The declarations of victory played out across Iraq and Syria: The long campaigns to retake city after city from Islamic State militants had come to an end.
But the hard-won battles left vast destruction in their wake, and the celebrations from atop the rubble of once-grand buildings are ringing hollow for hundreds of thousands of displaced residents.
Iraqis and Syrians return to cities that are ghosts of their former glory, lacking the infrastructure for normal life to begin again. Now they must grapple with how to rebuild.
Aaron Mate speaks with investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed who says British government policies benefit extremists and endanger civilians. (The Real News)
Afshin Rattansi speaks with filmmaker and journalist John Pilger about MI6’s connection to the Libya-Manchester atrocity ahead of Sunday’s Arianna Grande’s benefit gig for those affected by the Manchester attack. Pilger’s latest article is titled ‘Terror In Britain: What Did the Prime Minister Know?‘ (Going Underground)
At least 3,050 people were killed in violent acts during May. Another 922 were wounded. The number of fatalities dropped by almost a thousand since last month, but the number of wounded in reports increased. In April, 4,033 were killed, and 629 were wounded.
The breakdown as compiled by Antiwar.com is as follows. At least 770 civilians, 166 security personnel, 2,066 militants, and 48 members of the Kurdistan Workers party were killed during May. Another 759 civilians, 146 security personnel, and 17 militants were wounded.
These figures should be considered lowball estimates. Reports from behind enemy lines are scant, and the Iraqi government has refused to release casualty figures for its personnel. The Iraqi government also may be padding the number of militants killed. Some of the “militant” casualties may actually belong to civilians. It is impossible to know the true scope of the violence.
Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speak with Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s arms control and human rights researcher, about a newly declassified Pentagon audit which shows the U.S. Army failed to keep track of more than $1 billion worth of weapons and military equipment sent to Iraq and Kuwait, including tens of thousands of assault rifles and hundreds of armored vehicles. The audit found improper record-keeping, including duplicated spreadsheets, handwritten receipts and a lack of a central database to track the transfers. (Democracy Now!)
Each Memorial Day, we pay respects to the fallen from past wars – including the more than one million American soldiers killed in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.
Yet the nation’s longest and most expensive war is the one that is still going on. In addition to nearly 7,000 troops killed, the 16-year conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan will cost an estimated US$6 trillion due to its prolonged length, rapidly increasing veterans health care and disability costs and interest on war borrowing. On this Memorial Day, we should begin to confront the staggering cost and the challenge of paying for this war.
The enormous figure reflects not just the cost of fighting – like guns, trucks and fuel – but also the long-term cost of providing medical care and disability compensation for decades beyond the end of the conflict. Consider the fact that benefits for World War I veterans didn’t peak until 1969. For World War II veterans, the peak came in 1986. Payments for Vietnam-era vets are still climbing.
The high rates of injuries and increased survival rates in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that over half the 2.5 million who served there suffered some degree of disability. Their health care and disability benefits alone will easily cost $1 trillion in coming decades.
But instead of facing up to these huge costs, we have charged them to the national credit card. This means that our children will be forced to pay the bill for the wars started by our generation. Unless we set aside money today, it is likely that young people now fighting in Afghanistan will be shortchanged in the future just when they most need medical care and benefits.
The Only Real Way to Stop Atrocities Like Manchester is to End the Wars Which Allow Extremism to Grow
[…] The bombing in Manchester – and atrocities attributed to Isis influence in Paris, Brussels, Nice and Berlin – are similar to even worse slaughter of tens of thousands in Iraq and Syria. These get limited attention in the Western media, but they continually deepen the sectarian war in the Middle East.
The only feasible way to eliminate organisations capable of carrying out these attacks is to end the seven wars – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and north east Nigeria – that cross-infect each other and produce the anarchic conditions in which Isis and al-Qaeda and their clones can grow.
But to end these wars, there needs to be political compromise between main players like Iran and Saudi Arabia and Trump’s belligerent rhetoric makes this almost impossible to achieve.
Of course, the degree to which his bombast should be taken seriously is always uncertain and his declared policies change by the day.
On his return to the US, his attention is going to be fully focused on his own political survival, not leaving much time for new departures, good or bad, in the Middle East and elsewhere. His administration is certainly wounded, but that has not stopped doing as much harm as he could in the Middle East in a short space of time.
President Trump has said that America needs to rebuild its military, which is laughable in many ways. But he’s right in one respect. We need more bombs. Why? Because the US has dropped so many bombs in the fight against ISIS over the past two years that we’re running out.
