Posts Tagged ‘Torture’

Secular Talk: Jeremy Scahill Criticises American Pro-War Journalism

April 13, 2017

This is another piece criticising the pro-War slant of American news, this time from Secular Talk. The host, Kyle Kulinski, comments on the appearance of the respected journalist Jeremy Scahill on CNN’s Reliable Sources. Scahill was asked by the programme’s male anchor if he believed Americans had been desensitised to the war in Syria through media coverage. Scahill attacked Trump for giving even more leeway to bomb and invade the countries of the Middle East in campaigns, which had killed civilians. In March alone, according to one group monitoring airstrikes, the US military had killed 1,000 civilians in Iraq. Trump had also supported military intervention in Syria for a long time, and there had been strikes made by special ops forces as well as normal ‘boots on the ground’. He had also supplied intelligence and arms to the Saudis for the war in Yemen, which was also claiming innocent lives.

Scahill stated that CNN needed to withdraw all appearances from retired generals and colonels, because they were pushing the war. He also attacked two journalists in particular, Fareed Zakaria and Brian Williams, for their outrageous enthusiasm for the war. He states that Zakaria would have sex with a cruise missile if he could, and criticised Williams for his ‘obscene’ quotation of Leonard Cohen.

Kulinski remarks on how Scahill seems to have been aged by his experiences making a film in which he talked to people in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, who had been the victims of drone strikes. He points out how a simple Google search will show that Trump doesn’t care about protecting civilians, as he claims. He said he wanted to kill the families of terrorists as well as the terrorists themselves. In his raid on Yemen, he killed an eight year old American girl, as well as 35 other innocent victims, in a raid that Obama had considered would cost too many innocent lives. 200 civilians have also died in a recent air strike in Mosul. Kulinski makes the point that there has been a 432 per cent rise in drone strikes. Trump is also aiding Saudi Arabia, who have blockaded Yemen. As a result of this, 17 million Yemenis are facing starvation. As for chemical weapons, America has given white phosphorus, a truly horrific weapon, to the Saudis for Yemen and Israel, which has used it in Gaza. Kulinski points out that the media is now part of the military-industrial complex. They don’t check their sources, and they have on retired generals and colonels, who are on the payroll of the arms companies. Kulinski praises Scahill for cutting through all the corporate, pro-war bullsh*t, but says that means that Scahill probably won’t be coming back to CNN any time soon.

I’ve put this up as I think it is interesting and heartening that some journalists are attacking the mainstream media for their bias in promoting an American invasion of Syria, and the obscenity of Brian Williams’ quotation of Leonard Cohen. I wonder what Cohen himself would have thought of it, if he were alive today. I don’t know what his personal politics were, but the people I knew, who were fans of his were leftie liberal types, who hated war.

The Case for Prosecuting Blair as War Criminal for Iraq Invasion

April 8, 2017

War Crime or Just War? The Iraq War 2003-2005: The Case against Blair, by Nicholas Wood, edited by Anabella Pellens (London: South Hill Press 2005).

This is another book I’ve picked up in one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham. It’s an angry and impassioned book, whose author is deeply outraged by Blair’s unprovoked and illegal invasion, the consequent carnage and looting and the massive human rights abuses committed by us and the Americans. William Blum in one of his books states that following the Iraq War there was an attempt by Greek, British and Canadian human rights lawyers to have Bush, Blair and other senior politicians and official brought to the international war crimes court in the Hague for prosecution for their crimes against humanity. This books presents a convincing case for such a prosecution, citing the relevant human rights and war crimes legislation, and presenting a history of Iraq and its despoliation by us, the British, from Henry Layard seizing the archaeological remains at Nineveh in 1845 to the Iraq War and the brutalisation of its citizens.

The blurb on the back cover reads:

After conversations with Rob Murthwaite, human rights law lecturer, the author presents a claim for investigation by The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Maanweg 174, 2516 AB The Hague, The Netherlands, that there have been breaches of the ICC Statute by members of the UK Government and Military in the run up to and conduct of the war with Iraq. That there is also prima facie evidence that the Hague and Geneva conventions, the Nuremberg and the United Nations Charters have been breached, and that this evidence may allow members of the UK and US Governments, without state immunity or statute of limitations, to be extradited to account for themselves. The use of hoods, cable ties, torture, mercenaries, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, aggressive patrols and dogs, is examined. Questions are raised over the religious nature of the war, the seizure of the oil fields, Britain’s continuous use of the RAF to bomb Iraq in 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1990s archaeologists acting as spies, the destruction of Fallujah, the burning and looting of libraries, museums and historic monuments; and the contempt shown towards Iraqis living, dead and injured.

In his preface Wood states that the conversation he had with Rob Murthwaite out of which the book grew, was when they were composing a letter for the Stop the War Coalition, which they were going to send to the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Wood himself is an archaeologist, and states that he is particularly shocked at the imposition of American culture in Saudi Arabia. The book’s editor, Anabella Pellens, is Argentinian and so ‘knows what imprisonment and disappearance mean’.

