The Afghan Narco War

A must read, Can Anyone Pacify the World’s Number One Narco-State? The Opium Wars in Afghanistan By Alfred W. McCoy, extract-

Although this area had zero heroin production in the mid-1970s, the CIA’s covert war served as the catalyst that transformed the Afghan-Pakistan borderlands into the world’s largest heroin producing region. As mujahedeen guerrillas captured prime agricultural areas inside Afghanistan in the early 1980s, they began collecting a revolutionary poppy tax from their peasant supporters.

Once the Afghan guerrillas brought the opium across the border, they sold it to hundreds of Pakistani heroin labs operating under the ISI’s protection. Between 1981 and 1990, Afghanistan’s opium production grew ten-fold — from 250 tons to 2,000 tons. After just two years of covert CIA support for the Afghan guerrillas, the U.S. Attorney General announced in 1981 that Pakistan was already the source of 60% of the American heroin supply. Across Europe and Russia, Afghan-Pakistani heroin soon captured an even larger share of local markets, while inside Pakistan itself the number of addicts soared from zero in 1979 to 1.2 million just five years later.

After investing $3 billion in Afghanistan’s destruction, Washington just walked away in 1992, leaving behind a thoroughly ravaged country with over one million dead, five million refugees, 10-20 million landmines still in place, an infrastructure in ruins, an economy in tatters, and well-armed tribal warlords prepared to fight among themselves for control of the capital. Even when Washington finally cut its covert CIA funding at the end of 1991, however, Pakistan’s ISI continued to back favored local warlords in pursuit of its long-term goal of installing a Pashtun client regime in Kabul.

Druglords, Dragon’s Teeth, and Civil Wars: the 1990s

Throughout the 1990s, ruthless local warlords mixed guns and opium in a lethal brew as part of a brutal struggle for power. It was almost as if the soil had been sown with those dragons’ teeth of ancient myth that can suddenly sprout into an army of full-grown warriors, who leap from the earth with swords drawn for war.

When northern resistance forces finally captured Kabul from the communist regime, which had outlasted the Soviet withdrawal by three years, Pakistan still backed its client Hekmatyar. He, in turn, unleashed his artillery on the besieged capital. The result: the deaths of an estimated 50,000 more Afghans. Even a slaughter of such monumental proportions, however, could not win power for this unpopular fundamentalist. So the ISI armed a new force, the Taliban and in September 1996, it succeeded in capturing Kabul, only to fight the Northern Alliance for the next five years in the valleys to the north of the capital.

During this seemingly unending civil war, rival factions leaned heavily on opium to finance the fighting, more than doubling the harvest to 4,600 tons by 1999. Throughout these two decades of warfare and a twenty-fold jump in drug production, Afghanistan itself was slowly transformed from a diverse agricultural ecosystem — with herding, orchards, and over 60 food crops — into the world’s first economy dependent on the production of a single illicit drug. In the process, a fragile human ecology was brought to ruin in an unprecedented way.

Located at the northern edge of the annual monsoon rains, where clouds arrive from the Arabian Sea already squeezed dry, Afghanistan is an arid land. Its staple food crops have historically been sustained by irrigation systems that rely on snowmelt from the region’s high mountains. To supplement staples such as wheat, Afghan tribesmen herded vast flocks of sheep and goats hundreds of miles every year to summer pasture in the central uplands. Most important of all, farmers planted perennial tree crops — walnut, pistachio, and mulberry — which thrived because they sink their roots deep into the soil and are remarkably resistant to the region’s periodic droughts, offering relief from the threat of famine in the dry years.

During these two decades of war, however, modern firepower devastated the herds, damaged snowmelt irrigation systems, and destroyed many of the orchards. While the Soviets simply blasted the landscape with firepower, the Taliban, with an unerring instinct for their society’s economic jugular, violated the unwritten rules of traditional Afghan warfare by cutting down the orchards on the vast Shamali plain north of Kabul.

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Reprieve Take Up The Case Of Chagos Ignored By Corporate Environmentalists

Also worth seeing is Johann Hari’s exposé of co-opted environmental shills. While this focusses on the rendered clients of Reprieve it does also talk about the dispossessed Chagossians and makes the good point that human rights are being abused while other lifeforms gain some protection.

Reprieve:- The British Government is this week expected to announce that 210,000 sq km around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean will become the world’s largest marine reserve.

Sadly, the proposed legislation fails to protect members of the controversial species homo sapiens.

Diego Garcia, the largest of the Chagos Islands, has been used for illegal rendition and detention of Reprieve clients Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni and Mustafa Setmarian Naser. The strange omission of the homo sapiens species in the new legislation raises serious questions as to why they should not be afforded the same legal protections as marine life.

