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Syria: UK chemical traces claim unfounded

Press TV – April 15, 2013

Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi has dismissed as unfounded London’s claim that a soil sample smuggled out of the country proves the use of chemical weapons there saying only sampling by international authorities by Damascus’s authorization is valid.

Media reports said on Saturday that British military scientists have examined soil smuggled back to Britain by the British spy agency MI6 that contains evidence of chemical weapons use.

“The testing of Syrian soil, if not performed by an official and international organization and done without the consent of the Syrian government, has no political or legal value,” Syrian Minister for Information Omran al-Zoubi said.

The Times said on Saturday that soil samples from an area near Damascus holds evidence of chemical weapons use by Syrian militia or government forces.

Zoubi, however, said Turkey, Britain and France are behind the use of chemical weapons in Syria by arming the militia groups.

“Where did those who brought the rockets into Khan al-Assal get them from? Where did they get the chemical weapons from? They should ask Turkey, Britain, France and the other states about the source of these chemical weapons,” Zoubi said.

This comes as the United Nations said on Thursday that Western governments have “hard evidence” of chemical weapons use at least once in Syria but did not point to the details.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Comments Off on Syria: UK chemical traces claim unfounded

Does Iran Deny the Holocaust?

By Laleh Tohidian | Iran’s View | April 15th, 2013

To understand Iran’s real stance toward the issue of the Holocaust, it is worth reviewing President Mahmoud Ahmadienjad’s remarks.

In an interview with NBC NEWS’s Brian Williams on Sept 19, 2006, Ahmadinejad raised three questions about the Holocaust:

1) In the Second World War, over 60 million people (at least 50 million civilians) lost their lives. They were all human beings. Why is it that only a select group of those who were killed have become so prominent and important?

2) If this event (Holocaust) happened, and if it is a historical event, then we should allow everyone to research it and study it. The more research and studies are done, the more we can become aware of the realities that happened. We still leave open to further studies absolute knowledge of science or math. Historical events are always subject to revisions, and reviews and studies…Why is it that those who ask questions are persecuted? Why is every word so sensitivity or such prohibition on further studies on the subject? Where as we can openly question God, the prophet, concepts such as freedom and democracy?

3) If this happened, where did it happen? Did the Palestinian people have anything to do with it? Why should the Palestinians pay for it now? Five million displaced Palestinian people is what I’m talking about. Over 60 years of living under threat. Losing the lives of thousands of dear ones. And homes that are destroyed on a daily basis over people’s heads. You might argue that the Jews have the right to have a government. We’re not against that. But where? At a place where their people were — several people will vote for them, and where they can govern. Not at the cost of displacing a whole nation. And occupying the whole territory.

The Israeli – Palestinian confrontation is one of the longest lasting world crises in recent times and many believe an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would also be the key to solving the other issues and conflicts in the region.

As Iran’s President has frequently asserted, if the Holocaust happened in Europe, what is the fault of the Palestinian people? The Palestinian people’s lives are being destroyed today in the pretext of the Holocaust. Lands have been occupied, usurped. But what is their fault? What role did they play in the Holocaust?

“Well, assuming that the Holocaust happened, then, what does it have to do with the Palestinian people?”

So, What Are Iran doubts?

Let’s review some major points Iran has raised about the Holocaust:

1. The evidence of the honoured history of each nation is always open to study; you have never heard of a ban on studying war crimes; for instance Iran has always presented evidence and proof to the world of what Iraq did to Iran’s people, as most countries do; but the Holocaust is the only part of history, which is kept out of questioning!

2. Let’s consider that the Holocaust is true, and as they say, “six million Jews during World War II, were murdered by Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, throughout German-occupied territory.” Still we need to ask: Why Palestinians should pay the price?

Though the solution to this dispute is not very complicated! (Churchill once said: “Study history, study history. In history lies all the secrets of statecraft.”) Iran suggests that the Holocaust events should be further investigated by independent and impartial parties;

Iran is against using the Holocaust to justify the behaviour of Israel in the region, and this is a merely a political and humanitarian argument, nothing to do with Jews and cannot be interpreted as anti – Semitic.

Jews, like other minorities are living peacefully in Iran. Jews are protected in the Iranian constitution and a seat is reserved for a Jew in the Majlis (Iran’s Parliament). Iran hosts the largest Jewish population of any Muslim-majority country. And it is home to the second-largest Jewish population in the Middle East.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Israeli Journalist Accuses Army Of Executing Two Palestinians

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | April 15, 2013

A report written by Israeli Journalist, Gideon Levi, and published by Haaretz Hebrew Language daily, accuses the Israeli military of deliberately executing two Palestinians, who were recently shot by the army at the Ennab roadblock, east of Anabta near the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem.

The two Palestinians, identified as Naji Al-Balbisi, 18, and Amer Ibrahim Nassar, 17, were shot by several rounds of live ammunition from a close range. At least four Palestinians have been injured.

Levy said that “on the eve on Wednesday April 3rd, and under the military monitoring tower, near the entrance of Tulkarem, an execution took place…. There can be no other words to describe what happened there, when four Palestinians walked towards the roadblock and the soldiers kept monitoring them, until they were nearly 2 kilometers away”.

“The soldiers monitored the Palestinians approaching, and repeatedly trying to light their Molotov cocktails, but they [the soldiers] did not do anything to stop them, the Palestinians then hurled their cocktails at the concrete wall of the military tower,” they were participating in clashes that took place after detainee Maisara Abu Hamdiyya died on April 2nd an advanced stage of cancer resulting from the lack of medical attention in Israeli prisons. Abu Hamdiyya is from the West Bank city of Hebron.

