An eye for an eyelash: Sec. Pompeo visits Israel, supports snipers shooting 14 year olds.


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, speaking in Jordan at the end of a four-day, four-nation tour through the Middle East, expressed support on Monday for Israel and its response to weekly protests in Gaza that have left dozens of people dead.

“We do believe the Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and we’re fully supportive of that,” he said at a news conference with Ayman Safadi, the Jordanian foreign minister, when asked about the protests. —…

Let us be clear, what Pompeo called “defense” was a nuclear-armed state sending young men and women to shoot at protesters in Gaza, most of whom have been trapped within the 140 square mile territory their entire lives. Israeli snipers have taken up positions along a fence constructed by Israel within Gaza, and are shooting at protesters.  This is not the only place where Israeli authorities have taken over Palestinian lands for “security purposes”. The same is true in the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights, dozens of places in the West Bank and along the northern border. It is a strange point of view that characterizes Israeli soldiers shooting or bombing people on the other side of a purported border as “defense”.

The same madness that drives our media to use terms like “officer involved shooting” for the killing of unarmed people by police, also drives reporting of Israel’s military.

And who did Pompeo think the nuclear-armed IDF was defending itself from? Palestinians have neither an army, nor a navy, nor an air-force, and have never had one. But we do know where this rhetoric of “defense” comes from. Pompeo shares Trump’s view of brown and black people in the US as a threat to white supremacy. So just as 14 year olds like Trayvon Martin are murdered by vigilantes with impunity in the US, 14 year olds like Mohammad Ayoub are murdered with impunity by Israeli soldiers.

Fourteen-year-old Mohammad Ayoub ignored his mother’s objection and slipped away to join this week’s protest along the Gaza-Israel border, just hours after Israel’s military dropped leaflets in his Gaza village warning residents to stay away.

A few hours later, the teenager was killed by an Israeli bullet to the head, Palestinian health officials said. “He asked his aunt to tell me he would be back in an hour,” said his mother, Raeda, who instead buried her son late on Friday.


Or 15 year olds like Azzam Awaidah.

DCI-Palestine is reporting that Israeli authorities are holding 26 children in solitary confinement and have a total of 310 in prison. These are children are essentially political prisoners.

Defense for Children International – Palestine has confirmed that three children, Hussein Mohammad Adnan Madi, 13, Aladdin Yahia Ismail Zamili, 15, and Ibrahim Abu Sha’er, 17, all died after Israeli forces shot them during two weeks of Friday “March of Return” protests that took place on the Gaza side of the border. DCIP also documented three serious injuries to children in Gaza on March 30, both by live ammunition. Under international law, all individuals below the age of 18 are children. —…

Pompeo was confirmed 57-42, with six Democratic senators (plus Angus King, who is an independent) voting to confirm Mike Pompeo. They were: Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin III (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Bill Nelson (FL), Angust King (ME) and Doug Jones (AL). All except Jones are up for election in 2018, Jones will be on the ballot in 2020.

It is noteworthy that Jon Tester (MT) did not vote for Pompeo, though he faces a tough re-election battle. He is on the ballot this year, in a state Trump won by 20 points. For those who have long supported Jon Tester, this was welcome news.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Israel Sunday in the midst of the worst crisis in relations between Israelis and Palestinians in years, but he did not meet a single Palestinian representative and mentioned them publicly once. […]

“No meeting in Ramallah on his first visit sets an ominous tone about prospects for any progress, or even dialogue, with the Palestinians,” said Daniel B. Shapiro, an American ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration. —…

For anyone who’s watched Pompeo’s career, this is not a surprise. He’s among the group of American politicians whose foreign policy is guided by his belief in the “rapture”.

For Pompeo, American patriotism and a narrowly defined brand of Christian pugilism are inextricable from one another. He’s not subtle about it, either. “To worship our Lord and celebrate our nation at the same place is not only our right,” he told attendees at a Kansas rally in 2015, “it is our duty.” He added that politics is “a never-ending struggle … until the rapture.”

Pompeo’s reference to the rapture here is particularly noteworthy. The rapture is a distinctively American fringe theology that says Christians will be taken up, or “raptured,” into heaven at the onset of the end times.

