– Ireland’s election called a “transformative moment” in nation’s history: a “pencil revolution” at the ballot box
– The Fianna Fail party has been annihilated at the polls: the party locked Ireland into an 85 billion euro loan from the EU/IMF at an interest rate of 6% and relinquished sovereignty
– New government has just days to stop transfer of tax payer money to foreign bondholders following draconian EU/IMF budget passed in December
– 85% of the income tax revenue will be used to service the EU/IMF loan by 2012 in an economic Blitzkrieg
– EU insists Ireland must pay banks setting stage for “collision” with new Irish government
– Spirit of independence of 1916 awakening as country faces crushing taxation without representation by imperial-style EU administration
Irish voters have delivered “electoral Armageddon” to the Fianna Fail government that saddled tax payers with the obligation to pay interest on a mountain of private bank debt.
Interest on the national debt is set to consume a 85% of the country’s income tax revenues by 2012, according to The Telegraph.
Fine Gael won the most seats in the 166-seat Dáil at 76 and looks set to form a government with the Labour party, which won around 37 seats. Sinn Fein trebled its seats to win 15, including Donegal South West.
Fianna Fail was relegated to the wilderness with 20 seats in an annihilation of historical proportions for the first government in the eurozone to lock its people into an EU/IMF loan.
The stunning ousting of the country’s ruling party that has ruled for 61 of the past 80 years has been called the “pencil revolution” and compared with the uprisings in the Middle East but without bloody street battles.
Fine Gael and Labour leaders met today to discuss at top speed how to deal with the interest payments on the EU/IMF loan.
Money will be taken from the Irish tax payers very fast in an economic “Blitzkrieg”. The EU/IMF have plans to repay 60 per cent of holders of non-guaranteed, unsecured senior bonds by the end of 2012, with bondholders getting €5.7bn this year and €7bn in 2012.
Banks have already received €53bn, or 33 per cent of GDP, since 2008. At the same time, GDP contracted by 11 per cent between 2007 and 2010.
The high voter turn-out at the election of 70% and the wipe out of FF at the polls suggests that the population has understood that corruption among the Irish and EU political and financial elite have caused the worst economic collapse in modern Ireland’s history, and want a government that shows the steely spirit of 1916 to rescue the country.
Polls show huge numbers of voters described themselves as “very angry” and “outraged at what is, in effect, the biggest transfer of wealth from the people of Ireland to foreign entities in history under the pretext of having to pay interest on a paper debt.
Vienna Economics Professor Franz Hörmann explained in a report in Der Standard how banks can create money– and also debt — out of thin air using the fractional reserve banking system. He also explained how they can use the fair value accounting rule to amass fraudulent losses on their books that can also be used as a pretext to suck real capital from taxpayers as long as government leaders acquiesce in the fraud.
The FF government and ECB helped fuel a property bubble by easy credit and they subsequently burst the bubble.
The ensuing property losses gave the banks a pretext to declare themselves in liquidity problems and get billions in real capital in the form of tax payer money in return for paper losses.
The EU and IMF are insisting that Irish taxpayers hand over their money to foreign bondholders at a brutal pace, leaving a new government little time to reverse the biggest transfer of wealth from the country to foreign entities in history before key summits in March.
“The cost of servicing Irish bank debt and the EU-IMF bank loans will consume 85 per cent of Ireland’s income tax revenue by 2012, a burden that a majority of voters find intolerable.,” reports Bruno Waterfield.
An average Irish family will have to pay about £3,900 a year in extra taxes , and most to the banks.
This burden comes after the FF leadership saddled the Irish people with private bank debt obligations which amount to about 135 billion in a backroom deal.
In November, 2010, FF locked the country into an 85 billion euro loan from the EU/IMF at an interest rate of about 6%. They also relinquished sovereignty to the EU and IMF and passed an EU/IMF budget in December 1010 to raise taxes by 5 billion and cut spending by 10 billion euros.
This triggered early elections and the wipe out of the FF party at the polls last Thursday in a warning to the EU and IMF and banks that voters have had enough.
Enda Kenny is set to attend at an EU summit on March 11, and on March 24 and 25.
Kenny has said he will try persuade his European counterparts to cut the interest rate on the EU loan. But it is not clear how this will help Ireland significantly given the size of the national debt and the pace at which it is being repaid.
According to EU officials, the Irish voters have no say, however, report the media. There will be taxation without representation in a development that puts the EU on the same footing as the colonial British empire.
The German and French government are pressing for an embryonic EU fiscal union, which is just another method for looting EU taxpayers who are increasingly opposing the extraction of their money by banks via the European Stability Fund.
The Irish people will never acquiesce in the open looting of their economy by the EU, German and French officials on behalf of the banks in what can only be described as an economic “Blitzkrieg” setting the scene for a collision, as the Telegraph reports.
Labour could reject Fine Gael and its polices on privatisation, austerity and income cuts and form a government with Sinn Fein and Independents and make a fresh start.
German economist Hans-Werner Sinn recently said that Greece should readopt the Drachma, recognizing that there is no way out of a eurozone country caught in the EU/IMF bank debt trap other than setting up a new currency and detaching a country’s economy from the blood sucking banks that control the apparatus of the EU government.
It should conduct an inquiry into the banking crisis and bring those responsible to account.
This was an economic crime comparable in the devastation it has wrecked to a war crime.
Ireland should strike out on a new path with full confidence, showing leadership and giving an example to the downtrodden people and tax slaves in the EU empire.
It freed itself from the grip of the British empire – and this is the same whatever mask or name the EU and IMF may give to their robbery of the Irish people.
With its back against the wall, Ireland has nothing to lose as it is. Following the EU and IMF path will result in the rapid and total destruction of the country.
The spirit of courage and independence of 1916 is surely required to make a clean break.
Any new Irish government should surely write off the paper bank debts, restructure the banks to separate the commercial from the investment or property arms and if it brings the eurozone currency built on debt to its knees in doing so, all the better.
