Category Archives: Terrorism

ICC Weighing More Than a Million Statements by Afghans Alleging War Crimes Violations

Trove of claims submitted to International Criminal Court alleges crimes committed by various factions since 2003, including Afghan forces, the Taliban, the CIA, and the U.S. military.

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-16-2018

A U.S. soldier in Spin Boldak, Afghanistan on Feb. 8, 2015. (Photo: U.S. Army/Capt. Lindsay Roman

International Criminal Court (ICC) judges are weighing over one million statements from Afghans who allege they are victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by actors in the armed conflict there, including Afghan forces, the Taliban, the CIA, and the U.S. military.

The victims began submitting their statements to the ICC judges in late November after ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the court for authorization to begin a formal probe of possible war crimes committed in Afghanistan, saying, “there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan.” The development, said Solomon Sacco, head of international justice at Amnesty International, was “a seminal moment for the ICC.”   Continue reading

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Trump, Congress and the case for Treason

What happens when a sitting president kicks the legs of Democracy’s stool?

Written by Carol Benedict

President Donald Trump delivered his 2018 State of the Union address on January 20, 2018. Since that time, the consequences and ramifications put forth in that speech are still being discussed after having set new precedents to the tone, nature and policies spelled out to the American people.

Congress has always held the tradition that when the sitting president delivers these speeches, the opposing party withholds applause and ovations for most the speech, and only the most basic and inarguable points receive unanimous approval. Like all traditions in Washington since Trump’s inauguration, this too has now changed.

Agreeing with a critic who called the actions of the democrats “treasonous” and “un-American” for not applauding policies they disagree with, Trump has taken a step into an entirely new territory that should have caused alarm bells to go for all.

“You’re up there, you’ve got half the room going totally crazy, wild—they loved everything, they want to do something great for our country. And you have the other side, even on positive news—really positive news, like that—they were like death and un-American. Un-American,” the president said. “Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”

The White House quickly defended Trump’s words, saying it was meant as a joke. When the President of the United States makes a JOKE of calling for the DEATHS of the opposing party’s members of Congress, we have entered a perception and introduction to authoritarian rule and dictatorship. Opposing the president is not punishable by death in the US, and to suggest otherwise demonstrates total ignorance or self-absorption. In fact, the 1st Amendment to the Constitution provides for the right of every American to not only disagree with the government or even the President, but to also assemble together to make their grievances known. Most people know this concept as “protest” or “dissent.”

In service to our country, we have put together a short refresher course about the history of Treason charges in the US since World War II. Let’s begin with what the law states as the punishment for Treason.

“Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”
(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(2)(J), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2148.)

One person convicted of treason was Tomoya Kawakita, a Japanese-American sentenced to death in 1952 for tormenting American prisoners of war during World War II. Even such a clear-cut case created qualms; Kawakita was commuted to a life sentence and was eventually deported to Japan and barred from ever entering the United States again.

On June 19, 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being convicted of committing espionage for the Soviet Union. They were accused of transmitting nuclear weapon designs to the Soviet Union; at that time the United States was the only country with nuclear weapons. They were also accused of providing top-secret information about radar, sonar, and jet propulsion engines to the USSR. Espionage is considered a treasonable act.

Treason is a serious, non-jokable charge with very unfunny consequences. But don’t overlook this as just another benign statement from an overly-vociferous president. What he is actually demanding here is a One Party System that does not allow dissent or protest, that prevents a press from publishing negative articles and results in job losses of federal employees who oppose his authority.

His latest claim is that if he does not get his way on immigration, he will shut down the government. This holds the American people hostage and in economic jeopardy and is questionably illegal.

The irony in all of this is that for all intents and purposes, this president has walked up to the line of committing Treason himself, and is so close in reality that only legal experts can parse out if or why he has not actually committed that crime. In psychology, this is called “Projectionalism;” to accuse others of what you are carry inside yourself.

Since taking office, Trump has assembled quite a laundry list of things he has done for the benefit of the Russian government.

