Solidarity is not a Crime: Statement from the Minnesota Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria (Minnesota CISPOS)

As members of an organization committed to peace and justice, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria (CISPOS), it was disheartening for us to see an article in Huffington Post that falsely alleges that we are working “in sync with neocon warhawks to produce and sustain a perpetual state of U.S. war.” Coleen Rowley and Margaret Sarfehjooy’s article “Selling ‘Peace Groups’ on US-Led Wars” does not provide insightful analysis and is constructed on unfounded claims.

The article is fallout from the widespread controversy in the peace movement over how to respond to the brutal war in Syria.

Many anti-war pundits and activists have bought into U.S. propaganda that the U.S. is actively supporting the Syrian rebels to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria. They point to the 1997 Project for a New American Century plan for regime change in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria. They believed Hillary Clinton in 2012 when she said the Assad regime must go and that the international community stands with the Syrian people.  In fact…the U.S. has given very little training, small weapons, and funds to very few rebel groups.  Congress recently dropped $300 million for the Syrian rebels from the defense bill, almost completely cutting what the Syrian opposition already saw as paltry support from the U.S.  On the other hand, the CIA has long had a working relationship with Assad, sending him numerous terrorist suspects to torture as part of their rendition program. Assad has provided Israel with a secure border.

Continue reading “Solidarity is not a Crime: Statement from the Minnesota Committee in Solidarity with the People of Syria (Minnesota CISPOS)”

Should We Oppose the Intervention Against ISIS? An Exchange of Views

Reposted from In These Times

 

Should We Oppose the Intervention Against ISIS?

Most U.S. leftists say yes. But voices we rarely hear—Kurds and members of the Syrian opposition—have more ambiguous views.

ISIS (or ISIL, or the Islamic State) sent shock waves through the Middle East and beyond in June when it seized Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. The organization has now laid claim to a swath of territory “stretching from Baghdad to Aleppo and from Syria’s northern border to the deserts of Iraq in the south,” in the words of Patrick Cockburn, author of The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising.

In August, the United States assembled an international coalition (eventually including more than a dozen countries) to conduct a campaign of air strikes on ISIS positions in Iraq, coordinating with Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces. Then, in October, the coalition expanded the intervention into Syria, coordinating with Kurdish fighters on the Syrian-Turkish border and Free Syrian army forces.

American progressives have been relatively uniform in opposing the intervention against ISIS. But to most Kurds and many Syrian activists, the intervention is more welcome. Turkish and Syrian Kurds along the border watch the battles against ISIS from hilltops, breaking out in cheers and chanting, “Obama, Obama.” Within the Syrian opposition, one finds a range of perspectives—some support intervention, others oppose it, and many, like the Syrian leftist intellectual Yassin al-Haj Saleh, are torn. In late September Saleh told me, Continue reading “Should We Oppose the Intervention Against ISIS? An Exchange of Views”

Hearts and Minds

Armed US drones have been blamed for more than 300 missile attacks in seven years in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Residents of Pakistan’s tribal areas say that they feel terrorised by the strikes, and doctors say that those who survive them often suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder met with the survivors of one such strike at a hospital in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

The Virtue-less war of the nintendo bomber

My second article in the drones series is now online at Al Jazeera.

Drone pilots pilot the craft from an air conditioned office thousands of miles away. War has never before been so like a video game.(GALLO/GETTY)

In April, the British Ministry of Defence published a study which for the first time gave serious consideration to the moral, ethical and legal aspects of the drone wars. The study advises defense planners that ‘before unmanned systems become ubiquitous’ they must ‘ensure that, by removing some of the horror, or at least keeping it at a distance we do not risk losing our controlling humanity and make war more likely.’ The report is particularly concerned that the low risks of using drones were enabling policy makers to consider military action in places where they would otherwise be hesitant: ‘the use of force is totally a function of the existence of an unmanned capability,’ it suggests.