[…] For many evangelicals, apocalyptic “good versus evil” battles, particularly centered over the “Holy Land” of the Middle East, are signs that the longed-for end may be at hand. —…

Earlier this month, TYT reported that Mike Pompeo had been discussing the rapture with CIA staff and demonstrated an intolerance towards anyone who wasn’t a fundamentalist Christian.

Pompeo’s deep biases, bigotry, war-mongering and advocacy of torture are well understood from his time in the House, and numerous public statements. Inevitably, some of the Democrats who voted for either Pompeo confirmation, will disavow one of his actions. At the time, they should be asked why they voted for him knowing who he was.

The “defense” Pompeo refers to has resulted in dozens of protesters killed, and thousands more maimed and injured in the past four weeks alone.

The Washington Post has a story about the thousands of devastating injuries inflicted by Israeli snipers firing on protesters in Gaza. The snipers are on the other side of an electrified fence built entirely within Gaza by Israeli authorities on Palestinian farmer’s property. This is similar to the “West Bank barrier”, which is also built within the West Bank, on land owned by Palestinians.

In 2009, during another Israeli bombing of Gaza, Avi Shlaim wrote:

The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel’s insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash. After eight days of bombing, with a death toll of more than 400 Palestinians and four Israelis, the gung-ho cabinet ordered a land invasion of Gaza the consequences of which are incalculable. —…

Politicians who support and defend Israeli violence against Palestinians should expect to see grass-roots protests against their positions.

— @subirgrewal

Trump, Devos, Prince working to take funding from schools and use it for mercenaries and missiles.

We have watched this president, like so many before him, drop bombs and hurl missiles at different countries in Asia and Africa. The picture below of US missiles striking Damascus would be perfectly at home in a Hollywood blockbuster about an technologically-advanced alien civilization attacking a human society with less firepower.


Few of these movies ever explore what is going on back home in these alien societies. Do their leaders starve their bug-eyed young of resources in learning, so they have more pliable cannon fodder? Do their military-industrial-complexes have bug-shaped lobbyists who ease the path to war, knowing there are billions to be made from restocking the armories? Do their leaders employ surveillance and intimidation against tentacled peace-activists? Do they have families where one sibling works on starving schools while another builds a mercenary army and profits from war?

Because that is what we are doing in the USA.

The New York Times asked teachers to send in pictures and stories of decrepit classrooms, and they got dozens. Some of the most shocking responses are collected here: 25-Year-Old Textbooks and Holes in the Ceiling: Inside America’s Public Schools

Tennessee, Kathryn Vaughn, art teacher

Salary: $50,000 with 11 years of experience

Annual out-of-pocket expenses: $1,500

I am a public-school teacher in the rural South. I’ve had to become incredibly resourceful with the supplies. Teaching art to about 800 students on a $100-a-year budget is difficult. I do receive some donations from the families at my school, but my school is Title I and the families don’t have a lot to give.

I personally have to work several additional jobs to survive and support my veteran husband. We live in a modest house, I drive a 15-year-old car, and despite all of that, even with my master’s degree, some months we are not food secure. —…

As teachers and schools struggle, the Trump administration plans to increase the US military budget to $716 Billion this year.

Right at the center of this shameful scam to impoverish our schools and re-direct the funds to wage war on other countries, are Erik Prince and Betsy Devos.

Devos is Trump’s Education Secretary. Her brother Erik Prince is a war profiteer who created a mercenary army when Bush/Cheney started the Iraq war. Prince is a good friend of Dick Cheney’s and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky suggested last month that Erik Prince and Blackwater were directly involved in a secret assassination and torture program run out of Cheney’s office.

Trump and Devos are planning billions in cuts to education funding, at the precise moment we understand just how under-resourced so many of our schools are.

Two programs would see the steepest cuts: Title II—used in part to recruit and retain teachers and support principals—and the 21st Century Learning Centers block grants, which pay for enrichment programs during non-school hours, particularly in high-poverty communities. —…

On the other hand, Trump’s budget expands funding for war and war materiel. Erik Prince is a Trump ally who seems to have acted as a go-between for the Trump campaign with Russia. Prince has been pitching a plan to have his mercenary army build a private air force and intelligence agency which would bill the US taxpayer. .

