Two versions of Obama’s Iftar Party, one by the White House one by Press TV One would not imagine it was the same event. Please scroll down and read both versions before making your mind up. An account by an attendee
Yesterday I had the privilege to watch Dirty Wars, an upcoming film directed by Richard Rowley that chronicles the investigations of journalist Jeremy Scahill into America’s global covert war under President Obama and specifically his ever-growing kill lists. I will write comprehensively about this film closer to the date when it and the book by the same namewill be released. For now, it will suffice to say that the film is one of the most important I’ve seen in years: gripping and emotionally affecting in the extreme, with remarkable, news-breaking revelations even for those of us who have intensely followed these issues. The film won awards at Sundance and rave reviews in unlikely places such as Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. But for now, I want to focus on just one small aspect of what makes the film so crucial.
The most propagandistic aspect of the US War on Terror has been, and remains, that its victims are rendered invisible and voiceless. They are almost never named by newspapers. They and their surviving family members are virtually never heard from on television. The Bush and Obama DOJs have collaborated with federal judges to ensure that even those who everyone admits are completely innocent have no access to American courts and thus no means of having their stories heard or their rights vindicated. Radical secrecy theories and escalating attacks on whistleblowers push these victims further into the dark.
It is the ultimate tactic of Othering: concealing their humanity, enabling their dehumanization, by simply relegating them to nonexistence. As Ashleigh Banfield put it her 2003 speech denouncing US media coverage of the Iraq war just months before she was demoted and then fired by MSNBC: US media reports systematically exclude both the perspectives of “the other side” and the victims of American violence. Media outlets in predominantly Muslim countries certainly report on their plight, but US media outlets simply do not, which is one major reason for the disparity in worldviews between the two populations. They know what the US does in their part of the world, but Americans are kept deliberately ignorant of it.
What makes Dirty Wars so important is that it viscerally conveys the effects of US militarism on these invisible victims: by letting them speak for themselves. Scahill and his crew travel to the places most US journalists are unwilling or unable to go: to remote and dangerous provinces in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, all to give voice to the victims of US aggression. We hear from the Afghans whose family members (including two pregnant women) were slaughtered by US Special Forces in 2010 in the Paktia Province, despite being part of the Afghan Police, only for NATO to outright lie and claim the women were already dead from “honor killings” by the time they arrived (lies uncritically repeated, of course, by leading US media outlets).
Scahill interviews the still-traumatized survivors of the US cruise missile and cluster bomb attack in Southern Yemen that killed 35 women and children just weeks after Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. We see the widespread anger in Yemen over the fact that the Yemeni journalist who first exposed US responsibility for that attack, Abdulelah Haider Shaye, was not only arrested by the US puppet regime but, as Scahill first reported, has been kept imprisoned to this very day at the direct insistence of President Obama. We hear from the grandfather of 16-year-old American teenager Abdulrahman al-Awlaki (he is also the father of US cleric Anwar al-Awlaki) – both before and after a CIA drone killed his son and then (two weeks later) his teenaged grandson who everyone acknowledges had nothing to do with terrorism. We hear boastful tales of summary executions from US-funded-and-directed Somali warlords.
There is an unmistakable and singular message sent by these disparate groups and events. It’s one particularly worth thinking about with news reports this morning that two more Afghan children have been killed by aNATO air attack.
The message is that the US is viewed as the greatest threat and that it is US aggression and violence far more than any other cause that motivates support for al-Qaida and anti-American sentiment. The son of the slain Afghan police commander (who is the husband of one of the killed pregnant woman and brother of the other) says that villagers refer to US Special Forces as the “American Taliban” and that he refrained from putting on a suicide belt and attacking US soldiers with it only because of the pleas of his grieving siblings. An influential Southern Yemeni cleric explains that he never heard of al-Qaida sympathizers in his country until that 2009 cruise missile attack and subsequent drone killings, including the one that ended the life of Abdulrahman (a claim supported by all sorts of data). The brutal Somali warlord explains that the Americans are the “masters of war” who taught him everything he knows and who fuel ongoing conflict. Anwar Awlaki’s transformation from moderate and peace-preaching American cleric to angry critic of the US is shown to have begun with the US attack on Iraq and then rapidly intensifying with Obama’s drone attacks and kill lists. Meanwhile, US military officials and officers interviewed by Scahill exhibit a sociopathic indifference to their victims, while Awlaki’s increasingly angry sermons in defense of jihad are juxtaposed with the very similar-sounding justifications of endless war from Obama.
The evidence has long been compelling that the primary fuel of what the US calls terrorism are the very policies of aggression justified in the name of stopping terrorism. The vast bulk of those who have been caught in recent years attempting attacks on the US have emphatically cited US militarism and drone killings in their part of the world as their motive. Evidence is overwhelming that what has radicalized huge numbers of previously peaceful and moderate Muslims is growing rage at seeing a continuous stream of innocent victims, including children, at the hands of the seemingly endless US commitment to violence.
