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23 May

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

Damn The War Criminals,

Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, Powell and Blair from England

War News

GUARD: Pentagon to present plans to send 10,000 troops to Middle East, officials say

Diplomatic editor

Plans aim to beef up defenses against potential Iranian threats as tensions between the countries continue to simmer

The Pentagon is considering a US military request to send 10,000 extra troops to the Gulf to beef up defences against potential Iranian threats, US officials have said.

Officials told AP that the troops would be defensive forces, and the discussions include additional Patriot missile batteries, more ships and increased efforts to monitor Iran. The move was not in response to any new threat from Iran but was aimed at reinforcing security in the region, they added.

No final decision has been made, and it is not clear if the White House would approve sending all or just some of the requested forces, amid rising regional tensions spurred by Donald Trump’s decision a year ago to pull the US out of the 2015 nuclear deal.

On Thursday a senior German diplomat flew to Tehran to establish precisely what the Iranians want from Europe to stop them pulling out of the deal too.

Jens Ploetner, a political director in the foreign ministry, was due to meet Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi. The UK political director Richard Moore was in Tehran last week, but Ploetner knows Araghchi personally from the original negotiations on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA).

Germany is also seen by Tehran as the European power that is doing most to activate a financial system that would encourage trade between Europe and Iran without it being subject to punitive US sanctions.

Tensions have been soaring ever since Washington sent more military forces to the Gulf, including an aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers, and Patriot missiles, in a show of force against what US officials say are new Iranian threats to its troops and interests in the region. Iran claims its navy has the US navy under its control in the northern Strait of Hormuz, the waterway used to transport oil from the Gulf.

Trump campaigned on pulling the US from the 2015 accord, under which Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Since the withdrawal, the US has reimposed previous sanctions and come up with new ones, and it has warned nations around the world they will be subject to sanctions too if they import Iranian oil.

Iran is sceptical that Europe is willing to confront the US over its sanctions threats and, as a result, believes Europe is not fulfilling the original bargain enshrined in the deal.

Tehran claims the US administration is deploying a policy of maximum diplomatic and economic coercion either to force the Iranian regime to renegotiate the deal, or to provoke an economic collapse that leads to mass protests that sweep away the regime.

A German diplomatic source said: “There is a window of opportunity for diplomacy to persuade Iran to continue to fully comply with the JCPOA … The situation in the Persian Gulf and the region, and the situation around the Vienna nuclear accord is extremely serious. There is a real risk of escalation … In this situation, dialogue is very important.”

Most large European firms have pulled out of Iran to avoid the threat of US sanctions.

Iran has said it will lift limits on uranium enrichment levels in 60 days’ time – a step that is seen by the UK as being in clear breach of the JCPOA.

The US administration, in a closed-door briefing to Congress this week, claimed its intelligence showed that Iranian-influenced forces were behind threats to US forces in Iraq as well as the attack a fortnight ago on oil vessels close to the United Arab Emirates. The quality of the intelligence is disputed by the Democrats.

In a sign of the tensions within Iran over the country’s strategy towards the west, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei the country’s supreme leader criticised the Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif and the prime minister Hassan Rouhani for ever taking the country towards the nuclear deal.

GUARD: Raqqa is in ruins like a modern Dresden. This is not ‘precision bombing’

Thousands of Syrians are dead and their city devastated. How dare the US, UK and French militaries speak of ‘surgical strikes’?

Syria conflictAmnesty International handout photo dated 02/2018 of children riding a bicycle next to destroyed buildings in Raqqa, Syria. The US-led coalition campaign to liberate the city from the clutches of Islamic State killed hundreds of civilians and injured thousands, the charity has claimed. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday June 5, 2018. See PA story DEFENCE Raqqa. Photo credit should read: Amnesty International/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

‘US forces themselves boasted more artillery was fired into downtown Raqqa than has been fired in any conflict in the world since Vietnam.’ Photograph: Amnesty International/PA

From Kosovo to Iraq and Syria, the US and its military allies have for years told a tale of “precision bombing” and “surgical strikes”. It was a lie then and it’s a lie now. When huge numbers of bombs and missiles are unleashed on densely populated cities like Mosul or Raqqa, civilians are killed in their hundreds – possibly thousands. But still, the myth of precision and “meticulous processes” persists. Not least because militaries like our own refuse to even go back to the cities they’ve bombed, and refuse to acknowledge deaths unless presented with irrefutable evidence from the likes of Amnesty.

Last week I did what UK, US and French military officials refuse to do: I went to Raqqa to see for myself what has happened to this city as a result of mass bombardments by the US-led coalition between June and October 2017.

The coalition has refused to send investigators into Raqqa to establish the truth of its boast about ‘precision’

Never before have I seen a city so completely devastated. Not just in one district area, but almost entirely. Think Dresden and you’d be close. Street after street of windowless, hollowed-out buildings. Miles of rubble. Piles of twisted metal. Utter ruin. There has been no assistance for residents desperate to rebuild, and entire families are reduced to living in bombed-out husks of buildings. Meanwhile, many children spend all day scavenging in the rubble for bits of steel and plastic they can sell so as to buy food. They risk injury and death from unsafe buildings and uncleared landmines.

Among those I met in this ruined city was Mohamed, a 28-year-old carpenter who cares for his younger brother, Rabi’a, who is now paralysed after a coalition airstrike destroyed the building where his family was sheltering in October 2017. Most of his family were killed. Mohamed lost his wife, two children (the youngest of whom was 11 days old), his parents, his sister, her husband and their four children. With his family as devastated as the city he still inhabits, Mohamed has devoted himself to looking after his brother. It’s heartbreaking, tragic and deeply moving.

The battle to oust Islamic State from Raqqa followed the modern US military playbook. A massive aerial assault conducted with willing military powers (here, the UK and France); zero use of ground troops; and a reliance on proxy fighters at street level (here, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces militia). The bombardment was immense. For four months the coalition pounded the city into the ground – with thousands of airstrikes (215 from the UK, says the MoD) and 30,000 US artillery rounds. Never mind that artillery is notoriously imprecise and should not be used in heavily populated areas (such use is “indiscriminate” in international legal parlance), the coalition fired artillery round after artillery round into residential areas for four solid months. In fact, as US forces themselves boasted, more artillery was fired into the streets, squares and homes of downtown Raqqa than has been fired in any conflict in the world since Vietnam.

‘More than 11,000 buildings are uninhabitable and Raqqa is widely considered the most-destroyed city of modern times.’

‘More than 11,000 buildings are uninhabitable and Raqqa is widely considered the most-destroyed city of modern times.’ Photograph: Amnesty International

As I saw for myself, the results are predictably apocalyptic; 80% of the city has been reduced to ruins. More than 11,000 buildings are uninhabitable and Raqqa is widely considered the most-destroyed city of modern times.

On top of this lethally irresponsible behaviour, the coalition has refused to send investigators into the ruined city to establish the truth of its boast about “precision”. It has refused to set up a compensation fund for those maimed or bereaved by its handiwork. And – perhaps most worryingly of all – it has refused to even try to learn lessons from this latest exercise in mass bombing without responsibility.

Recently, Amnesty and Airwars presented the UK, US and French authorities with detailed evidence from our own painstaking on-the-ground investigation showing that at least 1,600 civilians in Raqqa were killed by the coalition’s aerial attacks, 10 times more than previously acknowledged. Collating huge data streams from investigations spanning almost two years and including multiple visits to Raqqa, we built a database of the victims, with names for more than 1,000 of the dead.

For the last two years, the coalition’s responses have been a mix of denial, attacks on the messenger and grudging acknowledgement of a small number of deaths when presented with irrefutable evidence.

