Category Archives: Middle East & North Africa

Journalism is Not a Crime: Freed Al Jazeera Reporter Peter Greste Seeks Pardon from Egypt

“Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi granted pardons to 100 people on Wednesday, including two jailed journalists from Al Jazeera, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. The two were initially arrested along with Australian journalist Peter Greste as part of a crackdown on Al Jazeera following the ouster of democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and served more than a year in prison. In a statement, Amnesty International said: “While these pardons come as a great relief, it is ludicrous that some of these people were even behind bars in the first place.” Fahmy, Mohamed and Greste were initially sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison for terrorism charges including “spreading false news” in support of the Muslim Brotherhood, deemed a “terrorist group” by the Egyptian government. While Fahmy and Mohamed have been pardoned, no pardon has been issued yet for Peter Greste, who has traveled to New York to lobby for a presidential pardon while el-Sisi is attending the United Nations General Assembly.” (Democracy Now!)

Noam Chomsky on Power and Ideology

This past Saturday, Noam Chomsky spoke in front of a sold-out audience of close to 1,000 people at The New School’s John L. Tishman Auditorium in New York City. In a speech titled “On Power and Ideology,” Chomsky discussed George Orwell, the suppression of ideas, the persistence of U.S. exceptionalism, Republican efforts to torpedo the Iran nuclear deal, and the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations. (Democracy Now!)

Winners and Losers at DSEI 2015: Interview with Andrew Smith of Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT)

Afshin Rattansi talks to Andrew Smith, media coordinator at the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, about the recent Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms exhibition recently held in London. (Going Underground)

Obama’s Drone Program Probably Would Have Killed Ahmed the Clock Kid

Sam Biddle writes for Gawker:

Obama's Drone Program Probably Would Have Killed Ahmed the Clock KidYesterday Barack Obama joined the groundswell of social media support for Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old high school student detained by the police for being seen with an electronic device and being a Muslim named Ahmed Mohamed. Good for Obama. And good for Ahmed that he wasn’t building a clock in Yemen.

Since his inauguration, Barack Obama has drastically expanded the use of so-called “signature” drone strikes—killings that aren’t targeted against any person in particular, but against someone who looks or acts a certain way. Precisely which behavioral patterns or appearances are sufficient to sign an aerial death sentence remain an absolute state secret—all we know about the so-called “pattern of life activity” sufficient to justify the killing of an unidentified stranger is based on media reports quoting anonymous U.S. officials. In 2008, the New York Times reported that a “signature” can be as vague as “the characteristics of Qaeda or Taliban leaders on the run.” A later Times report said targets could include anyone near “training camps and suspicious compounds”—dicey given the Pentagon’s lackluster record when it comes to assessing compounds. The body of anonymously provided evidence suggests that loose suspicion is about all it takes to condemn someone on the ground, and based on the resultant craters, it’s easy to see that standards are lax.

In 2011, a 16-year-old American citizen named Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone-fired missile while eating outside in Yemen just two weeks after his father, an Islamist cleric on the CIA kill list, was drone-assassinated. Abdulrahman’s signature appears to have consisted of little more than traveling with his father and looking like the people around his father. When Attorney General Eric Holder was questioned about Abdulrahman’s assassination, he said only that he was “not specifically targeted by the United States.” Although he’s been the most visible (and controversial) drone victim due to his citizenship, al-Awlaki is far from the only child killed on Obama’s orders—the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that upwards of 204 kids have been killed by drones in Pakistan alone since 2004. Some of them might’ve simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, but only the CIA knows how many were killed because they matched some classified “signature.”


The UN Says US Drone Strikes in Yemen Have Killed More Civilians Than al Qaeda

Samuel Oakford  reports for VICE News:

American drones strikes may have killed as many as 40 Yemeni civilians over the past year, the UN reported on Monday, offering a tally of the human cost of the long-running US campaign against al Qaeda in Yemen, which has continued amid the chaos of country’s current war.

