Category Archives: Indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets

Fifteen years of U.S. crimes in Afghanistan

http://www.salon.com/2016/11/05/the-15-year-u-s-war-in-afghanistan-barely-gets-mentioned-even-when-nato-airstrikes-massacre-30-civilians/
Salpon.com, Nov. 5, 2016
The 15-year U.S. war in Afghanistan barely gets mentioned, even when NATO airstrikes massacre 30 civilians
The U.S. war continues to take a heavy toll on Afghan civilians, yet Clinton and Trump never even discussed it
Ben Norton

At least 30 civilians, including women and children, were killed in NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan on Thursday. Dozens more civilians were wounded.

The site of the attack, in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province, was near the remnants of a hospital bombed by NATO forces almost exactly one year before.

These new casualties come just after the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan entered its 16th year. The ongoing conflict, which gets little coverage in the media and has hardly been mentioned in the presidential campaigns, is one of the longest conventional wars in U.S. history, and has taken an enormous toll on the South Asian country’s civilian population.

Airstrikes were called in on Thursday after heavy fighting erupted between Taliban militants and U.S. and allied Afghan forces in the northern village of Buz Kandahari.

Kunduz Governor Asadullah Amarkhil called the attack “a horrible incident,” Reuters reported. Afghan villagers brought the bodies of the slain civilians into the nearby city of Kunduz and held angry protests.

“These bodies you see here are either children or women, they are not Taliban. All innocent children and women killed here — look at the bodies there,” a resident told Reuters.

Two U.S. soldiers were also killed in the fighting.

This latest attack took place roughly three miles from the center of Kunduz, where NATO forces bombed a hospital operated by Doctors Without Borders in October 2015.

Last year’s attack killed another 30 civilians, including 14 hospital workers. A hospital nurse said there “are no words for how terrible” the bombing was, noting that “patients were burning in their beds.”

The U.S. military’s version of the story changed multiple times, and was full of contradictions. Ultimately, no U.S. officials lost their jobs because of the attack.

Doctors Without Borders called the hospital bombing a war crime. The U.N. high commissioner for human rights similarly said it could have been a war crime.

The medical humanitarian group, known internationally as Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, emphasized that it had “communicated the precise locations of its facilities to all parties on multiple occasions over the past months.” Yet its facility was repeatedly bombed for more than 30 minutes, even after MSF “frantically phoned” Washington.

The Kunduz hospital was the only large medical facility in all of northeastern Afghanistan, yet MSF was forced to withdraw from the area after the attack.

Millions of Afghans have had their lives permanently changed by the U.S. war, which marked its 15th anniversary on Oct. 7 — an unpropitious date that came and went with little attention in the media, and virtually no acknowledgment by major American politicians.

More than a decade of nonstop war has pushed Afghanistan to the brink of catastrophe. And things are getting worse, not better.

At least 220,000 Afghans were killed in the first 12 years of the war, in a conservative estimate, according to a report by the Nobel Prize-winning organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

Since 2012, Afghan civilian casualties have increased, with children making up a growing portion of victims. The violence in 2015 was the worst since the U.N. began tracking the casualties.

In the first nine months of 2016, 2,562 Afghan civilians were killed, including more than 600 children, and another 5,835 were injured, according to the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
A graph released by the U.N. mission shows how civilian casualties have gradually risen in the past several years.

http://media.salon.com/2016/11/casualties-afghanistan-un.jpg

A May report by Amnesty International noted that the number of Afghans “who have fled violence and remained trapped in their own country, where they live on the brink of survival,” has doubled in just over three years.

At least 1.2 million Afghans are displaced within their country — a rise by some 240 percent since 2013. Another roughly 2.6 million Afghans are refugees, stuck outside of their country’s borders.

Afghans make up one of the world’s largest refugee populations. Yet the European Union, which has backed the NATO war in Afghanistan that has displaced so many people, made a deal to send Afghan refugees to Turkey, in a plan experts said is illegal and immoral.

Even child refugees are not spared. From 2007 to 2015, the United Kingdom deported 2,018 unaccompanied children to Afghanistan — in another program human rights officials have warned is illegal.

None of this is to mention the enormous costs of the war for U.S. taxpayers. Numerous reports estimate that the war in Afghanistan has cost at least $1 trillion. That is money that could have been invested in social services, health care, infrastructure, education and so much more.

The war drags on. President Obama promised countless times that he would end it in 2014. Instead, he has extended it multiple times.

The Taliban was itself a product of U.S. war. In order to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the U.S. and its allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia trained, armed and funded extremist Islamist militants, giving birth to the extremism that haunts the region today.

While fighting between the Taliban and U.S.-led forces escalates, Obama nears his last days in office. Neither Hillary Clinton, the most likely candidate for U.S. president, nor her opponent Donald Trump has presented a strategy for ending the war. The Afghan people, meanwhile, cannot wait. They are dying, suffering, losing their homes and loved ones.

As Nicholas Haysom, the U.N.’s secretary general’s special representative for Afghanistan, put it in February, mere statistics do not “reflect the real horror of the phenomenon we are talking about.”

