Thursday, November 28, 2013

Solidarity with the People of Thailand

"Thailand: Uprooting Wall Street’s Proxy Regime"
2013-11-28 by Tony Cartalucci from "Global Research" []:
Unprecedented protests have taken to the streets in Bangkok, now for weeks, where at times, hundreds of thousands of protesters have appeared. Estimates range from 100-400 thousand people at peak points, making them the largest protests in recent Thai history.
The protests aim at ousting the current government after it ignored a recent court ruling finding their attempts to rewrite the constitution illegal.
The current government of Thailand is being openly run by a convicted criminal, Thaksin Shinawatra, who is hiding abroad and running the country through his own sister, Yingluck Shinawatra and his vast political machine, the “Peua Thai Party” (PTP). PTP is augmented by street mobs donning bright red shirts, earning them the title, the “red shirts,” as well as a myriad of foreign-funded NGOs and propaganda fronts.
While it would seem like an open and shut case, regarding the illegitimacy of the current government, Western nations have urged protesters to observe the “rule of law” and have condemned protesters taking over government ministry buildings. Why is the West now seemingly defending the current Thai government, after nearly 3 years of backing protests around the world against other governments it claimed were overtly corrupt and despotic?
It is very simple. Unlike in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Russia, Yemen, Libya, Malaysia, and elsewhere where the West has backed protests, the current government in Thailand is a creation of and a servant to the corporate financier interests of Wall Street and London. Regardless of the cartoonish nepotism of a nation run by the sister of a ousted dictator, media in the West continues to portray the current Thai government as legitimate, “elected,” and “democratic.” Thaksin Shinawatra’s egregious crimes while in office are buried in articles, or worse yet, never mentioned at all.
Images: Scenes taken from across Bangkok showing masses of people protesting the current government in Thailand. Unlike the government’s mobs of “red shirts” centrally directed by Thaksin Shinawatra himself, these rallies are led by a myriad of leaders and interest groups, from unions to political parties and media personalities. The numbers now present dwarf any effort by Thaksin and his political machine to fill the streets with supporters. Currently, the “red shirts” have failed to fill even a quarter of a nearby stadium, after two earlier abortive attempts to raise a counter-rally.

Before the protests get any bigger, and the conflict more widespread, readers may want to ask and have answered the following questions…

1. Who Really Leads Thailand’s Current Government? 
Thaksin had been prime minister from 2001-2006. Long before Thaksin Shinwatra would become prime minister in Thailand, he was already working his way up the Wall Street-London ladder of opportunity, while simultaneously working his way up in Thai politics. He was appointed by the Carlyle Group as an adviser while holding public office, and attempted to use his connections to boost his political image. Thanong Khanthong of Thailand’s English newspaper “the Nation,” wrote in 2001:
“In April 1998, while Thailand was still mired in a deep economic morass, Thaksin tried to use his American connections to boost his political image just as he was forming his Thai Rak Thai Party. He invited Bush senior to visit Bangkok and his home, saying his own mission was to act as a “national matchmaker” between the US equity fund and Thai businesses. In March, he also played host to James Baker III, the US secretary of state in the senior Bush administration, on his sojourn in Thailand.”
Upon becoming prime minister in 2001, Thaksin would begin paying back the support he received from his Western sponsors. In 2003, he would commit Thai troops to the US invasion of Iraq, despite widespread protests from both the Thai military and the public. Thaksin would also allow the CIA to use Thailand for its abhorrent rendition program.
Also in 2003, starting in February and over the course of 3 months, some 2,800 people (approximately 30 a day) would be extra-judicially murdered in the cities and countrysides of Thailand as part of Thaksin’s “War on Drugs.”
Accused of being “drug dealers,” victims were systematically exterminated based on “hit lists” compiled by police given carte blanche by Thaksin. It would later be determined by official investigations that over half of those killed had nothing to do with the drug trade in any way. Human Rights Watch (HRW) would confirm this in their 2008 report titled, “Thailand’s ‘war on drugs’ [],” a follow up to the much more extensive 2004 report, “Not Enough Graves” [].
Image: “The Thai Gov’ts War on Drugs: Dead Wrong. Stop the Murder of Thai Drug Users.” During Thaksin Shinwatra’s 2003 “War on Drugs” it wasn’t only drug users who were brutally, extra-judicially murdered in the streets, but over 50% of the 2,800 killed during the course of 3 months, were completely innocent, involved in no way with either drug use or trade.

In 2004, Thaksin attempted to ramrod through a US-Thailand Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) without parliamentary approval, backed by the US-ASEAN Business Council who just before last year’s 2011elections that saw Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra brought into power, hosted the leaders of Thaksin’s “red shirt” “United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship” (UDD).
The council in 2004 included 3M, war profiteering Bechtel, Boeing, Cargill, Citigroup, General Electric, IBM, the notorious Monsanto, and currently also includes banking houses Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Chevron, Exxon, BP, Glaxo Smith Kline, Merck, Northrop Grumman, Monsanto’s GMO doppelganger Syngenta, as well as Phillip Morris.
Image: The US-ASEAN Business Council, a who’s-who of corporate fascism in the US, had been approached by leaders of Thaksin Shinwatra’s “red shirt” street mobs. (click image to enlarge)

Thaksin would remain in office until September of 2006. On the eve of the military coup that ousted him from power, Thaksin was literally standing before the Fortune 500-funded Council on Foreign Relations giving a progress report in New York City.
Photo: Deposed autocrat, Thaksin Shinawatra before the CFR on the even of the 2006 military coup that would oust him from power. Since 2006 he has had the full, unflinching support of Washington, Wall Street and their immense propaganda machine in his bid to seize back power.

Since the 2006 coup that toppled his regime, Thaksin has been represented by US corporate-financier elites via their lobbying firms including, Kenneth Adelman of the Edelman PR firm (Freedom House, International Crisis Group,PNAC), James Baker of Baker Botts (CFR), Robert Blackwill of Barbour Griffith & Rogers (CFR), Kobre & Kim, and currently Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Peroff (Chatham House).
Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Peroff, would also simultaneously represent Thaksin’s “red shirt” UDD movement, and was present for the inaugural meeting of the so-called “academic” Nitirat group, attended mostly by pro-Thaksin red shirts (who literally wore their red shirts to the meeting). Additional support for Thaksin and his UDD street-front is provided by the US State Department via National Endowment for Democracy-funded “NGO” Prachatai.

2. How Did Thaksin Shinawatra Get Back into Power?
Almost as soon as Thaksin was ousted from power in 2006, both his political party in Thailand and his Western backers abroad began a campaign to demonize and destroy the Thai establishment. Kenneth Adelman, working under Edelman created the “USA for Innovation” front to slander the prevailing Thai establishment after ousting Thaksin. Adelman did this in 2007, the same year Edelman registered Thaksin Shinawatra as a lobbying client, under the guise of defending “intellectual property.”
A myriad of loaded news stories and op-eds in habitually biased publications including the Economist, Time, and Newsweek targeted Thailand for what was called a slide backwards from democracy – all the while Thaksin was praised for his policies aimed at Thailand’s “marginalized poor.”
Video: Almost satirical in nature, US Neo-Conservative Kenneth Adelman attacks the Thai government, accusing it of “slouching toward Burma” after his PR firm Edelman took on the ousted despot Thaksin Shinawatra as a lobbying client in 2007. 
The next year, elections would be held and easily won by Thaksin’s unassailable populist-built voting bloc. The prime minister very publicly ran as “Thaksin’s nominee” as was described in Time’s article “Thailand’s PM Proxy: Samak.”  However, both he and his successor Somchai Wongsawat (Thaksin’s brother-in-law) would be quickly ushered out of power through a combination of corruption charges and “counter-color revolutions” staged by elements within Thailand’s indigenous establishment.
Beginning in 2009, Thaksin’s political front began a campaign of increasingly violent confrontations with the prevailing Thai establishment. During April of 2009,  protests staged by Thaksin’s UDD “red shirts” would leave widespread property damage and 2 dead by-standers gunned down while trying defend their property from looting protesters. The Thai military was successful at dispersing the riot without killing a single protester. Thaksin’s political lieutenants would flee to Cambodia after making calls for a “people’s war” that went unheeded by the vast majority of the Thai population.
establishment, some 300 covert militants were brought in to trigger deadly violence that would last weeks, turning parts of Thailand’s capital of Bangkok into a war zone. Over 90 people would die, including soldiers, police, innocent by-standers, as well as protesters themselves cut down by both crossfire between militants and soldiers, and smoke inhalation while looting buildings fellow protesters had lit ablaze.
Image: A freeze frame featured in the Bangkok Post, showing clearly the front sight posts of an M16A2. M-16s were used by opposition militants for the explicit purpose of blaming resulting injuries and deaths on the Thai Army, who used the weapon and the rounds it fired as its primary infantry weapon. As in other Western-backed destabilizations, from Yemen to Syria, shadowy gunmen were brought in to create violence to be pinned on the government while their presence was denied for as long as possible.

