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Afghans rally against US night raids & 2 civilians killed

Afghans rally against US night raids in Kunar Province

Press TV

Hundreds of angry protesters have taken to the streets in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Kunar to protest against night raids carried out by US-led forces in the war-ravaged country, Press TV reports.

On Saturday, the demonstrators chanted anti-US slogans in condemnation of the ongoing US nighttime operations, and called on the US military to immediately cease such attacks.

The protesters also said American forces storm residential areas in their villages late at night and massacre their family members, demanding the withdrawal of all US troops from Afghanistan.

The development comes days after people in Afghanistan’s northern province of Balkh held a demonstration in protest against deadly night raids by US-led forces.

The protesters gathered outside the governor’s compound, chanting anti-American slogans and torching American flags and effigies of US President Barack Obama.

Afghan investigators have found substantial proof that American Special Forces have been involved in kidnapping, torturing and killing of Afghan civilians across the war-torn country.

US-led deadly night raids have killed dozens of Afghan civilians in various parts of Afghanistan over the past few months…

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US-led raid leaves 2 civilians dead in central Afghanistan

Press TV

At least two civilians have been killed and two others wounded when US-led foreign forces carried out an attack in Afghanistan’s central province of Wardak, Press TV reports.

Local residents said foreign troops raided Goli Khel village in the Sayd Abad district of the province, located 97 kilometers (about 60 miles) southwest of Kabul, on Saturday, and blew up the main entrance to several houses to open up their way into the buildings.

Locals identified the victims as civilians, adding that a woman was among the dead. US-led military forces have reportedly laid siege to the village.

The US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has not yet confirmed any casualties, and made no comments on the attack.

On July 3, twenty people were killed and nine others injured when foreign forces carried out an air raid in the Musa Khel district of Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost.

It came a day after four people were killed in US-led airstrikes in the Miyanishin district of the southern province of Kandahar.

On June 29, eight people were killed when US-led foreign forces launched two separate airstrikes in Paktia and Kandahar provinces.

On June 22, at least 30 people were killed after US-led forces launched an airstrike in Afghanistan’s southeastern province of Paktika.

Why is Al-Quds absent?!

(Al Quds, Palestine-file photo)

by Maysaa Ibrahim, Al Ahed news

There… in Occupied al-Quds a number of hidden facts that turn the bride of capitals and the center of divine religions into a black nightmare.

Not only does the “Israeli” excavations under al-Aqsa Mosque reach deep into 14 meters, but also the occupation’s constructions under the Holy mosque form a whole city that is able to accommodate millions.

Moreover, “Israel” continues to build tunnels from Silwan to other towns and cities to reach al-Aqsa.

This comes as ancient monuments and stones are deposited in “Israeli” museums and there are around 104 synagogues, including four large ones, that seize al-Aqsa.

Amid all this, the “Israeli” cleansing continues: the number of “Israeli” settlements inside the occupied city reached 29 as there exists a million “Israeli” settler compared to only 150 thousand Palestinians living on their occupied al-Quds territories.

Meanwhile, the “Israeli” identity has been recently given to the Palestinians sealed with the term “a temporary resident”, so that the Palestinian can be displaced from his city at any moment.

In conclusion, a great warning is issued: Al-Quds is in the last term of being completely Judaized.

This is the case of al-Quds today: sad streets, minarets, and wells that wait to be a lead news in our bulletins, a slogans above other logos, a title in the traffic of our series, a nationalist and patriotic project in face of racism, occupation, and Judaization.

The Secretary General of the Islamic Christian Agency to Support al-Quds D. Hanna Issa recalls how he once read all the Arab newspapers to find that its pages are empty of any news on al-Quds.

“Years ago, forty to fifty foreign media outlets used to contact us to get info regarding al-Quds,” he remembers, lamenting that the number today ranges from seven to ten foreign media outlets only.

According to Issa, the Arab media suffers death when it comes to the Palestinian cause in general, and Occupied al-Quds, in particular.

He also criticizes addressing the issue in an old, inaccurate, and dangerous manner, away from scientific terms.

In this context, Issa faults the promotion to the desecration of the “Israeli” settlers to al-Aqsa Holy Mosque as a so-called “Jewish pilgrimage to the mosque”.

“Muslims are the ones who perform pilgrimages to al-Aqsa and not the Jews,” explains Issa, criticizing the Arab and Islamic countries ill-performance in their duties towards the “holy land “.”
Perhaps, the experience of the director Basil Khatib confirms this fact.

The experience that lasted for twenty years built a conviction within the Syrian Palestinian director that “Any idea that deals with al-Quds or the Palestinian issue is forbidden, as if there is an implicit decision not to approach this subject,” Khatib says.

Furthermore, he mentions how the decision-makers in the production companies and channels reject each proposal in this area, although the approach is often launched from the humanitarian aspect of the tragedy: the tragedy of the Palestinian person, who was snatched from his land.

The painful reality indicates, according to the director of “Al-Quds and I” as well as other works that deals with the Palestinian issue and its symbols, the sickness of this nation.

“The relationship between the Arab and Islamic nation on one side and the attacks on the Holy city on the other side is the real index to the healthiness of this nation,” he clarifies, and points out that “our enemies succeeded in absenting al-Quds from the circle of our daily interests.”

However, it seems that they failed in making Khatib abandon what he considers a national and moral position, not just a work of art.

“Between al-Quds and my soul there exists a story of passion and love that was born when I was preparing to the “Al-Quds and I”, Khatib reveals.

He goes on to say: “Despite the fact that I have never visited al-Quds, I am fully aware of its neighborhoods and streets,” promising with a film that details the real events of a character that lived in al-Quds. The film, according to the director, is entitled “Life”.

For his part, the Palestinian journalist and analyst Nasser Laham is in daily coverage to al-Quds as well as to the diaries of its people.

“Al-Quds have been standing in the waiting queue since a hundred years. It waited to a victory heading from Baghdad, Algeria or any other Arab capital,” he confirms.

Moreover, the Palestinian reporter laments that “as al-Quds waited for the Arab armies to save it, it faces today a complex reality.”

On this level, Laham stops at what he called “the serious, intentional and deliberate reconstruction of the Arab consciousness through the way the Arab media approaches al-Quds cause.”

Based on his experience, he cites how the Arab satellite channels limit al-Quds issue to broadcasting the scenes of prayers inside al-Aqsa Holy Mosque. “The media cartels smartly worked on this side over the past years.”

Laham recalls a letter written by a group of intellectuals and released prisoners for the Arab States, ten years ago. The letter warned the Arab states that “Israel” is turning al-Quds into a big settlement…into a capital for Jews and settlers. It further urged the Arabs to provide support for al-Quds via construction projects: schools, universities, theaters, and transportation lines.

However, all what the the Arabs agreed on was to support the Palestinians with “Rahman” [Another Arabic name for al-Mighty God] meals.

“Do the Palestinian people need food? Do they need the Rahman meals?” Laham wonders angrily.

