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Torture and the CIA

What agenda lies behind the latest defense of “enhanced interrogation”?

By Philip Giraldi • The American Conservative • May 23, 2012

Former CIA Deputy Director for Operations Jose Rodriguez has written a book with the assistance of former Agency press officer Bill Harlow. Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives is largely a defense of Rodriguez’s role in the CIA’s use of torture on suspected terrorists in the aftermath of 9/11. Rodriguez argues that what he describes as “enhanced interrogation techniques” were necessary to obtain information on terrorist activities. His employment of the euphemism underscores his argument that these procedures were found to be legal by Bush administration lawyers and that they do not constitute torture, which is a war crime.

In November 2005, Rodriguez, who was a classmate of mine at CIA, ordered on his own authority and contrary to Agency general counsel advice the destruction of 92 videotapes that recorded interrogation sessions in a secret prison in Thailand. This was done, he says, to protect the identities of CIA interrogators from possible reprisals by terrorists, not to cover-up waterboarding being used to obtain information, a procedure he claims was both an acceptable interrogation technique and one that was subject to congressional oversight before it was employed. He does not explain exactly how terrorists could obtain the tapes or be able to make identifications from them; perhaps the idea is that someday the recordings might leak to the public. Whatever its plausibility, or lack thereof, his argument might just as well be a deliberate deception if the primary purpose of his actions was to eliminate evidence of what many would consider a war crime. I leave it up to the reader to decide what explanation is most likely. For what it’s worth, Amazon reviews are running about five to one in praise of the book rather than condemning what it describes.

To promote Hard Measures, Rodriguez has been appearing on a number of television programs. I have seen him on “60 Minutes” with Lesley Stahl and on Bill O’Reilly’s program. He has also appeared with Sean Hannity. Stahl failed to push Rodriguez on the illegality of torture and frequently allowed him to drift into the kind of mumbo-jumbo tradecraft language that we former spies use when we don’t want to answer a question. Rodriguez stated that we (CIA) are part of the “dark side — that’s what we do.”  That was the end of the story for “60 Minutes.”

O’Reilly’s interview was somewhat different. Rodriguez seemed unsure of himself, sometimes inarticulate, and was helped along to make the point that the information obtained from enhanced interrogation could not have been obtained any other way. O’Reilly walked him through his assertion that then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew all about the waterboarding, but then brought up the account of the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah presented by FBI Special Agent Ali Soufan. Soufan, a member of the interrogation team and Arabic speaker, maintains, with considerable credibility backed up by documents, that the only good information obtained came through established interrogation techniques employed before any torture took place.  Rodriguez denied that was so to O’Reilly and became hung up on a discussion of who played the lead role in the interrogation, the CIA or the FBI, before questioning Soufan’s personal history and his reliability as a source.

Agency operations in Afghanistan in 2001-2 were superbly conceived and executed by its Counterterrorism Center, where Rodriguez was deputy, but his book inevitably focuses on trying to defend the indefensible practices that followed. There has been considerable speculation over why the book, with its attendant media blitz, has come out now, in light of the fact that the manuscript had to be approved by the Agency’s Publications Review Board. Was there CIA collusion in its release? Though the review is only supposed to prevent security violations, the Agency tends to be very friendly and helpful to books depicting it in positive terms and hostile to anything perceived as critical. Given the upcoming presidential elections, Hard Measures is also being seen by some as a preemption of any attempt to turn the torture issue into a political football, particularly as Mitt Romney has explicitly approved of the practice. Rodriguez (and the Agency) might be attempting to backstop the Romney position, which otherwise could be difficult to defend.

Another theory is that the long-awaited Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on CIA interrogation techniques is about to come out and will conclude that the enhanced procedures were, in fact, ineffective. Rodriguez’s account might be intended to stake out a position in advance implying that the Senate report, written by a Democratic majority committee, is politically motivated and therefore “flawed.”

What is most disturbing to me about the book and the interviews is that Rodriguez is apparently seen by some in the media as the “new normal” and even some kind of hero. CIA officers overseas are indeed operating on the “dark side,” in that spying overseas is illegal in the countries where one is operationally engaged. But that does not mean all gloves are off in terms of international and U.S. law, especially in the case of war crimes. It is worth noting that Japanese Army officers were executed in 1946 for waterboarding Allied prisoners, while the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution explicitly forbids “cruel and unusual punishment.” The United States is also a signatory to the International Convention on Torture and to the Geneva Conventions. And then there is the War Crimes Act of 1996, which requires the United States Justice Department to prosecute anyone involved in torture, no exceptions.  President Obama has refused to permit justice to be served, making him as complicit in war crimes as his predecessor was.

Rodriguez presents himself and his “dark side” persona as representative of CIA thinking about the proper way to fight terrorism, but that is just not so. The assumption that there is broad support inside the Agency for the use of torture presumes that anyone working there was ever actually asked for an opinion. The CIA undoubtedly has a peculiar culture that breeds an us-against-them mentality, but I would guess that few employees would have supported waterboarding if they had known it was occurring. The procedure was top secret inside the Agency, a clear indication that even the upper echelons of CIA management knew that it was at best questionable. The impression that CIA, which has something like 20,000 employees, marches in lockstep as some kind of secret army is ridiculous. Nobody checks his or her conscience at the door when entering the building. Agency analysts resisted endorsing the false intelligence used to justify war with Iraq, and they continue to hold the line against a conflict with Iran. I would also note the large number of former intelligence officers who have become outspoken in the antiwar movement: Ray McGovern, Michael Scheuer, Paul Pillar, Bill and Kathleen Christison, and Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett.

