Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow

by Edward Snowden, originally posted by WikiLeaks 01/07/2013

One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.

On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.

This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.

For decades the United States of America have been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.

I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.

Edward Joseph Snowden

Monday 1st July 2013

Tear Gas: A multi-billion dollar industry!

A leathal “non-leathal” weapon

by Shiar Youssef

With tear gas a prominent weapon used to repress the recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, the multi-billion global market has been expanding. Reported incidents of tear gas-related deaths and injuries have prompted critique of its classification as ‘non-lethal’ and renewed calls for a ban on its use.

Systematic ‘misuse’

The use of tear gas as an indiscriminate crowd dispersal weapon is nothing new. A Google map created by an anonymous activist last year lists over 75 locations across the world where, since December 2012, tear gas has been used by police against large crowds of protesters. From the Middle Eastern uprisings to anti-capitalist protests in various European countries; from India to South Africa to Brazil: scattered protesters gasping for air amid thick, white clouds has become a familiar scene on news reports.

Although described by manufacturers and police as ‘non-lethal’ or ‘less lethal’, numerous cases from Palestine, Bahrain, Turkey and elsewhere have shown that tear gas can cause serious injury, even death, especially when used in large quantities, in closed spaces or fired directly at people at close range and high velocity, rather than at a 45 degree angle and from a 120 yard distance.

Many scientific studies have raised doubts about its classification as ‘non-lethal’. A famous study from 2000 on the use of CS gas by the FBI concluded that, if no gas masks were used and people exposed to the gas were trapped in a closed space, “there is a distinct possibility that this kind of CS exposure can significantly contribute to or even cause lethal effects.”

Defenders of the technology – that is, manufacturers, police forces and the academics and writers on their payroll – often argue that the ‘tragedies’ are simply a result of ‘misuse’, contrary to the manufacturers’ instructions. But the history of tear gas suggests that such weapons are routinely ‘misused’ by police and security forces when mass protests ‘get out of control’.

Turkey: gases, tears and home-made masks

Tear gas features in many of the iconic images emerging from Turkey’s ongoing mass protests. From the woman in a red dress being sprayed in the face with tear gas by a cop in Istanbul to a dervish wearing a gas mask doing a Sufi dance on the street and people wearing funny-looking masks made of plastic bottles cut in half. The reason: in the first 15 days of the protests, which began on 28 May, Turkish police fired over 150,000 tear gas canisters.

According to the Turkish Medical Association, which helped organise many of the field clinics in Istanbul, over 12,000 people required medical care in that same period after being exposed to CS gas, CR gas, pepper spray and other types of tear gas. Hundreds were admitted to hospital, though many others avoided going as police were following and arresting people there. About 53 per cent of those treated said they had been exposed to the toxic gases for between one and eight hours; 11 per cent for more than 20 hours. Around 20 per cent of the injuries were open sores and fractures to the head, face, eyes, thorax and abdomen, resulting from being struck directly by tear gas canisters.

The use of tear gas by the Turkish police has been on such a scale that one of the protesters’ five demands is: “Teargas bombs and other similar materials must be prohibited.” Tara O’Grady, an expert on tear gas who has just returned from Turkey, says:

“Tear gas has been used to suppress protesters and as a form of collective punishment in Turkey over the last few weeks. The many different types of gas that they are using means that there is no one common response to the medical problems and complications. Some of them burn your skin…your eyes, nose, ears, throat, and lungs, you are just really overwhelmed with an almost convulsive reaction to it. People have suffered from palpitations for days afterwards. People can’t eat, they are vomiting blood, urinating blood. The water cannons they are using also have some form of chemical in them, with a similar effect to the tear gas canisters. And this is indiscriminate. There are children who are suffering with this.”

While the dramatic use of tear gas in Turkey has gripped international attention, it is by no means a unique case.