Levy added that two soldiers then fired rounds of live ammunition killing Amer Nassar, while Dia’ Nassar was kidnapped. Another Palestinian, identified as Fadi Abu Asal, was injured and was kidnapped a few days later.

“The soldiers then started chasing Naji Al-Balbeesy, who ran to the yard of a nearby leather factory. Soldiers approached him, opened fire at him from a very close range, and executed him”, Levy said, “This happened despite the fact that the soldiers, fortifying themselves in the monitoring tower, were never in any real danger”.

The Israeli journalist said that the slain Palestinians did not deserve to die, especially since they ran away, “but a soldier, or two, decided to teach Al-Balbeesy a lesson, by executing him”. The Milad News Agency reported.

Following the death of Abu Hamdiyya, dozens of Palestinians, including children, have been shot and wounded by Israeli military fire during clashes that took place with the army, while several Palestinians have been killed and dozens, including several children, have been kidnapped.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on Israeli Journalist Accuses Army Of Executing Two Palestinians

Cellulosic Ethanol: A Bio-Fool’s Errand?

By Josh Schlossberg | The Biomass Monitor | April 11, 2013

The good news is that the cellulosic ethanol industry—turning trees and woody plants into liquid fuels—has yet to take off. And without an endless stream of taxpayer handouts to develop this polluting and environmentally destructive energy source, it probably never will.

Under the guise of taking action on climate change, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) under the Energy Policy Act of 2005, expanding it under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.

According to Institute for Energy Research, the RFS “mandates the production of ethanol to the level of 36 billion gallons by 2022, where 15 billion gallons is to be corn-based and the remainder is to come from advanced forms of biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol.

“The advanced biofuel contribution starts at 0.6 billion gallons in 2009 increasing to 1.35 billion gallons in 2011, 2.0 billion gallons in 2012 and eventually to 21.0 billion gallons in 2022.”

At first, the advanced biofuels component was set at an optimistic 0.6 billion gallons by 2009, 1.35 billion by 2011, 2.0 billion by 2012, and an obscene 21.0 billion by 2022. Yet the industry’s repeated botched attempts to break down wood cellulose into a usable fuel combined with overwhelming investor uncertainty—in the wake of corn ethanol’s recent fall from grace—meant refiners weren’t able to get their hands on anywhere near the EPA’s desired amount.

“Because cellulosic ethanol was not yet commercial, EPA issued changes to the original act that requires four separate standards including 1.0 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel by 2012 and 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels by 2022.”

The requirement for motor fuel from cellulose was initially set at 250 million gallons by 2011 and 500 million by 2012. When that proved impossible, the EPA lowered the bar to 6.6 million gallons by 2011 and 8.65 million by 2012.

When big biofuels still couldn’t make the cut in 2011, the EPA fined refiners $6.8 million. Yet in January 2013, the DC District Court of Appeals struck down the mandate, ruling that it was unfair of the EPA to put refiners in an “impossible position” by punishing them for not buying and blending biofuels that didn’t exist. The EPA repaid the fines.

Wally Tyner, agricultural economist at Purdue University, claims in a Science Insider article that the court decision doesn’t entirely gut the RFS. Tyner concludes that if more cellulosic ethanol comes online in the future, the EPA will then be able to issue their beloved “blending mandates.”

Which won’t happen anytime soon. In 2012 the entire US biofuels industry brewed up only 20,069 gallons of cellulosic ethanol, according to Climatewire.

But the elusive nature of the magic tree gas hasn’t stopped some of the more enterprising bio-profiteers from cashing in. Rodney Hailey, owner of Maryland-based Clean Green Fuel, LCC, sold $9 million in “renewable fuel credits” for biofuels his company never even produced. In February 2013, a US District Court Judge sentenced Hailey to twelve years in the slammer for his sins.

Florida, Georgia, and Oregon have been the site of the industry’s latest casualties. Even the heaping fortunes of fossil fuels giant British Petroleum (BP) weren’t enough to make a go of a $350 million forest-to-fuels facility in Highlands County, Florida—which went belly up in 2012.

A $37 million federal grant and $235 million loan guarantee couldn’t prevent major financial difficulties that ultimately forced ZeaChem, a cellulosic ethanol company in Boardman, Oregon to “scale back plant operations…and let go a number of our valued employees” in March 2013. Only a few weeks before, the company had produced its first and only batch of ethanol. While ZeaChem insists they’re not throwing in the paper towel yet, a recent Oregonian article suggests otherwise.

Perhaps the highest profile bio-failure to date—dubbed the “Solyndra of biofuels” by some—is the shuttering of Range Fuels’ wood-to-ethanol factory in Treutlen County, Georgia. The corporation broke ground in 2007 with promises to produce 100 million gallons of ethanol, seducing the US Department of Energy (DOE) to fork over a $76 million grant. As one of his final acts as president, George W. Bush also doled out an $80 million loan guarantee. The facility was completed in 2010—after having absorbed $46.3 million of the DOE grant and $42 million of the loan—when Range Fuels jumped ship and sold the facility in 2011 for a mere $5.1 million—without having brewed up a single tank of gasoline.

Range Fuels and the company that snatched it up for pennies on the taxpayer subsidized dollar, LanzaTech, are financed by investment company Khosla Ventures. “Billionaire Vinod Khosla, who is known for investing in so-called black swan ideas and innovation that could disrupt markets, also sits on the LanzaTech board,” according to Smart Planet.

