Psychologists colluded with CIA to keep ethics code in line with post 9/11 torture needs – damning report
The US’s leading professional psychologists’ organization helped justify CIA and Pentagon torture programs, a new 542-page report shows. The psychologists involved later profited from torture-related contracts.
The report, concluded this month, examined the involvement of the American Psychological Association (APA) in the validation of the so-called program of enhanced interrogation, under which terror suspects were subjected to torture at CIA black cites and at the Pentagon’s Guantanamo Bay prison facility.
The document prepared by a former assistant US attorney, David Hoffman, says some of the APA’s senior figures, including its ethics director, pushed to keep the association’s ethics code in line with DoD’s interrogation policies. Other prominent external psychologists took actions that aided the CIA’s torture practices, defending it from growing dissent among its own psychologists.
“The evidence supports the conclusion that APA officials colluded with DoD officials to, at the least, adopt and maintain APA ethics policies that were not more restrictive than the guidelines that key DOD officials wanted,” the report published on Friday by the New York Times said. “APA chose its ethics policy based on its goals of helping DoD, managing its PR, and maximizing the growth of the profession.”
The Hoffman report focuses on the APA’s close ties with the Pentagon and can be viewed as complimentary to last December’s Senate report that exposed the brutality of post 9/11 CIA tactics towards terror detainees, the NYT said. It also gives additional details about how the intelligence agency adopted the enhanced interrogation program and solicited outside advice to stem concerns among its own medical professionals.
The report also describes several instances in which senior figures involved in the program moved into the private sector to get lucrative contracts from the CIA and the Pentagon. For instance, Joseph Matarazzo, a former president of the psychological association and a member of the CIA advisory committee, was asked by Mr Kirk Hubbard (CIA psychologist who was chairman of the agency advisory committee), to provide an opinion about whether sleep deprivation constituted torture. The conclusion was that it did not.
Later, Matarazzo became a partner in Mitchell Jessen and Associates, a contracting company created by James Mitchel and Bruce Jessen to consult with the CIA on their interrogation program. They were instructors for the Air Force’s SERE (survival, evasion, rescue and escape) program, in which US troops are subjected to simulated torture to prepare them for possible capture. They adapted the program’s techniques for use against terror detainees, the report said.
After the Hoffman report was made public, the American Psychological Association issued an apology.
“The actions, policies and lack of independence from government influence described in the Hoffman report represented a failure to live up to our core values,” Nadine Kaslow, a former president of the organization, said in a statement. “We profoundly regret and apologize for the behavior and the consequences that ensued.”
One of the more immediate consequences of the report was the resignation of the APA’s ethics chief, Stephen Behnke, according to the Guardian. The psychologists coordinated the group’s public policy statements on interrogations with a top military psychologist, the report said. He later received a Pentagon contract for training interrogators, without notifying the American Psychological Association’s board.
Kaslow told the newspaper that Behnke’s last day at the APA was July 8, after the association received Hoffman’s report, and that further resignations were likely to follow.
A similarly damning report on the APA’s involvement in US government torture programs was published in April.
The United States Air Force is taking steps to update the Cold War-era B61 nuclear bomb to Mod 12 ‒ or twelfth iteration ‒ completing tests with a mock up version of the weapon in Nevada’s Great Basin Desert.
The B61 has been a top weapon in the US nuclear arsenal since its development at the height of the Cold War in 1963. The intermediate-yield thermonuclear weapon can be delivered by a supersonic aircraft. It is designed to cause a two-stage radiation implosion, but it is a “gravity bomb” – which just means that it’s unguided.
The once USSR-facing technology might seem to be an anachronism in this day and age, but President Barack Obama has taken initiative in keeping this weapon alive and well, despite a hefty price tag. The total cost of the program is estimated to be as high as $11 billion, according to the New York Times – and that’s just to update it to its current version.
This seems to be at odds with Obama’s promise of not fielding any new nuclear warheads, which he made during a speech in Prague in 2009. In that same speech, he explained his vision of a United States with less reliance on nuclear arms, and ultimately a world where nuclear weapons are a thing of the past.
