The Human Centipede Model For Leadership In A Hung Parliament

Human Centipede is a schlock horror movie whereby a mad doctor who specialises in separating conjoined twins creates a… The clue’s in the title, he surgically attaches three hapless victims together, anus to mouth, to form an organism with one digestive tract, biologically implausible as that may be. Nevertheless such high concept body horror meets torture porn hijinks is doing its job causing sensation and gasps of horror which should translate into a healthy profit for the producers. It’s not called Showart, it’s Showbusiness people! Here below is the mad doctor with a helpful diagram for victims and viewers on his overhead projector (this immediately sets off alarm bells as to his competence, it’s 2010, Keynote, Powerpoint? Hello?)-

I say Cameron for the -worst- middle position, after all he already has that shit-eating grin…Clegg for front and Brown bringing up the rear, with Miliband following with the bucket & spade and a Look, you’ve punished us enough about Iraq, all right? So don’t start punishing yourself.’ T-shirt.

The question then arises for the consensus state, could this creature be mated with a suitable female host to produce a new super race of neoliberal politician? Or are plans already afoot?

An antidote to such horror.

Posted in Establishment, Media, Politics. Tags: , . Comments Off on The Human Centipede Model For Leadership In A Hung Parliament

An Iran Quiz

Via Juan Cole, this Iran Quiz by Jeffrey Rudolph is a counterpoint to the pro-attack narrative for a broad (US) audience but it’s worth a spin wherever you are. As our leaders use Iran as a prop to measure their military and foreign policy election race  particulars it is relevant here -what Washington wants Washington gets- and anyway our ruling class has form when it comes to Persia. I have rejigged the original format so each answer appears after the question, however to maintain a challenging air of mystery the answers are in white, so to see them you have to highlight the text (anyone remember the teletext reveal button?). So, just a bit of fun as they say

Iran Quiz by Jeffrey Rudolph

What can possibly justify the relentless U.S. diplomatic (and mainstream media) assault on Iran ?

It cannot be argued that Iran is an aggressive state that is dangerous to its neighbors, as facts do not support this claim. It cannot be relevant that Iran adheres to Islamic fundamentalism, has a flawed democracy and denies women full western-style civil rights, as Saudi Arabia is more fundamentalist, far less democratic and more oppressive of women, yet it is a U.S. ally. It cannot be relevant that Iran has, over the years, had a nuclear research program, and is most likely pursuing the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, as Pakistan, India, Israel and other states are nuclear powers yet remain U.S. allies—indeed, Israel deceived the U.S. while developing its nuclear program.

The answer to the above-posed question is fairly obvious: Iran must be punished for leaving the orbit of U.S. control. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when the Shah was removed, Iran, unlike, say, Saudi Arabia, acts independently and thus compromises U.S. power in two ways: i) Defiance of U.S. dictates affects the U.S.’s attainment of goals linked to Iran; and, ii) Defiance of U.S. dictates establishes a “bad” example for other countries that may wish to pursue an independent course. The Shah could commit any number of abuses—widespread torture, for example—yet his loyalty to the U.S. exempted him from American condemnation—yet not from the condemnation of the bulk of Iranians who brought him down.

The following quiz is an attempt to introduce more balance into the mainstream discussion of Iran.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Imperialism, Iran, Media. Tags: . 1 Comment »

Great Moments In Online Polling

An Online YouGov oracle survey today:-

Posted in Media. Tags: . 2 Comments »


Go on, press the button, it’s easy. You’ve been trained in such a way that makes it very easy, that directs your libido into desiring the kill, to ‘Get Some’. And don’t worry, the acculturation in the Homeland is such that whatever you do you will be the Good Guy. And thus the cycle continues, mass murderers become respected and get the next bit of mass murder going. The counter narrative is already launched, that’s if it is even still on the news agenda and anyway they are censoring it for the sensitive folks back home. What then of the other side, when they’ve mown down your friends, family, given themselves medals and treat you like shit, gonna do something? You’ll have to realise that your act won’t reach the people in the Homeland, they won’t understand you as a human being who made a stand, who couldn’t take anymore who couldn’t live with the anger, grief and the need stop the pain in your head, you’ll be an insurgent, a terrorist, a fundamentalist. Heroes use $16 million gunships (that’s a stimulus to the economy, saving jobs, providing careers in science, engineering and psychology), when you improvise whatever you can get your hands on, that’s terrorism. And that act will stiffen the resolve of the righteous forces of freedom, they are protecting the folks back home from your violence. They’ll be parades for them, at your funeral a drone will Hellfire all your friends and family, I mean who else would go to the funeral of a terrorist than other terrorists? Get Some. And best of all, best of all even the caring sharing reasonable liberal journalists will deny the holocaust of deaths (especially the half a million starved children even before the WMD lies did their work), Lancet & Orb are verboten, because the Good Guys don’t do that even as they wring their hands. So war has not changed, it is series of unfolding atrocities and people who want a nice life will not get in too much of the way of that, it’s just not polite. Do your duty, don’t think too hard, value nice things that a nice salary will buy you and one day maybe when you hear rotors overhead, hope that your gang, your tribe are in the cockpit, so don’t go to protests, don’t pray to the wrong god, don’t resist an occupation that murders and tortures your friends and family. When they say they are Good Guys believe them and serve them, whatever they do to you, maybe they foreclose your home, or bulldoze your home, deny you medicine in a letter or at a checkpoint, because that’s freedom. Find the most powerful gang and join it and hope your life is not at the other end of a button push.

Standing at the window
A farmer’s wife in Oxford shire
Glances at the clock; it’s nearly time for tea
She doesn’t see
The phantom in the hedgerow dip its wings
Doesn’t hear the engine sing
But in the cockpit’s techno glow
Behind the Ray Ban shine
The kid from Cleveland
In the comfort of routine
Scans his dials and smiles
Secure in the beauty of military life
There is no right or wrong
Only tin cans and cordite and white cliffs
And blue skies and flight flight flight
The beauty of military life
No questions only orders and flight, only flight
What a beautiful sight in his wild blue dream
The eternal child leafs through his war magazine
And his kind Uncle Sam feeds ten trillion in change
Into the total entertainment combat video game
And up here in the stands
The fans are going wild
The cheerleaders flip
When you wiggle your hip
And we all like the bit when you take
The jeans from the refrigerator and
Then the bad guy gets hit
And were you struck by the satisfying way
The swimsuit sticks to her skin
Like BB gun days
When knives pierce autumn leaves
But that’s okay see the children bleed
It’ll look great on the TV
And in Tripoli another ordinary wife
Stares at the dripping her old man hadn’t
Time to fix
Too busy mixing politics and rhythm
In the street below

John McDonnell’s Letter To The Guardian Re: RMT Ballot

The media treatment of RMT and Bob Crow over the last 48 hours over the Network Rail strike ballot has been the worst example of a concerted campaign of media bias against a trade union that we have seen since the 1980s miners’ strike. John Humphrys’s interview of Bob Crow, with his references to ballot-rigging, and the BBC’s subsequent headline of “RMT’s Bob Crow denies ballot rigging”, was that disgusting classic of the old hack lawyer’s tactic of asking the defendant: “When did you stop beating your wife?”

