Whenever the word "refugee" is uttered, I think of my mother. When Zionist militias began their systematic onslaught and "cleansing" of the Palestinian Arab population of historic Palestine in 1948, she, along with her family, ran away from the once peaceful village of Beit Daras.

Back then, Zarefah was six. Her father died in a refugee camp in a tent provided by the Quakers soon after he had been separated from his land. She collected scrap metal to survive.

My grandmother Mariam, would venture out to the "death zone" that bordered the separated and newly established state of Israel from Gaza’s refugee camps to collect figs and oranges. She faced death every day. Her children were all refugees, living in shatat – the Diaspora.

My mother lived to be 42. Her life was tremendously difficult. She married a refugee, my dad, and together they brought seven refugees into this world – my brothers, my sister and myself. One died as a toddler, for there was no medicine in the refugee camp’s clinic.

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During a standing-room-only event held at Unter den Linden 52 in the shadow of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) presented its 14th annual award to ex-National Security Agency official William Binney on Jan. 22. Binney ended his 36-year career in intelligence after 9/11 when he learned that NSA Director Michael Hayden had removed Fourth Amendment privacy protections from the agency’s surveillance of Americans.

More than half of the former Sam Adams award recipients, who were free to travel, took part in the award ceremony. In the not-free-to-travel category, Edward Snowden (recipient in 2013) took part via live-stream video from Russia; former Army Pvt. Chelsea (Bradley) Manning (2014) is serving a 35-year sentence for releasing to WikiLeaks video and classified messages revealing, among other things, U.S. war crimes in Iraq. And WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange (2010) is well into his third year of confinement in Ecuador’s London embassy where he has political asylum.

As the Berlin ceremony began, Sam Adams Associates made its first posthumous award to U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Robert White, who died on Jan. 13, 2015. Longtime SAAII veteran David MacMichael accepted the award on Ambassador White’s behalf and will give it to his widow.

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A majority of Americans believe Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should be investigated by the FBI for nuclear weapons technology smuggling before being allowed to enter the United States according to a new poll.

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In 2012 the FBI declassified and released files (PDF archive) of its investigation into how 800 nuclear weapons triggers were illegally smuggled from the U.S. to Israel. According to the FBI, the Israeli Ministry of Defense ordered nuclear triggers (krytrons), encrypted radios, ballistic missile propellants and other export-prohibited items through a network of front companies. Smuggling ring operations leader Richard Kelly Smyth alleged that Netanyahu worked at one of the fronts – Heli Trading owned by confessed spy and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan – and met with him frequently to execute smuggling operations.

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Antiwar.com director of operations Angela Keaton sat down with Libertarian Party activist Mike Benoit to discuss the history of Antiwar.com, how war undermines American values and the decline of civil liberties in the US under empire.

The mass media have suddenly discovered Jeffrey Sterling – after his conviction Monday afternoon as a CIA whistleblower.

Sterling’s indictment four years ago received fleeting news coverage that recited the government’s charges. From the outset, the Justice Department portrayed him as bitter and vengeful – with the classic trash-the-whistleblower word “disgruntled” thrown in – all of which the mainline media dutifully recounted without any other perspective.

Year after year, Sterling’s case dragged through appellate courts, tangled up with the honorable refusal of journalist James Risen to in any way identify sources for his 2006 book State of War. While news stories or pundits occasionally turned their lens on Risen, they scarcely mentioned Sterling, whose life had been turned upside down – fired by the CIA early in the Bush administration after filing a racial discrimination lawsuit, and much later by the 10-count indictment that included seven counts under the Espionage Act.

Sterling was one of the very few African American case officers in the CIA. He became a whistleblower by virtue of going through channels to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2003 to inform staffers about the CIA’s ill-conceived, poorly executed and dangerous Operation Merlin, which had given a flawed design for a nuclear weapons component to Iran back in 2000.

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The most harrowing scene in American Sniper involves an Iraqi character nicknamed “The Butcher” torturing and executing an Iraqi child by taking a power drill to his skull. The scene lends credibility to the narrative of Chris Kyle as basically a hero facing villains. In the film, “The Butcher” is a lieutenant of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Sunni insurgent, terrorist, and founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq, which later became ISIS.

However, in the Iraq of the real world, power drilling human heads is more of a predilection, not of Sunni insurgents, but of their enemies in the Shiite militias.

Abu Deraa

Abu Deraa

For one, there is the warlord Abu Deraa, nicknamed “the Shiite Zarqawi,” who according to the UK’s Sunday Times (emphasis added):

“…is thought to be responsible for the murder of thousands of civilians, mostly Sunnis, and is said to take personal delight in killing — sometimes with a bullet to the head, sometimes by driving a drill into the skulls of his victims. On other occasions, Iraqis say, he gives them a choice of being shot or battered to death with concrete building blocks.”

AQI/ISIS falsely claimed to have killed him in 2006, but after years of hiding in Iran, he recently reemerged in Baghdad once again leading a militia.

Hadi al-Amiri

Hadi al-Amiri

Then there is Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Iran-backed Badr Brigade. According to The Washington Post, “A leaked 2009 State Department cable said sources had indicated that Amiri may have personally ordered attacks on up to 2,000 Sunnis.” The Post continues (emphasis added):

“…in 2005 and 2006, sectarian killings in Iraq surged as Badr death squads worked under the cloak of the police force.

The 2009 State Department cable, referring to that era, said that ‘one of [Amiri’s] preferred methods of killing allegedly involved using a power drill to pierce the skulls of his adversaries.‘”

Electric Drill Amiri is now, according to the Post, effectively the head of security in Iraq:

“Iraq’s parliament voted Saturday to put an affiliate of an Iranian-backed paramilitary group in charge of a key security ministry, a move that could strike a serious blow to efforts to unite Sunnis and Shiites to wrest back their country from Islamist extremists.

The new interior minister is Mohammed Ghabban, a little-known Shiite politician with the Badr Organization. But there is little doubt that Hadi al-Amiri, head of the party and its military wing, will wield the real power in the ministry.”

Both of these Iran-sponsored real-life head-drilling “butchers” of Iraq rose to power thanks to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, and are now commanding forces either in the US-backed Iraqi government, or under its protection, fighting alongside the US military against the now ISIS-lead Sunni insurgency. At the end of the day, the American Sniper was not the enemy of the Iraqi Butchers, but their benefactor.

As radio host Scott Horton never tires reminding his listeners, the chief role of the American troops in Iraq was to fight a bloody civil war on behalf of the Shiite side and to install Iran-backed Shiite militias in power. These militias used death squads to ethnically cleanse Baghdad and other cities of Sunnis, and, as Will Grigg never tires reminding his readers, imposed a Sharia-compliant constitution over a once-secular country. This Shiite jihad was, in effect, Chris Kyle’s true mission, for which millions of American Christians now lionize him.