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COLOMBIA: U.S. wants Free Trade Agreement with Colombia even after August massacre and other human rights abuses in Magdalena Medio region

CPTnet | 19 September 2011

While the United States considers a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia, the human rights situation in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia has deteriorated dramatically, culminating in the 17 August 2011 massacre in the township of El Dorado.

The United States House of Representatives and Senate will probably vote on the long standing FTA when they return from their congressional break, asserting that the human rights situation in Colombia is improving. However, a wave of human rights violations, assassinations, and massacres has shaken the region. For example, in the city of Barrancabermeja, from 13-18 August, the organization Human Rights Workers’ Forum of Barrancabermeja (Espacio de Trabajadores y Trabajadoras de Derechos Humanos) documented two assassinations, two forced disappearances, five attempted assassinations, and the kidnapping of three contract workers.

Furthermore, in the Sierra de San Lucas mountain range, the agricultural and mining communities are also threatened. This region is rich in natural resources such as gold. With the price of gold rising, multinational companies who stand to benefit from a FTA with Colombia are seeking even more concessions in the region. One human rights worker told CPTers, “We are facing wave of violence that has not been seen since the paramilitary group Auto-Defense Forces entered the region the late 90s.”

From November to August of this year, Fedeagromisbol, a federation of primarily subsistence small-scale miners and peasant farmers throughout the Sierra de San Lucas mountain range in South Bolívar, documented sixteen assassinations in the region and twenty cases of abuses and harassment.

On 17 August, 7:00 p.m., in the community of Casa Zinc, part of township EL Dorado in the municipality of Monte Cristo, Bolivar, twenty armed men entered the community and identified themselves as the Black Eagles, a paramilitary group. They gathered the community together and assassinated Pedro Sierra, a farmer. They then tortured and cut out the tongues of Ivan Serrano, a local shop owner, and Luis Albeiro Ropero, a young miner, before they killing them. The Colombian Army was just twenty minutes away while the Black Eagles were committing these atrocities.

On the 21 August, local human rights organizations, including Fedeagromisbol and the Christian Peacemaker Teams traveled to the region to investigate the massacre. On their way, they received a call that the paramilitary group was still present in the community four days after the massacre. The official investigation commission was unable to come, because the Colombian government could not guarantee the safety of anyone entering the region.

The massacre in Casa Zinc is not unusual. Most of the violence happens either at the hands of the Colombia Armed Forces or occurs when these forces are nearby and able to prevent it, if they chose to do so. The U.S. government must not move forward on a Free Trade Agreement by claiming that the human rights situation has improved.

October 1, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | 1 Comment

1,000 seized in anti-Wall St. revolt in US

Press TV – October 2, 2011

American police forces have arrested over a thousand anti-Wall Street protesters that took to the streets in New York and other major metropolitan areas across the crisis-hit country, Press TV reports.

The protesters demonstrated against poverty, unemployment, corporatism, social inequality and other grievances that have plagued the United States for more than three years now.

Hundreds of demonstrators were detained late Saturday as the New York police tried to reopen the heavily used Brooklyn Bridge, which was partially shut down by angry protesters. Latest news reports, however, have put the number of those detained by police in New York City metropolitan area at more than 1,000.

“Over 700 summonses and desk appearance tickets have been issued in connection with a demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge late this afternoon after multiple warnings by police were given to protesters to stay on the pedestrian walkway and that if they took roadway they would be arrested,” a police spokesman said late Saturday.

The rallies originally started two weeks ago under the name of “Occupy Wall Street” when activists and demonstrators announced their intention to seize the heart of US financial transactions in protest at dire economic conditions believed to be caused by the excessive greed of America’s big corporations.

The movement has now grown dramatically and spread to other major cities across the US.

Great numbers of protesters have gathered in front of the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago, describing themselves as part of the Occupy Chicago movement that is said to have hired its name from Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City.

Similarly, many demonstrators marched through streets in Los Angeles, bearing antiwar signs and expressing frustration with the country’s high unemployment.