Despite the industry’s repeated losses right out of the gate, investors like Khosla keep betting on the same horse. In a fit of either desperation or supreme optimism, Khosla is also backing a Columbus, Mississippi cellulosic ethanol factory that produced its first shipment in March 2013, with plans to build another plant in Natchez, Mississippi later this year.

More ominously, Khosla invested through Mascoma Corporation in a proposal to build a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Kinross, Michigan, in the state’s Upper Peninsula. When Mascoma struggled to find sufficient funding, Valero—the largest US refiner of traditional gasoline and the company that would process the dirty tar sands oil at the end of the yet-to-be-constructed Keystone pipeline in Texas—dropped $50 million into the project while agreeing to purchase up to 40 million gallons of the stuff.

Even with Khosla’s millions, in March 2013 Mascoma withdrew its registration for a $100 million initial public offering (IPO)—when a company goes from private to publicly trading on the stock market—blaming “market conditions.” Now the facility is being solely managed by Valero and its disturbingly long track record of Clean Air Act violations.

Pat Egan, area resident and former owner and publisher of the local daily newspaper, is fearful that with Valero acting as sugar daddy the Kinross facility stands a fairly good chance of creating a “commercial and viable product.” Add to this a $26 million grant from the feds, $80 million from DOE and $26 million from the state of Michigan, the facility is certainly a contender.

Before jumping ship, Mascoma conjured up a process called consolidated bioprocessing (CBP) to “develop genetically-modified yeasts and other microorganisms to reduce costs and improve yields in the production of renewable fuels and chemicals.” It’s evident that commercial scale cellulosic biofuels can’t happen without the equally controversial—if not more so—practice of genetic engineering.

Perhaps the unholiest of marriages between the biofuels and genetic manipulation industries involves ArborGen, the progenitor of genetically modified freeze-tolerant eucalyptus trees to convert into paper pulp and biofuels. The US Department of Agriculture is accepting public comments until April 29  in its consideration whether or not to allow the Franken-company to sell hundreds of millions of the experimental life form across Texas, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Georgia.

In order for the Kinross project to work, according to Egan, the facility has to cut all its wood within a 150 mile radius. If you look at a map and draw a circle around the facility, Egan points out that one-third of it is water, including Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, and one-third of it is Canada. Egan believes a significant portion of the grant and development money will migrate north to Canada.

The facility would require a “phenomenal” amount of wood—1.1 million green tons per year to produce 20 million gallons, according to Egan. In comparison, a 50 megawatt biomass power incinerator burns about 500,000 green tons per year. The wood for Kinross would come primarily from pulpwood or whole trees in Michigan and Ontario, sixty to seventy cordwood trucks a day, said Egan.

Upper Peninsula-based Longyear Forestry, a partner in the project, is slated to be providing many of the trees to chip and convert into ethanol and has provided the land to site the facility. 56% of the wood would come from private land owners and the rest from public land, cutting down wild forests and monocrop tree plantations alike, including willow and aspen, explained Egan.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is “already changing their ten year forest plan to create more fast growing use of land,” said Egan. Two national forests, the Hiawatha National Forest and the Superior National Forest are within 150 miles. “All the state and federal sustainable cuts would still offer less than half of the wood supply the project may need.”

A Michigan State University Department of Forestry study acknowledged a limited woodshed in the region, admitting that already “wood-fired electric power plants consume large quantities of wood throughout Michigan and in the Kinross supply region.”

The Kinross biorefinery would provide about fifty to sixty five jobs, said Egan. Yet those numbers don’t include the loss of jobs from businesses competing for the same wood source—that don’t have the taxpayer subsidies to pay top dollar—such as fiberboard.

Not long ago, Pat thought the “bottom” use of wood was for electricity, but now believes “this ethanol thing can be even worse on per job basis.” He points to an area paper mill that employs 1,100. “All of a sudden the paper industry is looking like the good old days,” he said, worried that the refinery’s commandeering of local wood could knock the mill out of business. It’s a perfect example of the government “picking winners and losers.”

Egan refers to the potential biomass boom as the “third big cut”—the first cut being the initial land clearing by settlers in the 1800’s and the second cut taking place in the 20th century for lumber to build houses. Instead of trees growing to 80 to 120 years for high quality lumber, Egan warns that the biomass industry will only be waiting ten to twenty five years between cuts.

“People die” in refinery accidents, said Egan, including Valero’s refinery explosions in March 2012 in Memphis, Tennessee that killed one and injured two. It’s ironically cheaper to pay those fines—$63,000 in the case of Memphis—than make the preventative safety changes, said Egan. Though asked for an emergency plan, the developers have yet to deliver. The ethanol plant would be located within a few hundred yards of a Sioux Tribal Housing facility, with hundreds of residents living across the road. Down the road a couple miles are three state prisons with their captive population of thousands.

Egan is worried that, while so many other ethanol plants have gone bust, Kinross just might make it. He points to Mascoma’s experimental plant in Utica, New York where they claim to have “perfected” the process—burning through 25 million taxpayer dollars in the process. “As soon as they figure out non-food source ethanol and make it saleable and gasoline prices stay high,” warned Egan, they’ll be putting up “cookie cutter plants” all around the country.

So who would buy the ethanol? “If somebody can crack this nut and find the holy grail of commercial cellulosic biofuels, they have a ready made customer in the military,” said Egan. The US Department of Defense is aiming for 40% of their energy to come from biofuels by 2023. In 2012, the US Air Force tested its first ethanol in jets.

“Taking carbon traps, trees that grab carbon out of the air and grow and do so much more in terms of biodiversity,” Egan cautioned, “taking those down and releasing carbon is doing two horrible things.”

