Berlin Bulletin No. 200
I see two necessities in today’s world. Most urgently; oppose war, a source of immeasurable misery. Condemn the use of deadly weapons, all those hitting civilians – indeed, any human beings. And prevent in every way possible the worst menace to life – all life – since that asteroid hit the earth 66 million years ago; the total eradication by nuclear explosions, ignited on purpose or by accident. Thus we need negotiations, agreements – and not ever more new threats, armaments, soldiers, refugees…
But while I sharply and emotionally oppose the waging of war by Vladimir Putin, or by anyone else, I believe that hypocrisy must also be opposed, above all when it creates an atmosphere further increasing those very dangers I have mentioned.
Both mass media and social media are flooding us with heart-breaking depictions of death, sorrow and destruction in Ukraine. When they are truthful I cannot object. But nor can I overcome my inherent leaning toward occasional skepticism and suspicion; last week a video on Germany’s public TV channel ZDF showed a Russian tank lumbering through Ukraine – and carrying a big red Soviet flag with hammer and sickle – so obviously outdated. It’s hard to believe this was a mistake.
And despite the universal wave of condemnation of Putin, Putinism, Putin-Stalinism or terms like Putler, and despite my horror at the war, my overly active memory revives recollections from the past, even such which rarely made the front pages, were often ignored and have been almost totally expunged from memory. In recalling them now I may be risking possible losses of readers or even friends; after my last Berlin Bulletin two readers canceled further mailings. But it also won me fifteen new readers. I do not wish to outnumber current death and destruction, but only to urge that insistent official calls to protect freedom, democracy and humanitarianism tied to demands for war crime trials are too often based on hypocrisy, distortion, greed – one-way streets covering up bitter evidence of earlier bloodshed and tears. So here is a random – but lengthy, painful selection from the past, with help from Google. It does not remove any of the guilt for devastation and death in Ukraine – but seeks to find some balance in its reporting and evaluation.
“NATO is the only way to end the war in the Donbas“ according to Volodymyr Zelenskyy in March 2021, for whom a quick membership for Ukraine in the light of the unrest in eastern Ukraine would be “a genuine signal to Russia“.
On February 13, 1991, two US special bombs from American stealth aircraft hit a civilian bunker in Baghdad. Both goals were perfectly on target … the laser-guided bombs penetrated the meter-thick reinforced concrete ceiling of the bunker … But the goal around 4.30 a.m. was full of women, children and old men. Probably 408 of them died in the explosion of almost half a ton of highly explosive explosives – shredded by splinters, slain by debris or crushed by the enormous shock wave.
The US government spokesman said: “It makes us all sad to suspect that innocent people may have died in the course of a military conflict.” – And the Pentagon: “It looks like civilians have been injured here. We will investigate the incident very closely and determine what we can do differently in the future to rule out a recurrence.”
Belgrade, August 16, 2016, AP — US Vice President Joe Biden offered condolences to the families of those who lost their lives during the Balkan wars, including the victims of the NATO air war against Serbia. As a senator, Biden was a strong advocate of the NATO bombing of Serbia … The US-led bombardment in 1999 stopped Serbia’s crackdown against ethnic Albanian separatists, ending Belgrade’s rule over its former province of Kosovo… “I would like to add my condolences to the families of those whose lives were lost during the wars in the 1990s, including those whose lives were lost as the result of the NATO campaign,” he said. The bloody breakup of former Yugoslavia claimed tens of thousands of lives and left millions homeless in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.
“We knew that it would start in a few hours – the war against NATO. Or rather, NATO against Serbia. I was in a state of expectant disbelief. How will it look if NATO, and once again Germany, bomb Serbia? …
“In the evening, for the first time, I heard the howling of the air raid alarm. Today I recall how varied the sounds of air warfare are: the deep hum of invisible bombers, the hissing of the cruise missiles seeking their target, the rattling of Serbian anti-aircraft guns, the dull or glaring explosions that followed. And the nocturnal scenery: bright traces of Serbian anti-aircraft missiles on a black sky, orange-reddish flames after the impact of the bombs.
