Ferguson - A Country Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

Jon-Christopher Bua   |   August 17, 2014   10:46 PM ET

"A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new -- North as well as South." A. Lincoln

The House Divided Speech was given by Abraham Lincoln on June 16, 1858 upon accepting the Illinois Republican Party's nomination as that state's United States Senator, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield.

Although Lincoln lost that election for the US Senate to incumbent Stephen A. Douglas, of the Lincoln-Douglas 1858 campaign debate fame, Lincoln's remarks in Springfield emblazoned upon the country an image of the dangers of slavery and a people living half slave and half free.

It was on the Illinois State Capitol steps a century and a half later that Illinois Senator Barack Obama launched his successful campaign to become America's first Black President.

On October 16, 2011, I posted a Huffington Post UK Analysis Blog titled:
An America Divided marking the 150th Anniversary of The Civil War.

A century and a half ago, Americans struggled with both the end of slavery and a conflict that pitted brother against brother and divided the nation.

Today, in August of 2014, that struggle continues as America still wrestles with the legacy of slavery and oppression and tries to get a handle on exactly what went terribly wrong on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

We are once again trying to understand each other through the lens of yet another tragic event.

It is 49 years since the Watts Riots of August 1965; 22 years since the Rodney King beatings in 1992; 20 years since the OJ Simpson Murder Trial in June of 1994 and only 2 years since Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida - and now Michael Brown killed in Ferguson, Missouri.

Not much has changed!

Despite all the efforts toward racial equality from the Emancipation Proclamation to the 13th Amendment, from Plessy vs. Fergusson to Brown vs. the Board of Education, from "The Little Rock Nine" in Arkansas to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, from the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Poor Peoples March on Washington; from busing to quotas, all the way to the election of the first Black President in 2008, the economic and social divide between White and Black Americans stubbornly persists.

Despite the efforts of Fredrick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Robert F. Kennedy, John R. Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Ralph Abernathy, Bayard Rustin, Ralph Bunche, Whitney Young, Julian Bond and Malcolm X, along with countless others....we still remain separate and unequal.

We are still consumed by an overwhelming sense of social and economic upheaval and a fear of one another.

From To Kill a Mocking Bird to Guess Who is Coming to Dinner to Do The Right Thing to 12 Years A Slave - the lesson, that we are all people who have a common bond - to love our families and our children and to give them a better life than we have had - is one we just cannot seem to learn.

White and Black Americans have fought in one way or another, side by side in the Union Army, in World War I and II, in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, only to return to their own separate neighborhoods, separate houses of worship and their own separate lives.

Black and White Americans, for the most part, simply do not live in the same society and do not see the world around them in the same way.

Many White Americans see the police as their protectors while many Black Americans view them as a group of armed enforcers who are naturally predisposed to doubt their innocence...."Driving While Black."

From birth many White Americans truly believe they are entitled to a good education, have every opportunity open to them, that their only limits are their own willingness to work hard to achieve a goal - and that they are innocent until proven guilty.

While many Black Americans believe that a good education for their children is something that is out of reach for them, they do not believe they have the same opportunities in the workplace for promotion - and they believe they will be treated as if they are guilty until they prove their innocence.

Even the most affluent Black Americans teach their children "special rules"- how to behave when confronted by police, where not to go, how not to dress and what not to say or do in an effort to ensure that they will not fall victim to a "fatal misunderstanding."

Perhaps the worst irony is that white "Hip Hop" suburban kids try to dress and act "black" to be cool.

However, they are not subject to and never will experience the fear that comes with simply being black in a society where most positions of authority are held by White Americans.

When a situation like Ferguson erupts in a black neighborhood the local police now tend to "deploy" their heavy military weaponry to ensure that things do no get out of control. They have developed a "Swat Team" mentality where use of excessive force has become the status quo.

Ferguson has shown America and the world just how militarized these responses have become thanks to free surplus military equipment from Congress. (That's another Blog)

So once again we watch as yet another tragedy unfolds before us and becomes a "A Media Event" with it's very own "theme".

A young man is dead and a police officer's life will never be the same again. As information dribbles out, White and Black Americans will process it differently through the lens of their own experience.

No matter how this situation is resolved we will never really know how these two individuals perceived one another at the critical moment that lead to this tragedy.

Whatever the outcome, both the officer and the young man were living out their roles against a backdrop of misunderstanding and distrust.

These problems are not only deeply rooted in each person's perception of the other they are also exacerbated by tough economic times.

Lately the sacred "American Dream" where each generation does better than the last seems more like an impossible dream for both White and Black Americans.

Many in the Black Community had hoped that the election of Barack Obama would make a real difference not only in the lives of Black Americans but in the perceptions of White Americans.

In his effort to be the president of "all Americans" some believe President Obama has not done enough to bridge this gap and seize this grand opportunity.

After his Philadelphia Campaign speech in 2008 many believed Candidate Obama would do more to engage Americans on the issue of race. Perhaps his reluctance to do this and his desire to be judged on his own merits and not as the "First Black President" speaks volumes about how far America still has to go to be truly free from its past.

Although President Obama has weighed in once again he knows he is speaking to a divided nation.

This latest situation cries out for the leadership of a Lincoln or a Dr. King - someone who is able to rise above the moment and give voice to a "New Dream".

In 2008 candidate Obama addressed the differing perceptions of White and Black Americans eloquently in his Philadelphia speech.

"This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together, we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice if we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. ....And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children... teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.....

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed... It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper. "

White and Black Americans need to find a new way to engage with one another - more mistrust and violence cannot be the answer.

They know the old rules of the game simply don't apply anymore and they are looking for leadership to help them find that path forward.

Although President Obama has been chided by his detractors for his rhetorical abilities, there may never be a time when those abilities are needed more.

He is blessed with a unique perspective of what it is like to live in both White and Black America.

As President Obama looks forward to his legacy this event and it's aftermath may have presented him with an historic opportunity to heal this long festering wound.

After all, words do matter. In fact the words and challenges of our greatest presidents and leaders live on with us long after they have left the public stage - they continue to guide and inspire our lives and deeds.

The challenge for President Obama, if he chooses to accept it, is to use this moment in time to make a lasting difference in the way White and Black Americans see and relate to one another.

The challenge for all of us is clear. Now is our time as a Nation to start listening to one another and begin walking in our brother's and sister's shoes perhaps for the first time.

If we don't, in light of all that has happened, we will continue to hear the somber words of Abraham Lincoln - "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

A Widening War: We're Back in Iraq

Robin Lustig   |   August 16, 2014   12:00 AM ET

I fear that it is no longer fanciful to see the conflagration that has engulfed Syria and Iraq as the Middle East's version of the First World War. Big power rivalries are sucking the region inexorably into the vortex, with incalculable consequences.