He also emphasizes: “We need the Rahman swords, armies, and men.”

However, Laham assures that al-Quds and its people didn’t surrender.

He proudly tells how al-Quds people refuses the Australian or Canadian citizenship added to $ 25 thousand dollars in exchange of their identity and land.

Quoting the people of the Holy city, the reporter stresses: “We will accept the debates, speeches, and letters. However, our city will have its own decision.”

“Al-Quds is the one that orders, roars, and decides,” he confirms pointing out that “as our city historically decided, it will draw its own future.”

And based on the historical determinism, Laham assures that “al-Quds will remain to the Arabs.”

Why? A word that is strongly present. Why is al-Quds absent? Why doesn’t it penetrate into our satellite channels? Why do we ignore its sufferings?

The Palestinian National Council member Salah Salah views that there are a variety of reasons for this painful reality that emptied the issue from any duties or obligations and turned it into utterances and slogans.
“Our enemies and the conspirators succeeded in tearing the Arab community apart so that the Arab countries became occupied with their internal conflicts, forgetting all about their common enemy,” he adds.

In addition, he states that the “Israeli” enemy and its supporters created another enemy to the Arabs, i.e. Iran. “They made Iran the enemy, despite being the only country to expel the “Israeli” ambassador and to hand the embassy to Palestine Liberation Organization.”

Salah unveils that “the US devoted millions of dollars to achieve the goal of distorting the image of Muslims and Arabs.”

“What does al-Quds and Palestine mean today to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, for example,” he asks, noting that “in its meeting with the US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Arab delegation refrained from discussing the issues of al-Quds, Judaization and the apartheid wall.”

On this level, Salah elaborates: “On the contrary, they rushed to agree on US orders to resume negotiations with the “Israeli”. This gives the “Israeli” enemy more time to complete its project to establish their state on all of Palestine.”

However, Salah assures that “the absence of al-Quds from the official Arab positions does not mean its absence from the conscience of the Arab peoples.”

Students stage anti-US rally in western Afghanistan

Press TV

Hundreds of angry students have staged a massive rally in the central-western province of Ghour, calling on the Afghan government to cancel a planned security deal with the United States.

Local Afghan security officials say a large number of protestors poured onto streets of the city of Cheghcheran, chanting anti-American slogans and torching American flags and effigies of US President Barack Obama.

Eyewitnesses say things turned violent after the furious demonstrators marched towards the camp of Spanish troops in the area and set fire to a number of tents. At least three protesters were injured in the violent clashes with Afghan security forces.

The demonstrators said a security treaty between Washington and Kabul will pave the way for a prolonged US military presence in Afghanistan.

Washington had promised to withdraw all combat forces from Afghanistan by 2014. However, it has been locked in tricky negotiations with Kabul over a strategic partnership beyond 2014.

In May, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said his government was ready to let the US set up nine bases across Afghanistan after most foreign troops withdraw in 2014.

Many Afghans believe that the US is envisaging permanent military bases there.

Afghan political groups have warned that things will get worse should the US set up permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

Afghan political figures have also heaped scorn on the US-led forces for committing unforgivable crimes against Afghan women and children since invading the country in 2001.

Thousands of Afghan civilians, including a large number of women and children, have been killed during night raids by foreign forces and CIA-run assassination drone strikes.

The increasing number of casualties in Afghanistan has caused widespread anger against the US and other NATO member states.

Indian border guards kill 8 civilians in Kashmir

Press TV

At least eight civilians have been killed and several others wounded in a raid carried out by Indian border guards against protesters in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The incident took place at Dadam Village of Ramban District, south of Srinagar, on Thursday when the Indian troopers opened fire to disperse the protesters.

Reports say locals were protesting against an alleged desecration of the holy Qur’an by Border Security Forces.

Local authorities also have shut Jammu-Srinagar Highway amid growing concerns over the spread of unrest in the region.

Kashmir lies at the heart of more than 60 years of hostility between India and Pakistan. Both countries claim the region in full but each only has control over a section of the territory.

Over the past two decades, the conflict in Kashmir has left over 47,000 people dead by the official account, although other sources say the death toll could be as high as 90,000.

US airstrike leaves 2 dead in eastern Afghanistan

Press TV

At least two people have been killed and one more injured when American forces carried out an airstrike in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Paktia, Press TV reports.

Local officials said the attack took place in the provincial capital city of Gardez, situated some 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Kabul, on Saturday.

The authorities identified the victims as security guards working for a private construction company.

The US military has not yet confirmed any casualties, and made no comments on the airstrike.

On July 3, twenty people were killed and nine others injured when foreign forces carried out an air raid in the Musa Khel District of Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost.

It came a day after four people were killed in US-led airstrikes in the Miyanishin district of the southern province of Kandahar.

On June 29, eight people were killed when US-led foreign forces launched two separate airstrikes in Paktia and Kandahar provinces.

On June 22, at least 30 people were killed after US-led forces launched an airstrike in Afghanistan’s southeastern province of Paktika.

The incident took place at a border checkpoint in the province as Taliban militants were attacking the checkpoint.

On April 28, US-led troops killed at least four Afghan civilians in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar.

The incident took place in the Chaparhar District of the province after US-led soldiers opened fire on people working on a farmland, said Director of Provincial Development Council Malak Mohkam Khan.

West boosts efforts to engage Taliban in peace talks

Press TV

Senior Western officials are seeking to engage in talks with Taliban militants after nearly twelve years of the costly US-led war in Afghanistan, Press TV reports.

British Prime Minister David Cameron backed controversial peace talks with the militant group during his recent visit to Kabul on Saturday. However, he emphasized on the need to move forward with both military and political approaches.

“And yes, of course we now believe alongside our security approach, which is about training up the Afghan army and police force, we believe yes, there should be a political process as well, but a political process that will only succeed if those involved in terms of the Taliban put down their arms and stop fighting,” Cameron said during a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the Afghan capital.

The British premier remarks come after his top general said the West had missed a chance to strike a peace deal nearly ten years ago. The top British military commander in Afghanistan has said the West should have tried talking to the Taliban a decade ago.

“Back in 2002, the Taliban were on the run. I think that at that stage, if we had been very prescient, we might have spotted that a final political solution to what started in 2001, from our perspective, would have involved getting all Afghans to sit at the table and talk about their future,” General Nick Carter said in an interview with the British daily the Guardian on Friday.

The developments come after President Barack Obama administration supported peace talks with the Taliban after US-led forces lost ground against the militants in recent months across Afghanistan.

Senior Pakistani officials have also welcomed the dialogue between Taliban and the United States in Doha, but the Afghan government has expressed serious concerns about the ongoing US-led peace process with Taliban in Qatar.

Senior Afghan officials say the move contradicts the US security guarantees, noting that the Taliban militants will be able to use their Doha office to raise funds for their campaign in Afghanistan.