While the Thai military succeeded in restoring order across the city, Thaksin and his Western backers had the momentum they needed to continue radicalizing the UDD “red shirts” as well as turn international opinion against Thailand – bringing us to the 2011 elections.
Running on a campaign of promising cheap houses and cars, free computers, the eradication of both flooding and droughts, as well as guaranteed prices for rice grown by Thailand’s many rice farmers, Peua Thai easily won yet another election – providing a perfect example of how Western-backed client regimes are more than glad to use populism to co-opt large segments of a targeted nation’s population, if national leaders themselves are not willing to first (e.g. Argentina, Venezuela).
With an accused mass-murderer, convicted criminal hiding abroad to evade multiple arrest warrants, openly running the government through his own sister, and none of his Peua Thai campaign promises being kept after over 2 years in power, Thailand’s establishment may feel the timing is right to begin apply pressure that will ultimately oust Thaksin from power once again – perhaps once and for all.

3. What Does the West Want With Thailand?
For over two decades the United States has expressed throughout a library of policy papers the need to develop and implement an effective “containment” strategy versus China. In 1997, US policy author Robert Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution penned, “What China Knows That We Don’t: The Case for a New Strategy of Containment” [], where he literally states (emphasis added): [begin excerpt]
The present world order serves the needs of the United States and its allies, which constructed it.
And it is poorly suited to the needs of a Chinese dictatorship trying to maintain power at home and increase its clout abroad. Chinese leaders chafe at the constraints on them and worry that they must change the rules of the international system before the international system changes them.
The changes in the external and internal behavior of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s resulted at least in part from an American strategy that might be called “integration through containment and pressure for change.
Such a strategy needs to be applied to China today. As long as China maintains its present form of government, it cannot be peacefully integrated into the international order. For China’s current leaders, it is too risky to play by our rules — yet our unwillingness to force them to play by our rules is too risky for the health of the international order. The United States cannot and should not be willing to upset the international order in the mistaken belief that accommodation is the best way to avoid a confrontation with China.
We should hold the line instead and work for political change in Beijing. That means strengthening our military capabilities in the region, improving our security ties with friends and allies, and making clear that we will respond, with force if necessary, when China uses military intimidation or aggression to achieve its regional ambitions. It also means not trading with the Chinese military or doing business with firms the military owns or operates. And it means imposing stiff sanctions when we catch China engaging in nuclear proliferation.
A successful containment strategy will require increasing, not decreasing, our overall defense capabilities. Eyre Crowe warned in 1907 that “the more we talk of the necessity of economising on our armaments, the more firmly will the Germans believe that we are tiring of the struggle, and that they will win by going on.” Today, the perception of our military decline is already shaping Chinese calculations. In 1992, an internal Chinese government document said that America’s “strength is in relative decline and that there are limits to what it can do.” This perception needs to be dispelled as quickly as possible.
[end excerpt]
This would be further expanded on in the Strategic Studies Institute’s 2006 “String of Pearls” report where specific areas of Chinese expansion were identified for disruption and containment. This included the now destabilized Baluchistan region in Pakistan where China’s Gwadar port sits, as well as the destabilized state of Rakhine in Myanmar.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would reiterate this commitment to containing China, as well as touch upon another point made by Kagan in 1997 – that Southeast Asian nations would need to be aligned with the US against China as part of any viable containment strategy – in her 2011 op-ed in Foreign Policy titled, “The American Pacific Century” [].
Image: Figure 1. From SSI’s 2006 “String of Pearls” report detailing a strategy of containment for China. While “democracy,” “freedom,” and “human rights” will mask the ascension of Western aligned client regimes into power, it is part of a region-wide campaign to overthrow nationalist elements and install client regimes in order to encircle and contain China. Violence in areas like Sittwe, Rakhine Myanmar, or Gwadar Baluchistan Pakistan, are not coincidences and documented evidence indicates immense Western backing for armed opposition groups.

Leading a Thailand fully complicit with the United States and its neo-imperial ambition to sustain another century of American hegemony across Asia is a role Thaksin Shinawatra was groomed for decades to fulfill, and it is precisely for this reason that so much money, time, and effort has been poured into both propping him up, while tearing down Thailand’s existing indigenous institutions.

4. Who is Protesting the Current Government?
Undoubtedly opposition political parties will benefit from any protest and are most likely involved to one degree or another. Additionally, Thai business conglomerates, Thai media moguls, and the military at the very least tacitly approve the current demonstrations. Many across the silent majority are opposed to the disruptive street demonstrations conducted by both Thaksin and his Western backers, as well as his opponents in Thailand and support neither political party – but find Thaksin and the acute instability and division he has created unacceptable.
The rank and file of the protests themselves may include political opposition party supporters, groups aligned to media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul’s “People’s Alliance for Democracy” (PAD), as well as many from across the silent majority, both lower and middle working class, who would like to see an end to Thaksin’s corrosive influence on the country once and for all.
Image: October 28, 2012, an initial gathering of anti-government protesters assembled in a stadium to call on PTP to step down from power. Despite the “spring” theme of 2011-2012, the rally failed to make any international headlines – most likely because this movement seeks to unseat a Western client-regime, not install one.

Similar protests in 2007 were initiated by Sondhi’s PAD movement, but later joined by labor unions who cooperated in closing down Thailand’s airports in an act of noncompliance against Thaksin’s proxy government, succeeding in finally collapsing the regime.
While it is claimed that there is a distinct divide between the middle class and poor in Thailand, and that the latter fully support Thaksin Shinawatra and his populist policies, in reality his party won the 2011 elections with a mere 32% of all eligible voters, and failed to achieve even a popular majority of those who did bother to vote – this even with fantastical campaign promises, rampant vote buying, and organized transportation provided on polling day by Peua Thai’s vast upcountry political machine.
Ultimately, the Thais who come out to protest Wall Street-proxy Thaksin Shinawatra are not protesting him because they approve of the alternative. On the contrary – whoever takes his and his political machine’s place will have an equally indefensible mandate to do as they will with the nation, its resources, and its people as Thaksin has. If and when Thaksin and the cancerous political machine he has created with foreign funding and expertise is excised from Thailand’s political landscape, something entirely new will have to be put in its place if progress it to be made.
Fortunately, the silent majority already understands this and are slowly progressing toward various, more pragmatic alternatives, and even more fortunately, many people on both sides of the political bickering are beginning to realize this as well.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Five Eyes (US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand)