The data on drone strikes came from the latest report on Yemen issued by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner For Human Rights (OHCHR), which compiled accounts of human rights violations from July 1, 2014 to June 30 of this year.

The US first launched armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over Yemen in 2002, but the bulk of strikes carried out by the aircraft have taken place since since 2011. According to figures maintained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Drone War program, at least 101 people have been killed by confirmed drone strikes in Yemen, plus 26 to 61 others killed by “possible extra drone strikes.” Between 156 and 365 civilians have also been killed in other covert missions since 2002, according to the group.

If accurate, the UN’s estimates would represent a significant rise in confirmed civilian casualties in the country as a result of drone strikes.


Hostile BBC Interview of a Saudi Loyalist Shows Prime Journalistic Duty: Scrutiny of One’s Own Side

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

bbc1The ongoing atrocities by Saudi Arabia and its “coalition partners” in Yemen reflect powerfully — and horribly — on both the U.S. and U.K. That’s true not only because those two countries in general are among the closest allies of the Saudi regime, but also because they are specifically lavishing Saudi despots with the very arms and intelligence being used to kill large numbers of Yemeni civilians.

The American and British governments have long been overflowing with loyalists to the Saudi regime (recall how President Obama literally terminated a state visit to India [where he ironically spent his time “lecturing India on religious tolerance and women’s rights”] in order to fly to Riyadh to pay homage to the Saudi King upon his death, along with top officials from both parties).

One of those many Saudi regime loyalists, conservative British MP Daniel Kawczynski, appeared on BBC’s Newsnight program on Friday night and was mercilessly grilled by host James O’Brien about support for the Saudi war in Yemen by both the British government and the country’s private-sector weapons manufacturers.

The BBC deserves all sorts of criticisms, but this interview was a master class in how journalists should interview politicians and others who wield power. The whole interview is well worth watching, as O’Brien repeatedly demands that Kawczynski address the war crimes being committed by the Saudi regime he supports. But I want to focus on one point in particular.


Yemen’s Forgotten War

‘Newsnight’s Gabriel Gatehouse has had rare access inside Yemen, to what some are calling the “forgotten war”. In the first of two reports, he looks at the scale of the humanitarian crisis – and whether the UK is complicit in this disaster.’ (BBC Newsnight)

West “ignored Russian offer in 2012 to have Syria’s Assad step aside”

Julian Borger and Bastien Inzaurralde report for The Guardian:

A man walks among the rubble of collapsed buildings in Douma after what activists said were airstrikes by forces loyal to Assad earlier this year.Russia proposed more than three years ago that Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, could step down as part of a peace deal, according to a senior negotiator involved in back-channel discussions at the time.

Former Finnish president and Nobel peace prize laureate Martti Ahtisaari said western powers failed to seize on the proposal. Since it was made, in 2012, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions uprooted, causing the world’s gravest refugee crisis since the second world war.

Ahtisaari held talks with envoys from the five permanent members of the UN security council in February 2012. He said that during those discussions, the Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, laid out a three-point plan, which included a proposal for Assad to cede power at some point after peace talks had started between the regime and the opposition.

But he said that the US, Britain and France were so convinced that the Syrian dictator was about to fall, they ignored the proposal.

“It was an opportunity lost in 2012,” Ahtisaari said in an interview.


DSEI weapons fair: Authoritarian regimes descend on London

Richard Norton-Taylor reports for The Guardian:

Authoritarian regimes including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Azerbaijan are among the official guests invited by the UK government to one of the world’s largest arms bazaars, opening in London’s Docklands this week.

The biennial weapons fair, which opens on Tuesday, is the focus of an increasingly heated debate between those who say major weapons producers such as Britain cannot claim at the same time to defend human rights, and those who say the arms industry provides tens of thousands of jobs and valuable exports.

This year’s Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition coincides with a government drive to increase arms sales to countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, by far its most lucrative single market for weapons.


Aylan Kurdi: Are We Reading Charlie Hebdo Wrong?