A mercenary force in Afghanistan would comprise about 5,500 contractors and 90 aircraft, Prince told USA Today. Contractors, paid by the U.S. government, would wear Afghan uniforms, he said, and his air force would attack hostile entities only with approval from the Afghan government.

He’s also suggested appointing a viceroy to direct the campaign. In the White House, two of Trump’s top officials, chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner, have advocated the idea.  —…

In Iraq, employees of the company Prince helped start (Blackwater/Xe) were responsible for killing several Iraqi civilians.

MLK warned about the corrosive effects of such misplaced priorities decades ago.

Never has a single family exemplified this corrupt, destructive, anti-human agenda, more than the Devos/Prince family.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin—we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered. […]

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

A true revolution of values will lay a hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

— Martin Luther King Jr. “Beyond Vietnam”, delivered on April 4, 1967

— @subirgrewal

Republicans and Democrats: A Play in Three Acts.

ACT 1: Washington DC, United States Senate early 2016

Merrick Garland, an eminently qualified judge, was nominated by Barack Obama to the Supreme Court. For weeks afterwards, Republican senators responsible for considering the nomination refused to meet with him. Some of them slink out of their offices in the Senate to avoid the visiting judge.

Several eventually do meet him after being shamed, but refuse to discuss confirmation hearings and restrict conversations to pleasantries. They work in lock step to deny Garland a hearing, and deny him the nomination. For the first time in the Republic’s history, a President’s judicial nominee is denied a hearing for 10 months.

170-Plus Days And Counting: GOP Unlikely To End Supreme Court Blockade Soon

As of now, Garland has been waiting, in vain, for more than 170 days, well over the century-old, 125-day record. The prospect is, at best, many months more of waiting.

To sum up events to date, hours after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death last February, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell announced that there would be no hearings, no votes, no action whatsoever, on any Supreme Court nomination until the American people got to vote on a new president. —…

The Republican Senate leader maintains strict discipline among his senators, whipping them into line, ensuring not a single one broke ranks.

ACT 2: Washington DC, early 2018

President Donald Trump nominates a pro-torture war-monger to serve as Secretary of State.

The nominee is Mike Pompeo, who once said Obama had an “affinity” for terrorists like ISIS. He called Hillary Clinton “morally reprehensible” when she was Secretary of State. He liked a tweet calling John Kerry a traitor. He has called Muslim leaders “potentially complicit” in terrorism.

Many Democrats go along as if this is B.A.U. Several senior Democrats voted to confirm said pro-torture war-monger to lead the CIA the previous year, after he said he remained open to waterboarding and other forms of torture that he had previously supported.

The Senate considers the nomination as Democratic activist groups across the spectrum oppose his nomination:

These are extra-ordinary times. At least one Republican senator has pledged to vote against Pompeo’s nomination. This senator sits on the Foreign Relations committee where Pompeo’s hearing is being held. If all Democrats on the committee join the Republican in voting down Pompeo, heis nomination will go to a floor vote. No nominee who has failed to gain majority support in committee has been confirmed in over 40 years.

The senate has only ever rejected nine cabinet level nominees in its entire history. Several observers believe that though Pompeo was confirmed 66-32 to his CIA position, Secretary of State is a different proposition as cabinet position.

In Committee, Pompeo is grilled about his views on Russia, Iran, North Korea, torture and his anti-Muslim bigotry.

“At the State Department, there are too many holes, too many vacancies, too many unfilled positions,” Mr. Pompeo said in one of his many promises to restore the department to its former glory after his predecessor, Rex W. Tillerson, pushed out hundreds of diplomats. The vow was greeted with relief by nearly all on the panel. —…

The senate committee “appear relieved” that a pro-torture, far-right, war-mongering bigot will have the opportunity to pack the State Department with hundreds of supporters.

As the curtain falls on this act, prominent Democrats line up on the stage to publicly declare magical beliefs, such as:

ACT 3: Will Democrats Put Up a Fight?