Bahrain: tear gas as a weapon of mass repression

Since the early 1990s, Bahrain has hosted an important US military naval base. Currently being upgraded, it was instrumental in the Second Gulf War, the invasion of Iraq and other US adventures in the region. The tiny island in the Arabian (or Persian) Gulf also provides easy access to the Indian Ocean and is a stone’s throw away from Iran. Its vast reserves of natural gas, aluminium and other natural resources entrench its position as a ‘strategic ally’ of the US and Saudi Arabia in the region.

This may partly explain why the Bahraini uprising, which started in February 2011, has received relatively little attention in both Arab and Western mainstream media compared to other uprisings in the region. Al-Jazeera is a case in point.

Yet the level of repression there has not been less than that seen in other neighbouring countries, save for Libya and Syria, perhaps, where the popular revolutions were quickly militarised. The heavy use of US-manufactured tear gas has been instrumental in enabling this repression to continue.

Bahraini – and Saudi – police and security forces have been systematically using tear gas against the popular protests on an unprecedented scale. Countless reports, pictures and videos posted on the internet show riot police firing volleys of tear gas at crowds, sometimes at close range, as well as into people’s homes and vehicles (see, for example, the 2013 documentary ‘Bahrain: The Clouds of Death’). The use of tear gas has been so widespread and excessive that people are reportedly “shoving wet towels under the doors and the nooks and crannies of windows and ventilators to stop tear gas from entering.”

In their 2012 report ‘Weaponizing Tear Gas’, Physicians for Human Rights documented tens of cases of “maiming, blinding, and even killing of civilian protesters” in Bahrain as a result of tear gas attacks. Based on witness statements, medical records and forensic evidence, the report describes repeated instances of miscarriage and grievous wounds suffered by civilians who had been exposed to tear gas or struck directly by canisters fired from a few feet away. An earlier report documented 34 tear gas related deaths, including women and children. That is approximately one in every three deaths since the Bahraini uprising began.

“The unprecedented use of tear gas in Bahrain proves that it is a lethal chemical weapon,” says John Horne from Bahrain Watch, an activist group that has been documenting the Bahraini regime’s use of arms against protesters. “Large parts of the population have had to suffer collective punishment through the excessive, indiscriminate use of tear gas fired into residential areas. Individuals have also been directly targeted and killed from the blunt trauma of metallic canisters shot at high velocity. The security forces are operating far beyond the boundaries of existing international frameworks and even the manufactures own guidelines.”

Egypt: still a major importer of tear gas

Shortly after the Egyptian revolution broke out in January 2011, the US State Department approved a number of export licenses for the shipment of US-manufactured crowd control weapons, including tear gas, to Egypt. According to Amnesty International, one US company shipped 21 tons of tear gas grenades and canisters – enough for 40,000 rounds – in addition to a separate shipment of 17.9 tons. At least three people are known to have died in Cairo’s Tahrir Square from tear gas inhalation. Many cases of unconsciousness and epileptic-like convulsions were also reported.

Ironically, earlier this year, well after the fall of Egypt’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian Interior Ministry reportedly ordered 140,000 tear gas canisters from the US, worth USD 2.5 million. To understand this apparent irony, one must understand how the Egyptian revolution was co-opted – or ‘hijacked’, as an increasing number of Egyptians put it – by the Muslim Brothers leadership, as well as Egypt’s strategic importance to the US.

The US continues to give Egypt some $2 billion a year in ‘aid’, making it the second-largest recipient of US money after Israel. Most of this goes to the military and security forces. The price is ‘peace’ with Israel and privileged US military access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace.

Another place in the region where tear gas is heavily used is the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where the Israeli military routinely uses different types of tear gas against Palestinian demonstrators. The West Bank and Gaza have been described as a “testing ground” for the global security industry, where the strength of gas used varies and evidence suggests that gas with a higher propensity to incapacitate has been used (for more on this, see this Corporate Watch article).

A growing market

The North African and Middle Eastern uprisings and revolutions over the past two and a half years have certainly contributed to a new boom in the global tear gas market. According to industry sources, the Middle East’s internal state security market grew 18 per cent in 2012, reaching an estimated value of USD 5.8 billion.

