A Good Question

James @ Mahatma X Files pondered-

Will there be a blogswarm to mark the 6th anniversary of the current phase of the US war against and occupation of Iraq – much like last year’s? Or did the election of the Pope of Hope usher in a new era of complacency? I wonder.

The 5th Anniversary Blogswarm grew from the idea of Godless Liberal Homo (and I helped) who is no slouch when calling the current situation-

Barack Obama has broken his most important campaign promise. He has pushed an even smaller withdrawal out to 20 months, instead of the larger withdrawal promised in 16. Given our economic crises, we need to get all of our troops out of the war on Iraq ASAP. We cannot afford to divert hundreds of billions of dollars to destroying another company’s economy and slaughtering its people.

The blogswarm was very successful although it became a lot more work than we had anticipated. My thoughts are, yes it should happen again, but more people administering it and it needs to also involve Afghanistan in some way perhaps. It’s very dangerous in a recession/depression to let governments get away with using wars to distract and to ‘regenerate’ the economy because by definition it means other people are gonna die and schools, hospitals, infrastructure, welfare all are further weakened in order to wage state terror on others. It is also notable that the longer Iraq remains occupied the greater the cost so that sooner or later the idea of needing to be repaid for that ‘largesse’ gains greater credence, throw in the crisis of capitalism and it will be very easy to get a majority of people to support Iraq’s resources being exploited more to repay the invader’s costs rather than paying reparations. Simultaneously further entrenching hydrocarbons at a time we should be reducing their use. The subtler point of Jame’s question remains to be answered, have people either through blind faith/hope abandoned their critical distance from government and/or are some now locked into the two party puppet show that they take it as a zero sum game and any criticism of ‘their team’ is helping the enemy so they remain quiet even as that becomes de facto support for actions identical to those they attacked the other side for. And bottom line, leaving up to 50,000 troops in a country does not sound all that withdrawal-y to me.

PS. I saw a BBC report on this and while it noted disputed casualty figures the journo only presented IBC’s under 100,000 figure. Is that what Obama means, because he’s likable we will not mind being bullshitted so much?

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Friday! Underworld- Good Morning Cockerel

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New Labour Admits Lies About Rendition & Torture, Time To Ungag Ben Griffin

The government admitted today that British troops in Iraq handed over terror suspects to the US, which then secretly rendered them to a prison in Afghanistan.

After a year of allegations and repeated ministerial assurances to the contrary, the admission was made in the Commons by John Hutton, the defence secretary, who apologised to MPs for inaccurate information ministers had previously given them.

He said British soldiers, believed to have been SAS troops, handed over two terrorist suspects to the US in Iraq in February 2004. The men had been captured outside the UK-controlled zone covering south-eastern Iraq.

But Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said damaging “secrets about British complicity in rendition and torture continue to seep out” and a judicial public inquiry into was the “only hope for lancing the boil and moving on”.

The call was echoed by Human Rights Watch, which described the internal review announced by Hutton as an apparent “bureaucratic and documentary exercise designed not to get at the truth but to cover tracks by ring-fencing any incriminating evidence in official records”.

In the Commons, Crispin Blunt, the Tory security spokesman, welcomed the information about the two detainees but said Hutton had left open the “glaring hole” of wider UK complicity in torture. Fellow Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition, told Hutton that as ministers had previously denied a number of allegations that turned out to be true, he hoped he could “understand that we have less confidence than we did in assurances being made now”.

In March 2006, Ben Griffin, a former SAS soldier, revealed that Iraqis and Afghans had been captured by British and American special forces and rendered to prisons where they faced torture. The MoD said at the time that it did not comment on the activities of special forces.

The government subsequently obtained a gagging order in the courts preventing Griffin from saying any more.

Not burdened with the wisdom or responsibility of a newspaper I am quite happy to say- they have been lying to cover up their role in torture and continue to do so. Isn’t lying to the House meant to be bit of a no-no? Yet this is odd, no one seems too upset, are they all pretty comfortable with facilitating torture? Resignations, prosecutions, hello? Anyone giving a fuck, or is the new Obama era leading the way, appear contrite while not actually doing that much different. Time for the gagging order to be challenged/lifted and for Ben Griffin to get national exposure for his testimony, or does the mainstream media only like SAS troopers when they write shitty books about ‘slotting ragheads’. Mother hating psycho Hutton (formerly in charge of destroying welfare. See how it goes, you despise the poor then you get to play with torture, oh yeah baby you better believe it’s all connected, sadism abides) peddles this shit-

Hutton said the pair, believed to be Pakistanis, were still being held in Afghanistan. He said they were members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned organisation that he said was linked to al-Qaida. The US had assured Britain the two continued to represent “significant security concerns” and it was “neither possible or desirable to transfer them to either their country of detention or country of origin”, Hutton told MPs.