Ireland is already entering a so-called debt-death spiral with soaring unemployment, falling tax receipts, growing mortgage defaults and banks requiring ever more bailouts, forcing the government to borrow more until it is finally pushed into a default.
Given the fact that euro is set to disintegrate anyway under inflationary pressures created by the way the ECB’s buying up the souvereign bonds of the growing numbers insolvent eurozone nations, Ireland would be advised to leave the euro altogether and adopt the punt again, something that would bolster its already strong export sector.
“More cheese, less sleaze!”
That was the funniest group chant at Tuesday’s rally of several hundred union and other progressive activists outside the Manhattan headquarters of Fox News.
Several “cheeseheads” were in attendance, their noggins topped by the now familiar wedge-shaped, orange hatwear made popular by Green Bay Packer fans. On Tuesday, they were out in the twilight chill expressing their opposition not to lactose intolerance but Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s intolerance of organized labor. (Unadorned by cheddar, I briefly spoke at the gathering as president of an AFL-CIO affiliated union, the Writers Guild of America, East.)
Governor Walker continues his obdurate opposition to the state’s public employee unions’ right to collective bargaining, despite a willingness on their part to concede pension and health givebacks he claims would help close Wisconsin’s alleged deficit. Meanwhile, there has been a decided increase on the sleaze end of the cheese vs. sleaze quotient, as evidenced in part by the prank phone call to the governor in which an online newspaper editor impersonating right wing billionaire David Koch elicited from Walker a proposed scheme to lure back, then double cross Democratic state senators who have prevented a quorum by retreating to Illinois. Further, when asked about planting troublemakers amongst the protesters, Walker told the trickster that he and his team had “thought about that” but decided not to. Apparently, all the really good disrupters are tied up in the Middle East.
But of course, this isn’t really about saving taxpayers’ money but consolidating political power. Walker and such leading lights of the GOP leadership as Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Ohio Governor John Kasich, among others, have decided that public employee unions make great punching bags, effective scapegoats for an outraged electorate and a satisfactory diversion from the real culprits of this grim, economic melodrama—the Simon Legrees of banking and finance who got us into this meltdown mess in the first place.
As Josh Dorner reported on the progressive ThinkProgress website last week, “Instead of making the tough choices necessary to help their states weather the current crisis with some semblance of the social safety net and basic government services intact, Republican governors are instead using it as an opportunity to advance several longtime GOP projects: union busting, draconian cuts to social programs, and massive corporate tax breaks. These misplaced priorities mean that the poor and middle class will shoulder the burden of fiscal austerity, even as the rich and corporations are asked to contribute even less.”
Dorner cites examples: in Arizona, Republican Governor Jan Brewer proposes kicking some 280,000 off the state Medicaid rolls but two weeks ago signed into law $538 million in corporate tax cuts. Florida Governor Rick Scott’s new budget calls for billions of dollars in cuts to essential programs and services to pay for corporate and property tax cuts of at least $4 billion. Rick Snyder, newly elected governor of Michigan, has asked for $180 million in concessions from public employees and more than a billion to be taken from schools, universities, local governments and others, most of which could be avoided if he wasn’t so deeply dedicated to giving business $1.8 billion in tax breaks.
Writing in the February 23 Boston Globe, Mark Erlich, executive secretary-treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters asks, “While there are legitimate and critical public policy issues about education reform, spiraling health costs, and pension liabilities at a time of state and municipal budget deficits, why is the fault laid at the feet of teachers, police, and firefighters? Today’s pension obligations are the product of massive investment losses, not excessively generous public pensions that, in fact, average about $19,000 a year. For that matter, a 2010 Economic Policy Institute study showed that, controlled for educational achievement, public sector workers actually earn less than their private sector counterparts.”
So instead of screaming about the advances public employee and other unions have made to preserve health care, job security and economic justice, angry voters should be asking what or who have been keeping them from obtaining the same. Nor does Wall Street’s pillaging of private 401(k) retirement plans justify tit-for-tat, eye-for-an-eye acts of covetous revenge against union pensions. As Erlich writes, “A generation ago, non-union workers often welcomed news of improved wages and benefits for unionized employees, recognizing that a rising tide lifts all boats. But . . . at a time of sacrifice and insecurity, many would prefer to sink their neighbor’s slightly bigger boat while wistfully hoping for a glance at a yacht in a gated marina.”
The American middle class largely exists because of unions; it would be a tragedy of Greek proportions if, in frustration, resentment and fear, members of that class were to turn on labor and bring about their mutual destruction. Conservative Republican governors and their associates are barking up the wrong money tree. Don’t reward corporate greed and malfeasance with yet more tax breaks and a blind eye to windfall bonuses. And don’t punish unions for whatever success they’ve had protecting members and holding on to an ever-dwindling power base of American workers. That’s just plain cheesy and sleazy.
Michael Winship is the former senior writer of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS and current president of the Writers Guild of America, East.
Bahrain–Eyewitnesses have reported seeing an estimated 30 tanks being transported into Bahrain from Saudi Arabia on Monday night at around 6:45pm local time. The tanks were sighted along the King Fahd causeway, which links the small island-nation of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
Commuters traveling along the 25-km causeway were held up due to the presence of “15 tank carriers carrying two tanks each heading towards Bahrain.” Civilian eyewitnesses could not, however, confirm whether the tanks belonged to the Saudi military.
The presence of Saudi military hardware in Bahrain is considered highly unusual.
The development comes on the eve of yet another scheduled anti-government demonstration organized by the Bahraini opposition and protesters in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout.
Fears of Saudi intervention in the ongoing Bahraini uprising first came to the fore last week when unconfirmed reports emerged on Wednesday that Saudi officials had told US authorities that they were “prepared to intervene” in Bahrain should such a move prove necessary to protect Bahrain’s embattled government.
Tomorrow’s mass protest will be the first to take place since the arrival to the country of controversial Shia opposition leader Hassan Mosheima from self-imposed exile.
