The American military has failed to publicly disclose potentially thousands of lethal airstrikes conducted over several years in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, a Military Times investigation has revealed. The enormous data gap raises serious doubts about transparency in reported progress against the Islamic State, al-Qaida and the Taliban, and calls into question the accuracy of other Defense Department disclosures documenting everything from costs to casualty counts.
In 2016 alone, U.S. combat aircraft conducted at least 456 airstrikes in Afghanistan that were not recorded as part of an open-source database maintained by the U.S. Air Force, information relied on by Congress, American allies, military analysts, academic researchers, the media and independent watchdog groups to assess each war’s expense, manpower requirements and human toll. Those airstrikes were carried out by attack helicopters and armed drones operated by the U.S. Army, metrics quietly excluded from otherwise comprehensive monthly summaries, published online for years, detailing American military activity in all three theaters.
Most alarming is the prospect this data has been incomplete since the war on terrorism began in October 2001. If that is the case, it would fundamentally undermine confidence in much of what the Pentagon has disclosed about its prosecution of these wars, prompt critics to call into question whether the military sought to mislead the American public, and cast doubt on the competency with which other vital data collection is being performed and publicized. Those other key metrics include American combat casualties, taxpayer expense and the military’s overall progress in degrading enemy capabilities.
Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman speak to Aaron Glantz, a senior reporter at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. Glantz covered the siege of Fallujah as an unembedded journalist during the Iraq War, and his latest investigation examines whether President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for defense secretary committed war crimes there while leading U.S. troops in 2004. (Democracy Now!)
Amy Goodman speaks to The Intercept’s national security reporter Matthew Cole who spent two years investigating accounts of ghastly atrocities committed by members of Seal Team 6, including mutilating corpses, skinnings and attempted beheadings. According to sources, senior command staff were aware of the misconduct but did little to stop it—and often helped to cover it up. Cole’s article is titled: The Crimes of Seal Team 6. (Democracy Now!)
Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak with retired Colonel Andrew Bacevich, author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, Aaron Glantz, a senior reporter at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, and Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council. Mattis’s 41-year career in the Marine Corps included field commands in the Persian Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan. He led U.S. troops during the 2004 battle of Fallujah, earning himself the nickname “Mad Dog” Mattis. In May 2004, Mattis ordered an attack on a small Iraqi village that ended up killing about 42 people attending a wedding ceremony. He went on to lead United States Central Command from 2010 to 2013, but the Obama administration cut short his tour over concerns he was too hawkish on Iran. (Democracy Now!)
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The Pentagon has once again offered a new statement on the civilian casualties which have resulted from the US-led coalition air war against ISIS territory in Iraq and Syria, adding 15 more “unintentional civilian deaths” in the month of November, bringing the official death toll overall to 188.
As has been true throughout the war, the official US figures are dramatically lower than the estimates from monitor groups, and indeed far lower than what has been documented by the media, with most of the incidents not even being fully investigated by the US, but just deemed “non-credible.”
Exactly how much larger the death toll is remains a matter of some speculation, but monitors like Air Wars have suggested the toll at about 2,100 civilians killed overall, and even more conservative estimates put the figure around 1,000 reflective of just how absurdly low the official figure is.
At least 52,369 people were killed in Iraq during 2017. Another 21,795 were wounded.
According to figures compiled by Antiwar.com, at least 9,148 civilians, 6,430 security personnel, and 36,661 militants were killed. Also, three U.S. servicemen were killed in combat in Iraq. (A fourth one was killed fighting the Islamic State militants in Syria.) A British bomb disposal expert and 125 members of the Kurdistan Workers Party were killed as well. Two French soldiers, a British bomb disposal expert, and an Australian N.G.O. worker were wounded. These figures are similar to 2015’s, which were 52,045 killed and 19,651 wounded.
Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak to former CIA analyst John Nixon who interrogated Saddam Hussein after his capture 13 years ago. Nixon is the author of the new book, Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein, in which he reveals that much of what the CIA believed they knew about Saddam Hussein at the time of the invasion was wrong. During his interrogation, Hussein revealed that by 2003 he had largely turned over power to his aides so he could concentrate on writing a novel. There was no program of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein was also deeply critical of al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups inspired by Wahhabism. During the interrogation, Hussein also had a warning for the United States about Iraq. He said, “You are going to fail. You are going to find that it is not so easy to govern Iraq. You are going to fail in Iraq because you do not know the language, the history, and you do not understand the Arab mind.” Part Two of the interview with John Nixon can be found here. (Democracy Now!)