“The real cost we are talking about in these figures,” Haysom continued, “is measured in the maimed bodies of children, the communities who have to live with loss, the grief of colleagues and relatives, the families who make do without a breadwinner, the parents who grieve for lost children, the children who grieve for lost parents.”

Ben Norton is a politics reporter and staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come

http://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/palestinian-recourse-to-the-international-criminal-court-the-time-has-come/

Palestinian Recourse to the International Criminal Court: The Time has Come
By Prof. Richard Falk

[Prefatory Note: “Palestine’s Dilemma: To Go or Not to Go to the International Criminal Court” was published on July 13, 2014 on the website of Middle East Eye, a site I strong recommend to all those with an interest in Middle East issues; this post represents a somewhat revised text, but within the framework of the original; the political plausibility of invoking the Inteernational Criminal Court to investigate allegations of criminality directed at Israel increases with each passing day.]

Ever since this latest Israeli major military operation against Gaza started on July 8, there have been frequent suggestions that Israel is guilty of war crimes, and that Palestine should do its best to activate the International Criminal Court (ICC) on its behalf. The evidence overwhelmingly supports basic Palestinian allegations—Israel is guilty either of aggression in violation of the UN Charter or is in flagrant violation of its obligations as the Occupying Power under the Geneva Convention to protect the civilian population of an Occupied People; Israel seems guilty of using excessive and disproportionate force against a defenseless society in the Gaza Strip; and Israel, among an array of other offenses, seems guilty of committing Crimes Against Humanity in the form of imposing an apartheid regime in the West Bank and through the transfer of population to an occupied territory as it has proceeded with its massive settlement project.

Considering this background of apparent Israeli criminality it would seem a no brainer for the Palestinian Authority to seek the help of the ICC in waging its struggle to win over world public opinion to their struggle. After all, the Palestinians are without military or diplomatic capabilities to oppose Israel, and it is on law and global solidarity must rest their hopes for eventually realizing their rights, particularly the right of self-determination and the right of return. Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank are demanding that their leaders in the Palestinian Authority adhere to the Rome Statute, and become members of the ICC without further delay. It has become part of the message of Palestinian street politics that the Palestinians are being criminally victimized, and that the Palestinian Authority if it wants to retain the slightest shred of respect as representatives of the Palestinian people must join in this understanding of the Palestinian plight and stop ‘playing nice’ with Israeli authorities.

Such reasoning from a Palestinian perspective is reinforced by the May 8th letter sent by 17 respected human rights NGOs to President Mahmoud Abbas urging Palestine to become a member of the ICC, and act to end Israel’s impunity. This was not a grandstanding gesture dreamed up on the irresponsible political margins of liberal Western society. Among the signatories were such human rights stalwarts as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Al Haq, and the International Commission of Jurists, entities known for their temporizing prudence in relation to the powers that be.

Adding further credence to the idea that the ICC option should be explored was the intense opposition by Israel and United States, ominously threatening the PA with dire consequences if it tried to join the ICC, much less to seek justice through its activating its investigative procedures. The American ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, herself long ago prominent as a human rights advocate, revealed Washington’s nervous hand when she confessed that the ICC “is something that really poses a profound threat to Israel.” I am not sure that Power would like to live with the idea that because Israel is so vulnerable to mounting a legal challenge that its impunity must be upheld whatever the embarrassment to Washington of doing so. France and Germany have been more circumspect, saying absurdly that recourse to the ICC by Palestine should be avoided because it would disrupt ‘the final status negotiations,’ as if this pseudo-diplomacy was ever of any of value, a chimera if there ever was one, in the elusive quest for a just peace.

In a better world, the PA would not hesitate to invoke the authority of the ICC, but in the world as it is, the decision is not so simple. To begin with, is the question of access, which is limited to states. Back in 2009, the PA tried to adhere to the Rome Statute, which is the treaty governing the ICC, and was rebuffed by the prosecutor who turned the issue over to the Security Council, claiming a lack of authority to determined whether the PA represented a ‘state.’ Subsequently, on November 29th the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly recognized Palestine as ‘a nonmember observer state.’ Luis Moreno–Ocampo who had acted in 2009 for the ICC, and now speaking as the former prosecutor, asserted that in his opinion Palestine would now in view of the General Assembly action qualify as a state enjoying the option of becoming an ICC member. Normally, ICC jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed after the state becomes a member, but there is a provision that enables a declaration to be made accepting jurisdiction for crimes committed at any date in its territory so long as it is after the ICC itself was established in 2002.