When the history books come to be written, someone will doubtless compare the self-immolation of the Tunisian street-seller Mohamed Bouazizi on 17 December 2010, which sparked the wave of Arab uprisings, with the shot fired by the Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip that killed the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914.

Each was a single act that no one could have foreseen would lead to the appalling carnage that followed. And each reshaped the world, destroying great political powers and sowing the seeds for future instability.

When peace was restored to a shattered Europe in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires had been destroyed. The rise of Germany had been halted; the Russian revolution had ended centuries of Tsarist rule, and the US had emerged as a major global power.

There is no sign yet of peace being restored in the Middle East; in fact, quite the reverse. Yet old regimes have been either swept away (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya), by a combination of popular uprising and external military force, or forced into a brutal suppression of internal dissent fuelled by external meddling (Syria).

In 1914, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, France and Britain went to war in defence of their national interests and in an attempt to exert their control in Europe. A hundred years on, we see different regional powers - Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, UAE - behaving in exactly the same way.

And there is a certain grim irony about the way borders are now being redrawn, as jihadi extremists establish their trans-national medieval caliphate, and the Kurds formalise their own nation state. After all, it was in the aftermath of the First World War that the current borders were originally drawn. As the former UN diplomat and Foreign Office adviser Michael Williams (Lord Williams of Baglan) has pointed out: "Throughout the Middle East the presence of the state is fast weakening ... In the immediate post-colonial order dictated by Sykes-Picot, strong states prevailed in the Middle East. That era is fast disappearing."

The rise of the movement that now calls itself the Islamic State has rightly been seen in large part as a Sunni reaction against Shia (or Alawite in Syria) supremacy. But it cannot be confronted without recognising that it is also a symbol of Saudi determination not to see Shia Islam, as promoted by Riyadh's rival Iran, become the dominant force in the region. (Think of it as the Roman Catholic church resisting the rise of Protestantism in 16th and 17th century Europe.)

It may be that IS fighters receive no direct support or funding from the Saudi government or from the clerics of the Wahhabi sect that underpins the house of Saud. But their brutal, extreme version of Islam stems directly from what the distinguished Middle East analyst David Gardner of the Financial Times recently called the "radical bigotry of Wahhabi absolutism". In a piece published last Friday, Gardner wrote: "Saudi Arabia not only exports oil, but tanker-loads of quasi-totalitarian religious dogma and pipelines of jihadi volunteers."

So here's a challenge for all those Western governments, in particular the US, UK and France, who sell billions of dollars worth of weaponry to the Saudis and other Gulf potentates every year. Will you publicly demand that they disown the murderous zealots now rampaging through Syria and Iraq and cut off the financial support that flows to them? Will you risk valuable defence sales to save the lives of thousands of Yazidis and others who are now being mercilessly persecuted by the region's fastest rising new power?

The former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, was quoted recently as having been given an ominous warning by the former head of Saudi intelligence and former Saudi ambassador in Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. "The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally 'God help the Shia'. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them." The clear implication was that the Saudis would do nothing to impede the slaughter.

According to a report of a speech that Dearlove gave at the Royal United Services Institute last month, "he does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: 'Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.'"

There's no mystery about why more isn't being made of this. According to the Guardian, Saudi Arabia is the recipient of more British weapons than any other country and is the biggest foreign customer, after the US, of BAE Systems, the UK's largest arms company and biggest manufacturing employer.

So what can be done to halt the IS advance? Bombing it, according to one detailed recent analysis, "is unlikely to turn around Iraq ... its fragmented condition has given the self-proclaimed [IS] caliphate the opportunity to establish a hub of jihadism in the heart of the Arab world ...

"The jihadist army ... is now brimming with confidence, emboldened by blood and treasure ... exploiting sectarian and tribal fault-lines in Arab society, petrifying communities into submission and exploiting the reluctance of Washington and the West to intervene more robustly in the civil war in Syria."

Shipping more arms to the Kurds will probably help at the margins; it may even halt the advance of the IS legions. But we should be in no doubt: we, the West, are back in Iraq. Perhaps the consequences of not helping anti-Assad rebels in Syria before the rise of the jihadis are now translating into a realisation that in order to stop the bad guys, you sometimes have to get stuck in and accept the associated risks.

Are Iraqi Christians Worth More Than Nigerian Christians?

Olaiya Phillips   |   August 15, 2014   12:00 AM ET

Last Thursday, President Barak Obama authorised the US Armed Forces to begin air strikes against the combined forces of the Islamic extremist terrorist groups, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham (ISIS), otherwise referred to as the Islamic State.

It is notable that the President, who pledged a full withdrawal of US forces from Iraq during his first bid to become President, was persuaded to approve US military engagement in the country once again due to the Islamic States' brutal murder of civilians, particularly those who belong to religious minorities.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes as the extremists gave them a stark choice - leave, convert or die.

The choice given to the Christians of cities such as Mosul and Qaraqosh is horribly familiar to the hundreds of thousands of Christians in Northern Nigeria, who have been offered the same choice albeit by a different Islamic extremist terrorist group - Boko Haram.

Only last week the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported as many as 650,000 people have been forced from their homes in Northern Nigeria.

As Chair of the Northern Christian Elders Forum my prayers are with our Iraqi brothers and sisters who are suffering a similar fate to our members in Northern Nigeria. No one should suffer the atrocities and injustices these evil groups inflict upon their victims, and I pray their terror will soon end.

But it is not just in Iraq and Nigeria that Christian's face persecution. The pattern of violence and persecution can be seen across Africa and the Middle East. In a recent statement, his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby highlighted the dangers that face the Christian populations:

"With the world's attention on the plight of those in Iraq, we must not forget that this is part of an evil pattern around the world where Christians and other minorities are being killed and persecuted for their faith."

Our friends in the US have been very kind in the recent past to offer military assistance to the Nigerian government, especially in the wake of the kidnapping of hundreds of teenage girls from a school in Chibok, Borno State.

Military and intelligence advisers, training and equipment have all been provided to aid the Nigerian military in the successful recovery of the kidnapped school girls. US surveillance aircraft and drones have spent months searching for the girls over huge expanses of dense forest our own military would simply not be able to do. Yet one must ask - why has the US not committed to airstrikes on Boko Haram like they have on the Islamic State?

Surely the value of the hundreds of thousands of Christians in harm's way at the hands of Boko Haram, are just as important as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians?

Should the question not be what more the US government - and indeed the whole international community - can do to prevent the persecution of religious minorities across the world?

Should the debate not be opened up to what should be done in: Iraq; Nigeria; the Central African Republic; Syria; South Sudan; and Burma?

Should an international crisis of this scale not be at the top of the agenda in the UN?

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees everyone the right to freedom of belief. President Barack Obama and the international community cannot pick and choose which battles they decide to fight and which they decide to turn a blind eye to.