The only way this clear truth is concealed is by preventing Americans from knowing about, let alone hearing from, the victims of US aggression. That concealment is what caused huge numbers of Americans to wander around in a daze after 9/11 innocently and bewilderingly wondering “why do they hate us”? – despite decades of continuous US interference, aggression, and violence-enabling in that part of the world. And it’s this concealment of these victims that causes Americans now to react to endless stories of the killing of innocent Muslims with the excuse that “we have to do something about the Terrorists” or “it’s better than a ground invasion” – without realizing that they’re affirming what Chris Hayes aptly describes as a false choice, and worse, without realizing that the very policies they’re cheering are not stopping the Terrorists at all but doing the opposite: helping the existing Terrorists and creating new ones.
To be fair, it’s not difficult to induce a population to avert its eyes from the victims of the violence they support: we all like to believe that we’re Good and peaceful people, and we particularly like to believe this about the leaders we elect, cheer and admire. Moreover, what the Nigerian-American writer Teju Cole recently described as “the empathy gap” – thefailure to imagine how others will react to situations that would cause us (and have caused us) to be driven by rage and violence – means that the US government need not work all that hard to silence its victims: there is a pervasive desire to keep them out of sight.
Nonetheless, if Americans are going to support or even tolerate endless militarism, as they have been doing, then they should at least have to be confronted with their victims – if not on moral grounds then on pragmatic ones, to understand the effects of these policies. Based on the out-of-sight-out-of-mind reality, the US government and media have been incredibly successful in rendering those victims silent and invisible. Dirty Wars is a truly crucial tonic to that propaganda. At the very least, nobody who sees it and hears from the victims of US aggression will ever again wonder why there are so many people in the world who believe in the justifiability or even necessity of violence against the US.
Hear the outcry of the peoples!
The situation in Syria is an object of serious preoccupation and once more the United States, assuming the role of the world’s policeman, proposes to invade Syria in the name of “Freedom” and “Human Rights”.
Continue reading “Open letter to President Barack Obama”
Regarding the facts:
Talking Points from Phyllis Bennis, Director, New Internationalism Project Institute for Policy Studlies
Tom Hayden – A Call for Forceful Diplomacy http://www.pdamerica.org/component/k2/item/1809-tom-hayden-a-call-for-forceful-diplomacy
McClatchy News Service, “To some, US case for Syrian gas attack, strike has too many holes,” http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/09/02/201027/to-some-us-case-for-syrian-gas.html#.Uid-LFcpg_g
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, “Which Syrian Chemical Attack Account Is More Credible?” http://www.fair.org/blog/2013/09/01/which-syrian-chemical-attack-account-is-more-credible/
Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro “On Syria, a U.N. Vote Isn’t Optional,” New York Times Op Ed,http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/04/opinion/on-syria-a-un-vote-isnt-optional.html
“The Rush to Bomb Syria: Undermining International Law and Risking Wider War,” Western States Legal Foundation Briefing Paper, http://wslfweb.org/docs/wslfsyriabrief1.pdf
Faith Group Statements Opposing Military Action in Syria—Not Exhaustive:
Letter from Trappist Nuns in Syria: “Blood Fills our Streets, our eyes, our hearts” (http://www.
Pope Francis: violence begets violence http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/
Pax Christi USA: http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/
US Conference of Catholic Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/news/
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas: www.sistersofmercy.org
NETWORK: National Catholic Social Justice Lobby: www.networklobby.org
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns and action items from CMSM, incl. Syrian bishop speaking out against U.S. Military Action: http://maryknollogc.org/
NCR Article: What moral theologians say about getting involved in Syria http://ncronline.org/news/
Pax Christi USA: http://paxchristiusa.org/2013/
Mennonite Church USA: http://www.mennoniteusa.org/?
United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ: http://globalministries.org/
Presbyterians (PCUSA): http://www.pcusa.org/
ROBERT FISK The Independent Tuesday 27 August 2013
Quite an alliance! Was it not the Three Musketeers who shouted “All for one and one for all” each time they sought combat? This really should be the new battle cry if – or when – the statesmen of the Western world go to war against Bashar al-Assad.
The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords.
This, of course, will not be trumpeted by the Pentagon or the White House – nor, I suppose, by al-Qa’ida – though they are both trying to destroy Bashar. So are the Nusra front, one of al-Qa’ida’s affiliates. But it does raise some interesting possibilities.
Maybe the Americans should ask al-Qa’ida for intelligence help – after all, this is the group with “boots on the ground”, something the Americans have no interest in doing. And maybe al-Qa’ida could offer some target information facilities to the country which usually claims that the supporters of al-Qa’ida, rather than the Syrians, are the most wanted men in the world.