"Eyes Wide Open: Unmasking the Five-Eyed monster"
2013-11-27 by Carly Nyst []:
Privacy International defends the right to privacy across the world, and fights surveillance and other intrusions into private life by governments and corporations. Privacy International is proud to announce our new project, Eyes Wide Open [], which aims to pry open the Five Eyes arrangement and bring it under the rule of law. Read our Special Report "Eyes Wide Open" [], and learn more about the project below.
For almost 70 years, a secret post-war alliance of five English-speaking countries has been building a global surveillance infrastructure to “master the internet” and spy on the worlds communications. This arrangement binds together the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to create what’s collectively known as the Five Eyes.
While the existence of the agreement has been kept secret from the public and parliaments, dogged investigative reporting from Duncan Campbell, Nicky Hager, and James Bamford have been trying to uncover the extent of the arrangement for years. Now, thanks to Edward Snowden, the public are able to understand more of the spying that is being done in our name than ever before.
Now, it is time to unmask this five-eyed monster. The invasive and indiscriminate surveillance that is being conducted in secret, and justified on the basis of secret bi-lateral agreements and inaccessible legal frameworks, must come to an end.
That's why today Privacy International is launching an international campaign to pry open the Five Eyes arrangement and bring their secretive spying alliance under the rule of law. Called "Eyes Wide Open," the campaign has four main goals:
1. Pry open the Five Eyes arrangement and subject the world’s most powerful and secret intelligence-sharing regime to appropriate transparency and scrutiny;
2. Challenge the legal frameworks that enable global surveillance practices, and particularly that discriminate between nationals and foreigners with respect to human rights obligations;
3. Promote an understanding of human rights obligations as applying to all individuals under a State’s jurisdiction, regardless of their location; and
4. Campaign for policies that bring intelligence agencies under the rule of law.

Taking action -
Already, we have challenged UK government spying in the IPT [], filed OECD complaints against undersea cable companies [], and sparked European data protection authorities to investigate the NSA's hacking of the SWIFT network []. And today, we wrote to the governments of the Five Eyes States demanding the publication of the treaties and agreements that underpin the alliance.
Many other organisations are taking action too. Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group, English PEN, and internet campaigner Constanze Kurtz are challenging the UK government’s surveillance of our data at the European Court of Human Rights []. The Stop Watching Us coalition [] in the United States has been lobbying the US governments and holding mass protests in the name of ending mass surveillance.
Today, Privacy International is joining EFF, Access, Open Rights Group, and Open Media to launch a Campaign to End Mass Surveillance [], enlisting citizens from around the world to urgently call on their governments to put down this mysterious arrangement.

Out of the shadows -
While these arrangements have been in existence for decades, the alliance is now coming out of the shadows to block UN resolutions condemning the mass surveillance that has been revealed over the summer.
Intelligence agencies and the governments that operate them have been revealed to be not merely secretive, but hypocritical, and dismissive of any legitimate public concerns. It is time to bring these practices, and the covert agreements that underpin them, into the light. For more than sixty years, the secret patchwork of spying arrangements and intelligence-sharing agreements that makes up the Five Eyes alliance has remained obfuscated by the States whom it benefits. Save for one critically important release of declassified documents in 2010, the Five Eyes States have spent almost 70 years concealing from their citizens the scope and extent of their global surveillance ambitions - eroding the public’s ability to communicate privately and securely without examination or question.
Despite the fact that the Five Eyes comprises democratic governments, the rules which govern the arrangement – rules which have allowed the infiltration of every aspect of the modern global communications systems – are entirely hidden from the public. Providing for a complex division of roles, responsibilities and lines of authority, and the establishment of jointly-run operations centres, the Five Eyes arrangement creates a signals intelligence architecture vaster than NATO. And while its actions implicate the private communications of every connected individual across the globe, the arrangement was executed and operates clandestinely, hidden from the scrutiny of public oversight mechanisms and – until recently – the public.
The Five Eyes – in conjunction with others – have infiltrated every aspect of modern communications systems. We know that their capabilities include directly accessing internet companies’ data, tapping international fibre optic cables, sabotaging encryption standards and standards bodies, hacking the routers, switches and firewalls that connect the internet together, and obtaining information from almost any source in the world they are able to get access to.
Yet, because the agreement is shrouded in secrecy, we do not have access to the covert agreements and treaties that govern up the alliance. We have no ability to challenge their implementation and their impact upon our human rights. We cannot hold our governments accountable when their actions are obfuscated through secret deals.
We do not live in the same world today as when the Five Eyes arrangement was founded. Our communications are not confined by borders, our interests not defined by our nationality. Yet in seeking to justify their global surveillance practices the Five Eyes alliance relies on outdated legal frameworks that arbitrarily purport to distinguish between nationals and foreigners, as if the internet required a passport to move through its corridors.
These legal frameworks – which attempt to provide one standard of privacy of communications for citizens of Five Eyes states, and another for the rest of the world’s population – violate the internationally recognized right to privacy. An individual does not need to reside within a country’s borders for that State to violate their privacy rights when intelligence services intercept their emails, phone calls, and text messages.
We know now that Five Eyes governments can remotely spy into communications and computers across borders with impunity. What these governments do not seem to understand is this: human rights obligations apply to all individuals under a State’s jurisdiction, regardless of their physical location.
The Five Eyes must be held to a new legal framework that respects the rights of all individuals, not just the citizens that live within a respective government’s borders. Without acting swiftly, the five-eyed monster will continue to grow in ambition, size, and scale, swallowing up everything in its path until we have no privacy left.

Occupy Beale AFB! Report for November, 2013

[], news archive for the Peace vigil and Occupy action at Beale AFB! [].
Contact information:
* Bay Area: Toby [510-215-5974] []
* Nevada County: Shirley [941-320-0291] []

"More Arrests Tuesday of Anti-Drone Demonstrators at Beale AFB; Air Police Handcuff 4 as Protests Over Drones Continue"
2013-11-27 from "Occupy Beale AFB!":
Four people, including a military veteran, were arrested at Beale AFB here Tuesday as part of a protest against U.S. use of killer military drones.
"It is our deepest hopes that as the war machine was momentarily halted, that maybe a human life in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere was saved," according to a statement released on behalf of those arrested: Shirley Osgood, Flora Rogers, Michael Kerr (a veteran) and MacGregor Eddy.
All four were briefly handcuffed and charged with trespassing. Their court date for the misdemeanor charge (up to a $5,000 fine and/or 6 months in federal prison) is pending. The case will be heard in Sacramento federal court.
Activists "halted the War Machine" for more than 30 minutes by blocking "business as usual" at Beale AFB/Wheatland Gate, where the crew of the Global Hawk drone program assist in illegal targeted drone killing by doing surveillance of potential targets.
The four activists were arrested for trespassing after they walked onto base property to deliver a letter to the commander of the base, demanding a halt to these brutal drone killings that are assisted by airmen at Beale AFB. Demonstrators beat drums and wore white masks and blue scarves (
The base is the home of the Global Hawk (Surveillance drone), the U2 and the MC12 Liberty aircraft, all participants in the so-called"war on terror." They have been complicit in the deaths and injuries thousands of innocent civilians.
There is a trial set for January in Sacramento U.S. Court of another four people arrested at Beale AFB. And five demonstrators were convicted of trespassing at Beale AFB in August. They avoided prison time or having to pay a fine.

