Former South African President and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela passed away Thursday evening at the age of 95 and eulogies from world leaders began to appear soon after his death.
US President Barack Obama was one of the world leaders who paid their glowing tribute to South Africa’s anti-apartheid legend.
“We’ve lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with,” the US President said. “He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages … His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to.”
Nevertheless, it was not until 2008 that the US government removed Mandela’s name from its terrorism watch list.
Following the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, when forces of South Africa’s apartheid regime shot 69 people dead in protests in the township of Sharpeville, Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC) was banned.
The apartheid regime designated the ANC as a terrorist organization because it fought against the regime’s apartheid system which legalized racial discrimination from 1948 to 1994.
The apartheid system banned the black people from voting, traveling without permission, or even possessing land.
In 1987, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also described Mandela’s ANC as a “typical terrorist organization.”
The US State Department under the presidency of Ronald Reagan also deemed Mandela’s ANC a terrorist organization and Reagan vetoed the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 passed by US Congress. Reagan’s veto was later overridden by Congress.
By Stephen J. Sniegoski ~ 2003
Is there any evidence that Israel and her supporters have managed to get the United States to fight for their interests?
To unearth the real motives for the projected war on Iraq, one must ask the critical question: How did the 9/11 terrorist attack lead to the planned war on Iraq, even though there is no real evidence that Iraq was involved in 9/11? From the time of the 9/11 attack, neoconservatives, of primarily (though not exclusively) Jewish ethnicity and right-wing Zionist persuasion, have tried to make use of 9/11 to foment a broad war against Islamic terrorism, the targets of which would coincide with the enemies of Israel.
For some time prior to September 11, 2001, neoconservatives had publicly advocated an American war on Iraq. The 9/11 atrocities provided the pretext. The idea that neocons are the motivating force behind the U.S. movement for war has been broached by a number of commentators
To understand why Israeli leaders would want a Middle East war, it is first necessary to take a brief look at the history of the Zionist movement and its goals. Despite public rhetoric to the contrary, the idea of expelling (or, in the accepted euphemism, “transferring”) the indigenous Palestinian population was an integral part of the Zionist effort to found a Jewish national state in Palestine. Historian Tom Segev writes:
The idea of transfer had accompanied the Zionist movement from its very beginnings, first appearing in Theodore Herzl’s diary. In practice, the Zionists began executing a mini-transfer from the time they began purchasing the land and evacuating the Arab tenants…. “Disappearing” the Arabs lay at the heart of the Zionist dream, and was also a necessary condition of its existence…. With few exceptions, none of the Zionists disputed the desirability of forced transfer — or its morality.
However, Segev continues, the Zionist leaders learned not to publicly proclaim their plan of mass expulsion because “this would cause the Zionists to lose the world’s sympathy.”
The key was to find an opportune time to initiate the expulsion so it would not incur the world’s condemnation.
A clear illustration of the neoconservative thinking on war on Iraq is a 1996 paper developed by Perle, Feith, David Wurmser, and others published by an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, titled “A clean break: a new strategy for securing the realm.” It was intended as a political blueprint for the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The paper stated that Netanyahu should “make a clean break” with the Oslo peace process and reassert Israel’s claim to the West Bank and Gaza. It presented a plan whereby Israel would “shape its strategic environment,” beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the installation of a Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad, to serve as a first step toward eliminating the anti-Israeli governments of Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
Note that these Americans — Perle, Feith, and Wurmser — were advising a foreign government and that they currently are connected to the George W. Bush administration: Perle is head of the Defense Policy Board; Feith is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy; and Wurmser is special assistant to State Department chief arms control negotiator John Bolton. It is also remarkable that while in 1996 Israel was to “shape its strategic environment” by removing her enemies, the same individuals are now proposing that the United States shape the Middle East environment by removing Israel’s enemies. That is to say, the United States is to serve as Israel’s proxy to advance Israeli interests.
In September 2000, the neocon think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) issued a report, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” that envisioned an expanded global posture for the United States. In regard to the Middle East, the report called for an increased American military presence in the Gulf, whether Saddam was in power or not., maintaining that “the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.” The project’s participants included individuals who would play leading roles in the second Bush administration: Cheney (Vice President), Rumsfeld (secretary of defense), Wolfowitz (deputy secretary of defense), and Lewis Libby (Cheney’s chief of staff). Weekly Standard editor William Kristol was also a co-author.
The September 11 atrocities provided the “revolutionary times” in which Israel could undertake radical measures unacceptable during normal conditions. When asked what the attack would do for U.S.-Israeli relations, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded: “It’s very good.” Then he edited himself: “Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy.” Netanyahu correctly predicted that the attack would “strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we’ve experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror.” Sharon placed Israel in the same position as the United States, referring to the attack as an assault on “our common values” and declaring, “I believe together we can defeat these forces of evil.”
In the eyes of Israel’s leaders, the September 11 attacks had joined the United States and Israeli together against a common enemy. And that enemy was not in far-off Afghanistan but was geographically close to Israel. Israel’s traditional enemies would now become America’s as well. And Israel would have a better chance of dealing with the Palestinians under the cover of a “war on terrorism.”
In the October 29, 2002, issue of The Weekly Standard, Kagan and Kristol predict a wider Middle Eastern war:
When all is said and done, the conflict in Afghanistan will be to the war on terrorism what the North Africa campaign was to World War II: an essential beginning on the path to victory. But compared with what looms over the horizon — a wide-ranging war in locales from Central Asia to the Middle East and, unfortunately, back again to the United States — Afghanistan will prove but an opening battle…. But this war will not end in Afghanistan. It is going to spread and engulf a number of countries in conflicts of varying intensity. It could well require the use of American military power in multiple places simultaneously. It is going to resemble the clash of civilizations that everyone has hoped to avoid.
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, administration heavyweights debated the scope of the “war on terrorism.” According to Bob Woodward’s Bush at War, as early as September 12 Rumsfeld “raised the question of attacking Iraq. Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just al Qaeda? he asked. Rumsfeld was speaking not only for himself when he raised the question. His deputy, Paul D. Wolfowitz, was committed to a policy that would make Iraq a principal target of the first round in the war on terrorism.”
Woodward adds, “The terrorist attacks of September 11 gave the United States a new window to go after Hussein.” On September 15, Wolfowitz put forth military arguments to justify a U.S. attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan. Wolfowitz expressed the view that “attacking Afghanistan would be uncertain,” voicing the fear that American troops would be “bogged down in mountain fighting…. In contrast, Iraq was a brittle, oppressive regime that might break easily. It was doable.”
Within Israel herself, however, the Arabs would not be expected to adopt a “new political culture”; they would be expected to vanish.
Even the dean of Israel’s revisionist historians, Benny Morris, explicitly endorsed the expulsion of the Palestinians in the event of war. “This land is so small,” Morris exclaimed, “that there isn’t room for two peoples. In fifty or a hundred years, there will only be one state between the sea and the Jordan. That state must be Israel.”
As is now apparent, the “war on terrorism” was never intended to be a war to apprehend and punish the perpetrators of the September 11 atrocities. September 11 simply provided a pretext for government leaders to implement long-term policy plans. As has been pointed out elsewhere, including in my own writing, oil interests and American imperialists looked upon the war as a way to incorporate oil-rich Central Asia within the American imperial orbit. While that has been achieved, the American-sponsored government of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan is in a perilous situation. Karzai’s power seems to be limited to his immediate vicinity, and he must be protected by American bodyguards. The rest of Afghanistan is being fought over by various war lords and even the resurgent Taliban. Instead of putting forth the effort to help consolidate its position in Central Asia, Washington has shifted its focus to gaining control of the Middle East.
