Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Scahill

Modern day heroes of investigative journalism?

Frank Barat conducted an interview with John Pilger and posted this Sept. 20, 2013:

As part of an ongoing series of interviews for the radio show “Le Mur a Des Oreilles; conversations for Palestine“, Frank Barat talks to John Pilger.

He is one of the most influencial journalist of the last few decades, and talked about the war in Syria, the colonisation of Palestine, the relationship between the corporate media and government propaganda and the actions of a few very brave men, Snowden, Assange and Manning.

FB: Quick question before we start, have you finished working on a new film?

JP: Yes, I’ve almost just finished a new film, which will be premiered at the National Film Theatre here on October 3 and shown on the ITV network on the December 17.

It is called “Utopia” and it is about Indigenous Australia and the secret of Australia and the way Australia has embraced an Apartheid without giving due acknowledgment for having done so. It is a subject I have written and made films about over the years but this is quite an epic film.

FB: Let’s start, so Syria is regularly headline news at the moment, what do you make of the corporate media reporting on the issue and as a reporter, do you recognise yourself in this type of journalism?

JP: Well, I’ve never recognised myself being the kind of journalism that misrepresents the Middle East as a matter of routine.

I don’t see how any journalist can recognise himself or herself. This is not to say that there are not good reporters, good journalists that work in the Middle East, but we rarely glimpse them in what we call the mainstream, that’s a miss known there is no mainstream of course and you’ve described it correctly as corporate media, we rarely glimpse these honourable exceptions.

There is a kind of Kissinger’s style to a lot of the reporting in the way that Kissinger made almost an art form of hypocrisy and looking the other way while the United States went about its rapacious business in the Middle East and the way he gave an impunity to Israel which we have to understand, if we are to understand, the problems of the Middle East and how they might be solved, but it’s almost as if Israel doesn’t exist and yet it is the core of the problem.

FB: Would it be a fair portrayal if I say to you that I can’t really see a difference between corporate media reporting on Syria and Government propaganda? It seems like they are the same sort of arms of the same Institutions in a way.

JP: Most of the mainstream reporting is simply an extension of what I would call an establishment prevailing view, it is not necessarily the government but generally speaking, it is the government point of view.

The mainstream broadcasters for example made no secret of the fact that they framed their political and to a large degree the International coverage on how the political class, the Westminster class in Britain deals with politics and international affairs.

So, you have a political reporter, he is limited to report in Whitehall and the Houses of Parliament, a so called diplomatic correspondent is limited to really reporting what the Foreign Office does.

So they are by almost their own definition simply echoes of what the government or the establishment point of view.

FB: Talking about journalists such as yourself that we normally call investigative journalists, it seems like it is a dying breed, would you say that people like Snowden and Assange are the new journalists nowadays?

JP: I don’t think it is a dying breed, I think there is a great enthusiasm among young journalists to really be real journalist.

In fact, investigating journalist is a modern invention really, I mean journalism should be about investigating, but people who do the hard work finding out things and encouraging whistle blowers and so on they are there.

You’ve got people in the United States like Jeremy Scahill and Gareth Porter. Gareth Porter especially who writes only on the Internet, he is an excellent investigating journalist. So, you know, we exist, we are not dying off, we are always under threat, I suspect we always were.

What we’ve done always in the past is recognise that our greatest source has been a whistle blower, I mean the source of great scoops, great revelations, is not always but mostly someone from within, a sort of conscientious objector, Bradley Manning played that part with great distinction and courage.

Snowden is an absolute exemplar of this.  And I suspect, in fact I know, that he represents many others within, the so-called security establishment. The biggest threat is probably still WikiLeaks because it has provided a method by which leakers can leak also blowers can blow.

It has a pretty moral principle behind it which Julien Assange has often expressed.

So, I would regard them as part of a kind of a band of brothers and sisters if you like, journalists, whistle blowers.

It is very interesting, one of the most interesting document which wikiLeaks leaked a few years ago from the Ministry of Defence in London was a document which I think entitled something like how to stop leaks and of course it was leaked, it described the biggest threats to all the wonderful things we hold here in the West, there were 3 major threats.