"Occupy Beale AFB Report Back, 4 Arrested at Beale Air Force Base while resisting drone warfare"
2013-11-27 from "Occupy Beale AFB!":
Join us next month:  Dec. 16-17, Mon. 3pm to Tues. 8am!
12 activists halt the War Machine for over 30 minutes by blocking "business as usual" at Beale AFB, where the crew of the Global Hawk drone program assist in illegal targeted drone killing by doing surveillance of potential targets.  4 peaceful activists risk arrest while attempting to deliver a letter to the commander of the base, demanding a halt to these brutal drone killings that are assisted by airmen at Beale AFB. 
"Report Back: Occupy Beale AFB and Resisting Drones, November 2013"
Written by Michael Kerr, Martha Hubert and Toby Blome:
On November 25-­‐26, we held our monthly vigil that included a surprise “pre-­emptive peace response” direct action on Tuesday morning against drone warfare at Beale Air Force Base. We were wearing white clothes with blue scarves in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan who want peace. From [], “The Blue Scarf represents the expansive blue sky we all share and has become a global symbol for togetherness. It was set in motion by a brave group of women in Afghanistan ready to be heard and is now being worn around the world as a way for people to express their solidity as global citizens for a better world.”
On Monday afternoon, four of us from the Bay area went to the Doolittle Gate. There were another 6 at the Wheatland gate. Meeting at the main gate at 5:30pm, in the dark and cold, we were visited by a security detail from the base during our potluck. They advised us of the nighttime cold. When Flora, a local activist, arrived with MacGregor, we gladly accepted an offer of her warm house for the night. After our potluck, we shared two birthday cakes to celebrate the completion of our 3rd year at Beale.
Three years ago this month, Toby, Martha, Lisa and Eleanor dared to come to Beale AFB in the dark of the early November morning for the first drone warfare vigil. We have since had nearly 100 different people join the vigil, 4 road blockades and numerous arrests.
These past 3 years, many more people in our country have become aware of the immoral use of drones against civilians, women and children in other lands. As more and more innocents are being slaughtered by drones the outrage is intensifying.
On Tuesday morning, shortly after 5am we headed out to the Wheatland gate on S. Beale Rd., a heavily used artery into the base. 12 of us were able to again block traffic into the base at the Wheatland gate for over 30 minutes. Traffic had backed up for nearly a mile. We held out large banners with messages of peace, including the beautiful drone victim quilt, with panels of paintings showing some of the many children who have been murdered by drone warfare.
The large NO DRONES light brigade signs glowed brightly in the night. The vast majority of vehicles respected our blockade without physical confrontation, but several irate motorists forced their way through the vigil. One dragged our drone quilt and other visuals several hundred feet, and put one Veteran For Peace activist, John Reiger, at risk, though luckily he was unharmed. (This led to a length discussion and learning experience for how to deal with confrontational motorists: peacefully let them through).
Not all of us were able to risk arrest, thus we moved aside after Highway patrolman, Dan Yeager, arrived and gave several warnings. It is our deepest hope that in that brief period of the morning, as the war machine was momentarily halted, that maybe a human life in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere was saved. Four of us, Shirley Osgood, Flora Rogers, Michael Kerr and MacGregor Eddy then walked about ½ mile down the road to the waiting military police at the base boundary, McGregor handed over the vigil’s signed letter she had prepared to the base commander demanding a halt in the base participation in the drone wars.
Michael, as a military veteran, told the soldiers he was there to speak on their behalf to condemn the U.S. government for forcing our military personnel to be involved in war crimes against innocent civilians. After waiting over 15 minutes for a representative of the commander, who never came, the four of us walked onto the base and were immediately arrested. We were treated well and were processed out just after 9am to the greetings of many of our fellow vigilers who had braved the cold morning air another 2 hours to support us. We then closed our usual vigil with breakfast, debriefing and planning for future drone resistance at the Brick Coffeehouse in Marysville. We will be back and we hope you will join us the next time.

Highlight of photos:  Many thanks to Janie and Guari and Zohreh for photographing  the day.   

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

T-shirts with the message of Universalism and Peace

$20 to benefit the Social Justice Committee of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists.
To order, contact Committee Chairperson Vic Sadot [] [].
Help promote the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and the Social Justice Committee! Buy and wear an Social Justice T-shirt! We have Purple & Black T-Shirts in Men and Women styles, 100% Cotton, "Made in the USA" at a Union Shop, and produced by Alliance Graphics in Berkeley.
Available at the Hal Carlstad Social Justice Center, Mon-Fri, 1:30 to 5pm, located in the Fireside Room on the 2nd floor of the BFUU Building at 1606 Bonita Ave. in Berkeley.
Visit the BFUU Social Justice page [], like our Facebook page [], and participate in the Berkeley Fellowship Monthly Open Mic every Second Friday, with Sign-up for performers at 6:30pm and performances at 7pm.
We hold our Unitarian Universalist congregation every Sunday, at 10:30am []. We are a dynamic community that presses for Peace and Social Justice, gathering on the First & Third Sundays of the month at 12:30pm in the Benjy Room at 1606 Bonita Ave. in Berkeley, with a "Partners for Justice" program to link up many of the groups that we work with on justice issues. Subscribe to our Rise Up email list by sending a request to [].

Front: "BERKELEY FELLOWSHIP OF UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS" and "Spirituality & Social Justice in the Heart of Berkeley". Back: "HISTORIC FELLOWSHIP HALL - Home of the Social Justice Committee & The Hal Carlstad Social Justice Center" (with our web address), and the "Union Made" symbol.

Left to right: Cynthia Jean Johnson, Vic Sadot, Gene Herman, Carol Ann Amour, and Gail Penso. The photo on the wall above Gene is Hal Carlstad, the late-legendary activist for the Social Justice Committee of the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists and namesake for the justice center founded on June 1, 2012. Photo taken by Katrina Martin.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Solidarity with the Arab People of Palestine!

No matter what is expressed with the name of Palestine, it is true that before the colonization by Europeans in the jurisdictions which together were united later as "Palestine", the Arab people there practiced more than 3 religions in a dynamic multi-culture administered by the Empire of Turkey (until 1919).
During 1948 and afterwards, the Arab people of Palestine, a jurisdiction administered by the British Empire until 1948, were attacked by European immigrants who believed that their religion constituted a contract with their deity that the land of Palestine was theirs despite the Arab people already living there, leading to a massive terrorist campaign which continues to this day...

"Israeli-Ukrainian soldier admits she killed Palestinians on TV"
2013-11-22 by Abir Kopty []:
Video-still showing Elena Zakusilo

Elena Zakusilo, an Ukrainian young women, decided at her young age to leave Ukraine and go to serve in the Israeli military. On November 4th, she participated in Ukrainian TV game show, “Lie detector” The Ukrainian version of “The moment of truth”. Contestants (connected to a truth detector) answer a series of personal and embarrassing questions to receive cash prizes. During the show she reveals horrible information on her military service.
Zakusilo admits killing Palestinians including Palestinian children. She answers the question “did you kill people” with “yes”.. she explains “we had to fire, had to kill, because it was either they [get] us, or we – them.”

Host: Did you happen to shoot at children?
Elena: Yes.
Host: How many people did you kill?
Elena: I don’t know.

She answers another question “are you willing to go back to Israel and continue killing enemies?” with “Yes” too.
Zakusilo justifies killing Palestinian children by repeating the same Israeli propagandists’ mantra of “terrorists”, “their mother sends them to die”. and “for them its normal” to lose their children.
Zakusilo, tells how she received a “Major” ranking in the army and reveals the technology of using dogs in the army’s repression of Palestinians. She was involved in training 150 dogs, sending them to spy into Palestinian villages with a camera and headphones, through which they receive orders from their trainers (to attack for example).
She also admits during the show that she decided to change her family name into a Jewish name so in Israel she would be well treated, as a Jewish, and not Ukrainian.
See below the transcription of the two available videos from the show, done by Inna Michaeli, who helped make this blog post possible. Unfortunately no youtube versions available because Ukrainians use different networks.
Video 1: []
Q: Are the values sacred for you?
A: Yes, family values.

(There are other questions and answers before the next set of questions begin)

Q: Do you consider your fellow colleagues as your real family, and not your parents?
A: Yes

Q: Who are your fellow colleagues?
A: Those with whom I served in the military

Q: Why did you go to the military?
Q from her mother: why are the colleagues considered family and not mom, dad?
A: When I go to friends, fellow colleagues, even the commander, they would accept me the way I am. I could come to him {commander} with any question, yes, he is a man, yes, he is an Israeli, who isn’t used to whining, he is a general, he tells you to go and shoot like this, so you go. But if you come to him and say, just for example, you know, I was walking down the road, and there was a kitten there, ran over by a car, or a person hit, and I feel bad. He will sit with you for an hour to talk, and try to understand why you feel bad.

Q: How many years were you in the military?
A: Six.

Q: Six years. Are you a professional soldier?
A: Yes.

Q: Which military rank did you reach?
A: Major.

Q: You are a major?
A: Yes.