On the 1st March Clive Stafford Smith raised Reprieve’s concerns with the Foreign Secretary in a letter (full version may be downloaded Here):

More than 30 years ago, the entire population of the Chagos Islands was removed to Mauritius against their will, to make way for an American military base. It seems unlikely that conservation law would have allowed for the wholesale destruction of the natural habitat of, say, Dendrodoris tuberculosa (the warty sea slug), in order to build such a base – but this was perhaps the first example of the warty sea slug having greater rights than the lowly homo sapiens in the region.

The current legal position in BIOT is bizarre. Almost uniquely amongst states, the territorial waters of the BIOT only extend out to 3 nautical miles, rather than the 12 miles allowed by international law. Inside the 3 mile limit, in theory, the species Homo sapiens has reasonable legal protection. BIOT’s laws roughly mirror those of England and Wales. There should be no detention without trial, no kidnapping and no rendition. Torture is a crime. The Geneva Conventions have the force of law. A court system exists to enforce the basic rights of members of this life form..

However, beyond 3 miles, these legal protections for Homo sapiens have no application. The BIOT courts and BIOT police have no jurisdiction to prevent the capture, torture or even the killing of members of the species if, for example, they are dragged onto a prison ship against their will by some people in American uniforms.

Indeed, we are currently representing a member of our species, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, in his claim against the FCO. As you know, Mr Madni was subjected to ‘extraordinary’ rendition (i.e. kidnapping for torture) via Diego Garcia.

Tthe effect of your proposals would be peculiar. All other animal and fish life will enjoy protection up to 200 miles out from Diego Garcia. In addition to the worthy warty sea slug, every polyp of Gardineroseris planulata (honeycomb coral), and every Chaetodon trifascialis (chevron butterflyfish) will enjoy strict protection from being captured, killed or mistreated many miles from land. It seems that the only exception will be for our own taxonomic group, who will not be included in this wide-ranging and sensible proposal.

Reprieve Director, Clive Stafford Smith said :

“On Diego Garcia you may be arrested for violating the rights of a Warty Sea Slug, but no-one will object if you land a plane with a kidnapped, shackled, hooded man trapped in a coffin-shaped box. This happened to our client, Mr Madni, and it cannot be right. We fully support the Government’s plan to protect sea slugs on the island – but only if Homo Sapiens are to be given the same protection.” (ht2 Earwicga)

Just Remind Me How The Tories Will be Worse?

Later, a healthcare professional working for the private healthcare company which carries out these assessments, wrote in indicating that there was a target that the inspection team were expected to meet. Under the username rightthewrong, he wrote:

“I probably am going to get fired tommorrow for coming on this forum, but I don’t care. I have been doing these “assessments” for some time now. It’ s rubbish, draconian to say the least and it is designed to get people off the sick benefit. It is designed so that 75% of the people who apply for ESA, come hell or high water, ‘fail’ it.”

NLD Votes No To Burma ‘Election’

Burma’s main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), on Monday decided against registering for the general election this year, a party spokesman told The Irrawaddy.

“Without any objections, all the party leaders reached a consensus not to register the party and join the election because the junta’s election laws are unjust,” said senior party official Khin Maung Swe who attended the meeting at the party’s Rangoon headquarters. “We also agreed to call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners.”

Party officials said that the lawyer of detained leader Suu Kyi read out a message from Suu Kyi to the party leaders at the meeting and said that “Daw Suu could not accept the party registering under the unjust laws, but she said that neither she nor anyone else owns the party. Therefore, the party members have to make the decision by themselves democratically.”

The party’s 92-year-old party chairman, Aung Shwe, who recently voiced support for the party registering and taking part in the election, did not join in the meeting, but instead sent a letter stating that he would follow Suu Kyi’s decision, according to the party spokesman.

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7 Years Since Aafia Siddiqui Was First Abducted

Supporters have named this Aafia Siddiqui Day, Andy Worthington has a good post and asks these pertinent questions-

  • Was she indeed kidnapped with her three children in Karachi on March 28, 2003, and subsequently rendered to a secret prison, where she was raped and tortured for five years? Binyam Mohamed, the British resident who was released from Guantánamo in February 2009, has stated that he saw Aafia Siddiqui in Bagram, and other former prisoners have spoken about “The Grey Lady of Bagram,” Prisoner 650, who they believed was Aafia.
  • Where are her children?
  • If Aafia Siddiqui was indeed held in secret US custody for over five years, was the story of the attempted shooting of the US soldiers in July 2008 a cynical set-up, designed to ensure that she could be transferred to the US and tried, convicted and imprisoned without the true story coming to light?

