75 killed, 120 injured in Peshawar church attack

christian-church-attack-pakistan

PESHAWAR: A twin suicide bombing killed more than 75 people at a church service in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, officials said, in what is believed to be the country’s deadliest attack on Christians.

The two attackers struck at the end of a service at All Saints Church in  Peshawar, the main town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which has borne the brunt of a bloody Islamist insurgency in recent years.

Sahibzada Anees, one of Peshawar’s most senior officials, told reporters the bombers struck when the service had just ended.

“Most of the wounded are in critical condition,” Anees said.

“We are in an area which is a target of terrorism and within that area there was a special security arrangement for the church. We are in a rescue phase and once it is over we will investigate what went wrong.”

Former minister for inter-faith harmony Paul Bhatti and provincial lawmaker Fredrich Azeem Ghauri both said the attack was the deadliest ever targeting Christians in Pakistan.

The K-P government announced Rs500,000 in compensation to the families of victims in the attack.

The small and largely impoverished Christian community suffers discrimination in overwhelmingly Muslim-majority Pakistan but bombings against them are extremely rare.

Schoolteacher Nazir Khan, 50, said the service had just ended and at least 400 worshippers were greeting each other when there was a huge explosion.

“A huge blast threw me on the floor and as soon as I regained my senses, a second blast took place and I saw wounded people everywhere,” Khan told AFP.

An AFP reporter saw shreds of human flesh and bloodstains on the walls and floor of the church, whose windows had been ripped apart by the blast.

Pages of a Bible were scattered near the altar and rice meals mingled with dust on the floor amid shattered benches. Walls were gouged with ball bearings used in the explosives, he said.

Grieving relatives blocked the main Grand Trunk Road highway with bodies of the victims to protest against the killings, an AFP reporter said.

Christians in Karachi, Lahore, Multan and other cities also staged protest rallies to condemn the killings and demand state protection for their lives and properties, AFP reporters said.

In the southern port city of Karachi angry protesters clashed with police when they tried to clear a road in Isa Nagri, a low-income Christian neighbourhood.

Pakistan’s Ulema Council, an  association of leading Muslim scholars, strongly condemned the church attack and said killing innocent people violates the tenets of Islam.

“It is an extremely shameful attack  which has shamed all Pakistanis and Muslims,” Allama Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, chief of the council, told AFP.

“There is no room for such terrorist acts in Islam.”

Sectarian violence between majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslims is  on the rise in Pakistan. Sunday’s attack will fuel fears the already beleaguered Christian community could be increasingly targeted.

Militants have carried out  hundreds of bombings targeting security forces and minority Muslim groups they regard as heretical, but attacks on Christians have previously largely been confined to grenade attacks and occasional riots.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a deeply  conservative province bordering the  tribal districts along the Afghan frontier which are home to Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

Provincial lawmaker Ghauri said there  were about 200,000 Christians in the province, of whom 70,000 lived in Peshawar.

“Now after this attack Christians across Pakistan will fear for their lives,” he warned.

Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the bombings.

“Terrorists have no religion and  targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all religions,” he said in a statement.

Sharif said such “cruel acts of  terrorism reflect the brutality and inhumane mindset of the terrorists”.

Only around two percent of Pakistan’s population of 180 million are Christian. The community complains of growing discrimination.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has warned that the risk to Pakistan’s minorities has reached crisis levels.

Christians have a precarious existence in Pakistan, often living in slum-like “colonies” cheek-by-jowl with Muslims and fearful of allegations of blasphemy, a sensitive subject that can provoke outbursts of public violence.

In the town of Gojra in Punjab province in 2009, a mob burned 77 houses and killed seven people after rumours that a copy of the Islamic holy book the Koran had been desecrated during a Christian marriage ceremony.

Rimsha Masih, a Christian girl who was arrested for alleged blasphemy last year, fled to Canada with her family in June after the charges were dropped.

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Obama Overrides Congress to Buy $690 Million Worth of Russian Choppers for Afghan Air Force

 

Apparently America has too many jobs so Obama will be spending taxpayer money to support Russia’s defense industry on behalf of Afghanistan. And he’s doing so over the bipartisan objections of Congress from both the right and left and a ban on buying them written into the NDAA.

The US Department of Defense said Thursday it plans to sidestep a Congressional ban to purchase 30 helicopters from Russian state-owned defense firm Rosoboronexport, despite objections from US lawmakers who allege that the firm has equipped the Syrian government to commit brutal crimes against civilians.

The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, approved by Congress last year, includes an amendment that prohibits financial contracts between the United States and Rosoboronexport, except when the Secretary of Defense determines that such arrangements are in the interest of national security.

The contract totals $690 million, most of which would go to the Russian arms maker, he added.

Aside from throwing almost $700 million to a company owned by the Russian government at a time when Obama has taken a chainsaw to the United States military, subsidizing the Russian defense industry helps it develop more weapons that will be sold to America’s enemies.

That money will help fund R&D for the next generation of weapons that an American military dismantled by Obama will be facing on the battlefield.

Rosoboronexport was originally under US sanctions for doing business with Iran until the ban was lifted. Rosoboronexport is still selling advanced weapons to Iran.

And oh yeah, this was a no bid contract.

The Pentagon didn’t solicit bids from any other company for the helicopters. That “seems just plain stupid,” says Texas Senator John Cornyn, one of nine Republican and eight Democratic senators pressing the U.S. Department of Defense to cancel the deal.

