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الثلاثاء، 30 يوليو 2013

Baghdad Cafe Raids Put Sadr on the Spot

Baghdad Cafe Raids Put Sadr on the Spot

By: Ali Abel Sadah

Mahdi Army militiamen

On the night of July 15, gunmen accompanied by men in religious uniforms shut down popular cafes in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad, deeming them "[morally] corrupt." Karada residents were shocked to see posters hanging in the neighborhood announcing the closure of several popular cafes.

A senior police officer told Al-Monitor on July 20, "Ansar al-Zahra, a group affiliated with the Mahdi Army militia, has been working on implementing Sharia for months, following Sadrist Ali al-Tamimi’s ascent to the government." The officer continued, "The reason Ansar al-Zahra attacked these cafes is because they employed a number of females, which goes against the traditions of Ramadan."
While touring Karada, Al-Monitor’s correspondent noted the presence of dozens of banners thanking the governor of Baghdad for closing the cafes. On social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, civilian activists expressed their concerns over distorting civil life in Iraq.
Shirouk Abayachi, a civil activist and environmental expert, told Al-Monitor on July 20, "Raiding and shutting down cafes reflects the influential Islamist forces’ orientation to impose additional restrictions on civil society." She continued, "Baghdad is a civil capital, on which no one can impose conservative traditions. The use of excessive force in achieving that, however, warns of disastrous consequences."
Al-Monitor spoke with Ali al-Tamimi, the governor of Baghdad, on July 21, and asked him about the reality of the Baghdad local government’s decision to shut down recreational facilities.
Tamimi said, "The campaign to close cafes was targeting me personally, and it aims to tarnish my reputation and the orientation of the [Sadrist] bloc I am affiliated with." He added, "The groups that carried out these acts of sabotage and provocation have spread fear and terror among the people of Baghdad, and it is driven by an external agenda."
Tamimi’s remarks to Al-Monitor came one day after Prime Minister Nouri Maliki announced that those who attacked the cafes have been arrested. Maliki said in an official government statement that he is "strongly opposed to militias doing the job of security services." 
Tamimi told Al-Monitor that the uproar that followed the closing of cafes comes at the expense of the interests of the citizens in Baghdad, and aims to thwart the future development plans of Baghdad’s government, which aim to help the poor and disadvantaged segments in the capital.
Nevertheless the Sadrist Movement, with which Tamimi is affiliated, speaks a completely different language.
Mohammad Reza, a leader of the Al-Ahrar bloc, which is affiliated with the Sadrist Movement, said in a media statement, "The people of the Karada neighborhood of central Baghdad are the ones who attacked casinos and cafes in the neighborhoods." Reza said, "The attacks were designed to preserve the sacredness of this month, after executive authorities failed to do so."
After gaining local authority in Baghdad, the Sadrist Movement is going through a tough test. Many view the movement as a hard-line religious group that aspires to apply Sharia according to the Shiite method. 
On the other hand, movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr has been keen to show a fundamental change in his religious rhetoric for several months now. Yet the real test for the Baghdad local government — led by the Sadrist Movement — began when an extremist group attacked the Karada cafes.

Ali Abel Sadah is a Baghdad-based writer for both Iraqi and Arab media. He has been a managing editor for local newspapers as well as a political and cultural reporter for more than 10 years.


Who Are We at War With? That’s Classified

Who Are We at War With? That’s Classified

by Cora Currier

President Obama has repeatedly said the U.S. is targeting Al Qaeda and "associated forces." But the government won’t say who those forces are. (STAFF/AFP/Getty Images)

In a major national security speech [1] this spring, President Obama said again and again that the U.S. is at war with "Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces."
So who exactly are those associated forces? It’s a secret.
At a hearing in May, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., asked [2] the Defense Department to provide him with a current list of Al Qaeda affiliates.
The Pentagon responded – but Levin’s office told ProPublica they aren’t allowed to share it. Kathleen Long, a spokeswoman for Levin, would say only that the department’s "answer included the information requested."
A Pentagon spokesman told ProPublica that revealing such a list could cause "serious damage to national security."
"Because elements that might be considered 'associated forces’ can build credibility by being listed as such by the United States, we have classified the list," said the spokesman, Lt. Col. Jim Gregory. "We cannot afford to inflate these organizations that rely on violent extremist ideology to strengthen their ranks."
It’s not an abstract question: U.S. drone strikes and other actions [3]frequently target "associated forces," as has been the case with dozens of strikes [4] against an Al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen.
During the May hearing, Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, said [2] he was "not sure there is a list per se." Describing terrorist groups as "murky" and "shifting," he said, "it would be difficult for the Congress to get involved in trying to track the designation of which are the affiliate forces" of Al Qaeda.
Sheehan said that by the Pentagon’s standard, "sympathy is not enough…. it has to be an organized group and that group has to be in co-belligerent status with Al Qaeda operating against the United States."
The White House tied Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and "elements" of Al Shabaab in Somalia [3] to Al Qaeda in a recent report to Congress [5] on military actions. But the report also included a classified annex.
Jack Goldsmith, a professor at Harvard Law who served as a legal counsel during the Bush administration and has written [6] on this question [7] at length, told ProPublica that the Pentagon’s reasoning for keeping the affiliates secret seems weak. "If the organizations are 'inflated’ enough to be targeted with military force, why cannot they be mentioned publicly?" Goldsmith said. He added that there is "a countervailing very important interest in the public knowing who the government is fighting against in its name."
The law underpinning the U.S. war against Al Qaeda is known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, and it was passed one week after the 9/11 attacks [8]. It doesn’t actually include the words "associated forces," though courts [9] and Congress [10] have endorsed the phrase.
As we explained earlier this year [8], the emergence of new or more loosely-aligned terrorist groups has legal scholars wondering [11] how effectively the U.S. will be able to "shoehorn" them into the AUMF. During the May hearing, many lawmakers expressed concern [12] about the Pentagon’s capacious reading of the law. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., described it as a "carte blanche."
Obama, in his May speech, said he looked forward "to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate." But he didn’t give a timeframe. On Wednesday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., introduced an [13] amendment that would sunset the law at the end of 2014, to coincide with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. It was voted down [14] the same day, 185 to 236.
The AUMF isn’t the only thing the government relies on to take military action. In speeches and interviews Obama administration officials also bring up [15]the president’s constitutional power to defend the country, even without congressional authorization. 


Scores die in Egypt protest crackdown

Scores die in Egypt protest crackdown

Associated Press


SECURITY forces and armed men have clashed with supporters of Egypt's ousted president, killing at least 72 people in mayhem in Cairo that underscored an increasingly heavy hand against protests demanding Mohammed Morsi's return to office.

In chaotic scenes, pools of blood stained the floor and bodies were lined up under white sheets in a makeshift hospital near the site of the battles in eastern Cairo. Doctors struggled to cope with the flood of dozens of wounded, many with gunshots to the head or chest.

It was the deadliest single outbreak of violence since the military ousted Mr Morsi on July 3 and one of the deadliest in years of turmoil in Egypt. It was not immediately clear if all those killed were all protesters or if residents who joined the fight against the march were among the dead. The Brotherhood earlier said that 66 Morsi supporters were killed in the Cairo violence.