The Kabul government has also suspended strategic talks with Washington to discuss the nature of the US presence after foreign troops withdraw in 2014.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but after more than 11 years, insecurity remains across the country.

Rape of Iraqi women by US forces as weapon of war: Photos and data emerge

(File photo)

(Note: Out of respect to the victim and due to the graphic nature of the photos they will not be posted on the blog)

by Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune, Washington, D.C. 03 October (Asiantribune.com):

In March 2006 four US soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division gang raped a 14 year old Iraqi girl and murdered her and her family —including a 5 year old child. An additional soldier was involved in the cover-up.

One of the killers, Steven Green, was found guilty on May 07, 2009 in the US District Court of Paducah and is now awaiting sentencing.

The leaked Public Affairs Guidance put the 101st media team into a “passive posture” — withholding information where possible. It conceals presence of both child victims, and describes the rape victim, who had just turned 14, as “a young woman”.

The US Army’s Criminal Investigation Division did not begin its investigation until three and a half months after the crime, news reports at that time commented.

This is not the only grim picture coming out of Iraq U.S. forces being accused of using rape as a war weapon.

The release, by CBS News, of the photographs showing the heinous sexual abuse and torture of Iraqi POW’s at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison opened a Pandora’s Box for the Bush regime wrote Ernesto Cienfuegos in La Voz de Aztlan on May 2, 2004.

Journalist Cienfuegos further states “Apparently, the suspended US commander of the prison where the worst abuses took place, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, has refused to take the fall by herself and has implicated the CIA, Military Intelligence and private US government contractors in the torturing of POW’s and in the raping of Iraqi women detainees as well.”

Brigadier General Karpinski, who commanded the 800th Military Police Brigade, described a high-pressure Military Intelligence and CIA command that prized successful interrogations. A month before the alleged abuses and rapes occurred, she said, a team of CIA, Military Intelligence officers and private consultants under the employ of the US government came to Abu Ghraib. “Their main and specific mission was to give the interrogators new techniques to get more information from detainees,” she said.

At least one picture shows an American soldier apparently raping a female prisoner while another is said to show a male translator raping a male detainee.

Further photographs are said to depict sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube.

Another apparently shows a female prisoner having her clothing forcibly removed to expose her breasts.

Detail of the content emerged from Major General Antonio Taguba, the former army officer who conducted an inquiry into the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq.

Allegations of rape and abuse were included in his 2004 report but the fact there were photographs was never revealed. He later confirmed their existence in an interview with the Daily Telegraph in May 2009.

The London newspaper further noted “graphic nature of some of the images may explain the US President Obama’s attempts to block the release of an estimated 2,000 photographs from prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan despite an earlier promise to allow them to be published.”

Maj. Gen. Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President’s decision, adding: “These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.

“The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

In April, Mr. Obama’s administration said the photographs would be released and it would be “pointless to appeal” against a court judgment in favor of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

But after lobbying from senior military figures, Mr. Obama changed his mind saying they could put the safety of troops at risk.

In May, he said: “The most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to inflame anti-American public opinion and to put our troops in greater danger.”

In April 2004, new photographs were sent to La Voz de Aztlan from confidential sources depicting the shocking rapes of two Iraqi women by what are purported to be US Military Intelligence personnel and private US mercenaries in military fatigues. It is now known, Cienfuegos wrote in May 2004, that hundreds of these photographs had been in circulation among the troops in Iraq. The graphic photos were being swapped between the soldiers like baseball cards.

Asian Tribune carries here three of the ‘Rape’ photographs which have brought criticism that the U.S. forces in Iraq have used rape as a weapon of war.

‘The caring facade of french imperialism’

by David Cronin, source

The “public relations” accompanying wars has become wearily predictable. Whenever one of its governments or allies conducts a military action, there is a near certainty that the European Union will host or participate in a “donors’ conference”.

One of these grotesque events has been dedicated to Afghanistan each year since it was invaded by the US in 2001. After Gaza was bombed for three weeks in late 2008 and early 2009, the EU rushed to foot the bill for damage caused by Israel (often to infrastructure previously built or equipped with Western aid). And now the European taxpayer is expected to pick up the tab for destruction wrought by France during its military expedition in Mali.

Let me be absolutely clear: I’m fully in favour of increasing aid to healthcare and education in Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries. Yet this Wednesday’s donors’ conference – jointly organised by France and the EU – is not really designed to reduce hardship in Africa. Rather, its purpose is to cover French imperialism with a veneer of benevolence.

At this juncture, there can be no doubt that France’s “intervention” was motivated primarily by its determination to control natural resources in Mali and Niger. An analysis published in February by in-house researchers at the defence ministry in Paris points out that these two neighbouring countries possess 60% of global uranium reserves. While exploitation of these reserves by Areva, the French nuclear firm, is “certain,” according to the researchers, “instability in the Sahel has an impact on economic projects in the whole region”.

Less than a month after he was sworn in as president last year, François Hollande hinted that he regarded this uranium as effectively Areva’s property. Following talks with Mahamadou Issoufou, his counterpart from Niger, Hollande said that Areva must be allowed to extract uranium from the giant mine of Imouraren at the earliest possible date.

As the former colonial power, it was France which set the border between Mali and Niger. The Touareg people who straddle this artificial frontier have been striving for autonomy since the 1960s. Hollande has been eager to quell the recent resurgence in the Touareg struggle and to bolster the Malian authorities.

His efforts have been sold as being part of a fight against “terrorism”. A more plausible explanation is that he wishes to make sure that the uranium in this area doesn’t fall into the “wrong” hands. It is no accident that French troops were deployed earlier this year in both Mali and around the Arlit mine – a key source of uranium for Areva – in Niger.

There is a fundamental dishonesty behind this week’s donors’ conference. Briefing material prepared by its organisers gives the impression that it is part of the EU’s overall development aid activities. The objective of development aid is defined in the EU’s Lisbon treaty as reducing and eventually eliminating poverty (indeed, the inclusion of this principle is one of the few positive things in a treaty that has a right-wing ideological orientation). Raiding the aid budget to help a resource grab in Mali runs counter to that objective. It can, therefore, be considered as illegal.

This is not the first time that the EU is violating its own law. A 2011 EU strategy paper on the Sahel blurs the distinction between military and development aid.

The pretext cited is that security is a prerequisite for progress. This ignores how it is poverty and oppression that beget conflict.

With some rare exceptions, the EU’s governments have reneged on a decades-old commitment to earmark at least 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) for tackling global poverty. Diverting some of the already inadequate development aid budgets to military training exercises is tantamount to blowing raspberries at the hungry.

Apart from tiny Luxembourg, all of the EU’s governments spend a higher proportion of GDP on the military than on international development. Not content with that manifest injustice, corporate-funded think tanks have pounced on the French intervention in Mali to advocate that Europe’s military expenditure should be even higher.