The truth looks rather different. A testimony, ominously titled ‘China, India and Pakistan – growing nuclear capabilities with no end in sight,’ was given to Congress by Dr. Ashley J. Tellis of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“The nuclear weapon programs in these three countries are worthy of attention because they are active, expanding, and diversifying,” the testimony warns.
India and Pakistan are not members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which came into force in 1970.
A multinational NATO military training “Agile Spirit 2015” has officially started in Georgia, uniting military personnel from six countries. It comes amid Russia’s mounting concerns over NATO’s military buildup in the region.
The US, Bulgarian, Romanian, Lithuanian and Latvian military will accompany Georgia’s Battalion 42 in the two-week-long military exercises that officially started on Wednesday, RIA-Novosti reported.
The annual joint training, that first started in 2011, this year involves 220 US Marine Corps servicemen. It is to take place at the Vaziani military base, located some 25 kilometers away from Tbilisi. Vaziani is a former Soviet and Russian air force base until Russian forces withdrew in 2001 under a European conventional arms reduction agreement.
The exercise follows the line of the Wales summit in September 2014, where the alliance agreed upon founding a NATO-Georgia Joint Training and Evaluation Center within the framework of the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package, introduced back then by allied leaders.
In an opening speech on Wednesday, major-General Kapanadze said that “Georgian soldiers took part in many international operations and are continuing to contribute to global peace alongside our partners,” Agenda website reported.
“Our cooperation is more than just a partnership – it is brotherhood of arms,” Kapanadze added.
“These military exercises in Georgia – a country that launched an unprovoked attack on South Ossetia in 2008,which led to the death of 12 Russian peacekeepers and a brief military conflict between Georgia and Russia – are the latest in a series of alarming moves by NATO that underscore the organization’s threatening stance towards Russia,” journalist Robert Bridge told RT.
The Russian Foreign ministry has long been criticizing the military buildup in the neighboring states, which goes “under the false pretext of alleged ‘aggressive behavior’ by our country” and is accompanied by “unfriendly and malicious” rhetoric.
“We are not threatening anyone and we seek to resolve all conflict situations through political means, with respect towards the international law and other nations’ interests,” President Putin said in June, underlying though that Russia needs strong, modern and adequately armed military force to face the challenges “that we cannot ignore”.
Georgia, an active contributor to alliance’s operations, has long planned to join NATO. In 1994, the former Soviet republic joined the Partnership for Peace program. After the “Rose Revolution” in 2003, the bilateral cooperation only “deepened”, according to a NATO statement.
“I don’t think there is any realistic chance of Georgia joining NATO in the coming years. In fact, it is more likely that Georgia will increasingly thaw relations with Moscow, for economic reasons, as the penny drops in Tbilisi that the West was good at false promises, but not delivering actual help,” journalist Bryan MacDonald told RT.
In August 2008, a brief military conflict between Russia and Georgia broke out, after Tbilisi launched a large-scale military offensive against South Ossetia prompting Moscow’s peace enforcement operation. It ended up in Russian official recognition of the two former Georgian autonomous republics as independent states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The OSCE has warned that a growing presence of heavy weaponry on the government controlled side of Donbass territory has put Ukrainian security forces in violation of the terms of the demarcation line, according to OSCE Deputy Chief Monitor Alexander Hug.
“We can highlight that the security situation has gotten worse in the Donbass over the past few weeks,” Hug said at a briefing in Mariupol.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Special Monitoring Mission (OSCE SMM) stressed the growing presence of heavy weaponry, and the increased movement and use of military equipment along the demarcation line in the area controlled by Kiev forces.
“In the last few weeks, our observers as well as drones recorded the presence of heavy weapons in areas controlled by the government, which is a violation of the demarcation line terms regarding the withdrawal of heavy weaponry,” Hug said.
At the same time, he noted that there has been an uptick in military equipment around Komsomolskoe, which is controlled by the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk (DNR).
Hug added that one of the remaining challenges is the difficulty observers face when moving around Ukraine on their monitoring mission. “Our observers are still having trouble with freedom of movement, which makes it difficult to monitor certain areas, in particular the border between Ukraine and Russia.”
OSCE has also documented shelling of the buffer-zone areas in eastern Ukraine. The organization’s latest report, published on Friday, said artillery was coming from the west, which is government controlled territory.