Mosheima arrived on Saturday, using his first speech to call for national unity and to urge protesters to step up demands for the ouster of Bahrain’s prime minister of 40 years, Sheikh Khalifa Al Khalifa.
It is almost two weeks that tens of thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to protest for what they call the protests to save the American dream.
In this edition of News Analysis, the recent US unrest is discussed.
Why Our Media Betray Us
Last week the Guardian, Britain’s main liberal newspaper, ran an exclusive report on the belated confessions of an Iraqi exile, Rafeed al-Janabi, codenamed “Curveball” by the CIA. Eight years ago, Janabi played a key behind-the-scenes role — if an inadvertent one — in making possible the US invasion of Iraq. His testimony bolstered claims by the Bush administration that Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, had developed an advanced programme producing weapons of mass destruction.
Curveball’s account included the details of mobile biological weapons trucks presented by Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, to the United Nations in early 2003. Powell’s apparently compelling case on WMD was used to justify the US attack on Iraq a few weeks later.
Eight years on, Curveball revealed to the Guardian that he had fabricated the story of Saddam’s WMD back in 2000, shortly after his arrival in Germany seeking asylum. He told the paper he had lied to German intelligence in the hope his testimony might help topple Saddam, though it seems more likely he simply wanted to ensure his asylum case was taken more seriously.
For the careful reader — and I stress the word careful — several disturbing facts emerged from the report.
One was that the German authorities had quickly proven his account of Iraq’s WMD to be false. Both German and British intelligence had travelled to Dubai to meet Bassil Latif, his former boss at Iraq’s Military Industries Commission. Dr Latif had proven that Curveball’s claims could not be true. The German authorities quickly lost interest in Janabi and he was not interviewed again until late 2002, when it became more pressing for the US to make a convincing case for an attack on Iraq.
Another interesting disclosure was that, despite the vital need to get straight all the facts about Curveball’s testimony — given the stakes involved in launching a pre-emptive strike against another sovereign state — the Americans never bothered to interview Curveball themselves.
A third revelation was that the CIA’s head of operations in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, passed on warnings from German intelligence that they considered Curveball’s testimony to be highly dubious. The head of the CIA, George Tenet, simply ignored the advice.
With Curveball’s admission in mind, as well as these other facts from the story, we can draw some obvious conclusions — conclusions confirmed by subsequent developments.
Lacking both grounds in international law and the backing of major allies, the Bush administration desperately needed Janabi’s story about WMD, however discredited it was, to justify its military plans for Iraq. The White House did not interview Curveball because they knew his account of Saddam’s WMD programme was made up. His story would unravel under scrutiny; better to leave Washington with the option of “plausible deniability”.
Nonetheless, Janabi’s falsified account was vitally useful: for much of the American public, it added a veneer of credibility to the implausible case that Saddam was a danger to the world; it helped fortify wavering allies facing their own doubting publics; and it brought on board Colin Powell, a former general seen as the main voice of reason in the administration.
In other words, Bush’s White House used Curveball to breathe life into its mythological story about Saddam’s threat to world peace.
So how did the Guardian, a bastion of liberal journalism, present its exclusive on the most controversial episode in recent American foreign policy?
Here is its headline: “How US was duped by Iraqi fantasist looking to topple Saddam”.
Did the headline-writer misunderstand the story as written by the paper’s reporters? No, the headline neatly encapsulated its message. In the text, we are told Powell’s presentation to the UN “revealed that the Bush administration’s hawkish decisionmakers had swallowed” Curveball’s account. At another point, we are told Janabi “pulled off one of the greatest confidence tricks in the history of modern intelligence”. And that: “His critics — who are many and powerful — say the cost of his deception is too difficult to estimate.”
In other words, the Guardian assumed, despite all the evidence uncovered in its own research, that Curveball misled the Bush administration into making a disastrous miscalculation. On this view, the White House was the real victim of Curveball’s lies, not the Iraqi people — more than a million of whom are dead as a result of the invasion, according to the best available figures, and four million of whom have been forced into exile.
There is nothing exceptional about this example. I chose it because it relates to an event of continuing and momentous significance.
Unfortunately, there is something depressingly familiar about this kind of reporting, even in the West’s main liberal publications. Contrary to its avowed aim, mainstream journalism invariably diminishes the impact of new events when they threaten powerful elites.
We will examine why in a minute. But first let us consider what, or who, constitutes “empire” today? Certainly, in its most symbolic form, it can be identified as the US government and its army, comprising the world’s sole superpower. …
In our globalised world, the question of who is at the centre of empire is much less clear than it once was. The US government is today less the heart of empire than its enabler. What were until recently the arms of empire, especially the financial and military industries, have become a transnational imperial elite whose interests are not bound by borders and whose powers largely evade legislative and moral controls.
Israel’s leadership, we should note, as well its elite supporters around the world — including the Zionist lobbies, the arms manufacturers and Western militaries, and to a degree even the crumbling Arab tyrannies of the Middle East — are an integral element in that transnational elite.
The imperial elites’ success depends to a large extent on a shared belief among the western public both that “we” need them to secure our livelihoods and security and that at the same time we are really their masters. Some of the necessary illusions perpetuated by the transnational elites include:
— That we elect governments whose job is to restrain the corporations;
— That we, in particular, and the global workforce in general are the chief beneficiaries of the corporations’ wealth creation;
— That the corporations and the ideology that underpins them, global capitalism, are the only hope for freedom;
— That consumption is not only an expression of our freedom but also a major source of our happiness;
— That economic growth can be maintained indefinitely and at no long-term cost to the health of the planet;
— And that there are groups, called terrorists, who want to destroy this benevolent system of wealth creation and personal improvement.
These assumptions, however fanciful they may appear when subjected to scrutiny, are the ideological bedrock on which the narratives of our societies in the West are constructed and from which ultimately our sense of identity derives. This ideological system appears to us — and I am using “we” and “us” to refer to western publics only — to describe the natural order.
