Hillary Clinton repeats George Bush and Dick Cheney’s talking points to a tee.
WASHINGTON — The US Air Force has given Sallyport Global Holdings in Virginia a $271.8 million contract to run security and life support operations at Balad Air Base in Iraq over the next year, the Department of Defense announced.
“Sallyport Global Holdings Inc., Alexandria, Virginia, has been awarded a $271,813,941 modification… contract for base life support, base operations support, and security,” the announcement stated on Friday.
Work is expected to be completed by January 31, 2017, according to the Defense Department.
The Balad base was occupied by the US military during the 2003 Iraq war and was handed back to the Iraqi Air Force in December 2011.
During the Iraq War, Balad was the second largest US base in Iraq and today the Iraqi Air Force operates its US-supplied F-16 Fighting Falcons combat aircraft there.
Pentagon will publish 198 photos of tortured detainees in the US prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan on Friday, a top American civil rights group said. The release comes after a decade-long lawsuit ended in the group’s favor in March.
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, announced on Wednesday that the US Department of Defense (DoD) would provide public access to previously disclosed images of prisoners being tortured in US detention centers after more than 10 years of staunch resistance to do so.
The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request demanding the government to reveal records, including photos of the alleged abuse of prisoners by US officers in the American detention facilities overseas back in 2004.
Despite President Obama’s initial promise to release the requested materials back in 2009, he then urged Congress to pass a special exemption clause to block the release of photos citing security reasons, adding that the publication of the photos “would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by small number of individuals” and would “further inflame anti-American opinion and put our troops in great danger.”
After a long-running court battle, the US District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein ruled that the government should “disclose each and all the photographs” referring to the ACLU’s lawsuit in last March.
However, only about 200 images out of some 2,100 pictures will be released on Friday. The major part of the evidence comprising approximately 1,900 photos will remain concealed after US Defense Secretary Ash Carter had invoked his authority under 2009 exemption provision last November.
“I have determined that public disclosure of any of the photographs would endanger citizens of the United States, members of the United States Armed Forces, or employees of the United States Government deployed outside the United States,” he wrote in the certification renewal in support of his decision to appeal the ruling on November 7.
Yet the Pentagon has made some minor concessions in the case with Carter refusing to extend his certification to 198 photographs which are now being processed for release. However, Carter didn’t explain the difference between this series of photos and those remain withheld from the public domain, according to Politico.
The still-classified images consist of collection of photographs taken by the DoD in the period from September 11, 2001 to January 22, 2009 and relate to the treatment of “engaged, captured or detained individuals”, according to the court documents.
The ACLU said it would insist on releasing the whole package of documents. The last major scandal in connection with the release of photos and footages depicting scenes of prisoners’ abuse and humiliation by the American soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq broke out in 2004. The exposure of horrendous human right violations in the detention center prompted authorities to launch an investigation into the matter as a result of which 11 soldiers accused of sexual abuse in martial trials were incarcerated.
The notorious prison was used for detention purposes by US-led coalition in Iraq until 2006 when the US government handed control over prison to the local authorities. The prison ceased functioning in 2014.
There is a lot more than meets the eye in the newly revealed Joint Chiefs of Staff intelligence briefing of Sept. 5, 2002, which showed there was a lack of evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) – just as President George W. Bush’s administration was launching its sales job for the Iraq War.
The briefing report and its quick demise amount to an indictment not only of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld but also of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers, who is exposed once again as a Rumsfeld patsy who put politics ahead of his responsibility to American soldiers and to the nation as a whole.
In a Jan. 24 report at Politico entitled “What Donald Rumsfeld Knew We Didn’t Know About Iraq,” journalist John Walcott presents a wealth of detail about the JCS intelligence report of Sept. 5, 2002, offering additional corroboration that the Bush administration lied to the American people about the evidence of WMD in Iraq.
The JCS briefing noted, for example: “Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely – perhaps 90% – on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”
Small wonder that the briefing report was dead on arrival in Rumsfeld’s in-box. After all, it proved that the intelligence evidence justifying war was, in Rumsfeldian terms, a “known unknown.” When he received it on Sept. 5 or 6, the Defense Secretary deep-sixed it – but not before sending it on Sept. 9 to Gen. Richard Myers (who he already knew had a copy) with a transparently disingenuous CYA note: “Please take a look at this material as to what we don’t know about WMD. It is big. Thanks.”
Absent was any notation such as “I guess we should tell the White House to call off its pro-war sales campaign based on Iraq possessing WMD since we don’t got the goods.” Without such a direct instruction, Rumsfeld could be sure that Gen. Myers would not take the matter further.
Myers had already proven his “company man” mettle by scotching a legal inquiry that he had just authorized to provide the armed forces with guidance on permitted interrogation techniques. All that it took to ensure a hasty Myers retreat was a verbal slap-down from Rumsfeld’s general counsel, William James Haynes II, as soon as Haynes got wind of the inquiry in November 2002. (More on that below.)
The more interesting story, in my view, is not that Rumsfeld was corrupt (yawn, yawn), but that so was his patsy, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, the country’s top uniformed military officer at the time. Myers has sported a well-worn coat of blue Teflon up until now.
Even John Walcott, a member of the Knight-Ridder team that did the most responsible pre-Iraq-War reporting, lets the hapless Myers too easily off the hook in writing: “Myers, who knew as well as anyone the significance of the report, did not distribute it beyond his immediate military colleagues and civilian boss, which a former aide said was consistent with the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.”
Principal Military Adviser to the President
That “former aide” is dead wrong on the last point, and this is key. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs works directly for two bosses: the President of the United States, whom he serves as the principal military adviser, and the Secretary of Defense. The JCS Chairman has the statutory authority – indeed, the duty – to seek direct access to the President to advise him in such circumstances, bearing on war or peace.
