How the Crisis in Syria is being exploited by the West

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Recently, there was an attack in the northwestern Idlib province of Syria. The mainstream media has dubbed this a chemical gas attack launched by the Assad regime. The Assad regime has denied involvement in any chemical weapons attacks, noting that the Syrian army does not even possess such weapons. At least 70 people were killed and 557 wounded. Regardless of who was responsible, it is clear that this was a truly devastating and inhumane sequence of events, and there is no excuse for it.

However, as per usual, the Western narrative is exploiting this atrocity by using it as an excuse to justify further U.S. military intervention in Syria. Commander and Chief Donald J. Trump, who campaigned on ending the ceaseless U.S. meddling and “nation-building” overseas has, of course, changed his position on the matter in favor of intervention. It has been confirmed that Trump has already approved a military strike on a Syrian airbase.

Let me make one thing abundantly clear: this article is not an attempt to make excuses for the Assad regime, nor that of Russia’s and any airstrikes launched or civilian death tolls resulting from either of their military action in the region. This article was written with the interests of the Syrian people in mind, for they are the true victims in this conflict.

The mainstream media is not telling giving us the full story here. There are things they are deliberately covering up, to suit their own interests. There are things they don’t want you to know.

In order to have a clear view on everything, we should first reflect upon the events leading up to this point. Think back to 2013, do the words Syria and Assad ring a bell at all? That’s because it was the year of the devastating sarin gas attack launched against the Syrians, which the mainstream media immediately blamed the Assad regime for. Then-President Barack Obama became insistent that the U.S. intervene in the conflict by responding with airstrikes, which was met with harsh backlash by a leery public, sick and tired of perpetual war. It later came to light that the Assad regime was in fact not responsible for these attacks, but rather the ‘moderate Syrian rebels’ which were backed, armed and funded by the U.S. and NATO.

These ‘rebel’ groups have explicit ties with terrorist groups such as ISIS as well as al-Qaeda’s ‘al-Nusra Front’ branch in Syria, whom the U.S. presumes to be fighting despite taking effective measures to empower them, both by arming and funding their friends and doing things like bombing a Syrian army base and leaving it to be claimed by ISIS.

These are the very same groups that have been empowered by the U.S. as a result of the power vacuums we left after invading countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan and attempting to enforce a regime change. See, what the mainstream media always fails to address is the pivotal role we have played in orchestrating the crisis which we propose to resolve.

Think back to Saddam Hussein, the man we accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction, none of which were ever found. How many people actually believe the reasons given for why the U.S. invaded Iraq? It would seem the vast majority of people would agree that they were brazenly lied to. The economic motives, such as oil and the interests of the military industrial complex, are no secret.

The same thing the West has done to Iraq and Afghanistan, they are trying to do in Syria. For years they have been arming and funding terror proxy groups in the region and demonizing Assad with the intention with implementing regime change. This is not because they genuinely care about the liberty or welfare of the Syrian people, this is motivated by the very same greed and conquest that played a part in all of the previous wars we’ve started.

Moving on, evidence has surfaced that the recent ‘chemical weapons’ attack was actually a routine airstrike launched by the Syrian army that occurred in a rebel-held area where chemical weapons were stashed. So in other words, the Syrian army launched airstrikes in an area containing both civilians and chemical weapons covertly sold to terrorists inadvertently backed by the West. And, as usual, both sides are shrugging off responsibility.

Do you see what’s going on, here? How the media twists the story to protect our strategic interests? This is not to say the Assad regime should be absolved of blame for the attacks by any means. Both the Assad regime and Russia should be held accountable for any and all civilian casualties that occur on their watch. That being said, so should the U.S.

Ask yourself, why is the media so selective about the atrocities it chooses to report on? Where is the media when the U.S. launches deadly airstrikes in Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Libya or Somalia? Where is the media when the U.S.-Saudi coalition kills thousands of innocents in Yemen? Where was the media when the Israeli army used chemical weapons that we sold them against civilians in the besieged Gaza strip?

Don’t buy it, people. Don’t feed into the mainstream narrative. Think for yourself. Do your own research. Most importantly, don’t let them use this as an excuse for more war. If there is a revolution in Syria, let it be by and for the people of Syria, not a coup for the interests of terrorists or imperialists.