There will be some ironies, of course. While the Americans drone al-Qa’ida to death in Yemen and Pakistan – along, of course, with the usual flock of civilians – they will be giving them, with the help of Messrs Cameron, Hollande and the other Little General-politicians, material assistance in Syria by hitting al-Qa’ida’s enemies. Indeed, you can bet your bottom dollar that the one target the Americans will not strike in Syria will be al-Qa’ida or the Nusra front.
And our own Prime Minister will applaud whatever the Americans do, thus allying himself with al-Qa’ida, whose London bombings may have slipped his mind. Perhaps – since there is no institutional memory left among modern governments – Cameron has forgotten how similar are the sentiments being uttered by Obama and himself to those uttered by Bush and Blair a decade ago, the same bland assurances, uttered with such self-confidence but without quite enough evidence to make it stick.
In Iraq, we went to war on the basis of lies originally uttered by fakers and conmen. Now it’s war by YouTube. This doesn’t mean that the terrible images of the gassed and dying Syrian civilians are false. It does mean that any evidence to the contrary is going to have to be suppressed. For example, no-one is going to be interested in persistent reports in Beirut that three Hezbollah members – fighting alongside government troops in Damascus – were apparently struck down by the same gas on the same day, supposedly in tunnels. They are now said to be undergoing treatment in a Beirut hospital. So if Syrian government forces used gas, how come Hezbollah men might have been stricken too? Blowback?
And while we’re talking about institutional memory, hands up which of our jolly statesmen know what happened last time the Americans took on the Syrian government army? I bet they can’t remember. Well it happened in Lebanon when the US Air Force decided to bomb Syrian missiles in the Bekaa Valley on 4 December 1983. I recall this very well because I was here in Lebanon. An American A-6 fighter bomber was hit by a Syrian Strela missile – Russian made, naturally – and crash-landed in the Bekaa; its pilot, Mark Lange, was killed, its co-pilot, Robert Goodman, taken prisoner and freighted off to jail in Damascus. Jesse Jackson had to travel to Syria to get him back after almost a month amid many clichés about “ending the cycle of violence”. Another American plane – this time an A-7 – was also hit by Syrian fire but the pilot managed to eject over the Mediterranean where he was plucked from the water by a Lebanese fishing boat. His plane was also destroyed.
Sure, we are told that it will be a short strike on Syria, in and out, a couple of days. That’s what Obama likes to think. But think Iran. Think Hezbollah. I rather suspect – if Obama does go ahead – that this one will run and run.
Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, said today that President Obama ?really ought to consider? returning his Nobel Peace Prize Medal immediately, including the ?really nice? case it came in. Continue reading “Nobel Committee Asks Obama ?Nicely? To Return Peace Prize”
by TOM MCNAMARA Counter Punch
Once more tragedy befalls America. But this time the tragedy is even more bitter due to the fact that such a large number of young children were involved. A gunman, identified as Adam Lanza, shot and killed 26 people, 20 of them children ? all between the ages of 5 and 10 ? at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on the 14thof December. The attack ended with the gunman committing suicide. It was the Nation?s second deadliest school shooting.
Most people can?t imagine the evil and insanity needed to drive a person to commit such a heinous act. The murder of innocent people is reprehensible, but it is even more so when carried out on the most vulnerable elements of our society, children. Most disturbing of all is the well planned, deliberate and determined manner in which the murders appear to have been carried out. Early reports state that the gunman was highly accurate, leaving only one wounded survivor alive at the school. Continue reading “The Obama Hypocrisy”
Malala is the 14-year-old girl who was an outspoken advocate for girls? rights. She blogged from her home in Pakistan. She lived in the Swat Valley, an area near the border with Afghanistan that is heavily influenced by Islamic fundamentalism. Her activism focused on education and on girls? rights to learn.
She directly challenged the Taliban. She confronted their views that girls should not be educated. She defied their beliefs through her advocacy and her actions.
For this, she became the Taliban?s target. She was shot Oct. 9 by a Taliban assassin. She remains in a hospital, in critical condition after surgery to remove the bullet that struck her in the head.
I too keep vigil for this brave girl and abhor the attempt to kill her.
But where is the outrage for the thousands of Malalas who are regularly being slaughtered because a US president deems it within his right to do so?
Retreat at #stopdronenow
Obama lawyers file a breathless, angry appeal against the court ruling that invalidated the NDAA’s chilling 2011 detention law
Israelis assert the United States should not wait for Iran to decide on building a nuclear weapon before it considers military action. Dan Meridor, deputy Israeli prime minister, says: When is the point at which it should be stopped? Just when the bomb is assembled on the tip of the missile and is ready for launch? This demands clarification, to my mind, to make clear that even an Iran that is a decision away from nuclear weaponry, be it within days or weeks, is a nuclear-armed Iran. Iran could reach stage of nuclear development which would allow it to make a warhead quickly years in the future when the world's guard was down. Hermann Goering used to say the people don't want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country. http://venitism.blogspot.com Continue reading "Warrior Netanyahu and Worrier Obama"