- People from these countries visited the site this week
- The so-called ‘forgotten war’? Forgotten by the media who profit from the guilty aggressors – but highlighted by unsuborned journalists
- The US continues its mission: bringing peace, democracy and death – this time in Africa
- Mayhem! what we are we doing? Adding political to military strikes.“UN, US, UK devastation, complicity and double standards”
- We help our sinister friends to commit war crimes in Yemen
The so-called ‘forgotten war’? Forgotten by the media who profit from the guilty aggressors – but highlighted by unsuborned journalists
Yesterday, the Today programme referred to this horror as a ‘forgotten war’ – but it has never been forgotten by investigative journalists like Felicity Arbuthnot, who has written in detail about the savage air strikes carried out carried out by the Saudi led “coalition”, armed by the US and UK and advised by their military specialists. She indicts the collusion and co-operation of both countries which renders them, “equally culpable for the carnage”, writing:
“This heartbreak, fear and destruction has been rained down in commensurate devastation near every twenty-four hours since March 2015, Saudi Arabia is the lead culprit, but in the “coalition” are also Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait”; we note elsewhere news of Britain’s covert assistance in air surveillance of targets and – it is feared – other ‘special operations’, unsanctioned by and undisclosed to parliament”.
Air strikes that targeted a funeral gathering in the capital of Sana’a on 8 October, killing over 140 mourners and injuring 500 others attending the ceremony, have renewed international condemnation of the UK’s controversial weapons trade with Saudi Arabia.
Theresa May defended the arms sales last month, claiming the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia,“helped to keep people on the streets of Britain safe”
Conservative ministers have repeatedly rejected calls for a pause in weapons sales amid frequent reports of war crimes and the Government refused to give MPs a vote on the issue.
The British Government now says it will consider the terms of its lucrative arms exports to Saudi Arabia after its ally admitted responsibility for killing more than 140 mourners and injuring 500 others at a funeral in Yemen.
A few facts:
A United Nations report on children and armed conflict said the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for 60 per cent of all child causalities – 510 deaths and 667 injuries – in the conflict last year. The UN warned that while international attention has focused on Syria, more than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen, including at least 4,000 civilians in the past 18 months alone.
Britain sold £3.3bn worth of arms between April 2015 and March 2016 alone – the first year of the Saudi-led coalition’s deadly bombing campaign in Yemen, where it intervened against Houthi rebels at President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s request. Tim Farron, Jeremy Corbyn and Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas are among those calling for trade to be suspended.
The Washington Post reported in 2014 that the U.S. military wanted to increase reconnaissance flights over Libya assisted by a drone base in Agadez; this would make it easier to reach the southern Libya desert, where security analysts believed that many itinerant Islamist fighters regrouped after being expelled from Mali.
North-eastern Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger were relatively free of terror threats in 2001
Since 9/11 however, the United States has poured vast military funding into the region and stability and security has deteriorated. In 2002, the State Department launched a counterterrorism program — known as the Pan-Sahel Initiative, which later became the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) — to assist the militaries of Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger; between 2009 and 2013 the U.S. allocated $288 million in TSCTP funding, according to a 2014 report by the Government Accountability Office.
- In 2010 a military junta overthrew Niger’s president as he attempted to extend his rule.
- All the original members of the Pan-Sahel Initiative have fallen victim to military uprisings.
- Chad saw attempted coups in 2006 and 2013,
- Members of Mauritania’s military overthrew the government in 2005 and again in 2008,
- A U.S.-trained military officer toppled the democratically elected president of Mali in 2012.
- There are now regular attacks from Boko Haram, an Islamist sect from Nigeria that is said to have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State
The US has now begun to build the $100 million drone base in Niger
American military documents obtained by The Intercept through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the US has begun to build the $100 million drone base in Niger, which will become the key regional hub for U.S. military operations, launching intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions against insurgent groups.
According to the documents, Niger was the “only country in NW Africa willing to allow basing of MQ-9s,” the larger, newer cousins of the Predator drone. The documents went on to note that the “President expressed willingness to support armed RPAs (Ed: Remotely Piloted Aircraft).”
Nigeria News reports that there is concern about the effect of the drone strikes in the north especially the safety of local people
Prof. Femi Adegbulu who is a member of the American Society of Industrial Security said the strike can result in heavy collateral damage.
“There are two sets of drones, one for surveillance and the other for attacks. A reconnaissance drone is used for intelligence gathering, while the other kind of drone is used for attacks. There is no 100 per cent accuracy in warfare. “You lose lives, money, time, and resources. The possibility of collateral damage cannot be ruled out, especially since Boko Haram terrorists are known to use humans as shields when attacked.”