Rodriguez might find comfort in his apologia pro vita sua, but I rather suspect his is a voice in the wilderness. Thankfully, I do not know anyone inside the intelligence community who considers torture morally acceptable under any circumstances, and most intelligence officers would regard its use ipso facto as an egregious failure. Secret prisons, renditions, and enhanced interrogations are characteristic of police states, not constitutional republics. Thirty-six years ago Rodriquez and I together took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States of America. Today he would be well advised to remember that moment.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

‘Crowing’ About Iran Sanctions Should Stop

By Daniel Joyner | JURIST | May 24, 2012

There is a good bit of “crowing” going on at the moment by US officials, particularly about the role of Western financial sanctions in “bringing Iran to the table” for negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the West about its nuclear program. For example, US Treasury Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen said regarding these sanctions:

“They [Iran] are increasingly isolated — diplomatically, financially and economically … I don’t think there is any question that the impact of this pressure played a role in Iran’s decision to come to the table.”

This assessment, however, reflects a good deal of peripheral blindness: both about the past and about the future of the Western sanctions program. If the question is: has the policy of institutional escalation at the IAEA and the UN Security Council (UNSC), and the imposition of sanctions on Iran by the UN, the US and the European Union (EU), had an influence on Iran’s actions and the development of a crisis between Iran and the West over its nuclear program, the answer is definitely yes. But not in the way these crowing US officials think.

The reasons that Iran stopped implementing its Additional Protocol safeguards agreement with the IAEA back in 2005, pulled back from meaningful discussions with the IAEA and the West at the same time, have since become entrenched in their determination not to give in to Western pressure, and even threatened to block the straits of Hormuz and send world oil prices skyrocketing, have been explicitly stated by Iran to be the decisions by the IAEA and the UNSC requiring Iran to cease its enrichment of uranium beginning in 2005, and the sanctions that have been imposed by the UNSC, and unilaterally by the US and the EU, since that time.

To put it simply, the West’s sanctions program is the reason that Iran pulled back from the negotiating table in the first place.

To now claim that Western sanctions have had the successful effect of bringing Iran back to the negotiating table is to ignore this broader view of the history of the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, and the material role that Western sanctions have played in actually creating and intensifying the crisis.

With regard to the future of the crisis — if Iran and IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano, along with his Western clients, are able to come to an accord on reducing tensions between Iran and its critics over the coming weeks, that would, of course, be a welcome result for all sides and for the world generally. However, such a result will only realistically be produced through a negotiated plan that meets the fundamental requirements of both Iran and the West. That agreement will require compromises on both sides, and will undoubtedly include Iranian retention of its essential uranium enrichment capabilities and a continuation of enrichment activities within Iran.

There is no realistic prospect that the IAEA and the West will succeed in dictating to Iran the arbitrary and unreasonable terms that they have laid out in previous IAEA Board of Governors decisions and UNSC resolutions, including most problematically the complete cessation of uranium enrichment by Iran. Iran has made it perfectly clear, and most analysts agree, that this stated objective of Western institutional escalation and sanctions will not be a part of a negotiated final settlement.

Iran may indeed agree to produce more information for the IAEA. It may also agree to a broader list of facilities within Iran to be inspected by the IAEA . It may even agree to other confidence-building measures, such as re-implementation of the IAEA Additional Protocol, suspension of enrichment to 20 percent purity within Iran, and the export of 20 percent enriched stockpiles out of the country. But this is likely to be the extent of Iran’s concessions.

But again, the reason Iran ceased implementing the Additional Protocol in the first place was the Western sanctions program itself. And as for the increased information sharing, inspections list, and the other confidence building measures – had the institutional escalation and sanctions program not been chosen by the West it is very likely that Iranian cooperation could have been secured on these points simply through intelligent and creative diplomatic means.

So, with this broadened view of the effect of the Western sanctions program against Iran, let us return to the original question: have Western sanctions had an influence on Iran’s actions and on the development of the crisis between Iran and the West? Yes. And that influence has been to significantly deepen and prolong the crisis, and to produce the current negative diplomatic environment in which a simple return to negotiations can be heralded as a major positive step.

Did the sanctions bring Iran to the negotiating table? No. They are the reason Iran pulled back from the table to begin with. Will the sanctions produce what the IAEA and the West have stated as their objective: the complete cessation of uranium enrichment by Iran? Definitely not.

In light of this more comprehensive view of the effect of Western sanctions, the current crowing about the success of the sanctions program by US officials should be replaced by a sober re-evaluation of the West’s mishandling of the dispute with Iran from the beginning, and hopefully some lessons learned about ways to better handle future nuclear disputes.

For this purpose, I would recommend to the consideration of US officials Professor Stephen Walt’s excellently parsimonious and accurate explanation of the imprudence of current macro-trends in US policy toward arms control diplomacy — into which US policy and diplomacy on Iranian sanctions, unfortunately, perfectly fits.

In a March 2012 post on his blog at the website of Foreign Policy magazine, Walt makes this profound observation:

In short, instead of “arms control” being the product of mutual negotiation, as it was in the Cold War, it now consists of the United States making demands and ramping up pressure to get weak states to comply. Instead of being primarily a diplomatic process aimed at eliciting mutually beneficial cooperation (which might also help ameliorate mutual suspicions with current adversaries), arms control has become a coercive process designed to produce capitulation. This approach may have worked in a few cases . . . but its overall track record is paltry . . . [E]ven a country as powerful as the United States cannot simply dictate to others . . . and a disdain for genuine diplomacy (as opposed to merely issuing ultimatums and imposing sanctions) is getting in the way of potential deals that could reduce the risk of proliferation, dampen the danger of war, and enable U.S. leaders to turn their attention to other priorities. Being the world’s #1 power confers many advantages, but it can also be a potent source of blind and counterproductive arrogance.

Daniel Joyner is Professor of Law at the University of Alabama School of Law. His research interests are focused in nuclear weapons nonproliferation law and civilian nuclear energy law. He has also written extensively on international use of force law, and on the UN Security Council. He is the author of International Law and the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (Oxford University Press, 2009) and Interpreting the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (Oxford University Press, 2011).

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Toby Harnden’s anti-war book wins Orwell Prize for political writing

Press TV – May 26, 2012

An anti-war book, once pulped by the UK Ministry of Defense, has won the Orwell Prize for political writing by the judges’ unanimous vote.