The Iraqi army, backed by US-led airstrikes, is trying to capture east Mosul at the same time as the Syrian army and its Shia paramilitary allies are fighting their way into east Aleppo. An estimated 300 civilians have been killed in Aleppo by government artillery and bombing in the last fortnight, and in Mosul there are reportedly some 600 civilian dead over a month.
Despite these similarities, the reporting by the international media of these two sieges is radically different.
In Mosul, civilian loss of life is blamed on Isis, with its indiscriminate use of mortars and suicide bombers, while the Iraqi army and their air support are largely given a free pass. Isis is accused of preventing civilians from leaving the city so they can be used as human shields.
Contrast this with Western media descriptions of the inhuman savagery of President Assad’s forces indiscriminately slaughtering civilians regardless of whether they stay or try to flee. The UN chief of humanitarian affairs, Stephen O’Brien, suggested this week that the rebels in east Aleppo were stopping civilians departing – but unlike Mosul, the issue gets little coverage.
The Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war was designed to “avoid blame” and reduce the risk that individuals and the government could face legal proceedings, newly released documents reveal.
The papers show the thinking and advice at “the highest level of government” prior to Gordon Brown’s announcement of an inquiry. They were disclosed under the Freedom of Information Act, after the Cabinet Office lost a two-year battle during which it stated that disclosure threatened to “undermine the inquiry”. They confirm that many officials who took part in the events that the inquiry investigated, including former spy chief Sir John Scarlett, were involved in setting it up.
And they reveal that Sir (now Lord) Gus O’Donnell, cabinet secretary under Brown, went against Whitehall protocol when he appointed a civil servant with significant involvement in Iraq policy during the period covered by the inquiry to the key role of inquiry secretary.
The documents, a series of memos by Whitehall officials, cover a four-week period in May and June 2009. They show the officials favoured from the outset a secret inquiry to be conducted by privy counsellors, based on the Franks inquiry into the Falklands war.
Despite his professed opposition to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, President-elect Donald Trump is considering several of the major advocates of that war for top national security posts in his administration, according to Republican officials.
Among those who could find places on Trump’s team are former top State Department official John Bolton and ex-CIA Director James Woolsey. Both men championed the Iraq invasion, which many analysts have called one of the major U.S. foreign policy debacles of modern times.
Also involved in transition planning for Trump’s presidency is Frederick Fleitz, a top aide to Bolton who earlier worked at the CIA unit that validated much of the flawed intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs.
Although it is impossible to predict how a Trump foreign policy might evolve, one U.S. official who has served in Iraq said advocates of the 2003 invasion might be more inclined to commit additional U.S. forces to the fight against Islamic State there, despite the absence of a status of forces agreement that protects Americans from Iraqi legal action.
[…] Trump’s instincts generally seem less well-informed but often shrewd, and his priories have nothing to do with the Middle East. Past US leaders have felt the same way, but they usually end up by being dragged into its crises one way or other, and how they perform then becomes the test of their real quality as a leader. The region has been the political graveyard for three of the last five US presidents: Jimmy Carter was destroyed by the consequences of the Iranian revolution; Ronald Reagan was gravely weakened by the Iran-Contra scandal; and George W Bush’s years in office will be remembered chiefly for the calamities brought on by his invasion of Iraq. Barack Obama was luckier and more sensible, but he wholly underestimated the rise of Isis until it captured Mosul in 2014.
The US no longer enjoys the superpower hegemony it had between the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the financial crisis of 2008. Its strength was further limited by failure to gain its ends in Iraq and Afghanistan and the return of Russia as a rival power, but it remains far-and-away the most powerful state in the world. It is a position full of pitfalls such as the prolonged effort by US allies like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel to lure the US into wars in Syria and Iran that will serve their own interests.
