Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gujarat’s Muslims uneasy about Modi

by Samanth Subramanian

April 19, 2014 

AHMEDABAD // Twelve years after being displaced by religious riots, residents of a small Muslim settlement outside Gujarat’s largest city say they have received no help at all from the state government to rebuild their lives.

Authorities in the state, headed by Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party since 2001, provided the settlement with electricity only in 2005 – three years after it was built. It has yet to receive piped water.The people of Citizen Nagar, more than a dozen kilometres from the heart of Ahmedabad, were resettled there after losing their homes and possessions, and in some cases family members, during the 2002 riots in which more than 1,000 Muslims were killed.

Like the other houses in Citizen Nagar, Reshmaben Saiyed’s home, with its asbestos-sheet roof and lime-green walls, was built with funding from Islamic charities and the central government.

Ms Saiyed says Mr Modi’s government provided no assistance at all, and, now that he is the leading contender to become the next prime minister after the ongoing general election, she voices a concern of Muslims across the country.

“If Narendra Modi did so much damage to us as chief minister, imagine what he can do sitting as prime minister in New Delhi,” said Ms Saiyed, whose family fled from the burning town of Naroda Patiya in 2002.

Mr Modi’s critics claim he is deeply anti-Muslim, pointing to several of his speeches in the past decade as well as to the riots, the biggest stain on his record. While a Supreme Court investigation cleared Mr Modi any crimes, he has been accused of failing to stop the right-wing Hindu mobs that killed Muslims and torched thousands of Muslim homes and shops across the state.

“It has been 12 years, and there has been no resolution,” Ms Saiyed said. “We received no compensation from the Gujarat government. Just a handful of the culprits have been punished.”

But tensions in Gujarat between Hindus and Muslims, who make up 90 and 9 per cent of the state’s population respectively, existed long before Mr Modi’s advent on the political scene. Communal riots have flared in various parts of the state since the 1960s.

Even today, Muslims in Ahmedabad find it difficult to rent flats in Hindu-dominated areas of the city, leading to what some Muslims residents call “ghettoisation”.

“There isn’t a single mixed building in the city,” said Nadeem Jaffri, a Muslim resident of Ahmedabad.

But the tensions between the two communities were “exacerbated after he came to power, and after the riots”, said Zahir Janmohamed, a Muslim former human-rights activist who moved to Ahmedabad from America three years ago to write a book about the aftermath of the 2002 riots.

Mr Janmohamed lives in Juhapura, a neighbourhood of Ahmedabad that was established by the government in 1973 to house people displaced by the flooding of the Sabarmati river that year. Over time, Juhapura also received Muslims displaced by riots in 1980, 1985, 1990, 1992 and 2002, and now the district is almost entirely Muslim – mostly because, as Mr Jaffri pointed out, Muslims find it impossible to get an apartment in Hindu-dominated parts of the city.

“There’s a stigma to living in Juhapura,” Mr Janmohamed said. “When I went to open a bank account, for example, I could see how the teller’s face just fell when I gave my address.” The stigma of living in Juhapura, he suggested, was tied to the stigma of just being a Muslim in Gujarat.

Juhapura is not quite as neglected as Citizen Nagar, but its 500,000 residents still lack proper facilities. The sewerage system is inadequate, and many of its inner roads are never repaired. The first municipal school was opened only last year.

Mr Jaffri, who owns a grocery store in Juhapura, hesitated to call the neglect deliberate.

“But it’s clear that we aren’t high on the list of priorities of the government.”

Mr Jaffri chose his words carefully. Mr Modi has been projecting himself as a leader who excels at economic development, and Mr Jaffri acknowledged the improvements in the state’s infrastructure over the past decade, during which the road system has improved, power supply has become stable and shipping ports have expanded their capacity.

“We have to give him some credit for that,” Mr Jaffri said. “But when he talks about development, it should reach areas like Juhapura also.

“And we can’t forget that the Gujarati spirit is also responsible, in large part, for the development,” he said, referring to the entrepreneurship for which residents of the state are known.

Mr Jaffri’s predictions for India under Mr Modi are not quite as bleak as Ms Saiyed’s.

“In Gujarat, Modi has been like a king. He had absolute control over the state,” he said. “But at the national level, he won’t have such a strong influence. There will be other parties in his coalition. There will be state governments run by other parties.”

But, Mr Jaffri said, “I still can’t trust him. Our trust was shaken so much in 2002, and you can’t rebuild that”.

He also sees another problem.

“If he wins the election, it will stamp a right-wing presence in India – that’s not a good thing at all for the country.”

The unknown believer

S N Smith -- April 19, 2014

It took a lot of courage to do what he did. Most certainly he was placing himself at great risk. Surely he knew that he would face opposition, but that did not stop him. Something inside of him -- a deep seated conviction -- compelled him to speak out regardless of the consequences. He could not help himself, he had to speak out or he was going to burst from the inside out. He knew what was the truth and he could not tolerate falsehood having the upper hand. Saying nothing was not an option. Standing by while innocent blood was about to be spilled was simply intolerable, especially when the one about to have his life snuffed out was doing nothing more than speaking truth to power.  He knew full well of the track record of the one he would be challenging, it was brutal. Rivers of blood were shed at his hands as he exercised his ruthless rule over large masses of people. To challenge such a heartless person, who possessed the full reigns of power, meant almost certain death. 

But what was death to this person other than a transition to the other side where he would meet his Lord and have to give an account of what he did in this life? What would be the consequences if he were to say nothing at all and just drift along in his own private world of belief?  After all, no one knew he was a believer as he kept his faith a secret and, it appears, no one suspected anything unusual about him. 

But here he is, his voiced raised in a passionate plea, seeking to stay the hand of Pharaoh who was about to put Moses to death. 

And now, many centuries later, we still don't know his name but he is a model for every believer since. What he did is universally admired and we look upon him with awe and wonder. Muslims read about him in the Surah Ghafir, the 40th chapter of the Quran, verses 26-45

I am not going to go into all what he said to Pharaoh, readers can do that on their own. What I want to highlight in this brief article is that one person, with no other motive than to please Allah, stood up for the truth even though doing so had the potential of causing him personal harm. But, the Quran says in verse 45 of the above cited surah, "Then Allah saved him from (every) ill that they plotted (against him), but the brunt of the Penalty encompassed on all sides the People of Pharaoh." 

Who is this person who actually came from the people of Pharaoh and was not even one of the children of Israel? He is the unknown believer and Allah has immortalized his courageous act in the pages of the Holy Quran.

S N Smith writes from Ottawa, ON. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ukraine Jew Registration Hoax Smacks of Psyop Campaign

April 18, 2014

By Donn Marten

The nadir of the anti-Russian propaganda campaign has finally been reached. In a lurid, rapidly spreading tale that has been seized upon by a corrupt state-corporate media in full feeding frenzy a leaflet requiring the registration of Jews was discovered in Donetsk. One may recall that back in 2006 a similar tale about Jews being forced to wear badges by Iran's regime was debunked and retracted - as this one will be.

In a rapidly spreading sensationalist story warning of the evils of the pro-Russian (translation: anti-austerity) opposition in East Ukraine a particularly lurid piece of vile propaganda has been launched into the US state-corporate media echo chamber. There has been an amazing discovery of some leaflets distributed in Donetsk requiring all Jews over the age of 16 to register with the authorities - shades of Hitler! The culprit behind this obvious psychological warfare operation is the vaunted bastion of dumbed down Americann journalism USA Today - which is written at about a seventh grade reading level. For those who have a functional memory this is anexact duplicate of that 2006 hoax that there was a new law in Iran requiring Jews to wear a yellow badge in Iran, a massive neocon promulgated lie that was nearly immediately retracted . As audacious frauds, both Jew baiting efforts rank right up there with the infamous fairy tale of Saddam Hussein's soldiers yanking babies out of Kuwaiti incubators as agitprop to induce a war frenzy in the US where nothing much changes except the designated devil of the day. Back then it was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and now it's Vladimir Putin. While the media pounced on this like a pack of starved dogs thrown a chunk of maggoty rotting meat the tale was immediately met with skepticism within the alternative media that unlike the careerist filled and bought and paid for Washington sucklingpresstitutes has a sense of duty to get at the truth as well as highly functional bullshit detectors. 