Indeed, in his 2009 memoir, Eyes on the Horizon, Gen. Myers himself writes, “I was legally obligated to provide the President my best military advice — not the best advice as approved by the Secretary of Defense.”
But in reality, Myers wouldn’t and he didn’t. And that – quite simply – is why Rumsfeld picked him and others like him for leading supporting roles in the Pentagon. And so the Iraq War came – and, with it, catastrophe for the Middle East (with related disorder now spreading into Europe).
Could Gen. Myers have headed off the war had he had the courage to assert his prerogative to go directly to President Bush and tell him the truth? Sad to say, with Bush onboard as an eager “war president” and with Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld intimidating the timid Secretary of State Colin Powell and with National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George Tenet fully compliant, it is not likely that Myers could have put the brakes on the rush to invade Iraq simply by appealing to the President.
After all, the JCS briefing coincided with the start of the big sales pitch for the Iraq War based on alarming claims about Iraq possessing WMD and possibly developing a nuclear bomb. As White House chief of staff Andrew Card explained the September timing of the ad campaign, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”
Just three days after the date of the JCS intelligence report depicting the shallowness of the intelligence on the issue of WMD in Iraq, the White House, with the help of The New York Times and other “mainstream media,” launched a major propaganda offensive.
On Sept. 8, 2002, a New York Times front-pager – headlined “US Says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts” by Judith Miller and Michael Gordon – got the juggernaut rolling downhill to war. Their piece featured some aluminum tubes that they mistakenly thought could be used only for nuclear centrifuges (when they were actually for conventional artillery). Iraq’s provocative behavior, wrote the Times, has “brought Iraq and the United States to the brink of war.”
Or as NSC Advisor Rice summed it up on the Sunday talk shows later that day, “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”
But it was clear the fix was in even earlier. The British “Downing Street Minutes” of July 23, 2002, show that Tenet told his British counterpart, Richard Dearlove, that – as Dearlove described the message to Prime Minister Tony Blair – that “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
However, despite the obstacles, Richard Myers, like so many of us, took a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. For many of us who wore the uniform and took “duty, honor, country” seriously, it is hard to give Myers a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to blame for the Iraq War.
No matter the odds against success, his duty was to go directly to the President and make the case. If he was rebuffed, he should have quit and gone public, in my view. (How long has it been since anyone of high rank has quit on principle?)
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs quitting over plans for an unnecessary war? Not even The New York Times and The Washington Post – as fully in the tank as they were for the Iraq War – would have been able to suppress that story in 2002. And, had Myers gone public he might have succeeded in injecting slippery grease under the rollout of Card’s “new product.”
Imagine what might have happened had Myers gone public at that point. It is all too easy to assume that Bush and Cheney would have gotten their war anyway. But who can tell for sure? Sometimes it takes just one senior official with integrity to spark a hemorrhage of honesty. However the outcome would have turned out at least Myers would been spared the pain of looking into the mirror every morning – and thinking back on what might have been.
A Modern Rumsfeld General
This was not the first time that Myers, who served as JCS chairman from 2001 to 2005, was derelict in duty by playing the toady. He had acquiesced in Bush’s and Rumsfeld’s approval of torture in February 2002, even before going along with a gross violation of international law – launching the attack on Iraq absent any imminent threat and without the required approval by the UN Security Council.
On torture, the seldom mentioned smoking gun was a two-page executive memorandum signed by George W. Bush on Feb. 7, 2002, in which the President declared that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions did not apply to Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. Instead, they would be treated “humanely and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva,” the memo said, using vague and permissive language that, in effect, opened the door to torture and other abuses. Gen. Myers was one of eight addressees.
On May 11, 2009 Myers was in Washington peddling his memoir Eyes on the Horizon and spoke at a Harvard Business School Alumni dinner. I seldom go to such affairs, but in this case I was glad I had paid my dues, for here was a unique opportunity to quiz Myers. I began by thanking him for acknowledging in his book “the Geneva Conventions were a fundamental part of our military culture.” Then I asked what he had done when he received Bush’s Feb. 7, 2002 memorandum unilaterally creating exceptions to Geneva.
“Just read my book,” Myers said. I told him I had, and cited a couple of sentences from my copy: “You write that you told a senior Pentagon official, Douglas Feith, ‘I feel very strongly about this. And if Rumsfeld doesn’t defend the Geneva Conventions, I’ll contradict him in front of the President.’ Did you?”
Myers claimed that he had fought the good fight before the President decided. But there was no tinge of regret. The sense the general left with us was this: if the President wanted to bend Geneva out of shape, what was a mere Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to do?
Pushing my luck, I noted that a Senate Armed Services Committee report, “Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in U.S. Custody,” had been issued just two weeks earlier (on April 23, 2009). It found that Myers had abruptly aborted an in-depth legal review of interrogation techniques that all four armed services had urgently requested and that he authorized in the fall of 2002. They were eager to get an authoritative ruling on the lawfulness of various interrogation techniques – some of which were already being used at Guantanamo.
Accordingly, Myers’s legal counsel, Navy Captain Jane Dalton, had directed her staff to initiate a thorough legal and policy review of interrogation techniques. It had just gotten under way in November 2002 when Rumsfeld’s general counsel, William James Haynes II, ordered Myers to stop the review.
Haynes “wanted to keep it much more close-hold,” Dalton told the Senate committee, so she ordered her staff to stop the legal analysis. She testified that this was the only time in her career that she had been asked to stop working on a request that came to her for review.
I asked Gen. Myers why he halted the in-depth legal review. “I stopped the broad review,” Myers replied, “but I asked Dalton to do her personal review and keep me advised.” When Senate committee members asked him about stopping the review, Myers could not remember.
