Posts Tagged ‘killing civilians’

Another Lawsuit Targets Founder of Blackwater

September 17, 2009

by Bill Sizemore, The Virgin-Pilot, Sep 16, 2009

Yet another civil lawsuit accuses Blackwater guards of driving through the streets of Baghdad randomly shooting innocent Iraqis.

[Grilled by the politicans ... Erik Prince, chairman of the Prince Group, LLC and Blackwater USA, testifies during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. (Photo: AFP)]Grilled by the politicans … Erik Prince, chairman of the Prince Group, LLC and Blackwater USA, testifies during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. (Photo: AFP)

The latest case accuses Blackwater founder Erik Prince of personally directing murders from a 24-hour remote monitoring “war room” at the private military company’s Moyock, N.C., headquarters.

Prince “personally directed and permitted a heavily-armed private army… to roam the streets of Baghdad killing innocent civilians,” alleges the suit, filed by four Iraqi citizens.

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Iraq insists US troops leave urban areas by June 30

April 29, 2009

Morning Star Online, Tuesday 28 April 2009

THE Iraqi government insisted on Monday that all US troops must pull out of urban areas by June 30, as specified under a deal agreed between Baghdad and Washington in January.

Top US commander in Iraq General Raymond Odierno has talked of possible “exceptions” to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) in light of the spate of deadly suicide bombings that have rocked Baghdad and Mosul in recent weeks.

But Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari emphasised that US troops must leave all cities by then and could only return with the permission of the Iraqi government.

“The general position of the Iraq Defence Ministry is to adhere to the timings in the SOFA,” he said.

Since the SOFA went into effect at the beginning of this year, the US military is obliged to get the green light from the Iraqi government before mounting operations.

And it states that US soldiers are liable to face Iraqi justice if they commit crimes off base.

The SOFA faced its first major test on Sunday, when US troops staged a pre-dawn raid in Kut, killing two civilians and detaining six.

After local residents took to the streets in outrage, Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki branded the raid a “crime” and a “violation of the security pact.”

The US military released the six detainees and apologised, but that did not placate Sheikh Ahmed Abdul-Munim, who lost his wife and brother in the raid.

America’s Imperial Wars: We Need to See the Horrors

April 11, 2009

By Dave Lindorff | Counterpunch, April 10 – 12, 2009

When I was a 17-year-old kid in my senior year of high school, I didn’t think much about Vietnam. It was 1967, the war was raging, but I didn’t personally know anyone who was over there, Tet hadn’t happened yet. If anything, the excitement of jungle warfare attracted my interest more than anything (I had a .22 cal rifle, and liked to go off in the woods and shoot at things, often, I’ll admit, imagining it was an armed enemy.)

But then I had to do a major project in my humanities program and I chose the Vietnam War. As I started researching this paper, which was supposed to be a multi-media presentation, I ran across a series of photos of civilian victims of American napalm bombing. These victims, often, were women and children—even babies.

The project opened my eyes to something that had never occurred to me: my country’s army was killing civilians. And it wasn’t just killing them. It was killing them, and maiming them, in ways that were almost unimaginable in their horror: napalm, phosphorus, anti-personnel bombs that threw out spinning flechettes that ripped through the flesh like tiny buzz saws. I learned that scientists like what I at the time wanted to become were actually working on projects to make these weapons even more lethal, for example trying to make napalm more sticky so it would burn longer on exposed flesh.

By the time I had finished my project, I had actively joined the anti-war movement, and later that year, when I turned 18 and had to register for the draft, I made the decision that no way was I going to allow myself to participate in that war.

A key reason my—and millions of other Americans’–eyes were opened to what the US was up to in Indochina was that the media at that time, at least by 1967, had begun to show Americans the reality of that war. I didn’t have to look too hard to find the photos of napalm victims, or to read about the true nature of the weapons that our forces were using.

Today, while the internet makes it possible to find similar information about the conflicts in the world in which the US is participating, either as primary combatant or as the chief provider of arms, as in Gaza, one actually has to make a concerted effort to look for them. The corporate media which provide the information that most Americans simply receive passively on the evening news or at breakfast over coffee carefully avoid showing us most of the graphic horror inflicted by our military machine.

We may read the cold fact that the US military, after initial denials, admits that its forces killed not four enemy combatants in an assault on a house in Afghanistan, but rather five civilians—including a man, a female teacher, a 10-year-old girl, a 15-year-old boy and a tiny baby.  But we don’t see pictures of their shattered bodies, no doubt shredded by the high-powered automatic rifles typically used by American forces.