Soon after the start of their revolution, Egyptian protesters and bloggers were posting pictures of tear gas canisters recovered from the streets of Cairo bearing the name of Combined Systems International (CSI) or ‘Made in USA’. Other cartridges carried the markings of Defense Technology/Federal Laboratories (part of British arms and aerospace giant BAE Systems) and British defence contractor Chemring Defence (formerly known as PW Defence). Similar CSI canisters – a few inches long, blue and silver – had been found on Tunisia’s streets during the first weeks of its own revolution the month before. Other Western-manufactured tear gas canisters and grenades have also been found in Syria.

Tear gas canisters and grenades recovered from the streets of Bahrain suggest that most came from the US, bearing the names of NonLethal Technologies and Defense Technology/Federal Laboratories. Other canisters spotted in Bahrain belonged to France’s SAE Alsetex and Brazil’s Condor Non-Lethal Technologies (which have recently also been used against anti-World Cup protesters in Brazil).

The US has now withheld licenses for tear gas exports to Bahrain, which means American tear gas still being used by the Bahraini authorities may have been stockpiled from before or obtained through a third country such as Saudi Arabia. The Brazilian government denies that any Brazilian tear gas has been directly sold to Bahrain, suggesting it may have been imported from another Gulf country, most probably the United Arab Emirates.

According to Bahrain Watch, security forces have recently started using unmarked tear gas canisters that release yellow smoke. This is presumably to obscure the manufacturer and country of origin, following the bad publicity that these have received. However, the group says the canisters “of unknown origin” appear to be manufactured by German/South African company Rheinmetall Denel Munitions, while the unmarked canisters are “almost certainly” from Korean company CNO Tech, which is known to have supplied “non-lethal arms” to Bahrain.

Most tear gas canisters and grenades recovered from Gezi Park, the streets of Istanbul and other Turkish cities where mass demonstrations have been taking place were also made by three US companies: NonLethal Technologies, Defense Technology and Combined Tactical Systems, as well as the Brazilian company Condor Non-Lethal Technologies. According to media reports, between 2000 and 2012 Turkey imported 628 tons of tear gas and pepper spray, worth USD 21 million, mainly from the US and Brazil.

Facing tear gas

Many observers are now calling for a total ban on the use of tear gas against demonstrators due to its lethal consequences, disputing claims by manufacturers and police forces that it is a benign ‘non-lethal’ or ‘less lethal’ crowd control method. The rhetoric asserting tear gas as ‘non-lethal’ (except when ‘misused’) operates within the reality of tear gas as a profitable commodity, manufactured and traded with state complicity, in the context of systematic state repression trying to stifle growing popular resentment and anger.

The misuse, or actual use, of tear gas in Bahrain and Turkey has prompted three members of the US Congress to propose new legislation on tear gas and other crowd control weapons “used to violate the human rights of protesters.” Other new initiatives include the Facing Tear Gas project. Spearheaded by the War Resisters League, the campaign brings together activists and organisations from across the US, Bahrain, Egypt, Greece, Canada, Chile and Palestine to “form a global initiative to ban tear gas.” These calls echo many others made over the years, for example 25 years ago when tear gas was used indiscriminately in South Korea against civilian protesters.

The use of tear gases such as CS gas in war is prohibited under the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, but is permitted for use against civilians. The reasoning behind the prohibition is that it may trigger retaliation by the opponent with more toxic chemical weapons. Only five countries in the world have not signed the Convention, including Angola, Egypt, North Korea, Somalia and Syria. Under the UK Firearm Law, CS and other incapacitating sprays are classed as ‘prohibited weapons’, making it unlawful for a member of the public to possess them.

Demonstrators worldwide continue to invent novel ways to face tear gas and confront its intended use of making protest physically impossible. From drenching the canisters in sand, wrapping them in wet towels, or placing them in pre-prepared water butts, to home-made gas masks using plastic bottles and treatment with lemon, vinegar, soda and other widely available substances. People know that tear gas kills. Despite the ‘clouds of death’ they still take to the streets.