“We learned terms like: ‘graphite bombs’, ‘guided missiles’, ‘stealth aircraft’, ‘uranium ammunition’, ‘cluster bombs’. … And ‘collateral damage’. That was my favorite term. It was used when NATO hit a line of Albanian refugees in Kosovo, a civilian train, the farmers’ market in Niš, the neurological clinic or the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.“ Andrej Ivanji, TAZ
AGAIN IRAQ 2003-
Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, United States armed forces officials described their plan as employing Shock and Awe…Continuous bombing began on March 19, 2003 …Attacks continued against a small number of targets until March 21, when the main bombing campaign of the US and their allies began. Its forces launched approximately 1,700 air sorties (504 using cruise missiles)….
According to The Guardian correspondent Brian Whitaker, “To some in the Arab and Muslim countries, Shock and Awe is terrorism by another name; to others, a crime that compares unfavourably with September 11…A dossier released by Iraq Body Count, a project of the UK non-governmental Oxford Research Group, attributed approximately 6,616 civilian deaths to the actions of US-led forces during the ‘invasion phase’, including the Shock and Awe bombing of Baghdad.
Lt-Col Steve Boylan, spokesman for the US military, stated, “I …can’t talk to how they calculate their numbers…we do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties in all of our operations.”
Population-based studies produce estimates of the number of Iraq War casualties ranging from 151,000 violent deaths as of June 2006 to 1,033,000 excess deaths …Roughly 40 percent of Iraq’s middle class is believed to have fled… An estimated 331 school teachers were slain in the first four months of 2006, according to Human Rights Watch, and at least 2,000 Iraqi doctors have been killed and 250 kidnapped since the 2003 U.S. invasion.
On July 6, 2008, a large number of Afghan civilians were walking in an area called Kamala …When the group stopped for a rest it was hit in succession by three bombs from United States military aircraft. The first bomb hit a group of children who were ahead of the main procession, killing them instantly. A few minutes later the aircraft returned and dropped a second bomb in the center of the group, killing a large number of women. The bride and two girls survived the second bomb but were killed by a third bomb while trying to escape from the area. Hajj Khan, one of four elderly men escorting the party, stated that his grandson was killed and that there were body parts everywhere.
The Granai Massacre refers to the airstrike by a US Air Force B-1 Bomber on May 4, 2009. The United States admitted significant errors were made in carrying out the airstrike, stating “the inability to discern the presence of civilians and avoid and/or minimize accompanying collateral damage resulted in the unintended consequence of civilian casualties”. The Afghan government said that around 140 civilians were killed, 22 were adult males and 93 children.
The raid on Narang was in the early morning hours of December 27, 2009. According to an Afghan investigation, at around 1 am American troops with helicopters landed around 2 km away. The raiding party allegedly dragged the victims out of their beds and shot them in the head or chest. Most of the victims were aged between 12 and 18 years and were enrolled in local schools. A local elder, Jan Mohammed, said that three boys were killed in one room and five were handcuffed before they were shot. “I saw their school books covered in blood,” he said. NATO reiterated that the forces conducting the attack were not under NATO command and were of a “non-military” nature. Colonel Gross said US forces were present but did not lead the operation. NATO did, though, concede it authorized the operation and apologized for doing so, admitting the dead were likely civilians and that the intelligence on which the authorization was based was faulty…It became known in 2015 that, as part of the US covert Omega Program, SEAL Team Six members carried out the assault in conjunction with CIA paramilitary officers and Afghan troops trained by the CIA.
On February 21 2010 the victims were traveling in three buses in broad daylight on a main road in the village of Zerma when they came under attack from US Special Forces piloting Little Bird helicopters using “airborne weapons”. NATO later stated that they believed at the time that the minibuses were carrying insurgents. 27 civilians including four women and one child were killed in the attack while another 12 were wounded. Gen. Stanley McChrystal said he was “extremely saddened…I have made it clear to our forces that we are here to protect the Afghan people, and inadvertently killing or injuring civilians undermines their trust and confidence in our mission. We will re-double our efforts to regain that trust.”
Amanullah Hotak, head of Uruzgan’s provincial council said: “We don’t want their apologies or the money they always give after every attack. We want them to kill all of us together instead of doing it to us one by one.” Haji Ghullam Rasoul, whose cousins died in the attack, said, “They came here to bring security but they kill our children, they kill our brothers and they kill our people.”
In August 2011 we, Médecins Sans Frontières, opened a trauma hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz. The hospital provided high-quality, free surgical care to victims of all types of trauma.