On Nov. 27, 2002, shortly after Haynes told Myers to stop Dalton’s review despite persisting legal concerns in the military services – Haynes sent Rumsfeld a one-page memo recommending that he approve all but three of 18 techniques requested by the interrogators in Guantanamo.
Techniques like stress positions, nudity, exploitation of phobias (like fear of dogs), deprivation of light, and auditory stimuli were all recommended for approval. On Dec. 2, 2002, Rumsfeld signed Haynes’s recommendation, adding a handwritten note referring to the use of stress positions: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”
A Different JCS Chairman
Other JCS chairmen have not been as compliant as Myers was. For instance, a decade after Myers acceded to Bush’s rush to war in Iraq, JSC Chairman Martin Dempsey smelled a rat when Secretary of State John Kerry – along with neocons, liberal hawks and the mainstream media – rushed toward full-scale war on Syria by pinning the blame on President Bashar al-Assad for the fatal sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, 2013.
Comparisons can be invidious, but Dempsey is bright, principled, and no one’s patsy. It did not take him long to realize that another “regime change” scheme was in play with plans to get the U.S. directly involved in a shooting war with Syria. As more intelligence came in, the sarin attack increasingly looked like a false-flag attack carried out by radical jihadists to draw the U.S. military in on their side.
This new war could have started by syllogism: (a) get President Barack Obama to draw a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons in Syria; (b) stage a chemical attack that would be quickly blamed on Assad for violating the red line; and (c) mousetrapping Obama into making good on his threat of “enormous consequences.”
That Obama pulled back at the last minute was a shock to those who felt sure they had found a way to destroy the Syrian army and clear the way for Assad’s violent removal – even if the result would have been a likely victory for Al Qaeda and/or the Islamic State. After all, neocon/liberal-hawk thinking has long favored “regime change” whatever the consequences, as the wars in Iraq and Libya have demonstrated.
But Gen. Dempsey became a fly in the regime-changers’ ointment. In contrast to Myers, Dempsey apparently saw the need to go directly to the President to head off another unnecessary war. The evidence suggests that this is precisely what he did and that he probably bypassed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the process since time was of the essence.
Dempsey had already told Congress that a major attack on Syria should require congressional authorization and he was aware that the “evidence” adduced to implicate the Syrian government was shaky at best. Besides, according to investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, British intelligence told the JCS that they had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the Aug. 21 attack and it did not match the sarin known to be in Syrian army stocks.
Actually, it is no secret that Dempsey helped change President Obama’s mind between when Kerry spoke on the afternoon of Aug. 30, accusing Damascus of responsibility and all but promising an imminent U.S. attack on Syria, and when Obama announced less than a day later that he would not attack but rather would seek authorization from Congress.
On the early afternoon of Aug. 31, Obama was unusually explicit in citing Dempsey as indicating why there was no need to rush into another war. Obama said, “the [JCS] Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive: it will be effective tomorrow, next week, or one month from now.”
The failure to stampede Obama and the U.S. military into a bombing campaign against Syria was a major defeat for those who wanted another shot at a Mideast “regime change,” primarily the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies who still hold sway inside the State Department as well as Washington’s top think tanks and the mainstream U.S. news media – not to mention the Israelis, Saudis, Turks and others who insist that “Assad must go.”
Not surprisingly, on Sept. 1, 2013, as the plans to bomb, bomb, bomb Syria were shoved into a drawer at the Pentagon, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham were in high dudgeon – particularly at Dempsey’s audacity in putting the kibosh on their clearly expressed desire to attack Syria post-haste.
(By happenstance, I was given a personal window into the widespread distress over the outbreak of peace, when I found myself sharing a “green room” with some of the most senior neocons at CNN’s main studio in Washington. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How War on Syria Lost Its Way.”]
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing ministry of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as an Army infantry/intelligence officer in the Sixties and then for 27 years as a CIA analyst. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).
The New York Times has exposed a long-standing CIA partnership with Saudi Arabia, whose latest endeavor is a program to arm Syrian rebels authorized by President Obama in early 2013. Under the “Timber Sycamore” program the Saudis provide funding and purchase weapons for Syrian rebels, while the CIA trains them in secret camps in Jordan.
The Saudi-CIA partnership dates back many years, and involves the British secret service. During the years when Ronald Reagan was president of the United States, the Saudis poured money into the Afghan mujahedeen as it fought Soviet forces, matching U.S. funding dollar for dollar. The mujahedeen funding was run through CIA-managed bank accounts in Switzerland. Those accounts were said to be part of the “Al Yamamah” program, dating to 1985, in which the British and the Saudis used an oil-for-arms barter deal to create massive offshore “black” accounts, including in the Cayman Islands, to bankroll and arm a wide array of global insurgencies. These accounts provided a major source of funds in the Afghan war against the Soviets.
This revelation by NYT adds additional weight to the allegations made in a book by Mike Springmann, former head of the US visa section in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, from1987-1989. In Visas for al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts that Rocked the World, Springmann details how, “during the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.”
In an exclusive interview with Sputnik News, Springmann shared his first-hand experience of issuing US visas to would-be terrorists, a flagrant violation of US law.
“I know. I was there. I issued the visas,” Springmann told Sputnik News.
Upon his arrival at Jeddah, Springmann found that, as a visa officer, he was expected to winnow over a hundred applications a day, separating them into “issuances,” “refusals,” and what he later termed, “free passes for CIA agents.”
“One day,” Springmann recalls, “Eric Qualkenbush, the [then] CIA Base Chief, stopped me while I was walking on the consulate’s huge compound. He had a request. Could I issue a visa to one of his agents, an Iranian whose family owned an Oriental rug store? Eric said, ‘Mike, make it look good (wink, wink). We want him in Washington for consultations.’”
Springmann told Sputnik News he had almost daily battles with Jay Freres, the Consul General, along with several other CIA officials, who would consistently demand visas for people that law and regulation would ordinarily require him to refuse. He also had running fights with applicants who told him to approve their visas or they would complain to Freres, and have him overruled.
