Unprecedented number of US drone and air strikes hit Yemen

In an unprecedented intensification of America’s counter-terrorism operations in Yemen, the US has confirmed it carried out 20 strikes across three central provinces. The strikes, which were carried out in the early morning, targeted fighters from the regional arm of al Qaeda, known as AQAP, their equipment and infrastructure, in the Yemeni provinces of Abyan, al Bayda and Shabwah, according to a press release from the US Department of Defense.

The attacks come a month after a botched US special forces raid ended in the deaths of 25 civilians, including nine children under the age of 13 as revealed by the Bureau, and a US Navy SEAL. In total, the Bureau has recorded at least 186 US air and drone strikes, and special forces raids, since the first in 2002.

— source thebureauinvestigates.com

Today is a day of shame for the British military

26 March 2003
Today is a day of shame for the British military as it declares the Iraqi city of Basra, with a stricken population of 600,000, a “military target”.

You will not read or hear those words in the establishment media that claims to speak for Britain.

But they are true. With Basra, shame is now our signature, forged by Blair and Bush.

Having destroyed its water and power supplies, cut off food supply routes and having failed to crack its human defences, they are now preparing to lay siege to Iraq’s second city which is more than 40 per cent children.

What an ignominious moment in British history. Here is an impoverished country under attack by a superpower, the United States, which has unimaginable wealth and the world’s most destructive weapons, and its “coalition” accomplice, Britain, which boasts one of the world’s best “professional” armies.

Believing their own propaganda, the military brass has been stunned by the Iraqi resistance.

They have tried to belittle the militia defending Basra with lurid stories that its fighters are killing each other.

The truth is that the Iraqis are fighting like lions to defend not a tyrant but their homeland. It is a truth the overwhelming majority of decent Britons will admire.

The historical comparison Tony Blair and his propagandists fear is that of the British defending themselves against invasion. That happened 60 years ago and now “we” are the rapacious invaders.

Yesterday, Blair said that 400,000 Iraqi children had died in the past five years from malnutrition and related causes. He said “huge stockpiles of humanitarian aid” and clean water awaited them in Kuwait, if only the Iraqi regime would allow safe passage.

In fact, voluminous evidence, including that published by the United Nations Children’s Fund, makes clear that the main reason these children have died is an enduring siege, a 12-year embargo driven by America and Britain.

As of last July, $5.4billion worth of humanitarian supplies, approved by the UN and paid for by the Iraqi government, were blocked by Washington, with the Blair government’s approval. The former assistant secretary general of the UN, Denis Halliday, who was sent to Iraq to set up the “oil for food programme”, described the effects of the embargo as “nothing less than genocide”. Similar words have been used by his successor, Hans Von Sponeck.

Both men resigned in protest, saying the embargo merely reinforced the power of Saddam.

Both called Blair a liar.

And now Blair’s troops are firing their wire-guided missiles to “soften up” Basra.

I have walked the city’s streets, along a road blown to pieces by a US missile. The casualties were children, of course, because children are everywhere. I held a handkerchief over my face as I stood in a school playground with a teacher and several hundred malnourished youngsters.

The dust blew in from the southern battlefields of the 1991 Gulf War, which have never been cleaned up because the US and British governments have denied Iraq the specialist equipment.

The dust, Dr Jawad Al-Ali told me, carries “the seeds of our death”. In the children’s wards of Basra’s main hospital, deaths from a range of hitherto unseen cancers are common and specialists have little doubt that up to half the population of southern Iraq will die from cancers linked to the use of a weapon of mass destruction used by the Americans and British – uranium tipped shells and missiles.

ONCE again, the Americans are deploying what Professor Doug Rokke, a former US Army physicist, calls “a form of nuclear weapon that contaminates everything and everyone”.

Today, each round fired by US tanks contains 4,500 grams of solid uranium, whose particles, breathed or ingested, can cause cancer.

This, and the use by both the Allies of new kinds of cluster bombs, is being covered up.