Mike Ejiofor who is a former director of the Department of State Services also expressed concern about the drone attacks which he said might lead to loss of innocent lives. He said: “I am worried that the US military will be making such efforts to launch attacks against Boko Haram from outside Nigeria. If the US did not get the nod from the Federal Government to establish its drone base in the country, how could the US military launch attacks against Boko Haram from Niger Republic?”
The U.S. military activity in Niger is not isolated – the drone project is one of a number of recent American military initiatives in this nation
“There’s a trend toward greater engagement and a more permanent presence in West Africa — the Maghreb and the Sahel,” noted Adam Moore of the department of geography at the University of California in Los Angeles and the co-author of an academic study of the U.S. military’s presence in Africa.
“You lose lives, money, time, and resources” – the only beneficiaries: makers of bodybags, shrouds, the arms manufacturing and trading corporations and beholden politicians.
Mayhem! what we are we doing? Adding political to military strikes.“UN, US, UK devastation, complicity and double standards”
“Arms sales above flesh and blood, terror, heartbreak and humanity, every time”
These words of journalist Felicity Arbuthnot reverberated as the writer belatedly discovered Josie Ensor’s report from Istanbul that a US air strike killed nearly 60 civilians, including children, in Syria after the coalition mistook them for Islamic State fighters. Some eight families were hit as they tried to flee in one of the single deadliest strikes on civilians by the alliance since the start of its operations in the war-torn country.
The US-led coalition has carried out more than 450 air strikes around the city since the operation to take the town began in May.
“This heartbreak, fear and destruction has been rained down in commensurate devastation near every twenty-four hours since March 2015, Saudi Arabia is the lead culprit, but in the “coalition” are also Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait”; we note elsewhere news of Britain’s covert assistance in air surveillance of targets and – it is feared – other ‘special operations’, unsanctioned by and undisclosed to parliament.
Felicity quotes Richard Bennett, head of Amnesty International’s UN Office saying: “The strong evidence of the commission of war crimes by the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in Yemen should have been investigated by the Human Rights Council. Instead, Saudi Arabia cynically used its membership of the Council to derail a resolution to establish an international investigation … As a member of the Human Rights Council Saudi Arabia is required to uphold the highest standards of human rights. In reality, it has led a military coalition (carrying out) unlawful and deadly airstrikes on markets, hospitals and schools in Yemen. The coalition has also repeatedly used internationally banned weapons in civilian areas…”
Then comes a link from a Moseley reader about a draft report to be presented to the Committees on Arms Export Controls:
“It is deeply concerning that since the military intervention in Yemen, the UK government has approved substantial increases in arm licences to Saudi Arabia on the very items which could be used in an aerial campaign.”
The draft also points out that the government has been giving contradictory assurances about the degree of UK involvement in providing military advice to the Saudis, including in the joint combined planning cell and the Saudi Air Operations Centre.
A Newsnight programme reported that the Committees were going to ‘call a halt’ to weapon supplies to Saudi Arabia
This would be followed by an investigation of the accusations of human rights breaches against Riyadh in Yemen, one being “that it seemed “inevitable” that violations of international humanitarian laws had involved arms supplied by the UK . . . The weight of evidence of violations of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition is now so great, that it is very difficult to continue to support Saudi Arabia”.
Politics Home – managing the news? Concern about the leak to Newsnight presented as being the only matter of importance
Politics Home totally failed to report that the arms export committee was reproved by the chair of the foreign affairs select committee, Crispin Blunt, as an apparent effort was made to prevent a quorum by MPs leaving the committee meeting. He asked: “Is it in order for MPs to withdraw from the proceedings at a crucial moment in those proceedings to frustrate the moving on to formal consideration of matters in that committee, and declaring they were doing so with the express intent of withdrawing to prevent those proceedings from going forward with the knock-on effect that other members from their constituent committees were not able then to speak, take part, or vote in the proceedings of the committee?”
In effect these MPs added their political ‘strike’ to the ongoing barbaric and criminal aerial bombardment putting “Arms sales above flesh and blood, terror, heartbreak and humanity, every time”.
A Saudi-led coalition air strike hit a hospital operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres in northern Yemen on Monday, killing at least 11 people and wounding 19, the aid group said. And who is in the coalition?
US and Britain have deployed their military personnel in the command and control centre responsible for Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen, having access to lists of targets.
Fighter jets from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain also took part in the operation. Djibouti and Somalia made its airspace, territorial waters and military bases available to the coalition. The United States provided intelligence and logistical support, including search-and-rescue for downed coalition pilots. It also accelerated the sale of weapons to coalition states.
Pakistan is to be congratulated: it was called on by Saudi Arabia to join the coalition, but its parliament voted to maintain neutrality.
A Reuters witness at the scene of the attack in the Abs district of Hajja province said medics could not immediately evacuate the wounded because war planes continued to fly over the area and emergency workers feared more bombings.