The third threat was Russian spies, believe it or not, the second threat was terrorists but the major threats above all were investigative journalists.

FB: Coming back to the Middle East, you’ve reported on Palestine for many years. How difficult is it to report on Palestine and what do you make of channels such as the BBC calling for impartiality on the issue? Can a journalist be impartial when the situation is so unbalanced on the ground?

JP:  Well, they don’t mean impartial, it is just a term that has been drained of all its diction meaning, it has no meaning, impartial means partial actually, it means putting a cross as I described the Western point of view and being very aware of that unless you put across on the Israeli point of view you are going to be in trouble within your own organisations.

The BBC is a particular example, and you know I made a film about this in which there were producers which I have known personally talked about being terrified of a call from the Israeli Embassy.

The routine intimidation of the BBC has produced without too much difficulty I have to say, has produced a partiality that they describe as impartiality, it is a sort of a Orwellian expression, there is no impartiality.

In the language used, so you have a BBC report in which you have two narratives in Palestine you know, the “Israeli – Palestine” conflict and so on.

There is very rarely reporting that is framed within the law. Say it was framed within the law, there would be no question of how Palestine would come out and how Israel would come out because Israel is the most lawless state in the world and what it is doing in Palestine is entirely lawless.

It’s never framed in terms of law, it’s never framed in terms of dare I say what is right or wrong; it is framed in terms of an equal conflict, which it is, of course not.

FB: You made a film called “Palestine is still the issue” in 2003, if you had to make one again today, what title would you give it and why?

JP: Well, the first film I made about Palestine was in 1974 and it was called “Palestine is still the issue”, the next film I made was in 2002 “Palestine is still the issue” and if I make one now it would be called “Palestine is still the issue” for the obvious reason.

FB: You mentioned words before, for journalists and for propaganda purposes from governments or mainstream media, how important are words? You talked about Orwellian words, it seems they can actually change the meaning of wars, they would call a “massacre” a “pacification”,”ethnic cleansing” becomes “moving borders” etc, can you tell us something about that?

JP: It comes down to much more basic that the word war. A war implies that there are two kind of more or less equal states or army facing each other.

So going to war in Syria, having a war in Syria, you hear that time and time again, there is no war in Syria, there is a war going on in Syria, but it is a civil war, but as far as the West is concerned there is no such things as going to war because apart from trying to defend itself, Syria will be attacked just as there were no war in Iraq.

A war was created, a sectarian war that was the consequence of what was a massive attack and invasion.

The same thing happened in 1991, I saw the state of the Iraqi army shortly before that and it was not equipped or able to defend itself or a country or whatever.

Yes, it could go on and invade Kuwait, but there was no real defence there. Again, that was not a war, they did not call it a war, they called it an invasion. So they are invasion, they are rapacious, they are aggressive, they are lawless.

In Vietnam, the world involvement was used, I remember that, in the Americans press. The US involvement in Vietnam you know is a useless word, it doesn’t really mean anything. In fact, it was the US invasion of South Vietnam, the country was meant to be defending, that term was almost never used.

FB: One of your last film that is called “The war you don’t see”, the people we often don’t see are the people on the ground, the people that are fighting imperialism, fighting for an intervention.

Following our interview tonight, we are going to talk to a woman activist from Nablus, a Lady called Beesan Ramadan, what would be your message to people on the ground that are suffering from Western interventions?

JP: I think we all depend on people like that; we all draw inspiration from them because it is just remarkable to me and inspiring. The Palestinians keep going, those who attack them again and again, the Israelis and Americans and former Israelis, Americans, Europeans and so on.

These constant attacks on Palestine have not even divided the Palestinians yet, I mean, yes, Gaza has been physically divided from the West Bank, the Occupied Territories, but even that division between people in Gaza and people in the West Bank as well as class division, of course there are but the fact that the Palestinian people keep going and this is a spectacle I find very moving, that Palestinian children going to school all dressed up in their school uniforms making their way through rubble, often having had disturbed nights and perhaps disturbing themselves by the attacks on them by the Israelis and so on.

