bitterly cold in Timergara, but the refugees said they didn’t even have blankets. Their anger is directed mostly at the Pakistani authorities, not at the Taliban, for launching the operation and for the miserable conditions they now endure. They charge that Bajaur is being pounded indiscriminately by jet fighters and helicopter gunships and that most of the casualties are innocent civilians.

“Even when a 2-year-old dies in a strike,” the army says in the media that “he was Taliban or Al Qaeda,” said Rahim Gul, who had come from a village close to Damadola, an alleged hotbed of Islamic militancy.

Tribesmen rarely criticize the Taliban, probably out of fear, but the refugees report large-scale destruction of homes and civilian deaths from the army bombardment. The chief spokesman for the Pakistan army said he had no figures for civilian casualties.

“A missile struck my house.” The army even “hit the village mosque,” said Mohammed Jan. “They are willing to hit mosques, so what chance is there that they will spare poor people?”

“Houses are being used by the militants as bunkers. They’re firing from there. Therefore, all houses from where the firing is coming are being engaged by the security forces,” Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said. “To our knowledge, the civilians of this area have left.”

A man who gave his name only as Sherpao said: “It is the fault of both sides. The army throws bombs on us from above. The Taliban terrorize us on the ground. We just want peace. We don’t care who wins.”

Afghan MP: 500 Civilian Casualties in 5-Day US Operation in Helmand

September 1, 2008

The News International, September 1, 2008
By our correspondent

PESHAWAR: At least 500 civilians were killed or wounded during the five-day US-led troops’ ground and air operation in the Sangin district of Helmand province, a member of Afghanistan’s parliament said on Sunday.

“Foreign forces have been conducting operation in Sarwan Qala area of Sangin district for the last five days in which artillery and aircraft are being used,” Dad Muhammad Khan, member of Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament), told Afghan Islamic Press.

“The dead and injured were lying in the area and there is no one to shift the injured. Yesterday, I raised the issue in the parliament but the government has done nothing so far,” he said.

AP adds: Nato says a roadside blast in southern Afghanistan has killed one of its soldiers. A statement by the military alliance says the soldier died of wounds sustained in the roadside bombing Sunday.

Are You Ready For Nuclear War?

August 20, 2008

By Dr Paul Craig Roberts |Information Clearing House, August 19, 2008

Pervez Musharraf, the puppet installed by the US to rule Pakistan in the interest of US hegemony, resigned August 18 to avoid impeachment. Karl Rove and the Diebold electronic voting machines were unable to control the result of the last election in Pakistan, the result of which gave Pakistanis a bigger voice in their government than America’s.

It was obvious to anyone with any sense–which excludes the entire Bush Regime and almost all of the “foreign policy community”–that the illegal and gratuitous US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israel’s 2006 bombing of Lebanon civilians with US blessing, would result in the overthrow of America’s Pakistani puppet.

The imbecilic Bush Regime ensured Musharraf’s overthrow by pressuring their puppet to conduct military operations against tribesmen in Pakistani border areas, whose loyalties were to fellow Muslims and not to American hegemony. When Musharraf’s military operations didn’t produce the desired result, the idiotic Americans began conducting their own military operations within Pakistan with bombs and missiles. This finished off Musharraf.

When the Bush Regime began its wars in the Middle East, I predicted, correctly, that Musharraf would be one victim. The American puppets in Egypt and Jordan may be the next to go.

Back during the Nixon years, my Ph.D. dissertation chairman, Warren Nutter, was Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. One day in his Pentagon office I asked him how the US government got foreign governments to do what the US wanted. “Money,” he replied.

“You mean foreign aid?” I asked.

“No,” he replied, “we just buy the leaders with money.”

It wasn’t a policy he had implemented. He inherited it and, although the policy rankled with him, he could do nothing about it. Nutter believed in persuasion and that if you could not persuade people, you did not have a policy.

Nutter did not mean merely third world potentates were bought. He meant the leaders of England, France, Germany, Italy, all the allies everywhere were bought and paid for.

They were allies because they were paid. Consider Tony Blair. Blair’s own head of British intelligence told him that the Americans were fabricating the evidence to justify their already planned attack on Iraq. This was fine with Blair, and you can see why with his multi- million dollar payoff once he was out of office.

The American-educated thug, Saakashkvili the War Criminal, who is president of Georgia, was installed by the US taxpayer funded National Endowment for Democracy, a neocon operation whose purpose is to ring Russia with US military bases, so that America can exert hegemony over Russia.