Egypt's health ministry said at least 72 people had been killed during clashes in Cairo, while nine others had died in violence in Egypt's second city, Alexandria, a day earlier, putting the toll in two days of unrest at 81.

The extent of the bloodshed pointed to a rapidly building confrontation between the country's two camps, sharply divided over the coup that removed Egypt's first freely elected president after widespread protests against his rule.

Authorities talk more boldly of making a move to end weeks of protests by Mr Morsi's largely Islamist supporters. At the same time, the Islamists are growing more assertive in challenging security forces as they try to win public backing for their cause.

Yesterday's clashes were sparked when pro-Morsi protesters sought to expand their main Cairo sit-in camp by moving onto a nearby main boulevard, only to be confronted by police and armed civilians - reportedly residents of nearby neighborhoods. Police initially fired tear gas but in ensuing clashes, the protesters came under gunfire.

Officials from Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and their allies decried what they called a new "massacre" against their side, only weeks after July 8 clashes with army troops in Cairo that left more than 50 Morsi supporters dead.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said that he spoke to Egyptian authorities, saying it is "essential" they respect the right to peaceful protest. He called on all sides to enter a "meaningful political dialogue" to "help their country take a step back from the brink."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also asked security forces to "act with full respect for human rights" and demonstrators to "exercise restraint."

But neither side has shown much taste for reconciliation. Islamists staunchly reject the new leadership and insist the only possible solution to the crisis is to put Mr Morsi back in office. Meanwhile, the interim leadership is pushing ahead with a fast-track transition plan to return to a democratically elected government by early next year.

The military-backed authorities appear confident of public support for a tougher hand after millions turned out for nationwide rallies on Friday called by army chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi as a mandate against "terrorism and violence."

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of police, took an uncompromising stance in a news conference after the violence. He accused the pro-Morsi side of provoking bloodshed to win sympathy.

"We didn't go to them, they came to us - so they could use what happened for political gain," he said. Ironically, Mr Ibrahim is originally a Morsi appointee, and his then-boss praised him for a tough hand after police killed dozens of anti-Morsi protesters in the city of Port Said earlier this year.

"The Ministry of Interior never has and never will fire on any Egyptian," he added, saying police only shot tear gas in Saturday's violence.

The minister also said there were plans to bring back "political security" offices dissolved under Mr Morsi. Such offices monitored groups like the Brotherhood, which had been outlawed for decades.

Brotherhood spokesman Ahmed Aref said that "exposes" that the regime of Mr Morsi's predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, is still alive and seeking to reverse the 2011 uprising that toppled him and led to Mr Morsi's election.

Despite the heavy death toll, the interior minister suggested authorities could take the more explosive step of moving against the two main pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo: weeks-old sit-ins, on outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya in eastern Cairo and another in Nahda Square in Cairo's sister city of Giza.

He depicted the encampments as a danger to the public, pointing to a string of nine bodies police have said were found nearby in recent days. Some had been tortured to death, police have said, apparently by members of the sit-ins who believed they were spies.

"Soon we will deal with both sit-ins," Ibrahim said.

Interim Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, a longtime pro-democracy campaigner who backed the military's ouster of Mr Morsi, raised one of the few notes of criticism of yesterday's bloodshed.

"I highly condemn the excessive use of force and the fall of victims," he wrote in a tweet, though he did not directly place blame for the use of force. He added that he is "working very hard and in all directions to end this confrontation in a peaceful manner."

But the image of the Islamists as dangerous and not the peaceful protesters they contend they are has had a strong resonance. Over past weeks, there have been cases of armed Islamist Morsi backers attacking opponents - though the reverse also has occurred. Before yesterday, some 180 people had been killed in clashes nationwide.

Walid el-Masry, one of founders of the youth activist Tamarod movement that led the original wave of protests against Mr Morsi, said he believed the Brotherhood "pushed for (the) clashes. ... The Muslim Brotherhood is trying to grab the international attention and have the victim attitude."

The liberal umbrella group National Salvation Front, which ElBaradei once led, also said it "puts strong blame on the Brotherhood," pointing to hard-line rhetoric in speeches at pro-Morsi rallies calling for "jihad" and "martyrdom."

The clashes began after a crowd of Morsi supporters late on Friday moved out of their Rabaah al-Adawiyah encampment and installed themselves on a nearby major thoroughfare, blocking it. They began to set up tents there, planning to stay there at least three days, said Mahmoud Zaqzouq, a Brotherhood spokesman. A march also attempted to cut off a major overpass that runs through Cairo.

Police moved in and fired tear gas to break up the crowds at around 2am, and protesters responded with volleys of stones.

Gunshots also rang out, seemingly from both sides, said one witness, Mosa'ab Elshamy, a freelance photographer, though he could not tell who started firing.

Armed residents of the area also joined the police side, and there were also plainclothes police carrying handguns, he said.

"They aimed at killing the people. They aimed the head and the neck," said Ahmed Abdullah, a doctor at a field clinic set up at Rabaah al-Adawiya, as he wiped away tears.

At the Rabaah al-Adawiya clinic, men shouted "God is great," and women wailed as bodies were loaded into ambulances to be taken for examination at hospitals. Bodies of more than a dozen men lay on the blood-splattered floor with white sheets over them.

Ragab Nayel Ali, one of the pro-Morsi protesters, said security forces fired first with tear gas and birdshot. "Protesters replied by hurling rocks and started building walls," Ali said.

Health Ministry spokesman Khaled el-Khateeb said that at least 65 people were killed and 270 wounded. Nine more were killed in clashes in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria since Friday, he said.

Aref of the Brotherhood told reporters that another 61 were "clinically dead." He did not further explain their condition.

The Interior Ministry said 14 policemen were wounded, two with gunshot wounds to the head.

Clashes in Alexandria erupted on Friday and extended into the night as more than 100 Morsi supporters took refuge in a central mosque, holding 17 of their rivals hostage as they tried to fend off a security siege of the building. A security official said the hostages were freed and many of those inside the mosque arrested. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

A leading Brotherhood figure, Mohammed el-Beltagy, accused army chief el-Sissi of seeking violence by calling Friday's pro-military rallies.

"This is the mandate el-Sissi took last night - to commit massacres and bloodshed against peaceful protesters denouncing the military coup," el-Beltagy said in a statement on his Facebook page.



