Sam Mayfield | October 2, 2009
Settlement expansion in the Occupied Territories of Palestine is about more than constructing houses for Jewish settlers. Palestinian farmland is being turned into industrial space. Illegal outposts on Palestinian land are protected by Israeli military. Roads, if Palestinians are allowed to drive on them, are often blocked without warning.
I toured Illegal settlements and outposts in the West Bank with Dror Etkes.
Why Ray Kelly Protesters Did the Right Thing
Every few years, protestors shout down a conservative speaker at an American University. Every few years, rancorous debate ensues. Every few years, the warring sides yell past one another; the opponents of the ‘shout-down’ uphold the sanctity of ‘free speech’ while the protestors decry the awful ‘real world impact’ of the conservative speaker’s message.
In the wake of the Brown University shout-down of Ray Kelly, champion of the NYPD’s racist stop-and-frisk policy and racial profiling in general, the debate has resurfaced. Rather than talking past the anti-protestors’ arguments, they need to be addressed directly. The prototypical argument in denouncing the protestors is not a defense of Ray Kelly’s racism. It is twofold: First, that a free-flowing discourse on the matter will allow all viewpoints to be weighed and justice to inevitably emerge victorious on its merits. Second, that stopping a bigot from speaking in the name of freedom is self-defeating as it devolves our democratic society into tyranny.
The twofold argument against the protestors stems from two central myths of neoliberalism. The argument for free discourse as the enlightened path to justice ignores that direct action protest is primarily responsible for most of the achievements we would consider ‘progress’ historically (think civil rights, workers’ rights, suffrage, etc.), not the free exchange of ideas. The claim that silencing speech in the name of freedom is self-defeating indulges in the myth of the pre-existence of a free society in which freedom of speech must be preciously safeguarded, while ignoring the woeful shortcomings of freedom of speech in our society which must be addressed before there is anything worth protecting.
Critics of the protest repeatedly denounced direct action in favor of ideological debate as the path to social justice. “It would have been more effective to take part in a discussion rather than flat out refuse to have him speak,” declared one horrified student to the Brown Daily Herald. Similarly, Brown University President Christina Paxson labeled the protest a detrimental “affront to democratic civil society,” and instead advocated “intellectual rigor, careful analysis, and…respectful dialogue and discussion.” Yet the implication that masterful debate is the engine of social progress could not be more historically unfounded. Only in the fairy tale histories of those interested in discouraging social resistance does ‘respectful dialogue’ play a decisive role in struggles against injustice. The eight-hour workday is not a product of an incisive question-and-answer session with American robber barons. Rather, hundreds of thousands of workers conducted general strikes during the nineteenth century, marched in the face of military gunfire at Haymarket Square in 1886, and occupied scores of factories in the 1930’s before the eight-hour work day became American law. Jim Crow was not defeated with the moral suasion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches. Rather, hundreds of thousands marched on Washington, suffered through imprisonment by racist Southern law enforcement, and repeatedly staged disruptive protests to win basic civil rights. On a more international scale, Colonialism, that somehow-oft-forgotten tyranny that plagued most of the globe for centuries, did not cease thanks to open academic dialogue. Bloody resistance, from Algeria to Vietnam to Panama to Cuba to Egypt to the Philippines to Cameroon and to many other countries, was the necessary tool that unlocked colonial shackles. Different specific tactics have worked in different contexts, but one aspect remains constant: The free flow of ideas and dialogue, by itself, has rarely been enough to generate social progress. It is not that ideas entirely lack social power, but they have never been sufficient in winning concessions from those in power to the oppressed. Herein lies neoliberal myth number one—that a liberal free-market society will inexorably and inherently march towards greater freedom. To the contrary, direct action has always proved necessary.
Yet there are many critics of the protestors who do not claim Ray Kelly’s policies can be defeated with sharp debate. Instead, they argue that any protest in the name of freedom which blocks the speech of another is self-defeating, causing more damage to a free society by ‘silencing’ another than any potential positive effect of the protest. The protestors, the argument goes, tack society back to totalitarian days of censorship rather than forward to greater freedom. The protestors, however well intentioned, have pedantically thwarted our cherished liberal democracy by imposing their will on others.
