Category Archives: Military

Martin Luther King’s Revolutionary Dream Deferred

We are now experiencing the coming to the surface of a triple prong sickness … [that] has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning … the sickness of racism, excessive materialism and militarism. … the plague of western civilization.
—Martin Luther King, Aug. 31, 1967

We kill the most beautiful among us—anyone, it seems, who reveals the nastier, brutish elements of American society and has the audacity to imagine, demand even, a better path: peace, unity and tolerance. Abraham Lincoln, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and so many others.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of King’s tragic assassination, and though countless publications will brim with commemorations and retrospectives of this misunderstood icon, most will miss the mark. Long ago co-opted and sanitized by mainstream political figures, the King of memory bears little resemblance to the radical, complex man himself.

He’s remembered by Democrats and Republicans alike as the “good,” “peaceful” civil rights leader—a useful foil for the “bad” activists of the black power movement, the Stokely Carmichaels, Malcolm Xs and Huey Newtons of the world. In reality, the categories were never so neat, the commonalities staggering.

In a sense, we all—white and black, liberal and conservative—have our own King. My King is the provocative King, the critic of bigotry but also of capitalism and the Vietnam War. The King, in truth, who has been willfully concealed from view.

When I arrived at the American history department at West Point in 2014, I—a white, heterosexual, military man—was handed the portfolio and teaching load on civil rights. Everyone else, it seemed, studied the American Revolution or the Civil War, and, well, I came across as vaguely progressive and willing, at least compared with my peers. A former student of counterinsurgency operations in Northern Ireland, I decided to ditch the old scholarship and embrace my new role. I’ve never looked back. I taught classes and led an annual summer excursion for cadets to visit with movement veterans across the South. I, along with two academy law professors, faced an immediate challenge: the cadets’—and most Americans’—utter misunderstanding of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King himself.

After 50 years, with the United States again locked in racial conflict, culture wars, gaping inequality and perpetual global war, now seems as good a time as any to take stock of the state of King’s “three evils”: racism, materialism and militarism.

America’s Original Sin: Race and Privilege

The cry of “Black Power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear … the economic plight of the Negro poor.
—MLK, 1966

They are all linked, by the way. To treat each challenge as discrete is to rob them of their intertwined, inescapable power. Racism is a no-brainer. We’ve not come as far as we like to believe. Sure, there’s been the Brown v. Board ruling, Civil and Voting Rights Acts, even a black president. Nevertheless, each of these historic victories is being rolled back before our eyes. Schools are again as segregated as they’ve been in two generations. Conservative courts have dismantled key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Heck, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions—a man too racist to serve as a federal district judge in the 1980s—heads the Justice Department.

Race and empire are intimately connected. Look only to the unprecedented militarization of the nation’s police—decked out in camo fatigues and sporting the same armored vehicles we drove in Baghdad—and the never-ending catalog of racially charged brutality cases nationwide for evidence. America resembles two armed camps, physically and intellectually isolated from each other. Five decades into an unwinnable and racially biased war on drugs, black men still fill the prisons in this nation—which has by far the highest rate of incarceration worldwide. In 2018 in the U.S., a black male is nine times as likely to serve time as a citizen of the next worst country: Cuba. We’ve got a long way to go.

The Unspoken King: Anti-Capitalism and Counter-Materialism

The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.

The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.
—MLK, 1967

We inhabit a peculiar moment, when most Americans hardly look up from their smartphones long enough to realize they’re missing “Real Housewives.” The vacuous world of celebrity worship and material preoccupation does not lend itself to the impassioned activism King demanded. Unfettered, free-market capitalism—enabled by neoliberal Democrats like the Clintons—has gutted the American dream and rendered it an unattainable nightmare for many. The empirical evidence is staggering.

Income inequality in the (ostensibly) egalitarian United States has reached its worst levels since the Gilded Age. Wages for the working class have been stagnant for 40 years, while the superrich bask in an embarrassment of riches. The federal minimum wage is worth less in real dollars than it was 50 years ago.

Yet it’s all so much worse than that. Obsessive materialism and big money (think pharma, oil, fracking) in politics have set American culture in the express lane to existential disaster. Most of us live a delusion, wishing away the gathering storm of global warming while chasing immediate gratification from social media clicks. Soon after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, Syria finally joined up, making America the true, lone international pariah. Really doubling down, Trump’s recently released National Security Strategy completely removed climate change from the Pentagon’s list of threats. I’m sure King would approve.

