The U.S.’s ‘successful’ counter-terror campaigns in Somalia and Yemen.

On Wednesday 10th September, Barack Obama made a major foreign policy speech, in which he set out how the U.S. and anyone who cares to tag along plan to ‘degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy’.

As was widely expected, Obama announced that as part of this ‘strategy’, the U.S. will not ‘hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq’. And by ‘action’ he means, of course, bombing.

He compared the newly announced ‘strategy’ for destroying ISIS in Iraq and Syria to the strategy that has been pursued by the U.S. in recent years in Somalia and Yemen, saying that:

This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.

But I just want to take a quick look at how ‘successful’ that strategy has actually been.

In Yemen

According to data collated by the New America Foundation, the first U.S. airstrike in Yemen was carried out in 2002.

However, there were no further strikes in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. It is fair to say, then, that the air war over Yemen properly started in 2009, which was of course Obama’s first full year in office.

Here’s a graphical representation of those strikes from the New America Foundation:

Given that Obama has pointed to Yemen as an example of how air strikes and drone strikes can work to successfully combat ‘terrorism’, you might reasonably expect to see the number of terror attacks being carried out in Yemen steadily decreasing, year on year, between 2009 and 2014.

Well, that’s not quite what’s happened.

Here’s another graph, from the Global Terrorism Database, showing the number of ‘terror’ attacks being committed in Yemen year on year:

As you can see, from 2009 onwards – the year in which Obama escalated air strikes and drone strikes in Yemen – there has actually been a major increase in the number of ‘terrorist’ attacks being carried out within Yemen.

And while correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation, it simply is not tenable to say the ‘strategy’ being pursued by Obama in Yemen has been ‘successful’. If anything, it seems to have been hugely counter-productive.

The air strikes and drone strikes themselves have also, of course, taken a grim toll on Yemeni civilians, and might justifiably be regarded as ‘terrorism’ in their own right.

In Somalia

According to data collated by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there were 14-20 drone or air strikes carried out by the U.S. in Somalia between 2001-2014.

Here’s a table representing those strikes, and the toll they have taken:

Given that Obama has also pointed to Somalia as an example of how air strikes and drone strikes can work to successfully combat ‘terrorism’, you might reasonably expect to see the number of terror attacks being carried out steadily decreasing, year on year, between 2001 and 2014.

But once again, that’s not quite what’s happened.

Here’s another graph, again from the Global Terrorism Database, showing the number of ‘terror’ attacks being committed in Somalia year on year:

So as in Yemen, there has also been a massive increase in the number of ‘terrorist’ attacks being carried out inside Somalia since the onset of the U.S. air strikes and drone strikes. It’s another country in which you would be hard pressed to say that the ‘strategy’ being pursued by the U.S. is anything like ‘successful’.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by what you might call the ‘NatSec’ community, even from individuals operating within the mainstream of it. A few tweets to demonstrate:


If the campaign in Iraq and Syria does develop along the same lines as the campaigns in Yemen and Somalia, then expect to see:

  • A major increase in the number of ‘terrorist’ attacks being carried out within Iraq and Syria, with all that entails for the people of those countries.
  • Civilians being killed, injured, displaced and immiserated directly by U.S. drone and air strikes.

I mean, it’s almost as if the bombing of Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Syria has nothing to do with combating ‘terrorism’ at all, and that this is just the pretext being used to drum up support among the American and wider global publics for the same old grubby resource Imperialism. Almost.

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Report: 11 civilians killed and dozens wounded by U.S. bombing in Afghanistan.

AFP have published an article claiming that:

‘A US air strike in eastern Afghanistan killed 11 civilians, local officials said Wednesday, sparking strong condemnation from President Hamid Karzai who has often criticised the conduct of the NATO forces now leaving the country’.

This is horrific enough in and of itself, but a survivor of the bombing has also given an account which suggests that a so-called ‘double-tap’ strike may have been carried out.

A ‘double-tap’ is a strike where those who come to the aid of the people who were initially bombed are themselves bombed in turn. These strikes have been one of the signatures of the Obama regime, and they are almost certainly criminal, as well as being regarded as terroristic by the U.S. government itself when Official Bad Guys carry them out.

The survivor is quoted as saying that:

‘Four of our villagers were on their way back home from work when airplanes bombed them.

When people went to the area to collect their bodies or take the wounded people to hospital, we were bombed again. Dozens of people, including women and children were killed, or wounded’.

Nor are these kinds of attacks one-offs or isolated incidents.