Dead Men Risen by Toby Harnden is about the death of British officer Lt Colonel Rupert Thorneloe in Afghanistan in 2009.

The book “takes us into the hearts and minds of the Welsh Guards in a way that is both interesting and visceral,” the judges said.

“It challenges every citizen of this country to examine exactly what we’re asking soldiers to do in Afghanistan,” the panel continued.

“Rather than offering easy answers it lets the soldiers speak for themselves.”

The book was published by Quercus in amended form after the MoD bought the entire first print run and destroyed them.

Since the start of the US-led military intervention in Afghanistan in 2001, 412 British service personnel have been killed.

Britain has more than 9,000 troops stationed in the war-torn country.

Founded by Bernard Crick in 1993, the Orwell Prize is considered the pre-eminent British prize for political writing which honors a writer, a journalist and a blogger each year.

Winners are short-listed entries which come closest to English novelist and journalist George Orwell’s own ambition to “make political writing into an art.”

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Book Review, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Media & Opposition: False Perceptions of Venezuela’s Democracy

By Rachael Boothroyd | Correo del Orinoco International | May 25th 2012

Earlier this week Al Jazeera English published an article by Nikolas Kozloff, a former academic turned author who now spends his time writing satire and lambasting the Venezuelan government while hiding behind his Oxford PhD as a veil of objectivity. The focus of Kozloff’s latest article was the Cuban-Venezuelan “Barrio Adentro” initiative, a social mission which provides free healthcare to Venezuela’s poor, and free, community based training for Venezuelan medical students.

Despite the program being one of the government’s most popular, and the fact that it is often cited as an exemplary case of Cuban internationalism and solidarity, in his article Kozloff instead decides to detail the alleged “harrowing” conditions that Cuban doctors are subjected to while treating patients in Venezuela.

According to Kozloff’s article, Cuban medical personnel are overworked, obliged to treat 60- 70 patients a day, constantly spied on, and used by the Venezuelan state for political purposes. The sources of Kozloff’s outlandish statements are none other than leaked documents from the US embassy in Caracas, which, the cables reveal, has been aiding dissident Cuban doctors to apply to the US government for “humanitarian parole” so that they might be transferred to Miami as “asylum seekers”.

According to the documents, 73 Cuban medical personnel were transferred to Miami by 2009. Despite the fact that over 80,000 Cubans have worked in the mission, with 30,000 Cuban medical personnel currently working in Venezuela, Kozloff finds that these 73 Cubans are representative enough of the whole Barrio Adentro mission for him to conclude that the program is “fraying at the edges” in the run-up to this year’s elections.

But questionable e-mails written by staunchly anti-Cuban US diplomats might not be the best sources for judging the merits of a social program which has, by all accounts, dramatically increased Venezuelans’ standards of living. So much so, that despite the vast amounts of propaganda against the healthcare program, the opposition’s candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, has been forced to pledge that he will maintain it should he by some miracle win the elections this year.

Kozloff’s selective analysis of the state of the Barrio Adentro program is typical of most “political commentaries” covering the Venezuelan elections in the international press, which are currently contributing to a distorted understanding of Venezuela’s political reality in the run up to the October elections.

Opposition Out of Touch

While most commentators either stress Capriles’ youth (he’s 39) and his energetic campaign, or apparent “indecision” on the part of Venezuelan voters, the reality on the ground is quite different in Venezuela. The opposition have faced defeat after defeat for the past two months.

Not only do nearly all polls in Venezuela give Chavez a 20-30% lead over his opponent, but the Capriles campaign has also made several tactical mistakes. In a move that alienated working class voters in May, Capriles announced that he did not attend the country’s International Workers’ Day march because he was an “employer” and not an employee. His campaign has also been responsible for the persecution and assault of several community media journalists, harking back to the days of repression under previous governments.

In the international arena, in a subtle snub against the Venezuelan opposition coalition, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos stated in an interview that Chavez represented “stability” for the continent that was both essential for regional unity and beneficial for Colombia. Meanwhile US ally and former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe’s vocal support for Capriles has backfired, only serving to reinforce the perception of Capriles as the candidate of US imperialism amongst the Venezuelan public. Just this week, Capriles’ US advisor, Peter Greenberg, also admitted that Chavez’s lead over Capriles was “irreversible”.

These concerns are also being echoed by conservatives inside the country with even rightwing journalists such as Rafael Poleo mourning Capriles’ “hopeless” election campaign and members of the opposition coalition demanding that the campaign be restructured. “Capriles could be out anywhere today, but the rest of the country does not know about it… (his) strategy is not working, his candidacy is not growing, and Chavez’s illness has hyper-personalized electoral debate. People are only talking about Chavez”, explained Oscar Schemel, President of the Hinterlaces polling company.

Throughout this election campaign the opposition’s most serious failure is to have misunderstood the extent to which new mechanisms of participatory democracy have grown in Venezuela. The concept of democracy has taken on new meaning and the working class and organized communities are currently at the helm of an unprecedented experiment with radical new forms of democratic participation. Citizens’ democratic participation is now channelled through communal councils, communes, socialist workers’ councils and cooperatives, which extend the democratic process into their everyday lives and allow them to transform their own socio-cultural surroundings. Venezuelan democracy is no longer reducible to national elections every 6 years, rather it is something constructed every single day.

Following an unsuccessful 12-year battle against Chavez waged on its own terrain, the opposition is now attempting to compete on the Revolution’s terrain and the results are perhaps even less rewarding. The opposition has totally failed to understand just how Venezuela’s political terrain is constantly shifting and continuously being propelled forwards by the country’s new grassroots democratic format.

Just like Kozloff, the Venezuelan opposition continues to look at Venezuela from a distance. Their sources are US diplomats, US political advisors or the Venezuelan elite. From this perspective, Barrio Adentro is merely a political strategy. For Kozloff, it is merely the product of a transient deal with Cuba which can be rolled back should another government take power. For Capriles it is a program he must pledge to maintain in order to have any chance of winning votes.

