Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Did You Kill Blair Peach?

I remember seeing many people throughout the 80's wearing t-shirts with the emblazon 'Who Killed Blair Peach? Did You Kill Blair?' The murder in East London in 1979 of the teacher and peace activist has just been confirmed to be the work of the Metropolitan Police. The contemporary reports, released under the 30-year rule, have established that the police evidence of the time was falsified. The culprits have moved on but are still alive. Scotland Yard have said there will be no charges. Why not? Witnesses might be hard to trace but the report, and the background paperwork, date from 1979. This smacks of the ‘let’s move on and forget it’ brigade of New Labour and their London establishment-based cronies. ‘It was all a long time ago’ was never recognised before now to be a defence against murder (and, interestingly, war crimes) in Britain.The killers could be charged within a week.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Secret US Prisons In Afghanistan

They took the barefoot Rahman and a cousin to a helicopter some distance away and transported them to a small American base in a neighboring province for interrogation. After two days, US forces released Rahman's cousin. But Rahman has not been seen or heard from since.

"We've called his phone, but it doesn't answer," said his cousin Qarar, the agriculture minister's spokesman. Using his powerful connections, Qarar enlisted local police, parliamentarians, the governor and even the agriculture minister himself in the search for his cousin, but they turned up nothing. Government officials who independently investigated the scene in the aftermath of the raid and corroborated the claims of the family also pressed for an answer as to why two of Qarar's family members were killed. American forces issued a statement saying that the dead were "enemy militants [who] demonstrated hostile intent." LINK HERE

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

4 Civilians Killed in Latest Nato Carnage

NATO troops shot at a vehicle, killing four unarmed Afghan civilians in Khost province, reports Reuters. The civilians were killed as they drove in the direction of a NATO convoy and ignored warnings to slow down NATO's official statement said describing the dead as two insurgents and two "associates," a NATO spokesman conceded that the four may have been civilians. This shooting follows another similar incident last week in Kandahar in which NATO forces opened fire on a bus. Four civilians died while 18 were injured as a result. The U.N.'s envoy to Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, called the latest incident part of a "disturbing trend."The picture is of the funeral of the victims on 20th April.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Britain Handed Prisoners Over To Be Tortured

Human rights lawyers have assembled details of nine cases involving allegations of beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, electrocution, and whipping with rubber cables. They are arguing that Britain has breached the Human Rights Act by handing over prisoners to a country known to participate in torture.They say the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), the domestic security service, had a reputation for mistreating prisoners and British officers should have known what was happening.The Ministry of Defence is opposing the application for judicial review and Bob Ainsworth, the Defence Secretary, has said that detention is an important and necessary ability for British forces operating in Afghanistan, and safeguards are in place to prevent mistreatment.

But Michael Fordham QC told the court that the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Office were seeking to protect their detainee transfer policy by adopting the approach "of seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil".In legal documents put before the court he said there are many reputable reports that torture and ill-treatment is "endemic" in the NDS "even at a very high level", which has been described as a relic from the days of Soviet occupation.The NDS was said to have been created in the image of the KGB and allegedly still has a reputation for torturing and killing.

Mr Fordham said the British government had chosen to rely on a "manifestly unsafe" memorandum of understanding with the Afghan authorities that international human rights obligations would be observed by the NDS.But Britain adopted a "head in the sand" because it did not want to uncover evidence of human rights abuses and therefore refused to investigate thoroughly, he said, adding that the fact the NDS supplied intelligence to the UK was no secret.

Allegations were first raised in a report by Amnesty International in November 2007 and a judicial review case is being brought by Maya Evans, a prominent peace activist who was arrested for reading out the names of British soldiers killed in Iraq during a protest at the Cenotaph in London.She is backed by Public Interest Lawyers, who have brought a number of cases relating to the treatment of detainees in Iraq, notably that of Baha Mousa, who died in British custody.Officers from the Royal Military Police have visited Pol-e-Charki jail in Kabul where one prisoner claimed he was repeatedly punched and hit over the head, another said he was subjected to stress positions and sleep deprivation, and two others said they suffered electric shocks and were beaten with a rubber cable.Further concerns were raised over prisoners at an NDS facility in Sangin, in Helmand Province after British soldiers saw the condition of prisoners when they were transferred to another prison.In late 2008 and early 2009, military and Foreign Office officials were denied access to Afghan detention centres and British forces were told not to transfer any more captured Afghans to the NDS.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

NATO Credibility Questioned

'Chairman of the Freedom Association (Özgür-Der) Rıdvan Kaya labels those atrocities as NATO and US terrorism. “If we define terrorism as targeting civilians for political ends, then what has happened there is simply NATO and US terrorism,” he said, further arguing that the regret announced on the part of international forces does not translate into action. “The same thing happens after every civilian casualty. One of them takes the floor and says an investigation was launched into that particular incident. Nothing else happens after that. Innocent people simply keep being murdered in their homes, in public transportation vehicles and even in mosques.” He called on everybody with a conscience to speak up against those atrocities.' Full story here.