Nick Witney, the first head of the European Defence Agency – a body tasked with boosting military cooperation between both private firms and nations – has written an especially opportunistic tract for his current employer, the European Council on Foreign Relations. Witney laments that the “crisis in Mali once again exposed the hollowness of Europe’s military pretensions”. France was “left to do the job alone,” he writes, because of the lack of a “shared strategic culture in Europe”.

His proposed solution is to have a similar level of scrutiny for the military spending of EU governments as that introduced for other types of expenditure over the past few years. This is despicable: the scrutiny to which he refers enables the Brussels bureaucracy to insist that countries eviscerate their schools and hospitals in the name of deficit reduction. Witney advocates that the same bureaucracy can simultaneously demand greater expenditure on drones.

Meanwhile, a pamphlet by Notre Europe – an institute headed by one-time European Commission chief Jacques Delors – labels many of the EU states as “free-riders” because they did not deploy fighter jets in Libya during 2011 or help France in Mali this year.

These pamphlets have been produced as part of a concerted effort to step up the pace of the EU’s militarisation. You can be sure that they won’t be allowed gather dust.

‘Former US drone pilot quits, regretting bombing innocents, including children’

Press TV

A former US assassination drone pilot says he quit the force after feeling “numb” about seeing a child and other civilians blown away in his remote bombing of targets in Afghanistan and realizing he has unconsciously developed a desire to kill.

Since leaving the controversial US targeted-killing program over two years ago, the young ex-terror drone operator, who was recruited by the military after graduating at the top of his class, has become homeless and detected with post-traumatic stress disorder, which is commonly associated with US soldiers in warfronts, according to US-based National Public Radio (NPR).

In a recent NPR interview, the former drone pilot, identified as 27-year-old Brandon Bryant, offered some graphic details about feeling troubled after witnessing the immediate outcome of his bombings in Afghanistan on video screens beside his control buttons inside a windowless trailer ‘somewhere in a western US state,’ from where he fired off the missiles mounted on the assassination drones flying some 10,000 miles (16,000 km) away.

Describing his “first shot” out in Afghanistan, Bryant said he was specifically “ordered” to target a group of suspected militants that where (idly) sitting on a hill, rather than another group of militants that were “firing at US soldiers” nearby.

“We fired the missile, and 1.2 seconds after the missile fires, it sonic booms. And so the sonic boom gets there before the missile does… and then the missile hits. And after the smoke clears, there’s a crater there. You can see body parts of the people,” he explained. “I watched him (one of the men) bleed out. The blood rapidly cooled to become the same color as the ground, because we were watching this in infrared.”

Bryant then remembered thinking regretfully about the bombing, believing that that the targeted men were just local folks “that had to protect themselves… and I think we jumped the gun.”

The ex-drone pilot then went on to describe his next bombing in Afghanistan in which, he says, he bombed a home of suspected militants but noticed a child running around the house (on his video monitor) just before the missile hit the target.

“We just aim at the corner of the building,” Bryant explained. “We’re going to fire, and we do. And there’s about six seconds left before the missile impacts, and something runs around the corner of the building. And it looked like a small person… It was a small, two-legged person. And the missile hits. There’s no sign of this person.”

Further elaborating on the aftermath of that bombing, he added, “So we lock our camera on there, and I ask the screener, who disseminates the video feed,… who was that thing that ran on the screen?… and comes back and says, oh, that was a dog.”

But Bryant insists, “It was a person. It was a small person. Like, there was no doubt in my mind that that was not a – an adult.”

“I felt really numb,” he further emphasized, recalling his thoughts after realizing he had blown away a small child with a missile he fired off of a US assassination drone flying over Afghanistan. “I didn’t feel distraught, like I felt my first shot. I felt numb because this was the reality of war… and innocence can die as well.”

According to the NPR reporter that interviewed Bryant, shortly after that bombing, he decided to leave the [targeted-killing] program, boasted by the Obama administration as its prime mean to root out suspected anti-US militants in Muslim nations.

Bryant also explained that back in late 2010 he found himself really disturbed about his thought of which militant he is going to kill today, after looking at a poster in his work area of “five top al-Qaeda leaders,” but then having second thoughts of “that’s just not who I am. I don’t think like that… I was taught to respect life” and that if human life was to be taken in a war, “it should be done with respect.”

He then underlined that he “tried to talk” to people about his feelings but “one of the weird things about the whole [assassination] drone community is that you don’t talk about anything that you’ve done. You just don’t. So I just shut up and didn’t talk to anyone about how I was feeling or how I was doing.”

According to the NPR report, Bryant eventually quit the targeted-killing program and has become homeless and “staying with friends” while attending college in northwestern US state of Montana.

While noting that Bryant has also been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the NPR reported pointed to the growing realization that PTSD can also affect terror-drone pilots, even though they “haven’t’ been on the battlefield.”

The development comes while despite the rising controversy over the legality of the secret assassination drone strikes and the high number of civilian casualties caused by aerial bombings, as part of the US targeted killing program, the Obama administration insists on continuing the lethal effort to take out what it regards as anti-US “terror suspect” in Muslim nations.

France to buy US-made Reaper drones for use in Mali: Report

(File photo)

Press TV

France has plans to purchase US-made unarmed Reaper surveillance drones in a bid to back up its military operations against fighters in the crisis-hit African country, Mali, a report says.

According to the report published by Air et Cosmos specialist magazine on Friday, France will buy two American medium-altitude Reaper drones following a deal reached between Paris and Washington.

The report added that the French Air Force, which has already deployed Israeli-made armed unmanned drones to the West African nation, intends to acquire more modern drones rapidly.

In February, a report published by the World Tribune indicated that the French military has used “Harfang” medium-altitude long endurance (MALE) drones manufactured by Israel in the war-torn country.

The Air et Cosmos report also stated that the French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who is currently on a visit to the US, is set to make an official announcement in this regard.

France launched its war on the resource-rich West African country in January under the pretext of fighting al-Qaeda-linked extremists.

The French-led war on Mali has caused a serious humanitarian crisis in the northern areas of the country and has displaced thousands of people, who now live in deplorable conditions.

Amnesty International said on February 1 that serious human rights breaches including the killing of children were being conducted in Mali.

Some political analysts believe Mali’s abundant natural resources, including gold and uranium, are among the reasons behind the French war against the African country.

’65 years ago; UK committed Ein El Zeytoun & Deir Yassin massacres’

Right to return (file photo)

Londoners took to the streets on Saturday to mark the 65th anniversary of the Nakba Day (day of catastrophe), a day when Jewish terrorist groups completed their first phase of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the occupied territories as the UK imperialism looked on.

The Zionist regime of Israel was installed through a well-planned British conspiracy on May 15, 1948.

Jafar M. Ramini, a Palestinian historian believes the day of catastrophe is a “Made in Britain” phenomenon actually launched in 1840.

Ramini has written an article by which he transparently explains the catastrophe of creation of Israel, using historic facts and figures chronologically. He says the Nakba Day actually began in 1840:

by Jafar M. Ramini, source

“May 1st. standing in front of the Foreign Office in the London sunshine I shivered at the memory of the massacre of Ein El Zeytoun 65 years ago.

