What are we defending?
How Bush and Blair, heralds of the endarkenment, are destroying the very values that we are supposed to be defending
This page is not anti-American, but it is (like most of my American
friends) against neo-conservatives and fundamentalist 'religious' extremists
who betray enlighted values, and it is against those in the UK government who
have done so much to support them.
US demands war crimes immunityBBC News, 21 May 2004
A couple of quotations.
"The US is seeking to renew the immunity from prosecution enjoyed by American peacekeepers, with a resolution before the UN Security Council."
At last. Bush has gone, as well as Blair
A shameful era for the USA and the UK is at an end
Where to find out more: Useful linksDC politics RSS feed. (Click here for hints.)
Big brother is watching? Thanks to the liberal traditions of UCL, I am allowed to say what I like here. Contrast this with what I heard recently from a friend at the University of Texas. "I am reminded in print 4 times annually that I am NOT permitted to post anything political either via my web-site nor via UT e-mail. . . . .Land of the free, eh?" (My emphasis)
Ex-President Carter: Blair policy “major tragedy for the world”The Washington Post reports
Blair's Orwellian Society
The UK now has one CCTV camera for every 14 people.
UK Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, warned that a "climate of fear" may be created unless excessive surveillance is curbed, and said it was wrong that organisations could not be inspected without consent.
The Deputy chief constable of Hampshire, Ian Readhead said
Conscience: compare and contrast
David Keogh, civil servant, in court.
Keogh was tried under the Official Secrets Act for passing a document to an MP. The contents of the document were not revealed, but judging by its rumoured contents, it would have been embarrassing to Blair and Bush, but not dangerous to the nation.
"when he read it he felt morally obliged to get it into the public domain."
Result of doing what he thought was right: 6 months in gaol.
Tony Blair, prime minister, in his resignation speech
Result of doing what he thought was right: nothing.
For me, and for a lot of others, this resignation speech was sickening. We have the documentary evidence to prove beyond doubt that Blair must have known the notorious 45 minute claim was wrong at the time he said it. We have the evidence to know beyond doubt that Blair had committed himself to war before 9/11 and long before the parliamentary vote.
Many US soldiers approve of torture
Well, here's a surprise. A survey of US Forces by the Pentagon produced the following results (e.g. International Herald Tribune).
And they are just the ones who are willing to write down on an official form that they approve of torture and abuse. The real numbers are likely to be even worse.
No wonder we have seen, among other horrors, the killings of 24 civilians by marines in Haditha, Iraq, the rape and killing of a 14-year-old girl and the slaying of her family in Mahmoudiya, and the sexual humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib.
But what do you expect when their 'leaders' so openly advocate torture themselves?
Virginia Tech: who is surprised?
School and university shootups are regular occurrences in the USA. There have been nineteen school shootings in the last ten years (see BBC) . When it comes to homicide, the USA is more like a third world country than part of the developed world.
Nothing could be less surprising than that it has happened again.
“Virginia imposes few restrictions on the purchase of handguns and no requirement for any kind of licensing or training. The state does limit handgun purchases
to one per month . . . ”. “ . . . no regulations and no background checks are required for purchase of weapons at a Virginia gun show.” [New York Times]. And in Virginia it is legal to carry a concealed gun.
During the year 2000, an average of nine children aged 19 or under were killed with guns, a total of 3365 deaths. 80 people per day are killed in this way. What is totally baffling to a European reader is that so few people draw the obvious lesson. In the UK handguns are illegal. One hand-wringing student after another appears on TV and I have yet to hear one of them state the obvious.
It should be illegal for any private individual to possess a gun. Period.
The BBC quotes
“Student Billy Bason, 18, said: "I think the university has blood on their hands because of their lack of action after the first incident." ”
No, it is not the university that has blood on its hands. It is the US people, through their legislature, who are to blame. OK, I agree that it might have helped if the police had not treated the first two murders as a minor domestic incident, hardly worth bothering about. That itself tells you a lot.
Even two survivors of the Columbine massacre failed to draw the obvious conclusion. It is no good praying, just get rid of the guns.
Here is a helpful response from an American blog. You couldn't make it up however hard you tried. http://www.shelleytherepublican.com/2007/04/17/virginia-tech-shooting-a-chinaman-shooting-our-kids.aspx
Killing of Matty Hull by US Forces “amounted to a criminal act”
The video became public only after a copy was obtained by The Sun A defence analyst Paul Beaver said: "I can see no reason for classifying it, other than it is deeply embarrassing to the US military. He said it showed a "catalogue of errors" including pilots ignoring orange panels on vehicles - the NATO symbol for friendly forces "You have to ask were they fit for flying at that time? What sort of training do they have?" [BBC report]
Tne coroner's verdict was finally delivered in March 2007. He said
No American witnesses gave evidence at the inquest and the coroner was critical of the failure of the US authorities to co-operate.
Speaking at a State Department briefing in Washington, a spokesman said: "Clearly we don't agree with the assessment. What we have here is a tragedy that occurred during a time of war.” [BBC report]
With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Mousa murder -nobody guilty. UK allowed torture
“The lesson of these courts martial is not that modern legal codes fail to understand the nature of soldiering. It is that modern soldiers still fail to understand the nature of legality.” Editorial, Guardian, March 15th 2007
Major Michael Peebles and Colonel Jorge Mendonca, charged with 'negligently performing a duty', not for war crimes, were higher ranking than any brought to justice in the USA. If they were mot aware of how their men were behaving, they should have been, so the charges seemed entirely reasonable.
Now all but one of the men have been cleared. One reason was that the UK authorised the torture.
Who authorised what has, as usual, been kept secret. It seems quite clear from Judge McKinnon's comments that the British Army and/or the British government authorised acts that are contrary to the Geneva Conventions, The techniques of hooding, stress and sleep deprivation were outlawed by the Heath government. It seems they were brought back by Blair and Bush, under the revolting euphemism of "softening up for interrogation". because it was 'official' seems to have been at least part of the reason why this disgusting crime has gone largely unpunished. Just another whitewash. Not in my name. That is the Blair legacy.“US pressed British to 'toughen up' interrogation in Iraq” A report on the trial in the Glasgow Herald (December 14th 2006).
BBC TV Panorama: "A good kicking" (13 Mar 2007)
The trial cost £20 million, but nevertheless failed completely to penetrate the "wall of silence". Serious crimes have been covered up.
Director of Public Prosecutions says “There is no war on terror”It has been a recurring theme of this page that the threat to the UK has been greatly exaggerated by politicians. They have used it as an excuse to remove freedoms, civil liberties and privacy on an astonishing scale. One of the first entries on this page quoted Herman Goering (at the Nuremberg trials),
Iraqi army brutality
Meanwhile, the Bush-Blair solution continues to proceed in the way that many people predicted from the start. Channel 4 News, on the same day (24 Jan 2007) reports on the brutality meted out by the largely Shi'a Iraqi army in Baghdad. “Two journalists, embedded with the First Cavalry division, witnessed suspected insurgents being viciously beaten and abused” by the Iraqi army while US soldiers stood by, laughing and joking.
"The journalists were then threatened and held under armed guard by the Americans, as troops attempted to seize their footage."
Five years of lawlessness at Guantánamo
13 Jan 2007, and still not a single prisoner has been brought to trial. There is no end in sight for this blot on the face of the civilised world, despite Democrat victories.
Recently the Washington Post reported on yet more evidence of torture at Guantánamo, this time from the FBI.
Newspapers and politicians around the world (even some in Blair's government) have pressed for its closure. Nothing happens.
Nonetheless, the Bush era seems to have pushed the centre ground towards what would be called the extreme right anywhere else in the civilised world. There was a truly scary article in the Washington Post by Scott Adams, creator of the 'Dilbert' comic strip. The article ends with the chilling words.
Scott Adams seems to think the question of morality is quite secondary, a view that seemed to become quite common in the flat panic that gripped the USA after 9/11. I'll never look at Dilbert in the same light again. At least the comments that were posted about this article showed the USA in a rather better light.
One of many comments was in the Independent (9 January 2007). Here are some quotations.
You couldn't make it up if you tried.
Private Eye, and Hattersley
Another great cartoon from Private Eye, on the cover of their January 2006 issue,
Another enormous miscalculation by Bush and Blair.
As they both sink slowly into the sunset, there has been no shortage of obituary writers.
Roy Hattersley (a former Labour Home Secretary) wrote on 27 Dec 2006 of the destruction of the Al-Jamiat police station in Basra by British Army. On the morning of christnas day they reduced to rubble the headquartes of the Basra serious crimes unit.
Who knows Sunni from Shia?
This is a corker! Jeff Stein is editor of CQ Homeland Security, a daily news website from Congressional Quarterly. He interviewed several senior politicians, and what he found defies belief. This was published in the New York Times (Oct 17, 2006) and featured in a talk by Brain Walden on BBC Radio 4. Try these samples.
Mid-term elections 2006: are they so good?
The US mid-term elections on November 7th 2006 have been hailed as a revolution. Certainly the outcome is brilliant. Rumsfeld has gone at last and Bush has lost control of both House and (just) Senate. But the popular vote is not quite so encouraging. It is now widely accepted that Bush lied about the reasons for war (Blair too), that the war has been a disastrous failure, and that his administration has been corrupted by the vested interests of big business to an unprecendented extent. It seems to me therefore incomprehensible that nevertheless, in the senate race, 42.6% of the popular vote went to Republicans.
24,920,007 Americans voted for Bush
Neocons turn on Bush
That's better. 4th November, 2006, three days before the mid-term elections, Bush gets a triple whammy. First he's deserted by neocons, then he (well, Rumsfeld) is denounced by the military. And then Ted Haggard, the super-rich fundamentalist loon, is caught out in "immoral acts" and fired. Haggard is a firm supporter of President George W. Bush, and is often credited with rallying evangelicals behind Bush during the 2004 election.
The notorious Richard Perle who has already admitted that they got the aftermath of the war wrong. Now he says he'd never have gone to war if he'd foreseen what would happen.
Time for Rumsfeld to go
In another blow to Bush, an editorial writer said
“Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.”
650 000 dead in Iraq?
At the time of writing (Sunday 22 Oct, 2006) the Iraq Body Count counter at the top of this page gives the maximum nomber of deaths in Iraq as 49927, of which 14,000-16,000 are civilian deaths. That is quite bad enough. But the paper in The Lancet came as a shock when it suggested that the true figure was far higher. Gilbert Burnham and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore show a 95% probability that the death toll has been between 390,000 and 940,000, most of which were due to violence such as gunshots. This number was based on information on deaths gathered from 50 clusters, each of 40 households, which were randomly selected from 16 Governorates. It represents a death rate that is 58-fold higher than before 2003.
The US and UK governments were quick to dismiss this conclusion, though they have gathered no information about Iraqi deaths themselves. A commentary in Nature (J. Giles, Iraqi death toll withstands scrutiny, Nature 443, 728-729, 19 October 2006) concludes that the study, though limited to 1000 households, proovided the most accurate estimate available so far. Another analysis, in the Guardian, comes to a similar conclusion.Meanwhile, A senior US state department official, Alberto Fernandez, has said [BBC report, 22 Oct 06] that the
US has shown "arrogance and stupidity" in Iraq.
He made the remarks, in Arabic, during an interview with Arabic television station al-Jazeera. A State Department spokeaman said "What he [Alberto Fernandez] says is that it is not an accurate quote", but the BBC Monitoring Service has confirmed that Mr Fernandez did use the words "arrogance and stupidity" in his interview.
So they got there in the end. What took them so long?
And guess what? The next day Mr Fernandez had to retract. "Upon reading the transcript of my appearance on al-Jazeera, I realised that I seriously misspoke by using the phrase: 'There has been arrogance and stupidity' by the US in Iraq," [BBC News, 23 Oct]
Which countries support torture?
In a survey done by the BBC World Service of more than 27,000 people in 25 countries, people were asked if torture was acceptable if it could provide information to save innocent lives (see also here). You can see the complete results here.
The good news is that, overall, 59% were opposed to all torture. The bad news is that 29% were not. More interesting, though, are the differences between countries.
Europe did well, together with Australia and Canada. All had over 70% against torture.
Italy comes top, with the biggest vote against torture (81% ) and also the smallest vote for (14%).
The UK didn't do too badly with 72% against, but with 24% for it was the worst in Europe, and marginally behind Chile.
The USA was well down with 58% against (worse than Egypt, Chile, Poland, Turkey and Brazil) and 36% for (worse than Chile Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, Poland, Ukraine, S Korea, Brazil, and India).
Israel had the truly startling figures. Israel had one of
the smallest votes against torture (48%) (only Russia, with 43% was worse),
and the largest of any of the 25 countries for torture (43%). As though that
were not bad enough, the numbers for Israel are split along religious lines.
For the victims of the holocaust to vote like that must be the ulltimate irony.
General Sir Richard Dannatt contradicts Blair
Like most things to do with the Iraq conflict, the situation is upside down. Normally (outside the USA of course) we are accustomed to right wing military people being held in check by elected politicians. But in the case of Iraq it is exactly the other way round, as demonstrated repeatedly on these pages. If it were not for the consciences of military men and of military lawyers, we would not know as much of the truth as we do. Instead of there being conflict between a hard right wing military and liberal politicians, this time it is exactly the other way round.
Andrew Gilligan, in the Evening Standard (13 Oct, 2006), puts it bluntly.
“General Sir Richard Dannatt's interview this morning drops a nuclear bomb on the Government. At a stroke, Tony Blair's own most senior soldier, personally approved by him just six weeks ago, confirms everything the Prime Minister has spent the past three years denying - that our policy in Iraq is a bloody failure, that its people want us out, and that British actions have fuelled terror across the world.”
Postscript: another left-right reversal
A former director general of the prison service, Martin Narey, reports on the behaviour of a Labour Home Secretary. It seems that David Blunkett (a Home Secretary almost as illiberal as John Reid) told the prison service to call in the army and "machine gun" inmates in order to regain control of a prison riot. Mr Narey told The Times that the way Mr Blunkett behaved during the riot convinced him that he was not up to job of being home secretary.
Reid fights to end torture shield for terror suspects
Reid is a true man of the endarkenment. It says a lot for the present state of the Labour Party that this apology for a human being has been proposed by some as the next leader of the party.
Bush's latest wheezes: the endarkenment continues
On Thursday November 3rd, 2005 an editorial in the New York Times started thus.
“Amid all the natural and political disasters it faces, the White House is certainly tireless in its effort to legalize torture.”
This shameful betrayal of civilisation by the USA has been recorded in these pages, almost as much in disbelief as in anger. So has Blair's supine silence.
Since this page was last updated, 6 weeks ago, thing's have gone from bad to worse. Here are a few reminders, lest we forget.
Tony Blair gives his last speech to Labour Party conference. History will remember for him for his lies before the Iraq war, and his catastrophic mistake in following US neocons. At home, his advocacy of separate religious schools, and his defence of creationist nonsense, have both been disasters. What should have been a fine premiership turned out to be one of the more shameful of recent times. Pity.
Iraq goes from bad to worse. Manfred Nowak, the UN's chief anti-torture expertsaid that torture could be worse in Iraq now than it was under Saddam Hussein. "Everyone, it seems, from the Iraqi forces to the militias to the anti-US insurgents, now routinely use torture" (John Simpson, BBC News). Well, we did tell you, 3 1/2 years ago. The US reconstruction programme has been a disaster. US companies have got rich, and Iraqis stlll live in squalor.
Bush succeeds in legalizing torture.
In June 2006, the US Supreme Court ruled that the administration did not have the authority to try terrorism suspects by military tribunal, forcing the president to seek Congressional approval. Bush. of course, did his utmost to retain the power to torture and detain without trial as he wished, but even his own party rebelled against his extremism [see BBC News, and salon.com], and Mr Bush dropped his demand that CIA interrogators be protected from prosecution by redefining the Geneva conventions [I can't believe I'm writing that]. But the deal that was struck gave Bush most of what he wanted. Bush also admitted the existence of the secret CIA prisons that were for so long denied.
The pope condemns religious violence by muslims. Funny he quite forgot to mention the crusades or the inquisition. Muslims denied that they are violent and are so insulted that they threaten to kill everyone in sight. Funny old world
Religious fanaticism continues to advance, both in muslim countries and in the christian taleban of the US south. The harm done by religion becomes more obvious every day. For a good scare try "They cry, pray to Bush and wash out the devil - welcome to Jesus Camp" (report here. and look at the ABC News report on YouTube. Pastor Becky Fischer says of the kids she indoctrinates "I want to see them as radically laying down their lives for the gospel,as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine".
US Spies state the obvious. Bush denies the obvious.
The New York Times (23 Sept 2006) reported thus.
“A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks”
The White House directly contradicted its own intelligence agencies by saying "Since the Sept. 11 attacks, America and its allies are safer, but we are not yet safe". Of course exactly the same contradiction had already been made by Tony Blair. The intelligence agencies say exactly what everyone knew anyway. Government spokesman are wheeled on to swear that black is white.
A Great American
And now another: Tom Hurndall
A British peace activist shot in the head while observing the Israeli army in Gaza, in April 2003, has died in hospital.
A conviction at last!
Latest: after and indefatigable campaign by his parents to discover the truth, on 27 June 2005, a former Israeli soldier has been found guilty of the manslaughter of Tom Hurndall.
On 11 August 2005 the BBC reported that Hayb was convicted to 8 years in jail, 7 years for manslaughter and 1 year for the other charges. Amnesty International's Kate Allen said that while the person responsible for Mr Hurndall's death had been brought to justice, it was
A cartoon by David Horsey, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 18 March 2003
(For more brilliant cartoons, click here.)
Another David Horsey cartoon (26 October 2003)
The real motives for war are published quite openly -see the web site of New American Century , and here."For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." Paul Wolfowitz (US Deputy Defense Secretary).
"I think in this case international law stood in the way of doing the right thing." Richard Perle
Weapons of mass destruction found! (In Texas)For some quite unaccountable reason, the strange case of a Texas terrorist seems to have had very little publicity
Land of the Free, part 3.The following quotation comes from a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Secret Service confiscates anti-Bush drawings by 15-year-old at Prosser High
By D. PARVAZ AND KATHY GEORGE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTERS
A few political sketches took a 15-year-old Prosser boy from his art class to questioning by the Secret Service -- and thrust him into a debate over free speech.
On Friday, the boy was questioned by the Secret Service after his art teacher turned in sketches by the boy featuring President Bush.
The lawlessness began in January 2002 when Mr. Rumsfeld publicly declared that hundreds of people detained by U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan "do not have any rights" under the Geneva Conventions.Washington Post Editorial, 6 May, 2004).
TORTURE AT ABU GHRAIB
This important piece if investigative journalism, concerns a report on abuses as Abu Ghraib. The fifty-three page report was written by Major General Antonio M. Taguba, and completed in February 2004. It was not meant for public release, but a copy was obtained by the New Yorker.
"Army intelligence officers, C.I.A. agents, and private contractors "actively requested that MP guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses."."
"The picture he draws of Abu Ghraib is one in which Army regulations and the Geneva conventions were routinely violated, and in which much of the day-to-day management of the prisoners was abdicated to Army military-intelligence units and civilian contract employees. Interrogating prisoners and getting intelligence, including by intimidation and torture, was the priority. "
"No criminal proceedings were suggested for Karpinski;"
Comment in New York Times
She said that while the reservists involved in the abuses were "bad people" who deserved punishment, she suspected that they were acting with the encouragement, if not at the direction, of military intelligence units that ran the special cellblock used for interrogation. She said that C.I.A. employees often joined in the interrogations at the prison, although she said she did not know if they had unrestricted access to the cellblock.
Interrogation privatisedWashington Post, Tuesday 4 May
"More than two months after a classified Army report found that two contract workers were implicated in the abuse of Iraqis at a prison outside Baghdad, the companies that employ them say that they have heard nothing from the Pentagon, and that they have not removed any employees from Iraq."
" While Taguba did not excuse the actions of the guards, he saved his harshest criticism for four individuals: Pappas; Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, who directed the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center inside the prison; and Stephen Stephanowicz and John Israel, two employees of CACI International Inc., an Arlington-based security firm that hired interrogators to work at the prison.
The outcome, so far.Six (presumably junior) soldiers charged, six senior officers have been "reprimanded". The private interrogation contractors appear to be still working in Iraq, despite the recommendations of Major General Taguba.
Taguba's investigation recommended that she [Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who headed the 800th Military Police Brigade] be relieved of command and reprimanded for a series of command failures related to the abuse. While she says she has received an admonishment [milder than a 'reprimand'] from Sanchez, Karpinski's lawyer, Neal Puckett, said Monday morning his client has not been suspended or relieved of her command. Kansas City Star, 4 May, 2004
Quotation from LeaderThe Guardian 6 May 04
"The real responsibility rests with the commander himself and the entire chain of authority right up to the president who sanctioned or condoned a system imported from - need we be surprised? - Guantánamo Bay. We now learn that it was Gen Miller who last September, when he was still in charge of the US concentration camp in Cuba, visited Iraq to offer (as the Washington Post puts it) "suggestions on how to make interrogations more efficient and effective". The basic aim, he recommended, was that military detention centres in Iraq should serve as an "enabler for interrogation" and that the prison guards should "set the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees". And that is what they proceeded to do."
Extract from the report by Major General TagubaThe report can be read at Memoryhole.org
"2. (S/NF) The recommendations of Major General Miller’s team that the "guard force" be actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees would appear to be in conflict with the recommendations of Major General Ryder’s Team and AR 190-8 that military police "do not participate in military intelligence supervised interrogation sessions." The Ryder Report concluded that the OEF template whereby military police actively set the favorable conditions for subsequent interviews runs counter to the smooth operation of a detention facility."
Both Taguba and Ryder said the it was right that military police "do not participate in military intelligence supervised interrogation sessions.". Miller disagreed. It was Miller who was appointed to replace Karpinski when she 'resigned'. This is what Seymour Hersh said about that on Fox News
HERSH: No, look, I don't want to ruin your evening, but the fact of the matter is it was the third investigation. There had been two other investigations. One of them was done by a major general who was involved in Guantánamo, General Miller. And it's very classified, but I can tell you that he was recommending exactly doing the kind of things that happened in that prison, basically. He wanted to cut the lines. He wanted to put the military intelligence in control of the prison.
Iraq abuse: US policy or anomaly?Paul Reynolds BBC News 9-May-04
He [Major General Miller] told reporters who were shown the prison near Baghdad that sensory deprivation methods would now be used only after a general had "signed off" on them.
"We will examine very closely the more aggressive techniques," he said. But he did not say they would be stopped.
Yet he also said on Saturday that the Geneva Conventions would be applied in Iraq - they are not in Guantánamo though the Pentagon says their "spirit" is respected.
'Cooks and drivers were working as interrogators'Julian Borger in Washington. Friday May 7, 2004. The Guardian
Many of the prisoners abused at the Abu Ghraib prison were innocent Iraqis, picked up at random by US troops and incarcerated by underqualified intelligence officers, a former US interrogator from the jail told the Guardian.
Torin Nelson, who served as a military intelligence officer at Guantánamoo Bay before moving to Abu Ghraib as a private contractor last year, blamed the abuses on a failure of command in US military intelligence and an over-reliance on private firms.