The Daily Vox writes:

Charlie Hebdo 1The world woke up to righteous condemnation over the latest Charle Hebdo cartoons. The French satirical magazine has been called everything from callous to disgusting to racist and insensitive.

And to be clear, they may very well be all of that, and more.

In the first drawing: “Si près du but…” or “So close to his goal.” The cartoon shows Aylan Kurdi’s body washed ashore in front of McDonalds ad, saying “Two children combos for the price of one.”

In what seems to be a rather distasteful depiction of the boy’s plight and the ongoing refugee disaster, perhaps the artists are saying something else.

Imagine what lengths the Kurdi family have gone through – the war, the hiding, the human traffickers, the trauma, and all so that they might reach a better place: a land of hamburgers and scavenger capitalism. Europe is sure as hell not all it’s made out to be.


John Kerry Exaggerates Recent Russian Role in Syria: Interview with Patrick Cockburn

Patrick Cockburn is a foreign correspondent for The Independent and is the author of a number of books including The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution. In this interview he says that Russia is the main arms supplier to the Syrian government and has been for around a decade, but also argues John Kerry’s protests are exaggerated. (The Real News)

The Empire Files: 9/11 and the Belligerent Empire

‘In September 11th’s episode of The Empire Files on TeleSUR, Abby Martin examines the two major wars launched under the “Global War on Terror”–their historical development and their aftermath. Featuring former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, this episode digs into the tragedy of a region shaped by Empire.’ (The Empire Files)

Never Forget That 9/11 Justifies…

Never Forget

A Thousand 9/11s

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

Fourteen years ago, 2,996 people were murdered when four civilian planes in the United States were hijacked by al-Qaeda extremists, one flown into the Pentagon, and two into the World Trade Centre towers.

But this was just the beginning of the bloodletting.

The 9/11 attacks ushered in a new era of global warfare to root out extremism. Far from defeating al-Qaeda, the ‘War on Terror’ has seen its enemy metastasise into a self-styled “Islamic State” (IS).

Along the way, we have seen the collapse of the rule of law: the illegal invasion of Iraq, the fabrication of intelligence on weapons of mass destruction (WMD), extra-judicial assassinations, systematic torture (still continuing), organised kidnapping, indefinite detention and global mass surveillance.

We have also seen the wanton abuse of law to extend unaccountable state authority across Western homelands: eroding habeas corpus, policing ordinary citizens, normalising racial profiling and criminalising dissent.

Conservative figures suggest that since 9/11, the “War on Terror” has killed some 14,000 Afghans, 35,000 Pakistanis, and 120,000 Iraqis – excluding indirect deaths from destruction of power, water, sanitation and medical facilities: 150,000 people overall. That’s fifty 9/11s.

At the higher end, a survey of major epidemiological studies by the Nobel Prize-winning doctors group, Physicians for Social Responsibility, puts the direct and indirect death toll at some 1.3 million people. That’s over four hundred 9/11s. Yet another study based on UN Population Division mortality data suggests the full death toll may be as high as four million: that’s over a thousand 9/11s.

The casualty figures keep wracking up.


Thanks to Libya, North Korea Might Never Negotiate on Nuclear Weapons

Doug Bandow, author of Foreign Follies, writes for The National Interest:

The Obama administration’s success in negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran has led to hope that a similar agreement might be reached with North Korea. Halt your program, dismantle some of your capabilities and accept intrusive inspections in return for “coming in from the cold.”

Unfortunately, there’s virtually no chance of that happening. The North already has a nuclear capability and views preservation of a nuclear arsenal as critical for domestic politics as well as international policy. Moreover, the West’s ouster of Libya’s Moammar Khadafy is seen in Pyongyang as dispositive proof that only a fool would negotiate away missile and nuclear capabilities.

Many, if not most, Korea experts long ago lost hope that the North was prepared to dismantle its nuclear program. In word and action, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) had demonstrated its commitment to being a nuclear state. While none of its neighbors desires that outcome, the North has ample reason to be well armed.