As military news site Defense One reports, America is running short on the GPS-guided Small Diameter Bombs made by Boeing, newer models made by Raytheon, and even air-to-air missiles. Many of the existing stockpiles of bombs held by the US military are being diverted from the Pacific region to the Middle East and Africa, where the need is reportedly most urgent.
But this isn’t a new problem. There have been warnings from the Pentagon for almost a year that our intensive bombing of ISIS targets around the world could lead to a shortage. We ran into a similar problem near the end of 2015.
Since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolve in August of 2014, the US has spent over $11.9 billion on military operations against ISIS. That includes over 19,607 strikes in Iraq and Syria alone, at a cost of roughly $12.8 million per day. And that doesn’t even count airstrikes in places like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen.
At least 4,033 were killed in Iraq during April, and another 629 were wounded. These figures include a U.S. servicemember, who was killed near Mosul this week. In March, 3,330 people were killed, and another 929 were wounded.
The breakdown as compiled by Antiwar.com is as follows: one U.S. servicemember, 1,348 civilians, 152 security personnel, and 2,443 militants were killed in the conflict. Turkey reported killing 89 members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.) in northern Iraq. Also, 337 civilians, 231 security personnel, and 61 militants are known to have been wounded.
These estimates are too low. In order to maintain morale, Baghdad has refused to release accurate casualty figures. However, hospitals in the regions near Mosul are reporting they are at capacity and in need of additional assistance, so the number of wounded must be higher.
[…] To liberals and other critics, Wolfowitz would be the last person they want Trump to listen to. Long a lightning rod because of the havoc unleashed by the Iraq invasion, Wolfowitz has never apologized for advocating the war, although he has said—and repeated in our conversation—that it was not carried out as he would have wanted it to be. In recent days he‘s jumped right back into the public debate, nudging President Trump from the pages of the Wall Street Journal to follow up his bombing strike in neighboring Syria with more aggressive action—and, he tells me, privately emailing with Trump Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security advisor H.R. McMaster, both longtime contacts since his Bush days, in hopes they will pursue a U.S. strategy of stepped-up engagement in the Middle East.
“I think there is a fantastic opportunity here. It’s only a first step, it’s only an opportunity,” he says of Trump’s surprise decision to unloose an American Tomahawk missile strike in Syria after President Bashar Assad’s regime again unleashed chemical weapons on civilians, a strike that turned Wolfowitz and many of his fellow neoconservatives into unlikely cheerleaders for the actions of an administration they had previously viewed as a threat. “If nothing is done to follow up on it, it will start to seem a little bit silly in retrospect; certainly the enthusiasm will seem silly. But more importantly it will look like a lost opportunity in retrospect.
Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speak with Anand Gopal, a journalist and a fellow at The Nation Institute, who recently returned from the Middle East and has reported extensively from the region. (Democracy Now!)
At least 3,330 people were killed during March, and another 929 were wounded. These figures are a very conservative estimate of the casualties occurring in Iraq. The true figures could be hundreds or even thousands higher. The government has refused to give any honest figures; however, there is evidence that the numbers are being underreported.
According to news reports, at least 1,126 civilians, 104 security personnel, three Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.) guerrillas, and 2,097 militants were killed during March. Another 798 civilians, 82 security personnel, and 49 militants were reported wounded. The figures add up to 3,330 killed and 929 wounded. During February, at least 2,748 people were killed and 1,224 were wounded in the conflict.
These estimates are unsurprisingly low, with the possible exception of Islamic State fatalities. Because there is little to no independent reporting from behind enemies, it is unclear if these figures are valid. The Iraqi government could be elevating the number of militant fatalities for propaganda purposes. Or, the numbers may be accurate, but the dead may include civilians, such as militant wives and children.
Full details of the plan have not been released yet, but the long-promised Pentagon proposal to escalate the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria has been delivered today, and is said to includes options for large deployments of additional troops to Syria, as well as increased targeting of ISIS the world over.
The plan for the Pentagon is to “rapidly” defeat ISIS, with the assumption that throwing more US troops at the situation will make it go faster. Officials at the Pentagon conceded this strategy might need to be further refined before implemented on the ground.
It is particularly noteworthy that we don’t really know any more about the plan today, beyond the talking points, than we did about it in recent weeks when officials started hyping its upcoming delivery, with the recommendations still apparently boiling down to straightforward additions of a number of combat troops.
The US military is contemplating a long-term presence in Iraq to stabilize the country after the anticipated defeat ISIS, America’s top military officer said Thursday.
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!)
- General Mattis: A Pledge for More of the Same at the Pentagon
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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.