In his introduction Wood argues that there were four reasons for the invasion of Iraq. The first was to introduce democracy to the country. Here he points out that to Americans, democracy also means free markets and privatisation for American commercial interests. The second was to seized its oil supplies and break OPEC’s power. The third was Israel. The United States and Israel for several years before the War had been considering various projects for a water pipeline from the Euphrates to Israel. The Israelis also favoured setting up a Kurdish state, which would be friendly to them. They were also concerned about Hussein supplying money to the Palestinians and the Scuds launched against Israel during the 1992 Gulf War. And then there are the plans of the extreme Zionists, which I’ve blogged about elsewhere, to expand Israel eastwards into Iraq itself. The fourth motive is the establishment of American military power. Here Wood argues that in the aftermath of 9/11 it was not enough simply to invade Afghanistan: another country had to be invaded and destroyed to demonstrate the effectiveness of the American military machine.

Chapter 1 is a brief history of Iraq and its oil, with a commentary on the tragedy of the country, discussing the Gulf War and the Iraq invasion in the context of British imperialism, with another section on British imperialism and Kuwait.

Chapter 2 is a summary of the laws and customs of war, which also includes the relevant clauses from the regulations it cites. This includes

Habeas Corpus in the Magna Carta of 1215

The establishment of the Geneva Convention and the Red Cross

The Hague Convention of 1907: Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land
This includes a summary of the main clauses, and states the contents of the regulations.

The United Nations Charter of 1945

The Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal, 1945
This sections shows how the judgements are relevant to the British invasion and occupation of Iraq. It also gives a summary of the judgments passed at the Nuremberg trials, beginning with the indictment, and the individual verdicts against Goering, Hess, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Frick, Streicher, Rosenberg, Frank, Funk, Schacht, Doenitz, Raeder, Von Schirack, Sauckel, Jodl, Von Papen, Seyss-Inquart, Speer, Von Neurath, Fritzsche, and Borman.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Protocols, containing extracts from
Convention 1 – For the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in the Armed Forces in the Field; Convention III – Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War; IV – Relative to the Protection of Civilian persons in Times of War.

There are also extracts from

The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, 1954;

Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts, 1977.

Protocols to the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious Or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, Geneva 1980.

The 1997 Ottawa Convention and the treaty banning mines.

A summary of the rules of engagement for the 1991 Gulf War, which was issued as a pocket card to be carried by US soldiers.

The 1993 Hague Convention.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, 2002.

The International Criminal Court Act of 2001 and the incorporation of the Rome Statute into British law. This gives both the aims of the act and a summary of the act itself.

Lastly there are a few paragraphs on the Pinochet case of 1998, and extradition as a method of bringing justice.

Chapter 3 is on allies in war as partners in war crimes committed.

Chapter 4 is on the deception and conspiracy by Bush and Blair, which resulted in their invasion. This begins by discussing the American plans in the 1970s for an invasion of the Middle East to seize their oil supplies during the oil crisis provoked by the Six Day War. In this chapter Wood reproduces some of the relevant correspondence cited in the debates in this period, including a letter by Clare short.

Chapter 5 describes how Clare Short’s own experience of the Prime Minister’s recklessness, where it was shown he hadn’t a clue what to do once the country was conquered, led her to resign from the cabinet. Wood states very clearly in his title to this chapter how it violates one of the fundamental lessons of the great Prussian militarist, Clausewitz, that you must always know what to do with a conquered nation or territory.

Chapter 6: A Ruthless Government describes the vicious persecution of the government’s critics and their removal from office. Among Blair’s victims were the weapons scientist Dr David Kelly, who killed himself after questioning by the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee and MOD and an intense attempt by Blair and his cabinet to discredit him; the Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke, Gavin Davies, the Beeb’s chairman, and the reporter, Andrew Gilligan. Others target for attack and vilification included Katherine Gun, a translator at GCHQ, the head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Defence Intelligence Staff, Dr Brian Jones, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, a Deputy Legal Advisor to Foreign Office, George Galloway, Paul Bigley, the brother of the kidnap victim Ken Bigley, and Clare Short. Bigley’s apartment in Belgium was ransacked by MI6 and the RFBI and his computer removed because he blamed Blair for his brother’s kidnap and beheading by an Iraqi military faction. There is a subsection in this chapter on the case of Craig Murray. Murray is the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who got the boot because he told the government that the president was an evil dictator, who had boiled someone alive. This was most definitely not something Blair wanted to hear.

Chapter 7 is a series of cases studies. Each case has its own section, which includes the relevant Human Rights and war crimes legislation.

7A is on the breakdown of the country’s civil administration and political persecution. The two are linked, as Blair and Bush had all members of the Baath party dismissed from their posts. However, membership of the party was a requirement for employment in public posts across a wide range of fields. Wood points out that you could not even be a junior university lecturer without being a member of the party. As a result, the country was immediately plunged into chaos as the people who ran it were removed from their positions without anyone to take over. In this chapter Wood also discusses the unemployment caused by the war, and the disastrous effect the invasion had on the position of women.

7B is on the destruction of services infrastructure.

7C is on damage to hospitals and attacks on medical facilities.