The Greatest Purveyor of Violence: U.S. Militarism, 50 Years On

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.
—MLK, 1967

One could plausibly argue that the United States remains a prominent purveyor of death, or at least chaos, across much of the planet today. It is this—the third of King’s evils—with which I am myself most familiar. Alas, in 2018, American militarism is alive and well, ranging from the symbolic martial pageantry pervading the National Football League to an ongoing, expanding and genuinely global war. Thanks to painstaking research at Brown University, we now know the U.S. military is conducting counterterror operations—all undeclared wars—in 76 countries. The bill so far? Some 7,000 dead American soldiers (eight of my own), 1.3 million war-related Arab/Muslim deaths, 10 million refugees and $5.6 trillion dollars. For this, we’ve gotten 30 times more worldwide terror attacks than occurred in 2001. What a steal.

Taking further stock of the state of U.S. militarism requires a macabre tour of direct and sponsored operations across the greater Middle East. In Yemen, the United States is complicit in Saudi terror bombing—providing munitions and in-flight refueling—that is causing famine and a world-record cholera epidemic in the Arab world’s poorest nation. In Syria and Iraq, the (perhaps justifiable) campaign against Islamic State resulted in far more civilian deaths than originally reported. Ceaseless backing of the far-right Israeli government has helped facilitate an incessant state of siege of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. also backs dictators, kings or strongmen with abhorrent human rights records far and wide across the region, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. Sure, they’re crooks, sure, they gun down protesters, sure they behead women for “sorcery,” but hey, at least they’re our crooks.

The point is as simple as it is disturbing: While there are many “purveyors of violence” in the world today, the United States is far from innocent. Militarism is alive, well and growing in our increasingly martial culture. In King’s time, young Vietnamese girls burned in napalm strikes signified this mindset. Today, perhaps the consummate image is a starving Yemeni child.

Appropriating the Dead: Willfully Misremembering King

In America, in the fifties and sixties, one of the important crises we faced was racial discrimination. The man whose words and deeds in that crisis stirred our nation to the very depths of its soul was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
—President Ronald Reagan, 1983

When a Hollywood performer [Reagan], lacking distinction even as an actor can become a leading war hawk candidate for the presidency, only the irrationalities induced by a war psychosis can explain such a melancholy turn of events.
—MLK, 1968

That neoliberal and neoconservative voices—along with mainstream figures in both parties—annually pay dutiful homage to King, without uttering a word about materialism or militarism, is a national disgrace. That former President Reagan, hero of the contemporary right, would publicly praise him, borders on the absurd. Lest we forget, Reagan, after all, made the first stop on his general election campaign in Neshoba County, Miss.—praising “states’ rights” in the city where three civil rights workers were famously murdered in 1964. He also initially opposed the bill officially designating Martin Luther King Day. Refusing to deny that King was a “communist,” Reagan would only say, “We’ll only know in about 35 years, won’t we?” And by the way, there are still four sitting (Republican) senators who voted against the MLK holiday: Richard Shelby of Alabama (no surprise there), Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin (There’s No Blacks in Utah) Hatch and (disturbingly) John McCain of Arizona.

Every year, we’re treated to the same hypocrisy. Mainstream figures in both parties—some who vote for massive tax breaks for the rich, nearly all who support America’s endless wars—publicly laud and then invoke the ghost of King. None lays out a 21st century plan to implement MLK’s still incomplete vision. They have no such plan. They were bought and sold by corporate elites and the military-industrial complex long ago. On the right, some even engage in the fantasy that King was actually a Republican. He wasn’t. Truth be told, King would fit into neither of the two parties today. His platform and favored issues hardly receive public airing anywhere but the fringe left. Nonetheless, both Democrats and Republicans invoke King’s ghost every January for petty political gain. It’s heinous.

Republicans especially, but also centrist liberals, want us to believe King was one thing only: a narrow, nonviolent civil rights activist. That he gave only one speech: about a dream of his black daughters attending school with young white girls. They’ve sanitized him, castrated his message, omitted (through strikingly Orwellian “new speak”) his uncomfortable quotes. They’ve done so with nefarious intentions and political agenda: convince the masses that King’s revolution is over, completed, final. Stop complaining, stay out of the streets, there’s no reason to protest. Be thankful for what you have.

Don’t fall for it. Read, study, unearth the real King, the radical King, and take up the torch of his fight—a dream deferred—against the three evils still alive and well in the United States: racism, materialism and militarism. The owners of this country are counting on your apathy. Prove them wrong.

By Maj. Danny Sjursen/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist


The Confederacy Endures

There was a right side and a wrong side in the late war, that no sentiment ought to cause us to forget … the South has suffered to be sure, but she has been the author of her own suffering.”

