Civilians will continue to pay a heavy price in the ongoing US war on at least seven other countries. According to a recent article, the Pentagon has issued new rules permitting a strike on a target even if up to ten innocent civilians may also get killed. Additionally, the “signature strikes” (whereby any male of military age is considered a target regardless of his actions) that were supposed to be phased out, have continued unabated. Will all this killing of innocents overseas make us more, or less, safe?
One concrete outcome that President Obama could pursue on his visit to Saudi Arabia is saving the lives of three Shia youth sentenced to be executed, most likely by beheading, for participating in nonviolent protests. Sparing their lives could also help ease the Shia/Sunni tensions that have engulfed the region.
Ali al-Nimr, Dawood al-Marhoon, and Abdullah al-Zaher are members of the minority Shia community that has, for decades, been demanding equality and full civil rights. The Shia represent 10-15 percent of the Saudi population and live mainly in the oil-rich Eastern province. Ever since the Saudi state was founded in 1932 by forming a pact with the Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam, the Shia in Saudi Arabia have endured state-sponsored discrimination, social marginalization, and campaigns of violence waged by anti-Shiite hardliners. According to Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, “All the Saudi Shia want is for their government to respect their identity and treat them equally. Yet Saudi authorities routinely treat these people with scorn and suspicion.” The persecution of the three youth is deeply sectarian, and reflects the long history of oppression the Shia have faced in Saudi Arabia.
There’s a new and horrifying first-hand account of the US drone war that recently made it into a mainstream news publication. Over at The Independent in the UK, they present the story of Malik Jalal, a Pakistani man that is trying to get off the US’s “Kill List”.
At this point, the skeptical reader might reasonably wonder how exactly one learns that they are on the Kill List. After all, it’s not like you can just call up a Congressman to ask. (And given the US’s history of accidentally targeting people based on similar names or misinterpretations, it’s not entirely clear how reliable such a service would be at any rate.) No, instead, Jalal has learned of his status by experiencing multiple brushes with death at the hands of drones. These included the following:
When an SUV identical to his own was behind him on the road and struck by a drone missile
When he lent his car to his nephew to go get an oil change, and the mechanic’s shop was bombed by drones
When he was on his way to a friend’s house and saw the house get bombed before he arrived
When he told friends he would meet them for lunch, and the place of the meeting was also bombed before his arrival
When he was running late to tribal jirga (roughly akin to a townhall or city council meeting), and the jirga was bombed, killing at least 40 people.
Of course, there are a few ways we could interpret this story. On the one hand, some will certainly try to downplay it and claim he has made it up. But this doesn’t really seem like the kind of thing people would use to get 15 minutes of fame. As a general rule, if you live in a targeted region of the world and speak Arabic, making loud statements about the depredations of US foreign policy is probably a bad move if you have an interest in self-preservation. That’s a horrible reality, but we should acknowledge that it probably is a reality. After all, it’s not like any of the people targeted for assassination are ever proven guilty, so there’s nothing at all standing in the way of targeting simple critics and calling them militants later. It goes without saying that most of the media will not challenge that determination.
The USS Donald Cook, equipped with the Aegis combat system, recently found the Russian air force unwelcoming as the US conducted military maneuvers just 50 miles from Russian soil. The Russian flyover was greeted in Washington with howls of “aggression!” But why was a US Naval vessel whose purpose is to target enemy missiles — nuclear and conventional — conducting exercises so close to Russia? Is that not also provocative? And what about the US Navy in the South China Sea? And near North Korea? And the Black Sea? Is the US at war with the world really the best idea for our security, or is Washington more interested in the financial security of the military-industrial complex?
While it would be inappropriate to directly blame US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power for the tragic death of a little boy in Cameroon today, it would also be inappropriate to exculpate the ambassador.
The US Ambassador, who is the embodiment of the “humanitarian” interventionist cult that makes up the Left Wing faction of the Church of Neoconservativism, was speeding in her heavily-armed motorcade through the Cameroonian countryside at speeds over 60 miles per hour to make it to a photo-op with a group of victims of the Islamist Boko Haram organization.
Heading into its sixteenth year, with no endpoint in sight, America’s longest war is its least talked about.
Afghanistan has not come up in any Republican or Democratic debate, except perhaps as one of a list of countries where Islamic State must be destroyed (left out is the reality that no Islamic State existed in 2001 when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban, who, by the way, are still not defeated.)
For her part, the only mention of Afghanistan from Hillary Clinton is a vague statement last year of support for Barack Obama’s decision to keep 5,500 troops in Afghanistan when he leaves the White House in 2017. Bernie Sanders’ web site has a long series of statement-lets that generally say things have not worked out well in Afghanistan, but stays away from much of a stance.