United States spin-doctors – Have they no shame? More on Jamal Kashoggi

I always hated that English expression “gobsmacked”, meaning “shocked beyond the point of incredulity”.

Nevertheless, I have to accept that the word can serve a purpose – and I was pretty close to smacking my gob as I read this article in Time online about the disappearance of rebel Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi.

Kashoggi’s disappearance is attracting some media attention since he entered the door of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, and hasn’t been seen since. I’ve already posted the Turkish version of the story – but here is, I guess, the beginning of the US spin.

There is a saying in Turkish “Hem suçlu, hem güçlü”– which means something like: “Guilty as hell but toughing it out.” While reading the following, keep in mind that the unelected royal family of Saudi Arabia are close allies of the United States, and currently using weapons supplied by Washington to bomb the bejabers out of poor little Yemen. Don’t lose sight of the fact that: “Since the September 11 attacks, the United States government has carried out drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Libya.

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This is just Pakistan

Drone strikes are part of a targeted killing campaign against jihadist militants; however, non-combatant civilians have also been killed in drone strikes. Determining precise counts of the total number killed, as well as the number of non-combatant civilians killed, is impossible; and tracking of strikes and estimates of casualties are compiled by a number of organizations.” (Wikipedia)

“As Donald Trump assumes office today, he inherits a targeted killing program that has been the cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism strategy over the past eight years. On January 23, 2009, just three days into his presidency, President Obama authorized his first kinetic military action: two drone strikes, three hours apart, in Waziristan, Pakistan, that killed as many as twenty civilians. Two terms and 540 strikes later, Obama leaves the White House after having vastly expanding and normalizing the use of armed drones for counterterrorism and close air support operations in non-battlefield settings—namely Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.” (The Council on Foreign Relations)

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These are extracts from the Time article:

Jamal Khashoggi’s Disappearance Comes as Autocrats Are Growing Bolder in their Brutality

As of Oct. 10, the assumption is that the Saudi regime took the opportunity to silence one of its more prominent critics.

The mystery is how. Turkish authorities, albeit not the most trusted bunch themselves, believe Khashoggi was murdered inside the building by a team of 15 operatives, his corpse dismembered and transported outside in boxes. The Saudis claim he left alive and have pledged to investigate—though few believe a Saudi regime that has long been unafraid to detain or punish dissidents.

Although the murder of a critic on foreign soil would, if confirmed, be an unprecedented act even for a brutal kingdom,it fits within a larger pattern. Across the world, authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia have developed a rising sense of impunity when it comes to human rights and the rule of international law. Behavior once hidden behind palace doors now happens beyond borders and in the full view of the world.

Take China. Aside from the legion of human-rights abuses committed inside its own borders, including the detention of 1 million Uighurs, Beijing arrested Meng Hongwei, who as head of Interpol was a symbol of the international rule of law. Both have been ensnared by an antigraft campaign that President Xi Jinping and his regime have used to target critics and rivals. Russia too has taken its crackdown on dissenters global, most recently with the brazen poisoning attempt on former double agent Sergei Skripal in the U.K. 

This is happening with the implicit acceptance of the U.S., which under President Donald Trump has rejected its role as a champion of universal values like human rights.

But Trump is only one facet of this diminution of the U.S. as a moral lodestar for the world. . . A century of moral diplomacy begun by Woodrow Wilson is coming to an end under Trump.

The U.S. Congress may yet do so. And if Khashoggi’s murder can be confirmed, then economic sanctions will likely follow. But defending and spreading liberal values requires a more patient approach than crude dollar diplomacy.

Worryingly, this trend toward impunity comes as voters worldwide seem more attracted to strongmen and dictators.

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Pardon my lapse of memory – When exactly was it that “the U.S. [w]as a moral lodestar for the world”?

Oh, sorry, I see . . . apparently “A century of moral diplomacy [was] begun by Woodrow Wilson”, but “under President Donald Trump has rejected its role as a champion of universal values like human rights”.

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Are you as gobsmacked as me?

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Every cloud has a silver lining – looking on the bright side in Yemen

Made-in-the-USA missiles bring some benefits to Yemen’s economy

Yemeni smiths beat missiles into knives for half price of Turkish steel (but maybe Turkey won’t be so happy)

Sometimes, the raw material of Ali Ghomari’s work comes screaming from the sky.