UK Spy Warns of Iraq War Disclosures

UK Spy Warns of Iraq War Disclosures

Annie Machon

Exclusive: For more than a decade since the Iraq invasion, President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and their senior aides have stuck to the story of innocent intelligence mistakes and evaded accountability. But the code of silence may crack if top British spy Richard Dearlove tells his story, says ex-UK intelligence officer Annie Machon.
In a surprising statement last weekend, the former head of Great Britain’s foreign intelligence-gathering agency, MI6, suggested that he might break the code of omerta around the fraudulent intelligence case – including the so-called "dodgy dossier" – that was used as the pretext for the Iraq War in 2003.
Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 and current Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, contacted the UK’s Mail on Sundaynewspaper to state that he had written his account of the intelligence controversy in the run-up to the U.S./UK invasion of Iraq and indicated that he might release it in the near future.
Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of Great Britain’s MI-6 intelligence agency.
With the much-delayed official Chilcot Enquiry into the case for war about to be published, Dearlove is obviously aware that he might be blamed for "sexing up" the intelligence and former Prime Minister Tony Blair might once again evade all responsibility.
In the months before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the British government produced a couple of reports "making a case for war," as Major General Michael Laurie said in his evidence to the enquiry in 2011: "We knew at the time that the purpose of the [September] dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence, and that to make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence the wording was developed with care."
The first such report, the September Dossier (2002), is the one most remembered, as this did indeed "sex up" the case for war as the late Iraqi weapons inspector David Kelly revealed. It also included the fraudulent intelligence about Saddam Hussein trying to acquire uranium from Niger, a bogus claim that President George W. Bush and other U.S. officials cited with great effect.
Most memorably in the UK, the dossier led to the "Brits 45 minutes from Doom" front-page headline in Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun newspaper, no less, on the eve of the crucial war vote in Parliament. The claim was that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein could deliver deadly germ warfare against British troops and tourists in Cyrus in only 45 minutes.
Also, just six weeks before the attack on Iraq, the so-called "dodgy dossier" was presented by British spies and politicians as an ominous warning of the Iraqi threat, although it was later revealed that the report was based largely on a 12-year-old PhD thesis culled from the Internet, but containing nuggets of raw MI6 intelligence.
Interestingly from a British legal position, it appears that Prime Minister Blair and his spin doctor Alastair Campbell released this report without the prior written permission of the head of MI6, which means that they appear to be in breach of the UK’s draconian secrecy law, the Official Secrets Act (1989).
Thus was made the dubious case for war with Iraq, lies leading to countless Iraq deaths (with some estimates over a million) and many more wounded, maimed, and displaced, yet no one held to account.
Downing Street Memo
Subsequently, there was also the leak of the notorious Downing Street Memoin which Sir Richard Dearlove was reported as saying that the intelligence and facts were being "fixed" around a predetermined war policy.
On July 23, 2002, at a meeting at 10 Downing Street, Dearlove briefed Prime Minister Blair and other senior officials on his talks with his American counterpart, CIA Director George Tenet, in Washington three days before. In the draft minutes of that briefing, which were leaked to the London Times and published on May 1, 2005, Dearlove explained that President Bush had decided to attack Iraq and the war was to be "justified by the conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction."
While then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw pointed out that the case was "thin," Dearlove explained matter-of-factly, "The intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy."
There is no sign in the minutes that anyone hiccupped — much less demurred — at "making a case for war" in this dishonest fashion, let alone objected that Blair and Bush were preparing to launch a "war of aggression" outlawed by the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal and the UN Charter.
The evidence showed that the UK’s top spies aided their political masters by disseminating to the public raw intelligence and forged documents, with disastrous consequences for the people of Iraq and the world.
Yet Dearlove long has remained unrepentant. Even as recently as 2011, after his retirement and his receipt of many official honors, he continued to deny culpability. When questioned about the Downing Street Memo during an address to the prestigious Cambridge Union Society by the fearless and fearsomely bright student, Silkie Carlo, Dearlove tried grandiloquently to brush her aside with the excuse that his remarks were taken out of context..
But were the remarks in the Memo really taken out of context? The context of the Memo — and the larger historical context of what the world now knows about the fraudulent case for war with Iraq — would suggest that the comments were entirely in context, that the intelligence was being "fixed" around a preexisting decision to invade.
So Dearlove could potentially have saved many lives across the Middle East if he had gone public then, rather than waiting until the belated Chilcot report might sully his reputation. Would it not be far preferable if these servants of the Crown would actually take a stand while they are in a position to influence world events and prevent disasters like the invasion of Iraq?
Doing so now, purely to preserve his reputation after failing to act earlier to preserve the lives of innocent Iraqis, is even more "ethically flexible" than you would normally expect of an average MI6 intelligence officer. Perhaps that is why Dearlove floated to the top of the organization.
But Dearlove is right to be worried about how history and Chilcot will judge him. These intelligence failures and lies have been picked over and speculated about for years. They are now an open secret. However, finally threatening to spill the beans if he is harshly criticized smacks of desperation.
Dearlove is quoted as saying that he has no plans to breach the Official Secrets Act by publishing his memoirs. But by publishing an account of the run-up to the Iraq War, he would be equally guilty of a breach of the Official Secrets Act. It has been established under UK law that any unauthorized disclosure crosses the "clear bright line" of the law.
And Dearlove seems well aware of this – his original plan was for his account to be made available after his death. I can see why he would plan it that way. First, he would escape prosecution, and second, he could protect his reputation for posterity. But an earlier disclosure by Dearlove could put Blair and Bush back in the spotlight.
The official motto of the UK spies is "Regnum Defende" – defense of the realm. Serving intelligence officers mordantly alter this to "Rectum Defende" – politely translated as watch your back. Dearlove seems to be living up to the motto. He must be one very frightened old man to be contemplating such premature publication.
Annie Machon is a former intelligence officer in the UK’s MI5 Security Service (the U.S. counterpart is the FBI).


الخميس، 25 يوليو 2013

Iraq Invades the United States And Other Headlines from an Upside Down History of the U.S. Military and the World

Iraq Invades the United States 
And Other Headlines from an Upside Down History of the U.S. Military and the World

By Eduardo Galeano

[The following passages are excerpted from Eduardo Galeano’s new book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation Books).] 
The Day Mexico Invaded the United States(March 9)
On this early morning in 1916, Pancho Villa crossed the border with his horsemen, set fire to the city of Columbus, killed several soldiers, nabbed a few horses and guns, and the following day was back in Mexico to tell the tale.
This lightning incursion is the only invasion the United States has suffered since its wars to break free from England.
In contrast, the United States has invaded practically every country in the entire world.
Since 1947 its Department of War has been called the Department of Defense, and its war budget the defense budget.
The names are an enigma as indecipherable as the Holy Trinity.