Even the Guardian’s editorial (2 March) ignorantly weighed in with “No union that conducts its ballots properly according to the reasonable requirements of the law … would be in danger of being injuncted.” This reference to “reasonable requirements of the law” is patent rubbish. To hold a ballot the union must construct and supply the employer with a detailed and complex matrix of information setting out which members it is balloting, their job titles, grades, departments and work locations. The employer is under no obligation to co-operate with the union to ensure this is accurate. If there is the slightest inaccuracy, even where it did not affect the result, the ballot is open to being challenged by the employer and quashed by the courts.

There can be no question of the union ballot-rigging or interfering in the balloting process because it is undertaken by an independent scrutineer, usually the Electoral Reform Society, and all ballot papers are sent by post to the homes of the members being balloted, and returned to the ERS for counting. The union at no time handles the ballot papers.

On at least four occasions in the last three years I have tried in parliament on behalf of RMT and other TUC-affiliated unions to amend employment law to require employers to co-operate with unions in the balloting process so these problems can be overcome. Employers’ organisations, the Conservatives and the government have all opposed this reform.

The result is not fewer strikes but a deteriorating industrial relations climate as people become increasingly angry that their democratic wishes are frustrated by one-sided anti-trade-union laws.

John McDonnell MP

Also see SU

Posted in Human Rights, Labour rights, Media. Tags: , . Comments Off on John McDonnell’s Letter To The Guardian Re: RMT Ballot

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

Posted in Human Rights, Media. Tags: . Comments Off on 7 Years Since Aafia Siddiqui Was First Abducted

In Speaking, To Listen

Or- Too Long for Twitter again. So to this absolute must read, and I mean that, you must read it, there will be a written test and all those failing will be barred from the interwebs for a week! Yes, I have that power… A progressive left blog from Pakistan who say this about themselves-

We call for a Pakistan grounded in principles of justice and fairness which includes a commitment to federalism and respect for the rights of provinces, and of minorities as equal citizens of the state. This requires that there be no discrimination on the basis of sex/gender, class, province/ethnicity, religion/sect, or sexual orientation. This is only possible if and when there is a clear separation between religion and state, when there are strong independent democratic institutions such as the judiciary and media , when the army’s role is confined to defence and when it is under the complete control of a civilian government which truly represents the people of Pakistan, and when there is a genuine effort to improve people’s quality of life through the provision of universal adult literacy, universal healthcare, and people-centered development.

Writes on the Sahgal/Amnesty affair, an excerpt but again, this is a must read!-

The larger issue, however, is this: why do our so-called allies constantly demand that we articulate our disavowal of the Taliban? Do they perhaps believe that in some deep dark religious corner of our lefty Pakistani hearts, we nurture a secret love for the ruthless brutish bearded circus called the Taliban?  Why are we being constantly asked to prove our bona fides as secularists and as humanists (in the sense that we believe in the dignity of *all* humanity)?  And that too by those who appear to have little qualms about retracting dignity from a man whose words and appearance unsettle us but who has done nothing – in terms of his actions – but run a girls’ school in Afghanistan and, now, defend the rights of precisely those that the American empire has reduced to ‘bare life.’ [1]  Does the problem lie in the fact that he “has championed the rights of jailed Al-Qaeda members and hate preachers…” as the Sunday Times puts it? But isn’t the selective granting of rights precisely what the Left is critical of in general?  Or is it that he stated in his memoirs that the Taliban were “better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past twenty-five years.” Yes, these views are abhorrent, but by no means unique. I heard much the same thing from the Afghans I met when I traveled to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border town of Chaman (in Balochistan) over a month ago.  These were Afghans who all hated the Taliban now (among them were ex-Taliban fighters).  To them, the Taliban had seemed like an answer to the corruption, chaos and random murders that had afflicted Afghanistan for decades when they first rose to power. They left when they realized that this was not the case or that the price they were being asked to pay was too high.


It’s ok, I’ll wait until you’ve clicked over and read it all, tum ti tum, doobie doo, ooh is that a cobweb in that corner….hmmm…mmmm…mmmm, um chocolate croissant…mm…hmuph….mm, ggr…. slurp, crumbs….nice glass of water…ahhh. Ok good, excellent wasn’t it? Now in what you might call related affairs-

Daily Beast Female Elites Denounce Global Human Rights Violations While Ignoring U.S. Crimes- Promising solutions for international women’s rights problems, the Daily Beast’s ‘Women in the World’ conference ended up supporting the status quo for US foreign policy.

Eikenberry was not the only spouse of a major player in current U.S. military misadventures to speak at the conference. “Morning Joe” host Mike Brezenski interviewed Cherie Blair, “Founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women,” who also happens to be married to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, our great ally in invading Iraq on false pretenses. (Another infamous Iraq war cheerleader, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, was a featured lunchtime speaker.)

Taken as a whole, the Women in the World conference was itself, ironically, a microcosm of the systemic reasons women are in dire straights across the globe. Just as its most high-profile featured speakers have been inextricably linked to war crimes and deadly foreign policy, its corporate sponsors have been inextricably linked to the suffering of women — from the victimization of women in oil-rich nations (sponsored by Exxon), predatory lenders and families losing their homes (sponsored by Bank of America) and the ever-widening gap between rich and poor, even as corporate bonuses are doled out (sponsored by Goldman Sachs). The aggressively pro-market message of much of the weekend — empowering women through entrepreneurship — made it clear that the “solutions” for women in the world are more neo-liberal economic policies and unchallenged U.S. military dominance.

Another good read that requires thinking about the entitlements and privileges of the Anglosphere elite (ht’s2 Earwicga who also is now contributing to Pickled Politics). A shiny world view that is helped by ignoring the domestic abuses-

A group of detainees who claim they suffered ‘inhumane and degrading treatment’ while at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre are suing the Home Office. The 11 women have employed Leigh Day & Co solicitors to seek damages from the government and Serco, the private security company which runs the Clapham detention centre. The women, who are still detained and are on hunger strike, allege that their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and their rights not to be tortured, suffer inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment were all breached by employees of Serco.

Medialens continues the exposure of the execution of men, women & child civilians by NATO forces. Another role of media is to not report the successes of citizen direct action against the war machinery, lest the masses get ideas to do take our responsibility for war crimes (our tax money, our govts, our families feeding the recruiters targets) and reject it with activism-

Three activists from Swords into Ploughshares have been found NOT GUILTY of all charges laid against them in a New Zealand court for their action breaking into the Waihopai spybase in Blenheim in April 2008, and deflating one of the two domes covering the satellite dishes which capture intelligence data.