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How the Crisis in Syria is being exploited by the West

Remembering Rachel Corrie

 

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Today marks the 14th anniversary of the death of American peace activist Rachel Corrie, who was fatally crushed by a Caterpillar D9R bulldozer (paid for with US taxes) while participating in a demonstration in Gaza with 7 other International Solidarity Movement  activists who were attempting to halt the demolition of innocent Palestinian families homes and the expansion of Israeli settlements. For those of you who are new to this topic, Israeli settlements are residential areas built by Israel in occupied Palestinian territory, with security often provided by the IDF. These settlements are illegal under international law and violate the 4th Geneva Convention, which outlines protection for civilians in the midst of war and conflict, and strictly forbids states from transferring citizens from their states to occupied land. Despite this, Israel has been taking this exact course of action for decades since occupying the West Bank in The 1967 War. On Sunday, March 16th 2003, Rachel and her comrades confronted the drivers of two bulldozers who were in the process of demolishing a family’s home. Rachel’s presence was made abundantly clear, as she was wearing a bright orange fluorescent jacket and holding a megaphone. Eye-witness and fellow ISM activist Joseph Smith states the following:

Still wearing her fluorescent jacket, she knelt down at least 15 meters in front of the bulldozer, and began waving her arms and shouting, just as activists had successfully done dozens of times that day…. When it got so close that it was moving the earth beneath her, she climbed onto the pile of rubble being pushed by the bulldozer…. Her head and upper torso were above the bulldozer’s blade, and the bulldozer operator and co-operator could clearly see her. Despite this, the operator continued forward, which caused her to fall back, out of view of the driver. He continued forward, and she tried to scoot back, but was quickly pulled underneath the bulldozer. We ran towards him, and waved our arms and shouted; one activist with the megaphone. But the bulldozer operator continued forward, until Corrie was all the way underneath the central section of the bulldozer.”

ISM Statement

 

Below are some excerpts from the International Solidarity Movement’s official statement on the incident. Read the full statement here.

Rachel was in Rafah volunteering for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a Palestinian-led movement of both Palestinians and internationals working together for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Rachel and the ISM have chosen nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles to resist the daily brutality of Israel’s 36-year-old military occupation and its ongoing and illegal land confiscation and settlement of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

“In its attempts to sweep responsibility for the incident under the carpet, the Israeli government has undertaken efforts to discredit Rachel, and to blame her and her colleagues for her death. Reports from the other seven ISM volunteers who witnessed the event and what is plainly obvious from photographs taken at the scene — before and after — make it incredible to assert that Rachel’s death was an “accident”. Following her crushing by the bulldozer, an Israeli tank came near the fallen activist and her friends, and then backed off. At no point did the Israeli forces offer any assistance. The Israeli government typically blames its victims for their fate. In the pages of the international media Palestinians whose homes are destroyed or who die trying to protect them are reflexively called “terrorists” or “terrorist supporters”. Rachel was not Palestinian and therefore was hard to label a “terrorist”, but nevertheless, Rachel was blamed for her own death. In addition, Rachel was accused of “protecting terrorists”, even though the home she died protecting was that of a Palestinian medical doctor.”

“When she was killed, Rachel was engaging in what is typically a relatively low-risk action, serving as an international monitor to an ongoing, blatant abuse of international human rights law and confronting a soldier in the process of committing an act of violence against an unarmed, nonviolent Palestinian family.”

 

Photos

 


The Electric Intifada 
provides us with this photo timeline breakdown of the incident:

Picture taken between 3:00-4:00PM, 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Rachel Corrie (L) and Nick (R) oppose the potential destruction of this home (to the west of the Doctor’s home where Rachel was killed). In the instance pictured, the bulldozer did not stop and Rachel was pinned between the scooped earth and the fence behind her. On this occasion, the driver stopped before seriously injuring her. Photo by Joseph Smith (ISM Handout).

Picture taken between 3:00-4:00PM on 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. A clearly marked Rachel Corrie, holding a megaphone, confronts the driver of one of two Israeli bulldozers in the area that were attempting to demolish a Palestinian homes. She was confronting the bulldozer in order to disrupt its work, and prevent it from threatening any homes. Photo by Joseph Smith. (ISM Handout).