John Pike, director of national security think tank GlobalSecurity.org, says Russia sold Mi-17s to other countries during the Cold War, and that companies other than Rosoboronexport should have secondhand models that could be refurbished: “The notion that you can’t come up with a couple dozen of these puppies in the used helicopter market is hard to believe.”

Well why bother when Barack is willing to be so flexible for Vladimir.

A bipartisan Congressional group wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week in which they objected to the ongoing business relationship between the Russian arms company and the Pentagon. “What is the national security justification of continuing business with Rosoboronexport?” they asked in the letter. “Russia continues to transfer weapons through Rosoboronexport to the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria,” they continued. “Since the Syrian uprising began, Russia has continued to serve as the Assad regime’s chief supplier of weapons, enabling the mass murder of Syrian citizens at the hands of their own government.”

When you’ve got John Cormyn and Rosa DeLauro on the same side, that’s as close to a consensus that you can imagine.

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Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Hundreds of people in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore attacked a Christian neighborhood Saturday and set fire to homes after hearing accusations that a Christian man had committed blasphemy against Islam’s prophet, said a police officer.

Blasphemy is a serious crime in Pakistan that can carry the death penalty but sometimes outraged residents exact their own retribution for perceived insults of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim and people of other faiths, including the nation’s small Christian community, are often viewed with suspicion.

The incident started Friday when a young Muslim man accused a Christian man of committing blasphemy by making offensive comments about the prophet, according to Multan Khan, a senior police officer in Lahore.

A large crowd from a nearby mosque went to the Christian man’s home on Friday night, and Khan said police took him into custody to try to pacify the crowd. Fearing for their safety, hundreds of Christian families fled the area overnight.

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Khan said the mob returned on Saturday and began ransacking Christian homes and setting them ablaze. He said no one in the Christian community was hurt, but several policemen were injured when they were hit with stones as they tried to keep the crowd from storming the area.

The scene was chaotic. An Associated Press photographer on the scene said roughly 50 homes and a small church were set on fire. One man was seen carrying a dog and some puppies from a burning house. Refrigerators, washing and sewing machines, cooking pots, beds and other household goods were ripped from homes, smashed and torched in the streets.

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

One Christian couple from the neighborhood said they went to their Muslim neighbors’ house on Friday night after people came looking for the Christian man accused of blasphemy. Ishaq Masih said the Muslim neighbors sheltered the couple for the night and then gave them money to leave the area in the morning.

Such accusations of blasphemy in Pakistan can prompt huge crowds to take the law into their own hands. Once an accusation is made it’s extremely difficult to get it reversed, partly because law enforcement officials do not want to be seen as being soft on blasphemers.

Pakistani Mob Torches Christian Neighborhood After Christian Man Accused of Insulting Prophet Muhammad

Also on Saturday, four people were killed and 25 were wounded when a bomb exploded inside a mosque of the Sunni Barelvi sect in the northwestern city of Peshawar. The bomb was planted in a bookshelf inside the mosque and was detonated by remote control when noon prayers started, said senior police officer Imtiaz Khan.

Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province, has been the site of several terrorist attacks in recent months. The city is surrounded by lawless tribal regions where al-Qaeda and Pakistani Taliban have hideouts.

The Pakistani military has carried out several operations in the area, but intermittent terrorist attacks continue.

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Muslim Terrorism On Christians Continues Mainstream News Remains Silent

Several reports appearing in July indicate that Christian minorities all around the Muslim world—especially women and children—are being abducted, tortured, raped, forced to convert to Islam, and/or enslaved. In Egypt, at least 550 such cases have been documented in the last five years, and have only increased since the revolution. Christians who manage to escape back to their families often find the government siding with the Muslim abductors. One young mother who recently testified before the Helsinki Commission explained how she was snatched in broad daylight, as her abductor shouted to bystanders while dragging her to a waiting taxi, “No one interfere! She is an enemy of Islam.”

Identical reports are emerging from Pakistan, where “persecution, kidnapping and abduction of Christian women and girls,” including many married women with children, are on the rise. Last year the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said that 1800 Christian and Hindu girls were forcibly converted to Islam. Most recently, the sister of a pastor was “kidnapped raped and forcibly converted to Islam.”

She “was kidnapped around a month ago by some Muslim men while returning home from college. She was held for days, suffered sexual abuse, threats and violence. In such a state of terror and exhaustion, first she was coerced into converting to Islam, and then marriage. Her family reported the incident to the police station in Chunian, but no investigations have been conducted and instead her abductors have presented a report to the court attesting to the girl now being Muslim and legally married. Among other things, the girl is a minor and, according to the law, marriage is not permitted to minors.”

The tiny Palestinian Christian community in the Hamas-run Gaza strip is also under siege, and charges that five Christians were abducted and pressured into converting to Islam. Because they made this forced conversion charge known, “members of the Christian community now fear reprisal attacks by Muslim extremists.” Some have appealed to the Vatican and Christian groups and churches in the West for help. Yet “we only hear voices telling us to stay where we are and to stop making too much noise,” said a Christian man living in Gaza City. “If they continue to turn a blind eye to our tragedy, in a few months there will be no Christians left in Palestine. Today it’s happening in the Gaza Strip, tomorrow it will take place in Bethlehem.”