The US had assured him the men were being held in humane conditions and had access to the Red Cross, Hutton said.

Thing is Johnny boy there is ample evidence the US tortures and lies about it, therefore these assurances are worthless and anyone taking them at face value is similarly likely to be seen as co-conspirator in war crimes. Clearly no one fears they will ever have to explain themselves in a court of law and the whole lying to Parliament bit, hey what does it matter, it’s only torture.

Get used to it, that’s where we live now- Hey what does it matter, it’s only torture.


I’m afraid I have such debilitating lurgi of my respiratory bits (sorry if I’ve lost you with the medical jargon there) that breathing poorly and moaning softly have taken up all my time (maybe trying to act surprised at the continuing cover up of Iraq war crimes has affected my immune system, Straw!). Anyways in the meantime check Peter Tatchell on Hicham Yezza and below Mark Steel’s current column which again has not shown up in The Independent-
Read the rest of this entry »


Chris Hedges– There is a lot riding on whom President Obama names as his special envoy to Iran. If, as expected, it is Dennis Ross, a former official of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, we will be in deep trouble. Ross, who is expected to be placed in charge of the Iranian portfolio this week, is a vocal supporter of Israel’s call for increased pressure on Iran. He is distrusted, even despised, in the Muslim world and especially in Tehran. With good reason, he is not viewed as an impartial broker.

And ta-da!

(Reuters) – U.S. diplomat Dennis Ross has been appointed special advisor on the Gulf and southwest Asia, which includes Iran, to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the State Department announced on Monday.

Burmese Junta Releases Prisoners In PR Move

The headline figure is over 6,000 released with a whopping, er… 23 being political prisoners, hmmm-

(Mizzima) – The Assistant Association for Political Prisoners Burma, an activist group, has said that at least 23 political prisoners were included among the 6313 prisoners, who have been given amnesty by Burma’s ruling junta on Saturday.

The Thailand-based AAPP-B, which monitors the situation of political prisoners in Burma, said so far the junta had released over 6,000 prisoners, including only 23 political prisoners, a few monks, members of the opposition party – National League for Democracy, and other activists.

Burma’s ruling military junta, which has persistently denied the presence of political prisoners in Burma, on Friday said, it would grant amnesty to prisoners, who had a record of good conduct as a second chance to rebuild their lives and prepare themselves to participate in the upcoming 2010 elections.

However, critics and opposition parties said there might be other reasons for the release than merely granting the prisoners a second chance, as the junta, which has a history of making moves to decrease mounting international pressure, cannot be trusted.

Tate Naing, General Secretary of AAPP-B said, the prisoners release was a part of the junta’s efforts to ease off pressure mounting on them, and was a show case, as there were few political prisoners included, among those released.

“It is very much evident, the junta wants to ease pressure from the international community and this is the way they act, whenever they face mounting pressure,” Tate Naing said.

The announcement of the release of 6,313 prisoners across the country came a day after the United Nations Human Rights envoy wound up a six-day visit to the country. During the visit, Tomas Ojea Quintana said he had suggested to Burma’s military authorities to implement progressive release of political prisoners.

Pascal Khoo-Thwe Feb 23, 2009 (DVB)…the generals only release a few political prisoners when they have major political gains to make, such as the time when it wanted to sell its new constitution to the international community last year and now ahead of the proposed 2010 election. The junta is like people who give only the smallest amount and the poorest quality to other people and want to get all the best things from them. When I checked the numbers of other prisoners released I noticed that they don’t add up, and I started to doubt whether 9002 prisoners were actually released last year or 6313 this year. The junta has never released the list of prisoners released from each jail or allowed independent groups to monitor the releases.

UK Police State Coming Along Nicely

Ooh look the plod predict a ‘summer of rage’ how agent provocateur status quo of them-

Police are preparing for a “summer of rage” as victims of the economic downturn take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions, the Guardian has learned.