But for many Venezuelans Barrio Adentro is more than a political strategy and more than a program, it is a social process which has become an integral part of their everyday lives, which has brought dignity, value and identity, and shaped their communities and changed their educational possibilities. These are changes that can’t be perceived from the upper class district of Altamira in Caracas, and much less from a newsroom in New York.

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quebec: Poll shows support for Charest’s tuition increases dropped 41 points in six days

By Ethan Cox | Rabble | May 25, 2012

Quebec is known for swift and drastic shifts of popular opinion. From the election of the first PQ government, to the rise of the ADQ and the Orange Wave, public opinion in this province is prone to sudden reversals.

The results of the most recent poll, an online survey of 1000 Quebecois conducted between May 23 and 25 by CROP for Radio-Canada, seem to suggest we are in the midst of such a dramatic swing.

When CROP was last in the field, on May 17 and 18, they found that a whopping 68% supported the government’s proposed tuition increase, with only 32% supporting the students. The same poll found 66% supported a “special law” to help end the crisis.

The poll was roundly criticized for asking respondents about a law which had yet to be introduced, and was at that time an unknown quantity. Criticism was also levelled at its methodology. That poll, and the most recent one, were conducted using a representative online panel, which was not randomly selected and as such cannot be assigned a margin of error.

Fast forward six days, through a civil-liberties-crushing special law, the largest protest in Canadian history, and mass arrests of over 700 people, and the results are stunning.

The latest poll did not ask the same question, but instead asked who respondents felt was to blame for the crisis. 44% placed the blame on Jean Charest’s ailing government, while only 36% blamed the students. On the question of what should be done with tuition fees, the poll found 45% supported indexing them to the cost of living, 13% thought they should be frozen at current levels and 11% thought they should be abolished. Only 27% thought they should be increased beyond inflation. Add that up and 70% of the population are now opposed to the Charest government’s proposed increases.

In a period of six days, support for the proposed increases to tuition has gone from 68% to 27%, a drop of 41 percentage points.

Unsurprisingly, the poll found that 60% were opposed to Loi 78, with 42% being strongly opposed. 30% supported the law, with 11% strongly supporting it. This is a drop of 36 percentage points in support for Loi 78, but given that the first poll was conducted before details of the law were public, that’s not as surprising.

The poll also found that 49% believed mediation between the government and student federations was the best way to resolve the dispute, coming in far ahead of a new election, a moratorium or a summit on university financing.

When asked if the student federations and government had been negotiating in good faith, both received failing grades. 48% thought the government had been negotiating in bad faith, over 37% who disagreed, while 58% thought the same of student federations, with 26% disagreeing. 50% did not have faith in either the government or students to resolve the conflict, while 25% had more confidence in the government and 16% more faith in student federations.

Given that both sides have been adamant that they will not back down from their demands, this is hardly surprising.

A friend commented that this showed people “hated Charest, but hated the students more.” I think he’s off the mark. Although there is clearly a warranted pessimism that there will be a swift end to the strike, I imagine 9% more people have greater confidence in the government to resolve the issue because 70% now want the government to make major concessions. People expect the government to fold, and as such expect that this will lead to the resolution of the conflict.

I prefer to compare polls by the same company, because differences in methodology and questions can make comparison between companies difficult, but if we look at the Leger poll done for the Journal de Montreal between May 19 and 21 (prior to the mass demonstration), it really demonstrates the trendline in this province.

The question asked was, given the positions of both sides ($1625 increase vs. freeze) do you support the students or the government? The poll showed an 18% shift in support from government to students over Leger’s previous outing, ten days prior. However, it still left the government with 51% support, and the students with 43%.

The change from 51% supporting the government position to 27% is a drop of 24 percentage points. In four days.

The Leger poll also found that 47% supported Loi 78, with an equal 47% opposing it. With 60% opposition, and 42% strongly opposed in the new CROP poll, we can see that opposition to the law has grown by 13 percentage points and crystalized. Those opposed tend to feel strongly about the subject, perhaps explaining the sudden popularity of the “casseroles” phenomenon (Where Quebeckers in all parts of the province go outside each night at 8 PM to bang on pots and pans in opposition to the law)

Notwithstanding all the normal caveats about polls and their flaws, it seems clear that there is a seismic shift going on in Quebec right now. The introduction of Loi 78 was a political miscalculation of epic proportions. It contributed to hundreds of thousands pouring into the streets on Tuesday, and provoked the casseroles movement.

The protest and ongoing casseroles in turn sent a strong message to Quebeckers that all was not right. They demonstrated to those outside Montreal that this was no longer a student issue alone, but a social one which involved people of all ages. Then that crazy social solidarity I wrote about earlier this week kicked in, and people began to turn on the government en masse.

The CROP poll did not ask for voting intentions, but I will be interested to see if the next provincial poll shows improvement for the PQ, who originally proposed increasing tuition at the rate of inflation.

Assuming this is not a rogue poll, it seems clear that the Charest increase is dead in the water. Most Quebeckers now want an increase at the rate of inflation, if that. These numbers will put wind beneath the wings of tiring students, and indicate that the record for protest attendance set last Tuesday may be challenged sooner rather than later.

The open question now is, will Charest hunker down and defy public opinion in the face of what will certainly be growing protests? And if Charest does offer students an increase at the rate of inflation, does it resolve a conflict which has become about much more than tuition?

While this poll holds some negatives for the students too, Quebeckers rejection of both Loi 78 and the proposed increase will no doubt have many a glass lifting tonight wherever students and their supporters are gathered.

______

Rabble’s Special Correspondent on the Quebec student strike, Ethan Cox is a 28 year-old organizer, comms guy and writer from Montreal. He cut his political teeth accrediting the Dawson Student Union against ferocious opposition from the college administration and has worked as a union organizer for the Public Service Alliance of Canada. He has worked on several successful municipal and federal election campaigns, and was a member of Quebec central office staff for the NDP in the 2011 election. Most recently he served as Quebec Director and Senior Communications Advisor on Brian Topp’s NDP leadership campaign.