Ein El Zeytoun, like Deir Yassin, and many other villages and towns in Palestine at the time, was wiped off the face off the earth. The entire population was massacred by Jewish terrorist groups while the British mandatory forces looked the other way. I am reminded of the quote by Edmund Burke: “For evil to flourish,” he wrote, “it only takes a few men to look the other way.”

Engulfed in sadness and the memory of what has been lost and destroyed, I started to reflect on the dishonourable role the British establishment played and is still playing in the catastrophe that continues to unfold in Palestine. What we call ‘Al Nakba’.

Many believe that ‘Al Nakba’ started in 1948. Having seen the award-winning and eye-opening documentary on Al Jazeera ‘Al Nakba’, first aired in 2008 and now being repeated, I beg to differ. If the Nakba signifies the expulsion of Palestinians and seizure of their land by force, then the ‘Nakba’ began long before 1948.

It actually began in 1840, when the then British Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston wrote to his ambassador in Constantinople, urging him to solicit the support of the Ottomans, who then ruled over Palestine, to facilitate Jewish immigration into the country. At the time no foreigners were allowed to own land in Palestine and the number of Jews were fewer than 3000.

Fast forward to the formation of the World Zionist Organisation in 1897 when Palestine was first targeted as the preferred choice for the establishment of a Jewish Homeland. Theodor Hertzl, the founder of Zionism, approached Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the already ailing Ottoman Empire asking if Palestine might be for sale: This was his response:

“Please advise Dr Hertzl not to make any serious move in this matter. I cannot give up even one small patch of land in Palestine. It is not something that I own as a part of my personal estate. Palestine in fact belongs to the Muslim Nation as a whole. My people have fought with their blood and sweat to protect this land, let the Jews keep their millions and once the Caliphate is torn apart one day, then they can take Palestine without a price. To have the scalpel cut my body is less painful than to witness Palestine being detached from the Caliphate state and this is not going to happen”, said Sultan Abdul Hamid II.

Having failed in their quest an alternative had to be found. And that, of course, was the British Empire.

Two learned Rabbis were dispatched to Palestine to check the feasibility of the project. Their conclusion was, and I quote: “The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.”

What those two Rabbis realized was that the ‘other man’ represented a well-established and advanced Palestinian society firmly rooted in its soil.

So much for the rallying cry for the Zionists. “A land without people for the people without a land”.

By 1907 the Ottoman Empire was considered to be the ‘sick man of Europe’. The British Empire, however, was at its most powerful. Anticipating the vacuum in Arabia that would need to be filled on the demise of the Ottomans, the British decided that their interests would be well served by creating a new state in Palestine, friendly to Europe, but hostile to its neighbours. The Zionists saw the opportunity for their proposed homeland for the Jews and seized it with both hands.

In the same year Chaim Weizmann, one of the first British Zionists and later to become the first President of Israel, visited Palestine and within three years had bought thousands of dunoms of land, mostly from Arab absentee landlords, in Marj ibn Amer, the most fertile part of Palestine, and my birthplace.

This sale, to The Jewish National Fund, had terrible consequences for the Palestinian farmers. They were forcibly removed off their land and overnight found themselves to be homeless, aimless and with no prospects. To me, this is when the Nakba started.

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the British were looking for willing collaborators in Arabia to ensure their victory over the Ottomans and establish a firm presence in Arabia. They found them in Sharif Hussein Bin Ali of Mecca who delegated the task to his son, Prince Faisal ibn Al Hussein.

Prince Faisal offered to facilitate the war effort in return for Arab freedom and independence. He did not stop there. The sweetener was to offer Palestine as a homeland for the Jews. This was reaffirmed after the war, during a conference between Prince Faisal and Chaim Weizmann in Paris and the document became known as the Faisal/Weizmann agreement.

It kick-started a litany of Arab betrayal and capitulation to the west and to Zionism. As if not to be outdone in the betrayal stakes by his rivals, the Hashemites in Hijaz, Sultan Abdul Aziz al Saud wrote to British High Commissioner to Baghdad, Sir Percy Cox;

“I am the Sultan Abdul Aziz Bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud al-Faisal and I concede and acknowledge a thousand times to Sir Percy Cox, delegate of Great Britain, that I have no objection to giving Palestine to the poor Jews or even to non-Jews, and I will never ever violate their [the UK] orders.”

Isn’t it ironic how the Ottomans, our rulers at the time, would spill blood to protect us, while our brother Arabs were falling over themselves to give Palestine away.

In 1915, a secret memorandum was presented to the British cabinet under the title, ‘The Future of Palestine.’ It was drafted by Sir Herbert Samuel, the first dedicated Zionist to become a minister in the British Government, who, astonishingly, did not advise the setting up of a Jewish homeland at this time, but did advise that Palestine should be annexed to the British Empire after the war, with sympathies towards the establishment of such a home-land.

November 2nd 1917, is the date carved on every Palestinian heart, when the infamous Balfour Declaration, written in the form of a letter was sent to Lord Walter Rothschild. The British government, in their infinite wisdom, vehemently adhered to their promise to establish a Jewish home in Palestine and totally ignored their promise to protect the rights of the indigenous Palestinian population. At that time, Palestine was 10% Jewish and 90% Muslim and Christian Palestinian Arabs.

In the Al Jazeera documentary, Avi Shlaim, Jewish historian said: “Britain had no moral or political or legal right to promise the land that belonged to the Arabs to another people. The Balfour Declaration was both immoral and illegal.”

What I find interesting is the stance of the American administration of President Woodrow Wilson.

At the end of the First World War, he sent a delegation to the Middle East to investigate the situation in Palestine. The report was decisive, saying that if America was to adhere to the principles of self determination, then the fact that 9/10th of the population was non Jewish and emphatically against the proposal, then this project should be cancelled.

The report went on to say that if the Zionist programme were to proceed a force of at least 50,000 soldiers would be required even to initiate the programme. “In view of all these considerations, the project to make Palestine a distinctly Jewish commonwealth should be given up.”

I can’t help wondering what happened to the moral fibre of the USA between then and now.

Under the Sykes/Picot agreement Palestine was placed under British Mandate in 1922. Its first High Commissioner, the self same British Zionist, Sir Herbert Samuel, set about implementing all the trappings of a Jewish state under the auspices of what was being called a Jewish homeland.

Hebrew became an official language, a separate Jewish education system was set up, Jewish ministries of energy, water and power were established and most crucial of all, the establishment of a Jewish army, with access to British training and equipment. The town of Tel Aviv was given autonomous status. During Samuel’s tenure Jewish immigration to Palestine was growing at a break-neck speed. But it reached its peak in 1933 when more than 175,000 Jews emigrated to Palestine. All of this was happening while the Palestinians were denied any freedom or civil rights. And this wasn’t a Nakba?

