Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has ordered the release of 572 people detained by the Army since last year’s revolution.
Morsi, who took office last month as Egypt’s first elected civilian president, on Thursday ordered military courts to grant amnesty to the defendants, AFP reported.
The Egyptian president earlier set up a committee to examine the cases of civilians put on trial by the military. The committee says 11,879 Egyptians were detained by the military throughout out the uprising that ousted former dictator Hosni Mubarak. Out of them, 9,714 have since been released.
Human rights activists and bodies have unanimously called for the end of military trials of civilians.
“International law is crystal clear on this: No civilian, regardless of the crime, should be tried by a military court,” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said this week.
“Military trials and arrests of civilians by the military have continued, despite the June 30 handover to civilian authority,” the HRW noted.
Sworn in on June 30, Morsi is locked in a power struggle with the powerful Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
Last week, Egyptians thronged the iconic Tahrir Square in Cairo to express solidarity with Morsi over his decree to reconvene parliament.
The parliament, dominated by Muslim Brotherhood lawmakers, was dissolved in line with a ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court, based on a decision by the military, prior to the presidential elections.
Con Coughlin of the Daily Telegraph reports that the Revolutionary Guard are overseeing a “huge expansion of Iran’s nuclear program” — and as proof he cites the NCRI which he fails to mention is one of the many pseudonyms of the MKO/MEK terrorists.
Having just recently had lost a lawsuit against him and his paper brought by the Turks (Coughlin had falsely accused Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of receiving $25 milion from Iran for his election) Con was quick to return to making-up bullshit about Iran.
[R]eaders of the Sunday Telegraph were regaled with a dramatic story about the son of Col Gadafy of Libya and his alleged connection to a currency counterfeiting plan. The story was written by Con Coughlin, the paper’s then chief foreign correspondent, and it was falsely attributed to a “British banking official”. In fact, it had been given to him by officers of MI6, who, it transpired, had been supplying Coughlin with material for years.
Of course the lawsuit has not fazed Coughlin or the Telegraph even a tiny bit and he’s back to his usual tricks. Note the most recent allegations he promoted in an article entitled “MI6 chief Sir John Sawer: ‘We foiled Iranian nuclear weapons bid‘:
Sir John Sawers said that covert operations by British spies had prevented the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons as early as 2008…It is extremely rare for the head of MI6 to disclose details of operations by the intelligence service.
Boy, kinda spooky, huh? It implies that in 2008 Iran was about to get a nuke, but the James Bondesque MI6 stepped in and foiled their dastardly plan. Problem is, that’s not what Sawer said at all. Of course, the MI6 deleted the recording to make sure no one would know what was actually said…or because the acoustics were really bad just as the MI6 claims.
Fifty Years of US Targeted ‘Kill Lists’: From the Phoenix Program to Predator Drones
By DOUG NOBLE | July 19, 2012
“A broad-gauged program of targeted assassination has now displaced counterinsurgency as the prevailing expression of the American way of war.” – Andrew Bacevich 
This spring the US drone killing program has come out of the closet. Attorney General Eric Holder publicly defended the drone killing of an American citizen , while Obama’s counter terrorism czar John Brennan publicly explained and justified the target killing program . And a New York Times article by Jo Becker and Scott Shane chronicled Obama’s personal role in vetting a secret “Kill List.” 
This striking new transparency, the official acknowledgment for the first time of a broad-based US assassination and targeted killing program, has resulted from the unprecedented and controversial visibility of drone warfare. Drones now make news every day, and those of us who have been protesting their use for years have heightened their visibility in the public eye, forcing official acknowledgment and fostering worldwide scrutiny. This new scrutiny focuses not only on drone use but also, and perhaps more importantly, on the targeted killing itself – and the “kill lists” that make them possible.
This new exposure has set off a firestorm of reaction around the globe. Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism told Democracy Now! “The kill list got really heavy coverage … newspapers have all expressed significant concern about the existence of the kill list, the idea of this level of executive power.”  A Washington Post editorial noted that “No president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation’s security goals.”  Becker and Shane of the Times pronounced Obama’s role “without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war …”  And former president Jimmy Carter insisted, in a recent editorial in The New York Times, “We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these [drone] attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.” 
In fact, US assassination and targeted killing, with presidential approval, has been going on covertly for at least half a century. Ironically, all this drone killing now offers us a new opportunity: to pry open the Pandora’s box hiding long-held secrets of covert US assassination and targeted killing, and to expose them to the light of day. What we would find is that the only things new in the latest, more publicized revelations about kill lists and assassinations are the use of drones, the president’s hands-on approach in vetting targets, and the global scope of the drone killing.
Those of us in the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones, Code Pink and other groups protesting US drones for years have correctly focused on the use of drones as illegal, immoral and strategically counterproductive. We have abhorred the schizophrenic ease of remote killing, the uniquely frightening horror of a drone strike, and the unavoidable (even intentional) killing of countless civilian “terrorist suspects” in “signature strikes.” We have also warned of the proliferation of drones in countries around the globe and of their procurement by US police forces and border patrols, for surveillance and “non-lethal” targeting.
But drones are not the only, or even the most important, concern. It’s the targeted killing itself, past and present. In this article I start to unravel what the latest demands for transparency should lead us to investigate fully: the fifty year history of US assassination and targeted killing that has resulted, quite directly, in the present moment. Those who are mortified by the latest revelations of Obama’s kill list have much to learn from a more comprehensive, historical perspective on US killing around the globe. Who knows: Perhaps someone in Congress might even be prodded to do what Senators Fulbright and Church did in years past: hold hearings on this continuing execration taking place in our name. Until then, what follows is an introduction to this ongoing horror story.
Section 1 of this article briefly reviews the lethal history of the US Phoenix Program in Vietnam, the original source of subsequent US counter terrorist tactics and strategies. Section 2 revisits briefly the well-worn history of US kill lists and assassinations in Latin American countries, followed by the somewhat less-well-known history of US kill lists and assassinations in countries on other continents. Section 3 traces the direct legacy of Phoenix, even its explicit resurrection by the key architects of the US targeted killing programs in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in a growing number of “countries we are not at war with.”
One point of clarification and definition. It is well known that in recent history the US has orchestrated assassination attempts, both successful and unsuccessful, on major world leaders. Examples include: Lumumba under Eisenhower, Castro and Diem under Kennedy, Gaddhafi under Reagan, Saddam Hussein under Bush, and Allende under Nixon.  The term “assassination” is typically restricted to such killings of political leaders, and President Ford’s executive order banning assassination applies only to the assassination of foreign heads of state.  The focus of this article is different. Here we discuss the US-generated kill lists used over the last half century, under direct presidential authority, for the targeted killing of thousands of civilians suspected of being or harboring terrorists/ insurgents, from Vietnam to Guatemala, from Indonesia to Iraq, right up to the present day.
The Phoenix Program
The US Phoenix Program was a secret, large scale counter terrorist effort in Vietnam. Developed in 1967 by the CIA, the Phoenix Program, called Phung Hoang by the Vietnamese, aimed a concerted effort to “neutralize” the Vietcong Infrastructure (VCI) consisting of South Vietnamese civilians suspected of supporting North Vietnamese or Viet Cong soldiers. The euphemism “neutralize” meant to kill or detain indefinitely. Then CIA Director William Colby, while insisting in 1971 Congressional hearings that “the Phoenix program is not a program of assassination,” nonetheless conceded that Phoenix operations killed over 20,000 people between 1967 and 1972. 
Phoenix targeted civilians, not soldiers. Operations were carried out by “hunter-killer teams” consisting both of US Green Berets and Navy Seals and by South Vietnamese Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs), units of mercenaries set up for assassination and “counter terror.” A Newsweek article in January 1970 described Phoenix as “a highly secret and unconventional operation that counters VC terror with terror of its own.”  Robert Kaiser of the Washington Post reported Phoenix being called “an instrument of mass political murder…sort of Vietnamese Murder Inc.,” designed to terrorize the civilian population into submission.” 
Until 1970 the computerized VCI blacklist was a unilateral American operation. After the devastating 1968 Tet offensive, South Vietnamese President Thieu declared: “The VCI must be eliminated…and will be defeated by the Phoenix program.”  Phoenix became a ruthless “bounty hunting” program to eliminate the opposition.  The US and South Vietnamese created a list of tens of thousands of suspects for assassination. These names were centralized and distributed to Phoenix coordinators. From 1965-68 U.S. and Saigon intelligence services maintained an active list of Viet Cong cadre marked for assassination. The program for 1969 called for “neutralizing” 1800 a month.
The VCI blacklist became corrupted by officers inserting their personal enemies’ names to get even. Due process was nonexistent. Names supplied by anonymous informers showed up on blacklists.  CIA Director Colby admitted in 1971 that the blacklists had been “inaccurate.”  Few senior VCI leaders were caught in the Phoenix net. Instead its victims were typically innocent civilians. A Pentagon-contract study found that, between 1970 and 1971, ninety-seven per cent of the Vietcong targeted by the Phoenix Program were of negligible importance.  By 1973, Phoenix generated 300,000 political prisoners in South Vietnam. Military operations such as My Lai used Phoenix intelligence; in fact, the My Lai massacre, hardly an isolated incident, was itself a Phoenix operation. 