Kinross resident Larry Klein—who lives two miles from the proposed refinery site—is fighting the refinery in the courts, with the help of the Sierra Club of Michigan, suing through the NEPA process in regards to the Department of Energy’s $80 million grant. In November 2012, a judge threw out the case, which is now in appeals court in Cincinnati.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Cellulosic Ethanol: A Bio-Fool’s Errand?

Palestinians say falsely identified as Mossad agents in cyber attack

Ma’an – April 15, 2013

BETHLEHEM – Hackers who published the names of alleged Mossad agents have infuriated several Palestinians living in Israel who say they were falsely identified as agents of the Israeli intelligence agency.

Hackers in March published lists naming thousands of alleged Mossad employees.

One Palestinian named in the leak said “amateur hackers seemingly obtained the names from private business companies and claimed the names were of Mossad agents,” adding that the names appeared to have been taken from shoe stores, travel agencies and private businesses.

A 32-year-old Palestinian living in Haifa in northern Israel said she was shocked when a colleague said her name was on the list.

“I expected he was joking, so I asked him to congratulate me for that, but he insisted he was serious, and he showed me the list with my name in it,” the woman told Ma’an, asking not to be identified.

She said the ordeal was tough because her co-workers took the allegation seriously. “They were whispering together and looking at me with suspicious glances.

“As other virtuous Arabs, I found myself faultlessly facing accusations as a result of a situation fabricated by some individuals who published a list of names without checking the validity of their claims.”

She added: “Though I am not involved in any political activities, I am a patriotic Palestinian loyal to my homeland’s interests. After all the suffering I went through in my life, I found myself under suspicion and defending myself. It is really bitter to destroy virtuous people just because some individuals wanted to satisfy their desires and publish uncertain information.”

She said her family’s reputation was damaged and so she contacted local organizations for assistance, but found they were not interested in the case.

“So I decided to launch a campaign to discharge all the people whose names appeared in the alleged list from the false accusations.”

The woman also contacted the hacker groups involved in the campaign.

“The Anonymous group told me they would check and publish a clarification, but later they said the list was published by another group called Sector 707,” she said.

She got in touch with websites that had published the list, and says she received several apologies.

“We obtained the list from one of the hackers and we took it down after two or three hours after we discovered the names were taken from the database of a telecommunications company,” one of the websites told her, she says.

Meanwhile, a Palestinian man living in Upper Galilee told Panet website that his name appeared on the list.

“I was shocked when I saw my name and contact information in an alleged list of Mossad agents. The worst thing about the case was that a majority of people treated that list as if it was real, and they started to view the names in the list as if they were really Mossad agents. This is a false accusation and it is very dangerous,” he said.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , | Comments Off on Palestinians say falsely identified as Mossad agents in cyber attack

French train company banned non-white workers for Peres visit

Al-Akhbar | April 15, 2013

The French national railroad company banned black and Arab employees from working at a Paris train station during a visit by Israeli President Shimon Peres for “security reasons,” a recent union statement revealed.

In a statement issued on April 10 and made public by French investigative news outlet Mediapart, railroad workers union SUD Rail revealed that the SNCF excluded its black and Arab workers from working at the Gare du Nord on March 8, as Peres arrived by train from Belgium.

The SNCF – the French acronym for the national railroad company – and one of its subsidiaries justified the decision by saying there shouldn’t be “Muslim employees welcoming the Israeli head of state,” the statement quoted.

The head of SNCF subsidiary ITIREMIA later confirmed that workers had been removed based on their race as a “precautionary principle” to “protect employees from the humiliation they might encounter” at the hands of security personnel.

The SNCF said the decision had come from the French interior ministry and the Israeli embassy, but employees are arguing that the decision was taken by the company itself.

In addition to selecting staff in contact with Peres based on race, a non-white train controller was also allegedly barred from checking the wagon Peres was traveling in, and an Arab train conductor was prevented from going through a part of Gare du Nord near Peres to reach his train.

SUD Rail said its committee on hygiene, security and work conditions has launched an investigation into the discriminatory acts.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Comments Off on French train company banned non-white workers for Peres visit

Russia Bars Bush-Era Torture Lawyers

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 14, 2013

The U.S. government views itself as the global arbiter of human rights, righteously throwing stones at other nations for their misbehavior and most recently imposing sanctions on a group of Russians accused of human rights crimes. That move prompted a tit-for-tat response from Moscow, barring 18 current and former U.S. officials from entering Russia.

The predictable response from the U.S. news media to the Russian retaliation was to liken it to the Cold War days when the United States would catch a Soviet spy and Moscow would retaliate by grabbing an American and arranging a swap.

But several of the Americans targeted by Moscow this time were clearly guilty of human rights crimes. John Yoo and David Addington were former legal advisers to President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, respectively. The two lawyers were famous for inventing new excuses for torture. Two other Americans on Moscow’s list – Major General Geoffrey D. Miller and Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harbeson – commanded the extralegal detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

In particular, Yoo and Addington stand out as smug apologists for torture who twisted law and logic to justify waterboarding, painful stress positions, forced nudity, sleep deprivation and other techniques that have been historically defined as torture. In a society that truly respected human rights, they would have been held accountable – along with other practitioners of the “dark side” – but instead have been allowed to walk free and carry on their professional lives almost as if nothing had happened.

The Russians were polite enough only to include on the list these mid-level torture advocates and enablers (as well as some prosecutors who have led legal cases against Russian nationals). They left off the list many culpable former senior officials, such as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, CIA Director George Tenet, Cheney and Bush. Obviously, the Russian government didn’t want an escalation.