Starting with converting shipping containers, our hospital soon moved into a building in the city centre. By the time of the airstrikes in October 2015, the hospital was equipped with 92 beds, an emergency room, two operating theatres, an intensive care unit, an outpatient department, mental health and physiotherapy wards, as well as X-ray and laboratory facilities.
Our hospital was the only facility of its kind in northeastern Afghanistan; beforehand, severely injured people were forced to make long and dangerous journeys to the capital Kabul or Pakistan to receive the care they needed. Since opening the hospital in 2011, more than 15,000 surgeries were conducted and more than 68,000 emergency patients were treated…
On the night of the attack, there were 105 patients in the hospital and 140 of our international and national staff were present, of whom 80 were on duty.
Starting at 2:08am on 3 October, a United States AC-130 gunship fired 211 shells on the main hospital building where patients were sleeping in their beds or being operated on…
At least 42 people were killed, including 24 patients, 14 staff and 4 caretakers. Thirty-seven were injured. Our patients burned in their beds, our medical staff were decapitated or lost limbs. Others were shot from the air while they fled the burning building. The attack lasted for around one hour… Throughout the airstrikes our teams desperately called military authorities to stop them. They took place despite the fact that we had provided the GPS coordinates of the hospital to the US Department of Defense, Afghan Ministry of Interior and Defense and US Army in Kabul as recently as 29 September.
In the days after the attack, the United States military eventually claimed responsibility for the airstrikes, saying that it had been an accident. The US military claimed they had received reports that the hospital building was holding active Taliban militia. Our staff reported no armed combatants or fighting in the compound prior to the airstrike.
December 10, 2014: The US Senate report summary on CIA torture does more than expose serious human rights violations in the US “War on Terror.” … Of the sites identified in the report, four are in Afghanistan, where detainees in US custody were subjected to “sleep deprivation, auditory overload, total darkness, isolation, beatings and shackling.” Feeding tubes inserted anally in detainees, resulting in rectal prolapse in at least one case, represented sexual assaults analogous to rape with an object. Many of these abuses occurred as early as 2002, when Afghan detainee Gul Rahman died from hypothermia after being shackled to a freezing concrete floor at the infamous “Salt Pit” detention center. Ultimately, the prison housed nearly half of the 119 detainees identified by the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture…
The prison was dark at all times, with curtains and painted exterior windows. Loud music was played constantly. The prisoners were kept in total darkness and isolation, with only a bucket for human waste and without sufficient heat in winter months. Nude prisoners were kept in a central area, and walked around as a form of humiliation. The detainees were hosed down with water while shackled naked, and placed in cold cells. They were subject to sleep deprivation, shackled to bars with their hands above their heads…One senior interrogator said that his team found a detainee who had been chained in a standing position for 17 days, “as far as we could determine.” A senior CIA debriefer told the CIA Inspector General that she heard stories of detainees hung for days on end with their toes barely touching the ground, choked, deprived of food, and made the subject of a mock execution.
The Battle of Raqqa lasted from 6 June through 17 October 2017, launched by the Syrian Democratic Forces and supported by massive air strikes and ground troops of a US-led coalition. A relentless bombing campaign resulted not only in the collapse of Islamic State (IS) but also in the total destruction of the city, with up to 6,000 civilian casualties, according to human rights organisations.
“Raqqa is the most destroyed city in modern times,” says Donatella Rovera, a veteran researcher with Amnesty International…Certainly much more destroyed than Aleppo, in percentage terms, “…American soldiers were interviewed, and they said, ‘for us, everybody who was within Raqqa was regarded to be a fighter of Isis.’ The result: whole families who tried to flee the violence were massacred indiscriminately…On top of that, artillery shells used by the US-led coalition were “basically unguided with a margin of error of over 100 metres…”
At about noon on March 15 2016 two aerial bombs hit the market in Mastaba, approximately 45 kilometers from the Saudi border. The first bomb landed directly in front of a complex of shops and a restaurant. The second struck beside a covered area near the entrance to the market, killing and wounding people escaping, as well as others trying to help the wounded. Human Rights Watch interviewed 23 witnesses to the airstrikes, as well as medical workers at two area hospitals that received the wounded. At least 50 people were killed, most of them children and teenagers, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Another 77 people were injured, said the spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Yussef al-Hadri. The ministry blames the airstrike on the Saudi-led military alliance…
Human Rights Watch conducted on-site investigations on March 28 and found remnants at the market of a GBU-31 satellite-guided bomb, which consists of a US-supplied MK-84 2,000-pound bomb mated with a JDAM satellite guidance kit, also US-supplied. Human Rights Watch has called on the United States, United Kingdom, France, and other countries to suspend all weapon sales to Saudi Arabia until it curtails its unlawful airstrikes in Yemen, credibly investigates alleged violations, and holds those responsible to account. Selling weapons to Saudi Arabia may make these countries complicit in violations, Human Rights Watch said.