Unfortunately the bullshit detector of one US Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry, Skull and Bones alumni and constant source of American foreign policy embarrassment either doesn't work or he is in on the con. In another of his frantic rushes to judgement, Kerry condemned the leaflets demanding the bogus Jew registration program as "not just intolerable, it's grotesque, is beyond acceptable" which is a statement that perfectly nails Kerry's job performance as the most abysmal excuse for a Secretary of State in US history. The leaflet tale is so ludicrous and conveniently timed that even the neocon central transmission center at The Washington Post put up a "what we know" guide that is chock full of caveats and qualifiers including a statement that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is "skeptical about the flyer's authenticity" although it wasn't questionable enough to prevent Kerry's latest outbreak of chronic diarrhea of the mouth. Kerry like the on staff WaPo neocon flacks continue to push their lies, an example being that mysterious sarin gas attack in a Damascus suburb that nearly allowed for the starting of another war last summer. The missing airplane network over at CNN seems to be biting though which is not surprising - "Wolf" can parlay this into another ratings boon until the next celebrity sex scandal, murder or disappearance of a jetliner drops into their lap.

It is interesting that CIA Director John Brennan paid a visit to Kiev over the weekend. The Agency is certainly no stranger to planting false stories and disseminating propaganda but it is going to take one hell of a lot more than some phony anti-Semitic leaflets a few days before Passover to close the sale on the illicitly installed regime in Ukraine. It's a damned good thing for the Obama regime and his neocon packed foreign policy team that Americans have been fed such a constant diet of lies about Ukraine that they have zero idea that their hard earned tax dollars are funding real anti-Semites and neo-Nazis or this latest "ham-handed" and "transparent" attempt to generate outrage could put a ding in the ongoing effort to reboot the Cold War. So Obama is once again getting his face rubbed into a big pile of sh*t thanks to his own ineptitude and his idiotic choice of people to run his administration, a failure of historic proportions that will doom this country in the long run far worse than anything that Bush and Cheney ever did. He had the chance to change course but wouldn't for reasons that may never be truly known. 

The lineup of hacks, political cronies, recycled incompetents and retained Bush-Cheney neocons that Obama has fielded over the last five plus years has been dismal beyond comprehension but Kerry has to be the cherry on top of the entire sh*t cake. He is the proverbial gift that keeps on giving to critics and nobody short of the insane warmonger John Bolton (or maybe Donald Trump) would have been a worst choice as the nation's top diplomat. In great story written by Robert Parry over at Consortium News entitled "What's the Matter With John Kerry?" he knocks it out of the park. I excerpt the following:

So, when John Kerry replaced Hillary Clinton on Feb. 1, 2013, the State Department was in need of a responsible adult who would rein in the department's penchant for stirring up trouble and then looking on helplessly as the chaos spun out of control.

But which Kerry would show up? The young Kerry who recognized how belligerent talk and playing with facts could end up getting lots of innocent people killed or the older Kerry who had trimmed his sails and learned to go with the prevailing winds, regardless of the dangers to the world?

There are times at the end of a politician's career when the person reverts back to an earlier, more idealistic self, though more often a deeply compromised politician just continues doing what's been learned over the decades of political survival.

It's now clear that John Kerry fell into the latter approach. He did undertake a quixotic pursuit of an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, perhaps hoping that success in such an impossible undertaking would be the "crown jewel" of his career, compensating for his 2004 defeat.

But Kerry also let himself be turned into a hand puppet for the neocons and R2Pers who had gained bureaucratic control of State and were set on escalating confrontations with Syria and Iran by essentially following the "regime change" blueprint designed by Vice President Dick Cheney and the neocons in the Bush-43 administration.

Influential neocons and R2Pers took command of key positions in 2013, as Kerry moved from Capitol Hill to Foggy Bottom and Obama entered his second term. Neocon Victoria Nuland was promoted from State Department spokesperson to Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Susan Rice became National Security Adviser, and Samantha Power took over as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.


Again, someone like the young Kerry might have spoken up about the danger from unintended consequences when arrogant U.S. officials interfere in the internal affairs of another country. The young Kerry might have pondered how the Nuland-Gershman strategy of destabilizing Ukraine actually helps either the Ukrainians or the American people.

So far, the scheme holds the possibility of civil war in Ukraine, disastrous economic trouble for Europe (with fallout for the U.S. economy, too) and another splurge of U.S. military spending as bellicose politicians cut back even more on domestic priorities.

The younger Kerry might have been wise enough to cool the rhetoric and redirect the narrative into a realistic discussion that could resolve the crisis. For instance, it wouldn't have been very hard to insist that the Feb. 21 agreement be enforced -- with Yanukovych possibly serving in a ceremonial capacity until new elections could select a new president, rather than the U.S. and the EU immediately embracing a neo-Nazi-led coup.

But the older Kerry is behaving much like the older generation of Cold Warriors did in the 1960s when they insisted that there was no choice other than a U.S. military intervention in Vietnam, that the lives of tens of thousands of young American men and millions of Vietnamese was a small price to pay to stop some imaginary dominoes from toppling. South Vietnam had to be kept in the "free world."

Yet, rather than the dovish warrior of his youth, Kerry has become a hawkish diplomat in his old age, refusing to see the other side's case and eager to take extreme positions that are sure to get more young people killed. John Kerry in his 20s was a much wiser man than John Kerry at age 70.

Note that the author's reference to R2P is described as "responsibility to protect" or "R2P". This story along with all of Mr. Parry's great work - he is a dedicated investigative journalist of the type that was run out of the establishment in droves long ago and the voluminous archives at Consortium News are an invaluable resource for those seeking to understand what has gone rotten in this country over the last thirty or so years. He is truly a consummate professional who truly takes his First Amendment duty to call out corrupt and entrenched power seriously.

The real test of the Jew-baiting pamphlet hoax will be what appears in Friday's papers. Will the neocons as they usually do, steeped in their intellectual and moral corruption and insane dogma of world domination based upon Muslim and Russia hating and warmongering double down or ignore the tale? Every day that the Washington Post and to a larger degree the entire US media continues to hammer this horseshit is another day of a very slow leak of those who believe it and one day the tipping point will arrive when it will all collapse under the accumulated weight of its own falsehoods and fairy tales.

How America’s Wars Came Home With the Troops: Up Close, Personal, and Bloody

By Ann Jones -- April 18, 2014

After an argument about a leave denied, Specialist Ivan Lopez pulled out a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and began a shooting spree at Fort Hood, America’s biggest stateside base, that left three soldiers dead and 16 wounded.  When he did so, he also pulled America’s fading wars out of the closet.  This time, a Fort Hood mass killing, the second in four and a half years, was committed by a man who was neither a religious nor a political “extremist.”  He seems to have been merely one of America’s injured and troubled veterans who now number in the hundreds of thousands. Some 2.6 million men and women have been dispatched, often repeatedly, to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and according to a recent survey of veterans of those wars conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly one-third say that their mental health is worse than it was before they left, and nearly half say the same of their physical condition.  Almost half say they give way to sudden outbursts of anger.  Only 12% of the surveyed veterans claim they are now “better” mentally or physically than they were before they went to war.

The media coverage that followed Lopez’s rampage was, of course, 24/7 and there was much discussion of PTSD, the all-purpose (if little understood) label now used to explain just about anything unpleasant that happens to or is caused by current or former military men and women. Amid the barrage of coverage, however, something was missing: evidence that has been in plain sight for years of how the violence of America’s distant wars comes back to haunt the "homeland” as the troops return.  In that context, Lopez’s killings, while on a scale not often matched, are one more marker on a bloody trail of death that leads from Iraq and Afghanistan into the American heartland, to bases and backyards nationwide.  It’s a story with a body count that should not be ignored.