Ethan Cox's picture

As Rabble.ca’s newly minted Special Correspondent on the Quebec student strike, you’ll be seeing me in these pages every few days with all the latest from Montreal’s streets. For more frequent updates follow me on twitter @EthanCoxMTL

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May 26, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Video | , , , , , | 1 Comment

‘Iran’s electricity exports to four neighboring countries up by 40%’

Press TV – May 26, 2012

An Iranian Energy Ministry official says Iran’s electricity exports to four neighboring countries have increased by 40 percent since the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year (started March 20, 2012).

Abdolhamid Farzam, the Energy Ministry official in charge of foreign exchanges, said Sunday that Iran’s power exports to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Turkey have seen a major boost in the past two months.

The official stated that new power transfer lines and installations have become operational for exporting electricity to Iraq, raising Iran’s electricity exports to its western neighbor to 1,200 megawatts (MW).

Farzam added that electricity exports to Pakistan have been more than doubled in the same period, saying Iran’s capacity to export electricity to Pakistan has increased from 30 MW in winter to 70 MW right now.

He said Iran is exporting an average of 30 MW of electricity to Afghanistan, while power exports to Turkey have increased from 110 MW to more than 170 MW.

The official stated that Iran will increase its power export capacity to Turkey to 500 MW in the next few days.

On May 10, Iran’s Energy Ministry published a report saying that the country’s electricity exports to its neighboring countries have increased by more than 38 percent since the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year compared to the previous year.

The report added that Iran has exported a total of 1,347 gigawatts per hour (GW/h) of electricity to the neighboring countries during the aforementioned period, up by 38.57 percent compared to the previous Iranian calendar year (ended March 19, 2012).

Iran, which seeks to become a major regional exporter of electricity, has attracted more than USD 1.1 billion in investment to build three new power plants.

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Seminar on Palestine’s Prisoners: A Lament on Injustice

By Felicity Arbuthnot | Dissident Voice | May 26th, 2012

Israel is a parliamentary democracy represented by a very large number of parties, with universal suffrage for all citizens, regardless of race, religion or sex …

— CIA World Fact Book, 2011

This week a sobering and highly informative closed door seminar was held on the plight of Palestinian Prisoners in the elegant surroundings of London’s Westminster Central Hall, a stone’s throw away from the Houses of Parliament and the 11th century Westminster Abbey, the all affirmation of stability and continuity — in starkest contrast to testimony at the proceedings of the meeting.

The seminar, hosted by Middle East Monitor, had been planned and organized at the height of the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike. Although most prisoners are reported to have ended their desperation-driven fasts following a deal with the Israeli authorities, the issues surrounding their shocking treatment and imprisonment are unchanged.

Sabah al Mukhtar, President of the Arab Lawyers Association, who chaired the gathering, opened by reminding that, “A basic right of a people under occupation is to resist.”

Further, that the Fourth Geneva Convention is specific as to the treatment of prisoners, with absolute outlawing of abuse and stipulation of legal conditions which must include humane treatment, being regarded as innocent until proven guilty and speedy access to legal representation — a far cry from the conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Lord Alf Dubs, who serves on the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, talked of a visit to the West Bank last year. Unable to visit a prison, he did attend an Israeli Military Court and was shocked at what he witnessed.

Remarking on security so tight that not even business cards were allowed in, he was struck by the age of the prisoners. Many were children, including one of fourteen. A fifteen year old was in tears in the dock, a sight Lord Dubs found profoundly disturbing.

The majority of children, he learned, were picked up in the early hours of the morning and incarcerated with no access by parents, no lawyer until they were in the dock, thus no explanation of procedures, discussion of case and, above all, semblance of reassurance. Handcuffs were taken off as they came through the door of the Court, but all were in shackles in the dock. Most defendants were: “just throwing stones.” The Court had no cctv; thus, no record of any miscarriage of justice.

Parents are often denied access to detained children for at least two months. Article 77 of the Geneva Convention states that: “Children shall be the object of special respect (and provided) with the care and aid they require.” The reality, concluded His Lordship, was “a stain” on the Israeli establishment.

Chairman of the UK-based charity, Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Tareq Shrourou, stated that at every stage childrens’ rights are abused “from detention to incarceration, to release.” Sixteen and seventeen year olds are still treated as adults in detention. In the West Bank it is not the police, but the army who conduct arrests, whether of children or adults.

Children, as are adults, are blindfolded, in addition to being handcuffed and shackled. Blindfolding is also in defiance of the Geneva Convention.

“That the military might of Israel is threatened by children throwing stones is laughable”, commented al Mukhtar, adding that the whole concept of Military Children’s Courts were legally “outlandish.”

“In the past eleven years alone, around seven thousand five hundred children, some as young as twelve years, are estimated to have been detained, interrogated, and imprisoned …”1

It should be noted that a Palestinian detainee can be interrogated for a period of one hundred and eighty days, during which he or she can be denied a lawyer for ninety days. During interrogation a detainee can be subject to varying levels of torture, physical and/or psychological.

This was graphically described by an urbane, quietly spoken man (name withheld by request) who described the reality of being detained for the first time at fifteen years old.

“I was imprisoned in 1987, 1988, 1990 and 1992 then deported to South Lebanon.”

In 1987, as a student, he had been one of a number who were taken from their school by the authorities, to a detention centre. He was, he said, punched, interrogated, beaten for two months, then released for lack of evidence of any wrongdoing.

In 1988, he stated, in the night, his home “was stormed.” Soldiers rushed to his bedroom pointing guns at him as he awoke and struggled up. He was taken, blindfolded, his hands tied with plastic cuffs.

In prison he was “put in a yard. There were eight rooms on one side and cells on the other. In each room there was a different torture. I visited all eight.”

His head, he said, was banged hard against the wall, on the table as he sat; he was near choked by extreme pressure on his throat; a ruler was banged hard on his nose “in a way that makes you lose control of your head.” Eventually he lost consciousness.