So, because Palestine is still the issue, because unless there is a settlement, unless there is justice that is the key word, justice for the Palestinian people (when I said settlement I mean a just one), there is not going to be peace really in the region or in the broader world so we depend on the people there to keep going.

FB: Thanks John, thanks again.

John Pilger is an award winning Australian journalist and broadcaster/documentary maker primarily based in Britain.

Frank Barat is a human rights activist based in London, UK and is coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Storytellers need to humanize life: Has Barak Obama stopped reading good fables?

On Obama and literature.  And on why so many with a tad of conscience are bothered by Obama’s presidency:

What makes certain Somali, Pakistani, Yemeni, and American people of so little account? Why that even after killing them, the United States disavows all knowledge of their deaths? How much furious despair is generated from so much collateral damage?”

Teju Cole posted this Feb. 11, 2013 in The New Yorker “On Reader’s War”

“Thanks to literature, to the consciousness it shapes, the desires and longings it inspires…civilization is now less cruel than when storytellers began to humanize life with their fables.” Mario Vargas Llosa

This defense by Vargas Llosa as he received the Nobel Prize in Literature two years ago, could have come from any other writer.

Fact is, cliché originates in some truth.

Vargas Llosa reiterated the point: “Without fictions, we would be less aware of the importance of freedom for life to be livable, the hell it turns into when it is trampled underfoot by a tyrant, an ideology, or a religion.”

Toni Morrison, in her Nobel lecture in 1993, said, “We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.” This sense of literature’s fortifying and essential quality has been evoked by cou

When Marilynne Robinson described fiction as “an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification” she was stating something almost everyone would agree with.

We praise literature in self-evident terms: it is better to read than not to read, for reading civilizes us, makes us less cruel, and brings the imaginations of others into ours and vice versa.

We persist in this belief regardless of what we know to the contrary: that the Nazis’ affection for high culture did not prevent their crimes.

There was a feeling during the years of George W. Bush’s Presidency that his gracelessness as well as his appetite for war were linked to his impatience with complexity. He acted “from the gut,” and was economical with the truth until it disappeared.

Under Bush Jr. command, the United States launched a needless and unjust war in Iraq that resulted in terrible loss of life; at the same time, an unknown number of people were confined in secret prisons and tortured.

That Bush was anti-intellectual, and often guilty of malapropisms and mispronunciations (“nucular”), formed part of the liberal aversion to him: he didn’t know much much about the wider world, and did not much care to learn.

His successor couldn’t have been more different.

Barack Obama is an elegant and literate man with a cosmopolitan sense of the world. He is widely read in philosophy, literature, and history—as befits a former law professor—and he has shown time and again a surprising interest in contemporary fiction.

The books a President buys might be as influenced by political calculation as his “enjoyment” of lunch at a small town diner or a round of skeet shooting. Nevertheless, a man who names among his favorite books Morrison’s “Song of Solomon,” Robinson’s “Gilead,” and Melville’s “Moby Dick” is playing the game pretty seriously.

Obama own feel for language in his two books, his praise for authors as various as Philip Roth and Ward Just, as well as the circumstantial evidence of the books he’s been seen holding (the “Collected Poems” of Derek W Walcott, most strikingly), add up to a picture of a man for whom an imaginative engagement with literature is inseparable from life.

It thrilled me, when Obama was elected, to think of the President’s nightstand looking rather similar to mine. We had, once again, a reader in chief, a man in the line of Jefferson and Lincoln.

Any President’s gravest responsibilities are defending the Constitution and keeping the country safe.

President Obama recognized that the image of the United States had been marred by the policies of the Bush years. By drawing down the troops in Iraq, banning torture, and directly and respectfully addressing the countries of Europe and the Middle East, Obama signaled that those of us on the left had not hoped in vain for change.

When, in 2009, Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, we noted the absurdity of such premature plaudits, but also saw the occasion as encouragement for the difficult work to come. From the optimistic perspective of those early days, Obama’s foreign policy has lurched from disappointing to disastrous.