The premise of this argument is neoliberal myth number two—that we live in a society with ‘freedom of speech’ so great it must be protected at all costs. This premise stems from an extremely limited conception of ‘freedom of speech’. Free speech should not be considered the mere ability to speak freely and inconsequentially in a vacuum, but rather the ability to have one’s voice heard equally. Due to the nature of private media and campaign finance in American society, this ability is woefully lopsided as political and economic barriers abound. Those with money easily have their voices heard through media and politics, those without have no such freedom. There is a certain irony (and garish privilege) of upper-class Ivy Leaguers proclaiming the sanctity of a freedom of speech so contingent upon wealth and political power. There is an even greater irony that the fight for true freedom of speech, if history is any indicator, must entail more direct action against defenders of the status quo such as Ray Kelly. To denounce such action out of indulgence in the neoliberal myth of a sacrosanct, already existing, freedom of speech is to condemn the millions in this country with no meaningful voice to eternal silence.
Every few years, an advocate of oppression is shouted down. Every few years, the protestors are denounced. They are asked to trust open, ‘civil’ dialogue to stop oppression, despite a historical record of struggle and progress that speaks overwhelmingly to the contrary. They are asked to restrain their protest for freedom so to protect American freedom of speech, despite the undeniable fact that our private media and post-Citizens United political system hear only dollars, not the voices of the masses. Some will claim that both sides have the same goal, freedom, but merely differ on tactics. Yet the historical record is too clear and the growing dysfunctions in our democracy too gross to take any such claims as sincere. In a few years, when protestors shout down another oppressive conservative, we will be forced to lucidly choose which side we are on: The oppressors or the protestors. The status quo or progress.
Andrew Tillett-Saks is an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 217. He can be reached at: email@example.com.
Ray Kelly At Brown (Full Inside Event Coverage)
Video by Emily Kassie | www.brownpoliticalreview.org
- Brown University President Looking Into Ray Kelly Protest (huffingtonpost.com)
Australian citizen David Hicks suffered torture and brutal beatings at the hands of guards at Guantanamo prison. Breaking the gag order that was a condition of his release, Hicks spoke to RT about his ordeal and how he was coerced into pleading guilty.
38-year-old David Hicks spent over five years in Guantanamo Prison accused of aiding terrorists. He was eventually convicted under the 2006 Military Commissions Act for “providing material support to terrorism” and released in 2007 after pleading guilty. Hicks has filed to have the convictions overturned, alleging his plea was made under duress and he had no other choice but to confess.
During his six years at Guantanamo, Hicks says he was subjected to both mental and psychological torture, forced to take injections and brought to the brink of suicide by the prison staff.
“Myself and everyone else were tortured on a daily basis,” Hicks said. “That ranges from typical physical beatings to a whole range of psychological ploys. There was medical experimentation that was very scary to be subjected to.”
The staff at Guantanamo forced inmates to take pills and injections, and they would face beatings if they resisted, Hicks said. The prisoners were never informed as to the nature of the drugs they were made to take.
Hicks said that being white and Australian gave him a privileged position in the prison, allowing him to avoid some of the physical abuse that went on.
“Being white and, more importantly, English being my first language, that allowed me to communicate with the guards and probably talk my way out of being beaten and tortured more – this is the guards, so it’s separate to interrogation – versus some of the Arabs and Afghans, who couldn’t speak English at all.”
He described the guards as having “no patience” and when they were frustrated they would beat the inmates until their “bones were broken.”
“Once the detainee was beaten and removed, they’d have to use hoses and scrubbing brushes to remove the blood from the cement floor,” Hicks said.
After almost five years of imprisonment in Guantanamo, Hicks said he had lost the ability “to fight, to have hope, to believe that justice would prevail” and was contemplating suicide.
“Guantanamo is sort of this black hole where supposedly no laws apply except what they decide.”
