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Archive for April 2016

Death from the Sky: Searching for Ground Truth in the Kunduz Hospital Bombing

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May Jeong reports in The Intercept:

When the Taliban overran Kunduz last September after a monthlong siege, the northern Afghan city became the first to fall to the insurgency since the war began in 2001. A week earlier, many Kunduz residents had left town to observe Eid al-Adha, the sacrificial feast honoring Abraham’s act of submission to God. The heavy fighting sent the remaining Kunduzis fleeing as dead bodies littered the streets.

On Friday, October 2, the city lay quiet, with just one building lit up against the dark sky. Most other international organizations had evacuated when the fighting began, but the Kunduz Trauma Center run by Médecins Sans Frontières remained open throughout the battle for the city. It was one of the few buildings with a generator. Throughout the week, violence seemed to lap against the walls of the hospital without ever engulfing it. All around the 35,620-square-meter compound, the site of an old cotton factory, fighting ebbed and flowed. Doctors and nurses marked the intensity of battle by the freshly wounded who arrived at the gate. According to MSF, the hospital treated 376 emergency patients between September 28, when the city fell, and October 2.

The last week had seen much bloodshed, but Friday was uncharacteristically calm: no fighting nearby, no gunshots, no explosions. “I remember seeing a child flying a kite,” recalled Dr. Kathleen Thomas, “and thought to myself, today is a calm day.” That evening, while more than 100 MSF employees and caretakers slept in a basement below the hospital, several staff members remained awake, preparing for what the night might bring. There were 105 patients in the hospital, including three or four Afghan government soldiers and about 20 Taliban fighters, two of whom appeared to be of high rank. Hospital staff stepped outside to take in the bracing autumn air, something they’d lately refrained from doing for fear of stray bullets. The night sky was open and clear.

Some 7,000 feet above, an AC-130 gunship was preparing to fire. At 2:08 a.m., on October 3, a missile began its descent, gliding through a cloudless sky.

About two hours earlier,

nurse Mohammad Poya lay down on the concrete floor of the hospital’s administrative office. Poya had a few hours for sleep, but instead dead bodies were on his mind. In the morning he had visited the morgue to find its refrigerators full. Earlier in the week, Poya had asked the orderlies to pack the dead in as tight as possible. When there was no more space, he asked the cleaners to scrub the front porch of the morgue so that the excess corpses could be stacked there. What Poya hated most was carelessness. Many died undignified deaths in Afghanistan; the least the hospital could do was to show the dead the respect that had eluded them in life.

Poya was especially worried about the fighting that had ensnarled the streets around the compound. With all major roads blocked, the hospital was running low on supplies. Corridors overflowed with the wounded, and a decision was made to triage patients earlier than usual to avoid wasting resources on those least likely to survive. The last thought Poya remembers having before finally falling asleep was that they would have to start turning away patients.

Earlier that Friday, at 1 p.m., Guilhem Molinie, the head of MSF in Afghanistan, sat at his desk in Kabul to write an email to a contact in the U.S. 3rd Special Forces Group, which had been deployed to Kunduz after the fall of the city. “Questions in case things go bad,” the subject line read. It wasn’t the first time that week he had taken precautions. On Monday, when a Taliban victory seemed certain, Molinie called an insurgent contact to reaffirm the hospital’s neutral position. He did the same with the other side, sending a letter with GPS coordinates of the hospital to the Afghan National Security Council, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Health, the U.S. Embassy, USAID, and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the agency’s body tasked with responding to complex emergencies. The U.N. forwarded Molinie’s email to Col. Paul Sarat, the deputy commander of NATO’s mission in the north, as well as to Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamid, who headed the 209th Corps of the Afghan National Army, which is responsible for the country’s northern nine provinces. Molinie tried to reach out to Freedom’s Sentinel, the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, but was not successful; he assumed he had done enough.

Andres Romero, MSF’s head liaison with the U.S. government, forwarded the coordinates to Carter Malkasian, an old Afghan hand and an adviser to top U.S. military officer Joseph Dunford of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Malkasian emailed Romero to inquire whether the hospital had been overrun by the Taliban. Romero told him no, but this information appeared not to have traveled back to the special operations forces on the ground, since on Friday, according to the Associated Press, a senior officer with the 3rd Special Forces Group wrote in his daily report that the hospital was under Taliban control and that he planned to clear the grounds in the coming days.

