The Islamic militant group ISIS, formerly known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and recently rebranded as the so called Islamic State, is the stuff of nightmares. They are ruthless, fanatical, killers, on a mission, and that mission is to wipe out anyone and everyone, from any religion or belief system and to impose Shari’ah law. The mass executions, beheadings and even crucifixions that they are committing as they work towards this goal are flaunted like badges of pride, video taped and uploaded for the whole world to see. This is the new face of evil. Would it interest you to know who helped these psychopaths rise to power? Would it interest you to know who armed them, funded them and trained them? Would it interest you to know why?
On the evening of Monday, August 18, the US Army commenced unannounced military exercises in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. MH-60 variant Black Hawk helicopters buzzed through the downtown and residential areas of the two Midwestern cities. The ominous exercises, which took place over three days, were led by the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security in close collaboration with the local police. They were carried out without public warning, despite the fact that they included late-night low flyovers of residential districts by thunderous war equipment. Hundreds of stunned residents placed emergency phone calls in the hours after exercises began as several black helicopters weaved in between skyscrapers of both cities and swept through areas at low altitudes and high speeds. It was only after the widespread response that the police and military acknowledged what was taking place. (Video of part of the exercises can be found here.) “We understand the concern and confusion these activities may have created for the public,” said St. Paul Police Department spokesman Howie Padilla as he defended the exercises.
In light of the recent Ferguson unrest, the debate over police militarization has reached an all time high, but the discussion brings the reader face to face with another and more frightening question: would US troops really open fire on the public? Image credit: The U.S. Army The best place to begin a prediction of the future is in the past. Historical examples are often discounted for various reasons. A mention of Nazi Germany is immediately discounted because “those people were just evil.” Situations in Eastern Europe are discounted because of the communist or totalitarian regimes that existed there in the past. Bringing up the times militaries in the Far East, Africa, or Latin America opened fire on their citizens triggers the unconscious racist part of some brains that says “well those countries aren’t white.” Instances from US history are dismissed because they were “isolated incidents” or the patriotism gene kicks in and somehow “the citizens deserved it.” This belief that some group or another “had it coming” is critical in the discussion because the order to fire on citizens has never been historically given without a wave of propaganda first occurring that convinces people those gunned down were the enemy.
Cathy Depp (August, 2013) had her first run-in with the IRS as a direct result of refusing the federal excise tax on telephone service, which was increased by President Lyndon Johnson to help pay for the war in Vietnam. Although LBJ said we could have guns and butter too, we would have to pay for both. My husband and I were University of Illinois graduate students, living on next to nothing anyway but both determined our tax dollars should fight a different kind of war — the “war on poverty” Johnson had promised to wage. As conscientious objectors, we were part of a growing movement to resist the war through refusal to fight for it and refusal to pay for it. [read more] Aanya Adler Friess (June, 2013) has been resisting war taxes since the 1960s. At age 86, she no longer attends meetings on a regular basis, though she lives below the taxable income level. She discusses war tax resistance with activists from the organizations that make up Albuquerque’s Peace and Justice Organizations Linking Arms (PAJOLA), of which she is a founding member. [read more] Andrea Ayvazian (February, 2013). When asked about who I am, how to introduce myself, I fumble around and use some or all of these words — I am the proud mother of Sasha Klare-Ayvazian (now 24); I am a woman of faith, a long-time activist for peace, social justice, environmental sanity, and an anti-racist world; I am an ordained pastor in the United Church of Christ, a former Quaker, a singer, songwriter and poet. [read more]
The reported death of journalist James Foley by the Islamic State (IS) is resulting in increasing calls for war not only in Iraq but in Syria, with the Obama administration saying it is considering such attacks. The video of Foley’s death on which these calls for war are in part based has largely been scrubbed from the web. This article reviews the video and questions raised by it. But, we also want to emphasize that the video is only part of the story, another that should not be ignored is who is behind IS. The story is more complex than we are being told. . . . The most interesting thing about the video is that despite the hype in the media, there was no actual beheading in the video. The TIME article headline was not an accurate description of the video. There was a dead body that was, as many in the media have said, “purportedly” a beheaded James Foley, but the actual act of beheading is not shown. The video does show someone purportedly using a knife to saw at Foley’s neck, but there is no blood and seems to be no actual cut.
A senior Hamas official said that a peace deal had been reached with Israel to end the latest conflict in the coastal enclave that has killed more than 2,000 people. The official said the deal calls for an “open-ended” ceasefire and an Israeli agreement to ease its blockade of Gaza to allow aid supplies and construction materials into the war-battered territory. Talks on long-running issues, including Hamas’ demand to reopen Gaza’s airport and sea port, and its desired release of prisoners in the West bank, would begin in a month. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli Government. If the terms of a peace deal proposed by Egypt are agreed, it would effectively mean Hamas settled for similar conditions that ended a week of clashes Israel in 2012.