The jury heard that the Waihopai Echelon spy base is New Zealand’s largest contribution to the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. The ongoing war has resulted in horrific war crimes, including more than one million dead Iraqi civilians, torture, and permanent poisoning of parts of Iraq by the use of depleted uranium munitions.

The jury also heard evidence from a former British Echelon intelligence analyst, Katherine Gunn. She blew the whistle on secret Echelon spying operations when she was instructed by the US National Security Agency to spy on United Nations Security Council members leading up to the US invasion in 2003.

“Evidence presented in the court confirmed that the ongoing war in Iraq is illegal, and causing massive human suffering”, said Adrian. “As an outcome of this trial, we hope that New Zealanders will insist on an enquiry into the activities of the spy base and its links to US-led illegal wars”.

Father Peter, Sam and Adrian expressed gratitude for all the support they have received from family, friends and the New Zealand public.

Anniversaries – Happy St. Pat’s especially to all LGBTQ people (I’d like to think I’m saucy enough to figure in there somewhere), fuck bigots who make parades their private reich. Bad anniversaries- 1000 Days of the siege of Gaza, and a story about the difficulties and resourcefulness needed to get a laptop into Gaza. Andy Worthington on Vindictive judge gives Muslims prison sentences for Gaza protest.

Also the Swiss Banks, y’know those secretive Nazi moolah hiding, global tax evading troughs of evil are so sure of banks supremacy (and to be honest, they are probably right on that) they propose a global flat tax at rates they will set! Also at the excellent Richard Murphy’s blog- How Lehman fiddled the books and a great new acronym-

Prem Sikka– Accountants disarm journalists, critics, regulators and the general public by claiming that the accounts are fairly presented in accordance with some generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), but the Lehman report shows that they are based in carefully rejigged accounting practices (CRAP).

And finally this great meme, the theme for your blog, as I am also slowly getting the stuff together for Ten Percent to go to its own hosts and thus be free of accidental or otherwise WordPress bans this could be an ongoing process to find the definitive theme together with votes and prizes possibly. More on that soon…

Meg Hillier Wins The Thatcher Award For Abusing Hunger Strikers!

Not content with keeping them detained in Yarl’s Wood where they have suffered violence and racist abuse (now minus five who were bum rushed out in an attempt to stop the strike, see below) she has launched a propaganda assault. She sent a letter (pdf) to every MP claiming everything there is just peachy keen, however her fellow Labour MP Dianne Abbot has written in the Guardian a refutation of her claims- Meg Hillier may deny the extent of the poor conditions at the asylum detention centre, but I have seen them for myself– further to this here is another answer to her propaganda, her points with corresponding correction from Women Against Rape and Black Women’s Rape Action Project-who are in contact with the hunger strikers-

Meg Hillier, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, has written to every MP denying that women are still on hunger strike: “Whilst there are a small number of detainees refusing formal meals from the canteen, they are buying food from the centre’s shop and vending machines and having food delivered by visitors.”

34 women wrote denying these lies and pointing out that visitors are banned from bringing in food.

Other false claims in the government letter include:

1. “Women are only removed after their cases have been ‘fully considered.” Rape survivors and victims of other torture are still routinely assessed under the fast-track, where a case is settled in 10 days leaving no time to gather expert reports crucial to corroborating a claim of persecution. 99% of cases are refused. Listen to this week’s Woman’s Hour interview with Isata Denton Ceesay of All African Women’s Group, whose case was fast tracked, and Gauri van Gulik, Human Rights Watch on their report “Fast-Tracked Unfairness.”

Reliable legal representation is almost impossible to find. Appointments with lawyers at the Legal Services Commission clinic in Yarl’s Wood are at max 35 minutes long and often less. Many women come to AAWG & BWRAP with claims which have been refused without the evidence of rape, torture and persecution being considered. How much more is spent by the Home Office opposing asylum claims than is spent on legal aid by people trying to make a claim? Evidence of blatant hostility, racism and other discrimination by Home Office case workers is well documented.

2. “Detainees prolong their detention by appealing.” Women are increasingly denied the right to appeal in the UK or end up representing themselves leading to great injustice. Research has exposed Immigration Judges systematic hostility and discrimination (Misjudging Rape: Breaching Gender Guidelines & International Law in Asylum Appeals). In addition, when women win their claim, sometimes after years, the HOME OFFICE APPEALS! We are in touch with three women in Yarl’s Wood in this situation – one who has been in since June 2009 and won her case in October. She is in detention waiting for a hearing which is not till the end of March.

3. “Yarl’s Wood has free on-site primary healthcare provision and this reflects the level of care provided by NHS general practices.” Similar claims were made a few years back but a HM Inspector of Prisons report found: “weak clinical governance systems, inadequate staff training, insufficient mental health care . . . unresponsiveness of the IND to clinical concerns about an alleged history of torture or adverse medical consequences of continued detention.” (1) Complaints of brutal, unresponsive health care continue to flood in including women recently released from detention who spoke in the House of Commons

4. “Any claims that one detainee is on the verge of renal failure, or that others are suffering ill health as a result are false.” Please contact Dr Frank Arnold of Medical Justice for his statement confirming his examination of this woman and his findings.

5. “. . . a detainee claims she should have her case looked at because she is not a criminal and has a little girl. In fact she was previously convicted of a serious criminal offence and is subject to legal restrictions by the courts for access to one of her children.” Singling out one mother to discredit the hunger strikers shows the level of desperation at the Home Office. Ms A, who this refers to, had only been in the UK for seven weeks and was destitute when she was convicted of child neglect after her son was injured by one of the people she was dependent on for housing. She was severely depressed at the time but unable to get her medication – all of which the judge took into account when sentencing her. She served her sentence and is therefore entitled to say. She is not a criminal, she’s a distraught mother, traumatised by knowing how her children are suffering without her. She is now in danger of being deported and permanently separated from her children

Government and media hype about “dangerous foreign criminals” living in Britain has led to thousands of immigrant people, many of whom are convicted of minor offences of survival and poverty, being swept up in raids, detained and deported. Some hunger strikers were destitute when they were convicted of shoplifting or using fake documents to work, enrol in college, or open a bank account. Others were convicted of travelling on false documents when they came to the UK to escape persecution. Use of this offence to dismiss an asylum claim was condemned by Judge Sedley as a “serious invasion of judicial independence.” (2) Even drug convictions are almost always because of severe poverty or coercion, where mothers, who are in fear of their own and their children’s lives, or don’t know where their next meal is coming from, have agreed to carry or sell small amounts of drugs. All are people of colour and easy targets for an institutionally racist police force and court system.

6. A denial of “incidents of racial abuse and violence directed at detainees.” Complaints of racist abuse are in statements given to lawyers and are being pursued. There are too many and they are too consistent for there to be any serious doubt about their veracity. The report Outsourcing Abuse (3) documents almost 300 cases of alleged assault of detainees by immigration staff between 2004 and 2008. We look forward to the Independent Monitoring Board’s report and to Serco, the multi-national which runs Yarl’s Wood, responding to MPs request to providing unedited CCTV footage.