Made to raise his head, stunning blows under the chin resulted.

He described a “breaking chair fall” after which “you are punched whichever way you move.”  And, he recounted, “female soldiers practice sex in front of you. Even as a child I knew how to keep a blind eye.” Shades of Abu Ghraib.

Failure to confess resulted in threats of death, “But I had nothing to tell.” He was finally released after sixty-four days due to no evidence.

He was arrested and released without charge again in 1990. In 1992 he was deported to Lebanon.

He was just twenty years old, with a life’s horrors already lived and childhood’s chrysalis years of discovery and approaching adulthood lost to Israeli jail’s nightmares.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory, is specific:

In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

Article 37(b) of the Convention adds:

The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child… shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.2

The anomaly of the uniqueness of the military court system in Israel was addressed in detail as “an exception under all laws. A military court must deal with military people, not civilians, not minors.” A further anomaly is that there is no legal appeal system. An appeal is “an administrative decision, made usually not by a judge, or even a lawyer.”

Khaled Almudallal, representing Ufree, the European network to support the rights of Palestinian Prisoners, reminded that, incredibly, there are twenty-seven Palestinian parliamentarians of the Palestinian Legislative Council and two Ministers being held in detention.

A near forgotten tragedy has an equally forgotten background:

As candidates prepared for elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in 2006, the Israeli authorities began a campaign of detention and imprisonment  … The 2006 Palestinian elections were overseen by international observers who declared them to be free and fair (thus) Hamas (became) the democratically elected Palestinian government.

Wrong kind of democracy, thus the democratically elected remain illegally detained by representatives of a people who, ironically, were given by James Arthur Balfour, a “national home” within “Palestine.” The famed letter has no mention of a “State”.  This “home”, it specifies, is conditional on:

 … it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine …

The injustices of historic enormity, legal and territorial, in violation of human rights under a swathe of international legislation, continue unabated – to be met by “the silence of the world”, commented al Mukhtar, adding, regarding the prisoners: “As far as I know, Middle East Peace Envoy Tony Blair, has been equally silent.”

However, the international community is not silent. The Boycott movement gains massive strength. Coincidentally, on the day of the Seminar, the Israeli Ambassador to South Africa had been due to address the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The event was cancelled by the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Joseph Ayee, at twenty-four hour’s notice, due to the “likely reputational damage” it would bring the university.3

Politics Professor, Lubna Nadvi, said the university’s decision represented the general sentiment among students and staff. “Israel is fast becoming a pariah state, like Apartheid South Africa did, that no one really wants to be associated with, including academics and students,” the Professor is quoted as saying.

Yet destruction of Palestinian lives and history, sacred to all nations, is ongoing and six thousand prisoners remain in jail, and in beyond anything that would be recognized as a justice system in a functioning democracy.

In spite of the hunger strike agreement, there is so little progress from Israel, that there are fears that the only negotiating tool those held have – their lives – may be again put on the line.

Organizations represented at the Seminar are working closely with those involved in the Northern Ireland hunger strike to devise a way forward for both sides.

One suggestion, from British MP Jeremy Corbyn, is forming an international friendship network with prisoners, especially corresponding.

At a “Special Session on Children” at the United Nations on May 9. 2002, the Israeli Minister of Justice stated, in a lengthy address, Israel’s commitment to:

Extending the hope and promise of childhood to the millions of children that continue to suffer, even in an era of unprecedented global prosperity, means reducing poverty, protecting children from the scourge of war and violence … providing all children with adequate healthcare, clean water, basic education, and a nurturing and protective environment in which they can grow and thrive.

The yawning chasm between fine aspirational statements and reality on the ground could hardly be starker. For every child taken into custody, childhood dies at that moment.

For every parent arbitrarily held, they know not when they will see their children and family again. Some have shared none of their children’s formative years at all.

“Our revenge will be the laughter of our children”, wrote Ireland’s Bobby Sands, who died on the 66th day of his protest hunger strike, on May 5. 1981, four days short of his birthday. When there is nothing left to lose to achieve justice, those deprived will eventually sacrifice the last tragic bargaining tool in humanity’s creative box to achieve it.

Since the guests became occupiers, Palestine’s children and their parents have now waited sixty-four years to laugh freely.

  1. Graham Peebles, “Confined cruelty: Israeli treatment of Palestinian minors“, Middle East Monitor, March 26, 2012
  2. Shazia Arshad, “Child Prisoners“, Middle East Monitor, November 9, 2011
  3. Raphael Ahren, “Jerusalem slams Pretoria’s ‘unbelievable ignorance’”, The Times of Israel, May 21, 2012

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Report: Israel issued 13,000 demolition orders against Palestinian real estate

Palestine Information Center – 26/05/2012

WEST BANK — Haaretz newspaper said the Israeli civil administration issued 13,000 demolition warnings against Palestinians accused of unlicensed construction in Area C of the West Bank.

The newspaper stated in a report that Israel intensified its construction restrictions on the Palestinian citizens in the villages and towns of the West Bank and seeks to prevent them from building through creating criminal files against them.

It said the civil administration increased the issuance of severe penalties against the Palestinians in all villages and towns located within Area C under Israel’s control.

Its report underlined that the civil administration was active recently in the demolition of many Palestinian homes and structures including schools in Al-Khalil city at the pretext of unlicensed construction.

The report pointed to the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs’ recent report which condemned Israel’s restrictions on construction permits for Palestinians and its demolition of their homes while encouraging settlement construction.

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israeli Supreme Court Rubber Stamps Shin Bet Impunity

By Richard Silverstein | Tikun Olam | May 26, 2012

Shiri Krebs is a PhD student at Stanford University law school. She was an international law advisor to Israeli Supreme Court president Dorit Beinisch and a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute.  She published a paper (for Hebrew readers, Haaretz offers this story) this month in the Vanderbilt Journal of Transitional Law about the rubber stamp offered by the Israel’s highest court to the security services in cases of administrative detention.  She pointedly argues against the reputation the Court enjoys for being “interventionist” in protecting the rights of security detainees and offering a robust defense of democratic rights.