“In the south-eastern part of the village [of Shyrokyne], the SMM saw a crater of 12m (over 39 feet) diameter and 4m (over 13 meters) deep, many 82mm mortar shells, the remnants of ammunition crates and numerous impacts of 152mm artillery strikes, which based on their location, the SMM assessed to have been fired from the west,” the report said.
The report added that “SMM did not observe any DPR [Donetsk People’s Republic] presence in Shyrokino,” referring to the village that DPR demilitarized on July 1. OSCE observers visited the area to confirm that claim, which was part of the Minsk withdrawal terms.
The OSCE monitoring mission’s goal is to observe the implementation of the Minsk peace agreements reached by Kiev and pro-independence forces of Donbass in September 2014 and February 2015. The February ceasefire deal called for the creation of a buffer zone and the withdrawal of heavy artillery from the line of contact.
The Ukrainian conflict began last April, when Kiev deployed military and volunteer battalions to the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine to crackdown on local militia, who refused to recognize the country’s coup-imposed authorities.
Over 6,400 people have been killed since the start of Kiev’s “anti-terror operation.” A total of 1.35 million Ukrainians are now designated as internally displaced persons, according to UN estimates.
Despite the Israeli authorities’ claims that the seizure of a Freedom Flotilla boat was ‘uneventful’, footage has emerged that indicated that they tasered a Swedish aid worker.
The boats making up Freedom Flotilla 3 (FF3) have been prevented from reaching the besieged people of Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid. The flotilla’s flagship Marianne was boarded by the Israeli military and taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod earlier in the week. By now, some of the crew members have been released, while others remain detained.
Meanwhile, the boat I was meant to be on has not yet left a Greek port. It will head to Gaza at some point. I have been asked not to publish the details. But we will go.
The Israeli authorities claim that their soldiers were ‘non-violent’ as they took over the Marianne, which amounted to an illegal act of piracy, as the vessel was in international waters at the time it was intercepted. The Israeli authorities claimed that there were no injuries when they seized the boat which they had no right to do, legally or morally. The illegal act has been described as ‘uneventful’.
Unsurprisingly though, footage has emerged which shows that the opposite is true. The video shows Arab member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) Basel Ghattas, who I had long conversations with on my trip, first addressing the Israeli Navy before the soldiers boarded the Marianne. The footage then shows Israeli Navy thugs repeatedly tasering Swedish activist and humanitarian aid worker Charlie Andreasson.
Charlie has spent much time in Gaza. He’s a really nice guy and a genuine individual, the kind of selfless character you meet when preparing for a campaign like this. I had the pleasure of talking with him many times as we prepared for Freedom Flotilla 3, and ate dinner with him just a few days ago.
I watched the video of Charlie being tasered and knew it was him before I even read the article.
It was a sickening feeling. According to Oxford dictoniaries.com a taser is ‘a weapon firing barbs attached by wires to batteries, causing temporarily paralysis’. In reality though, tasering is an extremely violent act which can even cause death. There are campaign groups which lobby against the use of tasers by police for this very reason.
But this is how Israel routinely behaves. In typical fashion the Israeli leadership has sought to distract attention from its own crimes. Netanyahu wrote a letter published in the press and delivered to the activists on the boat. He says they must have gotten lost and perhaps should have headed to Syria. He exploits one tragedy to cynically justify another.
And here he does it again, suggesting that Israel is a beacon of light, justice, surrounded by hostile neighbors in the Middle East trying valiantly to uphold those oh so cherished values we hold dear. You can almost hear the harps playing and the angels singing when you read the letter his press office wrote for him on his behalf. He invites the readers to be “Impressed by the only democracy in the Middle East”.
Well Benjamin, we invite you to go to Gaza and to see what Israel’s democracy looks like if you happen to be a Palestinian and born in Gaza. He says that the leadership in Gaza is “using children as human shields.” Perhaps this comment is written by Netanyahu’s office to deflect attention from the fact that Israel killed hundreds of Palestinians last year including many children, and has done so since 1948.
Netanyahu claims that the people on the flotilla were bringing weapons to Gaza. This is false and nothing but an attempt by Israel to save face in the wake of yet another act of piracy committed at sea. They have to say that we are terrorists, because as it is, the world forming a much clearer picture as to the true extent and nature of Israel’s war crimes.