Once again, the British public is being denied the reality of war.

Images of bandaged children in hospital wards are appearing on TV but you do not see the result of a Tornado’s cluster bombing.

You are not being shown children scalped by shrapnel, with legs reduced to bloody pieces of string.

Such images are “not acceptable”, because they will disturb viewers – and the authorities do not want that. These “unseen” images are the truth. Iraqi parents have to look at their mutilated children, so why shouldn’t those of us, in whose name they were slaughtered, see what they see?

Why shouldn’t we share their pain? Why shouldn’t we see the true nature of this criminal invasion?

Other wars were sanitised, allowing them to be repeated.

If you have satellite TV, try to find the Al Jazeera channel, which has distinguished itself with its coverage. When the Americans bombed Afghanistan, one of their “smart” bombs destroyed the Al Jazeera office in Kabul. Few believe it was an accident. Rather, it was a testimony to the channel’s independent journalism.

Remember, it is not those who oppose this war who need to justify themselves, regardless of Blair’s calls to “support our troops”. There is only one way to support them – bring them home without delay.

In 1932, Iraqis threw out their British colonial rulers. In 1958, they got rid of the Hashemite monarchy.

Iraqis have shown they can overthrow dictators against the odds. So why have they not been able to throw out Saddam?

Because the US and Britain armed him and propped him up while it suited them, making sure that when they tired of him, they would be the only alternative to his rule and the profiteers of his nation’s resources. Imperialism has always functioned like that.

The “new Iraq”, as Blair calls it, will have many models, such as Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Nicaragua, all of them American conquests and American ruled until Washington allowed a vicious dictatorship to take over.

Saddam only came to power after the Americans helped install his Ba’ath Party in 1979. “That was my favourite coup,” said the CIA officer in charge.

Keep in mind the cynicism behind these truths when you next hear Blair’s impassioned insincerity – and when you glimpse, if you can, the “unacceptable” images of children killed and mangled in your name, and in the cause of what the Prime Minister calls “our simple patriotism”.

It’s the kind of patriotism, wrote Tolstoy, “that is nothing else but a means of obtaining for the rulers their ambitions and covetous desires, and for the ruled the abdication of human dignity, reason and conscience.”

— source johnpilger.com

“We dropped a few civilians”, said Sgt Eric Schrumpf of the US Marines

5 April 2003

“We had a great day,” said Sgt Eric Schrumpf of the US Marines last Saturday. “We killed a lot of people.”

He added: “We dropped a few civilians, but what do you do?” He said there were women standing near an Iraqi soldier, and one of them fell when he and other Marines opened fire. “I’m sorry,” said Sgt Schrumpf, “but the chick was in the way”.

For me, what is remarkable about this story is that I heard almost the same words 36 years ago when a US Marine sergeant told me he had killed a pregnant woman and a child because they had “got in the way”.

That was in Vietnam, another country invaded by the US military machine, which left up to two million people dead and many more maimed and otherwise ruined. President Reagan called this “a noble cause”. The other day, President Bush called the invasion of Iraq, another unprovoked and piratical act, “a noble cause”.

In the years since Vietnam, the Americans have invaded and caused, directly and through stooges, great suffering in many other countries, but none tells us more about the current war than their enduring atrocity in Vietnam, known as the first “media war”.

Like their attack on Iraq, their invasion of Vietnam was accompanied by a racist contempt for the people. The Vietnamese were “gooks” and “slits” who would never fight, who would be crushed within weeks. As in Iraq today, the uncensored evidence of America’s killing was not shown on TV but covered up.

General Colin Powell, Bush’s “liberal” Secretary of State, was promoted swiftly because he was given the job of covering up the infamous My Lai massacre. In the end, the Vietnamese defied the Hollywood script and expelled their invader, but at great cost.

The Iraqis, up against two western air forces and a Disneyworld of weapons of mass destruction, are unlikely to share the same honour. And yet they, too, are not keeping to the script; and their extraordinary resistance against such overwhelming odds has required intensified propaganda in Washington and London: aimed not at them, but at us.

