| US to reopen 18 of 19 embassies closed amid security concerns!

U.S. to reopen 18 of 19 embassies closed amid security concerns ~ Reuters.

(Reuters) – Eighteen of the 19 U.S. embassies closed this month due to worries about potential terrorist attacks will reopen on Sunday, the U.S. State Department said on Friday.

“Our embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed because of ongoing concerns about a threat stream indicating the potential for terrorist attacks emanating from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

The United States will also keep its consulate in Lahore, Pakistan, shuttered, Psaki said, adding it closed on Thursday due to a “separate credible threat.”

On August 2, the U.S. shut the 19 embassies in the Middle East, saying it had picked up information through surveillance and other means about unspecified terrorist threats.

A worldwide alert said that al Qaeda could be planning attacks in the Middle East and North Africa.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government this week warned its citizens to avoid traveling to Pakistan, while some American diplomats from Yemen were evacuated and U.S. nationals were told to leave the country immediately.

President Barack Obama, during a White House press conference, declined to comment on reports of drone strikes in Pakistan that targeted militants in that country.

The State Department did not indicate when its facilities in Sanaa and Lahore might reopen, saying it will continue to evaluate the “threats.”

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Eric Walsh)




| Rationalising regime-change: Failed states are a western myth!

Failed states are a western myth ~

The concept of the failed state is meaningless. It was invented as a rationale to impose US interests on less powerful nations.

A boy walks past a bullet-scarred building in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a.

A boy walks past a bullet-scarred building in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. ‘Rejected by scholars, the idea of the failed state has found a home within the noisy space of shallow political punditry that forms much of the national conversation.’ Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA

In the same week that the investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill spoke of the need for the US to “take a humility pill”, we’ve been subjected to precisely the opposite – yet another instalment of Foreign Policy magazine‘s annual Failed States Index, complete with accompanying “postcards from hell” purporting to show what it’s like “living on the edge in the world’s worst places”.

Quibbling with the many bizarre claims of the index is tempting (Kenya is “less stable” than Syria, we learn), but in the end such gripes only give credibility to this tedious yearly exercise in faux-empirical cultural bigotry. For anyone interested in actually finding out about places such as Yemen or Uganda, the index is probably the last place you’d want to go. But what’s more interesting, and more helpful in understanding what the index really does, is to grasp that the very concept of the “failed state” comes with its own story.

The organisation that produces the index, the Fund for Peace, is the kind of outfit John le Carré thinks we should all be having nightmares about. Its director, JJ Messner (who puts together the list), is a former lobbyist for the private military industry. None of the raw data behind the index is made public. So why on earth would an organisation like this want to keep the idea of the failed state prominent in public discourse?

The main reason is that the concept of the failed state has never existed outside a programme for western intervention. It has always been a way of constructing a rationale for imposing US interests on less powerful nations.

Luckily, we can pinpoint exactly where it all began – right down to the words on the page. The failed state was invented in late 1992 by Gerald Helman and Steven Ratner, two US state department employees, in an article in – you guessed it – Foreign Policy, suggestively entitled Saving failed states. With the end of the cold war, they argued, “a disturbing new phenomenon is emerging: the failed nation state, utterly incapable of sustaining itself as a member of the international community”. And with that, the beast was born.

What followed in the essay was a grumpy version of the history of the “third world” after 1945, in which Helman and Ratner lamented that the claims of “self-determination” made by colonised peoples had ever been established as a major principle for organising international affairs. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Helman and Ratner argued, the time for fripperies such as state sovereignty for third world nations was over. What these failed states needed was the ever-benign “guardianship” of the western world. We westerners would keep hold of our sovereignty, of course; they would make do with something called “survivability” instead, and be grateful for it.

Helman and Ratner’s piece elaborates on a well-known, but not much read, UN report by then general secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali, which had come out a few months earlier. In his Agenda for Peace, Boutros-Ghali recommended an expanded role for the UN in resolving international crises, but insisted that state sovereignty remain an inviolable principle. This was pretty much the opposite of what Helman and Ratner wanted, but if they insisted that they were in full agreement with him, then who’s to quarrel with that?

