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Must Reads of the Week: Drone Strike Reparations, Reporting on Torture, and More

Author: CFR.org Editors
August 14, 2014

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"The Sistani Factor"
By Mohamad Bazzi
Boston Review

"Sistani represents the dominant theological school in Najaf, which rejects the Iranian model of rule by clergy. The Najafi clerics believe their role is to be spiritual leaders and not to participate directly in politics. Since the U.S. invasion, Sistani seized a more direct political role on several occasions, especially in 2004 when he lobbied for early elections and a constitutional referendum. But he never stepped into the political fray as forcefully as he has over the past two months, with his call to arms against ISIS and his leading role in Maliki's ouster. Sistani's actions could shift the historic debate regarding the position of clerics."

Volunteers for the Iraqi Army carry weapons and a portrait of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during a parade in Baghdad's Sadr City, June 14. Courtesy Reuters.
"Nothing Says 'Sorry Our Drones Hit Your Wedding Party' Like $800,000 and Some Guns"
By Gregory D. Johnsen
Buzzfeed

"As the nature and technology of war changed in the second half of the 20th century, particularly in Vietnam, the U.S. increasingly started to rely on a one-off system of "condolence payments," which allowed it to make reparations even when civilians were killed as a result of a combat operation. But unlike the Foreign Claims Act, there was no real structure to these payments. They were discretionary and left up to each individual commander. And since the money came out of each unit's operating budget, not everyone saw the strategic value of paying. Things got even more difficult when the U.S. started flying drones. Without troops on the ground, correcting and compensating for mistakes became much more challenging. Drones could fire missiles, but they couldn't redress grievances."

"In Turkey, a Late Crackdown on Islamist Fighters"
By Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet
Washington Post

"But in a region engulfed by a broadening conflict, Turkey is also reaping what it sowed. It is engaging in border shootouts with rebels it once tactically aided. It is confronting spillover violence, a cutoff in its trade routes and a spreading wave of fear in Turkish towns as the Islamic State wins over defectors from rival opposition groups."

"How American Journalists Covered Torture After 9/11"
By Eric Umansky
Columbia Journalism Review

"Reporters and news organizations deserve enormous credit for exposing the abuse and torture of detainees during the U.S. war on terror, more than other institutions or individuals...But just as sweeping attacks against "the media" are too reductive, so too are plaudits. And when the record on torture coverage is examined in detail, an ambiguous picture emerges: In the post-9/11 days, some reporters offered detailed accusations and reports of abuse and torture, only to be met with skepticism by their own editors. Stories were buried, played down, or ignored — a reluctance that is much diminished but still bubbles up with regard to the culpability of policymakers."

"Faces of the Border Crisis"
By Eric Benson
Texas Monthly

"The majority of these Central American immigrants are crossing over at Texas's Rio Grande Valley, surrendering themselves to Border Patrol, hoping the legal system will allow them to remain in the U.S. In order to take stock of the border situation in the Rio Grande Valley, we talked with a wide array of figures on the front lines to get various perspectives on this crisis. In this, the first of a five-article series, we profile Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley."

"All According to Plan: The Rab'a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protestors in Egypt"
Human Rights Watch

"Human Rights Watch's one-year investigation into the conduct of security forces in responding to these demonstrations indicates that police and army forces systematically and intentionally used excessive lethal force in their policing, resulting in killings of protesters on a scale unprecedented in Egypt."

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