Q: For which achievements did you get the rank of major?
A: For a good training of 150 military dogs that were working on remote control searching for and locating terrorists.

Q: So you prepared 150 dogs for service in the Israeli military?
A: Over the years of service, yes. I was a senior trainer, I can take control of any dog, even the craziest one.

Q: What can your four-legged graduates do?
A [17:20]: The doggy gets a little bag in teeth, it can be a video camera. You give a command, it runs into an Arab village, runs around there like a normal dog, and films what the terrorists are doing. It has an electronic collar, and a camera that hangs on the collar, and the trainer has the remote control, and he, from a distance up to ten kilometres, can watch and give orders to the dog, to attack or not attack. This was developed, it’s a new technology, and animals are trained to use it.

Q: The dog implements the orders based on the reactions it gets?
A: Yes.

Q: through the collar?
A: Yes, there are also headphones, and it can hear the trainer. It hears. Let’s say, the terrorist is running with a weapon, the trainer says “attack!” and the dog holds him until the soldier arrives.

Q: The dog is with headphones?
A: Yes, it’s a new American technology, it exists.

Video 2:  []
Q [first minute, from the start]: Are you hiding from the Ukrainian authorities that you hold the Israeli citizenship?
A: Yes

Q: But you understand that once this show goes on air, it will become known.
A: In worst case, if something happens, I can go back there {Israel}. I even have a different last name, here and there.

Q: Yes? Which last name do you have there?
A: There, I have the family name of my grandfather, Gluzman,

Q: Why is it so?
A: It’s my mom’s middle name, so that they won’t hear there our Ukrainian family name and with the other name {Gluzman}, with Jewish roots, they’d treat differently.

Q [01:54] Do you still work for the Israeli special forces?
A: Yes

Q: I don’t even know what to ask…
A: I’ll explain. In Boryspil {international airport near Kyev} there is an Israeli airline {she possibly means El-Al, the only Israeli airline officially operating in Boryspil Airport}, affiliated with the Israeli embassy, and I escort and receive passengers who arrive there.

Q [2:54] Did you kill people?
A: Yes.
The first time it was a big stress, I remember like now, I threw away the gun and said I won’t go anywhere. {Eventually} I did go.

Q to mother: did you know that your daughter killed people?
A of the mother: I know that she served during the war with Lebanon, and she was in the military, and of course, how can you be in the military without {killing}…
Host: someone…
A of the mother: not someone, apparently those she was fighting with, I think. Let her explain, whom she killed.

Q: The day when Yasef {Yaser} Arafat died, there was a massive riot by Arabs. They were shooting at the unit, I saw that there were hits, I saw ..head.. . They always told us to shoot in the air, at the feet, and [...] the soldiers understand that if you keep shooting like that, you will be gone. So we had to fire, had to kill, because it was either they [get] us, or we – them. I can’t say I’m proud of that. It’s scary, especially when children run with Molotov cocktails, and they send children, to turn the attention to them, little kid, barely walking, 3-4 years old…

Q: But children are too…
A: Explode…? {Completes his sentence} They, suicide bombers explode in the trains… They, the terrorists, have a known tariff, an adult terrorist worth 30,000 dollars, a child – 50,000. The Hamasniks paid to the Arabs. And mothers say – so what, we can give birth to five more.

Q: Wait, so the mother sent her child…?
A: For them it’s normal, for them it’s normal, yes.

Q: And for that she gets…money…?
A: For them it’s normal, yes. For the terrorists it is, yes. They, the terrorists, change the cartoons for the children, and show them in their way, in their language Tom and Jerry, Tom are those who run around and try to hit with the hammer, and Jerry is the people who save their life somehow, and already in the children’s consciousness they understand that it’s normal, that this is how it should be. The good Muslims, say that the shahids are not Muslims, they are just fanatics.

Q [6:22]: Did you happen to shoot at children?
A: Yes.

Q: How many people did you kill?
A: I don’t know.

Q: So in order not to have to move in to live with your parents, are you willing to go back to Israel and continue killing enemies?
A: Yes.

NOTE: In case the videos were removed from the program website, like they were on the VK page of the program, I have retained copies of the videos in my archive.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Solidarity with the Arab People of Yemen!

"'Why you kill my family?' Civilian Yemeni drone victims call US to account"
2013-11-18 from []:
Yemen is one of the hardest-hit targets of America's deadly drone campaign. But despite President Obama's promise of more transparency, relatively little is known about who is actually being killed there. RT's Lucy Kafanov was able to reach one Yemeni village, where a community has been devastated by the effects of drone strikes.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The long road towards ILO–compliant Labour and Trade Union Laws in Iraq

Solidarity with the Arab People of Iraq! [link]
Iraqi workers need good laws now! [link] (Petition published 2013-11-14)

2013-11-14 text and photographs from "IndustriALL Global Union" []:
Erbil in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq was the venue for the latest discussions between unions and Iraqi parliamentarians and the Ministry of Labour regarding the ongoing struggle for acceptable Labour Laws in Iraq. The struggle continues!

High level delegations from five confederations in Iraq and the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) met together with representatives of ILO-ACTRAV, ITUC, IndustriALL Global Union and the International Transport Federation (ITF) over five days. The meetings were supported and coordinated by ACILS-SC as the latest part of an extensive program aimed at achieving ILO-compliant Labour legislation throughout the country. On the first day the trade union delegation met alone to prepare their negotiating positions and a further meeting on the final day allowed the next stages of the on-going campaign to be considered and an action plan produced.

A government delegation, including senior officials from the Ministry of Labour as well as the Labour Committee of the Iraqi Parliament, attended the three central days and extensive discussions of a draft Labour Law and a series of different draft Trade Union laws took place. Draft trade union laws had been prepared by the ministry, the shura council and the parliament as well as a fully ILO-compliant version produced by the trade unions with the help of their international partners.
Discussions were wide-ranging and goodwill expressed by all sides with a general view from all that future laws should meet international standards and conventions and be ILO-compliant. However there was no unanimity over what this required in practice.
With regard to the Labour Law a draft version, largely ILO-compliant, was discussed with minor alterations suggested. Such a law however would not apply in the public sector where workers and employees are covered by civil service legislation which in some areas is preferred by the workforce in question.
Consequently the proposals are for a separate law regarding trade unions and freedom of association and it was here that the discussions were more contentious. There was agreement that the two laws needed to proceed through parliament in parallel. A clear bottom line for the unions is that such a trade union law must apply to workers and employees throughout what is classified in Iraq as the public sector (over 80% of the economy) and it must also recognize the present day reality of trade union pluralism. The old laws of the Saddam Hussein era, presently used against trade union organisation, need to be consigned to the dustbin of history and a new era of respect for trade union rights begun.

President Yassin of KUWU opens

IFOU's Abdullah Jabber

Falah Alwan of FWCUI & IFOU's Abdullah Jabber

Parliamentary spokesman SALIH AL-ASADI

Iraqi Parliament and Ministry of Labour delegation 

Iraqi workers need good laws now!

Solidarity with the Arab People of Iraq! [link]

Sign the petition "Iraqi workers need good laws now!" at []!
Text of petition to:
Mr Osama Al-Nujaifi
Speaker of the Parliament
Mr Yonadam Kanna
Chairman of Parliament Committee of Labour and Social Affairs

Dear Sirs,
As you are aware, Iraqi trade unions jointly submitted detailed amendments to the draft labour law last year and this year a comprehensive proposal for a new trade union law that we believe is consistent with international standards. We strongly urge the Parliament to move forward on the basis of the input from the trade unions, as well as the ILO, to ensure that any new legal framework affords workers their rights under international law – including the conventions that Iraq has already ratified. Further, it is critical that the labour law and trade union law move together. We fear that considering the laws separately could lead to the passage of the Labour Law, but without political will to return to and adopt the Trade Union law. In that tragic case, the 1987 law would remain in force, divesting the majority of Iraqi workers of their fundamental rights. Finally, we would urge that any final draft of either law be made available to the trade unions for a final review and comments before any action is taken.
Parliament has an historic opportunity to ensure that workers and trade unions in Iraq are finally able to exercise their rights. We strongly urge you to move forward on the basis of our recommendations above. The ITUC and IndustriALL are prepared to offer your any necessary technical assistance in this effort.