God’s Bomb(August 6)
In 1945, while this day was dawning, Hiroshima lost its life. The atomic bomb’s first appearance incinerated this city and its people in an instant.
The few survivors, mutilated sleepwalkers, wandered among the smoking ruins. The burns on their naked bodies carried the stamp of the clothing they were wearing when the explosion hit. On what remained of the walls, the atom bomb’s flash left silhouettes of what had been: a woman with her arms raised, a man, a tethered horse.
Three days later, President Harry Truman spoke about the bomb over the radio.
He said: "We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies; and we pray that He may guide us to use it in His ways and for His purposes."
Manufacturing Mistakes(April 20)
It was among the largest military expeditions ever launched in the history of the Caribbean. And it was the greatest blunder.
The dispossessed and evicted owners of Cuba declared from Miami that they were ready to die fighting for devolution, against revolution.
The US government believed them, and their intelligence services once again proved themselves unworthy of the name.
On April 20, 1961, three days after disembarking at the Bay of Pigs, armed to the teeth and backed by warships and planes, these courageous heroes surrendered.
The World Upside Down(March 20)
On March 20 in the year 2003, Iraq’s air force bombed the United States.
On the heels of the bombs, Iraqi troops invaded U.S. soil.
There was collateral damage. Many civilians, most of them women and children, were killed or maimed. No one knows how many, because tradition dictates tabulating the losses suffered by invading troops and prohibits counting victims among the invaded population.
The war was inevitable. The security of Iraq and of all humanity was threatened by the weapons of mass destruction stockpiled in United States arsenals.
There was no basis, however, to the insidious rumors suggesting that Iraq intended to keep all the oil in Alaska.
Collateral Damage(June 13)
Around this time in 2010 it came out that more and more US soldiers were committing suicide. It was nearly as common as death in combat.
The Pentagon promised to hire more mental health specialists, already the fastest-growing job classification in the armed forces.
The world is becoming an immense military base, and that base is becoming a mental hospital the size of the world. Inside the nuthouse, which ones are crazy? The soldiers killing themselves or the wars that oblige them to kill?
Operation Geronimo(May 2)
Geronimo led the Apache resistance in the nineteenth century.
This chief of the invaded earned himself a nasty reputation for driving the invaders crazy with his bravery and brilliance, and in the century that followed he became the baddest bad guy in the West on screen.
Keeping to that tradition, "Operation Geronimo" was the name chosen by the U.S. government for the execution of Osama bin Laden, who was shot and disappeared on this day in 2011.
But what did Geronimo have to do with bin Laden, the delirious caliph cooked up in the image laboratories of the U.S. military? Was Geronimo even remotely like this professional fearmonger who would announce his intention to eat every child raw whenever a U.S. president needed to justify a new war?
The name was not an innocent choice: the U.S. military always considered the Indian warriors who defended their lands and dignity against foreign conquest to be terrorists.
Robots with Wings(October 13)
Good news. On this day in the year 2011 the world’s military brass announced that drones could continue killing people.
These pilotless planes, crewed by no one, flown by remote control, are in good health: the virus that attacked them was only a passing bother.
As of now, drones have dropped their rain of bombs on defenseless victims in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Palestine, and their services are expected in other countries.
In the Age of the Almighty Computer, drones are the perfect warriors. They kill without remorse, obey without kidding around, and they never reveal the names of their masters.
War Against Drugs(October 27)
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan took up the spear that Richard Nixon had raised a few years previous, and the war against drugs received a multimillion-dollar boost.
From that point on, profits escalated for drug traffickers and the big money-laundering banks; more powerful drugs came to kill twice as many people as before; every week a new jail opens in the United States, since the country with the most drug addicts always has room for a few addicts more; Afghanistan, a country invaded and occupied by the United States, became the principal supplier of nearly all the world’s heroin; and the war against drugs, which turned Colombia into one big U.S. military base, is turning Mexico into a demented slaughterhouse.
Eduardo Galeano is one of Latin America’s most distinguished writers. He is the author of Open Veins of Latin America, theMemory of Fire Trilogy, Mirrors, and many other works. His newest book, Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History (Nation Books) has just been published in English. He is the recipient of many international prizes, including the first Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, the American Book Award, and the Casa de las Américas Prize.
Mark Fried is the translator of seven books by Eduardo Galeano, including Children of the Days. He is also the translator of the recently released Firefly by Severo Sarduy. He lives in Ottawa, Canada.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.
Copyright 2013 Eduardo Galeano
This post is excerpted from Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History Copyright © 2013 by Eduardo Galeano; translation copyright © 2013 by Mark Fried. Published by Nation Books, A member of the Perseus Group, New York, NY. Originally published in Spanish in 2012 by Siglo XXI Editores, Argentina, and Ediciones Chanchito, Uruguay. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, New York City, and Lamy, N.M. All rights reserved.


Yemeni Journalist Who Obama Kept in Prison Is Free

Yemeni Journalist Who Obama Kept in Prison Is Free

By: Kevin Gosztola
Photo posted to Facebook by @aljamal2007 of Abdulelah Haider Shaye, after he was freed from prison

Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who United States President Barack Obama had been keeping in prison, has been released.
Shaye was apparently given a presidential pardon that requires him to remain in Sanaa for two years. This means he would be prohibited from traveling to many of the areas where US drone strikes have taken place while he was in prison or where they will take place over the next two years.
Journalist Iona Craig, a Times of London correspondent in Yemen who had covered Shaye’s case for two years, reacted, "Delighted to say, after two years of covering his case, jailed journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye is free. I can’t quite believe it."
Craig acknowledged that Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi deserved credit for keeping his word and releasing Shaye. She also praised the organization, Index on Censorship, in the United Kingdom for calling attention to "Shaye’s long-running story" and the threat his imprisonment posed to freedom of expression.
Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni youth activist and writer who testified before Congress this year on the impact of US drone operations in his country,reacted, "After FOUR years of jailing him by order from Barack Obama, Yemeni government releases journalist Abdulelah Shaea." He also said, "Only Barack Obama can compete with Yemen’s dictators (throughout history) in jailing journalists and killing civilians in Yemen," and, "What a great Iftar Shaea’s kids might be having today; having their father back with them after 4 years in prison."
The story of Shaye is told in detail by Jeremy Scahill in his book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. Shaye went to the site of a US cruise missile attack in al Majalah where at least 21 children and 14 women were killed. He also tracked down US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to interview him on how he could support the US Army medical officer Nidal Hasan, who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood and why he believed Umar Farouk Abdulumutallab, the Christmas Day underwear bomber, was justified to have targeted a "civilian airliner."
His reporting made him a target the United States wanted to neutralize. According to his lawyer, Abdulrahman Barman, whom I interviewed in May 2012:
[Shaye] is one of those who got all of the information quickly and put it out there for the public. His work actually impacted the Yemeni government and US government in ways where they didn’t want to see it. The Yemeni intelligence were trying to actually recruit Shaye and have him work in the intelligence but he refused. So, after the attack on al-Majalah where so many civilians including women and children were murdered, Abdulelah was beaten up and kidnapped [in June 2010] by the national security agency and he was asked to shut up and be silent and not to talk about these kind of issues.
This did not stop Shaye from practicing journalism.
After he was abducted in July 2010 by Yemeni intelligence agents and went on television to share what had happened to him, US government officials, according to Scahill, began "privately telling major US media outlets that were working with Shaye that they should discontinue their relationships with him. The government alleged he was "using his paychecks to support al Qaeda."
In  August 2010, Barman told Firedoglake Shaye was kidnapped by national security agency people. He was beaten and dragged to "national security cars." He was held for thirty-five days incommunicado while activists protested his detention in front of intelligence services and judicial system buildings. These agencies claimed they had not detained him, but he discovered his location through a released prisoner, who had seen him one of the cells. This led to the national security agencies transferring him to another location.
Barman eventually was able to be with him during interrogation and he said there was no evidence against him for the terrorism-related charges he faced.
Shaye was held in solitary confinement for a period, denied access to his lawyer, and subjected to psychological torture and abuse and appeared in a cage before a special tribunal on September 22, 2010. The judge read the charges he faced, which included "being the 'media man’ for al Qaeda, recruiting new operatives for the group and providing al Qaeda with photos of Yemeni bases and foreign embassies for potential targeting.
According to Scahill, when Shaye heard the charges, he reacted, "When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan, when I revealed the locations and camps of nomads and civilians in Abyan, Shabwah and Arhab when they were going to be hit by cruise missiles, it was on that day they decided to arrest me…You notice in the court how they have turned all of my journalistic contributions into accusations. All of my journalist constributions and quotations to international reporters and news channels have been turned into accusations." And, as he was dragged off by security, he shouted, "Yemen, this is a place where, when a young journalist becomes successful, he is viewed with suspicion."
In January 2011, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison and two years of house arrest in his hometown.
Shaye went on hunger strike in November 2011 and support for his release increased. Yemeni activists protested in front of the US embassy and, finally, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of Yemen at the time, was willing to release him. But he received a phone call from President Obama who opposed his release.
In May of this year, Craig reported that Hadi had confirmed there was "an order from the president to release" Shaye "soon." However, no details were given on when he would be released.
Craig recounted how the US Ambassador to Sanaa, Gerald Feierstein, had told her, "Haidar Shaye is in jail because he was facilitating al-Qaeda and its planning for attacks on Americans and therefore we have a very direct interest in his case and his imprisonment," despite the fact that no evidence confirming this allegation had ever been presented.
She highlighted the effect of his imprisonment on Yemeni journalists:
Yemeni journalists have repeatedly expressed their lingering fear over America’s meddling in Shaye’s case. Many became afraid to report on air strikes. One Yemeni journalist, like Shaye a specialist on al-Qaeda, renamed himself an "analyst of Islamic groups" and refused to do TV interviews especially with Al Jazeera after what happened to Shaye.
It had been said by Scahill that Shaye was "rotting away losing his mind in a Yemeni prison."
What effect his imprisonment will have on him as he resumes life obviously remains to be seen, but one hopes he has not lost his spirit and commitment to journalism and, despite restrictions on traveling outside of Sanaa, will eventually return to doing what he was doing before he was unjustly imprisoned at the behest of the Obama administration.
It takes courage to do what Shaye was doing before he was imprisoned in Yemen. Sadly, when he wound up in prison, US media outlets virtually abandoned him. He had contributed to outlets such as the Washington Postand ABC News but they apparently did not ever find it appropriate to raise their voices to get answers from the administration on why a journalist was being kept in prison.
In solidarity, it is good to see Shaye be freed. Obama owes Shaye an apology and reparations of some kind for depriving him of the years of his life that he spent in prison and could not be with his family or out in the field doing journalism. Unfortunately, as much as the administration may claim to support press freedom, it is pretty much a certainty that there will not be a peep from the Obama administration where they acknowledge it was wrong to keep Shaye jailed.