In 1929 the beleaguered Palestinians showed their first act of defiance. They announced a general strike and raised black flags. The British government’s answer to that legitimate protest was to hang the three leaders of the resistance; Hijazi, Zeir and Jamjoum.

Their graves are still in Acre with the message to Arab leaders: “Never trust foreigners.”

If only the Arab leaders had listened then. And would listen now.

Nevertheless the atrocities continued. Thousands were arrested and hundreds were murdered. Houses were demolished and life was made impossible for the Palestinians. Does that sound familiar?

Even Qassim al-Husseini, the 80 year old former Mayor of Jerusalem (al-Quds) was beaten so badly by the British soldiers that he died from his wounds.

A senior British police officer, John Faraday was reported by his own subordinates as being unjustifiably brutal and vicious. The British authorities’ response was to award Faraday the King’s Police Medal, praising his role in Palestine.

I remember my late mother saying to me, that during that crucial time in Palestine, when the British constantly raided the houses of those they suspected of resistance, if even one spent cartridge was found the head of the household was thrown into jail.

Another general strike in 1936 lasted six months, the longest in history. What ensued was nothing short of calamitous. Their fellow Arabs urged the Palestinian leadership to come back, sit at the negotiating table and give the British the benefit of the doubt. The irony of all of this is that now, over 70 years later, we are still waiting for those good intentions to materialize.

Between 1936 and 1937 the British killed 1000 Palestinians. 37 British were killed and 69 Jews.

As a reward to the Palestinians for being ‘reasonable’ Lord Peel headed a Royal Commission on Palestine and offered a 3-way partition plan. One third to be the Jewish state, two thirds to be an Arab state, merged with Trans-Jordan and the area between Jerusalem to Jaffa remaining a mandated territory.

The Zionists liked the Peel proposal because it fell in with their plans of ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The principle of transfer could lead to a 100% Jewish state. When the Palestinian leadership rejected the plan the British disbanded the high command and exiled its leaders, leaving the Palestinians leaderless to defend themselves. So much for the so-called democratic process.

Some might ask, why did the Palestinians turn down the Peel Plan? All very well in hindsight. Why wouldn’t they when they already owned 94% of the land? Surely justice would prevail. Of course it didn’t.

By pretending to accept the Peel Plan, and appearing to be magnanimous the Zionists accelerated their ethnic cleansing and theft of Palestinian land which continued all through WW II.

After the war, the Zionists did not like the pace by which their expansionist plans were proceeding and considered their benefactors, the British Forces, as being in the way. They turned on them with venom; terrorism, burning and murder, the most infamous of which was the bombing in 1946 of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. 91 people were killed, 46 injured.

No good deed goes unpunished, as they say.

In 1947, the UN decided to partition Palestine yet again. As the world reeled in shock over what had happened to the Jews and other minorities during the holocaust, the United Nations, possibly with a mixture of sympathy and guilt, gave over 56% of Palestine to the Zionists and 43% to the Palestinians. The plan was rejected by the Arab side, the Zionists, while pretending to accept it, continued with their campaign of terror against both the British and the Palestinians, while portraying themselves as the victims.

By this time the British government, exhausted and fraying at the edges decided to cut and run, abandoning their moral and legal duties towards Palestine. They left the unprotected civilian population to the mercy of the Zionist troops. None was shown.

With the British gone and no credible Palestinian or Arab force to stop them the Zionists went into a frenzy of destruction and killing. The culmination of all this was the most horrendous crime against humanity, the massacre that was the village of Deir Yassin. Menachem Begin, leader of the Haganah gang that perpetrated this horror, later to become a Prime Minister of Israel, saw the massacre of some 200 men, women and children as a propaganda victory. “The Arabs began to flee in terror, even before they clashed with the Jewish forces. The legend was worth half a million battalions to the forces of Israel.”

The Arabs had no option but to act. Ill-equipped and ill trained Arab armies embarked on a disastrous adventure that resulted in total defeat of the Arab forces and the loss of 78% of the land- mass of Palestine. Of the remaining 22%, the West Bank of the River was usurped by Jordan and Gaza by Egypt.

Even then the Nakba was not complete. There were more horrors in store for the Palestinians. They continue today, 65 years on.

As British historian, Arnold Toynbee observed: “The tragedy in Palestine is not just a local one; it is a tragedy for the world, because it is an injustice that is a menace to the world’s peace”.

At the very least, the British owe us, the Palestinians, a huge debt of honour, which is long over-due.

US-Afghan ties strained over charges of soldier’s role in torture, killings

Press TV</strong>

Dispute between US and Afghan officials over the involvement of a member of an American Special Forces unit in torture and murder of alleged Afghan insurgents has strained ties between Washington and Kabul.

While Afghan authorities are seeking the arrest and prosecution of a man named Zakaria Kandahari, who they insist is a US-born American citizen, along with much of his unit, on torture and murder charges, American officials claim their forces are being wrongly blamed for “atrocities carried out by a rogue Afghan unit,” The New York Times reports Monday.

This is while the Afghan officials emphasize that they have “substantial evidence of American involvement” in employing “counterinsurgency tactics” in Wardak Province which has left scores of Afghans either killed or missing.

These officials say, according to the report, they have “testimony and documents” implicating Kandahari and his unit in the killings or disappearances of 15 Afghans in Wardak, further noting that Kandahari is “of Afghan descent but born and raised in the United States.”

At the center of the allegations mentioned by Afghan officials is an American Special Forces A team that has been based in the Nerkh district until recently.

They say among the evidence in their possession is a videotape of Kandahari “torturing one of the 15 Afghans, a man they identified as Sayid Mohammad,” the report further states.

Afghan officials who have seen the videotape say “a person speaking English with an American accent can be heard supervising the torture session” being carried out by Kandahari.

An unnamed American official, speaking on condition of anonymity, is, however, cited in the report as confirming the existence of the video showing Kandahari but denying that he was an American citizen.

“Everybody in that video is Afghan; there are no American voices,” the official is quoted as saying, further claiming that Kandahari had been an “interpreter” working for the team in the Nerkh district “without pay in exchange for being allowed to live on the base.”

The report goes on to add that after investigating the events in the Nerkh district and finding the claims of American misconduct reliable, the head of the Afghan military General Sher Mohammad Karimi “personally asked the American commander at the time, General John Allen, to hand Mr. Kandahari over to the Afghan authorities.”

“General Allen personally promised General Karimi that the American military would do so within 24 hours,” a senior Afghan official is quoted in the report as saying. “But the promise was not kept, nor was a second promise a day later to hand him over the following morning. The next morning they said he had escaped from them and they did not know where he was.”

The American official then claimed that the US military was not trying to shield Kandahari but that they just “lost contact with him.”

The development comes as American military forces have widely been cited for engaging in torturing, maiming, killing and even massacring suspects and civilians during their occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. On occasions, US forces took photos of their atrocities, boasting their misconduct as a sort of recreation.

A number of US soldiers have also admitted to killing Afghan civilians and cutting off their body parts to keep as ‘souvenirs.’