In addition to what they view as the use of excessive force against and unfair treatment of minorities, including Muslims, the movement is also protesting against home foreclosures and 2008 bank bailouts.

The protests have gained the support of renowned American filmmaker Michael Moore and actress Susan Sarandon as well as some union members.

The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100, which has some 38000 members, are among those voicing support for and vowing solidarity with it.

Some of the protesters say the idea to occupy the most vital financial centers of the US was inspired by popular uprisings in the past months in Middle Eastern and North African countries, widely referred to as the “Islamic Awakening.”

A protester described the demonstrations as an American version of Egypt’s Tahrir Square takeover, referring to the protests in downtown Cairo that led to the Egyptian revolution and later caused the collapse of the long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Some have also criticized the US government for preaching and encouraging civil disobedience abroad while severely restricting it at home.

They also state that they plan to use the revolutionary tactics people employed in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt to restore America’s lost democracy.

October 1, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | 7 Comments

Settlers ‘steal 150 sheep’ near Hebron

Ma’an – 01/10/2011

HEBRON — Armed Israeli settlers seized 150 sheep from shepherds south of Hebron in the southern West Bank, a popular committee leader said.

Popular committee secretary-general Azmi Shoyoukhi told Ma’an that residents of Shima, a settlement east of al-Dhahiriya, stole sheep belonging to Faris Samamrah.

They took the sheep to Shima settlement after assaulting several shepherds and threatening to shoot them if they returned to the area, the local official said.

Meanwhile, other residents of the same settlement chopped down 10 olive trees belonging to Mousa Samamrah, Shouyoukhi said, adding that settlers destroyed 45 trees in the same field on Thursday.

Shouyoukhi said locals held a rally to protest the theft of the sheep, joined by Majdi Amr, director of the south Hebron office of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Agriculture.

International and Israeli activists participated in the rally, and held a sit-in in the area where the sheep were stolen, waving Palestinian flags and chanting anti-settlement slogans. Protesters damaged water pipelines laid down by settlers in the area.

Israeli police and civil administration officers arrived and the sheep were released after representatives of the Red Cross intervened, Shouyoukhi said.

Earlier Saturday, Israeli settlers burned farmland south of Nablus in the northern West Bank, a Palestinian Authority official said.

Ghassan Doughlas, who monitors settler violence and vandalism, said land in the Einabus and Huwwara villages burned as the result of a fire set by residents of the illegal Yitzhar settlement.

The settlers had started a fire on the Einabus mountain but it spread to Huwwara, he said.

Residents of Yitzhar settlement also chopped down 45 olive trees belonging to Zakariyya Nassar and Muhammad al-Qitin in Madma village on Saturday, Doughlas said.

October 1, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | 1 Comment

Mishaal: liberation first, then state declaration

Palestine Information Center – 01/10/2011

In an address in Iranian capital Tehran to the international conference in support of the Palestinian uprising, Hamas political leader Khalid Mishaal said that Palestinian lands should be liberated first, then a state can be announced.

He warned of the effects that the UN request would have on Palestinians’ rights and called on PA president Mahmoud Abbas to hold meetings with other factions with the intent of developing a strategy that bolsters Palestinian unity in the face of future challenges.

Mishaal assured that continued Israeli settlement and attacks requires continued resistance in order to restore rights and liberate all Palestinian lands from the Israeli occupation.

He also called on Arab rulers who stand by his movements in the “trench of resistance” to seek a political solution in dealing with their people who are demanding freedom.

“We are with the people who demand freedom and an end to corruption,” he said expressing sorrow at “the blood that was spilled in those blessed revolutions.”

Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said reports issued by Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Hamas was split on the Palestinian Authority’s request for full UN membership were baseless.

He assured that Hamas’s official position was that the step was unilateral and involved several risks, and that it is first necessary to establish an independent state on liberated Palestinian land and not to declare statehood in light of the continued occupation.