7D is on the destruction and looting of museums, libraries and archaeological sites. Remember the outrage when ISIS levelled Nineveh and destroyed priceless antiquities in Mosul? The US and Britain are hardly innocent of similar crimes against this most ancient of nation’s heritage. The Americans caused considerable damage to Babylon when they decided to make it their base. This included breaking up the city’s very bricks, stamped with the names of ancient kings, for use as sand for their barricades around it. Remind me who the barbarians are again, please?

7E – Seizing the Assets is on the American and British corporate looting of the country through the privatisation and seizure of state-owned industries, particularly oil. This is very much in contravention of international law.

7F – Stealing their plants. This was covered in Private Eye at the time, though I’m not sure if it was mentioned anywhere else. Iraq has some of the oldest varieties of food crops in the world, among other biological treasures. These are varieties of plants that haven’t change since humans first settled down to farm 7-8 thousand years ago. Monsanto and the other GM firms desperately wanted to get their mitts on them. So they patented them, thus making the traditional crops Iraqi farmers had grown since time immemorial theirs, for which the farmers had to pay.

7G describes how the Christian religious element in the war gave it the nature of a Crusade, and religious persecution. The aggressive patrols and tactics used to humiliate and break suspects involve the violation of their religious beliefs. For example, dogs are unclean animals to Muslims, and would never be allowed inside a house. So dogs are used to inspect suspect’s houses, even the bedrooms, by the aggressive patrols. Muslims have their religious items confiscated, in contravention of their rules of war. One man was also forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, which is was against his religion as a Muslim. The message by some of the army ministers and preachers that Islam is an evil religion means that Iraqis, as Muslims, are demonised and that instead of being viewed as people to be liberated they are cast as enemies.

There are several sections on the restraint of suspects. These include the use of cable ties, hoods, which have resulted in the death of at least two people, setting dogs on people, standing for hours and other tortures, which includes a list of the types of torture permitted by Donald Rumsfeld, aggressive patrolling, killing and wounding treacherously – which means, amongst other things, pretending to surrender and then shooting the victims after they have let their guard down, marking the bodies of victims in order to humiliate them, the deliberate targeting of the house owned by the Hamoodi family of Chemical Ali, the mass shooting from aircraft of a wedding party in the Iraqi desert by the Americans, but supported by the British; another incident in which people gathered in a street in Haifa around a burning US vehicle were shot and massacred; cluster bombs, including evidence that these were used at Hilla; the use of depleted uranium. Thanks to the use of this material to increase the penetrating power of shells, the incidence of leukaemia and other cancers and birth defects has rocketed in parts of Iraq. Children have been born without heads or limbs. One doctor has said that women are afraid to get pregnant because of the widespread incidence of such deformities; the use of mercenaries. Private military contractors have been used extensively by the occupying armies. Counterpunch has attacked their use along with other magazines, like Private Eye, because of their lawlessness. As they’re not actually part of the army, their casualties also don’t feature among the figures for allied casualties, thus making it seem that there are fewer of them than there actually is. They also have the advantage in that such mercenaries are not covered by the Geneva and other conventions. Revenge killings by British forces in the attacks on Fallujah. 7W discusses the way the Blair regime refused to provide figures for the real number of people killed by the war, and criticised the respected British medical journal, the Lancet, when it said it could have been as many as 100,000.

In the conclusion Wood discusses the occupation of Iraq and the political motivations for it and its connection to other historical abuses by the British and Americans, such as the genocide of the Indians in North America. He describes the horrific experiences of some Iraqi civilians, including a little girl, who saw her sisters and thirteen year old brother killed by British soldiers. He states that he hopes the book will stimulate debate, and provides a scenario in which Blair goes to Jordan on holiday, only to be arrested and extradited to be tried as a war criminal for a prosecution brought by the farmers of Hilla province. The book has a stop press, listing further developments up to 2005, and a timeline of the war from 2003-5.

The book appears to me, admittedly a layman, to build a very strong case for the prosecution of Tony Blair for his part in the invasion of Iraq. Wood shows that the war and the policies adopted by the occupying powers were illegal and unjust, and documents the horrific brutality and atrocities committed by British and US troops.

Unfortunately, as Bloom has discussed on his website and in his books, Bush, Blair and the other monsters were not prosecuted, as there was political pressure put on the ICC prosecutor and chief justice. Nevertheless, the breaches of international law were so clear, that in 2004 Donald Rumsfeld was forced to cancel a proposed holiday in Germany. German law provided that he could indeed be arrested for his part in these war crimes, and extradited to face trial. To which I can only salute the new Germany and its people for their commitment to democracy and peace!

While there’s little chance that Blair will face judgement for his crimes, the book is still useful, along with other books on the Iraq invasion like Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse, and the works of William Bloom, in showing why this mass murderer should not be given any support whatsoever, and his attempt to return to politics, supposedly to lead a revival of the political centre ground, is grotesque and disgusting.

The book notes that millions of ordinary Brits opposed the war and marched against it. Between 100 and 150 MPs also voted against it. One of those who didn’t, was Iain Duncan Smith, who shouted ‘Saddam must go!’ Somehow, given Smith’s subsequent term in the DWP overseeing the deaths of tens or hundreds of thousands of benefit claims after their benefits were stopped, this didn’t surprise. He is clearly a militarist, despite his own manifest unfitness for any form of leadership, military or civil.