There is a new website justiceforaafia.org

Posted in Human Rights, Media. Tags: . Comments Off

D’oh, Canada

Apartheid torturer allowed to settle and practice medicine in Canada…finally is brought to book for sex crimes, it reminds me of the joke (I think by Mark Steel) about all those white South Africans fleeing democracy.

Topically it is reminiscent of the Vatican’s practices, I think one of the key aspects of the Vatican’s rationale to covering up and enabling abuse was to privilege priests rights above laity, this is not uncommon, occupying troops lives are privileged above the occupied people’s lives etc. This lack of equality and subsequent lack of accountability & justice enables abuses,rapes, murders and torture wherever it exists. Medicine, especially in the area of mental health, also privileges practitioners above patients, various systems try to mitigate this and provide accountability and are of varying degrees of success (and failure). Clearly in this case there was not just an atrocious failure but a very clear tolerance and support of a vicious bigot, made all the worse because he was a psychiatrist with his own diseased views of the world who had immense power over others who would have been very vulnerable. This is not new to psychiatry and Canadian psychiatry, the funding of human vivisection by the CIA is a matter of record. Levin’s career does make one wonder if a a very arrogant and right wing element that was artificially bolstered by Cold War funding, persists in the Canadian psychiatric establishment (for another example see Keneth Zucker) who view the rights of their patients to be little greater than lab rats when it comes to forcing their conservative vision upon the bodies and minds of patients.

A leading Canadian psychiatrist who kept accusations of gross human rights abuses in apartheid-era South Africa hidden has been charged in Calgary with sexually abusing a male patient and is being investigated over dozens of other allegations.

Dr Aubrey Levin, who in South Africa was known as Dr Shock for his use of electricity to “cure” gay military conscripts, was arrested after a patient secretly filmed the psychiatrist allegedly making sexual advances. Levin, who worked at the University of Calgary’s medical school, has been suspended from practising and is free on bail of C$50,000 (£32,000) on charges of repeatedly indecently assaulting a 36-year-old man.

The police say they are investigating similar claims by nearly 30 other patients. The Alberta justice department is reviewing scores of criminal convictions in which Levin was a prosecution witness.

Levin has worked in Canada for 15 years since leaving South Africa, where he was chief psychiatrist in the apartheid-era military and became notorious for using electric shocks to “cure” gay white conscripts. He also held conscientious objectors against their will at a military hospital because they were “disturbed” and subjected them to powerful drug regimens.

South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission heard that Levin was guilty of “gross human rights abuses” including chemical castration of gay men. But after arriving in Canada in 1995 he managed to suppress public discussion of his past by threatening lawsuits against news organisations that attempted to explore it.

Following the arrest, other male patients have contacted the authorities. One, who was not identified, told CTV in Canada that he had gone to Levin for help with a gambling addiction and alleged he had been questioned about his sex life and subject to sexual advances.

The arrest has raised questions about how Levin was allowed to settle in Canada. Canada admitted other South African medical practitioners accused of human rights abuses, including two who worked with Wouter Basson, known as Dr Death for his oversight of chemical and biological warfare experiments that included the murder of captured Namibian guerrillas.

Levin, who made no secret of his hard rightwing views and was a member of the ruling National party during apartheid, has a long history of homophobia.

In the 1960s, he wrote to a parliamentary committee considering the abolition of laws criminalising homosexuality saying that they should be left in place because he could “cure” gay people.

His efforts to do just that in the army began in 1969 at the infamous ward 22 at the Voortrekkerhoogte military hospital near Pretoria, which ostensibly catered for service personnel with psychological problems. Commanding officers and chaplains were encouraged to refer “deviants” for electroconvulsive aversion therapy.

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Obama Admin Repeats Bush War Rhetoric To Justify Drone Assassinations

(AFP) – The US government for the first time has offered a legal justification of its drone strikes against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, citing the right to “self-defense” under international law. The CIA attacks by unmanned aircraft in Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere have sharply increased under President Barack Obama’s administration but have remained shrouded in secrecy, with some human rights groups charging the bombing raids amount to illegal assassinations. Broaching a subject that has been off-limits for official comment, State Department legal advisor Harold Koh laid out the legal argument for the strikes in a speech late Thursday, referring to “targeting” of Al-Qaeda and Taliban figures without mentioning Pakistan or where the raids are carried out.