Lobby Your Candidate on The War Debacles

Details of your candidate here. The pic shows Brown's election photo op. Yes it is pathetic, isn't it. You can see how interested the soldiers are in his 'visit'.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

War Crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan

War crimes, massacres, and, as Al Jazeera properly calls it, "collateral murder," are all part of the US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.

The release last week of the Wikileaks video, thirty-eight grisly minutes long, of US airmen casually slaughtering a dozen Iraqis in 2007 -- including two Reuters newsmen -- puts it into focus not because it shows us something we didn't know, but because we can watch it unfold in real time. Real people, flesh and blood, gunned down from above in a hellish rain of fire.

The events in Iraq, nearly three years old, were repeated this week in Afghanistan, when trigger-happy US soldiers slaughtered five Afghans cruising along on a huge, comfortable civilian bus near Kandahar.

As the New York Times reports:

"American troops raked a large passenger bus with gunfire near Kandahar on Monday morning, killing and wounding civilians, and igniting angry anti-American demonstrations in a city where winning over Afghan support is pivotal to the war effort."

The Kandahar incident is only one of many, of course. Over the past year, dozens of Afghans have similarly died in checkpoint and roadside killings. Not one, not a single one, of these murders involved hostile forces. In other words, when the smoke and dust cleared, in all of the cases over the past year the bodies recovered were those of innocents.

As General McChrystal himself recently said:

"We really ask a lot of our young service people out on checkpoints because there's danger, they're asked to make very rapid decisions in often very unclear situations. However, to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it."

My question is: if so, then why aren't the rules of engagement altered? Why is it that US forces can fire wildly at an approaching vehicle, if in none of the cases that have happened thus far were there hostile forces involved?

In the Iraq case, as revealed in the stunning Wikileaks video, a group of eight men on a Baghdad street, in plain sunlight, is shot to pieces under withering fire from above. Then, when a van carrying four or five other men arrives to pick up a wounded man who is crawling painfully along the gutter, the van too is blasted to smithereens when the airmen request permission to "engage."

An analysis by Politifact takes apart Secretary of Defense Gates' callous assertion that the murders were "unfortunate" and "should not have any lasting consequences." We've already investigated this, he said, so what's the big deal?

The military's rationale for the slaughter is that US forces a few hundred yards away had taken small arms fire, and so the airmen in the copters circling above concluded that the men they'd seen carrying what they thought were weapons and RPGs -- although the "RPG" turned out to be a cameraman's telephoto lens -- were bad guys who could be shot to pieces at will. There was, of course, no evidence at all that the dozen or so Iraqis butchered were involved in what may or may not have been a shooting incident nearby. But, you know -- war is hell.

Politifact, to its discredit, defends Gates on these grounds, quoting David Finkel, aWashington Post reporter and author of The Good Soldiers, who writes in blase defense of the slaughter:

"What's helpful to understand is that, contrary to some interpretations that this was an attack on some people walking down the street on a nice day, the day was anything but that. It happened in the midst of a large operation to clear an area where U.S. soldiers had been getting shot at, injured, and killed with increasing frequency. What the Reuters guys walked into was the very worst part, where the morning had been a series of RPG attacks and running gun battles.

"More context. You're seeing an edited version of the video. The full video runs much longer. And it doesn't have the benefit of hindsight, in this case zooming in on the van and seeing those two children. The helicopters were perhaps a mile away. And as all of this unfolded, it was unclear to the soldiers involved whether the van was a van of good Samaritans or of insurgents showing up to rescue a wounded comrade. I bring these things up not to excuse the soldiers but to emphasize some of the real-time blurriness of those moments.

"If you were to see the full video, you would see a person carrying an RPG launcher as he walked down the street as part of the group. Another was armed as well, as I recall. Also, if you had the unfortunate luck to be on site afterwards, you would have seen that one of the dead in the group was lying on top of a launcher. Because of that and some other things, EOD -- the Hurt Locker guys, I guess -- had to come in and secure the site. And again, I'm not trying to excuse what happened. But there was more to it for you to consider than what was in the released video."