We may read about wedding parties that are bombed by American forces—something that has happened with some frequency in both Iraq and Afghanistan– where the death toll is tallied in dozens, but we are, as a rule, not provided with photos that would likely show bodies torn apart by anti-personnel bombs—a favored weapon for such attacks on groups of supposed enemy “fighters.” (A giveaway that such weapons are being used is a typically high death count with only a few wounded.)

Obviously one reason for this is that the US military no longer gives US journalists, including photo journalists, free reign on the battlefield. Those who travel with troops are under the control of those troops and generally aren’t allowed to photograph the scenes of devastation, and sites of such “mishaps” are generally ruled off limits until the evidence has been cleared away.

But another reason is that the media themselves sanitize their pages and their broadcasts. It isn’t just American dead that we don’t get to see. It’s the civilian dead—at least if our guys do it.  We are not spared gruesome images following attacks on civilians by Iraqi insurgent groups, or by Taliban forces in Afghanistan. But we don’t get the same kind of photos when it’s our forces doing the slaughtering. Because often the photos and video images do exist—taken by foreign reporters who take the risk of going where the US military doesn’t want them.

No wonder that even today, most Americans oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not because of sympathy with the long-suffering peoples of those two lands, but because of the hardships faced by our own forces, and the financial cost of the two wars.

For some real information on the horror that is being perpetrated on one of the poorest countries in the world by the greatest military power the world has ever known, check out the excellent work by Professor Marc Herold at the University of New Hampshire (http://cursor.org/ and http://www.rawa.org/).

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). He can be reached at dlindorff@mindspring.com

Violations of Sovereignty

September 27, 2008

U.S. Raids on Pakistan

By BRIAN CLOUGHLEY | Counterpunch, Sep 26, 2008

Henry Kissinger was no amateur when it came to illegally bombing and invading countries that he and the evil President Nixon considered did not meet American requirements of unconditional servility, but even he must be intrigued about the latest antics of Washington’s finest. The vice president of the United States, a charmless and despotic bully, and his president, he of the close-set eyeballs and pretensions to dignity, recently excelled themselves in self-delusion concerning their unlawful invasion of Iraq and their fury with nations whose governments fail to toe the Washington line.

In their latest spasm of bizarre fantasy both Bush and Cheney condemned Russia for its military reply to Georgia’s merciless rocketing of South Ossetia and the killing of scores of its citizens. There is no doubt that Russia had been waiting for an opportunity to teach Georgia a lesson for its treatment of Russian-origin inhabitants of the enclave, and when the US-educated, US-supported Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili, was so stupid as to send in troops following his slaughter of civilians, the Russians gave them a hiding. In spite of all the training they received over the past five years from US instructors, and the generous amounts of equipment they acquired, they fled the Russian advance. But Washington intends to have Georgia continue as a US-supporting military base area along Russia’s border, and in order to emphasize its anti-Russian stance Washington arranged for NATO to hold a high level meeting in Georgia last week (which, it was claimed, was planned “a long time ago.”).

As usual, rather than trying to engage Russia through diplomacy, Washington chose confrontation. And this is where the funny bit is, because Cheney declared that “We believe in the right of men and women to live without the threat of tyranny, economic blackmail or military invasion or intimidation.”

It is difficult to believe that the man was being serious, but there was no shade of irony in his delivery. He believed what he was saying, while ignoring the fact that the US has manipulated the UN to impose savage sanctions (economic blackmail) on countries that don’t toe the US line. Of even more importance he ignored the fact that only a few days before his pronouncement there had been gross violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by the US when its troop s crossed Pakistan’s border and killed civilians. The people of North West Frontier Province – the people of Pakistan – suffered “military invasion and intimidation.”

Last month Bush declared that “We insist that Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity be respected” which might have been a fairly good point to make were it not for the fact that he has no respect for the sovereignty or territorial integrity of any country when criminal violation suits his purpose. The illegal cowboy foray into Pakistan was not denied by Washington; it was merely ignored with that degree of would-be-majestic superiority that is the hallmark of colossal colonial arrogance. Associated Press reported that “a spokesman for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan said it had “no information to give” about the alleged operation, while a spokesman for NATO troops denied any involvement. The US embassy in Islamabad declined to comment.” No surprises there.

It doesn’t seem to matter to Americans that the blitz conducted by their troops resulted in the deaths of six women and two children, citizens of Pakistan. There has been no indication of regret or sympathy ; not a shred of remorse for killing children. For how long can the non-American world tolerate this sort of barbaric malevolence? In America it doesn’t matter, because ‘Support Our Troops!’ is the American mantra, especially in election year, and if a US citizen doesn’t wave the flag and say that American troops are wonderful, even when killing kids in Pakistan, then they are regarded as unpatriotic, which is a dreadful crime.