It’s also undeniably true that Moscow does not come to the human rights issue with clean hands. But neither does the United States, a country that for generations has taken pride in its role as the supposed beacon of human rights, the rule of law, and democratic principles.

Acting as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Tribunals after World War II, Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson famously denied that punishing the Nazi leaders as war criminals was simply victor’s justice. He insisted that the same principles would apply to the nations sitting in judgment, including the United States and the Soviet Union. However, that has turned out not to be the case.

The real principles of today’s international law could be described as dragging petty warlords from Africa or Eastern Europe off to The Hague for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, while letting leaders of the Big Powers – with far more blood on their hands – off the hook.  Jackson’s “universal principles” of human rights now only apply to the relatively weak.

A History of Double Standards

Of course, one could argue that double and triple standards have always been the way of the world. What often seems to really matter is who has the most powerful friends, the best P.R. team, and the greatest number of “news” organizations in their pocket. Plus, lots of cognitive dissonance helps, too.

For instance, you must forget the role of the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, the Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt and other mainstream media stars in rallying the American people to get behind the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2002-2003 – when the same pundits now fold their arms in disgust at some other nation’s violation of international law.

It’s also handy if you can forget much of American history. You can fondly recall the stirring words about liberty from the Founding Fathers, but it’s best to forget that many owned African-Americans as slaves and that their lust for territorial expansion led them and their descendants to wage a cruel genocide against Native Americans.

There also were the repeated military interventions in Latin America and the brutal counterinsurgency campaign in the Philippines (which applied some of the same tactics that the U.S. military had perfected in crushing uprisings by Native Americans). Then, there were the militarily unnecessary atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the mass slaughters in Indochina in the 1960s and 1970s; and the “death squad” operations in South and Central America in the 1970s and 1980s.

One can trace a direct correlation from American sayings like “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” in the 19th Century to “kill them all and let God sort them out” in the 20th Century. And U.S. respect for human rights hasn’t improved much in the new century with George W. Bush’s “war on terror” and his invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and with Barack Obama’s extrajudicial killings by drone attacks.

So, when the United States strides from its glass house to hurl stones at Russians over repression in Chechnya, it’s not at all surprising that the Russians would return the volley by singling out some of the Americans clearly implicated in war crimes under George W. Bush. The only real question is why did the Russians stop with a handful of apparatchiks? Probably they didn’t want to escalate this exchange of Big Power hypocrisies.

The hard truth is that if the United States had a functioning criminal justice system for the powerful – not just for run-of-the-mill offenders – former Vice President Cheney and ex-President Bush would have convicted themselves with their own public comments defending their use of torture.

For instance, in February 2010, on ABC’s “This Week,” Cheney pronounced himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” a near-drowning technique that has been regarded as torture back to the Spanish Inquisition and that has long been treated by U.S. authorities as a serious war crime, such as when Japanese commanders were prosecuted for using it on American prisoners during World War II.

Cheney was unrepentant about his support for the technique. He answered with an emphatic “yes” when asked if he had opposed the Bush administration’s decision to suspend the use of waterboarding. He added that waterboarding should still be “on the table” today.

Admitting the Sham

But Cheney went further. Speaking with a sense of legal impunity, he casually negated a key line of defense that senior Bush officials had hidden behind for years – that the brutal interrogations were okayed by independent Justice Department legal experts who gave the administration a legitimate reason to believe the actions were within the law.

However, in the interview, Cheney acknowledged that the White House had told the Justice Department lawyers what legal opinions to render. In other words, the opinions amounted to ordered-up lawyering to permit the administration to do whatever it wanted.

In responding to a question about why he had so harshly attacked President Obama’s counterterrorism policies, Cheney explained that he was concerned about the new administration prosecuting some CIA operatives who had handled the interrogations and “disbarring lawyers with the Justice Department who had helped us put those policies together. … I thought it was important for some senior person in the administration to stand up and defend those people who’d done what we asked them to do.”

Cheney’s comment about the Justice lawyers who had “done what we asked them to do” was an apparent reference to John Yoo and his boss, Jay Bybee, at the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), a powerful Justice Department agency that advises the President on the limits of his power.

In 2002, Yoo – while working closely with White House officials – drafted legal memos that permitted waterboarding and other brutal techniques by narrowly defining torture. He also authored legal opinions that asserted virtual dictatorial powers for a President during war, even one as vaguely defined as the “war on terror.” Yoo’s key memos were then signed by Bybee.

In 2003, after Yoo left to be a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley and Bybee was elevated to a federal appeals court judgeship in San Francisco, their successors withdrew the memos because of the sloppy scholarship. However, in 2005, President George W. Bush appointed a new acting chief of the OLC, Steven Bradbury, who restored many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.

In the years that followed, Bush administration officials repeatedly cited the Yoo-Bybee-Bradbury legal guidance when insisting that the “enhanced interrogation” of “war on terror” detainees – as well as prisoners from the Iraq and Afghan wars – did not cross the line into torture.

In essence, the Bush-Cheney defense was that the OLC lawyers offered honest opinions and that everyone from the President and Vice President, who approved use of the interrogation techniques, down to the CIA interrogators, who conducted the torture, operated in good faith.

If, however, that narrative is indeed false – if the lawyers had colluded with the policymakers to create legal excuses for criminal acts – then the Bush-Cheney defense would collapse. Rather than diligent lawyers providing professional advice, the picture would be of Mob consiglieres counseling crime bosses how to skirt the law.

