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Secret State 20: Britain at war with more than 1600 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq

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Denials wear thin: Britain is at war with more than 1600 airstrikes in Syria and IraqDeborah Haynes, Defence Editor of the Times reports the killing of a civilian by RAF drone in Syria.

The air strike was by a Reaper drone, remotely operated by pilots in the UK or an airbase in the United States.

Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, has admitted that on March 26th, a British airstrike killed a motorcyclist who rode into its path in Syria by chance. It is the first confirmation of a civilian casualty by UK forces in the fight against Islamic State.

The unintentional death, described by Williamson as “deeply regrettable”, was confirmed during post-strike analyses of drone footage and other imagery.

The official position of the Ministry of Defence until yesterday’s announcement had been that it had seen no evidence of UK airstrikes causing civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria.

A source within the US-led coalition against Isis, however, told the BBC that he had seen evidence that British airstrikes had caused civilian casualties “on several occasions”. “To suggest they have not, as has been done, is nonsense,” the source added.

The coalition has begun an investigation and will issue a report. The airstrike was by a Reaper drone, remotely operated by pilots in the UK or at an airbase in the United States.

The defence secretary admits that RAF jets and drones have conducted more than 1,600 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq and Airwars, a group that has been monitoring civilian casualties, claimed it was likely that between 1,066 and 1,579 civilians had died in the fighting in Mosul. The US and Australia have accepted responsibility for civilian casualties. The coalition has admitted causing just over 350 civilian deaths in Mosul.

The deaths, in particular those of women and children, have helped to turn local populations against coalition forces and fuel insurgencies.

A Wimbledon reader sends news that Amnesty International has cited another civilian death: 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was picking vegetables in the family’s fields with her

grandchildren in Waziristan, northwest Pakistan. ’Out of nowhere’, she was hit during a double drone strike led by the US. Mamana is one of hundreds of civilians accidentally killed by US drone strikes. Strikes that the UK has been playing a crucial part in.

Despite the lack of coverage in many newspapers and on TV bulletins, a petition has been set up, calling for the UK government to launch a full public inquiry into its role in the US’s expanding drones programme:

To join this call for a full public inquiry into Britain’s role in the US’s expanding drones programme, go to https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/uk-stop-helping-deadly-and-secret-us-drone-strikes

 

 

 

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Can corporate-ruled America really be described as independent – and truly successful?

As American Independence Day was celebrated on Saturday many will wryly reflect that the country freed itself from one master only to embrace a far more formidable one – the multinational corporate sector, aka “a grubby cabal of privateers”, Monbiot.

Corporate rule works to the advantage only of their hierarchy and shareholders, at the expense of those on lower incomes; successive British governments have also embraced these corporate bedfellows – regardless of the social and environmental consequences.

The Center for Responsive Politics records some of the interactions between Congress and federal agencies (1998-2015) here:

lobbies usa 1998 2015

Corporate dominance skews decision-making in favour of profit maximisation, rather than the satisfaction of basic needs – leading to a high incidence of mental and physical ill-health

The US Council on Foreign Relations describes the findings of the US National Research Council (NRC) and the Institute of Medicine as “a catalog of horrors”.

Two years ago, the conclusion of a major report released by the NRC and the Institute of Medicine revealed the extent of the US’s “health disadvantage”. The report recorded:

  • higher rates of disease and injury from birth to age 75 for men and women, rich and poor across all races and ethnicities,
  • the rate of teen pregnancy, traffic fatalities and heart disease,
  • and the rate of premature births in the US – the highest among the comparison countries and more closely resembling those of sub-Saharan Africa.

Eight people died and – according to local media – forty-one were wounded after an Independence Day shooting in Chicago on July 4th.

Gun2-Violence-Graphic_054144235308

Why are rates of suicide and homicide so high in the United States? PCU contends that it is due to organising society in the corporate interest – the consequence of a consumption-promoting “dream world of materialism and debt and atomisation”- Monbiot.

To all this, add environmental pollution.

A few examples:

miami coastline

In Miami, corporate builders support politicians that deny climate change and, in low-lying south Florida, building goes on.

children drone killed

And above all, the total loss of moral perspective shown by drone-delivered execution without trial – the frequent killing of civilians in other countries.