The United States was in “an armed conflict” with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and its affiliates as a result of the September 11 attacks, Koh said, “and may use force consistent with its inherent right to self-defense under international law. With respect to the subject of targeting, which has been much commented upon in the media and international legal circles, there are obviously limits to what I can say publicly,” he told a conference of the American Society of International Law. What I can say is that it is the considered view of this administration — and it has certainly been my experience during my time as legal adviser — that US targeting practices, including lethal operations conducted with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war.”

The CIA would not comment on the speech, posted on the State Department website, but told AFP: “The Agency?s counterterrorism operations are conducted in strict accord with the law.” Rights activists and some legal experts charge the drone strikes in Pakistan and other countries, outside of a traditional battlefield, amount to extrajudicial executions that violate both international and US law.

Koh, a fierce critic of former president George W. Bush’s policies before he took his post, disagreed — saying a US ban on government sanctioned assassinations did not apply. Under US law, “the use of lawful weapons systems — consistent with the applicable laws of war — for precision targeting of specific high-level belligerent leaders when acting in self-defense or during an armed conflict is not unlawful, and hence does not constitute ‘assassination,’” he said. He also argued that the US government was not obliged to offer legal rights to the militant figures targeted in the strikes as the United States was at war and acting in self-defense.

Also, American Society of International Law Press release. Yes the only empire on Earth, that spends more than all other nations together on its military, with approximately 900 military facilities in 46 countries and territories (the unofficial figure is far greater)…is acting in self defence. Koh in 2002-

Still, some national security lawyers said the practice of drawing up lists of people who are subject to lethal force might blur the lines drawn by government’s ban on assassinations. That prohibition was first ordered by President Gerald Ford, and in the view of some lawyers, it applies not only to foreign leaders but to civilians. (American officials have said in the past that Saddam Hussein would be a legitimate target in a war, as he is a military commander as well as Iraq’s president.)

“The inevitable complication of a politically declared but legally undeclared war is the blurring of the distinction between enemy combatants and other nonstate actors,” said Harold Hongju Koh, a professor of international law at Yale University and a former State Department official in President Bill Clinton’s administration. “The question is, what factual showing will demonstrate that they had warlike intentions against us and who sees that evidence before any action is taken?”

He’s a great lawyer, says whatever the guy paying him wants.

Friday! BriTANicK- Academy Award Winning Movie Trailer

When formula becomes so obvious.

UK Taser Use More Than Doubles

…new statistics record the use of the devices for the third quarter of 2009 and show they were used 402 times by specially trained units from July to September, up from 169 in the previous quarter. Officers discharged them 67 times over the period, compared to 36 for the preceding period. Units have now used Tasers 1,669 times since the trial began in September 2007 and discharged them 293 times.

According to the press release-

The rise in the use of Tasers this quarter is largely down to updated figures of around 200 deployments by the Metropolitan Police going back over previous quarters. This also accounts for the rise in Taser discharges.

But please note-

We cannot be certain that historically all forces have recorded Taser usage in the same way, although this has been mitigated by ACPO issuing clear instructions to forces on reporting procedures

I think it is always worth remembering ACPO is a private company run by the country’s senior police chiefs and as such beyond the normal remit of freedom of information laws, it means our police forces are part privatised already. They share intelligence with other corporations and government and consider environmental, human rights & left wing activists as worthy of  spying upon as NeoNazis, which tells us something about their ideological -corporate- centre of gravity.

PDF showing quarterly statistics up to 30 September 2009 for Taser use -

  • in England and Wales
  • by authorised firearms officers outside of a firearms authority
  • by specially trained units.

Also the terms of Taser use-

  • Taser ‘use’ includes any time a Taser is drawn, aimed, red-dotted, arced, drive-stunned, or discharged.
  • Drawn: Officer draws Taser which a person could perceive as a ‘use of force’ whether or not accompanied by a verbal warning.
  • Aimed: The Taser is aimed at a person but the safety is not removed (i.e. the red dot laser sight is not activated).
  • Red dot: The safety is removed and the red dot laser sight is activated and placed on a subject, but the Taser is not fired.
  • Arced: The Taser is sparked without a cartridge being fired.
  • Drive Stun: The Taser is pressed against a person and cycled — this imparts a shock without firing the probes/barbs.
  • Discharge: The Taser is fired and the probes/barbs are discharged towards the subject.