I’ll end here with a story that Charlie told me once when we were sitting down talking, in the company of two other activists.
Charlie told of a time he was in Gaza, and saw a young man shot by an Israeli soldier, possibly a sniper, as they found themselves under attack as is routine in Gaza.
Charlie and whoever else was there couldn’t help the Palestinian man as they were still being shot at. They had to watch him die, unable to reach him as he lay just a few feet away. They then had to inform the father that his son was dead-while the body of his son still lay in the road, unable to be recovered. The boys’ father thanked them.
I’ve never even seen the image of this happening, but yet I can’t shake it from my mind. Charlie is a brave person and didn’t deserve the treatment he got by the Israeli navy.
The Israeli soldiers are brainwashed and carrying out the work of Netanyahu’s war criminal regime. The sooner people wake up to this the better.
Richard Sudan, is a London based writer, political activist, and performance poet. Follow him on Twitter.
Three of the four boats in the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla have turned back as the flagship Marianne was intercepted by the Israeli military and rerouted to Ashdod port. If Israel was a democracy it would grant this boat safe passage to Gaza.
These activists are peaceful people sailing in international waters, and are attempting to bring aid, and to donate a fishing boat to the people of Gaza, who are at the mercy of one of the most ruthless and sophisticated armed forces in the world. An attempt to stop them while they are in international waters, itself constitutes a breach of international law. Israel commits war crimes which are acknowledged by the United Nations and many human rights organizations. Let’s consider who the real terrorists in this scenario are. It isn’t the people struggling to have a decent quality of life in the most densely populated piece of land in the world. The idea that Palestinians could present a threat to such a powerful state as Israel is simply ludicrous. Israel holds the political, military, and economic power and controls the information narrative.
We should never forget when thinking about the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, that when Israeli forces stormed the Mavi Marmara in 2010, in an act of piracy, they killed nine people with one person later dying from injuries. The authorities have acted as if no crime was ever committed and as if Israel has nothing to answer for. That is state-sponsored violence with complete impunity.
Our boat is the last to set sail. However, we were told Sunday that our boat for now remains in Athens, and is not moving. At the moment, that’s all I can say.
For this reason, at the time of writing, we are preparing to deviate from the original plan and are making alternate plans to reach our ultimate destination. I would like to be specific at this point but cannot say much more than I already have. What I can say however, is that everyone here is motivated by a drive to highlight what is happening in Gaza through peaceful means.
We are being labeled as trouble makers and as agitators who are trying to make trouble for Israel, which of course is always presented as being guilty of nothing.
Past and present parliamentarians from different nations, aid workers, scholars, and journalists do not paint a picture of terrorists. Actually they have a track record of working against terrorists, many of them working in areas of conflict in the past with people who have had their lives torn apart by war.
They say, as they do when anyone tries to reach Gaza that the act in itself is an act of terrorism because the government in Gaza is run by Hamas. Hamas – who were elected and who represent the people.
Whatever one might think of Hamas is irrelevant, unless of course you happen to live in Palestine. Hamas did not bomb hundreds of innocent people last summer including hundreds of children.
The act of trying to prevent some fishing boats being delivered to people who are trapped and who have no freedom of movement is a monstrous one. These activists are unarmed and are 100 percent not a threat to Israel; they are pretty selfless human beings who simply care. If Israel was a democracy it would grant these activists safe passage. Israel however fulfills none of its obligations to the people of Palestine, and so it’s no surprise that it refuses to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis it has created.
What is wrong with equal rights for everyone under a system which treats everyone the same? If it was good enough for South Africa then surely it’s good enough for the rest of the world.
The FF3 coalition is a peaceful campaign absolutely maintaining a policy of nonviolence. It seems pretty clear though at this stage as if Israel is determined to allow no aid through to Gaza, and will continue to act as judge, jury, and executioner towards anyone that dare question or disagree with the colonial settler state.
I hope the brave souls who are on the vessels already at sea make it and that no harm comes to any of them. They do not deserve to have their names dragged through the dirt by a largely ignorant liberal press, and it’s an utter disgrace that many are happy to highlight a humanitarian crisis elsewhere in the world, while Palestine gets pushed to the side-lines. If FF3 serves to highlight any of this then the campaign will have been worth it.