Hand in Glove

Though Bush administration defenders have long denied that the legal opinions were cooked, the evidence has long supported the conspiratorial interpretation. For instance, in his 2006 book War by Other Means, Yoo himself described his involvement in frequent White House meetings regarding what “other means” should receive a legal stamp of approval. Yoo wrote:

“As the White House held its procession of Christmas parties and receptions in December 2001, senior lawyers from the Attorney General’s office, the White House counsel’s office, the Departments of State and Defense and the NSC [National Security Council] met a few floors away to discuss the work on our opinion. … This group of lawyers would meet repeatedly over the next months to develop policy on the war on terrorism.”

Yoo said meetings were usually chaired by Alberto Gonzales, who was then White House counsel and later became Bush’s second Attorney General. Yoo identified other key players as Timothy Flanigan, Gonzales’s deputy; William Howard Taft IV from State; John Bellinger from the NSC; William “Jim” Haynes from the Pentagon; and David Addington, counsel to Cheney.

In his book, Yoo described his work swatting down objections from the State Department’s lawyer and the Pentagon’s judge advocate generals – who feared that waiving the Geneva Conventions in the “war on terror” would endanger U.S. soldiers – Yoo stressed policy concerns, not legal logic.

“It was far from obvious that following the Geneva Conventions in the war against al-Qaeda would be wise,” Yoo wrote. “Our policy makers had to ask whether [compliance] would yield any benefit or act as a hindrance.”

What Yoo’s book and other evidence make clear is that the lawyers from the Justice Department’s OLC weren’t just legal scholars handing down opinions from an ivory tower; they were participants in how to make Bush’s desired actions “legal.” They were the lawyerly equivalents of those U.S. intelligence officials, who – in the words of the British “Downing Street Memo” – “fixed” the facts around Bush’s desire to invade Iraq.

Redefining Torture

In the case of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation tactics, Yoo and Bybee generated a memo, dated Aug. 1, 2002, that came up with a novel and narrow definition of torture, essentially lifting the language from an unrelated law regarding health benefits.

The Yoo-Bybee legal opinion stated that unless the amount of pain administered to a detainee led to injuries that might result in “death, organ failure, or serious impairment of body functions” then the interrogation technique could not be defined as torture. Since waterboarding is not intended to cause death or organ failure – only the panicked gag reflex associated with drowning – it was deemed not to be torture.

The “torture memo” and related legal opinions were considered so unprofessional that Bybee’s replacement to head the OLC, Jack Goldsmith, himself a conservative Republican, took the extraordinary step of withdrawing them after he was appointed in October 2003. However, Goldsmith was pushed out of his job after a confrontation with Cheney’s counsel Addington. Bradbury then enabled the Bush White House to reinstate many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.

Cheney’s frank comments on “This Week” in 2010 – corroborating that Yoo and Bybee “had done what we asked them to do” – reflected the confidence that former Bush administration officials felt by then that they would face no accountability from the Obama administration for war crimes.

Surely, if a leader of another country had called himself “a big supporter of waterboarding,” there would have been a clamor for his immediate arrest and trial at The Hague. That Cheney felt he could speak so openly and with such impunity was a damning commentary on the rule of law in the United States, at least when it comes to the nation’s elites.

John Yoo apparently shares Cheney’s nonchalance about facing accountability. This weekend, when Yoo was asked about the Russians banning him as a human rights violator, he joked about the athletic skills of Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Darn,” Yoo wrote in an e-mail, “there goes my judo match with Putin.”

Perhaps the ultimate measure of America’s current standing as a promoter of human rights is that it’s difficult to judge which government is the bigger hypocrite: the one in Moscow or the one in Washington.

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Russia Bars Bush-Era Torture Lawyers

One Newspaper, Two Elections: The New York Times on America 2004, Venezuela 2013

By Corey Robin | April 15, 2013

In November 2004, 50.7% of the American population voted for George W. Bush; 48.3% voted for John Kerry.

The headline in the New York Times read: “After a Tense Night, Bush Spends the Day Basking in Victory.”

The piece began as follows:

After a long night of tension that gave way to a morning of jubilation, President Bush claimed his victory on Wednesday afternoon, praising Senator John Kerry for waging a spirited campaign and pledging to reach out to his opponent’s supporters in an effort to heal the bitter partisan divide.

“America has spoken, and I’m humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens,” Mr. Bush told a victory party that was reconstituted 10 hours after it broke up inconclusively in the predawn hours. “With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans, and I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your president.”

Flanked by his wife, Laura, and their daughters, Barbara and Jenna, and Vice President Dick Cheney and his family, Mr. Bush stood smiling and relaxed on a stage at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to thank the campaign team that helped him to a decisive victory, outline his agenda and, 78 days before his second inauguration, speak somewhat wistfully of eventually returning home to Texas.

The Times “News Analysis” read as follows:

It was not a landslide, or a re-alignment, or even a seismic shock. But it was decisive, and it is impossible to read President Bush’s re-election with larger Republican majorities in both houses of Congress as anything other than the clearest confirmation yet that this is a center-right country – divided yes, but with an undisputed majority united behind his leadership.

Fast forward to 2013. Tonight, 50.6% of the Venezuelan population voted for Chavez’s successor Nicolas Maduro; 49.1% voted for his opponent Henrique Capriles.

The Times headline this time: “Maduro Narrowly Wins Venezuelan Presidency.”

And here’s how the article begins:

Nicolás Maduro, the acting president and handpicked political heir to Hugo Chávez, narrowly won election to serve the remainder of Mr. Chávez’s six-year term as president of Venezuela, officials said late Sunday. He defeated Henrique Capriles Radonski, a state governor who ran strongly against Mr. Chávez in October.