The Act opens with a jester hopping on stage to address the audience. He wonders whether Democrats are like frogs in a kettle being boiled by Trump. The temperature’s been rising with Tillerson and , it will reach boiling point with Bolton, Pompeo and Haspel. The American public has a tiring habit of “rallying around the president” when we’re at war. And the only thing Pompeo, Bolton and Haspel love more than harassing black/brown people at home is bombing black/brown people abroad.

Martial music is piped through the theater.

 The Jester says he spoke with the nominee, and…

Mike Pompeo Can’t Believe Senate Just Expects He’ll Answer Questions Without Being Tortured First

Maniacal laughter from the rafters, interspersed with screams.

In Act 1, we saw that Mitch McConnell, Republican leader of Kentucky. Kentucky is a red state, it last had a Democratic senator in 1999. McConnell whipped his entire party to deny an eminently qualified supreme court candidate a confirmation hearing. He used all his power to ensure someone he mildly opposed ideologically didn’t stand a chance to win a supreme court seat.

He fought.

In Act 3, we see Democratic senate leader Chuck Schumer of New York. New York is a blue state, it last had a Republican representing it in the Senate in 1999. Schumer voted to confirm Pompeo as CIA Director a year prior. Schumer is happy to tell the press that he is not “at this moment” asking Democratic senators to oppose the nomination of pro-torture war-monger Mike Pompeo.

He’s not fighting.

Stay tuned to see what happens next!

— @subirgrewal | Cross-posted at & TheProgressiveWing

Mike Pompeo is a pro-torture racist. Why are Dems coaching him for Senate hearings?

Daily Kos is currently running a petition against Mike Pompeo’s nomination to be appointed Secretary of State. It lists several very good reasons for denying Pompeo confirmation, and ends with:

Pompeo is a xenophobic, pro-torture, climate-denying war hawk. If the Senate confirms him, it will be disastrous for U.S. diplomacy and would undermine progress on multiple continents for years. —…

Pompeo is among a sizable group of Republicans who have built their careers on outright xenophobia, focusing especially on hate directed towards Muslims. In many ways, his election the house and that of other Republicans like Steve King was a harbinger of Trump’s election.

This includes incidents like an Oklahoma Republican who refused to meet with young constituents who were Muslim, and asked them to answer a ten page questionnaire on Islam including questions like “do you beat your wife”. Buzzfeed did a comprehensive article on this strand of rhetoric within the Republican party:

The anti-Muslim rhetoric in virtually every state reflects the general coarsening of political speech in the anything-goes era of President Donald Trump, who’s lashed out at Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, women, and other targets. Still, the jabs at Islam are set apart by their sheer ugliness as well as by companion efforts aimed at restricting Muslim civil liberties and immigration. Muslim groups worry that politicians’ unchecked vilification of a religion followed by more than 3.3 million Americans opens the door for even bigger blows than the travel ban. […]

State Rep. Mack Butler last year asked on social media, “Have you noticed that we keep hearing how Islam is a religion of peace as they blow people up?” Alabama lawmaker Mo Brooks said in 2016 that Muslims want “to kill every homosexual in the United States.” The same year, Gurley Police Chief Barry Pendergraft posted a video of himself with ammunition under the caption, “100 more bacon grease covered bullets in the box! This relaxes me so!!!” […]

In 2015, former Nebraska state Sen. Bill Kintner suggested that any Muslim wishing to enter the United States should be forced to eat pork first. The same year, Rhode Island state Sen. Elaine Morgan inadvertently sent an email to colleagues blasting Muslims as murderous and recommending that Syrian refugees be housed in camps; she later stood by her anti-refugee comments but said she’d sent the email before editing it to make clear she was referring to “fanatical” Muslims. —…

The Buzzfeed article is worth a read, it provides a taste for how racist politicians have stoked animus against Muslims, without facing any repercussions. Part of the explanation is that many American muslims are black, and so anti-Muslim rhetoric doubles as a cover for racism. This found expression during the Obama years in the conspiracy theories around Obama’s faith:

Pompeo’s Islamophobe credentials are without dispute. He has fought for years to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, a move that even the Trump administration has refused to make. He was once a regular guest on the radio show of Frank Gaffney, where he once agreed with the notoriously anti-Muslim host that President Obama had an “affinity” for ISIS. And in 2016, he claimed that “people who deeply believe that Islam is the way” are a “threat to America.” —…

Gaffney had a different interpretation, wondering whether the president was conveying “kind of an affinity for, if not the violent beheading and crucifixions and slaying of Christians and all that, but at least for the cause for which these guys are engaged in such activities.”