Apologists have offered rationales for Phoenix that sound eerily similar to those used to defend current drone attacks. Phoenix was typically referred to as a “scalpel” replacing the “bludgeon” of search and destroy, aerial bombardment or artillery barrages. Alternatively, it was called a precision “rifle shot rather than a shotgun approach to target key political leaders … and activists in VCI.”  Military historian Dale Andrade explains, “Both SEALS and PRUs killed many VCI guerrillas – that was war. They also inevitably killed innocent civilians – that was regrettable….but [Phoenix] operations were much more discerning than the massive affairs launched by conventional …forces. That fact was often lost in the rhetoric of assassination and murder …”
Phoenix was created, organized, and funded by the CIA. Quotas were set by Americans. Informers were paid with US funds. The national system of identifying suspects, the elaboration of numerical goals and their use as measures of merit, was designed and funded by Americans. One former US Phoenix soldier conceded, “It was “heinous,” far worse than the things attributed to it.” 
Kill Lists from Phoenix to Latin America
The US intelligence community formalized the lessons of the Phoenix Program in Vietnam by commissioning Project X, the Army’s top-secret program for transmitting Vietnam’s lessons to South America.  By the mid-1970s, the Project X materials were going to armies all over the world. These were textbooks for global counterinsurgency and terror warfare. These included a murder manual, “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare,” which openly instructed in the assassination of public officials, and was distributed to the Nicaraguan Contras. Another manual, “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual,” was used widely in Honduran counterrorism efforts.
Use of the Project X material was temporarily suspended by Congress and the Carter administration for probable human rights violations, but the program was restored by the Reagan administration in 1982. By the mid-1980s, according to one detailed history, “counterguerrilla operations in Colombia and Central America would thus bear an eerie but explicable resemblance to South Vietnam.” 
What follows is a brief sketch of the widespread application of US-promulgated Phoenix-derived reigns of terror, kill lists, and death squads throughout Latin America and beyond. Much of this is familiar territory to many activists and scholars, and is merely the tip of the iceberg, but it merits review as a backdrop for the current context of kill lists and targeted assassination. 
US KILL LISTS AND ASSASSINATION IN LATIN AMERICA
The U.S. Army’s School of Americas (SOA), started in 1946, trained mass murderers and orchestrated coups in Peru, Panama, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. The SOA trained more than 61,000 Latin American officers implicated in widespread slaughter of civilian populations across Latin America. From 1966-1976 the SOA trained hundreds of Latin American officers in Phoenix-derived methods. Between 1989-1991 the SOA issued almost 700 copies of Project X handbooks to at least ten Latin American countries, including Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Guatemala, and Honduras. In 2001, SOA was renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC), but peace activists know it as School of Assassins. 
The CIA trained assassination groups such as Halcones in Mexico, the Mano Blanca in Guatemala, and the Escuadron de la Muerte in Brazil. In South America, in 1970-79, Operation Condor, the code-name for collection, exchange and storage of intelligence, was established among intelligence services in South America to eradicate Marxist activities. Operation Condor promoted joint operations including assassination against targets in member countries. In Central America, the CIA-supported death toll under the Reagan presidency alone exceeded 150,000. The CIA set up Ansesal and other networks of terror in El Salvador, Guatemala (Ansegat) and pre-Sandinista Nicaragua (Ansenic).
Honduran death squads were active through the 1980s, the most infamous of which was Battalion 3–16, which assassinated hundreds of people, including teachers, politicians, and union leaders. Battalion 316 received substantial CIA support and training, and at least 19 members graduated from the School of the Americas.
In Colombia, about 20,000 people were killed since 1986 and much of U.S. aid for counternarcotics was diverted to what Amnesty International labeled “one of the worst killing fields.” The US State Department also supported the Colombian army in creating a database of subversives, terrorists and drug dealers.
In Bolivia, Amnesty International reported that from 1966-68 between 3,000 and 8,000 people were killed by death squads. The CIA supplied names of U.S. and other foreign missionaries and progressive priests.
In Ecuador, the CIA maintained what was called the lynx list, aka the subversive control watch list of the most important left-wing activists to arrest. In Uruguay. Every CIA station maintained a subversive control watch list of most important left wing activists. From 1970-72 the CIA helped set up the Department of Information and Intelligence (DII), which served as a cover for death squads, and also co-ordinated meetings between Brazilian and Uruguayan death squads.
In Nicaragua, the US provided illegal funds to the Contras, and Marine intelligence helped maintain a list of civilians marked for assassination when Contra forces entered the country.
In Chile, 1970-73, CIA-created unions organized CIA-financed strikes leading to Allende’s overthrow and subsequent suicide. By late 1971 the CIA was involved in the preparation of lists of nearly 20,000 middle-level leaders of people’s organizations, scheduled to be assassinated after the Pinochet coup.
In Haiti, U.S. officials with CIA backgrounds in Phoenix-like program activities coordinated with the Ton-Ton Macoute, “Baby Doc” Duvalier’s private death squad, responsible for killing at least 3,000 people.
For over thirty years the US military and the CIA helped organize, train, and fund death squad activity in El Salvador. From 1980-93, at least 63,000 Salvadoran civilians were killed, mostly by the government directly supported by the U.S. The CIA routinely supplied ANSESAL, the security forces, and the general staff with electronic, photographic, and personal surveillance of suspected dissidents and Salvadorans abroad who were later assassinated by death squads. US militray involvement in El Salvador allowed “the lessons learned in Vietnam to be put into practice … assisting an allied country in counterinsurgency operations.” 
In Guatemala, as early as 1954, the U.S. Ambassador, after the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of the Arbenz government, gave to the new Armas government lists of radical opponents to be assassinated. Years later, throughout Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, Washington continuously to supported the Guatemalan military’s excesses against civilians, which killed 200,000 people.
US Assassination Programs Exported to Other Countries
In Indonesia, 1965-66, the US embassy and the CIA provided the Indonesian military with lists of the names of PKI militants, which were used by Suharto to crush the PKI regime. This resulted in “one of the worst episodes of mass murder of the twentieth century,” with estimates as high as one million deaths. 
In Thailand, in 1976, the new junta used CIA-trained forces to crush student demonstrators during coup; two right-wing terrorist squads suspected for assassinations tied directly to CIA operations.
In Iran, the CIA launched a coup installing the shah in power and helped establish the lethal secret police unit SAVAK.  The CIA and SAVAK then exchanged intelligence, including information and arrest lists on the communist Tudeh party. Years later, in 1983, the CIA gave the Khomeni government a list of USSR KGB agents and collaborators operating in Iran, which the Khomeni regime used to execute 200 suspects and close down the communist Tudeh party.
In the Philippines, in 1986, Reagan increased CIA involvement in Philippine counterinsurgency operations, carried out by more than 50 death squads. In 2001, before 9/11, the Bush administration sent a unit of SOF to the Philippines “to help train Philippine counter terrorist forces fighting against Muslim separatists” within groups like Abu Sayyaf. After 9/11 US-Filipino cooperation was stepped up and the ongoing separatist conflict was cast, to the benefit of both sides, as “the second front in the war on terror.” In Feb, 2012, a US drone strike targeting leaders of Abu Sayyaf and other separatist groups killed 15 people, the first use of killer drones in Southeast Asia. 
A “global Phoenix Program”: drone targets worldwide
“A global Phoenix program … would provide a useful start point” for “a new strategic approach to the Global War on Terrorism.”
–David Kilcullen 
Despite the US-perpetrated counter terrorist slaughter in Latin America and elsewhere in the 1970s-1990s, the US Special Forces debacle in Mogadishu in 1993, popularized in the film Black Hawk Down, severely impacted US willingness to use Special Forces in counter terrorist missions for the next decade. But then, after 9/11, things changed drastically. On September 17, 2001, President Bush signed a secret Presidential finding authorizing the C.I.A. to create paramilitary teams to hunt, capture, detain, or kill designated terrorists almost anywhere in the world. The pressure from the White House, in particular from Vice-President Dick Cheney, was intense, and in the scramble, a search of the C.I.A.’s archives turned up – the Phoenix Program. 
In July , 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent an order for a plan to make sure that special forces could be authorized to use lethal force ‘in minutes and hours, not days and weeks.’”  Rumsfeld prompted Bush to authorize the military to “find and finish” terrorist targets. Here he was referring to “the F3EA targeting cycle” used in anti-infrastructure operations by Special Operations Forces. F3EA, an abbreviation of find, fix, finish, exploit, analyze, utilizes comprehensive intelligence to “find a target amidst civilian clutter and fix his exact location . . . . enabling surgical finish operations … to catch a fleeting target.” 