Last year, after Amnesty published a 70-page report based on 42 site visits in Raqqa and interviews with 112 beleaguered Raqqa residents, then defence secretary Gavin Williamson responded not with alarm at the report’s findings but with a broadside against Amnesty from the House of Commons despatch box. Our report was “deeply disappointing” and “disgraceful”. We needed to recognise the “amazing professionalism of our Royal Air Force”. Flag-waving rather than dealing with the unpalatable facts – this was yet another aggressive denial from a government increasingly unwilling to hold its own military forces to account.

Last week, Willamson’s successor Penny Mordaunt signalled that the UK would in future go even further in its refusal to deal with alleged war crimes committed by UK forces overseas.

The fact that Isis fighters terrorised and effectively held hostage vast populations in Syria and Iraq doesn’t justify the coalition in indiscriminate bombing campaigns. Our armed forces are supposed to be better than that. If they are not, it is largely because our politicians and top brass continue to wave their flags and hide behind the lie of precision.

Kate Allen is the director of Amnesty International UK. An exhibition, War in Raqqa: Rhetoric versus Reality, based on Amnesty’s Raqqa research, is at the Architectural Association until 30 May

REU: Trump administration may use Iran threat to sell bombs to Saudis without Congress’ approval: senator

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration plans to use a loophole and rising tensions with Iran to sell bombs to Saudi Arabia, even though Congress blocked such sales for months over concerns about civilian deaths in the war in Yemen, Senator Chris Murphy said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO – Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) speaks after the senate voted on a resolution ending U.S. military support for the war in Yemen on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

“I am hearing that Trump may use an obscure loophole in the Arms Control Act and notice a major new sale of bombs to Saudi Arabia (the ones they drop in Yemen) in a way that would prevent Congress from objecting. Could happen this week,” the Democratic senator warned on Twitter.

Congressional aides said there are provisions of the Arms Control Act, which sets rules for international arms transactions, that would allow a president to approve a sale without congressional review in case of a national emergency.

In this case, they said the Republican president would cite rising tensions with Iran as a reason to provide more military equipment to Saudi Arabia, which he sees as an important U.S. partner in the region. Trump has touted arms sales to the Saudis as a way to generate U.S. jobs.

Trump previously declared an influx of immigrants a national emergency to bypass Congress and get $6 billion to build his wall along the Mexican border. Both Democrats and his fellow Republicans voted to block the move, forcing Trump to issue the first veto of his presidency.

It was not immediately clear what equipment would be sold to Saudi Arabia or when any sale might go ahead.

However, any such plan would run into resistance in Congress, from Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats like Murphy, even in the Senate, where Republicans have a slim majority.

A handful of Republicans recently voted with Democrats in a failed effort to override Trump’s veto of a resolution that would have ended U.S. support for the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen’s devastating civil war.

Many lawmakers from both parties have also expressed anger over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

Senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump’s closest congressional allies, told CNN he would oppose the administration if it decided to go around Congress, citing Khashoggi’s killing.

“We are not going to have business as usual until that issue is dealt with,” Graham said.

The State Department declined comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Read Full Article>>

REU: Worried by Iran tensions, U.S. lawmakers seek end to law of ‘endless war’

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Rising tensions between the United States and Iran prompted some Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Wednesday to call for the repeal of a law that presidents have used for two decades to justify U.S. military action around the world.

Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat, and Thomas Massie, a Republican, held a news conference with other members of the House of Representatives to call for the repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), passed days after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York on Washington.

A House subcommittee on Tuesday approved an amendment to a defense spending bill that would repeal the AUMF.

The lawmakers said that, after nearly 18 years, it was time for Congress to repeal and replace the law, stressing that it was too broad from the start and saying it definitely should not be used to justify war with Iran.

Washington and Tehran have this month escalated rhetoric against each other, following President Donald Trump’s decision to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and beef up of the U.S. military presence in the Gulf in response to what he said were Iranian threats.

Lee, the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 authorization, said it has been used “as a blank check for endless war by three administrations.”

When she voted against the 2001 AUMF, Lee said it gave too much leeway for presidents to pursue military action. “It was so broad, it covered almost every military operation in perpetuity,” she said.

Read Full Article>>

NYT: Afghanistan Envoy Briefs Skeptical Lawmakers on Peace Talks

WASHINGTON — An envoy to Afghanistan was met with skepticism Wednesday on Capitol Hill as he briefed lawmakers on peace talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the 17-year war.

Lawmakers were tight-lipped as they left the classified meeting with special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, but the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Jim Risch of Idaho, says he believes Khalilzad is making progress. However, he added, “the issue always is how much progress, and can you get to the finish line?”

Since Khalilzad was appointed to lead peace talks with the Taliban by the Trump administration in September, his efforts have been largely shrouded in secrecy. It was Khalilzad’s first appearance before Congress since his appointment after months of requests from lawmakers for a briefing.

Initial rounds of talks have yielded mixed results, and violence has been on the rise in Afghanistan, with the Taliban expanding their hold in the country.

“Would you want it quicker? Yes. Would you want to get there sooner? Yes. But I’m not here to criticize,” Risch said. “It’s a difficult situation, no question about it.”

Khalilzad has said that he hopes to broker a “roadmap” for Afghanistan and that all talks would take place in accordance with the principle that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” Maintaining a hectic travel schedule, he has crisscrossed the globe meeting the Taliban on several occasions, as well as powerbrokers in Kabul, including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Initial rounds of talks have focused on the withdrawal of American troops in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan will not be used again as a staging area for attacks on the United States. However, the Afghan government is not yet a party to the peace talks, a source of tension between Kabul and Washington that could potentially undercut the very administration the U.S. has spent billions supporting.

“I — I think like everyone else — want to bring our troops home as soon as we can, but how we ultimately achieve that is critically important,” said Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, a senior committee member. Wednesday’s briefing was the second high-level Afghanistan briefing this week, after intelligence officials on Monday gave lawmakers their assessment, also behind closed doors.

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Bush’s Five Big Lies That Led to the Iraq Quagmire

These are the five lies Bush told that Ralph Nader documented to impeach him.

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction. The weapons have still not been found. Nader emphasized, “Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was our government’s anti-communist ally in the Middle East. We also used him to keep Iran at bay. In so doing, in the 1980s under Reagan and the first Bush, corporations were licensed by the Department of Commerce to export the materials for chemical and biological weapons that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney later accused him of having.” Those weapons were destroyed after the Gulf War. George W. Bush’s favorite chief weapons inspector, David Kay, after returning from Iraq and leading a large team of inspectors and spending nearly half a billion dollars told the president We were wrong. See: David Kay testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2004-01-28.Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) ’s Europe division, revealed that in the fall of 2002, George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others were told by CIA Director George Tenet that Iraq’s foreign minister — who agreed to act as a spy for the United States — had reported that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

  • Iraq Ties to Al Qaeda. The White House made this claim even though the CIA and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) repeatedly told the Administration that there was no tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. They were mortal enemies — one secular, the other fundamentalist.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to the United States. In fact, Saddam was a tottering dictator, with an antiquated, fractured army of low morale and with Kurdish enemies in Northern Iraq and Shiite adversaries in the South of Iraq. He did not even control the air space over most of Iraq.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to his Neighbors. In fact, Iraq was surrounded by countries with far superior military forces. Turkey, Iran and Israel were all capable of obliterating any aggressive move by the Iraqi dictator.

  • The Liberation of the Iraqi People. There are brutal dictators throughout the world, many supported over the years by Washington, whose people need liberation from their leaders. This is not a persuasive argument since for Iraq, it’s about oil. In fact, the occupation of Iraq by the United States is a magnet for increasing violence, anarchy and insurrection

Recent Casualties:

Color Denotes Today’s Confirmation

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Spc. Miguel L. Holmes, 22, from Hinesville, Georgia, died May 6, 2019, in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained from a non-combat incident. The incident is under investigation.

Holmes was assigned to 1st Battalion, 118th Field Artillery Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Savannah, Georgia.