They must urgently come to the aid of those nations being torn apart by religious intolerance and bigotry. To allow these Islamic extremists groups to flourish anywhere is to allow the terrorists to win.

  |   August 10, 2014    8:08 AM ET

An RAF transport aircraft has made the first airdrop of British humanitarian aid to refugees fleeing Islamist militants in Iraq, the Government has confirmed.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the C130 aircraft made a drop last night on the Sinjar mountains, where thousands of people from the Yazidi minority religious group have been trapped by fighters from the Islamic State (IS), formerly know as ISIS.

The US has begun airstrikes against IS extremist targets engaging Kurdish forces near the key city of Irbil, but Britain has ruled out military action at this stage.

American jet fighters and drones conducted four more airstrikes on militants overnight, taking out armored carriers and a truck that were firing on civilians.

U.S. Central Command says the Islamic State militants were firing on Yazidi civilians taking shelter in the Sinjar mountains. In a statement, the military says the militants were firing on civilians indiscriminately.

Central Command says the strikes near Sinjar were spread out, with three before noon Eastern Daylight Time on Saturday and one about 3 p.m.

The military says indications suggest that the strikes were successful in destroying the armored vehicles.

This is the third round of airstrikes against Islamic State forces by the U.S. military since they were authorized by President Barack Obama.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has announced "a continuing drumbeat of airdrop operations" around the Sinjar mountains in the north of the country, where thousands of people from the Yazidi minority religious group have been trapped.

Two C130s left RAF Brize Norton yesterday and a spokesman for the MoD said one plane had made a drop of supplies including reusable filtration containers, tents and solar lights which can also recharge mobile phones.

The Government announced an £8 million emergency package, £3 million of which will go to charities and NGOs already on the ground and helping displaced people in northern Iraq, and £2.5 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Story Continues Below...

Ms Greening said: "The world has been shocked by the plight of the Yazidi community. They face appalling conditions, cut off on Mount Sinjar after fleeing persecution by IS extremists.

"The UK has acted swiftly to get life-saving help to those affected. Last night the RAF successfully dropped lifesaving UK aid supplies, including clean water and filtration devices, on the mountain."

Speaking after chairing a meeting of the Government's Cobra committee yesterday, Mr Hammond said the wider focus is on supporting the refugees' exit from the mountainside.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Obama discussed the airdrops in a phone call yesterday, but admitted that a "long term solution" would be needed to quell the IS advance.

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Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community settle at the camp of Bajid Kandala at Feeshkhabour town near the Syria-Iraq border, in Iraq Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister welcomed the US efforts and made clear that we are keen to work with the Americans on the humanitarian effort.

"They agreed that the immediate priority is to get vital supplies to those trapped on Mt Sinjar and the UK will join the US in delivering aid drops.

"Both leaders also agreed that aid drops are not a long term solution, and that a way must be found to get these people to safety and to avert a genocide."

U.S. Launches 4 Airstrikes On Iraqi Militants

Iraq Aid Drop En Route As UK Mulls Plan To Save Starving Yazidi From Mountainside

White House: No End Date On Military Action In Iraq

Who Are The Yazidi?

Hundreds Of Young Yazidi Women Taken Captive By Militants

From Egypt to Saudi Arabia, the Arab World Has Abandoned the Palestinians

Mehdi Hasan   |   August 8, 2014    4:26 PM ET

Forget for one moment the timid pronouncements of Barack Obama and David Cameron. When will Arab rulers dare raise their voice against Israel's pounding of Gaza? "I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummelling of Hamas," the former US diplomat Aaron David Miller, who advised Presidents Clinton and Bush on the Middle East, told the New York Times on 30 July. Their silence, he said, "is deafening".

But their silence isn't the worst part; their complicity is. Take the collective punishment of the 1.8million inhabitants of Gaza which is referred to as the "blockade". Israeli officials may have bragged to their US counterparts that they wanted to "keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge", but they couldn't have maintained their seven-year siege of Gaza without help.

Remember: Israel controls only three sides of the strip. Who controls the fourth? Egypt, the proud, self-styled "heart of the Arab world". Yet, from Air Chief Marshal Hosni Mubarak to General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Arab Republic of Egypt has been a keen accomplice in Israel's strangulation of Gaza. The former Muslim Brotherhood president, Mohammed Morsi, may have been willing to consider easing the blockade between 2012 and 2013, but Sisi, "elected" president in May this year after a military coup, is a sworn enemy of the Brotherhood and its Hamas affiliate.

In recent months, the junta in Cairo has resealed its border with Gaza, destroyed most of the tunnels that were lifelines for its residents and allowed a mere 140 injured Palestinians to cross into Egypt through Rafah - the only exit from the Strip that isn't controlled by the Israelis. The blockade of Gaza is, thus, a joint Israeli-Egyptian crime.

Consider also the stance of Saudi Arabia. "Attack on Gaza By Saudi Royal Appointment", read the headline on a Huffington Post blog on 20 July by the veteran foreign correspondent David Hearst, who claimed that "Mossad and Saudi intelligence officials meet regularly... and they are hand in glove on Iran".

On 1 August, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia released a statement denouncing the killings in Gaza as a "collective massacre" but conveniently, as the Associated Press pointed out, "stopped short of directly condemning Israel" and "did not call for any specific action to be taken against Israel". Meanwhile, the kingdom's Grand Mufti, Abdul Aziz al ash-Sheikh, claimed that pro-Palestinian demonstrations were "just demagogic actions that won't help Palestinians".

Then there is Syria. The Respect MP, George Galloway, may have praised the Syrian tyrant Bashar al-Assad once as the "last Arab ruler" because of the latter's supposed willingness to stand up to Israel, but Assad's brutal security forces have bombed and besieged the Palestinian refugees of Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus. According to Amnesty International, Syrian forces have also been "committing war crimes by using starvation of civilians as a weapon" and have forced the refugees to "resort to eating cats and dogs".

The rest of the Arab countries don't have much better records. In Lebanon, 400,000-odd Palestinian refugees languish in refugee camps where the conditions are nothing short of horrific. They are prevented by law from working in the public sector or using state medical and education facilities and are also barred from buying property.

In Jordan, ethnic Jordanians or "East Bankers" resent the "West Bank" Palestinian majority, including their queen, Rania. And in Kuwait in 1991, after the first Gulf war, as many as 200,000 Palestinians were forced out of the country as punishment for Yasser Arafat's support for Saddam Hussein; up to 4,000 Palestinians were reportedly killed in vigilante attacks.

This Arab betrayal of the Palestinian cause has deep roots. In his 1988 book, Collusion Across the Jordan, the Israeli-British historian Avi Shlaim described how King Abdullah of (what was then) Transjordan worked with the Israelis, behind the scenes, to prevent the Palestinians from establishing their own state in 1948.