* Shortly after his inauguration, Russian officials were invited to an Oval Office meeting, in which Trump revealed to Foreign Minister Lavrov secrets that compromised the coordination of intelligence gathering with Israeli operatives, jeopardizing Israeli and the U.S. ability to track down terrorists and proliferates.
* Following the events in the Ukraine in 2014 and Russian interference in the 2016 elections, Congress imposed sanctions against Russia and individual operatives of the Russian government. Since taking office, Trump has refused to take actions to impose these sanctions, despite the fact the law requires him to do so.
* The recent meeting in the United States dealing with cybersecurity and counterterrorism between CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the heads of Russia’s intelligence agencies, one of which is included in the above mentioned sanctions and not allowed travel to the US.
* The Gasleys, a tanker carrying Russian LPG, docked in Boston and unloaded its cargo recently. Russia’s gas and oil industry is currently under sanctions, or is supposed to be at any rate.
* The Nunes memo and the Republican efforts to discredit the FBI and other intelligence services as a way to slow or stop Robert Mueller’s investigation has weakened the trust between Congress and the intelligence community, and has shown sources that their identities may not be protected.
* On April 7, 2017, the Trump administration launched a cruise missile strike against Shayrat airbase in Syria. The US launched 58 cruise missiles at the base, yet the base was operational within two days of the attack. Why? Because Trump had warned the Russians about the attack, so most of the planes, etc. had been moved before the missiles were even launched.

Moreover, words in the State of the Union address called for extending presidential powers and other non-restrictive measures which, in effect, abolish the Rule of Law for the President and his Administration’s activities.

America is now teetering on the balance between being ruled, not governed; in complete spineless fear, the GOP clenches their power at the cost of democracy and nation, shredding the ideals of the Constitution as fast as this administration has shed regulations protecting the American people, environment, public lands and diverse society.

At the fulcrum, we wait for something – anything – to prevent further decay of the country once known as a shining example of democracy.

About the Author:
Carol Benedict is an independent researcher and human rights activist. She is also an independent Journalist and a professional member of the US Press Association.

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Countering Trump’s ‘Hostility’ Toward Media, Bill Would Protect Journalists From Intimidation and Assault

“It is clear that not only is the role of the news media in our democracy under attack, but the safety of individual journalists is threatened.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 2-5-2018

Condemning President Donald Trump for creating a “climate of extreme hostility to the press,” more than a dozen Democrats in the U.S. House, with support from the largest communications labor union in the country, have proposed the Journalism Protection Act, which would make it a federal crime to attack or intimidate reporters on the job.

“President Donald Trump’s campaign and administration have created a toxic atmosphere,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), the bill’s lead sponsor. Continue reading

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Why the US Wants 30,000 Troops on Syria’s Border With Turkey

By Darius Shahtahmasebi. Published 1-18-2018 by The Anti-Media

On Saturday, the Defense Post reported that the U.S.-led coalition in Syria was building a 30,000-member “border force,” made up predominantly of Kurdish and Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as well as some unspecified new recruits.

“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale told Defense Post. Continue reading

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Lawsuit Seeks to Force Disclosure of Trump Administration’s Secret Kill List

The Trump admin is now facing legal challenges demanding the release of details related to the secret kill list and rules which allow for the assassination of American citizens. 

By Derrick Broze. Published 12-28-2017 by Activist Post

Photo: cfr.org

On December 22 the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in an attempt to force the release of newly established rules related to the U.S. military’s secret program of killing. The program was established during the Obama Administration and now expanded under Donald Trump. Recent reports from the New York Times (12) allude to the fact that the Trump administration is loosening the already flimsy protections established by the Obama admin. These protections were reportedly put in place to minimize injury and deaths of civilians. Continue reading

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Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook to Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads

Among the companies we found doing it: Amazon, Verizon, UPS and Facebook itself. “It’s blatantly unlawful,” said one employment law expert.

Written by Julia Angwin, ProPublica, Noam ScheiberThe New York Times, and Ariana Tobin, ProPublica and published 

This story was co-published with The New York Times.

Mark Edelstein, a social media marketing strategist who is also legally blind, says he never had serious trouble finding a job until he turned 50. (Whitney Curtis for The New York Times)

A few weeks ago, Verizon placed an ad on Facebook to recruit applicants for a unit focused on financial planning and analysis. The ad showed a smiling, millennial-aged woman seated at a computer and promised that new hires could look forward to a rewarding career in which they would be “more than just a number.”

Some relevant numbers were not immediately evident. The promotion was set to run on the Facebook feeds of users 25 to 36 years old who lived in the nation’s capital, or had recently visited there, and had demonstrated an interest in finance. For a vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people who check Facebook every day, the ad did not exist.

Verizon is among dozens of the nation’s leading employers — including AmazonGoldman SachsTarget and Facebook itself — that placed recruitment ads limited to particular age groups, an investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times has found.