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Pfc. Michael A. Thomason, 28, from Lincoln Park, Michigan, died April 29, 2019, in Kobani, Syria, of wounds sustained from a non-combat incident.

Thomason was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Spc. Michael T. Osorio, 20, from Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, died April 23, 2019, in Taji, Iraq, in a non combat related incident. The incident is under investigation.

Osorio was assigned to 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.

Save The Children Organization

Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organisation for children and has been working with families, communities and local authorities in Iraq since 1991, leading NGOs in general relief and development programs.Save the Children is currently responding to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDP) and the Syrian refugees in Iraq, in camps and non-camp settings. Our goal is for children in Iraq to be supported in raising their voices and attaining their rights, especially the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives. They should have access to quality education, health and protection services. We are increasing access to community based services that protect, educate and improve quality of life for children. We are ensuring that there is an increased participation of boys and girls in age appropriate activities and services. We are ensuring that children benefit from government actions that create an environment of awareness and accountability to uphold child rights. We are also developing new resources and innovative practices that support our work for children and youth.In Iraq, Save the Children’s interventions include Child Protection, Education, Food Security and Livelihoods, Shelter and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), reaching vulnerble children and families in northern and central Iraq. Save the Children’s programs are implemented through field offices in Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Kalar, with a country office located in Erbil.

Visit Save The Children Organization>>

Syria  War Child

Please Never Forget.

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22 May

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

Recommended:

Irish Examiner>>

France 24>>

Spiegel>>

The Age>>

The Observer>>

Climate change

UK workers must move to nine-hour week if carbon levels do not change, says thinktank

Commuters on Waterloo Bridge during London’s Extinction Rebellion protest.

Commuters on Waterloo Bridge during Extinction Rebellion climate protests in London. Shorter working hours are needed across Europe, the study found. Photograph: Amer Ghazzal/Rex/Shutterstock

People across Europe will need to work drastically fewer hours to avoid disastrous climate heating unless there is a radical decarbonising of the economy, according to a study.

The research, from thinktank Autonomy, shows workers in the UK would need to move to nine-hour weeks to keep the country on track to avoid more than 2C of heating at current carbon intensity levels. Similar reductions were found to be necessary in Sweden and Germany.

The findings are based on OECD and UN data on greenhouse gas emissions per industry in the three countries. It found that at current carbon levels, all three would require a drastic reduction in working hours as well as urgent measures to decarbonise the economy to prevent climate breakdown.

Will Stronge, the director of Autonomy, said the research highlighted the need to include reductions in working hours as part of the efforts to address the climate emergency.

“Becoming a green, sustainable society will require a number of strategies – a shorter working week being just one of them,” he said. “This paper and the other nascent research in the field should give us plenty of food for thought when we consider how urgent a Green New Deal is and what it should look like”

The paper focuses on the emissions produced per industry in each economy but does not take into account other environmental advantages of reducing working hours, from less commuting to fewer goods produced and resources used.

There is growing support in the US and Europe for a so-called Green New Deal, which aims for a rapid decarbonisation of the economy, creating secure, well-paid sustainable jobs. Accelerating automation has also led to increasing calls for a reduction in the working week.

Emma Williams, a spokeswoman for the 4 Day Week campaign, said Wednesday’s report highlighted the link between automation, reduced working hours and the climate emergency.

“We welcome this attempt by Autonomy to grapple with the very real changes society will need to make in order to live within the limits of the planet,” she said.

“In addition to improved wellbeing, enhanced gender equality and increased productivity, addressing climate change is another compelling reason we should all be working less.”

Stronge said technological advances and the climate emergency meant a shorter working week was now not only viable but essential.

“The rapid pace of labour-saving technology brings into focus the possibility of a shorter working week for all, if deployed properly,” he said. “However, while automation shows that less work is technically possible, the urgent pressures on the environment and on our available carbon budget show that reducing the working week is in fact necessary.”

In the war, the purpose of journalism was to awaken the world to the catastrophe looming ahead of it. We must approach our climate crisis the same way

 

MURROW<br>**FILE**This file photo orginally from CBS shows CBS News correspondent Edward R. Murrow broadcasting national election returns on CBS Television Network in New York on election night, November 7, 1956. In the new film “Good Night, and Good Luck,” Murrow is portrayed as he publicly came out against Sen. Joe McCarthy, who was on an anti-communist crusade. What is in film is essentially accurate, experts say. They note that the movie leaves out such aspects as the mention of journalists who had already stood up to McCarthy to signs that the senator was already on his way down. (AP Photo/CBS )

‘In the war, what was journalism for, except to awaken the world to the catastrophe looming ahead of it?’ Photograph: AP

Today marks the official launch of Covering Climate Now, a project co-sponsored by The Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation. Joined by The Guardian and others partners to be announced, Covering Climate Now will bring journalists and news outlets together to dramatically improve how the media as a whole covers the climate crisis and its solutions.

The following is an abridged version of the conference keynote speech by iconic TV newsman Bill Moyers, as prepared for delivery. A video version of the speech is available here. See here for more about the Covering Climate Now project.

I have been asked to bring this gathering to a close by summing up how we can do better at covering the possible “collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world,” to quote the noted environmentalist David Attenborough, speaking at the recent United Nations climate summit in Poland.

I don’t come with a silver bullet. And I’m no expert on the topic. Like you, I am just a journalist whose craft calls for us to explain things we don’t understand. There’s so much I don’t understand that journalism became my continuing course in adult education. The subjects were so fascinating, and the work so fulfilling, that I kept at it “full speed ahead” for half a century, until two years ago, at the age of 83, I yielded finally to the side effects of a long life and retired (more or less). This is the first opportunity I have had since then to be with so many kindred spirits of journalism, and the camaraderie reminds me how much I have missed your company.

Many of us have recognized that our coverage of global warming has fallen short. There’s been some excellent reporting by independent journalists and by enterprising reporters and photographers from legacy newspapers and other news outlets. But the Goliaths of the US news media, those with the biggest amplifiers—the corporate broadcast networks—have been shamelessly AWOL, despite their extraordinary profits. The combined coverage of climate change by the three major networks and Fox fell from just 260 minutes in 2017 to a mere 142 minutes in 20l8—a drop of 45%, reported the watchdog group Media Matters.

Meanwhile, about 1,300 communities across the United States have totally lost news coverage, many from newspaper mergers and closures, according to the University of North Carolina School of Media and Journalism. Hundreds of others are still standing only as “ghost newspapers.” They no longer have resources for even local reporting, much less for climate change. “Online news sites, as well as some TV newsrooms, are working hard to keep local reporting alive, but these are taking root far more slowly than newspapers are dying,” observes Tom Stites of Poynter in a report about the study. And, alas, many of the news outlets that are still around have ignored or misreported the climate story and failed to counter the tsunami of deceptive propaganda unleashed by fossil-fuel companies and the mercenaries, ideologues, and politicians who do their bidding.

But events educate, experience instructs, and so much destructive behavior has been caused by climate disruption that more Americans today than ever seem hungry to know what’s causing it, what’s coming and what can be done about it. We journalists have perhaps our last chance to help people grasp the magnitude of the threat. My friend and journalist-turned-citizen-activist Bill McKibben told me last week that because of the looming possibility of extinction, and in response to it from the emerging leadership among young people, we have reached a ‘climate moment’ with real momentum, and our challenge as we go forward is to dramatically change the zeitgeist—“to lock in and consolidate public opinion that’s finally beginning to come into focus.”

So, while I did not come with a silver bullet—there’s no such thing—I do want to share a couple of stories that might help us respond to this daunting task.

I’ll begin with how I first heard of global warming—before many of you in this room were born. It was 54 years ago, early in 1965, at the White House. Before I became President Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary (“over my dead body,” I might add,) I was his special assistant coordinating domestic policy. One day, two members of the president’s science-advisory committee came by the office. One of them was the famous oceanographer, Roger Revelle. Famous because only a few years earlier he had shaken up the prevailing consensus that the oceans were massive enough to soak up any amount of excess of carbon released on earth. Not so, Revelle discovered; the peculiar chemistry of sea water actually prevents this from happening.