"Palestine has been the dominant issue on the agenda of the Arab League since its birth in 1945," Shlaim, now emeritus professor of international relations at Oxford, tells me. "But ideological commitment to the Palestinian cause has never been translated into effective support. "So one has to distinguish between the rhetorical and the practical level of Arab foreign policy."

Today, most of the unelected leaders of the Arab world, from the generals of North Africa to the petromonarchs of the Gulf, see the Muslim Brotherhood and fellow-travellers such as Hamas as a bigger threat to their own rule than the Israel Defence Forces. Only the emirate of Qatar maintains close ties with both the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in Gaza; the rest of the region's despots and dictators would be delighted to see the Israelis deliver a knockout blow to the Sunni Islamists of Gaza - and, for that matter, to the Shia Islamists of Iran.

Let's be clear: the inconvenient truth is that the collective punishment of the Pales­tinian people in Gaza is a collective endeavour in its own right - led by Israel, enforced by Egypt, endorsed by Saudi Arabia.

Pity the poor Palestinians. Their territories are occupied by the Jewish state; their cause is abandoned by the Arab world.

Mehdi Hasan is the political director of the Huffington Post UK, and a contributing writer for the New Statesman, where this column is crossposted

Paul Vale   |   August 8, 2014    2:58 PM ET

US Navy fighters have returned to the skies of Iraq, targeting American ordnance on artillery positions held by the Islamic State, formerly ISIS, the militant group that has ravaged the region, persecuting ethnic and religious minorities. The Pentagon confirmed on Friday that the USS George H. W Bush carrier had deployed a pair of F/A18 fighters, which targeted militants near the Kurdish city of Irbil, with two 500-pound bombs. The militants were reportedly launching strikes on Irbil, a city in which US personnel are deployed.

The move follows President Obama's declaration on Friday night that "America was coming to help", the White house authorising the strikes in response to threat on Irbil, as well as the plight of the Yazidis, a Kurdish sect that in recent days have been forced to flee their homes and take refuge on Mount Sinjar to escape slaughter at the hands of the Islamic State. The President added that the US military had already supplied food and water via air drops to the Yazidis at the request of the Iraqi government however reiterated that there would be "no American troops on the ground".

More than 4,000 Yazidis are estimated to be marooned on the mountain without fresh water and in unbearable summer heat, unable to descend through fear of being massacred by the extremists ravaging the surrounding geography.

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Two F/A18 fighters were deployed from the USS George H. W Bush

The Kurdish community, which follows an ancient religion linked to Zoroastrianism but with components of Islam and Christianity, fled to the mountain from nearby villages to escape slaughter, however without sustenance or shelter the displaced Yazidis faced a horrific end, despite attempts by humanitarian agencies to drop bottled water on the mountainside. CNN is reporting that dozens of children have already died of thirst.

Speaking to the Washington Post on Thursday, Marzio Babille, the Iraq representative for the UNICEF, said the Yazidis are dying on the mountain. “There is no water, there is no vegetation, they are completely cut off and surrounded by Islamic State. It’s a disaster, a total disaster,” he warned.

The Islamic State has been vociferous in its persecution of ethnic groups in Iraq, with an estimated 150,000 Kurds fleeing to the protected Kurdish region, creating a humanitarian crisis in the northern part of the country.

More from the Press Association:

Following a meeting in Whitehall of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said Britain was ready to provide "technical assistance" to support US humanitarian operations in the region. Speaking in Downing Street, he told reporters that he hoped British air-drops targeting members of the Yazidi religious minority trapped on a mountainside could begin in the "next couple of days".

"What we have decided today is to assist the United States in the humanitarian operations that started yesterday. We are offering technical assistance in that in terms of refuelling and surveillance," he said. "We are offering aid of our own which we hope to drop over the next couple of days in support of the American relief effort, particularly to help the plight of those who are trapped on the mountain."

In its latest travel advice, the Foreign Office is warning British nationals against all travel to areas in northern Iraq affected by the fighting, including those in the Kurdistan region - previously regarded as one of the safest parts of the country. Earlier, David Cameron insisted the world must help the Yazidis in their "hour of desperate need" as he backed US president Barack Obama's decision to respond to a request by the Iraqi government for targeted air strikes.

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Protesters in London, who are calling for help for the Yazidi

The Prime Minister said he utterly condemned the "barbaric attacks" by IS - formerly known as Isis (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). "I am extremely concerned by the appalling situation in Iraq and the desperate situation facing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. I am especially concerned for the minority Yazidi community now trapped on Mount Sinjar, where they have fled for their lives. They fear slaughter if they descend back down the slopes but face starvation and dehydration if they remain on the mountain. The world must help them in their hour of desperate need."

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, joined the appeals for international help for those communities "facing a threat to their very existence in their biblical homelands". "It is imperative that the international community ensure the physical protection of all communities in Iraq, their human rights including the right to religious freedom," he said. "I urge Her Majesty's Government to lead the efforts in the face of such a human calamity in order to help restore these shattered communities, provide them with urgent humanitarian aid and work with others to ensure their long-term security in the land of their birth."

The Department for International Development later gave details of the UK's £8 million emergency aid package. It includes £2 million of humanitarian supplies for 75,000 people, such as reusable filtration containers filled with clean water, tents, and solar lights which can also recharge mobile phones. Much of the aid can be dropped from the air to help those trapped in the Sinjar Mountains. Some £3 million will go to charities and NGOs already on the ground and helping displaced people in northern Iraq, and £2.5 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

A further £500,000 will be used to ensure Kurdish and UN systems can co-ordinate properly. International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: "The world has been horrified by the brutal persecution of vulnerable minority groups by Isil extremists in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes and we are extremely concerned for their safety.

"This aid from the British people will help the Yazidi community, who are now cut off on Mount Sinjar, get immediate emergency support. It will also ensure thousands more people get medical help, shelter, food and clean water. It is absolutely vital that the UN gets the access it needs and the British government is working with the international community to push for this."

SEE ALSO:

The Yazidis on Mount Sinjar

  |   August 8, 2014    2:24 PM ET

These incredible pictures have emerged, showing the desperate plight of members of Iraq's Yazidi religious minority as they hide from the Islamists who call them "devil worshippers" and will kill them if they try to return to their homes.

The Yazidis are a small community that follows a 4,000-year-old faith and have been repeatedly targeted by jihadists who call them "devil-worshipers" because of their unique beliefs and practices.

Islamic State (IS) - formerly known as ISIS - jihadists ousted the Peshmerga troops of Iraq's Kurdish government from the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, forcing thousands of people from their homes.

The images show them trapped on Mount Sinjar, where they are surrounded by the Islamist militants and desperately in need of food, shelter and water.

mount sinjar

A Yazidi family on Mount Sinjar

David Cameron has insisted the world must help the Yazidis in their "hour of desperate need", as he backed US airstrikes to protect them - but ruled out UK military action, while condemning the "barbaric attacks" by IS.