Iraq endures a shaky peace and Afghanistan remains a mire, but these situations might have been the same regardless of who was President. More troubling has been his conduct in the other arenas of the Global War on Terror.

The United States is now at war in all but name in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. In pursuit of Al Qaeda, their allies, and a number of barely related militias, the President and his national-security team now make extraordinarily frequent use of assassinations.

The White House, the C.I.A., and the Joint Special Operations Command have so far killed large numbers of people. Because of the secret nature of the strikes, the precise number is unknown, but estimates range from a several hundred to over three thousand. These killings have happened without any attempt to arrest or detain their targets, and beyond the reach of any legal oversight.

Many of the dead are women and children.

Among the men, it is impossible to say how many are terrorists, how many are militants, and how many are simply, to use the administration’s obscene designation, “young men of military age.” The dependence on unmanned aerial vehicles—also called drones—for these killings, which began in 2002 and have increased under the Obama Administration, is finally coming to wider attention.

We now have firsthand testimony from the pilots who remotely operate the drones, many of whom have suffered post-traumatic stress reactions to the work. There is also the testimony of the survivors of drone attacks: heartbreaking stories of mistaken identity, grisly tales of sudden death from a machine in the sky.

In one such story reported by The New YorkTimes, the relatives of a pair of dead cousins said, “We found eyes, but there were no faces left.” The recently leaked Department of Justice white paper indicating guidelines for the President’s assassination of his fellow Americans has shone a spotlight on these “dirty wars” (as the journalist Jeremy Scahill rightly calls them in his documentary film and book of the same title). The plain fact is that our leaders have been killing at will.

How on earth did this happen to the reader in chief?

What became of literature’s vaunted power to inspire empathy?

Why was the candidate Obama, in word and in deed, so radically different from the President he became?

In Andrei Tarkovsky’s eerie 1979 masterpiece, “Stalker,” the landscape called the Zona has the power to grant people’s deepest wishes, but it can also derange those who traverse it. I wonder if the Presidency is like that: a psychoactive landscape that can madden whomever walks into it, be he inarticulate and incurious, or literary and cosmopolitan.

According to a report in the New York Times, the targets of drone strikes are selected for death at weekly meetings in the White House; no name is added to the list without the President’s approval.

Where land mines are indiscrimate, cheap, and brutal, drones are discriminate, expensi expensive, and brutal. And yet they are insufficiently discriminate: the assassination of the Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in Pakistan in 2009 succeeded only on the seventeenth attempt.

The sixteen near misses of the preceding year killed between 280 and 410  other people. Literature fails us here.

What makes certain Somali, Pakistani, Yemeni, and American people of so little account that even after killing them, the United States disavows all knowledge of their deaths? How much furious despair is generated from so much collateral damage?

Of late, riding the subway in Brooklyn, I have been having a waking dream, or rather a daytime nightmare, in which the subway car ahead of mine explodes. My fellow riders and I look at one another, then look again at the burning car ahead, certain of our deaths. The fire comes closer, and what I feel is bitterness and sorrow that it’s all ending so soon: no more books, no more love, no more jokes, no more Schubert, no more Black Star.

All this spins through my mind on tranquil mornings as the D train trundles between 36th Street and Atlantic Avenue and bored commuters check their phones. They just want to get to work. I sit rigid in my seat, thinking, I don’t want to die, not here, not yet.

I imagine those in northwest Pakistan or just outside Sana’a who go about their day thinking the same. The difference for some of them is that the plane is already hovering in the air, ready to strike.

I know language is unreliable, that it is not a vending machine of the desires, but the law seems to be getting us nowhere.

And so I take helpless refuge in literature again, rewriting the opening lines of 7 well-known books:

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. Pity. A signature strike leveled the florist’s.

Call me Ishmael. I was a young man of military age. I was immolated at my wedding. My parents are inconsolable.

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead bearing a bowl of lather. A bomb whistled in. Blood on the walls. Fire from heaven.

I am an invisible man. My name is unknown. My loves are a mystery. But an unmanned aerial vehicle from a secret location has come for me.

Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was killed by a Predator drone.