Meanwhile even specially trained officers kill their own colleagues, albeit with a shotgun -taken off the safety catch on his gun, acted “instinctively” and pulled the trigger - given the known lethality of the ‘nonlethal‘ Taser this is not reassuring especially as Tasers are now routinely issued to non expert officers. Yes, better to be instinctively shot with a Taser than a firearm but in truth neither are in practice non-lethal. The evidence of use shows what Tasers do is not replace firearms, but create whole new categories of use where previously no weapon would have been used and they mainstream into everyday civil policing the concept of pain compliance. It becomes a shoot first ask questions later paradigm because the ‘shoot’ is perceived and promoted as a harmless use of stun technology. There is a good article- The soft-kill solution: New frontiers in pain compliance By Ando Arike, unfortunately behind Harper’s pay wall about the normalisation of pain compliance to deal with the social breakdown incurred due to Neoliberal ‘consensus’ politics, some excerpts via Digby-

As communications advances in the years since have increasingly exposed such violence, governments have realized that the public’s perception of injury and bloodshed must be carefully managed. “Even the lawful application of force can be misrepresented to or misunderstood by the public,” warns a 1997 joint report from the Pentagon and the Justice Department.

“More than ever, the police and the military must be highly discreet when applying force.” It is a need for discretion rooted in one of the oldest fears of the ruling class—the volatility of the mob—and speaks to rising anxieties about crowd control at a time when global capitalism begins to run up against long-predicted limits to growth. Each year, some 76 million people join our current 6.7 billion in a world of looming resource scarcities, ecological collapse, and glaring inequalities of wealth; and elites are preparing to defend their power and profits. In this new era of triage, as democratic institutions and social safety nets are increasingly considered dispensable luxuries, the task of governance will be to lower the political and economic expectations of the masses without inciting fullfledged revolt. Non-lethal weapons promise to enhance what military theorists call “the political utility of force,” allowing dissent to be suppressed inconspicuously.

The next hurdle for non-lethality, as Colonel Hymes’s comments suggest,will be the introduction of socalled second-generation non-lethal weapons into everyday policing and crowd control. Although “first-generation” weapons like rubber bullets and pepper spray have gained a certain acceptance, despite their many drawbacks, exotic technologies like the Active Denial System invariably cause public alarm. Nevertheless, the trend is now away from chemical and “kinetic” weapons that rely on physical trauma and toward post-kinetic weapons that, as researchers put it, “induce behavioral modification” more discreetly. One indication that the public may come to accept these new weapons has been the successful introduction of the Taser—apparently, even the taboo on electroshock can be overcome given the proper political climate…

Originally sold as an alternative to firearms, the Taser today has become an all-purpose tool for what police call “pain compliance.” Mounting evidence shows that the weapon is routinely used on people who pose little threat: those in handcuffs, in jail cells, in wheelchairs and hospital beds; schoolchildren, pregnant women, the mentally disturbed, the elderly; irate shoppers, obnoxious lawyers, argumentative drivers, nonviolent protesters—in fact, YouTube now has an entire category of videos in which people are Tasered for dubious reasons. In late 2007, public outrage flared briefly over the two most famous such videos—those of college student Andrew Meyer “drivestunned” at a John Kerry speech, and of a distraught Polish immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, dying after repeated Taser jolts at Vancouver airport—but police and weapon were found blameless in both incidents. Strangely, YouTube’s videos may be promoting wider acceptance of the Taser; it appears that many viewers watch them for entertainment.

The technology now exists for drone launched multiple Taser cartridges, protest is already ‘kettled’ or restricted to ‘free speech zones’ police assaults and murders even when caught on tape do not result in a change of policy by government, sooner or later these ‘nonlethal’ techs will be applied to demonstrations and protests. They have already been tested in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, note what that indicates about the attitude of the government to the governed, domestic extremists, insurgents & enemy combatants the lot of us.

New Labour’s Decade Of Torture

And with Brown reneging on publication of SIS guidelines there is every sign this will continue, I would also add I have little hope any other party would not do likewise, a key aspect is the intel relationship with the US and clearly no accountability for torture is coming from that direction. The Amnesty Report does not cover the domestic repressions that the last decade has seen, which go hand in hand with the war-on-terror authoritarian paradise that is now our reality-

Amnesty International believes that there is credible evidence that the UK has been involved in grave human rights violations perpetrated against people held overseas since the attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001 to warrant the establishment of an independent, impartial and thorough inquiry. Credible allegations implicate the UK in torture or other ill-treatment, unlawful detentions and renditions. Over the years, Amnesty International1 and others have documented cases of the UK’s involvement in these abuses, including:

  • UK personnel were present at and participated in interrogations of detainees held unlawfully overseas in circumstances in which the UK knew or ought to have known that the detainees concerned had been or were at risk of being tortured and/or whose detention was unlawful;
  • UK personnel provided information (e.g. telegrams sent by UK intelligence personnel to intelligence services of other countries) that led the USA and other countries to apprehend and detain individuals when the UK knew or ought to have known that these people would be at risk of torture and/or unlawful detention;
  • The UK was involved in the US-led programme of renditions and secret detentions through, for example, the use of UK territory (e.g. Diego Garcia) and/or airspace;
  • UK personnel forwarded questions to be put to individuals detained by other countries in circumstances in which the UK knew or ought to have known that the detainees concerned had been or were at risk of being tortured and/or whose detention was unlawful; and
  • The UK systematically received information extracted from people detained overseas in circumstances in which it knew or ought to have known that the detainees concerned were being, had been or would be tortured and/or whose detention was unlawful.
  • Amnesty International believes that the UK’s role in the abusive practices described above cannot be attributed exclusively to the actions or omissions of rogue UK agents. Policies and practices implemented in the aftermath of 11 September 2001 led directly to the UK becoming involved in grave violations of human rights committed against people held overseas. These policies and practices included:
  • The UK government’s failure to respond adequately to the serious violations of international humanitarian law documented in the February 2004 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC);2
  • The sending of UK intelligence and police personnel abroad to conduct or assist the interrogations of people held by other states in circumstances where the UK knew or ought to have known that both detention and questioning were not only unlawful, but may also have amounted to serious crimes under UK and international law, including complicity in torture on the part of the UK and possible criminal conduct on the part of individual UK agents;
  • The refusal, for a substantial period of time, to oppose the unlawful detention of hundreds of people at the US Naval Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the concomitant refusal to make adequate representations to the USA and other countries, on behalf of UK nationals and former UK residents who were held unlawfully at various locations around the world, including Guantánamo Bay;
  • The sending of UK intelligence personnel to Guantánamo Bay to interrogate UK nationals and UK residents;
  • The concealment until June 2004 of the fact that a number of the detainees questioned by UK intelligence personnel had in fact complained about their treatment in detention at the hands of US authorities at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere (e.g. Afghanistan), and the subsequent refusal of the UK to provide any further detail about these complaints, including on how, if at all, they had been followed up in a manner consistent with the UK’s human rights obligations under international law;
  • The authorizations issued by the UK government to the security and intelligence agencies under section 7 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994,3which provides a waiver of liability to intelligence service personnel for illegal acts, including criminal offences, committed abroad in certain circumstances, and the concomitant concealment — for “security reasons” — of the number of times and the circumstances in which these authorizations have been granted since 11 September 2001;
  • The incorrect assertion that there were only very limited circumstances in which domestic and international human rights law would apply to UK operations abroad, including in Afghanistan and Iraq;
  • The failure to disclose information in the UK government’s possession that supported claims on behalf of former and current detainees that they had been tortured or otherwise ill- treated and that their confessions had been extracted under torture or other ill-treatment;
  • The wilful or grossly negligent failure to maintain adequate records — or any records at all — with respect to the use of Diego Garcia by the USA for unlawful renditions, and the activities of the intelligence agencies; and
  • The strenuous defence of the use, in domestic legal proceedings, of information extracted under torture from people held overseas by other countries.

The UK government’s response to these charges has primarily been one of denial and of hiding behind a wall of secrecy. The Chiefs of the UK’s Secret Services (MI5 and MI6), the Home and Foreign Secretaries, the Prime Minister and the Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee have in the past denied the UK’s involvement in the torture of people held overseas. However, such denials fly in the face of credible evidence to the contrary that has continued to mount in recent years.

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Joint Forward Interrogation -Torture- Team

Fresh evidence has emerged that British military intelligence ran a secret operation in Iraq which authorised degrading and unlawful treatment of prisoners. Documents reveal that prisoners were kept hooded for long periods in intense heat and deprived of sleep by defence intelligence officers. They also reveal that officers running the operation claimed to be answerable only “directly to London”.

The revelations will further embarrass the British government, which last month was forced to release documents showing it knew that UK resident and terror suspect Binyam Mohamed had been tortured in Pakistan.

The latest documents emerged during the inquiry into Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel worker beaten to death while in the custody of British troops in September 2003. The inquiry is looking into how interrogation techniques banned by the Government in 1972 and considered torture and degrading treatment were used again in Iraq.

Lawyers believe the new evidence supports suspicions that an intelligence unit – the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (JFIT) which operated in Iraq – used illegal “coercive techniques” and was not answerable to military commanders in Iraq, despite official denials it operated independently.

Support The BA Strikers

The strange part is that BA cabin crews don’t generally come across as the selfish wrecking thugs they’re now portrayed as. They mostly smile and bring you stuff, so why would 80 per cent of them vote twice for a strike? Perhaps it’s because the company wants to bring in new staff on inferior terms to those offered to current employees, with less security and lower wages than the current basic rate of £18,000.