Setting the record straight
When he was finally offered the chance to leave the prison it came with a price. Australian Prime Minister John Howard sent a message to Hicks’ lawyer, saying that “under no circumstances” would the Australian government allow him to return without entering into some sort of plea.
Hicks was subsequently given the opportunity to sign an Alford Plea – a piece of US legislation that allows a defendant to plead guilty, but without admitting guilt to a particular crime. Upon agreeing to the plea, Hicks was told he would be freed in 60 days.
“I ended up taking that deal, knowing that I could get out in 60 days and back to Australia and deal with it,” said Hicks, who still maintains his innocence.
When he returned to Australia he was put into isolation in an Adelaide prison and had a gagging order placed on him, forbidding him from talk about his experience in Guantanamo.
Six years on, however, Hicks is moving to set the record straight and clear his name of the charges that he claims are legally invalid.
Hicks referred to the case of Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni national also charged with providing material support to terrorists who had the charges overturned after an appeal in a federal court. The court ruled in his favor on the basis that the 2006 Military Commissions Act, under which the charges were made, was flawed and unconstitutional.
“Material support for terrorism is not a recognized crime and if it was, it was applied retroactively anyway,” said Hicks, describing his appeal as a “formality.”
The Northern Alliance in Afghanistan captured David Hicks in 2001 and handed him over to American jurisdiction for a $1,000 bounty. Hicks, a convert to Islam, admitted that he had trained in an al-Qaeda paramilitary camp during his time in Afghanistan, but maintains he never participated in terrorist activities.
“The following report contains disturbing images”
This is how the BBC website introduces a report by its BBC Panorama’s Syria correspondents Ian Pannell and Darren Conway on August the 30th, 2013. The story contained a video, ostensibly shot near Aleppo, Northern Syria, by an anonymous school headmaster, and documenting the aftermath of a napalm attack on his school, supposedly perpetrated by the Syrian armed forces on August 26th. According to the story, the “evil” forces of Bashar al-Assad, at a time when they had just about established their strategic advantage over the anti-government rebel forces and the foreign mercenaries they had been fighting for over two years, had found nothing better to do than attack a school, a target which presented no military interest whatsoever, with napalm – no less – just so the international media, and BBC Panorama in particular, could pick the story and broadcast it to Western audiences, in perfect timing to coincide with the British Parliament’s vote on the so-called “humanitarian intervention” in Syria, which was being pushed for by Prime Minister David Cameron, ostensibly to prevent precisely this kind of atrocities.
Were Assad’s forces really that stupid? Of course not.
It did not take long before several international commentators and observers pointed out the many implausibilities in the video and the story in general. Among them, Italian author Francesco Santoianni, showed how incongruent the whole story was, sparking the suspicion that the entire video might have been a fabrication. What follows is his analysis.
First of all, Napalm is a substance which generates temperatures between 800 and 1,200 degrees Celsius: in other words, no one has ever survived direct exposure. These physical characteristics mean that when Napalm was utilised in theatres of war, it was primarily used to defoliate areas covered with thick vegetation, and not urban areas, where white phosphorus is more often used, as the United States Armed Forces did in Falluja in 2005, and the Israeli Defence Forces did in Gaza in 2008. Nevertheless, the BBC expected its viewers to believe that Assad’s forces had employed the obsolete napalm on a school. Of course, a school with no teaching resources in sight, but somehow a swimming pool in the back. Oh, and a swing. Case closed: it MUST be a school. Although, we are told by our sources in Syria that the school year did not start until September 15: so what exactly were all those people doing in a locked-up school?
In the video, we were also shown a pair of winter shoes – not clear how they ended up there: it was after all August – and a woman’s shoe. Was all this footwear worn by the victims? How did it remain intact?
Almost every British newspaper which reported the story informed us that “The attack killed more than ten pupils and left many more seriously injured”: and yet, despite the warning against graphic images, we are not shown the bodies, or the grieving parents.