7. “The current misreporting, based on inaccurate and fabricated statements by those who campaign against our policy, is irresponsible as it causes unnecessary distress to the women at Yarl’s Wood.” We are in daily contact with hunger strikes and they have consistently pressed us to publicise their situation saying that media coverage is the best protection against retribution and further violence. Their hand written statements listing their complaints and demands were specifically done for the media. Some have expressed their fear of what would have happened if there had been no publicity.


“We the undersigned have been on hunger strike since the 5/02/10 to date.. At no particular point in time have we gone to eat in the dining room, got food from the vending machines or at the shop. We would also like to point out that Yarl’s Wood has a no food, no drink policy, this has always been the case therefore saying that “visitors bring us food” is untrue.“

Signed by 34 women.

Lawyers are launching a legal challenge on behalf of four women held at Yarl’s Wood detention centre, claiming their incarceration amounts to “cruel, inhumane and degrading” treatment that breaches their human rights. What you can do to help-

1. Ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 919 “Hunger Strike at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre” (see below). You might want to send them the update so they are armed against Home Office propaganda.

2. Write to ministers demanding: that mothers, victims of rape and other torture and all vulnerable women be immediately released; an independent investigation into the treatment of hunger strikers; a moratorium on all removals and deportations.

· Phil Woolas MP, the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration or

· Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP, Home Secretary or

· Meg Hillier MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Home Office

The Yarl’s Wood Five-

Denise McNeil from Jamaica
Aminata Camara from Guinea
Sheree Wilson from Jamaica
Shellyann Stupart from Jamaica
Gladys Obiyan from Nigeria

UK citizens cannot be remanded to prison, except they have been brought before a judge and the judge orders it so. Denise, Aminata, Sheree, Shellyann, and Gladys, have not and will not be brought before a judge, they have been remanded to prison on the whim of Phil Woolas MP, Minister of State for Borders and Immigration.

The detained women are asking you to Email/fax/phone/write to: Rt. Hon Alan Johnson, MP, Secretary of State for the Home Office, requesting that Denise, Aminata, Sheree, Shellyann, and Gladys, are returned to Yarl’s Wood immediately or released into the community.

Model letter is below which you can copy/amend/write your own version, there are no Home Office reference numbers available as the women were moved from Yarl’s Wood, with out their belongings.

Please let the campaign know of faxes/emails sent:

Please keep sending Solidarity messages

Model letter-

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Gangster- Cameron & Murdoch’s Rat Fucker Coulson

The reason that this story is not a big as it deserves to be is because of gangsterism, that is Coulson is a bully, he and/or Cameron and/or Murdoch will have a great deal of dirt on very powerful people, Coulson works for a man who might become PM, he did work for Rupert Murdoch. This dirt is capital in power games, people who might report on this will be made aware of the dirt these rich scumbags have on them and will stay silent rather than have Coulson, Cameron, Murdoch’s media ruin them or leak it to police (who have also cooperated in protecting the principals of this spying and blackmail operation probably both because it hides their failings and also the operation will have got dirt on them). It is pure nationalist ego to think only other countries have gangster problems in their governance. Scumbags like power, they will do anything to get more of it, they live everywhere. We already torture, kill and invade other countries, this to be honest is a very minor aspect of our corruption, nevertheless it is a dirty signpost towards a very unpleasant future if the Tories win power.

David Cameron’s communications director, Andy Coulson, will come under fresh pressure to defend his editorship of the News of the World and his knowledge about the illegal activities of his journalists amid new allegations about the paper’s involvement with private detectives who broke the law.

The Guardian has learned that while Coulson was still editor of the tabloid, the newspaper employed a freelance private investigator even though he had been accused of corrupting police officers and had just been released from a seven-year prison sentence for blackmail.

The private eye was well known to the News of the World, having worked for the paper for several years before he was jailed, when Coulson was deputy editor. He was rehired when he was freed.

Evidence seen by the Guardian shows that Mr A, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was blagging bank accounts, bribing police officers, procuring confidential data from the DVLA and phone companies, and trading sensitive material from live police inquiries.

Coulson has always insisted he knew nothing about the illegal activity which took place in the News of the World newsroom, telling MPs last year: “I have never had any involvement in it at all.”

Mr A cannot be named now because he is facing trial for a violent crime, but his details will emerge once he has been dealt with by the courts. Coulson tonight refused to say whether he was aware of Mr A’s criminal background, or of his return to the paper following his prison term. He said: “I have nothing to add to the evidence I gave to the select committee.”

The latest disclosures bring to four the number of investigators known to have worked for the NoW while Coulson was either editor or deputy editor of the paper. All four have since received or had criminal convictions. All four are known to have used illegal methods to gather information.

Posted in Media, Politics. Tags: . 4 Comments »

Sahgal Expands Campaign To Canada

This is an interview- CBC The Current 18/02/10 with Anna Maria Tremonti with Gita Sahgal and then Claudio Cordone, available here and as a podcast. Sahgal is upping the ante, yet presenting no evidence and the interviewer is repeating assertions that are not factual but seem to be becoming ‘accepted wisdom’. I also note how the CBC show chose small excerpts of Begg’s speeches that both refer to prayer rather than excerpts specifically detailing torture in Guantanamo, interesting choice… Transcript is at Earwicga.

Update: Transcript below courtesy of keyboard Ninja Earwicga.

1. CBC Hello, I’m Anna Maria Tremonti You are listening to The Current.
2. Moazzam Begg And people ask me this question all the time: ‘Brother Moazzam, did the Americans ever let you pray?’

3. CBC That is Moazzam Begg.  He is the founder of a group called Cageprisoners, and a former prisoner himself at the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
4. Moazzam Begg There was a time when the Americans took me onto an aeroplane, with the screams of the other prisoners and the roar of the engines, and the shouts of the American soldiers screaming and cursing at us, with our hands tied behind our backs and our legs shackled with a hood over your head.  And at this point one of the brothers who next to me, a Libyan said, [Arabic phrase]: That the time for prayer has come brother, shall we pray?  So that when brothers and sisters ask me ‘did the Americans ever let you pray?’ I say there is no circumstance in which they could have ever stopped me from praying.

5. CBC Since his release from Guantanamo, Moazzam Begg has been a high profile defender of the rights of others who have been imprisoned or detained in Guantanamo Bay or elsewhere.  Among other things he has worked with Amnesty International, one of the most widely respected human rights organisations in the world.  But it is because of that association that Gita Sahgal decided she had to draw a line.  She was the head of Amnesty International’s Gender Unit until she was suspended from her post last week after she publically questioned Amnesty’s ongoing choice to work with Mr. Begg and Cageprisoners.  She argued that Moazzam Begg and his organisation promote extremist views and champion Islamic radicals – stands that are incompatible with the defence of universal human rights.  And that that Amnesty’s reputation is tarnished by its association with him.  Gita Sahgal is in London, England.  Good morning.
6. Gita Sahgal Good morning Anna Maria.