Election authorities said that with more than 99 percent of the vote counted, Mr. Maduro had 50.6 percent to Mr. Capriles’s 49.1 percent. The turnout, while strong, appeared to be somewhat below the record levels seen in October, a sign that Mr. Maduro may not enjoy the same depth of passionate popular support that Mr. Chávez did.

Update (1 am)

Nathan Tankus just pointed out on Twitter another point of comparison I missed: “I love the focus on ‘hand picked successor’. Pretty sure ‘son of former president’ sounds more nepotistic.” Nathan then updated that the phrase was “hand picked political heir,” which makes the comparison even starker!

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Comments Off on One Newspaper, Two Elections: The New York Times on America 2004, Venezuela 2013

Maduro Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election with 50.66 Percent of the Vote

Maracaibo – Nicolas Maduro has won the Venezuelan presidential election with 50.66 percent of the vote against 49.07 percent for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski. Maduro gave a victory speech immediately after, while Capriles initially refused to recognize the results.

The “first bulletin” results were announced by the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena, at around 11:20 p.m. Venezuelan time, with 99.12 percent of the votes totaled, enough to give Maduro an irreversible victory.

Nicolas Maduro received a total of 7,505,338 votes, against 7,270,403 for opposition candidate Henrique Capriles, a difference of 234,935 votes. Total turnout was 78.71 percent of the electorate.

Given the closeness of the vote, Maduro’s speech focused mostly on assuring the validity of his victory, and the reliability of the electoral body.

“If they want to do an audit, then do an audit. We have complete trust in our electoral body,” he said from outside the presidential palace.

“We have the only electoral body in the world in which 54 percent of the total votes are audited,” he added.

Maduro also noted that in other countries presidents often win by slim margins, and that it is recognized as a victory, and said to opposition sectors that “this is no reason to create violence”.

CNE Rector Vicente Díaz immediately requested that 100 percent of the electoral results be audited in order to make the results more transparent.

“This tight result has lead me to request that the CNE conduct a citizens’ audit of 100 percent of the ballot boxes. The country needs it,” he said.

Maduro immediately accepted the request, and assured there was no problem in doing a complete audit.

“Let’s do it! No problem. Perhaps they will find that my victory will be larger,” he said.

Maduro supporters had gathered at the presidential palace to await the results, and remained to celebrate the victory after Maduro’s speech.

Meanwhile, opposition supporters awaited in the Caracas neighborhood of Bello Monte to hear their candidate’s concession speech.

Initial comments from various opposition leaders appeared to indicate that they were confident they had won, and that they would not accept defeat.

Capriles wrote on his Twitter account hours before the official results were released that the government was planning to “change the results”.

“We warn the country and the world that there is the intention to change the will [of the people],” he wrote.

Upon the release of the official results, Capriles held a press conference in which he claimed that the victory was “illegitimate” and refused to recognize Maduro’s victory until all ballots are audited.

“I don’t make pacts with those who are corrupt or illegitimate,” said Capriles, assuring he would not agree to accept the results.

“The one who has been defeated is you and everything you represent,” he said referring to Nicolas Maduro.

Capriles claimed that the results are not truly representative of the Venezuelan population, and assured that the Maduro government was “completely illegitimate”.

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Comments Off on Maduro Wins Venezuelan Presidential Election with 50.66 Percent of the Vote

The Incredible Tale of Gwenyth Todd and The “Naïve” Neocons

By Maidhc Ó Cathail | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs | May 2013

GIVEN THE proliferation of crimes, both foreign and domestic, known to have been committed by the U.S. government in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, there is an understandable willingness among large swathes of the public to believe almost anything told them by someone claiming to be blowing the whistle on an increasingly rogue “world’s policeman.” And, as a rule, the more persecution the whistleblower appears to suffer for exposing the global cop’s transgressions, the greater the desire to believe her story—no matter how far-fetched it might be.

Earlier this year, an effort was made to interest a number of prominent alternative media outlets in just such a “whistleblower” story. According to the professional-sounding pitch, an American contractor named Gwenyth Todd, while advising the Bahrain-based U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, had single-handedly foiled a plot involving “a few select high-ranking members of the U.S. Navy” to provoke a war with Iran. “Fearing of the powers she had obstructed, and fearing for her own safety, Todd left Bahrain moving to Australia,” wrote the anonymous promoter. “For her honesty, bravery, and service, Todd has been sought after by the U.S. Justice Department for prosecution and pursued by the FBI. Nearly all in the corporate press have chosen to ignore her case.”

But not only has Gwenyth Todd’s case not been ignored by the corporate press, it has in fact been the subject of a five-page Washington Post special by “SpyTalk” blogger Jeff Stein. Moreover, Stein’s Aug. 21, 2012 piece entitled “Why was a Navy adviser stripped of her career?” uncritically touts Todd’s conspiratorial narrative solely on the basis of interviews with Todd herself and “a half-dozen Navy and other government officials who demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, many parts of which remain classified.” Then, six months after having her story featured by one of America’s most influential pro-Israel daily newspapers, Todd was the unlikely focus of an even more credulous Iranian state television production. In February 2013, Press TV released “Untold Truths,” a half-hour-long program that introduced her as a “Middle East specialist” and “former U.S. government consultant.” The production began with a dramatic assertion: “In 2007, the U.S. tried to wage a war against IRAN. One person stopped it. This is her story.”