There is – to be sure – a child, seeing shaking in one scene. His skin is actually intact, and so is his hair: certainly not consistent with napalm, or anything like it. And what is the white stuff on his body? Surely, it cannot be the chemical fired from the fighter jets – that wouldn’t have left his hair intact – therefore we must assume that it’s some kind of first-aid ointment, of sorts? Whoever administered it could not even be bothered to remove the watch from the kid’s wrist. In fact, no one seems to be attending this child: the only person with some kind of interest is the cameraman.
Somewhat less convincing is a couple, seen in the video going through the well-rehearsed motions of cursing in Arabic. There is a problem though: the woman’s face is covered in that same white stuff: and the couple has just arrived to the so-called hospital, so it cannot be “some kind of first-aid ointment”. It must be the “napalm-like chemical”. We are expected to believe that a “napalm-like” chemical, fired from a fighter jet, somehow ended up sprayed on this woman’s face leaving her veil intact?
We also see what is supposed to be a makeshift hospital. On the floor, five adult males are shaking – three of them still have their clothes perfectly intact, of course – although one of them at some point stands up and walks off, having presumably decided that he’s had enough.
By the way, we keep seeing paramedics from the so-called charity Hand in Hand for Syria supposedly handling chemical burns victims without any gloves on – but wearing gas masks, for some reason. And even a dust mask: what’s that? The woman in question is of course Dr. Rola, the star of this video [segment introducing Dr. Rola]
Then, of course, we get the obligatory segment showing a distraught local, venting his powerless rage at the International Community, invariably denounced as inefficient and perennially locked in futile negotiations. The Public Relations rules dictate that such a character must be somehow connected with the tragedy (no details given), and that, when he addresses the camera, he must not speak in the local language – which would only sound like terrorist gibberish to most Western audiences: rather, he has to produce an impromptu speech in an impeccable English, so impeccable to the point of sounding scripted and well-rehearsed, or even read off a prompter. After all, these PR rules did work for Libya.
All these absurdities were exposed almost immediately after the release of the video on the BBC’s channels. So why talk about them again now?
Well, one reason is that the BBC itself, presumably after receiving dozens of complaints from viewers who didn’t appreciate their intelligence being insulted, decided to salvage what little they could from the story, and delete the biggest blooper of all. And this is where it gets creepy. Because what follows leads one to believe that this was not the case of the BBC naively buying into a story packaged and sold to them by the anti-Assad PR machine (it wouldn’t have been the first time), but rather that the BBC itself actively created a product that was intended to steer the public opinion towards a more interventionist position. For such a product, there can only be one definition: propaganda.
What happened was that Human Rights activist Craig Murray, among others, realised that, between the first and the second release of the video, something was different in the lines spoken by Dr. Rola. Listen to the original one, containing references to napalm.
The reference to napalm has disappeared in the redacted version.
Both audio clips have the same identical sound quality: of course, there is very little that cannot be accomplished with the kind of technology that’s available to the British Broadcasting Corporation, thanks in part to the fact that Dr. Rola was wearing her exaggerated dust mask, which conveniently did away with all the challenges involved in dubbing, lip-synch, etc. However, the redacted audio clip must have been added at a much later stage, for reasons we have just explored, which prompts us to ask: how can we even be sure that the original audio clip was not scripted and recorded in a studio? Also, Robert Stuart, writing on the Media Lenses Forum, points out that Dr Saleyha Ahsan, featured in the new version of the video, is a filmmaker with a military background: a former Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps and a freelance current affairs journalist. Was she involved in packaging this product?
Also of interest is the fact that the Charity Hand in Hand for Syria, where Dr. Rola supposedly works as a volunteer medic, happens to sport a flag of the French colonial era on its logo – a flag now adopted by the Anti-Assad Coalition. This is an affiliation which the BBC did not see fit to disclose to its viewers.
For those who still believe in whatever is left of the BBC’s reputation for upholding the mediatic standards of fair and balanced reporting, here is some useful information about another so-called “charity”. The BBC Media Action (formerly the BBC World Service Trust), with its catchy slogan: “Transforming Lives through Media around the World”.