Amnesty International recently released a report – entitled ‘Left in the Dark’ –  documenting how:

‘Thousands of Afghan civilians have been killed since 2001 by international forces, and thousands more have been injured’, adding that ‘even where the available evidence suggests that killings were unlawful, family members of the victims have no means whatsoever of accessing justice’ –  (p.8)

Or to put it more bluntly, the U.S. are persistently committing war crimes with impunity in Afghanistan, of which this one is just the latest.

But anyway, even as the Obama regime continue to slaughter civilians and commit war crimes with impunity in Afghanistan, at least we can all get behind them as they bid to save civilians and prevent war crimes being committed  in Iraq and Syria.

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Compare and Contrast: Cluster Bomb Usage in Syria, July 2014 Vs September 2014.

Rick Gladstone, writing in The New York Times, July 30th 2014:

‘Cluster bombs, internationally banned weapons that can maim and destroy indiscriminately, not only have been frequently used for the past two years by government forces in the Syrian civil war . .

. . . According to an assessment by Human Rights Watch, a member of the Cluster Munition Coalition, Syrian government forces used the weapons in at least 224 locations, in 10 of Syria’s 14 governorates, from July 2012 to this March, with new indications that their “use is ongoing.” The assessment is incomplete and based partly on remnants recorded by video, Human Rights Watch said, suggesting the actual use may be even more widespread.

Syria’s government has denied the use of cluster munitions in the conflict, which is now in its fourth year. But Ms. Blakemore said that the insurgents fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad did not have the capacity to deploy such weapons‘.

So then, rebels in Syria simply aren’t able to use cluster bombs. No siree! It’s all the work of the Assad regime.

Rick Gladstone, writing in The New York Times, September 1st 2014:

‘The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the extremist militant group now almost universally vilified for atrocities that include boastful beheadings, summary mass executions and enslavement in the areas it aspires to control, also has attacked enemies with cluster bombs, the banned weapons that kill and maim indiscriminately, Human Rights Watch said on Monday.

Stephen Goose, the arms division director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that “credible evidence” had emerged that ISIS forces used ground-fired cluster munitions on July 12 and Aug. 14 during fighting with Kurdish militia members in Aleppo Province near the northern Syrian border with Turkey.

“The use of cluster munitions by nonstate actors such as the Islamic State shows the urgent need for Syria and all nations that have not yet done so to join the ban on cluster munitions and destroy their stockpiles,” Human Rights Watch said in the statement’.

No wait! The rebels do have the capacity to deploy cluster bombs after all, and they are deploying them!  And they were even when we said they weren’t!  Or at least ISIS are!

And how convenient that this new ‘credible evidence’ has come to light just as the U.S. et al are embarking on a long term, overt war in Iraq – and very probably Syria before too long – to be justified by the ISIS ‘threat’.

(Hat-tip to The Angry Arab)

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Jonathan Rugman on Iraq.

On August 8th 2014, the U.S. announced that they had started carrying out air strikes in northern Iraq. The major reason given for this was that the United States couldn’t stand idly by while the Islamic State killed, displaced and persecuted minority groups, with the fate of the Yazidis at the forefront of the justification.

Barack Obama was quoted as saying that:

‘when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye’.

Meanwhile, over the preceding 4 weeks, Israel had been busily massacring circa 2000 people in the Gaza Strip.

The Obama administration’s response to this was to block attempts at the U.N. to hold Israel accountable for war crimes, and to replenish the Israeli military’s arsenal. There were also some mildly critical statements from the U.S. towards Israel, particularly in regards to the bombing of U.N. schools sheltering refugees, but their actions demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that they generally supported and wanted to facilitate the massacre.

Despite this glaring double standard, an awful lot of corporate media reporting has taken Obama at his word. That the U.S. is indeed bombing Iraq to protect Yazidis, that their actions are well intentioned, and that they should be supported to this end.

On Friday 22nd August, The New Statesman published an article by Jonathan Rugman, the foreign correspondent at Channel 4 news, very much along these lines.

Here’s a few brief comments on why I think the article is problematic, and symptomatic of the shallow approach that currently dominates reporting of this conflict.


‘Britain and the US veered from over-intervening in Iraq to neglecting it’.

An illegal invasion, predicated on blatant lies and half-truths, which lead to 500’000+ excess deaths and millions of displacements, is here airily dismissed by Rugman as ‘over-intervening’.

Within that phrase lie a multitude of sins, from the disproportionate and indiscriminate attack on Fallujah; to the systematic torture at Abu Ghraib; to the massacre at Haditha; to the use of fire bombs, cluster bombs and white phosphorous; to the general disregard for Iraqi lives inherent among their supposed liberators and now saviours.