Unlike in Vietnam, this propaganda, lying that is both crude and subtle, is now dispensed globally and marketed and controlled like a new niche product. Richard Gaisford, an “embedded” BBC reporter, said recently: “We have to check each story we have with (the military). And the captain, who’s our media liaison officer, will check with the colonel, and they will check with Brigade headquarters as well.”

David Miller, a media analyst at Stirling University, calls it “public relations genius”. It works like this. Once the official “line” is agreed and manufactured at the Coalition Press Information Centre in Kuwait and the $1million press centre in Qatar, it is submitted to the White House, to what is known as the Office of Global Communications. It is then polished for British consumption by Blair’s staff of propagandists in Downing Street.

Truth, above all, is redundant. There is only “good” news or no news. For example, the arrival in Iraq of the British ship Sir Galahad with a miserable few hundred tons of humanitarian aid was a “good” story given wide coverage. What was missing was the truth that the Blair government continues to back Washington’s deliberate denial of $5.4billion worth of humanitarian aid, including baby milk and medical supplies. This is “aid” which Iraq has paid for (from oil receipts) and the UN Security Council has approved.

What was also missing from such a moving tale of Britain-to-the-rescue was that, under pressure from Bush and Blair, the United Nations has been forced to close down its food distribution system in Iraq, which barely prevented famine in the pre-war period.

BLAIR’S lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and its alleged links with al-Qaeda have been exposed and rejected by the majority of the British people. He has since played his “conviction” card. Perhaps his last propaganda refuge is a call to support “our boys”.

On September 3, 1967, the Sunday Mirror published a dispatch of mine from Vietnam under the front page headline: “How can Britain approve a war like this?” Today’s Mirror asks the same question of the invasion of Iraq. The difference is that, unlike Blair, Prime Minister Harold Wilson denied an American president the use of British troops for his “coalition”. A poll in yesterday’s Mirror said that “78 per cent insist British forces must not be brought home until the war is over.” Polls themselves can make propaganda, with the question predetermining the answer. What if the question asked had been: “Do you support British forces being in Iraq given the absence of any ‘liberation’ and the rising number of civilian casualties?”

I doubt whether it would have been anywhere near 78 per cent. There is undoubtedly a traditional reserve of support for “the troops”, no matter the dirty work they are sent to carry out. Blair’s manipulation of this should not be allowed to succeed. British troops may be better trained than the Americans; but this does not alter the fact that they are part of, indeed essential to, a criminal invasion of a country offering us no threat.

Trained in media manipulation (“public relations”), British military spokesmen lie as frequently as the Americans; if anything, their nonsense about “uprisings” is too specious by half. The truth they don’t tell is that the British siege of Basra is strangling the civilian population, causing great suffering to innocent, men, women and children in their homeland.

Imagine if Iraqi troops were doing the same to Birmingham, a city of comparable size. Imagine the outrage: the popular resistance, regardless of who was in power in London. If we cannot imagine that, then we have fallen victim to a big lie that reverses right and wrong. If we cannot put ourselves in Iraqis’ shoes, in the shoes of the grieving family of the woman who was gunned down by Sgt Schrumpf, “the chick who got in the way”, then we have cause indeed to worry.

— source johnpilger.com

A crime against humanity

14 April 2003

They have blown off the limbs of women and the scalps of children. Their victims overwhelm the morgues and flood into hospitals that lack even aspirin.

A BBC television producer, moments before he was wounded by an American fighter aircraft that killed 18 people with “friendly fire”, spoke to his mother on a satellite phone. Holding the phone over his head so that she could hear the sound of the American planes overhead, he said: “Listen, that’s the sound of freedom.”

Did I read this scene in Catch-22? Surely, the BBC man was being ferociously ironic. I doubt it, just as I doubt that whoever designed the Observer’s page three last Sunday had Joseph Heller in mind when he wrote the weasel headline: “The moment young Omar discovered the price of war”.