It now appears that the primary policymakers in the Bush administration have been the Likudnik neoconservatives all along. Control of Central Asia is secondary to control of the Middle East. In fact, for the leading neocons, the war on Afghanistan may simply have been an opening gambit, necessary for reaching their ultimate and crucial goal: U.S. control of the Middle East in the interests of Israel. That is analogous to what revisionist historians have presented as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “back door to war” approach to World War II. Roosevelt sought war with Japan in order to be able to fight Germany, and he provoked Japan into attacking U.S. colonial possessions in the Far East. Once the United States got into war through the back door, Roosevelt focused the American military effort on Germany.
The deductions drawn in this essay seem obvious but are rarely broached in public because Jewish power is a taboo subject. As the intrepid Joseph Sobran puts it: “It’s permissible to discuss the power of every other group, from the Black Muslims to the Christian Right, but the much greater power of the Jewish establishment is off-limits.”
So in a check for “hate” or “anti-Semitism,” let’s recapitulate the major points made in this essay. First, the initiation of a Middle East war to solve Israeli security problems has been a long-standing idea among Israeli rightist Likudniks. Next, Likudnik-oriented neoconservatives argued for American involvement in such a war prior to the atrocities of September 11, 2001. Since September 11, neocons have taken the lead in advocating such a war; and they hold influential foreign policy and national security positions in the Bush administration.
If Israel and Jews were not involved, there would be nothing extraordinary about my thesis. In the history of foreign policy, it has frequently been maintained that various leading figures were motivated by ties to business, an ideology, or a foreign country. In his Farewell Address, George Washington expressed the view that the greatest danger to American foreign relations would be the “passionate attachment” of influential Americans to a foreign power, which would orient U.S. foreign policy for the benefit of that power to the detriment of the United States. It is just such a situation that currently exists.
More – entire essay
Case Over No-Fly List Takes Bizarre Turn As Gov’t Puts Witness On No Fly List, Then Denies Having Done So
As you my have heard, there’s a trial going on here in San Francisco about the legality of the complete lack of any sort of due process concerning the US’s “no fly” list. The NY Times has a good background article on the case, which notes that somewhere around 700,000 people appear to be on the list, where there’s basically no oversight of the list and no recourse if you happen to be placed on the list. This lawsuit, by Rahinah Ibrahim (who had been a Stanford PhD student) is challenging that.
In that case, a Stanford University Ph.D. student named Rahinah Ibrahim was prevented from boarding a flight at San Francisco International Airport in 2005, and was handcuffed and detained by the police. Ultimately, she was allowed to fly to Malaysia, her home country, but she has been unable to return to the United States because the State Department revoked her student visa.
According to court filings, two agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited Ms. Ibrahim a week before her trip and asked about her religious activities (she is Muslim), her husband and what she might know of a Southeast Asian terrorist organization. A summary of that interview obtained by Ms. Ibrahim’s lawyer includes a code indicating that the visit was related to an international terrorism investigation, but it is not clear what other evidence — like email or phone records — was part of that inquiry.
The Identity Project blog is covering the trial, which kicked off earlier this week with a ridiculous situation, highlighted by BoingBoing. Apparently, one of the people set to testify in the case, Ibrahim’s oldest daughter, Raihan Mustafa Kamal (an American citizen, born in the US), was blocked from boarding her flight to the US to appear at the trial, and told that she was on the no fly list as well. Kamal, a lawyer, was an eye witness to her mother being blocked from boarding her flight. The US knew that Kamal was set to testify and from all indications, in a move that appears extremely petty, appears to have purposely blocked her from flying to the US. Kamal was directly told by the airline that DHS had ordered them not to let Kamal to board. The airline even gave her a phone number for a Customs and Border Patrol office in Miami, telling her to call that concerning her not being able to board.
Judge William Alsup, who is known for his rather no-nonsense approach in court (and his willingness to dig very deep into understanding the issues), quickly noted that this apparent blocking of Kamal was ridiculous, and demanded that the government explain what happened. When they insisted they knew nothing about it, Alsup wasn’t satisfied. Nor was he satisfied with the story they eventually came back with. As Edward Hasbrouck at the Identity Project reports:
Judge Alsup ordered the government defendants’ lawyers to investigate and report back. “You’ve got ten lawyers over there on your side of the courtroom. You can send one of them out in the hall to make a phone call and find out what’s going on.”
At the end of the first day’s session of the trial (more on that below), the governments’ lawyers told Judge Alsup that they had made inquiries and had been told that “the plaintiff’s daughter just missed her flight” and was rebooked on a flight tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon.
Needless to say, that story strains credulity. If Ms. Mustafa Kamal had merely missed her flight, why would she have been given a CBP phone number in Miami to call for information about what had happened? The governments’ lawyers insisted that, “That’s what we have been told”, but Judge Alsup wasn’t satisfied.
“We may have to have a separate evidentiary hearing about this,” Judge Alsup said, and ordered the defendants to provide further information tomorrow… “I want to know whether the government did something to obstruct a witness, a U.S. citizen.”
That was Monday. Tuesday morning, Ibrahim’s lawyer proved that the DOJ was flat out lying the day before by presenting the “no-board” instructions that DHS had sent to Malaysia Airlines to the court:
“None of that was true,” Ms. Pipkin told the court this morning. “She didn’t miss the flight. She was there in time to check in. She has not been rebooked on another flight.” And most importantly, it was because of actions by the DHS — one of the defendants in Dr. Ibrahim’s lawsuit — that Ms. Mustafa Kamal was not allowed to board her flight to SFO to attend and testify at her mother’s trial.
Ms. Pipkin said that Ms. Mustafa Kamal had sent her a copy of the “no-board” instructions which the DHS gave to Malaysia Airlines, and which the airline gave to Ms. Mustafa Kamal to explain as much as it knew about why it was not being allowed to transport her. Ms. Pipkin handed Judge William Alsup a copy of the DHS “no-board” instructions to Malaysia Airlines regarding Ms. Mustafa Kamal.
As Hasbrouck notes, the airline deserves kudos for handing over that info. Many airlines would simply keep it a secret. Judge Alsup, however, will not consider the document yet, noting that there isn’t evidence to its authenticity and it’s not part of a sworn record. Thus, he said that when Kamal arrives in SF to testify, that can be a part of her testimony. While the lawyer pointed out that Kamal was hesitant to buy another ticket if she wouldn’t be able to board again, Judge Alsup made it clear that she needs to come, and also appears to have made it quite clear to the DHS that if she is blocked again, there will be consequences:
“Get her on an airplane and get her here,” Judge Alsup responded. “She’s a U.S. citizen. She doesn’t need a visa. I’m not going to believe that she can’t get on a plane until she tries again. ” And Mr Freeborne, with disingenuous faux-solicitude, claimed that the government is “willing to do whatever we can to facilitate” Ms. Mustafa Kamal’s ability to board a flight to the U.S.
Judge Alsup wasn’t willing to take any action today on unproven allegations or unverified documents. But he made clear that, “I am disturbed by this…. We’ll hear from her [Ms. Mustafa Kamal] when she gets here. If it turns out that the DHS has sabotaged a witness, that will go against the government’s case. I want a witness from Homeland Security who can testify to what has happened. You find a witness and get them here.”
The report from Monday also describes other ridiculous claims by the DOJ, including trying to argue that information that was publicly available could not be included in the case because it was “sensitive security information” (SSI). Once again, Judge Alsup saw through the DOJ’s bullshit and called them out on it:
That’s ridiculous. Are you saying that if the president makes a speech, TSA can retroactively make it a secret what he said? It cannot be the law that something that is publicly known later becomes hidden…
Here’s my ruling: If it’s in a document that’s SSI, but it’s also available from some other publicly available source, it’s public information, and cannot be withheld from the public in this courtroom…. The government is taking such an unreasonable position on how to run a trial. If it’s been in the public domain for years, you’re barred from making the argument that the plaintiff’s counsel cannot “disclose” it….
Trials are important. Trials are supposed to be public.