War Comes Home
During the last 12 years, many veterans who had grown “worse” while at war could be found on and around bases here at home, waiting to be deployed again, and sometimes doing serious damage to themselves and others.  The organization Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) has campaigned for years for a soldier’s “right to heal” between deployments.  Next month it will release its own report on a common practice at Fort Hood of sending damaged and heavily medicated soldiers back to combat zones against both doctors’ orders and official base regulations. Such soldiers can’t be expected to survive in great shape.

Immediately after the Lopez rampage, President Obama spoke of those soldiers who have served multiple tours in the wars and “need to feel safe” on their home base. But what the president called “that sense of safety... broken once again” at Fort Hood has, in fact, already been shattered again and again on bases and in towns across post-9/11 America: ever since misused, misled, and mistreated soldiers began bringing war home with them. Since 2002, soldiers and veterans have been committing murder individually and in groups, killing wives, girlfriends, children, fellow soldiers, friends, acquaintances, complete strangers, and -- in appalling numbers -- themselves. Most of these killings haven’t been on a mass scale, but they add up, even if no one is doing the math.  To date, they have never been fully counted. The first veterans of the war in Afghanistan returned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 2002.  In quick succession, four of them murdered their wives, after which three of the killers took their own lives. When a New York Times reporter asked a Special Forces officer to comment on these events, he replied: “S.F.’s don’t like to talk about emotional stuff.  We are Type A people who just blow things like that off, like yesterday’s news.”

Indeed, much of the media and much of the country has done just that.  While individual murders committed by “our nation’s heroes” on the “home front” have been reported by media close to the scene, most such killings never make the national news, and many become invisible even locally when reported only as routine murders with no mention of the apparently insignificant fact that the killer was a veteran.  Only when these crimes cluster around a military base do diligent local reporters seem to put the pieces of the bigger picture together. By 2005, Fort Bragg had already counted its tenth such “domestic violence” fatality, while on the West coast, the Seattle Weekly had tallied the death toll among active-duty troops and veterans in western Washington state at seven homicides and three suicides.  “Five wives, a girlfriend, and one child were slain; four other children lost one or both parents to death or imprisonment. Three servicemen committed suicide -- two of them after killing their wife or girlfriend.  Four soldiers were sent to prison.  One awaited trial.”

In January 2008, the New York Times tried for the first time to tally a nationwide count of such crimes.  It found “121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war.” It listed headlines drawn from smaller local newspapers:  Lakewood, Washington, “Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife”; Pierre, South Dakota, “Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress”; Colorado Springs, Colorado, “Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.” The Times found that about a third of the murder victims were wives, girlfriends, children, or other relatives of the killer, but significantly, a quarter of the victims were fellow soldiers.  The rest were acquaintances or strangers.  At that time, three quarters of the homicidal soldiers were still in the military.  The number of killings then represented a nearly 90% increase in homicides committed by active duty personnel and veterans in the six years since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.  Yet after tracing this “cross-country trail of death and heartbreak,” the Times noted that its research had probably uncovered only “the minimum number of such cases.”  One month later, it found “more than 150 cases of fatal domestic violence or [fatal] child abuse in the United States involving service members and new veterans.”

More cases were already on the way. After the Fourth Brigade Combat team of Fort Carson, Colorado, returned from Iraq later in 2008, nine of its members were charged with homicide, while “charges of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault” at the base rose sharply. Three of the murder victims were wives or girlfriends; four were fellow soldiers (all men); and two were strangers, chosen at random. Back at Fort Bragg and the nearby Marine base at Camp Lejeune, military men murdered four military women in a nine-month span between December 2007 and September 2008.  By that time, retired Army Colonel Ann Wright had identified at least 15 highly suspicious deaths of women soldiers in the war zones that had been officially termed “non-combat related” or “suicide.” She raised a question that has never been answered: “Is there an Army cover-up of rape and murder of women soldiers?”  The murders that took place near (but not on) Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune, all investigated and prosecuted by civilian authorities, raised another question: Were some soldiers bringing home not only the generic violence of war, but also specific crimes they had rehearsed abroad?

Stuck in Combat Mode
While this sort of post-combat-zone combat at home has rarely made it into the national news, the killings haven’t stopped.  They have, in fact, continued, month by month, year after year, generally reported only by local media.  Many of the murders suggest that the killers still felt as if they were on some kind of private mission in “enemy territory,” and that they themselves were men who had, in distant combat zones, gotten the hang of killing -- and the habit. For example, Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24-year-old Army veteran, went to a party in Seattle in 2012 and got into a gunfight that left four people wounded.  He then fled to Mount Rainier National Park where he shot and killed a park ranger (the mother of two small children) and fired on others before escaping into snow-covered mountains where he drowned in a stream. Barnes, an Iraq veteran, had reportedly experienced a rough transition to stateside life, having been discharged from the Army in 2009 for misconduct after being arrested for drunk driving and carrying a weapon. (He also threatened his wife with a knife.) He was one of more than 20,000 troubled Army and Marine veterans the military discarded between 2008 and 2012 with “other-than-honorable” discharges and no benefits, health care, or help. Faced with the expensive prospect of providing long-term care for these most fragile of veterans, the military chose instead to dump them.  Barnes was booted out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, Washington, which by 2010 had surpassed Fort Hood, Fort Bragg, and Fort Carson in violence and suicide to become the military’s “most troubled” home base.

Some homicidal soldiers work together, perhaps recreating at home that famous fraternal feeling of the military “band of brothers.” In 2012, in Laredo, Texas, federal agents posing as leaders of a Mexican drug cartel arrested Lieutenant Kevin Corley and Sergeant Samuel Walker, both from Fort Carson’s notorious Fourth Brigade Combat team, and two other soldiers in their private hit squad who had offered their services to kill members of rival cartels. “Wet work,” soldiers call it, and they’re trained to do it so well that real Mexican drug cartels have indeed been hiring ambitious vets from Fort Bliss, Texas, and probably other bases in the borderlands, to take out selected Mexican and American targets at $5,000 a pop.

Such soldiers seem never to get out of combat mode.  Boston psychiatrist Jonathan Shay, well known for his work with troubled veterans of the Vietnam War, points out that the skills drilled into the combat soldier -- cunning, deceit, strength, quickness, stealth, a repertoire of killing techniques, and the suppression of compassion and guilt -- equip him perfectly for a life of crime. “I’ll put it as bluntly as I can,” Shay writes in Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming, “Combat service per se smooths the way into criminal careers afterward in civilian life.”  During the last decade, when the Pentagon relaxed standards to fill the ranks, some enterprising members of at least 53 different American gangs jumpstarted their criminal careers by enlisting, training, and serving in war zones to perfect their specialized skill sets. Some veterans have gone on to become domestic terrorists, like Desert Storm veteran Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in the Oklahoma federal building in 1995, or mass murderers like Wade Michael Page, the Army veteran and uber-racist who killed six worshippers at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in August 2012. Page had first been introduced to the ideology of white supremacy at age 20, three years after he joined the Army, when he fell in with a neo-Nazi hate group at Fort Bragg.  That was in 1995, the year three paratroopers from Fort Bragg murdered two black local residents, a man and a woman, to earn their neo-Nazi spider-web tattoos.

An unknown number of such killers just walk away, like Army Private (and former West Point cadet) Isaac Aguigui, who was finally convicted last month in a Georgia criminal court of murdering his pregnant wife, Sergeant Deirdre Wetzker Aguigui, an Army linguist, three years ago. Although Deirdre Aguigui’s handcuffed body had revealed multiple blows and signs of struggle, the military medical examiner failed to “detect an anatomic cause of death”: a failure convenient for both the Army, which didn’t have to investigate further, and Isaac Aguigui, who collected a half-million dollars in military death benefits and life insurance to finance a war of his own. In 2012, Georgia authorities charged Aguigui and three combat veterans from Fort Stewart with the execution-style murders of former Private Michael Roark, 19, and his girlfriend Tiffany York, 17.  The trial in a civilian criminal court revealed that Aguigui (who was never deployed) had assembled his own private militia of troubled combat vets called FEAR (Forever Enduring, Always Ready), and was plotting to take over Fort Stewart by seizing the munitions control point.  Among his other plans for his force were killing unnamed officials with car bombs, blowing up a fountain in Savannah, poisoning the apple crop in Aguigui’s home state of Washington, and joining other unspecified private militia groups around the country in a plot to assassinate President Obama and take control of the United States government.  Last year, the Georgia court convicted Aguigui in the case of the FEAR executions and sentenced him to life.  Only then did a civilian medical examiner determine that he had first murdered his wife.