Anarchist Kostas Sakkas on hunger strike since 4th of June 2013

Via: Occupied London

Over the past few days, numerous acts of solidarity took place throughout Greece in solidarity with imprisoned anarchist Kostas Sakkas, who is on hunger strike since the 4th of June 2013 fighting for his immediate release. On the 11th of June, a treating physician reported that clinically he has profound weakness, fatigue after minimal exertion (e.g. walking from his cell to the prisons infirmary), discomfort, mild dyspnea, dizziness, headache, abdominal pain, and he has lost 3.5kg of weight.

In the meantime, fellow prisoners have declared their unreserved solidarity with the hunger striker. Since the 4th of June, four comrades that are held in the dungeon of Koridallos women’s prison wing, Kostas Gournas (Revolutionary Struggle member), Christoforos Kortesis, Vaggelis Stathopoulos, as well as Dimitris Koufontinas (17 November member), have refused prison meals.

On the 5th of June, in the session of the 3rd CCF trial at Koridallos women’s prison court, co-accused comrades left the courtroom supporting the decision of Kostas Sakkas to go on hunger strike.

Since the 6th of June, the comrades from Larissa prison second wing Rami Syrianos and Spyros Stratoulis have abstained from prison food to support Kostas Sakkas in his struggle, stating also their solidarity with CCF member Gerasimos Tsakalos, who received an extension of his pretrial detention.

On the 7th of June, anarcho-communists Tasos Theofilou (Domokos prison) and Polykarpos Georgiadis (Corfu prison) published a joint statement for their comrade Kostas Sakkas, saying ‘we will meet again soon, at the battlefields of social/class war.’

On the 11th of June, a total of 290 women and men incarcerated in Larissa, Patras, Corfu, the first wing of Koridallos, Alikarnassos, and Eleonas–Thebes released an open letter in defense of Kostas Sakkas and the destruction of every prison.

On the 13th of June, Kostas Sakkas was brought to the Athens appeals court (on Loukareos street), where a council of appellate judges examined his objection against his prolonged pretrial incarceration for another 6 months. (Their decision is yet to be announced.) In the same morning, three other prisoners were brought before a judicial council in the same court, namely anarchists Fivos Harisis, Argyris Ntalios and Dimitris Politis. During their stay at the appeals court, cops attacked Fivos Harisis throwing him to the ground, kicking him repeatedly, and handcuffing him even in the transfer van. When all of the prisoners, including the hunger striker, were taken back to Koridallos an intense clash broke out with cops and jailers at the prison, in response to the earlier police assault at one of them. The comrades turned the entrance unit into a battlefield for a while (fire extinguishers, drawers with documents and chairs were thrown in the air, and windows were smashed), proving in practice that no attack of the dogs of Power will be left unanswered.

Strength to all prisoners in struggle! Immediate release of hunger striker Kostas Sakkas!

Hunger strike declaration by Kostas Sakkas, Koridallos prison, May 29th, 2013:

On the 4th of December 2010 I was captured along with the comrade Alexandros Mitroussias in the district of Nea Smyrni, Athens, while I was leaving a rented warehouse where arms were being stored.

Since the beginning, I have admitted my connection with this place as well as the weapons found there. I have stated, since the first moment, that I am an anarchist and that my presence in this specific place was related to my political identity and the choices I make as a consequence of this.

On the 7th of December 2010 they brought me before the head investigator and I got in pretrial detention on charges of participation in an unknown terrorist organization as well as aggravated possession of weapons.

On the 12th of April 2011, when I had already been in the prison of Nafplion for more than four months, I was called upon again by the investigators Baltas and Mokkas, and without any new evidence, nor even any new developments on the investigation, I was remanded for participating in the R.O. CCF. It was obvious that this was because the principal investigators realized that a case against an unknown organization that hasn’t any registered actions, doesn’t have any bombs, nor communiqués, that has not used guns, an organization without a name, couldn’t stand up in a courtroom.

I have clarified in the past —as did the R.O. CCF for their part— that I’m not a member of this organization. I didn’t do this to avoid the vengeful, punitive odyssey that the bourgeois justice reserves for all those accused of being members of that organization, but simply because that’s how it is. I ought to set the history straight; not only for me but also for the R.O. CCF.