I want to categorically reject one thing: If information is publicly available in some other way, the government does not have the right to retroactively clamp it down and remove it from the public record. Even if it could have been protected as SSI within the government, if the plaintiff obtains this information independently, the government can’t clamp that down.
The plaintiff has the right to prove her case. If she can prove it through publicly available admissible evidence, she can do so even if that information is also included in internal government documents designated as SSI.
That’s the way I feel. That’s the law, that ought to be the law, and that’s the only way to run this country. That’s my ruling, and if the government disagrees, I invite you to take an emergency writ to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
It would be an understatement to suggest that Judge Alsup is not impressed with the US government’s actions so far. The notes from day two in the trial provide a lot more background on what happened. It would appear that the lawyers for Ibrahim are making a (rather compelling, from the evidence) case that bumbling US law enforcement officials confused two very different Malaysian organizations with similar names: Jamaah Islamiyah Malaysia, which is a terrorist organization, and Jamaah Islah Malaysia, “a non-profit professional networking group for Muslims who have returned to Malaysia after post-secondary schooling in the U.S. and Europe.” The two organizations are, as you would imagine, quite different. Ibrahim is involved in the latter, and has no connection to the former, but it sounds like the FBI agents who interviewed her were unaware of the difference.
The further details of Ibrahim’s life, her arrest and treatment, all suggest a situation where US law enforcement totally screwed up, and seriously mucked up someone’s life — and now they seem to be doing everything possible to avoid taking responsibility for it.
Young people in the US are disappointed with President Barack Obama’s administration and disapproved of his management of the main problems in the country, a poll revealed today.
Young people were the main support to the president in his election in 2008 and reelection in 2012. That sector of the population is currently showing a marked decrease in their support.
The poll by the Institute for Politics of the University of Harvard that included people from 18 to 29 years of age revealed that 44 percent of that sector disapproves of Obama’s work, compared to 41 percent in support.
The data shows an 11-point fall compared to a poll by the same entity this past spring, and to another poll in the fall of 2009, when 58 percent of the young supported him and 39 percent voted against.
According to Trey Grayson, director of Harvard’s Institute for Politics, this is the lowest level of support for the president since he assumed office in 2009.
Of those polled, 55 percent said they had voted for Obama, 33 percent said they voted in favor of Mitt Romney and four percent chose another politician.
Being asked today about their vote intention, 46 percent said they would vote for the current White House tenant, while 35 percent would do it for Romney and 13 percent would choose someone else.
Asking opinions about health reform, 61 percent of those polled disapproved of Obama’s administration and 57 percent rejected Obamacare, and also 44 percent consider that health care will worsen, while 34 percent said it will remain the same and just 17 percent think that it will improve.
The poll also revealed that frustration is not only against Obama, because 59 percent of those polled do not support democrats in Congress, while 35 percent approved them, but also two thirds of them do not support republicans and just 19 percent support them.
The poll included 2,089 people and defining their political inclination: 41 percent of the young defined themselves as independents, 33 percent as democrats and 24 percent as republicans, and predicted a large number of non-participants in the primary elections in 2014.
US Secretary of State John Kerry was in the Zionist entity on Thursday for talks aimed at calming tensions with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a nuclear deal sealed between Iran and world powers last month.
“I can’t emphasize enough that Israel’s security in this negotiation is at the top of our agenda,” Kerry told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in occupied al-Quds (Jerusalem).
“And the United States will do everything in our power to make certain that Iran’s nuclear program of weaponization possibilities is terminated.”
Earlier on November 24, Iran and world powers reached a deal in Geneva on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. In which Tehran agree to roll back parts of its nuclear program in return for limited relief from Western sanctions. The deal was roundly condemned by Netanyahu, who called it a “historic mistake”.
“We agreed on what the goal of the final status agreement (with Iran) ought to be, and in the days ahead we will consult very closely and continuously with our Israeli friends in order to bring about a comprehensive agreement that can withstand everybody’s test,” Kerry said.
Kerry landed in the occupied territories late on Wednesday for a trip aimed at giving momentum to Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have made little apparent headway since they began under his patronage in late July.
The American Studies Association, a 60-year old US academic organization with 5,000 members, passed a resolution on Wednesday committing to the boycott movement against Israel.
Citing its commitment to “the pursuit of social justice” and to “the struggle against all forms of racism,” the ASA revealed in a statement published on its website that it had voted to support the academic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
“The American Studies Association endorses and will honor the call of Palestinian civil society for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions,” the statement read.
“The ASA supports the protected rights of students and scholars everywhere to engage in research and public speaking about Israel-Palestine and in support of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.”
ASA noted the “significant role” played by the United States “in enabling the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the expansion of illegal settlements and the [apartheid] Wall in violation of international law, as well as in supporting the systematic discrimination against Palestinians, which has had documented devastating impact on the overall well-being, the exercise of political and human rights, the freedom of movement, and the educational opportunities of Palestinians.”
The BDS movement has gained traction over the past years, as a growing number of scholars and academic entities have committed to the cause.
More than 950 scholars working in American institutions have endorsed the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
The Association for Asian American Studies became the first US academic organization to officially support the boycott movement in April.
In May, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking withdrew from an Israeli conference, citing his decision to respect the Israel boycott.
On Monday, the Obama administration called for the immediate release of Jewish-American Alan Phillip Gross from Cuban imprisonment, saying his continued captivity for anti-state activities was “gravely disappointing”.
“Tomorrow, development worker Alan Gross will begin a fifth year of unjustified imprisonment in Cuba. It’s gravely disappointing, especially in light of its professed goal of providing Cubans with internet access,” a US State Department said in a statement.
Allan Gross, earlier, asked President Barack Obama to get involved personally to get him released from Cuban jail. “Havana even agreed to meet US government officials, without any pre-conditions, to discuss possible terms leading to Gross’ release and his return home. But the State Department has rejected any negotiated settlement of Gross case out of hand,” claims Scott Gilbert, Alan Gross’ lawyer.
R.M. Schneiderman, editor and writer for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, wrote in the Foreign Affairs Magazine (December 21, 2012) that the single biggest reason Barack Obama cannot make peace with Cuba – is Alan Gross, a Jewish US citizen serving out a 15-year prison sentence in Havana. Cuban officials claim that Alan Gross was working for the US government and trying to subvert the state while working as a contractor in Cuba.
Tracey Eaton, a Cuban blogger, has claimed that Alan Gross was no contractor but a soldier serving the US government to bring regime change in Havana.
“Gross was a soldier, albeit of a different sort. Instead of the usual M9 pistol, he carried a Samsonite briefcase, plenty of cash and 15 credit cards. In place of a combat uniform and boots, he wore beige Land’s End pants and brown Rockport shoes. He spoke no Spanish, but was an experienced international development worker and had worked in such hotspots as Afghanistan and the Middle East. His weapon was technology. He traveled to Havana in 2009 with satellite communication gear, wireless transmitters, routers, cables and switches – enough to set up Internet connections and Wi-Fi hotspots that the socialist government would not be able to detect or control. He worked for Development Alternatives Inc., a Maryland contractor that USAID had hired to carry out a democracy-promotion program,” wrote Eaton.
The so-called Cuba-America Jewish Mission (CAJM) is the main source of information at the US State Department.
The Office of Foreign Assests Control (OFAC) within the US Treasury Department put Cuba on its list of countries allegedly sponsoring terrorism against the United States or Israel (incidently, America’s terrorist allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia, India, etc. are not on the list) in 1982. Adam J. Szubin, a Zionist Jew, is the current director of OFAC. He is son of Rabbi Zvi Henry Szubin.
In September 2013, the UN General Assembly condemned the embargo against Cuba with 188 in favor and the US and Israel against it. Israel is the main culprit in using OFAC to starve countries which it doesn’t like, such as, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Lebanon, Pakistan, etc. Israel fears that lifting of sanctions would trigger an international rush back into some these countries especially Iran and Sudan.