The job of sanctifying these assumptions — and ensuring they are not scrutinised — falls to our mainstream media. Western corporations own the media, and their advertising makes the industry profitable. In this sense, the media cannot fulfil the function of watchdog of power, because in fact it is power. It is the power of the globalised elite to control and limit the ideological and imaginative horizons of the media’s readers and viewers. It does so to ensure that imperial interests, which are synonymous with those of the corporations, are not threatened.
The Curveball story neatly illustrates the media’s role.
His confession has come too late — eight years too late, to be precise — to have any impact on the events that matter. As happens so often with important stories that challenge elite interests, the facts vitally needed to allow western publics to reach informed conclusions were not available when they were needed. In this case, Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are gone, as are their neoconservative advisers. Curveball’s story is now chiefly of interest to historians.
That last point is quite literally true. The Guardian’s revelations were of almost no concern to the US media, the supposed watchdog at the heart of the US empire. A search of the Lexis Nexis media database shows that Curveball’s admissions featured only in the New York Times, in a brief report on page 7, as well as in a news round-up in the Washington Times. The dozens of other major US newspapers, including the Washington Post, made no mention of it at all.
Instead, the main audience for the story outside the UK was the readers of India’s Hindu newspaper and the Khaleej Times.
But even the Guardian, often regarded as fearless in taking on powerful interests, packaged its report in such a way as to deprive Curveball’s confession of its true value. The facts were bled of their real significance. The presentation ensured that only the most aware readers would have understood that the US had not been duped by Curveball, but rather that the White House had exploited a “fantasist” — or desperate exile from a brutal regime, depending on how one looks at it — for its own illegal and immoral ends.
Why did the Guardian miss the main point in its own exclusive? The reason is that all our mainstream media, however liberal, take as their starting point the idea both that the West’s political culture is inherently benevolent and that it is morally superior to all existing, or conceivable, alternative systems.
In reporting and commentary, this is demonstrated most clearly in the idea that “our” leaders always act in good faith, whereas “their” leaders — those opposed to empire or its interests — are driven by base or evil motives.
It is in this way that official enemies, such as Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic, can be singled out as personifying the crazed or evil dictator — while other equally rogue regimes such as Saudi Arabia’s are described as “moderate” — opening the way for their countries to become targets of our own imperial strategies.
For the western media, our leaders make mistakes, they are naïve or even stupid, but they are never bad or evil. Our media do not call for Bush or Blair to be tried at the Hague as war criminals.
This, of course, does not mean that the western media is Pravda, the propaganda mouthpiece of the old Soviet empire. There are differences. Dissent is possible, though it must remain within the relatively narrow confines of “reasonable” debate, a spectrum of possible thought that accepts unreservedly the presumption that we are better, more moral, than them.
Similarly, journalists are rarely told — at least, not directly — what to write. The media have developed careful selection processes and hierarchies among their editorial staff — termed “filters” by media critics Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky — to ensure that dissenting or truly independent journalists do not reach positions of real influence.
There is, in other words, no simple party line. There are competing elites and corporations, and their voices are reflected in the narrow range of what we term commentary and opinion. Rather than being dictated to by party officials, as happened under the Soviet system, our journalists scramble for access, to be admitted into the ante-chambers of power. These privileges make careers but they come at a huge cost to the reporters’ independence. … Full article
A Palestinian-Israeli bus driver, who holds Israeli citizenship, has been threatened with firing after he was assigned to a route that serves the Israeli colonial settlement of Elazar. Jewish Israeli residents of the settlement have launched a campaign to have the bus driver fired, submitting a letter to the regional council to that effect.
Although the settlers said that they were not motivated by racism, they had to consider the safety of their children, and could not accept the possibility of an Arab bus driver driving their children. At the same time, one of the letters calling for the firing of the driver was submitted by the right-wing organization Komemiyut, which said that “the enemy” should be deprived of their sources of livelihood.
One of the board members of Komemiyut, Rabbi Dov Lior, recently published a book justifying the killing of non-Jews, which led the Israeli government to issue a warrant for his arrest. Moshe Cohen, the current head of Komemiyut, wrote in the letter to the regional council that if Arabs are allowed to have jobs and sources of livelihood, “we will meet a fate similar to the fate of the Jews of Gaza, who were ultimately expelled from their land because they were left very few in number in the heart of a massive number of Arabs”.
Another letter to the regional council, from the residents of the Elazar settlement, made the claim that the regional council, by refusing to fire the Arab bus driver, “apparently wants to save a few pennies at the expense of the safety of our children, or perhaps for another reason, regional peace, eating baklava in Hebron, hummus in Bethlehem or a real vision of the end of days.”
Israeli settlers in Elazar are known for their extreme right religious and political views, and many residents of the settlement claim membership in right-wing organizations like Komemiyut.
The settlement of Elazar, like all Israeli settlements, is constructed on Palestinian land occupied by the Israeli military following 1967, and is constructed in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention which prohibits the transfer of civilian population of an occupying power onto land seized by military force.
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — The Union of Arab Paramedics said that three Palestinian paramedics at least were wounded on Sunday during the violent confrontations that erupted between Israeli police forces and Palestinian protestors in occupied Jerusalem.
The town of Silwan in particular is witnessing escalating assaults by Israeli policemen who use live and rubber bullets in addition to teargas to quell angry protests against Israeli confiscation of land demolition of homes in the village, south of the Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem.
Local sources said that 20 Palestinians were injured on Saturday during the confrontations.
Meanwhile, Israeli-controlled municipality of the holy city served a new batch of notices to Jerusalemites in Beit Hanina, Shufat refugee camp, Wadi Al-Dam, and Marwaha, in northern Jerusalem.
Local sources said that the municipality was imposing very high prices for requesting a construction permit that on average reach around 28,000 dollars along with other impossible conditions forcing Palestinian inhabitants to build without permits.