The American military led the occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 by mostly NATO forces, vowing to root out terrorism in the country and bringing peace and security to the war-torn nation.

As the US-led occupation continues some 12 years later, however, terrorism, insecurity, mass displacement of civilians and narcotics production and distribution has surged enormously across the country.

Colonial Reoccupation of West Africa?

(File photo)

Colonial Reoccupation of West Africa? French Troops Will Stay in Mali Even After United Nations Forces Arrive. Paris has been re-occupying the West African state since January

by Abayomi Azikiwe, source

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has visited the West African state of Mali where his troops have been fighting since January. France intervened in the central and northern regions of Mali in a purported campaign to remove the presence of several Islamic organizations which have been designated as terrorists by Paris and other imperialist states.

Recently the United Nations Security Council authorized the deployment of approximately 12, 500 peacekeeping troops which will establish bases at various points in these contested areas of Mali. This UN force is also structured to take the place of a 6,000-person regional African force which has been fighting alongside the French troops against three armed Islamist groups in the north.

Although Francois Hollande’s government said in January that the French operation in Mali would be short-lived, the plans have now been revised. France claims that it has drawn down some its troops leaving 4,000 in the country.

According to reports from the French defense ministry at least 1,000 troops will remain in Mali until the end of the year. 250 of these soldiers are specifically slated to be involved in a training mission with the Malian army, while the other 750 are to continue combat operations.

A major area of the fighting has been in Gao where the French Defense Minister Le Drian visited. The official announced that several hundred troops would be transferred from Timbuktu to Gao, leaving only 20 behind in the ancient city which centuries-ago was a center of Islamic scholarship and international trade.

In addition to the presence of French soldiers, a contingent of troops from neighboring Burkina Faso is operating in Timbuktu. These Burkinabe soldiers are part of the West African regional force mobilized by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

According to French Colonel Cyrille Zimmer, the Burkinabe troops are taking over control of military operations in Timbuktu. He said that “We are leaving a small detachment of 20 men who are going to operate with the Burkinabe battalion. This detachment is going to stay in Timbuktu while the Burkinabes are there.” (Associated Press, April 29)

There have also been efforts to draw more western states into the war in Mali. Germany has committed to supplying military trainers through the European Union.

The United States has been involved in Mali for many years with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) supplying training, equipment and monetary resources. However, these efforts have only created instability inside the country.

When the junior military officers seized power in March 2012 from the elected President Amadou Toumani Toure, these soldiers were led by a U.S.-trained colonel, Amadou Sanogo, who had studied in several academies set up by the Pentagon. The Pentagon has been transporting French troops into the battle in Mali and has recently deployed 100 Special Forces in neighboring Niger in addition to establishing a drone station there.

There has also been a call made by Michael Byers, Chair of Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia in Canada, to have Ottawa become more involved in the Malian crisis. Byers in an editorial published in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s leading newspaper, attempted to make an argument for the deployment of troops to Mali.

Byers wrote on April 29 that “Canadian soldiers would be highly valued as ‘force-multipliers’ who maximize the impact of other, less well-trained troops. For nearly half a century, Canada filled this niche in every UN peacekeeping mission.”

He continued saying “Although Canada has disengaged from peacekeeping in recent years, that shift was a political decision. When Canada’s military leaders sought to have General Andrew Leslie appointed commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo in 2010, it was the Harper government that intervened and claimed that Canada’s commitments to the NATO mission in Afghanistan precluded his taking part.”

Therefore, the priority of the Harper government was to engage in more direct occupation efforts in Afghanistan as opposed to what would be considered a neutral stance in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nonetheless, the UN forces being placed in Mali could very well be subjected to hostile fire and other military actions by locals.

This peacekeeping mission will have three obvious challenges. It will be operating as a supposed neutral force while at the same time French and Malian troops are continuing their offensive operations against Ansar Dine, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Also there is a growing degree of alienation on the part of the Malian people in relationship to both French troops and Malian soldiers. These soldiers have been accused of committing atrocities against the population where deaths, injuries and illegal detentions have taken place.

Humanitarian Situation Worsens in Mali

As a result of the military coup and the subsequent civil war in the north between Tuareg separatists and later Islamic rebel groups fighting against the national Malian army, large-scale displacements have taken place. The economic impact of the conflict has been devastating to those that have forced to flee as well as people remaining in their towns and villages.

Food prices have skyrocketed which has impacted working people and the poor. In a recent article published in the Guardian newspaper in London, it examines the growing food shortages in Mali where French troops have been the most active against the targeted rebel organizations.

According to the Guardian, “On Thursday (April 25) four international agencies warned that northern Mali will descend to emergency levels of food insecurity in less than two months if conditions do not improve. Recent food crises in the region have left many people weakened and still in a period of recovery.” (April 29)

Even the Guardian acknowledges that the French intervention has worsened conditions for people living in the combat areas. In addition to cutting off supply lines it has created shortages and therefore precipitated hyperinflation.

This same article goes on to point out that “Food distribution has been disrupted by the closure of the Algerian border – an important route for supplies into northern Mali – and the departure of many traders. Aid agencies say herders have been unable to use traditional pastures and water points, while the falling value of livestock has made it harder to buy cereals.”

With the intervention of UN peacekeepers there is still no guarantee that the situation will normalize. If the experiences of other states are of any indication, such as the DRC, Somalia and Sudan, the deployment of UN forces may very well exacerbate tensions as oppose to lessen them.

The situation in Mali requires a political solution that can only be reached between the varying parties, governments and interest groups involved. This issue portends much for the future of Africa and must be seriously addressed by the African Union (AU) at their upcoming summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

With the increasing intervention of U.S., French and other NATO military forces in Africa, the social, political and economic situations in various African states will inevitably worsen. African states and regional organizations must devise a strategy to deal with this escalation of imperialist militarism which has implications for the continent as a whole.

US-led soldiers kill three civilians in eastern Afghanistan: Officials

Press TV

US-led troops have killed at least three Afghan civilians in the country’s eastern province of Nangarhar, local officials say, Press TV reports.

The incident took place on Sunday in province’s Chaparhar district after US-led soldiers opened fire on people working on a farmland, said Director of Provincial Development Council Malak Mohkam Khan.

Khan added that the US-led troops shot and killed the civilians including two children after they came under fire by unknown people.

US-led foreign forces killed seventeen civilians in the eastern province of Kunar last month.

On January 31, at least three Afghan farmers were wounded after US-led forces opened fire on them in the northeastern province of Kunar.

Civilian casualties have long been a source of friction between the Afghan government and US-led foreign forces and have dramatically increased anti-US sentiments in Afghanistan.

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity continues to rise across the country, despite the presence of thousands of US-led troops.

According to statistics released by the United Nations, in the first six months of 2012, over 1,140 Afghan civilians were killed and around 2,000 were wounded, mostly by roadside bombs. Thirty percent of the casualties were women and children.