Britain’s most senior police officer with responsibility for public order raised the spectre of a return of the riots of the 1980s, with people who have lost their jobs, homes or savings becoming “footsoldiers” in a wave of potentially violent mass protests.

Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan police’s public order branch, told the Guardian that middle-class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may now seek to vent their anger through protests this year.

He’s an idea, try investigating the City of London instead of protecting it.

It’s also interesting that while many suggest a national bank utilising Post Offices for its branches, New Labour and its corporate chums are looking to use the crisis (and proposal) to privatise it quickly and lay off workers to forestall a truly public owned bank despite its rosy rhetoric.

US Tried To Gag Binyam Mohamed

Mohamed and his lawyers rejected a gagging order the US tried to impose on him, the Guardian understands.

This is his statement on landing in the UK-

I hope you will understand that after everything I have been through I am neither physically nor mentally capable of facing the media on the moment of my arrival back to Britain. Please forgive me if I make a simple statement through my lawyer. I hope to be able to do better in days to come, when I am on the road to recovery.
I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares. Before this ordeal, “torture” was an abstract word to me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim.
It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways — all orchestrated by the United States government.
While I want to recover, and put it all as far in my past as I can, I also know I have an obligation to the people who still remain in those torture chambers.
My own despair was greatest when I thought that everyone had abandoned me. I have a duty to make sure that nobody else is forgotten.
I am grateful that in the end I was not simply left to my fate. I am grateful to my lawyers and other staff at Reprieve, and to Lt. Col. Yvonne Bradley, who fought for my freedom.
I am grateful to the members of the British Foreign Office who worked for my release. And I want to thank people around Britain who wrote to me in Guantanamo Bay to keep my spirits up, as well as to the members of the media who tried to make sure that the world knew what was going on.
I know I would not be home in Britain today if it were not for everyone’s support. Indeed, I might not be alive at all.
I wish I could say that it is all over, but it is not. There are still 241 Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo.
Many have long since been cleared even by the U.S. military, yet cannot go anywhere as they face persecution. For example, Ahmed bel Bacha lived here in Britain, and desperately needs a home.
Then there are thousands of other prisoners held by the U.S. elsewhere around the world, with no charges, and without access to their families.
And I have to say, more in sadness than in anger, that many have been complicit in my own horrors over the past seven years.
For myself, the very worst moment came when I realized in Morocco that the people who were torturing me were receiving questions and materials from British intelligence.
I had met with British intelligence in Pakistan. I had been open with them. Yet the very people who I had hoped would come to my rescue, I later realized, had allied themselves with my abusers.
I am not asking for vengeance; only that the truth should be made known, so that nobody in the future should have to endure what I have endured.

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The Return

Binyam Mohamed will return to Britain suffering from a huge range of injuries after being beaten by United States guards right up to the point of his departure from Guantanamo Bay, according to the first detailed accounts of his treatment inside the camp.

Mohamed will arrive back tomorrow in the UK, where he was a British resident between 1984 and 2002.

During medical examinations last week, doctors discovered injuries and ailments resulting from apparently brutal treatment in detention.

Mohamed was found to be suffering from bruising, organ damage, stomach complaints, malnutrition, sores to feet and hands, severe damage to ligaments as well as profound emotional and psychological problems which were exacerbated by the refusal of Guantanamo’s guards to give him counselling.

Mohamed’s British lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, said his client had been beaten “dozens” of times inside the notorious US camp in Cuba, with the most recent abuse occurring during recent weeks.

He said: “He has a list of physical ailments that cover two sheets of A4 paper. What Binyam has been through should have been left behind in the Middle Ages.”

Lieutenant Colonel Yvonne Bradley, Mohamed’s US military lawyer, added: “He has been severely beaten. Sometimes I don’t like to think about it because my country is behind all this.”

Also see Andy Worthington

Torturer’s Conspiracy

“It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.”

John Fredman, then chief counsel to the CIA’s counter-terrorism center.

The Pentagon has exonerated itself over Gitmo, but try some minutes from 2002 to see the real deal @Invictus, excerpts-

LTC Beaver: We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques. We must have the support of the DOD.


Fredman: Yes, if someone dies while aggressive techniques are being used, regardless of cause of death, the backlash of attention would be extremely detrimental. Everything must be approved and documented.