NYT Claims U.S. Abides by Cluster Bomb Treaty: The Exact Opposite of Reality

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

The New York Times today has a truly bizarre article regarding the U.S. and cluster bombs. The advocacy group Cluster Munition Coalition just issued its annual report finding that cluster bombs had been used in five countries this year: Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine and Sudan. This is what The Paper of Record, in its report by Rick Gladstone, said this morning about the international reaction to that report (emphasis added):

The use of these weapons was criticized by all 117 countries that have joined the treaty, which took effect five years ago. Their use was also criticized by a number of others, including the United States, that have not yet joined the treaty but have abided by its provisions.

As Americans, we should feel proud that our government, though refusing to sign the cluster ban treaty, has nonetheless “abided by its provisions” — if not for the fact that this claim is totally false. The U.S. has long been and remains one of the world’s most aggressive suppliers of cluster munitions, and has used those banned weapons itself in devastating ways.


Drowned Syrian boy photo: Social media at its most hollow and hypocritical?

Max Fisher writes for Vox:

Migrants disembark from a bus near Athens, Greece (Dan Kitwood/Getty)Looking at the same photo that everyone is looking at this week, of a young Syrian refugee boy whose body had washed up on a Turkish beach, and reading about the boy’s brief and difficult life, I found myself torn between two conflicting reactions. On the one hand, I was saddened by the needless death of this young child, and outraged by the many factors that contributed to it: the Syrian war, European hostility to migration, and the world’s callous indifference to the ever-worsening refugee crisis. Those factors are important, so the photograph’s ability to call the world’s attention to them makes it a powerful journalistic tool.

But I am also uncomfortable with the way those images have been converted into just another piece of viral currency. There is a line between compassion and voyeurism. And as that photo was shared and retweeted over and over again, converted into listicles and social-friendly packages, it felt more and more like the latter.

I am reminded of a 2012 article by the novelist Teju Cole, “The White-Savior Industrial Complex,” responding to what was the social media caring experience of that moment, a web video called “Kony 2012” that asked the world to combat Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony by “making him go viral.”

Cole wrote about the cycle of internet outrage and compassion that, often, ends up doing little more than providing entertainment and validation for Western audiences. Those audiences, rather than being compelled to ask themselves whether they had a hand in the faraway tragedy they are sharing to Facebook, get to pat themselves on the back for being part of the solution.

But social media voyeurism is no solution. It doesn’t help that child, or others like him. It just exploits his tragic death as a source of maudlin but oh-so-shareable emotional thrills.


The Syrian Refugee Crisis and the ‘Do Something’ Lie

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Syrian refugees coming ashore in Greece (photo: Angelos Tzortzinis/Getty)It didn’t take long for the universal and entirely justified outrage over a picture of a dead three-year-old to be funneled by the “do something” pundits to justify regime change in Syria. The “do something” crowd wants us to “do something” about the refugee crisis and “solve” the “bigger problem,” which, of course, involves regime change. To create the moral urgency and to tether the refugee crisis to their long-standing warmongering, these actors have to insist the US has “done nothing” about Syria.

[…] But this is all a fantasy. The US has been “intervening” in the Syrian civil war, in measurable and significant ways, since at least 2012—most notably by arming, funding and training anti-Assad forces.

[…] In addition to this, the Obama administration has engaged in crippling sanctions against the Assad government, provided air support for those looking to depose him, incidentally funneled arms to ISIS, and not incidentally aligned the CIA-backed Free Syrian Army with Al Qaeda. Regardless of one’s position on Syria—or whether they think the US is somehow secretly in alliance with Assad, as some advance—one thing cannot be said: that the US has “done nothing in Syria.” This is historically false.

