U.S. Military Drones and Terrorism

Mentioned in this RNRH podcast is how U.S. military drones in third world countries contribute to many of the people in those countries feeling terrorized. Also mentioned is that there are civilians in the militaristically-effected countries who aren’t even attending familial weddings anymore, such is the fear they have of dying from U.S. drone strikes, which indeed have a record of killing innocent people at weddings.

“Typically… raw recruits are kids straight out of high school… they’re often working in the Western United States… in bases in Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona… where they work twelve hour shifts.  And it’s their job to watch somebody on the other side of the world… One of the people whose story I tell is a young woman named Heather Linebaugh… and she said she often would tell the commanders and the pilots that they were making a mistake… and what she said was nobody paid attention to her, and here’s the reason:  because she was nineteen, because she was straight out of high school, because she was at the bottom of the chain, the pilots, who typically graduated from college, twenty-five and older, the commanders, who might be in their forties, didn’t really take her opinion seriously. But here’s the rub.  She was actually the person who saw what happened day in and day out.  So even though she was the lowest person on that chain of command… she was the one who knew the most… She described to me… how she would literally go away and cry because she had felt like she had really sent somebody to their death without giving them the opportunity to find out if they were really guilty.” — Investigative Journalist Pratap Chatterjee

Poll Finds Strong Public Opposition to Endless U.S. Military Intervention Abroad

There is over $200 million of daily spending on the “war on terror,” and the U.S. has been at war for much of its history. In the 21st century, the U.S. has already totaled costs of over $5.5 trillion with its wars overseas. It’s no wonder that there’s a strong desire to end the damaging militarism.

Last week, the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Foreign Policy—a bipartisan advocacy group calling for congressional oversight of America’s lengthy list of military interventions abroad—released the results of a survey that show broad public support for Congress to reclaim its constitutional prerogatives in the exercise of foreign policy (see Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution) and for fewer US military interventions generally. Undertaken last November by J. Wallin Opinion Research, the new survey revealed “a national voter population that is largely skeptical of the practicality or benefits of military intervention overseas, including both the physical involvement of the US military and also extending to military aid in the form of funds or equipment as well.”

Bill Dolbow, the spokesman for the Committee for a Responsible Foreign Policy, said, “We started this initiative to give a voice to the people and the people have spoken—Congress needs to enact more oversight before intervening in conflict abroad.”

The headline findings show, among other things, that 86.4 percent of those surveyed feel the American military should be used only as a last resort, while 57 percent feel that US military aid to foreign countries is counterproductive. The latter sentiment “increases significantly” when involving countries like Saudi Arabia, with 63.9 percent saying military aid—including money and weapons—should not be provided to such countries.

The poll shows strong, indeed overwhelming, support, for Congress to reassert itself in the oversight of US military interventions, with 70.8 percent of those polled saying Congress should pass legislation that would restrain military action overseas in three specific ways:

  • by requiring “clearly defined goals to authorize military engagement” (78.8 percent);
  • by requiring Congress “to have both oversight and accountability regarding where troops are stationed” (77 percent);
  • by requiring that “any donation of funds or equipment to a foreign country be matched by a pledge of that country to adhere to the rules of the Geneva Convention” (84.8 percent).

One survey in the article says that there’s a rarity in issues having bipartisan support, which is incorrect enough to be noted. There are actually a fair number of issues with significant support from across the political spectrum, such as breaking up the big banks and allowing for free public university tuition.

U.S.-Backed Saudi Airstrike Killed 8 Women and 2 Girls at a Wedding

These war crimes are acts of state terrorism that must be stopped before more innocent civilians are unnecessarily murdered. Imagine the fear and devastation that weddings being bombed causes people overseas.

Eight women and two children from the same Yemeni family were killed when an air strike by forces of the Saudi-led coalition involved in the country’s three-year-old war hit a wedding party, residents said on Monday.

The 10 people were returning on Sunday evening from a wedding in Marib province, an area east of the capital Sanaa held by the Iran-allied Houthi group, when their vehicle was struck, the sources said.

A spokesman for the coalition, which denies targeting civilians and says that every report of an attack is investigated, did not respond to an email requesting comment.

The residents said the victims, all female, were part of the same family, but gave no further details on their ages or if anyone else was traveling with them.