Most of these that Springmann now considers ‘unsavory types’ did, in fact, receive visas to go to the USA for training, debriefing, and other purposes. In enabling their passage, American government officials violated the Immigration and Nationality Act, as well as many regulations codified in the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual, says Springmann. As a purported guardian of US immigration principles, he objected to the blatant violations of law and regulation. His objections fell on deaf ears.
Springmann details that eventually he came to realize that his Consular Section job duty in Jeddah was primarily to secure visas for CIA agents, i.e., foreigners recruited by American case officers.
“As I later learned to my dismay, the visa applicants were recruits for the war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union’s armed forces. Further, as time went by, the fighters, trained in the United States, went on to other battlefields: Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and Syria.”
But why would the CIA rely on a “genuine” state department visa employee when they could have easily planted one of their own into the Consular Section? According to Springmann, “at Jeddah, to the best of my knowledge, out of some twenty US citizens assigned to the consulate, only three people, including myself, worked for the Department of State. The rest were CIA or NSA officials or their spouses.”
The explanation to the above question was simple if cynical, Springmann told Sputnik News : it had to be an arms-length operation, to avoid exposure of the CIA program and to blame visa violations, if they became known, on “incompetent” office clerks, including himself.
The Department of State and the Central Intelligence Agency collaborated in sending innocent workers like Springmann to Jeddah, a location that handled some forty-five-thousand visa applications annually. If a visa officer processed the paperwork and didn’t ask awkward questions about the applicants, that officer would keep his job. If the visa officer strictly followed the law, resisting illegal pressure to overlook those who did not have a legitimate reason for traveling to the United States, that employee “wasn’t with the program” and could be exposed to dismissal as an incompetent, an occurrence that eventually happened to the author.
“My name was on the visa plate that stamped applications to enter the United States, making me personally responsible for my actions,” he said. “In our spook-ridden Jeddah consulate, I sometimes found it was a daily battle to do my job,” he remarked, offering examples of two such battles.
“Two Pakistanis came to me for a visa. According to their story, they were traveling on a Commerce Department– organized trade mission to an automotive parts exhibition in the United States. However, they couldn’t name the trade show or identify the city in which it would be held. I denied their visa request. Within sixty minutes, Paul Arvid Tveit called and demanded visas for these same Pakistanis. I explained the reasons for my refusal, citing § 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act and the Foreign Affairs Manual. Ignoring the law and regulation, Tveit went to Justice Stevens and the visas were issued.”
“Then, a political officer demanded a visa for a Sudanese who was a refugee from his own country and unemployed in Saudi Arabia. Following the letter and the spirit of the law, I refused. She immediately went to Justice, and a visa was issued. When I later asked Justice why he authorized a visa to someone with no ties to the Sudan or the kingdom, he replied simply ‘national security,’ a phrase without legal definition.”
The dubious games played by the CIA in the name of “national security” are common in many Foreign Service posts, Springmann contends. “In a subsequent conversation with Celerino Castillo, a former Drug Enforcement Agency official, I learned that the CIA’s involvement in the visa process was a successful program of long-standing in Latin America, he stated, adding that, it was also “I presume, a model for Saudi Arabia. South of the border the Agency would slip passports and applications from its contacts into packages sent to the local US consulate or embassy by travel agents. Sandwiched between legitimate applications, ‘Agency assets’ would not be carefully examined by consular officers and would thus get a free ride to the United States.”
A Visa for the Blind Sheikh
Likewise, Springmann says, it was a CIA “consular officer” at Khartoum in Sudan who issued a tourist visa to Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, later linked to the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The “blind” Sheikh had been on a State Department terrorist watch list when he was issued the visa, entering the United States by way of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Sudan in 1990.
Springmann believes the sheikh attempted to obtain a US visa from him via a proxy. The author states that he turned the application down.
The former state department employee pointed out to his superiors that, according to US law, passport and visa crimes are federal offenses, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The maximum prison sentence is increased to 15 years if the offense is connected to drug trafficking, and to 20 years if connected to terrorism.
In a chance meeting, Joe Trento, a journalist at the Public Education Center in Washington, DC, put into perspective for Sprigmann what had been really going on with the CIA in Jeddah.
“It wasn’t a garden variety visa fraud as I had once thought, but something much more serious: it was a ‘visas for terrorists program,’ set up to recruit and train (in the United States) murderers, war criminals, and human rights violators for combat in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. These men became the founding members of al-Qaeda, the Arab-Afghan Legion.”
“Former President Jimmy Carter and his National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Kazimierz Brzezinski, began the campaign to assemble these goons to engage in blowing things up and shooting things down, preferably with Soviet soldiers inside.”
But the Saudis and other regional players in the “jihad” did not want those “saddle-tramps” on their soil, fearing that they would eventually use their newly acquired skills to promote “regime change” at home. That explains the reason many of these recruits were sent to the US, Springmann says, where there were up to 52 induction and training centers, the primary one in Brooklyn, New York City.
During his two years in Jeddah, Springmann says, he wrangled daily with intelligence officers who staffed and ran the US consulate.
“These were the people who arranged for recruiting and training what were then the mujahedeen, who later became al-Qaeda, who then transformed themselves into ISIS. I saw, but didn’t recognize, their start at Jeddah. We’ve all seen their later development and what happens when the intelligence services control foreign policy and diplomacy: the people they assembled aided the breakup of Yugoslavia, the destruction of Iraq, the collapse of Libya, and the savaging of Syria.”
Springmann attempted to protest the illegal visa practices at the highest levels of government for over 20 years, but was repeatedly stonewalled. During that time, he says, the Arab-Afghan Legion, created by the CIA to undermine the Soviet Union, has been marching from strength to strength.