Most of those advocating for the removal of Assad probably know this, but can’t say “the US should do more,” or “they haven’t done enough,” because this would raise the uncomfortable question of what they have done already. And the answer to that, as is with most US meddling in other countries, is a lot of covert programs US officials—and thus their court press—can’t openly acknowledge. So those in the establishment media are left to do a strange dance: at once ignoring all the US has already done while insisting the US should join a fight it’s been a party to for over three years.


CENTCOM Document Reveals Coalition’s Hidden Civilian Carnage in Syria and Iraq

Chris Woods reports for

A newly-declassified CENTCOM document – published by Airwars and international media partners for the first time on Thursday –  reveals that by early May of this year, the anti-ISIL Coalition had already internally investigated dozens of events involving at least 325 possible civilian deaths from airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

Yet despite often significant published evidence of civilians killed in Coalition strikes, most allegations were dismissed as “Not credible” within 48 hours – with few signs of later follow-ups.

The document also reveals for the first time that French, Canadian, Dutch and Australian aircraft have all been involved in problem incidents in Iraq, which between them allegedly killed up to 30 civilians.

The previously-secret 14-page file – obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by journalist Joseph Trevithick for War Is Boring – offers a rare insight into internal military workings. It also makes clear that the US and its 12 international allies have long known of significant allegations of civilians killed in some 6,500 airstrikes – far more than the two deaths presently admitted to.


Banned Cluster Bombs Were Used in Five Countries, Report Says

Rick Gladstone reports for The New York Times:

[…] The organization, the Cluster Munition Coalition, said in its annual report that use of the bombs had been documented in armed conflicts in LibyaSudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.

The use of these weapons was criticized by all 117 countries that have joined the treaty, which took effect five years ago. Their use was also criticized by a number of others that have not yet joined the treaty but appear to have abided by its provisions.

[…] The treaty prohibits all use of cluster munitions and sets deadlines for the destruction of stockpiles and the clearance of areas contaminated by unexploded cluster bomblets, which can be deadly if disturbed. The treaty also provides for assistance to victims of cluster bombs.

The United States, which is among the countries that have not signed the treaty, still produces and exports cluster munitions. In a telephone interview, Ms. Wareham said that although the United States had sharply reduced its supply of cluster munitions, at least three different types of American-made cluster munitions had been used by Saudi-led forces this year in the Yemen conflict.


David Petraeus’ bright idea: Give terrorists weapons to beat terrorists

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

The latest brilliant plan to curtail Isis in the Middle East? Give more weapons to current members of al-Qaida. The Daily Beast reported that former CIA director David Petraeus, still somehow entrenched in the DC Beltway power circles despite leaking highly classified secrets, is now advocating arming members of the al-Nusra Front in Syria, an offshoot of al-Qaida and a designated terrorist organization. Could there be a more dangerous and crazy idea?

Petraeus was forced to respond on Tuesday, the day after his article provoked a firestorm, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper that he doesn’t want to arm al-Nusra itself, just “some individual fighters, and perhaps some elements, within Nusra”. He thinks the US could somehow “peel off” these fighters and convince to join the much weaker rebel army that al-Nusra recently decimated. Oh okay, then. He’s in favor of arming only the “moderate” members of al-Qaida: that sounds so much better.

Let’s put aside for a second that there’s not much difference between arming al-Nusra and arming “some individual fighters, and perhaps some elements, within Nusra.” How the US can possibly “peel off” fighters from a terrorist group is a complete mystery. In Iraq – Petraeus is apparently using part of the largely failedIraq “surge” as his blueprint here – he convinced some Sunni tribes to switch sides temporarily, but that was with over 100,000 US troops on the ground to do the convincing. Does Petraeus think we should invade Syria to accomplish the same feat?


Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight of refugees

Helena Smith reports for The Guardian:

Young boy washed up on the beach.The full horror of the human tragedy unfolding on the shores of Europe was brought home on Wednesday as images of the lifeless body of a young boy – one of at least 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach the Greek island of Kos – encapsulated the extraordinary risks refugees are taking to reach the west.