The initial charge of participation in an unknown terrorist organization attributed both to me and my two comrades (Alexandros Mitroussias, Giorgos Karagiannidis) and the rest of the people arrested in the same operation —although they had nothing to do with it— showed up at a time that was political expedient for the DAEEV anti-terrorist force (the so-called Special Violent Crime Squad of the Greek police), on account of the ex-minister of public order named Christos Papoutsis, who desired —like all his counterparts— to dismantle, at all costs, a terrorist organization during his mandate. It is known that this minister directly supervised the operation, and even evaluated the information that the anti-terrorist force had, and finally gave the order to make arrests. Anyone who watched the mass media during that time remembers the scenarios and evaluations of various journalistic parrots about which organization we belonged to, what we intended to do, etc., obviously being fed by the DAEEV, until the results of the ballistic tests made them shut up… Later, Mr Papoutsis, in an attempt to apologize for the fiasco, gave an interview to a well known magazine stating that the ‘anti-terrorist force has tricked him’ (!).

On the 6th of April 2012, still in jail awaiting trial and reaching the limit of 18 months (the maximum pretrial incarceration period), I was out again in pretrial detention for committing 160 incendiary and bombing actions claimed by the organization CCF. It’s worth comment that in this particular case file there is neither any evidence against me —they didn’t even bother to frame me this time— nor any reference to my person except in the execution of the indictment. It’s a case file that could be served, without exaggeration, to anyone, according to the logic of the intransigent investigators Baltas and Mokkas. The prosecutory purposes of this are evidenced by the fact that the principal investigators had their hands on this specific file from the very first moment of my arrest, and were obligated —that is according to the law— to give it to me along with the first accusatory file. To put it simply: these gentlemen detained me on charges of participation in the same organization twice, consecutively (!).

Today, after being jailed for two and a half years, for simple weapons possession (to clarify: aggravated possession of weapons means that the weapons were intended either for trade or for equipping a terrorist organization, something which is neither evident, nor something I have admitted to), the primary institutional defenders of justice and law, who hold me for breaking it, decided to ignore even their own Constitution —which defines maximum time of 12 months for each subsequent to the first pretrial detention— since that is not enough for their political needs. Therefore, they decided to hold me hostage for six more months.

In fact, they intend this prolonged and excessive captivity to offset their makeshift, lazy accusations. Whatever they may do it is not enough to prevent the ‘deflation’ of the charges in any courtroom, despite the special regime that characterizes the terror-courts (in every way). Anyone who has ever set foot in them even for a while knows it very well.

Their tactics and vengeful intentions are clear by now. Yes, it’s true; the State avenges its political opponents; avenges but never acknowledges them. It never has, as a matter of fact. In the past they were treated as foreign agents and traitors, and now as terrorists and enemy of the society.

The fact is that, due to the domestic consequences of the global capitalist crisis, the political system is going through what is both the most critical and the most unstable period since the dictatorship. It is also a fact that repression, and the generally authoritarian attitude of the State, is the ‘last card’ in its hand, the last thing it can do to ensure a subordinated social peace and prevent a generalized reaction from being expressed in organized and substantial insurrectionary forms.

The finance minister himself has confessed that this is the first time that a government is asked to implement such extreme measures in peacetime. The laws have always reflected the will of the powerful, but today not even these laws are enough for the political representatives of the system in the face of what they need to implement so as to loyally serve the establishment.