Steve Bannon’s Admiration for French Fascist and Nazi Collaborator

March 20, 2017

The more you find out about Steve Bannon’s views, the clearer it is that he’s a real Fascist, who should be kept as far away from government, and decent society, as possible. In this piece from TYT Nation, the host, Jeff Waldorf, talks once again about Bannon’s love of the French racist novel, The Camp of the Saints, and how he views the wave of immigrants that entered Europe from Syria through the prism of its narrative.

The book was written in the 1970s by Jean Raspail, and describes an armada of boats carrying 800,000 poor immigrants from India, who come to France to overthrow White, Christian civilisation. The immigrants are described in scatological, pornographic terms, and their children are also described as diseased, ‘like spoiled fruit’. They are welcomed into Europe by a corrupt liberal establishment, including a liberal pope from Latin America. The book’s hero, Calgues, is a White supremacist, who kills both these immigrants and the White liberals, who have allowed them in and help them. After murdering a hippy, Calgues reflects on how these young people have been ‘culturally cuckolded’ and deprived of the sense of knowing that they belong to the superior civilisation.’
I’ve put up a piece about this before, when one of the other left-wing YouTube news presenters did a segment about it.

But Bannon’s admiration for French Fascism seems to extend beyond this novel, right back to the French monarchist and Fascist, Charles Maurras. Maurras was the founder and editor of the extreme rightwing newspaper, Action Francaise. He was bitterly anti-Enlightenment, a view that Bannon also shares. Bannon has also said that he wants the Enlightenment to end. Maurras was bitterly anti-Semitic, and was prosecuted several times for urging and demanding the assassination of Jewish politicians, including, in 1936, the then president, Leon Blum. During the Nazi Occupation and the Vichy Regime, he wrote articles supporting the deportations and the arrests of resistance members, Jews and Gaullists. Indeed, he went so far as to recommend that if the Gaullists themselves could not be found and arrested, then their families should be rounded up and shot. Waldorf shows how this parallels Trump’s own views on the arrest and torture of the families of terrorists suspects.

It doesn’t surprise me that remotely that Maurras was anti-Enlightenment. There was a very strong element of this in European Fascism generally. After the Nazi seizure of power, Hitler wrote that the shame of 1789 – the year of the radical phase of the French Revolution – had been undone. So strong was this element, that many historians viewed Fascism as an entirely anti-Enlightenment movement, until later research showed how Fascism had also taken on elements of Enlightenment thought. The religious right also despises the Enlightenment for its attack on Christianity and organised religion. Here again, the situation is rather more complicated, in that recent historians have pointed out how European Enlightenment doctrines built on earlier philosophical attitudes and religious concepts. The doctrine of democracy and equal human worth are two of those. The idea that humans all have equal value and dignity ultimately comes from the Christian doctrine that everyone is equal before God, though medieval philosophers like Thomas Aquinas were quick to point out that this did not apply to their functions in earthly society. Similarly, the doctrine that people have inalienable human rights is also a metaphysical, religious doctrine, in the sense that it is not immediately obvious. It seems so to us, because it is so much a part of our culture. Nevertheless, it rests on a series of arguments and attitudes that are not self-evident, and have to be demonstrated.

Bannon is already notorious for his White Supremacist and anti-Semitic views. This adds further details on them. Waldorf also notes that Bannon has described himself as a ‘cultural Leninist’, which he equates with Bannon’s economic populism. This isn’t quite right. Bannon is a ‘cultural Leninist’ in that he shares Lenin’s goal of destroying the state, and then reconstructing it to serve his movement and ideology. Which makes Bannon very dangerous, indeed.

And it isn’t just America, which is in danger. Hope Not Hate has also published articles on Breitbart’s role in supporting UKIP, and their plan to create an even more extreme, anti-immigrant, racist party. Among the various Breitbart columnists in this country is James Delingpole, who also used to write for the Spectator. It has also given space to the bigoted rantings of the right-wing troll, Katie Hopkins. I gather she’s got a column in the Scum. The fact that she is also being embraced by real White Supremacists like Breitbart, whose leader admires such overtly racist works and individuals, should disqualify her from having her racist nonsense published in the mainstream press, even one as low as the Scum.

Bannon himself is only one of a number of a racist ‘basket of deplorables’, which includes Richard Spencer, the founder of the Alt-Right. All of them should be cleaned out of government as quickly as possible, before they can bring even more misery to America’s working people and people of colour, and export their vile views and policies over here.

The Real Reason the Government Wants British Terrorist Suspect Tried in Secret Courts

March 18, 2017

A couple of weeks ago, Mike also commented on the case of two Pakistani men, who had been rounded up on suspicions on terrorism offences by Britain and then handed over to the Americans, where they then spent the next 13 years or so held at Bagram in Afghanistan. There is now pressure for the men to be given a proper trial. However, May’s government has decided that this should only be done in a secret session to preserve sensitive official secrets important to national security. Mike asks the obvious question of how such information, which is now 13 years old, can possibly still be relevant to Britain’s security. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/05/are-we-really-expected-to-believe-13-year-old-national-security-information-justifies-secret-court-hearing/

This blogger can think of two reasons at least why May would not want these men’s cases to be heard in open court, which have absolutely nothing to do with ‘national security’, and far more to do with normal justice and human dignity.