The Rule of Law
The routine drills of basic training and the catastrophic events of war damage many soldiers in ways that appear darkly ironic when they return home to traumatize or kill their partners, their children, their fellow soldiers, or random strangers in a town or on a base.  But again to get the stories we must rely upon scrupulous local journalists. The Austin American-Statesman, for example, reports that, since 2003, in the area around Fort Hood in central Texas, nearly 10% of those involved in shooting incidents with the police were military veterans or active-duty service members. In four separate confrontations since last December, the police shot and killed two recently returned veterans and wounded a third, while one police officer was killed.  A fourth veteran survived a shootout unscathed.

Such tragic encounters prompted state and city officials in Texas to develop a special Veterans Tactical Response Program to train police in handling troubled military types.  Some of the standard techniques Texas police use to intimidate and overcome suspects -- shouting, throwing “flashbangs” (grenades), or even firing warning shots -- backfire when the suspect is a veteran in crisis, armed, and highly trained in reflexive fire.  The average civilian lawman is no match for an angry combat grunt from, as the president put it at Fort Hood, “the greatest Army that the world has ever known.”  On the other hand, a brain-injured vet who needs time to respond to orders or reply to questions may get manhandled, flattened, tasered, bludgeoned, or worse by overly aggressive police officers before he has time to say a word.

Here’s another ironic twist. For the past decade, military recruiters have made a big selling point of the “veterans preference” policy in the hiring practices of civilian police departments.  The prospect of a lifetime career in law enforcement after a single tour of military duty tempts many wavering teenagers to sign on the line. But the vets who are finally discharged from service and don the uniform of a civilian police department are no longer the boys who went away. In Texas today, 37% of the police in Austin, the state capitol, are ex-military, and in smaller cities and towns in the vicinity of Fort Hood, that figure rises above the 50% mark.  Everybody knows that veterans need jobs, and in theory they might be very good at handling troubled soldiers in crisis, but they come to the job already trained for and very good at war.  When they meet the next Ivan Lopez, they make a potentially combustible combo.

Most of America’s military men and women don’t want to be “stigmatized” by association with the violent soldiers mentioned here.  Neither do the ex-military personnel who now, as members of civilian police forces, do periodic battle with violent vets in Texas and across the country.  The new Washington Post-Kaiser survey reveals that most veterans are proud of their military service, if not altogether happy with their homecoming.  Almost half of them think that American civilians, like the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan, don’t genuinely “respect” them, and more than half feel disconnected from American life.  They believe they have better moral and ethical values than their fellow citizens, a virtue trumpeted by the Pentagon and presidents alike.  Sixty percent say they are more patriotic than civilians. Seventy percent say that civilians fail absolutely to understand them.  And almost 90% of veterans say that in a heartbeat they would re-up to fight again.

Americans on the “home front” were never mobilized by their leaders and they have generally not come to grips with the wars fought in their name. Here, however, is another irony: neither, it turns out, have most of America’s military men and women. Like their civilian counterparts, many of whom are all too ready to deploy those soldiers again to intervene in countries they can’t even find on a map, a significant number of veterans evidently have yet to unpack and examine the wars they brought home in their baggage; and in too many grim cases, they, their loved ones, their fellow soldiers, and sometimes random strangers are paying the price.

Ann Jones, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of Kabul in Winter, among other books, and most recently They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars -- The Untold Story, a Dispatch Books project (Haymarket, 2013).

No Honor for A Career of Hate

A recent decision by Brandeis University (founded in 1948 as a nonsectarian Jewish community-sponsored, coeducational institution) to take back its offer to give Ayaan Hirsi Ali an honorary doctorate hit the media with the usual storm over such a controversial figure.

Most of the resistance to her, as a public figure, comes because of her own categorical statements against Islam. Not only does she choose to be an atheist, but she lambasts those who do not make her same choice. Her sweeping statements are meant to galvanize support against the Islam she has suffered from both as a child in a conservative family and as colleague of a brutally murdered film maker. She lost her bid for refugee status in Holland for lying about her past and was taken lovingly into the arms of certain institutions (like the conservative think tank, American Enterprise Institute and tea party politicians, like Pamela Gellar). All manner of official trickery was put in her favor such that she enjoys something millions of her country men and women from Somalia would probably never hope to see: US citizenship and institutional support.

It is difficult for me to write why I support the decision of Brandeis University to take back their offer to honor her (although this does not answer the important question: why they even thought to give it to her in the first place ). Many reasons against her have been repeated by individuals and institutions of Muslim civil society in the US starting when she first came here and again at this latest incident. All these are worth following up on. Compare her own words, as she continually notes, they are public knowledge. People know what she has said.

She is fond of supporting her views even at the cost of denigrating the half of the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide who happen to be women and who wish to remain Muslim. If we take her logic: we are all brain washed, lacking anything remotely resembling reason—let alone love and spirit—to speak on our own behalf regarding this dedication and devotion. That is another reason why it IS difficult to speak: Everything we sayin support of our faith is cast as ignorant acquiescence. So I will NOT go that route. Nor will I repeat her hateful statements about Islam in general and other scape-goating. I will also not pretend, as one Twitter fan put it, that she does not have reason to be bitter. Who am I to say what is important about someone else’s experience?

Rather, I wish to point out two things: 1) how can someone make a lifetime career of hate? If she is so against Islam, enough to leave of her own volition, why does she continue to talk about it so much? And why do people support her in that hates-mongering? 2) While she needs credit for her personal struggles against near-death, FGM, near-forced marriage, etc., there are Muslim women with these and more such struggles and experiences who STILL work for their families and communities . Perhaps those US audiences who are busy satisfying their fetish for the “Muslim-woman-victim” story—this one being spoken in the words of one very attractive black woman—cannot spare time to support actual work done in the field to change laws, policies and cultures against such practices.

Another difficulty for me in discussing this comes from direct experience of being black-listed by certain Muslim collectives, being second guessed, even when I am invited to speak at Universities, conferences, government and non-government organizations worldwide, by those voices saying, “why do you invite her, she is so controversial?” or better yet, “she is against ’Islam’”. While I find these accusations astounding, after dedicating more than 40 years of my life to reform within: to reclaim the beauty of Islam over the ugliness that surely does more than just damage our image, “in the name of Islam”, I do not then find solace by aligning myself to a hate campaign.

In fact, I do most of my work on the basis of a radical epistemological question: Who defines Islam? Who has the power to control public and institutional attitudes, funds, accolades and accusations about “Islam”? Who gets shut out of the conversations, representations, and support? How does the living experience of Islam, so critical in women’s struggles of identity, get relegated to the side lines so US audiences can listen intently to one woman who does little in application to where women on the ground are working and experiencing the struggle against patriarchy or even cruelty? It is a tough question, but I continue to be confounded by why certain self-serving Islam-haters are embraced by certain elements in the US, (most known as Islamaphobes and neo-cons) who have resources to pit Ms. Ali against some of the same Muslims that I have to contend with while continuing to work to promote change from within.

So what do I say?

I say look at the record. Follow the trail. Who has words (let’s face it, I’m a retired academic and published author, so I have LOTS of words, myself) and who backs up their words with ACTS to benefit more than just their own pockets, the size of their name in print and the chance to get established with government support in both Holland and the US?

I cannot claim the support of people who do not read my work or who are told not to read my work by those who claim the right to speak exclusively “for Islam”, but I can relay the message as I did in my recent blog about International Women’s Day referencing 25 years of grassroots work, that none of us got rich, none of us are famous. Yet ALL of us still work. The work goes on. The next generation of women and men work with us and beyond us, on the ground, with issues that matter in the actual lives of women as they live their Islam.