Obama resisted the temptation to fight new wars, but if Hillary Clinton had been in charge her record suggests that she might well have done so. How would Donald Trump have responded? There is a bigger gap between his words and deeds than there are with most politicians. But words create their own momentum and his constant beating of the patriotic drum will make it difficult for him to exercise the degree of caution necessary to avoid ensnarement in the Middle East. Over-heated nationalism cannot be turned on and off like a tap. He may want to concentrate on radical change at home, but the vortex of crises in the Middle East will one day suck him in.
Documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis released on 16th October 2016 exclusively on BBC iPlayer. (BBC)
Fake News and False Flags: How the Pentagon Paid a British PR Firm $500m for Top Secret Iraq Propaganda
The Pentagon gave a controversial UK PR firm over half a billion dollars to run a top secret propaganda programme in Iraq, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal.
Bell Pottinger’s output included short TV segments made in the style of Arabic news networks and fake insurgent videos which could be used to track the people who watched them, according to a former employee.
The agency’s staff worked alongside high-ranking US military officers in their Baghdad Camp Victory headquarters as the insurgency raged outside.
Bell Pottinger’s former chairman Lord Tim Bell confirmed to the Sunday Times, which worked with the Bureau on this story, that his firm had worked on a “covert” military operation “covered by various secrecy agreements.”
Bell Pottinger reported to the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Security Council on its work in Iraq, he said.
Bell, one of Britain’s most successful public relations executives, is credited with honing Margaret Thatcher’s steely image and helping the Conservative party win three elections. The agency he co-founded has had a roster of clients including repressive regimes and Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian president.
Vijay Prashad on the ‘Ruthless’ Bombing of Yemen and Palestine, How Libya Mirrors Iraq, and the U.S. Election
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez are joined by Vijay Prashad to discuss a number of issues covered in his latest book: The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution. Prashad briefly covers the conflicts in Yemen and Palestine, how the regime change operation in Libya mirrors what happened in Iraq, and whether there are any differences between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to the outside world. (Democracy Now!)
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Scott Anderson about his in-depth new report, Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart. Occupying the entire print edition of this week’s New York Times Magazine, it examines what has happened in the region in the past 13 years since the the U.S. invaded Iraq through the eyes of six characters in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Anderson is also author of the book, Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East. (Democracy Now!)
Adding to the ever-growing number of US ground troops in the “no boots on the ground” war in Iraq, Army officials announced yet another significant deployment from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division, from which some 400 troops will be sent to Qayara, just south of Mosul.
The idea is that the troops will be part of the logistics effort to prop up the Iraqi military in Nineveh Province, with an eye toward them eventually attacking Mosul, though there is no timeline for when such an offensive will begin, and Pentagon officials have gone on record doubting Iraq’s military is anywhere near ready for such an attack.
French President Francois Hollande has said that France will send heavy artillery to Iraq to support the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Hollande announced the plan on Friday, saying the artillery equipment “will be in place next month”.
Ground forces will not be deployed in the country, Hollande said, following a high-level security meeting in Paris, his fourth since the ISIL-claimed lorry attack in Nice on July 14, which killed 84 people.
The president also reiterated that the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle would be deployed in the region in late September to help in ongoing operations against ISIL, also known as ISIS.
Airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria last month surpassed 3,000 weapons dropped for the first time since 2015, according to the latest statistics from U.S. Air Forces Central Command.
The Air Force in June worked round the clock to support allied ground forces on three fronts — Fallujah and Mosul in Iraq, and Raqqa in Syria — to diminish the Islamic State stronghold in each location. For such campaigns, dispatching air support well ahead of a ground fight has been a critical maneuver in advancing the air war against the extremist group, the head of AFCENT said in late May.
“The model that we use … in the combined joint operating area, as the air component, we’re able to strike ahead of the ground movement, so that’s my goal,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, the head of the air war against the Islamic State group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Even as it launches waves of terrorist attacks around the globe, the Islamic State is quietly preparing its followers for the eventual collapse of the caliphate it proclaimed with great fanfare two years ago.
In public messages and in recent actions in Syria, the group’s leaders are acknowledging the terrorist organization’s declining fortunes on the battlefield while bracing for the possibility that its remaining strongholds could fall.