Because of my political view and position, that the road to individual and collective freedom is full of struggle and resistance, I decided on Tuesday 4/6 to go on hunger strike; the date when, according to the current laws, the maximum time limit of my pretrial custody is expired. I would like to clarify that, for me, the choice to go on hunger strike is not a gesture of despair, but a choice to continue the fight, a fight that my comrades and I have made since the first moment of our captivity; a resistance to the unprecedented and vindictive treatment of the judicial mechanisms, which decided in our case to take a break from their cash collection duties to defend society from its supposed enemies and the laws from the outlaws. They are the same mechanisms, and the same persons behind them, who are actual perpetrators of the legitimacy of forced return to work for strikers; the same who are primary responsible for the thousands of property auctions and the homeless, for the abolition of labour demands, for the unemployed, for the abolition of social benefits, for the thousands living below the poverty line, for hundreds of suicides every year by those who, unable to cope decently, put an end to their lives; they are actual perpetrators of the legitimacy of declaring people illegal and piling them up in camps; responsible of classifying tortures and beatings at police stations, accidental gun discharges, the silencing of anti-regime media as legitimate…

They are responsible for creating a cemetery society in the name of law, and when it’s necessary, for establishing a cemetery society outside the law… Steeped in hypocrisy and nastiness, despicable to both the devotees of bourgeois justice and its detractors and ideological enemies.

“Slowly dies who does not risk certainty for the uncertainty to chase a dream, those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives, … Who does not find grace in himself, dies slowly, … Let’s try and avoid death in small doses, reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.”
—Pablo Neruda

Kostas Sakkas, first wing in Koridallos prison

GREECE Athens, 17th Anti Racist Festival 28-29-30 June 2013

Image

Mazikeen at the 17th Anti Racist/Anti Fascist Festival

Image

Image

Image

M.

The search for a mosque in Athens

By Yorgos Karahalis

Some say that to come in contact with “God” is a spiritual matter that has nothing to do with the particular spot or place where such contact takes place. Well, if it were that simple then there would be no need to build churches or mosques.

In the Greek capital Athens, where almost half the country’s 11 million people live, there is a 500,000-strong Muslim community, mostly immigrants from Asia, Africa and eastern Europe. Many of those are faithful and want to express their faith by praying in an appropriate place. Well, there is no such place – there isn’t a single “official” mosque in the wider area of the Greek capital.

Instead, they have to rent flats, basements, old garages and all kinds of warehouses and transform them into makeshift mosques to cover their need for a place to hold religious ceremonies. There are lots of these types of “mosques” around town but they’re not easy to spot and whenever I arrived at one of those addresses I had to double-check it was correct as there was no way to identify these flats or warehouses from the outside. I could not say that they’re miserable places but I could better describe them as hidden places, places that do not want to get noticed. During most of my visits people have been very welcoming and very keen to express their concerns about the lack of a recognizable place of worship as well as their fears about the threats they get from some locals.

“Soon there won’t be a single Muslim in Athens,” joked Egyptian Rabab Hasan when I asked her to comment on the lack of a mosque in Athens, obviously pointing to the rise of extreme-right ideas, mostly expressed by the Golden Dawn party, which won 18 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament in the second of two thrilling elections last year.

The Greek government recently cleared the funds needed to build a mosque in Athens, even though it will not have a minaret. They have also finally found the place to erect it – in an old naval base, next to a church. But the story of the construction of a mosque in Athens dates back decades and is full of postponements and many changes of location.

Greece is a country where the vast majority of people are Orthodox Christian and a country that has lived under Turkish Ottoman rule for approximately four centuries. Today it’s a European Union country bordering the “successor” of the Ottoman empire, Turkey. But Turkey is still considered by many Greeks as its major arch-rival in the region. For many locals, Muslims represent a Turkish presence in Greece so it’s not an easy reality for them to accept that a mosque will be built in the capital. The financial crisis, when human relations become more polarized, has only made things worse.

“Do you think that one mosque which can host about 400 people will be enough to serve the thousands of Muslims living in Athens? Of course not. But it would be a strong message to the rest of the world,” says President of the Pakistani community in Athens, Javed Aslam, during a chat I had with him.

Places of worship around the world are part of the local culture and an indication of the degree to which society allows its members to express their religious beliefs equally. So, let’s all wait to see what is going to happen this time and if the mosque saga is coming to an end.

The Deadliest US Soldier on record with 2.746 kills

Via New York Post

gbuiso@nypost.com

With 2,746 confirmed kills, Sgt. 1st Class Dillard Johnson is the deadliest American soldier on record — and maybe the most humble.