7. CBC Can you tell us then, what is behind your suspension?

Gita Sahgal Well, as you said I was raising questions about Moazzam Begg’s relationship with Amnesty International.  And I think what’s interesting is that it’s been 11 days since the Sunday Times went public with the concerns that I was raising, and in that time Amnesty International has really acted as the public relations firm of Moazzam Begg.  Because it’s insisted that he is a very important victim of violations at Guantanamo, an issue that I absolutely never questioned.  It has not answered any of the questions that I asked.  It said there’s no evidence against him and that they only use him to talk about his experiences as a victim and not his views, and the thing that I would like to ask is what do they think his views are.  And why does my boss, Claudio Cordone, think there’s no evidence to justify cutting the link with him.  Or even to having any form of public accountability which is now being demanded.

9. CBC Okay, so let’s just clarify.  When Moazzam Begg, you have spoken out in favour of Moazzam Begg when he was a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.  He was tortured there.  You had no problem with the Amnesty International at that time working in Mr. Begg’s favour.  Am I correct?
10. Gita Sahgal Absolutely.

11. CBC So what changed?
12. Gita Sahgal What changed was that when he came out and he is now, has his own organisation with its own agenda, Amnesty International associated itself very closely with him, and because he’s a director of an organisation, then with the organisation as well.  And in doing that it gave him a global presence which would lead anybody who thinks he’s respectable because they’ve seen him on an Amnesty International platform to be inclined to go to the website of Cageprisoners and derive from there a series of views which are utterly incompatible with human rights.

13. CBC And, so can you tell us what it is about Cageprisoners that you disagree with?
14. Gita Sahgal Well, as I’ve said already I think that they have a violent and discriminatory agenda.  They are promoting people who promote extremely violent agendas.  My main concern is that I’m extremely worried about the quality of research inside Amnesty International if the interim Secretary General Claudio Cordone, who has been managing issues around research for many years in Amnesty International, cannot find any evidence that would suggest that Amnesty should not be related to Cageprisoners so closely.

15. CBC And, can you give us some specific examples of the kinds of things that Cageprisoners stands for that you feel are incompatible with what Amnesty International stands for?

Gita Sahgal I think they’re not simply a prisoner rights organisation.  They promote a number of people who’ve been tried in open court.  They’re not simply promoting people who have been subjected to arbitrary detention and torture.  They promote the agendas and ideologies of those people.  But as I’ve said, it’s not so much what I think because this is not a battle of binary vision of the world.  I’m trying to establish the process by which Amnesty International in the first place agreed to this close relationship and then when I made public my concerns, decided that they were going to make the relationship even stronger and actively promote Moazzam Begg.  I think that was a huge mistake and I think Claudio Cordone will live to regret that.

17. CBC And so this is, but what you are concerned about is beyond the international politics of this organisation, there’s a larger issue here and I’d like you to sort of outline it for us.
18. Gita Sahgal The larger issue I think is expressed by a petition that came out in my support but also making the much broader point: that the space for really unassailable human rights work and advocacy is shrinking in places in the world which are really dealing with both government led attacks in the war on terror and the use of human rights discourses in those attacks, and on the other hand extremely dubious organisations who are also using a human rights discourse, and they feel that a global organisation like Amnesty International should be able to distinguish between these.  Because what’s happening is that lawyers and activists and others who do support universal human rights, who are desperately trying to challenge arbitrary detention in their own courts in places like Bangladesh and Pakistan and India perfectly understand the difference between putting a writ of habeas corpus, trying to get somebody produced in court, ensure that that person has access to rights and so on, and championing them as a human rights defender.  Now Amnesty International has not necessarily called Moazzam Begg a human rights defender, but the effect of what they’ve done is precisely to legitimise him as a human rights defender.

19. CBC And you’re saying they’ve done this by appearing with him and by appearing to support him with Cageprisoners.
20. Gita Sahgal They’ve affirmed their support for him several times since I made these concerns public.  And said there’s no evidence against him.

21. CBC And what kind of relationship then does Amnesty International have with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners?
22. Gita Sahgal Well, I was not involved with building that relationship.  I advised very strongly against it on several occasions, for several years.  On  many many occasions at the level of the board of Amnesty International USA, on the level of extremely senior people in the UK, in the British section of Amnesty and had raised these issues internally, so  I did not build that relationship and I think that’s a question that you should ask to my superiors.

23. CBC Okay, well do have someone waiting to talk to us about that, but I’m wondering then how important is the resolution of this issue to the long term work of human rights, especially women’s rights?

Gita Sahgal I think at the moment we have absolutely no credibility across the world in being serious about treating the equality of women and the emancipation of women seriously.  We have no credibility in treating the issue of religious minorities seriously, the people that Mr. Begg supports are very active in promoting attacks on, for instance ancient religions in Iraq, on Shia in Pakistan, on all sorts of people who simply do not conform to their agendas.  So I think we’re in a very serious situation since the senior leadership have so fully endorsed Mr. Begg and tried to pretend that what they’re doing is upholding the torture standard.  That is not what they’re doing.  They’re doing something dangerous and I’m afraid that human rights advocates all over the world are calling for public accountability on this matter.

25. CBC Okay, and just to clarify again, because this is about jihadi views that actually speak against women.  These are views that actually talk about the oppression of women, and the oppression of other minorities?
26. Gita Sahgal They talk about the oppression of everybody who does not conform to their particular view of the world.

27. CBC Okay and so how do you go forward with this?  You have been suspended, where do you go from here with your human rights work?  You’ve been doing this for a very long time.
28. Gita Sahgal Well, I’m doing very very serious human rights investigating these issues, and it’s work that I should have been  able to do behind my desk at Amnesty International, and unfortunately I’m not behind my desk at the moment, and I’m, but I am continuing to investigate the matter.  And even if Claudio Cordone doesn’t find sufficient evidence I think other people who I work with who are experts on this issue, who I was suggesting that Amnesty consult  for many years – so that we could educate ourselves, so we could build better research.  We will be continuing to work on this and we will be continuing to make these issues public.

29. CBC Has Amnesty ever had to walk this line before where it has worked to defend someone on a human rights issue who later may not be considered a human rights defender?
30. Gita Sahgal It walks a line all the time, and it’s a difficult line to walk.  I think the problem is that what this issue, making public this issue exposes is that the leadership doesn’t really understand how to walk the line.  I think many of the staff members of Amnesty International do understand these distinctions and are probably at this moment hugely embarrassed by what is being said in their name.  I feel really sorry for the many people who have walked that line in doing impeccable research and really investigating human rights abuses by the Taliban and other non-state actors.  But I think there is also very bad practice and it appears to go right to the top.

31. CBC Okay, Gita Sahgal Thank you for speaking with me
32. Thank you.

33. CBC That is Gita Sahgal; she was the head of the Gender Unit at the international secretariat of Amnesty International in London.  She is currently suspended from that position.