Now, he said, humans have begun a “vast geophysical experiment.” We were about to burn, within a few generations, the fossil fuels that had slowly accumulated in the earth over the past 500 million years. Burning so much oil, gas, and coal would release massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it would trap heat that otherwise would escape into space. Earth’s temperature could rise, causing polar ice to melt and sea levels to rise, flooding the earth’s coastal regions.

President Johnson took scientists seriously; as vice president, he had been chosen by President Kennedy to chair the intergovernmental committee overseeing NASA’s charge to put a man on the moon. So Revelle and his colleagues got the green light, and by the fall of 1965 they produced the first official report to any government anywhere on the possible threat to humanity from rising CO2 levels. On November 6, Lyndon Johnson became the first president to mention the threat in a message to Congress.

President Johnson urged us to circulate the report widely throughout the government and to the public, despite its controversial emphasis on the need for “economic incentives” to discourage pollution, including—shudder!—taxes levied against polluters. (You can go online to Restoring the Quality of Our Environment—1965 and read the entire 23-page section, headlined Appendix Y4—Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide.)

This was in 1965! Nearly six decades ago! The future in plain sight.

But we failed the moment. One year later, largely preoccupied with the war in Vietnam, the president grew distracted, budgets for other priorities were squeezed, and the nation was fast polarizing. We flunked that first chance to confront global warming. Our failure to act—and the failure of administrations that followed us—metastasized into the crisis of today, the crisis journalists must figure out how to cover as if life on earth depends on it, which it does.

Which brings me to the second story I hope will be helpful in confronting this daunting challenge.

It’s about the Murrow Boys: Edward R. Murrow and the young men, none of them yet famous, Murrow hired to staff CBS Radio in Europe on the eve of the Second World War.

I was a kid of about six in Marshall, Texas, when my parents bought a used console radio so they could listen to Franklin Roosevelt’s speeches and I could follow the Saturday serials—especially “The Green Hornet,” my favorite masked vigilante. That’s how we discovered the Murrow Boys, by listening to the news every evening on CBS. Although I didn’t yet know what to make of the events being reported, I showed up faithfully to sit on the floor between my parents in their chairs, all of us listening together.

I can still hear the voices coming from that stained brown console in the corner of our living room; still see the pictures their words painted in my mind’s eye. Their names, hardly known when they started, became hallowed in the annals of journalism. Murrow of course, Eric Sevareid, William L Shirer, Larry LeSeuer, Charles Collingwood, Howard K Smith, William Randall Downs, Richard C. Hottelet, Winston Burdett, Cecil Brown, Thomas Grandin, and the one woman among them, Mary Marvin Breckinridge. You can read about them in The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism, a superb book by Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson.

These reporters spread across Europe as the “phony war” of 1939–40 played out, much like the slow-motion catastrophe of global warming plays out in our time. They saw the threat posed by the Nazis, and they struggled to get the attention of an American public back home exhausted and drained by the Great Depression.

In September of 1939, with Europe hours away from going up in flames, the powers at CBS in New York ordered Murrow and Shirer to feature an entertainment broadcast spotlighting dance music from nightspots in London, Paris, and Hamburg. Here’s the account from Cloud and Olson:

“‘They say there’s so much bad news out of Europe, they want some good news,’ Murrow [in London] snapped to Shirer [in Berlin] over the phone. The show, scheduled to be broadcast just as Germany was about to rape Poland, would be called ‘Europe Dances’ … Finally, Murrow decreed, ‘The hell with those bastards in New York. It may cost us our jobs, but we’re just not going to do it’.”

And they didn’t. They defied the bosses—and gave CBS one of the biggest stories of the 20th century, the invasion of Poland.

And still the powers in New York resisted. Through the rest of 1939 and into the spring of 1940, Hitler hunched on the borders of France and the Low Countries, his Panzers idling, poised to strike. Shirer fumed, “My God! Here was the old continent on the brink of war…and the network was most reluctant to provide five minutes a day from here to report it.” Just as the networks and cable channels provide practically no coverage today of global warming.

In time I would meet Ed Murrow and follow him as senior correspondent for the documentary series he created after the war with Fred Friendly. Eric Sevareid became a mentor, before and after I succeeded him as commentator on The CBS Evening News. Howard K. Smith and I frequently corresponded and traded books. And I had casual conversations with Charles Collingwood at the little French café he frequented near our office on West 57th street. These men rarely talked details of the past. But I will never forget my debt as a journalist to their work, or what they did for our country.

Never in my own long career have I been as tested as they were. Or as you will be. Our own global warming “phony war” is over. The hot war is here.

My colleague and co-writer, Glenn Scherer, compares global disruption to a repeat hit-and-run driver: anonymous, deadly, and requiring tireless investigation to identify the perpetrator. There are long stretches of nothing, then suddenly Houston is inundated and Paradise burns. San Juan blows away and salt water creeps into the subways of New York. The networks put their reporters out in raincoats or standing behind police barriers as flames consume far hills. Yet we rarely hear the words “global warming” or “climate disruption” in their reports. The big backstory of rising CO2 levels, escalating drought, collateral damage, cause and effect, and politicians on the take from fossil-fuel companies? Forget all that. Not good for ratings, say network executives.

But last October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientifically conservative body, gave us 12 years to make massive changes to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions 45 percent below 2010 levels and to net zero by 2050. On his indispensable site, TomDispatch.com, Tom Engelhardt writes that humanity is now on a suicide watch.

Soon, some of you will be traveling to the ends of the earth to report on this Great Disruption. To Indonesia, where oil-palm growers and commodities companies are stripping away forests vital to carbon storage. To the Amazon, where President Bolsonaro’s government plans to open indigenous reserves to industrial exploitation, threatening the lungs of the Earth. To India, where President Modi pretends to be an environmentalist even as he embraces destructive development. To China, where President Xi’s Belt and Road initiative, the biggest transportation-infrastructure program in the history of the world, threatens disaster for earth systems. You will go to the Arctic and the Antarctic to report on melting ice, and to the shores of African cities, Pacific atolls, and poor Miami neighborhoods being swallowed by rising oceans. And to Nebraska, and Iowa, and Kansas, and Missouri, where this spring’s crop is despair as farmers and their families grieve their losses.

And some of you will go to Washington, to report on the madness—yes, I said madness—of a US government that scorns reality as fake news, denies the truths of nature, and embraces a theocratic theology that welcomes catastrophe as a sign of the returning Messiah.

Madness! Superstition! Destruction and death.

Can we get this story right? Can we tell it whole? Can we connect the dots and inspire people with the possibility of change?

What’s journalism for? Really, in the war, what was journalism for, except to awaken the world to the catastrophe looming ahead of it?

Here’s the good news: While describing David Wallace-Wells’s stunning new book The Uninhabitable Earth as a remorseless, near-unbearable account of what we are doing to our planet, The New York Times reports it also offers hope. Wallace-Wells says that “We have all the tools we need…to aggressively phase out dirty energy…”; [cut] global emissions…[and] scrub carbon from the atmosphere…. [There are] ‘obvious’ and ‘available,’ [if costly,] solutions.”

What we need, he adds, is the “acceptance of responsibility.”

Our responsibility as journalists is to tell the story so people get it.

I wish I could go there with you to tell it. This is a very exciting time for journalism, despite our beleaguered newsrooms, our diminished ranks, and the power arrayed against truth. And I really do think this project – Covering Climate Now – could be the beginning of our redemption.

Over my long life I’ve seen things change quickly. After the Birmingham bombing. After Selma. Vietnam. Nixon and Watergate. The Berlin Wall. The pendulum can swing suddenly. The public can change its mind.