So it is complicated to say this, but the attention given to supporting this same-old image of the beautiful black or brown victim of Muslim violence, abuse or disregard does NOT represent us. We thought we had moved beyond the image of being victim to our own religion and moved towards a more nuanced reflection; especially since the hard work continues, sometimes in adverse situations in order to make a difference where it counts: in policies, laws, cultural practices and attitudes. This work goes on by those who do not wish to be seen as victims only, but as agents of change in our own well being.

So next time you promote Ayaan Hirsi Ali, could you ask her and her US supporters—who allow her sorry story to get in the way of millions of other sorry stories and the story tellers (who never stop working to make changes for themselves and their communities, all in the name of Islam)— in the words of Janet Jackson’s song: “What have you done for me lately?”

amina wadud is Professor Emerita of Islamic Studies, now traveling the world over seeking answers to the questions that move many of us through our lives. Author of Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective and Inside the Gender Jihad, she will blog on her life journey and anything that moves her about Islam, gender and justice, especially as these intersect with the rest of the universe.

The Snowden Pulitzer

18 April 2014  --- Patrick Martin

The Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Public Service was awarded Monday to two newspapers that published the bulk of the reports on illegal and unconstitutional spying by the US National Security Agency, based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

While the award went to the Guardian US and the Washington Post, and the four journalists who produced the articles—Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Ewan MacAskill and Barton Gellman—there is no question that the main honoree was Snowden himself. Now in exile in Russia, the 30-year-old is sought on espionage charges by the US government that could bring life imprisonment or even the death penalty.

Since the Pulitzer Prize was voted by a committee of 19 journalists and editors, sponsored by Columbia University, the Obama administration and the US intelligence apparatus have maintained a near-total silence, after nearly a year of denunciations of Snowden and declarations that the documents he leaked had done incalculable damage to US national security.

The American media likewise has, for the most part, maintained a discreet silence. There has been little discussion of the significance of the Pulitzer Prize for the Snowden revelations. No reporters raised the subject at press briefings by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney or at Obama’s Thursday afternoon press conference.

One notable exception is a column published in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal by Liam Fox, a Conservative Party member of the British parliament and former secretary of state for defense. This vicious and hysterical piece accurately reflects the outlook that dominates the ruling circles and political establishments in both the US and Britain. (The British government went so far as to force the Guardian to destroy hard drives with documents provided by Snowden, and subsequently detained, on the basis of anti-terrorist laws, Greenwald’s partner David Miranda.)

In the Wall Street Journal article (“Snowden and His Accomplices”), Fox writes: “Edward Snowden thinks of himself as a cyber-age guerrilla warrior, but in reality he is a self-publicizing narcissist.” Fox concludes by stating, “For once, let’s say what we mean. Let us call treason by its name.”

Snowden is threatened with prosecution and possible assassination, with US intelligence agents widely quoted threatening to murder him, and congressional Democrats and Republicans alike baying for his blood. There was no reference to these death threats in the media coverage of the Pulitzer awards, nor has the question ever been raised publicly with the White House.

This silence only underscores that there is no letup either in the rampant US government spying on the entire world—including the whole of the American population—or in the official persecution of those who expose these illegal and unconstitutional operations.

Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency systematically intercepts and captures the Internet and telecommunications traffic of the entire world, sifting through it with a myriad of sophisticated programs to analyze calling patterns and track networks of association. The NSA can review the content of whatever e-mail, text message, social media posting, Internet search or phone call it chooses. And it systematically creates and exploits vulnerabilities on the Internet to give it access to computer systems all over the world.

These methods have allowed the US intelligence apparatus to create vast databases on the political views and activities of literally billions of people, not for the purpose of ferreting out a handful of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, but to create the infrastructure for dictatorial rule. The NSA can supply the dossiers and arrest lists for a police state crackdown on political opposition to the capitalist system in any country in the world, and especially the United States itself.

It is because they sense the grossly anti-democratic and dictatorial character of this mass surveillance that the vast majority of the world’s population, including the American people, are hostile to it and supportive of Snowden. Opinion polls have shown a clear majority in the United States—despite the ceaseless propaganda campaign by the government and media—endorsing Snowden’s actions in exposing the NSA.

The Pulitzer Prize amounts to an acknowledgement of this popular sentiment and is an embarrassment to the Obama administration and the intelligence apparatus.

Most Pulitzer gold medals have been given to newspapers for uncovering corruption in local government or police forces, or for exposing especially flagrant abuses of workers or the environment in industries like coal mining, agribusiness and nursing homes. But on a few occasions, the gold medal has had broader political significance, as when it was awarded in 1972 to theNew York Times for publication of the Pentagon Papers, and in 1973 to theWashington Post for its investigation of Watergate.

Edward Snowden issued a statement in response to the award, declaring, “This decision reminds us that what no individual conscience can change, a free press can. My efforts would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion, and skill of these newspapers, and they have my gratitude and respect for their extraordinary service to our society. Their work has given us a better future and a more accountable democracy.”

There is no doubt of the sincerity of Snowden’s views, for which he has already sacrificed enormously. But his exposures only provide an important impetus for the struggle to defend democratic rights. The central question is to identify the fundamental source of the development of police state methods of rule: the yawning social divide between the financial aristocracy and the vast majority of working people. In the final analysis, democracy is incompatible with a society of such vast and ever growing social inequality.

Social inequality is a product of capitalism, as is the build-up of the repressive powers of the state to defend the corporate-financial oligarchy against the threat of mass social resistance by the working class. The defense of democratic rights requires the independent political mobilization of the working class to put an end to the profit system and establish genuine democracy and equality, in other words, to create a socialist society.

The author also recommends:

[13 June 2013]

[12 July 2013]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Koch Brothers Wealth Surges Past $100 Billion as They Try to Buy the Senate With Expensive Lies

The multi-billionaires are currently using their vast wealth to influence the 2014 mid-term elections.

April 17, 2014  |  

The wealth of the Koch Brothers has surged past $100 billion dollars, a boost of $1.3 billion to their collective fortune based on a new industrial production forecast. To put that in perspective, that's enough money to buy 1,000 Boeing 757s or every NFL and MLB team. Together Charles and David Koch are majority shareholders in Koch Industries, a privately held corporation. 

The brothers have been criticized for using their vast wealth to change laws in order to fit their political views and to tilt the playing field in their favor. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich says that their efforts "are undermining our democracy" and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that their political activities are "un-American."

Reid was particularly upset by one television commercial featuring a leukemia patient who said she would die without medication and blamed the cancelation of her previous policy and another with a woman saying her policy costs rose $700 a month. When fact checked, both ads were found to contain spurious content. 

The Koch's are attempting to win the Senate back for the Republicans by airing a barrage of targeted television through their Freedom Partners fundraising network. Americans for Prosperity, one of those groups backed by Freedom Partners has been far outspending the top Democratic super PACs in nearly all of the Senate races the GOP is targeting this year. It has aired more than 18,000 broadcast TV commercials in states that have competitive Senate races. 

More ads have been outed for proven falsehoods by many media watchdogs. One ad showed "real" residents of Louisiana opening letters from health care companies warning them of the evils of Obamacare. But no such letters were sent out and the people shown opening them aren't concerned residents of Louisiana, they're paid actors. [3] In an opinion column for The Hill, columnist Mark Mellman noted: 

Were this an ad for Stainmaster carpet, a Koch product, Federal Trade Commission guidelines would require the ad to “conspicuously disclose that the persons in such advertisements are not actual consumers.” Moreover, the FTC would require them to either demonstrate that these results of ObamaCare are typical or make clear in the ad that they are not. 

Needless to say, the ad meets none of these requirements, thereby conforming to the legal definition of false advertising.

Koch Industries is a multinational corporation based in Wichita, Kansas. Under its umbrella are Invista, Georgia-Pacific, Flint Hills Resources, Koch Pipeline, Koch Fertilizer, Koch Minerals and Matador Cattle Company. Koch companies are involved in core industries such as the manufacturing, refining and distribution of petroleum, fertilizers, paper,  chemical technology equipment, ranching and commodities trading. 