Among the units accompanying the 3rd Special Forces Group were Afghan commandos and the 6th Special Operations Kandak, reporting to the Ministry of Defense; 222 and 333 national mission units, reporting to the Ministry of Interior; and a police special unit already based out of Kunduz. The men had not worked together before, and they were now in charge of leading the battle to take back Kunduz city. “They just got thrown up there, into an environment they didn’t know much about,” said a security analyst based in northern Afghanistan, who was formerly an adviser to the U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan. The security analyst asked not to be identified by name, as did many of the dozens of individuals who were interviewed for this article in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Some were not authorized to speak on the record; others, including residents of Kunduz and Afghan security personnel, feared retaliation for doing so.

The picture that emerges from these firsthand accounts, as well as from interviews with several high-ranking Afghan officials, is one of remarkable chaos and uncertainty, even by the standards of war. Those on the ground said it was not clear who was in charge, and those in charge seemed not to have had a clear understanding of what was happening on the ground at any given point before, during, and after the fall of the city.

At 10:00 p.m.Molinie returned to his office to speak with Heman Nagarathnam, who was in charge of the hospital in Kunduz. It was a quiet night and Nagarathnam stepped out for a cigarette to take the call. The nightly check-ins had allowed Molinie to keep updated on the goings-on around the hospital. Molinie knew, for instance, that on Tuesday a local Taliban representative visited Nagarathnam to give his reassurance. He knew that the hospital lay in a Taliban-controlled area, but that Afghan soldiers were still crossing the front line to bring in patients. By Wednesday, however, worries of a Taliban takeover had pushed soldiers to the provincial hospital, which was in an area controlled by government forces.

At one point that week, government forces had regained the city’s central square, before losing it again to the Taliban. On Friday night, Nagarathnam relayed his concerns that the hospital was now located in an area vulnerable to counterattack. They discussed the 2,000 sandbags that he had ordered to defend the hospital against stray bullets. A little after 1:30 a.m., he went to bed.

For some time, Molinie told me, something had been bothering him. “It was never clear who was in charge of what,” he said, in reference to the metastasizing 15-year-old conflict. The current war in Afghanistan was being run by two distinct commands: NATO’s Operation Resolute Support (RS) and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan’s Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Resolute Support was a non-combat mission with a limited mandate to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces. Freedom’s Sentinel, successor to Operation Enduring Freedom, was the latest version of America’s so-called war on terror. It was meant to hunt down al Qaeda remnants, but without the rigor of public scrutiny, Freedom’s Sentinel seemed to have spiraled beyond its already vague mandate.

Despite President Barack Obama’s 2014 announcement that America’s combat mission in Afghanistan would end in 2015, Molinie had noticed that many military operations seemed to be outside the bounds of both Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel. It was never clear where one mission ended and another began. Long before January 2016, when President Obama expanded the counterterrorism mission of Freedom’s Sentinel to include the fight against the Islamic State, for instance, there were already airstrikes targeting ISIS in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

When I asked Col. Michael Lawhorn, spokesperson for both NATO and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, to explain the differing missions of the two commands, he said: “Think of it as a big box marked RS and inside that you have a small box marked Freedom’s Sentinel but inside that box you have two smaller boxes marked Resolute Support and another one marked counterterrorism.” When I inquired how we might tell all these different boxes apart, Lawhorn conceded, “It’s not always clear under what authority an action is taken.” The same was true, he said, of what happened in Kunduz. . .

Continue reading.

It would be very interesting to know what an in-depth independent investigation would reveal, but I’m sure the US military will never allow an investigation that they cannot control that might draw conclusions the military wishes to exclude. With the military doing its own investigation of itself, it can conceal the identities and roles of the perpetrators and limit the “punishment” to harsh words and hard looks.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2016 at 11:42 am

Southerners Weren’t ‘Lazy,’ Just Infected With Hookworms

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Hookworm

Sarah Emerson reports in Motherboard:

Stereotypes are almost always the conclusions of lazy science—they’re just empirical generalizations that are stripped of their variances and encoded as fact into the collective consciousness of a general population. They’re the tools of propagandists, xenophobes, and oppressors, and tend to stick around through the ages like a bad smell.

However, sometime a stereotype will reveal a hidden truth that provides an origin to the myth.

The trope of the “lazy Southerner” dates back to America’s postbellum period following the end of the Civil War. No one really knew where it came from, but the image of a lethargic, filthy, drawling farmer has pervaded art, literature, and popular culture up until this very moment.

One argument, recently published by Rachel Nuwer for PBS Nova Next, presents some compelling evidence for the theory that a hookworm epidemic was responsible for this rural stereotype.