Is this enough? Israel has never become a party to the Rome Statute setting up the ICC, and would certainly refuse to cooperate with a prosecutor who sought to investigate war crimes charges with the possible intention of prosecution. In this regard, recourse to ICC might appear to be futile as even if arrest warrants were to be issued by the court, as was done in relation to Qaddafi and his son in 2011, there would be no prospect that the accused Israeli political and military figures would be handed over, and without the presence of such defendants in the court at The Hague, a criminal trial cannot go forward. This illustrates a basic problem with the enforcement of international criminal law. It has been effective only against the losers in wars fought against the interests of the West and, to some extent, against those whose crimes are in countries located in sub-Saharan Africa. This biased form of international criminal law implementation has been the pattern since the first major effort was made after World War II at Nuremberg and Tokyo. Surviving German and Japanese leaders were prosecuted for their crimes while exempting the winners, despite Allied responsibility for the systematic bombing of civilian populations by way of strategic bombing and the American responsibility for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Unfortunately, up to this time the ICC has not been able to get rid of this legacy of ‘victors’ justice,’ which has harmed its credibility and reputation. All ICC cases so far have involved accused from sub-Saharan African countries. The refusal of the ICC to investigate allegations of war crimes of the aggressors in relation the Iraq War of 2003 is a dramatic confirmation that leading states, especially the United States, possess a geopolitical veto over what the ICC can do. The ICC failure to investigate the crimes of Bush and Blair, as well as their entourage of complicit top officials, vividly shows the operations of double standards. Perhaps, the climate of opinion has evolved to the point where there would be an impulse to investigate the charges against Israel even if procedural obstacles preventing the case from being carried to completion. Any serious attempt to investigate the criminal accountability of Israeli political and military leaders would add legitimacy to the Palestinian struggle, and might have a positive spillover effect on the global solidarity movement and the intensifying BDS campaign.

Yet there are other roadblocks. First of all, the PA would definitely have to be prepared to deal with the wrath of Israel, undoubtedly supported by the United States and more blandly by several European countries. The push back could go in either of two directions: Israel formally annexing most or all of the West Bank, which it seems determined to do in any event, or more likely in the short run, withholding the transfer of funds needed by the PA to support its governmental operations. The U.S. Congress would be certain to follow the lead of Tel Aviv even if the Obama presidency might be more inclined to limit its opposition to a diplomatic slap on the PA wrist as it did recently in reacting to the June formation of the interim unity government, an important step toward reconciling Fatah and Hamas, and overcoming the fragmentation that has hampered Palestinian representation in international venues in recent years.

A second potential obstacle concerns the jurisdictional authority of the ICC, which extends to all war crimes committed on the territory of a treaty member, which means that leaders of Hamas would also likely be investigated and indicted for their reliance on indiscriminate rockets aimed in the direction of Israeli civilian targets.There is even speculation that given the politics of the ICC such that crimes alleged against Hamas might be exclusively pursued.

If we assume that these obstacles have been considered, and Palestine still wants to go ahead with efforts to activate the investigation of war crimes in Gaza, but also in the rest of occupied Palestine, what then? And assume further, that the ICC reacts responsibly, and gives the bulk of its attention to the allegations directed against Israel, the political actor that controls most aspects of the relationship. There are several major crimes against humanity enumerated in Articles 5-9 of the Rome Statute for which there exists abundant evidence as to make indictment and conviction of Israeli leaders all but inevitable if Palestine uses its privilege to activate an investigation and somehow is able to produce the defendants to face trial: reliance on excessive force, imposing an apartheid regime, collective punishment, population transfers in relations to settlements, maintenance of the separation wall in Palestine.

The underlying criminality of the recent aggression associated with Protective Edge (Israel’s name for its 2014 attack on Gaza) cannot be investigated at this point by the ICC, and this seriously limits its authority. It was only in 2010 that an amendment was adopted by the required 2/3 majority of the 122 treaty members on an agreed definition of aggression, but it will not become operative until 2017. In this respect, there is a big hole in the coverage of war crimes currently under the authority of the ICC.

Despite all these problems, recourse to the ICC remains a valuable trump card in the PA thin deck, and playing it might begin to change the balance of forces bearing on the conflict that has for decades now denied the Palestinian people their basic rights under international law. If this should happen, it would also be a great challenge to and opportunity for the ICC finally to override the geopolitical veto that has so far kept criminal accountability within the tight circle of ‘victors’ justice’ and hence only accorded the peoples of the world a very power-laden and biased experience of justice.

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza

Israel bans radio advert listing names of children killed in Gaza

Human rights group B’Tselem will petition Israel’s supreme court after advert was deemed to be ‘politically controversial’
in Jerusale
The Guardian,
Aid agencies said on Wednesday that a child had been killed in Gaza on average every hour for the preceding two days. Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP

The Israeli Broadcasting Authority has banned a radio advertisement from a human rights organisation which listed the names of some of the scores of children killed in Gaza since the conflict began 17 days ago.

B’Tselem‘s appeal against the decision was rejected on Wednesday. It intends to petition Israel‘s supreme court on Sunday in an effort to get the ban overturned.

The IBA said the ad’s content was “politically controversial”. The broadcast refers to child deaths in Gaza and reads out some of the victims’ names.

In its appeal, B’Tselem demanded to know what was controversial about the item. “Is it controversial that the children [aren’t] alive? That they’re children? That those are their names? These are facts that we wish to bring to the public’s knowledge.”

In a statement, the human rights group said: “So far more than 600 people have been killed in bombings in Gaza, more than 150 of them children. But apart from a brief report on the number of fatalities, the Israeli media refrains from covering them.” By Thursday morning, the death toll in Gaza had exceeded 700.

B’Tselem went on: “IBA says broadcasting the children’s names is politically controversial. But refusing to do so is in itself a far-reaching statement – it says the huge price being paid by civilians in Gaza, many of them children, must be censored.”