These cowardly words accompanied a photograph of an American marine reaching out to comfort 15-year-old Omar, having just participated in the mass murder of his father, mother, two sisters and brother during the unprovoked invasion of their homeland, in breach of the most basic law of civilised peoples.

No true epitaph for them in Britain’s famous liberal newspaper; no honest headline, such as: “This American marine murdered this boy’s family”. No photograph of Omar’s father, mother, sisters and brother dismembered and blood-soaked by automatic fire. Versions of the Observer’s propaganda picture have been appearing in the Anglo-American press since the invasion began: tender cameos of American troops reaching out, kneeling, ministering to their “liberated” victims.

And where were the pictures from the village of Furat, where 80 men, women and children were rocketed to death? Apart from the Mirror, where were the pictures, and footage, of small children holding up their hands in terror while Bush’s thugs forced their families to kneel in the street? Imagine that in a British high street. It is a glimpse of fascism, and we have a right to see it.

“To initiate a war of aggression,” said the judges in the Nuremberg trial of the Nazi leadership, “is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” In stating this guiding principle of international law, the judges specifically rejected German arguments of the “necessity” for pre-emptive attacks against other countries.

Nothing Bush and Blair, their cluster-bombing boys and their media court do now will change the truth of their great crime in Iraq. It is a matter of record, understood by the majority of humanity, if not by those who claim to speak for “us”. As Denis Halliday said of the Anglo-American embargo against Iraq, it will “slaughter them in the history books”. It was Halliday who, as assistant secretary general of the United Nations, set up the “oil for food” programme in Iraq in 1996 and quickly realised that the UN had become an instrument of “a genocidal attack on a whole society”. He resigned in protest, as did his successor, Hans von Sponeck, who described “the wanton and shaming punishment of a nation”.

I have mentioned these two men often in these pages, partly because their names and their witness have been airbrushed from most of the media. I well remember Jeremy Paxman bellowing at Halliday on Newsnight shortly after his resignation: “So are you an apologist for Saddam Hussein?” That helped set the tone for the travesty of journalism that now daily, almost gleefully, treats criminal war as sport. In a leaked e-mail Roger Mosey, the head of BBC Television News, described the BBC’s war coverage as “extraordinary – it almost feels like World Cup football when you go from Um Qasr to another theatre of war somewhere else and you’re switching between battles”.

He is talking about murder. That is what the Americans do, and no one will say so, even when they are murdering journalists. They bring to this one-sided attack on a weak and mostly defenceless people the same racist, homicidal intent I witnessed in Vietnam, where they had a whole programme of murder called Operation Phoenix. This runs through all their foreign wars, as it does through their own divided society. Take your pick of the current onslaught. Last weekend, a column of their tanks swept heroically into Baghdad and out again. They murdered people along the way. They blew off the limbs of women and the scalps of children. Hear their voices on the unedited and unbroadcast videotape: “We shot the shit out of it.” Their victims overwhelm the morgues and hospitals – hospitals already denuded of drugs and painkillers by America’s deliberate withholding of $5.4bn in humanitarian goods, approved by the Security Council and paid for by Iraq. The screams of children undergoing amputation with minimal anaesthetic qualify as the BBC man’s “sound of freedom”.

Heller would appreciate the sideshows. Take the British helicopter pilot who came to blows with an American who had almost shot him down. “Don’t you know the Iraqis don’t have a fucking air force?” he shouted. Did this pilot reflect on the truth he had uttered, on the whole craven enterprise against a stricken third world country and his own part in this crime? I doubt it. The British have been the most skilled at delusion and lying. By any standard, the Iraqi resistance to the high-tech Anglo-American machine was heroic. With ancient tanks and mortars, small arms and desperate ambushes, they panicked the Americans and reduced the British military class to one of its specialities – mendacious condescension.