The ability of advertisers to deliver their message to the precise audience most likely to respond is the cornerstone of Facebook’s business model. But using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers.

Several experts questioned whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment. Many jurisdictions make it a crime to “aid” or “abet” age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies like Facebook that distribute job ads.

“It’s blatantly unlawful,” said Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who represents victims of discrimination.

Continue reading

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“Slave Ship Conditions” for Somalis as Deportation Flight Sheds Light on Horrific Practices Under Trump

For nearly 48 hours, before a deportation flight bound for Somalia was rerouted back to the U.S., 92 people on board were shackled and denied food, water, and access to bathrooms

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-19-2017

Deported Somalis arriving in Somalia. Photo: YouTube

Attorneys for 92 Somali nationals who were held in “slave ship conditions” for nearly 48 hours during a deportation flight, say that the group’s harrowing experience is indicative of immigration officials’ procedures under the Trump administration.

The passengers were denied food, water, and access to a bathroom, according to a class-action lawsuit, filed by the Somalis with the help of four immigrant rights groups including Americans for Immigrant Justice and the Immigration Clinic at the University of Miami. Continue reading

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Nation That Says It Can’t Afford Medicare for All Has Spent $5.6 Trillion on War Since 9/11

Because, as new study notes, wars force the question: “What we might have done differently with the money spent?”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-8-2017

“From the civilians harmed and displaced by violence, to the soldiers killed and wounded, to the children who play years later on roads and fields sown with improvised explosive devices and cluster bombs, no set of numbers can convey the human toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or how they have spilled into the neighboring states of Syria and Pakistan, and come home to the U.S. and its allies in the form of wounded veterans and contractors,” the new report states. (Photo: Lynn Friedman/flickr/cc)

new analysis offers a damning assessment of the United States’ so-called global war on terror, and it includes a “staggering” estimated price tag for wars waged since 9/11—over $5.6 trillion.

The Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Center says the figure—which covers the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from 2001 through 2018—is the equivalent of more than $23,386 per taxpayer. Continue reading

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Under the Trump administration, US airstrikes are killing more civilians

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Smoke from an airstrike rises in the background as a man flees during fighting between Iraqi special forces and IS militants in Mosul, Iraq, on May 17, 2017. AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo

Steven Feldstein, Boise State University

When President Donald Trump took office in January, it was unclear whether the bombast from his campaign would translate into an aggressive new strategy against terrorism. At campaign rallies he pledged to “bomb the hell” out of the Islamic State. He openly mused about killing the families of terrorists, a blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits violence against noncombatants.

Ten months into his presidency, a clearer picture is emerging. The data indicate several alarming trends.

According to research from the nonprofit monitoring group Airwars, the first seven months of the Trump administration have already resulted in more civilian deaths than under the entirety of the Obama administration. Airwars reports that under Obama’s leadership, the fight against IS led to approximately 2,300 to 3,400 civilian deaths. Through the first seven months of the Trump administration, they estimate that coalition air strikes have killed between 2,800 and 4,500 civilians.

Researchers also point to another stunning trend – the “frequent killing of entire families in likely coalition airstrikes.” In May, for example, such actions led to the deaths of at least 57 women and 52 children in Iraq and Syria.

The vast increase in civilian deaths is not limited to the anti-IS campaign. In Afghanistan, the U.N. reports a 67 percent increase in civilian deaths from U.S. airstrikes in the first six months of 2017 compared to the first half of 2016.

The key question is: Why? Are these increases due to a change in leadership?

Delegating war to the military

Experts offer several explanations.

One holds that Trump’s “total authorization” for the military to run wars in Afghanistan and against IS has loosened Obama-era restrictions and increased military commanders’ risk tolerance. Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations notes: “Those closer to the fight are more likely to call in lethal force and are less likely to follow a value-based approach.”

In other words, an intense focus on destroying IS elements may be overriding the competing priority of protecting civilians. Because Trump has scaled back civilian oversight and delegated authority to colonels rather than one-star generals, the likely result is higher casualties.

Urban battlefield?

A second explanation points to the changing nature of the counter-IS campaign. The Pentagon contends that the rise in casualties is “attributable to the change in location” of battlefield operations towards more densely populated urban environments like Mosul and Raqqa.