Firstly, depending on how the men were caught, they may be entirely and embarrassingly innocent of the charges. William Blum, the ‘West Bloc Dissident’, who has spent much of his career documenting and denouncing the horrific and multitudinous crimes of the American empire, has pointed out in his blogs and books that many of those imprisoned on suspicion of terrorism offences were guilty of nothing of the sort. What happened was that the American government offered a bounty to various Middle Eastern and other governments if they rounded up terrorists. And so countries like Pakistan duly found suitable suspects, even to the point of imprisoning innocents, simply for the reward money. I don’t know if Britain offers a similar bounty, and unless someone comes forward to state clearly whether or not this is the case, we may never know. But it is a possibility that this may have happened here.

It’s also likely that the men may have been tortured in order to force a confession out of them. International law supposedly forbids countries from using torture, or sending criminal suspects to countries that use torture. Britain has violated these provisions through colluding with the Americans in their programme of ‘extraordinary rendition’ – that is, of handing terrorist suspects over to countries like Pakistan and the various Middle Eastern states, where they would be tortured. And America itself has plenty of previous when it comes to torture. Blum in his books and on his blogs has described the torture manuals and training produced by the CIA and its military training apparatus, like the infamous School of the Americas, for the various death squad regimes it supported in Latin America. In the 1950s and 1960s the US navy also used to torture is its own recruits, the details of which formed the basis of one of the stories in the 90s anti-superhero comic strip, Marshal Law. If the men were tortured, then this would also be a serious embarrassment to the government, which is adamantly refusing to pull out of its policy of sending suspects to states which use torture.

There are other reasons too, which might account for the government’s refusal to allow the men an open try, as previous required under the principles of Magna Carta. There have been reports of friction between US and allied troopers and their Afghan counterparts over the latter’s activities on US bases. American and European squaddies based in Afghan have apparently complained about Afghan soldiers bringing little boys onto the base to sexually abuse, how they also torture dogs on the base for fun, and that their Afghan allies can be dangerously untrustworthy. There have been instances where an Afghan soldier quartered in the base has turned his gun on his western comrades. Many of these allegations have been made on the islamophobic sites. This does not, however, necessarily mean that they’re wrong. If such abuses are occurring, and were disclosed to the general public in open court, it would do much to undermine public support for the continuing occupation of Afghanistan.

My guess is that any or all of these issues may well be the real reason why May and the British government doesn’t want to give these men a fair, open trial. And this makes it even more necessary that they should.

Petition Against the UK Supporting or Participating in Torture

March 1, 2017

I got this message today from the human rights organisation, Reprieve, asking if I would like to sign a petition from them calling on Theresa May to stop Britain collaborating with Donald Trump in his support of torture and ‘enhanced interrogation’:

Donald Trump and I share an obsession – torture.

He believes it works. I have spent years working with people who have been tortured and I know that it doesn’t.

He thinks ‘even if it does work, they deserve it anyway’. I think torture is an affront to human decency and can never be justified.

He wants to bring back waterboarding ‘and a hell of a lot worse’. I want to stop torture for good.

Let’s start at home. Trump’s fondness for torture means that we in the UK need to unequivocally reject it. But Britain’s “torture policy” is weak and full of holes.

Will you join me in calling on the British government to close the torture loopholes now?

Stop Torture

Theresa May is telling us that the existing torture policy is good enough – but in reality it leaves us open to repeating the grave mistakes of our recent past.

We can never again allow torture to be ushered in under a different name. The CIA’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques included horrific abuses like waterboarding, keeping prisoners in small boxes, and so-called “rectal rehydration”. Our torture regulations are still all too vulnerable to this sinister sleight of hand.

And we cannot simply allow others to do our dirty work – all the while sticking our fingers in our ears and insisting we can’t hear the screams coming from the interrogation room. Our torture regulations rely heavily on the vague assurances of torturers that our agencies could be all too tempted to accept.

Theresa May can fix this by updating Britain’s torture guidance. Will you support our call on the UK government to unequivocally reject torture?

Stop Torture

Last time, British agencies shamefully followed the US into a dark world of secret prisons and appalling abuses.

This time, we have to say no.

Thanks for being part of it.

Clive Stafford Smith
Founder
Reprieve

I’ve signed the petition as not only does torture not work, it is an affront to humanity, as Mr Smith has said. And all too often it has been inflicted on innocents, who have been subjected to barbarities too horrific to be described, by the extreme right-wing collaborators and agents of American foreign policy.

If you want to sign the petition, you can find it at

https://reprieve.bsd.net/page/s/end-uk-torture?utm_medium=email&utm_source=reprieve&utm_content=1+-+Stop+Torture&utm_campaign=uktorture1a&source=uktorture1a

William Blum on the Police Bombing of Black Americans

February 9, 2017

I found this passage in William Blum’s America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy absolutely mind-blowing as it says so much about Reaganite and post-Reaganite America’s willingness to use deadly force, regardless of who gets killed, and the militarisation of the police.