On internal Palestinian dialogue, Hamas politburo member Khalil al-Hayya denied that a date had been set for new rounds of talks between the Hamas and Fatah parties, emphasizing the need for talks that include all Palestinian factions.

“We are in urgent need of such talks to clarify to ourselves, firstly, and to discuss our affairs and then decide the next steps,” Hayya told the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat.

With regard to upcoming rounds of talks with Fatah, Hayya explained that Fatah and Hamas had not set a date for such talks but said agreement was nearly reached on holding a meeting soon, adding that arrangements had not yet been made.

Hayya went on to criticize PA President Abbas for failing to “give reconciliation its entitlements,” saying that reconciliation has entitlements that must be given by all.

“On our side we have given the reconciliation the entitlements required from us at every stop. Abu Mazen (Abbas) benefited from the reconciliation, and the people have not benefited from it,” he said.

October 1, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | Comments Off on Mishaal: liberation first, then state declaration

Khamenei rejects two-state solution

Press TV – October 1, 2011

In an opening address to the 5th International Conference on the Palestinian Intifada in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Saturday, Ayatollah Khamenei said, “Our declaration is the freedom of Palestine not the freedom of parts of Palestine.”

“The two-state proposal, which they are lending a cloak of legitimacy to, by ‘accepting the UN membership of a Palestinian state’ means nothing but succumbing to the demands of the Zionists, in other words accepting the Zionist government in Palestine,” Ayatollah Khamenei added.

Acting Palestinian Authority (PA) chief Mahmoud Abbas officially submitted his bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Sept. 23.

The Leader further stressed that the two-state solution means trampling on the rights of the Palestinian nation, overlooking the historical rights of Palestinian refugees, and even threatening the rights of Palestinians living in the occupied territories.

Ayatollah Khamenei said that one of the outcomes of the two-state solution would be the sustenance of the “cancerous tumor” of Israel and a “permanent threat” to the Muslim world particularly regional nations.

The Leader said that any plan must be based on the principle of “All of Palestine for all Palestinians.”

Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran’s proposal for the resolution of the Palestinian issue was a “clear and logical plan and in accordance with the political conventions accepted by world public opinion.”

“We do not propose a classical war involving the armies of Muslim countries nor do we propose throwing immigrant Jews into the sea, and of course not the arbitration of the UN or other international organizations.”

“We propose a referendum for the Palestinian nation. As any other nation, the Palestinian nation is entitled to determine their faith and the system of governance in their country,” the Leader added.

October 1, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | 2 Comments

Assassination Rights

By Edward S. Herman | Dissident Voice | October 1st, 2011

Assassination is as American as apple pie. The record-breaking case of assassination targeting is Fidel Castro.  The 1976 Church Committee report on “Alleged Assassination Plots on Foreign Leaders” listed “at least” seven attempts to kill Castro, but the book by Fabian Escalante, the Cuban former official in charge of protecting Castro, claimed that the number of tries ran into the hundreds.  In 2006 Duncan Campbell pointed out that Luis Posada Carriles was still living in Florida after his failed effort to murder Castro (among his other terrorist actions), and Campbell noted sardonically that Florida is “a place where many of the unsuccessful would-be assassins have made their home.”1 It would be a mistake, however, to think that Florida is the terror center of the world—that honor falls to Washington, D.C. and its environs; Florida is just one branch of the center, just as Guantanamo is just one branch of a D.C.-centered torture network.

Aggression Rights

It is, of course, well established that the United States has aggression rights, and that international law applies only to others, although clients like Israel also have such exemptions by virtue of their clienthood, tail-wagging-dog capabilities, and power of their protector.2  U.S. aggression rights were made perfectly clear with the U.S. attack, invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, which was as clear a violation of  the UN Charter as Saddam’s invasion-occupation of Kuwait in 1990. In the latter instance, the UN rushed to condemn Saddam on the very same day his tanks and troops rolled into Kuwait, and that great law-enforcer, the United States, rushed to oust him by massive force.