He alleged those companies were so anxious to meet the demand for their services, they sent "cooks and truck drivers" to work as interrogators.
Senator Carl Levin (Senate Armed Services Committee)Quoted by BBC News
"Those abusive actions do not appear to be aberrant conduct by individuals, but part of a conscious method of extracting information."
International Red Cross reportBBC News, 8 May 04
The mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners in US custody is not limited to isolated cases but forms part of a systematic pattern, the Red Cross has said.
A spokesman said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had been warning the US about such cases for more than a year. He was responding to the publication of parts of a leaked ICRC report.
The document concluded that abuse of Iraqi detainees was widespread and in some cases tantamount to torture.
Some details of the International Red Cross report have now come to light!BBC News 10th May
The details are worse than one could have imagined. The Blair and Hoon claim not to have seen them. Rumsfeld and Bush claim not to have seen it. Why not?
The details (reproduced from Wall Street Journal) can be found on the web site of NPR. Alleged Methods of Ill Treatment. An Exerpt from the Red Cross Report on Prisoner Abuse in Iraq [ National Public Radio]
Not just Abu Ghraib. Now it is all coming out.
Secret World of U.S. Interrogation. Long History of Tactics in Overseas Prisons Is Coming to LightBy Dana Priest and Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, May 11, 2004; Page A01
The Washington Post
Memo warned of prison tacticsBy Dave Moniz and Tom Squitieri, USA TODAY 21 May 2004.
"WASHINGTON. A group of senior military attorneys sent a memo 15 months ago warning top Pentagon lawyers that prisoner interrogation policies at the U.S. detention center in Cuba could lead to violations of the Geneva Conventions and other rules prohibiting abuse, Defense Department officials confirmed Thursday."
"The judge advocates general were particularly concerned about a proposal to use extremely harsh methods against a detainee suspected of having specific information about a potential attack. Some of the methods were approved in that case."
Lawyer: U.S. general knew of Iraqi abuseSeattle Post-Intelligencer. 22 May 2004
" . . . a military lawyer stated at an open hearing April 2 that Capt. Donald J. Reese told him that Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez and other senior military officers were aware of the abuse at the prison."
" "Are you saying that Captain Reese is going to testify that General Sanchez was there and saw this going on?" "That's what he told me," "
" . . . Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, supervisor of the military intelligence operation at Abu Ghraib, was "involved in intensive interrogations of detainees, condoned some of the activities and stressed that that was standard procedure, what the accused was doing." "
THE GRAY ZONEby SEYMOUR M. HERSH
How a secret Pentagon program came to Abu Ghraib.
Issue of 2004-05-24 Posted 2004-05-15
"The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld's decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America's prospects in the war on terror."
Admiral Stansfield Turner (former Director of Central Intelligence Agency)Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, at 0810, Monday 10th May, Admiral Turner responded as follows.
Interviewer (James Naughtie): So what makes you say that what happened in that particular gaol in Iraq came from a general mood, or a general willingness, to see this happen at the top of the administration?
Admiral Turner: Well, if it was just the action of a few aberrant people, they either would have to have believed that their supervisors were going to condone what they did, or that they could get away with it because there was a lack of adequate supervision.
Quotations from editorial in the Army Times (a US military newspaper).For full text go to Army Times
Published: May 17, 2004
Editorial: A failure of leadership at the highest levels"Around the halls of the Pentagon, a term of caustic derision has emerged for the enlisted soldiers at the heart of the furor over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal: the six morons who lost the war.
Indeed, the damage done to the U.S. military and the nation as a whole by the horrifying photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at the notorious prison is incalculable.
But the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons."
"Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, also shares in the shame. Myers asked “60 Minutes II" to hold off reporting news of the scandal because it could put U.S. troops at risk. But when the report was aired, a week later, Myers still hadn’t read Taguba’s report, which had been completed in March. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also failed to read the report until after the scandal broke in the media. By then, of course, it was too late. "
"On the battlefield, Myers’ and Rumsfeld’s errors would be called a lack of situational awareness — a failure that amounts to professional negligence."
More good reporting of the horrorsEarly Iraq abuse accounts met with silence Seattle Post-Intelligencer 8 May 04
Videos Amplify Picture of Violence Washington Post May 21, 2004
Memo Gave Intelligence Bigger Role. Increased Pressure Sought on Prisoners Washington Post May 21, 2004
New Details of Prison Abuse Emerge Washington Post May 21, 2004
New prisoner abuse accounts emergeBBC 21 May 2004
Here is one quotation.
"I said to him, 'I believe in Allah.' So he said, 'But I believe in torture and I will torture you.'"
Punishment and AmusementDocuments Indicate 3 Photos Were Not Staged for Interrogation. Washington Post, 22 May 2004.
"Prisoners posed in three of the most infamous photographs of abuse to come out of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were not being softened up for interrogation by intelligence officers but instead were being punished for criminal acts or the amusement of their jailers, according to previously secret documents obtained by The Washington Post."
"He [Darby] said that he asked Graner, a Pennsylvania prison guard in civilian life, about the photographs. Graner replied: "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.' " ".
" Davis said the intelligence officers told Graner and Frederick: "Loosen this guy up for us. Make sure he has a bad night. Make sure he gets the treatment." "What is the name of the MI staff member who made the previously stated comments?" investigators asked. "I don't know the name because they often don't wear uniforms, and if they do they don't have name tapes," Davis said. ".
" Harman said she attached the wires to "Gilligan" and told him he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box. "Why did you do this to the detainee 'Gilligan'?" a military investigator asked. "Just playing with him," Harman said. ".
Good news: Miramax bought the film from Disney, and they WILL distribute it after all.(BBC)
"Director Michael Moore's controversial anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 has won the prestigious Palme d'Or best film award at the Cannes festival. It was the first documentary to win the top prize since Jacques Cousteau's The Silent World in 1956. The film received a 15-minute standing ovation when it was screened on Monday. BBC News, 22 May 2004
Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes BushBy JIM RUTENBERG
New York Times Published: May 5, 2004
"The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax said Tuesday.
The film, "Fahrenheit 911," links Mr. Bush and prominent Saudis — including the family of Osama bin Laden — and criticizes Mr. Bush's actions before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "
US to bring back draft?Thanks to John Sutherland (Guardian) for drawing attention to this item. Why, one wonders, is it not front page news in the USA?
Read about it at www.congress.org
"There is pending legislation in the House and Senate (twin bills: S 89 and HR 163) which will time the program's initiation so the draft can begin at early as Spring 2005 -- just after the 2004 presidential election."
"Congress brought twin bills, S. 89 and HR 163 forward this year, http://www.hslda.org/legislation/na...s89/default.asp entitled the Universal National Service Act of 2003, "to provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons [age 18--26] in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes." "
"College and Canada will not be options. In December 2001, Canada and the U.S. signed a "smart border declaration," which could be used to keep would-be draft dodgers in" . . . " Reforms aimed at making the draft more equitable along gender and class lines also eliminates higher education as a shelter. Underclassmen would only be able to postpone service until the end of their current semester. Seniors would have until the end of the academic year. "
New documents show that torture was indeed authorised from the topWashington Post, 12 June 04
"Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior U.S. military officer in Iraq, borrowed heavily from a list of high-pressure interrogation tactics used at the U.S. detention center in Guantánamo Bay"
"The list of interrogation options in the document closely matches a menu of options developed for use on detainees held by the U.S. military at Guantánamo Bay and approved in a series of memos signed by top Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. In January 2002"
"Then, in April 2003, Rumsfeld approved the use in Guantánamo of at least five other high-pressure techniques also listed on the Oct. 9 Abu Ghraib memo, none of which was among the Army's standard interrogation methods. This overlap existed even though detainees in Iraq were covered, according to the administration's policy, by Geneva Convention protections that did not apply to the detainees in Cuba."
Justice Department?Washington Post; New York Times, 7 June, 2004.
Full text of the 'legal' advice from Washington Post (pdf)
"In August 2002, the Justice Department advised the White House that torturing al Qaeda terrorists in captivity abroad "may be justified," and that international laws against torture "may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations" conducted in President Bush's war on terrorism"
"A team of administration lawyers concluded in a March 2003 legal memorandum that President Bush was not bound by either an international treaty prohibiting torture or by a federal antitorture law because he had the authority as commander in chief to approve any technique needed to protect the nation's security.
The memo, prepared for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, also said that any executive branch officials, including those in the military, could be immune from domestic and international prohibitions against torture for a variety of reasons."
Lynndie England sentenced
Lynddie England was sentenced to three years in jail and dishonourable discharge by a military panel, for abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib jail last year. [BBC News]. Private England is 22 years old. She is the 9th US soldier to be sentenced. The most noticeable thing about this list is that there is nobody above the rank of sergeant in it. The people really responsible, including General Miller, Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales are not in prison. In fact Gonzales was promoted to be Attorney General, no doubt as thanks for his legal opinion that the Geneva Conventions were "quaint".
Iraq abuse 'ordered from the top'[BBC News]
Gen Karpinski said military intelligence took over part of the Abu Ghraib jail to "Gitmoize" their interrogations - make them more like what was happening in the US detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which is nicknamed "Gitmo".
She said current Iraqi prisons chief Maj Gen Geoffrey Miller - who was in charge at Guantánamoo Bay - visited her in Baghdad and said: "At Guantánamo Bay we learned that the prisoners have to earn every single thing that they have."
"He said they are like dogs and if you allow them to believe at any point that they are more than a dog then you've lost control of them."
Report Details 'Kleptocracy' at Newspaper Firm
Richard Perle -more evil?The Washington Post, Aug 31, 2004.
A report by a special board committee, on the enormous rip-offs by Conrad Black and others at Hollinger Intrenational, singled out director Richard N. Perle, a former Defense Department official, who received $5.4 million in bonuses and compensation. Yes, that is the same extreme right wing Richard Perle who is so shameless that he contradicted Bush and Blair by admitting that the invasion of Iraq was illegal. Guardian
"The report said Perle "breached his fiduciary duties" as a member of the board's executive committee, signing documents without evaluating or, sometimes, reading them, including those that allowed Black and Radler to evade audit committee scrutiny. Perle received more than $3 million in bonuses and hundreds of thousands of dollars more in compensation from a Hollinger subsidiary that invested in new media companies during the dot-com boom. The report said Hollinger International put $63.6 million into 11 companies Perle recommended and lost nearly $50 million. "Perle was a faithless fiduciary . . . and . . . should not be allowed to retain any of his Hollinger compensation," the report said."
Guantánamo has 'failed to prevent terror attacks'Martin Bright, Observer 3 October 2004
Bush, Rumsfeld and Blair's torture does not even work"Prisoner interrogations at Guantánamo Bay, the controversial US military detention centre where guards have been accused of brutality and torture, have not prevented a single terrorist attack, according to a senior Pentagon intelligence officer who worked at the heart of the US war on terror.
Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Christino, who retired last June after 20 years in military intelligence, says that President George W Bush and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld have 'wildly exaggerated' their intelligence value.
Christino's revelations, to be published this week in Guantánamo: America's War on Human Rights, by British journalist David Rose, are supported by three further intelligence officials. Christino also disclosed that the 'screening' process in Afghanistan which determined whether detainees were sent to Guantánamo was 'hopelessly flawed from the get-go'."
Guantánamo Bay: America's War on Human Rights by David Rose is published by Faber on 7 October. To order a copy for £7.99, with free UK p&p, call the Observer Book Service on 0870 836 0885, or go to observer.co.uk/bookshop.
Why is war-torn Iraq giving $190,000 to Toys R Us?Naomi Klein, Guardian, 16 Oct, 2004
"Since Saddam was toppled in April, Iraq has paid out $1.8bn in reparations to the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC),"
" Here is a small sample of who has been getting "reparation" awards from Iraq: Halliburton ($18m), Bechtel ($7m), Mobil ($2.3m), Shell ($1.6m), Nestlé ($2.6m), Pepsi ($3.8m), Philip Morris ($1.3m), Sheraton ($11m), Kentucky Fried Chicken ($321,000) and Toys R Us ($189,449). In the vast majority of cases, these corporations did not claim that Saddam's forces damaged their property in Kuwait - only that they "lost profits" "
Threatening behaviour from Johns HopkinsMy colleague Steve Jones, Professor of genetics at UCL, writes an excellent science column for the Daily Telegraph. The issue of 13th October 2004 shows more graphically than any liberal critic could do, the danger that Bush poses to a free society. This is how the article starts (the emphasis is mine).
"A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed Richard Dawkins's new book Meet the Ancestors in the medical journal The Lancet. It's a good read, as one would expect, but I noted its several mentions of President Bush which - in spite of the remarks often made about his supposed resemblance to various primates - sit somewhat oddly in a tome on evolution.
I received an e-mail from a professor of internal medicine at Johns Hopkins University (a major American centre for biological research). He did not like the piece. "Little Stevie," he began (not a good start): "What I found was the grumbling of yet another toady prig who gets his jollies from Bush-bashing. Where did you cower during the London Blitz? Thank God the Atlantic separates us."
I was, I admit, no hero in the Blitz as I had omitted to be born in time but, stung by his comments, I fired off a brief and rude reply stating my intention to stay on this side of the ocean until after a Republican defeat in November. The distinguished professor's response was a bit of a surprise: "Have you thought of taking psychiatric advice for your delusional, paranoid disorder? Just in case you might change your mind about a visit, I'm going to have our Homeland Security put you on the suspicious person list."
False denunciations to the secret police are a reminder of a time and a place when paranoia was justified, but medical advice from Johns Hopkins is not to be set aside lightly. . . . "
Teaching torture: Congress quietly keeps School of the Americas aliveLos Angeles Weekly, Doug Ireland, July 2004
"Remember how congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle deplored the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib as “un-American"? Last Thursday, however, the House quietly passed a renewed appropriation that keeps open the U.S.’s most infamous torture-teaching institution, known as the School of the Americas (SOA), where the illegal physical and psychological abuse of prisoners of the kind the world condemned at Abu Ghraib and worse has been routinely taught for years."
The National Security ArchiveAn excellent source of information from USA
"The National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions in one non governmental, non-profit institution. The Archive is simultaneously a research institute on international affairs, a library and archive of declassified U.S. documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, a public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information through the FOIA, and an indexer and publisher of the documents in books, microfiche, and electronic formats."
Guantánamo torture and humiliation still going onVikram Dodd and Clare Dyer. Saturday December 11, 2004 Guardian
"Fresh allegations about a regime of torture and humiliation inflicted on detainees by their American captors at Guantánamo Bay have been made by a Briton still held there, according to Foreign Office documents seen by the Guardian."
"During a visit by a Foreign Office official on October 3, a record of which the Guardian has seen, Mr Mubanga was kept trussed up for the entire 60 minutes. The official noted: "Martin's feet were shackled to the ring in the floor." "
New jail abuse allegations hit USBBC 21 December 2004
"Memos between FBI officials detailing abuses, some dated after the Abu Ghraib jail scandal, were released as part of a lawsuit against the government.
"One of the memorandums released on Monday provided the account of an agent who observed "serious physical abuses" in Iraq."
"It was dated 25 June - two months after the extent of abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison was revealed - and was marked "urgent" and sent to FBI Director Robert Mueller."
"It described strangulation, beatings and the placing of lit cigarettes into detainees' ears."
"Another document said an executive order signed by President George W Bush had authorised techniques such as "sleep management", stress positions, use of military dogs and sensory deprivation."
Christmas eve news: torture advocate nominated again as Federal judge
The White House says President George Bush will try again to get Senate approval for 20 people he has nominated to become federal judges. BBC 24 September 2004. One of these is William Haynes, General Counsel to the Defense Department.
Haynes has been nominated to the influential 4th Circuit on the basis of his work as general counsel for the Department of Defense. In that capacity he has developed and defended three of the administration's most controversial policies: the refusal to treat any of the hundreds of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions of 1949; the department's military tribunal plan for trying suspected war criminals; and even the incarceration of U.S. citizens without counsel or judicial review. Washington Post
Military opposes nomination of torture advocate Gonzales for Attorney General
Gonzales Nomination Draws Military Criticism
Retired Officers Cite His Role in Shaping Policies on TortureBy Dan Eggen Washington Post, January 4, 2005
The signatories include Gen. John M. Shalikashvili (former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, former chief of the Central Command; former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill A. McPeak; and Lt. Gen. Claudia J. Kennedy. The letter "criticizes Gonzales for his role in reviewing and approving a series of memorandums arguing, among other things, that the United States could lawfully ignore portions of the Geneva Conventions and that some forms of torture "may be justified" in the war on terror."
"A dozen high-ranking retired military officers took the unusual step yesterday of signing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing "deep concern" over the nomination of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, marking a rare military foray into the debate over a civilian post."
"Today, it is clear that these operations have fostered greater animosity toward the United States, undermined our intelligence gathering efforts and added to the risks facing our troops serving around the world," the officers wrote, referring to the Bush administration's detention and interrogation policies."
" "Repeatedly in our past, the United States has confronted foes that, at the time they emerged, posed threats of a scope or nature unlike any we had previously faced," the letter reads. "But we have been far more steadfast in the past in keeping faith with our national commitment to the rule of law." "
According to the BBC, at the Senate confirmation hearings:
"Among those who will testify against Mr Gonzales will be John Hudson, a retired Rear Admiral and naval lawyer who calls the Gonzales memos "bad law, bad diplomacy, bad morality and bad politics. But the White House is standing firm by Mr Gonzales. "Judge Gonzales is a very trusted adviser to the president [who is] doing an outstanding job," "."
Read the original Gonzales-Haynes memos
"I note that you [GWB] have the constitutional authority to make the determination you made on January 18 that the [Geneva Convention] does not apply to al-Qaeda and the Taleban." [BBC]". . . neither the Geneva Conventions nor the War Crimes Act regulate the detention of Al Qaeda prisoners captured during the Afghanistan conflict." Justice Dept memo, 22 Jan 2002 (3.3mb pdf file)
Justice Dept memo, 1 Aug 2002 (27.5mb pdf file)
Senate confirmation hearings
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC, and Judge Advocate in the Air Force Reserve), questioning Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales. [click here]
" . . . this legal memo, I think, put our troops at jeopardy because the Uniform Code of Military Justice specifically makes it a crime for a member of our uniformed forces to abuse a detainee."
I would like you to reject, if you would, the reasoning in that memo when it came time to give a torturers view of torture. Will you be willing to do that here today?
Gonzales did not reject the memo., but is widely expected to become Attorney General anyway.see video of the hearings
So guess who the new Attorney General is?
Albert Gonzales confirmed as US Attorney General by Senate vote 60-36 [Washington Post].
University of California at Berkeley: law professor, John Yoo, advocates torture
It is one thing to have the extreme right in charge of the White House, but In my opinion, it is in same ways even more worrying to find they have penetrated the universities. In the UK, as everywhere, there is a range of political opinion in universities, but nowhere have I heard views expressed that are so deeply inhuman as those of Professor Yoo. If you want to be sickened by the depths to which the far right can descend, just try these. They represent, sadly, the extent to which terrorists have succeeded in reducing the USA to a state of trembling panic.
Terrorists have no Geneva Rights. John Yoo Wall Street Journal, May 6, 2004
International Court of Hubris. By John Yoo, Eric Posner
Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2004
Introducing the Asian Pacific American Hall of Shame & Our First Inductee, John Yoo
John Yoo knows no limits
Well I'll bet you thought the quotations above represented the very cesspit if utterances by any American (actually John Yoo came from Korea as an infant). If so, think again as you read the read this quotation from a debate held in Chicago on December 1st, 2005.
John Yoo publicly argued there is no law that could prevent the President from ordering the torture of a child of a suspect in custody – including by crushing that child’s testicles. This came out in response to a question in a December 1st debate in Chicago with Notre Dame professor and international human rights scholar Doug Cassel.
Well no wonder Bush seeks his advice.
This apology for a human being brings shame to his University. to his country and to the human race. According to Wikipedia "In the spring of 2006, John Yoo can be found teaching a course on Asian Law at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall. The course meets thursdays from 3:20-5:10pm in room 140."
Torture is just 'blowing off steam": Rush LimbaughPro-torture propaganda is broadcast to troops by Department of Defense's American Forces Radio and Television Service, says Mike Farrell
"Do the right thing." These were Secretary of State Colin Powell's words of advice to the Wake Forest University class of 2004 in his May 17 commencement address. Then Powell issued an incontrovertible condemnation of the actions of U.S. soldiers' abuse of Iraqi prisoners: "Our nation is now going through a period of deep disappointment, a period of deep pain over some of our soldiers not doing the right thing at a place called Abu Ghraib. All Americans deplored what happened there."
Well, perhaps not all Americans. There's at least one American [Rush Limbaugh] who has publicly praised, condoned, trivialized and joked about the abuse, torture, rape and possible murder of Iraqi prisoners. This American does not appear to be going through "a period of deep pain." This American has instead called the abuse "a brilliant maneuver" and compared it to a college fraternity prank.
He excused the actions of our soldiers this way: "You know, these people are being fired at every day. You ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of the need to blow some steam off?"
"The Rush Limbaugh Show" is broadcast every weekday directly to our soldiers in Iraq and around the world - to nearly 1 million U.S. troops in more than 175 countries and U.S. territories. Moreover, it is the only hourlong partisan political talk show broadcast daily to the troops."
Texas lawyer says Abu Ghraib is just cheerleaders having fun
Houston lawyer, Guy Womack, seems to have a curious idea of normal behaviour, according to report from CNN
White House Fought New Curbs on Interrogations, Officials Say[New York Times] [Washington Post]
"WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 - At the urging of the White House, Congressional leaders scrapped a legislative measure last month that would have imposed new restrictions on the use of extreme interrogation measures by American intelligence officers, Congressional officials say."
"The Senate had approved the new restrictions, by a 96-to-2 vote, as part of the intelligence reform legislation. They would have explicitly extended to intelligence officers a prohibition against torture or inhumane treatment, . . ."
". . . four senior members from the House and Senate deleted the restrictions from the final bill after the White House expressed opposition."
"The Oct. 18 letter said the administration opposed attaching the measure on intelligence officer interrogations and was signed by White House budget chief Joshua Bolten and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice."
Schwarzenegger's second real life killingBBC report (22 January 2005(. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian citizenship should be ended over the execution of a convicted killer in the US, a politician in Austria has said.
Mr Pilz said: "Capital punishment is unacceptable in Austria and in Europe, and no Austrian citizen may take part in it or arrange it."
I'll bet that is even more of a kick than slaughtering people in the movies, uh?
And now another. On 13th december 2005 [BBC News]. Schwarzenegger refused to commute the death sentence passed on Stanley "Tookie" Williams. No doubt he still thinks he's the 'tough guy' in one of his pornographically violent movies.
$8.8 billion of Iraqi oil revenue, intended for reconstruction, has vanishedWe have, rightly, heard much about the shocking mishandling of 'oil-for-food' money by the UN before the war [BBC news]. But for some reason the press, especially in the USA, has been almost totally silent about the loss of of over 40% of $20bn reconstruction money.
According to the BBC's File On 4 programme, and the auditors' chief of staff, Ms Ginger Cruz, $8.8bn has vanished, largely into the pockets of companies like Halliburton and Custer Battles.