Which brings us back to the Murrow Boys. Late 1940. The start of the Blitz, with bombs blasting London to bits. A Gallup poll that September found that a mere 16% of Americans supported sending US aid to beleaguered Britain. Olson and Cloud tell us that, “One month later, as bombs fell on London, and Murrow and the Boys brought the reality of it into American living rooms, 52% thought more aid should be sent.”

Americans had taken one step toward defeating fascism, and the Murrow Boys helped us take it. Of course, the journalists were only part of the cast, and I don’t want to overrate their importance. But they were there. On the right side. At the right time. In the right way—reporting on the biggest story of all, the fight for freedom. For life itself.

Reporting the truth is always the basis for any moral authority we can claim as journalists. Reporting the truth about climate disruption, and its solutions, could be contagious. Our gathering today could be a turning point for American journalism.

With no silver bullet, what do we do? We cooperate as kindred spirits on a mission of public service. We create partnerships to share resources. We challenge media owners and investors to act in the public interest. We keep the whole picture in our heads—how melting ice sheets in the Arctic can create devastation in the Midwest—and connect the dots for our readers, viewers, and listeners. We look every day at photographs of our children and grandchildren, to be reminded of the stakes. And we tell the liars, deniers, and do-nothings to shove off: There’s no future in naysaying.

As some of you know, I am president of the Schumann Media Center, a small nonprofit devoted to the support of independent journalism. The Center is the progeny of the Florence and John Schumann Foundation, founded in Montclair, NJ, in l961 by a civic-minded couple whose offspring were brought up with a strong commitment to democratic values. Their support of my journalism on public television led us to join forces, which is how I became president of the foundation and now of the center. The family resolved to give away their wealth in their lifetime, and we are just about there; our resources are modest now, and we’re almost done.

One of our last major gifts will be a million dollars to launch the Covering Climate Now project of The Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation and to get the project through the first year. Other foundations and individual philanthropists will then have to step up to the challenge, and I believe they will.

This has been a good day of talking and thinking—now must come action. My colleagues at the Schumann Media Center wish all of you and all of those you represent—in newspapers, radio stations, local news, and major corporations—we wish all of you, because it will take all of you, every success.

I am grateful to the veteran environmental journalist Glenn Scherer for the research and ideas he contributed to this speech. His own impressive work can be found at MongaBay.org.

World Politics

Europe

Avaaz uncovers 500 accounts using fake news to spread white supremacy message

People already barred from Facebook include the far-right activist Milo Yiannopoulos (L) and the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

People already barred from Facebook include the far-right activist Milo Yiannopoulos (L) and the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Photograph: Mark Graham/AFP/Getty Images

A web of far-right Facebook accounts spreading fake news and hate speech to millions of people across Europe has been uncovered by the campaign group Avaaz.

Facebook, which is struggling to clean up the platform and salvage its reputation, has already taken down accounts with about 6 million followers before voting in the European elections begins on Thursday. It was still investigating hundreds of other accounts with an additional 26 million followers, Avaaz said.

In total, the group reported more than 500 suspect groups and Facebook pages operating across France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Poland and Spain. Most were either spreading fake news or using false pages and profiles to artificially boost the content of parties or sites they supported, in violation of Facebook’s rules.

The networks were far more popular than the official pages of far-right and anti-EU populist groups in those countries. The pages taken down by Facebook so far had been viewed half a billion times, Avaaz estimated.

“The pages [uncovered by Avaaz] have high levels of interactions. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have if there are no interactions,” said Christoph Schott, the groups’s campaign director. “They have over 500 million views just on the pages taken down, that’s more than the number of voters in the EU.”

However, while some had been taken down, including a large network in Spain also uncovered by Avaaz, many had not.

Activity ranged from French accounts sharing white supremacist content, to posts in Germany supporting Holocaust denial, and false pages promoting the Alternative für Deutschland party (AfD) party.

In Italy, tactics included setting up general interest pages for beauty, football, health or other interests, then after followers signed up, transforming them into political tools.

The researchers traced how a page, ostensibly set up for an association of agricultural breeders, slowly morphed into one supporting the far-right League, sharing a video that purported to show migrants smashing up a police car. It is actually a scene from a film and has been repeatedly debunked.

The pages were not just targeted at upcoming elections, Schott said, but aimed to change politics by giving a false impression of grassroots support for their content.

“We feel [these networks] have a significant impact, they run disinformation campaigns that go on for years, for example, making a specific issue seem more important.”

The investigation was carried out by independent investigators and journalists hired by Avaaz after an online funding drive. More than 47,000 people donated small sums, making the project financially independent.

Facebook had followed up on the investigation, but at no point did the Avaaz team work with the social media firm, it said. Instead, it handed over its findings for Facebook to verify and take action, and investigations were still under way.

“We think Facebook did a good job so far of acting, but should have done a better job of detecting these pages,” Schott said. “They should do this themselves. We are around 30 people, they have over 30,000 in their safety and security team.”

United States

Lawyers for House committees and two banks also to appear amid president’s battle against congressional oversight

Donald Trump departs the White House in Washington DC, on 20 May.

Donald Trump departs the White House in Washington DC, on 20 May. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

Lawyers for Donald Trump, House committees and two banks are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday afternoon for arguments involving congressional subpoenas of his financial records.

The proceeding comes amid the president’s ongoing battle against congressional oversight, in which he has reportedly vowed to fight “all of the subpoenas”.

The House intelligence and financial services committees in April ramped up their investigation of Trump’s business dealings, issuing subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Capital One. Several weeks later, Trump hit back with a lawsuit that seemed to profess a sense of victimhood.

“The subpoenas were issued to harass President Donald J Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses, and the private information of the president and his family, and to ferret about for any material that might be used to cause him political damage,” lawyers for Trump wrote in a Manhattan federal court lawsuit filed on 29 April.

This lawsuit – which counts Trump’s children Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr, as well as several of his companies, among the plaintiffs – also said Deutsche Bank and Capital One “have long provided business and personal banking services to plaintiffs”.

Deutsche Bank said in an email that “we remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations and will abide by a court order regarding such investigations”. Capital One did not respond to a request for comment.

The resistance from Trump officials has been fierce.

Former White House counsel Don McGahn on Tuesday flouted a subpoena to appear before Congress, as Trump blocked him from testifying on Robert Mueller’s report about Russian election meddling. On 8 May, House Democrats voted to hold the US attorney general, William Barr, in contempt for refusing to disclose an unredacted copy of Mueller’s report.

Trump, meanwhile, suffered a legal defeat in his fight against oversight on Monday, when a Washington DC federal judge refused to stop one of his accounting firms from complying with a House subpoena.

Move in Golan Heights follows naming of Jerusalem roundabout in US president’s honour last year

President Trump meets with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House in Washington

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyah (right), will press his next government to approve the naming of the new community in Golan Heights after Trump (left). Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

Israel plans to name a new settlement after Donald Trump on land it captured from Syria, as a token of gratitude to the US president for recognising its contested claim to the occupied territory.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has said he would press his next government, which he is still in the process of forming, to approve the naming of the new community in Golan Heights.

Israeli and US officials are expected to hold a cornerstone-laying ceremony next month at the site where the village is due to be built, next to the location of the existing village of Kela Alon, according to a spokeswoman for the area’s regional council.

“It will be soon,” said Batya Gottlieb, adding that the final decision rests with the prime minister’s office and will need formal approval from a governmental naming committee.

However, she said local councils backed Netanyahu. “Yes, we proudly agree on having the US president’s name at the new place,” she said.

Israeli forces took control of the volcanic plateau from Syria in the six-day war in 1967 and later annexed it, moves that were condemned by the UN security council and never internationally recognised.

Local rights groups estimate up to 130,000 Syrians fled or were forced from their homes during the war and have not been allowed to return. Many of their farms and villages have since been demolished. Israel has offered the few thousand Syrians, mostly Druze Arabs, who remain the option of citizenship, but most reject it.