The 3rd airstrike
“This is the fourth attack against an MSF facility in less than 12 months. The location of the hospital was well known, and the hospital’s GPS coordinates were repeatedly shared with all parties to the conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition,” Doctors Without Borders said in a statement. Even with the recent United Nations resolution calling for an end to attacks on medical facilities and high-level declarations of commitment to international humanitarian law, nothing seems to be done to make parties involved in the conflict in Yemen to respect medical staff and patients.”
“This is the fourth attack against an MSF facility in less than 12 months,” said Teresa Sancristóval, MSF emergency program manager for Yemen (More here). “People in Yemen continue to be killed and injured while seeking medical care. The violence in Yemen is having a disproportionate burden on civilians. We want to express our outrage at having to send condolences once more to the families of our staff member and 10 patients, who should have been safe inside a hospital.”
In the foreword to Medea Benjamin’s book, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, Barbara Ehrenreich writes:
How can this barbarity be ended?
News of this 2013 report is being reported now for those who – like the writer – missed it at the time. As this site was set up in 2014, there is no reference to this significant work apart from a reference to the fact that Medact is a member of the Drones Campaign Network, a UK-based network of organisations, academics and individuals working together to share information and coordinate collective action in relation to military drones.
Medact was formed by health professionals to harness their expertise, mandate and ethical principles to raise awareness and speak out on health issues.
The author of the report is Tomasz Pierscionek (left), who was born in Australia and moved to the UK aged 12. He is a doctor specialising in psychiatry (Academic Clinical Fellow in Psychiatry) and works in Newcastle, UK, interested in politics, current affairs and global health and – currently – editor of the online current affairs journal the London Progressive Journal (LPJ), which is not affiliated to any political party or lobby group. He served on the board of the charity Medact for two years before stepping down in June 2013 but is still involved in Medact activities as a member of the organisation).
With a few colleagues from Medact, he worked on a paper whose aim was to compare civilian death rates in conflict caused by various weapons (ranging from small arms fire to aerial bombardment). One of the key points of the paper was the finding that the proportion of civilian to combatant deaths was much higher when artillery was used or when bombs were dropped from the sky compared to when small arms were used. The reason for this is that bombardment and shelling tends to occur predominantly in urban areas where there are higher concentrations of civilians. For example, a building where alleged militants are holed up may be in a densely packed urban area. Hence, if a bomb is dropped on the ‘militants’ (and even it actually hits the intended target) there are still likely to be numerous non combatant casualties.
In the process of writing this paper, they started to learn about the use of a new weapon of war, armed drones. After realising that the use of armed drones was a major issue in itself and one which warranted further investigation, he suggested to his fellow Medact board members that they publish a report looking just at the health effects of these weapons.
This inspired Tomasz to start reading and researching about the use of armed drones. He led an initiative whilst on the board of Medact, aiming to raise awareness of the health effects of armed drones by producing a report (with fellow Medact board members). The report was called Drones: The Physical and Psychological implications of a Global Theatre of War.
He intends to continue to work with other individuals and organisations who are raising awareness of the proliferation of armed drone and the ethical moral and legal aspects associated with their use.
The full Medact Drone Report can be read and downloaded here: http://www.medact.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/report-dronesupdate-2013.pdf
Mark Shapiro has forwarded a link to an article by Andrea Germanos reporting the resignation of an Army chaplain with the 354th Transportation Battalion at Fort Totten, New York. The Army Times relates his growing unease here.
In a letter to President Barack Obama, Rev. John Antal, now a Unitarian Universalist Church minister in Rock Tavern, New York, wrote:
“The Executive Branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any tie, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials.”
Antal served as a chaplain from September 2012 to February 2013 at the Kandahar Airbase in southern Afghanistan. “While deployed,” he wrote in February last year, a the Times Herald-Record, “I concluded our drone strikes disproportionately kill innocent people. Less than a month after I deployed to Afghanistan, on October 24th, 2012, a grandmother who lived over the hill from our base camp was out gathering okra in a field when she was killed by a U.S. drone strike . . . I didn’t see her, or anyone else, die. All I saw were the drones, taking off, landing, and circling around. I did not even hear the explosion . . .
At a US congressional briefing 13-year-old Zubair Rehman described how he saw his grandmother blown to bits by two hellfire missiles on the day in question, asking his American audience: “Why?” They didn’t have an answer”. Official sources claimed they killed “militants” that day. Rev. John Antal continues:
“Military leadership has a responsibility to advocate for a method of war-fighting consistent with military values like respect, integrity, and personal courage. Too often, I worry, our program of drone warfare falls short of these ideals.
“I resign because I refuse to support U.S. policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy, and global power projection”.
His letter of resignation may be seen on the Portside website