Weekend Edition Saturday

Saturday mornings are made for Weekend Edition Saturday, the program wraps up the week's news and offers a mix of analysis and features on a wide range of topics, including arts, sports, entertainment, and human interest stories. The two-hour program is hosted by NPR's Peabody Award-winning Scott Simon.

Drawing on his experience in covering 10 wars and stories in all 50 states and seven continents, Simon brings a humorous, sophisticated and often moving perspective to each show. He is as comfortable having a conversation with a major world leader as he is talking with a Hollywood celebrity or the guy next door.

Weekend Edition Saturday has a unique and entertaining roster of other regular contributors. Marin Alsop, conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, talks about music. Daniel Pinkwater, one of the biggest names in children's literature, talks about and reads stories with Simon. Financial journalist Joe Nocera follows the economy. Howard Bryant of EPSN.com and NPR's Tom Goldman chime in on sports. Keith Devlin, of Stanford University, unravels the mystery of math, and Will Grozier, a London cabbie, talks about good books that have just been released, and what well-read people leave in the back of his taxi. Simon contributes his own award-winning essays, which are sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant.

Weekend Edition Saturday is heard on NPR Member stations across the United States, and around the globe on NPR Worldwide. The conversation between the audience and the program staff continues throughout the social media world.

At a press conference Saturday, newly re-elected FIFA president Sepp Blatter was defiant, insisting he had nothing to fear from the ongoing investigation. NPR's Scott Simon talks with AP's Rob Harris.

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Armed Palestinian masked militants push back a crowd of worshippers outside ...
The human rights organization says Hamas deliberately killed at least 23 Palestinians during the war with Israel last summer. Those killed were accused by Hamas of collaborating with Israel.

During the upheaval of last year's war between Hamas and Israel, at least 23 Gazans were deliberately killed by their fellow Palestinians, according to a report out this week from Amnesty International.

Amnesty blames the killings on Hamas, which runs Gaza. It says those killed were accused of being collaborators — spies for Israel — and many were awaiting trial.

Hamas denies responsibility for the killings. But human rights groups, family members and prisoners agree there are dangers for Palestinians who are accused — perhaps falsely — of collaboration.

'Internal Security Can Take Anybody, Anytime'

Last summer, during the chaos of war, Waheb Wadiya buried his 34-year-old son Adli.

"We took him to the cemetery and buried him next to my father. He had been shot about a hundred times," Waheb says. "One shot in the eye."

Wadiya's son wasn't killed by an Israeli tank or bomb. He had been serving time in a Hamas-run prison inside the Gaza Strip since 2010.

Amer Wadiya, Adli's brother, says he tried to find out who was responsible for his death.

"After Adli was killed, I went to the prison and asked an official, 'Where is my brother?' He said, 'Internal security came and took him,' " Amer Wadiya says.

"I said, 'He was in your custody. How can others come and take him?' He said, 'Internal security can take anybody, anytime.' "

Adli Wadiya was among a group of 11 men Amnesty International says were taken from prison and shot at a police station a few days before the war ended late last August. Another six men were executed in public that same day. All were accused of collaborating with Israel.

Among Palestinians, collaborators are widely seen as traitors. They're subject to trial, and if their actions led to the deaths of Palestinians, they can face the death penalty themselves.

But human rights groups say the accusation is also used to settle political scores.

Waheb Wadiya believes Hamas labeled his son a collaborator because he was active in a rival political-military group.

"His lawyer proved he had never killed or turned in any Palestinian. Plus, my son told me he was innocent, but tortured into giving a confession," he says. "They tied his arms behind his back and hung him in the air. He would have even signed a paper saying God doesn't exist."

Voices From Inside Katiba Prison

Amnesty International says these executions under the cover of conflict could amount to war crimes.

Hamas said it wasn't responsible for the executions detailed by Amnesty and suggested vigilantes may have taken the law into their own hands. But accused collaborators still in prison in Gaza say they've seen this happen before.

Last September, with permission from Hamas authorities, I visited Katiba Prison in Gaza City — specifically, the section where accused collaborators are kept.

I spoke with inmates, unsupervised, in a dim, out-of-the-way room. One, who gave his name as Naim, said he was arrested in 2008 and, after being physically and emotionally abused in prison, confessed to helping Israel.

In 2012, during an eight-day war between Hamas and Israel, he says Hamas security forces took several accused collaborators, including him, out of the prison, and kept them elsewhere for five days.

"On the sixth day they took some men with them. They left me and another man. They executed the men they took away," Naim says. "Then they drove me back to prison. I said, 'Why are you putting me back in jail? Am I accused of anything?' "

Naim believes the fact Hamas didn't kill him at that time proves his innocence. In fact, he was released two months ago, after a new judge was assigned to his case. But in this murky world of collaboration there are always questions about who is really serving whom.