David Cameron’s Spurious Defence of British Veterans
The PM is right to draw a line in the sand, to protect the freedom with which the military has to operate…
— General Lord Dannatt, ex-Chief of Staff
Prime Minister David Cameron is getting himself all wound up about the nasty slurs on ‘our brave boys’; ‘our brave servicemen and women who fought in Iraq’; ‘the people who risk their lives to keep our country safe’; the veterans of Britain’s illegal invasion of Iraq. Of course, they must ‘act within the law’ etc… Except they didn’t.
The said ‘brave servicemen’ are in danger of being taken to court over their abusive treatment, and in some cases murder, of Iraqi detainees during the invasion of Iraq. Hundreds of complaints have been lodged with the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) which was investigating between 1300-1500 cases. Many are simple complaints of ill treatment during detention, but some are far more serious:
- Death(s) while detained by the British Army
- Deaths outside British Army base or after contact with British Army
- Many deaths following ‘shooting incidents’
According to Cameron, ‘Our armed forces are rightly held to the highest standards…’ One wonders what standards he’s thinking of, seeing that it has been proved more than once that the UK military has not complied with international humanitarian law. Britain has a long and ignoble history of practicing torture, as documented by Ian Cobhain in his book Cruel Britannia.
Curiously, or perhaps not, just two days after Cameron launched his assault, IHAT announced it was dropping no less than 58 inquiries into unlawful killings by army veterans. And while so many rushed to the defence of the soldiers accused of abuse, absolutely no one has mentioned another example of the culture of violence within the armed forces which resurfaced just a few days earlier: the ‘notorious’ Deepcut Barracks.
The two law firms pursuing the claims on behalf of Iraqis and their families, Public Interest Lawyers, and Leigh Day, have been labelled ‘ambulance chasers’ and ‘tank chasers’ by much of the loud, right-wing media. Other insults include ‘money-grubbing or grabbing lawyers’. Naturally, goes the refrain, they want to get as many cases into court as possible so they can make a fortune in lawyers’ fees. It’s what you do if you’re defending humanitarian law.
One of the law firms involved, Leigh Day, is now the subject of an intended action by the government, who want to sue it for failing to supply documents to the al-Sweady inquiry, documents which ‘proved that alleged innocent victims (of abuse by UK armed forces) were actually enemy insurgents.’
But Cameron, like other occupants of Number 10, refuses to acknowledge that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was illegal. And as UK armed forces were in Iraq illegally, any Iraqis who fought them were not ‘enemy’ insurgents, but citizens legally resisting the invaders of their country. Thus, ‘enemy insurgents’ could be, and in this case were, also innocent victims of illegal treatment, treatment that did not comply with international law.
International law covering ‘enemy’ soldiers (in uniform) or insurgents (in any old clothing) ensures proper, humane treatment of any prisoners. No beating, no slapping about, no prevention of sleep by using loud noise, no withholding of food or water, no forced stress positions, no sandbags over their heads, no deliberate extremes of temperature, all techniques which British soldiers were witnessed employing.
Even worse, despite these practices having been banned more than once by Parliament, they were, as evidence at the Baha Mousa inquiry demonstrated, being taught to soldiers and encouraged to use them in Iraq by the Ministry of Defence. Only one soldier ended up with any kind of a sentence after the killing of Baha Mousa (Corporal Donald Payne, one year in prison and dismissal from the Army), but when the inquiry into Mousa’s death was held the evidence that came out was utterly damning.
General Lord Dannatt, once Chief of Staff, is one of those backing Cameron’s stance. Appearing on the BBC’s Today programme on January 22, he defended the high standards of our wonderful army, and spoke of the greed of “lawyers with less integrity than others”. Of course, British forces should “act within the law”, he said, but many of these claims are “spurious and cannot be substantiated”. Not, of course, until they have been tested in court, a point that seems to have escaped the noble lord.
One lawyer with real integrity defending the legal action being taken on behalf of abused Iraqis is Lt Colonel Nick Mercer who, at the time of the invasion, was the Army’s chief legal officer in Iraq. He was out in Basra, he saw the abuse, he complained to his superiors and he gave strong and disturbing evidence to the Baha Mousa Inquiry. As he said, “It was my job to protect British commanders and make sure they kept to the right side of the law.” But the MoD was ‘resistant to human rights’.
The MoD’s view was that the government position prevailed over Mercer’s interpretation of international law. In 2009 the Supreme Court ruled that the advice he had tried to give the MoD in 2003 was correct. But it was not until 2010 that UK military intelligence interrogators were trained in international law and human rights. Whether that has made any real difference to their standards of practice is as yet unknown. In 2011 the MoD was hit by more claims of mistreatment, when Iraqi victims won the right to an inquiry in the Court of Appeal.
Again and again the MoD had tried to gag Mercer, threatening to report him to the Law Society, and in 2007 he was suspended for conducting a case in Cyprus in a way that disagreed with MoD views. He has now left the Army and is an Anglican priest, his principles and defence of the law as strong as ever. He has come out fighting in defence of Leigh Day and Public Interest Lawyers, saying it was beyond doubt that British soldiers tortured Iraqi prisoners.
He emphasises that he and others raised their concerns at the time the mistreatment of prisoners was going on; that the International Committee of the Red Cross had raised their concerns with the government; that the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights has also raised its concerns – with the International Criminal Court. This is not just about ‘money-grabbing lawyers’ against the rest of the nation. There are too many others who were and are concerned about the abuse that have no financial motives, says Mercer, and it was wrong to try and polarise the debate in this way.
He points to the fact that the MoD has already paid out £20 million in compensation for 326 cases. “Anyone who has fought the MoD knows they don’t pay out for nothing, so there are 326 substantiated claims with almost no criminal proceedings to accompany that. And you have to ask why.”