Pompeo agreed, saying, “Frank, every place you stare at the president’s policies and statements, you see what you just described.” —…

Yes, you read that right. Mike Pompeo nodded along as arch-racist Gaffney said that Obama had an affinity for terrorists.  So, Pompeo is a member in good standing of the sizable group of Republicans who routinely demonize Muslims:

In 2013, when he was a congressman from Kansas, Mike Pompeo said that Muslim religious leaders were “potentially complicit” in the Boston Marathon attack because they had not forcefully condemned the bombing. —…

Oh, and he’s also in favor of torture (just like Trump):

Pompeo, in his public testimony, did not put to rest questions about positions on torture that he himself has professed in the past, or about what he might encourage Trump to do, if Trump should turn to him in private. Pompeo, in past statements, has defended the use of waterboarding under the Bush Administration, with the bankrupt argument that, although torture was illegal, waterboarding was not torture, and nor were other “techniques” that lawyers in the Administration signed off on. —…

Why then, are not one, but two former Democratic presidential nominees and Secretaries of State coaching Mike Pompeo for the confirmation hearings?

As a sharply partisan Republican member of Congress, CIA Director Mike Pompeo tormented former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over her response to the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which Pompeo called “morally reprehensible.” He also once liked a tweet that branded her successor, John Kerry, a “traitor.”[…]

But now that Pompeo faces a tough confirmation process to become secretary of state himself, he has reached out to Clinton and Kerry, as well as every other living occupant of the office, to ask for guidance. Clinton, for one, has been willing to help.

“These were lengthy calls seeking advice” from the former secretaries, a person familiar with Pompeo’s prep work told Politico. —…

I’m genuinely interested in what the Kerry and Clinton’s thinking is here. Why are they aiding the confirmation prep of a Republican candidate who has such virulent views. Especially when they’ve both been objects of his hatred. Pompeo wants to go to war with Iran, a dangerous predilection when Bolton is in charge of the NSC. He is an apologist and defender for torture programs. He is a noted Islamophobe. Do they think by helping Pompeo get confirmed they’ll have changed his long-held views on torture or militarism?

BTW, Senator Rand Paul (KY) and Senator Bernie Sander (VT) have already said they intend to vote against Pompeo’s confirmation.

— @subirgrewal

Nikki Haley blocks UN Palestinian rights statement as Israeli troops kill journalist in press vest.

The United States for a second week in a row blocked a UN Security Council statement supporting the right of Palestinians to “demonstrate peacefully” and endorsing Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for an independent investigation into deadly protests in Gaza.

Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Friday evening that 14 of the 15 council nations agreed to the statement, but the United States, Israel’s closest ally, objected. —…

Nikki Haley’s move to block a recognition of Palestinian’s rights was opposed by the Palestinian ambassador to the UN. Trump’s mid-east envoy, Jason Greenblatt said Gazans should obey Israeli commands to keep out of the half a kilometer wide strip of Gaza near the border.

The Israeli ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon claimed Palestinians were using “children as human shields”. Danon’s sudden concern for the children of Gaza is perplexing, since he has previously advocated for wanton bombing of Gaza, where fully half the population are children. In 2011, Danon said Israel should be “deleting a neighborhood in Gaza” to retaliate for Hamas’ rockets. In 2014, after an Israeli soldier was kidnapped, Danon said the IDF should “start leveling Gaza”.

Two Palestinians succumbed early Saturday to injuries sustained in a protest on the border fence with Israel a day earlier, including a journalist shot by Israeli forces despite apparently wearing a vest that clearly marked him as press.

