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Drone Whistleblowers Step Out of the Shadows

By Pratap Chatterjee
Source: TomDispatch.com
April 21, 2016

“Sometimes I am so sad that my heart wants to explode,” an Afghan man says, speaking directly into the camera. “When your body is intact, your mind is different. You are content. But the moment you are wounded, your soul gets damaged. When your leg is torn off and your gait slows, it also burdens your spirit.” The speaker is an unnamed victim of a February 2010 drone strike in Uruzgan, Afghanistan, but he could just as easily be an Iraqi, a Pakistani, a Somali, or a Yemeni. He appears in National Bird, a haunting new documentary film by Sonia Kennebeck about the unexpected and largely unrecorded devastation Washington’s drone wars leave in their wake. In it, the audience hears directly from both drone personnel and their victims.

“I Was Under the Impression That America Was Saving the World”

“When we are in our darkest places and we have a lot to worry about and we feel guilty about our past actions, it’s really tough to describe what that feeling is like,” says Daniel, a whistleblower who took part in drone operations and whose last name is not revealed in National Bird. Speaking of the suicidal feelings that sometimes plagued him while he was involved in killing halfway across the planet, he adds, “Having the image in your head of taking your own life is not a good feeling.”

National Bird is not the first muckraking documentary on Washington’s drone wars. Robert Greenwald’s Unmanned, Tonje Schei’s Drone, and Madiha Tahrir’s Wounds of Waziristan have already shone much-needed light on how drone warfare really works. But as Kennebeck told me, when she set out to make a film about the wages of the newest form of war known to humanity, she wanted those doing the targeting, as well as those they were targeting, to speak for themselves. She wanted them to reveal the psychological impact of sending robot assassins, often operated by “pilots” halfway around the world, into the Greater Middle East to fight Washington’s war on terror. In her film, there’s no narrator, nor experts in suits working for think tanks in Washington, nor retired generals debating the value of drone strikes when it comes to defeating terrorism.

Instead, what you see is far less commonplace: low-level recruits in President Obama’s never-ending drone wars, those Air Force personnel who remotely direct the robotic vehicles to their targets, analyze the information they send back, and relay that information to the pilots who unleash Hellfire missiles that will devastate distant villages. If recent history is any guide, these drones do not just kill terrorists; in their target areas, they also create anxiety, upset, and a desire for revenge in a larger population and so have proven a powerful weapon in spreading terror movements across the Greater Middle East.

These previously faceless but distinctly non-robotic Air Force recruits are the cannon fodder of America’s drone wars. You meet two twenty-somethings: Daniel, a self-described down-and-out homeless kid, every male member of whose family has been in jail on petty charges of one kind or another, and Heather, a small town high school graduate trying to escape rural Pennsylvania. You also meet Lisa, a former Army nurse from California, who initially saw the military as a path to a more meaningful life.

Kennebeck’s interviewees are among at least a dozen whistleblowers who have stepped forward, or are preparing to do so, in order to denounce Washington’s drone wars as morally unjustified, as in fact nightmares both for those who fight them and those living in the lands that are on the receiving end. The realities of the day-in, day-out war they fought for years were, as they tell it, deeply destructive and filled with collateral damage of every sort. Worse yet, drone operators turn out to have little real idea about, and almost no confirmation of, whom exactly they’ve blown away.

“It’s so primitive, raw, stripped-down death. This is real. It’s not a joke,” says Heather, an imagery analyst whose job was to look at the streaming video coming in from drones over war zones and interpret the grainy images for senior commanders in the kill chain. “You see someone die because you said it was okay to kill them. I was always shaking. Sometimes I would just go to the bathroom and just sit on the toilet. I mean just sit there in my uniform and just cry.”

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/drone-whistleblowers-step-out-of-the-shadows/

The IMF and Troika Have Greece in Their Crosshairs — Again!

By Jack Rasmus
Source: teleSUR English
April 22, 2016

In August 2015, after eight months of intense negotiations with Europe’s Troika financial institutions — the IMF, European Central Bank, and European Commission — the Greek Government capitulated to the Troika’s demands imposing more austerity on its people in exchange for another $98 billion in additional loans.