$1.4bn had to be transported to a bank in three helicopters, as it weighed 14 tons, but no deposit slip was obtained when it was paid in.
"The report says that in one case some 8,206 guards were listed on a payroll but only 602 real individuals could be verified."
One US company is accused of massively inflating its profits by setting up sham companies to send fake invoices which the coalition paid. Others are alleged to have demanded dubious commissions which then came out of Iraqi funds. Even some Coalition officials are said to have openly demanded bribes of up to $300,000 in cash.
"Many Iraqis are angry at the way the Coalition handled funds, particularly the money from their own oil, and especially where inexplicable amounts ended up in the hands of foreign businesses."Listen to 1st Feb programme : [.mp3 file], or streaming audio [.m3u file]
Financial Times (Reuters)
But now a better report, in New York Times editorial
CIA prisoners 'tortured' in Arab jails
The next File on 4 program is equally revealing. "A former CIA official has confirmed suspicions that dozens of terror suspects have been flown to jails in Middle Eastern countries where torture is routinely practised, and without reference to courts of law." This is the disgraceful procedure known by the absurd euphemism, "extraordiary rendition" (see also here and here).
Michael Scheuer (former CIA agent): "Human rights is a very flexible concept... It depends how hypocritical you want to be on a particular day."Listen to 8th Feb programme [mp3 file], or streaming audio [.m3u file]
The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraibby Karen J. Greenberg (Editor), Joshua L. Dratel (Editor)
Buy (UK) Buy (USA)
This book assembles all the original memos and reports which US government officials wrote to prepare the way for coercive interrogation and torture in Afghanistan, Guantánamo, and Abu Ghraib.
"The Torture Papers may well be the most important and damning set of documents exposing U.S. government lawlessness ever published. Each page tells the story of U.S. leaders consciously willing to ignore the fundamental protections that guarantee all of us our humanity. I fear for our future. Read these pages and weep for our country, the rule of law and victims of torture everywhere."
Pentagon Will Not Try 17 G.I.'s Implicated in Prisoners' Deaths26 March 2005 New York Times
"WASHINGTON, March 25 - Despite recommendations by Army investigators [Army Criminal Investigation Command], commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 American soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004"
"Investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases, according to the accounting by the Army Criminal Investigation Command. The charges included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide. While none of the 17 will face any prosecution, one received a letter of reprimand and another was discharged after the investigations."
More information on US torture: this time in Mosul
Fresh details emerge of Iraqis' abuse by American soldiersIndependent 25 March 2005.
"Damning evidence of American soldiers abusing detainees at another prison in Iraq was made public yesterday. It details how prisoners were "systematically and intentionally mistreated" at a military base in Mosul, culminating in the death of one. Nobody was court-martialled over the abuse."
"The facility at Mosul was run by the 311th Military Intelligence Battalion of the 101st Airborne Division. In a memo, the investigating officer said: "There is evidence that suggests the 311th MI personnel ... engaged in physical torture." "
Army's Own Documents Acknowledge Evidence That Soldiers Used TortureAmerican Civil Liberties Union [ACLU]
"The American Civil Liberties Union today charged that the government is attempting to bury the torture scandal involving the U.S. military by failing to comply with a court order requiring release of documents to the ACLU."
"The reason for the delay in delivering the more than 1,200 pages of documents was evident, the ACLU said, in the contents, which include reports of brutal beatings, "exercise until exhaustion" and sworn statements that soldiers were told to "beat the fuck out of" detainees."
"The documents were supposed to have been turned over to the ACLU on March 21, but were not released to the ACLU until late on a Friday of what for many is a holiday weekend"
General Ricardo Sanchez did authorise torture
The suspected documentation has been released [BBC] [ACLU] [documents]
"The top US general in Iraq authorised interrogation techniques including the use of dogs, stress positions and disorientation, a memo has shown."
"The document was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the US Freedom of Information Act."
"The ACLU says at least 12 of the 29 techniques listed in the document went far beyond limits established by the army's field manual."
"Gen Sanchez authorised interrogation techniques that were in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions and the army's own standards,"
"The September 2003 document is signed by the then commander of US forces in Iraq, Gen Ricardo Sanchez. "
Army Clears Sanchez et al. There's a surprise.
The Washington Post says
“An Army inspector general's report has cleared senior Army officers of wrongdoing in the abuse of military prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere”
In the light of the evidence on this page, much of it from Army and CIA sources, that is simply laughable (though it is much too serious for laughter). If you thought you lived in a democracy where the guilty are punished, forget it (unless, of course, your rank is sufficiently low).
Amnesty International spokesman Alistair Hodgett said (BBC News).
Suppression of freedom of speech in universities
Univesities, where people are meant to think, are always targets for extreme right wing regimes. Here are a few examples from the USA.
No free speech in Texas
Big brother is watching? Thanks to the liberal traditions of UCL, I am allowed to say what I like here. Contrast this with what I heard recently from a colleague at the University of Texas.
"I am reminded in print 4 times annually that I am NOT permitted to post anything political either via my web-site nor via UT e-mail. . . . .Land of the free, eh?"(My emphasis)
No free speech in Georgetown universityThis is quoted from the Georgetown's Newspaper.
"Students planning to study abroad must agree to adhere to strict 'Conditions of Participation.' The Office of International Programs states in these conditions that any student found guilty of 'participation in political activities' — marching in an anti-war protest, for instance — while abroad is subject to discipline 'including but not limited to immediate dismissal from an overseas program and/or sanctions by the GU Office of Student Conduct.' This is the same punishment that is meted out for sexual harassment and 'criminal conduct of any kind'."Oddly enough, I have come across some very dubious behaviour from Goergetown University before. When a very obviously fraudulant paper was referred to their ethics committee, they found nothing wrong! See my quack page for the details of this disgraceful episode. How odd that this behaviour comes from a university the boasts of its Catholic and Jesuit identity.
A right-wing political takeover of the universities
A disturbing report in Nature describes the introduction, in several US states, of "Academic Bills of Rights" [pdf file]
"Along with introducing protection from discrimination based on political or religious convictions, a bill being proposed in Florida calls on faculty members to refrain from introducing “controversial matter" unrelated to the course subject. It also requires them to present 'serious scholarly viewpoints' other than their own."
"On 22 March, Dennis Baxley (Republican, Ocala), who is backing the bill, said that it would make sure that alternatives to evolution are not shut out of universities."" 'This effort is part of a larger pressure on higher education to politicize the agenda,' says Ruth Flower, the AAUP’s director of public policy".
The terrifying case of Dr Butler
A scientist persucuted by a paranoid and unjust government
Dr Thomas Butler used to work on plague at Texas Tech (Lubbock, TX). In January 2003, Butler found that 30 vials were missing from his lab, and he very properly reported the disappearence. Instead of being thanked, his troubles then began. Here is an extract from a statement made by four Nobel prize-winners, Peter Agre, Sidney Altman, Robert Curl, and Torsten Wiesel
Dr Butler has enormous support from scientists.
But Butler received very little support from his own employer or colleagues. One letter of support came from Thomas M. Lehman, a "distinguished geologist at Texas Tech University", who sent a letter regarding the Thomas Butler case to several Texas Tech colleagues in early January 2004. Read the letter here. What makes the letter interesting is that in it, Dr Lehman describes himself as "very conservative Republican". Here are some extracts.
In a second letter, Dr Lehman examined the facts again.
Death in BagramA a 2,000-page document leaked from a US army investigation has been obtained by the New York Times. See also, BBC News. The report investigated the treatment of two Afghans who died in custody at Bagram (north of Kabul) in December 2002. Here are some extracts from their account of it.
In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths
“The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.”
And so it goes, on and on. Yet another story of sadistic soldiers acting as though they were in a pornographic Hollywood movie or internet chatroom, under the impression that their president had authorised it. Which, of course, he had. Once again, what are we defending?
An army insider blows the whistle on human rights abuses at Guantánamo
War on words: some fine gobbledygook!
The following fine bit of prose is an extract from a report on the web site of the Multi-National Force Iraq. With clear and incisive brains like this on the job we have, uh, nothing to fear. Right?
What every American needs to know about Israel/PalestineIf Americans Knew is an interesting US web site, which states its aim thus.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the world’s major sources of instability. Americans are directly connected to this conflict, and increasingly imperiled by its devastation. It is the goal of If Americans Knew to provide full and accurate information on this critical issue, and on our power – and duty –to bring a resolution.
The site gives detailed factual charts and statistics that don't seem to get much publicity on Fox News, or even on CBS. Here are three examples.
CIA Avoids Scrutiny of Detainee Treatment
More horrors reported in the Washington Post, March 3rd, 2005. Yet another exmaple of the 'civilisation' that Bush is defending. Here are some quotations.
Guantánamo, FBI, Amnesty and Newsweek
The Amnesty International Report 2005, gives details of abuses in 149 countries. Among the 149 countries, the USA featured as follows.
When Newsweek Magazine reported abuses at Guantánamo Bay, they became they brought upon themselves the wrath of the Pentagon and right wing press, and were bullied into withdrawing the report (so much for a free press) [BBC].
Yet soon after Newsweek's report, both an Army Investigation and FBI documents verified that the report was essentially correct. None of this prevented US general Richard Myers from describing the Amnesty International report on Guantanamo Bay as "absolutely irresponsible". [BBC]
The FBI documents were made public on Wednesday 25 May 2005, after a request from the human rights group American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). After interviewing a detainee, an unnamed FBI agent wrote on 1 August 2002:
Guantánamo a “tremendous failure” says military lawyerGuardian June 16th, 2005
Navy Lieutenant Commander Charles Swift, testifying before the first full Senate hearing on the Bush administration's treatment of detainees since the "war on terror" began, said that the military tribunals of suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay were a "tremendous failure"
Medical involvement in torture in US bases
Several articles have appeared on the involvement of medical personnel and psychologists in torture; for example here and here. Social psychologists have sought to make torture seem normal. Two lawyers, Gregg Bloche (Georgetown University) and Jonathan Marks (Matrix Chambers, London, and Georgetown), have written "Doctors and Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay" in the New England Journal of Medicine (June 2005), and "When Doctors Go to War" (New Engl. J. Med. 352:3-6, Jan 6, 2005). Here are some quotations.
The New York Times reports on these articles, and other related cases.
USA in denial about global warming
The Observer of 19th July 2005 has obtained documents which show the extraordinary lengths to which the White House is prepared to go, to conceal from the public the facts about global warming. Here are a few quoutations.
Fahrenheit 9/11 wins CBS People's Choice Award
Michael Moore's site has a fascinating 6-section list of links that verify many of the facts in the film'
Abu Ghraib Tactics Were First Used at Guantanamo
A new military investigation that shows the tactics were employed there months before military police used them on detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. [Washington Post, 14 July 2005]
"almost all the tactics were "authorized" interrogation methods and by definition were not abusive" must take some sort of prize for circular arguments.
But guess what? General Miller will NOT be reprimanded, despite the recommendation of the Army investigators.
US military investigators tried in vain to get a former Guantanamo Bay prison commander reprimanded [BBC News]
The Truth About Abu Ghraib
Editorial in Washington Post, 29 July 2005
Grand Theft Auto -violence, sex and hypocrisy
One of the signs of Western civiliation, which we wish to export to the world. is ultra-violent computer games, like Grand Theft Auto. These games use vicious sadism as a form of amusement. You can buy them at Amazon. Now for one of the year's more mind-boggling bits of hypocrisy. The sadistic nature of the game escaped much criticism from politicians, but now, shock-horror, somebody has introduced sex scenes into it. Suddenly "The House of Representatives has overwhelmingly called for investigation into the companies behind the game." [BBC News]. Such a distorted sense of what is shocking might explain a lot. Like Abu Ghraib, for example.
Intelligent enough to die
I was already a research student when the last execution occurred in the UK, in 1964. A year later it was outlawed. Now, 40 years later. those times seem like the dark ages. It is quite inconcievable that we could ever return to that sort of barbarity. Nobody (apart from a handful of Daily Mail readers) could imagine that.
A jury in the US state of Virginia has decided that a man with learning difficulties on death row is intelligent enough to be executed.
P.S. The convicted man was black. The jury was all white.
Right-minded Americans fight back with road signs. Here are some examples from Freewayblogger.com. Go there for more. We need a few more of these in the UK.
Aerial blog - Flown over Super Bowl, Houston TX
Pat Robertson advocates assassination: with christians like this, who needs enemies
This must take some sort of record for evil by christians. Pat Robertson, the US televangelist and founder of the Christian Coalition. On his TV show he said that the US should assassinate the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. [BBC], [Reuters]
Here are some more words of neanderthal wisdom from Robertson.
feminism "encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."
"If they look over the course of 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," he said in May of this year in response to a question during an ABC interview about whether activist judges were more of a threat to the United States than terrorists.
Late in the 2004 presidential race, Robertson told CNN that during a meeting with Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq, the president told him he did not believe there would be casualties. The White House strongly denied the claim.
Robertson's "700 Club" reaches an average of 1 million American viewers daily, according to his Web site.
Robertson also seemed to agree with that other fundamentalist fanatic, Jerry Falwell, when he blamed the atrocity on September 11th, 2001, on civil libertarians, feminists, homosexuals, and abortion rights supporters.
I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, "You helped this happen."
Nothing new about assassinations?
For an interesting history of earlier attempts by the USA to kill leaders of other countries, look at the Washington Post article by Lynne Duke (24 August 2005).
“The broad U.S. history of assassinations against foreign leaders is long, colorful and still controversial.”
Senate votes against torture, but Bush disagreesNew York Times Washington Post BBC News
The US senate voted 90 to 9, to pass the bill sponsored by Republican Senator John McCain. The bill bans "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" against anyone in United States government custody.
Funny, I thought the Geneva conventions already did that, but not in the eyes of the White House it seems.
But the bill applies only to the US Army. It does not cover techniques used by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Apparently, then, the CIA is still allowed to use "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment"
One might think this bill was a minimal response to recent events, but it is not minimal enough for George Bush.
The White House threatened to veto a $440 billion military spending bill if the detention amendment was tacked on, saying it would bind the president's hands in wartime.
“Opposing the effort, Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, said that requiring American troops to follow procedures in the Army manual was not practical in the current war environment.”
So according to this senator, torture by the army is bad except when there is a war. And these are the people from whom our prime minister takes his directions.
Abuse of the Patriot Act
This report appeared In the New York Times (1 Nov 2005), and in the International Herald Tribune. Once again we see that politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are eager to exploit threats, real and imagined, to pursue their own frighteningly totalitarian agenda. The next item is still worse.
CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons
More horrific news in the Washington Post (November 2nd, 2005). Are US papers at last doing the job that journalists should do, but failed so signally to do in the run up to the Iraq war?
This long article is a wonderful bit of reporting that exposes the depths to which the Bush administration has sunk. Read it!
White House attempts to legalise torture
The Washington Post revelations (previous section) have at last provoked other US Newspapers to speak out. The The New York Times (and International Herald Tribune) has had highly critical comments on two consecutive days. On Wednesday November 2nd, their report started thus.
“More than three years after President George W. Bush determined that the Geneva conventions did not apply to the fight against terrorism, his administration is embroiled in a sharp internal debate . . . ”
The next day, the comment was more caustic. The editorial begins thus.
Hang on. Just read that again. A major US Newspaper has stated that their president is making tireless efforts to legalise torture. Once again, I come back to the title of this page. What on earth are we defending?
You can read and hear more about 'extraordinary rendition' here.November 7th 2005. The stories continue The Washington Post says
"Over the past year, Vice President Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects, according to defense, state, intelligence and congressional officials."And on the same day that Bush claims "we do not torture" [ BBC News], five more US soldiers are charged with doing just that (low ranks as usual, no doubt).
November 9th 2005. It is reported that the CIA is starting a criminal inquiry into who told the media that it runs secret jails abroad (as reported above). [BBC News] . This news has two obvious implications,
Bush and Cheney's efforts to legalise torture defeated
BBC News (16th December 2005) reports that the story above has turned out well, for a change. When outvoted by both Houses, Bush and Cheney had to give up their efforts to legalise torture (pinch yourself -yes we are talking about the USA in the 21st century).
Of course it remains to be seen what difference the new legistlation makes to what goes on behind closed doors in secret prisons.
USA used white phosphorus on civilians in Fallujah. UK too?
More on white phosphorus (15th November 2005)
A big article in the Independent gives more details. It seems that US military documents have now come to light that confirm the use of white phosphorus, despite initial denials by the US government.[see the Field Artillery Magazine]. The magazine says
The Pentagon has confirmed that US troops used white phosphorus
BBC News had an interview with Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Barry Venable (listen to robocop here). He confirmed that white phosporus was used but said that is quite OK because “White phosphorus is an incendiary weapon, not a chemical weapon”.
This being done in YOUR name, by the government elected by the US citizens, and with the uncritical support of the UK government. Be angry.
The main editorial in the Independent starts thus.
Leading article: An attempt to excuse the inexcusable
16th November 2005: the UK admits to using phosphorus weapons too
BBC News reports that the UK has now admitted that we too have used white phosphorus weapons in Iraq. The defence secretary, John Reid, said he could not answer for the US use of the substance. But he said:
Can we believe what our government tells us? If it were true that weapons are not used against civilians, then no civilians would have been killed in Iraq. That is palpably absurd. Politicians might have a better reputation if the did not treat the citizens as though they were incapable of thinking for themselves. And they might have a better chance of being believed when they make statements like that if they did not have a record, now proved beyond a shadow of doubt, of having been 'economical with the truth' in the run up to the war (and if the US government had not lied initially about its use of phosphorus).
17th November 2005. The legal status of white phosphorus is discussed on BBC News.
20th November 2005. The Daily Telegraph carried two items about white phosphorus: "Tim Collins trained troops to fight with white phosphorus", and "I watched US use 'shake and bake' ", by Toby Harnden.
22nd November 2005. More illegal weapons?George Monbiot, in the Guardian, quotes some interesting military sources.
How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'
The Los Angeles Times has a detailed account of the misuse of intelligence information by the Bush administration in the run up to the Iraq war.
“The Iraqi informant's German handlers say they had told U.S. officials that his information was 'not proven,' and were shocked when President Bush and Colin L. Powell used it in key prewar speeches.”
Colonel Wilkerson: Cheney's war crimes?
Once again it seems that we have to rely on soldiers and military lawyers to get anything like the truth. Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, was, until January this year, General Colin Powell's chief of staff. He was at the very heart of the Bush administration and knows exactly what went on. Now he has spoken about it. Yet again, one's worst fears turn out not to be paranoid, on the contrary, the truth is worse..Report in Independent.
Read transcript of interview with Col. Wilkerson (BBC Today programme, 29 Nov 05) (pdf file, 18 kb). Here are some quotations from the transcript of the interview with Carolyn Quinn.
False news in Iraq
The Los Angeles Times (3 Dec 2005) reveals a few more lies and deceptions.
The Niger forgeries
Yet more tortuous deceptions in the forged documents that purported to show that Iraq had obtained or was seeking uranium in Niger. It is now know that these documents were already known to be forgeries when they were used as part of the justication for war byTony Blair in late 2002, and by Gorege Bush in January 2003. The Los Angeles Times (3 Dec 2005) has more details.
Where shall we invade next? A vox pop from CNN
A CNN reporter asks members of the public "in terms of the war on terror, who do you think should be the next country to invade?". And asks them to put a flag pin in the country they name.See the movie [wmv file, 3 Mb)
US bars access to Red Cross
We all knew about this despicable behaviour, but now it is official [BBC News]
The US has admitted for the first time that it has not given the Red Cross access to all detainees in its custody. The state department's top legal adviser, John Bellinger, made the admission but gave no details about where such prisoners were held.
US, guns and 9/11
Nothing very original about finding an American opposed to guns, but this one is more poignant than most. Jenny Price wrote in the Washington Post, on christmas day, 2005.
Think about 12000 murders with handguns. That is around 50000 people since 9/11. It dwarfs even the worst ever terrorist massacre. It is like having a 9/ll every three months, year in, year out. Perhaps the war on terror is looking at the wrong place. The National Rifle Association has been responsible for far more deaths than any terrorist. Born-again Bush supports them.
Freedom of speech? Cindy Sheehan arrested
Cindy Sheehan tried to attend the State of the Union speech. She was arrested, Read her acount here.
“This afternoon at the People's State of the Union Address in DC where I was joined by Congresspersons Lynn Woolsey and John Conyers, Ann Wright, Malik Rahim and John Cavanagh, Lynn brought me a ticket to the State of the Union Address. At that time, I was wearing the shirt that said: 2245 Dead. How many more?”
Conservative means something quite different in the USA
Neo-conservatives admit 'we were wrong' (but Mr Blair still does not)
I still have difficulty in believing the news this week. Some of the most extreme right-wing conservatives in the USA (and hence anywhere in the world) have come to a view not entirely dissimilar to those expressed on the streets of London by the anti-war demonstrators in early 2003. The Independent, 9 Mar 2006, [front page]. Robert Cornwall comments on “ . . . the blatant contradiction between the neo-cons' aversion to government meddling at home and their childlike faith in their ability to impose massive social engineering in foreign and utterly unfamiliar countries like Iraq.”
William Buckley Jnr. INFLUENTIAL CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST AND TV PUNDIT
“One can't doubt the objective in Iraq has failed ... Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an army of 130,000 Americans. Different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgement of defeat.”
Francis Fukuyama. AUTHOR AND LONG-TERM ADVOCATE OF TOPPLING SADDAM
“By invading Iraq, the Bush administration created a self-fulfilling prophecy: Iraq has now replaced Afghanistan as a magnet, a training ground and an operational base for jihadists, with plenty of American targets to shoot at.”
Richard Perle. ARCH-WARMONGER AND PIVOTAL REPUBLICAN HAWK
“The military campaign and its political aftermath were both passionately debated within the Bush administration. It got the war right and the aftermath wrong We should have understood that we needed Iraqi partners.”
Andrew Sullivan. PROMINENT COMMENTATOR AND INFLUENTIAL BLOGGER
“The world has learnt a tough lesson, and it has been a lot tougher for those tens of thousands of dead, innocent Iraqis ... than for a few humiliated pundits. The correct response is not more spin but a sense of shame and sorrow.”
George Will. RIGHT-WING COLUMNIST ON 'THE WASHINGTON POST' AND TV PUNDIT
Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, no less, told the Los Angeles Times that the "potential is there" for sectarian violence to become full-blown civil war. And "We have opened the Pandora's box and the question is, what is the way forward?"
Zalmay Khalilzad was one of the signatories to the original Neo-conservative statement of principles in 1997, along with (among others) Jeb Bush, Dick Cheney, Francis Fukuyama, I. Lewis Libby, Dan Quayle, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz,
The demonstrators in 2003 could see very clearly the likely consequences of the unilateral invasion. Very sadly almost all of our predictions have come to pass. How could all these neo-cons be so wrong? I imagine it was because they placed ideology above common sense. They truly represented the age of (self)-delusion.
Free speech? McCarthyism returns to US schools and universities
University professors denounced for anti-Americanism; schoolteachers suspended for their politics; students encouraged to report on their tutors.
A special report on the USA in The Guardian (4th April, 2006), by Gary Yonge, makes scary reading.
This is the land of the free in action. You can say whatever you want as long as it isn't the tiniest bit 'liberal'. Truly scary.