Back in the 90s, few political scientists showed any interest in the concept of failed states, and binned it on arrival. The problem was that it didn’t offer any insight as a mode of analysis: a civil war is a civil war. A famine is a famine. A political crisis is a political crisis. A failed state is just rhetoric without a substantial theoretical or historical basis.

Rejected by scholars, the idea of the failed state has instead found a home within the noisy space of shallow political punditry that forms much of the national conversation. Foreign Policy offered it something of a second life by publishing its annual index from 2005 onwards, at a time when the unfolding disaster of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, both of which had been justified as “humanitarian interventions”, was painfully clear.

Unsurprisingly, given that the term was custom made to advocate for precisely such interference by the US overseas, the term also made an appearance in the literature drafted between 2001 and 2005 that created the new international norm of the responsibility to protect (R2P), a doctrine whose application by the international community so far can best be described as highly selective.

There’s nothing empirical or objective about the Failed States Index, however many “stability” metrics they try to squash together. It doesn’t much matter where a particular country shows up in a given year. Putting history in a league table is plainly absurd, and – when it boils down to it – the index argues the same thing every year: that the US should be a kind of global regulator to which the rest of the world must submit.

It offers a version of the world to the American public that bears no relation to reality, but works very well as a way of rationalising overseas interventions past and present.


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| US covert drone programme ‘violates children’s rights under International Law,’ says new report!

US covert drone programme ‘violates children’s rights under international law,’ says new report. ~ Katie TaylorReprieve.

A new report focusing on the impact on children of America’s covert drone programme finds that it violates a range of their rights as established under international law.

Documented instances of the killing of children, strikes on schools, and attacks on rescuers mean that the programme – which is intended to target ‘militants’ as part of the ‘War on Terror’ – violates three of the UN Security Council’s Six Grave Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict, the report finds.

The drone programme – which uses robotic aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles outside of declared warzones in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen – also “violates a range of rights enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” including the rights to life, health and education.

The report emphasises the wider impact on children’s health and educational opportunities when the missiles hit key infrastructure such as schools or hospitals, noting that “Beyond the direct injuring and maiming of children, arguably the most egregious violation of children’s right to health through the U.S.’ drone program is the targeting and striking of health facilities”.

It also stresses the risk of psychological damage, finding that “the constant, terrorizing presence of drones overhead traumatizes whole populations of children. Testimonies from community members as disparate as Pakistan and Yemen have led researchers to one conclusion: the U.S. drone program is having a profound and possibly irreversible
psychological effect on children.”

The three Grave Violations Against Children in Armed Conflict identified by the report – entitled ‘Drones: No Safe Place for Children,’ and produced by human rights charity Reprieve – are:

  • Killing and maiming of children
  • Attacks on schools
  • Denial of humanitarian access (through ‘double-tap’ strikes on rescuers)

The Rights of the Child violated by the programme include:

Commenting, the report’s author, Katie Taylor said: “Children make up nearly half of the population of the communities targeted by drones. These children did not choose to engage with the ‘war on terror’; rather, the US brought that war to them. This continues to have a profound effect on every aspect of children’s day-to-day lives. The US must fulfil its obligations under international law as it pertains to the protection of children and ensure that the impact on communities is not irreversible.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 7791 755 415 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. The report can be found on Reprieve’s website.

3. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.




| US Drone attacks ‘traumatising a generation of children!’

Drone attacks ‘traumatising a generation of children’ ~  Channel 4 News.

Drone attacks are causing serious psychological harm to children in Yemen, an expert reports, and may also be pushing young men into the arms of al-Qaeda.

A psychological expert reports that a whole generation of children is being traumatised by the use of drone warfare in Yemen (picture: Reuters)

Dr Peter Schaapveld, a clinical and forensic psychologist, was reporting his findings from a trip to Yemen in February, in which he assessed the psychological impact of drone strikes on those communities hit by the unmanned aerial weapons.

Speaking near the Houses of Parliament on Monday, Dr Schaapveld said the “most disturbing” finding from the psychological clinics, over three days in the southern Yemeni area of Adan, was the impact on children.

He said the appearance of the children he saw was of “hollowed-out shells of children” who looked “sullen” and had “lost their spark”.