Lt General William (Jerry) Boykin, Delta commander in Mogadishu, deputy undersecretary for Defense for Intelligence and a key planner of the Special Forces offensive in Iraq, announced, “We’re going after these people. Killing or capturing them … doing what the Phoenix program was designed to do, without all the secrecy.” 
Back in 1963, the CIA had supplied lists of communists to the Baath party coup so that communists could be rounded up and eliminated.  Now, forty years later, it was the Baathists’ turn to be rounded up by Special Forces and CIA and executed. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. military notoriously developed a set of playing cards to help troops identify the most-wanted members of Saddam Hussein‘s government, mostly high-ranking Baath Party members. Less well-known was the secret targeted killing of thousands of Baathist civilians by US Special Forces.
Seymour Hersh wrote in 2003 that “The Bush Administration authorized a major escalation of the Special Forces covert war in Iraq. … Its highest priority [being] the neutralization of the Baathist insurgents, by capture or assassination.  A former C.I.A. station chief described the strategy: “The only way we can win is to go unconventional. We’re going to have to play their game. Guerrilla versus guerrilla. Terrorism versus terrorism. We’ve got to scare the Iraqis into submission.”  The US even hired thousands of contract killers previously responsible for US-sponsored extra-judicial killings and death squad activity in Latin America. The operation—called “preëmptive manhunting” by one Pentagon adviser—had, according to Hersh, “the potential to turn into another Phoenix Program.” 
In 2009, the Office of the Secretary of Defense sponsored a paper by the National Defense Research Institute entitled “The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency.” The paper notes, “The persistent insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan have generated fresh interest among military officers, policymakers, and civilian analysts in the history of counterinsurgency. The Phoenix Program in Vietnam—the U.S. effort to improve intelligence coordination and operations aimed at identifying and dismantling the communist underground—is the subject of much renewed attention.” 
The paper continues, “As the United States and its allies shift their focus to Afghanistan and weigh counterinsurgency alternatives for that country, decisionmakers would be wise to consider how Phoenix-style approaches might serve to pry open Taliban and Al-Qaeda black boxes.” 
Two key architects of the current Phoenix-style global counterinsurgency efforts by the US are David Kilcullen and Michael Vickers. David Kilcullen has been counterinsurgency advisor to two former Middle East commanders, General Stanley McChrystal (formerly head of Special Operations) and General David Petraeus, now CIA Director. Michael G. Vickers, made famous in the book and film Charlie Wilson’s War about the CIA’s anti-Soviet Afghan campaign of the 1980s, is currently Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, wielding such vast authority over the US war on terror that, according to a Washington Post profile, Pentagon colleagues refer to as his “take-over-the-world-plan.” 
Kilcullen wrote in a much-quoted 2004 paper entitled “Countering Global Insurgency” that “Counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have reawakened official and analytical interest in the Phoenix Program.” He proposed that “a global Phoenix program … would provide a useful start point” for “a new strategic approach to the Global War on Terrorism,” one which would focus on “interdicting links … between jihad theatres, denying sanctuary areas, … isolating Islamists from local populations and … disrupting inputs” from others. 
Vickers issued a Phoenix-style directive in December 2008 to “develop capabilities for extending U.S. reach into denied areas and uncertain environments by operating with and through indigenous foreign forces or by conducting low visibility operations.” “It’s not just the Middle East. It’s not just the developing world. It’s not just non-democratic countries – it’s a global problem. Threats can emanate from Denmark, the United Kingdom, you name it.”  According to a Washington Post profile, “the most critical aspect of Vicker’s plan targeting al-Qaeda-affiliated networks around the world involves US Special Forces working through foreign partners to uproot and fight terrorism.”  US military and Special Operations forces would “pay indigenous fighters and paramilitaries who work with them in gathering intelligence, hunting terrorists, fomenting guerrilla warfare or putting down an insurgency.” 
Pentagon colleagues have said of Vickers, “he tends to think like a gangster.”  Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell revealed that getting Bin Laden in Pakistan was Vicker’s “baby,” and “more than anyone else in the department, he drove the issue.”  2011 New York Times Vickers summarizes his strategy this: “You make a deal with the devil to defeat another devil.” “I just want to kill those guys.”  A 2011 Such is the megalomaniacal mission underlying the US global war on terror, its kill lists and worldwide program of targeted assassination.
Killer Drones Revisited
“Engaging in any assassination blurs the line between the good guys and the bad.” It is also “a proclamation of weakness and an admission of failure.”
–John Jacob Nutter, The CIA’s Black Ops 
The purpose of this article is to reframe the current attention on killer drones and Obama’s “kill list” within an historical perspective. The goal here is not to discourage the escalating protest against killer drones or against Obama’s targeted assassination program around the globe. As stated at the outset, the unprecedented visibility of these nefarious activities and of the outraged public response to them is precisely what is needed at this time. This heightened awareness also affords a perfect opportunity to revisit the extraordinary history of US assassination and targeted killing that has led directly and explicitly to these activities.
Focus on the drones alone will not be sufficient. For even the major counter terrorist mastermind David Kilcullen himself, an avid proponent of the global targeted killing program, has argued against the use of drones. In a 2009 New York Times editorial he argues that “The goal should be to isolate extremists from their communities; [they] must be defeated by indigenous forces…Drone strikes make this harder, not easier.” He adds, “The use of drones displays every characteristic of a tactic – or, more accurately, a piece of technology – substituting for a strategy, [with minimal understanding] of the tribal dynamics of the local population. This creates public outrage and a desire for revenge.” 
Scholar Maria Ryan, in a 2011 article entitled “War in Countries We Are Not at War With,” writes: “In 2006 the Pentagon announced that it had sent small teams of Special Operations troops to US embassies to gather intelligence on terrorism in Africa, South East Asia and South America…There is, then, a covert side to the Global War on Terrorism that is not visible and not currently knowable in the absence of whistleblowers, leaks, or things gone wrong.” 
The heightened public attention paid to drone killing might very well, in time, lead to some welcome success in curtailing their use. But too narrow a focus on the US deployment of Predator and Reaper drones might also distract us from other forms of Phoenix-derived targeted killing still being perpetrated globally – and covertly – by our Assassination Nation.
Doug Noble is an activist with Occupy Rochester NY and Rochester Against War.
1 Andrew Bacevich, “Uncle Sam, Global Gangster” Feb 19, 2012 www.tomdispatch.com/dialogs/print/?id=175505
2 Eric Holder, speech at Northwestern University March 1, 2012
3 John Brennan, speech at Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars, May 1, 2012
4 Jo Becker and Scott Shane New York Times 5/29/12 “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will”
5 Chris Woods, interview with Democracy Now! June 5, 2012 democracynow.org
6 Michael Gerson, “America’s Remote-controlled War on Terror,” The Washington Post May 3, 2012
7 Becker and Shane, Secret Kill List”
9 John Jacob Nutter,The CIA’s Black Ops, Prometheus Books 2000, p152
10 Nutter,The CIA’s Black Ops, p.145
11 John Prados, Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby, Oxford University Press, 2003, p235ff
12 Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program. William Morrow & Co., 1990, p313
13 Valentine, p 315
14 Prados, p 224
15 Valentine, p309
16 Valentine, p13
17 Prados, p 235
18 Jane Mayer, The Black Sites: A Rare look inside the CIA’s Secret Interrogation Program,” The New Yorker August 13, 2007
19 Valentine, p13ff
20 Valentine, p346
21 Dale Andrade, Ashes to Ashes: The Phoenix Program and the Vietnam War. Lexington Books, 1990, p.175
22 Valentine, p 310
23 Alfred W. McCoy, A Question of Torture Metropolitan Books, 2006, p 86
24 McCoy, p 71
25 Unless otherwise noted, the following information comes from the comprehensive “CIA Death Squad Timeline” by Ralph McGehee, http://www.totse.com/en/politics/central_intelligence_agency/166983.html
26 Mary Turck, “School of Assassins,” Common Dreams Nov 18, 2003
27 Michael Smith, Killer Elite, St Martin’s Press, 2006, p 49
28 Prados, p 155-157
29 McCoy 74
30 Maria Ryan, “’War in Countries We Are Not at War With’: The War on Terror on the Periphery from Bush to Obama” International Politics, v.48 (2011)
31 Deadly Drone Strike on Muslims in the Southern Philippines March 5, 2012 www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2012/03/05-drones-philippines-ahmed
32 David Kilcullen, “Countering Global Insurgency” Journal of Strategic Studies, 2004
33 Mayer, “Black Sites”
34 Smith, p230-232
35 William Rosenau & Austin Long, “The Phoenix Program and Contemporary Counterinsurgency,” National Defense Research Institute, RAND Corp, 2009
36 Smith, p 273
37 McGehee, “CIA Death Squad Timeline”
38 Seymour Hersh, “Moving Targets: Will the counter-insurgency plan in Iraq repeat the mistakes of Vietnam?” The New Yorker Dec. 15, 2003
39 Hersh, “Moving Targets”
40 Hersh, “Moving Targets”
41 Rosenau and Long
42 Rosenau and Long
43 Profile of Michael G. Vickers, Washington Post www.washingtonpost.com/politics/michael-g-vickers/gIQAm3DRAP_topic.html
44 Kilcullen, 2004
45 Ann Scott Tyson, “Sorry Charlie, This is Michael Vickers’s War,” Washington Post
Dec 28, 2007
46 Profile of Michael G. Vickers
47 Tyson, 2007
48 Elisabeth Bumiller, “Soldier, Thinker, Hunter, Spy: Drawing a Bead on Al Qaeda” New York Times, Sept 4, 2011
52 Nutter, p 149
53 David Kilcullen and Andrew McDonald Exum “Death from Above, Outrage Down Below.” New York Times May 17, 2009
54 Ryan, 2011
- Obama’s Killer Drones (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Families of U.S. Victims of Drone Attacks Sue Top Officials (ipsnews.net)
- “Interrogation Has Been Replaced by Assassination” (reason.com)
CNN’s national security expert Peter Bergen speaking at a recent event (Miller Center/ Flickr)
Following recent revelations by the New York Times that all military-aged males in Waziristan are considered fair game by the CIA in its drone strikes, many US journalists have been reassessing how they report on deaths in the attacks.
