Statewatch article: RefNo# 31650
Military - new material
Statewatch Journal; vol 21 no 2 April-June 2011
US Army apologises for horrific photos from Afghanistan, Matthias Gebauer and Hasnain Kazim. Speigel online 21.3.11. This article reports on a Stryker tank unit which embarked on a campaign of killing against Afghan civilians as part of the US contribution to the War on Terror. Twelve members of the self-styled “kill” team are on trial in Seattle for the murder of three civilians and the case has resulted in the publication of “trophy” photographs in the German newspaper. The images of US soldiers posing with the defenceless bodies of murdered civilians recalls the photographs of US soldiers at work in Abu Ghraib prison. It should also be recalled that dozens of other photographs of the US military at work (and play) have never been published by the US military because they are considered too sensitive: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,752310,00.html

“Crossfire”: continued human rights abuses by Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion. Human Rights Watch 2011, pp. 59. The British trained Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was set up as an elite crime fighting force with members drawn from Bangladesh’s military and police. Since its formation in 2004 it has routinely engaged in extrajudicial killings and torture of people in custody, (according to RAB’s own figures, the force has gunned down well over 600 alleged criminals since 2004). This report documents the outfit’s ongoing human rights violations in and around Dhaka after the current Awami League-led government came to power; nearly 200 people have died at the Battalion’s hands since January 2009. The authors call for the death squad to be made accountable or disbanded within 6 month period. This report follows up the earlier Human Rights Watch report, Judge, Jury, and Executioner: Torture and Extrajudicial Killings by Bangladesh’s Elite Security Force (2006). Available as a free download at: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2011/05/10/crossfire-0

Scrutiny of Arms Export Controls (2011): UK Strategic Export Controls Annual Report 2009, Quarterly Reports for 2010, licensing policy and review of export control legislation. First Joint Report of Session 2010-2011. House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills, Defence, Foreign Affairs, and International Development Committees, 22.3.11, pp. 84. The Committee reviews the UK government’s arms export policy, with this report being the first since the coalition government came to power in May 2010. It is noted that “the promotion of arms exports is a key part of the government’s business strategy” (p.14). This may help to explain evidence from the rest of the report that indicates an approach to arms exports even less concerned with human rights obligations than that of the Labour government. “Priority markets” for 2010/11 include Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and a number of others. There is concern noted that the UK’s criteria for arms exports are in fact weaker than the EU criteria from which they are derived, although the government rebuffs this criticism. A section dealing with on-going negotiations at the UN for an international Arms Trade Treaty notes that while the previous government played a “leadership role” at preparatory committees, “the Coalition Government appeared to have stopped performing that leadership role” (p.40), with one witness before the committee stating that the UK’s statements perhaps indicate that an Arms Trade Treaty should be more concerned with trade and less with human rights and humanitarian issues. Prioritisation of trade seems apparent from another conclusion that “the Government has failed to demonstrate satisfactorily whether, and if so how, it assesses the risk that individual arms exports may be linked to bribery and corruption during the licence approval process” (p.49). There is further recognition that the coalition’s policy on exports to Israel “appears to be confused” (p.52), given that contradicting statements were received by the committee. There is also the rather kindly statement that “both the present Government and its predecessor misjudged the risk that arms approved for export to...North Africa and the Middle East might be used for internal repression” (p.55). Annex 4 provides details of now-revoked export licences to different countries in the region. Available as a PDF at http://www.reprieve.org.uk/static/downloads/2011_03_05_PUB_Export_Control_Report.pdf

The Predator Paradox, Ken MacDonald and Response: we mustn’t ignore the fact that British drones kill too, Chris Cole. The Guardian 6.5.11 and 13.5.11. In the wake of the US execution of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, MacDonald notes the President Obama vetoed a Predator drone bomb attack on the al Qaeda leader because “the risk that innocents would die in full view of the watching world was too much to contemplate.” MacDonald expresses regret at the US president’s hypocrisy and asks why he does not apply the same caution to the many innocents killed in Obama’s massively escalated use of drone strikes in Pakistan, where civilian deaths have increased massively. In his piece, Cole acknowledges MacDonald’s questions over the morality and legality of the US campaign, which is estimated to have killed several hundred innocent people, but also reminds us of the “virtual wall of silence” over the UK’s complicity in the indiscriminate carnage: “We do know that between June 2008 and December 2010, more than 124 people were killed in Afghanistan by British drones. We know this not because of any ministerial statement, parliamentary question, or Freedom of Information request, but because of a boastful, off-the-cuff remark to journalists by the prime minister during his last visit to Afghanistan.”

The Great Game: the reality of Britain’s war on Afghanistan, Mark Curtis. War on Want (February) 2011, pp. 28. The NATO-led occupation of Afghanistan is in its tenth year and, as this report observes, has led to many thousands of casualties (“unnecessary collateral damage”) and a mounting human rights crisis. The report cites US Lt Col David Kilcullen stating that US aerial attacks on the Afghan-Pakistan border have killed 14 al-Qaida leaders at the cost of over 700 civilian lives. It also reports on the private military and security companies which are profiting from the “privatisation of key sectors of the economy is designed primarily to benefit multinational investors rather than the Afghan people.” The report outlines the impact of the war on the people of Afghanistan, whose country had already been devastated by decades of warfare and foreign interference. Finally, it calls for the immediate withdrawal of NATO troops. Available at: http://www.waronwant.org/attachments/afghanistan_the_great_game_war_on_want.pdf

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