The hookworm (Necator americanus) is a parasite that’s been called “the germ of laziness,” due to the exhaustion and mental fogginess it tends to inflict upon its victims. Historical evidence shows the parasite ravaged the American South throughout the early 20th century, as a result of poor sanitation and a lack of public health programs among the poor.

By 1905, the parasitologist Charles Stiles estimated that 40 percent or more of the Southern population was infected with hookworms. The parasite thrives in fecal matter, and the combination of shoddy waste disposal and the rarity of shoes allowed hookworm larvae to enter people’s bodies through the webbing between their toes.

Once hookworms have penetrated the skin, they’ll travel through their host’s lungs and into their intestines, where they’ll survive on a diet of blood they suck out from the intestinal wall. A female hookworm can lay up to 10,000 eggs in a single day, which gives you an idea of how rampant a localized infestation can become in a very short time.

The “laziness” that’s synonymous with hookworm infections is a symptom of iron deficiency anemia, due to blood loss. . .

Continue reading.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2016 at 11:34 am

Posted in Daily life, Science

Van Yulay shaving soap, along with the ATT S1

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SOTD 2016-04-30

The brush is RazoRock’s synthetic badger, a very nice brush indeed, and the soap is a sample of one of the (many) Van Yulay shaving soaps. This brand is new to me, but the range of fragrances is large—their “Aquarius” shaving soap, for example, is available in 350 fragrances—and samples are nicely packaged and cost $2 each for most. Many of the fragrances seem to be knockoffs of commercial fragrances. For example, the sample shown is Shaving Soap of the Gods Bacchus, and the fragrance is described:

A very unique [sic] scent with blackberry, cognac, suede, musk, Canadian balsam, Mexican chocolate, woodsy notes, Tonka bean, amber and leather. This is scent is like the Keith Urban type fragrance cologne

I don’t get the connection between the Greek god Bacchus and a cowboy hat and boots, however. There is a tag line, “Through the eyes of: Blaine Mire!“, but that means nothing to me and a search on Blaine Mire turned up an MD, an internist in Natchez MS. So I don’t get it, and no explanation is offered.

The soap’s ingredients:

· Cocoa Butter – Cocoa butter used in shave soap is the best salvation for people who have sensitive skin. Cocoa butter moisturizers are good at protecting skin from heat, healing such diseases as eczema and other problems. A cocoa butter cream will definitely help you keep your skin soft and supple.

· Calendula – is used to disinfect minor wounds and to treat infections of the skin. The antibacterial and immunostimulant properties of the plant make it extremely useful in treating slow-healing cuts and cuts in people who have compromised immune systems. The herb stimulates the production of collagen at wound sites and minimizes scarring. Natural moisturizer that has powerful emollients and protective properties which makes a wonderful addition to our shave soap.

· Babassu Oil – is considered to be a superior emollient that is beneficial for either dry or oily complexions. In our shave soap It gently moisturizes the skin without leaving an oily sheen.

Vegan Formula

Made with Stearic Acid, Aloe Vera, Coconut Fatty Acid, Glycerin, Coconut-Castor-Olive-Oils, Cocoa Butter, Calendula, Extracts, Poly Quats, Sodium Lactate, BTMS,Allantoin, Silica, Kaolin Clay, EO’s and Fragrance.

The lather was fine, and I liked the fragrance, though I don’t know Keith Urban from a bale of hay.

Well lathered, I picked up my Above the Tie S1 on the UFO handle and made quick and comfortable work of the stubble, leaving my face perfectly smooth and unharmed. I chose Stetson because of the cowboy hat and boots, though I’m still puzzled by the Bacchus connection. Still, the Stetson did the job—Keith Rural, perhaps.

And now I have a nice weekend, and I hope you do as well.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2016 at 8:13 am

Posted in Shaving

Could Psychedelic Drugs Help Keep Ex-Inmates Out Of Jail?

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That was certainly Timothy Leary’s hope: he was convinced that LSD trips with good guidance could significantly reduce recidivism, and he did indeed drop acid with imprisoned convicts. He confided to one, while they were tripping, that he was somewhat fearful, and the convicted laughed. “Hell, I’m terrified, in here with this crazy doctor and I don’t know what he’s going to do.”

I actually met Leary at a party held at Trip Hawkins house. Hawkins was then the CEO of Electronic Arts and I was working on a program (never published), so was at the party. I also met at the same party Thomas Disch, the science-fiction writer. Disch really wanted to meet Leary, but seemed a bit shy, so I took him over and introduced them. Leary knew Disch’s work and had been impressed, so it was sort of interesting to see the two, each impressed by the other and a little in awe, start to converse.