To justify the slaughter the usual highly-placed anonymous US official told the New York Times that “The situation in the tribal areas is not tolerable. We have to be more assertive. Orders have been issued.”

You can hear the Hitlerian resonance in this, straight from Cheney and Bush. It has hideous echoes of “My patience is exhausted,” before Fascist Germany invaded its neighbors – and of the justification that “Befehl ist Befehl” : “an order is an order,” as the Gestapo herded terrified women and children into concentration camps and then to gas chambers. (In fact some of the victims in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp would welcome death by gassing, it being preferable to the vicious torture they are undergoing.) The American attitude, under Bush, is one of intolerance and macho contempt for any who dare to display independence. “We have to be more assertive” is a chilling declaration of what motivates the Washington administration. It is unlikely to change, irrespective of who is the next president.

President Zardari of Pakistan showed considerable courage last week when he said that “We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism,” if only because we have learned what happens to presidents and countries who offend the mighty empire. Pakistan has been dumped before by America. It appears that it is important for the moment, but neither sovereignty not diplomacy are of concern to Washington. Pakistan’s government had better be very careful.

Brian Cloughley lives in France. His website is www.briancloughley.com

A version of the above appeared in The Daily Times (Pakistan).

Pakistan reacts with fury after up to 20 die in ‘American’ attack on its soil

September 4, 2008
· Children reported dead in assault near Taliban base
· Raid was gross violation, says foreign ministry

Pakistan

Relations have become increasingly fraught between the US and Pakistan, which is struggling to control Islamist militants. Photograph: John Moore/EPA

The war in Afghanistan spilled over on to Pakistani territory for the first time yesterday when heavily armed commandos, believed to be US Special Forces, landed by helicopter and attacked three houses in a village close to a known Taliban and al-Qaida stronghold.

The surprise attack on Jala Khel was launched in early morning darkness and killed between seven and 20 people, according to a range of reports from the remote Angoor Adda region of South Waziristan. The village is situated less than one mile from the Afghan border.

Local residents were quoted as saying that most of the dead were civilians and included women and children. It was not known whether any Taliban or al-Qaida militants or western forces were among the dead.

Furious official Pakistani condemnation of the attack followed swiftly, amid growing concern that the Nato-led war against the Taliban in Afghanistan could spread to Pakistan, sparking a region-wide conflagration.

Owais Ahmed Ghanisaid, the governor of North-West Frontier province, adjoining South Waziristan, said 20 people had died and called for retaliation. “This is a direct assault on the sovereignty of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan expect that the armed forces … would rise to defend the sovereignty of the country and give a befitting reply,” he said.

The foreign ministry in Islamabad termed the incursion “a gross violation of Pakistan’s territory” and a “grave provocation” which, it said, had resulted in “immense” loss of civilian life.

“Such actions are counterproductive and certainly do not help our joint efforts to fight terrorism. On the contrary, they may fuel the fire of hatred and violence we are trying to extinguish.”

“This is a very alarming and very dangerous development,” said a former senior Pakistani official. “We have absolutely been telling them [the US] not to do this but they ignored us.”

US and Nato commanders say Taliban and al-Qaida fighters use the unruly, semi-autonomous tribal areas of Pakistan to stage attacks on coalition forces inside Afghanistan and create “safe havens” where they are immune from attack. Nato and civilian casualties in Afghanistan have reached record levels in the past 12 months in the face of a spreading Taliban offensive.

US forces have used missile-carrying drones – unmanned aerial vehicles – to attack militant targets inside Pakistan in the past. But yesterday’s assault, involving up to three helicopters and infantry commandos, marked the first time the fight has been taken directly to the enemy on Pakistani soil.

Major-General Athar Abbas, a spokesman for the Pakistan army, said Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) had carried out the raid. “Two helicopters of Isaf landed very early in the morning and conducted a raid on a compound there. As per our report, seven civilians were killed in this raid.”

But a Nato spokesman denied involvement. “There has been no Nato or Isaf involvement crossing the border into Pakistan,” a Nato spokesman, James Appathurai, said. There were unconfirmed reports that the incursion was carried out by US Special Forces, which are not under Isaf command and can operate independently. A US military spokesman at the Bagram base near Kabul did not deny an attack had occurred but declined to comment.

Tensions between Pakistan’s new civilian government and the US have been running high following American accusations that rogue elements in Pakistan’s top spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, were feeding classified information on coalition troops to Taliban fighters. Washington has also repeatedly accused Islamabad of failing to do enough to curb militant activity.

