US Hid True Toll of Air Wars; Thousands of Dead Civilians, Many of Them Children

Thousands of previously hidden Pentagon documents show that the US air wars in the Middle East have been marked by “deeply flawed intelligence” and have killed thousands of civilians, many of them children, according to a shocking new report in the New York Times Saturday afternoon.

The 5-year Times investigation received more than 1,300 reports examining airstrikes in Iraq and Syria from September 2014 to January 2018, more than 5,400 pages in all. None of these records show any findings of wrongdoing on the actions of the US military.

The Times reporting confirms many of the previous reports by whistleblowers Daniel Hale, Chelsea Manning and others. On July 27, 2021, whistleblower Hale was sentenced to 45 months in federal prison for exposing the true civilian toll of the US drone program. “I am here because I stole something that was never mine to take — precious human life,” Hale said at his sentencing.

From the Times report:

The trove of documents — the military’s own confidential assessments of more than 1,300 reports of civilian casualties, obtained by The New York Times — lays bare how the air war has been marked by deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and often imprecise targeting and the deaths of thousands of civilians, many of them children, a sharp contrast to the American government’s image of war waged by all-seeing drones and precision bombs.

The documents show, too, that despite the Pentagon’s highly codified system for examining civilian casualties, pledges of transparency and accountability have given way to opacity and impunity. In only a handful of cases were the assessments made public. Not a single record provided includes a finding of wrongdoing or disciplinary action. Fewer than a dozen condolence payments were made, even though many survivors were left with disabilities requiring expensive medical care. Documented efforts to identify root causes or lessons learned are rare.

The air campaign represents a fundamental transformation of warfare that took shape in the final years of the Obama administration, amid the deepening unpopularity of the forever wars that had claimed more than 6,000 American service members. The United States traded many of its boots on the ground for an arsenal of aircraft directed by controllers sitting at computers, often thousands of miles away. President Barack Obama called it “the most precise air campaign in history.”

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The Assange Case Explained Simply

One of the most common reasons I hear from people on their reluctance to wade into the Assange debate is that they don’t understand it. It looks like a complicated issue to them, so they leave it to the experts.

In reality, the complexity of this case is a complete illusion. It’s very, very simple. It only looks complicated because many years of media distortion have made it appear so.

The US government is trying to extradite a journalist and prosecute him under the Espionage Act for exposing its war crimes, with the long-term goal of normalizing this practice.

That’s it. That’s the whole entire thing. So simple you can sum it up in a single sentence. In a single breath. The most powerful government on earth setting a legal precedent which would allow it to extradite any journalist anywhere in the world for exposing its malfeasance would unquestionably have a massive chilling effect on journalism everywhere in precisely the area where press scrutiny is most sorely needed. It’s not any more complex or nuanced than that.

The Assange issue is simple. What makes it seem complicated is the lies people have been fed by the media class whose job is to manipulate the public into consenting to the agendas of the US power alliance and its war machine.

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US Coverup Of Syria Massacre Shows The Danger Of The Assange Precedent

The New York Times has published a very solid investigative report on a US military coverup of a 2019 massacre in Baghuz, Syria which killed scores of civilians. This would be the second investigative report on civilian-slaughtering US airstrikes by The New York Times in a matter of weeks, and if I were a more conspiracy-minded person I’d say the paper of record appears to have been infiltrated by journalists.

The report contains many significant revelations, including that the US military has been grossly undercounting the numbers of civilians killed in its airstrikes and lying about it to Congress, that special ops forces in Syria have been consistently ordering airstrikes which kill noncombatants with no accountability by exploiting loopholes to get around rules meant to protect civilians, that units which call in such airstrikes are allowed to do their own assessments grading whether the strikes were justified, that the US war machine attempted to obstruct scrutiny of the massacre “at nearly every step” of the way, and that the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations only investigates such incidents when there is “potential for high media attention, concern with outcry from local community/government, concern sensitive images may get out.”

“But at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike,” The New York Times reports. “The death toll was downplayed. Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. United States-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. And top leaders were not notified.”

Journalist Aaron Maté has called the incident “one of the US military’s worst massacres and cover-up scandals since My Lai in Vietnam.”

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“Infuriating” Report Reveals “Breathtaking Cover-Up” of US Airstrike That Killed Syrian Civilians

Advocacy groups, human rights defenders, fellow reporters, and other readers of The New York Times were outraged Saturday after journalists Dave Philipps and Eric Schmitt published their investigation into a deadly 2019 U.S. airstrike in Syria and all that followed.

“This NYT report on the cover-up of U.S. war crimes in Syria should make your blood boil,” Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the anti-war group CodePink, tweeted Sunday. “The U.S. wantonly kills civilians, covers it up, and then tells other countries how ‘democracy’ works. Infuriating.”

Evan Hill, a journalist on the Times‘ visual investigations team, said that “this is a long, complicated story, but it’s one that touches on nearly every problem with the global U.S. air war. At every attempt, the military tried to cover it up.”

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A Company Family: The Untold History of Obama and the CIA

The New York Times reported that, “in the 67 years since the CIA was founded, few presidents have had as close a bond with their intelligence chiefs as Mr. Obama forged with Mr. [John] Brennan,”[5] an architect of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program and former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia.

Obama’s worldview meshed so closely with this “unsentimental intel warrior” and “terrorist hunter” that Obama “found himself finishing Brennan’s sentences.”

An anonymous Cabinet member explained that “presidents tend to be smitten with the instruments of the intelligence community [but] Obama was more smitten than most—this has been an intelligence presidency in a way we haven’t seen maybe since Eisenhower.”[6]

The consequences could be seen in Obama’s boosting funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which promotes regime change in countries defiant of the New World Order, and his drastic expansion of the use of drones—for both surveillance and targeted killings.