2013-11-14 text and photographs from "IndustriALL Global Union" []:
For the past 10 years unions in Iraq have mobilized and campaigned for the government to pass a new labour and trade union law. Today, the 1987 Saddam Hussein-era laws remain in effect and are actively enforced. They prevent unions from carrying out normal union activity.
Despite the repression, Iraqi workers have managed to form their own unions and in recent years six Iraqi affiliates representing workers in our industries have joined IndustriALL Global Union. In an effort to coordinate and consolidate forces, these unions came together in Baghdad, July 10, 2013 and created a new IndustriALL Global Union National Council. This is an important step towards a united struggle for new trade union legislation. Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan was present at the founding meeting.
We strongly support our affiliates’ demands that the Iraqi government respects the rights to form and join unions in both the private and public sectors as well as the right to free assembly and demonstration. It is essential that a fair and just ILO-compliant labour and trade union law that respects workers’ rights is enacted as a matter of urgency.
In Iraq, roughly 80% of all industries are in the public sector. It is appalling that Saddam was brought down but his notorious Public Law 150 banning all trade union activity in the public sector, remains in force and Iraq is still without a legal framework for industrial relations that meets ILO standards. Iraqi Labour legislation, as presently enforced, denies unions and their members basic rights.
While in Iraq, Kemal Özkan also met with Mr Osama Al-nujaifi, Speaker of Iraqi Parliament, Mr Nassar Al-Rubuiee, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, and Mr Kanna Yonadam, Chair of Labour and Social Affairs Committee at the Parliament, discussing the current legislation. IndustriALL made it clear that the new law must cover the public sector. Legislation should also make it easier to form a union by ensuring that requirements follow ILO norms and standards – trade unions must be allowed to determine and establish their own democratic structures, and the law must provide effective guarantees against interference in the trade union movement’s activities by government and employers.
“Our mission was very timely”, says IndustriALL’s Kemal Özkan: "If the trade union legislation is not adopted now, nobody knows when the next opportunity will be, and we cannot wait years and years for this."
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: "For 25 years, the vast majority of Iraqi workers have been deprived of the fundamental right to freedom of association. After repeated promises over the years to amend the trade union law, the Iraqi parliament finally appears poised to do so. However, most recent drafts reflect a failure of political will to address the major flaws of the Hussein-era legislation, including to extend the legal right to freedom of association to the vast public sector. This is unacceptable. We urge the parliament not to squander this opportunity to at last bring its laws into line with international standards."

With this is mind IndustriALL Global Union, in cooperation with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), is launching this campaign. Use the online petition linked to this article to write to the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament and the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Social Affairs. Register your urgent support for a new labour law that respects workers’ fundamental rights.

AGS Ozkan meets Iraqi Speaker of the Parliament

AGS Ozkan meets Iraqi Minister of Labour

Iraqi Parliament and Ministry of Labour delegation at Erbilik

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Solidarity with families of victims of USA drone strikes within Pakistan

Tribesmen from Waziristan protest against US drone attacks, outside Pakistan's parliament in Islamabad, in 2010. Photograph: T Mughal/EPA

"Wounds of Waziristan": Exclusive Broadcast of New Film on Pakistanis Haunted by U.S. Drone War" 
2013-11-04 from "Democracy Now!" []:
The Pakistani government is warning of a new rift with the United States after a CIA drone strike that killed the head of the Pakistani Taliban. Hakimullah Mehsud and six other militants died on Friday when U.S. missiles hit their vehicle in North Waziristan. Mehsud had a $5 million bounty on his head and was accused of responsibility for thousands of deaths. The attack came just as the Pakistani government had relaunched peace talks with the Taliban. In a broadcast exclusive, we air a documentary that highlights the stories of civilians directly impacted by drone attacks in Pakistan: "Wounds of Waziristan," directed by Madiha Tahir. "Waziristan is only half the size of New Jersey. How would it feel if bombs rained over New Jersey for nine years?" asks Tahir in the film. "Would you be frightened? If they killed your son, your cousin or your husband, and got away with it, would you be angry? You probably couldn’t forget about it if you tried. You’d be haunted."
Transcript (This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form).

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a new film called Wounds of Waziristan. It’s by Pakistani-American journalist Madiha Tahir. Madiha traveled to Northwest Pakistan to interview people affected by the U.S. drone war. Today we air the film in a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There’s a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties and non-governmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in every war. And for the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me and those in my chain of command, those deaths will haunt us as long as we live.

MADIHA TAHIR: What does it mean to be haunted by loss?

[translated] How is your brother’s condition?

SADDAM HUSSEIN: [translated] When he’s alone, he doesn’t do well. He’s OK when he is with someone. He remembers his baby girl a lot. She was his love.

MADIHA TAHIR: So the story isn’t so much about the dead. It’s the way they haunt the living, the way they linger, the way they hang on.

The U.S. began bombing Pakistan in 2004. Now it’s nine years later, and the American conversation on drone attacks is only just beginning.

I’ve lived most of my life moving between America and Pakistan. One sees itself as the center of the world, and the other is on the margins. But Waziristan, where most of the drones attack, is at the margins of that margin. Like so many Americans and Pakistanis, I knew very little about the place.

Waziristan is part of what’s called the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA. It’s in Pakistan, and it borders Afghanistan. And it has been bombed before, nearly a hundred years ago by the British when they occupied India. The British used the tribal areas as a buffer zone. They bombed it to suppress rebellion. They called it "air policing." They said there was no law here, so force was necessary.

Waziristan is only a day’s drive from the capital, but checkpoints dot the border. No one can go there independently. Pakistan’s security forces have killed many people here. The insurgents have, too. And now the American drones are doing the killing.

When it comes to language, nobody describes the insurgents—or the Pakistani military’s tactics—as precise. But that very word, "precise," is often thrown around in discussions about the American drone program. These attacks are described as "neat," "surgical" tactics in precision-based warfare. They seem to suggest that killing can be like surgery. You can take out the bad without disturbing the good. No consequences for anyone. No sorrow. No loss. They promise a death that isn’t a death at all. And that’s why drones are becoming acceptable among Americans as a way to kill in Yemen, in Somalia and in Pakistan.

And Waziristan? Waziristan is made to seem a world away.

So how could I be haunted by what I didn’t know? Ghosts can only haunt if we feel their presence. And the dead can only persist if the living can recall them.

Karim first made that world real to me. I met him in 2011. Here’s me playing a radio story I had done about him.

... Pakistan since 2004. They’re controlled by the CIA, and they’re supposed to be secret. The U.S. doesn’t confirm or deny the strikes, and it generally doesn’t release information on who’s been killed. But the local and international media do report on the attacks.

KARIM KHAN: [translated] In 2009, my home was attacked by a drone. My brother and son were martyred. My son’s name was Hafiz Zaenullah. My brother’s name was Asif Iqbal. There was a third person who was a stone mason. He was a Pakistani. His name was Khaliq Dad.

Their coffins were lying next to each other in the house. Their bodies were covered with wounds. Later, I found some of their fingers in the rubble.

As you know, my son had memorized the Qur’an. He was a security guard at the girls’ school, and he was studying for grade 10. My brother had a master’s degree in English. He was a government employee. He loved to debate, but he was so short, he didn’t reach the dais, so they wouldn’t give him many chances to make speeches.

MADIHA TAHIR: I met Saddam a couple of years later. He’s a school-going teenager with a shy smile and a quiet, apologetic demeanor.

SADDAM HUSSEIN: Yaar, sorry.


The attack just missed him. He was sleeping next door.

But when he talks about the attack, he’s completely serious.

SADDAM HUSSEIN: [translated] It happened at 9:00 p.m. On my home.

MADIHA TAHIR: [translated] On your home?