—Frederick Douglass, remarks at Madison Square, New York City (1878)

I’ve always loved to stir the pot. For instance, when I taught American history at West Point (from 2014 to 2016), I amused myself and challenged overwhelmingly conservative students with provocative discussion questions. Here was a favorite: “Who was responsible for more American deaths—Osama bin Laden or Robert E. Lee?” The answer is as obvious as it is (for some) inflammatory. Lee, the West Point graduate and treasonous general, wins the perverse contest by at least a factor of 10. Heck, about as many soldiers from Maine died in the gruesome Civil War as did New Yorkers on 9/11.

Still, strange as it sounds, as recently as 2016, I began my mornings at West Point with a run along Lee Road, through the scenic Lee Housing Area, before grabbing a pre-class haircut in Lee Barracks. These bizarre, if not outright absurd, symbols raise so many questions. Are these commemoratives acceptable, offensive or inappropriate? Are they normal? After all, it is hard to imagine other national militaries offering ubiquitous tributes to the losing side of their civil wars and revolutions. You’ll find no Fort Himmler in Germany or Oliver Cromwell (or, for that matter, King James II) Barracks in the United Kingdom. Oh, how the United States insists on being “exceptional.”

Nevertheless, until the 2015 Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in Charleston, S.C., and the deadly rallies in Charlottesville, Va., in August, such American military dedications seemed curiously normal. I can’t remember a single mention in my four years (from 2001 to 2005) as a young cadet at the military academy.

Truthfully, no one ought to be shocked. The inconvenient truth is that the military, especially the Army, has long reflected a growing political and cultural divide in the United States. There are 10 Army bases named for Confederate generals: Camp Beauregard and Forts Rucker, Benning, Lee, Polk, Bragg, Gordon, Pickett and Hood, as well as my personal “favorite,” Fort A.P. Hill, named after one of Lee’s corps commanders, a man whose troops executed surrendering black Union troops.

Whence They Came

Studies demonstrate that young people are more likely to enlist if they live in close proximity to military bases and communities, which makes perfect sense. Thus, it’s highly significant that there are so many more Army bases per capita in former Confederate states. With the exception of California, the active-duty Army has at most three major bases in what constituted Union states during the Civil War. There are 18 such sites in the former Confederate states. Even in the relatively young (formed in 1947) Air Force, basing is skewed toward the South. Again, discounting California, there are only nine active-duty installations in the Union states, versus at least 29 in the old Confederacy.

At a national level, contemporary culture wars demonstrate the enduring legacy of the North-South divide in politics and culture. Presidential election maps have, in this sense, been remarkably consistent since the Civil War. Secessionist candidates John Breckenridge and John Bell won every future Confederate state in 1860. For nearly a century, the Confederacy was solidly Democratic—a party then traditionally affiliated with segregation and white supremacy. After President Lyndon Johnson had the Civil and Voting Rights Acts passed, Republicans soon dominated in Southern states.

Here’s the rub: Statistically, more soldiers and officers hail from the South, and they’re also more likely to be politically conservative. Since 1968, Republicans have owned the Deep South. Richard Nixon won every former Confederate state in 1972, Ronald Reagan carried all but one in 1980 and the whole South in 1984. So did George H.W. Bush in 1988. Even in defeat, he carried seven of 12 Confederate states in 1992, as did Bob Dole in 1996. More recently, George W. Bush “won” the whole Confederacy in 2000 and 2004. Even in victory, Democrat Barack Obama won just five Southern states between his two elections. Which brings us to 2016, when Donald Trump rode to victory carrying all but one secessionist state.

These very states provide a disproportionate number of new recruits, and the military has (at least since the end of the draft in 1973) been increasingly unreflective of the national demographics. Soldiers, to generalize, are considerably more Southern and rural than the population at large. For example, today, seven of 12 Confederate states rank among the top 20 in per capita military recruits, versus just two of 23 Union states. Most of the others hail from the rural mountain West and such overseas territories as Samoa. That’s a staggering imbalance in a supposedly representative, national institution and one all but certain to influence the culture and attitudes within the martial profession.

A Tragic (Not-So-Hypothetical) Path

So, back to the military, and the human consequences for a not-so-atypical American soldier. Today, in the United States—the world’s “indispensable nation”—a young African-American woman from Montgomery, Ala., might graduate from Jefferson Davis High School (92 percent black and named for the president of the Confederacy), and, awash with patriotic fervor, choose to enlist in the Army. Basic training might then commence at Fort Benning, Ga., whose namesake—Confederate Gen. Henry Benning—said of the war: “The north shall have attained power, the black race will be in a large majority, and then we will have black governors, black legislatures, black juries, black everything. Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand for that?” How lovely.