Finkel, who apparently is not going to write a sequel to his book called The Bad Soldiers, cavelierly dismisses the deaths of a dozen Iraqis as something that happens in the "real-time blurriness of those moments."

In Afghanistan, the repeated killings of innocent civilians has angered an embittered President Karzai, who has strongly and repeatedly condemned the killings of Afghan citizens by American troops. In a Washington Post story today, "Shooting by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan fuels Karzai's anger," the paper reports:

"Twelve days before President Hamid Karzai denounced the behavior of Western countries in Afghanistan, he met a 4-year-old boy at the Tarin Kowt civilian hospital in the south.

"The boy had lost his legs in a February airstrike by U.S. Special Operations forces helicopters that killed more than 20 civilians. Karzai scooped him up from his mattress and walked out to the hospital courtyard, according to three witnesses. 'Who injured you?' the president asked as helicopters passed overhead. The boy, crying alongside his relatives, pointed at the sky.

"The tears and rage Karzai encountered in that hospital in Uruzgan province lingered with him, according to several aides. It was one provocation amid a string of recent political disappointments that they said has helped fuel the president's emotional outpouring against the West and prompted a brief crisis in his relations with the United States. It was also a reminder that civilian casualties in Afghanistan have political reverberations far beyond the sites of the killings."

But I suppose Finkel can justify that one, too.

By Robert Dreyfuss. H/T to Common Dreams.org.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Daily NATO Massacre Bulletin

Four Afghan civilians were killed when NATO troops opened fire today on a bus in the southern province of Kandahar, the province where coalition forces are preparing a new offensive.A patrol of ISAF soldiers fired on the vehicle when it 'failed to respond to hand signals' an old chestnut which was used all the time in the aftermath of similar massacres in Iraq. Hamid Karzai “strongly condemned” the shooting in his usual inept and feeble fashion. Eighteen people were wounded in the attack Fazl Ahmad Sherzay, an official with the local police force, said to French news agencies.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Jim Cousins, Labour MP, We Salute You

Mr Cousins, who has represented Newcastle Central as an MP since 1987, voted against the Iraq War and offers a telling insight. “From the autumn of 2001 it was absolutely obvious to me that US president George Bush was going to have an invasion and occupation of Iraq and that Blair would go with it. “And that Blair would in some sense fall in love with the world stage and that is exactly what happened with disastrous results for the Labour party, from which we have actually not recovered and will not recover for a long time to come,” He adds the Iraq War has become a “benchmark” issue in British politics, going beyond just the conflict itself – and revealed he came close to quitting Parliament over it. “It has become a symbol of what kind of country do you live in and what sort of direction do you want it go to in? I found that whole period between 2001 and 2003 utterly depressing. It was like knowing the train was going to crash, there wasn’t much you could do about it. And I make no bones about it, looking back on it now, that if Labour had kept control of Newcastle City Council in 2004, if it had done well in those all-out elections, I would not have stood at the 2005 general election. “I felt very unhappy about the project that I had become part of,” A succinct vignette of just what has happened to the Labour Party. Jim, We at AfghanCentral and Wolves In The City salute your integrity.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

More Civilian Deaths At NATO's Door

Officials in Afghanistan are investigating the latest deaths of civilians caused by an air strike and a clash with insurgents in the southern as well as eastern parts of the country. The probe comes as the U.S commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan had to assure a traditional assembly of Afghan leaders his troops are making utmost efforts to avoid civilian casualties in what he described as "a difficult war". NATO says its forces carried out an air strike Monday night on a compound in the district of Nahr-e-Saraj in southern Helmand province after 'coming under fire from insurgents' hiding inside. NATO officials say four civilians, including two women and a child died in the airstrike. The second incident occurred in the eastern Kapisa province where NATO troops wounded four children. One of the children died of wounds. The picture shows villagers burying people who were killed in an overnight raid in the Nangarhar province's Khogyani district, east of Kabul, on 05 April, 2010.

Spinning The Carnage Away

Glen Greenwald of Salon.com reports that Americans are being fed false and misleading "news" about the U.S. war in Afghanistan because major American media outlets, like the New York Times and CNN, publish propagandized Pentagon accounts of the violence and killing occurring there, without questioning the information they are fed.