As a commander of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle nicknamed “Carnivore,” Johnson, 48, helped lead the ground assault during Operation Iraqi Freedom, overwhelming the enemy with a relentless show of military might that left a trail of dead in his wake.

Johnson was obliged to report confirmed kills to his superiors, cataloging the dead in a green journal that revealed the astonishing tally — which only began to come light as he and co-writer James Tarr were researching his exploits for his memoir, also titled “Carnivore.”

There may have been a deadlier soldier in an earlier war, but since detailed records have been kept, Johnson tops the list.

It’s a mantle he is reluctant to embrace.

“It’s sort of sad to say, but they’re just another pencil mark,” Johnson told The Post, referring to his journal notations. “I didn’t think of the numbers . . . That’s not a boast I would make.”

Johnson, 48, grew up in Island, Ky., hanging out in strip mines and hunting deer with his daddy’s gun. His first kill came at the tender age of 13, when he nailed a six-point buck with a .22-caliber rifle.

In high school, he joined the ROTC, and in 1986, he joined the Army, fulfilling a childhood dream spawned from the pages of comic books.

“When I was growing up, everyone wanted to be an astronaut, a cowboy, or a firefighter. I wanted to be Sgt. Rock,” he said, referring to DC Comics’ gritty WWII hero.

In Iraq, he joined Charlie Troop, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, going on to hunt bigger game — wiping out a truckload of Iraqis with six high-explosive rounds in March 2003 at the battle of As Samawah, his first KIAs.

He counted the dead by tallying rifles — and human heads — among the mangled or charred wreckage left behind by the Carnivore.

In his second tour, in 2005, he took up sniping, logging 121 kills, his longest from 821 yards, a skill that was honed hunting in Kentucky. His total is second only to the late Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL who had 160 kills.

“I had already had the talent of being able to shoot due to the fact that I grew up with a rifle that wasn’t zeroed to me,” he said, recalling his early use of a gun calibrated for his father.

After two tours in the second Iraqi war, he took home 37 medals, including a Silver Star and four Purple Hearts. He gives all the credit to his troop — call sign “Crazy Horse” — whose lineage dates back to Gen. George Custer. “There’s not another brotherhood like it,” he said.

His past never haunts him.

“I killed when I needed to . . . I was brutal when I needed to be, but I was compassionate when I needed to be,” he said. “In my mind, I never killed anyone who wasn’t trying to kill me or trying to do harm.”

He has a bullet permanently lodged in his leg, and the battlefield left him with a new enemy to fight — Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He believes he developed the cancer from inhaling particles from armor-piercing depleted uranium (DU) shells — which turn radioactive when superheated upon firing — but he has no regrets.

“I’m not upset that the DU gave me cancer. If I hadn’t had the DU rounds, there were vehicles that I wouldn’t have been able to destroy that would have killed me,” he said.

The cancer was in remission but returned in January. He will undergo chemotherapy at the end of the summer.

These days, Johnson lives in Daytona Beach, Fla., is married with four kids and works as a consultant for an ammunition company. He doesn’t display his accolades or wartime souvenirs — not even the Iraq flag he took off Saddam Hussein’s limousine.

And he’s given up hunting, preferring to surf with his 13-year-old son.

In his memoir, which goes on sale Tuesday, he quotes Hemingway: “Those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter.”

Saudi Arabia: Activists Convicted for Answering Call for Help

Via HumanRightsWatch

A Saudi court convicted two Saudi women’s rights activists on June 15, 2013, for inciting a woman against her husband. Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni were each sentenced to 10 months in prison and two-year travel bans.

Al-Huwaider, a member of the Human Rights Watch Middle East advisory committee, told Human Rights Watch that she believes authorities pursued this case to punish her for unrelated women’s rights activism over the last 10 years. Al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni said they intend to appeal their convictions.

“Saudi authorities are using the courts to send a message that they won’t tolerate any attempt to alleviate the dismal status of women’s rights in the kingdom,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Saudi authorities should immediately drop this case and stop harassing Saudi women who call for reform.”