US President Barack Obama announced in a late-night televised statement that military planes had carried out humanitarian airdrops in the region to protect religious minorities - including Christians and Yazidis - and said America would take action if the lives of its troops in Iraq are at risk from Islamic militants.

Today, the US confirmed it had begun those airstrikes.

Britain is to drop relief supplies to support the refugees but will not intervene militarily.

Following a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said he hoped the relief operation - could begin "in the next couple of days".

He said Britain was also ready to offer "technical assistance" in support of US humanitarian operations to aid the refugees.

"What we have decided today is to assist the United States in the humanitarian operations that started yesterday," he said.

"We are offering technical assistance in that in terms of refuelling and surveillance. We are offering aid of our own which we hope to drop over the next couple of days in support of the American relief effort, particularly to help the plight of those who are trapped on the mountain."

The Yazidis on Mount Sinjar

Cameron welcomed Obama's decision to accept the Iraqi government's request for help and to conduct airstrikes if necessary to help Iraqi forces "fight back" to free the trapped civilians.

He added he has tasked officials to urgently establish what more can be done to help those people affected.

SEE ALSO: Who Are The Yazidis?

Cameron said: "I am extremely concerned by the appalling situation in Iraq and the desperate situation facing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. And I utterly condemn the barbaric attacks being waged by ISIS terrorists across the region.

"I am especially concerned for the minority Yazidi community now trapped on Mount Sinjar, where they have fled for their lives.

"They fear slaughter if they descend back down the slopes but face starvation and dehydration if they remain on the mountain. The world must help them in their hour of desperate need."

He continued: "Last night, the UK chaired a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to ensure a strong international response to the crisis and this morning the Defence Secretary will chair a Cobra on the issue.

"I have tasked officials to urgently establish what more we can do to provide help to those affected, including those in grave need of food, water and shelter in the Sinjar area.

"I welcome president Obama's decision to accept the Iraqi government's request for help and to conduct targeted US airstrikes, if necessary, to help Iraqi forces as they fight back against Isil terrorists to free the civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar.

"And I fully agree with the president that we should stand up for the values we believe in - the right to freedom and dignity, whatever your religious beliefs."

IRAQ:

Former defence secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee and former foreign secretary, said the US was right to intervene.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The United Nations has what is often referred to as a responsibility to protect. That's a general statement but means when you have some potential humanitarian disaster on a vast scale then you can't just sit back and say how sad it is, you have to try and intervene.

"Here we have a total of 150,000 people who have fled from their homes and in danger of losing their lives."

Sir Malcolm said the political advance of Isil in northern Iraq was up to the Iraqi government to resolve, adding it would not be in a position to deal with it until it reformed.

He said the world could not "directly intervene" in that area but limited action could be taken to address the "specific humanitarian threat".

Sir Malcolm said he had always thought the Iraqi war in 2003 was a mistake and an "extremely foolish exercise" which has caused "massive instability" but noted Syria was perhaps in an "even worse mess".

He said: "One can't simply say this (in Iraq) was all caused by the war of 10 years ago but there is no doubt that war and the aftermath of it caused a fundamental split between the Sunni and Shia population, created instability and ungovernability in many places in Iraq and therefore has certainly contributed to the terrible drama we're seeing at the moment."

John Kerry Should Set Timelines and Benchmarks to See Progress on Deteriorating Situation of Rohingya in Burma

Tun Khin   |   August 8, 2014    1:12 PM ET

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in Burma tomorrow. Just days before his visit, more than 100 security forces came to an internally displaced person (IDP) camp for Rohingya in Thandawlee village in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State in western Burma. They killed one Rohingya, seriously injured two others, and arrested more than 15 people. At the same time, Rohingyas in Buthidaung and Maungdaw, in northern Arakan State, were arrested, threatened and harassed while the government attempted to collect population data. These attacks are all too common, as impunity reigns for violence against Rohingya. As a President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK http://brouk.org.uk/, I call on Secretary Kerry to prioritise the situation of the Rohingya during his trip and press for accountability for these crimes.

It has been more than two years since an increase in brutal violence against Rohingya and the situation has not improved. In fact, it is getting much worse. In March of this year, hundreds of aid workers were evacuated after facing attacks from nationalist mobs. The expulsion had devastating consequences; for example, more than 150 Rohingyas and 20 pregnant women died in the two weeks after Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/2/28/doctors-without-borderskickedoutofwesternmyanmar.htmlwere expelled from Arakan State in March. Many children have died from malnutrition. Although MSF has now been invited back into Arakan State, there are still serious restrictions on aid and movement for the thousands of Rohingya IDPs.

To date, there has been no progress on the resettlement of displaced Rohingya. The children in IDP camps are simply dying from insufficient health care and other essential services. President Obama http://www.dvb.no/analysis/what-obama-didn%E2%80%99t-say/25003has mentioned that Rohingya should be treated with the same dignity as all other people, but still there was little progress that translated into necessary aid for those in need.

The government of Burma uses six main methods to oppress our Rohingya community: discriminatory laws, incitement of hatred, political disenfranchisement, restricting humanitarian access, stopping economic activity, and using both state and non-state physical violence against Rohingya individuals.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Burma http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47517#.U-SzdqOtqZGhas stated that the widespread and systematic human rights violations in Arakan State may constitute crimes against humanity. The US government should be supporting an international investigation into human rights abuses in Arakan State given the ongoing violence and the urgent needs of Rohingya community members.

If the US government wants to see clear progress on the Rohingya issue in Burma, Secretary Kerry should set clear and measurable timelines and benchmarks for progress, including restoring Rohingya citizenship and lifting restrictions on aid, movement, marriage and education for Rohingya.

In June a senior UN official referred to the humanitarian situation in western Burma's Arakan State as "appalling" upon concluding a four-day visit to the country. Kyung-wha Kang http://www.dvb.no/news/un-official-appalled-by-situation-in-arakan-burma-myanmar/41607, the UN assistant secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told reporters that she witnessed "a level of human suffering in IDP [internally displaced persons] camps that I have personally never seen before."

US Secretary of State John Kerry should support an independent international investigation http://burmacampaign.org.uk/european-union-must-support-international-investigation-into-human-rights-abuses-against-rohingya/149/ into human rights abuses in Arakan. Rohingyas around the world have been calling for an international investigation since June 2012. We faced a massacre in October 2012 and again January 2014 http://brouk.org.uk/?p=85. Anti-Muslim propaganda and hate-speech have increased attacks against Muslims in Burma.