In the chapter on human rights and torture, Blum discusses the continuing misuse of American drone strikes to assassinate terrorist leaders. These are notorious, as most of the victims so far have been civilians, including women and children. Blum mentions that Amnesty International has protested several times against their use. He makes the point that drones are only ever used against poor countries, like Yemen and Pakistan, and would never be used against America’s allies in the Developed world, like Britain. But bomb strikes have been used by the police in America against terrorists in poor Black neighbourhoods, with the resulting massive loss of innocent lives and destruction of people’s homes. He writes

Can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a house in Paris or London or Ottawa because they suspected that high-ranking al-Qaeda members were present there? Even if the US knew of their presence for an absolute fact, and was not just acting on speculation, as in the Predator cases mentioned above? Well, they most likely would not attack, but can we put anything past Swaggering-Superarrogant-Superpower-Cowboys-on-steroids? After all, they’ve already done it to their own – US drone attack killed two American citizens in Yemen in 2011, and on May 13, 1985, a bomb dropped by a police helicopter over Philadelphia, Pennsylvania burned down an entire block, some sixty homes destroyed, eleven dead, including several small children.. The police, the mayor’s office, and the FBI were all involved in this operation to evict an organization called MOVE from the house they lived in.

The victims in Philadelphia were all black of course. So let’s rephrase the question: can it be imagined that American officials would fire a missile into a residential area of Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side of Manhattan? Stay tuned. (p. 127).

No, of course they wouldn’t.

But what in the name of Heaven is a police force doing with bombs? This whole affair reads like something from a dystopian SF novel. You know, something like Stephen King’s The Running Man, which was set in a Fascist America where the cops shoot people rioting to get bread. That one was filmed in the 1980s with Arnie. Or The Hunger Games. It does not sound like the actions of a responsible democracy based on ‘justice for all’.

I’m not disputing that sometimes it is necessary to use force against armed, violent criminals and terrorists. But I am absolutely amazed that the US police was militarised to the extent that the used bombs. As for the victims being Black, that explains so much about why so many Blacks in America hate the police, and the entire point behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

Moronic Tory Thug Declares that ‘Torture Works’

January 30, 2017

On Friday Mike put up a piece reporting that the Tory MP Bob Stewart, a former army officer, had declared that ‘torture works’. Mike’s short piece commented that this was because Stewart clearly didn’t know the difference between right and wrong, and that they didn’t teach morality at Sandhurst.

He also included a Tweet by Laurie Penny, stating that the same could be said for chemical weapons, cluster bombs and genocide. But that wasn’t the issue.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/01/27/tory-mp-says-torture-works-because-he-doesnt-know-the-difference-between-right-and-wrong/

Indeed not. The issue is whether they are at all moral, and whether a nation that considers itself civilised should be using them. In all of the above, the answer is clearly ‘No’.

I think Mike is, however, wrong about morality not being taught at Sandhurst. A few years ago one of the alternative BBC channels ran a series following a group of cadets at the training academy. This showed them being taught and discussing the issue of morality in war. I got the impression that this is a major part of the course, and that much more could have been shown.

That does not mean that British officers are morally unimpeachable boy scouts. Unfortunately, the army has more committed atrocities. But it has also been trying to rebut any reputation it might have acquired for cruelty and incompetence. Remember a little while ago, when the recruitment films being run on Channel 4 and the commercial channels showed British squaddies nobly helping to police the distribution of food aid? Or showing tough but caring female squaddies looking after traumatised women, who’d had their menfolk butchered before being raped themselves? That was the image the British army wanted then.

Torture doesn’t work. Members of the intelligence services have said that it doesn’t provide any usable information. Which shouldn’t really surprise anyone, as people in extreme pain will say whatever they can to make it stop.

Instead, it lowers us to the same level as the thugs who use it, like al-Qaeda and ISIS, and acts to further radicalise our opponents against us. If we are known to brutalise and torture our enemies and suspects, this will be used against us by the terrorists, who will claim that this justifies their campaigns against us. If we espouse torture, then we’re handing our enemies a major propaganda weapon.

But clearly Bob Stewart doesn’t understand that. Probably because he’s a Tory, and the whole party’s platform seems to consist on inflicting pain and degradation to those they consider inferior, including the poor and helpless in British society.

Trump Officially Declared Major Threat to Human Rights

January 30, 2017

In this piece from the David Pakman show, the presenter discusses an announcement by the respected human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch, that Trump’s government and the rise of the far Right in Europe represent a major attack on human rights. The organisation publishes yearly reports on the state of human rights in 90 countries. In this year’s report, they list the threats and attacks Trump poses to human rights. These are

* Deportation of immigrants
* Curtailment of women’s rights
* Threats to media freedom
* Threats to going back to using torture
* Threats to kill the families of terrorists
* Threats to invade countries to extort oil
* Confusion about why nuking Europe would be bad.

The report notes that the combination of Donald Trump’s administration and certain far Right European politicians would lead to tyranny.

Pakman and his staff state very clearly that Trump is a demonstrable threat to human rights, because of his mockery of a disabled reporter, the family of a Muslim soldier, who fell doing his duty to America, and his jokes about sexually assaulting women. They also discuss Trump’s plans for a Muslim registry, and make it clear that they think that it isn’t just a case that Trump merely said all his illiberal nonsense just to get votes. At some level, he really believes it.