Lord Dannatt said that only 3 of all these cases have been proven – another point he seems to have missed: that the MoD paying compensation prevented the cases coming to court. Dannatt’s version of this is that the MoD “opted on the side of generosity rather than try to fight these cases in court”.
Cameron says these allegations of abuse are ‘spurious legal claims’ that must be stopped, ‘spurious’ being a word that is now used by all those on the MoD’s side. Cameron is a master of spurious claims. He produces one or two almost every week in Parliament, during Prime Minister’s Questions. A recent example, which earned him a great deal of ‘non-credibility’, came during the parliamentary debate on whether the UK should bomb Syria.
He said that there were 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria – a claim that the MoD reportedly asked to have removed from his statement. His ministers are masters of the spurious as well, constantly being corrected for their statements that the government has done this or that, given extra funding for this or that, when, for instance, the ‘extra funding’ turns out to be less than the amount they cut a Ministry’s budget the year before.
But Britain has to face the fact that not only do we have a spurious* government, but that ‘our brave soldiers’ have consistently broken both UK and international law, have been encouraged to do so by their masters and that the government will fight tooth and nail to prevent them being taken to court. For the sake of all of those abused, here and abroad, it is time there was a full and independent inquiry into the MoD’s non-compliance with international humanitarian law.
Iraqi citizens are now being asked for fees at healthcare facilities around the country, a source at the Ministry of Health has informed Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.
The oil-rich country has offered a free healthcare system since 1970.
The source said the ministry sent letters and a 10-page report to hospitals and clinic asking them to collect fees from patients to cover the cost of treatment after the deficit caused by the sharp decline in oil prices.
Many have warned that this could lead to a dangerous situation in public health due to the severe poverty in the country.
The ministry is looking into pricing medicines and services across the country.
Iraqis expressed their anger with the decision amid the difficult economic situation which they are facing.
Patient Raghib Hassan said: “During my visit to a government hospital in Baghdad, I was surprised that I was asked to pay for the medical examination, x-ray, medical tests and treatment.”
“This means that one visit to a government hospital needs between 30,000 to 50,000 [Iraqi] dinars ($27-$45).”
As is well known, the current foreign policy of the Turkish leadership in the region widely known as “zero problems with neighbours” has failed completely and in fact become “zero relations with neighbours.” The sharp deterioration in the Russian–Turkish relations after the launch of the Turkish missiles on the Russian military aircraft has completed the process of Turkey’s political isolation across its borders. Today, almost all states bordering with Turkey are among its enemies or competitors (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Greece, Cyprus, Armenia). The only exception are the good-neighbourly and mutually beneficial relations between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan as an entity of the Federation of Iraq. Yet, relations between Ankara and Baghdad have significantly deteriorated and even become aggravated after the Turkish authorities flagrantly violated the sovereignty of the country by bringing military units with artillery and armoured vehicles to Nineveh province without the permission of the central authorities. Ankara has made it clear that it is dissatisfied with the pro-Iranian Shiite government in Baghdad, which, to make the matters worse, supports the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. […]
On the eve of the new year of 2016, Recep Erdogan visited Riyadh and tried to strengthen the existing partnership with the leadership of Saudi Arabia. The main points of contact between Ankara and Riyadh are a common hatred of the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, their desire to limit the influence of Iran and Shiite communities in the region by all means, as well as their alliance with Washington. The same reasons can explain the expected renewal of relations between Turkey and Israel. It is no coincidence that during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Erdogan stressed, that “Israel needs an ally such as Turkey. And we must admit that we also need Israel.”
The restoration of diplomatic relations and the reopening of the Turkish-Israeli cooperation under the auspices of the United States in the current circumstances satisfy many parties. In December 2015, the Turkish authorities confirmed that they had reached a preliminary agreement with Israel during negotiations in Switzerland to normalize bilateral relations. According to the agreements reached, Israel is to create a fund worth 20 million dollars to pay compensation to the victims of Israeli commandos, while Turkey is waiving all the claims against Israel in this matter. In addition, Israel is obliged to ease the blockade of the Gaza Strip. The latter is obviously mentioned to “save face” of Mr. Erdogan before his supporters; in fact, nothing is likely to change in the maritime border of Gaza. One should not forget that the other ally of Israel – Egypt – absolutely opposes the lifting of the blockade. Representatives of Turkey allegedly promised the Israelis that they would stop the activities of Hamas on its territory should the blockade be lifted in the Gaza Strip.
Amid the strengthening of Iran’s positions in Syria and the region and the revitalization of the Lebanese political-military group Hezbollah, Israel is extremely interested in finding new allies and partners in the Arab and Muslim world. Recently, Jerusalem has managed to establish links and contacts with Saudi Arabia, and strengthen relations with the new Egyptian regime by way of secret diplomacy behind the scenes. Turkey may become yet another important link in the system of regional security of Israel. Today, Turkey and Israel have many more common interests and points of contact than grounds for confrontation. In addition, their mutual trade and economic benefit from this cooperation is evident. Turkey is considered the most important investor in the development programs of the Israeli military industrial sector, as well as of the long-term project on the development of Leviathan gas deposit and construction of the underwater pipeline, through which Israeli gas will be supplied to Turkey. According to Turkish media, Ankara intends to restore military cooperation with Israel and purchase its advanced observation and surveillance systems and modern unmanned devices.
Stanislav Ivanov, leading research fellow of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations and the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
As many as 57 cases of alleged unlawful killings carried out by UK soldiers who served in Iraq won’t be followed up, as “no criminality” had been established during the investigation, the UK’s Ministry of Defence has announced.
The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), tasked with investigating the alleged abuses by British soldiers during the US-led invasion in Iraq, has decided to drop probes into 57 cases of alleged unlawful killings, the ministry has announced. The military’s prosecuting authority has also dropped another case of alleged human rights violations.