Aid agencies said on Wednesday that a child had been killed in Gaza on average every hour for the preceding two days, and more than 70,000 children had been forced to flee their homes. There has also been a spike in the number of premature births.

“The shocking number of children being killed, injured, or displaced in Gaza demands an unequivocal international response to stop the bloodshed,” Save the Children said. “Entire families are being wiped out in seconds as a result of the targeting of homes.”

Dr Yousif al Swaiti, director of al-Awda hospital, said: “We have witnessed many premature births as a result of the fear and psychological disorders caused by the military offensive. The number of cases of premature births per day has doubled, compared to the average daily rate before the escalation.”

No justice for the victims of NATO bombings on Belgrad

No justice for the victims of NATO bombings

Amnesty International, April 23, 2009

Aftermath of NATO bombing, Aleksinak, Yugoslavia, 28 May 1999

Ten years on, no-one has been held to account for the NATO attack on the Serbian state radio and television building that left 16 civilians dead. Sixteen civilians were also injured during the air attack on 23 April 1999 on the headquarters and studios of Radio Televizija Srbije (RTS) in central Belgrade.

Those killed included a make-up artist, a cameraman, an editor, a programme director, three security guards and other media support staff. An estimated 200 staff are thought to have been working in the building at the time.

“The bombing of the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television was a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime,” Sian Jones, Amnesty International’s Balkans expert said.

NATO officials confirmed to Amnesty International in early 2000 that they targeted RTS because of its propaganda function, in order to undermine the morale of the population and the armed forces.

“Justifying an attack on the grounds of combating propaganda stretches the meaning of ‘effective contribution to military action’ and ‘definite military advantage’. These are essential requirements of the legal definition of a military objective – beyond acceptable bounds of interpretation.

“Even if NATO genuinely believed RTS was a legitimate target, the attack was disproportionate and hence a war crime,” Sian Jones said.  

NATO officials also confirmed that no specific warning of this particular attack was given, even though they knew many civilians would be in the RTS building.

The raid was part of NATO’s “Operation Allied Force” against the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia between March and June 1999. Approximately 500 civilians were killed and 900 injured during the course of the conflict.

Many of these casualties were caused by indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks and a failure to take necessary precautions to protect civilians.

In several attacks, including the Grdelica railroad bridge on 12 April 1999, the road bridge in Lužane on 1 May 1999 and Varvarin bridge on 30 May 1999, NATO forces failed to suspend their attack after it was evident that they had struck civilians. In other cases, including the attacks on displaced civilians in Djakovica on 14 April 1999 and Koriša on 13 May 1999, NATO failed to take necessary precautions to minimize civilian casualties.

“Civilian deaths could have been significantly reduced during the conflict if NATO forces had fully adhered to the laws of war,” said Sian Jones. “Ten years on, no public investigation has ever been conducted by NATO or its member states into these incidents.”

Amnesty International recommended as early as 2000 that the victims of violations committed by NATO receive redress. Yet the victims of the RTS bombing and their relatives have never received any redress or reparations, including compensation, despite proceedings in domestic courts in Serbia and further applications to the European Court of Human Rights (Banković and others v Belgium and others and Markovic v Italy), which ruled the cases inadmissible.  

Many of the problems that undermined compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law in “Operation Allied Force” – such as lack of clarity in the command structure and decision-making processes on target selection, divergent understanding among national contingents of applicable international law – persist in the alliance’s operations in Afghanistan.

“It now appears that NATO has failed to learn from the mistakes of Operation Allied Force. If anything, NATO appears to have taken a step backward in transparency, releasing less information about attacks it carries out in Afghanistan than it did during Operation Allied Force,” said Sian Jones.

“The most powerful military alliance in the world cannot afford but to set the highest standards of protection of civilians according to international humanitarian law. It must be held accountable for any violations of that law.”

War Crimes as Policy

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/31/war-crimes-as-policy-2/
Weekend Edition May 31-Jun 02, 2013
The CIA: Keepers of the Hit Lists
War Crimes as Policy
by DOUGLAS VALENTINE and NICOLAS J.S. DAVIES

In February the Guardian and BBC Arabic unveiled a documentary exploring the role of retired Colonel James Steele in the recruitment, training and initial deployments of the CIA advised and funded Special Police Commandos in Iraq.

The documentary tells how the Commandos tortured and murdered tens of thousands of Iraqi men and boys.  But the Commandos were only one of America’s many weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Along with US military forces – which murdered indiscriminately – and various CIA funded death squads – which murdered selectively – and the CIA’s rampaging palace guard – the 5,000 man strong Iraq Special Operations Forces – the Commandos were part of a genocidal campaign that killed about 10% of the Sunni Arabs of Iraq by 2008, and drove about half of all Sunnis from their homes.

Including economic sanctions, and a 50 year history of sabotage and subversion, America and its Iraqi collaborators visited far more death and destruction on Iraq than Saddam Hussein and his regime.

For the last few weeks, American pundits have been cataloguing the horrors.   They tell how the Bush and Obama regimes, united in the unstated policy of war crimes, probably murdered more than a million Iraqis, displaced around five million, and imprisoned and tortured hundreds of thousands without trial.