Picture taken at 4:45PM on 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Other peace activists tend to Rachel after she was fatally injured by the driver of the Israeli bulldozer (in background). This photo was taken seconds after the bulldozer driver dragged his blade over her for the second time while reversingback over her body. He lifted the blade as seen in the photo only after he had dragged it back over Rachel’s body. This image clearly shows that had he lifted his blade at any time he may have avoided killing her, as the bottom section of the bulldozer is raised off the ground. Photo by Richard Purssell. (ISM Handout)

Picture taken at 4:47PM on 16 March 2003, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Rachel Corrie lies on the ground fatally injured by the Israeli bulldozer driver. Rachel’s fellow activists have dug her a little out of the sand and are trying to keep her neck straight due to spinal injury. Photo by Joseph Smith. (ISM Handout)

Rachel in Najjar hostpital, Rafah, Occupied Gaza. Rachel arrived in the emergency room at 5:05PM and doctors scrambled to save her. By 5:20PM, she was gone. Ha’aretz newspaper reported that Dr. Ali Musa, a doctor at Al-Najjar, stated that the cause of death was “skull and chest fractures”. (Mohammad Al-Moghair)

 

Her Early Life

 

It would seem that Rachel Corrie has always had a compassionate heart, with strong will and desire to change the world. Shared below is a direct quote and video from an elementary school press conference which Rachel Corrie attended and prepared a speech for at only 10 years of age in the fifth grade.

 

“I’m here for other children.
I’m here because I care.
I’m here because children everywhere are suffering and because forty thousand people die each day from hunger.
I’m here because those people are mostly children.
We have got to understand that the poor are all around us and we are ignoring them.
We have got to understand that these deaths are preventable.
We have got to understand that people in third world countries think and care and smile and cry just like us.
We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs.
We have got to understand that they are us. We are them.
My dream is to stop hunger by the year 2000.
My dream is to give the poor a chance.
My dream is to save the 40,000 people who die each day.
My dream can and will come true if we all look into the future and see the light that shines there.
If we ignore hunger, that light will go out.
If we all help and work together, it will grow and burn free with the potential of tomorrow.”

 

Her E-Mails

 

It is clear that Rachel had a genuine passion for peace and justice. She never gave up, and she lived her life to the fullest. And though she died young, her death was not in vain. As someone who was willing to sacrifice her own life in order to draw attention to the suffering of others, she has impacted the hearts and minds of activists worldwide. The last thing that I would like to share with you is one of the five e-mails recovered that Rachel sent out to her friends and family during her time in Palestine. I would encourage you to read all of them in full,  you can do so here.

February 7th, 2003

Hi friends and family, and others,

I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don’t know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I’m not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me – Ali – or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me, “Kaif Sharon?” “Kaif Bush?” and they laugh when I say, “Bush Majnoon”, “Sharon Majnoon” back in my limited arabic. (How is Sharon? How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.) Of course this isn’t quite what I believe, and some of the adults who have the English correct me: “Bush mish Majnoon” … Bush is a businessman. Today I tried to learn to say, “Bush is a tool,” but I don’t think it translated quite right. But anyway, there are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago.

Nevertheless, no amount of reading, attendance at conferences, documentary viewing and word of mouth could have prepared me for the reality of the situation here. You just can’t imagine it unless you see it – and even then you are always well aware that your experience of it is not at all the reality: what with the difficulties the Israeli army would face if they shot an unarmed US citizen, and with the fact that I have money to buy water when the army destroys wells, and the fact, of course, that I have the option of leaving. Nobody in my family has been shot, driving in their car, by a rocket launcher from a tower at the end of a major street in my hometown. I have a home. I am allowed to go see the ocean. Ostensibly it is still quite difficult for me to be held for months or years on end without a trial (this because I am a white US citizen, as opposed to so many others). When I leave for school or work I can be relatively certain that there will not be a heavily armed soldier waiting halfway between Mud Bay and downtown Olympia at a checkpoint with the power to decide whether I can go about my business, and whether I can get home again when I’m done. So, if I feel outrage at arriving and entering briefly and incompletely into the world in which these children exist, I wonder conversely about how it would be for them to arrive in my world.