On the other hand, when Israel invaded Lebanon in 2006, this was merely a case of tolerable “birth-pangs of a new Middle East” (Condoleezza Rice), so that when the UN came into the picture it was more to protect poor little Israel from future pea-shoots from Lebanon than to protect Lebanon from current and future attack and invasion by a state that had already aggressed against it twice.  Even more interesting was the invasion of Rwanda by elements of the Uganda army in October 1990, just two months after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Here, as in Lebanon, the invading forces were supported by the United States, so the UN imposed no impediment or penalty, and in various other ways aided the invading party and facilitated a genocidal process that followed later in the 1990s (and extended into the Democratic Republic of  the Congo).

Assassination Rights

Assassination rights follow in the same manner, flowing from military and economic power, arrogance, self-righteousness, and client status. As of this moment (early September, 2011), it is not clear whether Moammar Gadaffi is dead or alive—or, if alive, will long survive—but it has been openly acknowledged that the United States and its NATO allies have more than once bombed Gadaffi’s compound in Tripoli in an effort to kill him, the first incident occurring as early as March 20, the second day of the war.  This is by no means the first time that the enlightened West has tried to assassinate Gadaffi.  The British and French both tried, and the United States made an earlier effort in 1986 when it bombed Gadaffi’s residence in Tripoli, missing him but killing his baby daughter and many nearby civilians.

Assassination of civilians violates numerous international  prohibitions of such killing beyond military necessity; and it violates a stream of U.S. executive orders that declare, for example, that “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination” (F.O. 12333, 1981 [Reagan]). This is regularly ignored by U.S. leaders, hence by the media and by any potential-theoretical national or international law enforcement bodies.

The rationales for ignoring law and executive orders can be funny.  We can go after Gadaffi because he is “commander-in-chief” of the Libyan armed forces, hence a military target.  (Obama would, of course, be a legitimate military target for the Taliban, or Libyan armed forces, as I’m sure the editors of the New York Times would agree.)  One exposition of assassination law notes that “it seems fairly obvious that eliminating Gadaffi will go far toward bringing attacks on civilians to an end.”3  This might be especially true if his elimination would have ended NATO attacks on Libyan civilians, which, along with those of the NATO-supported insurgents, seem to have far exceeded those of Gadaffi and his forces.

Bringing a war to a quicker end has long been a rationalization for attacking civilians. During the bombing war against Yugoslavia in 1999 the stepped up attacks on Serbian civilian structures and civilian occupants was explicitly designed to force a quicker surrender; and the bombing of the Belgrade state broadcasting station (16 killed) was explained on the ground that the station served up state propaganda and was therefore a quasi-military target whose destruction would hasten an end to the war.  Then, of course, U.S. wars are always a matter of self-defense, against the threat of weapons of mass destruction and mushroom clouds rising over New York harbor, or some other threat to the pitiful giant. So assassination prohibitions never come into play—for us.

Israel‘s Assassination Rights

Or for our pitiful little client in the Middle East, which is a kind of pioneer in “targeted assassinations” and “preventive strikes.”  Israel has been killing Palestinians in extra-judicial actions for many years, both in the occupied territories and in Israel itself. The Palestine Centre for Human Rights estimates 604 targeted killings of Palestinians between September 2000 and March 2011, plus another 256 “collateral damage” bystanders killed. B’Tselem estimates 228 executions carried out by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) between September 2000 and October 2006, plus 154 non-targeted civilians. This, of course, just scratches the surface of the forms of violence carried out by the Israeli state and its settlers against the untermenschen who stand in the way. The IDF uses only rubber bullets in Israeli protests, but live ammunition in dealing with the Palestinians. The assassination programs are built on the foundation that Israel is confronted with “terrorists,” who can be dealt with summarily. That the dispossessing IDF is the operative body of a system of wholesale terrorism that daily violates international law is unrecognized not only in Israel but throughout the Free World.  Similarly, the Israeli wars of aggression in Lebanon and the genocidal war on Gaza in 2009 do not elicit sanctions or war crimes tribunals or discredit the Israeli state or leadership. Its right to aggress and assassinate remains intact.