Cuba is home to 15,000 Jews. Before Fidel Castro established communist rule in Cuba in 1959, Cuba was considered very friendly to Jews and Israel under former dictator Fulgencio Batista (died 1973). Batista helped the World Zionist Movement in the airlift of 150,000 Jews from Iraq, Iran, Yemen and India to help European Jewish terrorist groups set-up Jewish settlements on Arab land during 1951-52. Cuban businessman Narciso V. Roselló Otero with Israeli connections sponsored those flights. Later he became President of the new Cuban airline Aerea de Cuba.
It seems that the NSA’s “talking points” keep on leaking. The latest is a two pager it sent home with employees prior to Thanksgiving, so they’d have substance-free pablum to say in response to any family and friends who might actually have been paying attention to the news lately, and have some concerns to raise about the NSA violating our privacy and the Constitution. The document is broadly split into five sections, with sub talking points within each section. Here are the key points (underlines in the original):
- NSA’s mission is of great value to the Nation”
- NSA performs its mission the right way—lawful, compliant and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy
- NSA performs its mission exceptionally well. We strive to be the best that we can be, because that’s what America requires as part of its defense in a dangerous world
- The people who work for NSA are loyal Americans with expert skills who make sacrifices to help protect the freedoms we all cherish
- NSA is committed to increased transparency, public dialog and faithful implementation of any changes required by our overseers.
Almost all of the talking points are misleading, with some clearly being outright lies. Kevin Gosztola at Firedoglake, who first obtained and published these talking points, does an incredibly thorough demolishing of the talking points, so I highly recommend reading that. Here’s a short snippet:
“NSA programs protect Americans and our Allies,” the document reads. “As an example, they have helped to understand and disrupt 54 terrorist events since 9/11: 25 in Europe, 11 in Asia and 5 in Africa. Thirteen of those had a homeland nexus.”
Deputy Director John Inglis admitted in August during a Senate hearing, when pressed by Sen. Patrick Leahy, that US bulk records phone spying had been “critical” in stopping just one terrorist plot. He clarified that the spying on phone records had only “made a contribution” to discovering the 13 plots.
Sens. Ron Wyden, Mark Udall & Martin Heinrich, who filed a brief in support of an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit challenging the collection of phone records of all Americans, explained the Executive Branch has defended the program by conflating it with “other foreign intelligence authorities.” The senators highlighted the fact that the collection under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act had played “little or no role in most of these disruptions.”
“Indeed of the original fifty-four that the government pointed to, officials have only been able to describe two that involved materially useful information obtained through the bulk call-records program,” the senators added. “Even the two supposed success stories involved information that [the senators] believe—after repeated requests to the government for evidence to the contrary—could readily have been obtained without a database of all Americans’ call records.”
At this point, any intelligence agency leader, member of Congress or government official who highlights 54 “thwarted” plots is advancing propaganda to save the NSA from being forced into giving up this power to collect the phone records of all Americans.
There’s much, much more at the original. Go read it. Most of these talking points are pretty much what you’d expect, and the standard doublespeak we’ve been hearing from the NSA and its defenders ever since the Snowden revelations began. At best they’re setting up strawmen to knock down. No one has argued that NSA employees aren’t American citizens. We just question what they’re doing. Furthermore, the whole “lawful, compliant” thing is kind of laughable, given the numerous examples of abuses, and the regular discussions from the courts about how the NSA has abused its mandate. Even more to the point, many of these programs simply have not been challenged in court in an actual trial, so claiming that they’re legal is a huge stretch.
Maybe it’s time that someone put together a list of “talking points” for friends and family of NSA employees to read back to them the next time they spew these kinds of bogus claims.
Bonus: The folks at Gawker worked the talking points into a script. Here’s a snippet:
DAD: So, Ted, how’s work lately?
UNCLE TED: NSA’s mission is of great value to the Nation.
DAD: Oh, for sure. I was just thinking since it’s been in the news a lot…
UNCLE TED: NSA performs timely, actionable intelligence to political and military customers who use that information in a range of activities from decisionmaking to military operations.
MOM: Honey, maybe Ted doesn’t want to talk abou—
UNCLE TED: NSA performs its mission the right way—lawful, compliant, and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy.
KEITH ALEXANDER: Pass the salt?
Trust is in short supply these days in the United States.
Only about 30% of Americans say most people can be trusted—down from 50% in 1972.
For most people (nearly two-thirds), their view of others can be summed up with: “you can’t be too careful.”
The high level of distrust applies to day-to-day living, with the percentage whose level of trust is “just somewhat,” “not too much” or ”not at all” rising to 65% when handing a credit card or debit card to a clerk, 75% when dealing with drivers on the road, and 78% when meeting strangers on trips.
One expert blames income inequality for Americans losing their trust.
University of Maryland Professor Eric Uslaner, who studies politics and trust, told the Associated Press (AP) that trust has gone down as the gap between the wealthy and the poor has grown.
“People who believe the world is a good place and it’s going to get better and you can help make it better, they will be trusting,” Uslaner said. “If you believe it’s dark and driven by outside forces you can’t control, you will be a mistruster.”
Some say trust has eroded as people have become greedy over money.
“I think people are acting more on their greed,” Bart Murawski, 27, a computer specialist who told AP he has witnessed scams and rip-offs. “Everybody wants a comfortable lifestyle, but what are you going to do for it? Where do you draw the line?”
Other factors are responsible as well.
A survey last year found nearly 80% of African-Americans weren’t very trusting, which may be a product of generations of racism, discrimination and high rates of poverty.
To Learn More:
In God We Trust, Maybe, But Not Each Other (by Connie Cass, Associated Press/GFK)
Poll Results (Associated Press/GFK) (pdf)
Only 1 in 5 Americans Trust the Government to Do What Is Right (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
It appears that the heads of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Mike Rogers, are recognizing that their strategy for keeping their co-dependent relationship with the NSA going is failing and that the American public and an increasingly large segment of Congress no longer believes their bogus claims. Perhaps that’s because every time they open their mouths, it takes all of about an hour before many of their claims are completely debunked, if not outright mocked for obviously being bogus. So their latest strategy? To basically yell “Ooga Booga Terrorists!” as loud as they can to try to scare people based on absolutely nothing.
Feinstein and Rogers did a little dance on Sunday political TV shows insisting that “the terrorism threat is increasing” and we’re all going to die if we stop trying to make sure the NSA actually, you know, respects the Constitution. Asked if we were “safer” now than a year or two years ago, Feinstein kicked off the FUD:
“I don’t think so,” Feinstein replied. “I think terror is up worldwide, the statistics indicate that. The fatalities are way up. The numbers are way up. There are new bombs, very big bombs. Trucks being reinforced for those bombs. There are bombs that go through magnetometers. The bomb maker is still alive. There are more groups than ever. And there is huge malevolence out there.”
And Rogers quickly followed:
“I absolutely agree that we’re not safer today for the same very reasons,” he said. “So the pressure on our intelligence services to get it right to prevent an attack are enormous. And it’s getting more difficult.”
Of course, Feinstein’s claim that “terror is up worldwide” is — as is so often the case with her (and Rogers’) claims about terrorism — sorta true, but highly misleading. Yes, recent stats show an uptick in terrorist attacks and fatalities in 2012 — but you can also see that it’s highly variable. Earlier in the year, before the 2012 numbers came out, people were commenting on the fact that terror attacks and fatalities around the globe had been on the decline since 2007. Terrorism is highly variable and dependent on a few big successful attacks. Furthermore, if we look at attacks on the US, we find that there have basically been next to none in the US since 2001. You could make the case that 16 people have died in US “terrorist” attacks since 2001 (including the 13 soldiers killed by Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood), but you have to have a very broad definition of terrorism to do so.