One death in Yemen shows how far the US will go to kill

One death in Yemen shows how far the US will go to kill

Faisal Al Yafai


Some time after sunset on October 14, 2011, a group of teenagers were eating together at an open-air restaurant. Without warning, there was a devastating explosion - so devastating that when residents rushed to the scene, they found nothing left of the six teenage boys who had been sitting there. They had been blown to pieces.

That incident lasted mere minutes but an explanation of what happened that night and why still has not been unearthed and the repercussions of that explanation, if and when it comes, will have far reaching consequences for international law.

Here is what is known: one of those teenage boys was a 16-year old American citizen called Abdulrahman. He had been raised in the United States but had moved to Yemen around 10 years before his death. His father was Anwar Al Awlaki, a firebrand preacher that the US had put on a "kill list" and had assassinated with a drone strike two weeks before. Al Awlaki holds the notorious distinction of being the first US citizen "targeted" by the US government - the first time that the US has said in advance that it would seek to kill one of its own citizens without telling a court why.

Abdulrahman had not seen his father for years. He had left his family home in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, in September 2011 to try to find him, but his father was killed before they met.

Now his grandfather, Nasser Al Awlaki, Al Awlaki's father, and a former government minister in Yemen, is challenging the US in court to try to find out why he was killed. Writing in The New York Times last week, he said it was not until this past May that the US government admitted it was responsible for the death of the 16-year old, although all the attorney general would say was that the boy was not "specifically targeted".

The case is exposing not merely the extensive secrecy that surrounds the Obama administration's policy of "targeted killings" but also how reluctant the government is to accept any oversight at all. A lawyer for the Obama administration, seeking to have the case thrown out of the Washington court, argued that, in essence, the government had the right to kill US citizens it designated as "dangerous" without any court even reviewing the decision. The judge hearing the lawsuit was shocked: "No, no, no," she said. "The executive is not an effective check on the executive."

Yet, such secrecy and the lack of any oversight is typical of what the US under Barack Obama appears to believe is its right. This is what the American journalist Tom Junod, who has written extensively about the US policy of killing those it deems enemies, exposes when he wrote that the Obama government "speaks as though nothing could be harder than killing individuals and behaves as though nothing could be easier - and carries out what amounts to executions on a mass scale".

Why does this matter? Surely what happened to a couple of US citizens in a country far from home is only of interest to America and those who follow America's policy?

There is, however, a wider point at stake. The Obama administration has arrogated to itself the power of life and death, even over its own citizens. What hope, then, for those who are not? In an interconnected world, it seems anachronistic that citizenship still provides some meagre defence against the excesses of powerful governments. There were five other boys blown apart that day in October, but the only one we are talking about is the one who held US citizenship.

And yet, what the case of Abdulrahman Al Awlaki shows is that Mr Obama has swept away even that flimsy shield. Now, regardless of your passport, regardless of who or where you are, regardless of any evidence against you, the US believes it has the right to kill you and not tell anyone why. That's why the case matters. Whatever crimes Anwar Al Awlaki was accused of and killed for, they do not condemn the son.

It doesn't matter that Abdulrahman, in photographs released by the American Civil Liberties Union, looks like a typical teenage kid, a pleasantly awkward boy that his grandfather described as having "a mop of curly hair and a wide, goofy smile". It doesn't matter that, again as described by his grandfather, he liked The Simpsons and Snoop Dogg. It doesn't especially matter what his views, his hobbies or his clothes were like.

What matters is that he was killed by his own government, a government set up explicitly to protect him. What matters is that, as far as his family knows, and as far as his government will say, he was killed for no reason and without warning.

What matters is that if this is how the US is prepared to act, killing its own citizens without any explanation, without any oversight from the courts, without due process of law or recognition of mistakes, how then will it explain, justify or be held accountable for the hundreds of foreign citizens who have also met their deaths from drone strikes?


Bagram: The Other Guantanamo The American government is still holding about 60 prisoners without charge at the Afghan prison

Bagram: The Other Guantanamo
The American government is still holding about 60 prisoners without charge at the Afghan prison

By John Knefel

U.S. soldiers stand guard beside prison cells at Bagram prison in Afghanistan.MASSOUD HOSSAINI/AFP/Getty Images 

The months-long hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay has returned the subject of indefinite detention to U.S. headlines this year, but that notorious island prison isn't the only place where detainees in the war on terror are being held indefinitely by the United States without charge. Around 60 non-Afghan nationals are currently being kept by the U.S. at the prison near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan – all without charge or trial – following the hand-over of around 3,000 Afghan prisoners to the Afghan government in March.

About two-thirds of the detainees, known as third country nationals, are Pakistani. Some of them have been held for nearly a decade, according to a lawyer who is fighting for his clients' freedom. Omran Belhadi is an attorney with the Justice Pakistan Project, based in Lahore, which represents 11 detainees currently held by the U.S. "They are being held without charge, trial or access to a lawyer, which constitutes a violation of international human rights law," says Belhadi. "Quite a few of them have been recommended for release by the U.S. government but remain stuck at Bagram, because the U.S. and Pakistani governments are failing to negotiate the terms of their repatriation."