The coalition has been conducting regular air strikes in Houthi-held areas as part of a campaign to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power.

The United Nations says that more than 60,000 people have been killed or wounded in the conflict, which also displaced more than two million and triggered a cholera epidemic that has infected about one million people.

Is it any surprise when missiles are then launched at Saudi Arabia? That’s how state terrorism breeds more terrorism.

Obama Administration Officials Admit Some Flaws of the Violent Drone Programs

The officials don’t go far enough, as they fail to admit that the systematic U.S. killings of civilians via drone strikes are egregious war crimes, but I give them some amount of credit for admitting certain shortcomings of the drone programs. Once a lot of people are situated in those high-level governmental environments that direct institutionalized murder, they often internalize truly horrible values. The Obama administration notably had a day of the week referred to as Terror Tuesday, and I have to wonder what that did to the minds of those who sat through those gatherings.

“The Uncounted,”Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal’s groundbreaking piece about the civilians killed in the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State—and the considerable gap between their tally of such deaths and the numbers reported by the Pentagon—is one of them. We cannot speak to the precise data, but their New York Times Magazine piece, and the verified tragedy of the Razzo family at its center, are emblematic of a bigger story that unfortunately rings true.

Basim Razzo was a member of one of the oldest families in Mosul, and the article recounts the night he woke up to find his roof collapsed and home destroyed—the result of an American bomb. Though Razzo himself survived, the attack took from him his wife and daughter, and the story chronicles his investigation into why it occurred. He finds, to his horror, that his house was deliberately targeted; American drones had monitored it for three days before striking, apparently acting on outdated reports that it was an ISIS command center.  The drone footage failed to confirm those reports. It also failed to refute them. That, apparently, was sufficient for the U.S. military to proceed.

The Times story is one of faulty intelligence driving wrong-headed assumptions that decimate innocent lives and embitter survivors. It is a story about how a legal and bureaucratic fog can make it almost impossible for tragic mistakes to come to light, too often leaving instead a false sense of comfort that such mistakes never happened at all. And it is a story about a policy that warrants honest discussion, and change. We both worked with that policy up close. In the Obama White House, one of us was responsible for human rights, the other for coordinating the counter-ISIS campaign. In this respect, we were part of an administration that fell short.

International Criminal Court: U.S. War Crimes Likely Committed in Afghanistan War

A quote delivered in 1990 that is still true today: “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.” — Noam Chomsky

The chief prosecutor of the international criminal court is seeking approval to investigate allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan, including possible torture by US forces and the CIA.

If authorised, the investigation would also look at crimes allegedly committed by armed opposition groups, such as the Taliban, and Afghan government forces.

The ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said in a report last year that the US military and the CIA may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2014.

Investigation Finds That U.S. Bombings Kill 31 Times More Iraqi Civilians Than Officially Reported

Do you ever imagine the fear that the presence of lethal drones causes in some countries overseas? There are a lot of innocent people that have unfortunately been left heartbroken by U.S. bombing destroying their communities and killing their loved ones. That isn’t stopping terrorism — it’s breeding it, and it’s wasting immense resources that could be used in so many better ways. The policy should be waging peace, not war.

An 18-month investigation by a pair of New York Times reporters reveals far more civilians are killed in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—particularly in the air war—than the U.S.-led coalition reports.

After visiting nearly 150 bombing sites in northern Iraq between April 2016 and June 2017, as well as the American base in Qatar where decisions are made about coalition air strikes, Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal “found that one in five of the coalition strikes we identified resulted in civilian death, a rate more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition.”

Since the U.S.-war against ISIS began in August 2014, the coalition has released monthly reports in which it claims tens of thousands of ISIS combatants and 466 civilians have been killed in Iraq. While the coalition claims civilians have died in only 89 of its more than 14,000 airstrikes in Iraq, Khan and Gopal’s on-the-ground reporting suggests the civilian death toll from coalition bombings in well into the thousands. U.K.-based Airwars estimates at least 3,000 civilians have been killed, but the group’s director told the reporters Airwars “may be significantly underreporting deaths in Iraq” due to lack of reliable reporting.