Categorized by theme, July’s assemblage of Muslim persecution of Christians around the world includes (but is not limited to) the following accounts, listed in alphabetical order by country, not severity.

Muslim Attacks on the Christian Church | July

Indonesia: Muslim protesters forced a church to shut down during a Sunday worship on claims that it was operating without a permit, and hung a banner on the church’s gate reading “We the people … hardily reject the use of this building … for religious activities.” The church’s committee secretary said the church has the necessarily permits to hold services,” yet “the majority of the people still reject the church’s activity.”

Iran: Both the Central Assembly of God Church in Tehran and its summer campsite—once a popular site for Christian gatherings and conferences—were closed by authorities of the Islamic Republic, who also posted a large notice on the gates “warning of severe consequences should anyone try to enter the premises.” These latest closures follow the official termination of Friday Persian language services and the compulsory cancellation of all Bible classes and the distribution of Christian literature. Also, as part of the crackdown on house churches, plainclothes agents of the Ministry of Islamic Guidance continued raiding, arresting, and “aggressively interrogating” assembled worshippers.

Lebanon: Ahead of the Maronite Patriarch’s visit to Akker, flyers signed by the “Soldiers of the Great Prophet” threatened the Christians and churches in what has traditionally been the safest Mideast country for Christians, calling “on the infidels to stop their blasphemy … We will start from the infidel’s church in Akker and we won’t stop … this is not the end but the beginning,” read the flyer.

Kenya: Seven Islamic jihadis launched simultaneous grenade and gunfire attacks on two churches, while the congregations were at prayer. Five militants attacked the Africa Inland Church, killing 17 people and wounding approximately 60, including many women and children. The other two Muslim terrorists attacked the nearby Catholic Church, wounding three.

Kuwait: After approval was issued for the construction of a church, a group of Islamic preachers, echoing the words of the Saudi Grand Mufti, reasserted that churches are not permitted to be built in Muslim countries. One sheikh “expressed displeasure” against those approving the construction of the church, “stressing that it is not permissible as per the Sharia,” adding that “excuses” such as saying that the building of a church “is a matter of human rights and international norms is not acceptable, as Islam comes first, and people should respect religion first before serving humanity or anything else.”

Turkey: The existence of the oldest functioning Christian monastery in the world, 5th century Mor Gabriel Monastery near the Turkish-Syrian border is at risk after a ruling by Turkey’s highest appeals court. Inhabited today by only a few dozen Christians dedicated to learning the monastery’s teachings, the ancient Aramaic language spoken by Jesus and the Orthodox Syriac tradition, neighboring Muslims with the support of an MP member of the Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) filed a lawsuit accusing the Christians of practicing “anti-Turkish activities” and of illegally occupying land which belongs to Muslim villages. The highest appeals court in Ankara, which is close to the government, ruled in favor of the Muslim villagers, saying the land that has been part of the monastery for 1,600 years is not its property, and even claimed that the monastery was built over the ruins of a mosque, forgetting that Mohammed was born 170 years after its foundation.

Apostasy and Blasphemy | The Jurisprudence Weapon of Isam to Silence Infidels

Egypt: A Christian teacher was arrested and detained after being accused of posting cartoons insulting to Islam and its prophet on Facebook. The man faces up to five years in jail if convicted of blasphemy. While admitting he manages the site in question, he said the site was hacked. Earlier in April, a Christian teenager was sentenced to three years in prison for posting cartoons perceived to mock Islam’s prophet on his Face book page. Likewise, Christian business tycoon Naguib Sawiris posted Disney’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse dressed in Islamic attire, which landed him in court, though he was acquitted.

Iran: Pastor Youssef Nadarkhani, who has spent over 1,000 days in prison awaiting execution for refusing to recant Christianity, is only one of many persecuted in Iran for their faith. A six-year prison sentence for pastor Farshid Fathi Malayerianother Muslim convert to Christianity—was recently upheld following an unsuccessful appeal hearing. Also, another prominent house church pastor, Benham Irani, remains behind bars, even as his family expresses concerns that he may die from continued abuse and beatings, leading to internal bleeding and other ailments; authorities refuse to give him medical treatment. The verdict against him contains text that describes the pastor as an apostate, adding that apostates “can be killed.”

Pakistan: A Christian couple have been on the run since they embraced Islam back in 2006, only to reconvert to Christianity. Upon learning that the couple returned to Christianity, neighboring Muslims attacked and persecuted them; one of the husband’s best friends abducted and tortured him, while beating the wife. “[One] should have the freedom to choose the religion one wishes to follow,” said the Christian husband. “They have subsequently been on the run.”

Saudi Arabia: A court is looking into an apostasy case concerning a 28-year-old Muslim woman’s conversion to Christianity. The father alleges that a Saudi and a Lebanese played a role in converting his daughter to Christianity and smuggling her to Lebanon, where she has received sanctuary in an anonymous church.

Jihad Death and Destruction

Nigeria: In what is described as an ongoing genocide of Christians over 65 people, including two politicians, were killed in a triple attacks on Christians. First, Muslims destroyed 43 Christian-owned farms. Nobody was arrested. Then they attacked nine Christian villages around the city of Jos, killing dozens of people. “They came in hundreds,” said an official, “Some had police uniforms and some even had bulletproof vests.” In one instance, Christians fleeing the violence took refuge in the house of a local church leader, which was bombed and more than 50 Christians were burned alive, including the pastor’s wife and children. Then the Muslims attacked the funeral for the victims of the village raids, killing several more people. Security forces said Muslim Fulani herdsmen were responsible but Islamist militant group Boko Haram issued a statement saying: “We thank Allah for the successful attack.” Separately, Islamic motorcycle assassins gunned down four Christians.