The $98 billion did not represent economic assistance to Greece, to stimulate its economy, but was earmarked almost exclusively to pay back interest to the Troika, Europe banks, and Europe investors for prior loans made to Greece in 2012, 2010, and before. But while the Greek people would see little real benefit, they would have to pay the price. In exchange for the $98 billion in new credit, the August 2015 debt restructuring deal required Greece to even further cut pensions, axe more government jobs and cut wages, raise taxes, accelerate the sales of public works (ports, airports, utilities, etc.) to private investors, and to in effect turn over Greek banks to the Troika and its northern Europe banker and investor friends.

To ensure Greece would not renege on the August 2015 deal, it would now also have to submit to vetoes by Troika representatives sent to Greece to oversee virtually all policy decisions made by Greece’s democratically elected Parliament or local governments. The Troika last year thus tightened its grip on Greece both politically and economically to ensure it would receive debt payments from Greece no matter how harsh the austerity terms.

The Greek government may have thought it had a debt deal, albeit a dirty one, last August 2015; but recent developments are now beginning to reveal it was only temporary.

Worse is yet to come.

The Troika grip on Greece is about to tighten still further, as revelations in recent weeks show Troika plans to renege on last year’s terms and demand even more draconian austerity measures. Leading the Troika attack on Greece once again is the the IMF, one of the Troika’s three institutional partners.

IMF Secret Plans to Impose Further Austerity on Greece

On April 2, 2016, WikiLeaks released transcripts of a secret teleconference among IMF officials that occurred on March 19. In it, leading IMF directors expressed concern that discussions between Greece and the IMF’s Troika partner, the European Commission, on terms of implementing last August’s deal were going too slowly. The Eurozone and Greek economies have been deteriorating since last August. Still more austerity would thus be needed, according to the discussions among the IMF participants in the teleconference. And to get Greece to agree, perhaps a new ‘crisis event’ would have to be provoked..........

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/the-imf-and-troika-have-greece-in-their-crosshairs-again/

How does US pursue ‘regime change’ in Cuba through ‘normalization’?

By Salim Lamrani
Source: Khamenei.ir
April 23, 2016

Salim Lamrani has a Phd in Iberian and Latin American Studies at the University of Paris IV-Sorbonne and is a senior lecturer at the University of La Réunion. His latest publication is Cuba, the Media, and the Challenge of Impartiality.

– How do you think the US uses sanctions and negotiations to infiltrate its enemies? Can you give examples of how US has used these tools to infiltrate Cuba?

The main goal of U.S. policy toward the island has been to overthrow the Cuban Revolution. From 1959 to 1991 this was a hidden goal. Since the implementation of the Torricelli Act in 1992, it has become public. Washington wants a “regime change” in Cuba. One of the tools used to achieve this end is economic sanctions. These are sanctions that affect all categories of the Cuban population and constitute the main obstacle to the island’s development.

– In the book “The Economic War Against Cuba: A Historical and Legal Perspective on the U.S. Blockade”, you describe US economic sanctions as cruelly designed for their harmful impact on the Cuban people. How has the US harmed Cuban people through economic blockade? .......

-In reality, would it be possible to normalize ties with the US government that once and for long tried to harm Cuban people through sanctions?

It all depends on the U.S. It is important to remember that this is an asymmetric conflict with a hostile power harming a small country that had never attacked it. Washington has imposed economic sanctions since 1960. It also illegally occupies Guantanamo. The U.S. government finances an internal opposition to achieve a “regime change”. It also encourages illegal emigration through the Cuban adjustment act, a law that stipulates that any Cuban who can manage to get to the United States automatically receives permanent residency.

So, if Washington were to lift the economic sanctions, give Guantanamo back to the Cubans, put an end to the financing of an internal opposition on the island and abrogate the Cuban adjustment act, it would open the road to full normalization of relations

Washington has to abide by international law and base its relations with Cuba on three fundamental principles: equal sovereignty, reciprocity and non-interference in internal affairs. The United States also has to accept that Cuba is an independent country with a different political system and social model and that it is free to choose its own domestic and foreign policy. These conditions are not negotiable for Cuba.