Nearly all of the “terrorist” attacks in that original report that Feinstein is obviously relying on, appear to take place in areas that are considered war zones: Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. And, um, I hate to bring this part up, but part of the reason why those are war zones is because, you know, the US invaded both places. This isn’t to say that there aren’t terrorists out there who would like to attack the US. There clearly are. But it seems highly misleading to make the claims that both Feinstein and Rogers are making here, as the “data” they’re talking about don’t show any heightened risk in the US at all.
Either way, this whole thing — having both appear together, both making vague “we’re all going to die” statements without any details to back it up combined with an exceptionally misleading use of statistics — suggests that this is the typical FUD. It’s Feinstein and Rogers shouting “terror” in a crowded theater, because they know that they’ve already lost public opinion on this, and are quickly losing Congress as well.
William Colby, the former director of the CIA, told us that the agency owns everyone of significance in the mass media. The onslaught of false and misleading reports during the 50th observance of the assassination of JFK provided stunning confirmation that he was correct. none of the national news anchors addressed the evidence.
As someone who has done extensive research on the death of the 35th president of the United States, including chairing or co-chairing (now) five national conferences, and having published three collections of studies by experts on different aspects of the case, it was painfully apparent. The alleged assassin did not even fire a single shot.
Here I want to summarize some of the most egregious examples of abuse of the media by major players, including CBS, which endorsed the “magic bullet” theory, and by Bob Schieffer, who is the host of “Face the Nation,” who may be the most blatant purveyor of false information of them all. Even interviewing a witness who personally observed two wounds to JFK, Schieffer simply ignores him.
The “Magic Bullet” Theory
CBS, for example, featured a father/son combination who claimed to have vindicated the “magic bullet” theory by modeling the neck with a block of soap. Blocks of soap, however, are a poor substitute for a human neck, because they do not include the vertebrae of the neck. As long as JFK had a backbone, it cannot possibly be correct.
The “magic bullet” is crucial to the official account because, as Michael Baden, M.D., the head of the HSCA medical panel has observed, if there was no “magic bullet” then there had to have been at least six shots from three directions and hence multiple shooters and a conspiracy. It was the crux of the Warren Commission’s “lone assassin” scenario.
But we have the shirt and the jacket he was wearing, which have holes about 5.5″ below the collar to the right of the spinal column. The autopsy diagram shows a wound at the same location. So does the President’s personal physician’s death certificate and the mortician’s description. We know that the “magic bullet” theory is false.
Even the Warren Commission’s own staff located a wound there during its reenactments. There is a small patch on the stand-in for JFK and a much larger patch for the wound to his back. There are multiple reenactment photos that show the staff’s presumptions of wounds at those locations.
One shows a young Arlene Specter holding a pointer showing the trajectory that the “magic bullet” had to have taken if the theory were true. Below his hand by several inches, you can see the patch, which means that a photo intended to illustrate the “magic bullet” theory actually refutes it instead.
We also know that Gerald Ford (R-MI), then a junior member of the Warren Commission, had the description of the wound altered from “his uppermost back” to the “back of the neck” in order to make the “magic bullet” theory more plausible. But it is not only provably false but anatomically impossible.
The Mantik CAT Scan
David W. Mantik, M.D., Ph.D., created a CAT scan of a patient with similar check and neck dimensions and plotted the trajectory the “magic bullet” is supposed to have taken. So it turns out to be an anatomical impossibility, because cervical vertebrae intervene. Hence, the use of a block of soap!
I presented a lecture at Cambridge on the “magic bullet” theory, which was subsequently published in an international, peer-reviewed journal under the title, “Reasoning about Assassinations”. Anyone can download it on-line. I find it embarrassing that so many in the media appear to be so massively ignorant of the most basic evidence in this case.
But of course it is more feigned than real. I also published an article about the CBS appearance on Veterans Today under the title, “The JFK War: CBS endorses the ‘magic bullet’ absurdity”, which is typical of the quality of coverage by the media. When CBS stands by a provably false and anatomically impossible account, something is very wrong.
The “Face the Nation” Scandal
Among the egregious remarks coming from Bob Schieffer, host of “Face the Nation”, a prominent Sunday morning news discussion show on CBS, was that “It was an easy shot!”, referring to the shots that Lee Oswald is alleged to have taken from the 6th floor of the School Book Depository. But the fact of the matter is they were anything but.
No one has been able to replicate the shots attributed to Oswald, who, I can confirm, was a mediocre shot, having supervised recruit training at the USMC Recruit Depot in San Diego and marksmanship training in Edson Range in Camp Pendleton. He barely qualified on the rifle range in 1959 and there is no indication that he continued shooting.
The best sniper in the US Marine Corps, Gunny Carlos Hathcock, made repeated attempts at Quantico to replicate his shooting without success. And Jesse Ventura, an expert shot, tried to do it with a far superior Mannlicher-Carcan and scored one hit in three replications of 3-shots firing at stationary targets. Check out his “Conspiracy Theory” program on JFK.
No “Convincing” Evidence
During a conversation with Larry Sabato, a prominent political commentator from the University of Virginia, he said “as yet no one has shown me (Schieffer) evidence to convince me that he–that there was anybody else connected.” And he asks Sabato why that is, and Sabato dutifully replies that it is difficult to accept the minor cause of the major effect.
“They tried to invest it with meaning by saying, it’s the CIA, it’s the anti-Castro Cubans, it’s LBJ. It’s this one, it’s that one. But as you say, you have to go by the evidence and we’re still waiting for evidence beyond that of Lee Harvey Oswald, who was clearly guilty”. But I have confronted Sabato with proof that the situation is completely different.
Since I taught twice at UVA, I submitted a response to the student newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, which was published with the title, “JFK: Truth or Conspiracy?”, featuring a three part panel showing the fist-sized wound that was observed at Parkland, the enormous missing 1/3 of the skull at Bethesda, and the tiny wound from the HSCA, which I challenged him to explain. He has not replied.
Two wounds widely broadcast
In fact, two wounds were widely broadcast over radio and television following the assassination: a small puncture wound to the throat and a blow-out to the back of the head, both of which were fired from in front. If you go to “See it now” for the NBC coverage, for example, you can confirm this for yourself. Chet Huntley was reporting about them both.
Astonishing, Bob Schieffer had one of the Parkland physicians who had treated JFK at Parkland on his show, Dr. Ronald Jones. And Jones told Schieffer that, when he entered Trauma Room #1, he “noticed a small hole in the front of the neck that I estimated to be a quarter of an inch. And I knew he had a large wound to the back of his head”.
Instead of jumping on this first-person report of those two wounds, both of which had been fired from in front, Schieffer simply ignores them and says, “And he was alive at that point but just barely”. This coming from a prominent newsman who claims that he has never seen any evidence Oswald did not do it alone–even when it is presented on his own show!
Oswald was framed for the crime
The weapon was known as “the humanitarian rifle” in World War II for never harming anyone on purpose. This weapon had a misaligned sight and had to be rebuilt before any experts would even attempt to fire it. And its bolt action was so difficult it took the scope off the target each time it was fired, which meant it consumed additional time to reacquire the target.
We also know from Marina, his wife, that Lee admired President Kennedy and bore him no malice. More recent research, moreover, has confirmed that a man whose image was captured in a famous photograph taken during the shooting standing in the doorway of the Book Depository was Lee Oswald. He had neither motive nor means nor opportunity.
Students as long ago as Harold Weisberg, WHITEWASH II (1966), have maintained that Lee was in the doorway. Vince Salandria, Mark Lane, Gerald McKnight and many other experts have agreed. Evidence that is archived at the “Oswald Innocence Campaign” establishes his location. Since he was in the doorway, he was not also on the 6th floor.
The Backyard Photographs
Jim Marrs, the author of CROSSFIRE (1987) and I have proven that the backyard photographs that were used to frame Oswald were fabrications with his face pasted on someone else’s body. The chin is a block chin and not Lee’s more tapered chin, with an insert line between chin and lower lip. And the finger tips of his right hand are cut off.