Seven generals turn on Rumsfeld: he approved torture
Washington Post (14 April 2006).
Gen. Anthony Zinni (retired Marine Corps General) told CNN Rumsfeld should be held responsible for a series of blunders, starting with "throwing away 10 years worth of planning, plans that had taken into account what we would face in an occupation of Iraq."
Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack *( led the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, now retired). "I really believe that we need a new secretary of defense because Secretary Rumsfeld carries way too much baggage with him," said retired Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack, who led the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq.
Major Gen. John Riggs (retired) told National Public Radio that Rumsfeld had helped create an atmosphere of "arrogance" among the Pentagon's top civilian leadership. "They only need the military advice when it satisfies their agenda. I think that's a mistake, and that's why I think he should resign,"
Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq before his retirement, urged Rumsfeld on Wednesday to resign.
Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold (Marine Corps, retired) and Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton have also spoken out against Rumsfeld.
General Wesley Clark (retired four-star general. Formerly NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe) “ . . . I felt that the administration's entire direction of policy with regard to the war on terror was a mistake. We should have fought in Afghanistan and finished off Osama bin Laden. The war in Iraq was unnecessary. Secretary Rumsfeld was the officer in charge as the Secretary of Defense. He's the number 2 in the chain of command to the president and I believe Secretary Rumsfeld hasn't done an adequate job. He should go.” (Fox News, 15 April, 2006)
Rumsfeld approved torture at Guantanamo
An army report obtained by Salon.com show the most direct link so far between Donald Rumsfeld and prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay. The give the full text of interviews with Lieutenant General Randall M. Schmidt [download pdf], and General James T. Hill [download pdf]. Salon.com comment as follows.
The Guardian reports
Middle East: Reaping what Bush sowed
The terrible events in Lebanon have some obvious causes that seem to me to be discussed lucidly in an article in the International Herald Tribune (July 19th 2006). Here are some extracts.
Sir Menzies Campbell (Lib Dem leader) sent a letter to Mr Blair. [BBC]
Civil war: another prediction coming true
While we are on the topic of how a miilion people on the streets of London could see the outcome of the Iraq war more clearly than the president and prime minister, this is what we got in August 2006.
"The sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it," Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "If not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war." [Washington Post]
A new low point? Israel kills UN observers
Four unarmed UN observers in Lebanon were killed by an Israeli precision guided missile. after their observation post had been shelled for six hours. The dead men were from Austria, Canada, China and Finland.
The UN observation post was marked as such on Israeli military maps. According to a UN report, the UN observers contacted Israeli troops 10 times, asking them to stop. Each time the UN contacted Israeli forces, they were assured the firing would stop.
Ireland's foreign ministry said that a senior Irish soldier working for the UN forces had warned the Israelis six times that their bombardment was endangering the lives of UN staff. It did not stop.
This attack on unarmed neutral people appears, therefore, to have been deliberate. Israel denies that it was deliberate. It is being investigated, but only by the people who perpetrated it.
It is hard to exaggerate how much this sort of thing causes harm to the reputation of Israel.
Torture in Iraq was "routine"
Accounts from the soldiers involved shows, yet again, that the torture of prisoners in US custody in Iraq was authorised and routine even after the Abu Ghraib scandal came to light. [BBC] [Human Rights Watch] [The full report].
And still nobody above the rank of Sergeant has been convicted.
No academic Freedom at Roosevelt Univsersity
This item is on my religion and education page. Sign the petition!
Intelligence officer fired for criticising Blair over Iraq's WMD
One colleague said yesterday: "It's rather ironic that the only person who goes as a result of the Butler inquiry is someone who told it as it was."
Shame: British judges endorse evidence obtained by tortureSimon Jenkins The Times, 18 August 2004.
"Three appeal court judges inexplicably found in favour of Mr Blunkett, albeit one of them with reservations. Lord Justice Laws declared himself quite unable to see why the Home Secretary should not rely on evidence gained by torture, if the torturers belonged to states over which he has no power of direction". Torture is apparently fine so long as the torturers are not British. "
" Any British court should abhor the same methods of interrogation that were ghoulishly attributed to Saddam Hussein and the Taleban to justify war against their countries. Britain is already guilty by association for the shocking acts perpetrated at Abu Ghraib. British commanders must have suspected what was going on, since similar practices were being used in the British-ruled south. The West’s whole case before the Muslim world is based on its superior respect for human rights. Torture should be as unthinkable in a war against individuals as nuclear weapons now are in a war against nations."
"In The Times on Monday a former immigration scrutineer, Sir Brian Barder, attacked the appeal court decision. Surely, he said, the court should have issued “a ringing condemnation of reliance on evidence obtained by torture, wherever and by whomever practised, as a basis for imprisoning people indefinitely and without trial".
"It is scarcely believable that such words need writing in Britain in the 21st century. They do. "
Shame: British Foreign Office endorses evidence obtained by torture
The leaking of a classified memorandum from Craig Murray, UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan, showed his courageous opposition to the [UK] government's use of information extracted under torture in Uzbekistan.
"This material is useless, we are selling our souls for dross," Mr Murray wrote. "Tortured dupes are forced to sign confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe - that they and we are fighting the same war against terror. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek Security Services, via the US. We should stop. This is morally, legally and practically wrong."
The practice, he added, "fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture; they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results."
The Foreign Office indicated that it would evaluate intelligence even if it had been extracted in other countries under torture.
Once again, the UK government shows it cares little whether evidence was obtained under torture, as long as somebody else does it (such as the governments of Uzbekistan, or of the USA).
Now it seems that Mr Craig is to be fired by the Foreign Office, allegedly after pressure from the USA and Uzbekistan.
Postscript, 15th October, 2004. Yes, the Foreign Office did fire another person who dared to tell the truth
Craig Murray speaks out. Jack Straw himself decided to ignore Uzbek torture
In June 2005, Craig Murray gave an extended interview with John Humphrys (of Today Programme fame). It seems that he was summoned to a meeting in Whitehall in March 2003. He was told that the information he had sent to the UK and it had been considered by the head of MI6 and by the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, personally and that Jack Straw had decided the information obtained under torture should continue to be received. He was told that he was causing a problem, and that he should shut up.
A number of almost entirely trumped up charges were levelled at Mr Murray by the Foreign Office as an excuse to get rid of him. He was threatened with prison (under the Official Secrets Act) if he said anything about the matter. He was pushed out, though 16 of the 18 charges against him were later dropped (and the other two were trivial).
It was clear that Murray's courage in speaking out were not appreciated by the US ambassador in Uzbekistan, who was saying that all was well. Later in the interview, Craig Murray speculates that the reason for his being pushed out was that Uzbekistan was part of the disgraceful US policy of "extraordinary rendition" (see also here, and here). As yet, we still don't know, but sadly it is only too plausible in view of the open US support for the Uzbek president famed for boiling prisoners alive (see below).
Extradition without chargeThe extradition agreement, 2003, constitutes yet another erosion of the right to fair trial in the UK, imposed on us by Blair and Blunkett. The following description comes from Statewatch. See also Amnesty , and check how your MP voted.. And look at the case of Babar Ahmed who may be extradited to the USA without prima facie evidence being presented.
"It removes the requirement on the US to provide prima facie evidence when requesting the extradition of people from the UK but maintains the requirement on the UK to satisfy the "probable cause" requirement in the US when seeking the extradition of US nationals."
"Under the new treaty, the allegations of the US government will be enough to secure the extradition of people from the UK. However, if the UK wants to extradite someone from the US, evidence to the standard of a "reasonable" demonstration of guilt will still be required."
"No other EU countries would accept this US demand, either politically or constitutionally. Yet the UK government not only acquiesced, but did so taking advantage of arcane legislative powers to see the treaty signed and implemented without any parliamentary debate or scrutiny."
Latest: 17 May, 2005 A district judge has ruled that British terror suspect Babar Ahmad can be extradited to the United States.
See many other reports at Statewatch.org
Queen's Speech -be scaredSImon Jenkins commented on the Queen's Speech in The Times, 24 November 2004. (For non-UK readers, I should say that the Queen's Speech is read by the Queen, but written by the government, a circumstance that can lead to high farce]
" Yesterday's seven “tightening" Bills on law and order in one Queen's Speech was absurd, an insult to British liberty. They come after no fewer than 43 similar Home Office Acts since Tony Blair came to office. What was so inadequate about them as to demand this last-minute legislative blitzkrieg? The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, is part Lenin part Papa-Doc Duvalier."
"The Civil Contingencies Bill grants ministers unprecedented special powers. Mr Blunkett can do literally anything he likes. He need not even cite an emergency, merely his own belief in an intransitive “threat". This need not be of terrorism but could be no more than damage to property, ecology or “the money supply". He can override free speech, habeas corpus and the Bill of Rights. He can disregard both the courts and Parliament."
UK Officials warned of abuse, but the reports were suppressed -by whom?Britons sounded alert on Abu Ghraib. Stephen Grey, Sunday Times, 5th December 2004
"BRITISH officials in Iraq warned the Foreign Office and American authorities of serious concerns about the treatment of prisoners six months before the torture and sexual abuse at Abu Ghraib was revealed."
"Gareth Davies, governor of Pentonville prison in London, discovered in December 2003 that Americans were using leg irons and belly chains to hold prisoners — a violation not only of new Iraqi laws adopted by coalition forces but also, he believed, of international conventions and of Britain's 1833 Abolition of Slavery Act."
"Davies, awarded an OBE yesterday for his six months' work in Iraqi prisons, protested to American and British officials. He also withdrew British prison staff from Baghdad to avoid complicity in any wrongdoing."
"A Foreign Office spokesman said Davies was among other civil servants who had warned of mistreatment as far back as the summer of last year. 'Ministers were kept informed of those concerns and these issues were raised through appropriate channels', he said".
"Ann Clwyd, Tony Blair's envoy on human rights in Iraq, said she was never informed. 'I think officials knew, but politicians did not', she said".
Mousa's death leads to war crimes charges against UK soldiers
Six months after the High court judgement, BBC News (20 July, 2005) announced that three British soldiers will face charges of committing war crimes. Eight other soldiers face lesser charges.
The charges faced by three of the men - of "inhuman treatment of persons" - were brought under the International Criminal Court Act 2001 and will be tried as war crimes. They will be tried by British courts martial, not at The Hague, because the UK has acted voluntarily to bring the charges.
It is a credit to the British government that they signed up to the International Criminal Court Act 2001, and a credit to the British Army, that they have used the act it what seems to be an appropriate way. The USA, of course, refused to sign up to the act. It is also a credit to the UK that two of the men on trial (though for 'negligently performing a duty', not for war crimes) are higher ranking than any brought to justice in the USA (Major Michael Peebles and Colonel Jorge Mendonca). Let us hope that justice is done.
Just one problem. It should not be for the army to decide what is a war crime, and what is not.
BBC News reports that Tory MP Ben Wallace, a former soldier in the Scots Guards, criticised the decision to charge the men, saying "the chain of command does not stop with commanding officers but goes right to the door of Number 10". That sounds familiar, but it didn't get anywhere in the USA or here.
Once again, the courts protect us from a government with little regard for the law.
Guardian, 21 December 2005
The next day, Phil Shiner commented as follows. He is a solicitor at Public Interest Lawyers, which is acting for the families of the six Iraqi men in these cases.
Blow to Blair and Hoon: High court rules against torture in Iraq"The High Court ruled on Tuesday that Baha Mousa's death in British custody in Iraq fell within the European Convention on Human Rights." BBC 14th December 2004
Baha Mousa was an Iraqi civilian who was allegedly kicked and beaten to death by UK soldiers. The UK government, in the form of Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, who appears to think that the alleged behaviour is perfectly all right if it is done abroad, disgracefully refused to have an independent enquiry [BBC 28th July 2004]. Now they have been overruled.
And another blow from the Law Lords: detention without trial is illegalThe government's policy of detention without trial was described by the Law Lords as "draconian" and "anathema" to the rule of law, in a judgement that overturned government policy by an 8-1 majority.
"Detaining foreign terrorism suspects without trial breaks human rights laws, the UK's highest court has ruled."
"In a blow to the government's anti-terror measures, the House of Lords law lords ruled by an eight to one majority in favour of appeals by nine detainees." BBC 16th December 2004
"The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory." Lord Justice Hoffmann, in the 8-1 ruling of the Law Lords that the UK government's policy of detention without charge is illegal. [Washington Post] , [Original report]
Full text of the judgment (Appellants) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department
The following quotations are based on the front page of the Independent, 18th Dec. 2004
Neither the judgement of the courts, nor quotations like these, appear to impress the present government. The new Home Secretary
Government admits it behaved illegally (but their solution is hardly better)
Home Secretary Charles Clarke, today accepted the Law Lords judgement that the detention of foreigners without charge was indeed illegal. [BBC News, 26 Jan 2005]
Instead of keeping them in prison without charge, he now proposes to keep them under house arrest without charge. And detention without charge will now be extended to UK citizens as well as foreign citizens. "The proposed changes would mean the home secretary could order British citizens to be held under house arrest without putting them on trial."
It is not yet clear whether this means that the UK will continue to be the only country in Europe to opt out of European human rights laws, but Charles Clarke says he is quite happy to contunue to opt out if necessary.
So that's OK, no discrimination now. Anyone can be held without charge or trial.
BBC 27 Jan 2005 Charles Clarke said "A lot of the discussion around this revolves around the extent to which I as home secretary or the prime minister or the head of the security services or the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police can be trusted with the assessments that we make... and that's a real issue."
Exactly. And after the way in which the prime minister and the head of the security services handled the Iraq intelligence, and produced the absurd "dodgy dossier" of September 2002, and the part-plagiarised dossier of Feb 2003, does Mr Clarke seriously think they are trusted?
So what happened next?
Blair abolishes Habeas corpus: the terrorists win again. Despite a valiant battle in the House of Lords, Tony Blair, acting like a monarch, has forced through a measure that allows the detention of any British citizen without charge or trial, and without being told of the evidence. After the bill was nearly defeated in the Commons, it was voted down repeatedly in the Lords. Eventually a few trivial concessions were made, just enough to bring pusillanimous Labour back benchers to heel, and, to their shame, just enough to make the conservatives and liberal democrats drop their opposition in the Lords. Legislation that destroys some of our most ancient rights was pushed through in very short time. The standard of evidence needed to get the 'knock in the night' is still the lowest possible, 'reasonable suspicion'; both Lords and Commons failed to get this changed, even to 'balance of probabilities'.
The excuse, as always, was 'if you had seen what I've seen you'd be very frightened'. In the words of Herman Goering (at the Nuremberg trials),
How afraid should we really be? Well a bit, for sure. After all, Bush and Blair have done enough to ensure a plentiful supply of terrorists. But for a view that the threat to Britain from Islamic militancy is far less serious than the government is telling us, see Be afraid, perhaps. But very afraid?, by Jason Burke in the Observer, 13 March 2005
The UK is the only country in Europe (including Spain) to do this, and the only country to opt out of the European Convention on Human Rights. Unlike the USA, we have lived through (US funded) terrorist bombings in London, without sinking to the depths of Blair and Clarke. [HR watch]
More on Habeas Corpus
It's a funny old world when you have to rely on Michael Howard and the hereditary Tory peer, the 7th Earl of Onslow, to be the guardians of free speech and liberty. But that is precisely what happened when Tony Blair suspended Habeas Corpus. Despite a valiant battle in the House of Lords, Tony Blair, acting more like a monarch than a prime minister, has forced through his house arrest laws. These allow any British citizen to be detained without charge or trial, and without being told of the evidence.
Here's a quiz. Who said this?
These remarks were quoted by the Earl of Onslow , a hereditary Tory peer, during the marathon debate in the House of Lords on the Prevention of Terrorism Bill (second reading, 1 March, 2005). [Hansard]
The noble Lord continued thus.
You may not guess it, but those quotes were made by an up-and-coming young barrister who, at that time, led for the Home Office when Mr Clarke was renewing the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1993. Noble Lords may just have guessed who that up-and-coming young barrister and Member of Parliament was. It was the right honourable Anthony Blair.
What has made him change his mind? Has he suddenly allowed it to go to his head? Yesterday, on "Woman's Hour" of all places, he suddenly announced that there were hundreds of terrorists out there. If there are hundreds of them out there, why have none of them been arrested and charged or is he making up the whole lot? It is either crass incompetence on behalf of the security services or it is wild imagination on the part of the First Lord of the Treasury.
Now the UK's turn to torture[ BBC News]
It has taken a lot longer for the UK photographs to be made public than was the case in the USA. And whereas the USA (Rumsfeld, Rice) have been explicit in endorsing breaches of the Geneva conventions (as shown elsewhere on this page), the UK has, as usual, been more secretive. As a result it is not clear to what extent breaches of the Geneva conventions have been endorsed by Blair and Hoon.
The most striking similarity to Abu Ghraib an Guantánamo lies in the fact that those on trial are very junior (two lance corporals and a corporal). But "Lieutenant Colonel Nick Clapham, prosecuting, told the hearing the camp's commander Major Dan Taylor had ordered looters should be "worked hard". This breached the Geneva Convention, Lt Col Clapham said."
More details [BBC]
Mr Giret [defence counsel] blamed a military plan known as Operation Ali Baba - referring to the story Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves - for the alleged offences.
Camp commander Maj Dan Taylor, responsible for Operation Ali Baba, told his troops to catch looters who had been stealing food and "work them hard", the court heard.
Mr Giret told the court: "The whole reason he [Cpl Kenyon] is in the dock stems from those who gave the order to operate the plan Ali Baba."
This order contravened the Geneva Convention, according to prosecution lawyer Lt Col Nick Clapham.
Why is Major Taylor not on trial?
Major 'destroyed abuse evidence'[Latest news: BBC]
The commanding officer of three British soldiers accused of abusing prisoners destroyed his records two weeks before their court martial, a court has heard.
Maj Dan Taylor admits telling the troops to "work them hard" but denies ordering them to "beast" the prisoners.
The outcomeBBC 26 Feb 2005
Cooley, 25, was jailed for two years while Kenyon, 33, received an 18 month sentence and Larkin, 30, 140 days. The highest rank to be brought to account was corporal Kenyon.
General Sir Michael Jackson said that although no criminal action had been taken against Maj Taylor, "administrative action" remained a possibility.
Well, there's a surprise; nobody above the rank of corporal has responsibility. And if it had been left to the military, probably they would have not been caught anyway. The assistant in a photographic shop who spotted the pictures, and took action, arguably has more integrity than the army and Geoff Hoon.
Lawyer resigns over terror lawsBBC 19 December 2004
A senior barrister, given special security clearance to act for suspected terrorists, is to resign in protest at the government's anti-terror laws.
Ian MacDonald QC said he was stepping down after seven years "for reasons of conscience" because the "odious" laws were a "blot on the legal landscape".
"My role has been altered to provide a false legitimacy to indefinite detention without knowledge of the accusations being made and without any kind of criminal charge or trial," he said.
He adds: "Such a law is an odious blot on our legal landscape and for reasons of conscience I feel that I must resign."
Alastair Campbell is back
Alastair Campbell, who resigned after his intemperate attacks on the BBC were revealed by the Hutton enquiry, is back, and he apparently hasn't changed much. The following email was sent to BBC2's Newsnight programme (allegedly by mistake) after it sought to question his role in producing Labour's distasteful 'flying pigs' poster (and yes, it was his idea). [Trevor Beattie. 'trev', is the boss of TBWA. Labour's advertising agency]. This contribution to political thought is typical of the man Blair trusts to do his dirty work. BBC News
"Just spoke to trev. think tbwa shd give statement to newsnight saying party and agency work together well and nobody here has spoken to standard. Posters done by by tbwa according to political brief. Now fuck off and cover something important you twats!"
Secrets and LiesReporter: Liz Jackson ABC Television (Australia) 14/02/2005, and in the Independent
Transcript of the broadcast
Dr Barton's reply to DoD about prisoner treatment (May 2004)
Barton's Letter of resignation
Rod Barton, an Australian member of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), now retired, spoke to ABC TV (Australia). Dr Barton, a microbiologist who worked for Australian intelligence for more than 20 years, said John Scarlett, then head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, asked for "new elements" to be included in a draft report he was producing on the WMD in Iraq.
* how he quit in disgust after the CIA censored a crucial WMD report, leading to deletion of central facts and conclusions. "We left the impression that maybe there were, was WMD out there … I thought it was dishonest," he says;
* his personal observations of the present head of Britain’s MI6, who also played a key role in the David Kelly affair, applying pressure to "sex up" the same report;
* his pre-war advice to the Australian and US governments that Iraq’s weapons did not threaten either country;
* how he reported to Australian authorities his suspicions about systemic abuse of prisoners in Iraq by coalition forces, before the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, and how his concerns were ignored.
Barton's conclusions have now been reinforced by Brian Jones, ex-head of the Defence Intelligence Staff. [Independent]
"He said Dr Barton resigned from the ISG after the letter from Mr Scarlett. "What he says is worth listening to and worth thinking about. It does raise the question of what was in the letter that Scarlett wrote." "
"Dr Jones added that the letter went beyond the realms of intelligence into diplomacy and could be opened to public scrutiny under the Freedom of Information Act. The Government is likely to reject a request for disclosure on grounds of national security."
"The Parliamentary Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, said ministers were wrong to withhold the information. But the Foreign Office rejected her findings . . . ".
The UK Freedom of information act, and the parliamentary ombudsman, thus far, seem to be entirely ineffective.
Foreign Office legal advisor: resignation letter now available in full
The version of the letter obtained under the Freedom of Information Act had been censored, but the full version was obtained by Channel 4 News. The bit that was censored cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be thought to endanger the national interest (though it does no good for the government's reputation).Report from BBC News
"Elizabeth Wilmshurst, deputy legal adviser to the Foreign Office, resigned in March 2003 because she did not believe the war with Iraq was legal. Her letter was released by the Foreign Office to the BBC News website under the Freedom of Information Act."Full text of her letter is here.
The censored section of the letter says "My views accord with the advice that has been given consistently in this office before and after the adoption of UN security council resolution 1441 and with what the attorney general gave us to understand was his view prior to his letter of 7 March. ". Thus it is now very clear, as already suspected, that on March 7th 2003, the Attorney General thought the war would be illegal without a second resolution of the Security Council. The resolution was not obtained, and by March 17th 2003 the Attorney General's opinion had reversed. Suddenly he thought the war would be legal with no second resolution. Needless to say, we are assured that no political pressure was applied to him. What a shocking idea!
On the next day, March 18th 2003, Elisabeth Wilmshurst sent her resignation letter. " I regret that I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force against Iraq without a second Security Council resolution to revive the authorisation given in SCR 678. I do not need to set out my reasoning; you are aware of it."
Attorney General's advice to UK government written by politicians!Reports in Guardian, and also here.
On March 17th 2003, a parliamentary answer by Lord Goldsmith advised that, contrary to his earlier opinion, the war was legal. All efforts to get hold of the text of this advice have failed. Now we know why. It never existed.
The attorney general told the [Butler] inquiry that a statement issued in his name and used by the government in the Commons to argue that war against Iraq was lawful was in fact drawn up by two of the prime minister's closest aides - Lord Falconer, then a Home Office minister, and Lady Morgan, the prime minister's adviser responsible for relations between Whitehall and the government.
