Washington claims its only direct involvement in France’s military intervention in Mali includes the US Air Force flying in French soldiers and 124 tons of equipment. Beyond that, the Pentagon will only admit vaguely to “intelligence support.” Whether the US is flying drones in Mali, whether Special Operations teams are secretly conducting operations inside Mali, and whether the CIA is covertly involved – the Pentagon has no comment.
But the emerging line from the Pentagon is that, for now at least, the Mali war isn’t going to be like that. U.S. troops are “not contributing” to a training effort for African forces that France wants to conduct ground operations in Mali, Little said. The Pentagon is still considering a French request for midair refueling aircraft. And outside a handful of Air Force communications specialists who helped direct traffic at an air base near Bamako, U.S. personnel haven’t been on the ground in Mali.
“Our support of French operations in Mali does not involve what is traditionally referred to as boots on the ground,” Little told reporters during a Tuesday briefing. There’s a caveat: “We don’t have any plans to put on the ground at this time in support of French operations.” And Little wasn’t speaking to any possible CIA involvement in Mali; it’s worth noting that the CIA has placed operatives on the ground in places where the U.S. has publicly stated it wouldn’t send ground troops.
On a dusty football pitch in Bahrain, a convoy – or rather, a pack – of police 4x4s screeched into the crowd that had gathered there, scattering panicking protesters. As they circled at high speed, passing through the crowd, it was not clear if they were actively trying to hit the protesters, or just to scatter them, but what was clear was that it didn’t seem to matter if they did.
This footage was captured by French film-maker and journalist Stéphanie Lamorré, who travelled to the tiny Gulf Kingdom on a tourist visa, before ‘disappearing’ for a month, to live undercover and film the pro-democracy protest movement in its battle against the authorities.
To avoid the restrictions placed on journalists, the raw film had then to be smuggled across the border and ‘Fedexed to France’, according to producer Luc Hermann who introduced a special screening at the Commonwealth Club on Tuesday night.
In the resulting film, Bahrain: The Forbidden Country, Lamorré shows through interviews with three women that Bahrain’s protest movement, out of sight and, for most, out of mind since 2011, has not disappeared. And her interviewees are difficult to dismiss as simply unthinking trouble-makers.
Zainab, daughter of the Bahraini-Danish human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja whose 110 day hunter strike brought international attention to the Bahraini struggle, spends her days meeting protesters and their families, hearing their stories and tweeting them from her ever-present Blackberry. Her nights are spent at protests.
On the day Lamorré filmed her, she spoke to the family of a 50-year-old mother who had immolated herself in desperation at continuous police raids on her family. Her blog, Angry Arabiya, contains many similar stories.
Perhaps the most striking story shown in the film is that of Nada, 38, a doctor and mother of two young children who was arrested, imprisoned and claims to have been tortured for the crime of giving medical aid to protestors. An earlier shot had shown other doctors and nurses begging police to be allowed to enter their hospital to treat the wounded. Instead of being treated, the injured were arrested.
At the time of the film Nada was awaiting trial.
The death toll in Bahrain has been small – as David Cameron says, ‘Bahrain is not Syria‘ – but, as this film graphically shows, protesters are still targeted with tear gas, rubber bullets, buck shot, and, in some cases, live ammunition. It is these protesters – who cannot go to hospital for fear of arrest – that Ouahida treats. Although not a doctor or nurse, she learned first aid, and began to travel under cover of night to treat wounds and pick out buckshot.
At the end of the screening it is revealed that, just months after filming, Ouahida was seriously injured in a car crash fleeing from the police.
Bahrain, with its population of under one and a half million, its stable monarchy, and its high-income economy, rarely makes the news here.
Lamorré’s film is a welcome break to this silence.
I am mystified why, after the uproar of over the 4 Americans killed last September in Benghazi, Libya, that there is so little outrage against Hillary Clinton over the 37 dead hostages in Algeria. Clinton was gung-ho on bombing Qadaffi out of power and she gloated after he was killed. The attack in Algeria was only possible because of sophisticated weaponry captured after the fall of the Libyan government.
The Algerian government warned that this type of catastrophe would be inevitable if western powers intervened to overthrow the government of Libya. The New York Times noted a few days ago that the Algerian government’s attitude was “‘Please don’t intervene in Libya or you will create another Iraq on our border,’ said Geoff D. Porter, an Algeria expert and founder of North Africa Risk Consulting, which advises investors in the region. ‘And then, ‘Please don’t intervene in Mali or you will create a mess on our other border.’ But they were dismissed as nervous Nellies, and now Algeria says to the West: ‘Goddamn it, we told you so.’ ”
The result of the U.S. government’s intervention in Libya provided terrorist groups with more weapons than anything done by the two-bit offenders prosecuted for “material support of terrorism” in the past decade.
If Hillary Clinton cannot be indicted for “material support for terrorism,” then there is no justice….
Iran’s nuclear program, and the possibilities of war against Iran, will likely be prominent in the Senate confirmation hearings of President Obama’s new national security team, particular in the case of the proposed Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. While Hagel, Kerry (State), and Brennan (CIA) are all expected to be confirmed, Senate Republicans have served notice that (especially in the case of Hagel), the nominees will be scrutinized to see if they are prepared to keep the sanctions screwed on tightly against Iran and, if necessary, go to war.
What I think we should watch for is how the nominees characterize the present state of Iran’s nuclear program (is this a nuclear weapons program?), whether sanctions are helping or hurting the possibilities of a negotiated resolution to outstanding issues in dispute, and whether Iran is a threat to Israel. It will also be interesting to see if the existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal is acknowledged.
We have the great honor of nominating Private First Class Bradley Manning for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. Manning is a soldier in the United States army who stands accused of releasing hundreds of thousands of documents to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. The leaked documents pointed to a long history of corruption, war crimes, and imperialism by the United States government in international dealings. These revelations have fueled democratic uprising around the world, including a democratic revolution in Tunisia. According to journalists, his alleged actions helped motivate the democratic Arab Spring movements, shed light on secret corporate influence on our foreign policies, and most recently contributed to the Obama Administration agreeing to withdraw all U.S.troops from the occupation in Iraq.