The strains have been exacerbated by a political crisis in Pakistan following last month’s forced resignation of President Pervez Musharraf and the collapse of a power-sharing agreement between the ruling Pakistan People’s party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister. An election to find a replacement for Musharraf is scheduled for Saturday, with the PPP chairman, Asif Ali Zardari, Benazir Bhutto’s widower, expected to win.

In a further sign of instability, militants opened fire yesterday on prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s car, in an apparent assassination attempt, near Islamabad. The assailants, firing from a roadside embankment, hit the driver’s side window twice. Gilani was not in the car at the time.

Today he was due to meet David Cameron, the Conservative leader, who is visiting Pakistan.

Watch John D McHugh’s video on the struggle for power and influence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region

Afghanistan Anti-US demonstrations in Afghanistan

August 25, 2008

Euronews, 24/08 09:33 CET

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Angry protests have broken out in Afghanistan following the deaths of scores of civilians in an air attack by US-led coalition forces on Friday. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned the air strike.

The father of some victims said the coalition forces should come and see that all those killed were children and not Taliban.

The US military said only armed Taliban militants were killed in Friday’s attack in Shindand district of Herat province. Province police official, Ekramuddin Yawar put the number of dead following the coalition operation at 76.

Hundreds of angry villagers have reportedly attacked Afghan soldiers with stones who were bringing aid to the families of those killed in the attack.The United Nations says nearly 700 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year, the majority of them by Taliban militants.

The Afghan fire looks set to spread, but there is a way out

August 21, 2008
Far from being a noble cause, the occupation of Afghanistan is poisoning the region and will never bring peace or security

The war in Afghanistan is running out of control. The multiple attacks mounted by Taliban guerrillas on Nato occupation troops on Monday and Tuesday – in which 10 newly arrived French soldiers were killed near Kabul and a US base hit by suicide bombers – are the most daring since the US-led invasion of 2001. More than 100 people have been killed in fighting in the past three days, as the war against foreign occupation has spread from the south to the east and the area around the capital.

The assault on the French reinforcements follows the killing of nine US soldiers in a single attack last month, and the freeing of hundreds of Taliban prisoners from Kandahar’s main jail in a night-time raid in June. As Afghanistan experiences its own Iraq-style surge of US and other Nato forces, the death toll is rising inexorably. The number of occupation troops killed in Afghanistan overtook the Iraqi level in May. Attacks on US-led forces are up by 50% on last year, Nato air attacks have increased 40%, and more than 2,500 have already reportedly lost their lives in the conflict since January – getting on for half of them civilians.

In a damning indictment of the impact of Nato’s occupation on Afghanistan, aid agencies reported earlier this month that insecurity was spreading to previously stable areas and the killing of civilians by all sides rising sharply. The US air force seems to have developed a particular habit of attacking wedding parties – last month 47 civilians were killed in one strike – while British troops, who lost 13 soldiers in June alone, killed a woman and two children last weekend, which the high command naturally blamed on the Taliban.

This is the conflict western politicians have convinced themselves is the “good war”, in contrast to the shame of Iraq. Britain’s defence secretary, Des Browne, recently declared it “the noble cause of the 21st century”. Nicolas Sarkozy, who faces a similar level of domestic opposition to the Afghan imbroglio as in Britain, insists that France is fighting for “democracy and freedom”. Barack Obama calls it the “central front” in the war on terror and, like Gordon Brown, is committed to transferring troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to bolster the fight.

That will certainly jack up the killing and suffering still further. As Zbigniew Brzezinski – the former US national security adviser who masterminded the early stages of the mujahideen war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan – argues, putting more troops in is not the solution: “We run the risk that our military presence will gradually turn the Afghan population entirely against us.”

The original aims of the invasion, it will be recalled, were the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, and the destruction of al-Qaida in the aftermath of 9/11. None of those aims has been achieved. Instead, the US and its friends brought back to power an alliance of brutal and corrupt warlords, gave them new identities as democrats with phoney elections, and drove the Taliban and al-Qaida leaderships over the border into Pakistan.

Far from reducing the threat of terrorism, this crucible of the war on terror has simply spread it around the region, bringing forth an increasingly potent campaign of resistance and giving a new lease of life to a revamped Taliban as a champion of Pashtun nationalism. And as mission creep has detached the Afghan war from its original declared target of al-Qaida – let alone the claims made about women’s rights, which have been going into grim reverse again in much of the country under Nato tutelage – it has morphed into the kind of war of “civilisation” evoked by Sarkozy and Browne, a certain recipe for conflict without end. No wonder British politicians have talked about digging in for decades.