In addition to touring and satellite mapping the destroyed sites, Khan and Gopal pored over local news reports, and interviewed hundreds of witnesses, survivors, family members, intelligence informants, and local officials. At the air base in Qatar, they “were given access to the main operations floor and interviewed senior commanders, intelligence officials, legal advisers, and civilian-casualty assessment experts.” The also handed over data they collected on 103 air strikes from ISIS-controlled regions and examined analysts’ responses.

“Our reporting,” they write, “revealed a consistent failure by the coalition to investigate claims properly or to keep records that make it possible to investigate the claims at all,” concluding, “this may be the least transparent war in recent American history.”

In addition to poor record-keeping and neglecting investigations, the reporters point to civlians unexpectedly being near to an ISIS target and “flawed or outdated intelligence that conflated civilians with combatants” as common reasons for civilian casualties.

The coalition and the U.S. Department of Defense post videos of bombings to their websites, which “are presented as evidence of a military campaign unlike any other—precise, transparent and unyielding,” Khan and Gopal write. A Central Command spokesperson insists that “U.S. and coalition forces work very hard to be precise in airstrikes,” and that the coalition is “conducting one of the most precise air campaigns in military history”—but one such clip previously featured on the sites is a bombing of two homes with a caption claiming they were operating an ISIS car-bomb factory.

The homes were in fact owned by Iraqi civilians—Basim Razzo and his brother. The reporters recount the killings of Razzo’s loved ones in vivid detail. Razzo is a 56-year-old who worked as account manager for a Chinese multinational telecommunications company; in the 1980s, while he studied engineering at Western Michigan University, his wife Mayada sold Avon products to their neighbors. A few days after the attack, the badly wounded Razzo wrote on Facebook: “In the middle of the night, coalition airplanes targeted two houses occupied by innocent civilians. Is this technology? This barbarian attack cost me the lives of my wife, daughter, brother, and nephew.”

[…]

Because of his ties to the U.S, Razzo occasionally video conferences with university students about his experiences. “I have nothing against the regular American citizen. I lived among you guys for eight years,” he recently told a Penn State class of about 750 students. “This situation of war, big corporations are behind it.”

Yemen Crisis Threatens Many Thousands

Among the worst atrocities of the past few years is what has happened to Yemen, but because the U.S., UK, and Saudi governments are primarily responsible for that country’s crisis, it hasn’t received adequate attention. Yemen could experience the largest famine in decades, with millions of potential victims.

The U.S. shouldn’t be bombing Yemen and it sure as hell shouldn’t be supporting Saudi Arabia bombing Yemen either. It’s much better to be a humanitarian superpower rather than a militaristic one.

Untold thousands of innocent people will die in Yemen unless the Saudi-led military coalition unconditionally lifts it blockade of the country’s ports, the heads of three UN agencies have warned.

In a powerful joint statement the heads of the World Food Programme, Unicef and the World Health Organisation said the cost of the blockade was “being measured in the number of lives that are lost”.

Supplies including medicines, vaccines and food are waiting to enter the country, the agencies said. “Without them, untold thousands of innocent victims, among them many children, will die.”

The plea follows a strongly worded statement released late on Wednesday by the UK Foreign Office that called on all parties to “ensure immediate access for commercial and humanitarian supplies to avert the threat of starvation and disease faced by millions of citizens”.

[…]

More than two years of conflict between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels have devastated Yemen, which is beset by famine and cholera.

Even with the partial lifting of the blockade, the World Food Programme estimates that an additional 3.2 million people will be pushed into hunger. If left untreated, 150,000 malnourished children could die within the coming months.

“To deprive this many from the basic means of survival is an unconscionable act and a violation of humanitarian principles and law,” the joint UN statement said.

On Wednesday Save the Children said an estimated 130 Yemeni children or more died every day from extreme hunger and disease, and that the continuing blockade was likely to increase the death rate. More than 50,000 children are believed to have died in Yemen so far in 2017, the international aid group said.

[…]

Shane Stevenson, Oxfam’s country director in Yemen, said: “If those with the power to act fail to do so, history will judge these countries as either responsible or complicit in the unnecessary deaths of thousands of people in Yemen. They need to immediately open borders, and allow the free flow of vital aid and help secure a ceasefire.”

U.S. Has Spent an Absurd $5.6 Trillion on War Costs Since 9/11

Imagine what that money could have been used differently for. It’s been known to competent economists for a long time that spending on public goods such as educational initiatives and technological and infrastructure development are far more efficient uses of taxpayer expenditures.

