Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Alex Johnson and Courtney Kube / NBC News – 2017-03-17 15:38:19
Trump Seeks Deep Domestic
Spending Cuts to Fund Military Increases
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(March 16, 2017) — Setting the stage for what could be a huge battle with Congress, President Trump is set to formally deliver a budget for fiscal year 2018 which includes massive cuts across several departments, centering on domestic spending, as a way to pay for his planned military spending increases without increasing the budget deficit.
As had been previously reported, big cuts are coming for the State Department (28%) and the Environmental Protection Agency (30%). The biggest cut on a dollar basis is actually to the Department of Health and Human Services, however, with its $19.5 billion cut, while the Departments of Labor and Agriculture are also seeing in excess of 20% cuts.
Making such a proposal and getting such a proposal through Congress, however, are two different things, and Congressmen in both parties are calling this effort “dead on arrival,” and say they doubt a lot of the cuts have much chance of getting through the Senate.
Perhaps the shift in budget priorities most conspicuously absent from the Trump proposal, at least the details shown so far, are the tax cuts President Trump had previously talked about during his address to Congress, as the talk of letting Americans keep more of their money appears to have lost out to the administration’s desire to increase military spending.
US Airstrike Hit North Syria Mosque, Killing Scores
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(March 17, 2017) — New evidence is emerging on yesterday’s bombing of a mosque in the Northwest Syrian village of al-Jineh, in the Aleppo Province, with reports of rising death tolls and recovered pieces of the bomb showing that it was, in fact, a US airstrike.
The Pentagon had initially denied that they had attacked the mosque [See story below â€“ EAW], but did claim that they attacked an “al-Qaeda meeting” right across the street from it. They even went so far as to speculate that someone else might’ve just happened to bomb the mosque around the same time.
The recovery of US bomb fragments from the mosque, however, changed this narrative, with CENTCOM now promising an investigation into the attack on the mosque. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll at 42, mostly civilians, yesterday, but the mosque had over 300 people inside at the time of the attack, and some are reporting the toll has risen to around 75 civilians.
On the border between Aleppo and Idlib Provinces, al-Jineh is in rebel-held territory, and the Pentagon’s claims regarding the strike suggest they believe the village is held by al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front, or at least used by them as a meeting place.
It wouldn’t be particularly unusual for Nusra to use a mosque as a meeting place, though in this case it appears they did not do so, and simply happened to be nearby. Given the small size of al-Jineh, most of the buildings of any size are likely at least relatively close to the mosque.
Civil defense team members try to rescue people who were trapped under the debris of a mosque after an aerial attack in the village of Al-Jinnah. Getty images
US Denies Striking Syrian Mosque
After Dozens Reported Killed
Alex Johnson and Courtney Kube / NBC News
(March 17, 2017) — US forces struck an al Qaeda meeting in Syria, killing several suspected terrorists, and are investigating reports that civilians were killed or injured in a nearby mosque, military officials told NBC News on Thursday night.
The officials made the comments after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a nonpartisan group based in Britain that catalogs military actions in Syria, said at least 42 people were killed in an airstrike on a mosque in the rebel-held village of al-Jinnah.
The organization said it didn’t know who launched the attack.
Some human rights activists and monitors alleged that the United States hit the mosque. But a senior US military official told NBC News that while there was a mosque about 50 feet from the US target, the United States has photographic evidence that the mosque was not hit and was still standing.
The official wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the mosque may have been struck or blown up later by someone else.
Al-Jinnah is located in one of the main rebel-held parts of Syria, the northwest that includes Idlib province and the western parts of Aleppo province, and its population has been swollen by refugees, UN agencies have said.
Rebels in northwest Syria fighting to oust President Bashar al-Assad also include groups supported by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.
The conflicting reports come one day after at least 25 people were killed in a suicide bombing at the main court complex in Syria’s capital, Damascus, on the sixth anniversary of the start of the uprising against Assad.
UN investigators reported early this month that both sides in Syria’s civil war committed repeated war crimes during the battle for Aleppo last year.
The Syrian and Russian militaries have carried out many airstrikes in Aleppo and Idlib provinces. The United States has also carried out strikes there in recent months, targeting a rebel group that until last year was an affiliate of al Qaeda.
NBC News reported Tuesday that the Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to make it easier for the CIA and the military to target terrorists with drone strikes, even if it means tolerating more civilian casualties.
The plan is part of a broad policy shift to grant the CIA and the military more autonomy to target and kill al Qaeda and ISIS militants without presidential authorization in Syria and other countries, US officials said.
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