Well for Amnesty International’s view of the situation we’re joined by Claudio Cordone.  He is the organisations interim Secretary General.  He too is in London, England.  Hello.

34. Claudio Cordone Good Morning.
35. CBC I’d like your response, but first to clarify from your perspective, why was Gita Sahgal suspended?

36. Claudio Cordone Well, it’s for a simple reason, when Gita decided to go public with her criticism of Amnesty and in a context when there was all kinds of misrepresentations in the media, we had to make clear that she was no longer speaking on behalf of Amnesty while we were looking into the matter.  The suspension is not a sanction, it’s not a punishment, it’s just a precautionary measure to make clear that Gita cannot speak on behalf of Amnesty while we look into the matter.

37. CBC Now, at the centre of her complaint against Amnesty’s relationship with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners.  How would you describe that relationship?
38. Claudio Cordone Moazzam Begg is someone who’s been detained in Guantanamo.  He speaks very eloquently  about that experience, and at the moment we’re campaigning to the end of the detentions in Guantanamo, because they’re still continuing  and he’s very good in that respect.  And because of that he’s been on a speaking tour with us, so we’ve had other instances in which we’ve participated with him, and the key point is that this is something that we know about him and we work with him in that respect, and nothing, and I go back to what Gita was saying before, that has come up to make us believe that he does in fact have a violent or discriminating agenda.  This is Gita’s point but every time we’ve looked for specifics we don’t get any specifics or we get sensationalisms.

39. CBC And yet, there are many reports that Cageprisoners actually does support jihadi views, jihadi views that would be incompatible with the defence of women and other minorities.  Are you not uncomfortable with that?
40. Claudio Cordone Of course and we look into all those but that’s the critical point in this debate.  Are we supposed to act on the basis of accurate information, or just innuendos or generalisations?  When Gita says, or others say, these guys are promoting extremist views, can someone please explain what are these views; look at their website, look at what they’ve been saying publicly, that’s the evidence on which we have to go about.  But the sort of things that we’re getting are generalisations or sensationalising such as they’re promoting the rights of people who have reprehensible views, and when you look at that we could be accused of the same thing.  We talk about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who as you know has taken credit for the 9/11 attacks.  He’s been waterboarded, and we’re saying he shouldn’t have been waterboarded and he deserves a fair trial.  Does this mean that we’re promoting his views which are as reprehensible as any views that includes killing civilians and discrimination?  Of course not.

41. CBC But you would argue for a fair trial, let me just clarify here, you would argue for a fair trial for anyone regardless of what they were charged with.  That’s not the issue is it?  The issue is once they’re free if they promote extremist jihadi views, jihadist views that actually are against other human rights, isn’t that the question, what they do when they’re free?
42. Claudio Cordone Of course, but that’s my point – in this case nothing has come up to prove that Moazzam Begg or Cageprisoners are in fact promoting violence, or are promoting discrimination.  And every time, in the few times that Gita or any of the others in the last 11 days have been engaging in this have been pushed to,  when we try to pin them down on what exactly you’re referring to, we’re not getting anything.  Her concerns are not new, we were taking them on board and again because we’re not getting anything that should lead us to review that relationship we haven’t.  I’ll be the first to say that if any evidence comes up that in fact that they are promoting or advocating things that we do not stand for of course we’ll end that relationship immediately.

43. CBC Well, for example Cageprisoners
44. Claudio Cordone It is a matter of principle at this stage that we cannot, on the basis of unsubstantiated accusations, just end that relationship.

45. CBC Well, as you know Gita Sahgal has considerable support for her position.  There is a petition initiated by some high ranking South Asian women including a representative of the Human Rights Documentation Centre in Sri Lanka and Sara Hussain, an advocate of the supreme court in Bangladesh and I want to read a bit of that petition, it says and I quote:  ‘Many of us who work to defend human rights  in the context of conflict of terrorism know the importance of maintaining a clear and visible distance from potential partners and allies when there’s any doubt about their commitment to human rights’

What’s your response to that?

46. Claudio Cordone I agree with that, but this is not the case that we are talking about.  As I said, it’s a matter of basic principles, and people are innocent until proven guilty in all kinds of ways, and in this case

47. CBC But we’re not talking about a charge and what happened to him at Guantanamo, we’re talking about an ideology.
48. Claudio Cordone I’m not talking about Guantanamo, I’m talking right now that Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners are being accused of promoting violence, of promoting discrimination and I’m saying

49. CBC Well, they’re being accused because they support Taliban views and they support jihadi views, and we know what jihadi views are.
50. Claudio Cordone Where is the evidence that they support Taliban views and what are the jihadi views?

51. CBC Mr. Begg has written a book in support of Taliban views?
52. Claudio Cordone He hasn’t written a book in Taliban views, the last time that we were able to pin Gita and others down in this respect, what he said in his book is that the Taliban were better than what had come before and I bet you we can even find NATO generals possibly sharing that view.  The point is that if he’s actually now

53. CBC Well the Taliban actually very seriously curtailed women’s rights so I don’t think you would actually find a lot of people supporting that view would you? Saying that was better?
54. Claudio Cordone Look, those are assessments, the key thing is
55. CBC Well they weren’t assessments that, we know that about the Taliban – we know they stoned women, we know they wouldn’t let girls go to school, we know women had to stop working, we know all that.
56. Claudio Cordone Sure, and by the way, we have a very long record of opposing the Taliban, not just with regard to their treatment of women but their attacks on civilians and all the rest, but Moazzam Begg himself has condemned some of these abuses.  He has rebutted all the accusations put to him point by point whenever those accusations were specific.  And that’s why I’m saying, if there is something else that is specific, things that they’ve said, things that they’ve written beyond what has been referred to so far which to me would not justify breaking that relationship we would, but none of that has come up and it’s just distorting on the basic objective that we’re trying to achieve which is to highlight the plight of Guantanamo and do it with former prisoners and people who also have credibility within communities that we’re trying to reach, hoping that people are not going to take up those grievances to blow up trains instead of engaging with the proper systems.

[There were five occasions when the interviewer tried to interrupt Cordone answering in this section, which for the sake of clarity I have not included]

57. CBC And let me ask you this question Mr. Cordone because we’re running out of time, Ms. Sahgal has said this is one of those rare moments in history when a great organisation must ask, if it lies to itself can it demand the truth of others?  Are you not concerned about Amnesty’s wider reputation?  By continuing to work with an organisation like Cageprisoners?
58. Claudio Condone Look, if we were to say we’re gonna stop speaking on the same platform as Moazzam Begg, on the basis of rumours, innuendos, the sort of stuff that actually governments have been throwing at us for years, then that’s where Amnesty would be betraying it’s basic principles.  This is a legitimate debate, but that’s not the way to handle it.

59. CBC Okay, Claudio Cordone we’re running out of time, we have to end it there, thank you for your time.
60. Claudio Cordone Thank you.