But to the issue: Joshua Rapp Learn writes in Motherboard:

Psychedelic drugs might actually help reduce incidents of domestic violence among men with substance abuse problems.

That’s the implication of a new study, which found that 42 percent of US inmates whohadn’t taken psychedelic drugs before doing time were arrested within six years of their release for domestic battery—compared to 27 percent of those who had taken drugs like acid, mushrooms and ecstasy.

It’s a small, observational study, and a lot more research is needed. Even so, “it adds to growing evidence that these substances may have positive effects,” Zachary Walsh told me. Walsh is a psychology professor at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, and the lead author of the study in The Journal of Psychopharmacology.

He and his coauthors interviewed 302 adult inmates at a county jail in Illinois. All of them had a history of substance disorders, and 72 percent had past histories of violent crime (though not necessarily domestic violence). After they were released from jail, these researchers monitored the men through FBI records and other sources for an average of six years, checking for any domestic violence arrests.

Most of the men—about 56 percent—had tried hallucinogens before, while another 13 percent had a disorder relating to psychedelic drugs, according to Walsh. Most had used “classic psychedelics” like LSD, magic mushrooms and to a lesser extent mescaline and DMT. This study was initiated in the early 2000s, and the date may be a sign of the times: only 45 percent had tried what researchers classified as “a-typical,” or less common, psychedelics, including ecstasy, special k (ketamine) and angel dust (PCP).

“Maybe there are some personal health benefits to these substances,” Walsh said.

The reason why the inmates who have tried hallucinogens tended less towards domestic violence than other drug users is difficult to say based on these results, but Walsh said that it may have to do with the nature of the experiences the drugs afford.

“The experiences of unity, positivity, and transcendence that characterize the psychedelic experience may be particularly beneficial to groups that are frequently marginalized and isolated, such as the incarcerated men who participated in this study,” he explained in a release.

He also says . . .

Continue reading.

As I recall, Leary found that using LSD reduced recidivism by about 40%. Taking the drug seemed to relax the rigidity of outlooks and assumptions, allowing one to find a new and less unpleasant mindset.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2016 at 8:26 pm

Posted in Daily life, Drug laws, Law

Texas believes that it is very important that the government control what you’re allow to say or publish in social media

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In The Intercept Jordan Smith has an article that shows how the government—in this case, the Texas government—is getting fed up with people speaking their minds and is taking steps to stop that. From the article (definitely worth reading):

. . . BY THE TIME Hartwell arrived at the Crowne Plaza for the meeting, she was mad; she felt forced by the TDCJ to take offline the Facebook page she had long maintained. And that quickly turned into frustration when a board coordinator approached to deliver a bit of confounding news. Because there were so many people signed up to speak during the public comment period (including three who wanted to speak about the social media rule), the board’s chair had decided to chop in half each speaker’s normal allotted time of three minutes. How many people were signed up? The board rep didn’t know; this is what the chairman has decided, she said.

But throughout the comment period, the rules kept changing, and not everyone got the promised 1 1/2 minutes. First, Chair Dale Wainwright, a former jurist on the Texas Supreme Court, announced that individuals who’d signed up to speak on the same topic would have to coordinate among themselves to figure out who would abridge and deliver comments on behalf of the group — regardless of whether the individuals had similar comments to make. For social media comments, he would offer a total of two minutes. Midway through the meeting, Wainwright changed the rules again, offering each speaker just 60 seconds to communicate their complaints and concerns.

After the comment period — during which board members did not respond to questions (Wainwright promised each speaker would later receive a written response) — Hartwell was quick to link the chair’s actions to concerns about the social media rule. If the board so easily bent its rules for citizen communications, what was to keep the agency from bending its social media rule too? “They’re very arbitrary,” she told The Intercept. “They do what they want to do, and this is what scares me about this stuff.”

The new rule first made news on April 12, when a reporter for the local FOX station in Houston essentially took credit for its creation. According to the reporter, the rule followed from a story he did back in January that drew attention to a Facebook page maintained for a prisoner named Elmer Wayne Henley Jr., who in the early 1970s, was an accomplice to the sexual assault and murder of more than two dozen teenage boys. In addition to written posts, Henley’s page was apparently displaying jewelry for sale and other art that he made in prison.