Anti-Muslim suspicion in Britain has a whiff of McCarthyism about it

Allegations of an Islamic takeover plot in Birmingham schools aren't justified by the evidence – and the government response is way out of proportion, Thursday 17 April 2014 

Birmingham Central Mosque. 'Muslims feel under siege, while being accused of besieging an unwitting and overly tolerant majority who in turn will be fearful and mistrustful.' Photograph: Kiyoshi Ota/EPA

Allegations that 25 schools in Birmingham are at risk of an "Islamic takeover plot" reached new levels of hysteria recently. An announcement was made that a counter-terrorism expert has been drafted in to conduct yet another investigation. The minister responsible, Michael Gove, has managed at a stroke to increase fear and suspicion between Muslim and non-Muslim in the city. The fact that the chief constable of West Midlands police, Chris Sims, has denounced the decision as "desperately unfortunate", itself an extraordinary move, gives an indication of the scale of the concern.

So what was the evidence that provoked such a serious intervention and the accompanying media frenzy? A four-page document in which "plotters" outlined their dastardly plans to oust a headteacher for not being "open to our suggestions of adhering to strict Muslim guidelines".

It made reference to a headteacher called Noshaba Hussain, whom the alleged plotters claim to have ousted from Springfield school only for her to be reinstated by the governors, and so "we have another plan in place to get her out". But the school has confirmed that Hussain left the school 20 years ago. Other details point to the document's inauthenticity and Sims – the most senior police officer in the region – has told the Guardian that it could be a hoax.

Governors at the schools concerned have strongly rejected the allegations. David Hughes, a governor at Park View school for 15 years, wrote an open letter to Michael Gove and condemned "the witch-hunt against the most successful school of its characteristics in Birmingham … under the pretext of concerns about extremism and threats to the education of our pupils". Just last year Park View School hit the headlines for achieving an "outstanding" ranking from Ofsted despite a few years earlier being one of the worst performing schools.

Muslim governors challenging the narrative meet with accusations of denial and complicity. Many have worked hard for over a decade in partnership with teachers to turn schools around. Muslims feel under siege, while being accused of besieging an unwitting and overly tolerant majority who in turn will be fearful and mistrustful.

The real scandal is how scepticism over this "dodgy dossier" seems to have been thrown to the wind. What is more heartening is that local people are coming forward to stand in unity. The Rev Oliver Cross, who also happens to be vice-chair of governors at Regents Park school, one of the schools named as among those "infiltrated", has categorically refuted the allegations and called the appointment of Peter Clarke a "disaster for community cohesion". He says Birmingham Muslims are now "used to accusations of 'Islamism' or 'extremism' being hurled at them, not because such things exist, but for the simple crime of being Muslims".

Different opinions may well exist among Muslims around schooling: the conservative-liberal spectrum of opinion is not unique to us. Since when do concerns by religiously conservative parents about teaching on homosexuality, girls and boys mixing, and the reciting of prayers, require anti-terrorist experts to get involved?

This latest investigation comes after the government announced that British affiliates of the Muslim Brotherhood will be investigated, and the Muslim mayor of Tower Hamlets was described in police reports as an "extremist". When those who make criticisms of foreign policy get accused of creating the mood music for terrorism, there is understandable frustration and despair. Increasingly Muslims feel they just can't win. On the one hand we get told we are not integrating enough and we should engage more in civic society. On the other, when we do, we get accused of having sinister agendas. There is more than a whiff of McCarthyism in the air. Chris Sims says he is concerned about the impact this will have on community cohesion. He is right to be.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ontario Liberal Government Announces Panel to Review Public Assets for Privatization

April 16, 2014

On April 11, the Liberal government announced that it will sell public assets it currently owns while establishing an expert panel to look at ways to "improve efficiency and optimize the full value of Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO)." The announcement was made by Finance Minister/former Royal Bank of Canada executive Charles Sousa while speaking to the Economic Club in Toronto.

Sousa announced that the government would sell the LCBO headquarters and possibly the OPG building in Toronto. It also plans to sell its shares in GM which it acquired in the 2009 bailout of the auto company. Sousa said: "those are things that we can start moving on more quickly."

The advisory council was announced as the Liberal government also confirmed that the next austerity/pay-the-rich budget would be tabled on May 1-- International Day of Working Class Solidarity. This means that a provincial election may also have to be called shortly if the budget does not pass.

The Finance Minister said that the money raised would be used to pay for the government's infrastructure projects. "The Council will look to sweat the income statements so we can reinvest in public infrastructure projects that will create jobs and grow the economy," he said. The Liberal government had previously announced that it would clarify how it would pay for transit and infrastructure projects in the budget, with Premier Wynne saying that the "revenue tools" to do so would not include new taxes. In this way, the Wynne government is trying to make the issue into a debate about whether taxes should increase or whether public assets will need to be sold to pay for transit and infrastructure. It serves to distract from the fact that the Wynne government has been put in place to deliver more pay-the-rich schemes, including to the infrastructure monopolies that will make big scores.

The advisory council will look at ways "to get more value out of key public assets," particularly Hydro One, OPG, and the LCBO, Sousa said. The government's website refers to efficient governance, growth strategies, corporate reorganization, mergers, acquisitions, and public-private partnerships as ways this will be done.

Sousa commented on the panel's mandate, using the Liberals' bogus notion of "balance," saying that government ownership would be preferred but at the same time saying: "I'm not going to preclude what their recommendations will be, but they're going to assess what's the best use of those assets, and who should own them." He also said that some decisions require greater care and "we need experts to ensure that we protect the interests of Ontarians." He did not explain why the experts chosen were experts in privatization, however this clearly shows the real aims of the review. 

The PCs responded by taking credit for the Liberals' proposal saying they had proposed the same idea in 2012 but were ignored by the government. The NDP meanwhile said that it would not support any privatization of public assets.

Sousa's comments serve as another example of the disinformation used to steer people into a debate over which type of privatization they should accept. The fact is that the Liberals are continuing the implementation of privatization of the public authority as governments before them did, particularly in the cases of Hydro One, OPG and the LCBO, with the narrow aim of opening up new areas for the rich to make big scores, by first buying up public assets and then being paid back those funds to carry out publicly-financed private infrastructure projects (public-private partnerships). The aim is to implement this agenda under the guise of "efficiencies" which means more austerity for the working people in the form of attacks on their wages, working conditions and job security and taking money out of the public purse to pay the rich. This will only make the situation worse for Ontarians and the economy.

The aim is also to silence the workers' opposition in any way possible, including through the use of so-called expert panels which are said to represent the public good. However, this disinformation is being rejected at every turn. Just as when teachers and education workers along with many others refused to accept the fraud of austerity when it came from the mouth of TD banker Don Drummond when he headed up the Commission on the Reform of Ontario's Public Services in 2012, such a fraud to privatize public assets will be rejected now.

Working people should go all out to deny the Liberals and PCs the impression each seeks that their programs meet the approval of the people. Their destruction of the public authority to make the rich richer is unacceptable.

Death From Above: How American Drone Strikes Are Devastating Yemen

On the ground in a country where unmanned missile attacks are a terrifyingly regular occurrence

By Vivian Salama, Rolling Stone

April 16, 2014

The people of Yemen can hear destruction before it arrives. In cities, towns and villages across this country, which hangs off the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, the air buzzes with the sound of American drones flying overhead. The sound is a constant and terrible reminder: a robot plane, acting on secret intelligence, may calculate that the man across from you at the coffee shop, or the acquaintance with whom you've shared a passing word on the street, is an Al Qaeda operative. This intelligence may be accurate or it may not, but it doesn't matter. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, the chaotic buzzing above sharpens into the death-herald of an incoming missile.

Such quite literal existential uncertainty is coming at a deep psychological cost for the Yemeni people. For Americans, this military campaign is an abstraction. The drone strikes don't require U.S. troops on the ground, and thus are easy to keep out of sight and out of mind. Over half of Yemen's 24.8 million citizens – militants and civilians alike – are impacted every day. A war is happening, and one of the unforeseen casualties is the Yemeni mind.

Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and anxiety are becoming rampant in the different corners of the country where drones are active. "Drones hover over an area for hours, sometimes days and weeks," said Rooj Alwazir, a Yemeni-American anti-drone activist and cofounder of Support Yemen, a media collective raising awareness about issues afflicting the country. Yemenis widely describe suffering from constant sleeplessness, anxiety, short-tempers, an inability to concentrate and, unsurprisingly, paranoia.

Alwazir recalled a Yemeni villager telling her that the drones "are looking inside our homes and even at our women.'" She says that, "this feeling of infringement of privacy, combined with civilian casualties and constant fear and anxiety has a profound long time psychological effect on those living under drones."

Last year, London-based forensic psychologist Peter Schaapveld presented research he'd conducted on the psychological impact of drone strikes in Yemen to a British parliamentary sub-committee. He reported that 92 percent of the population sample he examined was found to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – with children being the demographic most significantly affected. Women, he found, claimed to be miscarrying from their fear of drones. "This is a population that by any figure is hugely suffering," Schaapveld said. The fear of drones, he added, "is traumatizing an entire generation."

Throughout Yemen, it seems, the endless blue heaven above has become a bad omen.

In February, at the Khaled Ibn Al Walid School in Khawlan, a district some 45 kilometers from the Yemeni capital of Sana'a, Principal Jameel Al-Qawly anxiously hovers by the door, scolding any young boys dawdling in the sandy courtyard. Moments earlier, he noticed a sticker on the outside window of one of his classrooms: an image of a black flag with the words of the Muslim shahada, which translates to "There is no god but God and Mohamed is His messenger." The flag and slogan constitute a symbol often associated with militant Islamist groups, including Al Qaeda. "I have to keep close watch," Al-Qawly admits, "not to allow just anyone from outside talk to the children."

Youth are thought to be easy prey for radical groups seeking recruits. Air strikes by U.S. drones and Yemeni jets have grown in frequency in recent months, destroying families, and as such have stoked resentment. Psychologist Schaapveld compared the likely trans-generational effect to to that suffered by Holocaust survivors. "For every one person killed," he argued, "there are going to be hundreds that are affected psychologically."

Moath Ali Al-Qawly sits in a classroom at the Khaled Ibn Al Walid School, hiding his eyes under a blue Mobile Oil baseball cap. The 11-year-old has a haunted face, and doesn't appear to be paying much attention to his teacher's math lesson. After class, I approach him and ask what he was thinking about. "My father," he says shyly, "was killed by an American plane."

Moath's father, Ali Al-Qawly, was a teacher at the school. He'd never missed a single day of work in 13 years on the job. Then one January morning last year, he was late. Ten minutes passed, then 30, and finally an hour, until Principal Al-Qawly announced to his students: "Mr. Ali will not be coming today."

Ali and his cousin Salim Hussein Ahmed Jamil had been driving in a rented pick-up truck late in the evening when two men asked them for a ride. "We are this type of people," explains Ali's brother Mohammed, "who when we see anyone walking in the street, we offer to drive them."

Drones are unmanned aviation vehicles, but not unpiloted, with cameras sending images back to a base, allowing operators to analyze the data and act on what they see. There is not much interpretive room allowed for cultural gestures, for giving lifts to strangers. Ali's relatives believe the two individuals that he and his cousin Salim picked up were suspected militants, which would have instantly made a target out of the Toyota HiLux they were driving — a vehicle that now stands, charred, as an ad hoc memorial in the center of Khawlan.

The Yemeni Ministry of Interior cleared Ali and Salim of any wrongdoing or connection to the passengers who rode with them on that day, and ruled the incident, simply, as the work of "fate." Detonated missile fragments, allegedly from the incident, were photographed and sent to an arms expert at Human Rights Watch. They were found to be the remnants of a hellfire missile. The Yemeni military has no planes equipped for hellfires. Neighboring Saudi Arabia does, but experts suggest that Saudi's hellfire-equipped flyers do not go that far beyond the border region. The U.S., on the other hand, has been implicated in hellfire-equipped drone strikes all across Yemen.

In a sense, whether or not an American drone killed Ali is as important as whether or not people believe that's what happened. At the Khaled Ibn Al Walid School, more than a year after the missile strike, Ali's name is still listed on the master schedule in the main office, as if he might soon return from vacation. But the students are under no illusions. They are no strangers to such tragedies, having grown up hearing about, as one little girl described it to me, "the American planes that shoot."

"Some of the children have been affected," says Principal Al Qawly about his students' mental state vis-a-vis drone strikes. "They get nervous from any small sound. Many of them are angry, or they don't talk as much. Some of them can't sleep."

Missile strikes, allegedly by U.S. drones — which American officials argue is a safer, more efficient and precise form of aerial warfare than using piloted fighter jets or sending ground troops — have now been reported in twelve of Yemen's 21 governorates, with as many as 504 people killed in confirmed strikes since 2002, according to data compiled by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Another 44 people have been killed in possible U.S. strikes. The strikes reached their peak in August 2013, right around the time 19 U.S. embassies in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, were shut down, during which time some 12 strikes in different locations were reported within a two-week period, killing at least 34 people, according to Baraa Shiban, project coordinator of Reprieve, a U.K.-based legal rights organization that has also worked with detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The overall fatality count, though, is clouded by America's growing use of so-called "signature strikes" — guilt-by-association attacks against suspected but unidentified targets. Having committed no prior crime, these victims' names are not part of any list and in some cases, not even known. Many Yemenis say that the increased prevalence of signature strikes makes it impossible for them to predetermine possible targets, heightening anxieties among those who feel that they will inevitably end up in the crosshairs.

Beginning in 2009, the Obama administration made drone strikes its go-to method for killing members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), causing a spike in reports of drones in Yemen. The strategy, the government insists, is reasonable: AQAP has been linked to recent Yemen-originated plots including a 2009 airliner underwear-bombing scheme, and to the parcel bombs intercepted in Dubai en route to synagogues in Chicago in 2010. There have also been some successes, as drone strikes took out high-profile targets like Saeed al-Shihri, a Saudi citizen who co-founded AQAP, as well as senior operatives Samir Khan and Anwar al-Aulaqi.

In October 2011, Aulaqi's son, 16-year-old Abdulrahman, an American citizen, was killed in a strike in the southern governorate of Shabwah, triggering a fiery debate on Capitol Hill over the legal and ethical limits of drone technology. Abdulrahman "should have a far more responsible father," argued former Obama campaign advisor Robert Gibbs in 2012, as some accused the administration of playing God. "Obama and his aides have become the judge and the executioner," Anwar's brother, Ammar Al-Aulaqi, a Canada-educated engineer and prominent political activist said while sitting in his Sana'a office, "And that, I'm sure, is against the American values, against the American constitution and against the American law."

In December 2013, Abdullah Mabkhut al-Amri's wedding to Warda al-Sorimi made headlines around the world after it ended in tragedy – his relatives blown to pieces by four hellfire missiles during the wedding procession.

Late this winter, I spoke with the sixty-something Abdullah at a hotel in Rada'a. He appeared haggard and frail as he reflected on the day he took his second wife. (Polygamy is a cultural norm in Yemen.) His lanky body draped in a white, ankle-length thobe, with a ritual dagger, called a jambiya, slung across his waist, he walked me through the worst day of his life.

Lunch had been prepared by the bride's family. All the villagers were invited. The attendees indulged on lamb, a rice and meat offering called kabsa and other traditional dishes. They chewed qat, the leafy mild narcotic savored daily by many Yemenis. The celebrants shared folklore and recited poetry. The group collectively performed al-Asr prayer before commencing their short journey through the arid land that cuts across a rugged mountain valley in the Bayda province, escorting Warda to Abdullah's ancestral hometown of al-Abusereema.

"I felt very comfortable with the bride," Abdullah says of his new wife, whose name means "Rose" in Arabic. His son from his first wife, Saleh, "was there and he always stands by me and supports me."