Before dawn on September 10, 2016 coalition aircraft struck the site of a water drilling rig near Beit Saadan village 30 km north of Sanaa. The drill rig was in an unpopulated area reachable only by dirt road. The first strike hit near a workers’ shelter, killing six and wounding five others. At about 9 a.m., after several dozen villagers came to remove the bodies of those killed, three planes returned and bombed the vicinity at least 12 more times, about 15 minutes apart. Human Rights Watch confirmed the names and ages of 21 people who died, including three boys ages 12, 14, and 15.
Yehia Abdullah, a 34-year-old teacher, was on his way back when he heard the bombing: “I saw scattered and charred bodies… I saw five bodies including my brother Muhamad. First I found my brother’s severed leg outside the workers’ shelter, his arm on the door … and half his body buried in the ruins… About 300 people were there to remove the bodies. … I saw two warplanes arriving from the south. Between 8 and 9 am, I saw the missile coming down to the ground as I was next to my uncle’s body.”
Several witnesses said that three coalition planes circled overhead, striking the area in widening circles as those gathered attempted to escape. People ran in all directions to escape the bombing,
Human Rights Watch examined and photographed remnants of a US-made GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided 500-pound bomb. A part of the guidance system (wing assembly) was produced by Raytheon in the US in October 2015, according to markings on the remnants.
Residents of Beit Saadan said that they had pooled together 22 million Yemeni Rials (US$88,000) of their personal funds to pay to drill the well to supply drinking water to their village. The bombing occurred on the last day of planned drilling, after the villagers had struck water, a local farmer said.
Immediately following the October 8 funeral hall attack, the US National Security Council announced the US had “initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support” to the coalition and was “prepared to adjust our support.” The US has made no further announcements regarding how it planned to alter support for the war in Yemen nor released any findings from the review. President Obama should ensure that the review examines whether US forces participated in any unlawful coalition attacks in Yemen, and release the review findings before leaving office, Human Rights Watch said.
The United Kingdom also sells arms to Saudi Arabia, despite growing parliamentary pressure over its support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign in Yemen and evidence of the use of British-made weapons. Human Rights Watch has documented the use of UK-made weapons in three apparently unlawful coalition attacks in Yemen. Since March 2015, the UK has approved £3.3 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia, according to the London-based Campaign Against Arms Trade.
Sep 22 2015: Somali Drone Victim Seeks Justice for U.S. Strike in German Courts
A legal challenge alleges that German officials may be liable for murder, in part for allowing the U.S. to relay drone data from an airbase in Ramstein. A man whose father was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Somalia is seeking to hold Germany accountable for allowing the United States to use its territory for military bases that play a key role in overseas airstrikes.
The Somali man, whose name was given only as “C.D.,” described his father, “A.B.,” as a herdsman who raised goats and camels in southern Somalia, not far from the coast of the Indian Ocean. According to his son’s testimony, A.B. left home on the morning of February 24, 2012, to graze his livestock. But that night several of his camels came home without him. The next day C.D. found his father’s body severed in two, near a burnt-out car and several dead camels.
The strike that killed A.B. was apparently aimed at Mohamed Sakr, a London-born alleged member of the Somali jihadist group al Shabaab… By some accounts several other unidentified people also died.
C.D.’s lawyers …ask for an investigation by the public prosecutor in the district that hosts Ramstein, the enormous U.S. airbase that serves as a satellite relay station connecting drone pilots in the United States with their aircraft flying over Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
The complaint … detailing Ramstein’s critical logistical role in the U.S. drone war also points to the fact that U.S. Africa Command, or Africom, headquartered in Stuttgart, oversees operations in Somalia like the one that killed A.B.
In April Obama had admitted the death of innocent civilians in drone strikes. Some criticism of these missions was “legitimate,” he said at the time. There is “no doubt that civilians were killed who should not be killed.” However, the rules of use for the combat drones are “as strict as never before,” said the US President. July 1, 2006 Die Zeit
On 19 March 2011, a multi-state NATO-led coalition began a military intervention in Libya … imposing a ban on all flights in the country’s airspace — a no-fly zone…
US President Barack Obama said the US was taking “limited military action” as part of a “broad coalition”. “We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy,” he said.