President Thein Sein'shttp://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/refdaily?pass=463ef21123&date=2012-07-13&cat=Asia/Pacific previous request to deport all Rohingya from the country has been described as tantamount to ethnic cleansing, and has sent a signal to others in government that they can act with impunity when it comes to violence against Rohingya. An independent international investigation http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/04/22/burma-end-ethnic-cleansing-rohingya-muslims would help end the sense of impunity, establish the truth and make recommendations for action to prevent further violence.

Secretary Kerry should seize the opportunity to change the Burmese government's response to violence against Rohingya. He must put pressure on President Thein Sein to forcefully denounce hate speech against Rohingya, promote appropriate accountability for violence and crimes against Rohingya, allow humanitarian access to all parts of Arakan State, repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law that renders Rohingya stateless, and end the segregation between communities in Arakan State.

A new form of apartheid is being created to segregate us from other people of Burma. Rohingya have been put into camps or isolated villages where life will be so terrible that people will be forced to leave the country, even at great risk to their safety. I call on Secretary Kerry to do everything in his power to stem the tide of oppression and help protect the rights of our Rohingya people.

Tun Khin is President of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, which is playing a crucial role to provide a vital voice to policy makers around the world for the Rohingya people.

Scottish Independence Rejected By Members Of US Congress

Ned Simons   |   August 7, 2014    9:41 AM ET

Republican and Democratic members of the United States Congress have joined forces to encourage Scotland not to vote for independence on September 18.

A motion tabled in the House of Representatives, signed by 27 congressmen and women, expresses support for "a united, secure, and prosperous United Kingdom".

House resolution 713 speaks about the "special relationship" between the UK and US and references Winston Churchill as evidence of the "unprecedented depth of cooperation and the extensive historic ties between the two nations".

"Throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries, the United States and the United Kingdom fought together in several struggles, including the First and Second World Wars, in which millions of American and British soldiers sacrificed for their countries," it says.

"Millions of Americans have Scottish roots and identify with their Scottish ancestry, and Scottish people and culture have had a profound effect on the United States throughout its history."

Republican congressman Ed Royce, the chairman of the House foreign affairs committee, told The Huffington Post: "Our ‘special relationship’ with the United Kingdom is unparalleled. It is crucial for both our nations to continue our close cooperation on key diplomatic, security, economic, and human rights concerns. A strong, unified United Kingdom has been a leader in the world and I look forward to continuing our valuable partnership."

In June, President Obama staged a major intervention in the debate over independence, when he said he wanted to see Britain remain "united". Former secretary of state, and likely 2016 presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton, has also urged Scotland to reject independence.

A recent poll of ex-pat Scots living in the United States showed 74% did not want Scotland to leave the UK. However people born in Scotland who now live outside the country are not allowed to vote in the referendum.

We Tortured Some Folks...

Neil Durkin   |   August 7, 2014   12:00 AM ET

Barack Obama's now rather famous phrase from the end of last week is quite something.

As others have observed, it's not the first time he's referred to the mistreatment of detainees during the USA's "war on terror" as torture (though it's still rare to hear it). But it's definitely new that he's used this eye-catching "folks" phrase, a far more human word than alternatives like "detainees" or "terrorism suspects".

On one level - and particularly on this side of the Atlantic - "folks" still sounds too er... folksy for this very grave subject matter. To my ears it positively jars, sounding like a sort of glib, down-home Bushism, almost as if it were said with one of George W's characteristic twinkle-eyed facial expressions. (This could just be me though. I've always disliked the word, hearing a hollow talk-show-host ring of insincerity in it).

But, on another level, and particularly for domestic US audiences, "folks" is surely the quintessential "us" - regular folk, neighbours, co-workers, our people. One commentator observed that folks brings a Fargo-like quality to the topic (ya know, kinda homely, kinda friendly). Whether the president intended this or whether the phrase was just used off the cuff is - to me at least - unclear, but the end result is that torture victims have been partially re-humanised through the vocabulary. Turned back into people. No longer just "bad guys".

Which is a start. Lest we forget, torture is a worldwide scourge, affecting three-quarters of the world. Acknowledging that it's as wrong when used against "terrorism suspects" as it is against political opponents or even minor criminal suspects is... well, progress.

What's far less encouraging is the fact that Obama is still talking about "making sure that lessons are learned and mistakes are resolved" (mistakes!?), and not about things like "making people properly accountable for their actions" or "bringing people to justice". Not a whisper about that. Indeed Obama even warns of the supposed dangers of being "sanctimonious in retrospect" about what the interrogator-torturers did. These too were "folks", he says, ones with a "tough job" (though maybe not as tough as those who were actually being waterboarded or being forced to stay awake for 11 consecutive days).

Obama's remarks are clearly preparing the ground for the long-awaited publication of at least part of the US Senate Intelligence Committee's mammoth (6,300-page) report into the activities of the CIA during its notorious rendition and secret detention programme. But whether anyone is actually going to be held responsible for authorising or carrying out crimes like kidnapping or torture is looking... far from certain. Obama's record on this is pretty awful. Shortly before his inauguration in 2009 he reassured any nervous Langley operatives that he didn't "want them to suddenly feel like they've got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders." Priorities, eh?

No, the worry here is that the White House is going to treat the CIA report as just another exercise in news management, just more PR firefighting. Rather embarrassingly, an internal "Talking Points" briefing prepared for White House officials by their US State Department colleagues recently appeared in public after accidentally getting sent to a journalist. This gave advice on how to deal with journalists' questions over the Senate report. I note that one question in this crib-sheet Q/A was "Will the Justice Department revisit its decision not to prosecute anyone?" I wonder what the "A" to that is...

We shall see. But what are the odds that the CIA will end up being ritualistically praised ("keeping America safe" etc) and that no-one will end up being punished? And if this fiercely contested (the CIA has already been caught spying on the Senate committee's computers) process doesn't produce anything approaching truth and justice isn't there a danger that whole chunks of the past will be more or less erased, just like those incriminating interrogation videotapes the CIA wiped back in the day. Remember what Jose Rodriguez Jr (forrmer deputy director of operations at the CIA, 2004-7,) said about that? If the world saw the tapes it would be "devastating to the CIA", he said, and "the heat from destroying is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into public domain".

Rodriguez et al may be sleeping slightly uneasily at the moment but it's still not looking especially likely that they'll have to fully account for their actions.

We tortured some folks. But did we also let some folks get away with it?

America's Identity Crisis

Jon-Christopher Bua   |   August 7, 2014   12:00 AM ET

As the global landscape rapidly changes Americans are re-examining their role in the world.

The aftermath of US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ever challenging events in the Middle East, the continued unravelling of the once hopeful Arab Spring, the mass migration of peoples to escape the dangers posed by this violence and the consequences of failed states around the globe are reshaping the world as we have known it.

These are not just far away problems anymore.