In an interesting report available on its website, BBC Media Action explains: “In 2008, BBC Media Action launched its three-year project ‘Socially Responsible Media Platforms in the Arab World’ with funding from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Syria News was the official Syrian partner, endorsed by the Ministry of Information on behalf of the BBC. The project aimed to set up an interactive online training platform, the Ara2 [opinions] Academy, for Syria’s journalistic and blogging communities, creating networks between the two. This reflected the changing status of bloggers in the regional media and responded to their aspiration to be seen as credible social commentators. The project also supported Syria News as an example of a sustainable independent media organisation, with managerial staff taking part in study tours in London and in business development training. BBC Media Action did not work with a local partner on blogger training, as this could have alienated and excluded parts of the blogging community. Instead, the BBC collaborated with an informal network of bloggers from across the country and recruited mentors for the distance learning system (the Ara2 Academy) who were trained at workshops in London and Damascus”.
One could not have wished for a clearer description of a Trojan horse, funded by one government in order to destabilize another. Just to go over the timeline again: the three-year BBC Action Syria Project started in 2008. The “Syrian uprising” began in February 2011.
For the first time since the United States began using drones to attack foreign enemies, members of Congress had the chance this week to hear directly from civilian survivors of such attacks at a special hearing.
But only five lawmakers bothered to show up.
The five representatives—all Democrats—were: Alan Grayson of Florida, John Conyers of Michigan, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Rush Holt of New Jersey, and Rick Nolan of Minnesota.
They heard from a Pakistani schoolteacher, Rafiq ur Rehman, and his two children, who traveled to Washington, DC, to describe the U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan on October 24, 2012, that killed Rafiq’s mother, midwife Momina Bibi, and injured his two offspring.
Using a translator, the survivors talked about their experience, and how it changed their lives.
“I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. Drones don’t fly when sky is grey,” Zubair ur Rehman, 13, said, adding that his leg was injured by shrapnel during the strike.
At one point in the testimony, the translator broke down in tears while relaying the family’s ordeal.
Grayson invited the guests to appear before Congress, telling The Guardian that the hearing was intended “simply to get people to start to think through the implications of killing hundreds of people ordered by the president, or worse, unelected and unidentifiable bureaucrats within the Department of Defense without any declaration of war.”
“Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rafiq wrote in an open letter to President Barack Obama prior to the testimony. “The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed–a 65-year-old grandmother of nine.”
“But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this,” he continued. “No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable. Quite simply, nobody seems to care.
“Bombs create only hatred in the hearts of people. And that hatred and anger breeds more terrorism.”
The family’s effort to travel to the U.S. to testify made news prior to the hearing when the State Department refused to grant a visa to their lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, who has been an outspoken critic of the U.S. drone war in Pakistan.
With their attorney prevented from entering the U.S., the family was joined by Jennifer Gibson of Reprieve, a British human rights organization.
To Learn More:
State Department Blocks Lawyer of U.S. Drone Strike Survivors from Testifying Before Congress (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)
A new documentary by Madiha Tahir
The drone war is obscure by design. Operated by armchair pilots from clandestine bases across the American west, the Predators and Reapers fly over Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan’s Tribal Areas at invisible heights, where they are on orders from the CIA to kill “high value” targets with laser-guided “surgical” precision thousands of feet below. But because of where the Hellfire missiles land, and because the program is operated in secret, verifying their precision and their lasting effects isn’t easy.
For years, US officials have downplayed the number of civilian deaths in particular, even as a chorus of independent reports have offered their own grim estimates. The latest, according to new research by the United Nations and Amnesty International: 58 civilians killed in Yemen, and up to nine hundred in Pakistan. In a speech in May, President Obama finally broke his silence on drones, acknowledging that civilians had been killed—he didn’t say how many—and promising more transparency for the program. “Those deaths,” added the President, ”will haunt us for as long as we live.”