Being interested in a future career in communications, our brave young woman would then attend advanced individual training at Fort Gordon, Ga. Home of the Army Signal Corps, the fort is named for Gen. John Gordon, who, before the outbreak of war, declared that “slavery is the hand-maiden of civil liberty.” He also led the Georgia branch of the Ku Klux Klan. What a proud commemoration for an installation, especially in an Army officially dedicated to values of “respect, honor, and integrity.”

After several months of training, our new young private might then earn an assignment to one of North America’s largest military bases—Fort Hood, Texas. Gen. John Bell Hood lost a leg and the use of an arm in the service of a secessionist slaveholding republic. Hood so cherished the Confederate battle flag that he enthusiastically exclaimed, “I can assure you, that the gallant hearts that throb beneath its sacred folds will only be content when this glorious banner is planted first and foremost in the coming struggle for our independence.” Isn’t that nice?

Now, some will inevitably argue that the South fought for some vague notion of “state’s rights,” not slavery. There’s so much evidence to refute this claim that a serious scholar is tempted to ignore the contention. But, unable to help myself, I’d ask such readers to consider just one example—Texas’ secession declaration—which unambiguously declared:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race. …

Others might argue that our young military recruit should quit being such a snowflake and not take offense. But isn’t that a lot to ask of a black youth seeking only to serve her country without being surrounded by, and constantly reminded of, the slave society that sought to defeat America’s Army and enslave her ancestors?

So, how to make it right? Here’s a good, if symbolic, start: Ditch the traitorous, Confederate regalia nonsense. Move these historic symbols where they belong—into museums. Ironically, perhaps the best spokesman for such a policy is Gen. Robert E. Lee himself. After the war, Lee consistently opposed Confederate statues and commemoration, and didn’t want the Confederate battle flag to fly over Washington College—of which he was then president. The military, as one of the few—ostensibly—national institutions, ought to bridge the cultural divide and once again reflect the whole nation, unite disparate individuals and mirror America’s purported values.

E pluribus unum—out of many, one. At least in theory.

By Maj. Danny Sjursen/Truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump’s Jerusalem Pronouncement Is a Classic American Imperial Blunder From Bears Ears to Jerusalem, Trump’s policy is all about disenfranchising people of color.

After drastically shrinking the size of Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah on Monday, President Trump on Wednesday announced that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“Some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington,” Trump said, speaking at Utah’s State Capitol beneath a painting of Mormon pioneers. “And guess what? They’re wrong.”

“This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality,” Trump said on Wednesday of his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. “It is also the right thing to do. It’s something that has to be done.”

The two actions take effect 7,000 miles apart, but they share a common denominator: Trump is tearing up formal agreements accepted by the United States government and unilaterally imposing a new understanding on the other parties involved, namely the 7 million Palestinians who live in greater Israel/Palestine, and the Native American people who live in or around Bears Ears.

Compromise Jettisoned

On one level, Trump’s action on Jerusalem is commonsensical. The ancient city of Jerusalem is the political and cultural center of the land known as Israel/Palestine. Jews have lived in the city for thousands of years. But so have Palestinian Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, who are now relegated to second-class citizenship and dispossession by Israel’s occupation and its apartheid wall. That’s why the U.S. government for the past 50 years has refused to recognize Israel’s unilateral claim to the city until the equally valid claims of Palestinians are honored too. That is no longer the U.S. government’s position.

The shrinking of Bears Ears National Monument in southeast Utah by 85 percent is no less one-sided. On Dec. 28, 2016, President Obama expanded the size of the park over the objections of elected officials in Utah.

Since 2009, Bears Ears has been managed by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service in consultation with five of the local tribes (Navajo Nation, Hopi, Ute Mountain Ute, Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, and the Pueblo of Zuni), all of which have ancestral ties to the region. Obama’s December 2016 proclamation declared that federal agencies shall “carefully and fully consider integrating the traditional and historical knowledge” of the tribes into management decisions. The language, noted the High Country News, “gives tribes an unprecedented amount of say over their ancestral lands that lie in the public domain yet outside the boundaries of their reservations.”

But Obama engaged in extensive consultation with the local population and did not agree to all of the requests of the native people in the area. Obama’s proclamation omitted several areas from the final monument designation, a “significant” concession to those who opposed the designation.

On both issues, Trump reversed Obama’s positions with the insouciance of a colonial potentate. His Jerusalem decision says Israel will dictate to, not negotiate with the Palestinians. His Bears Ears decision says Washington and Utah will dictate to, not negotiate with the native tribes that also have a claim to the land. Compromise has been jettisoned in favor of privileging the interests of whites over non-whites.