At the same time, the group is vowing to press on with its recent campaign of violence, even if the terrorists themselves are driven underground. U.S. counterterrorism experts believe the mass-casualty attacks in Istanbul and Baghdad in the past month were largely a response to military reversals in Iraq and Syria.
Such terrorist acts are likely to continue and even intensify, at least initially, analysts say, as the group evolves from a quasi-state with territorial holdings to a shadowy and diffuse network with branches and cells on at least three continents.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said Monday that the Pentagon will deploy an additional 560 U.S. troops to Iraq, widening the U.S. military campaign against the Islamic State after Iraqi security forces seized a key airfield over the weekend.
Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said that the additional troops will “predominantly” be assigned to the newly recaptured air base, installing everything from additional security measures to communications gear. Qayyarah Air Base is considered an important springboard to take back the city of Mosul, which is the de facto capital of the Islamic State in Iraq and about 40 miles north of the airfield.
The decision to deploy more service members will elevate the number of U.S. troops the Pentagon counts in Iraq to 4,647. Unofficially, that figure is probably closer to 6,000 when considering a variety of American troops who deploy on temporary assignments that the Pentagon does not include in its official tally.
Afshin Rattansi speaks to Scotland’s Former First Minister, Alex Salmond, about Tony Blair, Iraq, Chilcot and whether the Corbyn coup been co-opted by Blairites. (Going Underground)
Downing Street gagged military chiefs from responding to the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry and prevented them from issuing their own views to soldiers, sailors and airmen, it has been disclosed.
Interviews with chiefs were forbidden, while Downing Street gave them “agreed top lines” to pass down to troops according to communications orders seen by the Telegraph.
Defence sources said there were “real worries” about the impact on morale in the Armed Forces of the damning conclusions, but the muzzling of military leaders had appeared to create a “leadership vacuum” in the wake of the report.
After seven years, the Chilcot report has delivered a damning verdict on Tony Blair’s role in the war on Iraq, but British Prime Ministers playing a destructive role in Iraq is a centuries old practice.
Britain has used its military might and commercial prowess to subjugate Iraq and control its oil resources for over one hundred years.
Churchill invented Iraq. The end of World War I left Britain and France in command of the Middle East and the allies carved up the region as the defeated Ottoman Empire fell apart. Winston Churchill convened the 1912 Conference in Cairo to determine the boundaries of the British Middle Eastern mandate. After giving Jordan to Prince Abdullah, Churchill, gave Prince Abdullah’s brother Faisal an arbitrary patch of desert that became Iraq.
Historian Michael R. Burch recalls how the huge zigzag in Jordan’s eastern border with Saudi Arabia has been called “Winston’s Hiccup” or “Churchill’s Sneeze” because Churchill carelessly drew the expansive boundary after a generous lunch.
The war on Iraq won’t be remembered for how it was waged so much as for how it was sold. It was a propaganda war, a war of perception management, where loaded phrases, such as “weapons of mass destruction” and “rogue state” were hurled like precision weapons at the target audience: us.
To understand the Iraq war you don’t need to consult generals, but the spin doctors and PR flacks who stage-managed the countdown to war from the murky corridors of Washington where politics, corporate spin and psy-ops spooks cohabit.
Consider the picaresque journey of Tony Blair’s plagiarized dossier on Iraq, from a grad student’s website to a cut-and-paste job in the prime minister’s bombastic speech to the House of Commons. Blair, stubborn and verbose, paid a price for his grandiose puffery. Bush, who looted whole passages from Blair’s speech for his own clumsy presentations, has skated freely through the tempest. Why?
Unlike Blair, the Bush team never wanted to present a legal case for war. They had no interest in making any of their allegations about Iraq hold up to a standard of proof. The real effort was aimed at amping up the mood for war by using the psychology of fear.
Tony Blair is a War Criminal for Pushing Britain into Illegal Iraq Invasion: Interview with Tariq Ali and Sami Ramadani
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Tariq Ali, and Sami Ramadani about the long-awaited British inquiry into the Iraq War, the legacy of Tony Blair and the state of Iraq today. (Democracy Now!)
Eleven years ago, three suicide bombers attacked the London subway and a bus and killed 51 people. Almost immediately, it was obvious that retaliation for Britain’s invasion and destruction of Iraq was a major motive for the attackers.