Jack White, the legendary photo and film analyst, observed that the newspapers he is holding have dimensions that are known and therefore can serve as an internal yardstick. Using that measure, it turns out that the man in those photos is only 5’6″ tall, too short to be Oswald, who was 5’10″. They either used a stand-in who was too short or else made the papers too large when they faked the photos.
Anyone can review our proof at “Framing the Patsy: The Case of Lee Harvey Oswald”. And see “JFK believe it or not: Oswald wasn’t even a shooter!” by Richard Hooke or “Part 1: A National Security Event – Oswald didn’t do it” and “JFK Part 2: A National Security Event – How it was done”, for further proof of how they framed an innocent man.
Other examples abound
Tom Brokow on NBC cut off Robert Groden discussing the shooting of Officer J.D. Tippit, when Groden began to explain that the four cartridges found at the scene had been ejected from one or more automatics, while Oswald had a revolver. It is absurd to image Lee could shoot a policeman four times and then remove the incriminating casings.
The first officer on the scene initialed them. There were two of one make (Western) and two of another (Remington). Later, as happened in this case, those casings were replaced by four casings from a revolver, but now there were three of one make and one of the other. And none of them had the officer’s initials. It was that blatant a frame.
A woman across the street, Acquilla Clemons, who had observed the shooting, reported that two men had shot Tippit and that neither of them looked like Oswald. So they simply did not call her as a witness. The best report about the Tippit shooting may be found in Groden (1995)’s “The Search for Lee Harvey Oswald,” if you can track it down.
Michael Shermer and the LA Times
Yet another example comes from The LA Times, where Michael Shermer authored an Op/Ed piece maintaining that conspiracy theories derive from a psychological need to explain how a comparative unknown could have murdered JFK. I replied that perhaps we do not believe a lone gunman took him out with three lucky shots because it is not true.
The evidence of conspiracy is overwhelming. The man in Mexico City looks nothing like Lee Oswald, for example. J. Edgar Hoover sent a memorandum to his Agents-in-Charge informing them that someone was there impersonating Lee Oswald. If that is all you know of the assassination, you know enough to conclude it was a conspiracy.
And Waggoner Carr, the Attorney General of Texas, discovered that Lee was working as an informant for the FBI, that he had informant #179 and that he was being paid $200 right up to the day of the assassination, which may explain why the American government claims it cannot find the W-2 (tax) forms for the alleged assassin of our 35th president.
For those who want more, see “What happened to JFK–and why it matters today” (2011) and the videos from the Santa Barbara conference. The public skepticism about Oswald as the lone shooters is not explicable on the basis of psychology but by logic and evidence, which appears to be unknown to Shermer, The LA Times, and our national media.
American national security journalist Jeremy Scahill and leftist British columnist Owen Jones announced recently that they would not share a platform with a Palestinian-Lebanese nun at the Stop The War Coalition’s November 30 UK conference.
Neither Scahill nor Jones provided any reason for their harsh “indictment” of Mother Agnes Mariam, who has worked tirelessly for the past few years on reconciliation in war-torn Syria, where she has lived for two decades.
The journalists – neither of whom have produced any notable body of work on Syria – appear to have followed the lead of a breed of Syria “activists” who have given us doozies like “Assad is about to fall,” “Assad has no support,” “the opposition is peaceful,” “the opposition is unarmed,” “this is a popular revolution,” “the revolution is not foreign-backed,” “there is no Al Qaeda in Syria,” “the dead are mostly civilians,” and other such gems.
For some of these activists, anything short of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure is no solution of any kind. Mother Agnes Mariam, whose Mussalaha (Reconciliation) movement inside Syria works specifically on mediation, dialogue and the promotion of non-violence, is unmoved by black-and-white solutions: Reconciliation, after all, is a series of political settlements forged on both local and national levels. There are only compromises there, not absolute gain. She doesn’t actually care who leads Syria and who wins or loses, providing the choice comes from a Syrian majority.
Yet the smear “Assad apologist” persists in following Mother Agnes on her visits to foreign capitals to gain support for Massalaha and its methods. It puts her at risk on the ground in Syria and inhibits her ability to open communications with those who would otherwise welcome the relief she brings.
When Scahill and Jones announced they would not share a platform with Mother Agnes at the STWC conference, she withdrew so as not to undermine the event’s anti-war unity objective. But instead of bringing this incident to a close, a maelstrom has erupted around the actions of the two journalists: “Who are they to pass judgement? Why would reporters seek to censor any voice?”
Award-winning British journalist and author Jonathan Cook perhaps put it best in his piece entitled “Bowing before the inquisitors on Syria”:
“Scahill and Jones have not done something principled or progressive here. They are trying to stay ‘onside’ with the corporate media, the main political parties and the Syria war-mongers. In short, they are looking out for their careers…They are looking to keep their credibility within a wider political system that, they otherwise seem to acknowledge, is deeply compromised and corrupt. In this episode, they are not chiefly worrying about countering moves towards an attack or saving Syrian lives, even while they claim this is exactly what their participation is about.”
Both journalists are outspoken against the censorship of information by the “establishment media” so it is particularly galling to see them succumb to the bullying narratives that have so dominated Syria coverage in the mainstream. In their own domain and area of expertise they don’t trust establishment voices, so why trust them in any other arena? This rather obvious contradiction has turned the tables on Scahill/Jones – if anything, generating interest in Mother Agnes and what she has to say.
Time to give her that platform back – no need for others to filter your information, you can judge for yourself below. And because so much of this debate has taken place on Twitter and the blogosphere, I invited “tweeps” from all sides of the Syrian divide to pose some questions too:
So without further ado, here is Mother Agnes Mariam, in her own words:
Did the Stop The War Coalition ask you to withdraw from their anti-war conference or did you choose to do so of your own volition?
I was invited to this conference, then I was informed about people that were against my coming and threatening to blow it up because of me. I preferred to immediately withdraw for the sake of this conference. Now, to tell you the truth I also have fear that this conference will not be useful, because these people attending are not applying non-violence principles. Non-violence principles means to be open to all adversaries. We can deal with people who don’t think like us. A non-violent approach is to dialogue precisely with people who are different. For a peace conference to begin like this, I felt like it is not a peace conference.
Have you ever heard of Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones before this?
No, not at all. Who are they? Didn’t even notice who the people were. I heard about this from my organizer – that some people opposed even my presence. I understand everybody – I have been in dialogue with precisely the kind of people who opposed my presence. But it is the first time I hear their names, so no, I don’t know them. I’m not a person in the “scene.” (laughs)
What do you think of the attempt to censor views on Syria – and does your own experience this week have any correlation with how the mainstream media has covered Syria for almost three years?
You know, before working in reconciliation, I thought the so-called “democratic world” was really protecting freedom of expression and political choices. I am not involved with politics but they are ‘framing’ me; politicizing me. Am very shocked to learn that in this democratic world it is forbidden to think differently, talk differently and act differently from people who proclaim themselves as the ‘absolute reference’ for public opinion. This is a campaign of defamation. I am threatened by them: not by Jabhat al-Nusra, with whom I sometimes have good relations, or Al Qaeda – but by French media, by prominent leaders and CEOs of catholic NGOs, and by reporters. Am really astonished at how a reporter can become a prosecutor and a judge and can issue the sentence, and I am afraid that he can apply this sentence because today I see he works in total impunity.
Some media outlets and activists have accused you of brokering a civilian evacuation in rebel-held Moadamiya, only to hand them over to the Syrian authorities. What actually happened?
It was a purely humanitarian endeavor. Our (Mussalaha) team receives calls from all over Syria asking us to investigate people who have disappeared, to find out conditions for their release, to mediate on prisoner exchanges, to get food supplies to populations in need, how to transport humanitarian aid to hot areas, how to bring medical equipment to dangerous areas, how to arrange ceasefires, how to help violent opponents to shift to non-violence. We help to implement a non-violent spirit – we work with everybody, all sides, to do this.