‘Her dreams are of dead people’

He gave the example of eight-year-old Yasmin (not her real name), who was next door to a house targeted in a presumed drone strike.

“Her father said that she vomits every day, and also when she hears aircraft, or drones, or anything related,” said Dr Schaapveld. “She said, in her own words, ‘I am scared of those things because they throw missiles.'”.

They breed animosity and tear apart the fabric of some of the poorest and disenfranchised communities in the world.Kat Craig, Reprieve

Dr Schaapveld also said the girl suffered from nightmares. “She has been waking terrified from her sleep,” he said. “She points to the ceiling and says ‘people there want me to suffocate’.

“Her dreams are of dead people, planes and people running around scared.”

‘Breeding animosity’

Other effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on children, and in the case of Yasmin, include not wanting to go to school, being unable to form relationships or play with other children, and arguing with siblings.

Kat Craig, legal director at Reprieve, which led the fact-finding mission to Yemen, said: “These findings represent further evidence that drones not only kill innocent civilians, but that their use amounts to a form of psychological torture and collective punishment.

“Children are afraid to go to school and adults are unable to work, socialise or function with any semblance of normality.

We did hear young men say that ‘they are forcing us into the hands of al-Qaeda, what else are we supposed to do?’Dr Peter Schaapveld

“As a result drones abjectly fail to achieve their purported purpose: instead of keeping us safe, they breed animosity and tear apart the fabric of some of the poorest and disenfranchised communities in the world.

“A hellfire missile costs over $60,000 which could be spent building schools and wells. Yemen needs aid and our support, not drones.”

Driven towards al-Qaeda?

Dr Schaapveld said the overriding concerns of the people he saw was for the children in their communities, and for the future of the communities.

He said: “There was one man I recalled as saying “They know where al-Qaeda are – why are they attacking us?'”

“There was concern about what the Yemeni government was doing and why they were letting it happen”.

However, Dr Schaapveld also told Channel 4 News that some of the young men he saw felt they were being driven towards al-Qaeda by the perceived western drone threat.

“We did hear young men say that ‘they are forcing us into the hands of al-Qaeda, what else are we supposed to do?’

“Another young man, 17 years of age, he said prior to this, prior to the strikes: ‘I was very interested in the western culture. Me and my friends followed western fashion, listened to western music and watched western films. Now we have no interest in the west because of what has been done to us.'”

Drones attacks in Yemen are reported to have been responsible for the deaths of 38 to 58 civilians (picture: Reuters)

John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP who chairs the all-party group, said: “I think the use of armed drones is not reducing the amount of terrorism. I think it is maintaining it or maybe even increasing it. We want to have a strategy that achieves peace in the world.”

Psychological abnormality

Dr Schaapveld was invited to Yemen with charity Reprieve, and has reported his findings to the all-party parliamentary group on drones. He held clinics in the Adan region over three days, during which he saw 34 people.

He said that of the 34 people, 28 gave information that he was confident was of “scientific value”. Of those 28, he said 71 per cent were suffering from “full blown” post traumatic stress disorder, that 90 per cent “had symptoms” and that “99 per cent, almost all of them” had psychological abnormalities.”

Research from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggests that there have been a total of between 188 to 220 drone strikes in Yemen.

Though the source of these strikes cannot always be verified, the BIJ says that 41 to 51 of the drone strikes are confirmed US attacks.

In Adan and the neighbouring Abyan province there have been 92 to 110 strikes in total, the BIJ data says, of which 18 to 22 were confirmed US drone strikes which killed 112 to 171 people, 4 to 34 of whom were civilians.

The intensity of drone strikes across Yemen increased in 2012, in which there were 111 to 135 strikes in total, of which 28 to 35 were confirmed US drone strikes. Of all the drone strikes in Yemen in 2012, 491 to 705 people were killed, 38 to 58 of whom were reportedly civilians, and nine of whom were children.

Drone warfare has been most publically observed being used in Pakistan, in the war against al-Qaeda militants.

In January, the UN launched an inquiry into the extent to which drones were causing civilian deaths in a range of countries, including Yemen.

The CIA declined to comment.

More on this story

Recommended Reading



| Droning On: One man is now tweeting every US drone strike known to man!