The anti-union rage takes some splendidly imaginative forms. The Conservatives are demanding that Gordon Brown refuses to take funding from Unite. This seems reasonable, as Unite have never shuffled their assets to Belize, never lied about bringing them back, have open votes about political donations and represent the interests of one-and-a-half-million people instead of one person, so they clearly know nothing about how to run a modern business.

-Mark Steel

Also I think it is worth remembering BA management are an enthusiastic ally in the UKBA’s migrant abuse policies. Also see Lenin.

Wales- Built By Migrants

This is re-posted from No Borders South Wales written by Tom Fowler, it’s a great read, a great tonic to notions of exclusive nationalism & xenophobia-

The following article written by one of our group first appeared on Waleshome.org last week, where it has already the 2nd highest number of comments. We reproduce it here in it’s unedited original form.

Welsh history has often failed to integrate an international perspective, and as such the role of Welsh people in the British Empire is too often ignored. People like Henry Bruce (1st Baron Aberdare) whose statue overlooks Cardiff University. He was the first governor of the Royal Niger Company which institutionalised the systematic plundering of wealth from the region that was to become Nigeria. Many of the current problems faced by people in Nigeria are a direct result of domination by Britain. Despite having abundant natural resources and being a major oil producer, poverty is a fact of life for the majority of people in the most populous country in Africa.

MIGRATION is one of the most contentious issues of modern times. Add the “im-” prefix and it’s practically a swear word in some circles. If public debate around the issue is ever given any lip service, it generally has a whiff of racism, or more increasingly the stench of fascism about it. The right-wing gutter press have managed to file ‘bogus asylum seekers’ and ‘illegal immigrants’ into the same category as child killers and sex offenders. There is so much that can be said to counter tabloid lies on immigration, it would be easy to fill a whole article with facts refuting them. But these can be easily found elsewhere, here I will sketch a rarely-articulated history of Wales which undercuts the dominant right-wing discourse on migration.

Opponents of immigration often fix upon the notion of an indigenous culture that requires defending from outside influence, a ‘way of life’ that is under attack from foreigners. The ’shared identity’ of the nation-state is appealed to, promoting the idea that the interests of all indigenous people are separate to those of ‘foreigners’. This imagined community of a country is a construct, even in a small nation like Wales most people never know, meet, or even hear of most of their fellow countrymen. Any concept of national identity is not innate and unchanging, but fragile, contested, and constructed over time. The hegemonic concept of national identity serves as a means of social control to dissuade the working people of one country from making natural alliances with the global multitude.

British imperialism led to the colonisation of over 57 countries (mostly in the 16th and 17th centuries), and the economic opportunities offered by the sprawl of empire meant that many ambitious Welshmen were able to make fortunes as slavers  and plantation owners. By the late 18th century this wealth began to be brought back to Wales, and financed the foundations of the industrial growth that was to follow. From the ironworks at Cyfarthfa in Merthyr Tydfil to the harbour of Port Penrhyn at Bangor, industrial infrastructure was built on the profits of imperial conquest and slavery.

The industrial revolution affected the culture of Wales to such a point that we can almost consider anything before it as mere preamble. For the vast majority of its history the population of Wales never rose above half a million. It was only with the onset of industrialisation and the mass migration of workers to fuel the new industries that our population rose. The size and scale of this population explosion cannot be underestimated. The figures tell their own story: by the time of the economic crisis of 1921 the population had grown by over 2 million. This movement into Wales was out of step with the rest of Europe, between 1846 and 1914, 43 million people left for the United States, every European nation was seeing an outward flow of workers to the new world; every nation except Wales. In the decade before World War I the rate of immigration into Wales was second only to that of the USA.

Though much of this inward migration was from other parts of the Britain and Ireland many came from much further afield. It was not until 1905, under the weight of xenophobic agitation against Eastern-European Jews, that the UK passed the first “Aliens Act”, which enshrined the ability of the state to reject the pleas of people fleeing persecution or seeking a better life. The entire current migration-management system, with its web of detention centres, checkpoints and army of agents, can be traced back to this one piece of anti-semitic legislation.

Without the mass migration that resulted from industrialisation, and fuelled by the wealth of imperialism, Wales as we currently understand and experience it simply would not exist. Any recognisably separate identity to that of England would have disappeared into the footnotes of history. Over a period of four generations, from the late 18th to the early 20th century, these immigrants were thoroughly absorbed creating a melting pot that gave birth to a unique culture. A culture which defines “Welshness” far more keenly than any bardic ceremony.