Okonkwo was well known throughout the nine villages and even beyond. His torso was found, not his head.

Mother died today. The program saves American lives.

I was in New York City on 9/11. Grief remains from that awful day, but not only grief. There is fear, too, a fear informed by the knowledge that whatever my worst nightmare is, there is someone out there embittered enough to carry it out. I know that something has to be done to secure the airports, waterways, infrastructure, and embassies of our country.

I don’t like war; no one does. But I also know that the world is exceedingly complex, and that our enemies are not all imaginary. I am not naïve about the incessant and unseen (by most of us) military activity that undergirds our ability to read, go to concerts, earn a living, and criticize the government in relative safety. I am grateful to those whose bravery keeps us safe.

This ominous, discomfiting, illegal, and immoral use of weaponized drones against defenseless strangers is done for our sakes. But more and more we are seeing a gap between the intention behind the President’s clandestine brand of justice and the real-world effect of those killings.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words against the Vietnam War in 1967 remain resonant today: “What do they think as we test our latest weapons on them?” We do know what they think: many of them have the normal human reaction to grief and injustice, and some of them take that reaction to a vengeful and murderous extreme.

In the Arabian peninsula, East Africa, and Pakistan, thanks to the policies of Obama and Biden, we are acquiring more of the angriest young enemies money can buy. As a New York Times report put it last year, “Drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.”

Assassinations should never have happened in our name. But now we see that they endanger us physically, endanger our democracy, and endanger our Constitution. I believe that when President Obama personally selects the next name to add to his “kill list,” he does it in the belief that he is protecting the country.

I trust that Obama makes the selections with great seriousness, bringing his rich sense of history, literature, and the lives of others to bear on his decisions. And yet we have been drawn into a war without end, and into cruelties that persist in the psychic atmosphere like ritual pollution.

Teju Cole is a photographer and writer. His novel “Open City” was published last year.

Massacres of civilians in the Arab States, Afghanistan and Pakistan: US neither confirms nor denies

The US has intensified its drone attacks in south Yemen in the last two months, claiming that the operations are meant to oppose advances of “Al Qaeda” militias in most South Yemen provinces. Actually, Al Qaeda that does not exist anymore as a unified force, is being used haphazardly as a smokescreen to any “unorthodox” military operations not covered by the UN.

The leader of the “Hawthi” tribes in north Yemen, the tribes that fought Saudi Arabia incursion into Yemen four years ago, has been very vocal concerning the military involvement of the US in Yemen.  It appears that the US is playing mercenary to the account of Saudi Arabia in this region.

 published in All Stories on March 29th, 2012 “Covert War on Terror” and claims that the US neither confirms nor denies the civilian massacre.

drone yemen compositeThree unnamed victims of the December 17, 2009 strike of al-Majala, southern Yemen, (Photos courtesy Al Jazeera)
“For some weeks in early winter 2009, the people of al-Majala, southern Yemen, had noticed a spotter plane overhead. The aircraft, most likely American, wasn’t seen as a threat. After all, it had been seven years since the last US military action in Yemen, when a CIA drone had killed six al Qaeda-linked militants.

But everything was about to change. At 6am on December 17, an US Navy vessel stationed in the Gulf launched at least one cruise missile towards al-Majala. At least one BGM-109D Tomahawk cruise missile hit al-Majala.

Among the dead were 22 children. The youngest, aged just one, was Khadje Ali Mokbel Louqye. A dozen women also died, five of them reportedly pregnant.

Forty-one civilians died in the US attack. Fourteen members of the extended al Haydara clan were killed, along with 27 members of the al Anbouri clan. Three more people later died when they stepped on left-over cluster munitions.

The US target was Saleh Mohammed al-Anbouri, also known as al-Kazemi. The man was a known militant, who had allegedly been ‘bringing nationals from different countries to train them to become Al Qaeda members’, as stated in a later inquiry. He was linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a franchise of the global terrorist organisation which had launched multiple attacks against US interests in Yemen.

Al Anbouri had brought his wife and four young sons to live with his tribe in al-Majala. Living in the hamlet was the extended al Haydara family, mostly women and children.  They had no known links to AQAP.