They know that children in the United States don’t usually have their parents shot and they know they sometimes get to see the ocean. But once you have seen the ocean and lived in a silent place, where water is taken for granted and not stolen in the night by bulldozers, and once you have spent an evening when you haven’t wondered if the walls of your home might suddenly fall inward waking you from your sleep, and once you’ve met people who have never lost anyone˜once you have experienced the reality of a world that isn’t surrounded by murderous towers, tanks, armed “settlements” and now a giant metal wall, I wonder if you can forgive the world for all the years of your childhood spent existing—just existing—in resistance to the constant stranglehold of the world’s fourth largest military—backed by the world’s only superpower—in it’s attempt to erase you from your home. That is something I wonder about these children. I wonder what would happen if they really knew. As an afterthought to all this rambling, I am in Rafah: a city of about 140,000 people, approximately 60% of whom are refugees – many of whom are twice or three times refugees. Rafah existed prior to 1948, but most of the people here are themselves or are descendants of people who were relocated here from their homes in historic Palestine—now Israel. Rafah was split in half when the Sinai returned to Egypt.

Currently, the Israeli army is building a fourteen-meter-high wall between Rafah in Palestine and the border, carving a no-mans land from the houses along the border. Six hundred and two homes have been completely bulldozed according to the Rafah Popular Refugee Committee. The number of homes that have been partially destroyed is greater. Rafah existed prior to 1948, but most of the people here are themselves or are descendants of people who were relocated here from their homes in historic Palestine—now Israel. Rafah was split in half when the Sinai returned to Egypt.

Currently, the Israeli army is building a fourteen-meter-high wall between Rafah in Palestine and the border, carving a no-mans land from the houses along the border. Six hundred and two homes have been completely bulldozed according to the Rafah Popular Refugee Committee. The number of homes that have been partially destroyed is greater. Today, as I walked on top of the rubble where homes once stood, Egyptian soldiers called to me from the other side of the border, “Go! Go!” because a tank was coming. And then waving and “What’s your name?”. Something disturbing about this friendly curiosity. It reminded me of how much, to some degree, we are all kids curious about other kids. Egyptian kids shouting at strange women wandering into the path of tanks. Palestinian kids shot from the tanks when they peak out from behind walls to see what’s going on. International kids standing in front of tanks with banners. Israeli kids in the tanks anonymously – occasionally shouting and also occasionally waving – many forced to be here, many just agressive – shooting into the houses as we wander away.

In addition to the constant presence of tanks along the border and in the western region between Rafah and settlements along the coast, there are more IDF towers here than I can count—along the horizon, at the end of streets. Some just army green metal. Others these strange spiral staircases draped in some kind of netting to make the activity within anonymous. Some hidden, just beneath the horizon of buildings. A new one went up the other day in the time it took us to do laundry and to cross town twice to hang banners.
Despite the fact that some of the areas nearest the border are the original Rafah with families who have lived on this land for at least a century, only the 1948 camps in the center of the city are Palestinian controlled areas under Oslo. But as far as I can tell, there are few if any places that are not within the sights of some tower or another. Certainly there is no place invulnerable to apache helicopters or to the cameras of invisible drones we hear buzzing over the city for hours at a time.

I’ve been having trouble accessing news about the outside world here, but I hear an escalation of war on Iraq is inevitable. There is a great deal of concern here about the “reoccupation of Gaza”. Gaza is reoccupied every day to various extents but I think the fear is that the tanks will enter all the streets and remain here instead of entering some of the streets and then withdrawing after some hours or days to observe and shoot from the edges of the communities. If people aren’t already thinking about the consequences of this war for the people of the entire region then I hope you will start. I also hope you’ll come here. We’ve been wavering between five and six internationals. The neighborhoods that have asked us for some form of presence are Yibna, Tel El Sultan, Hi Salam, Brazil, Block J, Zorob, and Block O. There is also need for constant nighttime presence at a well on the outskirts of Rafah since the Israeli army destroyed the two largest wells.

According to the municipal water office the wells destroyed last week provided half of Rafah’s water supply. Many of the communities have requested internationals to be present at night to attempt to shield houses from further demolition. After about ten p.m. it is very difficult to move at night because the Israeli army treats anyone in the streets as resistance and shoots at them. So clearly we are too few.

I continue to believe that my home, Olympia, could gain a lot and offer a lot by deciding to make a commitment to Rafah in the form of a sister-community relationship. Some teachers and children’s groups have expressed interest in e-mail exchanges, but this is only the tip of the iceberg of solidarity work that might be done.