Though the detainees at Bagram aren't mentioned often in the U.S., Chris Rogers, who focuses on conflict-related detention at the Open Society Foundations, says that the prison remains a problem for America's image in the Middle East. "For Afghans, Pakistanis and many others around the world, Bagram is a symbol of hypocrisy and injustice," says Rogers. "Ending the war in Afghanistan, and closing the chapter of war-on-terror detention that both Guantanamo and Bagram have come to symbolize, means the U.S. has to resolve detainees' cases and end their legal limbo."

In March, the U.S. military transferred the majority of control of the prison at Bagram, which it calls the Detention Facility in Parwan, to the Afghan government. The transfer was scheduled to happen months earlier, but tensions between the two countries – including U.S. fears that Afghanistan would release prisoners the U.S. wants held – delayed the turnover. The U.S. is scheduled to remove significant numbers of troops from Afghanistan by December 2014, but how many remains undecided.

Pentagon spokesperson Todd Breasseale says in an email that the third country nationals held by the U.S. "at the small part of Parwan that we still use are all [Law of War] detainees" – the same authority that applies to nearly every detainee at Guantanamo. (There are currently 166 detainees held at Guantanamo, 86 of whom have been deemed transferrable because they are not threats to U.S. national security.) That legal rationale allows the U.S. to hold prisoners until the end of hostilities in the war against al Qaeda, which Pentagon officials have suggested could last as much as another 20 years.

It remains unclear what the future holds for the prison at Bagram, though Belhadi, the attorney in Pakistan, is not optimistic. "Our impression is that Bagram will remain open even after U.S. combat operations cease in December 2014," he says. The way forward for his individual clients and the rest of the detainees is also unclear. There is a significant danger that they could be tortured if they are turned over to the Afghans, and Belhadi says the Afghans don't want them anyway: "They're aware of the diplomatic hurdles involved in repatriation and want no part in it."

Rogers, at Open Society, says the U.S. knows "the clock is ticking" in these cases, and that "as the U.S. withdraws its forces and ends its combat mission in Afghanistan, it will not have the same legal basis to capture and detain individuals."

How does the U.S. military see the impending drawdown in Afghanistan affecting its legal authority to hold detainees? When asked if Bagram will stay open past December 2014, Breasseale, the Pentagon spokesperson, says detainees will continue to be held "through to when final disposition is decided," but that the U.S. "maintains that it shall not give up the humane – and ultimately reversible – option of removing enemy combatants from the battlefield."

As of now, Belhadi says six detainees – three of whom are his clients – are scheduled to be repatriated to Pakistan in September of this year, due in part to litigation his firm has brought before the Lahore High Court.

Whether U.S. courts have jurisdiction to order detainees released from Bagram remains partially unsettled, though the outlook for the detainees doesn't look good. Following the U.S. Supreme Court's 2008 ruling in Boumediene v. Bush, which extended habeas corpus rights to detainees held at Guantanamo, lawyers for Bagram detainees sought to have those rights applied to their clients. After an initial win, the case – known as al-Maqaleh v. Gates – was overturned on appeal, heard again unsuccessfully with additional evidence in district court, and is currently on its second round of appeals.

Amin Al-Bakri, a Yemeni held by the U.S. without charge since 2002 and one of three petitioners in the al-Maqaleh case, "was tortured and coercively interrogated in CIA custody at undisclosed 'black site' locations," according to Golnaz Fakhimi, a lawyer with CUNY law school who represents al-Bakri. She adds that her client has been cleared for release three separate times. "The indefinite detention of Amin and other rendered non-Afghans at Bagram contrasts starkly with President Obama's renewed promise to close Guantلnamo," says Fakhimi. "The contrast reveals that his promise to close Guantanamo is not necessarily a promise to end the practice of indefinite detention that makes Guantanamo so problematic."

Rogers is even more blunt in his characterization. "Right now," he says, "Bagram is another Guantanamo Bay that you've heard less about."


Report Card from Libya Blood and Oil

Report Card from Libya
Blood and Oil


On September 16, 2013, the Libyan National Oil Corporation is going to hold a three-day fest called the Libya Forum for Oil, Gas and Sustainable Growth. The speakers include a mix of Libyan government officials and energy bureaucrats as well as suits from the major oil and gas corporations. The opening session, for instance, will be anchored by a keynote address from the Libyan Minister of Oil and Gas, Dr. Abdelbari al-Arusi ("Building Libya’s Future from Resource Wealth"). Dr Nurri Berruein, chairman of the National Oil Corporation and Ferdinando Rigardo, regional head of Repsol, the Spanish petrochemical multinational, will join him on the panel. Rigardo is no stranger to North Africa’s oil. In 2011, during the Arab Spring, he was at another such summit in Madrid where he noted in typical corporate jargon, "The bottom-line is European countries may need to increase their involvement within the internal sustainable development of these countries as to maintain and improve relations, which are crucial in the European energy panorama." In other words, European petrochemical firms will need to bet on the winners and help them secure their dominion so as to ensure the smooth flow of oil and gas across the Mediterranean. Repsol will be standing shoulder to shoulder with political and technical advisors (such as Petroleum Regimes Advisory) and with petrochemical multinationals (such as Eni, Schlumberger, Zakhem).
For a week now, the oil workers at the Zueitina oil port near the city of Ajdabiya in eastern Libya have blockaded the port. Last Tuesday, in the evening, just as the oil workers suspended a strike at oil-fields 103A and 103D in honour of Ramadan about a dozen men entered the port and took possession of the facility. One of the engineers at the port reported, "The group arrived and asked that operations be shut down. A ship bound for Italy was being loaded with crude and I had to negotiate with them to allow the loading to continue. It was difficult to convince them but the ship is being loaded. Everything else is shut down." A week on, a Libyan oil official notes, "The situation is still the same. Exports are down." Indeed, exports dropped from 1.6 million barrels a day to 1.36 million barrels, and electric supply also collapsed. Twenty per cent of Libya’s oil leaves from this port.
Local residents in the area of Zueitina have been unrelenting in their demand for jobs in the lucrative oil sector. Last December, about one hundred and twenty people broke into the oil terminal and stopped work there for almost a week. They demanded jobs and health benefits. Deputy Oil Minister Omar Shakmak said at that time that the management closed down operations to "avoid any risk" as he deplored the capture of oil facilities as protest. But this is indeed what continued to occur – in February of this year, in May (when protestors shut down a value that sends oil into the terminal), and again in July. The protests simmer down after deals are made, and then when nothing comes of it, the residents are once more inflamed. What worries the Libyan authorities is the close nexus between oil workers’ struggles and the aggravations of the local residents. That is why Oil Minister al-Arusi hastily met with a delegation of oil workers in Tripoli and told them that some of their demands would be implemented after Ramadan. It would be far too dangerous to allow the oil workers’ grievances to be bundled politically with those of the citizenry who cavil that their sacrifices in the battles of 2011 has come to naught. The oil bureaucrats and their petrochemical friends seem to have made out well. Not so the rag-tag "tribesmen" of eastern Libya.
Suicidal Scenes
At the annual Aspen meeting on July 20, US African Command head Carter Ham said that the five men suspected of killing US Ambassador Christopher Stevens cannot be arrested because of "the fragility of the Libyan government." "Progress was made initially," he said, "but then the government changes, key leaders change." Stevens was killed in September, when the Prime Minister was Abdulrahim el-Keib, a US citizen
15125371with close ties to Washington. By November the government changed, with the new Prime Minister Ali Zeidan far closer to the Europeans (he was the rebel’s envoy to Europe during 2011). Zeidan’s cabinet was also less pro-American, with many of them had been accused of having close ties to the Qaddafi regime – subsequently cleared by the National Integrity Commission.