The Obama administration further; a) backed coups in Ukraine and Honduras; b) pivoted the U.S. military to Asia, ramped up arms sales to Saudi Arabia and expanded military bases in Africa; c) helped suppress evidence about CIA torture, d) refused to pursue a criminal case against the CIA’s money laundering bank, HSBC, e) eavesdropped on U.S. allies and a U.S. congressman (Dennis Kucinich) who opposed his administration’s illegal invasion of Libya that devastated that country, f) stepped up surveillance and efforts to destroy Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange, and g) presided over the prosecution of a record number of whistleblowers under the Espionage Act of 1917.

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Mass Media Hasten To Help Pentagon Exonerate Itself In Afghan Airstrike

The mass media are full of headlines announcing that a “watchdog” has concluded in an “independent” investigation that US military personnel did nothing wrong in an August airstrike in Kabul which killed ten civilians and zero combatants.

“An independent Pentagon review has concluded that the U.S. drone strike that killed innocent Kabul civilians and children in the final days of the Afghanistan war was not caused by misconduct or negligence, and it doesn’t recommend any disciplinary action,” the Associated Press reports in an article titled “Watchdog finds no misconduct in mistaken Afghan airstrike“.

The word “watchdog” appears nowhere else in the article apart from its title, which means it was calculatingly chosen by an AP editor for the public (the vast majority of whom only read headlines) to see. When people hear the word “watchdog” in reference to scrutiny of government institutions they naturally think of the standard usage of that term: parties outside the institution being watched like Amnesty International or the American Civil Liberties Union. They most certainly don’t think of “watchdogs” being the government institutions themselves, as is the case here.

“The review, done by the Air Force Lt. Gen. Sami Said, found there were breakdowns in communication and in the process of identifying and confirming the target of the bombing, according to a senior defense official familiar with the report,” AP informs us.

The US Air Force is of course a branch of the US Department of Defense. So the Pentagon literally did the “we investigated ourselves and cleared ourselves of any wrongdoing” meme, and the mainstream press is passing that off as a real thing in much the same manner as the famous 1997 New York Times headline “C.I.A. Says It Has Found No Link Between Itself and Crack Trade“.

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The Media’s Lies About Colin Powell’s Lies

Former Secretary of State and Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Colin Powell received virtually wall-to-wall adulation in corporate media coverage of his death last week.

In the New York Times (10/19/21), Bret Stephens called Powell “an exemplary military leader and presidential adviser.” Stephens’ Times colleague Maureen Dowd (10/23/21) said Powell was “the best America had to offer” and a “great man.” Theodore R. Johnson wrote in the same paper (10/21/21) that “we should take inspiration from Mr. Powell’s accomplishments.”

Powell led, as David Ignatius tells it in the Washington Post (10/18/21), an “extraordinary life of service,” characterized by “a sterling career of public service.” Like Ignatius, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal (10/21/21) lacked a thesaurus, describing Powell as “a great man” and one of “the great ones.” In another Journal piece, Paula Dobriansky (10/20/21) called him “a true inspiration and a model not only for military leaders and diplomats but all Americans,” a “hero of our time.”

This gratuitous fawning deflects readers from reckoning with Powell’s record. Consider the heinous acts the “great man” admitted to carrying out in Vietnam.  (See Consortium News7/8/96.) In his memoir, My American Journey, Powell said of his unit in Vietnam: “We burned down the thatched huts, starting the blaze with Ronson and Zippo lighters.” The “hero of our time” wrote:

Why were we torching houses and destroying crops?  Ho Chi Minh had said the people were like the sea in which his guerrillas swam…. We tried to solve the problem by making the whole sea uninhabitable. In the hard logic of war, what difference did it make if you shot your enemy or starved him to death?

Similarly, Powell’s “sterling career of public service” involved obstructing the truth of US war crimes in Vietnam. After the My Lai Massacre, when Powell was an Army major posted in Saigon, he was tasked with investigating a soldier’s letter describing US barbarism against the Vietnamese (Columbia Journalism Review4/3/09). Powell denied the charges, writing, “In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent.”

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Legacy of Shame: Colin Powell’s Blood-Soaked Service to the Empire

Colin Powell just died from Covid-19. So we should expect a tsunami of eulogies from politicians, the mainstream media and even a few liberals who seem to enjoy sanitizing the murderous lives of the ruling class. Those of us on the left who refuse to play the games of polite society when it comes to war crimes will likely be chastised. And he will take his place among the “great generals” of the American Empire. All warmongering societies do this, so it should come as no surprise. But no amount of gushing tributes can erase the truth.

The man who helped whitewash the massacre of civilians at My Lai during the war against Vietnam, pushed hard for the Gulf War in the 1990s, and gave the green light to Ariel Sharon in his murderous assault on civilians in Jenin and land grabs in the occupied West Bank, also sold the war against Iraq at the beginning of this century with a fistful of lies. Iraq never attacked the US. It did not have “weapons of mass destruction.” But the Bush administration was salivating for blood and oil after the attacks on the US on the 11th of September, 2001. And any morsel of fiction that would justify their lust for violence was welcomed.

Powell would later blame his role in peddling these lies on an “intelligence failure.” This is the go-to excuse for the American military establishment, as we see with the latest atrocity they committed in Afghanistan, the recent drone bomb incineration of a family in Kabul after the disastrous pull out of American troops. Now that he is dead, he will not face justice at the Hague for these crimes. But really, no member of the American ruling class ever does.

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