Considering that Trump has passed his ban on Muslim’s entering the US, I think it’s very clear that the Orange Duce believes all his vile, racist and misogynist policies. As one senior right-wing statesman said of Adolf Hitler, ‘This man is dangerous. He believes his own propaganda’.

Trump is a threat to human freedom. And as Pakman and his producers show, their only defence against this will be to make ludicrous counter-accusations about how it’s all biased ‘fake news’, written by the paid hacks of George Soros or some other multi-millionaire with liberal, or ‘liberal’ views, who haunts the right-wing imagination like a Bond villain. But this won’t stop increasing numbers of people across the world from rising up to oppose him.

Jimmy Dore on the Church Committee Hearings of 1975 Into CIA Corruption

January 15, 2017

This is another great video from the American comedian Jimmy Dore, in which he provides another piece of historical evidence to show why no-one should trust the CIA about anything, let alone the recent allegations of Russian hacking and a supposed dossier they’re using to blackmail Trump. Dore shows a short clip about the 1975 Church Committee, which was convened to investigate whether the CIA was interfering in foreign politics and spying on US citizens. And it concluded that the agency was.

Dore rightly points out that the CIA was out of control, it was interfering in the affairs of foreign states, and that this has continued since then. He cites the way Colin Powell stood up and lied about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq along with the president and the secretary of state.

The American government more recently has suppressed a report revealing that the CIA tortured and anally raped suspects being interrogated through ‘anal feeding’.

And he also rips into the mainstream news media, which supported these official lies and sacked those journos who told the truth. Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist, was sacked from the New York Times because he told the truth: there were no weapons of mass distraction. Phil Donohue was also fired, because he also told the truth. Hacks like Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, who repeat and promote these lies, are rewarded.

He makes the point that it’s no wonder that no-one trusts the mainstream media, and that they’re going to the internet. There are almost no real journalists left, journalists, who actually bother to report the truth. He names these true journalists, who include Glen Greenwalt and The Intercept. As for NBC and MSNBC, which retail this rubbish, the companies that owns them has been identified as the worst company in its treatment of workers. He then states that this is the reason Rachel Maddow is paid $30,000 a day: to shut her up and stop her from pointing this out.

This is an angry, embittered tirade, and it’s entirely right. The CIA was and is out of control. Its leader, James Jesus Angleton, was convinced that Harold Wilson was a KGB agent. Over the years Lobster, the parapolitics magazine, has carried numerous stories about the lies and clandestine interference and political manipulation the CIA and the other intelligence agencies and their British counterparts have been responsible for. Larry O’Hara’s Notes from the Borderland is doing the same thing. And the same lies are being retailed by our news media.

Don’t trust them, nor the Beeb when it claims that it’s Reality Check team will objectively counter fake news. This is just more lies to support American military and corporate dominance.

Barack Obama and the Corporatist Democrats Attack Free Speech

December 5, 2016

It’s very clear that in the next few years under Trump, the treasured freedoms enshrined in the US Constitution and the civil rights women and people of colour have fought so hard for are going to come under sustained attack. In many ways, Trump will just be continuing the rise of an exclusive nationalism and an all-pervasive surveillance state that began under George Dubya as he launched his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Unfortunately, it seems that the corporatist wing of the Democrat party, led by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, also wants to close down Americans’ freedom of speech and information by singling out dissenting journalists, news organisations and demanding a greater role for the state in telling you what information you should believe on the Web.

There were a couple of very important articles about threat to freedom of thought in last weekend’s Counterpunch. This followed an article on Thanksgiving by Craig Timberg in the Washington Post that claimed, on the authority of a group of media researchers, Propornot, that there were about 200 or so journalists, magazines, websites and organisations disseminating fake news intended to serve the Russians’ nefarious interests. Renee Parsons in her article discusses how the 200 websites identified by Timberg as outlets for Russian propaganda don’t actually show any evidence that they are acting on false information provided by Russian state media outlets like RT or Sputnik. And a careful reading of Timberg’s article also shows that, actually, RT and Sputnik haven’t invented any stories either. What they have done instead is identify items that the rest of the media ignored or paid little attention to, and made them more prominent. Or, to put it another way, they scooped the rest of the media.

As for Propornot itself, the organisation’s website states that it is “Your Friendly Neighborhood Propaganda Identification Service, Since 2016!” And the only person identified with it is the satirist and comedian Samantha Bee, who is the anchor on the news comedy show Full Frontal. Propornot are frightening, as they call on Barack Obama and Congress to investigate how the Russians manipulated information sources to upset the American political process. Which shows that it’s a body of Clintonian Democrats desperately trying to find suitable media scapegoats with the new, anti-Russian McCarthyism for her defeat by Donald Trump.

The site is even more malign, in that it appeals to the American public to identify not only those individuals and organisers echoing Russian propaganda, but also ‘sympathisers’. She states

If there is any doubt whether the Timberg article and Propornot itself is a partisan effort, the YYY implication is that anyone “echoing a Russian propaganda line” such as those who speak “how wonderful, powerful, innocent and righteous Russia and Russia’s friends are: Putin, Donald Trump, al-Bashar Assad, Syria, Iran, China, radical political parties” will be considered tools of Russia as compared with those who speak “how terrible, weak, aggressive, and corrupt the opponents of Russia are: the US, Obama, HRC, the EU, Angela Merkel, NATO, Ukraine, Jewish people, US allies, MSM and Democrats” will be considered enemies of the State. Anyone with such information is encouraged to ‘come tell us at Propornot about it.”