Richard Sudan, is a London based writer, political activist, and performance poet. Follow him on Twitter.
The prime minister of Norway, Erna Solberg has described NATO’s defense spending plans as “nonsense.” The alliance wants members to spend two percent of their GDP on defense, but Oslo, one of the world’s richest countries, says it won’t meet the target.
“If I am allowed to speak, I think the percentage goal is nonsense,” she said in an interview with the Norwegian Armed Forces’ Forum Magazine, as cited by the Local. “The aim of the NATO countries must be the greatest possible defense capability, not a percentage goal in itself,” she added.
Solberg added that while meeting the two percent target may be easier for countries enjoying strong economic growth, it would be harder for those within the alliance whose economies are shrinking.
Norway’s Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide said in April that for Oslo to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense would be “very challenging” in the short term. The Scandinavian country has already said it will increase its spending this year, but this will only bring it to around 1.6 percent and short of the target that was set at the NATO summit in Cardiff, the United Kingdom, last year.
NATO’s General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, who was also Solberg’s predecessor as Norway’s PM, said that the country could easily meet the target.
“If there is a political will, there is economic space. But it must be given priority,” he said in a visit to Norway in June. “Compared with other major initiatives we have implemented in Norway, reaching two percent is quite possible.”
Aside from the United States, traditional NATO allies have found meeting the target a taxing affair. Germany allocates 1.2 percent of its GDP, the Netherlands 1.3 percent and Spain less than 1 percent. France is the only Western European country that is boosting defense spending. However, some Eastern European nations are increasing their military expenses citing what they call Russian aggression. Lithuania, for instance, wants to allocate twice as much on defense as it did last year.
NATO’s rapid response Spearhead Force in Europe might reach 40,000 troops, a tenfold growth from the initial 4,000-strong force deployed last year, the military alliance’s chief said. Most of these troops will be stationed near Russian borders.
“NATO defense ministers … [will] make a decision to further increase the strength and capacity of the 13,000-strong NATO Response Force (NRF) to 30,000 or 40,000 troops,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday.
The decision is to be officially announced during NATO’s defense ministers meeting on June 24-25 in Brussels.
The troops will be under the command of 6 HQs to be stationed in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. The Spearhead Force will include Special Forces and rapid response teams, enforced with marine and air components.
A new rapid reaction force ready to be deployed within 48 hours was initially intended to consist of 4,000 troops.
The Spearhead Force has already held its first military drills codenamed Noble Jump in Poland. The war games became “the biggest reinforcement” of defense since Cold War times, said Stoltenberg, adding that the alliance is facing challenges from “the behavior of a more assertive” Russia.
Last week, Stoltenberg criticized Russia for announced plans to add to its nuclear arsenal 40 newly made intercontinental ballistic missiles in 2015.
“This nuclear saber-rattling of Russia is unjustified. It’s destabilizing and it’s dangerous. This is something which we are addressing, and it’s also one of the reasons we are now increasing the readiness and preparedness of our forces,” Stoltenberg said during a news briefing in Brussels last Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin made the announcement about further development of the strategic nuclear armed forces in response to a report that the US is seriously considering deployment of heavy weapons to new NATO member states on permanent basis.
The chill in Russia-US relations already resemble the worst years of the Cold War, yet experts warn that further escalation of the Ukrainian crisis could lead to an open standoff between Moscow and Washington.
If Washington opts to send armaments to Kiev authorities, as some Republicans congressmen want, Moscow would react immediately, experts quoted in US media believe.
Washington should pursue a diplomatic solution for its conflict with Russia, former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul told The New York Times.
“The US-Russia conflict is not going to be resolved in weeks or months,” McFaul said. “This challenge will take years, even decades.”
Nuclear whistleblower William McNeilly, who had been dishonorably discharged from the Royal Navy, says military “spin doctors” have tried to obscure the safety and security concerns he raised in an extensive dossier last month.
McNeilly now claims to have been dishonorably discharged from the service, having not been heard from for over a month.
Reports over the intervening period suggested he was held in a secure military facility.