Many people want their voices to be heard, and I think we need to use some of our privilege as internationals to get those voices heard directly in the US, rather than through the filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself. I am just beginning to learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage, about the ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist against all odds.

Thanks for the news I’ve been getting from friends in the US. I just read a report back from a friend who organized a peace group in Shelton, Washington, and was able to be part of a delegation to the large January 18th protest in Washington DC.

People here watch the media, and they told me again today that there have been large protests in the United States and “problems for the government” in the UK. So thanks for allowing me to not feel like a complete Polyanna when I tentatively tell people here that many people in the United States do not support the policies of our government, and that we are learning from global examples how to resist.

My love to everyone. My love to my mom. My love to smooch. My love to fg and barnhair and sesamees and Lincoln School. My love to Olympia.

Rachel

 

Remembering Rachel Corrie

Why Michael Bennett is boycotting the NFL trip to Israel

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Recently it was announced that a delegation of NFL players would be taking a trip to Israel as part of a joint initiative launched by the Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry and Tourism Ministry. The group of players are scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday to do a week long tour of Israel which will include visits to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The delegation is also set to participate in an exhibition game against Israel’s national team in Jerusalem on Saturday, February 18th.

“There is great importance to the visit of a delegation of NFL stars to Israel,” stated Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, “I’m sure that this visit will be a great experience for them and that it will give them a balanced picture of Israel opposite the deceptive campaign being waged against Israel across the world. The players will show their tens of millions of fans the true face of Israel. We are leading a campaign against the delegitimization of Israel and part of this campaign is to arrange visits of celebrities in different fields, including sports.”

One of the NFL players on this delegation was Michael Bennett, who announced in a tweet on Thursday that he would be boycotting the trip. On Friday, he released an open letter on Twitter explaining why he refused to participate.

Bennett explained that, in the words of a government official, the intended purpose of this trip was to make every member of this delegation an “influencer and opinion-former” and an “ambassador of goodwill” for Israel.

He went on to say that he refused to “be used in such a manner,” and that when he does decide to visit the Holy Land, it will not only be to see Israel but also to visit the West Bank and Gaza so that he may see how “the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives.”

Bennett told readers that one of his personal heroes was Muhammad Ali, who always stood with the Palestinian people, often visiting refugee camps and attending rallies in solidarity with Palestine.

Read the full text below.

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[Pictured] Michael Bennet’s open letter regarding his refusal to go to Israel, released on Twitter.

Michael Bennett’s words appear to have influenced fellow NFL player Kenny Stills, who retweeted Bennett’s post soon after with the caption, “Couldn’t have said it any better. I’m in!”

This news came in the wake of an open letter that was released by a coalition of athlete-activists which urged the NFL players to boycott the trip to Israel, published by The Nation.

It also came in the wake of a recent Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which killed 2 civilians and injured at least 8 others. These airstrikes were said to have been in response to attempted rocket fire in the southern city of Sderot, which failed to harm anyone.

 

Why Michael Bennett is boycotting the NFL trip to Israel

While everyone was talking about the Superbowl, Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip

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Today as thousands of people were ranting on social media about Lady Gaga’s ‘dazzling’ half-time performance at the Superbowl and the New England Patriot’s ‘thrilling victory’ over the Falcons, the Israeli army was launching airstrikes and tank shellings in one of the most densely populated places on earth – i.e. the Gaza Strip.

According to the AFP news agency, two Hamas outposts were targeted by Israeli tank fire as air strikes struck targets in northern Gaza. Later on in the day, Gaza City was hit by at least five airstrikes, while another strike hit the southern city of Khan Yunis.

The attacks are said to have injured at least three civilians in Gaza, according to Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry.

 

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[Pictured] An airstrike launched by the Israeli military captured by the AFP news agency.
Hamas spokesman Abdulatif al-Qanou stated in a press statement that the movement holds Israel responsible for the current escalation taking place in the Gaza Strip,

“The occupation is trying to export its internal corruption crisis to the Gaza Strip. Therefore,” he said, “the role of the ‘Palestinian resistance’ is to defend our people from this aggression.”