The horrific pictures of the beheading of American reporter James Foley, the images of executions of alleged collaborators in Gaza and the bullet-ridden bodies left behind in Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are the end of a story, not the beginning. They are the result of years, at times decades, of the random violence, brutal repression and collective humiliation the United States has inflicted on others. Our terror is delivered to the wretched of the earth with industrial weapons. It is, to us, invisible. We do not stand over the decapitated and eviscerated bodies left behind on city and village streets by our missiles, drones and fighter jets. We do not listen to the wails and shrieks of parents embracing the shattered bodies of their children. We do not see the survivors of air attacks bury their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. We are not conscious of the long night of collective humiliation, repression and powerlessness that characterizes existence in Israel’s occupied territories, Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not see the boiling anger that war and injustice turn into a caldron of hate over time. We are not aware of the very natural lust for revenge against those who carry out or symbolize this oppression. We see only the final pyrotechnics of terror, the shocking moment when the rage erupts into an inchoate fury and the murder of innocents. And, willfully ignorant, we do not understand our own complicity. We self-righteously condemn the killers as subhuman savages who deserve more of the violence that created them. This is a recipe for endless terror.
As Jewish survivors and descendents of survivors of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world. We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.
Well, the first thing, I think that is very important to grasp: the role that our governments have played in fomenting the crisis that we see. The rise of ISIS was kind of predictable, and it’s something that some analysts–analysts have warned about civil war in Iraq for years. I guess the accelerated nature of what we’re seeing, most people haven’t anticipated that, but it was predictable. And when we look at the way in which we’ve been funding some of these groups, it’s kind of ironic that we have the very same people now calling for boots on the ground, calling for a response, are the same people that have been very loud in their support for arming some of the most virulent of elements of these rebel groups. And even though the Obama administration, for instance, has given a lot of lip service, saying that we only want to fund, you know, the kind of moderate rebels and so on and so forth–but the Obama administration has actively coordinated the financing that has come from the Gulf states to the very types of groups that they historically have always favored, which is the most virulent jihadist al-Qaeda affiliated organizations. So there is a contradiction here in what we’re being told now and the way in which policymakers have kind of created this crisis and now not taken responsibility for this crisis.
In crises ranging from the Iraq War to civil conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, the New York Times has steadily transformed itself into a propaganda organ, promoting false U.S. government narratives rather than providing objective information to its readers, as Robert Parry observes again. A principal way that the New York Times and other leading U.S. news outlets engage in propaganda is by selecting which facts to include in a story and which ones to exclude, a process exemplified by a Times article on an interview in which the head of NATO excoriates Russia over Ukraine. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Times would spare its readers the relevant background on NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s credibility because otherwise the supposed “newspaper of record” might also be expected to explain why it continues to entrust sensitive stories to journalists who have a history of slanting information in ways that may advance their careers but misleads the public.
After five hours of rallies and marches on justice for Palestine and Ferguson, 1,500 protesters were in Union Square park in Manhattan, all with their hands up for Mike Brown. When the crowd took their hands down, a voice from the crowd told them “Mike Brown never took his hands down. The dead children in Gaza did not get to take their hands down.” And so it was on this dramatic ending to a long day of complimentary marches in New York Wednesday: the NYC Solidarity with Palestine March over the Brooklyn Bridge and the Hands Up/ Turn Up march in remembrance of Mike Brown energized activists and community members who stood up to racism and oppression “from Ferguson to Palestine.”
The tear-gas, rubber bullets and smoke bombs fired in Ferguson, Missouri have fed outrage over police militarization in the U.S. In response to the shocking images, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said, “We need to de-militarize this situation.” Journalists reporting live on the demonstrations sparked by the police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown expressed befuddlement as to why the police needed high-caliber weapons better suited for war zones than protests in an American city. But one group of people is decidedly happy about the militarized response in Ferguson: those who work in the weapons industry. The array of police forces–the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the St. Louis county and city police and local Ferguson officers–that descended on the largely black Missouri city have used the products these corporations are selling in abundance. Tear gas, rubber bullets, smoke bombs, stun grenades, armored personnel carriers, sound cannons and high-caliber rifles have all been deployed to quell the unrest, though they have contributed to anger over police tactics.
This week marks the first anniversary of the infamous chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. What makes that incident significant, both politically and historically, is the fact that, despite the evidence of Syrian government involvement being non-existent, the Obama administration nearly began a war with Syria using Ghouta as the pretext. As the months have passed however, scientific studies amassing an impressive body of evidence have shown that, not only were Washington’s claims of “certainty” that Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons in their war with extremist fighters utterly baseless, but in fact the reality was quite the opposite – the rebels were the most likely culprits of the attack. Additionally, in the year since the Ghouta attack, the nature of the war in Syria, and specifically the way in which it is understood in the West, has changed dramatically. The so-called rebels have been defeated in regular battles and skirmishes with Syrian military forces, while the specter of ISIS has emerged as the embodiment of evil in the eyes of the Western public.
Dear U.S. supporters of Israel in Gaza: If you believed the IDF could destroy Hamas by employing portable gas chambers or chemical weapons to publicly gas over 1,400 Gazan civilians, including 400 children, chosen at random, would you favor doing so? I guess not. Perhaps you even feel insulted at the suggestion that you might. But this raises a basic question: if you would not favor gassing Palestinan civilians, how do you justify your support for blowing them to bits? The controversial issue is not Israel trying to destroy Hamas tunnels. Nor is it the attempt to destroy rockets, as if the Israelis can claim that they reasonably suspected the 46-48,000 U.N.-estimated buildings they either partially or totally destroyed contained rockets. Nor is it rightfully condemning Hamas for rocketing civilian targets as well. As even long-term apologists for Israeli violence like the New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier acknowledge, the issue is massive Israeli bombing and shelling of the civilian infrastructure in Gaza, which is wholly disproportionate to combatting tunnels and/or rockets.