Missiles fired by Saudi-led coalition jets rain down on militiamen and civilians alike, killing and maiming thousands. Children, farmers and others collect shrapnel from their farmlands, from dirt alleys in impoverished neighborhoods, and offer it for sale to Ghomari and other artisans.

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Dagger crafted from missile fragment

From missiles, they do not make ploughshares. They make knives – jambiyya, the ornamental daggers Yemeni men wear for prestige and as a show of courage.

Once, they were made of imported steel, but high prices have forced craftsmen to use the refuse of war. One kilogram of fragment steel costs about 500 rials (less than $1), half the price of Turkish steel.

Ghomari, who is in his 50s, said he learned his craft from his father, who inherited the skill from his ancestors. The entire Ghomari family of seven households works as blacksmiths in the northern city of Abs; they sit in huts constructed of cinderblocks or tree branches, forging glowing metal around open fires.

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Searching for missile fragments amongst the rubble

Ghomari said knives were once a profitable business. But the father of six lamented that the market has weakened as the war-ravaged economy has tanked, and fewer men have extra money to pay for jambiyya.

When he has the money, Ghomari sometimes buys the remains of trucks and cars destroyed in wrecks, bombings or airstrikes.

“Trucks make the best dagger because the steel is strong and special,” he said.

The daggers have curved blades and are a part of traditional Yemeni attire – slipped into a decorated, hook-shaped sheath and tucked in vertically at the center of ornate belts if men are wearing robes, or placed in the top of a maawaz, a wrap-around male skirt. The blade is made of steel and the stronger the steel the more expensive the dagger. The shape of the hilt often refers to the city, region or tribe of the person carrying it, and the price also depends on whether the hilt is made of wood, buffalo horn or rhinoceros horn.

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Oh good! Another missile strike! Now we can make more daggers!

The more expensive the dagger, the more elevated the status of the man who wears it. Prices for new daggers range from $100 to $150. Old ones inherited from ancestors might be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The war between Yemen’s government and the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels has been going on for nearly four years. The Saudi-led coalition of Sunni countries supported by the United States joined the fray in March 2015, launching a relentless air campaign with an arsenal made up mostly of U.S.-made missiles and other weaponry, providing plenty of metal for Ghomari and his family.

This is nothing new. During Yemen’s 1962-1970 civil war, Egypt and Saudi Arabia backed opposite sides. Ghomari’s father used Egyptian tank treads, artillery shells and rockets to make knives.

Today, Ghomari points to the anvil on which he beats missiles into daggers.

It is an empty mortar shell – from the 1960s.

Saudi journalist murdered, dismembered and “disappeared” in Turkey

JAMAL-ONE-At this stage Saudi official sources are denying it – but it seems increasingly likely that veteran journalist Jamal Kasshoggi was lured into the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, murdered and smuggled in pieces out of the building.

Kashoggi had been living in the United States and writing articles critical of the Saudi regime which were published in the Washington Post and elsewhere.

President Erdoğan says following case of missing Saudi journalist Khashoggi ‘personally’

Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan said on Oct. 7 he was “personally” following the case of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who disappeared last week, and added that he still hoped for a positive outcome to the matter.

“Whatever comes of this, we will be the ones to declare it to the world,” the president said, while answering reporters’ questions in the capital Ankara. “It is very, very upsetting for us that it happened in our country,” he said.

A presidential adviser said on Oct. 7 that Khashoggi had not left the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in “normal ways.” Turkish authorities have concrete information on Khashoggi’s disappearance and the case would not go unsolved, Yasin Aktay told broadcaster CNN Türk.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported on the night of Oct. 6 that Turkish investigators believe Khashoggi was killed in “a preplanned murder” at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, citing two anonymous officials.

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It’s probably too late for that!

One Turkish official also told The Associated Press that detectives’ “initial assessment” was that Khashoggi was killed at the consulate, without elaborating. Saudi authorities early Oct. 7 called the allegation “baseless.”

Khashoggi, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for the last year, vanished on Oct. 2 while on a visit to the consulate.

The Post cited one anonymous official who said investigators believe a 15-member team “came from Saudi Arabia.” The official added: “It was a preplanned murder.”

Khashoggi, 59, went missing while on a visit to the consulate in Istanbul for paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée. The consulate insists the writer left its premises, contradicting Turkish officials.

saudi1As a contributor to the Post, Khashoggi has written extensively about Saudi Arabia, including criticizing its war in Yemen, its recent diplomatic spat with Canada and its arrest of women’s rights activists after the lifting of a ban on women driving. All those issues have been viewed as being pushed by Prince Mohammed, who similarly has led roundups of activists, businessmen and others in the kingdom.