As I spoke with a second inmate, a guard started beating a prisoner nearby. The prisoner pled for mercy as the guard accused him of lying.

The inmate I was interviewing said this wasn't torture for a confession; just a guard mad at a prisoner for something.

"Don't panic," he said. "This happens all the time."

This inmate asked that his name not be made public. He is also accused of collaboration, which he denies.

During last summer's war, he says he saw more than a dozen men taken from this prison, where they were awaiting charges or appealing sentences. They were among those Amnesty says were shot and killed.

"These are people I lived with, I ate with. I knew them," the inmate says. "I think one or two were collaborators. The rest had made a lot of mistakes, but weren't collaborators."

Whether they were or were not, human rights advocates say someone needs to answer for killing them.

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Journalist Ayman Oghanna and Gen.Fadhil Barwari (right), commander of the Fi...
Ayman Oghanna was embedded with Iraqi special forces in Ramadi two days before the city fell to the self-declared Islamic State. He says Iraq's elite forces are capable, but need far more support.

More than a week ago, the Iraqi city of Ramadi, in Anbar province, was taken by the self-declared Islamic State.

The fall of that key city wasn't just a setback for Iraq: It was also a blow to the current U.S. strategy of trying to contain ISIS through air strikes.

Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militias allied with the Iraqi government continue to move against ISIS in Anbar Province. The battles bring back American memories. Some of the fiercest fighting in the Iraq War ocurred there, and many Americans died trying to win back the city of Ramadi from Sunni insurgents.

Photojournalist Ayman Oghanna was in Ramadi, embedded with Iraqi special forces just 48 hours before the city fell. He spoke with NPR's Scott Simon about what he saw on the ground.


Scott Simon: U.S. Secretary of Defense [Ash] Carter said last weekend that Iraqi forces in Ramadi ... had "no will to fight." Was that your impression?

Ayman Oghanna: No, that's totally false. The unit I was embedded with, the Golden Division, were Iraq special forces, and they were the most capable, disciplined military organization in the history of the modern Iraqi state. And in many ways they were failed perhaps more by America's strategy than by their own will to fight. ...

When the so-called Islamic State had its offensive through Iraq last year, the regular Iraqi army and police crumbed and melted away. In their place, the only effective fighting force, and the fighting force that was closest to the United States, was the Golden Division and ISOF, Iraqi Special Forces, set up by the U.S. Special Forces.

But you have to understand that a Special Forces unit is meant to do certain things. They are guys you want to use for precision offensive operations, like, you know, helicoptering into Syria and taking some guy out. But since the Iraqi army crumbled they were basically forced to do the job of the entire military. And that included being spread very thinly over a huge area, holding defensive positions against ISIS. When I was on the ground with them they complained about a lack of U.S. air strikes. And when I was there I did not see many air strikes.

There have been numerous press accounts that suggested that Iraqi forces had, by some estimates, a 10-to-1 advantage over ISIS.

The numbers, at this point, are irrelevant. The numbers that matter ... who are the numbers that are going to stay there and fight ISIS? And from the beginning there might be however many thousand policeman and Army, but they are not to be trusted. Every time that they have been faced with an ISIS offensive they have fled.

And the only people who remained behind were Iraq's Golden Division — the ISOF, their Special Forces. And their numbers are far smaller.

So at the strategic level, advice you might proffer to U.S. forces would be to increase the number of air strikes? Or what, exactly?

It's all very well for there now to be a debate in the United States about what level of support we need to provide our partners on the ground. But this was a conversation and a debate that should have happened a year ago. We haven't really done much, militarily, to support our partners — Iran has.

And maybe, sure, we have a debate and 12 months from now, we say, "Let's commit 10,000 U.S. Army Rangers and Special Forces on the ground to help our allies," but at that point the Iraqis might be like, "No, actually ... the Iranians [have] taken care of everything for us."

You're probably familiar enough with the U.S. policy debate to know that for a lot of Americans, priority No. 1. is, "No American boots on the ground."

Why?

Well, because a lot of Americans feel that enough Americans have died for Iraq already.

Died for what?

I think a lot of American servicemen and their families who lost lives and comrades in Iraq are feeling pretty disappointed that we're pulling out and almost letting them die in vain by not following through.

I mean, make no mistake, we are at war with the so-called Islamic State. Even if you don't think so, the Islamic State thinks that it's at war with us. And it wants to strike us everywhere it can. Inside America, inside Europe. And so we either fight them in Syria and Iraq, or we fight them somewhere else.

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