The conclusions of the report are sobering. So is the fact that it was produced by a British military think tank rather than a US Congressional committee. In the US, the media and political establishment are still romancing the drone with the kind of giddy attention that sometimes borders on the inappropriate. In a May 10, 2009 segment on the Predator drone, Lara Logan of CBS’s 60 Minutes was positively breathless. Two years later, at a New America Foundation conference on drones, Professor Thomas Nachbar of the University of Virginia School of Law declared drones ‘fun’ and argued ‘against more transparency’ in their use.

Drones are attractive to US militarists and their courtiers because they are politically liberating. In their battle against public opinion and institutional inertia, politicians have often found technology an ally. The drones must therefore be understood in the context of a long-standing US desire to develop the technological means for achieving global Pax Americana. And for a century, airpower has been a key component of this vision.

Continue reading “The Virtue-less war of the nintendo bomber”

The magical realism of body counts

The following article appeared on Al Jazeera. (in Spanish in Rebelión). You can hear my interview with PressTV here. Andrew Sullivan quotes me on his influential blog the Daily Dish and Natasha Lennard quotes me over at Salon.

Gravediggers of Afghanistan and Pakistan have been kept busy as the US drone war has expanded, but civilian deaths remain undercounted as mendacious officials build a myth of technological accuracy and violent ‘justice’ (REUTERS)

A gypsy named Melquiades who died many years ago in Singapore returned to live with the family of Colonel Aureliano Buendia in Macondo, because he could no longer bear the tedium of death. These are the kinds of characters that populate Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s magnificent work One Hundred Years of Solitude. Today they also seem to occupy the tribal badlands of Pakistan’s north-western frontier.

On June 3, when Ilyas Kashmiri was killed in a US drone strike, he had already been dead for over a year. In September 2009, the CIA claimed that it killed Kashmiri along with two other senior Taliban leaders in North Waziristan. But the lure of the limelight was seemingly irresistible even in death, because on October 9, Kashmiri returned to give an interview to the late Syed Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times Online.

Baitullah Mehsud, the former commander of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), also rose from the dead many times. On at least 16 occasions, Mehsud was in the gun-sights when CIA drones loosed their Hellfire missiles. Yet, until August 2009, he proved unable to settle into the afterlife. Mullah Sangeen also experienced at least two resurrections.

Death is clearly not what it used to be.

Or perhaps the people who were killed in the other attacks were not Kashmiri, Sangeen or Mehsud. Indeed, the attack on a funeral procession on June 23, 2009, which killed Sangeen was supposedly aimed at the TTP chief. It killed 83 people who certainly were not who they were supposed to be.

These are not isolated events. At the end of 2009, the Pakistani daily Dawn calculated that, of the 708 people killed in 44 drone attacks that year, only 5 were known militants. Earlier that year, The News, Pakistan’s other major English-language daily, had calculated that between January 14, 2006, and April 8, 2009, 60 drone attacks killed 701 people – of whom only 14 were known militants.

You can read the rest here

The Predators: Where is Your Democracy?

by Kathy Kelly

On May 4, 2011, CNN World News asked whether killing Osama bin Laden was legal under international law.  Other news commentary has questioned whether it would have been both possible and advantageous to bring Osama bin Laden to trial rather than kill him.

World attention has been focused, however briefly, on questions of legality regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden.  But, with the increasing use of Predator drones to kill suspected “high value targets” in Pakistan and Afghanistan, extrajudicial killings by U.S. military forces have become the new norm.

Just three days after Osama bin Laden was killed, an attack employing remote-control aerial drones killed fifteen people in Pakistan and wounded four. CNN reports that their Islamabad bureau has counted four drone strikes over the last month and a half since the March 17 drone attack which killed 44 people in Pakistan’s tribal region. This most recent suspected strike was the 21st this year.  There were 111 strikes in 2010. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated that 957 innocent civilians were killed in 2010.

I’m reminded of an encounter I had, in May, 2010 ,when a journalist and a social worker from North Waziristan met with a small Voices for Creative Nonviolence delegation in Pakistan  and described, in gory and graphic detail, the scenes of drone attacks which they had personally witnessed:  the carbonized bodies, burned so fully they could be identified by legs and hands alone, the bystanders sent flying like dolls through the air to break, with shattered bones and sometimes-fatal brain injuries, upon walls and stone.

Continue reading “The Predators: Where is Your Democracy?”