Meanwhile, a great number of Afghan civilians are killed in US-led drone strikes. Washington claims that its airstrikes target militants, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks.

‘US illegally obtained and kept thousands of Iraq’s cultural treasures’

Tank at the entrance of the Iraqi National Museum

One of the gravest casualties of the 10-year US-led war in Iraq is the destruction of the country’s cultural heritage, Iraqi archaeologist and architect Ihsan Fathi told RT.

On top of thousands of looted or illegally obtained cultural artifacts during the war, billions of dollars have also been transferred out of “Iraq’s Central banks to US without any paper trail.”

“I’m sure that everything that was stored in the Central and other banks was sent to the US without any documentation and now is kept in archives,” Fathi said. “Huge amounts of documents representing historical importance that cannot be assigned a monetary value were taken by the US.”

And all attempts to reclaim the country’s stolen treasures failed: “The Iraqi government was trying to get them back but the American Administration wanted to strike a deal and return only half of the documents,” he explained.

The Iraqi architect estimated there are about “35,000 small and large items missing from the National Museum of Iraq… The Iraqi museum, for example, was plundered before their very eyes. The plundering lasted for three days without the occupation forces stepping in at all.”

Also, in cities like Babylon artifacts were damaged after Polish troops took over the area and “used heavy armor, tanks and helicopters” for “construction work for their military infrastructure … and seriously damaged many archeological sites in the area.”

RT: Mr. Ihsan Fethi, you witnessed the looting of Iraqi cultural treasures. Everybody knows what was happening in Iraq after the American occupation. What will be the consequences of all this for Iraq’s culture?

Ihsan Fethi: As you know, our civilization originated on the territories where Iraq is now. We have historic landmarks that are over 10,000 years old. And everybody thinks that Iraq is responsible for preserving this cultural heritage. But unfortunately, Iraq is the world leader in having destruction visited on its historic sites. This destruction started during the Mongol invasion in 1258 and continued all the way to the 20th century, when the Iraqi state was formed. We’ve suffered great losses.

During the 1991 occupation, the Americans reached the suburbs of Hillah. Many of the museums in the city were looted, and the US forces just let that happened. But even more damage was done in 2003, when Iraq was occupied. I will not talk about the nature of that operation right now – whether that campaign was to liberate or occupy our country. It surprises me that some intellectuals in Iraq still refuse to call this campaign an occupation. The UN Security Council resolution #1483, passed on May 22, 2003, calls the international military contingency in Iraq occupying forces. This was the official status of the international coalition. This was an occupation.

Prior to the occupation a number of international organizations – including those for protection of archaeological sites which are responsible for preserving these very sites – had officially informed the USA and President Bush in particular, that as a consequence, the cultural and historical heritage of Iraq might be found in deplorable state. Among cultural advisers to President Bush there were four experts who were suggesting that the preservation of Iraqi historical and cultural landmarks should have been his priority task.

RTStill, the US allowed the looting of Iraqi historical landmarks, or maybe even gave a spur to this.  Can you tell us the exact number of looted sites if there is such information at all?

IF: This is a frequently asked question, too, and the answer is clear to me. People who were in charge of Iraqi museums didn’t have any detailed lists or catalogues that would enroll all cultural and historical monuments and antiquities. In particular, it refers to the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad, which is regarded as one of the world’s largest and most important museums. The museum items should have been inspected annually, but unfortunately, the inspection was either not carried out at all, or it was not full. That is why we can’t define the exact number of stolen artifacts. However, some experts tend to think that there are about 35,000 small and large items missing from the National Museum of Iraq.

RT: And they haven’t been regained, right?

IF: To our regret, only a small portion has been returned. Valuable artifacts are always looted when there is a conflict and the atmosphere of chaos reigns. And international experience has proven that at best only 10 percent of them are usually regained.

RT: The former regime is considered to have taken special care of rare gold artifacts and gold bars, which were of great importance. Were these items stolen, too? 

IF: A great number of gold artifacts and gold bars were kept in some palaces of the former president. This gold has been misappropriated. Iraqi authorities had no idea about the amount of the stolen antiquities. In addition, large amounts of currency have been also misappropriated. The country’s Central banks and other banks had accounted for billions of dollars, and now all these funds have been transferred to the USA without any paper trail.

And this does not refer only to the objects of value. They have also moved out of the country tons of documents that captured the history of Iraq. These documents are priceless. All that gold is nothing compared to those historical documents that are now locked up somewhere in a US archive. The government of Iraq has attempted to return these documents home, but the Americans are trying to make a deal here and offer to return only half of the documents. The reason they are giving is that they are trying to repair the documents from the presidential palace and Iraqi special services archives, but no one knows the true story behind this.

Also, a lot of documents have been moved from the Foreign Ministry and state security agencies to the US by Adnan Makiya, with the help of the occupation authorities – allegedly for the Iraq Memory Foundation. This operation had been planned long before the war. We have the information that these documents were sold to one of the American universities. Things like this should not be allowed to happen.

RT: Is it true that there are some valuable Jewish manuscripts among the misappropriated documents, including one of the oldest copies of Torah, which is now said to be in Israel?

IF: Yes, there are some documents in the stolen archives that belonged to Iraq’s Jewish community. Some of these centuries-old documents are now in the USA. According to international regulations, the occupation authorities have no right to move local cultural and material values. On the contrary, it is their duty to preserve these values. Iraq must insist on its right to recover all of the illegally moved objects, down to the very smallest ones.

RT: So, Iraq has lost some valuable pieces of its cultural heritage under the conniving eye of the occupational authorities. But is it possible, on the other hand, that the present-day level of culture in the Iraqi society is insufficient to address the task of preserving Iraq’s historical heritage?

IF: Yes, of course. I would say that we should blame not just Iraqi people, but also trade unions and other civil society organizations for not taking necessary measures in order to preserve the great Iraqi heritage. Even archeologists didn’t do anything.

But interestingly, when the US occupation ended, some of Bush’s advisors resigned over the fact that the US and other countries didn’t do anything to preserve Iraqi historical sites. They were protecting objects like the Oil Ministry and others that were strategic to the US occupation forces. Even Americans themselves acknowledge that they are responsible for the destruction of many archeological sites, especially in Babylon. This city was first occupied by US forces, and later they handed it over to the Polish troops.

Several thousand Polish soldiers lived there, they used heavy armor, tanks and helicopters; they were doing construction work for their military infrastructure. This seriously damaged many archeological sites in the area. Later, the US occupation authorities offered a laughable amount of money – some $20 million – for the restoration of damaged archeological objects. Several years ago at a conference in Paris, I addressed some ranking State Department officials and demanded that the US provide at least $1 billion for the restoration of Iraqi historical buildings. But the US didn’t respond to that.

In many cases, Americans just allowed our museums to be looted. The National Museum was looted within three days. And Americans would not do a thing to keep the exhibits safe. That’s why Americans should take full responsibility for that.

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