Arms industries, which spend huge sums to exert influence in the American states where they are located, are the only beneficiaries of the military aggression blackening the country’s reputation.

George Monbiot says “To seek enlightenment, intellectual or spiritual; to do good; to love and be loved; to create and to teach: these are the highest purposes of humankind”. But the corporate world’s pointless and destructive jobs consume millions of the lives of the brightest students – as Monbiot says: “amputating life close to its base”.

Media 38: limited coverage of activists’ closure of Glasgow drone factory

In response to years of drone action and Israel’s recent military assault on the besieged Gaza strip, killing over 2,000, at least 75% of whomwere civilians (UN estimates):

glasgow scotland thales occupation

Tightlipped BBC and Scottish television gave only a few lines to Tuesday’s blockade and shutting down of Thales UK, Govan Glasgow-based weapons manufacturer, to protest at the company’s role in producing drones used by Israel against Palestinian people.

The Common Dreams website adds more detail. The protestors from Glasgow Palestine Action, were able to halt the work of the factory from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Scottish TV News reported that there had been four arrests, two men and two women. The first three arrests were over alleged aggravation charges, with the final man being arrested over allegedly obstructing the police in the execution of their duty.

Fiona McDermot, one of the people who occupied the roof of the factory, said:

“Drones are a key part of Israel’s military arsenal. By allowing this factory to export drone components and other arms to Israel, the UK government is providing direct support and approval to Israel’s massacres.”

From a statement released on Tuesday by the protesters:

watchkeeper drone thales“Thales UK works with Elbit Systems on the next generation of ‘Watchkeeper’ drones based on the Hermes 450, documented killing Palestinian civilians in Gaza in 2008-2009. The drones are marketed as ‘field tested’ – which means they have proven effective at killing Palestinians.”

To Glasgow Council – as SNP membership swells by more than 32,000

“This is a message to Glasgow City Council who fly the Palestinian flag on our City Chambers while simultaneously arming Israel with the weapons they need to bomb Gaza. The UK government, by allowing Thales to operate with Elbit systems, have blood on their hands. Last year alone the UK government had 381 extant arms licences to Israel, worth almost £8 billion.

“We demand that the Scottish government puts pressure on the UK government to end arms sales to Israel. And also takes active steps towards ending the production of weapons systems in Scotland that are connected to apartheid, colonialism and genocide.

“Another Scotland is possible!”

Is American aggression now centred on IT-informed commerce and industry?

Will future military action be confined to relatively inexpensive drone strikes?

Indian official quoted in the Hindu: “If the American intelligence agencies and business corporations are hunting in pairs, we are bound to lose”The Hindu According to a top secret document disclosed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and obtained by The Hindu, the PRISM programme has been deployed by the American agency to gather key information from India by tapping directly into the servers of tech giants which provide services such as email, video sharing, file transfer and social networking services.

The document also records that NSA collected data about subjects ranging from oil to WTO to government policies from several Asian, African and Latin American countries, making it clear that the American spying was focused on commercial and business areas, and not on its stated objective of national security.

America uncovered – endangering food safety, access to medicines and national sovereignty?

FT header 2 

A few days ago David Pilling and Shawn Donnan noted in the Financial Times that some suspect American goals are geopolitical as much as commercial. In an article focussing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it was said that opponents see TPP as a “giant corporate power grab” that would endanger food safety, access to medicines and national sovereignty.

They record that China’s official media have said that the TPP process involves the US in “corralling Pacific nations against Beijing’s interests”, adding that Vali Nasr, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, argues that the US, through its parallel free-trade talks with Europe, “is trying to block off the two biggest areas of global gross domestic product from what Washington considers its main rival”.

Initiatives by the Masters of the World, groundwork done by their lobbyists

Not just a game

Not just a game

America has initiated an EU-US trade deal and both negotiations exclude the people of the states involved. As a comment on the FT article says: “Most of this has been negotiated behind closed doors, including excluding politicians from member states from participating in discussions, and by all accounts Obama wants to further restrict access and opportunity for politicians (who theoretically represent the people) from having input”.