Doctor Who IS Craig Murray!

David Hare, David Tennant, Craig & Nadira Murray

Well David Tennant is- Saturday 20th BBC Radio 4 Saturday Play- Murder in Samarkand

David Hare’s witty portrait of an unlikely hero, based on the memoir by Craig Murray. Craig is proud to be sent as Ambassador to Uzbekistan, eager to work hard and also eager for fun. The combination takes him on a dangerous course both professionally and personally, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Starring David Tennant as Craig Murray.

Murray has yet to hear the play and joked: “I’m a bit surprised they couldn’t find a better looking actor.” He added: “Obviously I’m delighted David Tennant was me, it’s a tremendous honour in many ways. I’ve been a big Doctor Who fan all my life.” Hare had put a “huge amount of work” into the play, he added. “It is slightly different from the book because he went to Uzbekistan and interviewed people who were present for key events. To go to Tashkent is extraordinary dedication when you think about it. I think the play is positive towards me, but he’s reached that conclusion himself rather than taking my word for it.”

Murray is portrayed as an intelligent but slightly naive diplomat given the ambassador’s job, aged 43, in Uzbekistan, a country ruled then and now by the human rights-ignoring Islam Karimov. The play is set in 2003 when the “war on terror” was at its height and information obtained by the regime’s torturing of Muslim terror suspects was proving useful to the west.

It is the shocking torture and murder of one victim, who was boiled alive while being beaten, that pushes Murray to make a stand. He gives a lecture accusing the Uzbek regime directly.

Recalled to the Foreign Office, Murray is given a dressing down and told that “moral questions aren’t our business”.

The story of Murray’s personal life is told in parallel to the diplomatic one. While still married, he had fallen in love with a lap dancer, Nadira Alieva, whom he wed last year, and who plays several small roles in the radio play, although not herself.

After his sacking by the Foreign Office in 2004 he stood unsuccessfully for parliament in Blackburn against his nemesis, the foreign secretary, Jack Straw. He now campaigns on human rights and African development issues.

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Moazzam Begg Responds

This latest article by Moazzam Begg is well worth reading and I do hope he does not withdraw from the wider public sphere, people such as him provide engagement as points of nexus, it is not necessary to agree with all he has to say but it is necessary to communicate, the smears against him remain unfounded and are designed to close down communication, that only benefits extremists of all kinds-

Hatred and Another Agenda: A Response by Moazzam Begg
In the Name of Allah Most Compassionate Most Merciful

I had not imagined that the poorly researched Sunday Times article last week with the suggestion that it promised to expose a tangible link between Amnesty International, the Taliban and I was actually a prelude to something far more sinister against Cageprisoners and I in the days to come.

What I’ve found most puzzling about this whole episode is the timing and what the argument claims to be about. So here I wish to point out some glaring facts that have been purposefully neglected by those leading the charge against me, including I’m afraid, Gita Sahgal, who I’d really hoped would have applied a little more wisdom before she began her crusade.

The first and only time I’ve ever met Ms. Sahgal was on a BBC Radio 4, Hecklers programme hosted by Mark Easton, in 2006. She made a presentation which alleged that the Blair government was pandering to fundamentalists in its fight against terrorism by engaging with groups like the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) – who she alleged were linked to ‘some of the most dangerous movements of our time’. Responding to her I joined a panel that included Daud Abdullah (MCB), Tariq Ramadan, Tahmina Saleem of the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB) and Nazir Ahmad of the House of Lords.

Ms Sahgal now avers that Amnesty’s relationship is damaged through association with me but, her ideas seemed a little more paradoxically amenable when I suggested that her thesis was flawed because the MCB, ISB, Mr. Ramadan and Ahmed – with all due respect – were largely regarded as sell-outs by some of the very people we needed to engage. I gave her the example of the British government’s banning the BBC from broadcasting Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams’ voice during the Irish ‘Troubles’. I said, based on this experience that the government should in fact be speaking to people like Abu Qatadah, no matter how unpalatable that sounded. Ms Sahgal responded unexpectedly by saying she had no quarrel with my analysis.

So if Gita Sahgal in fact does not oppose dialogue with ‘extremists’ then why all this fuss now? I have been harking on about engagement for years. This seems even more bizarre because only a couple of weeks ago Gordon Brown met in London with Hamid Karzai and outlined a new policy to engage with the Taliban. How ludicrous it seems therefore that I am described the very next week as ‘Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban’. Does anyone really believe this? Surely if that was the case I’d have been invited to the discussions with Messrs. Brown and Karzai about talking to the Taliban, being their ‘most famous supporter’?

If this matter was not so serious I’d be rolling over in laughter. But it is – deadly serious. Over the past few days we have received numerous death threats at Cageprisoners – and this is just the beginning. No doubt, the police will be trawling through the copious hate-mongering posts on right-wing, anti-Muslim blogs but, I doubt that will solve anything.

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Moazzam Begg On Pulling Out of Amnesty Event

Earlier today I was made aware that the Outside the Law: stories from Guantanamo event while fully booked out, Moazzam Begg was not going to participate, now Sunny @ Pickled Politics has this statement (and promising more tomorrow) by Begg which I think credibly raises the question why this campaign now to discredit him and his wish it does not overshadow the work being done.

Also see Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Director has responded to the article written by the desperate Richard Kerbaj in yesterday’s Sunday Times. He says Kerbaj- ‘mischaracterizes my views.‘ This would appear to be a not uncommon modus operandi for Kerbaj as I have shown. Gita Sahgal continues her campaign but is yet to meet with Begg, but as she clearly has time for interviews with The Times and as Begg will have some spare time, they could now. In fact a neutral venue with Sunny Hundal as moderator would be ideal, stream it live on the web and let’s see what there is to see.

Update: Report on the event by Andy Worthington.

Widney Brown on Today

Transcript of Widney Brown on the BBC Today show this morning by the furiously typing fingers of Earwicga (and again sadly interviewed by Justin ‘Dim but Dim’ Webb, a man who seriously wrote about Obama being elected meaning racism is over, jeebus). Further statement by Amnesty at the end. I have to say that what Gita Sahgal is doing does seem to be a political campaign in the wake of Irene Khan leaving, Khan was not liked by people who are now supporting Sahgal  (Nick Cohen -very rapid founder of the Facebook group supporting Sahgal- at the neocon rag Standpoint for one).

Amnesty supports humans ‘every human

On the Today programme yesterday Gita Sahgal, head of the gender unit at Amnesty’s International secretariat, accused the charity of putting the human rights of Al-Qaeda terror suspects above those of their victims. She said that the charity’s collaboration with Moazzam Begg, a former British inmate at Guantanamo Bay, “fundamentally damages” the organisation’s reputation.

Widney Brown, senior director for international law and policy at Amnesty International, responds to Ms Sahgal’s accusations.