This history is surely important in judging whether the U.S./U.K. can in any way be trusted to act in a humane and ethical manner in Iraq, but is airbrushed out entirely by Rugman.

The people primarily responsible for instigating the current carnage in Iraq are then accused of ‘neglecting’ it (that it might be a good thing if the U.S./U.K. et al left Iraq alone apparently doesn’t occur to Rugman).

It is ‘our’ duty and ‘our’ prerogative to ‘intervene’ – although perhaps the porridge has to be at just the right temperature . .  .


‘Now, there’s the inevitable talk of “mission creep” and being “sucked in” but at least we are trying to find a middle way: surveillance, arming the Kurds, air strikes, using special forces for whom discretion is the better part of valour’.

An interesting use of the word ‘we’ here, if only because it makes clear Rugman self-identifies as being on the same side as the people currently bombing Iraq.


‘Intervention came too late for 100,000 Assyrian Christians abandoning some of Christendom’s earliest outposts. And too late for the vast majority of Yazidis – but at least their exodus caught the world’s attention’.

A lot of reporting currently coming out of Iraq reads like the persecution of minority groups is a fairly recent development, including the above sentence. But this is far from being the case.

Amnesty International reported in 2011, for example, that:

‘Within weeks of the US-led invasion in 2003, members of religious and ethnic minority communities were targeted for violent attack, including abductions and killings’.

Human Rights Watch reported in 2009 how:

‘Minorities in Iraq find themselves in an increasingly precarious position as the Arab-dominated central government and the Kurdistan Regional Government vie for control of the disputed territories . . . Iraqi Christians, Yazidis, and Shabaks have suffered extensively since 2003 . . . Iraqi authorities, both Arab and Kurdish, need to rein in security forces, extremists and vigilante groups to send a message that minorities cannot be attacked with impunity’.

Nor is the ‘exodus’ of minority groups anything new. As Amnesty International again reported in 2008:

‘The displacement crisis caused by the US-led invasion of Iraq and the subsequent internal armed conflict has reached shocking proportions. Millions of people at risk – Sunni and Shi’a Muslims, Christians, Mandean-Sabeans, Palestinians and others – have fled their homes and most are now struggling to survive . . .

. . . the world’s governments have done little or nothing to help, failing both in their moral duty and in their legal obligation to share responsibility for displaced people wherever they are. Apathy towards the crisis has been the overwhelming response’.

As these reports make clear, the persecution and mass displacement of minority groups in Iraq was actually exacerbated by ‘intervention’ – namely the 2003 invasion – and the current phase of it is just a continuation of that.

Rugman arguing that ‘intervention has come too late’ to save minority groups in Iraq is, in a sense, a reversal of the truth: U.S./U.K. ‘Intervention’ in Iraq has been a major cause of the problem, rather than any kind of solution to it.

By neglecting to mention this history, Rugman is once again omitting some crucial context.


‘My reporting rarely changes anything but maybe the first pictures broadcast on Channel 4 News of desperate Yazidi refugees trapped on Mount Sinjar helped prick the conscience of reluctant policymakers. Anyway, that’s what I like to think’.

I’m sure that is what Rugman likes to think. But it is highly likely that the U.S. would have ‘intervened’ with or without his reporting. And i’m not sure that the ‘intervention’ is in any way motivated by the ‘consciences’ of the people planning it and executing it, ‘pricked’ or not.

It might – and I stress might there –  be more accurate to say that Rugman’s reporting has helped drum up public support for such an ‘intervention’, by highlighting the plight of the Yazidis, but stripping it of the historical context and critical commentary that might cause people to think twice about U.S./U.K. military ‘intervention’ as a solution.

What’s more, as someone who has followed events in Iraq fairly closely for years, I don’t remember much media clamour to ‘save’ Iraqi minorities during the U.S./U.K. occupation years, or much concern about their well being, even though their problems were just as grave.  As an issue it was covered, but it was never treated as pressing or urgent.

‘Apathy towards the crisis’ was ‘the overwhelming response’, as Amnesty International put it (just as now, as we speak, there is general media apathy about the ongoing ‘hidden but horrific humanitarian and human rights crisis’ currently afflicting Afghanistan).

A cynic might say that this is because expressing concern about the plight of minority groups in Iraq wasn’t politically expedient back then (when ‘the surge’ was supposedly working, and a corner was being turned, and all of that palava).