A new analysis offers a damning assessment of the United States’ so-called global war on terror, and it includes a “staggering” estimated price tag for wars waged since 9/11—over $5.6 trillion.

The Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Center says the figure—which covers the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from 2001 through 2018—is the equivalent of more than $23,386 per taxpayer.

[…]

The center’s figure is far greater than the $1.5 trillion the Pentagon estimated (pdf) in July for the costs of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, as it gives a fuller picture by including “war-related spending by the State Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security,” writes Neta C. Crawford, a professor of political science at Boston University.

Her report notes that even the $5.6 trillion tally underestimates the true figures, as it doesn’t capture “every budgetary expense related to these wars,” such as state and local costs to take care of veterans; nor does it take into account the funds used for military equipment “gifts” to countries involved in the conflicts.

“In sum,” it states, “although this report’s accounting is comprehensive, there are still billions of dollars not included in its estimate.”

[…]

Moreover, a full accounting of any war’s burdens cannot be placed in columns on a ledger. From the civilians harmed and displaced by violence, to the soldiers killed and wounded, to the children who play years later on roads and fields sown with improvised explosive devices and cluster bombs, no set of numbers can convey the human toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or how they have spilled into the neighboring states of Syria and Pakistan, and come home to the U.S. and its allies in the form of wounded veterans and contractors. Wars also entail an opportunity cost—what we might have done differently with the money spent and obligated and how veterans’ and civilians’ lives could have been lived differently.”

equivalent2

Echoing a point made by other observers of failed U.S. counter-terrorism strategies, the report states that “the more people the U.S. kills, the more seem to join the organizations the U.S. was already fighting, even as new radical groups spring up.”

The report also suggests the war costs will only continue to pile up: “There is no end in sight to the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and the associated operations in Pakistan. Similarly, despite recent gains, there is little clear sense of how long the U.S. will be engaged in Iraq and Syria.”

Reacting to the new report, William D. Hartung , director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, writes in an op-ed at The Hill: “Was this huge expenditure of blood and treasure worth it? Did it substantially reduce the risks of terrorism, or reduce the likelihood of future conflicts? The short answer is no.”

U.S. Airstrikes Killing More Civilians Under the Trump Regime

Airwars-reporting

Periodic reminder that the death of those civilians constitute war crimes and cruel, terrorizing militarism.

According to research from the nonprofit monitoring group Airwars, the first seven months of the Trump administration have already resulted in more civilian deaths than under the entirety of the Obama administration. Airwars reports that under Obama’s leadership, the fight against IS led to approximately 2,300 to 3,400 civilian deaths. Through the first seven months of the Trump administration, they estimate that coalition air strikes have killed between 2,800 and 4,500 civilians.

Researchers also point to another stunning trend – the “frequent killing of entire families in likely coalition airstrikes.” In May, for example, such actions led to the deaths of at least 57 women and 52 children in Iraq and Syria.

The vast increase in civilian deaths is not limited to the anti-IS campaign. In Afghanistan, the U.N. reports a 67 percent increase in civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes in the first six months of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016.

[…]

While urban warfare has increased, Trump’s team has substantially escalated air strikes and bombings. According to CENTCOM data, the military has already used 20 percent more missiles and bombs in combined air operations in 2017 than in all of 2016. One notable airstrike in March, for example, killed 105 Iraqi civilians when U.S. forces dropped a 500-pound bomb in order to take out two snipers in Mosul. In fact, a Human Rights Watch analysis of bomb craters in West Mosul estimates that U.S. coalition forces are routinely using larger and less precise bombs – weighing between 500 and 1,000 pounds – than in prior operations.

Trump Regime to Drop Some Constraints on Drone Strikes and Raids

Unfortunately, this will mean an increase in the U.S. military’s war crimes abroad. The revealed plans of loosening drone restrictions are also noted to be around when Human Rights Watch reported that 84 civilians were killed in a U.S. air strike on a school and market in March.

The Trump administration is preparing to dismantle key Obama-era limits on drone strikes and commando raids outside conventional battlefields, according to officials familiar with internal deliberations. The changes would lay the groundwork for possible counterterrorism missions in countries where Islamic militants are active but the United States has not previously tried to kill or capture them.