Two of them said exactly that in videotapes they left behind: The attacks “will continue and pick up strengths till you pull your soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq. … Until we feel security, you will be targets.” Then, less than a year later, a secret report from British military and intelligence chiefs concluded that “the war in Iraq contributed to the radicalization of the July 7 London bombers and is likely to continue to provoke extremism among British Muslims.” The secret report, leaked to The Observer, added: “Iraq is likely to be an important motivating factor for some time to come in the radicalization of British Muslims and for those extremists who view attacks against the U.K. as legitimate.”
The release on Tuesday of the massive Chilcot report — which the New York Times called a “devastating critique of Tony Blair” — not only offers more proof of this causal link, but also reveals that Blair was expressly warned before the invasion that his actions would provoke al Qaeda attacks on the U.K. As my colleague Jon Schwarz reported yesterday, the report’s executive summary quotes Blair confirming he was “aware” of a warning by British intelligence that terrorism would “increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti-U.S./anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West.”
The bitter political debate over the 2003 Iraq War resumed once again on Wednesday in the United Kingdom and the United States, thanks to the release of a report on the British role in the invasion and occupation.
Parsing the report, prepared by a committee of Privy Counsellors chaired by Sir John Chilcot, will take time since it runs to 2.6 million words, but the reaction online has already begun. Partisans for and against the war are sifting through the text for new details that might support their original positions, a reminder that Iraq has only ever mattered to most Americans and Britons as material for attacks on their political opponents.
That becomes glaringly obvious when you compare the intensity and volume of commentary on the report to how relatively little was said about a suicide bombing in Baghdad on Sunday that killed 250 Iraqis.
A Saturday night bombing in a Shi’ite neighborhood in Baghdad, targeting a marketplace full of people breaking the Ramadan fast, seems like a pretty ordinary story. Since the 2003 US invasion and occupation, Iraq has been hit with countless suicide bombings, and Baghdad has taken more than its share.
The Saturday bombing looms particularly large, however, as it stands as the deadliest single bomb attack in Iraq’s entire history, with the most recent figures saying 292 people were killed and another 200 wounded in the attack.
Many people were pinned under the rubble, some for days, with the initial reports suggesting only scores killed. It was around 150 killed by day’s end, and it’s nearly doubled since. ISIS was quick to claim credit for this, just one of many massive ISIS attacks around the world in recent weeks.
For Iraqis, a British war inquiry criticising former premier Tony Blair means little as, whoever is to blame, they are still suffering the devastating consequences of the 2003 US-led invasion.
The Chilcot report was released just days after one of the deadliest bombings ever to hit the country tore through a crowded shopping area in Baghdad, killing at least 250 people.
The attack was claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, which includes members of Saddam Hussein’s toppled regime and has its roots in the insurgency that began after the dictator’s overthrow in 2003.
The 2.6 million-word report resulting from an inquiry chaired by John Chilcot, which was seven years in the making, criticised Blair as having taken his country into a badly planned, woefully executed and legally questionable war.
While the report was hotly anticipated in London and has sparked widespread commentary and media attention, the reaction in Baghdad has been somewhat more muted.
The Chilcot report the U.K.’s official inquiry into its participation in the Iraq War, has finally been released after seven years of investigation.
Its executive summary certainly makes former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led the British push for war, look terrible. According to the report, Blair made statements about Iraq’s nonexistent chemical, biological, and nuclear programs based on “what Mr. Blair believed” rather than the intelligence he had been given. The U.K. went to war despite the fact that “diplomatic options had not been exhausted.” Blair was warned by British intelligence that terrorism would “increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti-US/anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West.”
On the other hand, the inquiry explicitly says that it is not “questioning Mr. Blair’s belief” in the case for war — i.e., it is not accusing him of conscious misrepresentations. Blair is already spinning this as an exoneration, saying the report “should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies, or deceit.”
But consider that for as long as the Chilcot commission has existed, the U.K. and U.S. intelligence communities have probably fought over the language of the executive summary.
So the place to look for the less adulterated truth about Blair and the U.K. government is in the rest of the report’s 2.6 million words, including footnotes and newly declassified documents.