So when CNN’s national security analyst Peter Bergen produced a graph claiming that no civilians have been killed in Pakistan this year by US drones, his views were bound to attract criticism. Conor Friedersdorf, a columnist at The Atlantic, accused CNN and Bergen of running ‘bogus data‘, for example.
Bergen is also a director of the New America Foundation, which for more than three years has run a database on CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and produces estimates of numbers killed. That data is the most frequent source of statistics for the US media, including CNN itself. So the accuracy of its material is important.
Yet there are credible reports of civilian deaths in Pakistan this year. And unlike the New America Foundation the Bureau actively tracks those claims.
Up to July 16 for example, between three and 27 civilians have been reported killed in Pakistan this year, out of 148 – 220 deaths. Some were actively defined as civilians by news organisations including Reuters and AFP. But these are not necessarily the only civilian deaths. Ambivalent reports might sometimes refer only to ‘people’ or ‘local tribesmen’ killed. More research is needed. And of the remaining alleged militants killed, we have so far been able to name just 13 individuals.
Bergen’s claim of zero reported civilian casualties this year is therefore factually inaccurate.
To be so categoric is also problematic. The Bureau’s own data shows that of at least 2,500 people killed by the CIA in Pakistan since 2004, we publicly only know the identities of around 500. Most of the others were reported to be alleged militants by local and international media. We can say no more than that.
It is not just in NAF’s 2012 data that credible reports of civilian deaths have been missed or ignored. NAF’s Pakistan data also contains many other inaccuracies. A number of confirmed strikes are omitted, for instance, and its overall estimates of those killed are significantly below even the CIA’s own count. The consequence is a skewed picture of drone activity which continues to inform many opinion-makers.
On July 13 Peter Bergen responded to his recent critics in a CNN article which stated that reported civilian casualties in Pakistan are in decline – as the Bureau itself recently noted. He also repeated his claim of no civilian casualties in Pakistan this year. And he attacked the Bureau for its own recording work in this area:
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s high estimate of 24 civilian deaths in 2012 came in part from reports provided by an unreliable Pakistani news outlet as well as the claims of a local Taliban commander, which contradicted all other reports.
It’s worth unpicking Bergen’s claims in some detail.
His comments appear to refer to a CIA drone strike on February 9 in which local Taliban commander Badar Mansoor died. Citing just four sources, NAF’s data reports only that three to five ‘militants’, including Mansoor, died in the attack.
But this is a misrepresentation which ignores credible claims of civilian casualties, as the Bureau’s own Pakistan database makes clear.
Among 18 unique sources we cite, the Bureau links to a story by Reuters, the international news agency. Reuters notes a Taliban commander’s claims that Mansoor’s wife and child died in the February 9 attack. Local paper The News also reported that Mansoor’s wife and children were either injured or killed; and a Bureau field researcher reported anecdotal claims from the town that some of the leader’s family had died.
As the Bureau notes, these overt claims of civilian deaths on February 9 remain contested. We state that between zero and two civilians reportedly died in the strike. It is not clear either way. What cannot be stated is that no civilians died.
Bergen’s reference to an ‘unreliable Pakistani news outlet’ is also confusing. Dawn, The Nation and The News are all reputable Pakistani dailies, cited on occasion by CNN and NAF themselves. And Central Asia Online states clearly that ‘a woman and a girl child were injured’ in the strike, not killed.
In fact Bergen’s comments undermine further the credibility of the NAF data he constantly cites. A partial list of media reports has not been updated since the day of the attack – despite a number of salient facts since emerging. And as Bergen notes in his CNN article, the Reuters report of civilian deaths is rejected as a NAF source on the (inaccurate) grounds that it involved ‘the claims of a local Taliban commander, which contradicted all other reports.’
In their CNN article Bergen and co-reporter Jennifer Rowland make no mention of a second strike in which civilians were also reported killed in Pakistan this year. According to credible media, along with a number of alleged militants between three and eight worshipers died when a mosque was struck (possibly accidentally) on May 24.
That claim is independently supported by Britain’s Channel 4 News; by Pakistan’s The News (generally the most accurate local source for information on casualties); and by French news agency AFP. The Bureau cites 17 unique sources overall in its coverage, noting reports of damage to the mosque and of civilian casualties.
Bergen’s New America Foundation, relying on just four sources, says only that 10 ‘militants’ were killed in a ‘compound.’
NAF’s claims of ‘zero civilians killed’ by the CIA in Pakistan in 2012 is reached by the simple expedient of not including in its data any of the credible reports of civilian deaths.
Full of errors
When the Bureau began looking in earnest at US drone strikes in summer 2010, we started to work with NAF’s data, and that of the Long War Journal. At that time we had no interest in the time-consuming (and expensive) effort of compiling and maintaining accurate data on covert US strikes.
But the more we worked with NAF’s material, the more troubled we became. In February 2011 for example, the Bureau wrote to NAF noting a number of errors.
We pointed out a strike that it had missed entirely (November 5 2005). The Bureau also drew NAF’s attention to a number of date errors. The Foundation claimed a strike had taken place on May 14 2005, for example. In fact that attack took place on May 8th.
Bergen personally acknowledged the email, saying ‘thanks for drawing attention to these.’ Yet almost 18 months on, those errors – easily verifiable – remain uncorrected.
Our concerns about the data – particularly on the question of civilian deaths – ultimately compelled us to start from scratch, re-examining every US drone strike in Pakistan to try and understand what had really been going on.
We now know, for example, that eight years in to the CIA’s bombing campaign in Pakistan, NAF still lists the wrong date (June 18 2004) for the very first strike. Citing just one source, NAF also makes no reference to the civilians killed that day, including two children.
That first attack actually took place on Thursday June 17 as CNN and many other sources correctly noted at the time. Militant commander Nek Mohammed died along with up to eight others. These included, it was widely reported, the two young sons of Sher Zaman Ashrafkhel.
On another occasion in October 2006, an attack on a seminary killed at least 81 people. New America Foundation does not count these ‘militants’ in its data, reporting that the attack was
Allegedly conducted by Pakistani military, but may have been conducted by US forces. Noted here for the record but not included in above fatality totals.’
Claims that the Pakistan military carried out this attack were long ago dismissed. A senior aide to Pakistan’s then-leader Pervez Musharraf told the Sunday Times within weeks that ‘we thought it would be less damaging if we said we did it rather than the US.’ Last August former ISI director General Asad Durrani confirmed in an interview that the CIA carried out the strike. And just weeks ago General Musharraf himself pointedly refused to deny US involvement.
There are also reports that up to 69 children died in the October 2006 attack. While some contest this claim, local media has listed the full names, ages, family details and home villages of every child reported killed.
Bergen and New America Foundation continue to make no reference to any of these salient facts. Nor do they count these 81 deaths in their figures.
‘Civilian deaths not new’
The New America Foundation regularly publishes definitive numbers on the overall civilian death tolls in Pakistan.
On March 27 for example, Bergen and co-worker Jennifer Rowland claimed that ‘according to our data, 7% of the fatalities resulting from drone strikes [in Pakistan] in 2011 were civilians.’ The duo lowered that estimate on June 10, now claiming that civilian deaths in Pakistan ‘averaged 5.5% in 2011.’
The Bureau has been unable to replicate either of NAF’s recent statistical claims from the Foundation’s published data.
In contrast, our own data shows that between 465 and 659 people died overall in 2011. Of these between 75 and 127 were reportedly civilians. Since we cannot know where, within these ranges, accurate figures lie, the best that can be said is that reported civilian deaths account for between 11% and 27% of all of those killed by the CIA in Pakistan last year.