The statement was in the form of a parliamentary answer written in the name of Lord Goldsmith on March 17 2003, the eve of the crucial Commons vote on the war.
After more than a year of pressure, the government still has not yielded to pressure to reveal what actually happened. [BBC]
The Attorney General's advice, out at last!
A few days before the general election, in May 2005, part of the original advice of March 7th 2003 was leaked to the press. A couple of days later, the whole March 7th judgement was released by the government.
Wednesday 27th April 2005
The summary of the Attorney General's advice is leaked at last
Channel 4 News has published the full text of the summary of famous legal advice given by the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, on March 7th 2003. Click here to download Word document from C4. As already supposed the document has many reservations about the legality of the war. Here are a few extracts.
26.To sum up, the language of resolution 1441 leaves the position unclear and the statements made on adoption of the resolution suggest that there were differences of view within the Council as to the legal effect of the resolution.Arguments can be made on both sides.
Compare this with Mr Blair's statement to the House of Commons on 9th March 2005.
“If it is being said that the legal opinion of the Attorney General was different from the Attorney General's statement to the House, that is patently absurd.”
One bit that hasn't already been leaked is the admission that a veto of the second resolution by France could not be considered "unreasonable" and would not therefore make the war legal. This is particularly interesting because Tony Blair has said that what changed between 7th and 17th March was that it became clear that the second resolution would not be obtained.
So there are no grounds for arguing that an "unreasonable veto" would entitle us to proceed on the basis of a presumed Security Council authorisation.
Now we need to know the answers to the following questions.
The Attorney General can change his mind in 10 days. though it is certainly very hard to see what happened in that time to make all his doubts vanish so rapidly. But if had changed his mind, he should then have rewritten his full judgement, and according to the ministerial code of conduct, that full judgement should have been presented to the whole cabinet. It wasn't, and as far as we know, the only full judgement that exists is that of March 7th. The big question is why the short document given to the cabinet on March 17th was described as 'a summary'. That, at least, appears not to be true. It is obviously not a summary of March 7th. It seems that it is not a summary of any document at all.
Clearly the Attorney General was put under pressure to come off the fence. The Times reported that a senior figure in Westminster has claimed that Lord Falconer, a friend of Blair and now lord chancellor, urged Goldsmith to change his original view that war would be illegal. “There was huge pressure from Charlie Falconer," Goldsmith's doubts were known in the USA too, The Times report continues as follows.
“On February 11, 2003 Goldsmith met John Bellinger, a senior US legal adviser, at the White House. According to Philippe Sands, a professor of international law at University College London, Bellinger told one UK official: “We had trouble with your attorney, we got him there eventually." Bellinger later told Sands he did not recall making such a statement.”
Goldsmith himself reacted by saying [BBC news]
Between 7th March and 17th March, 2003, I asked for and received confirmation of the breach of UN Security Council Resolutions.
That, presumably, means that he was assured that all those WMDs posed an immininent threat to Britain. My own (Labour) MP said, when I asked him just before the Hutton enquiry started, what the basis was for the famous 45 minute claim, he said "whoever believed that?". Apparently the Attorney General believed it.
Peter Brookes' cartoon, in The Times of 26th April, removed on instructions from News International.
The Lib Dems have had their views justified again. Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dems deputy leader, pointed out that that it is doubtful whether MPs, or even the cabinet, would have endorsed the war if they had seen the full advice. He also said that a senior member of the bar had commented that the Attorney General's position had become untenable.
The Conservatives, who, of course, supported the war, naturally tried to have their cake and eat it.
As Charles Kennedy said on Monday,
Thursday 28th April
On the next day, the government was forced to release the whole of the March 7th advice, after refusing adamantly for two years to do so.
Download the whole of the Attorney General's legal advice from the BBC [pdf file, 692 kb).
The government claim that it is a "damp squib". If it is so unimportant, why has Blair fought tooth and nail to keep it secret for the last two years? Charles Kennedy said, on the BBC's 'Question Time' tonight, it is not a damp squib to the families of those who died. He also said "I'm ashamed about what the government did in the name of my country". Right on!
A remarkable statement!
Patricia Hewitt, on Channel 4 News, failed totally to answer the question of why the ministerial code of conduct had been breached by failing to give the cabinet, at its meeting on 17th March 2003, the full document on which the Attorney General's final advice was based. Indeed as far as we know, no such document exists.
Peter Hennessey, Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History (Queen Mary College, University of London), comments as follows.
“Lord Goldsmith's reputation is now certain to be that of the most pliable Attorney General in recent British political history.”
Anthony Lester, QC (Lord Lester, Liberal Democrat Peer) analysed the full summary for the Guardian [get the pdf file]. Here is his opinion.
“This is a devastating blow to the government's credibility. The SG's advice is lucid and cogent, and I entirely agree with it. It is contrary to the basic principles of British cabinet government for his carefully balanced advice to have been withheld from the PM's colleagues especially in the light of similar views by Foreign Office advisors. The so-called summary published on the eve of the invasion was not a fair and accurate summary of the AG's advice. In fact the advise was to the contrary. It's outrageous.
The Downing Street memo and other documents: the smoking gun has been found
As we suspected all along, Blair decided to go to war long before the matter was brought to parliament.
A damning minute has been leaked to the Sunday Times. In July 2002, a few weeks after meeting George Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Mr Blair summoned his closest aides for what amounted to a council of war. The minute reveals the head of British intelligence reported that President Bush had firmly made up his mind to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein, adding that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". Here are some extracts (emphasis added by me).
The secret Downing Street memo
(Rycroft was a Downing Street foreign policy aide)
In other words, what actually happened was even worse than most of us supposed at the time. The ultimatum about taking back inspectors, was made in the expectation (hope?) that it would be refused, and so provide an excuse for the invasion that was already planned.
Other leaked documents confirm the deception perpetrated on the British public
Apart from the now famous Downing Street memo, two other equally secret and equally damning documents have come to light, as documented by the Sunday Times.
Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military action (produced by the Cabinet Office on July 21, 2002)
Foreign and Commonwealth Office legal advice (appended as Annex A to the Cabinet Office briefing paper on Iraq of July 21, 2002)
The Washington Post takes notice
Another account of all this new information was published by the Washington Post on 28th June 2005. Better late than never.
Government silence on evidence obtained under torture
The government has been criticised by MPs for twice refusing to say whether Britain uses information extracted under torture by foreign countries. [BBC News]
The foreign affairs committee's human rights report said that using information obtained by torture risked encouraging it. The MPs urged ministers to "come clean". The committee said: "We find it surprising and unsettling that the government has twice failed to answer our specific question on whether or not the UK receives or acts upon information extracted under torture by a third country.
"We recommend that the government give a clear answer to the question. "The government should ensure that it is understood by other governments that the mistreatment of British nationals is unacceptable and will be met with appropriate action."
The report also condemns the treatment of detainees in Guantánamo Bay, saying now British suspects have been released there is no need for the government to keep quiet about the oppressive conditions.
Does UK turn a blind eye to torture?
In its latest report looking at UK policy in the war on terror, the parliamentary foreign affairs committee has called for straight answers from the government over any British role in the appalling US "extraordinary rendition" policy. [BBC News] (see also here, and here).
The committee expressed frustration at the lack of clarity from the government about any possible involvement in a process in which the US covertly, and without any legal process, seizes terrorist suspects and flies them for interrogation to third countries - some of which are known to use torture.
One member of the committee described the policy as "effectively torture by proxy".
The committee wrote a letter to the Foreign Office on 25 February asking a series of detailed questions about UK practices, the possible use of British airspace or territory, as well as whether the government regarded the use of such methods as legally and morally acceptable.
But the government failed to answer the questions "with the transparency and accountability required on so serious an issue", the committee's latest report said.
WMD found in North London -22 beans
For example, The Independent says
“Following a massive security operation and lengthy series of court cases that cost an estimated £50m the case finally came to an end yesterday with the conviction of Bourgass for murder and for plotting to spread poison in the UK. But eight other alleged co-conspirators were cleared of the poison charges at the Old Bailey. The defendants' lawyers argue that the failure to bring a successful prosecution against the majority of defendants highlights the complaint that innocent people are becoming victims of the government's terror policies.”
“It also undermines the justification for the Iraq war. Colin Powell, the former US Secretary of State, used the plot to back his case for the conflict before the UN. Tony Blair also claimed the ricin "find" was evidence of the threat of weapons of mass destruction to Britain.”
Kamel Bourgass murdered a policeman, and was properly punished for it. But the ricin part of his misdeeds raises some more interesting questions. In particular, how frightened should we be? It seems to be often forgotten that no ricin was actually made. Bourgas had recipes for making it, copied from the internet, but hadn't succeeded in making any. The fact that eight other alleged co-conspirators were cleared makes the idea of a highly organised plot look a bit thin.
“WE ARE GOING steadily mad. No, there were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no 9/11 style threat, no ricin, no bombs or explosives, just some old photostats and a psychotic individual with undoubtedly evil intent.
He wants to murder us all. Vote for us, cry the politicians, or die.
There is not the faintest convergence between the Bourgass case as revealed in the Old Bailey this week and the crazed media and political coverage of it.
Bourgass, an illegal immigrant from Algeria, was found in possession of cherry stones, castor beans, nail-polish remover and recipes for ricin and other poisons, copied from a 1980s Palo Alto website in California. It was described by a detective as !garden-shed kitchen chemistry". It had nothing to do with al-Qaeda and was translated into Arabic from American survival handbooks.
As for al-Qaeda links, they were based on a claim extracted, possibly under torture, from a compatriot of Bourgass’s, Mohammed Meguerba, back in Algeria. Such “links" are the normal requirement from victims of the CIA’s outsourced torturers. To such material have British prosecutors descended.
. . . the police and security services did a good job. They found their man, and would have done so without loss had normal handcuff procedure been followed, as admitted by Manchester police. The system worked without Charles Clarke’s emergency powers. A nasty character is now in prison for life.
As for his eight supposed co-conspirators, the Old Bailey revealed them as no more than a bunch of illegal immigrants and passport forgers, of whom thousands must be loose in Britain.
I return yet again to Lord Hoffmann’s judgment on the Belmarsh detainees. The greatest threat to British liberty, he said, does not come from terrorism. It comes from the hysterical overreaction to it of the political community and the bad laws that follow”.
Government ignores jury: acquited defendents to be deported to torture country: ricin trial postscript.
Jury anger over threat of torture
Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor May 21, 2005, The Guardian
Identity Cards. Why worry?
a "rehashed bill that is more about political machismo than rational policy". (Shami Chakrabarti, of the civil rights group Liberty)
At first, the idea of identity cards seemed harmless to me. But after a bit more thought, I have come to the view that ID cards, in the form that the government propose, are a very bad idea. Why? Here are some reasons.
More recently, the computer industry has been expressing profound scepticism about the consequuences of hackers getting into a national data base, as they inevitably will
For reasons why the scheme proposed for the UK is far more invidious than those which exist in other countries, look here.
ID cards: the Home Secretary's bullying tactics.
On Radio 4's Today Programme (Thursday June 16th, 2005), the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, launched an astonishingly abusive attack on academics from the London School of Economics (LSE) who dared to write a report with conclusions that he did not like, The report said that his ID card scheme was likely to cost more than the government has so far estimated.
Clarke described the LSE's numbers as 'mad' and 'outrageous' and as 'fabrication' and 'an incompetent piece of work', before he had even seen the whole report. His bullying outburst was widely reported (e.g. BBC, and The Times).
Clarke's outburst is as good a reason as any to distrust the government's motives. It was the outburst of a thug who wanted to suppress academic work that did not suit his purpose. For a senior politician to describe a serious research study as "fabrication" (before even seeing it) is not a sign of a civilised society. This, of course, is the man who also wanted to decide, without inconvenient interference from judges, who should be imprisoned without charge and without trial.
After Clarke's outburst, the Director of the London School of Economics wrote to The Times (July 2nd 2005). His letter is reproduced in full here.
Bombs hit London
On Thursday 7th July, the long-expected terrorist attack occurred in London.
It was bound to happen, and it was small compared with Madrid, but 54 people (so far) have died. Once again I reflect on the evil done by those (on both sides) who believe 'god is on our side'. Throughout history, religious zealots have used their beliefs as excuses to murder and torture. It might, of course, have helped if we had not killed something like 25,000 Iraqi civilians (latest number here) in a preemptive war undertaken under false premises. It might have helped if we had not ourselves tortured, as documented in sickening detail on this page. Nothing can excuse or justify terrorist bombs. And nothing can excuse the behaviour the (now) attorney general of the USA in describing the Geneva Conventions as "quaint".
I'm now more afraid of my own government's attempts to curtail civil liberties, than I am of terrorists. Remember the words of Lord Justice Hoffman.
Needless to say, the bombing has been followed by wall-to-wall coverage on radio and TV, most of it content-free, and much of it inaccurate (8:50 is not the 'height of the rush hour'). For some real sense, try Robin Cook, in the Guardian, the day after the bombing.Here are some quotations.
“In the absence of anyone else owning up to yesterday's crimes, we will be subjected to a spate of articles analysing the threat of militant Islam. Ironically they will fall in the same week that we recall the tenth anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica, when the powerful nations of Europe failed to protect 8,000 Muslims from being annihilated in the worst terrorist act in Europe of the past generation.
Hmmm -s o far, the 'christians' seem to have killed a lot more than the 'muslims'. What was that about crusades?
When I wrote, the day after the London bombs, “I'm now more afraid of my own government's attempts to curtail civil liberties, than I am of terrorists” (click here), I had in mind the gradual removal of liberties by two successive Home secretaries with strong totalitarian tendencies. Never in my worst nighmares did I think that, when travelling on the tube. I would have to be scared of getting seven bullets through the head from the secret police. Where do they think we live? Tashkent? Texas? [more here].
UCL employee killed by bus bomb
Since I usual get into the lab before 7 am, I know the cleaners better than many of my colleagues. Sadly, one of them is missing. [Daily Mirror]
“Who cares” -an opinion on the bombing from Fox News TV (USA)
This one beggars belief! Fox News TV host John Gibson said, on July 6th (the day before the bombs)
“By the way, just wanted to tell you people, we missed -- the International Olympic Committee missed a golden opportunity today. If they had picked France, if they had picked France instead of London to hold the Olympics, it would have been the one time we could look forward to where we didn't worry about terrorism. They'd blow up Paris, and who cares?”On July 7th, after the bombs, he said
“The bombings in London: This is why I thought the Brits should let the French have the Olympics ”
And millions of Americans rely on the famously "fair and balanced" Fox TV network as their source of information.
Boris Johnson: “Just don't call it war”For those outside the UK, I should say that Boris Johnson is a conservative member of parliament (recently fired from the front bench for politically incorrect behaviour), and that he has the reputation of being a caricature private schoolboy. He also edits the conservative magazine, The Spectator. In these curious times, I find myself quoting the oddest people, with at least some sympathy. First the 7th Earl of Onslow, and now Boris Johnson. Almost anyone seems to be to the left of Tony Blair now. Here are some selective quotations (omitting the more chauvinistic bits) from his views on the bombing.
Almost the only thing that Boris Johnson misses here, is the opportunity to point out that the beliefs of fundamentalist christians (don't they involve a virgin too?) are equally "a con and a fraud", and that Tony Blair's encouragement of segregation of schools by religion can do nothing but make the situation worse.
Why do ministers misrepresent anyone who criticise them?
Chatham House, previously known as The Royal Institute of International Affairs, has published a report that states the fact, obvious to anyone, that our loyalty to George Bush has increased the danger to the UK - "Riding pillion to the US in order to tackle terrorism is a high-risk policy". Read the report here (pdf file). What is notable, is not so much the balanced and sensible analysis in the report, but the nature of the government's reaction to it.
Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, reacted by saying
“I’m astonished Chatham House is now saying that we should not have stood shoulder to shoulder with our long-standing allies” “The time for excuses for terrorism is over”
Straw's response is clearly a criticism of something that wasn't said. It is spin. And it is only too typical of the bullying approach to which we have become accustomed. It is insulting to the millions of thinking people who thought it was wrong to support the extreme right wing administration of Bush and the neocons.
No doubt the government is rattled because most of the predictions of the outcome of the Iraq adventure by its critics were, sadly, far more accurate than those of the government. But that is no excuse for ministers saying, again and again, that their critics are making excuses for inexcusable behaviour. They are not. The behaviour of the bullies, Clarke, Blunkett, Reid, Ingram, and now Straw, are just another example of how the government values spin over honesty. They surely must know that their critics are not making excuses for terrorism. But they dare not admit it and resort instead to this sort of vile abuse of anyone who criticises them.
You don't have to believe those who were against the war all along. Listen to MI5 [New York Times]
Less than a month before the bombs, a report form The Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre, the top officials from MI5, MI6 and GCHQ, prompted the government to lower its formal threat assessment one level, from "severe defined" to "substantial". Interestingly the report contradicts directly the statements made by all these ministers, and by Blair himself (as did earlier intelligence reports, revealed by the Butler enquiry). They say
"Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist related activity in the U.K.,"
And the MI5 web site says
“Though they have a range of aspirations and "causes", Iraq is a dominant issue for a range of extremist groups and individuals in the UK and Europe.”
And Blair used the same tactic again on July 26th when he said "Iraq was no excuse for the London bombings". I have never heard anybody say it was. This is a cheap way to deflect legitimate criticism.
Police shoot innocent man
It now turns out that the three plain-clothes policeman who pumped seven bullets into the head of a young man in front of shocked tube-riders at Stockwell station, killed an entirely innocent, and unarmed, person. The police say they are sorry, but, chillingly, that it may happen again.
Jean Charles de Menezes was a 27-year old Brazilian electrician, who had the misfortune to live in the same block of flats as a suspect, and to wear a suspiciously thick jacket [BBC]. Up to now the police seem to have been doing an excellent job in tracking down the bombers. Nevertheless, "sorry" is an utterly inadequate response.
If there ever was an argument for the preemptive war in Iraq, it was (once all the lies about WMD had been discounted) that we were bringing to the people of Iraq our civilised values. We then proceed to blow the moral high ground by torturing in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other, more secret, locations. In the USA the torture was authorised at the highest level, by the Secretary for Defense (Rumsfeld), and by the now Attorney General (Gonzales). In the UK we have soldiers on trial for war crimes (but have yet to be told who authorised their behaviour). And now we have an innocent unarmed young man gunned down in public by the secret police.
It has emerged that the police are operating under secret rules, called Operation Kratos. We have not been told whether the victim knew that the gunmen were police or not, but it seems that there is no requirement for police to identify themselves as such. The victim could very well have assumed they were muggers. We have not been told whether or not the police have to know that someone is armed before they are allowed to shoot them down. I do know that I'll be careful not to root in my rucksack to find my sandwiches.
This is London, not Tashkent or Texas. Much of the reason that I want to live in London is because the police do not shoot people down. This sort of behaviour is, from what little we have been told, unacceptable, and worse still, it a panic reaction, and hence a capitulation to terrorism. I am not panicked and I don't expect the police to be panicked. [BBC]
I repeat the title of this page "What are we defending?"
It gets worse.
The Guardian (28th July, 2005) reports that, according to his cousin, de Menezes was not wearing a heavy jacket that might have concealed a bomb, and did not jump the ticket barrier when challenged by armed plainclothes police. Speaking at a press conference after a meeting with the Metropolitan police, Vivien Figueiredo, 22, said that the first reports of how her 27-year-old cousin had come to be killed in mistake for a suicide bomber on Friday at Stockwell tube station were wrong.
"He used a travel card," she said. "He had no bulky jacket, he was wearing a jeans jacket. But even if he was wearing a bulky jacket that wouldn't be an excuse to kill him."
New leaked documents [BBC News], on 17 August 2005, show important discrepancies between evidence given to the inquiry and the original police statements. For example " CCTV footage is said to show the man walking at normal pace into the station, picking up a copy of a free newspaper and apparently passing through the barriers before descending the escalator to the platform and running to a train."
Independent inquiry?The de Menezes case has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commision (IPCC). This body is supposed to have newly strengthened powers of investigation. It should provide a fair inquiry. Or that is what I thought until I read Private Eye (No. 1138, 5-19 August 2005). It seems that the director of investigations at the IPCC, Roy Clark, has an unenviable record. Roy Clark is former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. And his history is chronicled by Michael Gillard and Laurie Flynn in their book Untouchables: Dirty Cops, Bent Justice and Racism in Scotland Yard [available from Amazon].
They describe Roy Clark as
Hmmm. . . .
Religion and bombs
I have put on my religion page some ideas, and some links, to the iniqutious effects that religious beliefs can engender.
For example, try London bombs and religion, and “Britain must become either secular or multicultural”.
How Britain helped Israel get the bomb
The Newsnight programme (Wednesday, 3 August at 10.30pm on BBC2) showed a fine bit of investigative journalism by Michael Crick.You remember the Israeli nuclear arsenal (now thought to be the 6th largest in the world)? Officially it doesn't exist, a fiction that is maintained with the connivance of the USA (among others). We know about it partly through the heroic courage of Mordecai Vanunu, who spent 18 years in prison in Israel (over 11 years of which were spent in solitary confinement). He got this vicious punishment for having the courage to tell us about something, the existence of which is still denied officially.
It now seems that the UK played a big part in helping Israel to get the bombs. More surprising still, we kept our role secret from the USA which, in 1958, was desperate to prevent Israel from building WMD; that was a priority for John Kennedy and Robert McNamara. (Now, of course, the USA pays for them.) The USA would not supply the heavy water, because Israel would not undertake to use it for peaceful purposes. The UK had no such scruples.
Robin Cook dies prematurely, at 59. The government's most effective critic has gone.
Blair attacks BBC (again)
According to Rupert Murdoch, Tony Blair said he had watched BBC World's coverage of Hurricane Katrina. "And," Murdoch explained, "he said it was just full of hate for America and gloating about our troubles." In fact the BBC said nothing about the response to Katrina that had not already been said by a large number of Americans, including many republicans, and even been said by Murdoch's outrageously right wing Fox news TV station.
Jonathan Freedland gives a good account of this in The Guardian (20 Aug 2005).
The tendency of Mr Blair to attempt to suppress criticism in the media, and his evident hatred of the BBC's independence, is deeply worrying. We have, of course, seen it all before in the case of the disgraceful Hutton Report (see below).
Freedland comments as follows
Blair “relished” invasion
The Independent (19th September 2005) gave one of the best reports on the diary of Lance Price, the former deputy to the notorious Alastair Campbell. The Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, accused Price of "betrayal" for his revelations, thus suggesting that they are true and worth reading.
Mr Price wrote: "I couldn't help feeling TB was rather relishing his first blooding as PM, sending the boys into action. Despite all the necessary stuff about taking action 'with a heavy heart', I think he feels it is part of his coming of age as a leader."
Mr Price, 47, was obliged to submit his manuscript to the Government for clearance under the civil service codes of practice. Three passages were toned down on the orders of No 10 and the Cabinet Secretary.
How Downing Street changed the diary
To me, the allegation about "relishing" invasion has the ring of truth in it. Equally George Bush (who evaded military service himself) pretty obviously gets a kick from sending people to get killed. Who can doubt that he sees himself as the macho cowboy? One gets the strong impression that both of them have difficulty in distinguishing between a B-movie and real life.