Becker: We have had many reports from Bagram about sleep deprivation being used.

LTC Beaver: True, but officially it is not happening. It is not being reported officially. The ICRC is a serious concern. They will be in and out, scrutinizing our operations, unless they are displeased and decide to protest and leave. This would draw a lot of negative attention.


Becker: Videotapes are subject to too much scrutiny in court. We don’t want the LEA people in aggressive sessions anyway.


Fredman: If a well-trained individual is used to perform [sic] this technique it can feel like you’re drowning. The lymphatic system will react as if you’re suffocating, but your body will not cease to function. It is very effective to identify phobias and use them (ie, insects, snakes, claustrophobia). The level of resistance is directly related to person’s experience.

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John Pilger, Cambodia & Our Complicity

Cambodia’s empty dock

At my hotel in Phnom Penh, the women and children sat on one side of the room, palais-style, the men on the other. It was a disco night and a lot of fun; then suddenly people walked to the windows and wept. The DJ had played a song by the much-loved Khmer singer Sin Sisamouth, who had been forced to dig his own grave and to sing the Khmer Rouge anthem before he was beaten to death. I experienced many such reminders.

There was another kind of reminder. In the village of Neak Long I walked with a distraught man through a necklace of bomb craters. His entire family of 13 had been blown to pieces by an American B-52. That had happened almost two years before Pol Pot came to power in 1975. It is estimated more than 600,000 Cambodians were slaughtered that way.

The problem with the UN-backed trial of the remaining Khmer Rouge leaders, which has just begun in Phnom Penh, is that it is dealing only with the killers of Sin Sisamouth and not with the killers of the family in Neak Long, and not with their collaborators. There were three stages of Cambodia’s holocaust. Pol Pot’s genocide was but one of them, yet only it has a place in the official memory.

It is highly unlikely Pot Pot would have come to power had President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, not attacked neutral Cambodia. In 1973, B-52s dropped more bombs on Cambodia’s heartland than were dropped on Japan during the second world war: equivalent to five Hiroshimas. Files reveal that the CIA was in little doubt of the effect. “[The Khmer Rouge] are using damage caused by B-52 strikes as the main theme of their propaganda,” reported the director of operations on May 2, 1973. “This approach has resulted in the successful recruitment of a number of young men [and] has been effective with refugees.”

Prior to the bombing, the Khmer Rouge had been a Maoist cult without a popular base. The bombing delivered a catalyst. What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot completed. Kissinger will not be in the dock in Phnom Penh. He is advising President Obama on geopolitics. Neither will Margaret Thatcher, nor a number of her retired ministers and officials who, in secretly supporting the Khmer Rouge after the Vietnamese had expelled them, contributed directly to the third stage of Cambodia’s holocaust.

In 1979, the US and Britain imposed a devastating embargo on stricken Cambodia because its liberators, Vietnam, had come from the wrong side of the cold war. Few Foreign Office campaigns have been as cynical or as brutal. The British demanded that the now defunct Pol Pot regime retain the “right” to represent its victims at the UN and voted with Pol Pot in the agencies of the UN, including the World Health Organisation, thereby preventing it from working in Cambodia. To disguise this outrage, Britain, the US and China, Pol Pot’s main backer, invented a “non communist” coalition in exile that was, in fact, dominated by the Khmer Rouge. In Thailand, the CIA and Defence Intelligence Agency formed direct links with the Khmer Rouge.

In 1983, the Thatcher government sent the SAS to train the “coalition” in landmine technology – in a country more seeded with mines than anywhere except Afghanistan. “I confirm,” Thatcher wrote to opposition leader Neil Kinnock, “that there is no British government involvement of any kind in training, equipping or co-operating with Khmer Rouge forces or those allied to them.” The lie was breathtaking. In 1991, the Major government was forced to admit to parliament that the SAS had been secretly training the “coalition”.

Unless international justice is a farce, those who sided with Pol Pot’s mass murderers ought to be summoned to the court in Phnom Penh: at the very least their names read into infamy’s register.

Friday! North by Northwest

The splendid swirling, urgent opening theme (Bernard Herrmann on the choons, Saul Bass on the penz!) to the little seen documentary about the dangers of low flying crop dusters, possibly.