Trump made no effort to consult with other stakeholders in his deliberations. They are simply not part of any “reality” that Trump recognizes. On Monday he barely acknowledged the native peoples who have lived in the area for thousands of years before the Mormon settlers. On Wednesday he made no mention of Palestinians who have regarded Jerusalem as their capital for thousands of years.

Wedge Created

And Trump created wedge issues to use against Democrats, at home and abroad.

In Utah, the native tribes and environmental groups have already filed suit to block Trump’s actions, while Republican elected officials and their constituents celebrate the opportunity to drill for oil and gas on previously protected lands.

On Israel, Trump has pandered to conservative Jews who yearn for a peace agreement on Zionist terms, which is Trump’s ostensible aim. He fractured liberal Democratic unity by getting Chuck Schumer to endorse his shortsighted move. And he delivered a victory for his base of Christians and alt-right anti-Semites alike.

The Christian right, which excuses Trump’s un-Christian lifestyle with a generosity they extend to few other sinners, welcomes the embrace of Israel and its domination of Muslims. The anti-Semitic alt-right, while oddly soft on right-wing Israeli Jews, is delighted by the snub of the liberal majority of American Jews who favor an equitable settlement with Palestinians, at least in theory.

When Slate’s Josh Keating says Trump’s actions in Jerusalem are “cynically pointless,” he underestimates the president’s cynicism and overlooks his unmistakable point: previous political agreements between the descendants of white settlers and non-white natives are null and void. Colonialism, American-style, has returned.

By Jefferson Morley / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Armed US drones to start flying combat missions over Niger – reports

Armed US drones to start flying combat missions over Niger – reports© U.S. Air Force / Reuters

Armed American drones will soon begin flying over Niger following approval of their use by the West African nation. The move marks a significant expansion of the US military’s footprint in this part of Africa, where its reach has so far been limited.

The government of Niger has permitted the Pentagon to operate armed drones out of the country’s capital, Niamey, defense officials said on Thursday, according to the New York Times. The newspaper cited a memorandum of understanding signed earlier this week by the US African Command (AFRICOM) and the West African nation.

The memorandum calls for the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be armed by the AFRICOM initially. The drones will eventually be re-deployed to a Nigerien air base in Agadez, along with 500 US troops.

Previous media reports indicated that Niger had requested the deployment of armed US drones in a bid to wipe out Boko Haram and other jihadist groups operating on its border with Mali, but it was unknown that an agreement had been reached. Speaking to Reuters, an unnamed US official also said that permission for the use of armed drones had been granted earlier this week, but the capability had not yet been put to use.

A spokeswoman for the Pentagon declined to disclose specific details of the drone deployment. “The government of Niger and the US stand firm in working together to prevent terrorist organizations from using the region as a safe haven. For operational security reasons, I will not comment on specific military authorities or permissions,” Major Audricia Harris said.

“This operation supports the long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Niger, as well as the ongoing effort to counter violent extremism throughout the region,” the Defense Department said in an emailed response to the New York Times.
In early November, Nigerien Defense Minister Kalla Mountari told Reuters in an interview that he “asked them some weeks ago to arm them [the drones] and use them as needed.” Asked if the US had accepted the request, he said: “Our enemies will find out.”

The development would allow the US military to significantly expand its reach in West Africa. So far, American aircraft are flying missions against targets in Yemen, Somalia and Libya from its bases in Djibouti and southern Italy, according to the NYT.

It also comes two months after a team of four US Green Berets were ambushed and killed in Niger. According to a Wall Street Journal report, US military officials requested to send an armed drone to provide air cover for the team, but it was stuck in the approval process going through the Pentagon, State Department and Nigerien government.

The US is not the only nation seeking to deploy armed UAVs to Niger. France, which deployed some 4,000 troops to its former colonies Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger as part of anti-terrorism Operation Barkhane, is also looking at the possibility of having their US-built Reaper drones armed.

“Beyond our borders, the enemy is more furtive, more mobile, disappears into the vast Sahel desert and dissimulates himself amidst the civilian population,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly said in September, according to Reuters.

“Facing this, we cannot remain static. Our methods and equipment must adapt. It is with this in mind that I have decided to launch the process to arm our intelligence and surveillance drones.”

The US military extensively used armed drones to conduct airstrikes in various hotspots in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, causing civilian casualties in many cases. In Somalia, where American troops are targeting Al-Shaabab Islamic militants, there have been 30 drone strikes during 2017, which killed up to 208, including at least three civilians, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

US-led coalition acknowledges killing 800+ civilians in Iraq & Syria airstrikes

US-led coalition acknowledges killing 800+ civilians in Iraq & Syria airstrikesFILE PHOTO People run in panic after a coalition airstrike hit Islamic State fighters positions in Tahrir neighbourhood of Mosul, Iraq, November 17, 2016 © Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

At least 800 civilians have been killed by US-led coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014, a coalition report says. It adds that the group holds itself accountable for “unintentional injury or death to civilians.”