One egregious example of of this occurred on February 12, 2010, when NATO's joint international force issued a press release that bore the headline Joint Force Operating In Gardez Makes Gruesome Discovery. The release said that after "intelligence confirmed militant activity" in a compound near a village in Paktika province, an international security force entered the compound and engaged "several insurgents" in a fire fight. Two "insurgents" were killed, the report said, and after the joint forces entered the compound, they "found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed."

But an Afghan news report about the same incident differed wildly.

"The Latest Imprecise Operation"

Pajhwok Afghan News reported that U.S. Special Forces, acting on a misleading tip-off, mistakenly stormed the residence of the intelligence chief in the Zurmat district. His name was Daud, and he was inside the home celebrating the birth of his son with his family. Killed in the raid were Daud, his brother Zahir, and three women. The Afghan news further reported that "A gubernatorial spokesman ... verified the latest imprecise operation by NATO-led troops."

Despite this very different account of the incident, CNN repeated the Pentagon's fake version of the events, in an article titled Bodies found gagged, bound after Afghan "honor killing." In the article, CNN quoted an unnamed "senior U.S. military official" who speculated that the Taliban "could be" responsible for the women's deaths. The New York Times, too, published an article about the incident in which they admitted there were "differing accounts" of what had happened, but failed to describe these differing accounts beyond a mere mention, while reprinting NATO's version of the events in its entirety.

Pentagon Finally Admits Botched Raid

Almost two months later, the Pentagon was finally forced to admit that international forces had badly bungled the raid that night in Paktika, and that military troops had, in fact, killed the women during their assault on the residence. One of the women was a pregnant mother of ten, and the other was a pregnant mother of six children.

Reporters Who Tell the Truth are Intimidated

The Times of London's Afghanistan reporter, Jerome Starkey, wrote an article about the botched raid that was published at NiemanWatchdog.org. In his piece, he detailed how the U.S.-led forces had lied about the events at the February 12 raid, and speculated about why the American media mindlessly repeats lies advanced by the Pentagon about military events in Afghanistan. Starkey said he personally went to the scene of the raid and spent three days interviewing survivors -- something most news organizations won't do. He blamed news organizations' lack of resources, the danger of traveling around Afghanistan and the "embed culture" for the failure of news organizations the print the truth. But he also revealed that NATO tries to censor, intimidate and punish reporters who fail to report their official versions of events in Afghanistan. After Starkey wrote about whatreally happened at Paktika, NATO issued a press release titled ISAF Rejects Cover Up Allegation, which named Starkey personally and called his reports of the incident "categorically false." The release continued to claim that the women at Paktika were killed prior to the arrival of American and international troops, attributing their binding and gagging to a cultural pre-burial ritual.

Americans' Diet of Phony War News

In May, 2007, PRWatch published another blog listing over half a dozen other accounts of occasions on which the military fed false information to the media and soldiers' families. It seems the practice has not changed. This incident takes its place alongside a slew of other fictionalized "news" that the Pentagon has fed the media, like the myth of Jessica Lynch's "heroic firefight" and the circumstances surrounding the friendly-fire death of football star Pat Tillman.

Americans have been fed a diet of fictionalized accounts about the war in Afghanistan, thanks to our military which cannot be trusted to tell the public the truth about what they do. We can only wonder what might happen to support for the war if Americans got truthful accounts from its military about what happens in Afghanistan, instead of lies that have to be "outed" by the very few brave independent reporters who have the integrity to undertake that task, no matter the cost.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Wikileaks - Collateral Murder Video Released Today

This graphic video of another US massacre was released via Wikileaks and the Collateral Murder website.

US Troops Removed Bullets From Bodies of Their Victims

Relatives at the grave of 5 of the victims

American troops removed bullets from the bodies of the victims, which included two pregnant women, a teenage girl, a police officer and his brother.police officer and his brother. The soldiers then cleaned the wounds with alcohol before telling their commanders the civilians had been discovered already dead for many hours. More here.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Droneheads and Boneheads II

Q and A about computer generated carnage. Afshin Rattansi for the real world. Lt. Col. Chris Gough of NATO for military cloud cookoo land:-

AR: “What about the psychology behind it all? It’s presumably very different from actually flying in an aircraft and dropping a bomb? What does it do to your men and women?”

GG: “Great question. What I’ve found through personal experience and I’ve been involved both in combat in manned aircraft and now in these remotely piloted aircraft is that I feel more connected with the ground fight than I ever did when I was flying over the top at 20,000 feet, the reason being that I am much involved in coordination and contact with those ground forces that are taking fire than I ever was in a F-16. Although, academically, it looks like you could make it sound like…

AR: “A computer game?” I interrupted, “Which is, after all, the usual charge?”