In the Washington Post and Press TV versions, the alleged conspiracy to start a war with Iran is said to have occurred in Bahrain in 2007. However, in a June 2012 article, Todd’s “senior editor” at the notoriously unreliable and ostensibly “anti-Semitic” Veterans Today (VT) website—with which Todd has “long worked” and currently serves on its motley editorial board of directors—sets the narrative two years earlier, and in a neighboring country. “Gwenyth Todd of the National Security Agency, close associate of Paul Wolfowitz and Condi Rice,” wrote Gordon Duff, “back in 2005, discovered a White House plot to stage an attack on American forces in Qatar.”

Confusing matters even more, another VT colleague and enthusiastic promoter of Todd’s story, Kevin Barrett, claims in a September 2012 piece first published by Press TV, “She stopped a 2006 neocon plot to stage a false flag attack in Bahrain intended to trigger war on Iran, and had to flee for her life to Australia.”

Although Todd presents herself as an “appalled” critic of the neoconservatives and the broader Israel lobby, there are good reasons to doubt her credibility on this point as well. In a Sept. 12, 2012 radio interview with Barrett, for example, she made the extraordinary claim that 9/11 was a “setback” for the neocons because it supposedly upset their plans for regime change in Iraq. According to Todd, their plan was to restore a pre-1958 type friendly regime, ruled by Ahmed Chalabi, with Iraq then serving as a base from which to launch regime change in Iran. In that same interview, she further claimed that the neoconservative agenda for Iraq had nothing to do with Israel. As if unaware of the fact that neocon Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz had once been investigated for having passed a classified U.S. document to an Israeli government official, she proffered as evidence, “Didn’t Wolfowitz admit to having affairs with Palestinian students?”

It seems highly unlikely, however, that a former top Middle East analyst such as Todd claims to be would be unfamiliar with Oded Yinon’s seminal 1982 article, “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s.” “Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets,” observed Yinon. “Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria.” And it seems even less likely that she would be unaware of “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” That influential 1996 report, prepared by a group of mainly American neocons for then-incoming Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, recommended “removing Saddam Hussain from power in Iraq—an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right.”

Five years later, these right-wing Zionist policy advisers, many then members of the Bush administration, would seize the golden opportunity presented by the 9/11 attacks to turn this hawkish blueprint for Israeli expansionism into U.S. Middle East policy.

Todd’s seeming ignorance of Israel’s longstanding strategic designs for the breakup of Iraq is even harder to believe in light of her claim to have been “personally recruited” by the “Clean Break” study group leader. In the Sept. 12 radio interview with Barrett, she recounted a conversation with Richard Perle—who, like Chalabi’s other chief booster, Wolfowitz, has also been caught passing classified material to Israel—that supposedly took place at the end of George Bush’s pre-inaugural candlelight dinner in January 2001. “Paul’s going, Paul Wolfowitz is going to be the deputy secretary of defense,” she claimed Perle told her. “You know what we are going to do in Iraq, and we need like-minded people in the Pentagon so we can make it happen.”

When the interviewer expressed amazement that she had been approached directly by the so-called “Prince of Darkness” himself, Todd not very convincingly replied: “Yes, well, when I’d met him on a couple of… I’d been in conferences with him before.”

Presumably in an attempt to explain how the reputedly Machiavellian Perle could have been so naïve as to have tried to recruit someone he’d only met at a few conferences, Todd recounted a car journey with Perle in the 1990s during which he supposedly raved about the analytic prowess of her predecessor at the Pentagon’s Turkey desk—based solely on the analyst’s rumored ability to talk to cab drivers in Turkish. Claiming to have been shocked by Perle’s “total naïveté,” Todd went on to say that she subsequently heard the exact same story from fellow Iraq war architect Bernard Lewis at the Aspen Strategy Group in 1997, when she found herself seated between “Judy” Miller and the influential pro-Israel Orientalist, whom she said has dedicated his The Emergence of Modern Turkey to “some good friends” of hers.

Notwithstanding Todd’s claims to have been persecuted for thwarting a neocon-backed false flag designed to provoke war with Iran in December 2007—or was it in 2005? or 2006, perhaps?—she was asked in November 2010 to write a report on Turkey for Australia’s leading pro-Israel foreign policy think tank. Yet this past February, a mere week after she left little doubt in a social media conversation that she was fully aware of the founder and chairman Frank Lowy’s Israeli connection, Todd first feigned ignorance and then surprise in the comments section of The Passionate Attachment blog when this writer pointed out the Lowy Institute’s widely known close ties with Israel.

And as for the alleged unwarranted pursuit by U.S. law enforcement, it may have much less to do with her claimed success in preventing war with Iran than with a mysterious sum of money of uncertain origin and unclear purpose. When questioned by the FBI in 2007 about $30,000 she had received from her daughter’s father, Robert Cabelly—who would be indicted in 2009 for conspiring to act as an illegal agent of Sudan and to violate sanctions against the government of Omar al-Bashir—Todd said she told the federal agents that the money was for “emergency surgery” in Bahrain. By a strange coincidence, this just happened to be the exact same amount she told The New York Times in February 2011 that she had once spent out of her own pocket to buy gifts for the children of the poorest Shi’i families. Todd said she had been ordered by a commanding officer, fearful of upsetting the ruling Sunni Al-Khalifa royal family, to renege on a promise made on behalf of the Navy.

Indeed, the more one looks into the incredible tale spun by Gwenyth Todd, the more likely one is to agree with the former commander of U.S. Central Command, Admiral William J. Fallon—who in 2007 vetoed a move by the Bush administation to send a third carrier group to the Persian Gulf, vowing that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch.” Cast as an unlikely villain in Todd’s narrative, the retired four-star admiral was asked by The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein to comment on her conspiratorial allegations; Fallon’s terse e-mail response—“B.S.”

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Incredible Tale of Gwenyth Todd and The “Naïve” Neocons