To date, based on information available, [the coalition] assesses at least 801 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve [in 2014],” Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR) said in statement on Thursday.

READ MORE: US Raqqa offensive killing more civilians than claimed – airstrike monitor

The coalition said that despite “significant successes” against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), “combat has taken a toll on populations suffering under the militant extremists.”

We continue to hold ourselves accountable for actions that may have caused unintentional injury or death to civilians,” the report said.

CJTF-OIR Monthly Civilian Casualty Report

— Inherent Resolve (@CJTFOIR) November 30, 2017


According to the document, US-led forces in Iraq and Syria conducted “a total of 28,198 strikes that included 56,976 separate engagements between August 2014 and October 2017… During this period, the total number of reports of possible civilian casualties was 1,790,” it added.

In June, Amnesty International released a report, criticizing the action of the US coalition in Mosul, Iraq. Dubbed “At any cost: the civilian catastrophe in west Mosul, Iraq,” the document says that, apart from IS attacks, civilians suffer from “relentless unlawful attacks by Iraqi government forces and members of the US-led coalition.” The report said that at least 5,805 civilians were killed by the US and Iraqi strikes.

In September, Human Rights Watch, which also monitors US coalition actions, said strikes that killed civilians in Syria “instilled fear and pushed many to flee.” “Although ISIS fighters were also at these sites, the high civilian death toll raises concerns that military forces of the US-led coalition failed to take necessary precautions to avoid and minimize civilian casualties, a requirement under international humanitarian law,” HRW said.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Is Gone: Now What?

In the early 2000s, I visited Zimbabwe and met with the leadership of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the association that joins together the country’s major labor unions. I was asked to give a speech to the leadership body. I received a cool, though polite response, leaving me a bit puzzled until I received my first question.

A tall, slim man in his 50s stood up and looked at me. “How is it,” he began, “that African Americans can believe in President Mugabe? Don’t they understand what is going on here?”

I had no longer been a supporter of Robert Mugabe at the time of the question. I attempted to provide an answer, offering some context about how Mugabe and the Zimbabwean national liberation struggle had been perceived by much of black America; the sense many people had that Western imperialism aimed to destroy an African effort at sovereignty. Yet I could tell it was not enough or not satisfactory. The questioner just looked at me. I received a polite applause at the end of the event.

I found myself thinking about that incident when the Zimbabwean military moved into Harare carrying out a de facto coup, and when, finally, President Mugabe stepped down. Mugabe’s political demise cannot be understood only by looking at the events of November 2017 or even the events of 2017 as a whole. Rather it is better to understand the Zimbabwean crisis as a manifestation of thieves falling out.

The challenge for many of us in the USA who have supported the Zimbabwean revolution is that we were prepared to see Zimbabwe under Mugabe the way we wanted to believe it should be unfolding, rather than what was actually taking place.


Mugabe’s political party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), was one of two main national liberation organizations that fought against imperialist-backed white minority rule in what was then known as Rhodesia. Though referred to as a political party, ZANU more resembled a national liberation front with an array of political tendencies. During the period of the Cold War and the Sino/Soviet split in the international communist movement, ZANU came to be seen as leaning toward Maoism and independent of outside control. Over time, it was able to successfully rally popular support leading, after the Lancaster House settlement of the national liberation war, to the election of Robert Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe.

The Mugabe administration introduced important reforms in health care and education, while at the same time began a process of internal repression of dissent. In 1982, Zimbabwean Army troops repressed dissidents found among the minority Ndebele population; specifically militants associated with the Zimbabwe African People’s Union, or ZAPU, which had been a rival of ZANU’s in the national liberation war. Estimates of the numbers killed have generally hovered around 20,000. Tensions lasted nearly the entire decade until ZANU and ZAPU merged and the ZANU (Patriotic Front) was consolidated.

For many of us in the US, particularly but not exclusively in the black freedom movement, this repression was, in effect, a non-event. It was either not known or not discussed, or worse, it was explained away. The brutality of the repression ran counter to the narrative that we wanted to believe because, after all, Robert Mugabe and his regime were viewed as the legitimate leaders of a glorious national liberation movement and had taken on white minority rule and Western imperialism.

As years passed, the Mugabe regime undertook further questionable courses of action. Despite radical socialist rhetoric, the Mugabe regime adopted structural adjustment policies that set the economy on a course toward greater demands upon the working class and farmers and what we have come to know as “austerity.”