“With young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s rise to power, he promised an embrace of social and economic reform,” Khashoggi wrote in his first column for the Post. “But all I see now is the recent wave of arrests.”

Khashoggi maintained ties with Saudi elites, including those in its intelligence apparatus, and launched a satellite news channel, Al-Arab, from Bahrain in 2015 with the backing of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal.

The channel was on air for less than 11 hours before it was shut down. Its billionaire backer was detained in the Ritz Carlton roundup overseen by Prince Mohammed in 2017.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat who sits on the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, expressed shock over the news.

“If this is true—that the Saudis lured a U.S. resident into their consulate and murdered him—it should represent a fundamental break in our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Murphy wrote on Twitter.saudi arabia

Security Council standing idle to oppressions in world – Erdoğan’s speech to the UN

Not the whole speech– just some thought-provoking excerpts:

erdoğan UNThe UN Security Council currently serves the interests of five permanent members holding veto rights, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Sept. 25. The five members of the Council, the U.S, Russia, China, France and Britain, are “standing idle to the oppressions in other parts of the world,” Erdoğan said in his address to the 73rd session of UN General Assembly.

Erdoğan said the UN has carried out work and achieved considerable successes over its 73-year history.

“However, it is also a fact that over time the United Nations moved away from meeting the expectations of humanity for peace and welfare,” he added. “Those who do not raise their voices against the oppression of the Palestinians [and others], their efforts even to reduce assistance for them, are only increasing the courage of the oppressors,” he added, referring to the recent U.S. decision to cut aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Turkey will continue to stand with the “oppressed” Palestinians and will protect the historical and legal status of Jerusalem, Erdoğan said.

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And which country has exercised by far the most vetoes?

“And we believe that when we say ‘the world is bigger than five,’ we become the voice of the common conscience of humanity,” Erdoğan said. “When the assets of the wealthiest 62 people in the world amount to the assets of the half of world’s population of 3.6 billion people, this means there is a problem,” Erdoğan said.

Erdoğan recalled that Turkey hosts 4 million refugees, 3.5 million of which are Syrian, and provides them with services that are “incomparable” elsewhere in the world.

The total amount Turkey has spent for Syrian refugees alone is at $32 billion. Erdoğan said he expects “more abundant and flexible support” for Turkey, which has prevented a large refugee influx to spill over elsewhere in the world, foremost to Europe, thanks to the opportunities the country has provided to refugees.

“I call on all the parties to support a just and sustainable political solution in Syria with a constructive approach. We wish to see a principled approach against terrorist organizations.

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NZ’s Prime Minister at the UN summit, taking a keen interest in key global issues

Hinting at U.S. support for PYD/YPG, the Syrian affiliate of the PKK terror organization, Erdoğan said: “Those who equip terrorists with tens of thousands of trucks and thousands of cargo planes load of arms for the sake of their tactical interests will most definitely feel sorrow in the future.”

Erdoğan said all terrorist organizations do not obtain their power from their armed actions, rather some hide behind “glossy concepts” such as education, welfare and dialogue, and continues operations as NGOs or businesses.

“Through the support of our people, we have eliminated the majority of FETÖ [terrorist organization] in our country.

FETÖ and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen are accused of orchestrating the defeated coup July 15, 2016, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured. Ankara also accuses FETÖ of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

He said countries have heeded Turkey’s warnings and learned from its lessons and are deciphering the organization and expelling it from their lands. However, some states, including the U.S. and European countries, “have not understood the danger”.

“For instance, the amount of funds that the FETÖ terrorist organization receives in 27 U.S. states from the government budget solely by charter schools is $763 million,” he added.

Erdoğan said FETÖ leader Gülen “exports terror” to 160 countries from his residence in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania and urged world nations to be watchful and take action against the terror group.

Erdoğan said trade wars have harmed humanity in every period.

“None of us can remain silent to the arbitrary cancellation of commercial agreements, the spreading prevalence of protectionism and the use of economic sanctions as weapons. “The negative effects of these twisted developments will eventually affect all countries,” he added.

The president called on countries to work together to prevent damage to the world trade regime as a result of such unilateral decisions.

“Today, some countries are persistently trying to create chaos. There is no bigger danger than a world order that has lost mercy, conscience, truth and hope,” Erdoğan added.

Coalition? Or Axis of Evil?