Trump’s recognition of Israel’s claim, announced in a tweet in March, ended half a century of US foreign policy and broke from post-second world war international consensus that forbids territorial conquest during war.

The US president later said he made the decision after getting a “quick” history lesson from his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his pro-settlement ambassador to Israel and former bankruptcy lawyer, David Friedman.

Friedman was thrilled, Trump said, and reacted like a “wonderful, beautiful baby” getting what he wanted.

The Golan move followed Trump’s decision in December 2017 to recognise Jerusalem, part of which is claimed by the Palestinians, as the Israeli capital. In gratitude, the city’s mayor named a roundabout in Trump’s honour.

 

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21 May

United States Wars, News and Casualties

United States Wars, News and Casualties

Damn The War Criminals,

Bush,Cheney,Rice,Rumsfeld,Wolfowitz, Powell and Blair from England

War News

GUARD: UK arms exports are still playing a central role in Yemen’s humanitarian crisis

As MPs thank Jeremy Hunt for his efforts in securing peace in the war-torn country, the UK’s attempts to justify its weapons sales are ever more absurd

A boy looks over destroyed houses the day after a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa

A boy looks over destroyed houses the day after a Saudi-led airstrike in Sana’a that killed at least seven Yemenis, including four children, and left more than 50 wounded. Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA

After more than 1,500 days of war in Yemen, in the midst of the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, reports of the Houthi withdrawal from Hodeidah port are a welcome but extremely fragile development, surrounded by suspicion and fear.

A Houthi pullout from Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Issa ports would be one step in the implementation of the Stockholm agreement, but a very small step. There are much wider conflict dynamics to be addressed before we can talk confidently of moves towards peace.

At this point in the conflict, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Yemen, Keith Vaz MP, has chosen to write to the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to thank him for his efforts to secure peace in Yemen. The letter, co-sponsored by MPs Andrew Mitchell and Alison Thewliss, asks the government to “use every available tool to put pressure on our allies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to bring about an end to the conflict”.

Curiously, at no point does the letter mention the uncomfortable fact of UK arms exports to the Saudi-led coalition, which have played a central role in creating the humanitarian disaster to which the government claims to be responding.

The UK government emphasises its largesse in budgeting £120m in humanitarian assistance to Yemen in 2018/19, and lauds its role in the peace process, including the Hodeidah developments.

These claims have become increasingly visible as domestic criticism has grown of UK arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition – including a legal challenge by Campaign Against Arms Trade – and other European states have adopted more restrictive policies. The UK is now out of step with most other EU member states bar France and its efforts to justify its position are becoming ever more absurd, to the point where Jeremy Hunt claimed at the end of March that it would be “morally bankrupt” not to sell weapons to the Saudis.

The key problem with the government’s position is that targeting the civilian population, which is illegal under international law, appears to be a core component of the Saudi-led coalition’s strategy in Yemen. Excessive civilian harm in the war is not an accidental side-effect of an otherwise effective military strategy.

So the effort to tally the balance sheet between arms on the one side and diplomacy combined with humanitarian aid on the other simply cannot work. No amount of funding can compensate for a military strategy that relies on harming the civilian population physically, economically and psychologically.

The government has been told this. UN experts note that Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have caused most civilian casualties in Yemen, and conclude that members of the Saudi-led coalition “have committed acts that may, subject to determination by an independent and competent court, amount to international crimes”.

The Yemen Safe Passage Group (a group that includes former ambassadors and former defence attaches) has told Jeremy Hunt that economic blockades and the military targeting of civilians are illegal under international law – and yet central to Saudi strategy. They too support calls for a suspension of UK arms sales until a sustainable peace has been achieved.

When former defence attaches and an anti-arms trade campaign group are making the same call, you’d think the government might stop and listen. Nonetheless, the government continues to mobilise ambiguity and doubt about what is happening in Yemen in order to argue that the risks associated with weapons sales are not “clear” – and hence that there is no reason to suspend them.

If the parliamentary group on Yemen wants to encourage Jeremy Hunt to use “every available tool” to bring the conflict to an end, that should include a suspension of arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition.

Indeed, in a report published almost exactly one year ago, the APPG itself concluded that “the UK should, based on current available evidence, immediately suspend arms sales to all parties that have been accused of breaching international law”.

A recent Dispatches programme suggested that Saudi bombing missions would have to stop within seven to 14 days if engineering support were halted. The UK government is in a position to force the warring parties to the negotiating table by withdrawing material, diplomatic and symbolic support for the coalition.

By omitting this from their call for action, signatories to the APPG letter are diluting the force of their good intentions and throwing away possibly the best chance to force a change in the dynamics of the war.

And in a context where the parliamentary committees responsible for scrutinising government arms export policy won’t even put arms sales to Saudi on the agenda for their latest inquiry, and where Tories are content to let the Labour chair of the committees take the heat for the committees’ failure, it is a bad sign for accountability in British politics as well as for Yemen that the APPG is in congratulatory mode.

Anna Stavrianakis is a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex

GUARD: Citizens committee puts Saudi arms sales under scrutiny

Group of MPs and experts established after select committee’s failure to investigate trade

Saudi Arabian troops in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden.

Saudi Arabian troops in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden. Photograph: Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters

The failure of Britain’s “broken select committee system” to mount a new inquiry into UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia has prompted a group of MPs, arms sales analysts and former army officers to form its own citizens committee to argue against the multibillion-pound weapons contracts.

Nearly half of UK arms sales go to Saudi Arabia, which is involved in an intractable five-year civil war in Yemen where international law has been violated by both sides.

The new citizens committee on arms sales (CCAS), meeting in Westminster on Wednesday, is due to take evidence from Yemeni human rights campaigners speaking from the capital Sana’a as well as a former UK brigadier to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, who has previously claimed the UK is breaking its own rules by selling arms for use in Yemen.

The meeting came as MPs from the all-party parliamentary group on Yemen wrote to the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, imploring him “to use every available tool to put pressure on our allies in the UAE and Saudi Arabia to bring about an end to the conflict. The UK has a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia and this must be used”.

One of the academics giving evidence to the CCAS is Anna Stavrianakis, a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of Sussex. She said: “Our parliamentary system of scrutiny is deeply flawed if options for ending the exports of these specific arms is not the subject of a current inquiry.”

She pointed out that former brigadier John Deverell, who is due to address the meeting, had said it was complete nonsense to suggest if the UK ended arms sales, Saudi could simply purchase the arms elsewhere, one of the claims most frequently made in defence of continued sales.

She added the official parliamentary committee on arms export controls (CAEC), drawn from four other select committees – defence, foreign, trade and international development – had refused to hold a specific inquiry into Saudi arms sales, favouring instead generic technical inquiries into UK arms export controls legislation. Government evidence to the generic inquiry is five paragraphs long.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a Labour MP and member of the CAEC, said: “It’s an open secret within CAEC that it is broken and has been prevented from holding the government to account.

“CAEC is meant to ensure that the government follows arms export control law, which is clearly being violated by Saudi Arabia on several grounds such as targeting civilians in Yemen and diverting arms to its proxies in the region. It’s not just Saudi though; the government is licensing powerful dual-use mass-surveillance kit to autocrats around the world.”

He called for a new arms control committee to be established with an elected chairman.

The CCAS is not entirely an academic exercise, because the Foreign Office is known to recognise that a sharp shift in UK policy to Saudi Arabia is inevitable if Jeremy Corbyn forms a government after the next election. One civil servant said: “UK Middle East policy will be turned upside down. It would be remiss if we, as civil servants, were not planning for it now.”

Labour’s front bench peace and disarmament spokesman, Fabian Hamilton, has recently urged the UK to boycott the G20 summit of world leaders if it is held next year as planned in Riyadh.