Zeidan’s patience with the current dispensation seems to have altered. Last month, when insurgents seized hold of several government offices in Tripoli, Zeidan’s Defense Minister Mohammed Al-Barghathi offered his resignation. It was refused. Last week, Zeidan sacked al-Barghathi after major clashes paralyzed the streets of Tripoli. Such "suicidal scenes," Zeidan said, should not be part of the landscape of a modern city. Militias from the different cities of Libya have remained encamped in the capital, demanding a greater share of the spoils. One of the groups had seized the Interior Ministry, which was held for about a week. Their demand was that the government disband the Supreme Security Committee, the agency responsible for law and order in the capital but made up of militiamen whose discipline is questionable.
Walking the streets of Tripoli can be fraught, but so can trying to use the airport. Clashes in the Hay Al-Zohour district, near the airport, have become commonplace. It is mainly between militias from Misrata and Zintan who have been at it for over a year. It is one thing for officials to say that these are less city-based militia and more just young people looking for trouble, and it is another for them to admit that these city-based militias who have not been integrated into the armed forces or have found jobs have now morphed into criminal gangs. Oily claims about "bringing them to justice" slide off the backs of the RPGs routinely seen on the shoulders of the young men.
Assassinations in the East
Tripoli, being the centre of power, has fallen deep into the pit of instability. In the eastern part of the country, the dangers are not less but different. There are the strikes and the attacks on the oil facilities, but these are less violent to the lives of ordinary people. They are reported with drama in the business press because they are violent toward the bottom line. Last month, the army chief Yussef al-Mangoush resigned because of clashes in Benghazi between the Libyan Shield Brigade, the government-sponsored militia and those militias outside government control. Thirty people died. A local activist, Ahmed Belashahr told al-Jazeera, "People protested because they believe militias go against Libya’s stability, which can only be achieved through a proper army and police." This struggle mirrors what happened in Tripoli this month.
But most of the violence in the east has not been as anarchic as the violence in Tripoli. Assassinations rule the day. Three in particular bear mention, all from last week:
(1) Col. Fathi el-Emami, head of the Derna Air Force Search and Rescue head, was shot dead;
(2) Col. Aqila al-Dukali Ubaidi, Commander of the Search and Rescue division of Benghazi’s Air Force, was abducted when he left el-Emami’s house where he went to offer his sorrow to the family. His body was found the next day;
(3) Col. Abdel Latif Amdawi el-Mazeeni was shot dead in Derna.
What unites these three killings is that all the victims were in the armed forces. Otherwise, el-Mazeeni (age 70) was the only one who spent his entire career under Qaddafi’s command although he did not have a political reputation. Ubaidi was in the staff of the assassinated head of the rebellion Major General Abdel-Fattah Younis, and el-Emami was his friend. Little links these attacks on army men with the attacks on the French, first the car bomb outside their Tripoli embassy in April and in early July a storm of gunfire at the convoy of France’s consul Jean Dufriche in Benghazi. The only bind is that these are targeted attacks that seem geared toward creating an atmosphere of instability in the country.
When the Libyan elect gather at the Corinthia Hotel in the well-appointed al Gadim area of Tripoli to talk about oil and gas in September, this gunfire will be on their minds. Oil deals have been swift, and revenues have begun to flow in. What spurred on the rebellion in 2011 was not Qaddafi’s prisons alone, although that is what motivated the political Islamists who knew its walls well. The bulk of the people who supported Qaddafi’s overthrow had begun to experience the down-side of neo-liberal policy – oil revenues had ceased to be transferred for their well-being and new opportunities for the next generations did not seem on the horizon (all this I detail in Arab Spring, Libyan Winter). This lesson is not clear to the new elect in Tripoli, who seem to believe that as long as they appear responsible to their Western backers and as long as they get the oil out and the revenue in all will be well. Rumbles from the ground show that the demands are greater than that, and that the demands cannot be met by the current dispensation.
In Egypt, it was mass demonstrations in concert with the army that led to Mubarak’s ouster in January 2011. Much the same sort of grammar led to the removal of Morsi last month. It was an armed uprising against Qaddafi, not mass demonstrations that threatened the Libyan regime. That NATO entered the fray simply hastened the end of the regime and handed over its keys to the neo-liberal technocrats (such as Mahmud Jibril and Shukri Ghanem). The new violence in Libya runs parallel to the new crowds in Tahrir Square. They are not happy with the first flush of what their rebellion produced. They are at it again. Not in five-star hotels but in their hovels.

Vijay Prashad will be in conversation with his editor Andy Hsiao (Verso Books) at the Brecht Forum on July 24 in New York City on his new book, The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.


Exclusive: Leaked Pakistani report confirms high civilian death toll in CIA drone strikes

Exclusive: Leaked Pakistani report confirms high civilian death toll in CIA drone strikes

by Chris Woods

Pakistan officially denied that 81 civilians including children died in this 2006 CIA drone strike – but a leaked document says otherwise. (Photo: Getty Images).

A secret document obtained by the Bureau reveals for the first time the Pakistan government’s internal assessment of dozens of drone strikes, and shows scores of civilian casualties.

The United States has consistently claimed only a tiny number of non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – despite research by the Bureau and others suggesting that over 400 civilians may have died in the nine-year campaign.

The internal document shows Pakistani officials too found that CIA drone strikes were killing a significant number of civilians – and have been aware of those deaths for many years.

Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children.