Al-Huwaider told Human Rights Watch that her and al-Oyouni’s involvement with the Canadian woman began in 2009, when she received messages from Johanne Durocher, the woman’s mother, who is in Canada, pleading for activists to help her daughter, Natalie Morin. Morin is married to a Saudi citizen, Sa’eed al-Shahrani, and lives with him and their three children in the Eastern Province city of Dammam.

Durocher told them that al-Shahrani, a former police officer, was abusing Morin by locking her in their house and denying her adequate food and water. Durocher had helped draw international media attention to the case in 2009 by lobbying Canadian government officials to intervene and organizing protests over the case in Canada.

Al-Huwaider said that she and al-Oyouni organized several trips by other activists to deliver food and supplies to the woman, but that they did not attempt to visit Morin until the afternoon of June 6, 2011, when they received distressed messages from Morin herself. The messages said that Morin’s husband had left for a week-long visit to see relatives in another town and that her supplies of food and water were running out. When al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni approached the house to offer assistance they were confronted by police who were apparently waiting for them to arrive. The officers immediately arrested them and took them to a Damman police station for questioning.

The police told al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni that they believed they had gone to Morin’s home to help her and her three children, all Canadian citizens, to escape to Canada.

Police released al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni after midnight on June 7, after they signed a statement pledging to cease all involvement with the case and to allow the government-affiliated Human Rights Commission and Canadian Embassy to investigate. The Damman branch of the Human Righs Commission declined to intervene, stating that there was insufficient evidence to conclude that al-Shahrani was mistreating Morin and their children. Canadian government officials have maintained since 2009 that this case is a private matter that must be resolved by Saudi authorities.

Morin remains in Saudi Arabia with her husband and children, but describes herself as a “hostage” and complains of neglect. On her personal blog she regularly pleads for the Canadian government to help get passports for her children so that they can leave the country. On June 17 she wrote a blog entry condemning the convictions of al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni, stating there is no evidence for the charges against them.

Al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni assumed that authorities would not pursue charges against them, but in July 2012, more than a year later, authorities called them in for questioning and informed them that they would refer the case to court.

Al-Huwaider said that during her 2012 questioning sessions investigators did not ask her about Morin’s case but rather about her involvement with the Women2Drive campaign and her relationship with Manal al-Sharif, who defied Saudi law and gained international media attention in May 2011 by driving a car. Al-Huwaider was in the car with al-Sharif and filmed the YouTube video of the incident that was widely viewed. Al-Huwaider said that Saudi authorities also asked her about a 2006 women’s rights protest she organized on the King Fahd causeway, which connects Saudi Arabia with Bahrain, as well as her 2009 attempt to cross to Bahrain without the approval of a male guardian.

Al-Huwaider told Human Rights Watch that during her trial, which began in late 2012, the presiding judge denied her and al-Oyouni the right to adequately defend themselves by refusing to allow Morin to testify. The judge also declined to allow a Canadian Embassy official to attend the second trial session, in December.

In Saudi Arabia, which has no written penal code, judges and prosecutors have wide latitude to arbitrarily define certain acts as criminal behavior and then argue that defendants committed these “crimes.” The charge against al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni is “inciting a woman against her husband.”

Saudi Arabia’s “guardianship system” and strict gender segregation rules severely limit women’s ability to take part in public life. Under this discriminatory system, girls and women are forbidden from traveling, conducting official business, or undergoing certain medical procedures without permission from their male guardians. All women remain banned from driving in Saudi Arabia.

Under the United Nations General Assembly’s Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Resolution A/RES/53/144 of 1998, Saudi Arabia has the responsibility to “conduct prompt and impartial investigations of alleged violations of human rights” and to protect human rights defenders from “threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action” as a result of their rights advocacy.

“Rather than persecute two human rights defenders for trying to help a woman in distress, Saudi Arabia should investigate Morin’s allegations and uphold women’s right to freedom of movement,” Stork said.