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/how-does-us-pursue-regime-change-in-cuba-through-normalization/

Climate: Africa’s Human Existence Is at Severe Risk

By Baher Kamal
Source: IPS
April 23, 2016

“Africa’s human existence and development is under threat from the adverse impacts of climate change – its population, ecosystems and unique biodiversity will all be the major victims of global climate change.”

This is how clear the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is when it comes to assessing the negative impact of climate change on this continent of 54 countries with a combined population of over 1,200 billion inhabitants. “No continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa.”

What Is at Stake?

The facts are striking as mentioned in UNEP’ summary of the projected impacts of climate change in Africa. See UNEP’s fact sheet “Climate Change in Africa – What Is at Sake?”, which is based on excerpts from IPCC reports:

— By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.

— By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%.

— Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition.

— Towards the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations......

Full article: https://zcomm.org/znetarticle/climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk/

Empire’s Seamless, Pernicious Perfection

by John R. Hall / April 22nd, 2016

Early in 2003, as the Coalition of the Morally Bereft hyped and prepared its invasion, destruction, and pillage of Iraq, Arundhati Roy made a powerful speech at The World Social Forum in Porto Allegre, Brazil. She suggested that those of us who seek to stop the cataclysmic policies of Empire might do so “With our art, our music, our stubbornness, our joy, our sheer relentlessness, and our ability to tell our own stories.” Fast forward thirteen years, and the “Shock and Awe” which still envelops Iraq has proven to be so lucrative to the economies of the U.S.A. and its client states that our (s)elected governmental officials have decided to share it with the world, by bombing into oblivion an ever-widening sphere of victim countries, and pushing dangerously close to all out war with Russia and China.

Concluding a recent article titled “A World War Has Begun: Break the Silence”, John Pilger begs the questions:

Empire functions with seamless, pernicious perfection. Empire is an eclectic mix of predators and prey, entrepreneurs and wage-slaves, wealthy and destitute, killers and victims, dealers and junkies, bankers and fleeced, cops and prisoners, wardens and inmates, educators and brain-washed kids, priests and grovelers, users and used, consumers and commodities. Empire is yin-yang. The forceful and the yielding, flowing into each other, creating a perpetual, maybe unstoppable, interconnection. The Third World War, about which John Pilger warns us, is well underway, and nuclear holocaust might be inevitable. Unfortunately hope seems futile and prayer ludicrous.

Empire functions with seamless, pernicious perfection. It is malevolent poetry in motion. Through the cold, soulless eyes of Empire, the earth is just a spinning ball of resources to be harvested. Lucky for Empire, its most valuable commodity, humans, tend to breed like rabbits. As young people in the U.S.A. and vassal states come of age, they’re harvested and exploited in countless ways. The luckiest group are the spawn of wealthy industrialists and politicians, who attend Ivy League Universities, so they can grow up to fill their parents’ shoes, keeping Empire on track. Close behind are the brilliant kids from all economic backgrounds, who manage to wrangle scholarships to attend those same universities, going on in adult life to create the next generation of atomic weapons, invent the new iPhone, or serve any number of Empire’s needs and desires.

The rest of the young folks are screwed in one way or another…with seamless, pernicious perfection. They are nothing more than commodities to be harvested. Superfluous flesh to turn into Narco-Dollars. Many take out student loans (to enrich banks and private colleges), only to be saddled with outrageous long-term, high interest payments which haunt them into their graves. Upon entering the workforce, they find that the jobs they’ve prepared for have been outsourced to third world countries, where slave wages are the norm. Others, lacking any clear vision of a viable future, join the U.S. Military, becoming warriors in a never-ending series of wars for profit, fully believing that they’re performing their patriotic duty. The luckiest of these return to civilian life with only mild PTSD. Others lose limbs or mobility, only to find that the country they love has denied them medical benefits and kicked them into the gutter. The least fortunate die in action or commit suicide.