SADDAM HUSSEIN: [translated] Yes.


SADDAM HUSSEIN: [translated] My sister-in-law and my niece were martyred. When the attack happened, my mother told me to get my sister-in-law. I told her, "OK, you go. I’ll get her." I already knew she was martyred, but I didn’t want to tell my mother, because she would cry.

After the attack, my brother came home. He asked about his baby daughter. I told him she was alive. But he found out. He went into shock. We took him to the hospital. They gave him an IV. After some days, we sent him to a hospital in Peshawar. The doctor there prescribed some medication. That helped him a little.

MADIHA TAHIR: This is Pakistan. And this is America. What if someone brought death to your hometown? That’s Waziristan. And that’s New Jersey. It’s where I grew up. We moved there after a military dictator began destroying Pakistani society. The events that would force my family out would also wound Waziristan.

GEN. MUHAMMAD ZIA-UL-HAQ: [translated] The government of Mr. Bhutto has ceased to exist. The whole country is under martial law. National and provincial assemblies have been dissolved.

MADIHA TAHIR: That man was General Zia-ul-Haq. Those were the 1980s. Pakistan’s tribal areas were being used as a staging ground for the American war against the Soviet Union.

PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: We have with us six of the Afghanistan freedom fighters. There’s a man here whose wife was killed in front of their two children. Another one has lost his brother in the tunnel.

MADIHA TAHIR: They’re still losing brothers. Waziristan is only half the size of New Jersey. How would it feel if bombs rained over New Jersey for nine years? Would you be frightened? If they killed your son, your cousin or your husband, and got away with it, would you be angry? You probably couldn’t forget about it if you tried. You’d be haunted.

The British thought you were all savages. Now the Americans think you’re all militants.

AMY GOODMAN: Chris Woods, can you talk more about the redefinition of "civilians" outlined in The New York Times piece, President Obama embracing this disputed measure of counting civilian casualties, in effect counting all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants?

CHRIS WOODS: This revelation really is extraordinary, that any adult male killed in effectively a defined kill zone is a terrorist, unless posthumously proven otherwise.

ALYONA MINKOVSKI: U.S. drone strike that’s killed eight alleged militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

LI DONGNING: A U.S. drone strike on suspected Islamist militants in Northwest Pakistan has killed at least 10 people there.

ERIN BURNETT: Five al-Qaeda militants were killed in a U.S. drone attack.

NIC ROBERTSON: Three U.S. drone strikes have killed five suspected al-Qaeda militants.

ZAKKA JACOB: At least 45 suspected militants have been killed by missiles launched by U.S. drone aircraft.

BILL O’REILLY: Now they’re looking around like this.

KEVIN OWEN: An airstrike on Sunday killed five alleged militants.

BILL O’REILLY: What we do now is we find out someone having a Big Mac in Islamabad, they’re out of here.

UNIDENTIFIED: These reports of these alleged deaths of children and innocent civilian casualties, in general, are complete rubbish.

MADIHA TAHIR: That’s Javeria’s [phon.] funeral photo. She was less than a year old. The photos of many of the people living in the tribal areas don’t exist, so local journalists began to take photos to document their deaths. Their deaths would have to stand in for their lives.

NOOR BEHRAM: [translated] Around seven children were martyred in this attack. It also struck a home. Twenty-one people were killed in this attack—seven women and three children. When I arrived, there were bodies everywhere. This child was killed in that attack, too. There were one or two other kids, as well.

MADIHA TAHIR: This is Shahzad Akbar. He’s Karim’s lawyer. They’ve filed a case against drone attacks in Pakistani courts. He told me why it’s difficult to narrate his clients’ lives for the court and the media.

SHAHZAD AKBAR: For example, you know, when I have a client and we want—OK, this was a person who was killed, so we’d like to construct his life on photographs. You know, you have family photos and—of when he was young, when he was in school, when he was in teens and when he grew up—in all those photos. They’re missing. They’re not there, because, you know, you don’t have the culture of taking pictures for that matter.

NOOR BEHRAM: [translated] This attack was in South Waziristan. When I got there, I saw body parts—hands, feet. When a drone attack happens, the media claims to know how many terrorists were killed. Actually, you only find body parts on the scene, so people can’t tell how many have died. That’s why the media reports it incorrectly.

KARIM KHAN: [translated] Our Pakistani government thinks of itself as a front line in this war. They only visit after an attack to check if they’ve destroyed us completely and to see if the body is in pieces or intact. That’s all.

MADIHA TAHIR: I asked Saifullah Khan Mehsud to explain the Pakistani government’s relationship to the tribal areas. Saifullah Khan is a researcher at the FATA Research Center. He’s from South Waziristan himself.

SAIFULLAH KHAN MEHSUD: FATA is like Federally Administered Tribal Areas. I mean, it’s governed by an archaic law that was introduced by British in that area, known as the Frontier Crime Regulation Act. So it’s still that system whereby, you know, the president—the governor, on behalf of the president, appoints a political, you know, agent in that area. The office of the political agent basically has all the judicial and legislative—legislative, the executive and the judicial power, you know, in his hands, in the hands of the political agent. So, you know, there is absolutely no accountability. If a political agent, you know, kind of comes up and makes a decision, a judicial decision or any kind of decision, there is no other authority, no body there available which can actually hold him accountable.

MADIHA TAHIR: People in the tribal areas call this colonial-era system "the black laws." Under these laws, people living in the tribal areas didn’t even get the right to vote 'til 1996. So the "tribal areas" are a political category, a place haunted by its past. It just means a place where colonial laws still exist, and the Pakistani constitution doesn't apply, a place with at least four different kinds of security forces, from militias to the army. The Pakistani state still claims there is no law here, so force is necessary. It means a place that’s kept invisible.

And that’s been to the advantage of the U.S. and the Pakistani army. America has paid billions to the Pakistani security forces. Together, they have used Pakistan, and especially Waziristan. During the Cold War, it was to battle communism and to fund and train the mujahideen.

REPORTER: ... entering Afghanistan, this is the source which is potentially the most damaging. This is a training camp for Afghan guerrillas, or mujahideen. These camps aren’t supposed to exist on Pakistan’s soil, a contradiction which is circumvented, not very neatly, by the technical point that they are in an area only partly controlled by Pakistan—the tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan.

MADIHA TAHIR: Now, it’s to support the U.S. as it occupies Afghanistan. So, America, the Pakistani security forces and the insurgents they’ve created, they’re linked. And for decades they’ve been destroying Waziristan together. And now America is just blowing the place up. The reason? They say there’s no law here, and force is necessary.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So neither conventional military action nor waiting for attacks to occur offers moral safe harbor, and neither does a sole reliance on law enforcement in territories that have no functioning police or security services, and indeed have no functioning law.

KARIM KHAN: [translated] You asked me a question about terrorism. Can I ask you one? What is the definition of "terrorism" or "terrorist"?

MADIHA TAHIR: [translated] I don’t know. What do you think it is?

KARIM KHAN: [translated] I think there is no bigger terrorist than Obama or Bush, those who have weaponry like drones, who drop bombs on us while we are in our homes. There are no greater terrorists than them.

MADIHA TAHIR: [translated] Did you play with her?

SADDAM HUSSEIN: [translated] Yes. She had just learned to say "Dad." She used to say, "Dad, Dad." But now she’s been martyred.

They circle overhead, seven or eight of them.

MADIHA TAHIR: [translated] You mean in a week?

SADDAM HUSSEIN: [translated] No, no! I mean daily. They fly very low at night. It’s very stressful. A lot of people lose their minds. They go to Peshawar for treatment. When they come near, I go into my room and close the door to shut out the noise. I don’t like the sound at all.

MADIHA TAHIR: Noor Behram had showed me the photos of the dead. But I wanted to understand how they come to haunt the living. I spoke with Dr. Javed Akhtar. He’s a psychiatrist. Lots of people who suffer from the violence in Waziristan come to him. He didn’t want to appear on camera, but he told me about how the bombing impacts people.