In July 2011 the Bureau issued a major report based on its first field investigation in Pakistan. This directly challenged US claims that it wasn’t killing civilians in the tribal areas, presenting the CIA with the details of 45 civilians killed in the specified period and raising significant concerns about a further 66 deaths.
Initially the Bureau’s report received little coverage in the US, not only by the mainstream US media but also by the influential AfPak Channel, which is edited by Bergen and Rowland. When we challenged this omission, New America Foundation senior advisor Patrick Doherty shed some light in a July 19 email on why our study had been ignored:
One reason is that the tallies on civilian deaths in PAK is not particularly new. We’ve been monitoring drone strikes for a few years and tracking civilian and militant deaths. The mainstream media has been reporting on our numbers, quite thoroughly, in fact. The gotcha on John Brennan, as a result, kind of rings hollow.
In fact no US media organisation had challenged US intelligence community assertions that civilians were no longer being killed by the CIA in Pakistan. Those extraordinary claims went uncontested for six months, when the Bureau published its investigation.
Perhaps the greatest issue with New America Foundation’s data is its incomplete, snapshot nature.
Public understanding of US covert drone strikes changes all the time. That’s why the Bureau’s eight databases change constantly, incorporating the latest understanding of each attack – and seeking information from as wide a pool of credible sources as possible.
Last year, for example, we learned that a 2009 attack in Pakistan which had initially been reported as killing alleged militants, women and children appeared to have been a strike on a child suicide bomber training camp, run by the Taliban. More recently, we incorporated evidence from sworn affidavits filed in the London High Court, relating to the deaths of many civilians in March 2011.
In contrast NAF’s data represents at best a partial snapshot of an attack, often based on just a few media reports on the day. No effort appears to be made to update, amend or correct its data.
In his most recent article for CNN looking at civilian deaths in Pakistan, Bergen cites a major Associated Press investigation into drone strike casualties published in February of this year. As the Bureau reported at the time, that investigation, based on 80 witness statements, uncovered previously unknown evidence of civilian deaths in a number of strikes. We amended our data records accordingly, to reflect these findings.
NAF has yet to change any of its records – despite Bergen citing AP’s study in his own defence. So while AP reports that seven civilians died alongside seven Taliban on August 14 2010, NAF continues to state only that ’7-13 militants were killed.’
The cumulative effect of all these omissions and errors is that NAF’s data substantially under-estimates both the overall numbers of those killed, and the reports of civilians who have died in Pakistan strikes.
In August 2010, in response to the Bureau publishing its Pakistan data, the US government issued its first overall estimate of the numbers killed in CIA drone strikes since 2001, stating that approximately 2,050 had died – all but fifty of them combatants.
Eleven months on, and 47 strikes later, a minimum of 262 further deaths have occurred in Pakistan. Yet the New America Foundation still gives a low estimate of 1,870 killed. That indicates that its estimates are some 400 below the CIA’s own numbers.
The New America Foundation has undoubtedly done valuable work in recent years in bringing to the attention of the US public the scale of America’s covert wars. Its data represents a useful snapshot of most strikes, a helpful base upon which further research can be built.
But NAF cannot claim that its data represents an accurate record of what we publicly know about US drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. And without radically overhauling its methodology, Bergen and NAF cannot credibly continue to offer up such precise estimates of ‘civilian deaths’ in Pakistan.
Follow @chrisjwoods on Twitter.
With the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2012 drawing near, the colossal security apparatus surrounding the Summer Games has come into focus.
For starters, things got messy in London last week when G4S, the private firm that won the contract to provide security for the games, admitted it wouldn’t be able to deliver the promised number of security guards. To make up for the shortfall, the UK government plans to deploy an additional 3,500 soldiers.
Meanwhile, private guards are only half the equation when it comes to safeguarding the world’s most prominent sporting event. Preparations for the Summer Olympic Games amount to Britian’s largest-ever peacetime security operation, replete with warships, ground troops, and security cameras. “Special drones” will even cruise overhead to conduct crowd surveillance, an unnamed salesman at an Israeli company told the Associated Press. All of this is unfolding in a city already famous for its ubiquitous detection equipment, at a time when a bid for increased governmental surveillance powers has privacy advocates up in arms.
Meanwhile, this latest Olympics security production seems to follow a long-term trend that so far has gone largely unexamined. In the past, the Olympic Games have generated millions of dollars in security spending, only to leave the host cities with upgraded surveillance infrastructure in place long after the athletes have departed. In this article EFF’s international privacy team examines this trend of how intensified surveillance of public space can become a lasting legacy for cities that play host to the world’s largest sporting event.
In a few short months, London will take centre stage when it hosts the 2012 Summer Olympics – and while international broadcasting networks aim their lenses at world-class athletes, a proliferation of surveillance technologies and security cameras will track the movements of spectators and residents. With security costs approaching £1 billion (US$1.6 billion), considerably higher than originally estimated, this year’s Olympic Games is on track to be one of the most heavily surveilled in the Games’s history.
With surveillance and security around the Olympics intensifying from country to country, purportedly to prevent terrorism and serious crimes, activists are increasingly concerned about a growing trend: once the Games are finished, authorities rarely cut back on public surveillance. And with the pricey new infrastructure installed for good, individuals’ rights to personal privacy are at risk of being permanently diminished.
London already bears distinction among privacy watchdogs as being one of the most closely surveilled cities in the world, yet routine security practices pale in comparison with the exhaustive measures to be imposed during the 2012 Summer Olympics. Surveillance and security measures were recently described in the UK’s Independent newspaper as the ‘biggest operation since the Second World War’ to be undertaken by UK intelligence agency MI5. Plans call for the installation of a new monitoring and intelligence gathering system, plus the mobilisation of nearly all of MI5’s 3,800 agents. While details of the intelligence-gathering programme remain classified, it appears to be intended for long-term use.
As London beefs up its security infrastructure, meanwhile, Brazil has already begun mapping out a security strategy in anticipation of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The situation there is shaping up to be another cause for concern, particularly because the government seems eager to follow London’s lead – and Rio is also one of the most surveilled cities in democratic countries around the world. According to Agence France Presse (AFP) reporter Javier Tovar, Brazilian security agencies plan to use surveillance drones, tough border controls and IP-based surveillance systems during the 2016 Olympics.
Brazil will also host the World Cup in 2014, run by the international governing body for football, FIFA. For both competitions, most of the events will take place in poor urban suburbs of Brazilian cities, where the homicide rate is among the highest in South America. Because of rising crime rates, the announcement that Brazil will host these high-profile sporting events led to a spike in Brazil’s video surveillance market, according to market analyst firm 6Wresearch. The surveillance measures are largely going unchallenged – there seems to be little public debate or attention focused on these issues or the privacy implications they present.
Brazil’s video surveillance market generated US$124.96 million in 2011 and is expected to reach $362.69 million by 2016, research analysts predicted, with a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 24 per cent from 2011 to 2016. 6Wresearch expects ‘a shift towards more secured IP-based surveillance systems’ since advantages include ‘low cost, video analytics, remote accessibility and [are] easy to integrate with wireless networks’.
No sooner had Rio been selected for the 2016 Olympic Games than the US government sought to strike a partnership with the Brazilian government on security and information-sharing strategies, according to secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. In December 2009, the US embassy in Brazil sent a cable to the US government entitled, ‘The future is now’. The message encouraged the US to use the Olympic Games to justify the expansion of its influence over Brazil’s critical infrastructure development and cyber security measures. By highlighting concerns about the possibility of power outages or breakdowns in infrastructure, particularly in the months leading up to the Games, the US government could justify a bid for increased co-operation with Brazil on counterterrorism activities. There were ‘opportunities for engagement on infrastructure development’ and ‘possibly cyber security’, the cable stated. In a second cable, sent on 24 December 2009, the embassy again emphasised its interest in broadening US objectives in Brazil. ‘Taking advantage of the Games to work security issues should be a priority, as should co-operation on cybercrime and broader information security,’ it read.
In the lengthy diplomatic exchanges between the US embassy in Brazil and the US government, the absence of any reference to the very serious privacy, civil liberties and public accountability implications of widespread surveillance technologies stood out as a glaring omission. The same could be said for current public discourse in Brazil. So far, there has not been any significant criticism of the security and surveillance measures being introduced – in marked contrast to the UK, where privacy campaigners have been active.
Brazil’s safeguards for privacy in the face of such pressure aren’t especially promising. There is a need for an impact assessment to evaluate whether cameras installed to help combat crime in Rio are actually needed and to ensure that these intrusive measures do not become an Olympic Games legacy, especially if there are less intrusive methods of combatting serious crimes. There is no legislation pertaining to the privacy of personal information in Brazil, but a draft bill that, if introduced, would protect the collection, use and disclosure of this information is under consideration. It remains to be seen whether the bill will bypass privacy protections by allowing exemptions – namely, databases created for the sole purposes of public security, national security or law enforcement activities.