In 2006 the Israeli assassination program received the imprimatur of the Israeli Supreme Court, which found that the assassinations of “terrorists” who had not been tried in any court of law were legal.  “We cannot determine in advance that all targeted killings are contrary to international law,” the court ruled.  “At the same time, it is not possible that all such liquidations are in line with international law.”  But the court did make it illegal to carry out an assassination attack where more than one sure victim was unidentified and was possibly an innocent. ((“Israeli court backs targeted killings,” BBC News, December 14, 2006))   Of course, the non-innocence of the properly liquidated targets had not been determined in a court of law, but this extra-judicial decision-making, which flies in the face of  international law, was acceptable to the court. The court also required that if feasible the terrorists should be arrested rather than simply assassinated.  Of course, if the target resisted their arrest killing them would be acceptable, and assassinating them where an arrest was not practicable was also acceptable.

This was a de facto “license to kill,” that would only put the killing establishment to some minor pains to keep the record clean and lawful.  “Targeted Assassinations—a License to kill” was, in fact, the title of an article published in Haaretz on November 27, 2008 by Uri Blau, using some IDF internal documents that described well how the Israeli Supreme Court’s assassination-approving decision would only slightly inconvenience the IDF’s assassination program. Blau shows that the Israeli military regularly carried out assassination operations, planned in advance as targeted killings, under the guise of planned arrests.  Blau cites evidence that top Israeli officers approved in advance the killing of Palestinians defined as “wanted.” This has been a scandal in Israel, with the alleged leaker of documents (Anat Kam, a then 23-your-old former IDF soldier) under arrest and Blau a refugee in England fearful of returning to Israel.  Needless to say Blau’s “License to kill” and  its findings have not been widely disseminated in the Free Press, nor has the freedom of speech scandal gotten much attention.

The United States: From Assassination Rights to Global Free-Fire-Zone Rights

Of course, with its vastly greater capacity to kill on a global scale, the U.S. “license” far surpasses client Israel’s. And, despite its serious domestic problems and resource scarcity for its civil society needs, the U.S. permanent war establishment is upping-the-ante in pursuing its villain choices across the globe.  The Nation‘s Jeremy Scahill testified before the House Judiciary Committee in December 2010 that the U.S. Special Operations Forces and Central Intelligence Agency have steadily expanded their ongoing “shadow wars” around the world, conducting missions in 60 countries during the Bush administration, and as many as 75 under Obama’s.  As Scahill added, the Obama “administration has taken the Bush era doctrine that the ‘world is a battlefield’ and run with it.”

Based on press reports dating back to June 17, 2004, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (U.K.) estimated that by the end of August 2011, between 2,309 and 2,880 persons had been killed in the U.S. “Covert Drone War” in Pakistan, with air strikes by these remote-controlled aerial killers under Obama outnumbering Bush’s 243 to 52.   These researchers found the reported civilian death-toll to be between 392 and 783—though the actual civilian toll is likely far greater, as the press reports which form the basis of this research tend to repeat the U.S. and Pakistani government line that every strike kills “militants,” and only in exceptional cases are civilian fatalities acknowledged in the reports.4

A photographic exhibit in London last summer by the Pakistani Noor Behram, titled Gaming in Waziristan, detailed the wreckage caused by the U.S. drone war.  Behram’s theme, in his own words, is “that far more civilians are being injured and killed than the Americans and Pakistanis admit.”  As he told the Guardian’s Peter Beaumont: “For every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant.  I don’t go to count how many Taliban are killed. I go to count how many children, women, innocent people, are killed.” ((“US drone strikes in Pakistan claiming many civilian victims, says campaigner,” July 17, 2011))