DR. JAVED AKHTAR: [translated] The suddenness of a drone attack and its impact—the things that are happening here now, and especially the drone attacks—they happen completely out of the blue. Within a second your world is turned upside down. You can’t hug a body that’s been blown apart. You can’t hold him and cry. So the neighbor or brother or sister or wife of the dead, she doesn’t know what to do. Whom can she hold near? She doesn’t get closure.

MADIHA TAHIR: So what does it mean to be haunted by loss?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred throughout conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, but as commander-in-chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives.

MADIHA TAHIR: There is no escape for the haunted. There are no alternatives for the haunted. The loss lingers. The sorrow persists. In a haunted land, the dead do not exist among the living. The living exist among the dead.

SADDAM HUSSEIN: [translated] I feel guilty about being alive. My sister-in-law is dead. Why am I alive? I should be dead, too. That would be good. I wish I had also been martyred that day. Death would have been better than this kind of life.

MADIHA TAHIR: [translated] Why do you say that?

SADDAM HUSSEIN: [translated] I say it because I’m sick of drone attacks. I’m tired of innocent people being martyred. That’s why I don’t like my life anymore. I study, but I’m not really interested in it anymore. When I hear a drone has attacked, I feel ill all day.

KARIM KHAN: [translated] Even if we are afraid, what can we do? Run away and leave our homes and land? No, that can’t happen.

AMY GOODMAN: The new film, Wounds of Waziristan, directed and narrated by Pakistani-American journalist Madiha Tahir. Democracy Now! media fellow Messiah Rhodes co-produced and edited the film. This has been a Democracy Now! broadcast exclusive. You can watch the film online at, tell your friends, share on Facebook and Twitter. You can also watch our interview with a Pakistani family whose grandmother was killed in a U.S. drone strike. Her two grandchildren, eight-year-old Nabila and 12-year-old Zubair—at the time, those were their ages—were wounded in the attack. They joined us in our studio last Thursday after becoming the first drone victims to testify before Congress. You can tune into Democracy Now! on Tuesday, when we’ll be joined by three-time Academy Award-winning director and screenwriter, Oliver Stone, joins us for the hour to talk about the Untold History of the United States.

"Congressional No-Show at 'Heart-Breaking' Drone Survivor Hearing In "historic" briefing, Rehman family gives heartbreaking account of drone killing of 65-year-old grandmother... to five lawmakers"
2013-10-29 by Lauren McCauley []:
Despite being heralded as the first time in history that U.S. lawmakers would hear directly from the survivors of a U.S. drone strike, only five elected officials chose to attend the congressional briefing that took place Tuesday.
Pakistani schoolteacher Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children—9 year-old daughter Nabila and 13 year-old son Zubair—came to Washington, DC to give their account of a U.S. drone attack that killed Rafiq's mother, Momina Bibi, and injured the two children in the remote tribal region of North Waziristan last October.
The Rehman family waits to testify at the Congressional Briefing on drone strikes Tuesday, October 29. (Photo: @akneerudh/ Twitter)

According to journalist Anjali Kamat, who was present and tweeting live during the hearing, the only lawmakers to attend the briefing organized by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), were Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.).
Before the handful of reporters and scant lawmakers, however, Rafiq and his children gave dramatic testimony which reportedly caused the translator to break down into tears.
In her testimony, Nabila shared that she was picking okra with her grandmother when the U.S. missile struck and both children described how they used to play outside but are now too afraid.
Nabila Rehman, 9, holds up a picture she drew depicting the US drone strike on her Pakistan village which killed her grandmother. (Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters)

"I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. Drones don't fly when sky is grey," said Zubair, whose leg was injured by shrapnel during the strike.
“My grandmother was nobody’s enemy," he added.
"Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day," Rafiq wrote in an open letter to President Barack Obama last week. "The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother's house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed – a 65-year-old grandmother of nine."
"But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this," Rafiq continued. "No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable."
He concluded, "Quite simply, nobody seems to care."
You can watch a recording of the briefing below and here []:
The purpose of the briefing, Grayson told the Guardian [], is "simply to get people to start to think through the implications of killing hundreds of people ordered by the president, or worse, unelected and unidentifiable bureaucrats within the Department of Defense without any declaration of war."
The family was joined by their legal representative Jennifer Gibson of the UK human rights organization Reprieve. Their Islamabad-based lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, was also supposed to be present but was denied a visa by the US authorities—"a recurring problem," according to Reprieve [], "since he began representing civilian victims of drone strikes in 2011."
"The onus is now on President Obama and his Administration to bring this war out of the shadows and to give answers," said Gibson.
Also present was U.S. filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who first met Rafiq when he traveled to Pakistan to interview the drone strike victims for his documentary Unmanned: America's Drone Wars []. Before the briefing, Greenwald told the Guardian that he hoped the briefing "will begin the process of demanding investigation. Innocent people are being killed."
The following clip from Unmanned was shown at Tuesday's hearing []:

"Please tell me, Mr President, why a US drone assassinated my mother... Momina Bibi was a 67-year-old grandmother and midwife from Waziristan. Yet President Obama tells us drones target terrorists"
2013-10-25 by Rafiq ur Rehman from "" []:
The last time I saw my mother, Momina Bibi, was the evening before Eid al-Adha. She was preparing my children's clothing and showing them how to make sewaiyaan, a traditional sweet made of milk. She always used to say: the joy of Eid is the excitement it brings to the children.
Last year, she never had that experience. The next day, 24 October 2012, she was dead, killed by a US drone that rained fire down upon her as she tended her garden [].
Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day. The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother's house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed – a 67-year-old grandmother of nine.
My three children – 13-year-old Zubair, nine-year-old Nabila and five-year-old Asma – were playing nearby when their grandmother was killed. All of them were injured and rushed to hospitals. Were these children the "militants" the news reports spoke of? Or perhaps, it was my brother's children? They, too, were there. They are aged three, seven, 12, 14, 15 and 17 years old. The eldest four had just returned from a day at school, not long before the missile struck.
But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this. No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable. Quite simply, nobody seems to care.
I care, though. And so does my family and my community. We want to understand why a 67-year-old grandmother posed a threat to one of the most powerful countries in the world. We want to understand how nine children, some playing in the field, some just returned from school, could possibly have threatened the safety of those living a continent and an ocean away.
Most importantly, we want to understand why President Obama, when asked whom drones are killing, says they are killing terrorists. My mother was not a terrorist. My children are not terrorists. Nobody in our family is a terrorist.
My mother was a midwife, the only midwife in our village. She delivered hundreds of babies in our community. Now families have no one to help them.
And my father? He is a retired school principal. He spent his life educating children, something that my community needs far more than bombs. Bombs create only hatred in the hearts of people. And that hatred and anger breeds more terrorism. But education – education can help a country prosper.
I, too, am a teacher. I was teaching in my local primary school on the day my mother was killed. I came home to find not the joys of Eid, but my children in the hospital and a coffin containing only pieces of my mother.
Our family has not been the same since that drone strike. Our home has turned into hell. The small children scream in the night and cannot sleep. They cry until dawn.
Several of the children have had to have multiple surgeries. This has cost money we no longer have, since the missiles also killed our livestock. We have been forced to borrow from friends; money we cannot repay. We then use the money to pay a doctor, a doctor who removes from the children's bodies the metal gifts the US gave them that day.
Drone strikes are not like other battles where innocent people are accidentally killed. Drone strikes target people before they kill them. The United States decides to kill someone, a person they only know from a video. A person who is not given a chance to say – I am not a terrorist. The US chose to kill my mother.
Several US congressmen invited me to come to Washington, DC to share my story with members of Congress. I hope by telling my story, America may finally begin to understand the true impact of its drone program and who is on the other end of drone strikes.
I want Americans to know about my mother. And I hope, maybe, I might get an answer to just one question: why?
• Editor's note: Momina Bibi's age when she died was originally given in the body text and standfirst as 65; this was amended to 67 at 1.30pm (ET) on 25 October