Video and photos of Yasser Murtaja, 31, being treated after sustaining a bullet wound to the lower abdomen, including one shot by Agence France-Presse news agency, show him wearing a blue and white protective jacket with “PRESS” emblazoned on the front.

Murtaja, who worked for a Gaza-based news agency called Ain Media, was one of six Palestinian journalists shot, according to the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, which said they were all clearly identifiable as media. The Israeli military has maintained that the shooting into the border crowds is carefully targeted. It could not immediately provide a comment on how six journalists could have been shot. —…

Al-Jazeera reported that seven other journalists were shot by Israeli troops, including Khalil Abu Athira below:

After last week’s Land Day protest, where Israeli troops shot over 750 Palestinians protesters, killing 19, the IDF officially claimed in a tweet that it “knew where every bullet landed”. The tweet was later deleted.

A scene from the protest today that terrified Israel’s nuclear armed military into shooting hundreds of Palestinians:

Nikki Haley has consistently worked to advance Trump’s bellicose agenda in the Middle-East. Some suspect her disregard for Palestinian rights is cultivated to further her political ambitions. Last year, she worked to undermine the Iran nuclear deal which had been negotiated by the Obama administration. In this effort, she was supported by former John Bolton, who has now been installed as National Security Advisor:

Haley wasn’t alone. The fingerprints of former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, whose access to Trump was recently limited by chief of staff John Kelly, were also on Trump’s Friday address in the form of a warning that Trump, who opted not to push for steps that could undo the nuclear agreement, could still cancel the deal “at any time.”

The line was added to Trump’s speech after Bolton, despite Kelly’s recent edict, reached the president by phone on Thursday afternoon from Las Vegas, where Bolton was visiting with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson.

— @subirgrewal

Trump urged CIA to kill more families and children in drone strikes.

In a long article on Trump’s relationship with the military, WaPo reveals that Trump urged CIA employees to commit more war crimes.

Trump came to office promising to give the Pentagon a free hand to unleash the full force of U.S. firepower. His impatience was evident on his first full day in office when he visited the CIA and was ushered up to the agency’s drone operations floor. […]

Later, when the agency’s head of drone operations explained that the CIA had developed special munitions to limit civilian casualties, the president seemed unimpressed. Watching a previously recorded strike in which the agency held off on firing until the target had wandered away from a house with his family inside, Trump asked, “Why did you wait?” one participant in the meeting recalled.

On the campaign trail, Trump often said he would “take out” the families of terrorists. —…

This was the visit where Trump spoke to several hundred CIA staffers towards the end of his visit. In his speech he complained about media coverage of the size of the crowd at his inauguration. He also made up a story about god stopping the rain for his inauguration speech. Those comments got a lot of attention. To our everlasting shame, the fact that the president urged military personnel to murder families was not.

Targeting civilians in combat is a war crime. Collective punishment is a war crime. Trump urged US military personnel under his command, to kill women and children. During the campaign he publicly said that he would demand that families of combatants be murdered. He followed through with this threat.

And let us also be clear. The US military obeyed the president’s command and changed the way it conducted drone strikes. In 2017, at least 6,000 civilians were killed in bombings by US armed forces:

According to statistics compiled by the Airwars watchdog group, there were nearly 50% more coalition air strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2017 compared with the previous year. Civilian deaths rose by 215%. The coalition, almost all US planes, dropped 20,000 bombs on Raqqa. By the end of the five-month campaign, 80% of the city was declared uninhabitable by the UN, and 1,800 civilians are thought to have been killed. Airwars estimates 1,400 of those deaths were caused by coalition air and artillery bombardment.

“We had always expected the highest proportion of civilian casualties to occur in that stage in the war and that’s exactly what happened,” said Chris Woods, the head of Airwars. “Even if we had had a Clinton presidency we would doubtless have had higher civilian casualties in that last stage of the war simply because Raqqa and Mosul were under assault. What we still don’t fully understand is how many more civilians were harmed as a result of fairly significant changes that the Trump administration says it put in place.” —…

The Hill is also covering Trump’s command to the US military to murder families:

President Trump reportedly asked an official at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) why they didn’t kill a terrorist target’s family during a drone strike.