Land reform moved very slowly in part because of Mugabe’s good relationship with the white farmers and in part as a result of Mugabe’s legitimate understanding that the US and Britain were going to foot the bill for the purchase of the land from the white farmers. When the US and Britain reneged, pressure from war veterans for land redistribution—which had largely been ignored by the Mugabe regime—led to a change of heart by Mugabe in which he became an advocate for forceful land redistribution. By coincidence this also took place at a moment when popular opposition to Mugabe’s structural adjustment policies was emerging and Zimbabwe seemed to be on the verge of the formation of a new opposition party, specifically, a party of labor.

The main center for opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, did not coalesce as a labor party, however, instead taking very curious positions, including distancing itself from the left and articulating an ambiguous position on land redistribution. In that setting, Mugabe wrapped himself in the flag of Zimbabwean nationalism and proceeded to implement repressive policies and practices against the broader opposition (not just the MDC) that ultimately involved questionable elections; arrests and torture of opposition figures; ignoring the demands for land by African agricultural workers in favor of land to allies of the Mugabe clique; and the expulsion of communities of the poor and homeless from Harare in 2015.

During one of the waves of repression I was informed that some friends of mine in the Zimbabwean trade union movement had been arrested and tortured by the Mugabe regime. I had been outspoken against Mugabe’s repression from early in my tenure as president of the African American foreign policy advocacy organization, TransAfrica Forum. As a result there were many black leftists who condemned me and others as allegedly standing against the Zimbabwean people. Yet, what I realized is that we seemed to know different “people.” Many of those I knew, or knew about, were progressive activists on the ground in Zimbabwe who were fighting on behalf of Zimbabwean workers and farmers. They were paying a very dear price as a result.

When I spoke to those who defended the Mugabe regime regarding torture, I was largely ignored. I explained that I was not using the word torture loosely, nor was I using the term based on hearsay. There were people I knew who were being tortured.

The response I received was one of silence; a silence followed by, once again, the upholding of Mugabe and his regime as allegedly legitimate advocates of African liberation.


The military challenge to President Mugabe came as a surprise. The military has been complicit in not only internal repression but also the rape of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Zimbabwean troops were supposedly deployed to block Uganda and Rwanda. Yet, like many other militaries involved in Africa’s “first world war” in the DRC, they have repeatedly been reported participating in the theft of wealth from one of the most naturally rich countries on the planet.

As noted, the de facto military coup has every characteristic of a falling out among thieves.  The Zimbabwean elite, grouped around Mugabe, weakened legitimate opposition and created a situation where political life, to the extent to which it existed, was contained largely within the ZANU (Patriotic Front). Yet the unity that appeared to exist within the ZANU was superficial. By the time of the de facto coup, there were two main contending forces within the party that were represented by vice president (now president) Emmerson Mnanagagwa, on the one hand, and Grace Mugabe (the president’s wife) on the other.

There has been much speculation as to the political objectives of the contending factions. Mnanagagwa, who in many respects reminds one of Levrenti Beria, the head of the NKVD (Soviet secret police) under Joseph Stalin who attempted to rise to leadership upon the death of his sponsor, may have created a coalition to reunite Zimbabwe with global capitalism. His speech on November 22 gives only a hint of his overall plans. If we are to unpack his reference to Zimbabwe being open for business, that may very well represent efforts to solidify a coalition that advances both a re-accommodation with the dispossessed white farmers and agreements with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. His inauguration speech places a heavy emphasis on reassuring foreign investors as well as a subtle reference to the repaying of the white farmers for their expropriated land. Though Mnanagagwa and his military allies used the rhetoric of the victimization of the war veterans to justify their moves against the Mugabes, what is probably at stake is much more a fight over how to get Zimbabwe out of the economic and political crisis in which it finds itself.

The politics of Grace Mugabe are less clear. She is as feared as Mnanagagwa, but has little base and less popular sympathy. Her power seems to be surrogate power in light of her marriage to Mugabe, though she has been associated with a faction known as the G40. Yet the politics of Grace Mugabe’s faction appear obscure.

The military intervention, though illegal, has galvanized dramatic levels of public support. With the ousting of Mugabe there are many who see the possibility for restoring democracy. One is reminded, however, of the 2013 coup in Egypt that overthrew President Morsi. The popular outrage with the dictatorial steps taken by Morsi’s administration blinded masses of people to the danger inherent in the reintroduction of the Egyptian military into the political sphere. No sooner was Morsi ousted than the military, under General Sisi, began a widespread suppression of any and all expressions of popular dissent.