Surprisingly, she notes that there are those in the legal community who are proposing that Israel’s system both of administrative detention and judicial review are being offered as a model for other countries facing terror threats. In fact, the National Defense Authorization Act codifies a U.S. version of indefinite administrative detention as Reuters notes:

The section authorizes indefinite military detention for those deemed to have “substantially supported” al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces.”

Does a journalist who objects to targeted killings of al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen or Pakistan “substantially support” it?  What about supporting Bradley Manning or Wikileaks?  You say no and I say no, but neither of us will be interpreting the law.  The Justice Department, just like the Israeli state prosecutor, will be.  What will its standard be?  Thankfully, a federal judge issued a stay regarding enforcement of this provision of the law.

Krebs rejects Israel as a viable legal model:

…They [the research and interviews conducted in preparing the article] cast doubt on arguments that Israel’s detention model is one that should be emulated by other countries…The legal framework [of administrative detention and judicial review] itself makes independent judicial review of detention exceedingly challenging, if not impossible.

The paper is especially important in light of the hunger strikes of 1,600 Palestinian prisoners who were protesting precisely the types of arbitrary administrative detentions Krebs discusses in her paper.  The protesting prisoners complained about the arbitrary nature of their detention and the fact that often the evidence against them was secret both to them and their lawyers.  In essence, they neither knew who was their accuser, what they were accused of, nor what evidence was offered.  Six-month sentences could be renewed without offering any new evidence and renewed virtually forever.  A number of prisoners were held for years under similar terms.

Krebs’ research examines 322 cases brought before the High Court between 2000-2010, in which Palestinian detainees appealed against their sentences.  Of these, the Court reversed the sentences in none of the cases:

…Out of the 322 cases decided by the Israeli Supreme Court in this period, not a single case resulted in a release order, and in none of the cases did the Court openly reject the secret evidence.

In one-third of the cases, the detainee would drop his appeal after a deal was struck with the state attorney.  But such deals were inherently one-sided since the State controlled virtually the entire process and made an offer the defense couldn’t afford to refuse: the defense knew the Court would never reverse the security services and had to accept the crumbs it was offered.

When the Court does render its decisions in these cases, the justices themselves rarely get to see the evidence the State used to detain the suspect.  They rarely know much, if anything about the detainee or his case.  They rarely conduct an adversarial inquiry into the charges.  Their decisions often run only a few lines, if that.  A long one might extend three pages.

This dynamic is at work in virtually all security cases, even ones not involving administrative detention.  Detainee-victims like Ameer Makhoul and many others who face life sentences for their alleged crimes, know that if they don’t bargain away their freedom by accepting “reduced” sentences, they will spend their entire lives behind bars.  They know there is virtually no chance the court will find in their favor.  Another victim like Dirar Abu Sisi has refused a plea deal, but the State has kept him bottled up in prison for several years without trial.  That is the price a prisoner pays for maintaining his pride and his innocence by not “taking the deal.”

In this sense, the “shadow of the Court” provided a threat that persuaded the State to plea down charges, but it was often a weak and toothless one.  Even in cases where detainees had charges against them dropped it didn’t result in their immediately being freed.

The law journal article is fascinating because it offers an intimate portrait of the personal discomfort felt by Israeli justices in the face of these security cases.  The moral queasiness they experience is embarrassing because it reveals their willingness to suspend their usual judicial demeanor in deference to the security powers of the State.  Here are some of the personal statements Krebs records:

This is not ideal. [Administrative detentions] represent a certain devaluation of our system of values, but there is no other choice.

–Justice E, Israeli Supreme Court

I feel responsibility . . . . There is a war going on . . . the phrase that a democracy fights with one hand tied behind its back is a nice metaphor . . . is a nice phrase to frame on the wall, but it is not suited for real everyday life.

–Justice B, Israeli Supreme Court

You have a feeling of discomfort. I never enjoyed sitting in administrative detention cases. No one enjoys it. Judges don’t like these cases, because we are trained to criminal proceedings, with witnesses, cross-examination . . . It is not pleasant. You want to run away from it as fast as you can, but you know that it is necessary for the sake of your people and country.

–Justice B, Israeli Supreme Court

The judges cannot differ with the ISA story. How can I? I don’t have the defense lawyer jumping to say “it never happened,” “this is not true.”  My ethos, as a judge, is that I have two parties. Of course, I can think by myself, but I need tools, which are missing . . . to the most I have very limited tools

–Justice D, Supreme Court

The state attorneys should also come to the hearing nervous and tense—but they are always very relaxed. They know that no matter what they say or do, they will always win…

There is no judicial discretion here, since the Justices do not know the facts. They don’t have the tools to decide what the level of dangerousness is . . . in one of the cases in which I served as defense lawyer, it took the ISA two years to tell him [the detainee S.K.] what the allegations against him were. Then, when I asked my client about it, it turned out that it was a murder case that happened near his house, in which he had no involvement with whatsoever. When I brought this to Court and asked the ISA representatives about it––I could tell that the Justices knew nothing about it. I could see their surprise. It then took two more detention orders until he was finally released.

–Defense lawyer C

“In some cases even I felt that it was too easy,”

–State Attorney A

With all the good will on the part of everybody, there is no way to conduct a fair ex parte hearing. The human nature and the dynamic of the process prevent fair hearing of the case.

–State Attorney B

The negotiation with the ISA [Israeli state attorney] is bad, because it is blind on the detainee’s part. If the ISA agrees, in the negotiation with the detainee’s lawyer, to issue only one more detention order, or even to release him at the end of the current detention order, it means that the case is weak, and therefore the detainee should have been released immediately.

–Defense attorney D

The more reasoned judicial decisions are no more than a bunch of clichés, since they are not implemented . . . the Justices talk highly about being the “detainee’s mouth,” but they can’t. How can they be his mouth, when they know nothing at all about his side of the story?