These same kinds of global pressures are producing a steady flow of illegal immigrants or "refugees" ( depending on your point view) along our own southern border with Mexico.

As far back as I can remember, America and her people saw themselves as "the champion of democracy" and the refuge for those who sought safety from persecution.

In fact, during its infancy America was the home sought by English "Puritans" who were seeking freedom from religious persecution.

In the 1600s these Puritans and "Pilgrims" came to Jamestown, Virginia and Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts to try to live freely and practice their faith in peace.

Thanksgiving Day Turkey Dinner notwithstanding, this unwanted invasion from England was not very welcomed by the Native American people who correctly perceived these newcomers as a threat to their way of life and their existence.

This group of "unwelcome immigrants" was the first of many waves to come to the shores of America either through Ellis Island or other places of entry.

Interestingly, Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the United States was the first president born a US citizen in 1782.

All seven of his predecessors were in fact born British subjects.

Immigrants still arrive daily on foot - sometimes wadding across rivers - by car, truck, bus, boat, train and plane.

In the past, many were greeted by Lady Liberty as they sailed into New York Harbor.

The inscription written by New York City born Emma Lazarus which adorns the base of the Statute of Liberty reflected the American sentiment at the time:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Today that quote might be "Give me your best educated engineers, your wizards of high tech and your engaging entrepreneurs - your best and your brightest, give me your Bill Gates, your Steve Jobs and your 'Googley' candidates yearning to be free to create, invent and invest."

Americans who have weathered a tough economic storm no longer seem willing to welcome those yearning for a better life.

They are in survival mode viewing each new immigrant as yet more competition in an ever-shrinking job market.

It is surely this economic pressure which has changed the attitude of those Americans who once swung open the doors of their hearts and homes to welcome and embrace newcomers to this land of opportunity.

Nowhere is this change more stark than in the argument about how to deal with the throngs of children crossing the US border on their own to seek a better life.

Depending on your point of view, these young children are either law breakers who must be sent home immediately or needful neighbors to be given refuge and protection from the dangers they are fleeing in their own countries south of our border.

The economic and political pressure caused by this latest wave of immigrants is forcing Americans to reconsider whether they still want their country to be a safe haven and refuge for those fleeing danger or economic hardship.

The idea of America as "the champion of democracy" worldwide is also being challenged.

After two back to back wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - costing billions in dollars and a far greater cost in the treasure of lives, Americans are asking "WHY"?

Before we defend democracy again on foreign soil, Americans are not only assessing the cost they are also assessing the gains.

Despite the promises of the politicians who sent a generation of America's youth into harms way, these wars did not pay for themselves, they did not create stable democracies that were friendly to US interests and did not turn out according to their plans.

So as Americans continue to watch Iraq unravel and question whether the same thing will happen once we exit Afghanistan, it is no wonder that they ask - was it worth the sacrifice?

It is not surprising that politicians tread lightly at the suggestion that Americans stand up to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Crimea or to ISIS as they brutally continue their takeover of Syria and Iraq and possibly most of the Middle East and Africa.

Even as Congress and President Obama approve more funds to support and protect America's closest ally in the Middle East - Israel - from Hamas rockets, some question whether Israel's latest actions in Gaza are in the long term best interest of both the US and Israel.

Americans are also questioning whether the long standing US Policy of a two state solution can actually ever work - and if it does, will it turn out as we hoped and planned.

Many have accused President Obama of leading from behind - perhaps he is simply trying not to get ahead of where the American people are as they begin to re-assess their role on the world stage.

We will only truly know the answer with the benefit of hindsight and the passage of time.

America and its people may be battle weary of shouldering the cost and the burden of "keeping" or as some may say "disrupting" world peace - it is after all a weighty responsibility to be so engaged.

Indeed, Americans and the idea of "America" are having an identity crisis; justifiably so, as the world beyond our boarders is experiencing serious growing pains as well.

No one country or one people should be expected to shoulder all the burdens on their own - and yet there is no one waiting in the wings to fill this role.

Although America's NATO allies assist when duty calls, none of them individually or as a group seems eager to assume America's traditional role and take on all her burdens.

I don't think America and its people are ready to cede its "greatest" appellation just yet, however I do believe they are struggling to find a balance and a new way to engage in this rapidly changing global landscape.

  |   August 5, 2014    4:48 PM ET

A soldier has been killed and a number of Britons injured in a suspected "insider attack" at a military academy in Afghanistan. The incident happened at the Afghan National Defence University in Kabul city when a man reportedly dressed in Afghan army uniform opened fire on foreign troops.

The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) confirmed one of its soldiers was killed, while Germany's Ministry of Defence said an army general was among 15 people injured. It is understood a number of Britons were wounded in the attack but their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.

A US official said the soldier killed was American, the Associated Press reported. The UK's Ministry of Defence said it was investigating reports of a shooting incident and "it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time". The incident took place at the site in the Qargha district of Kabul which also houses a British-run military academy - dubbed "Sandhurst in the sand".

A spokesman for Germany's Ministry of Defence said: "There has been an attack, probably through an 'inside attacker'...at 12.23pm Afghan time on August 5. At least 15 Isaf members were wounded, among them a German soldier who works as a brigade general. One Isaf soldier died from his injuries.

"The German general, who is not thought to be in a critical condition, is receiving treatment. His next of kin have been informed. An investigation into the attack is taking place." An MoD spokesman said: "We are aware of reports of an incident at Qargha. The incident is under investigation and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time".

An Isaf spokesman said: "Isaf confirms that an incident occurred today involving local Afghan and International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) troops at The Marshal Fahim National Defence University in Kabul City, Afghanistan. "At this time, Isaf can confirm one Isaf service member was killed. This incident is under investigation. It is Isaf policy to defer casualty identification to the relevant national authorities."

General Mohammmad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Defence Ministry, told the Associated Press a "terrorist in an army uniform" opened fire on both local and international troops. He said the shooter had been killed and that three Afghan army officers were injured.

A US official said one American soldier was killed in the attack and "about a dozen" of those wounded were Americans, AP reported. The attack was initially reported to have happened at the British-run training academy, dubbed "Sandhurst in the sand", which will be the only remaining British military presence in the country after operations end this year.

However it is understood the incident happened in another part of the large site at Qargha, where there are several training facilities. The attack comes as so-called "insider attacks" - incidents in which Afghan security forces turn on their Nato partners - largely dropped last year. In 2013, there were 16 deaths in 10 separate attacks. In 2012, such attacks killed 53 coalition troops in 38 separate attacks.

SEE ALSO:

Jessica Elgot   |   August 5, 2014    4:15 PM ET

A racist laser artwork of President Barack Obama swallowing a banana has been projected onto the facade of the US embassy in Moscow, wishing the US leader a 'happy birthday'.

On the front of the imposing building in the city's Presnensky District late Monday night, the green laser beams etched the words 'Happy Birthday Obama' on the day the President turned 53.