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BBC Trust Supports DEC Gaza Appeal Ban

Unsurprisingly? Anyway something very sinister seemed to leap at me from this quote:-

Mr Lyons said: “The director general argued that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deeply divisive and that the suffering of civilians plays a central part in the political case each side makes in the ‘court of world opinion’.”

Mr Thompson had consequently thought it “impossible in this case to separate the political causes from the humanitarian consequences”, Mr Lyons added. “In the director general’s view, the appeal would, by its very nature, have shown only one aspect of the conflict and broadcasting it, he argues would have implied a significant level of the endorsement by the BBC of the appeal itself – thereby putting BBC impartiality at risk.”

Mr Lyons said the Trust had found this to be “a reasonable argument” and that the decision taken was “within the parameters of reasonable decisions open to him”.

No, it is not impossible, it is only impossible if like the BBC you have sought a rapprochement with Israel since 2003 and are now impartially close to it. Also this means the only main UK broadcasters to help the Israeli war effort are Murdoch’s Sky and the BBC. Must make the Beeb proud- look at us, we’re as good as Fox News!!!!!

So if you are sufficiently chums with the UK, US and the Beeb elite you can murder at will and your victims are unworthy of help, that’s what “impossible in this case to separate the political causes from the humanitarian consequences” amounts to, total cowardice, utter partiality. The more the killers have explained their position to us, the more we have elected to listen to them, the less able we are to see clear past that. Mark Thompson, go fuck yourself and take the BBC quisling Trust with you. No nation should get special treatment off the BBC, no casualty of violence should be ignored because the attacker is so awfully good at making their case. Now tell me is there any sign the BBC is now trying to build bridges with those who this decision has appalled? Or are they sat smugly with a shit eating grin the warm glow of victory obscuring the millions now even less accepting of the BBC as a useful source of information. Are they ok with powerful murderous friends and a lowered professional reputation? Silly question, corporate media always are, after all they don’t hang out with us, they hang out with them. Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza, they’ll always be a good reason echoed through the media for killing people. Don’t rock the boat, especially when you’re in it and the BBC really are now in it.

Afghanistan: Humanitarian Swindlers

The fine words are just that, Afghanistan is being pacified brutally while the killers cover up civilian casualties and lie about the level of aid they actually are delivering. Crime & war, business as usual, Afghanistan is the imperial blood sacrifice, money (always) for military deployment, a pittance for that ‘humanitarian’ brand that sells so well, the figures betray the real intention-

FT.com:- Afghanistan’s international backers have left the country billions of dollars short of the money promised to the poverty stricken country at last summer’s high-profile Paris aid conference, according to analysis by the Afghan government.

While $21bn (€16.8bn, £14.8bn) in aid was officially pledged by world governments at the conference in June, nearly a third of the total has proved to be old money that had been “double pledged”.

According to a detailed study by the Afghan ministry of finance, the US double pledged $3bn, while all of the $780m promised by the European Union had been announced previously. In total about $7bn, a third of the total, was double-pledged money.

A senior development official in Kabul said: “Everyone knew at the time this was not new money, but there was pressure from everyone, including the Afghan government, to come up with a big number.”

It is a problem that has hit all five of the international donor conferences held since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, with the ministry estimating that $11bn of the total $44.5bn promised over the years has been old money, re-announced.

The Afghan study also reveals that large parts of the National Development Strategy laid out by the Afghan government will go unfunded. The strategy, which cost an estimated $15m to prepare and was approved by donors at the Paris conference, sets out the government’s development priorities for the next four years.

The NDS puts a heavy emphasis on improving the country’s agricultural base but the finance ministry report shows that rural development will be underfunded by $412m in 2009 alone. Overall, there will be a $3.1bn shortfall for this year, with other key sectors, including health, education and infrastructure all suffering for lack of funds.

In a sign of where international priorities lie, nearly half of all available money will be spent on building up the security forces.

Stop The Welfare Privatisation Bill, Lobby 3rd March


PDF wr-3-march-lobby-leaflet

Details & Map

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: “David Freud’s defection to the Conservatives confirms the view that the government are implementing Tory party policy. The government’s welfare reform plans are the Conservative manifesto in sheep’s clothing penalising some of the most vulnerable in society and will lead to the privatisation of a world class public service where profits will be put ahead of people. The government should seize the opportunity of Freud’s move by recognising the chorus of opposition that is gearing up to lobby Parliament and drop its regressive plans.”