Meanwhile, the long-term cost of the west’s shameless support for Pakistan’s military dictatorship as the linchpin of its war on terror, while forever preaching democracy, became clearer this week. General Musharraf’s welcome departure has left the country in political crisis and exposed the contradictions at the heart of the US relationship with the nuclear-armed state.

Even while the Pakistani military has relied on the US alliance to underpin its strategic position with India, its intelligence arm, the ISI, has maintained links with the Taliban as a long-term regional investment – at the same time as the Pakistan army has fought the local Taliban under American pressure. Now the threat of full-scale US incursions against Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan’s border areas risks profoundly destabilising one of the most combustible states in the world.

Afghanistan was supposed to be a demonstration of Nato’s expanded horizons in the post-Soviet new world order. Instead, as with Nato’s disastrous engagement with Georgia, it has underscored the dangers of giving the cold war alliance a new imperial brief. The growing conflict must also be added to the litany of US foreign policy failures that have been overseen by George Bush – from Iraq, Iran, Palestine and Lebanon to Latin America and now the Caucasus – and the evident necessity of a new direction.

That is likely to be a mountain to climb, even under an Obama presidency. The Afghan war certainly cannot be won, but the bitterly unpopular 2005 agreement for indefinite bases in the country left no doubt that the US is planning to stay for the long haul. Nato’s secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, made clear in a speech to the Brookings Institution in Washington earlier this year that western interests in Afghanistan went well beyond good governance to the strategic interest in having a permanent military presence in a state that borders central Asia, China, Iran and Pakistan.

The only way to end the war is the withdrawal of foreign troops as part of a political settlement negotiated with all the significant players in the country, including the Taliban, and guaranteed by the regional powers and neighbouring states. A large majority of Afghans say they back negotiations with the Taliban, even in western-conducted opinion polls. The Taliban themselves insist they will only talk once foreign troops have withdrawn. If that were the only obstacle, it could surely be choreographed as a parallel process. But given the scale of commitments made by the US and Nato, the fire of the Afghan war seems bound to spread further.

s.milne@guardian.co.uk

SOME MATTER MORE – WHEN 47 VICTIMS ARE WORTH 43 WORDS

July 24, 2008
Media Lense, July 22, 2008

Bad Form

In his classic work, Obedience to Authority, psychologist Stanley Milgram observed:

“There is always some element of bad form in objecting to the destructive course of events, or indeed, in making it a topic of conversation. Thus, in Nazi Germany, even among those most closely identified with the ‘final solution’, it was considered an act of discourtesy to talk about the killings.” (Milgram, Obedience to Authority, Pinter & Martin, 1974, p.204)

The same “bad form” is very much discouraged in our own society. One would hardly guess from media reporting that Britain and America are responsible for killing anyone in Iraq and Afghanistan, where violence is typically blamed on “insurgents” and “sectarian conflict”. International “coalition” forces are depicted as peacekeepers using minimum violence as a last resort.

In reporting the November 2005 Haditha massacre, in which 24 Iraqi civilians were murdered by US troops, Newsweek suggested that the scale of the tragedy “should not be exaggerated”. Why?

“America still fields what is arguably the most disciplined, humane military force in history, a model of restraint compared with ancient armies that wallowed in the spoils of war or even more-modern armies that heedlessly killed civilians and prisoners.” (Evan Thomas and Scott Johnson, ‘Probing Bloodbath,’ Newsweek, June 12, 2006; http://www.newsweek.com/id/52312/page/1)

The truth was revealed in a single moment of unthinking honesty by a senior US Army commander involved in planning the November 2004 Falluja offensive and convinced of its necessity. He visited the city afterward and declared:

“My God, what are the folks who live here going to say when they see this?” (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/04/ weekinreview/04burns.html?fta=y&pagewanted=all)

The answer was provided by physician Mahammad J. Haded, director of an Iraqi refugee centre, who was in Falluja during the US onslaught:

“The city is today totally ruined. Falluja is our Dresden in Iraq… The population is full of rage.” (http://www.countercurrents.org/iraq-awad100305.htm)

In July 2005, the Independent commented on US actions in Iraq:

“The American army’s use of its massive fire-power is so unrestrained that all US military operations are in reality the collective punishment of whole districts, towns and cities.” (Patrick Cockburn, ‘We must avoid the terrorist trap,’ The Independent, July 11, 2005)

In April 2004, the Daily Telegraph reported the disgust of senior British army commanders in Iraq with the “heavy-handed and disproportionate” military tactics used by US forces, who view Iraqis “as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life… their attitude toward the Iraqis is tragic, it is awful.” (Sean Rayment, ‘US tactics condemned by British officers’, Defence Correspondent, Daily Telegraph, April 11, 2004)

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