The picture, taken on Wednesday morning, depicted the dark-haired toddler, wearing a bright-red T-shirt and shorts, washed up on a beach, lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum.

A second image portrays a grim-faced policeman carrying the tiny body away. Within hours it had gone viral becoming the top trending picture on Twitter under the hashtag #KiyiyaVuranInsanlik (humanity washed ashore).

Turkish media identified the boy as three-year-old Aylan Kurdi and reported that his five-year-old brother had also met a similar death. Both had reportedly hailed from the northern Syrian town of Kobani, the site of fierce fighting between Islamic state insurgents and Kurdish forces earlier this year.

Justin Forsyth, CEO of Save the Children, said: “This tragic image of a little boy who’s lost his life fleeing Syria is shocking and is a reminder of the dangers children and families are taking in search of a better life. This child’s plight should concentrate minds and force the EU to come together and agree to a plan to tackle the refugee crisis.”


Refugee Crisis: Interview with Joel Millman of the International Organization for Migration, and Dr. Chiara Montaldo of Doctors Without Borders

Amy Goodman speaks with Joel Millman, spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration, and Dr. Chiara Montaldo of Doctors Without Borders in the Sicilian town of Pozzallo in Italy. Dr. Montaldo provides medical and psychological care to people rescued from boats in the Mediterranean. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has reported that approximately 2,500 people have died or gone missing trying to reach Europe so far this year. (Democracy Now!)

CIA Running Anti-ISIS Drone Campaign in Syria

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

[…] The CIA has been involved in various operations against ISIS for years, of course, and has also been doing all sorts of different things in Syria, mostly arming dubious rebel factions. That they are escalating this to a drone war concurrent with an actual war must inevitably raise eyebrows, as previously the US has been very careful to keep CIA drone wars distinct from Pentagon-run wars.

The war is targeting ISIS so far, but officials say that they are also authorized to attack al-Qaeda militants or any other “operatives” suspected of advancing ISIS goals to expand their caliphate further across Syria, a nation they already control more than half of.

But officials say that the CIA war, at least in Syria, is comparatively small, and that they’ve launched relatively few strikes compared to the military. That the two are both launching strikes in the same theater will only add to complications about investigating civilian casualties, as it will allow each side to deny being the one behind a particular incident.

Officials are also insisting that the Syria war won’t be using the same model as the Pakistan and Yemen drone wars, but rather that the Syria CIA war, in which they are working closely with special forces, could itself be a model for even more drone wars elsewhere around the world.

This plan to expand CIA war-making comes amid some pushes from the Pentagon, which believes that as the military wars should sort of be their thing exclusively. Running wars concurrently only adds to the confusion, and seems to reflect an intention by the Obama Administration to keep the CIA running wars of its own outside of traditional military purview.


4,547 Killed in August Bloodshed across Iraq

Margaret Griffis reports for Antiwar:

During August at least 4,547 people were killed and 2,296 were wounded. These figures include civilians, security personnel and militants. At least 350 were killed and 10 were wounded in more recent fighting.

The casualty figures compiled in this column during August were 1,464 killed and 1,179 wounded. That includes 1,017 civilians killed and 818 wounded. These figures were compiled from media reports.

The United Nations, which has team members on the ground in Iraq, found 1,325 dead and 1,811 wounded. These numbers do not count militant deaths. Of those killed, 585 were civilians. The number of civilian wounded was 1,103. These figures should be considered the absolute lowest possible casualty numbers. The true number of dead and wounded is likely much higher.


Iraq: The battle for your hearts and minds in Fallujah

Former U.S. Marine and Iraq War veteran Ross Caputi writes for Insurge Intelligence:

On 13th August 2015, the Iraqi government bombed the Fallujah Maternity and Neonatal Hospital, killing 31 people, including 23 women and children.

This incident was widely reported in the Western media; though the coverage was perhaps cursory and even dismissive by labeling it an “IS-held” hospital. Nevertheless, information about this atrocity was available to the Western world, as is information about the many similar atrocities committed by the Iraqi government since the start of their war against the Sunni uprising and the Islamic State in December 2013.