As the sun began to set on that fateful winter day, the line of SUVs and pick-ups, decorated with simple ribbons and bows for the occasion, set off for its 22-mile trip. But as the procession came to a standstill to wait on some lagging vehicles, some of the tribesmen claim the faint humming sound they typically heard from planes overhead fell silent.The emptiness was soon filled with the unthinkable. "Missiles showered on our heads," Abdullah says, moving his hands frenetically. "I started to scream and shout for my cousins. Anyone who was still alive jumped out of their cars."

Four hellfires, striking seconds apart, pierced the sky, tearing through the fourth vehicle in the procession. When it was over, 12 men were dead, Saleh among them. At least 15 others were wounded according to survivors and activists, including Warda, whose eye was grazed by shrapnel and whose wedding dress was torn to shreds.

The blast was so intense that it reverberated all the way to al-Abusereema, where the groom's brother Aziz waited for the guests. "I called some people to ask what was that explosion and somebody told me it was the drone," Aziz recalls. "It was the most awful feeling."

"As we were driving to the site," he continues, "I felt myself going deeper and deeper into darkness. That is the feeling of a person who sees his brothers, cousins, relatives and friends dead by one strike, without reason."

"We are just poor Bedouins," says Abdullah, now pounding his hands against his chest. "We know nothing about Al Qaeda. But the people are so scared now. Whenever they hear a car or truck, they think of the drones and the strike. They feel awful whenever they see a plane."

Citing unnamed U.S. and Yemeni officials, the Associated Press reported that the target of the wedding strike was a mid-level Al Qaeda operative named Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani, who has alleged links to the terrorist threat that shut down those 19 U.S. embassies last August. Several media reports claim that al-Badani, repeatedly named on Yemen's Most Wanted List, was wounded and escaped the December attack. The tribesmen present that day say they know nothing about him.

The Obama administration has not denied the wedding attack occurred, but has not commented beyond stating that an investigation into the incident is underway. "Short term, these strikes might have a tactical or strategic impact of containing the activities of insurgents," explains journalist and military expert Chris Woods, author of the forthcoming Sudden Justice: America's Secret Drone Wars. "But that is at an overall cost to America's global reputation." That said, the U.S. has tacitly admitted some culpability for accidental civilian deaths. Caitlin Hayden, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, says that, "in situations where we have concluded that civilians have been killed, the U.S. has made condolence payments where appropriate and possible."

None of the families to whom I spoke report receiving any payment from the American government, but some families, including those impacted by the wedding strike, have been promised compensation, in the form of 101 rifles and $101,000, from the Yemeni government. Two days after the events in Rada'a sent shockwaves across Yemen, Saeed Mohammed Al Youseffi of Ma'rib Province was set to marry Fatimah, a hazel-eyed woman from a neighboring village. The young couple had planned an elaborate celebration, to be followed by a month-long honeymoon. But many of their wedding guests were still stunned by the horrifying news from Rada'a. "The atmosphere was very tense," says Saeed, speaking from behind the wheel of his Land Cruiser as he drove through the Ma'rib desert to his home. "People were really terrified," he explains. "People are afraid now to attend any large gathering – weddings, funerals. Everyone is just trying to survive."

Oil-rich Ma'rib is one of the most heavily targeted regions in Yemen, as its vast, hard-to-search desert makes it attractive to militants.In January 2013, tribesmen blocked the main roads linking the area to the capital in protest of the government's failure to arrest the militants known to be roaming freely in the province. A number of tribes had attempted to alert Yemeni authorities to Al Qaeda infiltration in their area. But the authorities did nothing. The tribes took up arms in an effort to drive the terrorists out. Their efforts succeeded, at least temporarily. "We used to hear at 2 a.m. Bang! Bang! Bang! Shooting between Al Qaeda and the tribes," said Saeed's father, Abu Saeed. "The tribe is larger and has more loyalties than Al Qaeda." But, he says wearily, "Al Qaeda is more organized."

For the people here who have no ties to Al Qaeda or any militant groups, the constant stress of the drone threat has warped long-standing cultural norms. Mothers are increasingly keeping their children home from school or forbidding them from going to mosque for fear that they might be handed a DVD or SIM card containing propaganda or information linking to Al Qaeda. Just the mere possession of Al Qaeda propaganda or an accidental run-in with a suspected militant is enough, locals believe, to be deemed a legitimate target for the drones. "We don't know who is with Al Qaeda," says Oum Saeed, a middle-aged mother of ten, "but the drones know."

While the research being done by Schaapveld is one of very few studies exploring the impact of drones on individuals in Yemen, the correlation between his findings and the results of research conducted in conventional war zones is striking. A 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "Mental health, Social Functioning, and Disability in Postwar Afghanistan," found that symptoms of depression were prevalent in 67.7 percent of Afghan respondents, symptoms of anxiety in 72.2 percent, and PTSD in 42 percent. (By comparison, approximately 18.1 percent of Americans 18 and older suffer from anxiety disorder, while about 3.5 percent of Americans in this age group have some level of PTSD, according to the National Institute of Mental Health).

That's the quantitative. The qualitative is perhaps more revealing. On the outskirts of Ma'rib, near a burst of green palm trees where furry camels, indifferent to their surroundings, take refuge from the sun, AK-47 wielding tribesmen gather inside a tent to talk about drones, and what, if anything, can be done. "We had hopes that the new government would help," says a farmer named Abdel Kareem Ali, sitting cross-legged on the carpeted floor of the tent. "But until now, nothing has changed." The men assembled discussed case after case of drone attacks they'd heard about at the local coffee shop, or in passing conversations with fellow townsmen, in which an Al Qaeda operative is targeted and several civilians are allegedly killed in one fell swoop, rendering the entire community helpless. "Our women are really badly affected," said Salim Al-Ahgad, whose bright smile was in contrast to the situation being described. The government "says it is investigating," he offered. "But they've got their hands in the refrigerator" – a popular Arabic expression suggesting that their minds are some place else.

President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Yemen's leader since the 2011 forced-resignation of longtime President Ali Abdallah Saleh, has left much to be desired for a populace that felt change was at hand when protests swept through the Arab world three years ago. But Hadi has, in many ways, picked up where his predecessor left off, openly supporting the use of American drones on Yemeni soil while failing to make progress in curbing the militant threat at home.

In January, Yemen held the closing ceremony of its National Dialogue Conference, in which 565 delegates from across the country worked on the framework for its first constitution since ousting Saleh. Among the recommendations agreed upon at the conference, delegates, through full consensus, urged criminalizing the use of drones and extra judicial killings, including drone strikes. But many are skeptical that the government will act on these recommendations. Last August, amid the threat that shut down the U.S. embassies, Yemen's President Hadi asked the United States to supply his military with drones, saying it would help it fight Al Qaeda threat.

Farea Al-Muslimi, a prominent local activist who testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee last year about a strike in his home village of Wessab, says that anger over drones has become a convenient outlet for feelings of resentment about other issues. "People don't have jobs," he tells me. "People cannot get access to health care." Yet, he says, "people are angry with the drones. People want revenge for their relatives." The United States was a steadfast ally of ousted President Saleh, and continues to support the current regime, allocating more than $337 million in assistance to Yemen in 2012, the majority of which was geared toward counterterrorism operations and humanitarian assistance. The Yemeni government, Al-Muslimi lamented, "will never solve these problems. Yemen is most stable in times of instability."

Left at the mercy of a government that has all but forgotten them, activists are teaming up with the families of drone victims across Yemen, those who are looking to help the communities impacted by this phenomenon. The National Organization for Drone Victims (NODV), established by Mohammed Al-Qawly, whose brother Ali Al-Qawly was killed in Khawlan, was launched in March, with the mission of conducting independent investigations into drone strikes in partnership with Reprieve, and highlighting the impact this controversial program is having on civilians.

For some, however, the damage offers no recourse. There's Oum Salim in Khawlan, who sobs uncontrollably when she hears her son Salim's name — Salim, who was riding in the doomed Toyota with his cousin Ali Al-Qawly. His mother pulls a framed photograph off the wall and cradles it in her arms. "Allah, have mercy on him!" says prays. "Allah, look after him! Allah, be kind to him!"

And, in Ma'rib there's a little boy named Ali, who asked, looking to the uncertain sky above, "Will I be next?"