That leaves the vast majority of kids in a desperate scramble for some semblance of a future with minimum wage employment at fast-food joints and other service industry jobs. Necessity being the mother of invention, many take to a life of crime to supplement their lack of income. Many more turn to drugs for temporary solace. A sad situation on the surface, but money in the bank for those corporations which prosper by paying slave-wages, for the illegal drug traffickers, for municipal police forces, for the private prison industry, and for those who make their fortunes through the disposal of dead bodies.

Full article: http://dissidentvoice.org/2016/04/empires-seamless-pernicious-perfection/

A world war has begun. Break the silence.

20 March 2016


Like Michael Franti, some leaders and politicians are the real deal, and speak from the heart.

Very, very few though, imo. The rest profit from all of this.

India drought: '330 million people affected'

20 April 2016

At least 330 million people are affected by drought in India, the government has told the Supreme Court

Authorities say this number is likely to rise further given that some states with water shortages have not yet submitted status reports.
The drought is taking place as a heat wave extends across much of India with temperatures crossing 40C for days now.

An 11-year-old girl died of heatstroke while collecting water from a village pump in the western Maharashtra state.
Yogita Desai had spent close to four hours in 42C temperatures gathering water from the pump on Sunday, local journalist Manoj Sapte told the BBC.

She began vomiting after returning home and was rushed to hospital, but died early on Monday.
Yogita's death certificate says she died of heatstroke and dehydration.

The pump was a mere 500m from her house, but a typical wait for water stretches into hours.

States like Punjab and Haryana in northern India are squabbling over ownership of river waters.

In water-scarce Orissa, farmers have reportedly breached embankments to save their crops.

Water availability in India's 91 reservoirs is at its lowest in a decade, with stocks at a paltry 29% of their total storage capacity, according to the Central Water Commission.

Some 85% of the country's drinking water comes from aquifers, but their levels are falling, according to WaterAid.

Full article: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-36089377

Iraqi families sell organs to overcome poverty

By Ahmed Maher
BBC Arabic, Baghdad

20 April 2016

Om Hussein said the thought of selling her kidney was better than living on charity

Their dilapidated house collapsed a few months ago, and they have survived thanks to the help of friends and relatives.

Her husband added: "I worked at everything you could think of. As a butcher, a day labourer, a rubbish collector. I would not ask for money, but they would give it to us. I would not ask for food.

"I would tell my son to collect waste bread from the street and we would eat it, but I never asked for food or money."

Facing such poverty, Ms Hussein was driven to make a huge sacrifice.

"I decided to sell my kidney," she said. "I could no longer provide for my family. It was better than selling my body or living on charity."

The organ trade

Grinding poverty has made the trafficking of kidneys and other organs a phenomenon in Baghdad.

Gangs, offering up to $10,000 (£7,000) for a kidney, have increasingly targeted the country's poor, making it a new hub for the organ trade across the Middle East.

Full article: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-36083800

Why Won't Guantanamo Prison Go Away?

The military and congress remain committed to preserving a terrible relic of the Bush presidency.

By Karen J. Greenberg / Tom Dispatch April 19, 2016

Can you believe it? We’re in the last year of the presidency of the man who, on his first day in the Oval Office, swore that he would close Guantánamo, and yet it and everything it represents remains part of our all-American world. So many years later, you can still read news reports on the ongoing nightmares of that grim prison, ranging from detention without charge to hunger strikes and force feeding. Its name still echoes through the halls of Congress in bitter debate over what should or shouldn’t be done with it. It remains a global symbol of the worst America has to offer.

In case, despite the odds, it should be closed in this presidency, Donald Trump has already sworn to reopen it and “load it up with bad dudes,” while Ted Cruz has warned against returning the naval base on which it’s located to the Cubans. In short, that prison continues to haunt us like an evil spirit. While President Obama remains intent on closing it, he continues to make the most modest and belated headway in reducing its prisoner population, while a Republican Congress remains no less determined to keep it open. With nine months left until a new president is inaugurated, the question is: Can this country’s signature War on Terror prison ever be closed?