This particular evacuation was requested by the civilian population itself in Mouadamiya. We have Mussalaha team members from Mouadamiya who are mediators. We were addressing the humanitarian issue in Moadamiya for many months before this, to try to make reconciliation from a violent opposition to a non-violent opposition. And when I saw photos of starving children on the Facebook – like in Biafra – I went to the Syrian Minister of Social Affairs Kinda al-Chammat to say this was not acceptable and that we should do something. Then we made contact with all the world health groups and international NGOs – we had talks with them to provide food. A caravan of more than 20 trucks was ready to enter Moadamiya, but it was forbidden to enter. It is difficult to say by who – I think it was from the army that was besieging this rebel stronghold, but also from the warlords that fix enormous prices to provide the entrance of food. Minister Chammat was really open to finding a solution, I said if they are not giving us the green light, I will go myself to take the 18 children who were under threat of dying. So we were entrusted to negotiate with the notables and the families in Moadamiya. Our mediators (also from Moadamiya) were surprised when whole families expressed the wish to be evacuated – because they are the families of the rebels, and to ask to be evacuated means they will be relying on the government. When we heard this we thought it was an easier and safer solution because if you bring in food but the violence continues, those civilians will be harmed anyway.
You know, under the Geneva Convention, it is illegal to transform a residential area into a battleground and if you do that you cannot keep civilians there like human shields. So the evacuation was motivated first by the desire of the families (not all, you know). The first project was to evacuate 100-200 women and children without any of their belongings, because there was a big fear that undisciplined members from either side would breach the ceasefire. It was delicate. Then on the very day, Minister Chammat, seeing hundreds of women and children arriving, told us “let as many who want to leave come out, because we cannot make discrimination,” so she made it open for that day. The government agreed to let us go alone; we were not escorted. All this was done in negotiations between the ministry and the governor of rural Damascus. Our responsibility was to bring the civilians to the barricade, but when we went there the rebels did not allow the women to proceed. I concluded, through contacts with the families that they were willing to come out, but we had to negotiate directly with the rebels. So I took a white flag into the area called no man’s land. I was followed by two of our mediators and by Sister Carmel – and it was heroic from her because she is a fearful person but she didn’t want me to go alone. There were tens of young rebel men, some armed, others not. And we were taken on a tour to see the destruction of the city and they asked us to come to the military council. (A video of Mother Agnes inside Moadamiya can be viewed here) They gave us security assurance. The commander arrived and they asked me to make a statement, which they recorded by video. But then we were detained, they wanted us to remain like ransom in exchange to let the women go out. We were hearing many noises and even gunfire while we were waiting. Then a real battle broke out – it was a big danger for everybody. We noticed that among them there was no unity, each would say their own thing. Finally, another leader came and agreed to the evacuation. Many of the leaders of fighters wanted their own families to leave. Others who don’t have families didn’t care. All we did was to answer a humanitarian request from rebel families.
In total, we evacuated 6,600 women and children – we have all their names, they are all registered. More than 200 are not registered because they left immediately with relatives. Also 650 young men came on their own to surrender. The army considered them as fighters. A few were badly wounded and they were taken to hospital. The (media) criticism was based on fake stories because the opposition (not the ones in Moadamiyada) do not want to accept the success of reconciliation based on mediation between the government and rebels. And because – after the success of the Moadamiya evacuation – ten other points in Syria have asked for the same mediation. Yesterday, for example, we had another evacuation – from Beit Sahm I believe – who were evacuated temporarily until the violence ceases. These critics said many were killed, abducted, raped when they came out of Moadamiya. Yes, there have been some errors and undisciplined acts. For instance, nine of the women were robbed. Volunteers from the ‘popular committees’ robbed their gold. We have done this evacuation in three separate days. On the first day we had 20 boys that were arrested, but we launched a campaign about this and they have been released. There are only two young boys now who are detained. We are still following up to secure them. The rebels with whom we have negotiated have entrusted us with their families, and they are the families of leaders and fighters, not just normal families. Until today, the two boys who disappeared after the Moadamiya evacuations are a problem for me and my credibility with the rebels. I am struggling with the authorities to find these boys right now.
The other major attack against you stems from a report you wrote about the aftermath of an alleged chemical weapons (CW) attack in Ghouta. You are accused of whitewashing the incident, blaming rebels for it and even charging children of “faking death.” How do you respond to these charges?
I have been accused of denying CW attacks, of protecting the Syrian regime and of accusing the rebels of launching those attacks. I have never said this. In the forward of a study I did on this, I affirm: I am not an expert. I am not talking on a military basis, or a forensic or medical basis. I just questioned some videos. It started because I was asked by the parents – survivors of a terrible massacre in the Latakia mountains – to help find some children abducted with women after the massacre. Some had recognized their children in the pictures of the chemical attacks. They delegated me to look into this for them. I was tracking those children in the videos – without this task I would not have had any incentive to look at the videos. My work at the monastery was in iconography and restoration (preservation) – I am very used to using my eyes to look for tiny details. I noticed discrepancies in the videos. I came to look at them for one thing (the abducted children) and in the process I discovered these videos were fake. When I went to Geneva to the commissioners in the Human Rights Council, I told them about my findings in relation to the missing children and the videos, and they said they would be interested to have something written. I do not incriminate anybody in this study. I do not pretend to decide if there was a CW attack or not. There were discrepancies and I am simply asking questions. The study was done in a hurry – we even said it was a beta version. Now I am finalizing the study that will introduce even more evidence. Those videos – numbers 1, 6, 11, 13 among the 13 videos claimed by the US intelligence community as authenticated and verified to be presented to Congress as genuine evidence of CW attacks – are fake, staged and pre-fabricated. Nobody thus far is answering my charges – they are incriminating me without answering. My goal in this is to find the children; that’s my only goal. If they were used for staging, are they alive? Where are they now? If they are alive they must be returned to their families. If they are dead, we want to see their bodies to bury them so their parents can mourn them and we want to know how they were put to death and where. I am asking to see the graves where 1,466 alleged corpses are buried in Ghouta and to take from the pit samples to conduct an honest inquiry. Because I doubt that there is such a pit.
Question from Twitter user @MortenHj: “Can she elaborate on how she conduct her talks between the warring sides? How do they acknowledge her; promise safety?”
Normally, we are called by the rebel sides who invite us for some settlements. Usually Syrian fighters either want to shift to non-violence, surrender and continue their lives, or they want us to mediate an exchange between abductees and detainees. We mediate among the responsible parties in government, like the ministry of justice and ministry of social affairs – it depends, since each case has its own context. We do it on a neutral basis – we are mediators, not part of the conflict. We want to ease the fate of civilians and we consider the fate of the Syrian rebels. We do not care about foreign fighters. Those foreign fighters are legally not allowed to enter or be in Syria. But we have special care for the Syrian fighters. We consider them as victims. A 17 or 18-year-old boy who is to be jailed, his mother is crying, what am I to do?
We talk via phone or Skype, sometimes we visit them as I did in many places. Sometimes the leader of a rebel group come to see me in a disguised way. Our (more detailed) talks are preferably face to face to build trust and transparency.
Sometimes you have rebels who request the release of their people who have been captured, others want to surrender – they don’t want anymore to participate in the armed struggle. Sometimes the liberal factions ask for help against the radical factions. I always say that between Syrians there is not a real wall. There is not a watertight impervious wall, so we receive many requests. We have had meetings with Jabhat al Nusra (JaN). When they are Syrians they can be flexible, when they are radical (foreigners) they will not talk to you, they will kill you. It’s like the Baggara tribe of around 3 million – they have relatives in Liwa al-Tawhid and JaN too. Half the tribe are loyalists, half are opposition. And this is a hope for the future. Everybody can talk to everybody. Once in Raqqa they put me on the phone with the emir because they wanted dialysis equipment for their hospital and so we mediated and the ministry of health sent 3 dialysis machines for the sake of the civilian population. I am always astonished how my people in the reconciliation committee know everybody.