For journalist Madiha Tahir, the numbers are important, but they’re not the whole story. Her documentary “Wounds of Waziristan,” which premieres above, features interviews with the people who live in the southern part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, bordering Afghanistan, under the eyes of the drones, and in the wake of their destruction. The film switches up the typical calculus that drives the drone debate at home. Tahir, who grew up between Pakistan and the U.S., points out that drone strikes aren’t just about the numbers of casualties, or the kinds of ethical arguments that arise around “just war” concepts like proportionality. The effects of the drone war have as much to do with the way those casualties rip apart communities and haunt the living, in distant places that exist on the fringes of law and order.
“Because drones are at a certain remove, there is a sense of uncertainty, a sense that you can’t control this,” Tahir says, describing the attitude among the people who live in Waziristan. Already haunted by the legacy of British colonialism and the laws it left behind, this part of the Tribal Areas is now ruled with a brutal fist by the Pakistani military and various insurgent groups. But the buzz of the drones, sometimes seven or eight overhead a day, signals another kind of indeterminate power. “Whether its true or not, people feel that with militants there is some degree of control. You can negotiate. There is some cause and effect. But there is no cause and effect with drones. It’s an acute kind of trauma that is not limited to the actual attack.”
For the operators of the drone program, who have launched more than 300 missile attacks in Pakistan since 2008, the political vacuum of the Tribal Areas have encouraged a special kind of war-on-terror calculus. As the New York Times reported last year, the American government has been counting all military-age males in a strike zone as “militants,” which leads to skewed figures about who exactly has been killed. The Obama administration has executed “signature strikes,” drone attacks based on a so-called “pattern of life” analysis in which simply suspicious behavior is enough to qualify for an attack. And in a so-called “double tap” maneuver, a second attack follows an initial strike, killing those who have come to recover bodies from the scene.
“When an attack happens, the media claims to know how many militants were killed,” says Noor Behram, a journalist in the Tribal Areas who has been photographing the casualties of drone strikes for years. “Actually, you only find body parts on the scene, so people can’t tell how many have died.”
In one interview, Tahir speaks with a man from South Waziristan named Karim Khan, whose brother and son were killed in a drone strike. ”What is the definition of terrorism?” he asks her, and she returns the question to him. His tired eyes light up.
“I think there is no bigger terrorist than Obama or Bush,” he says. ”Those who have weaponry like drones, who drop bombs on us while we are in our own homes, there are no greater terrorists than them.” …
Is Noam Chomsky an anarcho-syndicalist or proponent of the Federal Reserve? A fearless political crusader or defender of the Warren Commission JFK orthodoxy? A tireless campaigner for justice or someone who doesn’t care who did 9/11?
|Steven Pinker on Noam Chomsky|
|Chomsky: Obama Worse Than Bush|
|‘Drone strikes a terror-generating machine’|
|Noam Chomsky to RT: Bush torturer, Obama just kills|
|Chomsky On Obama’s Election Campaign|
|Chomsky on US Foreign Policy|
|Manufacturing Consent – Noam Chomsky and the Media|
|Noam Chomsky Loves the Federal Reserve|
|Noam Chomsky and the JFK Assassination|
|Deep Politics and the Death of JFK|
|JFK and the Unspeakable|
|Noam Chomsky discusses 9/11 Conspiracy Theorists|
|Chomsky on 9/11: “Who cares?”|
|Truth in the Academy?|
|After Multiple Denials, CIA Admits to Snooping on Noam Chomsky|
|Rethinking Noam Chomsky|
|Reggae Noam Chomsky Classical Old Skool Hip Hop Groove – Oh YES|
A Loyalist from Northern Ireland becomes Jewish, he plans to move to Israel and settle and start a new life. He exclaims that Palestine was a “political invention” and tells Palestinians who have lived there their whole life “you have had a nice holiday, time to go home”. This is an extremely valid argument as this man has never set foot on the Land of Israel or Palestine. This Snippet was taken from the BBC documentary called Shalom Belfast.
Gilad Atzmon comments:
We are not dealing here with Jewish race or gene. Taking on the Jewish religion in this case introduces a set of supremacist non ethical beliefs. This is what Jewishness is all about.