All these years later, only eight prisoners have been convicted under the commissions that were suspended and then revived by Obama. Three of them, convicted before he took office, have since had their charges vacated or overturned. Put another way, you could say that the commissions are regressing in their goal to clear Gitmo’s cases. Once able to claim eight convictions, they can now count only five, and in the months to come, depending on a future decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, that number may be reduced further. In sum, the commissions have shown not the slightest progress when it comes to the mission of closing Gitmo.

Full article: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/why-wont-guantanamo-prison-go-away?akid=14179.44541.PXCZ8I&rd=1&src=newsletter1054871&t=12

AN INTRODUCTION: Smart Power & The Human Rights Industrial Complex

APRIL 19, 2016 BY 21WIRE

One difficult aspect in analyzing this battle of ‘perception management’ is that there’s a real risk of wrongly demonising the entire NGO sector. The reality is that most human rights and aid organizations are staffed and run by good, hard-working and extremely well-educated individuals, many of whom carry out their roles with an altruistic heart and with the best of intentions. For the most part, many remain unaware or uninterested in who actually funds their organisations and what those financial strings mean in terms of the what a given organisation’s stance will be on any range of geopolitical issues or military conflicts. It’s certainly true that over the years, sincere and dedicated campaigning by organisations has helped to free individuals who where unjustly imprisoned and achieved due process and justice for the dispossessed. It’s also true that many of these same organizations have helped to raise awareness on many important social and environmental issues.

Due to increased funding from corporate interests and direct links to government and defense policy think tanks in recent years, these organisations have become even more politicised, and more closely connected with western ‘agents of influence.’ As a result, an argument can be made that, on many levels, these ‘human rights’ organisations may be contributing to the very problem they profess to be working to abate: causing more suffering, death and instability worldwide through their co-marketing of the foreign policy objectives of Washington, London, Paris and Brussels.

The problem is both systemic and institutional in nature. As a result, many of the western world’s leading human rights organizations based in North America and Europe have become mirror reflections of a western foreign policy agenda and have become virtual clearing houses for interventionist propaganda.

Writer Stephanie McMillan describes the new role of the non governmental organizations in the 21st century:
“Along with military invasions and missionaries, NGOs help crack countries open like ripe nuts, paving the way for intensifying waves of exploitation and extraction.”

The Human Rights Industry
What was once a 20th century adjunct to an emerging international progressive movement has since mushroomed into a 21st century multi-billion dollar, internationalised ‘third sector’ concern – underwritten by some of the world’s leading transnational corporations. This impressive labyrinth is led by organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the Worldwide Human Rights Movement (FIDH). Each of these organisations has well-developed links leading directly into central governments, and perhaps more surprisingly, links leading straight into the heart of the military industrial complex. Safely cloaked under the official guise of ‘charity organisation’, many of these entities push a political agenda and effectively serve as public relations outlets for US and NATO forward military planning.

Working behind the public-facing human rights industrial complex is another key component which helps set the geopolitical agenda. Leading western governmental efforts are the White House and the US State Department. Behind the political facade, however, is where the real work takes place; a myriad of think tanks which serve as an unofficial academic-like support structure for managing policy planning, rolling out grand strategies and other big ideas. Some recognisable names in this industry are the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Brookings Institute, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Foreign Policy Initiative (the heir apparent to PNAC). These think tanks and foundations are also referred to as ‘policy mills’ because of their ability to churn-out volumes of policy ‘white papers’, surveys and strategic studies which are then disseminated through various industry journals and at functions, conferences and events in Washington DC and New York City. Certain think tanks, like the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, were set-up in the 1990’s to push through specific foreign policy objectives – like kick-starting the war in Iraq. Where you find a war, you most certainly will find a think tank advocating behind it.

Follow the Money

To find the common thread between think tanks, foundations and human rights charities, one needs only to follow the money......

Full article: http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/04/19/an-introduction-smart-power-the-human-rights-industrial-complex/
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