This came nearly two months after Obama made a speech to a political organisation about the internet, in which he made it clear that he wanted to set up some kind of official body to manage what they trust on the Web. She states

During a visit to the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh on October 13th, the President, known for his smooth, glib reassurances so successful at placating the public, suggested that “we are going to have to rebuild within this wild-wild-west-of-information flow some sort of curating function that people agree to” and that “democracy requires citizens to be able to sift through lies and distortions” and further that “those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world.” The President continued that “there has to be some sort of way in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests.”

The President’s statement does not adequately capture what democracy requires of its citizens and reads more like what George Orwell epitomized as ‘political speech’ deliberately meant to confuse and demean citizen awareness. What Obama failed to acknowledge is that every American has a right, an obligation as an engaged citizen to determine for themselves what is a lie, distortion or truth; that ‘fake news’ is in the eye of the beholder and what a citizen believes and what they do not believe is their business and requires no justification to the government or anyone else. Most importantly, it was the President’s obligation to say that with a tremendous divergence of opinion on the www, some of it wacky, some of it conspiratorial, some of it incredibly incisive and intelligent and important – all of it is protected by the First Amendment.

To briefly parse the President’s words, most of which are painfully obvious,

suggestions of a “curating function” as in some official government entity assigned for the purpose of “protecting” (“ added) the public interest and “some sort of way…sort through information that passes some truthiness test” are presented in the President’s usual folksy, innocuous dialectic used to serve the public pablum while a further shredding of their Constitutional rights slips by under their nose.

She states that this is a further attack on American’s Constitutional freedoms by Obama. Despite his election promises, Obama has not ended surveillance without warrant, restored habeas corpus and the prohibition against detention without trial, torture, and excessive secrecy of government branches. Moreover, the Constitution also explicitly forbids presidents from starting wars without the approval of Congress. This has also been violated by successive administrations, and Obama hasn’t restored this Constitutional provision either.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/02/obama-and-propornot/

Further information on Timberg and his witch-hunt is provided in the same issue by Pam and Russ Martens. They discuss the possible reasons for this article, including that discussed by Parsons, and first put forward by Max Blumenthal of AlterNet, that it’s the Democrats trying to blame the Russians for Killary losing the election. Other theories are that the mainstream media is also trying to ensure its survival in the age of the internet and alternative media by smearing its new media competitors. Glen Ford, the editor of the Black Agenda Report, one of the organisations smeared as a Russian propaganda outlet, has suggested that the corporatist Democrats are very close to Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post, and that had Hillary won the election, she would also have launched a similar attack on alternative news sources on the Net. The Martens also state that during his career, Timberg was the National Security deputy editor for the Washington Post, before taking up his current position as the paper’s technology editor. He has also made speeches about the facial recognition technology used for law enforcement, and interviewed the executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, on the information revealed on the NSA’s programme of mass surveillance. This latter interview was done at the Cato Institute, a right-wing think tank, that was secretly part-owned for several decades by the Koch brothers.

The Martens themselves believe that this latest McCarthyite smear is an attack on the news organisations that ran stories from the WikiLeaks materials exposing the massive corporate corruption in the Democrat party. Both the Washington Post and New York Times did report that information from WikiLeaks revealed that a Citigroup executive, had made the decisions on who Obama should hire as key personnel during his first term. Citigroup was one of the massive banks that had to be bailed out during the 2008 crash. And both the Washington Post and New York Times editorial boards supported Killary’s presidential campaign.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/02/timbergs-tale-washington-post-reporter-spreads-blacklist-of-independent-journalist-sites/

Fortunately, Timberg’s article has met with widespread derision and ridicule, with many of the commenters on the online version of the article criticising it as a piece of shoddy, McCarthyite journalism. Regardless of the precise motives for the attack – and the various theories put forward above aren’t mutually exclusive – it’s clear that the Clintonite wing of the Democrats are just as keen as the Republicans to subvert the Constitution for their own backers in big business and the surveillance state. Obama and Clinton have shown that they are determined to maintain the infringements on the Constitution introduced by George Dubya, and, indeed, expand them to smear their own enemies.

And unfortunately, this mindset appears to be spreading to the Blairites over here. Mike last week reported that Tom Watson had made a rant, attacking websites producing false information. By which he meant the pro-Corbyn site, The Canary. Tony Blair modelled New Labour on Bill Clinton’s New Democrats. Watson’s comments seem to show that the Blairites in the Labour party also want to crack down on British websites that don’t follow the required New Labour line. Just as Blair himself used to organise ‘negative briefings’ against ministers, who were deemed ‘off-message’.

If America and Britain are to have healthy, functioning democracies, where the people genuinely have power and not a narrow clique of politicos acting for the benefit of the corporate elite, it will mean purging the Democrats in the US of the Clintonites, and the Blairites in the Labour party over here, as well as defeating the Republicans and Conservatives.