According to Josh Wise, writing in Minnesota’s ‘Star Tribune, theseso-called “free-trade agreements” are going to continue to be a tool for multinational corporations to further deregulate themselves and hamstring local governments and communities in protecting their quality of life”.

He ends, ”Until we can break the corporate stranglehold on trade treaty negotiations, then regardless of who is in the White House or Congress, these deals are only going to continue the global race to the bottom for wages, the environment and consumers”.

The Hindu believes that the flattering rhetoric of close strategic partnerships has been ‘busted’ – will other nations ‘get wise’ and look at actions ‘on the ground’ and their consequences?

Sources

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/nsa-targets-indian-politics-space-nprogrammes/article5161299.ece
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRISM_%28surveillance_program%29
 
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/8c253c5c-2056-11e3-b8c6-00144feab7de.html#ixzz2fnADtwRK
 
http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/204582681.html?refer=y
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Does John Kerry consider the American use of Agent Orange and napalm in Vietnam ‘cowardly and heinous’?

The United States has ‘form’

vietnamese sculpture AO victimsSculpture by Vietnamese students of disabled child victims of Agent Orange: http://japanfocus.org/-Aaron-Glantz/2126#sthash.e3TrSGN5.dpuf

Europe and US, currently expressing horror at the killing by chemicals in Syria, must also be reminded of their sales of expertise and material for developing chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The largest suppliers of precursors for chemical weapons production were Singapore (4,515 tons), the Netherlands (4,261 tons), Egypt (2,400 tons), India (2,343 tons), and West Germany (1,027 tons). A Singapore-based firm affiliated to the United Arab Emirates, supplied more than 4,500 tons of VX, sarin, and mustard gas precursors and production equipment to Iraq.

The Los Angeles Weekly detailed the deadly substances supplied by the US, manufactured by companies which have now changed their names or gone out of business.

According to the New York Times and other sources, the US government was fully aware of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, condoned it and continued to regard the country as an ally. The provision of chemical precursors from United States companies to Iraq was legalised by the Reagan Administration. See a fuller exposition of the US collaboration with Iraq in the ‘80s by Chip Gagnon, Assistant Professor, Dept of Politics, Ithaca College, givenat Cornell University.

Why does the US Secretary of State consider it acceptable to maim and kill by drone strike in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Yemen but ‘cowardly and heinous’ to maim and kill using chemicals in Syria?

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Our NATO kills – but Britain’s mainstream media and politicians prefer to focus on police compensation claims, legal aid curbs and welfare payouts

drone for general use

In an obscure position on the BBC’s website (at the time of writing), 10 children and two women are reported to be among the dead following a Nato air strike in eastern Afghanistan. A further six women are believed to have been injured in the incident in Shigal district, Kunar province.

America’s month of protests against targeted drone killings is under way. The protests announced at the end of March began on April 3rd.

While the British media headlines US job figures (FT), police compensation claims (Times), legal aid curbs (Telegraph) Labour focus on welfare payouts (Observer), Owner of dog that killed Jade (Sun) the protests are highlighted in media abroad, including the Russian, Pakistani and Turkish press – the latter reporting:

“A group called Grandmothers Against the War gathered in New York City on April 3 to protest the U.S. government’s use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones . . . the founder, Joan Wile, said she had organized the rally out of a sense of horror at the effects that U.S. drone strikes are having in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan:

“I just found the whole thing so immoral . . . In this country, you’re presumed innocent until you’re found guilty. And here we were acting as judge, as jury, and executioner, without a trial.”

san diego gen atomics drone systems

The April 3rd rally is being followed by three days of protest outside the facilities of companies that make drones, including at San Diego-based General Atomics  (above) which makes Predator and Reaper drones.

On Friday, protesters, with a miniature drone as a prop, demonstrated in front of the La Jolla home of Neal Blue, chief executive of General Atomics and yesterday protests continued in downtown San Diego, reported in the Los Angeles Times.

Later in the month, protests will take place at universities and other institutions that conduct research into drones or help train drone pilots and operators.

At the end of the month, rallies and demonstrations will target military bases in the US from where drones operate, including Hancock air base near Syracuse, New York.