South Africa: The Islamic terror group Al Shabaab is accused of murdering 14 Christians, all Ethiopians, in the Western Cape. A Christian bishop, also a former police inspector, fears more of his flock will be targeted: “We want authorities to do something because we know this is the work of al-Shabaab. If nothing is done, the Ethiopian population will be depleted… [those who died are] holy martyrs who have died because they are Christians.” Meanwhile, Father Mike Williams of the Anglican Catholic Church also revealed that members of his congregation have been targeted by gunmen “with connections to Muslim extremists,” saying that “In July, we have lost seven members of our church.”

Syria: Syrian “freedom fighters” continue showing their true colors as they destroy churches and kill Christians, which has resulted in the mass migration of tens of thousands of Christians, including practically the entire populations of Homs and Qusayr. Surrounding nations that once might have offered refuge—Iraq, Turkey, even now Lebanon—are also increasingly inhospitable to Christians. One Christian girl who escaped said: “They sermonized on Fridays in the mosques that it was a sacred duty to drive us [Christians] away…. Christians had to pay bribes to the jihadists repeatedly in order to avoid getting killed.” After making the sign of the cross, her grandmother added: “Anyone who believes in this cross suffers.”

Turkey: An article titled “Who Ordered the Murder of Christians?” asserts that a Muslim undercover agent who had worked for the government “penetrated the Christian community and gathered a lot of information, while he was pretending to be a missionary. He became a church leader, and upon receiving another order, he became ‘Muslim’ again and launched a campaign against missionaries across the country,” which culminated in the massacre of Christians.

Dhimmitude: General Abuse, Debasement, and Suppression of Non-Muslims as “Tolerated” Citizens

Egypt: After a Christian laundry worker burned the shirt of a Muslim man, several quarrels ensued and culminated with the death of a Muslim. Accordingly, thousands of Muslims rampaged the village, causing 120 Christian families to flee. They looted Christian businesses and homes “despite hundreds of security forces being deployed in the village. Eyewitnesses reported that security forces did not protect most Coptic property.” Family members of the deceased Muslim insist that the Christians must still pay with their lives. Also, during Ramadan, several Christians were attacked and beaten. Dr. Yassir al-Burhami, a prominent figure in Egypt’s Salafi movement issued a fatwa forbidding Muslim taxi-drivers and bus-drivers from transporting Coptic Christian priests to their churches, which he depicted as “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar.” And a charitable medical center that performs free heart operations on both Muslim and Christian children is under threat from some Muslims, who want it closed down because it was founded by a Christian surgeon.

Pakistan: Days after a Muslim mob doused a man with gasoline and literally burned him alive for “blaspheming” the Koran (graphic picture here), a Pakistani Christian woman, now living in the U.S., explained how when she lived in Pakistan, Muslims disfigured her in an acid attack for being Christian: After one man noticed her wearing a crucifix, he “became abusive,” telling her “that she was living in the gutter and would go to hell for shunning Islam. He left and returned half an hour later, clutching a bottle of battery acid which he savagely chucked over her head. As she ran screaming for the door a second man grabbed her by the hair and forced more of the liquid down her throat, searing her esophagus. Teeth fell from her mouth as she desperately called for help, stumbling down the street.

A woman heard her cries and took her to her home, pouring water over her head and taking her to hospital. At first the doctors refused to treat her, because she was a Christian.

‘They all turned against me… Even the people who took me to the hospital. They told the doctor they were going to set the hospital on fire if they treated me.’ … 67 per cent of her esophagus was burned and she was missing an eye and both eyelids. What remained of her teeth could be seen through a gaping hole where her cheek had been. The doctors predicted she would die any day. Despite the odds she pulled through.” Separately, Muslim landowners and their police accomplices continue annexing land owned by Christians. “The police pulled away our headscarves from heads and started hitting us with clubs and punches” reported Christian women, “after news spread that police is harassing and torturing Christian women and men … to grab their agricultural land.”

About this Series

Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching epidemic proportions, “Muslim Persecution of Christians” was developed to collate some—by no means all—of the instances of persecution that surface each month. It serves two purposes:

  1. To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, Muslim persecution of Christians.
  2. To show that such persecution is not “random,” but systematic and interrelated—that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Sharia.

Accordingly, whatever the anecdote of persecution, it typically fits under a specific theme, including hatred for churches and other Christian symbols; sexual abuse of Christian women; forced conversions to Islam; apostasy and blasphemy laws that criminalize and punish with death those who “offend” Islam; theft and plunder in lieu of jizya (financial tribute expected from non-Muslims); overall expectations for Christians to behave like dhimmis, or second-class, “tolerated” citizens; and simple violence and murder. Sometimes it is a combination.

Because these accounts of persecution span different ethnicity, languages, and locales—from Morocco in the West, to India in the East, and throughout the West wherever there are Muslims—it should be clear that one thing alone binds them: Islam—whether the strict application of Islamic Sharia law, or the supremacist culture born of it.