A few have further explained that the dictatorial administrative detention laws, torture, and executions that characterize the occupation are still in place under Prime Minister Maliki.   The prime minister’s office, notably, is where the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Bureau is currently ensconced.

All of this meets the definition of genocide in the Genocide Convention, and violates multiple articles of the Geneva Conventions, which guarantee protection to civilians in time of war.   But the responsible Americans have gone unpunished for their war crimes, not least of which was falsifying intelligence about Iraq’s non-existent weapon of mass destruction as a pretext for the invasion.  British legal advisors repeatedly warned their government that invading Iraq would be a crime of aggression, which they called “one of the most serious offenses under international law.”

For anyone familiar with the CIA, this was predictable.  But the US Government, through secrecy and censorship, destroyed much of the hard evidence of its war crimes, making it harder to prove.   And the media is content to revise history and focus public attention on front men like Steele, rather than the institutions – in particular the CIA – for whom they work.

History, however, provides contextual evidence that what happened in Iraq amounts to a policy of carefully planned war crimes.  Indeed, the CIA modeled the Iraqi Special Police Commandos on the Special Police forces it organized and funded in Vietnam.  In November 2000, Counterpunch published an article describing how Congressman Rob Simmons, while serving as a CIA officer in Vietnam, created the Special Intelligence Force Unit (SIFU) on which the Iraqi Special Police Commandos are very likely modeled.   This is only one of many historical examples of the CIA’s modus operandi.

There are other examples.  As we were reminded by the Guardian, Steele headed the U.S. Military Advisor Group in El Salvador (1984-1986), where US advised units were responsible for thousands of cases of torture and extra-judicial killing.  They operated in rural and urban areas, but wherever they operated, they were directed against anyone opposing US policy – usually leftists.

The CIA’s death squads in El Salvador were periodically moved from one administrative cover to another to confuse investigators.  The CIA played this shell game with its Special Police Commandos in Iraq as well, rebranding them as the “National Police” following the exposure of one of their torture centers in November 2005.  In its finest Madison Avenue marketing traditions, the CIA renamed the Commandos’ predatory Wolf Brigade as the “Freedom Brigade”.

In Vietnam, the CIA built an archipelago of secret torture centers to process the hundreds of thousands of detainees kidnapped by its mercenary army of “counter-terror” death squads.  All around the world, CIA officers and their Special Forces lackeys teach torture techniques and design the torture centers, often hidden at military posts.   This is well known.

Major Joe Blair, the Director of Instruction at the School of the Americas (1986-9), described the training the U.S. gave to Latin American officers as follows: “The doctrine that was taught was that if you want information you use physical abuse…false imprisonment…threats to family members… and killing.  If you can’t get the information you want, if you can’t get that person to shut up or to stop what they’re doing, you simply assassinate them, and you assassinate them with one of your death squads.”

In 2000, the School of the Americas was rebranded as “WHINSIC”, but, as Blair testified at a trial of SOA Watch protesters in 2002, “There are no substantive changes besides the name.  They teach the identical courses that I taught, and changed the course names and use the same manuals.”

General Paul Gorman, who commanded U.S. forces in Central America in the mid-1980′s, defined this type of warfare based on war crimes as “a form of warfare repugnant to Americans, a conflict which involves innocents, in which non-combatant casualties may be an explicit object.”‘

Another problem, apart from historical amnesia, is that each war crime is viewed as an isolated incident, and when the dots are connected, the focus is on some shadowy character like Steele.  The Guardian made an attempt to connect Steele to Petraeus and Rumsfeld, which again, is commendable.  But the fact is that the entire National Security State has been designed and staffed with right-wing ideologues who support the unstated US policy of war crimes for profit.

We know who these security ideologues are.  The problem is, they regularly have lunch with the reporters we trust to nail them to the wall.

For example, on 17 March 2013, CNN talking head Fareed Zakaria had Donald Gregg on his show to discuss North Korea.  Zakaria introduced Gregg as President Bush the Superior’s national security advisor in the 1980s, but did not mention that Gregg, while a CIA region officer in charge in Vietnam, developed the “repugnant” form of warfare based on war crimes described by General Gorman above, or that he oversaw its application in El Salvador through a back-channel “counter-terror” network.

Gregg’s plan, used by Steele in El Salvador and then Iraq, requires US advisers to coordinate civilian security services (like the Iraqi Special Police) with military intelligence and civil affairs units to provide death squads and military units with information on the location of guerrillas, whose hideouts are bombed by U.S. warplanes, then ravaged in My Lai-style cordon and search operations in which counter-terror hit teams hunt enemy cadres in their homes.

In Vietnam, Gregg and his CIA companions – many of whom migrated to El Salvador – put together a chart of VC political cadres from “battered” detainees.  They’d force the detainees to point out on a map where their comrades were hiding.  Then the CIA officers would take the detainees up in a helicopter to point out the hiding places on the ground.  A Special Forces or CIA paramilitary unit would then snatch the cadre and bring them to region’s secret torture center, run by a CIA-paid and owned Special Police officer – the kind of guy Steele and before him Congressman Simmons advised.