CG: “When you look at it from the outside, you could easily come to that conclusion but in fact it never occurs that way. There is an intense coordination with the ground. Through our training and the rigor of our exercising, we know that when I push the button, that I am taking life. So that is a very deliberate event and we always debrief and we always hold ourselves accountable to a very high standard and, like I said, the intense communication that we have with the ground party and the clearance authority – the authorizing agent of the strike – it comes together to create a much more tangible, much more real event, in my opinion, then I experienced when I was dropping bombs from F-16s.”

AR: ''Some U.S. personnel would certainly say it is definitely more tangible because retaliation is swift in Afghanistan where the U.S. is losing so many men and women. But what about government’s reactions to the use of UAV’s in the region. You know that politicians in Kabul and Islamabad don’t appreciate them?”

CG: “Well, on retaliation, it certainly is quick. We are fighting a violent enemy and they have a deep desire to fight us. Our ability to prosecute is really unique because it’s less significant when we take a strike. What we really want to do when we attack these terrorist networks is not to take down the guy with the rifle. You want to track him down to his boss and then want to find his boss, the jackpot guy and that’s the guy you want to roll up. We’re never going to win this war with a Hellfire strike and so on retaliation, sometimes it’s better not to take action. Sometimes it is better to sit and watch and investigate the patterns of life so that I can go back there and grab the jackpot agent.

“That leads to the second point – regarding the responses of governments in the region: unlike all the other weapons systems out there, I can control collateral damage to a much greater degree in this and I can minimize it and negate it because if I see a high-value individual – one of those jackpot guys – that I want to prosecute an attack on I’m not limited by gas. I’m not limited by the physiological constraints of the air crew. I’ll swap another air crew out. I’ll bring another plane out and have them run in there and get a new GCUS and I will stay with that individual until the time is right by my making. “

AR: “And what about mistakes?” I asked, “are there fewer now? Because hundreds of civilians have been killed in such strikes as well as hundreds of as you would put it, ‘the enemy’. “

It should be noted that exact figures are hard to come by which is why the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit to try to get the data on civilian casualties. U.S. federal agencies never answered a Freedom of Information Act request for an outline of the legal basis for the Predator drone program.

“What about people who you work with who cause collateral damage. How do they cope?” I added.

GG: “The argument that we have executed collateral damage – I dispute that, honestly I have never seen it during the course of my two..”

AR: “Wedding parties in Afghanistan?” I interjected.

CG: “I have seen those reports in the media but I have never actually seen that in the course of events in my unit. And what I will say is that -- and I have ample examples to bring forth -- we have been engaging the enemy with ‘friendlies’ taking heavy fire from advancing parties of insurgents and we’ve actually called off strikes because we have seen kids with the insurgents. And so that level of fidelity – that I can have someone whose whole job in life is to look at pixels on a screen and determine whether that is farm equipment or whether that is a piece of anti-aircraft artillery or see if that is a child or someone actually carrying and employing a weapon -- means I can make that call and I can isolate that event so that I don’t take a lethal action against those people. We’ve been able to minimize collateral damage to a degree that we have never experienced before in a combat environment. From my perspective, this is game-changing in nature, for many reasons and not least because in a counter-insurgency you need to win the hearts and minds of the people and the way you do that is to preserve what they hold dear which is mosques and schools and children and non-combatants and we do that with better than any other weapons system that’s ever been fielded. We do that.”

AR: “What about other countries which use these UAV’s?”

CG: “What I will say is that we know that this is proliferating and frankly it should be proliferating.”

Proliferating it certainly is. The White House is considering sending them to the Somalian government. Texas Governor Rick Perry wants them deployed on the border with Mexico. Pakistan is developing one. Israel is developing more and more of them. The ratio of civilian to military deaths in wars has been steadily rising and we can expect it to continue.

H/T to Counterpunch and Reality Zone.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

NATO Fouls It Up Again

The killing of their own allies by NATO troops is not uncommon for them.

Previous posts on this site will document that. It is interesting though how the media outlets can't agree on how many Afghan soldiers have been killed.
You would think the military authorities in Afghanistan would at least be able to determine that.

The recent words of Stanley McChrystal will ring loud for a long time and possibly come back to haunt him and the other occupying agents -

“We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat."

I imagine the Afghan soldiers who died were not 'a threat' either.