The total number of sorties flown by NATO numbered more than 26,000, an average of 120 sorties per day. 42% of the sorties were strike sorties, which damaged or destroyed approximately 6,000 military targets. At its peak, the operation involved 21 NATO ships and more than 250 aircraft… Of these Denmark, Canada, and Norway together were responsible for 31%, the United States was responsible for 16%, Italy 10%, France 33%, Britain 21%, and Belgium, Qatar, and the UAE the remainder…
August 3, 2011: BRUSSELS – An international journalists’ group sharply criticized NATO air strikes against Libyan television, which killed three people and injured 15, saying Wednesday they violated international law and U.N. resolutions.
May 20, 2011 marked the 60th day of US combat in Libya. President Obama notified Congress that no congressional authorization was needed since the US leadership had been transferred to NATO and since US involvement was somewhat “limited”. In fact, as of April 28, 2011, the US had conducted 75 percent of all aerial refueling sorties, supplied 70 percent of the operation’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and contributed 24 percent of the total aircraft used, more resources than any other NATO country. The US deployed a naval force of 11 ships, A-10 ground-attack aircraft, two B-1B bombers, three Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, AV-8B Harrier II jump-jets, EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft, P-3 Orions, and both McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 fighters. The Libyan government response to the campaign was totally ineffectual, with Gaddafi’s forces not managing to shoot down a single NATO plane.
BRUSSELS – An international journalists’ group sharply criticized NATO air strikes against Libyan television, which killed three people and injured 15, saying Wednesday they violated international law and U.N. resolutions.
The National Transitional Council (NTC) forces initially claimed Gaddafi died from injuries sustained in a firefight … although a graphic video of his last moments shows rebel fighters beating him and one of them sodomizing him with a bayonet before he was shot several times.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shared a laugh with a TV news reporter moments after hearing deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had been killed. “We came, we saw, he died,” she joked.
An in depth investigation into the Libyan intervention was started in July 2015 by the U.K. Parliament’s House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee, the final conclusions of which on 14 September 2016 were strongly critical of the British government’s role in the intervention. The report concluded that …Gaddafi was not planning to massacre civilians, and that reports to the contrary were propagated by rebels and Western governments. The feared threat of the massacre of civilians was not supported by the available evidence… For example, on 17 March 2011 Gaddafi had given Benghazi rebels the offer of peaceful surrender and when Gaddafi had earlier retaken Ajdabiya from rebel forces … they did not attack civilians, and this had taken place in February 2011, shortly before the NATO intervention. Gaddafi’s approach towards the rebels had been one of “appeasement”, with the release of Islamist prisoners and promises of significant development assistance for Benghazi.
One final note. On June 26, 1997 a group of fifty prominent U.S. Americans, none leftists, had written Pres. William Clinton a message including the following words:
“Dear Mr. President,
We, the undersigned, believe that the current U.S. led effort to expand NATO, the focus of the recent Helsinki and Paris Summits, is a policy error of historic proportions. We believe that NATO expansion will decrease allied security and unsettle European stability… for the following reasons:
“In Russia, NATO expansion, which continues to be opposed across the entire political spectrum, will strengthen the nondemocratic opposition, undercut those who favor reform and cooperation with the West, bring the Russians to question the entire post-Cold War settlement, and galvanize resistance in the Duma to the START II and III treaties…
“Russia does not now pose a threat to its western neighbors and the nations of Central and Eastern Europe are not in danger. For this reason, and the others cited above, we believe that NATO expansion is neither necessary nor desirable and that this ill-conceived policy can and should be put on hold.
The list was signed by former Senators Sam Nunn, Bill Bradley, Mark Hatfield, Gary Hart, former CIA Director Adm. Stansfield Turner, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Navy Secretary Paul H. Nitze, ex-ambassadors, entertainers, business leaders, Prof. Richard Pipes, author Susan Eisenhower…
Perhaps, if Clinton and even one of the presidents who followed him had listened to their advice, Vladimir Putin would not have feared a tightening NATO military noose encircling and threatening Russia – and the current bloody warfare would never have been risked and waged. Who knows?