Two days later, Palestinian civilians Hussam Hamid al-Sufi, aged 24, and Muhammad Anwar al-Aqraa, aged 38, were martyred during an airstrike in Rafah as five other civilians were injured.

شهيدان و 5 جرحى في غارة "إسرائيلية" جنوب رفح
[Pictured] The bodies of Palestinian martyrs Hussam Hamid al-Sufi from the town of Rafah, and Muhammad Anwar al-Aqraa, a resident of Gaza city.
The occupational army has claimed that these airstrikes were in response to an attempted rocket attack in the Ashkelon region in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, which failed to harm anyone.

The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights has expressed concern that the Israeli military may be leading up to another wide-scale military offensive in Gaza.

During Israel’s last major offensive in the Gaza strip in 2014, known as Operation “Protective Edge,” over 2,100 Palestinian civilians were killed – at least 500 of those civilians were children, and nearly 300 were women. The Palestinian Ministry of Health states that 11,100 Palestinians were wounded, including 3,374 children, 2,088 women, and 410 elderly. Studies show that over 160,000 children are estimated to need continuous psychological support following the 2014 hostilities.

While everyone was talking about the Superbowl, Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip

U.S. Launches First Drone Strikes Under Trump Administration

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The first drone strikes under Trump’s watch occurred last weekend in the city of al-Bayda in Yemen.

The Pentagon recently confirmed that it launched three separate drone strikes on Friday, Saturday and Sunday against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen; specifically, al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch known as ‘al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula’ (AQAP).

“AQAP remains a significant threat to the region and the United States. Al-Qaeda’s presence has a destabilizing effect on Yemen and it’s using the unrest in Yemen to provide a haven from which to plan future attacks against the U.S. and its interests,” stated Navy Captain Jeff Davis in a press briefing on Monday.

The drone strikes reportedly killed five al-Qaeda operatives in central Yemen. Reports regarding civilian casualties have yet to surface.

Studies have shown that nearly 90% of U.S. drone strike victims are not the intended target. Former drone pilot veterans have gone on record to state that these drone strikes are “aiding terrorist recruitment,” thus undermining the program’s intended goal of eliminating such threats. These whistle-blowers have witnessed drone operators regularly referring to children as “fun-sized terrorists,” and likening killing them to “cutting the grass before it grows too long.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, U.S. drone strikes in Yemen have killed a total of 848 people, including over 100 children, and injuring 132 civilians. Drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 2,499 and 4,001 people, including 207 children, and injuring 1,744 civilians. Drone strikes have killed between 2,276 and 2,998 people in Afghanistan, including 181 children, injuring 339 civilians.

U.S. Launches First Drone Strikes Under Trump Administration

Israeli Knesset Voting to Legitimize illegal Israeli Settlements

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A bill that would essentially legitimize land theft by retroactively ‘legalizing’ thousands of illegal Israeli settlements built on private Palestinian land recently passed its first round of voting in the Israeli Knesset on Wednesday, November 16th, and is expected to pass the next two rounds as well.

This bill has been condemned by the international community, which includes the United Nations envoy for the Middle East peace process and the US, Nickolay Mladenov, who has repeatedly called for an end to the continued construction of such settlements.

This legislation “has the objective of protecting illegal settlements built on private Palestinian property in the West Bank,” stated Nickolay Mladenov in a report by The Guardian, “It is a very worrying initiative. I encourage Israeli legislators to reconsider such a move, which would have far-reaching legal consequences across the occupied West Bank.”

The bill was put to the vote in three versions, all of which included a clause legalizing existing settlements that were built illegally, such as the controversial Amona settlement, which was set to be evacuated by December 25th.

The first version of the bill passed the first reading by 58 votes to 50; the second version by 57-52 and the third by 58 to 51.

This legislation is so controversial, even factions within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition have opposed it – including Natanyahu himself.

“There is no precedent, nothing like it, in which the Israeli government authorized a law that allows taking land from private people,” stated opposition leader Isaac Herzog, chairman of the Israeli Labor Party.

While this bill may have garnered some criticism, others are praising the bill as a milestone for Israel’s agenda. Israeli far-right leader Naftali Bennett celebrates what he is calling a “historic day” that could deal a final blow to any talk of a two-state solution, and “spearhead the extension of [Israeli] sovereignty.”

