France's highest court on Sept. 7 overturned a lower-court decision to dismiss charges of complicity in crimes against humanity against cement company LaFarge, which is accused of paying SIS and other militant groups at least 13 million euros to keep its factory in northern Syria running. The ruling by the Court of Cassation marks a major setback for Lafarge, which contested its responsibility for acts committed with funds it provided to the extremists.
In Episode 88 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits his predictions from 20 years ago and from a month ago about what the world would look like on the 20th anniversary of 9-11. The attack, and Dubya Bush's Global War on Terrorism, did not lead to a wave of new attacks within the US, as the jihad has proved more concerned with the struggle within Islam. But this has meant an invisible catastrophe for the Muslim world. The ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen get at least some international media attention. There are many more nearly forgotten wars and genocides: the serial massacres in Pakistan, the insurgency in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, the Boko Haram war in Nigeria that is now spilling into Cameroon, the mounting massacres in the Sahel nations. Even the insurgency in Somalia, where the US has had a military footprint, wins little coverage—despite the fact that it is spilling into Kenya. The insurgency in Mozambique has now prompted an African-led multinational military intervention. The insurgency on the Philippine island of Mindanao has been met with air-strikes. All waged by entities claiming loyalty to either al-Qaeda or ISIS. The new imperial doctrine appears to be that this violence is acceptable as long as it is not visited upon the West—as now admitted to by the elite global management.
With absurd hubris, Biden in his speech on Aug. 31—the day the last US troops left Kabul under the deadline agreed to with the Taliban—declared that "the United States ended 20 years of war in Afghanistan." It's perverse enough that he called the US evacuation of some 120,000 Afghans and Americans an "extraordinary success"—despite the fact that more than 100 US nationals and many thousands of desperate Afghans were left behind. But this reality-denying "ended the war" rhetoric is being uncritically echoed by media accounts.
At least 12 US service members were killed in a combined bomb attack and armed assault at a gate to the Kabul airport, where throngs fleeing the Taliban were desperately crowding Aug. 26. Reports indicate up to 100 Afghan civilians were killed, including children, although Taliban authorities have barred local medics from speaking to the press. A second such attack was reported from the nearby Baron Hotel, which is being used by aid workers coordinating the evacuation. The "Afghanistan Islamic Emirate," as the Taliban are now calling themselves, condemned the blasts, which are presumed to be the work of the "Islamic State-Khorasan Province" (variously rendered ISIS-K or ISKP). (NYT, Al Jazeera, Khaama)
The tri-border region where the Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali come together is the scene of fast-mounting massacres by presumed Islamist militants. At least 80 people were killed in an ambush in Burkina Faso on Aug. 18. The target was a convoy near the town of Arbinda, but scores of civilians were slain along with 17 soldiers and members of a pro-government militia. On Aug. 4, presumed militants killed 30 civilians, soldiers and militiamen in an attack near the town of Markoye. The assailants first attacked civilian villagers, and then fired on soldiers responding to the raid. State media reported that government troops killed 16 of the attackers. (The Hill, Al Jazeera, AP, France24, Reuters)
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department on July 28 imposed sanctions on eight prisons run by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's intelligence unit, for human rights abuses against political prisoners and other detainees. Additionally, OFAC added five senior security officials of al-Assad's regime who control the detention facilities to the Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals & Blocked Persons List. According to OFAC, the regime has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Syrians during the war, of whom at least 14,000 have been tortured to death, with a further 130,000 missing and believed to be under arbitrary detention. OFAC also placed sanctions on Syrian armed rebel group Ahrar al-Sharqiya and two of its leaders for abuses against civilians.
The under-reported conflict in Cameroon’s Far North Region is heating up, as an ISIS franchise appears to have usurped leadership of the local Boko Haram insurgency. Five soldiers and a civilian were killed July 26 in a raid on an army post a few kilometres from the Nigerian border. The heavily-armed insurgents are believed to be from the Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP). The group has "regained strength following internal restructuring," according to the Cameroonian defense ministry—a reference to the death in May of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, and the absorption of his forces by ISWAP.
In Episode 82 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the Orwellian pronouncements from media and politicians that Biden is "ending the war" in Afghanistan—as the war is actually escalating. This is the same imperial narcissism we heard with the much-hyped US "withdrawal" from Afghanistan in 2014, and the "withdrawal" from Iraq in 2011. In both cases, the war went on—and actually got worse, with the emergence of ISIS and the genocide of the Yazidis. Weinberg recalls with grim vindication that he similarly called out the glib optimism about a US withdrawal from Iraq in CounterVortex commentaries during the occupation 15 years ago. Meanwhile, Hazara women—who face the threat of genocide if the Taliban re-take power—are arming to resist the Taliban advance. The critical task now is to loan what solidarity and visibility we can to such efforts—not to engage in hubristic crowing about the "end of the war." Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.