A list of demands from the protesters at Tahrir Square is being circulated online today, the 17th day of massive demonstrations across Egypt calling for the overthrow of the Mubarak regime. The first item calls for the resignation of president Hosni Mubarak.
Wael Khalil lists those demands on his blog (Ar) and says:
These demands are the summary of various discussions at Tahrir Square, and are, of course, not representative of everyone at the square
The immediate demands are:
1. The resignation of president Mohammed Hosni Mubarak
2. Canceling the Emergency Law
3. Dismantling the state secret service
4. An announcement by (Vice-President) Omar Sulieman that he will not run in the next presidential elections
5. Dissolving the Parliament and Shura Council
6. Releasing all the prisoners since January 25
7. Ending the curfew so that life resumes as normal across the country
8. Dismantling the university guards system
9. Referring officials responsible for the use of violence against the peaceful protesters since January 25 and those responsible for the organised thuggery which followed January 28 to an investigation committee
10. Sacking Anas El Fiqi and stopping the attack on protesters in government owned media through threats and calling protesters traitors, and ending the spread of hate against foreigners in the streets
11. Reimbursing shop owners for their losses during the curfew
12. Announcing the demands above on government television and radio
Wael Khalil also lists demands for the transitional period as follows:
1. Drafting a new constitution
2. The right to set up newspapers and open television and radio stations without a prior permission
3. Putting the minimum wage of 1,200 Egyptian Pounds into effect
4. The right to set up political parties, by notification
5. The right to set up associations and unions, by notification
6. Achieving a real autonomy and independence for national newspapers and television and radio stations, through new legislation and the reformation of companies, establishments of ministries
7. Cancling the national service in the police force
8. Ending the security clampdown on telecommunications and the internet
Emphasis – Aletho News
Equipment, Documents Seized in 2 a.m. Break-In
(New York) – Iraqi authorities should immediately investigate a raid by security forces on the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), a prominent Iraqi press freedom group, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch also called on the government to ensure the speedy and safe return of all seized equipment and documents.
At about 2 a.m. on February 23, 2011, more than 20 armed men, some of them wearing brown military uniforms and red berets, and others wearing black military uniforms with skull-and-cross-bones insignia on their helmets, pulled up in Humvees outside the group’s office in Baghdad and broke in, a witness told Human Rights Watch. The security forces conducted a destructive search of the office that lasted more than an hour and seized the organization’s computers, external hard drives, cameras, cell phones, CDs, documents, and several flak jackets and helmets marked “Press,” the witness said.
“This raid on the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory shows the contempt of Iraqi authorities for groups that challenge the state’s human rights record,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
A spokesman for the Baghdad Operations Command confirmed to Human Rights Watch that the men were part of the Iraqi army but gave few other details.
Ziyad al-Ajili, the group’s executive director, told Human Rights Watch that the authorities “were obviously sending us a message to stop our work of supporting journalists…. This kind of governmental intimidation is precisely what we try to shed light on.” In Iraqi television interviews over the days leading up to the raid, al-Ajili voiced support for the right of Iraqis to protest peacefully and the media’s right to report on the protests.
Human Rights Watch visited the group’s office the morning after the raid and saw extensive damage, including broken furniture, destroyed equipment, kicked-in doors, and ripped-up posters and literature for the organization’s events, such as their annual “Press Courage Awards.” Framed photographs of journalists killed in Iraq since 2003 were strewn on the floor, covered in broken glass.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern that authorities would not return the computer hard drives and other electronic data storage devices seized from the group.
Al-Ajili said he fears that the authorities used the raid as a pretext to close the office, which serves as an informal gathering point for local journalists. In late January, the group held an awards ceremony in Baghdad, honoring investigative journalists who had uncovered corruption and other wrongdoing.
Although improvements in security since 2008 have reduced the assaults against media workers, journalists and press freedom advocates remain at risk in Iraq. On February 21, Human Rights Watch released a survey report, “At a Crossroads: Human Rights in Iraq Eight Years After the US-led Invasion,” which documents attacks against media and press restrictions. The report calls on the government to protect the rights of journalists and to amend its penal code and other laws that violate freedom of speech.
As the wave of popular uprisings has spread across the Arab world, a flurry of articles have appeared suggesting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could be the next “dictator” to be overthrown.
Such arguments follow a pattern in the corporate media of slandering the Chavez government and the revolutionary process it leads.
They aim to conceal the real threat that haunts imperialism: that the Arab world may follow the example of Venezuela and other countries in Latin America — and break away from Western hegemony.
Particularly cynical were the comments by British foreign secretary William Hague, who falsely alleged Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela on February 21. This triggered a spate of headlines tying “Venezuela” and “Libya” together — despite the fact the allegation was untrue.
A February 2 editorial by the Miami Herald claimed: “With dictators toppling like dominoes across the Middle East, Venezuela’s president-for-life, Hugo Chavez, is signaling worry about his own despotic rule.”
The article ignores the fact that Chavez was overwhelming elected as president in three elections supervised by numerous international observers. All up, pro-Chavez forces have won more than a dozen national elections, all verified as free and fair, since 1998.
With new elections set for 2012, Chavez maintains more than 50% support — even in polls commissioned by the US-funded opposition.
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres went further when he listed Chavez along with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as two despots corrupted by oil that must be eliminated.
“I believe the world should get rid of oil and tyranny, both of them together are dangerous,” Peres said, VoiceofAmerica.com reported on February 23.
Peres was at least more honest than most, adding that his reason was because Europe has to pay higher oil prices due to the “whims of some producer countries”.
The reality is that as US hegemony is being challenged by the popular uprisings in the Arab world, right-wing commentators and policy-makers are scrambling to spin the situation to their own advantage.
They are singling out governments outside of US control as possible targets for enforced “regime change” from outside.
Responding to the idea that Venezuela could be next, Chavez noted on February 18 that what was occurring in Egypt “started here a while ago. We have been in rebellion for a while now, in a revolutionary rebellion.”