Saudi-led coalition admits ‘mistakes’ in deadly Yemen bus strike

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen admitted Saturday that “mistakes” had been made in an August air strike on Yemen that killed 51 people including 40 children.

YemenAn official said an investigation by the coalition had found “mistakes” were made in the strike on a crowded market in northern rebel-held Yemen, adding that those responsible must be “punished”.

Trust the United States? Sure can’t!

Yemen: US allies strike deals with al-Qaida in war on rebels

By MAGGIE MICHAEL and TRISH WILSON and LEE KEATH – Associated Press – Monday, August 6, 2018

US-double-standards-on-Syria-and-Yemen-MintPress-NewsATAQ, Yemen (AP) – A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States has cut secret deals with al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns the militants had seized across Yemen and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. Hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself.

Again and again over the past two years, the coalition has claimed to win decisive victories that drove al-Qaida militants from their strongholds and shattered their ability to attack the West. What the victors didn’t disclose: many of those conquests came without firing a shot.

The compromises and alliances have allowed al-Qaida militants to survive to fight another day – and risk strengthening the most dangerous branch of the terror network that carried out the 9/11 attacks.

Key participants in the pacts said the U.S. was aware of the arrangements and held off on any drone strikes as the al-Qaida fighters retreated in plain sight.

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And add al-Qaida to that

The AP’s findings are based on reporting in Yemen and interviews with two dozen officials, including Yemeni security officers, militia commanders, tribal mediators and four members of al-Qaida’s branch. All but a few of those sources spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals. Emirati-backed factions, like most armed groups in Yemen, have been accused of abducting or killing their critics.

The deals uncovered by the AP reflect the contradictory interests of the two wars being waged simultaneously in this southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula.

In one conflict, the U.S. is working with its Arab allies – particularly the United Arab Emirates – with the aim of eliminating the extremists known as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. But the larger mission is to win the civil war against the Houthis, Iranian-backed Shiite rebels. In that fight, al-Qaida is effectively on the same side as the coalition – and, by extension, the United States.

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The “war” in Yemen?

The U.S. has sent the coalition billions of dollars in weapons to fight the Houthis, and American jets provide air-to-air refueling for coalition war planes. The U.S. does not fund the coalition, however, and there is no evidence that American money went to AQAP militants.

“Elements of the U.S. military are clearly aware that much of what the U.S. is doing in Yemen is aiding AQAP and there is much angst about that,” said Michael Horton, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. analysis group that tracks terrorism.

But supporting allies against “what the U.S. views as Iranian expansionism takes priority over battling AQAP and even stabilizing Yemen,” Horton said.Trust the United States?

Read the whole article

3.6 million Syrian refugees have now fled to Turkey

20 percent of Syrian refugees live in Istanbul

Do the maths: 20% means 720,000 men women and children – More than the population of Seattle, WA, and slightly fewer than Charlotte, NC, the 17th and 18th largest cities in the United States! And you guys are still bombing them!

The Turkish province accommodating the highest number of Syrian refugees in the country is Istanbul with 20 percent, according to media monitoring company Ajans Press.

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Istanbul’s “Little Syria”. “Şam” is “Damascus” in Turkish.

In figures that are based on data from the Interior Ministry’s Immigration Office, as well as media reports, as of June some 3.6 million Syrian refugees are hosted in Turkey.

Istanbul accommodates the highest number, followed by the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa and the southern province of Hatay.

Other provinces hosting a high number of Syrian refugees are the western provinces of Bursa and İzmir, the southeastern provinces of Gaziantep and Kilis, the Central Anatolian province of Konya, and the southern provinces of Adana and Mersin. The number of Syrians exceeds 100,000 in all of these provinces.

The registered number of Turks in Kilis, on the Turkey-Syria border north of Aleppo, stood at 136,319 as of last year, while the province hosts a total of 131,109 Syrian refugees. The demographic shift has sometimes led to confrontations between Turks and Syrians in the province.

276,158 Syrian babies born in last six years

The media monitoring company’s report also included the number of Syrian babies born in Turkey over the last six years, calculating it as reaching 276,158 based on figures from media outlets.

It also found that the issue of Syrian refugees was one of the most-discussed issues in Turkish media reports over the last six years.

The number of refugees has been on rise in Turkey since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011. The Syrian refugee population was 2.8 million in 2016 and 3.4 million in 2017.

Of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees, some 1.9 million are males and 1.7 million are females.

Source: Hürriyet Daily News