The Iraqis who fight are “terrorists”, “hoodlums”, “pockets of Ba’ath Party loyalists”, “kamikaze” and “feds” (fedayeen). They are not real people: cultured and cultivated people. They are Arabs. This vocabulary of dishonour has been faithfully parroted by those enjoying it all from the broadcasting box. “What do you make of Basra?” asked the Today programme’s presenter of a former general embedded in the studio. “It’s hugely encouraging, isn’t it?” he replied. Their mutual excitement, like their plummy voices, are their bond.

On the same day, in a Guardian letter, Tim Llewellyn, a former BBC Middle East correspondent, pointed us to evidence of this “hugely encouraging” truth – fleeting pictures on Sky News of British soldiers smashing their way into a family home in Basra, pointing their guns at a woman and manhandling, hooding and manacling young men, one of whom was shown quivering with terror. “Is Britain ‘liberating’ Basra by taking political prisoners and, if so, based on what sort of intelligence, given Britain’s long unfamiliarity with this territory and its inhabitants . . . The least this ugly display will do is remind Arabs and Muslims everywhere of our Anglo-Saxon double standards – we can show your prisoners in . . . degrading positions, but don’t you dare show ours.”

Roger Mosey says the suffering of Um Qasr is “like World Cup football”. There are 40,000 people in Um Qasr; desperate refugees are streaming in and the hospitals are overflowing. All this misery is due entirely to the “coalition” invasion and the British siege, which forced the United Nations to withdraw its humanitarian aid staff. Cafod, the Catholic relief agency, which has sent a team to Um Qasr, says the standard humanitarian quota for water in emergency situations is 20 litres per person per day. Cafod reports hospitals entirely without water and people drinking from contaminated wells. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.5 million people across southern Iraq are without water, and epidemics are inevitable. And what are “our boys” doing to alleviate this, apart from staging childish, theatrical occupations of presidential palaces, having fired shoulder-held missiles into a civilian city and dropped cluster bombs?

A British colonel laments to his “embedded” flock that “it is difficult to deliver aid in an area that is still an active battle zone”. The logic of his own words mocks him. If Iraq was not a battle zone, if the British and the Americans were not defying international law, there would be no difficulty in delivering aid.

There is something especially disgusting about the lurid propaganda coming from these PR-trained British officers, who have not a clue about Iraq and its people. They describe the liberation they are bringing from “the world’s worst tyranny”, as if anything, including death by cluster bomb or dysentery, is better than “life under Saddam”. The inconvenient truth is that, according to Unicef, the Ba’athists built the most modern health service in the Middle East. No one disputes the grim, totalitarian nature of the regime; but Saddam Hussein was careful to use the oil wealth to create a modern secular society and a large and prosperous middle class. Iraq was the only Arab country with a 90 per cent clean water supply and with free education. All this was smashed by the Anglo-American embargo. When the embargo was imposed in 1990, the Iraqi civil service organised a food distribution system that the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation described as “a model of efficiency . . . undoubtedly saving Iraq from famine”. That, too, was smashed when the invasion was launched.

Why are the British yet to explain why their troops have to put on protective suits to recover dead and wounded in vehicles hit by American “friendly fire”? The reason is that the Americans are using solid uranium coated on missiles and tank shells. When I was in southern Iraq, doctors estimated a sevenfold increase in cancers in areas where depleted uranium was used by the Americans and British in the 1991 war. Under the subsequent embargo, Iraq, unlike Kuwait, has been denied equipment with which to clean up its contaminated battlefields. The hospitals in Basra have wards overflowing with children with cancers of a variety not seen before 1991. They have no painkillers; they are fortunate if they have aspirin.

With honourable exceptions (Robert Fisk; al-Jazeera), little of this has been reported. Instead, the media have performed their preordained role as imperial America’s “soft power”: rarely identifying “our” crime, or misrepresenting it as a struggle between good intentions and evil incarnate. This abject professional and moral failure now beckons the unseen dangers of such an epic, false victory, inviting its repetition in Iran, Korea, Syria, Cuba, China.