Although he didn’t mention Henley directly, TDCJ spokesperson Jason Clark later said the rule was necessary because some inmates had misused their accounts. “Offenders have used social media accounts to sell items over the internet based on the notoriety of their crime, harass victims or victims’ families, and continue their criminal activity,” he told Fusion in an email. Of course, trying to sell so-called murderabilia or threatening or harassing victims is already prohibited under TDCJ rules. Given that the content for Facebook and other internet sites must be transmitted from prison via mail, phone, or in-person visit, all of which are heavily monitored, it is hard to see how banning social media for all prisoners would be necessary to ferret out such violations.

When asked to provide details on incidents that prompted adoption of the rule, Clark referred The Intercept to the agency’s Office of the Inspector General, suggesting we file an open records request for the information. In a follow-up email, he said there was “not one specific incident related to an offender that prompted the new rule.” Rather, he wrote, it was that “it had become more difficult to have an offender’s social media account take down because the agency had no policy that specifically prohibited it.”

AS IT TURNS OUT, Facebook, at least, has been censoring prisoner pages for a number of years — despite its stated goal of giving “people the power to share and to make the world more open and connected.” According toreporting by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, from at least 2011 through early 2015, prison officials and Facebook shared a “special arrangement” whereby a prison could provide Facebook with links for prisoner pages it wanted removed, and Facebook would then suspend those profiles, “often [with] no questions asked, even when it wasn’t clear if any law or Facebook policy was being violated.” . . .

By all means read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2016 at 6:44 pm

Another look at the Pentagon report that clears the military of any crimes

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Ryan Devereaux and Cora Currier report in The Intercept:

Nearly seven months after the first shots were fired, the Pentagon has released its full report detailing the night of chaos and horror that left 42 patients and staffers dead at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. In publishing the highly anticipated account, the military concluded that its attack did not amount to a war crime because its effects were not intentional, a view at odds with certain interpretations of international law.

In the wake of the attack, Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, described the October 3 raid as “abhorrent and a grave violation of international humanitarian law,” adding, a “war crime has been committed.”

In announcing the report today, Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, argued that was not the case.

“The label ‘war crimes’ is typically reserved for intentional acts — intentional targeting [of] civilians or intentionally targeting protected objects or locations,” the general said. The Americans “had no idea,” they were targeting the hospital, Votel said, and once they recognized what was happening, they called off the attack.

In a statement, MSF said it had not had an opportunity to review the military report before it was posted online, though the organization did receive a two-hour verbal briefing from Votel on Thursday. The humanitarian group fired off a set of unanswered questions, and repeated its call for an independent inquiry into the attack by the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission.

“MSF and other medical care providers on the front lines of armed conflicts continually experience attacks on health facilities that go uninvestigated by parties to the conflict,” the statement read. “However, MSF has said consistently that it cannot be satisfied solely with a military investigation into the Kunduz attack.”

While Votel stressed that the conclusions of the report were subjected to legal review by military lawyers, the general’s argument that the absence of intentionality meant the attack on the MSF could not be a war crime wades into complex legal territory. According to the International Red Cross definition, “war crimes are violations that are committed willfully, i.e., either intentionally…or recklessly…The exact mental element varies depending on the crime concerned.” Following the release of the report, Patricia Gossman, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher in Afghanistan, tweeted, “It is established principle of customary international law that war crimes can be committed through recklessness.”

What’s more, Votel’s claim appeared inconsistent with the military’s own law of war manual, which states, “In some cases, the term ‘war crime’ has been used as a technical expression for a violation of the law of war by any person; i.e., under this usage, any violation of the law of war is a war crime. This has been longstanding U.S. military doctrine.” According to the findings of their report, the investigators looking into the Kunduz attack noted violations of the rules of engagement, and also breaches of the laws of war.

MSF president Meinie Nicolai said that “a grave breach of international humanitarian law” is not determined solely by whether or not the act was intentional.

“With multinational coalitions fighting with different rules of engagement across a wide spectrum of wars today, whether in Afghanistan, Syria, or Yemen, armed groups cannot escape their responsibilities on the battlefield simply by ruling out the intent to attack a protected structure such as a hospital,” Nicolai added.

The Kunduz report comes in the context of a disturbing trend of attacks on medical facilities. This week, an MSF-supported hospital was bombed in Syria, killing three doctors. MSF says seven medical facilities that it works with in Syria have been hit this year, while four have been bombed in Yemen.