Chavez said that rebellion began in Venezuela with the February 1989 popular uprising known as the Caracazo.
The Caracazo in Venezuela, 1989
As a result of International Monetary Fund-imposed hikes in fuel prices, tens of thousands of Venezuelans poured onto the streets of Caracas and other major cities to protest against the neoliberal measure.
A brutal crackdown left an estimated 4000 dead and temporarily quelled the rebellion.
However, the fervour continued in Venezuelan society, leading to Chavez’s election in 1998 on an anti-neoliberal platform.
Chavez said: “What happened in Egypt — and which has not finished — is a sudden awakening of people’s power. We have only seen the first waves.
“They are events that mark a new phase of history in the entire world.”
One of Chavez’s first moves when he was elected was to strengthen the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and use it to negotiate a more just oil price for countries dependent on oil revenues.
Chavez also took back government control over Venezuela’s nominally state-run oil industry. These moves have allowed his government to pour much of the oil revenue into social programs.
These wide-ranging programs eradicated illiteracy and extended free education and healthcare to the most needy. They have also been crucial to the process of expanding community control over the running their affairs.
The Chavez government has also used oil revenues to seek to develop other sectors of the economy to help break oil dependency.
To follow the mainstream media, you would get the impression the Chavez government is working overtime to silence freedom of speech. The reality, however, is not one TV station or newspaper has been closed down — and the overwhelming majority are virulently anti-government.
On the other hand, hundreds of new community radio stations are flourishing in the impoverished barrios, extending free speech to those who have never had the opportunity to exercise it before.
The US-backed dictators in the Arab world have consistently placed relations with Israel above the interests of the Palestinian people — despite the popular sympathy for the Palestinian cause among Arab people.
In contrast, since December, nine South American countries have formally recognised a sovereign Palestinian state.
Chavez’s government, and Bolivia’s radical president Evo Morales, have gone further. They broke all diplomatic relations with Israel after its brutal onslaught against Gaza in 2009.
Andelfo Garcia, a former foreign minister of the most loyal US ally in the region, Colombia, said in the February 19 Miami Herald that this move is just one more sign that South American countries are no longer simply adopting US foreign policy as their own.
“It’s like a wave rolling through Latin America,” he said. “The region has its own vision and wants to play a larger role [on the world stage].”
Venezuela has been in the forefront of moves towards greater regional integration, and a shift away from traditional dependence on trade with the US — as well as greater trade and dialogue with other parts of the Third World, such as the Middle East.
The US and Israel are terrified of the threat of something similar occurring in the Arab world — should the democratic revolutions be successful and extend to exerting democratic control over oil and other resources.
It also helps explain why Chavez is hailed by so many in the Arab world as a hero.
However, as Santiago Alba Rico and Alma Allende said in a February 24 Rebelion article “From the Arab world to Latin America”, Venezuela and Cuba’s reluctance to clearly condemn the brutal repression being carried out by the regime of Muammar Gaddafi’s against a popular revolt will have negative consequences for the anti-imperialist project in Latin America.
Venezuela and Cuba have called for a “peaceful resolution” to the violence in Libya and warned the West could use the bloody scenes as an excuse to intervene.
The Arab revolt represents both an “economic revolt” and a “democratic, nationalist and anti-colonial revolution”, they said, that “provides the socialist left and pan-Arabists in the region with an unexpected opportunity”.
They said: “the Arab people, who have returned to the world stage, need the support of their Latin American brothers”.
The pioneering processes of liberation in Latin America, are a symbol of hope for the global anti-imperialist struggle. Therefore, left-wing Latin American governments should unreservedly support the peoples of the Arab world.
This would pre-empt the strategy of the Western powers, which are trying to relegitimise themselves as champions of “human rights and democracy” and may seek to use Gaddafi’s crimes as an excuse to intervene militarily.
Ignoring the brutal reality of Gaddafi, who has been a friend in recent years of the West and its allied dictators, risks breaking ties with popular Arab movements, they pointed out.
It could also give legitimacy to the false accusations thrown at Venezuela and Cuba by imperialism.
They added: “Hopefully Gaddafi will fall — today better that tomorrow.”
They said the wave of revolts in the Arab world could connect with the revolutionary processes in Latin America. They wrote: “The opportunity is great and could be the last to definitively reverse the current balance of forces and isolate the imperialist powers in a new global framework.”
One thing is clear, just as the US has sought to prop up dictatorships in the Arab world, it will continue its struggle to defeat the popular revolutionary movements in Latin America.
Eva Golinger said in Correo del Orinoco International on February 18 that US President Barack Obama had requested US$5 million dollars in special funding from the US Congress special funding for anti-Chavez groups in the 2012 budget.
On February 18 Venezuelanalysis.com said that Venezuelan parliamentarians had condemned threats from Republican congressmen and the newly appointed chair of the House sub-committee on foreign affairs for the Western hemisphere, Connie Mack.
Mack, has called for a “full-scale economic embargo” against Venezuela.
The real threat to Venezuelan democracy, as across Latin America and the Arab world, comes from the US Empire.
Kiraz Janicke and Federico Fuentes worked in the Green Left Weekly Caracas bureau from 2007-10.
The CIA’s Rendition Flights to Secret Prisons
Dana Priest’s recent Washington Post article, “Anatomy of a CIA ‘rendition’ gone wrong”(1) only confirms what those who have watched the torture scandal closely already know. Abu Ghraib was no anomaly but the most visible tip of a widespread but clandestine policy. Priest reveals details about a case in which the CIA used German, Macedonian, Albanian and Afghan authorities and European air space and terminals to “render” a German citizen snatched up abroad for interrogation and torture, without any material cause.