Al Anbouri told locals that after recently being released from prison, he wanted to ‘start a new life.’ On the morning of December 17, he and a group of other men were digging a well.

An Amnesty International investigation later forensically identified fragments, concluding:

“This type of missile, launched from a warship or submarine, is designed to carry 166 cluster sub-munitions (bomblets) which each explode into over 200 sharp steel fragments that can cause injuries up to 150m away. Incendiary material inside the bomblet also spreads fragments of burning zirconium designed to set fire to nearby flammable objects.

Entire families were killed. Within hours of the attack, news began circulating that a large number of civilians had died in al-Majala. The New York Times reported that night: ’some witnesses and local journalists in Abyan said a number of civilians were also killed in Thursday’s raids there.’ By the following day Al Jazeera was airing video images of shrouded corpses.

Al Jazeera footage and report of raid aftermath

A surviving woman later told reporter Jeremy Scahill for Al Jazeera:

 “At 6am, the (extended family) were sleeping and I was making bread. When the missiles exploded I lost consciousness. I didn’t know what had happened to my children, my daughter, my husband. Only I survived with this old man and my daughter.”

These numbers of dead civilians mask the many individual families annihilated in the attack. Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala, 60, his 30-year-old wife Nousa, their son Nasser, 6, and daughters Arwa, 4, and Fatima, aged 2, were all killed.

There was 35-year old Ali Mohammed Nasser Jaljala, his wife Qubla (25), and their four daughters Afrah (9), Zayda (7), Hoda (5) and Sheikha (4) who all died.

Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala, 30, was killed alongside his 21-year old wife Qubla and 50-year old mother Mouhsena. Their daughter Fatima, aged 13, was the only survivor of the family, badly injured and needing extensive medical treatment abroad.

The Anbour clan suffered similarly catastrophic losses. Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye died with his wife, son and three daughters. His brother Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye’s seven-strong family were also wiped out.

Sheik Saleh Ben Fareed, a tribal leader, went to the area shortly after the attack and described the carnage to Al Jazeera reporter Scahill:

‘If somebody has a weak heart, I think they will collapse. You see goats and sheep all over. You see heads of those who were killed here and there. You see children. And you cannot tell if this meat belongs to animals or to human beings. Very sad, very sad.”

Because the US is claiming to fight a covert war in Yemen, it is unknown whether there has been any investigation into the deaths. Instead, the US has actively sought to cover up its role in the attack.

Click here for the Bureau’s full data on a decade of US covert activity in Yemen

For the Pentagon’s elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) – the group that captured Saddam Hussein and would later kill Osama bin Laden – the first US attack in Yemen in seven years must have seemed a success. A wanted terrorist and his alleged associates were dead.

Three weeks after that attack, General David Petraeus, then head of United States Central Command (Centcom) – and who now runs the CIA – met Yemen’s President Saleh (deposed since) in the capital Sanaa. In line with the covert nature of this new front in Obama’s war on terror, the two schemed to cover up the US role in the attack.

But Saleh was concerned. He lamented the use of “not very accurate cruise missiles…  mistakes were made.” No wonder Saleh was no longer wanted to rule the country. Why were so many civilians killed in the attack?

According to the secret report of that meeting, later released by WikiLeaks, Petraeus was thrown by Saleh’s concern. ‘The only civilians killed were the wife and two children’ of Al Anbouri, Petraeus told president Ali Abdallah Saleh. An aside in the cable notes that ‘Saleh’s conversation on the civilian casualties suggests he has not been well briefed by his advisors.’

Yet it was Petraeus himself who appears to have been poorly briefed that day.

Al-Anbouri’s wife Amina did die. So too her four sons Maha aged 12, Soumaya, 9, Shafika, 4 and two-year-old Shafiq. So did 39 other civilians, we now know.

Official inquiry
Days after the attack, Yemen’s parliament convened a Commission of inquiry into the security incidents in Abyan province. Made up of 14 representatives, the commission was led by Sheikh Hamir Ben Abdullah Ben Hussein Al-Ahmar, now deputy speaker of the Yemeni parliament.