This is a partial truth. While urban warfare has increased, Trump’s team has substantially escalated air strikes and bombings. According to CENTCOM data, the military has already used 20 percent more missiles and bombs in combined air operations in 2017 than in all of 2016. One notable airstrike in March, for example, killed 105 Iraqi civilians when U.S. forces dropped a 500-pound bomb in order to take out two snipers in Mosul. In fact, a Human Rights Watch analysis of bomb craters in West Mosul estimates that U.S. coalition forces are routinely using larger and less precise bombs – weighing between 500 and 1,000 pounds – than in prior operations. Finally, the urban battlefield explanation also does not account for increased civilian deaths in Afghanistan from airstrikes, where the environment has remained static for several years.

Pressure from the president

A third explanation of higher civilian casualties is that aggressive rhetoric from the president is inadvertently pressuring the military to take more risks and to deprioritize protecting civilians.

As former Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski observes: “If your leaders are emphasizing the high value of Raqqa and Mosul, while saying less about the strategic and moral risks of hurting civilians, it’s going to affect your judgment.” Words matter, especially coming from the commander-in-chief. In the face of such aggressive rhetoric, it should not come as a surprise that military officers feel encouraged – if not indirectly pressured – to take greater risks.

Unfortunately, the increased trend of civilian casualties is unlikely to diminish. In fact, signs abound that the White House is developing a new set of policies and procedures that will authorize more sweeping discretion to the military. In September, The New York Times reported that White House officials were proposing two major rules changes. First, they would expand the scope of “kill missions” and allow for the targeting of lower-level terrorists in addition to high value targets. Second – and more notably – they would suspend high-level vetting of potential drone attacks and raids.

These changes represent a sharp about-face. The Obama administration carefully crafted a deliberate set of rules guiding the use of force. In 2013, Obama released the Presidential Policy Guidance for Approving Direct Action Against Terrorist Targets (PPG), which created specific rules for determining when the use of force against terrorists was legally justified.

Then, in 2016, Obama issued an executive order on civilian harm that established heightened standards to minimize civilian casualties from military actions, and required the public release of information pertaining to strikes against terrorist targets.

While the latest actions from the Trump administration stop short of reversing Obama-era restraints, they are unsettling steps in the opposite direction. For example, it appears for now that the White House will preserve the “near certainty” standard, which requires commanders to have near certainty that a potential strike will not impact civilians. But this could change over time.

One senior official quoted in The New York Times article bluntly asserts that the latest changes are intended to make much of the “bureaucracy” created by the Obama administration rules “disappear.” As the White House dissolves the existing bureaucracy and relinquishes civilian oversight, Trump is embarking on a slippery slope that will potentially lead to major diminutions of civilian protection.

The current battle to take the Syrian city of Raqqa is emblematic of the stakes at hand. The U.S. is leading a punishing air war to soften IS defenses. In August, U.S. forces dropped 5,775 bombs and missiles onto the city. For context, this represented 10 times more munitions than the U.S. used for the whole of Afghanistan in the same month and year. The resulting civilian toll has been gruesome. At least 433 civilians likely died in Raqqa due to the August bombings, more than double the previous month’s total. Since the assault on Raqqa commenced on June 6, more than 1,000 civilians have been reported killed.

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein cautions that the intense bombardment has left civilians caught between IS’s monstrosities and the fierce battle to defeat it. Zeid insists that “civilians must not be sacrificed for the sake of rapid military victories.”

The ConversationTrump would be wise to heed this warning. Even as U.S. forces continue to turn the tide on IS, the trail of destruction left in the campaign’s wake is unsettling. The specter of massive civilian casualties will remain a rallying point for new terrorist organizations long after anti-IS operations conclude.

Steven Feldstein, Frank and Bethine Church Chair of Public Affairs & Associate Professor, School of Public Service, Boise State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Ayotzinapa three years later: new light, few answers

A reconstruction of the events surrounding the disappearances of the 43 Mexican students has highlighted the mistakes authorities commit. Sadly, we may never get to the bottom of what really happened.

By Manuella Libardi. Published 9-26-2017 by openDemocracy

Credit: Forensic Architecture.

The third anniversary of the the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College students (known as normalistas) in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico has come and has brought new developments with it.

Forensic Architecture, a London-based agency that conducts research on behalf of international prosecutors, human rights organizations, and political and environmental justice groups, has reconstructed the events of Sept. 26 and 27, 2014, which is presented as a forensic tool for parents, investigators and the general public to further the investigation. The interactive platform depicts a vivid account showing federal and state police agents in the vicinity at the moment when 43 students disappeared from Iguala. Continue reading

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