1. BBC Is Amnesty International, the human rights organisation, who has worked for prisoners of conscience, has been saluted across political divides for a generation or more, falling into a terrible trap?  The head of its Gender Unit has been suspended after complaining that Amnesty was too close to Moazzam Begg the former Guantanamo inmate, who speaks for a group called Cageprisoners.  On yesterday’s programme I asked Gita Sahgal why she thought Amnesty failed to link what’s happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan with extremism in this country.
2. Gita Sahgal My suspicion is that they need perfect victims.  In other words we need to defend somebody who might not have done a wrong.  And I’m not saying that Moazzam Begg has, I want to make absolutely clear that I’m making no claim that he’s either committed a crime or a human rights violation, and that’s why I find the statement after statement that Amnesty International has put out in his support somewhat surprising, because the issues that I’m concerned with are addressed to Amnesty International
3. BBC But you’re making a wider point aren’t you?  That Islamic radicalism is treated what softly by liberals?
4. Gita Sahgal Something like that, but we’re not liberals, we’re a human rights organisation and we should not be falling into the traps that many people do fall into.
5. BBC That was Gita Sahgal.  Widney Brown is Amnesty’s Senior Director for Law and Policy and she’s on the line now.  Good morning to you.
6. Widney Brown Good Morning.
7. BBC What’s your answer to what Gita Sahgal was saying then?
8. Widney Brown Well, first I want to clarify that she was not suspended because she brought these issues up in the organisation.  We encourage debate on precisely these sorts of issues within the organisation.
9. BBC So it’s because she went to the papers?
10. Widney Brown I can’t comment on the grounds for it, but want to clarify any misrepresentation that it was because she brought this up internally.
11. BBC But just to make it very clear then, she was suspended because of, I mean it had something to do with these views that she’s been expounding.  It wasn’t something separate?
12. Widney Brown I’m not going to, we maintain confidentiality and we’re only breaking it because of the misrepresentation that she was suspended because she asked questions internally.
13. BBC Yeah, but that does raise quite an important point doesn’t it, because I mean she has been suspended having raised these questions.  I think the point that a lot of people make is that the two are linked.  Are you saying they’re utterly not linked?
14. Widney Brown The grounds for the suspension I cannot talk about consistent with confidentiality.  What I can do is try to answer the questions that she brought up in the interview yesterday.First of all, we are not a political organisation.  We’re non-partisan, and we work on behalf of victims of violations, regardless of their political affiliations.  So that is why on the issue of Guantanamo Bay we do work with Moazzam Begg as somebody who was released from there after three years of experiencing the violations there.  And of course yesterdays court decision in the Binyan Mohammed case underscores again how critical the violations are that are happening even now in the context of the war on terror. Now, with regard to whether we are ignoring the issue of radical organisations, all you have to do is look on our website of all the work we’ve done on the Taliban and Afghanistan and Pakistan and other religious insurgent groups in places like Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and of course all over the Middle East.  As recently as the 26th of January we were saying explicitly, not just to the Afghan government, but to, in the context of the London conference, you can’t sell away women’s rights in a dialogue with the Taliban.
15. BBC Yeah, but I suppose that there’s the problem isn’t it, that what you’re accused of is a mixed message, because you do issue statements like that, but then if you become close to people, and let’s get away from Moazzam Begg, if you become close to people who are associated with supporting the Taliban or with supporting those that have been imprisoned in the war on terror, who do have very extreme views about violence and about women’s rights,  then you’re sending out a very different signal?
16. Widney Brown I would totally disagree.  Your human rights violations, your right to be free from them is not dependent on whether you’re quote a good or a bad person.  Whether you’re quote guilty or innocent.  If you’re being tortured the whole point is that governments think that they can justify torture if they can prove you’re guilty of something.
17. BBC So, you’re happy to support people who don’t themselves support human rights?
18. Widney Brown We support the rights of every human being to be free from human rights violations.  And we do not make that contingent on whether they can prove to us their guilt or innocence on any alleged charge.  I mean, the whole idea that we would think it’s ok to torture someone if they’re guilty undermines the whole principle that’s there’s an absolute prohibition on torture and ill treatment.
19. BBC Widney Brown, thank you very much

Amnesty International on its work with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners
11 February 2010

There has been a lot of controversy in the media surrounding Amnesty International’s work with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners, in light of statements by Gita Sahgal, a Amnesty International staff member.

Contrary to Gita Sahgal’s assertions to the media, she was not suspended from Amnesty International for raising these issues internally. In fact we actively welcome vigorous internal debate. Up to now we have maintained confidentiality in line with our policy but wanted to correct this misrepresentation. This is not a reflection on the organisation’s respect for her work as a women’s rights activist and does not undermine the work she has done over the last few years as the head of Amnesty International’s gender unit.

Our work with Moazzam Begg has focused exclusively on highlighting the human rights violations committed in Guantánamo Bay and the need for the US government to shut it down and either release or put on trial those who have been held there. Moazzam Begg was one of the first detainees released by the US without charge, and has never been charged with any terrorist-related offence or put on trial.

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Operation Moshtarak Propaganda

Back in Afghanistan, McClatchy’s Saeed Shah reports that only about 1200 residents have fled the Afghan city of Marjah in Nad Ali district, ahead of a major NATO/ Afghan invasion planned for later this week. The city of 80,000 is controlled by some 2000 Taliban fighters and there are many heroin labs, the profits of which help to support the Taliban.

The lucrative poppy crops grown in this region are all that is left of a 1950s & 1960s US irrigation scheme that went bad, and Marjah and environs were nicknamed “Little America.”

The refusal of locals to leave in any large numbers may be what prompted US commanders to begin telling the people of Marjah to ‘stay inside their homes’ and stay out of the way of the fighting. This message is a 180 degree reversal of the earlier message, that locals should leave.

CBS News reports embedded with the US Marines outside Marjah, to the southwest of the Helmand capital of Lashkar Gah. This report gives the impression that substantial numbers of civilians have left or are leaving, but this assertion appears not to be true.

The NATO / Kabul plan is to chase the Taliban out of Marjah, win local hearts and minds, and garrison it with Afghan army troops in the aftermath to ensure that the Taliban do not return. This plan requires that the operation not do so much damage to the city and kill so many locals that they are alienated in the long term.

This would require a good deal more care than the US led forces have taken so far, so I expect the in/em -bed reporters of corporate news will be again working overtime to portray a favourable spin to mass civilian deaths. Expect stories of tragic yet heroic soldiers killed by eveel swarthy hordes and maybe in a throwaway last line ‘and 400 Afghans killed today’. The BBC is going with- Afghan villages abandoned before Nato-led operation Hundreds of villagers living in a Taliban-controlled area of southern Afghanistan are leaving before a major Nato-led offensive gets under way. -While carefully avoiding mention of the vast majority, the thousands who are still there except in a little fact box that is entitled ‘MARJAH: ‘TALIBAN STRONGHOLD’ see how that works? So while the on the ground assault is called Operation Moshtarak, is that also the name for the media warfare operation that is clearly already being deployed?

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