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Confronting the American People: Thousands of military drones to be deployed over US mainland

A recent Department of Defense report to Congress as well as a number of media investigations have exposed government plans to deploy tens of thousands of drones over the US mainland in the coming years.

An investigative report published over the weekend by the Christian Science Monitor cited the government’s own estimates that “as many as 30,000 drones could be part of intelligence gathering and law enforcement here in the United States within the next ten years.”

Unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as “drones,” are extremely sophisticated remotely-operated aircraft, developed and manufactured by the military-industrial complex in recent years at a cost of billions of dollars.

Drones vary in size from the four-pound RQ-11B Raven surveillance drone, which can be launched by hand, to the giant MQ-9 Reaper combat drone, manufactured by Northrup Grumman. The Reaper has a maximum take-off weight of 7,000 pounds, including up to 3,000 pounds of bombs, missiles and other armaments.

The infamous MQ-1 Predator drone, armed with 100-pound Hellfire missiles, is the Obama administration’s favored weapon in its illegal assassination program. A Predator drone was used in the unprecedented assassination of a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, in Yemen last September.

With a push of a button, thousands of pounds of high explosives can be dropped on anyone, anywhere in the world, with startling precision. Safe behind video screens at military bases within the US, military drone operators refer to their victims as “bug splats.” Thousands of innocent civilians have already been murdered in this way in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Current and projected drone bases in the US [Source: US Air Force]

An April Department of Defense report, titled “Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability,” reveals that a massive drone infrastructure is already being erected within the US, with billions of dollars being allocated, bases being erected, thousands of pilots and crews being trained, and inventories being stockpiled.

The report identifies 110 military bases that will serve as drone launch sites. The deadly Predator and Reaper drones will operate out of Creech Air Force Base (AFB) in Nevada, Holloman AFB and Cannon AFB in New Mexico, Fort Drum in New York, Grand Forks in North Dakota, Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota, Whiteman AFB in Missouri, and the Southern California Logistics Airport, among others.

The accompanying map, from an Air Force power-point presentation released this month, shows current and projected locations for drone bases within the US.

The Department of Defense report argues for lifting the current framework of restrictions on drone flights over the US on the grounds that it “does not provide the level of airspace access necessary to accomplish the wide range of DoD UAS missions at current and projected operational tempos (OPTEMPOs).”

The language of the report is revealing and ominous. “This constraint will only be exacerbated as combat operations shift from abroad and systems return to US locations,” the report states. It expressly refers to plans to “conduct continental United States (CONVS)-based missions.”

In January, Congress passed HR 658, which requires the Federal Aviation Administration to take steps to facilitate the integration of drones “into the national airspace system.” President Obama signed the bill on February 14 with no public discussion or comment. (See “Drones come to the US”)

Since Obama signed the bill, hundreds of drones have already begun flying over the US to spy on and monitor the population. A recent ABC News investigative report entitled “UAVs: Will Our Civil Liberties Be Droned Out?” outlined the possibility of drones buzzing overhead becoming “a fact of daily life.”

ABC News reported: “Drones can carry facial recognition cameras, license plate scanners, thermal imaging cameras, open WiFi sniffers, and other sensors. And they can be armed.”

“Among the most eager to fly domestic drones are America’s police departments,” the report stated. “In Texas, a Montgomery county sheriff’s office recently said it would deploy a drone bought with money from a Department of Homeland Security grant and was contemplating arming the drone with non-lethal weapons like tear gas, rubber bullets or Taser-style rounds.”

The ABC News report identified “political protests” as one of the activities that can be monitored by drones.

In December, the American Civil Liberties Union published a detailed report on the dangers of a massive build-up of surveillance drones within the US, warning that “our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values.”

Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst at the ACLU, described last month a “nightmare scenario” of widespread drone spying leading “to an oppressive atmosphere where people learn to think twice about everything they do, knowing that it will be recorded, charted, scrutinized by increasingly intelligent computers, and possibly used to target them.”

According to a Los Angeles Times article in December of last year, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) are already using Predator drones for operations within the US. Last week, a huge Global Hawk drone being operated by the US Navy for an unknown purpose crashed in Maryland.

The deployment of tens of thousands of surveillance drones over the mainland US takes on special significance in light of recent revelations that the Obama administration is secretly constructing “bottomless” databases to house information gathered about US citizens. (See “Obama administration expands illegal surveillance of Americans”)

The build-up of drone bases within the US is one component of preparations by the US government for a confrontation with its own population. Like everything else associated with the so-called “war on terror”—including torture, detention without trial, warrantless spying, assassinations, military tribunals, and expanded executive and intelligence powers—the use of drones for spying and assassination in the Middle East is a prelude to the development of systems that will ultimately be used against the American people in the event of social upheavals.

On “Terror Tuesdays” at the White House, President Obama helps draw up a list of opponents of US policy overseas who are to be illegally assassinated by drone-fired missiles. These “kill lists” have already included US citizens. With tens of thousands of drones flying overhead, and with the US mainland designated as a “battleground” in the never-ending and geographically unlimited “war on terror,” the US ruling class hopes one day soon to be able to eliminate its domestic opponents with similar ease.