“We brought guys in from the national prison to flesh out the reports,” Gregg told me about one particular operation.  “We had guys analyzing reports, marking photographs, putting the pictures together on the wall, and then photographing that.  That led to 96 people in the organization.  Using military intel, we took photos of the houses where they lived… then took the photos back to the helicopter where we had the 23 people, who were hooded, and they circled the faces of the cadre. ”

There’s more historical evidence, of course, but this is the plan the CIA exported to El Salvador, and that Steele employed, with some modifications, in Iraq.

After finishing with Gregg, Zakaria took a commercial break and returned with Paul Wolfowitz, Bush the Inferior’s Deputy Secretary of Defense and proponent of the Iraq War.

ZAKARIA: “How do you think about as an American policy maker, the issue of – was it worth the price in American lives and treasure? By some estimates $1 trillion.

WOLFOWITZ: “I would like as much as anyone to be able to say, let’s forget about the Persian Gulf. Let’s forget about the larger Middle East.  But that part of the world isn’t leaving us alone. Al Qaeda isn’t leaving us alone. Pakistan isn’t leaving us alone. I think our interests and our values would be advanced if we stick with it.”

Zakaria did not ask Wolfowitz what he meant by “leaving us alone.”  He simply said, “Paul Wolfowitz, pleasure to have you on.”

War Criminals Wave Press Passes

Given the history of America’s genocidal wars in Vietnam and Central America, it is unfortunate that the Guardian limited itself to establishing that Steele and his administrative boss, General David Petraeus, and his boss Donald Rumsfeld, underwrote systematic torture and extrajudicial killing.

What needs to be stressed is that thousands of Americans, including political bosses like Wolfowitz, and scores of journalists with access, knew that the CIA-owned Ministry of Interior had more than a dozen secret prisons, and they knew what went on in them – as one Iraqi general told the film-makers, “drilling, murder, torture – the ugliest sorts of torture I’ve ever seen.”

Likewise, the composition of and operations of Special Police death squads, an American interviewee said, “were discussed openly, wherever it was, at staff meetings,” and were “common knowledge across Baghdad.”

It is a testament to the power of U.S. “information warfare” that this policy of war crimes comes as a surprise to the general public.   Such is the power of National Security State insiders David Corn and Michael Isikoff, who happily turn the policy of calculated war crimes into the “hubris” of a handful of sexy mad patriots whom the Establishment is glad to sacrifice on the pseudo-altar of public theatre.

Certainly people have to be reminded, and the young have to learn, that America’s long-standing policy of war crimes for profit cannot exist without the complicity of the mainstream media, who exploit our natural inclination to believe the best of “our” leaders and especially of our soldiers.  As George Orwell wrote in 1945, “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

Belligerent nationalism is often understood as the essence of what it means to be a “patriotic” American, and this veneration for the nation is taught to all budding reporters at journalism schools, along with the Code of Silence.   Which is why, when insider Seymour Hersh reported that the CIA and Israel were training U.S. Special Forces assassination teams for deployment in Iraq, on the CIA’s Phoenix program model, he described it in a bloodless manner that made it seem necessary and, at worst, a mistake.

But war crimes are not a mistake; they are a “repugnant” and thoroughly intentional form of warfare.

Hersh quoted a former CIA station chief as saying, “We have to resuscitate Iraqi intelligence, holding our nose, and have Delta and agency shooters break down doors and take them”—the insurgents—“out.”

Hold our noses, Hersh suggested, and commit war crimes.  And when Amy Goodman interviewed him about it, she did not ask if what he described constituted a policy of war crimes.  And when Zakaria looked at Wolfowitz, he failed to question him about the war crimes he plotted and committed.

All this psychological warfare is waged in the name of morale – to make us, and our journalists, feel good about our belligerent nationalism – about being complicit in the war crimes perpetrated by the Perles, Frums, and Feiths.

After the CIA death squads eliminated the senior leadership of the Iraqi government, they eliminated “mid-level” Baath Party members, the middle class of Iraq.   Cover was provided by Newsweek, which quoted an army officer who said, “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists. From their point of view, it is cost-free.  We have to change that equation.”

How did they do this?  In one case, U.S. forces held a general’s three sons as hostages to persuade him to turn himself in.  Then, instead of releasing his sons as promised, they staged an elaborate mock execution of his 15-year-old youngest son, before torturing the general himself to death.

All of it covered up.  Not one victim featured on TV.

If you were to believe the New York Times – the newspaper of record – it doesn’t know the names of the senior CIA officers in Iraq behind these sorts of barbaric practices.   Or publishers and editors may claim that the Intelligence Identity Protection Act prevents them from naming names, but they could easily describe the jobs, and tell us what’s being done.   They could finesse the law.  But they don’t even do that, and that’s the Big Secret upon which the policy of war crimes utterly depends.

The Times conceals the simple truths that undermine our so-called “democracy.”   Truths, like how the CIA nurtured the exile leadership it installed in Iraq, and organized and funded the Ministry of Interior as its private domain, replete with a computerized list of every Iraqi citizen and every detail of their lives.

The Times could at least describe the CIA as “Keeper of the Hit Lists: Blackmail Central.”