Question from Twitter user @Kreasechan – What does she think should happen to those in command positions in the regime who have committed or commissioned war crimes and crimes against humanity?
I will tell you something. All this ‘apparatus of incriminations’ is politicized. If you can read between the lines of the report of the international Commission of Inquiry, you will see that the Syrian government has a hierarchy so it is easy to incriminate the government as a whole. But the rebels don’t have a hierarchy – you have 2,000 different battalions. Every time you see violence by rebels, large scale ones with hundreds of civilians now killed every week on a sectarian basis… If you study the more than 100,000 dead in Syria, you will be surprised to see that more than 45% of them are from the army and security forces. Then you have 35% of civilians among those dead, more than half of whom are killed by opposition. Then you have 15-20% of dead who are rebels. So it is not true to say the government is the only one perpetrating things against human rights. The Commission of Inquiry will have to work without political pressure to implement a good inquiry where everyone will be heard, because we are scandalized that light is shed on one side, but not on the other side. I know by saying this, they will incriminate me. But in reality, I am on side of the victims – I care that they will be heard. If you don’t hear from every side, these victims will continue to be under violence with impunity. We must ask accountability from everybody. Those incriminated by a fair, unbiased inquiry will have to pay their crimes, even those who have instigated and financed sectarian crimes.
Question from Twitter user @Paciffreepress – Do you love Assad, Mother Agnes?
I live in Syria and I have a burden on my shoulders for Syria. I believe beheading Syria from its government is a dangerous aggression when the UN still continues to consider the government of Assad to be the legal government. I rely on the UN position, which is the legal position. I consider that the dismantling of any State is a crime against humanity because it deprives the citizens of their citizenship and from their legality. They become pariahs. The Syrian people should decide through fair elections.
Question from Twitter user @r3sho – What is her opinion about Kurdish autonomy in Syria?
I am with the Syrian people – they will choose their own way, even if they want to make a federation or whatever. I am personally against the division of Syria, but federalism is up to the people. In my view, dividing a country is an aggression, but if the country decides to be a federation, it is a legal thing. They are free to do so.
Question from Twitter user @broodmywarcraft: what does she have to say to those who call her a stooge for Assad?
I am a stooge only for peace, not for Assad. I am for peace through reconciliation. I am for dialogue and I am for discussing issues with everybody who wants to discuss peace. If any Syrian, on any side of this horrible conflict wishes to discus peace or work toward peace through reconciliation, I am ready to help.
Question from Twitter user @bangpound: Does she still think the children were faking it in Ghouta?
They were not faking it. I never said that at all. I believe that they were either under anesthesia or that they were killed. But as the videos are fake, my terrible question is what were they doing with them?
Question from Twitter user @Nouraltabbaa: If she is trying to perform a Mussalaha why is she meeting with Ali Kayyali and other militias but not the opposition fighters?
For some hard cases, I have to go beyond the civil administration to negotiate with the warlords. We go there officially as a reconciliation committee, accompanied by some Muslim clerics. I have to mediate with the opposition and the government and the popular committees. I have to mediate with everyone.
Question from Twitter user @HRIMark: What effect is the campaign of defamation and threats against her having on her and her work?
It affects my life. I cannot go back to my monastery. I was saved by the Free Syrian Army (FSA). They informed me about orders to abduct and kill me by foreign parties. They helped me to go out from Qara and they protected our monastery and they have not, to this day, given me the green light to return. A lot of them were workers in our monastery.
Question from Twitter user @Net_News_Global: Ask her, if she thinks, that there was, besides murderous propaganda, a real CW attack.
We have witnesses and ‘social sensors’ everywhere in Damascus. Until today we have received 88 claims of death in Moadamiya (from the August 21 attack).
We are told they were not killed because of sarin, that they were killed because of heavy shelling from the army and from suffocation from heavy shelling. The deceased were together in a shelter and they suffocated from this. Moadamiya people told us this. One of the reasons that I would like to see the graves is because 1,466 deaths is a real “social tsunami” in the Syrian society where everybody knows everybody and everybody is related. In the case of East Ghouta, we did not even have one case show up. We did not know of one single person who is dead. You know, to have relatives claiming this – the brother, the friend – nobody did. We did not have the “echo” of the death of 1,466 people. We are asking for a neutral inquiry with the presence of witnesses from both sides, where they will open the pits, see the victims, they will take samples randomly – where they took it, how they took it, etc. Samples should be sent to 5 labs under the same conditions and precautions. Until then there is a question mark on everything. I cannot say yes, I cannot say no.
Question from Twitter user @tob_la: How would she describe her relationship with Syrian intelligence services?
There is no relationship. This is despite the wild allegations of some people who believe that the heads of the Syrian intelligence meet with me, a simple nun, on a daily basis. Do you believe that these people would spare such time?
I have no “relations” with such authorities. As mediators we have to deal with these people when necessary. And without my mediation task I don’t have anything to do with them.
Question from Twitter user @MortenHj: What does she view as the biggest problem facing the refugees, especially children, with the approaching winter. How can anyone support?
This is a very big problem. We need warm clothes, blankets urgently. During my trip in the US – from California – they are sending me a container with a special kind of textile that is very warm. “Oakley” warm clothing. We can provide for the local diaspora or NGOs to come collect these things from anywhere in the world and send them in containers to Syria. We are trying to do a big push for winter now. We’re also getting some tents. I will be going back to the US where an NGO will be providing us with something that resembles tents, but is rectangular. We are planning to get thousands of these – one per family. You have whole neighborhoods that are destroyed. Instead of displacing residents outside their areas, I would like to return them to their home, even if it is destroyed, and put them on their land in a refurbished structure. Like this, slowly by slowly they can rebuild their homes.
Question by Twitter user @edwardedark: Could you please ask her why the Vatican has not been more outspoken on the plight of Christians in Syria?
I don’t know – maybe because the Vatican and all of us we are in solidarity with all the civilian population in Syria and we don’t want to emphasize a sectarian dimension because we viewed this as artificial. Christians have shared the same fate as Muslims in Syria – everybody faced the same violence. Monsignor Mamberti and the Pope are finally expressing their sadness for the sectarian nature that the conflict is taking, I think because now there is too much targeting of Christians now in Maaloula, Sadad, Qara, Deir Atieh, Nabek and other places. Every day Christian buses, schools are being targeted. In Bab Touma, Bab Sharqi, Jaramana, Kasa’a, Malki…
Now the Vatican is talking. Mgr. Mamberti is saying loudly and clearly that The Holy See cares about unity, sovereignty, and the place of the minorities so they will not be isolated, cornered, or forgotten. The Holy See is promoting reconciliation, dialogue and a peaceful settlement of the crisis. They are against the arming of any side. They want more creativity for peace and not creativity for war. What I found outstanding about the Monsignor’s recent comments is that he said the Syrian people should isolate the foreigners, distance themselves and denounce them. This is a very clear statement against foreign intervention. Then he opened the issue of humanitarian aid and the dialogue between religions – interfaith dialogue. This is not the task of experts, but the task of everybody, the believers. So there is a real change in language from the Vatican. The Holy See is no longer shy about Syria – and to tell you the truth, it is time. What is left for the Christians in Syria otherwise?
Mother Agnes is now on Twitter https://twitter.com/MotherAgnesMari
- Activist Group Issues Statement on Mother Agnes and the Campaign Against Her (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- ‘Investigative Journalist’ Scahill Takes Swipe at Mother Agnes (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- On Owen Jones and the Stop The War Coalition (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Mother Agnes and the Self Destruction of the Political Left (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Owen Jones & Mother Agnes. A lesson on conciliatory “leftists”. (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Open Letter to the Stop the War Coalition (pulsemedia.org)