There is also frustration that the CAEC’s chairman, the Labour MP Graham Jones, represents a constituency, Hyndburn, in which arms production forms a backbone of many of his constituents’ livelihoods. Unlike most select committee chairs, Jones was appointed by fellow members rather than elected to his post in a ballot of all MPs. He argues his committee is looking for gaps in the ways the arms export control regime operates and for greater transparency.

The backdrop to the assembly on Wednesday includes a long-awaited court of appeal verdict into whether UK government is abiding by its own commitment not to supply weapons where there is a clear risk that they might be used in serious violations of international humanitarian law. The judges’ ruling is expected by the summer.

REU: Iran’s Rouhani rejects talks with Washington

DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected talks with the United States on Tuesday, after President Donald Trump said Iran would call and ask for negotiations “if and when they are ever ready”.

Tehran and Washington have escalated rhetoric against each other in recent weeks as the United States has tightened sanctions with what it says is the goal of pushing Iran to make concessions beyond the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal.

Trump withdrew the United States a year ago from the deal between Iran and global powers, under which Tehran curbed its uranium enrichment capacity, a potential pathway to a nuclear bomb, and won sanctions relief in return.

Trump restored U.S. sanctions on Iran last year and extended them this month, ordering all countries to halt imports of Iranian oil or face sanctions of their own. Iran has repeatedly rejected any further negotiations as long as the United States remains outside the nuclear pact.

“Today’s situation is not suitable for talks and our choice is resistance only,” state news agency IRNA quoted Rouhani as saying.

Trump said on Monday that Iran would be met with “great force” if it attempted anything against U.S. interests in the Middle East. He said reports Washington was trying to set up talks were false, but “Iran will call us if and when they are ever ready”.

Critics have accused Trump of sending mixed signals. Last week three U.S. officials told Reuters that Trump had told his top advisers he does not want war with Iran.

Iran has portrayed the hot and cold rhetoric as evidence Trump is being goaded into war against his better judgment by hardline aides such as National Security Adviser John Bolton.

“Right after threatening Iran, they were forced to say they do not seek a war,” Rouhani said in televised remarks on Tuesday. “Iranians will never bow to a bully.”

REU: Fleeing into the fields, a family runs from Idlib attacks

ATMEH, Syria (Reuters) – Ali al-Ahmed and his family fled on foot through the fields when the bombs began raining down on their house in northwestern Syria, escaping a major offensive by the Syrian army and its Russian allies.

Ali, 25, a displaced Syrian farmer from the al-Ahmed family, holds his daughter as he sits with other family members in an olive grove in the town of Atmeh, Idlib province, Syria May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Khalil Ashawi

“In the early hours of the morning, the artillery stopped. Then the warplanes and helicopters came out,” Ahmed, a 25-year-old farmer, said, recalling his last hours in the village of Habeet which he fled with his family of five dozen.

Scattered during their frantic escape from the village, the family are now reunited in a makeshift shelter in an olive grove near the border with Turkey. They are among some of the 180,000 people uprooted by the military escalation.

It marks the biggest upsurge in violence since last summer between President Bashar al-Assad and his insurgent enemies in Idlib province and a belt of territory around it.

At least dozens of people have been killed; the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says unconfirmed reports indicate more than 170 civilians have lost their lives.

The night before Ali’s family left the village, they hid indoors or in basements. They feared moving around the village even to check whether other inhabitants were still alive.

Shelling hit his small truck, which they had planned to escape in. “The warplane was flying overhead,” he said. “So we stood there watching the truck burn.”

Then they set off through the fields: some of the relatives ran on foot. Others hopped into cars with their neighbors. A few stayed behind.

“For three days, we didn’t know anything about each other,” Ali said.

One of his neighbors managed to run away only to be hit when he reached the main highway, where his wife and children were killed.

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REU: Hundreds of U.S. lawmakers ask Trump administration for Syria strategy

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Hundreds of members of the U.S. Congress signed a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday arguing that the United States should remain engaged with the conflict in Syria, saying they were “deeply concerned” about extremist groups in the country.

“As some of our closest allies in the region are being threatened, American leadership and support are as crucial as ever,” said the letter, signed by nearly 400 of the 535 members of the House of Representatives and Senate.

Many U.S. lawmakers, Trump’s fellow Republicans as well as Democrats, have been deeply concerned about Syria policy since December, when Trump confounded his own national security team and allies with a surprise decision to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

Trump backtracked in February, agreeing to leave a small U.S. presence to help keep pressure on Islamic State during what the U.S. military believes will be a critical stabilization phase in Syria.

The lead signers of the letter were the Democratic chairman and ranking Republican of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Representatives Eliot Engel and Mike McCaul, and the Republican chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senators Jim Risch and Bob Menendez.

Among other things, the letter urges Trump to increase pressure on Iran and Russia with respect to their activities in Syria and increase pressure on the heavily armed Shi’ite Hezbollah movement, Iran’s Lebanese ally.

REU: Italy unions refuse to load Saudi ship in protest over Yemen war

 

Protesters and workers on strike prevent a Saudi ship Bahri Yanbu, that was prevented by French rights group ACAT from loading a weapons cargo at the French port of Le Havre due to concerns they might be used against civilians in Yemen, from loading cargo at the Port of Genoa, Italy May 20, 2019. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

GENOA, Italy (Reuters) – Italian unions refused on Monday to load electricity generators onto a Saudi Arabian ship with weapons on board in a protest against the war in Yemen.

The Bahri-Yanbu vessel loaded arms in the Belgian city of Antwerp earlier this month, but was prevented from picking up another consignment of weapons in the French port of Le Havre following protests by humanitarian groups.

Rights campaigners say the weapons contravene a U.N. treaty because they might be used against civilians in Yemen, where a Saudi-led military coalition is battling the Iran-backed Houthis in a war that has killed thousands.

Unions in Genoa had tried to have the boat banned from Italy, but the ship docked just after dawn, met by a handful of protesters who gathered on the quay.

“No to war” read one of their banners.

Union workers refused to load two generators aboard the boat, saying that although they were registered for civilian use, they could be instead directed to the Yemen war effort.

AP: Russia raises alarm about Islamic extremists in Afghanistan

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s top security chief on Tuesday raised alarm about Islamic extremists massing on Afghanistan’s northern border.

Alexander Bortnikov, chief of the main Russian intelligence agency FSB, said on a visit to Tajikistan that some 5,000 fighters of an Islamic State group affiliate have gathered in areas bordering on former Soviet states in Central Asia, saying that most of them fought alongside IS in Syria.

Bortnikov, in comments carried by Russian news agencies, called for tighter border control to prevent a spillover.

Russia has a significant presence in Central Asia including several military bases.

The IS affiliate in Afghanistan emerged in 2014 and refers to itself as the Khorasan Province, an ancient term for an area that includes parts of Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia. It has pledged allegiance to the IS group in Iraq and Syria but consists mainly of disgruntled former Taliban and other insurgents from South and Central Asia.

Russia has been expressing concern about the IS insurgency spilling over into Central Asia for several years. But some experts say the Kremlin is exaggerating the number of extremists to justify its outreach to the Taliban. In recent years, Russia has emerged as an influential power broker in Afghanistan where it fought a disastrous war in the 1980s. Russian officials have been mediating between feuding factions, and even spoke for lifting international sanctions against the Taliban.

The Taliban has waged bitter battles against the followers of the Khorasan Province, most often in eastern Nangarhar province but also in the north of Afghanistan.

Bush’s Five Big Lies That Led to the Iraq Quagmire

These are the five lies Bush told that Ralph Nader documented to impeach him.