This bill presents yet another massive obstacle in continuing the already lagging efforts for a peace agreement between Israel and occupied Palestine, and seems to completely dismiss the idea of a viable “two-state solution.”

In a clear violation of international law, this legislation would grant legitimacy to 55 illegal outposts, including well over 4,000 housing units built illegally on Palestinian land, effectively swallowing up over half of the territory in the West Bank in a clear effort to continue the colonization of Palestine with no legal repercussions.

Israeli Knesset Voting to Legitimize illegal Israeli Settlements

ETP Openly States it will IGNORE the Army Corps of Engineers Statement and Continue Drilling

US-ENVIRONMENT-PROTEST
Native Americans march to the site of a sacred burial ground that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s protest of the oil pipeline slated to cross the nearby Missouri River, September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant yesterday when they arrived at the site to protest after learning of the bulldozing work. / AFP / ROBYN BECK

Yesterday The People of Standing Rock erupted in celebration, dancing and cheering as news broke out that the Army Corps of Engineers would deny Energy Transfer Partners easement to continue construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline under Lake Oahe in North Dakota.

However, perhaps they were a bit too hasty to celebrate the death of the Black Snake, as critics warn that the denial of said easement would not halt construction of the pipeline altogether, but simply delay it.

Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company of Dakota Access, has released the following statement:

“For more than three years now, Dakota Access Pipeline has done nothing but play by the rules. The Army Corps of Engineers agrees, and has said so publicly and in federal court filings. The Corps’ review process and its decisions have been ratified by two federal courts. The Army Corps confirmed this again today when it stated its “policy decision” does “not alter the Army’s position that the Corps’ prior reviews and actions have comported with legal requirements.”

In spite of consistently stating at every turn that the permit for the crossing of the Missouri River at Lake Oahegranted in July 2016, comported with all legal requirements, including the use of an environmental assessment, rather than an environmental impact statement, the Army Corps now seeks to engage in additional review and analysis of alternative locations for the pipeline.

The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.

As stated all along, ETP and SXL are fully committed to ensuring that this vital project is brought to completion and fully expect to complete construction of the pipeline without any additional rerouting in and around Lake Oahe. Nothing this Administration has done today changes that in any way.”

In other words: ETP intends to complete this project, regardless of what the Army Corps of Engineers says.

Politicians, of course, have also been working to undermine the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision. North Dakota Congressman Kevin Cramer excoriated the Army Corps’ statement, stating the following:

“I hoped even a lawless president wouldn’t continue to ignore the rule of law. However, it was becoming increasingly clear he was punting this issue down the road.  Today’s unfortunate decision sends a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country. Roads, bridges, transmission lines, pipelines, wind farms and water lines will be very difficult, if not impossible, to build when criminal behavior is rewarded this way. In my conversation with Assistant Secretary of the Army Jo-Ellen Darcy today, she was unable to give any legal reasons for the decision and could not answer any questions about rerouting the pipeline. I’m encouraged we will restore law and order next month when we get a President who will not thumb his nose at the rule of law. I feel badly for the Corps of Engineers because of the diligent work it did on this project, only to have their Commander-in-Chief throw them under the bus. But he’s been doing that to the military for eight years, so why not one more time on his way out the door.”

“It’s long past time that a decision is made on the easement going under Lake Oahe. This administration’s delay in taking action — after I’ve pushed the White House, Army Corps, and other federal agencies for months to make a decision — means that today’s move doesn’t actually bring finality to the project. The pipeline still remains in limbo. The incoming administration already stated its support for the project and the courts have already stated twice that it appeared the Corps followed the required process in considering the permit. For the next month and a half, nothing about this project will change. For the immediate future, the safety of residents, protesters, law enforcement, and workers remains my top priority as it should for everyone involved. As some of the protesters have become increasingly violent and unlawful, and as North Dakota’s winter has already arrived – with a blizzard raging last week through the area where protesters are located — I’m hoping now that protesters will act responsibly to avoid endangering their health and safety, and move off of the Corps land north of the Cannonball River.”

Stated Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.

It would appear that the announcement by the Army Corps was little more than a false hope the the people of Standing Rock, as the struggle to protect the water supply of the Nation’s First People continues to rage on.

ETP Openly States it will IGNORE the Army Corps of Engineers Statement and Continue Drilling