One Man Is Now Tweeting Every U.S. Drone Strike Known to Man ~ CONNOR SIMPSON,  Open Wire.

Josh Begley set out to tweet a complete history of known U.S. drone strikes Tuesday with the goal of doing it all in ten minutes. Except there were way too many strikes to tweet, so his original plan fell apart pretty quickly.

You might recognize Begley’s name. He is the guy who designed the iPhone app that mapped all the U.S. drone strikes worldwide using publicly available information. Apple removed it multiple times from the App Store this summer. So Begley set out anew to tweet the entire history of drone strikes, spanning over a decade, from an account he created especially for the project, @DroneStream:

Nov 3, 2002: In the first known US targeted assassination using a drone, a CIA Predator struck a car, killing 6 (Yemennews.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/2402479.s…

— Dronestream (@dronestream) December 11, 2012

That was the first one that went up this morning. Each tweet accompanies a corresponding news story reporting the strike. Begley told the Daily Beast that his project is for an NYU graduate class called Narrative Lab. Begley said the effort is “about the way stories are told on new social media platforms.”

The amount of strikes outnumbered the amount of tweets he could properly deliver in ten minutes, so his original plan was foiled:

Alright, I lied. Too many strikes to tweet. @dronestream is going to take a lot longer than 10 minutes.

— Josh Begley (@joshbegley) December 11, 2012

Begley’s little — or not so little — social media experiment is a chilling reminder of the vastness that has been this past decade in morally questionable killing. And, as Begley himself points out, he’s only documenting the strikes we know about, and doesn’t include strikes in Afghanistan. The only strike Begley tweeted not from Pakistan is the one embedded above. And he’s still going. The latest came about fifteen minutes before this went to press, and he doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Begley started about five hours ago.

Forget @SeinfeldToday — if this project doesn’t merit an A, we would love to see one that does.


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| Give Thanks You Weren’t Bombed and Murdered by Americans Because You ARE Americans!

Give Thanks You Weren’t Bombed and Murdered by Americans Because You ARE Americans ~ OpEdNews.

On Thanksgiving, don’t forget to give thanks for being AmericanGive thanks that what is happening in Syria this year, Libya last year, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen in years before, continuing today, and planned to happen in Iran in the immediate future,  cannot happen to you in America because Americans are not about to butcher their own, at least not yet. Give thanks that you and your children, your parents and grandparents were living in the best country in the worldduring the last sixty-three years and not in countries that got bombed like hell for years, for example, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Give thanks that being American, you and yours never had to suffer invasion and bombing like Dominicans, Lebanese, Panamanians, Cubans, S and Grenadines – never had to watch in fear for your family as your government was overthrown in violence covertly initiated by a superpower, like the citizens of Greece, Guatemala, Iran, Chile, Haiti had to suffer.

That you never had to fear for your children being arrested and not heard from again like most Latin Americans under military dictatorships put in by a foreign government more awesomely powerful than the world has ever seen before.

Give thanks never to have witnessed a half million of your countrymen slaughtered in a few weeks as in Indonesia, ordered by an intelligence agency not of your own nation.

Give thanks that your folks were never cruelly enslaved and made to labor in chains – never had your land confiscated – that you are not Mexican forced to look for work in a land that once took half of your country.

Give thanks that your table is full of food while two billion of who you should consider your brothers and sisters, as they happily consider you to be theirs, struggle to put enough in their children’s mouths in order that they might live half as long as you will.

Give thanks that there are no drone aircraft armed with Hellfire and Predator missiles in the sky above as you wonder if there be someone or something frighteningly nearby being targeted by someone looking at a  screen of coordinates a half world away who you cannot assure you mean him no harm.

Give thanks that so far you have not been charged with being implicated in your government’s crimes against humanity for not seeing that all the above mentioned mayhem and mass murdering of millions was not done in your name, for there is a movement afoot to bring down the full force of the law on US crimes against humanity now. Its educational website features the words of famous Americans, the text of pertinent laws and a color-coded country-by-country history of US crimes. click here.

Jay Janson peoples historian activist, musician and writer, who has lived and worked on all the continents and whose articles on media have been published in China, Italy, England and the US, and now resides in New York City.