President Trump’s top national security advisers have proposed relaxing two rules, the officials said. First, the targets of kill missions by the military and the C.I.A., now generally limited to high-level militants deemed to pose a “continuing and imminent threat” to Americans, would be expanded to include foot-soldier jihadists with no special skills or leadership roles. And second, proposed drone attacks and raids would no longer undergo high-level vetting.

But administration officials have also agreed that they should keep in place one important constraint for such attacks: a requirement of “near certainty” that no civilian bystanders will be killed.

The proposal to overhaul the rules has quietly taken shape over months of debate among administration officials and awaits Mr. Trump’s expected signature. Despite the preservation of the protections for civilians, the other changes seemed likely to draw criticism from human rights groups.

“Near certainty” contrasted with actual reporting:

A new report by Human Rights Watch says the U.S. military killed at least 84 civilians in Syria in March, when it bombed a school and a marketplace in two towns outside Raqqa. On March 20, U.S. airstrikes hit a school where displaced people were taking shelter in the village of Mansoura. Two days later, U.S. airstrikes hit a crowded market and bakery in the city of Tabqa. Local residents told Human Rights Watch the death toll from the two attacks is likely far higher than 84 civilians, because bodies were still buried underneath the rubble.

Civilian Nightmares in Raqqa Amidst War Crimes

There is a record number of munitions being directed towards Raqqa, Syria, and the results are a large number of civilian deaths. U.S. military intervention in the Middle East has been much more harmful than beneficial, and therefore it shouldn’t continue today.

US-led Coalition forces are firing record numbers of bombs, missiles and artillery shells into besieged areas of Raqqa city – part of a bloody campaign to dislodge so-called Islamic State (ISIS) from its self proclaimed capital. The assault is also reportedly killing hundreds of trapped civilians every month – a charge the Coalition strenuously denies.

On average one Coalition bomb, missile or artillery round was fired into Raqqa every eight minutes during August, according to official data provided to Airwars. A total of 5,775 bombs, shells and missiles were launched by US-led forces into the city during the month in support of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the ground.

By way of comparison, US-led forces fired ten times more munitions into Raqqa during Augustthan were released by US aircraft across all of Afghanistan for the same month (503), according to recent data issued by Air Force Central Command (AFCENT).

Bloody fight

The SDF is now in the fourth month of a slow and bloody battle to seize Raqqa from ISIS. Yet even after announcing the capture of more than half of the city, Coalition data shows record numbers of munitions being fired – higher even than were loosed in any one month (5,500 in March) during the tough fight for West Mosul, an area far larger than Raqqa.

The intensity of the air and artillery bombardment on Raqqa – primarily by US forces – closely correlates with high casualty reports on the ground. In July, munition use and likely civilian casualties from Coalition strikes in Raqqa fell by 32 percent and 33 percent respectively. In August both munition use and reported casuialties rose steeply again.

Airwars monitoring indicates that at least 433 civilians likely died as a result of Coalition actions at Raqqa during August — more than double the number of estimated fatalities the previous month. In total more than 1,000 civilians have now credibly been reported killed since the assault began on June 6th, according to Airwars monitoring. The UN reports that an estimated 25,000 civilians remain trapped in Raqqa, prevented from fleeing by ISIS. Much of the city’s infrastructure, including its medical system, has also largely being reduced to rubble.

Senate Approves $700 Billion Military Budget

An outrageously extreme amount this is, and that’s while the Pentagon has been in violation of federal law since the 1990s by failing to provide an audit of its budget. It also should be noted that providing free public university tuition in the U.S. would cost less than $80 billion a year and make a far more positive impact than the equivalent expenditures on harmful military weapons.

The Senate has overwhelmingly approved a sweeping defense policy bill that would pump $700 billion into the military, putting the U.S. armed forces on track for a budget greater than at any time during the decade-plus wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senators passed the legislation by an 89-8 vote Monday. The measure authorizes $700 billion in military spending for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, expands U.S. missile defenses in response to North Korea’s growing hostility and refuses to allow excess military bases to be closed.

[…]

The bill allots $10.6 billion for 94 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, which is two dozen more than Trump requested. The bill also provides $25 billion to pay for 13 ships, which is $5 billion and five ships more than the Trump sought.