Suspicious behaviour on the tube
David Mery describes his experience on the tube in The Guardian (Sept. 22, 2005). He left work at 7 pm and took the tube at Southwark, to meet his girlfriend.
This was 3 weeks after the lethal bombs of July 7th, so some twitchiness might be excusable. But that hardly explains what happened next. After he was searched, and found to be carrying nothing suspicious, he was
"On August 31 I arrive at the police station at 9 am as required by bail, with my solicitor. A plainclothes police officer tells us they are dropping the charges, and briefly apologises."
Thus far, he has not been able to find out precisely what record of this event will be kept on police computers around the world, or which of his possessions will be returned.
82 year old detained as terrorist: no dissent allowed
and an attempt to disrupt labour party conference with mint imperials
At first sight, the ejection of Walter Wolfgang from the Labour Party conference, seems to be nothing but a temporary public relations disaster. Perhaps, though, it is a seriously worrying sign of the ever-increasing authoritarianism of the Labour government. Not long ago, a bit of lively heckling was an normal part of any political meeting. Consider the facts.
Labour party chairman, Ian McCartney, afterwards issued a rather half-hearted apology. He apologised for the force used in Mr Wolfgang's ejection, but not at all for the suppression of his dissent: he told the Today programme "he was a guest whose role was to listen, not to disrupt".
Two days later, Walter Wolfgang himself wrote the front page story in The Independent, 20 Oct, 2005. He finishes thus.
In separate incidents, two delegates had packets of sweets confiscated as they entered the hall (a steward said "I'll tell you why they're banned, they could be used as missiles."). And Austin Mitchell (MP for Great Grimsby) had his camera confiscated by the police, and all pictures on it were deleted.[BBC]
Simon Hoggart commented as follows.
And these are the people who are asking us to trust them to lock up people for three months without charge.
And now a younger "terrorist" -only 79.
A bad week for freedoms in the UK and the USA
In the same week we have heard of more lawless behaviour by the CIA, and abuse of the Patriot Act, parliament in the UK has been debating several repressive measures that Tony Blair wishes to impose here, based on the myth that 9/11 (and 7/7) "changed everything". Once again one is reminded of that famous quotation
2nd November 2005. The good thing is that, at last, the normally supine and pusillanimous back bench Labour MPs woke up at last. In a vote in the Commons on the iniquitous proposal to detain people without charge for 90 days they managed to reduce the government's majority to only one [BBC News], close enough to force the government to rethink. This was the government's smallest majority since coming to power in 1997 [BBC News]. Imprisonment with charge endangers the hard won freedoms of Western democracies, the very thing we are meant to be defending [see above].
7th November 2005. After the government's narrow margin, talks on the 90 day period were promised. They did not materialise, and Blair, true to form, listened to nobody. It is my understanding that it is only in police states that the police dictate to politicians, as is happening now. In a democracy. elected representatives tell the police what is acceptable.
9th November 2005. The "normally supine and pusillanimous" back bench Labour MPs really did learn to think for themselves. Despite cajoling from Blair, and his new spin advisors. the Police Force, 49 Labour MPs voted against the motion to allow 90 days detention without charge. It was defeated by a majority of 31. This was Mr Blair's first ever defeat in the Commons, Now will he listen, or resign? Not much chance of either on past showing. [BBC News]
Meanwhile the House of Lords has been debating the government's proposal for identity cards. That measure survived a modest rebellion in the Commons when the third reading passed by 25 votes [BBC News]. The scheme which the government is proposing is excessively invasive, and arguably it is more likely to increase crime (as soon as the hackers get in) than to decrease it. Reasons and links are given above.
Blair's litany of failures on Iraq - ambassador's damning verdict
Meyer says PM failed to exert any leverage on Bush and was seduced by US power
The Guardian has serialised parts of the book by UK's ambassador to Washington, one person who knows a great deal about the run up to the war in Iraq. This amounts to top-level verification that all those jokes about 'Bush's poodle' were close to the mark.
Tony Blair's full throated support of the US led to the PM failing to exert any leverage on the White House - UK support was simply taken for granted
In the words of Christopher Meyer,
Lords reject use of evidence obtained by torture evidence
You wouldn't think that, in a civilised country, a case like this could ever come before our 'supreme court'. But it did. [BBC News]
This is the second time (see above) that the public have been protected by an independent judiciary from the totalitarian tendencies of New Labour. Somewhat sulky responses have come from Charles Clark (Home secretary), and Hazel 'Dalek' Blears, the home office minister who always sounds like a tape-recording of a government policy statement. They say the judgement will not make any difference because that was government policy anyway. If that was the case, why did they oppose the proposition? It was the governments' policy to close there eyes to how evidence was obtained, just as it is their policy to close their eyes to abduction of foreign nationals by the CIA.
Postscript (15 December 2005). Well actually it turns out that the government knew all along about illegal abductions by the CIA (details here) -there's a big surprise. Once again the government behaves as though it were above the law.
Big brother is watching you
The Independent reports the latest round of invasion of privacy by an ever more totalitarian government.
Britain is to become the first country in the world where the movements of all vehicles on the roads are recorded. A new national surveillance system will hold the records for at least two years.
Ex-envoy to Uzbekistan goes public on tortureThe Independent (30th December, 2005) reported as follows
But guess what? A quick Google search revealed that http://www.craigmurray.co.uk/ has been shut down. I wonder who did that? Don't worry though. You can still read the shameful correspondence here and here.
General says Blair should be impeached
General Sir Michael said he would not have lead troops into a war he believed was wrong. "You cannot put people in harm's way if you don't believe the cause is right or sufficient," he said.
Michael Rose amplified is comments the next day in the Guardian: “Enough of his excuses: Blair must be impeached over Iraq”.
General Rose will appear in a documentary, The Failure of War, to be broadcast on Channel 4 TV on Friday, 13th January 2005 at 19.30. This programme is quoted by the Guardian as containing comments from other senior miltary men which show clearly that Rose is not the only one with reservations.
John Reid: a Labour Party neocon
International laws hinder UK troops - Reid
The Guardian (4th April, 2006) reports the speech by John Reid, the Defence Secretary with the bullying manner. He
“demanded sweeping changes to international law yesterday to free British soldiers from the restraints of the Geneva conventions and make it easier for the west to mount military actions against other states.”
The Independent 4th November 2004
The Guardian 4th November 2004
Daily Mirror 4th November 2004
Sent to me from the USA
"But the enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He lives in Falluja. And we're going to destroy him." Lt-Colonel Gareth Brandl BBC
The hopefuls in the Democrat camp really believed victory in the US election was within their grasp. How did they get it so wrong? They failed to appreciate, says Simon Schama, that their country is now in fact two nations that loathe and fear each other - Godly and Worldly America
In the wee small hours of November 3 2004, a new country appeared on the map of the modern world: the DSA, the Divided States of America. Oh yes, I know, the obligatory pieties about "healing" have begun; not least from the lips of the noble Loser. This is music to the ears of the Victor of course, who wants nothing better than for us all to Come Together, a position otherwise known as unconditional surrender. Please, fellow curmudgeons and last ditchers, can someone on the losing side just for once not roll over and fall into a warm bath of patriotic platitudes at such moments, but toot the flute of battle instead; yell and holler and snarl just a wee bit?
In the USA and Canada, this book is called Idiot Proof: Deluded Celebrities, Irrational Power Brokers, Media Morons, and the Erosion of Common Sense, and you can buy it here
The dimming of the Enlightenment A longer synopsis by Wheen
Click here for a synopsis, Francis Wheen's Top 10 Delusions . I'll reproduce only the first.1. "God is on our side"
George W Bush thinks so, as do Tony Blair and Osama bin Laden and an alarmingly high percentage of other important figures in today's world. After September 11 2001 Blair claimed that religion was the solution not the problem, since "Jews, Muslims and Christians are all children of Abraham" - unaware that the example of Abraham was also cited by Mohammed Atta, hijacker of the one of the planes that shattered the New York skyline. R.H. Tawney wrote in Religion and the Rise of Capitalism that "modern social theory, like modern political theory, developed only when society was given a naturalistic instead of a religious explanation". In which case modern social and political theory would now seem to be dead.2. The market is rational
"118 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice."
"78 other countries and territories retain and use the death penalty, but the number of countries which actually execute prisoners in any one year is much smaller."
"During 2003, at least 1,146 prisoners were executed in 28 countries and at least 2,756 people were sentenced to death in 63 countries. These figures include only cases known to Amnesty International; the true figures are certainly higher."
"In 2003, 84 per cent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, the USA and Viet Nam"
"Eight countries since 1990 are known to have executed prisoners who were under 18 years old at the time of the crime . . . The USA has executed more child offenders than any other country (19 since 1990)."
"The US military is funding development of a weapon that delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away. Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed. But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be used for torture."
"John Wood of University College London, UK, an expert in how the brain perceives pain, says the researchers involved in the project should face censure. "It could be used for torture," he says, "the [researchers] must be aware of this." "
"Brian Cooper, an expert in dental pain at the University of Florida, distanced himself from the work, saying "I don't have anything interesting to convey. I was just providing some background for the group." ".
The following letter was published in Science (2005, 307,1873), along with three others, as a response to an article by Fiske et al. that appeared to defend Abu Ghraib behaviour as 'normal'. [Get pdf of reply] [Get pdf of Fiske et al.]
Abuse of Prisoners at Abu Ghraib
IN THEIR POLICY FORUM "WHY ORDINARY people torture enemy prisoners" (26 Nov. 2004, p. 1482), S. T. Fiske and colleagues suggest that almost anyone could have committed the Abu Ghraib atrocities (1). They go on to say, "lay-observers may believe that explaining evil amounts to excusing it and absolving people of responsibility for their actions." Any humane person should react to their "explanation" in exactly this way. I think they make the mistake of trying to divorce "science" from politics in an area where the two are inextricably mixed. There is no mention in their Policy Forum of the fact that the U.S. Department of Justice advised the White House that torture "may be justified" (2–4); that the "war on terrorism" renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions (2–4); or that torture was endorsed at the very highest levels of the government and military (5). Is it really irrelevant that General Miller is quoted (6) as saying that prisoners are "like dogs and if you allow them to believe at any point that they are more than a dog then you've lost control of them"?
Why was none of this mentioned?
Studying the effect of "one dissenting peer" may be relatively harmless academic amusement, but if you really want to stop this sort of thing what you need are leaders, both political and military, who have the moral fiber to make it absolutely clear that abuse and torture are intolerable in a civilized society. Sadly, the political and military leadership did exactly the opposite in this case. Fiske et al. should have said so.
DAVID COLQUHOUNDepartment of Pharmacology, University College
London,Gower Street,London WC1E 6BT,UK. E-mail:
References and Notes
"If U.S. psychologists and scientists are going to stray outside of the narrow confines of the laboratory and attempt to explain the appalling behavior of its citizens abroad, science is ill-served by accepting unflinchingly the definitions of "situation" and "enemy" provided by politicians.*RAJ PERSAUD
"There is a shadow over Fiske et al.'s paper: The rest of the world may well think that American social science works for the U.S. State Department."VLADIMIR J. KONECNI
"IN THEIR POLICY FORUM 'WHY ORDINARY people torture enemy prisoners' (26 Nov. 2004, p. 1482), S. T. Fiske et al. point out that abhorrent actions such as those that occurred at Abu Ghraib can be prevented by "even one dissenting peer." This brings to mind a statement made by Elie Wiesel in his 1986 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere."DAVID C.MUSCH
"Challenging the White House, 59 former American diplomats are urging the Senate to reject John R. Bolton's nomination to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations." Washington Post
Three quotations from John Bolton, nominee for US Ambassador to the United nations.
"Diplomacy is not an end in itself if it does not advance U.S. interests."
"There's no such thing as the United Nations. If the U.N. secretary building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."
Bolton lead U.S. opposition to the International Criminal Court, declaring that the day he signed the letter withdrawing the U.S. signature on the treaty was "the happiest moment of my government service." [Washington Post]Wolfowitz to spread neo-con gospel [BBC]
Four quotations from Paul Wolfowitz, Bush's nominee for president of the World Bank.
"I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq." Press conference in Mosul, Iraq (July 21, 2003)
"The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy, we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason." Interview in Vanity Fair,2003
"There's a lot of money to pay for this. It doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." (Congressional Testimony, March 27, 2003)
To Al Franken at the White House correspondents dinner after Franken asked "Hi. Dr. Wolfowitz. Hey, the Clinton military did a great job in Iraq, didn't it?" (see page 221 of the paperback edition of Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right)
It highlights the profoundly unfair and undemocratic nature of decision-making at the Bank. His presidency will stand as a constant reminder that this institution, which calls on the nations it bullies to exercise “good governance and democratisation” is run like a mediaevel monarchy.
The 682 page report of a presidential commission offered a withering critique of the government's collection of information leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, calling its data "either worthless or misleading" and its analysis "riddled with errors." That resulted in one of the "most damaging intelligence failures in recent American history." Washington Post, 1 April, 2005.But who was to blame? Was it the intelligence, or the wilful manipulation if intelligence by politicians? The Washington Post also reported that, according to the presidential commission Doubts on Weapons Were Dismissed.
"As former secretary of state Colin L. Powell worked into the night in a New York hotel room, on the eve of his February 2003 presentation to the U.N. Security Council, CIA officers sent urgent e-mails and cables describing grave doubts about a key charge he was going to make."
"On the telephone that night, a senior intelligence officer warned then-CIA Director George J. Tenet that he lacked confidence in the principal source of the assertion that Saddam Hussein's scientists were developing deadly agents in mobile laboratories. " "Mr. Tenet replied with words to the effect of 'yeah, yeah' . . ."
"That was one among many examples -- cited over 692 pages in the report -- of fruitless dissent on the accuracy of claims against Iraq"
What are we to conclude? The obvious conclusion is that the people on the ground had a pretty good idea, but their bosses were so influenced by politicians that they would not listen to things that they didn't want to hear. The politicians, of course, had long since decided to go to war, and WMD were just the excuse, as admitted explicitly by Paul Wolfowitz.
It is very clear that the situation was much the same in the UK. The evidence presented to the Hutton enquiry made it perfectly clear that people like the late David Kelly were perfectly aware of the limitations of the evidence, but their seniors (like John Scarlett, now promoted) filter the information in order to produce the two truly pathetic dossiers. Sadly, Lord Hutton, having collected, and published, much rivetting information, then showed an inability to connect evidence to conclusions that would have earned D- if it had been an undergraduate essay. But that, of course, is why he was chosen.
“Why was Paul Wolfowitz pushed out of the Pentagon onto the World Bank? The answer lies in a 323-page document, secret until now, indicating that the allies of Big Oil in the Bush Administration have defeated neo-conservatives and their chief Wolfowitz. BBC Television Newsnight tells the true story of the fall of the neo-cons. An investigation conducted by BBC with Harper's magazine will also reveal that the US State Department made detailed plans for war in Iraq -and for Iraq's oil - within weeks of Bush's first inauguration in 2001.”The programme was broadcast on Thursday, 17 March, 2005, but you can still see it via Greg Palast's site, or via Democracy Now
Italian troops were sent to Iraq to secure oil deals worth 300 billion dollars, and not just for post-war humanitarian purposes, an Italian television report by RAI News channel claimed on Friday. The report was based on interviews and official government documents.
A government report compiled months before the war broke out recommends that Italy, in case of conflict, should secure the region of Nasiriyah and the nearby area of Halfaya, south of Baghdad, so as to secure “a deal worth 300 billion dollars".
A total of 19 Italians, most of them soldiers, died in November 2003 in a suicide bombing against Italy’s base in Nasiriyah.
The shameful story of the firing of the UK's ambassador to Uzbekistan by the Foreign Office was told above. Craig Murray's sin was to point out in a secret memorandum that the UK was using (useless) information extracted under torture in Uzbekistan.
Craig Murray writes about the current government massacres in Uzbekistan in today's Guardian.
The White House comment on this tyrant, George Bush's ally in the 'war in terror', is interesting.
Quotation of the week: demonstrators should seek democratic government
“through peaceful means, not through violence”
Scott McClellan (White House spokesman )Murray says
“And there is no media freedom. On Saturday morning, when Andijan had been leading world news bulletins for two days, most people in the capital, Tashkent, still had no idea anything was happening. Nor are demonstrations in the capital tolerated. On December 7 a peaceful picket at the gates of the British embassy was broken up with great violence, its victims including women and children. So how can Uzbeks pursue democracy by "peaceful means"?”
“Take the 23 businessmen whose trial for "Islamic extremism" sparked recent events. Had the crowd not sprung them from jail, what would have awaited them? The conviction rate in criminal and political trials in Uzbekistan is over 99% - in President Karimov's torture chambers, everyone confesses.”
“You may think I exaggerate. Read the 2002 report by Professor Theo van Boven, the UN special rapporteur on torture, in which he denounced torture in Uzbekistan as "widespread and systemic".”
“One of the uses of Uzbek torture is to provide the CIA and MI6 with "intelligence" material linking the Uzbek opposition with Islamist terrorism and al-Qaida. The information is almost entirely bogus, and it was my efforts to stop MI6 using it that led ultimately to my effective dismissal from the Foreign Office.”
“The information may be untrue, but it is valuable because it feeds into the US agenda. Karimov is very much George Bush's man in central Asia. There is not a senior member of the US administration who is not on record saying warm words about Karimov. There is not a single word recorded by any of them calling for free elections in Uzbekistan.”
“Karimov remains in power. The White House will be happy. That's enough for No 10.”
Latest: 16th May “The unconfirmed death toll in Uzbekistan from a suspected crackdown by security forces on demonstrators rose to more than 700 people today after fresh reports of killings.”The Washington Post says
“Last summer the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, publicly criticized cuts in U.S. aid to Uzbekistan. If President Bush really wants to influence Mr. Karimov, he will need to forge a policy that connects the military relationship to the dictator's domestic policies -- and order uniformed U.S. officers to follow it.”
Julian Borger and Jamie Wilson in Washington, Tuesday May 17, 2005, in the Guardian.
A report released last night by Democratic staff on a Senate investigations committee presents documentary evidence that the Bush administration was made aware of illegal oil sales and kickbacks paid to the Saddam Hussein regime but did nothing to stop them.
The scale of the shipments involved dwarfs those previously alleged by the Senate committee against UN staff and European politicians like the British MP, George Galloway, and the former French minister, Charles Pasqua.
In fact, the Senate report found that US oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.
The report said
“The United States was not only aware of Iraqi oil sales which violated UN sanctions and provided the bulk of the illicit money Saddam Hussein obtained from circumventing UN sanctions.” “On occasion, the United States actually facilitated the illicit oil sales.”
UK aid funds Iraqi torture units
“British and American aid intended for Iraq's hard-pressed police service is being diverted to paramilitary commando units accused of widespread human rights abuses, including torture and extra-judicial killings, The Observer can reveal.
Iraqi Police Service officers said that ammunition, weapons and vehicles earmarked for the IPS are being taken by shock troops at the forefront of Iraq's new dirty counter-insurgency war.”
The investigation revealed:
- A 'ghost' network of secret detention centres across the country, inaccessible to human rights organisations, where torture is taking place.
- Compelling evidence of widespread use of violent interrogation methods including hanging by the arms, burnings, beatings, the use of electric shocks and sexual abuse.
- Claims that serious abuse has taken place within the walls of the Iraqi government's own Ministry of the Interior.
- Apparent co-operation between unofficial and official detention facilities, and evidence of extra-judicial executions by the police.
In another article, in the same paper, the appalling details are described.
The Times (7th July) has a similar report:
Revealed: grim world of new Iraqi torture camps
“Secret torture chambers, the brutal interrogation of prisoners, murders by paramilitaries with links to powerful ministries... Foreign affairs editor Peter Beaumont in Baghdad uncovers a grim trail of abuse carried out by forces loyal to the new Iraqi government.”
“The abuse has not gone unnoticed by the coalition, but little has been done to address it. A US State Department report in February stated that Iraqi authorities had been accused of 'arbitrary deprivation of life, torture, impunity, poor prison conditions — particularly in pre-trial detention facilities — and arbitrary arrest and detention'.”
TOP 10 UK BRANDS TO BOYCOTT (taken from Republican donors listed here)
United Parcel Services (UPS)
MBNA credit cards
Wal-Mart (ASDA supermarkets)
General Electric (Hotpoint, GE)
ExxonMobil (Esso petrol etc)
AOL TimeWarner (AOL internet services, Netscape, Time-Life, Warner Bros)
Anheuser Busch (Budweiser, Michelob and Bud Ice beers)
ChevronTexaco (Texaco petrol)
PepsiCo ( Pepsi, 7 Up, Doritos, Walker's crisps, Quaker Oats, Sugar Puffs)
Archer Daniels Midland (Granose, Protoveg and Realeat meat substitutes)
Wyeth (formerly American Home Products) Anadin painkillers
American Airlines (all other US airlines are big donors too)
Ford Motor Company (Ford, Land Rover, Range Rover, Mazda, Volvo, Jaguar)
BP Amoco (petrol)
According to the Washington Post (15 August 2005), the Bush administration is, at last, coming to recognise some realities. It gives me little satisfaction to point out that what they are now saying is much what a million people on the streets of London tried to tell him in 2003.
"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
"We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning,. . .
See also, "Someone Tell the President the War Is Over" in the New York Times, on the same day.
Pat Kane's article, "Toy Soldiers" (Guardian, 1 Dec 2005) documents the brainwashing of the public into thinking that killing people is fun. Of course this is not restricted to the Pentagon. For some time now ultra-violent computer games have been big business, particularly perhaps in Japan and the USA. (See also, above)
At the same time as the UK government is promoting laws against thinking hateful thoughts, big business is doing its best to promote them. But that seems to be perfectly OK if it is done to make money.
It is bad enough having Microsoft and Sony promoting extreme violence. But somehow it seems much worse when a government does it.
“As the situation in Iraq gets bloodier and more uncontrollable, who would take on the task of promoting the idea of enlistment to America's youth? Step forward Colonel Casey Wardynski, who is deploying perhaps the most cost-effective recruitment method presently available to the US army - a war game.”
“The whole purpose of America's Army, a first-person-shooter simulation of army training and combat whose development began in 1999 and which was launched in 2002 (on July 4, Independence Day, of course), is to recruit more soldiers.”
"Players can download it free from the internet [29 million have done] , and use it to try the role of soldier, virtually, and see if it's something they want to do in real life," said Wardynski, who has a doctorate from Rand and is a professor at West Point Academy.
“. . . the Department of Defence has spent $100m creating an entire campus, the Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of California, which turns games intended for soldier training into marketable products: Full Spectrum Warrior is the most notable example. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) - the US government's powerful military laboratory - has a range of projects that blur the line between online gaming, virtual worlds and military performance . . .”
The “Institute for Creative Technologies at the University of California”? Just how sick can you get?
The Independent on Sunday (4 Dec, 2005) reports a leak.
“CIA agents have broken ranks to reveal the 'cruel and inhuman' interrogation techniques they are ordered to use at secret prisons around the world,
Amid a growing row in the US over torture, a list of "enhanced interrogation techniques" used by CIA agents in secret prisons - including near-drowning, freezing, sleep deprivation, shaking and slapping - has been leaked. In at least one case, a prisoner has died.”