The decision comes after UK Prime Minister David Cameron urged ministers to draw up plans to curb claims regarding troops coming back from Iraq which he described as “spurious.” He demanded that returning soldiers be protected from “being hounded by lawyers over claims that are totally without foundation.”
Cameron has tasked the National Security Council with finding a way to clamp down on lawyers exploiting a “no win, no fee” system that may soon be banned while the government’s investigative powers may get a boost.
However, some lawyers argue that every person must obey the law and many cases of abuse have actually been proven while the Prime Minister noted that the “industry” is merely trying to make a profit out of servicemen.
The army’s former chief legal adviser in Iraq, Nicholas Mercer, said that the fact that British taxpayers had already paid out almost £20mn ($29mn) in compensations to settle hundreds of cases of abuses and violations against Iraqi civilians shows that the problem is widespread.
“Clearly this isn’t just one or two bad apples, as they have been characterized, this is on a fairly large and substantial scale,” Mercer told Channel 4 news, accusing the UK government of “hijacking” the situation to stop lawyers from bringing up additional cases.
The Iraq Historic Allegation team has been set up to investigate allegations of abuse of Iraqi civilians by UK armed forces personnel during the period they were deployed in Iraq from 2003 to July 2009.
More than 1,000 allegations ranging from murder to rapes to low-level violence are currently under investigation. IHAT is separated from the military in order to stay impartial in its investigation that is due to be finished by the end of 2019.
Most normal people look at the smoldering cemetery that is post-“liberation” Libya, the gruesome graveyard of an almost-“liberated” Syria, the 14 year slow-motion failed regime change in Afghanistan, blood-drenched Iraq, and they are horrified. Washington Post’s neocon nag Jennifer Rubin looks across that bloody landscape and sees a beautiful work in progress.
She writes today in the online edition of the Post that despite what we might be hearing from some “libertarian/populist pols masquerading as conservatives,” the interventionist enterprise is chugging along just fine. Democracy promotion at the barrel of a gun is every American’s “white man’s burden” whether he likes it or not.
Never mind that Syria has been nearly leveled by almost five years of an Islamist insurgency that was but a few weeks from success when Russia stopped it in its tracks. The real villain is the secular Bashar al-Assad, writes Rubin. After all, he “is partnered with Iran and spurs support for Islamist rebels…”
Assad “spur[s] support for Islamist rebels” by waging war on them for six years? Or does she somehow deny that Assad is fighting the insurgents who seek to drive him from power? Both cannot be true.
And on Planet Rubin, funding, training, and arming Islamist rebels, as the US and its allies have done, can in no way be seen as spurring them on.
“It has become fashionable in some circles to pooh-pooh support for democracy,” Rubin moans. Not so fast, she says. This is not a failed project. Her evidence? From all the countries destabilized by US democracy promotion schemes there is “one encouraging success story” — Tunisia!
Yes, after the destruction and killing in places like Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq, and the rest, it is the great success in little Tunisia that makes it all worthwhile!
Unfortunately for Rubin, even her little Tunisian success story looks to have an unhappy ending. As reported by BBC News, unrest is spreading throughout Tunisia as demonstrators are clashing with police. Tunisians are in far worse economic shape now than before the US-backed “Arab Spring” brought them their “liberation.” One-third of young people are unemployed in post-liberation Tunisia and 62 percent of recent college graduates cannot find work.
“We have been waiting for things to get better for five years and nothing has happened,” Yassine Kahlaoui, a 30-year-old jobseeker, told the AP as reported by the BBC.
Here is the ugly truth that regime change enthusiasts like Rubin will never admit: it is very easy to destabilize and destroy a country from abroad in the name of “promoting democracy,” but those recipients of America’s largesse in this area soon find that it is all but impossible to return a country to even pre-“liberation” economic levels. They are left missing their “dictator.”
What does Rubin care: she doesn’t have to live in these hellholes she helps create.
In Part I, Erdogan’s mounting dilemmas—ISIS terrorism, Kurdish resistance, Assad’s Syria alive and well—showed how his bid for regional hegemony has gone awry. His pact with the ISIS devil, as long as they target Kurds, just made things worse. Davutoglu’s dream of a “common history and a common future” for the Middle East under Turkish guidance is now in history’s dustbin. The Turkish plan for a “global, political, economic and cultural new order” in the Middle East remains in the hands of the US and, of course, Israel.
Israel has been noncommittal about Syria since the uprising in 2011, not joining the western chorus for Assad’s head. Israeli indifference to the outcome can be explained easily enough. First, Israeli public support for anyone would be a kiss of death for the beloved. On the other hand, the Assads have been the biggest thorn in Israel’s side since 1971 when Hafiz Assad consolidated power, and Israel would be delighted to see the last of Bashar. But Israel was worried about what might emerge from a post-Assad Islamic state.
With Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s bold call for an independent Kurdish state, a radical new claim for regional hegemony is unfolding, not by a neo-Ottoman Turkey, but by the Jewish state. “We must openly call for the establishment of a Kurdish state that separates Iran from Turkey, one which will be friendly towards Israel,” Shaked told the Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv. This sounds novel, but it really only reflects age-old plans for a Jewish state to control the Middle East which have been on the drawing board since Lord Shaftesbury first made it a British imperial objective in 1839. 1948 got the project off to a savage start, 1967 added the entire Holy Land to the map, and let the settler state move into high gear.
The Yinon Doctrine of 1980 set out how to consolidate Israel’s theft, by playing various ethnic and religious forces among its Arab neighbors against each other—Maronite and Orthodox Christian, Sunni and Shia Muslim, Druze, etc—in order to undermine Arab nationalism, and keep the Middle East weak and unstable. In Syria, that even meant quietly supporting the Muslim Brotherhood during its ill-fated uprising in 1981, not because Israel wanted an Islamist Syria, but to keep the Syrian government off-balance.