Their bodies had been completely torn into pieces during the attack
Yemen Commission report

The commission sought to discover what had really happened in al-Majala, travelling to the hamlet and questioning survivors. A spokesman for the sheikh told the Bureau this week that the inquiry ‘did not state that the American forces launched the attack’.

The commission found grisly evidence of a massacre. Although it concluded that al Anbouri and 13 other militants died, their deaths were overshadowed by those of 44 civilians. The effect of a cluster bomb-filled cruise missile had been particularly brutal:

“When members of the Commission visited the cemetery where the victims were buried, they noticed that some members of the two families were buried in communal graves because their remnants could not be identified. Their bodies had been completely torn into pieces during the attack.”

Naming the dead
The commission published its full investigation, in Arabic, on February 7, 2010. Included were the names, ages, genders, family relationships and clans of all 44 civilians killed, along with eyewitness testimony from survivors.

A month later Yemen’s parliament approved the commission’s findings in full, calling on the government to open a judicial investigation. According to Amnesty, ‘the same day, the Yemen government apologized to the victims’ families, describing the killings as a “mistake” during an operation that was meant to target al-Qa’ida militants, and said that committees would be established to provide compensation for the people killed and the property destroyed.’

This week Yemen confirmed to the Bureau that it had itself paid out compensation at local levels to affected families, but that ‘the American authorities did not get involved in this process in any way.’

For two years the US has been aware, in extensive detail, of all 44 civilians killed at al-Majala. Its direct role in the attack is clearly documented, and confirmed in leaked US diplomatic cables.

The Bureau this week asked the US Department of State and Centcom, which is responsible for US military operations in Yemen, the following questions:

  • What investigations has the US carried out into the December 17 attack and the high number of reported civilian casualties? What were the conclusions reached?
  • Specifically on the Yemen parliamentary commission findings – what further investigations were carried out into the reports of 44 named civilians killed in that attack?
  • What disciplinary measures, if any, have been taken against US personnel involved in that attack?
  • What compensation, if any, has been paid by the US to surviving members of the al-Hadra and al-Anbour families?

A State Department spokesperson, speaking on background terms, replied: ‘I don’t have any information for you with respect to the December 17, 2009 incident in question. I refer you to the Government of Yemen for additional information on its counterterrorism efforts.’

Centcom declined to discuss matters which may relate to US Special Operations.

The Bureau also asked the US Senate Armed Services Committee what investigations it has carried out generally into US military actions in Yemen, and specifically into the December 17 2009 incident. The committee replied that it was ‘not able to answer these questions’.

Note: The dead from the Haydara clan:

Family of Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala




Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala



Nousa Mohammed Saleh El-Souwa



Nasser Mohammed Nasser



Arwa Mohammed Nasser



Fatima Mohammed Nasser



Family of Ali Mohammed Nasser Jaljala:




Ali Mohammed Nasser



Qubla Al-Kharibi Salem



Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser



Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser



Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser



Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser



Family of Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala:




Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala



Qubla Salem Nasser



Mouhsena Ahmed Adiyou



The dead from the Anbour clan:

Family of Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye




Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye



Saleha Ali Ahmed Mansour



Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye



Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye



Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye



Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye



Family of Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye




Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye



Hanaa Abdallah Monser



Moheile Mohammed Saeed Yaslem



Safaa Ali Mokbel Salem



Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye



Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye



Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye



Family of Mokbel Salem Louqye:




Fatima Yaslem Al-Rawami


First Wife

Maryam Awad Nasser


Second Wife

Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye



Family of Abdullah Awad Sheikh:




Abdullah Awad Sheikh



Family of Hussein Abdullah Awad Sheikh:




Hanane Mohammed Jadib



Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad



Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad



Family of Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh:




Maryam Mokbel Salem Louqye



Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh



Family of Mohammed Saleh Mohammed Ali Al-Anbouri:




Amina Abdullah Awad Sheikh



Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed



Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed



Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed



Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed



Additional research and translations by Angie Zambarakji

Follow @chrisjwoods on Twitter




June 2023

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