The confidential 12-page summary paper, titled Details of Attacks by Nato Forces/Predators in FATA was prepared by government officials in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Based on confidential reports from a network of government agents in the field, it outlines 75 separate CIA drone strikes between 2006 and late 2009 and provides details of casualties in many of the attacks. Five attacks alleged to be carried out by Nato or other unspecified forces are also listed.
The numbers recorded are much higher than those provided by the US administration, which continues to insist that no more than 50 to 60 'non-combatants’ have been killed by the CIA across the entire nine years of Pakistan bombings. New CIA director John Brennan has described claims to the contrary as 'intentional misrepresentations'.
The document shows that during the 2006-09 period covered, when Pakistan’s government and military were privately supporting the CIA’s campaign, officials had extensive internal knowledge of high civilian casualties.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Bureau the present Pakistani government opposes drone strikes: 'Pakistan’s position on drone strikes has been stipulated on several occasions. The drone strikes violate our sovereignty and international law. These also entail human rights and humanitarian implications.’
A former Political Agent for North Waziristan who was shown the leaked report by the Bureau says he does not believe the casualty figures to be exaggerated.
'There was no benefit in officials "cooking the books" here, since this document was clearly never intended to be seen outside the civilian administration,’ said Rauf Khan Khattak, who also recently served in Pakistan’s caretaker government.
Three separate sourcesThe leaked document – which the Bureau obtained from three separate sources – is based on field reports by government officials rather than on media coverage. The Bureau understands that the document is continually updated as attacks occur – although the copy obtained ends with a strike on October 24 2009.
Prepared for the FATA Secretariat – the political administration of the tribal areas – the document was never intended for public release. Since no individual victims are named, the Bureau has assessed that it is safe to publish the paper in its entirety.
The document often includes fresh information on strikes, for example confirming the location and target of a September 2 2008 CIA attack, only previously alluded to in a US intelligence document.
The newly released paper gives a precise location and casualty count for that strike, noting:
Predator attack was made on the house of Bakhtawar Khan Daur, Mohammad Khel, Tehsil Datta Khel Miranshah. One injured.
According to former officials familiar with the process, the internal casualty data listed in the document would have been collated through an extended network of government contacts.
Each tribal area such as North Waziristan is administered by a Political Agent and his assistants. Beneath them are agents known as tehsildars and naibs who gather information when drone strikes occur – the names and identities of those killed, damage to property and so on. Additional information is also drawn from the khassadar – the local tribal police – and from paid informants in villages.
'What you end up with in these reports is reasonably accurate, because it comes from on-the-ground sources cultivated over many years. And the political agent is only interested in properly understanding what actually happened,’ says former official Rauf Khan Khattak.
Key document
Both the US and Pakistani authorities have historically been wary of releasing casualty data for the 'secret’ CIA campaign.
However in March, UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC – who is carrying out an investigation into drone strikes – said that Pakistani officials had now produced estimates of civilians killed in CIA drone attacks.
Emmerson stated that Islamabad 'has been able to confirm that at least 400 civilians had been killed as a result of drone strikes, and that a further 200 individuals were regarded as probable non-combatants. Officials indicated that due to under-reporting and obstacles to effective investigation on the ground these figures were likely to be under-estimates of the number of civilian deaths.’
In contrast, leaked US intelligence documents recently obtained by news agency McClatchy show the CIA rarely admits to civilian deaths in Pakistan.
Yet the internal document obtained by the Bureau shows that for years Pakistani officials were noting privately what news media and researchers were already reporting publicly – that significant numbers of civilians were indeed being killed in CIA attacks.
In a US strike on the village of Damadola in January 2006, for example, officials noted: ’05 children 05 women and 6 mens [sic] all civilians’ died. Press reports at the time indicated that between 10 and 18 civilians had died.
The leaked report details 16 civilian deaths in this January 2006 drone strike. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

On four other occasions, tribal officials privately reported civilian deaths where the media had reported none.
On June 14 2009, for example, FATA officials secretly noted that an attack on a vehicle which killed three people was on 'a civilian pickup truck’. No Urdu or English-language media at the time reported any civilian deaths.
Most controversially, tribal officials reported back to Islamabad in October 2006 that 81 civilians, all but one of whom were described as children, were killed in a single drone strike on a religious school in Bajaur Agency.
According to officials, the casualties were ’80 children 01 men all civilian’.  It was widely reported at the time that scores of children had died: Pakistani newspaper The News published the names and ages of 69 children, under the UN definition of a child as being under 18 years old. The discrepancy appears to be because the FATA Secretariat has also classified older students killed as children.
As with all early CIA drone strikes, Pakistan’s military had initially claimed it was responsible for the 2006 Bajaur strike. As word of civilian deaths began to emerge, the army reversed its position and denied carrying out the attack, although it has consistently claimed that only militants died that day.
In June 2012, Pakistan’s former President General Pervez Musharraf told journalist Jemima Khan: 'In the media, they said it was all children. They were absolutely wrong. There may have been some collateral damage of some children but they were not children at all, they were all militants doing training inside.’
Jemima Khan is associate editor of British magazine the New Statesman and also the former wife of Pakistani politician Imran Khan – who campaigns vociferously against US drone strikes. 
'Can you imagine the uproar that would be caused anywhere else in the world if 94 children were reported murdered in just three years?’ Ms Khan told the Bureau.
Ms Khan said that she was angered to learn that senior military and government officials were denying the deaths of children at Bajaur, even as they privately knew otherwise.
'This leaked document proves what many have suspected all along – that US and Pakistani politicians have been lying to us,’ she said.
Former officials agree that the leaked document is most likely accurate: 'You can’t distort that kind of information. If children hadn’t been killed, we’d have had people coming to us from all over Bajaur who would have told us so,’ former FATA agent Rauf Khan Khattak insists.
Unnamed deadThe secret government papers are revealing, but they also have some puzzling omissions.
None of those killed are named in the document – either civilians or alleged or known militants. Even where prominent militant commanders were killed – such as Baitullah Mehsud, head of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP), who died in August 2009 – no reference is made to the target.
Reports of civilian deaths also disappear entirely for most of 2009, after President Obama took office.
In part this is because officials occasionally note that 'details of casualties are yet to be ascertained.’ But many credible reports of civilian deaths are simply missing.
The Bureau’s own research shows that civilian deaths have been credibly reported in at least 17of the 53 CIA drone strikes in Obama’s first year in office.
Yet FATA officials report civilian deaths in only three incidents in 2009.
On January 23 that year, for example, the secret file notes only that five people died in a strike in South Waziristan – with no indication of civilian deaths.
However, a letter from the South Waziristan Political Agency – obtained in 2010 by the Center for Civilians in Conflict (right) – clearly notes four civilian deaths in that attack. President Obama is also reported to have been informed of civilian deaths in this and another strike on the same day.
For the years 2006 to 2008, the internal document far more closely matches media reports of civilian deaths. Yet measured against the public record, it is unclear why references to civilian deaths in the report disappear almost entirely after Obama’s election.
'No such documents’Ambassador Rustan Shah Mohmand, who was a senior administrator in the tribal areas for 25 years between 1973 and 1998, cautions that the released file might not be the fullest data available.
Noting that Pakistan’s military is responsible for security in FATA, he told the Bureau: 'Tribal documents might present a broad picture. But any accuracy is dependent on what data the military chooses to release to or withhold from the political agents. In the last eight years, for example, no precise casualty figures have ever been submitted to Pakistan’s parliament.’
Rumours have been circulating for many months of internal Pakistani documents detailing drone strike casualties. The Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court, Dost Muhammad Khan, began demanding in mid 2012 that the FATA Secretariat release all casualty data it held.
Khan presided over a successful civil case against the CIA brought by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. FATA officials at first claimed that no such internal documents existed, though in August 2012 an official presented the court with limited details of CIA strikes up to 2008.
In his final judgment Chief Justice Khan, citing 'Political Authorities’ in FATA, said that 896 civilians had been killed by the CIA between 2007 and 2012 in North Waziristan, with a further 533 civilian deaths in South Waziristan.
Those figures indicate that FATA officials may now be claiming a far higher civilian death toll than that reported by the leaked document -  although the source for those claims is not clear.
'How come the same civil servants are feeding one kind of data to the Peshawar High Court and another kind of data to the FATA secretariat?’ asked Shahzad Akbar, a legal fellow at charity Reprieve and the Pakistani barrister behind the successful Peshawar case. 'Are they fudging the numbers based on who was on the receiving end?’
US counter-terrorism officials declined to comment on the specifics of the leaked document, though referred the Bureau to recent comments by both President Obama and CIA Director Brennan stating that the US goes to great lengths to limit civilian deaths in covert drone strikes.