Here’s the case that’s now causing a furor in Europe:
Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen resident in Ulm, Germany, went on a trip to Macedonia, was arrested by local authorities on New Year’s Eve, 2003 and held for over 3 weeks in a motel. Then, he was handcuffed, blindfolded, stripped by masked men, drugged, diapered and flown to Afghanistan, on the basis of a “hunch” by a counter-terrorist chief in the CIA. The hunch was no more than the fact that Masri’s name resembled that of an associate of one of the 9-11 hijackers.
Masri was imprisoned for five months by Afghans and possibly Americans and claims he was tortured. A bus driver confirms that Masri was snatched up by border guards on the date he alleges; forensic analysis of his hair shows malnutrition during the time he claims he was imprisoned; flight logs confirm that a CIA front company flew a plane out of Macedonia on the day he says he was abducted.
Back in the US, Masri’s passport and story held up and in May 2004, around the time when the Abu Ghraib scandal first burst into public view in America, the White House sent U.S. ambassador in Germany, Daniel R. Coats, on a special mission to German Interior Minister Schily, an ardent Bush supporter, to inform him of the error and tell him to keep the details secret should Masri go public.
Later in May, Masri claims he was visited in prison by a man he says was German, who told him that he was going to be released without documents that might confirm his story because the Americans would never admit to a mistake. He was released, flown out to Albania – Macedonia wouldn’t admit him – and dumped onto a narrow country road at dusk. From there he was escorted to the international airport at Tirana by armed men and rejoined his family in Lebanon where they’d gone.
Masri’s attorneys say they intend to file a lawsuit in U.S. courts this week. Neither the CIA nor the German ministry which was told about the case, is talking.
Masri’s story is given support by other news pouring in from all over Europe in the last week:
December 1: The British Guardian reports that over 300 CIA flights have landed at European airports and that CIA planes visited Germany and Britain over 200 times, if chartered flights are included. According to the NY Times, there were 94 flights in Germany, 76 in Britain, 33 in Ireland, 16 in Portugal, 15 in Spain and Czechoslovakia each and two chartered flights that made stopovers in France. French officials say they had no knowledge of the clandestine flights. If so, the flights certainly violated French sovereignty.(2)
December 2: Le Figaro in France adds that the first flight was made on March 31, 2002 by a Lear jet that stopped in Brest en route from Iceland to Turkey, via Rome. The crew was reportedly alone. The second flight, which stopped over near Paris on July 20, 2005, from Norway, was a Gulfstream III jet that landed six times at Guantanamo.(3)
December 3: Berliner Zeitung in Germany reports that CIA aircraft used European airports minimally 15 times this past year and says that America’s Ramstein Air Base (Germany) was a hub for the flights between 2002 and 2004. (4)
December 4: The Council of Europe, the foremost human rights watchdog in Europe, headed by Swiss senator Dick Marty and using satellite imagery, makes its first closed door report in Paris on “black sites” in eastern Europe and the flights in Europe. Marty also cites the illegal abduction in February 2003 of accused terrorist and Egyptian cleric Abu Omar from Milan to Germany and then Egypt, where he was reportedly tortured. (5)
Human Rights Watch identifies the Kogalniceanu military airfield in Romania and Poland’s Szczytno-Szymany airport as probable sites based on flight logs of the CIA aircraft between 2001 to 2004. Other airports possibly used were Palma de Majorca in Spain’s Balearic Islands, Larnaca in Cyprus, and Shannon in Ireland. The CIA flight logs were analyzed by Mark Galasco, a senior military analyst with the organization who was formerly a civilian intelligence office with the Defense Intelligence Agency. Not someone who can be easily dismissed as anti-American. (6)
Meanwhile, Poland and Romania as well as another ten nations deny having CIA facilities in their territory while Austria and Denmark are investigating US violations of their air space. There are over six investigations into flights in various countries.
To all this the White House has tried outright denial. Stephen Hadley, the National Security Advisor, told Fox News Sunday on December 4,
“… we comply with U.S. law. We respect the sovereignty of the countries with which we deal. And we do not move people around the world so that they can be tortured.”
But when asked on CNN’s “Late Edition” specifically if the U.S. operates secret prisons in Europe, Hadley side-stepped a clear-cut denial, preferring to fudge, “there is a lot of cooperation at a variety of levels on the war on terror.”
Hadley is lying on all three counts he cites –
1. As the flight logs and investigative reports document, the US is moving people around the world to be tortured.
2. Since all 25 member states have signed the European Convention on Human Rights, and the International Convention Against Torture, secret torture cells would indeed be a violation of the laws of foreign countries. If officials in this country did not know about these flights, as seems to be the case, then the US did indeed violate their national sovereignty.
3. The United Nations Convention Against Torture was also ratified by the U.S in 1994, and it requires “substantial grounds for believing” that a detainee will be tortured abroad.
Since Syria, Jordan, Egypt and many of the other countries where suspects have been rendered have turned up all too frequently as violators in human rights monitoring and have been cited by the State Department itself, the US cannot plausibly argue as it has, that it does not have “substantial grounds for believing” rendered suspects would be tortured there. Its own officials are on record saying just the opposite. Vincent Cannistraro, the CIA’s former counterterrorism director, told Newsday about an al-Qaeda suspect taken to Egypt, “They promptly tore his fingernails out and he started to tell things.” (February 6, 2003). Former CIA agent Bob Baer told The New Statesman, “If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear — never to see them again — you send them to Egypt,”
Since CIA officials knew the fate in store of those rendered, the US is in utter
violation of international laws on torture which are binding on it.
It’s not necessary anymore to hedge discussion of the program with words like “alleged,” for Masri is only the latest in a long line of renditions without cause/due process of any kind: Mamdouh Habib, an Egyptian-born Australian citizen, seized by a CIA team in Pakistan in October 2001, sent to Egypt, burned, electrocuted and beaten till he bled in his sleep from his nose, mouth, and ears, was dumped in Guantanamo and then released without being charged; Mohamedou Oulad Slahi, a Mauritanian and former Canada resident, taken by the CIA to Jordan for interrogation for 8 months, was sent to Guantanamo and released; Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni, an Egyptian imprisoned by Indonesia authorities in January 2002, flown to Egypt for interrogation, was returned to the CIA four months later, held for 13 months in Afghanistan, then sent to Guantanamo and later released; Maher Arar a naturalized Canadian citizen, kidnapped in New York in September 2002, was taken to Syria, held in a coffin and tortured with metal whips. He proved to have no ties to terrorism and was released.