A lawsuit filed in Islamabad against the retired C.I.A. lawyer John A Rizzo on behalf of two surviving family members of drone attacks accuses him of having played a role in determining targets for the attacks, and thus deciding who should die.  This and similar evidence in other U.S. free-fire zones such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and elsewhere (Libya, for example, until the overthrow of the Gadaffi government in late August), stands in dramatic contrast with the reassuring words of White House’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan, who said in answer to a question on June 29 that the “types of operations that the U.S. has been involved in in the counterterrorism realm—nearly for the past year, there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.”  During the same speech, Brennan previewed the United States’ strategy in its Global War On Terror for the years ahead.  Unsurprisingly, remote-controlled drones and U.S. Special Forces Operations moving in-and-out of different countries against which no official U.S. declaration of war has ever been made were featured prominently.5

Brennan was, of course, lying about the sure-sightedness of this method of kill, and six weeks later, the New York Times helped him get-off-the-hook when he “adjusted the wording of his earlier comment on civilian casualties,” no longer saying that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death” in the past year, but that “American officials could not confirm any such deaths.”  In an amazing gloss on the argument over drones, Georgetown University Pakistan expert C. Christine Fair also told the Times: “This is the least indiscriminate, least inhumane tool we have.”6

Given the monumental scale of the violence and of the death and the destruction caused by U.S. military attacks against multiple countries around the world (formally or informally, in uniform or by hired-hands), the reported deaths in Pakistan to date are indeed relatively small, when compared to the deaths of 1 to 2 million Iraqis caused by the United States and its allies from August 1990 to the present.  But perhaps the most important point to note is the institutionalization, growth, and normalization of the work of the U.S. military machine. The CIA has grown in size and especially in its killing activities, featuring its drone war management, which Gareth Porter contends is unstoppable because of bureaucratic imperatives and power.7   It is, in the words of one CIA official, “one hell of a killing machine,” but it is probably exceeded in its death-dealing by the semi-secret Joint Special Operations Command, which “has killed even more of America’s enemies in the decade since the 9/11 attacks.” (Dana Priest and William Arkin, “’Top Secret America’: A look at the military’s Joint Special Operations Command,” Washington Post, September 2, 2011))

These, along with the Pentagon, have made the entire globe a free-fire zone in which people are assassinated without trial at U.S. discretion. NATO has been integrated into this process, expanded greatly since the break-up of the Soviet Union, whose alleged threat was the rationale for building NATO, and with NATO now stressing “out of area” operations that gear well with the U.S. “projection of power.” It was noted recently in a reflection on 9/11 that America’s wars have greatly increased rather than decreased since the demise of the Soviet Union and the ending of that supposed threat to international peace and security.8   But that seeming paradox rested on the belief that it was the Soviets who needed to be contained, rather than the United States and its allies. The latter still do.  And as during the Vietnam war where U.S. policy—free-fire zones, chemical warfare, massive killings of civilians in napalm and bombing raids—created a steady stream of recruits to keep fighting the aggressor, so today the U.S. (and Israeli) killing machine continues to produce recruits and resistance to its “out of area” advances. As this is a permanent self-fulfilling enemy- and war-generating process, it is ominous and may be an Armageddon March.

  1. “638 tries to kill Castro,” Guardian, August 3, 2006
  2. Herman, “Aggression Rights,” Z Magazine, February, 2004
  3. “Assassination under International & Domestic Law,” on the IntLawGrrls website, May 2, 2011
  4. Chris Woods, “Drone War Exposed,” and David Pegg, “Drone Statistics Visualized,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, August 10, 2011
  5. “U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy; Ensuring Al-Qaida’s Demise,” Johns Hopkins University, Washington, D.C., June 29, 2011
  6. Scott Shane, “C.I.A. Is Disputed On Civilian Toll In Drone Strikes,” August 12, 2011
  7. “CIA’s Push for Drone War Driven by Internal Needs,”, IPS News, September 5, 2011
  8. Greg Jaffe, “On a war footing, set in concrete,” Washington Post, September 5, 2011

October 1, 2011 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | 2 Comments