The movement of people generally follows the movement of wealth. It is no surprise that whilst the British ruling class conquered and exploited much of the world, people living in these impoverished and plundered areas followed the wealth to the UK. In the same way that the straight lines that divide so much of the world were drawn by Western statesmen as arbitrary divisions of colonial “possessions”, the infrastructure of border control acts as a clumsy attempt to avoid the payback of imperialist conquest.

The failure to give any realistic form of reparation to former colonies has created vast numbers of dispossessed people. Modern travel now means that these people are able to move to the former imperial states and work to send money home. This migrant work has become the bedrock of many economies where the “brightest and best” are encouraged to work overseas to simulate the domestic situation. People  dispossessed by imperialist domination during the age of empire, and more recent neo-colonialism, fully deserve the opportunity to enjoy a share of the wealth that was taken from them.

We in the Welsh working class need to recognise migrant workers for what they are: fellow exploited people, shaped and buffeted by the same forces that created our own unequal economic position. Migrants are not a separate social group, they are labour on the move. As such they are fellow-competitors for the crumbs from the rich man’s table, and also potential allies in the struggle for an equal society.

Posted in Anti-Racism, Human Rights, Migrant Rights. Tags: . Comments Off

A Sorry Apology

Colm O’Gorman:- On Saturday Pope Benedict XVI published his letter to the Irish Church on the issue of child abuse. What was necessary seemed clear. As Pope, acknowledge the cover up by Roman Catholic Church of the rape and abuse of children by priests, take responsibility for it, and show how you will ensure it never happens again.

But the letter failed to do any of this. There was no acceptance of responsibility for the now established cover up, no plan to ensure that across the global church those who rape and abuse will be reported to the civil authorities and children properly protected.

The letter is clearly an effort to restore the credibility of a church rocked by the publication of three state investigations into clerical crimes and church over ups in Ireland. The Pope has seen all three of these reports.

Published in May 2009, following an eleven year State investigation, the Ryan Report detailed the full extent of the horrific abuse endured by children abandoned to the ‘care’ of the church.

It reported ritualized, savage beatings, endemic rape and sexual assault and the exploitation of children forced to work to enrich the bloated religious congregations charged with their care.

Disgracefully, the Pope used his letter and this issue to attack one of his favourite targets, secularisation. We are asked to believe that the secularisation of Irish society led to abuse and cover up. In fact, it is the secularisation of society that finally led to the exposure of the crimes of the church.

The most horrific abuse was perpetrated, not in a secularised Ireland, but at a time when Irish society was dominated, socially and politically, by the Catholic Church.

That the Pope appears to have wilfully ignored this established fact is a blatant and disgraceful deceit.

Some have reported that the Pope issued a heartfelt apology to victims of abuse. In fact the word ‘sorry’ appeared just once in a letter running to almost four thousand seven hundred words.

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Happy Norooz!

Yes that is my favourite spelling! Admittedly as Naj also recounts it is a bittersweet affair, the revolutionary establishment have embraced tyranny, the Iranian people caught amidst international intrigue, power games and domestic repression. I think Juan Cole is far too generous in accepting Obama’s public pronouncements, we know he says good things publicly, but we also know he does backroom deals and continues imperial policy out of the public view, healthcare, Dennis Ross, bunker busters(?). Interestingly Counterpunch reports Joe Biden making a semi public/ semi private statement that was not for US consumption-

So here’s the vice president of the United States of America,standing with all the injured dignity of a man who has just had a bucket of sewage dumped over his head and who amid his discomfiture, actually did use the word “condemn” and “Israel” in the same paragraph. The next day Biden heads for Tel Aviv university and confides to the audience that he is a Zionist and that, “throughout my career, Israel has not only remained close to my heart but it has been the center of my work as a United States Senator and now as Vice President of the United States.” Get that: “the center of my work.” This mission statement is not quoted in the U.S. press.

I’m sure he was playing to the crowd, but can you imagine a US VP saying in Tehran ‘I am a supporter of the Islamic Republic…throughout my career, Iran has not only remained close to my heart but it has been the center of my work as a United States Senator and now as Vice President of the United States.’ I’m guessing that might make the papers back in The Homeland. There is little difference now between the two governments, both are playing games to placate their own elite friends and empower themselves, Iran has detained many dissidents although the more visible abuses have seen some redress -Iran tries suspects in protester prison deaths- their overall treatment is appalling (I suppose at least there is a case, no torture cases in the US even when they admit it proudly on TV). This however does not make a case for military attacks or blind sanctions designed for other agendas. So Happy New Year, bittersweet as it is.

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