Dems to Biden: Overhaul Drone Program That Has Killed Thousands of Civilians

A group of 50 Democratic U.S. lawmakers on Thursday sent a letter to President Joe Biden focusing on the “inexcusable” number of noncombatants killed by drone strikes in the 20-year so-called War on Terror and urging his administration to “review and overhaul” American counterterrorism policy to “center human rights and the protection of civilians.”

“The continuation of status quo policies that have flouted executive and congressional oversight and resulted in devastatingly high numbers of civilian casualties would run contrary to the Biden administration’s commitments to end our forever wars, and promote human rights and our core democratic values,” the letter – which is led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) – states.

“Over successive administrations spanning nearly two decades, presidents have claimed virtually unlimited, unilateral power to use lethal force around the world and without congressional authorization, killing not only armed actors but also innocent civilians – even American citizens,” the lawmakers add.

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20 Years and 4 Presidents Later and Gitmo Still Not Closed

Human rights defenders marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba under the administration of former President George W. Bush by noting that three American presidents have come and gone without anyone being held accountable for the horrific crimes that have occurred there, while calling on the fourth – Joe Biden – to finally close what one advocate called an “indelible stain” on the nation.

“Four American presidents have overseen the facility and three have promised to close it,” the ACLU tweeted Tuesday. “Every day Guantánamo remains open is an affront to human rights, justice, and the rule of law.”

“Since 2002, 779 Muslim men and boys have been held at Guantánamo, nearly all without charge or trial,” the ACLU continued.

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In the UK, Calls Grow To Revoke Tony Blair’s Knighthood Over Iraq War

Citing his role in the Iraq War and other devastating conflicts, hundreds of thousands of people in the United Kingdom and beyond are calling for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to be stripped of his newly bestowed knighthood.

As of Thursday afternoon, over 900,000 people had signed the Change.org petition seeking to have Blair’s “Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter” – one of the highest honors a British monarch can bestow upon a subject – rescinded. Queen Elizabeth II announced Blair’s knighthood on New Year’s Eve.

“Tony Blair caused irreparable damage to both the Constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society,” the petition states. “He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes.”

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After 1,000 Days in Belmarsh Prison, Campaigners Demand Freedom for Julian Assange

Press freedom campaigners on Wednesday marked Julian Assange’s 1,000th day of imprisonment in London’s Belmarsh Prison with renewed demands for the WikiLeaks publisher’s freedom ahead of his looming potential extradition to the United States.

“Journalism is not a crime,” the Assange Defense Committee tweeted. “#FreeAssange. #DropTheCharges.”

Assange’s partner Stella Morris said in a statement: “It will be 1,000 days this Wednesday that Julian Assange has spent in the harshest prison in the U.K. His young children, ages two and four, have no memory of their father outside the highest security prison of the UK”

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‘Alarming’ Levels of ‘Forever Chemicals’ Found in Water Near US Bases in Okinawa

As the US military continues construction of a controversial new base at Henoko Bay, Okinawa, the recent discovery of extreme levels of highly toxic “forever chemicals” in local waterways and groundwater has renewed long-standing opposition to the American occupation of large portions of the Japanese archipelago.

“Imagine the uproar if China were responsible for this PFOS contamination. But since the US is to blame, it will be swept under the rug.”

The Asahi Shimbun reported Tuesday that water quality checks near US bases in Okinawa found “alarming” levels of perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) at 38 locations, or more than 70% of tested sites.

More than 1,000 nanograms of PFOS and other substances per liter of water – or 20 times higher than the Japanese Environment Ministry’s provisional target of 50 nanograms per liter – were detected at eight sites near two US bases. Groundwater collected from below a private home in Kadena town tested at 2,300 nanograms per liter of PFOS and other substances, or 46 times higher than the government target.

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‘Stomach-Wrenching’ Report Reveals Secret US Strike Command’s High Civilian Death Toll

Peace advocates on Monday responded toa report about a U.S. military unit that killed Syrian civilians at 10 times the rate of similar operations in other theaters of the so-called War on Terror by accusing the United States of hypocritically sanctioning countries while committing atrocities of its own, and by reminding people that there is no such thing as a “humane” war.

On Sunday, The New York Timesreported the existence of Talon Anvil, a “shadowy force” that “sidestepped safeguards and repeatedly killed civilians” in aerial bombardments targeting militants in Syria. The unit “worked in three shifts around the clock between 2014 and 2019, pinpointing targets for the United States’ formidable air power to hit: convoys, car bombs, command centers, and squads of enemy fighters.”

“But people who worked with the strike cell say in the rush to destroy enemies, it circumvented rules imposed to protect noncombatants, and alarmed its partners in the military and the CIA by killing people who had no role in the conflict,” the paper reported, including “farmers trying to harvest, children in the street, families fleeing fighting, and villagers sheltering in buildings.”

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