Source

RUSSIA CHALLENGES US-NATO: Russia prepares army for Syrian deployment

Given the worsening crisis in Syria, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reported that the Russian army is apparently being prepared for a mission in Syria. Citing anonymous sources in the military leadership, the newspaper said that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the general staff to work out a plan for military operations outside Russia, including in Syria.

The units being prepared for an intervention are the 76th Division of airborne forces (an especially experienced unit of the Russian army), the 15th Army Division, as well as special forces from a brigade of the Black Sea fleet, which has a base in the Syrian port of Tartus.

The details of the operational plan are being prepared by the working parties of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, to which most of the post-Soviet states belong, as well as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, to which China and Russia belong.

According to the newspaper report, deployment depends on the decision of the Russian government and the UN. However, the plans also foresee that the troops might intervene without UN approval. The Russian government has so far not confirmed the report.

On Monday last week, three Russian warships were sighted off the Syrian coast. An anonymous source from the Russian government told the Iranian newspaper Tehran Times that Moscow wants to show NATO that it will not allow any military operation against Damascus under the guise of a humanitarian mission.

Earlier, the secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Nikolai Bordjusha, had held out the possibility of using “peacekeepers” in Syria. “The task in Syria is likely to be to impose peace—primarily against the insurgents, who use weapons to solve political problems.”

Russia and China strongly oppose a military intervention by NATO in Syria, and have already blocked two UN resolutions on the issue. The US and its allies, especially Turkey, Saudi Arabia and France, have stoked up a civil war in Syria and are systematically arming the so-called rebels, who consist mainly of Islamists, ex-members of the government, or Al Qaeda terrorists. Turkey is increasingly leadership of the US proxy war in Syria.

In recent weeks calls for a military intervention in Syria have increased. After the massacre in Houla, French President Francois Hollande spoke out in favor of military intervention. The West blamed the government of Bashar al-Assad for this massacre without any clear evidence. The German elite is also openly discussing a possible military intervention; Berlin has tried unsuccessfully to push Russia to make concessions on the issue.

Russia has not excluded a “political solution”, i.e., the slow transition from the Assad regime to another government. At all costs, however, the Kremlin wants to avoid the violent overthrow of Assad by the West for several reasons, whether it is through direct military intervention by NATO or is brought about by the rebels armed by the West. Two weeks ago, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned that a military intervention in Syria could quickly escalate and lead to the use of nuclear weapons.

Since Soviet times, Moscow and Syria have maintained close ties, especially in military and economic matters. More importantly, however, a war against Syria means a ramping up of US aggression in the Middle East. The US has already significantly extended its influence in the region through the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. They also have military bases in almost every country in the area: Pakistan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Turkmenistan, as well as some in other smaller states. Meanwhile, Syria and Iran, which are virtually surrounded by US military bases, have become the last bastions of Russia and China in the Middle East against the encroachment of the United States.

A regime change in Damascus would probably bring a Sunni government to power, which would work closely with Saudi Arabia and the United States against Russia and China. Moreover, an escalation of the civil war in Syria—which is already well underway—and a military intervention would set the entire Middle East ablaze. A NATO-led war against Syria would be an immediate prelude to a war against Iran. An attack on Iran would mean another step toward a military escalation of tensions between Washington and Beijing.

While China obtains a significant portion of its raw material imports from Iran, Tehran is Russia’s most important ally in the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea to counter the influence of the US and Israel. Both Moscow and Tehran oppose the construction of a trans-Caspian pipeline by the West. They also reject the massive military rearmament of Azerbaijan, which is promoted by the United States, Israel and Turkey. The Caspian region is of key geopolitical importance because it links resource-rich Central Asia with Europe, and because it also has extensive oil and gas reserves.

The growing threat of war in the Middle East—and the fact that the European countries, including Germany and France, are siding with the United States—is increasingly driving Russia into a military alliance with China.

It is significant that Vladimir Putin’s first foreign visit since taking office was to Belarus, and that he then only spent a few hours in Berlin and Paris before going on to Central Asia. The highlight of his visit abroad was in China, where he met with the Chinese president, and then took part at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on June 6 and 7. In addition to Russia and China, the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan also belong to this organization; Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have “observer” status.

As was the case at the previous meeting of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, discussion at the SCO summit centered on military and economic cooperation. The summit adopted a declaration on the “establishment of a region of lasting peace and common prosperity”. Military intervention against Syria or Iran was explicitly rejected.

The declaration also condemns the establishment of the NATO missile defense system in Europe, which is directed primarily against Russia and has led to severe tensions between Washington and both Europe and Moscow. In future, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization is planning to cooperate militarily more closely on issues of “regional security”.

During his two-day visit to Beijing, Putin had previously agreed with Chinese President Hu Jintao to jointly strengthen “security in the Asia-Pacific region”. Both countries intend to hold frequent joint military exercises in the Pacific, after holding joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea in the spring. The United States is increasingly focusing its military build-up in the Asian Pacific region in preparation for a military confrontation with China.

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Putin’s visit to China signals sharpening global tensions

The state visit to China this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin, followed by a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Beijing, has underscored a developing strategic partnership between China and Russia.

Putin, who recently resumed the Russian presidency, snubbed last month’s G8 meeting in the US amid disagreements with American plans for a missile defense system in Europe. Instead, his initial visits have been to Germany and France, followed by China.