This was in fact the 40th time that the Iraqi government has bombed a hospital in Fallujah, and in Fallujah alone over 4,000 civilians have been killed and 5,200 wounded in the last 20 months of government attack.

The United States has also been complicit in these killings; first by shipping weapons to the Iraqi government to facilitate their internal repression of Sunnis, and then by reinitiating a campaign of airstrikes in the Sunni majority provinces of Iraq in August 2014.

According to Airwars, a nonprofit group monitoring US-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State, “publicly-available evidence” alone shows that civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria from these airstrikes are significantly higher than what the US and its partners have claimed.

Though certainly not a trending topic, information on these killings is readily available to those who look for it. Yet despite easy access to these reports, the public’s reaction has never surpassed bland disapproval.

It is easy to chastise the American public for their indifference. But there is reason to believe that the American public doesn’t fully understand why Iraqis are dying in the staggering numbers that they are, who to blame for them, or what they could do to stop the bloodshed.

None of this is accidental. The public’s reaction to civilian casualties has been carefully crafted by the best thinkers in “strategic communications” — or in common parlance, “propaganda” — within the US military and government.


Yemen’s Hidden War: How the Saudi-Led Coalition Is Killing Civilians

Iona Craig reports for The Intercept:

[…] The names of the dead did not even make news in the local press in Aden. This form of death is now commonplace amid a war so hidden that foreign journalists are forced to smuggle themselves by boat into the country to report on an ongoing conflict that the U.N. says has killed more than 4,500 people and left another 23,500 wounded.

On one side of the conflict is the U.S.-backed coalition of nations led by Saudi Arabia supporting Yemen’s president-in-exile, Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi. Their adversaries are the predominantly Shiite Houthi fighters who hail from the northern province of Saada that abuts the Saudi border, along with soldiers from renegade military units loyal to the country’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In March, the Saudis — aided by U.S. and British weapons and intelligence — began a bombing campaign in an attempt to push back the Houthis, who they see as a proxy for Iran. Since then, from the northern province of Saada to the capital Sanaa, from the central cities of Taiz and Ibb to the narrow streets at the heart of Aden, scores of airstrikes have hit densely populated areas, factories, schools, civilian infrastructure and even a camp for displaced people.

From visiting some 20 sites of airstrikes and interviews with more than a dozen witnesses, survivors and relatives of those killed in eight of these strikes in southern Yemen, this reporter discovered evidence of a pattern of Saudi-coalition airstrikes that show indiscriminate bombing of civilians and rescuers, adding further weight to claims made by human rights organizations that some Saudi-led strikes may amount to war crimes and raising vital questions over the U.S. and Britain’s role in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen.


Human Rights Watch: Saudi-Led Forces Kill Dozens in Yemen Using US-Made Cluster Bombs

Amy Goodman interviews Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth. Human Rights Watch has accused Saudi Arabia of using U.S.-made cluster munition rockets in at least seven attacks in the Yemeni city of Hajjah between late April and mid-July. Dozens of civilians were killed or wounded, both during the attacks and later, when they picked up unexploded submunitions that detonated. (Democracy Now!)

Is Turkey’s Erdogan Creating a Perfect Storm to Get His Party in Power? Interview with Baris Karaagac

Jessica Devereux interviews Baris Karaagac, a lecturer in International Development Studies at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. (The Real News)

Will the U.S. Stop “Cozying Up” to Egyptian Regime After Jailing of Journalists? Interview with Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Kenneth Roth

Democracy Now! talks to Sharif Abdel Kouddous from Cairo, and  Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, after Egypt sentences Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed and Peter Greste to three years in jail for “spreading false news” that purportedly harmed Egypt following the 2013 military coup. According to Roth: “The U.S. should stop cozying up to General — now President — Sisi. He is presiding over the worst crackdown in modern Egypt history.” (Democracy Now!)