The Washington Post (Sunday December 4th, 2005) published an investigation of the case of Khaled Masri. Here are some extracts (emphasis is mine).
German Citizen Released After Months in 'Rendition'
Coats [U.S. ambassador in Germany] informed the German minister that the CIA had wrongfully imprisoned one of its citizens, Khaled Masri, for five months, and would soon release him, the sources said. There was also a request: that the German government not disclose what it had been told even if Masri went public. The U.S. officials feared exposure of a covert action program designed to capture terrorism suspects abroad and transfer them among countries . .
The CIA, working with other intelligence agencies, has captured an estimated 3,000 people, including several key leaders of al Qaeda, in its campaign to dismantle terrorist networks. It is impossible to know, however, how many mistakes the CIA and its foreign partners have made.
The CIA inspector general is investigating a growing number of what it calls "erroneous renditions," according to several former and current intelligence officials.
"They picked up the wrong people, who had no information. In many, many cases there was only some vague association" with terrorism, one CIA officer said.
Masri was held for five months largely because the head of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center's al Qaeda unit "believed he was someone else," one former CIA official said. "She didn't really know. She just had a hunch."
Members of the Rendition Group follow a simple but standard procedure: Dressed head to toe in black, including masks, they blindfold and cut the clothes off their new captives, then administer an enema and sleeping drugs. They outfit detainees in a diaper and jumpsuit for what can be a day-long trip.
"Whatever quality control mechanisms were in play on September 10th were eliminated on September 11th," a former senior intelligence official said.
Others criticized Black's CTC for embracing a "Hollywood model" of operations, as one former longtime CIA veteran called it, eschewing the hard work of recruiting agents and penetrating terrorist networks. Instead, the new approach was similar to the flashier paramilitary operations that had worked so well in Afghanistan, and played well at the White House, where the president was keeping a scorecard of captured or killed terrorists.
He [Khaled Masri] was taken off a bus at the Tabanovce border crossing by police because his name was similar to that of an associate of a 9/11 hijacker. The police drove him to Skopje, the capital, and put him in a motel room with darkened windows,
On the 23rd day of his motel captivity, the police videotaped Masri, then bundled him, handcuffed and blindfolded, into a van and drove to a closed-off building at the airport, Masri said. There, in silence, someone cut off his clothes. As they changed his blindfold, "I saw seven or eight men with black clothing and wearing masks,"
Masri said his cell in Afghanistan was cold, dirty and in a cellar, with no light and one dirty cover for warmth. The first night he said he was kicked and beaten and warned by an interrogator: "You are here in a country where no one knows about you, in a country where there is no law. If you die, we will bury you, and no one will know."
A week before his release in late May 2004, Masri said he was visited in prison by a German man with a goatee who called himself Sam.
On the day of his release, the prison's director, who Masri believed was an American, told Masri that he had been held because he "had a suspicious name," Masri said in an interview. On the day of his release, the prison's director, who Masri believed was an American, told Masri that he had been held because he "had a suspicious name," Masri said in an interview.
Remember that, according to the CIA themselves, this man had a genuine passport and was entirely innocent. He was picked off the streets in secret, tortured in secret and released in secret, without any sort of charge. One would not be surprised if the secret police of Stalin, or of the former East Germany behaved in this way. But this was done by the richest 'democracy' in the Western world. Quite possibly this was done with the knowledge and complicity of the German and UK governments. We have, as usual, not been told (yet).
The allusion to a "Hollywood model" is interesting. Once again we see that the Bush administration (and Blair too?) is not capab;e of distinguishing between real life and a cheap B movie. Does Bush see himself as a swaggering John Wayne?
According to the BBC News, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to go on the offensive to defend this utterly illegal and indefensible behaviour. This has already started. The International Herald Tribune reports thus.
Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, argued in three television appearances that Europeans benefit as much as Americans do from an aggressive U.S.-led fight against terrorists and have said themselves that the campaign required some secrecy. He made the argument, as other Bush administration officials have done, without acknowledging that secret camps exist. "If there were such operations," Hadley said, "these are the kinds of things we can't talk about publicly."
He also defended the practice known as "rendition," in which terrorist suspects captured by the United States are sent to their home countries or to third countries, some of which have records of torturing prisoners, even while acknowledging that some mistakes had been made.
So obviously the camps do exist and the US Government is totally unapologetic about its lawless behaviour.
Monday December 5th 2005 BBC News confirms that interpetation.
Rice defends US terror policies
Ms Rice did say that suspects were moved by plane under a process known as rendition.
But, before boarding a plane to Germany, she refused to say whether the CIA ran secret prisons abroad.
Similarly in the New York Times
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chastised Europe leaders today, saying that before they complain about secret jails for terror suspects in European nations, they should realize that interrogations of these suspects have produced information that helped "save European lives."
Noting that half-a-dozen international investigations are underway, Ms. Rice did not explicitly confirm the existence of the detentions center. But that was implicit in her remarks.
"We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible," she said. "But there have been many cases where the local government cannot detain or prosecute a suspect, and traditional extradition is not a good option."
"In those cases," she added, "the local government can make the sovereign choice to cooperate in the transfer of a suspect to a third country, which is known as a rendition. "Sometimes, these efforts are misunderstood," she said.
Or perhaps the problem is not that they are misunderstood but that they are understood only too well. How can anyone in their right mind believe the 'rendition' to countries like Egypt and Syria will not result in torture? Why must we accept such disgusting double-speak from the 'leader of the free world?
Tom Malinowski, a Human Rights Watch official in Washington commented thus..
"Secretary Rice made extra-legal rendition sound like just another form of extradition"
"In fact, it's a form of kidnapping and 'disappearing' someone entirely outside the law."
Reported in the Washington Post, 6th December, 2005.
ABC News gives names of suspects abducted by CIA and held in secret jails
“Following is a list of 12 high-value targets housed by the CIA.
Alleged military base site in Romania
Pictures from ABC News video
Rumsfeld at the base last year
So it seems that Condoleeza Rice was, as everybody supposed, lying when she said the USA does not use torture. Or, to put the same thing in a different way, the USA has simply redefined torture to suit its purposes. For example both Rice and Bellinger have refused to comment on 'waterboarding', thus, if course, tacitly confirming that the ABC News report is right. That amounts to a totally different definition of torture from that used by the USA during the Vietnam war. ABC News points out what happened to then.
ABC News (Brian Ross And Richard Esposito), December 5 2005
Dec. 5, 2005 — Two CIA secret prisons were operating in Eastern Europe until last month when they were shut down following Human Rights Watch reports of their existence in Poland and Romania.
Current and former CIA officers speaking to ABC News on the condition of confidentiality say the United States scrambled to get all the suspects off European soil before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived there today. The officers say 11 top al Qaeda suspects have now been moved to a new CIA facility in the North African desert.
All but one of these 11 high-value al Qaeda prisoners were subjected to the harshest interrogation techniques in the CIA's secret arsenal, the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" authorized for use by about 14 CIA officers and first reported by ABC News on Nov. 18.
Rice today avoided directly answering the question of secret prisons in remarks made on her departure for Europe, where the issue of secret prisons and secret flights has caused a furor.
But Polish Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told ABC Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross today: "My president has said there is no truth in these reports."
Ross asked: "Do you know otherwise, sir, are you aware of these sites being shut down in the last few weeks, operating on a base under your direct control?"
These same sources also tell ABC News that U.S. intelligence also ships some "unlawful combatants" to countries that use interrogation techniques harsher than any authorized for use by U.S. intelligence officers. They say that Jordan, Syria, Morocco and Egypt were among the nations used in order to extract confessions quickly using techniques harsher than those authorized for use by U.S. intelligence officers. These prisoners were not necessarily citizens of those nations.
Sikorski answered, "I think this is as much as I can tell you about this."
Of the 12 high-value targets housed by the CIA, only one did not require water boarding before he talked.
Who do the US government think they are fooling? These obvious and well-documented lies don't take in anyone (apart from about half of their own citizens -see the CNN movie). I'm going to have to stop writing this emetic stuff.
Water boarding was designated as illegal by U.S. generals in Vietnam 40 years ago. A photograph that appeared in The Washington Post of a U.S. soldier involved in water boarding a North Vietnamese prisoner in 1968 led to that soldier's severe punishment.
"The soldier who participated in water torture in January 1968 was court-martialed within one month after the photos appeared in The Washington Post, and he was drummed out of the Army.
The New York Times leading ediorial. 7th December, 2005
It was a sad enough measure of how badly the Bush administration has damaged its moral standing that the secretary of state had to deny that the president condones torture before she could visit some of the most reliable American allies in Europe. It was even worse that she had a hard time sounding credible when she did it.
Of course, it would have helped if Condoleezza Rice was actually in a position to convince the world that the United States has not, does not and will not torture prisoners. But there's just too much evidence that this has happened at the hands of American interrogators or their proxies in other countries. Vice President Dick Cheney is still lobbying to legalize torture at the C.I.A.'s secret prisons, and to block a law that would reimpose on military prisons the decades-old standard of decent treatment that Mr. Bush scrapped after 9/11.
On Friday 10th December, John Bellinger, senior legal adviser at the State department, again made matters worse for the US government. [BBC News]
Mr Bellinger said the US did practice rendition, by which some terror suspects were sent to a third country to be questioned.
But he added that even transferring a prisoner to a country which had been criticised over its human rights record was not a violation of international law.
Even if it were legal (which, according to Lord Steyn, below, it is not), Bellinger's statement merely confirms that the US government has sunk to the level of the mediaeval inquisition. And is almost proud of it.
A lawyers view of what constitutes war crimes, from Lord Steyn, until recently one of the law lords (the equivalent of supreme court judges in other countries). In an interview by Jon Snow for Channel 4 News, Lord Steyn was asked for his legal opinion on "extraordinary rendition".
Read the transcript or watch the broadcast at Channel 4 News. Here are some quotations from the transcript.
Jon Snow The Americans are saying that European lives have been saved by carrying people from one place to another. They deny torture.
Lord Steyn I can't see that that is a proposition that can be sustained. Specifically when you refer to torture it is very important to know what is meant by torture. I'm speaking purely as a lawyer. The US administration has adopted a definition of torture which is extremely narrow. It involves causing death, total organ failure and so forth. The true definition is much wider
Jon Snow Do you therefore think that in a way Guantanamo Bay is a template for what is happening?
Lord Steyn I think Guantanamo Bay is the clue to much of what we have seen unravelled even over this weekend. We have seen a scale of lawlessness unravel which in my opinion is the logical extension of Guantanamo Bay because Guantanamo Bay involved taking prisoners from Afghanistan, and many other places, to an island where there would be a lawless black hole where they can never escape from, where they have no right to trial. This logically is not very different from what the Americans call rendition which, in truth, is abduction. It is not authorised by international law and the connection between this and Guatanamo Bay is very close.
Jon Snow Let's leave aside the question of torture which in a sense you've dealt with. Is it legal to move people around the world from one detention centre to another?
Lord Steyn It is undoubtedly not legal. One must go back to the Geneva Convention and the matter is governed by the Geneva Conventions and prisoners must be dealt with in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. And the Geneva Convention is not something you can opt into or opt out as you like. Those are binding conventions.
Jon Snow But as things stand, it is law that is being broken in your terms. What is the cumulative effect then Guantanamo, of removal and of black sites?
Lord Steyn The cumulative effect of all these matters is lawlessness on a truly grand scale. It has the effect of giving a setback to international law, to humanitarian law - human rights law - for a very, very long time.
Jon Snow But the very concept of a war crime is an enormous statement. You are actually saying people who are doing this at the moment may be guilty of a war crime?
Lord Steyn If prisoners are tortured at Guantanamo Bay or at black sites - if they are - those who commit those acts will be guilty of war crimes, and those who authorise it can be similarly guilty of war crime.Jon Snow Let me press you then, the British authorities may be guilty of war crimes?
Lord Steyn If the British authorities were fully aware of the purpose of the flights. If they were aware that these were attempts to take detainees to place where they could be tortured, of course there is the risk that the British authorities may themselves be guilty of war crimes. But it is dependent of proof.
Jon Snow What then do we ask of our government from a legal perspective?
Lord Steyn From a legal perspective, I would say we are at least entitled to ask of our government that it must stand up to the international rule of law, that it must no so unambiguously and publicly. That necessarily involves that there should be no kow-towing to the lawlessness of the US administration.
Compare and contrast this with
"Tony Blair has defended co-operation with the US over the secret transfer of terrorism suspects, amid fears that some could be facing torture." [BBC News].
And what happens at Guantanamo? Read "The Strange Case of Chaplain Yee" in the New York Review of Books.
|Meanwhile 25-year old Maya Evans got a criminal record for standing outside Downing Street and reading aloud the names of the 97 British soldiers who have died in the Iraq conflict. After a three-hour hearing, she was found guilty of breaching Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 [Independent].||
The Sunday Times (11 December 2005) published some interesting allegations. They are interesting because they document what appears to be the first (known) case of abduction of a UK citizen by the CIA, to be sent to another country for torture. They are also very interesting because it seems that the abduction was carried out with the full knowledge and cooperation of the UK authorities. If this report is accurate is exceedingly serious. The UK (and Polish, and Romanian) governments have claimed that they don't know what is going on. They haven't been very convincing, of course. Tony Blair has managed to give the strong impression that, at least, he has chosen to look the other way at the illegal activities of the CIA. The alternative possibility, of course, is that the UK government is fully aware of the abductions and cooperates with them, while lying to the public about it. This latter interpretation is what appears, from the report, to be right. Is anyone really surprised?
A FORMER London student accused of terrorism claims he was tortured under the CIA's policy of flying prisoners to countries that use extreme interrogation techniques.
The Pentagon alleges that Binyam Mohammed plotted to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in America and received instructions from Al-Qaeda's senior leaders, including the architect of the 9/11 attacks.
The 27-year-old, from Notting Hill, west London, faces a trial before a military court at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He could be jailed for life.
Mohammed's lawyers, however, say he is the first British resident to become a victim of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" programme which came under scrutiny last week as Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, toured Europe.
The lawyers claim the allegations against Mohammed are based on a confession extracted through torture in a Moroccan jail — and accuse the British authorities of being complicit in his ordeal.
In a diary written by Mohammed and seen by The Sunday Times, he claims two British officials knew in advance of his transfer to Morocco and says his interrogators told him they were being assisted by MI5.
Mohammed is thought to have been flown in and out of north Africa on two private jets, reportedly operated by the CIA, which have landed at UK airports more than 150 times, according to official records.
While he was held in Pakistan, Mohammed claims he was met by two Britons, who he believes to be MI6 officers.
"They gave me a cup of tea with a lot of sugar in it," he writes. "I initially took one. ‘No, you need a lot more. Where you’re going you need a lot of sugar.’ . . . One of them did tell me that I was going to get tortured by the Arabs."
A few weeks later, Mohammed claims he was handed to a team of Americans "dressed in black, with masks, wearing what looked like Timberland boots". He was stripped naked, photographed, given an enema and put on a plane with shackles, earphones and a blindfold. A report in The Washington Post last week attributed a virtually identical procedure to the CIA’s “Rendition Group”.
On July 22, 2002 — the day that Mohammed claims he was moved to Morocco — flight logs show a Gulfstream V private jet, registration number N379P, was at Rabat airport
See also the Independent, 12 Dec 2005, Straw faces MPs over claims MI6 delivered suspect for torture. On the Today programme this morning, Jack Straw said he could find no letters from the USA that requested assistance to abduct people and send them the other countries for interrogation. Ah well, so that's OK then.
Swiss senator Dick Marty has submitted a report to a meeting of the human rights committee of the Council of Europe, on the claims that the CIA abducted and illegally transported terror suspects across European borders. Mr Marty criticised the US for refusing to confirm or deny the allegations. [BBC News]
"The elements we have gathered so far tend to reinforce the credibility of the allegations concerning the transport and temporary detention of detainees - outside all judicial procedure - in European countries. Legal proceedings in progress in certain countries seemed to indicate that individuals had been abducted and transferred to other countries without respect for any legal standards."
He warned, if the allegations proved correct any European states involved "would stand accused of having seriously breached their human rights obligations to the Council of Europe".
Statewatch (15 Dec 2005) has done a wonderful bit of detective work. It is now clear beyond doubt that not only Tony Blair but every European government has lied about its knowledge concerning US "rendition" (a revolting euphemism for kidnapping, detention in secret without charge, and torture, the things expected of military dictatorships). Read the sordid detalis here.
There has been an informal agreement between the EU and the USA that flights to and from the USA can stop-over in transit at EU airports since around 1998 (see EU docs no: 13554/97 and 6541/1/98). The USA requested these "facilities" into order to send people back to Africa, the Middle East and Asia. No figures have ever been published on the extent to which this agreement has been used.
However, a year after the invasion of Iraq the minutes of a high-level meeting of the "New Transatlantic Agenda: EU-US meeting on Justice and Home Affairs" in Athens on 22 January 2003 record that:
“Both sides agreed on the areas where cooperation could be improved i.a. the exchange of data between border management services, increased use of European transit facilities to support the return of criminal/inadmissible aliens, . . .”
At its regular press briefing on Monday 12 December the European Commission tried to deny that "secret minutes of the meeting exist" and handed out copies of the uncensored version to journalists - however the Council's register still only carries the censored "partially accessible" version. - that is to say that all the details concerning the USA have been deleted (censored). A spokesperson for the Council said the deletions were a: "courtesy" to the USA.
Download the censored version of the minutes [pdf file, 165 kb]
And download the uncensored version here [pdf file, 198 kb]
BBC News (23 Dec 2005) carried this report.
An Italian court has issued Europe-wide arrest warrants for 22 suspected CIA agents accused of helping to kidnap a Muslim cleric in Milan in 2003.
The suspects are accused of abducting Osama Mustafa Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, without Italian permission, and flying him to Egypt for interrogation. The new warrants allow for the suspects' detention anywhere in the 25-nation EU, a prosecutor said.
Yet another case of illegal behaviour by the secret police. They seem to be coming thick and fast now. (e.g. Guardian
The Greek government faced mounting pressure last night to investigate claims that a senior MI6 officer masterminded the arrest and torture of Pakistani immigrants in Athens by local intelligence agents after the July 7 London bombings.
A Greek investigative weekly, Proto Thema (Top Story), published the names of the Athens M16 station chief, who allegedly ran the operation. They said intelligence agents from Greece's national information service, kidnapped the 27 Pakistani-born men from their homes in Athens and the northwestern town of Ioannina. The agents beat and psychologically tortured the men to "show off" in front of the British officer, the newspaper reported, before dumping the blindfolded men in central Athens at night.
Greece's public order minister, Giorgos Voulgarakis, said: "Such a thing never happened, does not happen and won't happen. It's either a provocation or a farce." The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and the Pakistani interior minister, have also denied the claims. Straw said that reports of British involvement were "nonsense".
Of course one knows that governments always disown the activities of their secret police, so presumably (yet again) these earnest assurances for the British and Greek governments are not worth the paper they are written on. Nevertheless the non-stop dissimulation gets tedious, and has the great disadvantage for governments that people cease to believe them even when they are telling the truth.
The British government said that an official committee had imposed a "D" notice making it illegal for British media to name the MI6 man involved. Well it is hard to keep a secret these days. It took me a full 5 minutes to find the name of the alleged MI6 agent on the web. I won't take the risk of giving it here, because it would not achieve much. It is sad that one has become nervous of the knock on the door in the night.
January 2006. There was never much doubt of the existence of European complicity in secret CIA abduction and detention, because it is wriiten in official EU documents, as reported above. Now the BBC News, and Der Spiegel, report that Swiss military intelligence has intercepted a top-secret fax from Cairo to the Egyptian embassy in London that seems to confirm the existence of CIA prisons in eastern Europe, according to the Swiss newspaper SonntagsBlick, which published the fax on Sunday.
Dick Marty, the Swiss senator who is carrying out an inquiry into claims the CIA has run illegal secret detention centres in Europe, accused the US of violating human rights and attacked European nations for their "shocking" passivity in the face of such violations. He is due to give a preliminary report to the Council of Europe on 23 January.
This can hardly be a surprise after what is nown already, but nevertheless it is always horrifying to see in black and white the extent to which the government is willing to deceive the public about the truth.
The New Statesman obtained a leak copy of a briefing paper sent by the Foreign Office to No 10. The document was dated December 7 last year; it is a note from Irfan Siddiq, of the foreign secretary's private office, to Grace Cassy in Tony Blair's office.
The memo advises that rendition is illegal, but then offers the advice that ministers "should not be drawn" on the question, and try to "move the debate on".
It does not advise that illegal practices should be stopped. The advice concerns how to cover them up.
The contents are widely reported on 19th January 2006.
Much of the astonishing information in the Channel 4 report comes from a new version of the book 'Lawless World' written by a leading British human rights lawyer, Philippe Sands QC
Philippe Sands joined the Faculty of Law at UCL in January 2002. He is Professor of Law and Director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals in the Faculty, and a key member of staff in the Centre for Law and the Environment. His teaching areas include public international law, the settlement of international disputes, and environmental and natural resources law.
“Channel 4 News tonight reveals extraordinary details of George Bush and Tony Blair's pre-war meeting in January 2003 at which they discussed plans to begin military action on March 10th 2003, irrespective of whether the United Nations had passed a new resolution authorising the use of force. ”
“Channel 4 News has seen minutes from that meeting, which took place in the White House on 31 January 2003. The two leaders discussed the possibility of securing further UN support, but President Bush made it clear that he had already decided to go to war. ”
President Bush said that:
"The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would 'twist arms' and 'even threaten'. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway.''
Prime Minister Blair responded that he was: "solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam."
Mr Sands' book says that the meeting focused on the need to identify evidence that Saddam had committed a material breach of his obligations under the existing UN Resolution 1441. There was concern that insufficient evidence had been unearthed by the UN inspection team, led by Dr Hans Blix. Other options were considered.
“President Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."
He went on: "It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddams WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated."
President Bush said that he: "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups."
Mr Blair did not respond.”
So it now seems that the protesters who assembled at UCL on March 20th 2003 did not exaggerate the duplicity of the US and UK governments. We underestimated it.
UCL -Axis of peace (20 March 2003)
Click here to download high resolution wallpaper version.
This horrifying saga is dealt with on my Education and Religion page.
The week 13th – 17th February 2006 brought bad news just about every day. Guantánamo camp, where prisoners have been held without charge and without trial for up to four years, was in the news again.
Nothing would be better for the reputation of the USA in the rest of the world than to shut Guantánamo, but the US government responded, as usual, by denying everything. John Bellinger (see also here, and here) said that some Guantánamo prisoners who had been released had gone on to fight the USA. If this is true, I suppose it means that three years of confinement without charge had failed to convince them of the virtues of the American way of life. What better way to recruit terrorists? The US government once again denied that it used torture, despite endless evidence that it does, including evidence from its own soldiers from its own soldiers and from military lawyers. As repeatedly documented here, the trick is that the US government uses the word "torture" in a different way from the rest of the world.
Sir Andrew Collins speaks out. Mr Justice Collins (a High Court judge) said yesterday that America's idea of what constitutes torture "is not the same as ours and doesn't appear to coincide with that of most civilised countries" .