In Beijing, Russian and Chinese leaders publicly stated their opposition to the drive by the US and its allies towards military intervention in Syria. In a joint statement, Putin and Chinese President Hu Jintao declared: “Russia and China are decisively against attempts to regulate the Syrian crisis with outside military intervention, as well as imposing… a policy of regime change.”

Writing in the official People’s Daily, Putin declared: “Without the participation of Russia and China, without considering Russia and China’s interests, no international matter or issue can be discussed and implemented.” Russia and China have blocked UN resolutions for sanctions against Syria.

Both Russia and China have a great deal at stake in opposing US machinations in the Middle East. Russia has longstanding ties with Syria. Moreover Putin and Hu are well aware that the drive for regime change is also directly against Syria’s main ally, Iran, that is confronting threats of war from the US and its allies. China and Russia have significant economic interests in Iran.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was formed in 2001, just prior to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, to counter the growing American intervention in Central Asia. It includes Russia, China and four Central Asian republics—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia have observer status.

The SCO declaration warned against any attempt to resolve the confrontation over Iran’s nuclear program through military means. “Any such attempt will produce unpredictable and serious consequences, threatening the stability and security of the region and even the world,” it declared.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was given a platform in Peking University to deliver a speech criticizing “a country”—without naming the US—for creating “disturbances” and “hatred” in the international community.

Crippling US and European sanctions against Iranian oil exports are due to come into effect on July 1, even though Russia and China have resisted such measures. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared in Beijing: “Additional sanctions are completely counter-productive. They are already adopted not only by the [UN] Security Council, but by some states, which we think undermines our collective actions.”

The other major issue bringing Russia and China together is Afghanistan. While NATO has declared its forces will leave by 2014, Beijing and Moscow are concerned that the US will maintain a military presence and access to military bases in Afghanistan, which is on the doorstep of Central Asia. The US is also encouraging India, its strategic partner, to play a greater long-term role in Afghanistan, including to equip and train Afghan security forces.

Hu told the People’s Daily: “We will continue to follow the concept that regional affairs should be managed by countries in the region, that we should guard against shocks from turbulence outside the region, and that [the SCO] should play a bigger role in Afghanistan’s peaceful reconstruction.”

However, the US, which economically, politically and militarily dominates Afghanistan and its puppet government, is a major obstacle to the SCO playing a “bigger role.” Both Russia and China have ruled out a direct security role in Afghanistan.

The SCO is holding a major joint military exercise “Peace Mission 2012” in Tajikistan, which borders Afghanistan, following its summit in Beijing. Even as the Chinese foreign ministry again publicly denied that the SCO will evolve into a military-political bloc, relentless US pressure on a range of issues is forcing Russia and China in this direction.

While Putin was being welcomed in China, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting Georgia, which provoked a short war with Russia in 2008. Clinton announced new military aid to Georgia and denounced “Russia’s occupation and militarization of Georgia’s territory”—the two provinces broke away from Georgia in the 2008 war.

China and Russia are both concerned that the US development of missile defense shields in Europe and Asia are directed at neutralizing their nuclear arsenals. Putin secured China’s support to state in the SCO declaration that the “strengthening of missile defense by a country or a group of countries in a unilateral and unrestrained manner in disregard of the legitimate interests of other countries will cause harm to international security and global strategic stability.”

At his meeting with China’s next president Xi Jinping, Putin emphasized Russia’s military ties with China, pointing to their first joint naval exercise in the Yellow Sea in April. In an earlier statement, Putin declared: “We assign an important role to the joint initiative on strengthening security in the Asia-Pacific region and in this context we will maintain the relationship between our militaries.”

Putin’s remarks were directly against the US military build up in Asia and its aggressive diplomatic moves to undermine Chinese influence in the region. At last weekend’s Asian security dialogue in Singapore, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced the US would deploy 60 percent of its warships to the Pacific by 2020. China’s Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, who had attended last year’s summit, stayed away from the meeting.

Putin’s visit to China is a clear indication that what is at stake in Syria and Iran is connected to broader Geo-strategic tensions and rivalries between the world’s capitalist states. The US war drive in the Middle East, like its “pivot to Asia”, is threatening to unleash a chain of events that could ultimately lead to military conflict involving China and Russia, with devastating consequences for humanity.

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PROXY WAR WITH IRAN AND RUSSIA: Intervention in Syria Has Nothing to do with Humanitarian Concerns

FDD’s Clifford May admits Syria is a proxy war with Iran and Russia, Neo-Cons in bed with Al Qaeda. Human rights merely a pretense.
 

Foundation for Defense of Democracies‘ Clifford May in an article titled, “The Battle of Syria: Assad’s survival would be a victory for Iran — and a defeat for the US,” openly dispels the commonly held notion among the West’s remaining public support, that their meddling in Syria’s ongoing strife has anything to do with humanitarian concerns. In fact, May openly states that defeating Syria as a proxy of Iran is far more important than “the dearth of sincere Muslim freedom fighters” or “humanitarian concerns.”

YouTube video Click here

Video: Clifford May begins by playing the “humanitarian card” but ends admitting the entire conflict is a proxy war with Iran, and by implication, Russia. Amid a myriad of lies directed at Iran, May proposes worldwide occupation is necessary to maintain American “influence in the long run,” a notion that sounds suspiciously a lot like Empire.  