  • Weapons of Mass Destruction. The weapons have still not been found. Nader emphasized, “Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was our government’s anti-communist ally in the Middle East. We also used him to keep Iran at bay. In so doing, in the 1980s under Reagan and the first Bush, corporations were licensed by the Department of Commerce to export the materials for chemical and biological weapons that President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney later accused him of having.” Those weapons were destroyed after the Gulf War. George W. Bush’s favorite chief weapons inspector, David Kay, after returning from Iraq and leading a large team of inspectors and spending nearly half a billion dollars told the president We were wrong. See: David Kay testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee, 2004-01-28.Tyler Drumheller, the former chief of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) ’s Europe division, revealed that in the fall of 2002, George W. Bush, Vice President Cheney, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and others were told by CIA Director George Tenet that Iraq’s foreign minister — who agreed to act as a spy for the United States — had reported that Iraq had no active weapons of mass destruction program.

  • Iraq Ties to Al Qaeda. The White House made this claim even though the CIA and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) repeatedly told the Administration that there was no tie between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. They were mortal enemies — one secular, the other fundamentalist.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to the United States. In fact, Saddam was a tottering dictator, with an antiquated, fractured army of low morale and with Kurdish enemies in Northern Iraq and Shiite adversaries in the South of Iraq. He did not even control the air space over most of Iraq.

  • Saddam Hussein was a Threat to his Neighbors. In fact, Iraq was surrounded by countries with far superior military forces. Turkey, Iran and Israel were all capable of obliterating any aggressive move by the Iraqi dictator.

  • The Liberation of the Iraqi People. There are brutal dictators throughout the world, many supported over the years by Washington, whose people need liberation from their leaders. This is not a persuasive argument since for Iraq, it’s about oil. In fact, the occupation of Iraq by the United States is a magnet for increasing violence, anarchy and insurrection

Recent Casualties:

Color Denotes Today’s Confirmation

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Spc. Miguel L. Holmes, 22, from Hinesville, Georgia, died May 6, 2019, in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained from a non-combat incident. The incident is under investigation.

Holmes was assigned to 1st Battalion, 118th Field Artillery Regiment, 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Savannah, Georgia.

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Pfc. Michael A. Thomason, 28, from Lincoln Park, Michigan, died April 29, 2019, in Kobani, Syria, of wounds sustained from a non-combat incident.

Thomason was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

DOD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

Spc. Michael T. Osorio, 20, from Horseshoe Bend, Idaho, died April 23, 2019, in Taji, Iraq, in a non combat related incident. The incident is under investigation.

Osorio was assigned to 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colorado.

Save The Children Organization

Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organisation for children and has been working with families, communities and local authorities in Iraq since 1991, leading NGOs in general relief and development programs.Save the Children is currently responding to the needs of internally displaced persons (IDP) and the Syrian refugees in Iraq, in camps and non-camp settings. Our goal is for children in Iraq to be supported in raising their voices and attaining their rights, especially the right to participate in decisions affecting their lives. They should have access to quality education, health and protection services. We are increasing access to community based services that protect, educate and improve quality of life for children. We are ensuring that there is an increased participation of boys and girls in age appropriate activities and services. We are ensuring that children benefit from government actions that create an environment of awareness and accountability to uphold child rights. We are also developing new resources and innovative practices that support our work for children and youth.In Iraq, Save the Children’s interventions include Child Protection, Education, Food Security and Livelihoods, Shelter and Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), reaching vulnerble children and families in northern and central Iraq. Save the Children’s programs are implemented through field offices in Erbil, Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Kalar, with a country office located in Erbil.

Visit Save The Children Organization>>

Iraq War Child

Please Never Forget.

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20 May

And Yemenis are paying the price.

Nicholas Kristof

By Nicholas Kristof

“Washington supplies weaponry and intelligence that allow this war to drag on indefinitely. American policy is to support the starvation of Yemeni children because they are ruled by a faction with ties to Iran.

This should not be a partisan issue. President Barack Obama backed the Saudis in Yemen, and President Trump has doubled down on that support.”

A neighborhood in Sana, Yemen, a day after it was hit by a Saudi-led airstrike on Thursday.CreditCreditYahya Arhab/European Pressphoto Agency, via Shutterstock

Is America headed for a war involving Iran?

Actually, we’re already mired in one. It’s the unconscionable war in Yemen, where we are complicit in the deaths of almost a quarter million Yemenis so far, many of them children who have starved to death.

Just a few days ago, bombs (perhaps American made) killed four Yemeni children. Every 12 minutes, another child in Yemen dies.

Yemen is a complicated place with many bad actors, but here’s the bottom line: Because of our enmity toward Iran and our bond with Saudi Arabia, we are helping to starve and bomb Yemeni children.

With tensions in the region high, Saudi Arabia is now encouraging the United States to escalate the hostilities and order a military strike on Iran. “They must be hit hard,” Arab News, a newspaper with ties to the Saudi government, declared on Thursday.

Beware. That was the Saudi line as well in 2015 when Saudi Arabia’s Mad Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, intervened in Yemen. He wanted to show his toughness and assumed that his armed forces would crush an Iran-backed faction there called the Houthis.

Instead, the Saudi intervention resulted in Iran gaining influence in Yemen, while the Saudis have helped cause what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. With talk of American conflict with Iran again in the air, Yemen should be a reminder that wars are easy to get into, harder to exit.

It is Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that drop the bombs on Yemen, but Washington supplies weaponry and intelligence that allow this war to drag on indefinitely. American policy is to support the starvation of Yemeni children because they are ruled by a faction with ties to Iran.

This should not be a partisan issue. President Barack Obama backed the Saudis in Yemen, and President Trump has doubled down on that support.

Most presidential candidates (with the exception of Senator Bernie Sanders, who has been a strong opponent of the Yemen war) don’t mention Yemen much, and it receives little public attention. I’m writing about it partly because I was able to slip through the Saudi blockade into Yemen late last year, and I’m haunted by seeing my tax dollars go to help starve children to death.

Congress passed a bipartisan measure to end U.S. involvement in the war, but Trump vetoed it last month. A recent U.N. study calculated that if the war ends this year, it will have claimed 233,000 lives, and that if it continues until 2022, it will claim a total of 482,000 lives. If it lasts until 2030, the U.N. estimated, it will cause 1.8 million deaths.

“Every day things get worse,” Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, told me this month. “There isn’t anyone working today in Yemen who doesn’t believe that the only solution to this terrible, senseless crisis is to end the conflict. We have to face the fact that if fighting drags on, Yemen will be a failed state, unstable for generations.”

“Nearly every family has either lost someone, is hungry, has children out of school or is battling cholera,” Grande said. “It’s hard to understand why the lives of so many innocent people seem to mean so little.”

The Mad Prince’s rash interference in Yemen not only backfired and helped Iran, but a CNN investigation also found that it led Saudi Arabia to give American weapons to fighters linked to Al Qaeda. The chaos led to the cholera outbreak, which worsened recently, with more than 300,000 suspected cases so far in 2019.

Iran and the Houthis have also behaved badly, but that’s a poor excuse for Americans to support war crimes against Yemeni children.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are no longer enthusiastic about the Yemen war, but they don’t want to leave and give Iran and the Houthis a victory. So it’s difficult to see how the war ends unless the U.S. forces the issue.

Trump has said that if the United States doesn’t sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, then Russia or China will. But Saudi Arabia needs American spare parts, and it also buys U.S. weapons partly for the implicit security guarantee that comes with them. No other country can provide that security blanket.

“The Saudi military is dependent on American spare parts, logistics and munitions,” noted Bruce Riedel, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution. “If Washington uses its enormous leverage, the Saudis have no choice but to end the war.”

We are drifting toward an increased risk of a collision with Iran, and the U.S. Navy in particular worries about an accident in the Persian Gulf that escalates. In 1988, in a similar period of tensions, the United States mistakenly shot down an Iranian passenger plane, killing 290 people on board.

So of course let’s work to reduce the risk of a war directly with Iran. But let’s also not forget this old, shameful war outside Iran’s borders: It’s time to end American support for the bombing and starvation of children in Yemen.

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