It’s too early to say exactly what security and privacy protocols Brazil will keep once the 2016 Summer Olympic Games end, or to what extent the Brazilian government will agree to go along with an agenda carved out by the US. But if history is any guide, there is reason to believe that a surveillance regime ushered in by the Olympics will continue to pose threats to individual privacy well into the future. Privacy advocates, having assessed the range of measures implemented in connection with previous Olympic Games, warn of a ‘climate of fear and surveillance’ that could have a detrimental effect on ‘democracy, transparency, and international and national human rights law’.
But the proliferation of surveillance technology around the Olympics is hardly new. Greece’s contract with technology company SAIC called for the creation and support of a C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) system to ‘allow Greek authorities to collect, analyse, and disseminate information’ by leveraging SAIC’s expertise in telecommunications, wireless communications and video surveillance. The technology blends the use of data-mining, data-matching, and profiling capabilities. Those researching this area have referred to the adoption of such security measures as an emergence of a ‘super-panopticon’ and a ‘marriage of camera, computers and databases’.
One report revealed that Greek law enforcement and intelligence agencies installed more than 1,000 surveillance cameras in Athens in advance of the 2004 Summer Olympics – and then continued to make use of them for policing purposes long after athletes and spectators had packed up and left. While the stated purpose for the continued use of the cameras in Greece was to monitor high-traffic roadways, the report found that they were actually employed to monitor public spaces – including during political demonstrations. This revelation triggered heated exchanges between law enforcement officials and the Greek Data Protection Authority, leading to the resignation of the authority’s head, Dimitris Gourgourakis, and his deputies. At the time, Gourgourakis stated that police use of surveillance cameras ‘directly breached’ privacy regulations. In 2007, the country’s data protection law was amended to exempt surveillance cameras from its privacy provisions.
The use of surveillance cameras in Athens barely registers in comparison with the all-out monitoring campaign Chinese authorities implemented in 2008, when the Olympic Games were held in Beijing. Chinese authorities installed a whopping 200,000 cameras and employed other surveillance measures in an effort to make Beijing secure. And, in a move that drew widespread condemnation, the Chinese government ordered foreign-owned hotels to install internet monitoring equipment to spy on hotel guests.
When it was announced that Vancouver had won the bid for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Canadian civil society organisations feared a repeat of the privacy-invading security measures adopted by Greece and China. Privacy advocates called for the government to remain open and transparent about the necessary security and surveillance practices that were planned; they called for a full, independent public assessment of these measures after the Games and sought to prevent ‘a permanent legacy of increased video surveillance’ and other security measures. ‘It is already clear that the event allowed for new surveillance technologies to gain a foothold in Vancouver that would never otherwise have been accepted,’ noted Tamir Israel of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.
The message appeared to get through. In the run up to the Games, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, in conjunction with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, issued recommendations to prevent security measures from unduly infringing on individual’s rights. ‘The duty of governments to provide for the security of citizens must, in democratic societies, be tempered by the values that underpin our way of life,’ said Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada. ‘The right to privacy must be upheld, even during mega-events like the Olympic games, where the threat to security is higher than usual. ’ At this critical juncture, the agencies seeking to implement security measures in London and Rio would do well to heed her words.
Violations of individuals’ privacy can range from the loss of anonymity in public places to the inability to communicate and associate freely with others. The capabilities of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) have risen dramatically, and due to the technology’s relative affordability, street cameras are now everywhere. Technological advances make it possible for CCTV to perform surveillance tasks similar to electronic wiretapping, intelligence sharing and identification systems that link images not stored on databases with images that have actually been archived. Given the prevalence of this technology and how easy it’s become to identify one unnamed face amidst thousands, individuals who care about anonymity will have a very difficult time protecting their identity in the imminent future.
While it’s important to take security precautions prior to the Olympics, these actions should not result in the implementation of public surveillance without regard for personal privacy. It’s crucial that the public scrutinise the security and privacy measures the Brazilian government is considering. There must be an informed and open debate about privacy and security.
Most importantly, the public has a right to know whether enhanced security measures will be reversed after the games. The true spirit of the Olympics as an opportunity for cultural exchange ought to be preserved. Using the Games as an excuse for trampling civil liberties violates this spirit.
French journalist Gilles Jacquier, who lost his life in central Syria earlier this year, was killed by the Syrian opposition’s mortar fire, a report says.
“This investigation was carried out by French intelligence and based on a ballistic study carried out in the area. According to my contact, the mortar fire came from the Sunni rebel zone,” wrote Georges Malbrunot, a member of the editorial board of Le Figero, in the French newspaper.
This is while Western reports have put the blame on Damascus, saying Jacquier was killed by a Syrian army shell.
On January 11, Jacquier, 43, was killed in the central Syrian city of Homs.
The Western journalists were on a government-authorized trip to the city at the time of the attack.
Gilles Jacquier, working for France 2 TV, was the first Western reporter to die since the beginning of the unrest in Syria in mid-March 2011. He had covered conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo.
The Syrian government had previously blamed armed groups for the attack.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security forces, have been killed in the turmoil.
While the West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of killing protesters, Damascus blames ”outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups” for the unrest, insisting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.
- Opposition offensive on Damascus a lie – Syrian gov’t (english.ruvr.ru)
- French Foreign Minister Accused of Falsifying Reports on Syria “To Provoke a War” (theuglytruth.wordpress.com)
[revised from an earlier version in 2009]
Today, there is no excuse for not knowing the truth about Palestine. Even taking the disinformation spread in mainstream media, there are enough glimpses one gets of an oppressed people in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem that should compel us to ask questions. This has been considerably aided by the internet. Where once Israel could manipulate the media narrative, now millions can see videos and read witness accounts of Israel’s occupation in all its terrifying ugliness. Global initiatives, like the daring Free Gaza flotillas, force the mainstream media to report this news, however fleetingly. Consequently, people want to see for themselves what is happening in Palestine and come back with stories that have shaken them to the very core of their being.
Stories of endless queues of people at checkpoints waiting for permission from armed soldiers who decide if they should pass; devastated families making sense of the rubble that was once their homes as Israeli bulldozers move on to the next calculated demolition; heartbroken farmers grieving over their centuries-old uprooted olive trees and scorched earth orchards; already traumatised children wondering if the next missile or bomb will this time wipe out their families or friends; terrified citizens waiting for the sound of army squads coming to arrest who knows who in the early hours of the morning; and the shadow of that rapacious Wall darkening the landscape even as it closes off the world to the Palestinians it imprisons.
And these are only the obvious signs of Israel’s apartheid plans as it moves to cement an exclusively Jewish state in a land that is home to almost an equal number of Palestinians and millions more in exile waiting to return home.
The alarm bells should be ringing when this information filters through, and yet there is a wall of silence while our political leaders declare undying fealty to Israel or cavalierly wear it as a badge of honour or indulge in junkets to Israel. And those bells should be all the more alarming, when documented reports of Israel’s war crimes by human rights groups and official enquiries are virulently attacked and then ignored.
But the world lacks courage. People are terrified of being labelled anti-Semitic. Even Palestinians, who are themselves Semites, are often afraid of being further shunned and disadvantaged in countries that give them refuge. Not only do people fear repercussions, but speaking the truth or even just hearing it has a way of taking people out of their comfort zones. They fear their troubled consciences may require them to act and so they bury their heads deeper into the sand where they hope even the sounds of silence might be extinguished.
This then is the challenge for advocates the world over. How does one talk Palestine to power if one cannot even talk Palestine to the people who are in fear of the powerful?
In the face of Zionist saturation media and the new “Brand Israel” campaigns, many people wanting to advocate for Palestine might feel defeated, but time and again we see that the individual talking truth to power can be enormously effective.
The now deceased scholar and public intellectual Edward Said, showed more than anyone else that individuals can make a difference in the public defence of Palestine. He particularly saw the intellectual’s voice as having “resonance”. In fact, it is so powerful that intellectuals have been subjected to all kinds of vicious campaigns against their persons and positions for speaking up for Palestine, just as Said was himself.
Of course, one does not need to be an intellectual. Said’s words can just as aptly apply to any one of us. He said avoidance was “reprehensible” and described it as,
“that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take. You do not want to appear too political; you are afraid of seeming too controversial; you need the approval of a boss or an authority figure; you want to keep a reputation for being balanced, objective, moderate; your hope is . . . to remain within the responsible mainstream . . .”
As an intellectual, Said had his academic record, his professional standing, his research and his publications to give weight to his pronouncements, but it took no less courage than it would for anyone else to challenge the accepted paradigm. The challenge arises out of knowing the truth; the courage arises out of a commitment to principle in the face of collective condemnation. This is just as true against the Zionist barrage of lies as it is against convenient explanations mounted by those who accommodate the powers that be for their own ends.
In 1993 when almost everyone else thought the handshakes on the White House steps would seal the negotiated Oslo Accords and at long last give the Palestinians their freedom and bring peace to the region, Edward Said saw that these accords would merely provide the cover for Israel to pursue its colonial expansionism and consolidate its occupation of Palestine. However, he knew to criticise Oslo meant in effect taking a position against ‘hope’ and ‘peace’. His decision to do so also flew in the face of the Palestinian revolutionary leadership that had bartered for statehood.