May also makes mention of “strange bedfellows” in the current conflict, by quoting a fellow commentator who stated, “the McCain wing of the Republican party, and the rest of Washington’s progressive, Islamophilic clerisy” are aligning with “al-Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri and Muslim Brotherhood icon Yusuf al-Qaradawi.”

Aligning with Al Qaeda indeed, something that, while May claims is a spontaneous convergence of interests, was actually being planned as early as 2007, as stated in Seymour Hersh’s article, “The Redirection” in the New Yorker. And just like May concedes now, Hersh painted a picture of US-Israeli-Saudi machinations to destroy Lebanon and Syria as a means of undermining and toppling Iran – and using sectarian extremists to do so. Hersh specifically mentioned that many of the militant groups the West was arming and staging for this operation now unfolding in Syria today, were affiliated with Al Qaeda. The 2007 article specifically states:

“To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.”

May, perhaps hoping his readership is as profoundly ignorant of history as he assumes they are of current events, claims that Al Qaeda was a creation of Iran, willfully remiss of the fact that America’s CIA indeed created the terror organization in the mountains of Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 1980’s, and have continuously retooled it to execute Western foreign policy since, up to and including in Syria now. Essentially, May expects readers to believe that Iran created Al Qaeda and unleashed it upon its own ally. Clearly, May’s narrative not only falters at face value, but contradicts the somewhat more reputable, and certainly better cited work of Seymour Hersh.

May’s faulty conclusion is that should Syria prevail against these long-planned US machinations, with the help of Russia and Iran, the world would face a “nuclear armed” Iran emboldened by its ability to throw off American influence and would run roughshod over the peoples of the Middle East. May induces fear with the threat of an uncontrollable “nuclear armed” Iran specifically as a smokescreen for his true fear, and the fear of all Western neo-imperialists – that Iran, Syria, and Russia would begin overturning the decades old hegemonic order of Wall Street and London.

The internal documents of US policy makers, including Brookings Institution’s “Which Path to Persia?” concede that even if Iran were to obtain nuclear weapons, they would not be deployed as anything but a means of deterrence, just as the US and Soviets did during the Cold War. Brookings concedes that it is a feared shift in geopolitical influence at the expense of America and its proxies that drives Western ambitions toward regime change in Iran, not any legitimate threat to the national security of either America or Israel.

The doomsday scenario Clifford May paints is unfounded, his accusations against Iran as being a “state sponsor of terror” ring hollow as he himself backed the overthrow of the Libyan government and direct military intervention that saw millions of dollars of weapons and cash, along with air support and diplomatic backing go to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), literally a wing of Al Qaeda. May also conveniently fails to mention that the US and Israel are funding, training, and arming a US State Department-listed foreign terror organization (#29), Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) against Iran. May does however mention Al Qaeda being in Syria, and how US policy runs parallel to its agenda. Since the US is admittedly funding these armed militants, it turns out that the US is yet again a state that is sponsoring terrorism. Source

Panetta admits that US is at war in Pakistan

Hold the phone, anti-war activists. President Obama says that American troops are done with Operation Iraqi Freedom and their episode in Afghanistan is almost over. Now, though, it looks like the US is calling its operation in Pakistan an actual war.

­Only one day after American officials announced that US troops executed an alleged Al-Qaeda higher-up with a drone strike in Pakistan, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters on Wednesday that America’s fair-weather ally is indeed serving as a battlefront in the War on Terror.

“We are fighting a war in the FATA, we are fighting a war against terrorism,” Secretary Panetta said this week. Panetta was referring to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a region in northwest Pakistan that is currently the scene of American airstrikes.

Since well before the top-secret raid and execution of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden brought US troops into Pakistan, the American military has tried time and time again to sugarcoat its activities overseas. Despite being an at-one-time top ally of the United States, Pakistani officials have continuously condemned the US over Uncle Sam’s continuing air strikes with unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones. Now after years of trying to re-develop those deteriorating ties with Pakistan, the United States’ top military man flatly called his country’s operations in FATA an actual war.

Reaper Hell Fire missiles

To put it simply, this might not be good news for anyone.

While Panetta’s comment came only a day after the Pentagon confirmed that Al-Qaeda “number-two in command,” Abu Yahya al-Libi, was executed with a drone strike in the FATA region, it also coincides — coincidentally — with a statement made by another former CIA official. Robert Greiner, the one-time head of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center, tells reporters this week that America’s mishandling of drone attacks is creating a safe haven for terrorists.

CIA-Special-Forces

In a report published this week by the UK’s Guardian, Greiner says that ongoing attacks that target a broad and often unspecific range of targets is causing anti-American sentiments to increase faster than the US can actually combat terror. After the US has increased its air strikes in locales such as Pakistan and Yemen, says Greiner, insurgency has only become more rampant.

Because the Obama administration has gone on the record to say that all military-age men in strike zone are considered combatants, Greiner believes that unrest with the US is adding up at a rate that repeated strikes won’t help.

“We have gone a long way down the road of creating a situation where we are creating more enemies than we are removing from the battlefield. We are already there with regards to Pakistan and Afghanistan,” says Greiner.

“That brings you to a place where young men, who are typically armed, are in the same area and may hold these militants in a certain form of high regard. If you strike them indiscriminately you are running the risk of creating a terrific amount of popular anger. They have tribes and clans and large families. Now all of a sudden you have a big problem … I am very concerned about the creation of a larger terrorist safe haven in Yemen.”

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