It is politically expedient now though, as a pretext for the U.S., U.K. et al to ‘intervene’ in Iraq once again, for what are likely amoral economic and geo-strategic reasons.

But correspondents like Rugman apparently want us to believe that the same States which showed near total apathy towards the plight of displaced and persecuted Iraqi minority groups circa 2007 and 2008 – and which have killed Iraqis in such huge numbers since 1990 – now all of sudden care so deeply about them that they have no choice but to bomb.

As the saying goes, ‘It’s got bells on’.

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‘Every far-Lefty’s worst nightmare’.

That’s the text accompanying a picture tweeted by Ghaffar Hussain of the Quilliam Foundation (who count among their associates former English Defence League bigwig ‘Tommy Robinson’), and retweeted by Independent columnist and all-around war fan John Rentoul.

Here’s the picture in question:

As the caption says, it was a taken at a demonstration in Erbil, the de facto Kurdish capital, in which one of the demonstrators holds a sign expressing gratitude to the U.S. for their recent airstrikes against ISIS. Given that, as opinion polls have long shown, the Kurdish areas of Iraq do tend to have a strong current of pro-U.S. sentiment, such signs are not particularly surprising.

The implied message from Hussain (and Rentoul via proxy) is that such sentiment is problematic for those who oppose the current U.S. strikes in northern Iraq – or ‘far-Lefty’s’, as Hussain has it. How can we possibly oppose them when many people in northern Iraq themselves welcome the strikes?

And it’s quite a familiar pro-war refrain, actually, to say that some people in the targeted country are all for any given ‘intervention’, and so anti-war activists should be for it as well. It was used in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, and in the first few years of the occupation; it’s still used now to justify the bombing of Kosovo and Serbia; it was used to justify the bombing and regime change operation in Libya, and so on.

And personally, while I do think you’ve ultimately got to come to your own moral and political conclusions in regards to the validity and legitimacy of any war, the wishes and thoughts of some of the people in the targeted country do at least have to be acknowledged.

Which is why I am sure that Hussain and Rentoul would agree, using their own logic, with the conclusion that follows these pictures:

The conclusion being: a sizeable number of people in eastern Ukraine would welcome Russian military intervention in the region, and this therefore proves that such an intervention would be totally justified.

No? Thought not.

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Tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappers.

According to The New York Times, four civilians, including two women, were killed in a U.S. lead airstrike in Shindand, Afghanistan on Wednesday.

The article outlines how:

The strike took place a day earlier in Shindand District, in western Afghanistan, after Taliban fighters fired rockets at an Afghan military air base that also houses coalition forces, said Abdul Qayum Noorzai, the district police chief. The insurgents escaped on a pair of motorcycles.

A short time later, around 7 p.m., a coalition aircraft targeted four people on two motorcycles, but those struck were civilians, not the Taliban fighters who had fired the rockets, Mr. Noorzai said.

It’s a familiar enough narrative at the moment, isn’t it? ‘Terrorist’ bad guys firing rockets, and then civilians being accidentally killed when fire is returned.

Who knows if Abdul Qayum Noorzai’s version of events is accurate? The New York Times certainly don’t make any kind of effort to substantiate or refute it. Instead, we just get a bit of spiel about how the U.S. ‘ have tightened the rules governing airstrikes in recent years, and the number of deaths from them has dropped significantly’, which places the deaths in a context of the U.S. doing all it can to prevent civilian casualties. Again, a familiar enough narrative at the moment.

Nor do we learn from the article what the names of the victims were, their ages, occupations, what they looked like, their personalities, hopes, dreams, desires. Anything that might humanize them, in other words, and underline the horror of their being blown apart by high explosives.

Instead, the tone is very much one of ‘News In Brief’. A few more Afghan civilians killed by the U.S. et al, but moving swiftly on . . . People might argue that this is because details are sketchy at the moment, but if past experience is anything to go by, I don’t think the New York Times will follow the story up. And most other ‘papers and T.V. news outlets, in the U.S. and U.K., won’t even report it at all.

Shindand, incidentally, was the site of a major atrocity carried out by U.S. bombers in August 2008. A U.N. Investigation found that a whole hamlet was flattened by them, killing 60 children, 15 civilian women, and 15 civilian men.

Ask most people about the ‘Shindand massacre’, though, and I expect they wouldn’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about. That’s not a criticism of them, as much as it’s a criticism of the way corporate media very much treat stories highlighting Our atrocities as tomorrow’s fish and chip wrappers.

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Why actions must always speak louder than words.



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