An image of the President in a party hat, with a banana moving into his mouth was then played out.

A group calling itself 'The Moscow Student Initiative' claimed responsibility for the projection, posting on its VK social media page: "Laser show at the US Embassy in Moscow as a gift to Barack Obama".

The group describes themselves as "an art group, a circle of common interests, activists, students, patriots".

"On the night of August 4, activists of the Moscow Student Initiative projected an extraordinary image on the US embassy. The image resembled the face of Barack Obama. The composition was animated and there was a diving banana in the mouth of the US President. At the end was the inscription 'Happy Birthday Obama'."

Ridus, a citizen journalism website in Moscow, said one man was detained by police after the images were projected.

The group also claimed responsibility for a banner close to the consular building for the US Embassy, which compared him to the 'Three Wise Monkeys'.

obama banner

The banner outside the US consulate

The banner reads: "Don't see. Don't hear. Truth for no one" — according to a translation by the Washington Post.

And on its VK page, Russia's answer to Facebook, the students also posted pictures of a sculpture of a white American with its arms folded and another two arms in its ears.

On its folded arms it says 'American democracy', with its body painted in the colours of the American flag and dollar bills stuffed in its folded elbows and armpits.

statue

One of the sculptures created by the Russian group

The group has previously projected #SaveKidsFromUkraine onto the Embassy building, in protest at US support for Ukraine's new pro-Europe government, which has been forcing out pro-Russia rebels in the countries East, causing civilian casualties.

A Century of Warfare: Analysing America's War Record Since WWI

Brad Linzy   |   July 31, 2014    4:33 AM ET

This past Monday, 28 July 2014 marked the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, a war which was supposed to have ended all wars, yet in hindsight, really began a century of warfare that raised the technology of killing to a high art and shuffled the decks of world power.

Although US involvement in World War I wasn't official until 1917, this conflict would herald the arrival of the US as an imperial power and set up a trail of political dominoes that are still falling to this day.

2014-07-31-americanposter.jpg

To better understand why I say this has been a century of warfare, particularly for the US, let's look at some raw numbers. While most war statistics focus on human casualties, and while most discussions of warfare hinge upon qualifications of justness or morality, for the sake of this exercise let's focus only on the duration of each war. What follows is a list of every major, official US military conflict of the past 100 years along with the number of days spent by the US in each engagement.

  • Word War I: 6 April 1917 - 11 November 1918 (585 days)
  • World War II:
    8 December 1941 - 2 September 1945 (1365 days)
  • Korean War:
    25 June 1950 - 27 July 1953 (1128 days)
  • Vietnam War (aka Second Indochina War):
    1 November 1955 - 30 April 1975 (7121 days)
    NOTE: Although this war is often officially cited as beginning for the US after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964, the US had been sending troops, arms, and tactical aid to South Vietnam as early as 1950. The start of the Second Indochina War is often cited as 1 November 1955, after the French withdrawal. While it may skew our traditional view slightly, I believe this start date affords a more accurate overall picture.
  • Panama Invasion (Operation Just Cause):
    20 December 1989 - approx, 1 April 1990 (103 days)
  • The Gulf War (Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm):
    2 August 1990 - 28 February 1991 (211 days)
  • Somali Civil War (Operation Restore Hope):
    4 December 1992 - 31 March 1995 (848 days)
  • Bosnian War (Operation Deliberate Force):
    30 August 1995 - 20 September 1995 (22 days)
    NOTE: this conflict was much longer and involved US-led intervention as early as 1992, but official US direct military involvement lasted through the dates above. This is a conservative estimate of US involvement.
  • Haiti (Operation Uphold Democracy):
    19 September 1994 - 31 March 1995 (194 days)
  • Kosovo War:
    23 March 1999 - 11 June 1999 (81 days)
    NOTE: dates reflect actual start and end of NATO bombing.
  • Afghanistan War (Operation Enduring Freedom):
    7 October 2001 - Present (4680 days)
  • Iraq War:
    20 March 2003 - 18 December 2011 (3196 days)
  • Libya Intervention:
    19 March 2011 - 31 October 2011 (227 days)

Total duration of US involvement in wars from 6 April 1917 to present is 19,550 days. That's over 53.5 years of war out of 100.

Here are the most "warlike" Presidents over this time period. Figures are calculated by the total number of days of all wars over which each presided. Multiple wars running concurrently are counted separately.

  1. George W. Bush, Republican (4797 days Afghanistan, and Iraq)
  2. Barack Obama, Democrat (3308 days, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya)
  3. Dwight Eisenhower, Republican (2097 days Korea and Vietnam)
  4. Richard Nixon, Republican (2028 days, Vietnam)
  5. Lyndon Johnson, Democrat (1887 days, Vietnam)
  6. Franklin Roosevelt, Democrat (1222 days, WWII)
  7. Bill Clinton, Democrat (1098 days Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, and Kosovo)
  8. Harry Truman, Democrat (1063 days, WWII and Korea)
  9. John F. Kennedy, Democrat (1037 days, Vietnam)
  10. Woodrow Wilson, Democrat (585 days, WWI)
  11. Gerald Ford, Republican (387 days, Vietnam)
  12. George H.W. Bush, Republican (362 days, Panama, Persian Gulf, and Somalia)

Democrats: 10,200 total days presiding over wars
Republicans: 9671 total days presiding over wars

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These numbers can paint an historical picture that looks somewhat askew from what we're used to. For instance, who would have guessed that Bill Clinton was more "warlike" than Harry Truman? Or that George H.W. Bush, who presided over three conflicts during his single term in office including the first Gulf War, would be at the bottom of this list? Or that the Democrats would be more "warlike" than Republicans?

In the case of Eisenhower, his numbers are inflated by the assertion that the Vietnam War started in 1955, not 1964 after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Eisenhower, who warned the world of the influence of what he called the "military industrial complex", did not start the Korean War and did not cave to pressure to increase US presence in Vietnam during his term, yet his numbers show him at #3 on the "Warlike Presidents" list nonetheless.

The same could be said of Kennedy. He resisted the same pressure to expand the war in Vietnam, yet he still sent troops, arms, and tactical aid to South Vietnam and racked up an entire presidency technically "at war".

This leads to an interesting debate about what constitutes "war". The US Constitution stipulates that only Congress can declare war, yet does not prescribe the exact methodology by which this must be done, hence we have a situation whereby every war starting with Korea onward has been "authorized" in one form or another by Congress, yet not officially "declared".

As Randolph Bourne said when writing about World War I in 1918, war is the health of the state. As America's power has grown, so has its propensity for war. Regardless of the debates about the justness or morality of war, the numbers have shown peace to be the exception in America while war has been the rule, making this last century since the start of World War I undeniably a century of warfare.