George Bush has said: “It will be no defence to say: ‘I was just following orders.'” He is correct. The Nuremberg judges left in no doubt the right of ordinary soldiers to follow their conscience in an illegal war of aggression. Two British soldiers have had the courage to seek status as conscientious objectors. They face court martial and imprisonment; yet virtually no questions have been asked about them in the media. George Galloway has been pilloried for asking the same question as Bush, and he and Tam Dalyell, Father of the House of Commons, are being threatened with withdrawal of the Labour whip.

Dalyell, 41 years a member of the Commons, has said the Prime Minister is a war criminal who should be sent to The Hague. This is not gratuitous; on the prima facie evidence, Blair is a war criminal, and all those who have been, in one form or another, accessories should be reported to the International Criminal Court. Not only did they promote a charade of pretexts few now take seriously, they brought terrorism and death to Iraq. A growing body of legal opinion around the world agrees that the new court has a duty, as Eric Herring of Bristol University wrote, to investigate “not only the regime, but also the UN bombing and sanctions which violated the human rights of Iraqis on a vast scale”. Add the present piratical war, whose spectre is the uniting of Arab nationalism with militant Islam. The whirlwind sown by Blair and Bush is just beginning. Such is the magnitude of their crime.

— source johnpilger.com

We now glimpse the forbidden truths of the invasion of Iraq

6 April 2003

A man cuddles the body of his infant daughter; her blood drenches them. A woman in black pursues a tank, her arms outstretched; all seven in her family are dead. An American Marine murders a woman because she happens to be standing next to a man in a uniform. “I’m sorry,” he says, “but the chick got in the way.”

Covering this in a shroud of respectability has not been easy for George Bush and Tony Blair. Millions now know too much; the crime is all too evident. Tam Dalyell, Father of the House of Commons, a Labour MP for 41 years, says the Prime Minister is a war criminal and should be sent to The Hague. He is serious, because the prima facie case against Blair and Bush is beyond doubt.

In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal rejected German arguments of the “necessity” for pre-emptive attacks against its neighbours. “To initiate a war of aggression,” said the tribunal’s judgment, “is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

To this, the Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi adds, “a deep and unconscious racism that imbues every aspect of Western policy towards Iraq.” It is this racism, she says, that has cynically elevated Saddam Hussein from “a petty local chieftain, albeit a brutal and ruthless one in the mould of many before him, [to a figure] demonised beyond reason”.

To Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, the Iraqis, like all Arabs, were “niggers”, against whom poison gas could be used. They were un-people; and they still are. The killing of some 80 villagers near Baghdad last Thursday, of children in markets, of the “chicks who get in the way” would be in industrial quantities now were it not for the voices of the millions who filled London and other capitals, and the young people who walked out of their schools; they have saved countless lives.

Just as the American invasion of Vietnam was fuelled by racism, in which “gooks” could be murdered with impunity, so the current atrocity in Iraq is from the same mould. Should you doubt that, turn the news around and examine the double standard. Imagine there are Iraqi tanks in Britain and Iraqi troops laying siege to Birmingham. Absurd? Well, it would not happen here. But the British military is doing that to Basra, a city bigger than Birmingham, firing shoulder-held missiles and dropping cluster bombs on its population, 40 per cent of whom are children. Moreover, “our boys” are denying water to the stricken people of Basra as well as to Umm Qasr, which they have controlled for a week. It is no wonder Blair is furious with the al-Jazeera channel, which has exposed this, and the lie that the people of Basra were rising up on cue for their liberation.

Since 11 September 2001, “our” propaganda and its unspoken racism has required an imperial distortion of intellect and morality. The Iraqis are not fighting like lions, in defence of their homeland. They are “cowardly” and subhuman because they use hit-and-run tactics against a hugely powerful invader – as if they have any choice. This belittling of their bravery and disregard of their humanity, like the disregard of thousands of Afghans recently bombed to death in dusty villages, confronts us with a moral issue as profound as the Western response to that greatest act of terrorism, the wilful atomic bombing of Japan. Have we progressed? In 2003, is it still true that only “our” lives are of value?