Every agreement that President Reagan made with Mikhail Gorbachev has been broken by Reagan’s successors. Reagan’s was the last American government whose foreign policy was not made by the Isreali-allied neoconservatives. During the Reagan years, the neocons made several runs at it, but each ended in disaster for Reagan, and he eventually drove the modern day French Jacobins from his government.

Even the anti-Soviet Committee on the Present Danger regarded the neocons as dangerous lunatics. I remember the meeting when a member tried to bring the neocons into the committee, and old line American establishment representatives, such as former Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon, hit the roof.

The Committee on the Present Danger regarded the neocons as crazy people who would get America into a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. The neocons hated President Reagan, because he ended the cold war with diplomacy, when they desired a military victory over the Soviet Union.

Deprived of this, the neocons now want victory over Russia.

Today, Reagan is gone. The Republican Establishment is gone. There are no conservative power centers, only neoconservative power centers closely allied with Israel, which uses the billions of dollars funneled into Israeli coffers by US taxpayers to influence US elections and foreign policy.

The Republican candidate for president is a warmonger. There are no checks remaining in the Republican Party on the neocons’ proclivity for war. What Republican constituencies oppose war? Can anyone name one?

The Democrats are not much better, but they have some constituencies that are not enamored of war in order to establish US world hegemony. The Rapture Evangelicals, who fervently desire Armageddon, are not Democrats; nor are the brainwashed Brownshirts desperate to vent their frustrations by striking at someone, somewhere, anywhere.

I get emails from these Brownshirts and attest that their hate-filled ignorance is extraordinary. They are all Republicans, and yet they think they are conservatives. They have no idea who I am, but since I criticize the Bush Regime and America’s belligerent foreign policy, they think I am a “liberal commie pinko.”

The only literate sentence this legion of imbeciles has ever managed is: “If you hate America so much, why don’t you move to Cuba!”

Such is the current state of a Reagan political appointee in today’s Republican Party. He is a “liberal commie pinko” who should move to Cuba.

The Republicans will get us into more wars. Indeed, they live for war. McCain is preaching war for 100 years. For these warmongers, it is like cheering for your home team. Win at all costs. They get a vicarious pleasure out of war. If the US has to tell lies in order to attack countries, what’s wrong with that? “If we don’t kill them over there, they will kill us over here.”

The mindlessness is total.

Nothing real issues from the American media. The media is about demonizing Russia and Iran, about the vice presidential choices as if it matters, about whether Obama being on vacation let McCain score too many points.

The mindlessness of the news reflects the mindlessness of the government, for which it is a spokesperson.

The American media does not serve American democracy or American interests. It serves the few people who exercise power.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the US and Israel made a run at controlling Russia and the former constituent parts of its empire. For awhile the US and Israel succeeded, but Putin put a stop to it.

Recognizing that the US had no intention of keeping any of the agreements it had made with Gorbachev, Putin directed the Russian military budget to upgrading the Russian nuclear deterrent. Consequently, the Russian army and air force lack the smart weapons and electronics of the US military.

When the Russian army went into Georgia to rescue the Russians in South Ossetia from the destruction being inflicted upon them by the American puppet Saakashvili, the Russians made it clear that if they were opposed by American troops with smart weapons, they would deal with the threat with tactical nuclear weapons.

The Americans were the first to announce preemptive nuclear attack as their permissible war doctrine. Now the Russians have announced the tactical use of nuclear weapons as their response to American smart weapons.

It is obvious that American foreign policy, with is goal of ringing Russia with US military bases, is leading directly to nuclear war. Every American needs to realize this fact. The US government’s insane hegemonic foreign policy is a direct threat to life on the planet.

Russia has made no threats against America. The post-Soviet Russian government has sought to cooperate with the US and Europe. Russia has made it clear over and over that it is prepared to obey international law and treaties. It is the Americans who have thrown international law and treaties into the trash can, not the Russians.

In order to keep the billions of dollars in profits flowing to its contributors in the US military-security complex, the Bush Regime has rekindled the cold war. As American living standards decline and the prospects for university graduates deteriorate, “our” leaders in Washington commit us to a hundred years of war.

If you desire to be poor, oppressed, and eventually vaporized in a nuclear war, vote Republican.

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is a former Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal, a 16-year columnist for Business Week, and a columnist for the Scripps Howard News Service and Creator’s Syndicate in Los Angeles. He has held numerous university professorships, including the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by the President of France and the US Treasury’s Silver Medal for “outstanding contributions to the formulation of US economic policy.”


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