But the Times won’t, because it’s a family affair.  As we well know, the Iraqi National Congress was headed by Ahmed Chalabi, the CIA-sponsored source on the myth of weapons of mass destruction, hand-delivered to Times reporter Judy Miller, now a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  Chalabi’s lies, and Miller’s dutiful reporting of them, were the pretext for the war on Iraq.

What is never mentioned is that the INC was founded and funded by the CIA, and that another of its leaders was the exiled General Hassan al-Naqib, whose son, Falah al-Naqib, then became the CIA’s handpicked Interim Interior Minister in Iraq and appointed his uncle General Thavit to lead the Special Police Commandos.

Times reporters undoubtedly lunch with Uncle Thavit and his CIA case officer.

The Times doesn’t explain the CIA’s precious methods of dominance: that any American working for the Interior Ministry, or prime minister’s office, was reporting to a publicly acknowledged administrative boss, usually in the military or State Department, and secretly to a CIA case officer, his operational boss.   Or that every unit in the Special Commandos had a CIA case officer handing out hit lists to its American “Special Police Transition Team”.  Up to forty-five Americans, mostly Special Forces, worked with each Iraqi unit.  These teams were in round-the-clock communication with their CIA bosses via the Special Police Command Center, and there is no record of the Special Police ever conducting operations without U.S. supervision, even as they massacred tens of thousands of people.

Every militia and Iraqi Special Forces unit had a CIA case officer doing likewise.  Every Iraqi politician and ministry officer has a CIA case officer too.  And Times reporters drink with these advisors inside the Green Zone.  It’s the secret that enables atrocity.

American journalists do not report the truth.   Consider their deference to the Interior Ministry’s CIA advisor Steven Casteel after his Special Police Commandos launched their reign of terror in Baghdad.   Hersh’s sanitized reports of a Phoenix-style terror campaign in Iraq were conveniently forgotten and instead they regurgitated Casteel’s black propaganda – that all atrocities were either rumor or innuendo or perpetrated by “insurgents in stolen police uniforms.”

Forget about what Hersh said about “mistakes.”  Such an explanation was as ludicrous as General Petraeus claiming that the Iraqis formed the Special Police Commandos on “their own initiative.”

Knight Ridder did not mention that Casteel had managed DEA operations in Latin America and been the DEA’s Chief of Intelligence before being sent to Iraq, or that the CIA has controlled the DEA’s overseas targeting for 40 years, on a purely political basis.  Casteel had served as a CIA lackey in Latin America, attacking left wing drug traffickers and letting right wing traffickers flourish, supporting the CIA sponsored Los Pepes-AUC death squads who were responsible for about 75% of civilian deaths in the Colombian civil war over the next 10 years.

To its credit, Knight Ridder did investigate Commando atrocities, and might have uncovered the whole story, except that its Iraqi reporter, Yasser Salihee, was shot and killed by an American sniper in June 2005.  And while it had sufficient evidence to debunk Casteel’s cover story, it instead blamed the abuses on infiltration of the good guy Commandos by bad guy “Shiite militias”.

After the exposure of the al-Jadiriyah torture center, journalists reported that heads would roll.  But a major CIA asset, Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Asadi, maintained command of the National (formerly Special) Police, undermining the reforms promised by the new Interior Minister, Jawad al-Bulani.

Asadi remains in that position, his forces embedded and deeply implicated in persistent human rights abuses in Iraq, where prisons are still rife with rape, torture, executions (judicial and extra-judicial) and disappearances.  During Arab Spring demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Baghdad in March 2011, demonstrators spotted Asadi on a rooftop directing snipers as they shot peaceful protesters in the square below.

The Guardian and the BBC made a good start, but US journalists need to break the Code of Silence and launch an ongoing investigation into the full extent of U.S. command and control of the Special Police Commandos and all the other death squads and torture centers the United States brought to Iraq.  The investigation must seriously examine the roles of the CIA and of US Special Forces, including the secret Joint Special Operations Command and the “Nightstalkers” who worked with the Wolf Brigade in 2005.  The investigation must lead to accountability for each and every war crime committed.

American journalists were glad to demonize Saddam Hussein for his war crimes – real and imagined. Now they need to identify and humanize the up to 1,800 dead bodies that piled up every month in Baghdad, and to follow up with Iraqi human rights groups like the Organization for Follow-Up and Monitoring, who matched 92% of the bodies of execution victims with names and descriptions of people detained by US-led Interior Ministry forces.

America’s ruling National Security State, under the Obama regime, has expanded, through the CIA, “covert” paramilitary operations from 60 countries in 2008 to 120 nations.  If we are ever to have a whiff of true democracy, we need our journalists to reveal the extent to which the CIA commands and controls these operations, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we need them to explain, on a daily basis, how the National Security State corrupts intelligence and “news” for the same racist imperial purposes that have defined US foreign policy since the Vietnam War.