These Anglo-American invasions of weak and largely defenceless nations are meant to demonstrate the kind of world the US is planning to dominate by force, with its procession of worthy and unworthy victims and the establishment of American bases at the gateways of all the main sources of fossil fuels. There is a list now. If Israel has its way, Iran will be next; and Cuba, Libya, Syria and even China had better watch out. North Korea may not be an immediate American target, because its threat of nuclear war has been effective. Ironically, had Iraq kept its nuclear weapons, this invasion probably would not have taken place. That is the lesson for all governments at odds with Bush and Blair: nuclear-arm yourself quickly.

The most forbidden truth is that this demonstrably militarist British government, and the rampant superpower it serves, are the true enemies of our security. In the plethora of opinion polls, the most illuminating was conducted by American Time magazine among a quarter of a million people across Europe. The question was: “Which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?” Readers were asked to tick off one of three possibilities: Iraq, North Korea and the United States. Eight per cent viewed Iraq as the most dangerous; North Korea was chosen by 9 per cent. No fewer than 83 per cent voted for the United States, of which, in the eyes of most of humanity, Britain is now but a lethal appendage.

Only successful propaganda, and corrupt journalism, will prevent us understanding this and other truths. Rupert Murdoch has been admirably frank. In lauding Bush and Blair as “heroes”, he said, “there is going to be collateral damage in Iraq. And if you really want to be brutal about it, better we get it done now.” Every one of his 175 newspapers carries that sinister message, more or less, as does his American television network. The 80 villagers rocketed to death on Thursday are proof of the urgency he describes; other victims in other countries are waiting.

For those journalists who see themselves as honourable truth-tellers, there are difficult choices now: rather like the choice of the young woman at the GCHQ spy centre in Cheltenham who allegedly leaked documents revealing that US officials were trying to blackmail members of the Security Council; rather like the two British soldiers who face court martial because they exercised their right, enshrined by the Nuremberg judges, to refuse to fight in a criminal war that kills civilians.

For journalists who are not “embedded” and are deeply troubled by the kind of propaganda that consumes even our language, and who, as James Cameron put it, “write the first draft of history”, similar courage is required. Brave Terry Lloyd of ITN, killed by the ‘coalition’, demonstrated this. The threats are now not even subtle, such as this from our Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon. “One of the reasons for having journalists [embedded],” he said, “is to prevent precisely the kind of tragedy that occurred to an ITN crew … because [Terry Lloyd] was not part of a military organisation. And in those circumstances, we can’t look after all those journalists … So having journalists have the protection of our armed forces is both good for journalism. It’s also good for people watching.”

Like a mafia boss explaining the benefits of a protection racket, Hoon is saying: do as you are told or face the consequences. Indeed, Donald Rumsfeld, Hoon’s superior in Washington, often quotes Al Capone, the famous Chicago mobster. His favourite: “You will get more with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.”

How do we face this threat to all of us? The answer lies, I believe, in understanding the extent of our own power. Patrick Tyler wrote wisely in the New York Times the other day that America faced a “tenacious new adversary” – the public. He says we are entering a new bi-polar world with two new superpowers: the Bush/Blair gang on one side, and world opinion on the other, a truly popular force stirring at last and whose consciousness soars by the day. Wasn’t it the poet Shelley who, at a time like this, exhorted us to: “Rise like lions after slumber”?

— source johnpilger.com

Pentagon Admits It Used Depleted Uranium Munitions in Syria

The Pentagon has admitted that U.S. warplanes fired depleted uranium munitions during air raids in Syria, despite a vow not to use the toxic and radioactive weapons in the battlefield. Foreign Policy magazine reported this week that Air Force A-10 attack planes fired more than 5,000 rounds of 30mm depleted uranium rounds during a pair of assaults on convoys in an ISIS-controlled part of eastern Syria in November 2015. Depleted uranium is both toxic and highly radioactive, and many medical experts have linked its use to cancer and birth defects.

— source democracynow.org