Although Said was denounced for his views, he was not prepared to buy into the deception that he knew would leave the Palestinians with neither hope nor peace. And just as he predicted, each fruitless year of peacemaking finally exposed the horrible reality of Oslo as Palestinians found themselves the victims of Israel’s matrix of control, a term used to describe the situation by the Israeli activist Dr Jeff Halper in 1999. And this domination of one people over another without any intention of addressing the injustices of the Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homeland, has undeniably reduced Israel to an Apartheid state.
The Palestinians have nothing left worth calling a state and they are facing an existential threat on all fronts. Yet, intellectuals are still talking about a two state solution in lock step with the politicians, a mantra that is repeated uncritically, even mendaciously, in the mainstream media. Media pundits argue that it is Israel facing an existential threat, but it is becoming evident every day, that against Israel, which is armed to the teeth with nuclear and conventional weaponry, the Palestinians do not stand a chance. They have never had an army and have no acceptable means to fight off their own ongoing dispossession and occupation of their homeland. It is no wonder the two state solution became the panacea to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.
This pandering to an idea for twenty long years has been undermined by the furious sounds of drills and hammers reverberating in illegal settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the catastrophic societal ruptures engineered in Gaza. Now those sounds are muffled by the rhetoric of “economic peace”, “institution-building”, “democracy”, “internal security” and “statehood”. These words must be challenged at every opportunity, for they are not only words, but dangerous concepts when isolated from truth on the ground.
It is no use talking about “economic peace” if you fail to understand that industrial estates built for Palestinian workers are intended to provide Israel with slave labour and cheap goods. It is useless to support “institution-building” when Israel continues to undermine and obstruct those programs already struggling to service Palestinian society. It is a lie to speak of “democracy” when fair elections in 2006 had Israel and the world denying Hamas the right to govern. It is a charade to accept “internal security” when arming and training Palestinians to police their own people covers for Israel’s and America’s divide and conquer scheme. It is hollow to speak of “statehood” when Israel keeps stealing land and building illegal settlements that deprive the Palestinians of their homes and livelihoods while herding them into isolated and walled-in ghettoes.
Regrettably, Edward Said was proved right.
Now, it is our turn to speak the truth and act fearlessly, regardless of the censure we are likely to encounter. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer is believed to have said that truth passes through three stages: “first, it is ridiculed; second, it is violently opposed; third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” Today, we are at the third stage: the 11 million Palestinians, whether living under occupation, as second-class citizens in Israel, as stateless refugees or others in the Diaspora, are the living truth. That is Israel’s Achilles’ heel and Israel knows it.
The Palestinians are no longer the humble shepherds and farmers that Zionist forces terrorised into fleeing to make way for the Jewish state of Israel. A new generation wants justice and it is demanding it eloquently, non-violently and strategically. Their message: no normal relations with Israel while it oppresses Palestinians, denies their rights and violates international law. And boycotts, divestment and sanctions are the legitimate tools for challenging a state that claims exceptionalism and which perpetrates extreme and criminal actions to ensure that status.
People, of course, are always tempted to opt for the path of least resistance, especially when they simply cannot empathise with those who have been so successfully misrepresented and demonised by the Western media. However, the world is changing, and slowly people are realising that they too are vulnerable as Western societies begin to crumble under the weight of government power, which is burgeoning out of control without any checks or balances. Universal human rights and principles of international humanitarian law that once were the mainstay of our democracies have been cast aside in the stampede to fight the “war on terror” and few have been brave enough to challenge the current system.
It is indeed possible for all of us to “squeeze out of reality some of its potentialities”, the stuff that University of Melbourne Professor Ghassan Hage says is found in those utopic moments that come from challenging our own thoughts, fears and biases. In that space lies the untapped power we seek to speak the truth without fear or favour. In that space lies the potential for political change. In that space, there will always be those who resist and speak Palestine to power.
 Edward Said, Representations of the Intellectual. London: Vintage, 1994, p74
 Jeff Halper, “The 94 Percent Solution: The Matrix of Control”, Fall 2000, Middle East Report 216
 Ghassan Hage, “The Real, the Potential and the Political”, an essay presented at the 2004 Res Artis Conference, Sydney, 10-16 August 2004
- US threatens to cut all aid to Palestinian Authority (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- What Really Lies behind Israel’s ‘No Occupation’ Report (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli school books write out Palestinian, Arab story (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- ‘Israel occupying Palestine is against Christianity’ (thehindu.com)
- The Palestinians Must Just Be (alethonews.wordpress.com)
JERUSALEM – Professor of language and education at Hebrew University Nurit Peled-ElHanan recently released a book analyzing the portrayal of Palestinians in 16 history, civics and geography textbooks authorized by the Israeli Ministry of Education.
‘Palestine in Israeli School Books’ argues that the textbooks legitimate Israeli military policy in the eyes of young students, and prepare them for military service upon graduation.
Ma’an spoke to Peled-ElHanan about the ideas behind her latest book.
You write that Palestinians are often portrayed as anonymous, primitive, so-called “third-world” farmers — do you think this imagery functions as a kind of “imperialist nostalgia,” as Renato Rosaldo calls it, a “mourning for what one has destroyed”?
This colonialist idea of the romantic Orient was there in the past, when the Israelis wanted to be “indigenized,” but today I don’t think that is true anymore.
In the textbooks I studied, the Palestinians and Arabs are presented as a problem. It is like Ehud Barak said, “We are a villa in a desert,” so the Palestinians are the desert. They look down on the desert. The desert is an underdeveloped, backward, political mass.
You also see the “Oxfam image” of the Palestinian farmer. These caricatures of the Palestinians do not have any Arab characteristics; they are primarily “non-Jews,” problems or obstacles to progress.
The Palestinian farmer is not presented with a kuffiyeh or anything specifically Arab, just oversized, ratty clothes that evoke imagery of a poor laborer that could be from anywhere. This is a different perspective. There is no more glorification of the kuffiyeh here, or of anything specifically Arab.
In the book, you discuss how Israelis are now presented as “Jews and others,” mainly referring to non-Jewish Russian immigrants. Why do you think Russians have been incorporated like this?
Because they are white, and they are Europeans. This is the complex. For Zionism, if you are white and blonde then you can come here. The Russians are going to help to purify the race. But when you look at the books and you see pictures or drawings, you do not see black Jews.
When you speak about integration of new immigrants, you speak about “Sasha” the Russian girl who was integrated really well. You don’t see the Ethiopians. They are, after the Arabs, the ones who are excluded completely.
If they are going to be mentioned, it is as percentages, as problems to be solved, like the Arabs. They are not going to be solved by being eliminated, because they are important for demography. The way to solve their problem is to ignore them completely.
Do you think Jewish identity has become more racialized than it was in the past?
Of course. I mean, it came with Zionism — they had not conceived of black Jews when they started. But many of the early Zionists came from Eastern Europe, and they were called the “Ost Judden.” They were the “Eastern Jews” and they were inferior to the “Western Jews,” from Western Europe.
So they westernized themselves when they came, toward the other Jews. The funny thing is, those early Zionists said they perpetuated a western culture, but they had never met a western culture until they came here. The only people who came with Western culture were the Jews from Arab countries, because they studied in French and British schools.
But when Jews came from Arab countries, they had to give up their Arabness — to give up their culture, their music, their habits, their clothes, their accent. They really worked on that. It is all part of the same racism. It is white supremacy.
Your book discusses Israeli textbooks up until 2009. What has changed in the last two years?
In 2010, when Gideon Saar became Minister of Education, things became much worse. There is a new subject now called “Israeli culture” that everybody has to study. There are about 15 to 20 new textbooks on the subject and they are compulsory.
And there are no Arabs there at all. Even when they say “Jerusalem, the city of three religions,” you see “Christians and Jews,” you do not see Arabs. They all deal with democracy, human rights, and peace all over the world — Chinese, and Indian and African rituals of peace — but it is an Arab-less world.
They are nonexistent. One geography book that talks about refugees used to have a picture of the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, and they spoke about Palestinian refugees a little bit. “Jewish and Arab refugees as a result of the wars,” something like that. Now they changed it, and they speak about Darfur instead. This is the way to completely de-Arabize the area.
Is it possible to make a textbook in Israel that actually presents the Palestinian narrative without refuting or marginalizing it, and allows Israeli students to question the military and state’s narrative?
I tried with a Palestinian colleague to form a group, and write an alternative book. But then the Gaza raid started and it fell apart. Now I got an email from someone saying they want to revive it, and they want my consultation. Of course it’s possible.
What would such a book look like?
The book should be the history of the place. Here, students do not learn about the Middle East at all. They learn about Europe because we are supposedly part of Europe. I want to teach what happened here in the last one hundred years, from all points of view.