Doug Valentine is the author of five books, including The Phoenix Program, and “A Crow’s Dream,” his first book poems.  See www.douglasvalentine.com or write to him at dougvalentine77@gmail.com

Nicolas J. S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq (Nimble Books: 2010), with a foreword by Benjamin Ferencz, a chief investigator and the only surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg war crimes trials, and the founding father of the International Criminal Court.  Nicolas’ writing about American war crimes has been published by Alternet, Huffington Post, Z Magazine and warisacrime.org.  You can reach 8im at peacetopower@aol.com

This article originally appeared in the April issue of CounterPunch magazine.

If there were global justice, Nato would be in the dock over Libya

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/may/15/global-justice-nato-libya

If there were global justice, Nato would be in the dock over Libya
Liberia’s Charles Taylor has been convicted of war crimes, so why not the western leaders who escalated Libya’s killing?


Seumas Milne
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 May 2012 22.20 BST  Comments (494)

Libya was supposed to be different. The lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan had been learned, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy insisted last year. This would be a real humanitarian intervention. Unlike Iraq, there would be no boots on the ground. Unlike in Afghanistan, Nato air power would be used to support a fight for freedom and prevent a massacre. Unlike the Kosovo campaign, there would be no indiscriminate cluster bombs: only precision weapons would be used. This would be a war to save civilian lives.

Seven months on from Muammar Gaddafi’s butchering in the ruins of Sirte, the fruits of liberal intervention in Libya are now cruelly clear, and documented by the UN and human rights groups: 8,000 prisoners held without trial, rampant torture and routine deaths in detention, the ethnic cleansing of Tawerga, a town of 30,000 mainly black Libyans (already in the frame as a crime against humanity) and continuing violent persecution of sub-Saharan Africans across the country.

A year after the western powers tried to make up for lost ground in the Arab uprisings by tipping the balance of the Benghazi-led revolt, Libya is in the lawless grip of rival warlords and armed conflict between militias, as the western-installed National Transitional Council (NTC) passes Gaddafi-style laws clamping down on freedom of speech, gives legal immunity to former rebels and disqualifies election candidates critical of the new order. These are the political forces Nato played the decisive role in bringing to power.

Now the evidence is starting to build up of what Nato’s laser-guided bombing campaign actually meant on the ground. The New York-based Human Rights Watch this week released a report into the deaths of at least 72 Libyan civilians, a third of them children, killed in eight separate bombing raids (seven on non-military targets) – and denounced Nato for still refusing to investigate or even acknowledge civilian deaths that were always denied at the time.

Given the tens of thousands of civilians killed by US, British and other Nato forces both from the air and on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen over the last decade, perhaps Nato commanders prefer not to detain themselves with such comparative trifles. And Human Rights Watch believes that, whatever the real number of civilians directly killed by Nato bombing, it was relatively low given the 10,000-odd sorties flown.

But while Nato’s UN mandate was to protect civilians, the alliance in practice turned that mission on its head. Throwing its weight behind one side in a civil war to oust Gaddafi’s regime, it became the air force for the rebel militias on the ground. So while the death toll was perhaps between 1,000 and 2,000 when Nato intervened in March, by October it was estimated by the NTC to be 30,000 – including thousands of civilians.

We can’t of course know what would have happened without Nato’s bombing campaign, even if there is no evidence that Gaddafi had either the intention or capability to carry out a massacre in Benghazi. But we do know that Nato provided decisive air cover for the rebels as they matched Gaddafi’s forces war crime for war crime, carried out massacres of their own and indiscriminately shelled civilian areas with devastating results – such as reduced much of Sirte to rubble last October.

There were also Nato and Qatari boots on the ground, including British special forces, co-ordinating rebel operations. So Nato certainly shared responsibility for the deaths of many more civilian than its missiles directly incinerated.

That is the kind of indirect culpability that led to the conviction last month of Charles Taylor, the former president of Liberia, in the UN-backed special court for Sierra Leone in The Hague. Taylor, now awaiting sentence and expected to be jailed in Britain, was found guilty of “aiding and abetting” war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sierra Leone’s civil war in the 1990s. But he was cleared of directly ordering atrocities carried out by Sierra Leonean rebels.

Which pretty well describes the role played by Nato in Libya last year. International lawyers say legal culpability would depend on the degree of assistance and knowledge of war crimes for which Nato provided cover, even if the political and moral responsibility could not be clearer.

But there is of course simply no question of Nato leaders being held to legal account for the Libyan carnage, any more than they have been for far more direct crimes carried out in Iraq and Afghanistan. The only Briton convicted of a war crime over the bloodbath of Iraq has been Corporal Donald Payne, for abuse of prisoners in Basra in 2003. While George Bush has boasted of authorising the international crime of torture and faced not so much as a caution.

Which only underlines that what is called international law simply doesn’t apply to the big powers or their political leaders. In the 10 years of its existence, the International criminal court has indicted 28 people from seven countries for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Every single one of them is African – even though ICC signatories include war-wracked states such as Colombia and Afghanistan.

That’s rather as if the criminal law in Britain only applied to people earning the minimum wage and living in Cornwall. But so long as international law is only used against small or weak states in the developing world, it won’t be a system of international justice, but an instrument of power politics and imperial enforcement.

Just as the urgent lesson of Libya – for the rest of the Arab world and beyond – is that however it is dressed up, foreign military intervention isn’t a short cut to freedom. And far from saving lives, again and again it has escalated slaughter.