The Washington Post reported Thursday after watching a recorded video of a Syrian drone strike where officials waited until the target was outside of his family’s home, Trump asked, “Why did you wait?”

The agency’s head of drone operations explained to an “unimpressed” Trump there are techniques to limit the number of civilian casualties. —…

If the commander in chief of the US armed forces is formally urging troops to kill civilians, it does make you wonder who’s terrorizing whom.

— @subirgrewal

Congress largely silent as close ally shoots 750 protesters, kills 17 to stifle demonstration.

Tens of thousands of Gazans walked toward the border facing a heavily armed Israeli line. They walked toward rifles and drones. Israel had announced its deployment of a hundred snipers authorized to use live ammunition. And fire they did; the United Nations reports 15 dead and 1,416 wounded, including 750 hit by live ammunition, of whom 20 are in critical condition. […]

The Israeli army additionally militarizes a belt of Gaza’s agricultural land, intruding a further 300 to 500 meters into Gaza. That is the zone in which live fire is being used. Gazans are walking and being killed, on their own land. Walking in protest is not a capital crime in other places, and human rights group B’Tselem calls Israel’s attempt to control the Gaza protest with live fire “absurd.” —…

As if penning almost 2 million people within 140 sq miles for decades wasn’t enough, Israeli authorities have carved a half kilometer strip inside Gaza as a free-fire zone for snipers and drones.

Shai Eluk served as a medic among IDF snipers six years ago. Writing in +972mag, he talks about what he felt when his friends were ordered to fire at protesters in 2012:

This order, which never explained exactly how a soldier is meant to identify, isolate, and shoot a “main inciter” out of tens of thousands of demonstrators disturbed me then. It continued to disturb me this past weekend, after IDF snipers opened fire on Palestinian marchers at the Gaza border. “How can opening fire at a crowd of people be a legal order?” I asked my deputy company commander six years ago. I have yet to receive an answer.

One of my friends killed a demonstrator on the border with Gaza. I am part of a group that carries this death on its shoulders. The only difference between myself and my friend is chance. Had I been sent to the sniper course rather than the medics course, I would have been that shooter. —…

Where indeed, are all those voices who advocate military interventions? Why are they silent when Bahrain or Saudi Arabia suppress demonstrations? Why are they silent when Israeli soldiers fire on Palestinian demonstrators? Why aren’t they advocating sanctions under the Leahy amendments directed at Israeli army units that willfully violate Palestinian’s human rights?

Hasan ended up writing an article exploring the thought behind his tweet and Amira Haas has an article in Haaretz discussing the long history of the IDF’s killing of Gazan civilians.

As a close ally that receives billions in military support each year violently suppressed a protest, most American politicians remained silent. With a few exceptions:

Human Rights Watch issued a report on the violent suppression of the protest:

Senior Israeli officials who unlawfully called for use of live ammunition against Palestinian demonstrations who posed no imminent threat to life bear responsibility for the killings of 14 demonstrators in Gaza and the injuring of hundreds on March 30, 2018, Human Rights Watch said today. […] The high number of deaths and injuries was the foreseeable consequence of granting soldiers leeway to use lethal force outside of life-threatening situations in violation of international norms, coupled with the longstanding culture of impunity within the Israeli army for serious abuses. —…

The Israeli Defense ministry said there would be no investigation of the firing on demonstrators, and that Israel would not co-operate with any international investigation. Israeli forces have a history of using force against Palestinian protesters who pose no threat. In December, an Israeli soldier shot Abu Thuraya in the head at a protest in Gaza, killing him. Thuraya lost both his legs in an Israeli missile strike and was in his wheelchair.

Khadrah Zaqout, 76, was busy baking a fresh, homemade loaf of bread in a mud oven that provides for her family of nine. She said she intends to remain all day in the tent to demand her right to return to her home city, which was abandoned in 1948 when the state of Israel was established.

“I am from the city of Majdal [Ashkelon], where I was born and lived the most beautiful days of my life,” she said. “I still remember our beautiful house, the olive tree and the chicken coop.”

“I brought my grandsons with me to the protest to show them the way to their historical homeland, the land of Palestine,” she said. —…