This fate must be considered in the midst of the excitement over the exodus of President Mugabe. The characters moving to the front of the stage have not been known as champions of democracy and tolerance. They have no reputations as fighters against corruption, despite their current rhetoric. Though there are reports of outreach to opposition formations, there is no clear indication that this will result in the sort of transition to democratic rule that Zimbabwe desperately needs. What is also unclear is the internal situation within ZANU (PF) below the level of the main faction fight, i.e., are there to be efforts at renovation of the party?

What makes the future especially worrisome is that there could be the consolidation of a “unity bloc” within the country’s leadership that achieves a rapprochement with the World Bank and IMF, thereby appeasing Western elites, and then proceeds to repress popular movements in Zimbabwe. Following such a course could very likely take place with either silence or muted opposition from so-called mainstream circles in the West once Mugabe is fully out of the picture and Zimbabwe is more consistently reintegrated into the global capitalist system.


The people of Zimbabwe will have to settle their own accounts with those who oppose popular democracy. It is incumbent upon those of us in other lands who are friends of democracy and sovereignty in Zimbabwe to offer the support that we can toward those efforts. But taking this course necessitates that we look at the situation as it is rather than as we might wish for it to be.

Many of us in the US left are taken with radical rhetoric and assertions. One sees this, for instance, in the case of Syria where an entire segment of the US left wishes to believe that the Assad regime is anti-imperialist and anti-jihadist, despite their documented record, and indeed, despite barrel bombs.

In the case of Zimbabwe, too many of us wanted to believe Mugabe and his clique were the champions of African liberation. His history in the national liberation movement had been heroic and his language has been eloquent. And, of course, when he was condemned by Britain, the US, the IMF and the World Bank during the land seizures, that was enough for many of us to believe that Mugabe was, at a minimum, standing tall against imperialism.

Instead of a concrete analysis we started with our hopes and ideals. As a result all too many of us refused to let the facts get in the way of our opinions. With masses of people demonstrating with glee over the ouster of President Mugabe, I keep wondering what those who disregarded my reports about the torture of Zimbabwean dissidents are reflecting upon. Maybe they are thinking, to borrow from Bertolt Brecht, that the leaders have chosen the wrong people?

By Bill Fletcher, Jr/Alternet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

The Army Is testing a futuristic exoskeleton to enhance solder mobility

Science fiction has a funny habit of becoming science fact after enough time has passed. The wide-eyed wonder of children sitting cross-legged in front of the TV eventually becomes inspiration for incredible feats of engineering, or the means of our own destruction. The latest example of this phenomenon is a new, powered up exoskeleton the U.S. Army is testing, per Scout.

There are tons of examples of this sort of thing in science fiction. It usually involves military personnel enhancing their combat capabilities with some manner of armor or exoskeleton. Samus Aran’s armor in Metroid , Master Chief’s armor in Halo and the goofy power gear that kills Tom Cruise 50 times in Edge of Tomorrow are a few examples. Now, Lockheed Martin has a mechanical knee-based exoskeleton in testing phases with the army.

The tech, named FORTIS, uses AI to fit different walking patterns and enable enhanced mobility and stress relief for heavy lifting on the battlefield. It uses a huge, three pound lithium ion battery to supposedly allow its wearer to carry 180 pounds up five flights of stairs, per Scout . The idea is to offload precious energy from the soldier onto the device, which would theoretically improve battlefield efficiency. Every little bit helps, so to speak.

Lockheed Martin’s engineers claim it can save the soldier nine percent of energy on essential battlefield actions using its AI-based torque technology. That may not sound like a lot to the layman, but you would probably feel better at the end of the day if you suddenly were no longer responsible for nearly one-tenth of your energy output. As long as you are willing to look a little goofy in a mechanical contraption that was designed for function and not form, anyway.

The system, which is supported by a “conformal upper structure” attached to a belt, is designed as an improvement over the older HULC mechanism, which weighed 85 pounds and restricted mobility. That seems a little counterintuitive and like it definitely needed improvement. It does not seem like there are imminent plans to make this standard battlefield apparel anytime soon, as it is merely in a testing phase at the moment.

It is worth wondering how much such a project would cost the United States military if a finalized build were to go into mass production. There are a bunch of potential improvements and add-ons Lockheed Martin could make before putting this thing out in the world. If we are going full science fiction, they should consider rocket boosters, a flight module, a laser cannon, stealth camouflage and a way for soldiers to use the bathroom on the go. Those would all probably drive up the cost and production time exponentially, but those are all hallmarks of any good space marine unit.

Of course, it is possible none of this ever comes to fruition and warfare continues to evolve in the direction of cyber attacks and unmanned drone warfare. We will all have to wait and see on this one.


Posted by The NON-Conformist