Votel, who was the head of U.S. Special Operations Command at the time of the Kunduz raid, confirmed that more than a dozen U.S. service members were disciplined for their roles in the airstrike — they would not, however, face criminal charges in connection with the ordeal. Repeating much of what the military has already claimed with respect to the attack — an account that has changed multiple times — Votel framed the tragedy as the result of overlapping human and technological errors. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the report (but read the whole thing):

. . . Donna McKay, executive director for Physicians for Human Rights, slammed the military’s punishments as insufficient. “The decision to dole out only administrative punishments and forego a thorough criminal investigation of October’s deadly strike in Kunduz is an affront to the families of the more than 40 men, women, and children who died that night, punished merely for being in a hospital, a supposed safe haven in a time of war,” McKay said in a statement.

The military’s response does not assure the future of MSF’s work in one of Afghanistan’s most volatile regions.

“We can’t put our teams – including our colleagues who survived the traumatic attack – back to work in Kunduz without first having strong and unambiguous assurances from all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan that this will not happen again,” Nicolai, the MSF president, said.

The Pentagon has approved a $5.7 million effort to rebuild the facility it destroyed, and as “a gesture of sympathy,” more than 170 individuals have received condolences for loved ones injured or killed, Votel said. “$3,000 for wounded and $6,000 for killed,” he said.

On Thursday, The Intercept published a months-long investigation into the attack on the hospital, based on dozens of interviews with American and Afghan officials, witnesses, regional experts and survivors of the air raid. The picture that emerged was one of remarkable confusion about who was in charge, and of a divergence between how American and Afghan forces viewed the situation.

Afghan authorities claimed that the Taliban were using the hospital to launch attacks — despite fervent denials from MSF that there were armed fighters in the compound, and a lack of evidence to back up the Afghan officials’ claims. A senior Western official told The Intercept that the Afghans’ “biggest fear after the strike was that this would put a chill on their being able to request U.S. air support when shit hits the fan.” . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2016 at 6:35 pm

Strange form of lying from the Obama administration: Say something (repeatedly), and then deny having said it

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Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons have a report (with video) in The Intercept that begins:

After President Obama announced on Monday that he would deploy 250 additional special operations troops to Syria, State Department spokesperson John Kirby tried to deny that Obama had ever promised not to send “boots on the ground” there.

“There was never this ‘no boots on the ground,’” said Kirby. “I don’t know where this keeps coming from.”

[WordPress has lost—temporarily, I hope—the ability to insert YouTube videos. Click the link to the article to see the video in the article, and also this 3-minute video is of interest. – LG]

The problem for Kirby was that Obama has repeated the promise at least 16 times since 2013:

For instance, on August 30, 2013, Obama said: “We’re not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach.”

On September 10, 2013, he said: “Many of you have asked, won’t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are ‘still recovering from our involvement in Iraq.’ A veteran put it more bluntly: ‘This nation is sick and tired of war.’ My answer is simple: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.”

On September 7, 2014, he said: “In Syria, the boots on the ground have to be Syrian.”

After reporters pointed out the mistake, Kirby tried to walk back his claim by defining the phrase “boots on the ground” to exclude special forces.

“When we talk about boots on the ground, in the context that you have heard people in the administration speak to, we are talking about conventional, large-scale ground troops,” said Kirby. “I’m not disputing the fact that we have troops on the ground, and they’re wearing boots.”

The new deployment will result in a six-fold increase to the 50 U.S. special forces troops already in Syria. There are also 4,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. The White House has insisted that its forces “do not have a combat mission,” and are deployed in an “advise and assist” capacity only, helping to train local militias that engage ISIS directly.

There is, as Kirby indicated, a distinction between a large-scale ground invasion and, say, a small group of advisers hanging back from the front. But the line between “combat” and “assist” missions is not always so clear.

In Iraq, when a U.S. special forces soldier was killed during a raid on an ISIS-held prison, the White House insisted that U.S. forces were only flying helicopters carrying Kurdish commandos, and that it was a “unique circumstance.” They refused to call the exchange “combat,” prompting outrage from veterans groups.

A second American soldier was killed in a rocket attack in northern Iraq last month, while guarding a U.S. base near Mosul. The White House calledit “an enemy action,” not “combat.”

“Advise and assist” may also include providing targeting intelligence for U.S. airstrikes, according to Dan Grazier, a former Marine in Afghanistan and Iraq who is now a fellow with the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight. “With a force the size they’re talking about, they’re probably there to help provide fire support,” Grazier said.

Some veterans are outraged by the administration’s semantics.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2016 at 6:15 pm

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