Syria and Egypt fought a war with Israel in 1967. These secular nationalist governments were the big threat, and it was only natural to try and cripple them, even if that meant working with Islamists. After Egypt made peace with Israel in 1978, it had only Iraq, Syria and Iran as its main enemies—the Arab nationalism of the first two and the Persian nationalism in Iran had proved immune to Israeli intrigues.
Israeli ‘friendship’ with the Kurds is merely the ethnic variable in the Yinon formula. There have always been contacts with Iraqi Kurds, which went into high gear in 1991 when northern Iraq was made a ‘no-fly’ zone, allowing Israeli agents relative freedom. The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 fit the bill, though bungled by the dismantling of the Iraqi army, creating a bit too much Yinon for comfort.
Middle East borders, as reimagined by Lt. Col. (ret.) Ralph Peters (2006)
US-Israeli Plan B
When Israeli fears about what a post-Assad Syria might look like were proven justified, it was ready with plan B: a new, improved Yinon Doctrine, featuring the creation of a pro-Israeli Kurdish state, keeping Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and—what the hell—Iran off-base?
This has been plan B for US-Israel since at least 2006, when a plan for restructuring the Middle East published in the Armed Forces Journal in 2006 stated, “Iraq should have been divided into three smaller states immediately” creating a “Free Kurdistan” carved out of Turkey, Iran and Iraq, which “would be the most pro-western state between Bulgaria and Japan.” The Saban Center for Middle East Policy issued a similar policy recommendation in 2007, and in 2008, Joseph Biden, Obama’s future vice president, also called for the partition of Iraq into three autonomous regions.
Israel gets it right (for the wrong reasons)
ISIS and Turkey came to the rescue with their own wild schemes, leaving the Kurds as “the only ones fighting ISIS as their highest priority,” as Yadlin told the Israeli security conference. “We Kurds and Jews have a long history. The 20 million Kurds who didn’t get a state [at the Treaty of Versailles], and nobody takes care about them. They are the only ones fighting ISIS as their highest priority.”
Every one of Erdogan’s moves has backfired. He flip-flopped on Libya and Syria. He turned a blind eye on ISIS. He stubbornly continues a policy of oppression against the Kurds. He abruptly broke relations with Israel in 2011 over Israel’s killing of nine Turkish peace activists. But it’s better to at least speak with your enemy. Israel wouldn’t have been quite so bold about advocating a Kurdish state if it realized that it would forfeit a working relationship with Turkey. But there is nothing to lose now.
Like Turkey these days, Israel is also running out of friends, and this call for an independent Kurdistan is really a rather far-fetched plan to establish at least one Muslim ally for the Jews. The travail of Turkish Kurds (20 million, 20% of the population) is well known. They are not allowed to speak Kurdish or have Kurdish names, let alone Kurdish language education.
In comparison, Iraqi Kurds (7 million, 20%) live a privileged life, with the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the autonomous government tilting towards Saudi Arabia, and its key rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), supporting the Iranian-led camp.
Kurds are culturally and linguistically so closely related to the Iranians, they are sometimes classified as an Iranian people. Of the more than 6 million Iranian Kurds (9% of the population), a significant portion are Shia. There are tensions in Iran, as the majority of Kurds are Sunni, but the strong Iranian roots of Kurds culturally and linguistically, and the lack of the suppression of their culture, language and political rights, mean there is no strong movement for independence.
There is a silver lining in the Israeli chutzpah in reviving Plan B. No major Kurdish faction calls for the Yinon plan for independence, even among Iraqi Kurds. Why bother when you already have virtual independence now? Syrian Kurds also have de facto autonomy as a result of western bungling. They won’t be stuffed back into a one-size-fits-all Syria. Iranian Kurds are just getting on with life. Turkish Kurds would love to just have basic human rights in their Turkish state. Erdogan could undercut Israel’s latest wild plan easily by using his still robust political power to push for a genuine peace deal with his Kurds.
The US and Britain, the former colonizing power in the region, have always seen Iraq as a threat because it has the potential to be a great regional independent power in its own right, says political analyst Dan Glazebrook.
The president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region Massoud Barzani has said the time has come to redraw the Middle East’s boundaries.
RT: The President of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish north urged world leaders to help pave the way for a Kurdish state. Will they receive that support?
Dan Glazebrook: It all depends on how the so-called great powers react. And I suspect that the US will respond with kind of diplomatic niceties, diplomatic platitudes. They don’t commit themselves to anything, but kind of have the effect of egging and spurring on the demands for the breakup of Iraq. There is this idea for the breakup of Iraq that has been flirting around in US military for some time now. The thing about Iraq from the point of view of the US and Britain, the former colonizing power in the region, is that they have always seen Iraq as a threat because it has the great potential to be a great regional independent power in its own right. It is the only Arab country that really has all four prerequisites for being a strong independent power: it has got a large sizable population, so it can have a large army, unlike, say, Saudi Arabia; it has got oil resources obviously, unlike, say, Egypt – another big populist Arab country; and it has got plenty of arable land and plenty of water. They’ve always seen it as a threat and for decades they’ve used every means available in the book to get it to fight against its neighbors, arming it in the battle against Iran in the 1980’s, invading it twice now… This is just the next step in trying to dismember the country and prevent it of ever being a unified, powerful, independent player…
Turkey, which is very close to the Iraqi-Kurdish government, has been doing a lot of illegal oil trading with the Iraqi-Kurdish government there. Obviously it has its own worries about demand for independence from its own Kurds and from the Syrian Kurds. I suspect there will be no independent state actually recognized internationally. But Turkey, US, Britain will kind of make these noises to egg them on and spur them on to continue with a divide and ruin strategy that they are employing against Iraq and other countries in the region.
Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.