Masri is telling the truth. There is just too much testimony from detainees that makes substantially the same charges, too many CIA admissions and leaks, too many eye-witness reports, the meticulously analyzed flight logs and even supporting medical evidence.
The Masri case is without any doubt an illegal operation involving authorities in at least five countries – Macedonia, Afghanistan, Germany, Albania, and the U.S.
Let me spell that out. In pursuit of the global war on terror, the U.S. government, apparently conspiring with foreign intelligence, has snatched a citizen of one country off the streets of another for no credible reason whatsoever, violating the sovereignty of several foreign countries in the process. It has then sent him to still another foreign country for torture for several months. And, having found itself mistaken, it has confiscated/withheld the documents necessary for the victim to substantiate a legal claim against the US government. There was no formal charge, there was no notification of the family, there were no witnesses called, there was no lawyer provided, there was no explanation or restitution offered.
Again, note. The CIA held these prisoners in contravention of the laws even of the torturing countries. Even Egypt, Syria or Jordan have legal systems – however harsh – that would have necessitated charges and a legal defense. But as ex-FBI agent Dan Coleman has stated, “We’re taking people, and keeping them in our own custody [my emphasis] in third countries. That’s an enormous problem….There was a process there [in Egypt],” Coleman says. “But what’s our process? We have no method over there other than our laws”and we’ve decided to ignore them. What are we now, the Huns? If you don’t talk to us, we’ll kill you?” (7)
What is also clamoring to be asked is if the black sites allegedly in Eastern Europe – and according to the Post article, also in Thailand – are really all that there are to the story?
Given the extraordinary sensitivity of the whole program, what are the chances that CIA leaks tell the whole story? What about Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, and many other countries partnered with the US in the global war on terror who have dismal human rights records.
Uzbekistan has recently been in the news about just that. Craig Murray, the former British ambassador there, told 60 Minutes that Uzbek citizens, captured in Afghanistan, were flown back to Tashkent on an American plane operating on a regular basis. Uzbeki torture techniques include drowning, suffocation, rape, and immersion in boiling liquid. Murray calls these techniques “medieval” but there is not one that has not been used by the US, not only in the war on terror” but within US prisons. When Murray complained that British intelligence was using information elicited by torture, he was recalled and quit the foreign service.(8)
Indonesia is another strong candidate to have black sites, since the Asian tsunami last year provided the perfect justification and cover for US spy satellites and military to enter the area. Just this past November 23, the Bush administration announced it will lift a six-year arms embargo and resume full relations with the Indonesian military providing aid to “support US and Indonesian security objectives, including counterterrorism, [my emphasis] maritime security and disaster relief.” (9)
And what about Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean? The US has vehemently denied a black site there, but what credibility do such denials have? Could the focus on Eastern Europe turn out to be an elaborate feint or a secondary story, as so much else in the uncovering of this story?
Masri claims he was not tortured but beaten. How many unknown victims permanently “disappeared”?
Finally, let’s not forget that the Masri case was known at the highest level and concealed with the knowledge of then National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. And for good reason. At a time when the administration was frantically dismissing Abu Ghraib as a case of a “few rotten apples,” Masri’s case shows it for what it really was – a reckless policy put in place by the administration in violation of US and international laws.
Lila Rajiva is a free-lance journalist and author of “The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American media” (Monthly Review Press). She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Dana Priest, “Anatomy of a CIA rendition gone wrong,” Washington Post, December 4, 2005. Also, Dana Priest, “CIA Hold Terror Suspects in Secret Sites,” Washington Post, November 2, 2005.
2. “Twist to terror suspects row as logs show 80 CIA planes visited UK,” Guardian, UK, December 1, 2005 and “Reports of Secret U.S. Prisons in Europe Draw Ire and Otherwise Red Faces,” Ian Fisher, NY Times, December 1, 2005.
3. “Paper: CIA flights made stopovers in France,” AP, December 2, 2005.
4. “CIA’s secret detainee flights concern Germany,” AP November 26, 2005.
5. “Many Hints of CIA prison flights,” AP, November 22, 2005.
6. “EU to probe reports of secret CIA prisons,” AP, November 3, 2005
7. “Outsourcing Torture,” Jane Meyer, New Yorker, February 7/14, 2005.
8. “CIA Flying Suspects To Torture?” CBS Sixty Minutes, March 6, 2005.
The head of Bahrain’s al-Wefaq party says the opposition only welcomes dialogues that will lead to the establishment of an elected government.
Sheikh Ali Salman told Press TV on Saturday that Bahrainis from all walks of life are calling for a democratic government.
“It’s part of the Arabic revolution. The Arab revolution is looking for a democracy, it’s simple like that. You can’t find it [here],” Salman said.
“There are no clashes between the Sunnis and the Shias,” he continued, “It’s really a clash between the dictatorship… and the people whose demands are a democratic government.”
“What is the meaning of a dialogue if there is no chance for this dialogue to reach a solution?” he added.
“We need from the government not just to say, I am ready for dialogue, but that I am ready to have a dialogue that is leading to an elected government,” Salman stated.
On Saturday, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa dismissed the ministers of cabinet affairs, housing, health and electricity amid mass pro-democracy protests in the capital Manama.
The most recent wave of protests is calling for the resignation of the king as well as constitutional reforms. The Bahraini people are demanding free elections and the release of political prisoners as well.
The protesters, who have camped at Manama’s Pearl Square for the 12th straight day, say they will keep rallying until their demands are met.
Bahrain is a key US ally in the Middle East and home to Washington’s Fifth Fleet.