–Defense lawyer B

In her conclusion, Krebs draws the following lessons:

The Court systematically avoids issuing release orders, and demonstrates minimal intervention with regard to the assessment of the secret evidence.  As both the case law analysis and the interviews demonstrate, the Court refrains from openly and blatantly opposing the ISA assessment of the secret evidence…

…The research findings [reveal]…the vulnerability of democracies under stress to intolerant and illiberal mechanisms.  The research reveals the weaknesses of judicial protections against prolonged and arbitrary detentions, and highlights the unique challenges posed by secret evidence to fair judicial proceedings. Unfortunately, detention proceedings become an “assembly line” in which “enemies”, “terrorists” or just “others” are constantly losing one of their most basic and valued human assets: their freedom.

Krebs’ analysis proves the justice of the wide-scale Palestinian protest against the administrative detention regime.  You’ll recall that in spite of defense appeals to the Supreme Court to spare the lives of their hunger striking clients, the justices refused to intervene.  They simply refused to provide adequate oversight or judicial review of the actions of the secret police in so-called terror/national security cases.

She notes that use of this tactic has declined over the years.  Perhaps the protests will bring about an even greater drop in such charges.  If so, it can’t happen too soon.  This is not just a blemish, it’s a tumor on the Israeli judicial system.  It brings the justices into a process of collusion with the security services, rather than a relationship of healthy skeptical review as should happen in a normal democracy.  It cheapens the rule of law and undermines it severely.

Though I am neither a lawyer nor human rights specialist, I’ve often written here about violations of fairness and due process in the Israeli judicial process concerning national security cases.  Supporters of this reprehensible system have argued here that I’ve exaggerated and asked for irrefutable proof for my claims.  As far as I’m concerned, Krebs has offered this incontrovertible evidence in her quantitative analysis of the shortcomings of the Israeli legal system.

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nativity Church deportees ‘did not sign agreement’ to be exiled

Ma’an - 26/05/2012

GAZA CITY – A group of Palestinians deported to Gaza after the Nativity Church siege in 2002 on Saturday disputed claims by a former economic adviser that they had signed an agreement to be exiled.

The 26 deportees told Israeli forces during the siege that only Yasser Arafat could negotiate on their behalf, denying claims that they themselves gave their approval to be deported, a statement said.

Muhammad Rashid, former presidential economic adviser to Arafat, on Friday told Al-Arabiya TV channel that the group had agreed to be deported and that he fully accepted responsibility for the agreement, which Arafat had authorized him to negotiate.

The committee appointed by Arafat to negotiate with the Israelis “almost reached an agreement to deport only 6 activists to the Gaza Strip, but other people were carrying out secret negotiations behind the scenes which ended in the deportation of 39 activists to the Gaza Strip and Europe,” the group of Gaza deportees said.

The official PA negotiating committee was headed by Salah Taamari, who was then governor of Bethlehem.

He told Ma’an TV in May that the deportation deal was reached without his knowledge and recalled his shock when Israeli officials told him Palestinians would be exiled.

The deportees urged the Palestinian Authority to expose all details of the 2002 deal, calling on the PA to prove whether there had been a written or verbal agreement between the two sides.

“If there was no written agreement, that would be a serious mistake by Muhammad Rashid, especially since the agreement was monitored by the US, the UK and the EU, and it was applauded by the Vatican,” the group said.

Former detainee and researcher Abdul Nasser Farwaneh said the deportation deal was a clear violation of international law and human rights.

The Palestinian leadership’s acceptance of the deal to send Palestinians into exile set a dangerous precedent and over the last decade Israel has deported hundreds more Palestinians, Farwaneh said in a statement.

On May 10, 2002, Israeli forces ended a 39-day siege on the church after striking a deal with Palestinian leaders to send 39 people given sanctuary in the church to Gaza and Europe.

When Israeli tanks surrounded Bethlehem on April 2, 2002, around 220 locals — including around 40 priests and nuns — took shelter in the church.

Over the next 39 days, eight Palestinians were killed inside the church and 27 others injured.

The siege on the site believed to be Jesus’ birthplace sparked outrage in the Vatican as monks sheltering inside pleaded for international assistance.

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Steve Rosen: “Someday all life on Earth will be a Palestinian refugee”

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | The Passionate Attachment | May 26, 2012

In his May 25 blog post for Foreign Policy’s The Cable, Josh Rogin provocatively asks, “Did the State Department just create 5 million Palestinian refugees?”

Rogin is referring to a letter Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides recently wrote to Senator Patrick Leahy expressing State’s strong opposition to an amendment introduced by AIPAC darling Senator Mark Kirk that, in the words of Rogin, “would have required more in-depth reporting on how many UNRWA aid recipients are now living in the West Bank, Gaza, and other countries such as Jordan.” In the letter, Nides notes matter of factly that “UNRWA provides essential services for approximately five million refugees.” However, according to Rogin, “To experts and congressional officials following the issue, that declaration was remarkable because it was the first time the State Department had placed a number — 5 million — on the number of Palestinian refugees.” As Rogin explains:

At the heart of the issue is what constitutes a “refugee.” The entire thrust of the Kirk amendment was to challenge UNRWA’s definition, which includes the descendants of refugees — children, grandchildren, and so on. That has resulted in the number of Palestinian “refugees” skyrocketing from 750,000 in 1950 to the 5 million figure quoted by Nides today.

Revealingly, one of the “experts” Rogin cites as finding State’s 5 million figure “remarkable” is Steve Rosen. Neglecting to mention that Rosen was indicted on espionage charges in 2005, Rogin merely describes him as “a long time senior AIPAC official who now is the Washington director of the Middle East Forum,” and provides him with a platform for the following provocative and offensive statement:

“How many generations does it go?” asked Rosen. “I’m Jewish, and as a grandchild of several refugees, could I make a claim on all these countries? Where does it end? Someday all life on Earth will be a Palestinian refugee.”

May 26, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

   

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