Because today, it is only about wars — how many we killed of them, how many they killed of us. But literature, culture, customs, history — they do not know anything. Palestinians do not know their own because they are not allowed to learn their own, and Israelis do not know theirs.
Something has to be done. There are several books that give the two narratives of this place. One of the prominent ones is called “Learning the Narrative of the Other.” In that book, they show the Palestinian narrative on one side, the Israeli narrative on the other side, and the students can write whatever they think in the middle.
They study that book all over the world. In France, 22,000 copies were sold to schools after being published. It is a wonderful example of conflict resolution. The UN gives a lot of money to schools that study conflict resolution. Here they never heard of it.
When I teach about this, my students say once they know they cannot un-know. But work has to start from the bottom.
- Do Israelis Teach Their Children To Hate? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Palestinian cemetery destroyed for new TAU dorms, shopping center (alethonews.wordpress.com)
So a bomb exploded on a bus in Bulgaria killing a certain number of people who were apparently visitors from Israel. About 20 minutes later, Israeli PM Netanyahu is accusing Iran of carrying out the bombing. Speculation is rife. Pundits feel a need to opine, even though they didn’t know any facts about the incident either. A few more hours pass, and Trita Parsi writes that it is plausible that Iran was indeed behind the bombing, as a sort of retaliation against Israel for the murders of Iranian nuclear scientists. I guess “plausible” is all that things need be in order to implicate Iran.)
Trita does make an interesting point though:
US officials have privately expressed concern that one of the purposes of Israeli attacks in Iran has been to generate an Iranian response that could serve as a casus belli for Israel. That way, Israel could target Iran’s nuclear facilities without paying the heavy political cost of starting a preventive war.
This of course is the “provocation-followed-by-retaliation” technique that Moshe Dayan told Moshe Sharret would be used by Israel to justify its aggression, years ago.
I pointed out to Trita that Israel and the US are both reported to be behind the Jundollah terrorists, who have murdered a number of Iranians in terrorist attacks launched from Pakistan. So if we proceed on the “retaliation” theory, Iran certainly has lots to retaliate for.
However, I don’t buy the retaliation theory either. What would Iran have to gain from hitting back like this? What would “retaliation” get Iran? The cost to Iran of being actually implicated in such an event would far outweigh any benefit of retaliation (and I can’t think of any tangible benefit from retaliation either.) And why assume that when Israelis are blown up, only Iran can be the guilty party? Its not as if Israel has a dearth of opponents.
So what benefit would accrue to Iran by blowing up some random busload of people somewhere?
The situation in Mali, the country most closely located to the “zone of stability and security” purportedly created by NATO in Libya, is far from being stable or secure. The international news agencies and world press are reporting horror stories about the rule of terror, established by the jihadist movements in the north-east of this country, previously dominated by the local Tuaregs.
There are two interesting conclusions that the world’s politicians and experts draw from the developments in Mali. First, it is recognized that destabilization of Mali was one of the results of the military intervention of NATO in Libya (the Tuaregs, who in fact unleashed the military action, were armed by weapons from colonel Qaddafi’s ransacked arsenals). Second, the proposed solution to the crisis, heavily lobbied by France, is… another military intervention, this time in Mali. Obviously, the “zone of stability and security” has for some reason got a unique ability to spawn new conflicts.
The only “political heavyweight” on the world stage who predicted undesirable developments in Mali in the immediate aftermath of the Libyan coup was the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. In April this year, during a visit to Azerbaijan, he sketched the negative scenario which unfortunately proved to be true: “The Libyan story is far from over. We see how the statehood of Mali is being destroyed under our very eyes. What is the reason for that? Besides the unending skirmishes in Libya itself, instability is flowing into neighboring states via arms smuggling, infiltration of fighters. What we see in Mali is just the result of these processes.”
What is indeed astounding is the fact that the NATO countries continue to trumpet their operation in Libya as a great success. State secretary Hillary Clinton, for example, praised the victory of “secular liberals” at recently held elections in Libya (which would indeed be great, if “secularists” had not had a discussion on an innocent point – whether sharia should be the main law of the country or, even better, the only law). In her comments, Mrs. Clinton carefully avoids making a link between the destruction of Qaddafi’s regime and the sudden replenishment of the arsenals of AQMI (the French abbreviation for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and Ansar Dine, the two most violent groups of the jihadist movement in Northern Africa, which ultimately took control of north-eastern Mali.
“During Qaddafi’s rule, we did not know about these groups,” says from Mali’s capital Bamako Caroline Tuina-Ouanre, a journalist from neighboring Burkina Fasso, specializing on covering the developments in Sahel, a region in Africa where both Mali and Burkina Fasso belong. “Obviously, they did not get their arms from nowhere. They got them profiting from the collapse of the Libyan regime, which in itself was a result of the Western intervention. It made AQMI much stronger, this is a proven fact, long reported by the French-language press of Africa, from Morocco to Burkina.”
France, the country that actually engineered the Western intervention in Libya, is now the primary supporter of an intervention in Mali. However, the French president Francois Hollande said that “for obvious reasons” (meaning, obviously, the history of French colonialism in the region) France was unwilling to intervene on its own. “The intervention should take place in the framework of the African Union and under the auspices of the United Nations.” Hollande said.
The irony of the situation is that the African Union was resolutely opposed to the Western intervention in Libya in 2011, saying that such an intervention would undermine regional security. The South African leader Jacob Zuma, a key figure in the AU, and the Algerian president Abdelaziz Buteflica were among the most vocal opponents of the physical destruction of colonel Qaddafi. And now France wants Buteflica’s Algeria to spearhead the eventual intervention in Mali. In 2011, both U.S. and the EU ignored the African Union’s protests, trumpeting the removal of Qaddafi as a 100 percent positive development, a “victory for democracy.” So, now France is asking the African Union to make up for its misdeeds in the area – misdeeds that the AU never approved.
- US vows to back French military intervention in former colony Mali (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- French troops begin military intervention in Mali: Hollande (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Sudan’s millions of poor have yet to surge into the streets to back scattered Arab uprising-style protests as government austerity measures try to stem soaring prices and a falling currency.
Inflation reached 37 percent year-on-year in June and jumped almost 10 points in May but the demonstrations, sparked by high food prices, have been largely youth driven.
“So far the movement is concentrated with students and protest activists,” one veteran activist said, adding it could take time for the “oppressed” poor to rise up.
Sudanese history shows that “usually the poor join late,” following the professional classes, said University of Khartoum economist Mohammed Eljack Ahmed.
But more than a month after protests began at the University of Khartoum there has been no mass support from professionals, although lawyers have demonstrated.
“So far they are so limited,” Ahmed said of the protests.
Demonstrations spread to include a cross-section of people, but often only in groups of 100 or 200. Protests have lately focused on Fridays at a mosque linked to the opposition Umma party in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman.
Rallies have not attracted the tens of thousands of students, engineers, lawyers and trade unionists who toppled Sudanese military regimes in 1964 and 1985.
Sudan, with more than 30 million people, has a poverty rate of 46.5 percent, the United Nations says.
In its latest report on Sudan the World Bank described as “alarming” the 28.6 percent annual inflation rate reached in April, with prices having gone even higher since.
The bank said food prices were mainly behind the inflation, which was “partly due to the rising import cost of basic goods as a result of weakening local currency value.”
Sudan’s pound has tumbled on the black market from about four pounds per one dollar in September to around six now. Some say it could drop to 10 or more if inflation is not contained.
The pound has been under pressure since South Sudan separated in July 2011, taking with it about 75 percent of Sudanese oil production that is worth billions of dollars and was the country’s largest source of hard currency.
Loss of oil revenue has led to “serious external and internal deficits, inflation and economic hardship”, the World Bank said.
Failure to agree with South Sudan on oil fees cost the Sudanese economy another 6.5 billion pounds ($1.48 billion), Finance Minister Ali Mahmud al-Rasul has said.
The fees, which South Sudan would pay for exporting its oil through Sudan’s pipeline and port, are a major issue to be negotiated at African Union-led talks being held in Addis Ababa.
Trying to address the fiscal imbalance, Sudan announced measures in June that Rasul said would save $1.5 billion.
The government devalued the pound from 2.70 per dollar to 4.40, while sanctioning a trading band that lets the price range to 5.30, closer to the unofficial rate.
An international economist said the “very significant” depreciation should lead to a balance of payments adjustment, boosting exports and curbing imports after the loss of oil revenues.
But foreign reserves, needed to pay for imports, remain “very, very low” despite a “sizeable amount” that apparently arrived from offshore, said the economist, asking for anonymity.
The government also said taxes on bank profits will rise along with value-added tax.
It also cut five of 31 cabinet posts, trimmed ministers’ salaries and laid off presidential advisers.
Another move led to a rise of about 50 percent in the pump price of petrol under a phasing out of fuel subsidies which had been set at 2.2 billion pounds this year.
Despite the cut in subsidies there was a rise in social safety net spending, said Paul Jenkins, resident representative of the International Monetary Fund. On the revenue side the government measures were “quite solid,” he added.