Even a British cabinet minister, Peter Hains, spoke up for a change, and said "he would prefer to see Guantanamo Bay close"
More of the Abu Ghraib pictures have been published, despite the best efforts of the US government to cover them up. No doubt a corporal or two will be punished and those who are responsible for authorising torture escape entirely.
The video of UK soldiers beating teenagers in Basra is at least as revolting. It is distinguished by the revolting commentary supplied by whoever did the filming. Mysteriously the video seems to have vanished from the web.
He speaks to peaceful protestors who have been stopped under the Terrorism Act including an elderly man held in Brighton for wearing an anti-Blair T-shirt and the 11-year-old girl stopped and searched while participating in a peace march.
This film was shown on Channel 4 TV on Thursday March 9th, 2006. You can now download the film. The film tells the true story of three British Muslims held, and tortured, at the US prison camp for two years before being released without charge. On their return they were taken under heavy police guard for questioning in London. The UK authorities also decided they had done nothing wrong. They, like almost all prisoners at Guantánamo, were never charged and never given access to a lawyer. Both the UK and the US governments eventually decided they were innocent. Their interrogation was reminiscent of the Salem witchcraft trials: 'sign this statement that you are a member of Al Qaeda, or die'. Their story brings shame on the USA and, all that Mr Blair can say about it is that Guantánamo is an "anomaly".
The film had its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. When the ex-prisoners and actors returned to the UK they were arrested, or detained, under anti-terrorism laws at Luton Airport. Yes, that's right, not just the ex-prisoners, who had already been cleared by both US and UK authorities, but also the actors who played their parts in the film. One of the actors, Rizwan Ahmed, said a police officer asked him if he intended to make any more "political" films.
Does making political films now count as terrorism?
This page was started after I read of the death of Rachel Corrie.
The Royal Court Theatre production of the play, 'My Name is Rachel Corrie', was based on her childhood writings. It was due to transfer to New York next month. But last week the New York Theatre Workshop cancelled the production - or, in their words, "postponed it indefinitely". [Guardian, 2-Mar-06].
The play will now be shown at the Playhouse theatre in London's West End from March 28; booking number 0870 060 6631. Book now!
“An SAS soldier has refused to fight in Iraq and has left the Army over the "illegal" tactics of United States troops and the policies of coalition forces.
After three months in Baghdad, Ben Griffin told his commander that he was no longer prepared to fight alongside American forces.
He said he had witnessed "dozens of illegal acts" by US troops, claiming they viewed all Iraqis as "untermenschen" - the Nazi term for races regarded as sub-human.
The decision marks the first time an SAS soldier has refused to go into combat and quit the Army on moral grounds.
Photo: Daily Telegraph
It immediately brought to an end Mr Griffin's exemplary, eight-year career in which he also served with the Parachute Regiment, taking part in operations in Northern Ireland, Macedonia and Afghanistan.
But it will also embarrass the Government and have a potentially profound impact on cases of other soldiers who have refused to fight.
On Wednesday, the pre-trial hearing will begin into the court martial of Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith, a Royal Air Force doctor who has refused to return to Iraq for a third tour of duty on the grounds that the war is illegal. Mr Griffin's allegations came as the Foreign Office minister Kim Howells, visiting Basra yesterday, admitted that Iraq was now "a mess".
Mr Griffin, 28, who spent two years with the SAS, said the American military's "gung-ho and trigger happy mentality" and tactics had completely undermined any chance of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi population. He added that many innocent civilians were arrested in night-time raids and interrogated by American soldiers, imprisoned in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, or handed over to the Iraqi authorities and "most probably" tortured.
Mr Griffin eventually told SAS commanders at Hereford that he could not take part in a war which he regarded as "illegal".
He added that he now believed that the Prime Minister and the Government had repeatedly "lied" over the war's conduct.
"I did not join the British Army to conduct American foreign policy," he said. He expected to be labelled a coward and to face a court martial and imprisonment after making what "the most difficult decision of my life" last March.
Instead, he was discharged with a testimonial describing him as a "balanced, honest, loyal and determined individual who possesses the strength of character to have the courage of his convictions".
Last night Patrick Mercer, the shadow minister for homeland security, said: "Trooper Griffin is a highly experienced soldier. This makes his decision particularly disturbing and his views and opinions must be listened to by the Government."
The MoD declined to comment.”
And, of course, Mr Blair has no comment.
'I didn't join the British Army to conduct American foreign policy'. Another article in the same Sunday Telegraph, an interview with Martin Griffin by Sean Rayment.
“"The Americans had this catch-all approach to lifting suspects. The tactics were draconian and completely ineffective. The Americans were doing things like chucking farmers into Abu Ghraib [the notorious prison in Baghdad where US troops abused and tortured Iraqi detainees] or handing them over to the Iraqi authorities, knowing full well they were going to be tortured. ”
The fatal divide at the heart of the Coalition. In the same issue the veteran war correspondent, Max Hastings comments thus.
“Here is a quote from a British security contractor in Iraq about his American counterparts: "I hate those bastards more than the scumbag insurgents." A British colonel recently returned from a tour in the country said that, in our next war, he would sooner fight alongside the Russians than the US.
This is another quote from a British security contractor: "The American way is not my way. I don't mind a scrap but I draw the line at mooning the enemy and inviting him to shoot at my backside, and that's virtually what the Yanks are doing. I'm also convinced that many Americans hate the Iraqis, not just the insurgents but all Iraqis… What a mess."
Those last lines are taken from a rather good new book about the experience of Iraq today, Highway To Hell, written by an ex-SAS man who signs himself John Geddes. My point in all the above, is to show that Ben Griffin, the former SAS soldier who vents his dismay about what is happening to Iraq in today's Sunday Telegraph, is not a lone voice. ”
“I've had conversations with many [US security contractors] and regular US soldiers who are evangelical Christians," writes John Geddes, the ex-SAS soldier quoted above, "who see themselves in a crusade against the Muslim hordes. In my view, they're not much different to the Iraqi militiamen and foreign fighters who see themselves at the heart of a jihad against the Christian crusaders." ”
“Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna are among eight British residents who remain prisoners at the U.S. Naval Air Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They are jailed because British officials rendered them into the hands of the CIA in Africa, a fact that may explain why the British government refuses to intercede on their behalf. Bisher and Jamil have been wrongfully imprisoned now for more than three years. This is the story of their betrayal by the British government and their appalling treatment at the hands of the CIA and the U.S. military.”. . .
“Why the British Government has treated these two men as it has, I cannot say. What seems most likely is that they were simply expendable pawns in Great Britain's and America's attempt to create a case against Abu Qatada.
My security clearance allows me to review all of the classified evidence in the cases, including all the evidence the tribunal relied upon to conclude that Mr al-Rawi and Mr el-Banna were enemy combatants. There is no evidence in the record, classified or unclassified, which supports the military's determination that these are enemy combatants. None.”
. . . in Iraq, the British have been “led into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady witholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse that we have been told. Our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows . . . We are today not far from a disaster.”
Lawrence of Arabia, on the British occupation of Iraq in 1920.
An RAF doctor, Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith, 37, was jailed for 8 months by a Court Martial after being found guilty of five charges of disobeying orders after he refused to go to Basra last June.
“Flight Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith, 37, was found guilty on five counts of disobeying orders after a trial marked by bitter exchanges, in which he compared the actions of US forces to those of Nazi Germany. ”
The judge said
“Obedience of orders is at the heart of any disciplined force. Refusal to obey orders means that the force is not a disciplined force but a rabble." A non-custodial sentence "would send a message to all those who wear the Queen's uniform that it does not matter if they refuse to carry out the policy of Her Majesty's government”.
Kendall-Smith's defence was that his orders were illegal. Ever since the Nuremberg trials, this has been considered a valid defence. And after the saga of the Attorney General's advice (see here and here, the legality of the war in Iraq has, of course, been in serious doubt.
This case stands in stark contrast with that of Ben Griffin, the SAS soldier who left the Army in disgust at 'illegal' American tactics in Iraq. Mr Griffin eventually told SAS commanders at Hereford that he could not take part in a war which he regarded as "illegal". He was not court-martialled, but discharged with a testimonial describing him as a "balanced, honest, loyal and determined individual who possesses the strength of character to have the courage of his convictions"
It is now widely recognised that the war was probably illegal and that it was undoubtedly justified by distorted advice (otherwise known as lies). Even many neocons now admit it. Many senior army officers admit it. The authorities were wrong, the doctor was right. But it is the Kendall-Smith who goes to jail, for having the temerity to tell the truth. The real villains, Bush, Rumsfeld, Blair, Hoon, are still in office. And most of the thugs, apart from a few low-ranking soldiers, remain free. If there were enough soldiers with the strength of character of Kendall-Smith and Griffin, perhaps the world would be a better place.
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759
Recent times have not been good for those who think that Franklin was right.
Bush Challenges Hundreds of Laws (Charlie Savage, The Boston Globe, Sunday 30 April 2006)
"Washington - President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution."
Bush appointee must clear any scientist advising WHO World health agency says policy threatens free, open inquiry
Tom Hamburger, Los Angeles Times, Saturday, June 26, 2004.
"Washington -- The Bush administration has ordered that government scientists must be approved by a senior political appointee before they can participate in meetings convened by the World Health Organization,"
The USDA on Iraq:
Al Kamen, Washington Post, Monday, May 8, 2006.
“Career appointees at the Department of Agriculture were stunned last week to receive e-mailed instructions that include Bush administration "talking points" -- saying things such as "President Bush has a clear strategy for victory in Iraq" -- in every speech they give for the department.”
John Reid appointed to Home Office, and starts attack on human rights
Tony Blair's reshuffle replaced the bully Charles Clarke with the only bigger bully of New Labour, John Reid. He is the neocon who recently, as Defence Secretary, called for abolition of the Geneva Conventions. And guess what his first action was? To water down the Human Rights Act.
Well, to be fair, the initiative seems to have come from Tony Blair (Observer, 14th May 2006). Just the latest in a series of quick-fix bits of legislation, designed to appeal to the Daily Mail reader, at the cost of basic freedoms and the rule of law.
As the distinguished UCL international lawyer, Philippe Sands, says "When will this abuse of human rights end?" (Observer 14th May). He says
" . . it is he [Blair] who is out of touch with fundamental values and poses the more fundamental threat to constitutional democracy, the separation of powers and fundamental rights."
On the following day, a fierce Guardian editorial comments thus.
“Few things in the record of the Blair government are shabbier or more destructive than its increasing tendency - intimately related to its own mounting political difficulties - to foster lies and bolster rightwing myths about its own Human Rights Act. ”
Well, there was one bit of good news. At last a member of the government has come off the fence about Guantanamo. While Blair, Reid and the Lord Chancellor have been busy trying to dismantle the Human Rights Act, the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith gave a speech to the Royal United Services Institute, in which he made a very clear statement.
“But the existence of Guantanamo Bay remains unacceptable. It is time, in my view, that it should close.”
"The historic tradition of the United States as a beacon of freedom, liberty and of justice deserves the removal of this symbol,"
But no other member of the government supported him, and the USA does not seem to be very interested in being a "beacon of freedom, liberty and of justice" at the moment: they immediately rejected the call.
The case of the German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, is described above. He was kidnapped by the USA, and tortured before being released without charge. With the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, he aimed to sue former CIA chief George Tenet and other officials for their alleged role in the "extraordinary rendition" programme.
“The judge did not rule on the truth of the allegations, but said letting the case proceed might endanger security.”
“. . the district court judge in Virginia rejected the challenge, saying Mr el-Masri's "private interests must give way to the national interest in preserving state secrets". ”
To me, this sounds more like a Kafka novel than the rule of law.
Gerard Baker in The Times, 3rd June 2006, comments on the tragic events in Haditha
Tales of US shame and dishonour blight the week of Memorial Day
This Memorial Day week has probably been the worst seven days for the US military since the Vietnam War ended more than 30 years ago.
The events of the past week have underscored, as Abu Ghraib did two years ago, that for the US military, true defeat comes only rarely at the hands of its enemies and far more often through the arms of a small but significant minority of its own servicemen, whose indiscipline and inhumanity can dwarf the honourable efforts of the vast majority.
This scepticism about using the military as a tool to remake nations and civilise a hostile world was put best by an article in the periodical Foreign Affairs in 2000. The author attacked the misuse of the US military in nation-building projects in the Clinton years.
"The president must remember that the military is lethal, and it is meant to be. It is not a civilian police force. It is not a political referee. And it is most certainly not designed to build a civilian society."
It was a succinct indictment about the dangers of using the military as anything other than a fighting force. Its author was Condoleezza Rice, then principal foreign policy adviser to the man who was soon to be President Bush.
It is hard to escape the sense that Americans are increasingly coming to embrace its wisdom, even as its authors have disowned it.
“American soldiers have been cleared of deliberately killing Iraqi civilians in one of several incidents that have raised questions about the conduct of the occupying force, it emerged yesterday. But US marines still face murder charges for two other incidents.
According to defence officials quoted last night, a military investigation has cleared troops involved in the March raid on Ishaqi, 60 miles north of Baghdad, in which women and children were killed.
The BBC broadcast footage from Ishaqi apparently questioning the American version of events, which contended that four people were killed when US troops raided a house in pursuit of an al-Qaida suspect. Iraqi police say 11 people including four children were executed and the house subsequently demolished.”
“The episodes have been sharply criticised by the Iraqi government. Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, said his government was losing patience with reports of civilian deaths at the hands of coalition forces.”
Report in The Times (“Military justice in the dock after acquittals”) and in The Guardian.
“The prosecution had alleged that Ahmed Jabar Karheem, who could not swim, was ordered into the Shatt al-Basra canal in May 2003 after being caught looting. There was only one eyewitness, another suspected looter named Aiad Salim Hanon, who claimed to have been beaten by the soldiers and admitted that he had hoped for compensation from the British authorities for reporting the incident.
After the verdicts, Phil Shiner, a human rights lawyer who represents the victim's father, said: "There are huge structural problems with the military system of investigating itself." He accused the Royal Military police of a number of failings.
"It lacks independence. It lacks rigour. It lacks a strong rationale to get to the bottom of this type of incident," he said. ”
The New York Times published this editorial on 6 June, 2006
Published: June 6, 2006
“For more than seven decades, civilized nations have adhered to minimum standards of decent behavior toward prisoners of war — agreed to in the Geneva Conventions. They were respected by 12 presidents and generations of military leaders because they reflected this nation's principles and gave Americans some protection if they were captured in wartime.
It took the Bush administration to make the world doubt Washington's fidelity to the rules. And The Los Angeles Times, reporting yesterday on a dispute over updating the Army rulebook known as the Field Manual, reminded us that there is good reason to worry.
At issue is Directive 2310 on the treatment and questioning of prisoners, an annex to the Field Manual. It has long contained a reference to Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which covers all prisoners, whether they meet the common definition of prisoners of war or are the sort of prisoners the administration classifies as "unlawful enemy combatants," like suspected members of the Taliban or Al Qaeda.
Article 3 prohibits the use of torture and other overt acts of violence. But Mr. Bush's civilian lawyers removed it from the military rulebook over the objections of diplomats and military lawyers. Mr. Bush has said he does not condone torture, but he has also said he would decide for himself when to follow the ban on torture imposed by Congress last year. Removing the Geneva Conventions from Army regulations gives the world more cause for doubt.”
“It defies belief that this administration is still clinging to its benighted policies on prisoners after the horrors of Abu Ghraib, the killings at American camps in Afghanistan and the world's fresh outrage over what appears to have been the massacre of Iraqi men, women and children in the village of Haditha.”
In the BBC Radio 4 programme, A Point of View (7 July 2006), Lisa Jardine gave a fascinating account of the fate of Dr Roderigo Lopez, Physician to Elizabeth the First. The parallels with today are very obvious.
“In January 1594, Queen Elizabeth I's headstrong young favourite, the Earl of Essex, accompanied by officers from the Elizabethan security forces, raided the residence of the Queen's personal physician, Dr Roderigo Lopez.
“Five years after the failed Spanish Armada , the English government” remained in a state of agitation at the possibility of an imminent Catholic invasion from the European mainland. The country was still on high alert. Society doctor Correspondence from overseas was regularly intercepted, dawn raids - carried out by the intelligence services - were normal. The public were told to be on the look-out for foreign spies and extremists in their midst, and to report suspicious individuals immediately. Personal freedom was curtailed in the interests of national security - the Elizabethan state had become to all intents and purposes a police state. ”
“The Queen remained unconvinced. Lopez, she maintained, was a trustworthy and loyal servant. Essex was a 'rash and temerarious youth', making claims he could not substantiate. Nevertheless, Dr Lopez was held for 38 days without charge, before eventually being brought to trial. His home was subjected to a ruthlessly thorough search, ransacked and turned upside-down while his family stood by and watched. Nothing significant was uncovered. As one of Elizabeth's ministers reported to her: 'In the poor man's house were found no kind of writings of intelligences whereof he is accused'. Lopez was repeatedly interrogated, and eventually subjected to torture. On the rack, he confessed that he had accepted 50,000 crowns from the Spanish intelligence services to carry out the poisoning using exotic drugs he had obtained abroad. He later retracted that confession. ”
“At the end of February 1594, Lopez was tried in camera, by a special commission at London's Guildhall, charged with leaking intelligence to the king of Spain, attempting to stir up rebellion, and conspiring to poison the Queen. Found guilty on all charges, he was hanged, drawn and quartered alongside two fellow alleged conspirators in June. Right to the end Lopez protested his innocence.”
“In the fraught 1590s, not much was needed to convince a jittery public of the guilt of a foreigner, who dressed distinctively, and was thought to practise what seemed like an outlandish religion. The evidence used to convict Lopez had been obtained while he was under police surveillance. ”
““It was not until the end of the seventeenth century, by a slow process, during and after the English Civil Wars, that the civil liberties fatally undermined during the Age of Elizabeth began gradually to be restored. It took until the nineteenth century for the individual human rights we take for granted to become fully enshrined in law.”
“The process by which people who are alleged to have committed offences against the state are brought to court, so that the allegations against them can be properly examined, has been honed over centuries. Once dismantled, due process of the law will take centuries to rebuild. If, in order to be able to detain those we suspect of intending harm, we reduce, for the time being, the long-established methods of accumulating evidence and establishing the burden of proof, how will we be able, at some future date, to reinstate them? How long will it take our children and our grandchildren to recognise the importance of what has been lost, to recover and reinstate the rights we freely gave away? ”
It seems that Bush and Blair have taken us right back to the late 16th century.
Well, here is an odd thing. I wrote above about this notoriously one-sided extradition treaty, ratified by David Blunkett in 2003 (but not yet by the USA). It didn't get much publicity until it was applied to white bankers. You can read the full text of the Treaty for yourself.
The Treaty is headed by the Royal crest, and starts as below. But who wrote it? Throughout the Treaty 'offence' is spelt as 'offense', and 'counselling' is spelt 'counseling'. It seems almost as though this Treaty, approved by the UK Parliament had been written in another country. There's a surprise.
This matter came to light on a Forensic Linguistics discussion. The Extradition Act 2003 gives the treaty the force of law (but does not mention the USA). In subsequent correspondence, Nick Clegg, MP, is quoted as saying in the House of Commons:
“The treaty was negotiated in secret and the text was published months later, a day before Parliament went into recess. Then it was subject to no more than 90 minutes' scrutiny in the Committee. The report on the treaty was published before the treaty!”
Once again the brilliant investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, (see here and here) has unearthed some very interesting facts about the conflict in Lebanon, in an article in the New Yorker. [Download as pdf]
“The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah . . . ”
“Bush’s strongest supporter in Europe continues to be British Prime Minister Tony Blair, but many in Blair’s own Foreign Office, as a former diplomat said, believe that he has “gone out on a particular limb on this"—especially by accepting Bush’s refusal to seek an immediate and total ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. “Blair stands alone on this,” the former diplomat said. "He knows he’s a lame duck who’s on the way out, but he buys it"—the Bush policy. "He drinks the White House Kool-Aid as much as anybody in Washington." ”
“ "The warfare of today is not mass on mass," he [John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School] said. "You have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focussed on bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more aggressive on the ground. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result." ”
I apologise for my failure to turn up at the meeting of the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics, UCLA, where I was to talk about "Single ion channels: theory and practice of the analysis of a single molecule", on May 25.
I had, naively, it seems, supposed that no Western government could survive such total betrayal of all that Western civilisation is supposed to stand for. But I was wrong: it seems that a substantial proportion of US voters see nothing wrong with policies of this sort. [Washington Post, 27 May, 2004]
In the light of recent events, I simply cannot bring myself to visit the USA again, until civilised standards are restored.
Bush authorised torture: If it was not already obvious, the new book, Chain of Command, by Seymour Hersh, shows very clearly how the policy of torture originated directly from Bush and Rumsfeld. [extract in Guardian, 13 Sep., 2004]
Medics' shame: Doctors' involvement in torture The Lancet
UK's shame: British judges, and Home Secretary Blunkett, see nothing wrong with evidence obtained by torture [The Times]
"The lawlessness began in January 2002 when Mr. Rumsfeld publicly declared that hundreds of people detained by U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan "do not have any rights" under the Geneva Conventions." Washington Post Editorial, 6 May, 2004)."Those abusive actions do not appear to be aberrant conduct by individuals, but part of a conscious method of extracting information."
Senator Carl Levin (Senate Armed Services Committee) ( BBC News)
"The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq."
". . . only a third of Americans would define what happened at Abu Ghraib as torture." Washington Post, 27 May
In August 2002, the Justice Department advised the White House that torturing al Qaeda terrorists in captivity abroad "may be justified," [more]
Prisoners "are like dogs" Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller [BBC News]
Bush administration "ideological and callously indifferent" say 26 US Diplomats and Military Commanders. (BBC News]
Supreme Court says Bush administration's actions are illegal [Washington Post]
Lt Gen James Mattis, US Marine corps: "Actually, it's quite a lot of fun to fight; you know, it's a hell of a hoot. I like brawling; it's fun to shoot some people." [BBC News]
2nd Lt Ilario Pantano, US Marine corps: "Our duty as Marines is, quite frankly, to export violence to the four corners of the globe, to make sure that this [9/11] doesn't happen again." [BBC News]Reporter: "What do you think of Western Civilisation?" Gandhi: "It would be a good idea".
Gandhi: "Almost everything you do will be insignificant, but it is important that you do it."
UK newsBombs hit London UCL employee died
National Security Archive An excellent source of information from USA.
Spinwatch Information on spin and deception (UK version).
PR watch Information on spin and deception (US version).
Statewatch monitoring the state and civil liberties in the European Union.
UCS Union of Concerned Scientists (USA)
Francis Wheen's Top 10 Delusions
Liberty The UK Civil Liberties and Human Rights group
Human rights watch
Amnesty InternationalOpen democracy “Free thinking for the World”
[ACLU] American Civil Liberties Union
Human Rights First Another US pressure group.
The Downing street memos. This site gives a detailed timeline of Iraq-related events.
AU site Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Facts behind FAHRENHEIT 9/11. Michael Moore's site has many links to sources for the film.
Blairwatch: "Chronicling the demise of the new Labour project"
Craigmurray.com: Britain's ex-Ambassador to the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan speaks out.
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©David Colquhoun, 2005