In a new nine-page document published online, he said: “It is shocking that some people in a military force can be more concerned about public image than public safety.”
McNeilly posted his original findings online last month while AWOL, raising up to 30 issues regarding nuclear weapons safety and base security.
The Navy immediately claimed McNeilly’s allegations were “subjective and unsubstantiated” and “factually incorrect or the result of misunderstanding or partial understanding.”
McNeilly has now responded, saying: “Other submariners have been anonymously releasing information to journalists.
“It’s only a matter of time before worse information comes out, and everything is proven to be true.”
There had initially been discussion over whether McNeilly would be charged under the Official Secrets Act, fears which seem to have abated.
“All of the charges against me were dropped; there’s nothing that I can be charged with now,” he said.
“Most people know that I acted in the interest of national security. However, I was still given a dishonorable discharge from the Royal Navy.”
McNeilly feels he was discharged by the Navy “on the claim that my sole aim was to discredit their public image.”
Having served aboard the Trident submarine HMS Victory earlier this year, McNeilly said he was shocked at what he saw there.
“When I joined the Royal Navy, I had no idea that I was going to work with nuclear weapons. When I found out, I was happy. I used to think they were an essential tool in maintaining peace, by deterring war,” he said.
“It wasn’t until I saw the major safety and security issues that I realized the system is more of a threat than a deterrent.”
The furor around McNeilly’s leaks saw Scottish National Party MP Alex Salmond raise the question of Trident safety in Parliament, saying “Trident is a key issue for people in Scotland.”
“It is bad enough that Scotland is forced to house these weapons of mass destruction, but these alleged breaches of security are deeply worrying – there must be absolutely no complacency,” Salmond said.
McNeilly has said claims he was an SNP agent are wrong, although he added he supports the party’s aim to remove Trident from Scotland.
“I’ve been strongly advised to remain silent and live a private life,” he said.
However, he has no plans to go quietly, it seems.
“I’m civilian now, and I have the right to free speech. I’m not going to waste that freedom by just sitting around on my ass, while the UK is in danger.”
A Royal Navy spokeswoman confirmed to Portsmouth News that McNeilly is no longer in the Navy.
The US is obstructing international efforts to eradicate biological weapons, seeking to involve other nations covertly in research on weaponized diseases, Moscow charged. America’s record of handling bioweapons is poor.
The accusations of mishandling biological weapons voiced by the Russian Foreign Ministry refer to a recent report that the US military shipped live anthrax by mistake. Last week, the Pentagon admitted sending samples of the highly dangerous disease to at least 51 labs in 17 US states and three foreign countries.
The delivery “posed a high risk of outbreak that threatened not only the US population, but also other countries, including Canada and Australia. Of great concern is the shipment of bacteria to a US military facility in a third country, the Osan Air Base in South Korea,” the Russian ministry said in a statement.
It added that an anthrax outbreak incident occurred in 2001, which also involved a US military lab.
For Russia such incidents are of particular concern, because one of its neighbors, Georgia, hosts a research facility for high-level biohazard agents. The Richard G. Lugar Center for Public and Animal Health Research near Tbilisi is an undercover American bioweapons lab, a branch of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Russia believes.
“American and Georgian authorities are trying to cover up the real nature of this US military unit, which studies highly dangerous infectious diseases. The Pentagon is trying to establish similar covert medico-biological facilities in other countries [in Russia’s neighborhood],” the Russian ministry said.
Moscow says the US is de facto derailing international efforts under the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), a 1972 international treaty aimed at eradicating bioweapons worldwide.
“The US administration is obviously not interested in strengthening this convention. It’s known that in 2001 the US unilaterally torpedoed multilateral talks in Geneva to work on a verification mechanism for the BWTC and have since obstructed their restart. Decades of international effort to strengthen the convention were derailed,” the statement said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s indictment comes amid a wider list of accusations against the US over what Moscow sees as American violations of various international agreements dealing with weapons control, non-proliferation and disarmament.
The statement came in response to a US annual report on the issue, which accused Russia of various wrongdoings. Moscow considers such reports “megaphone diplomacy.” Such tactics aren’t aimed at resolving any differences, but instead support America’s pretense to be the ultimate judge of other nation’s behavior, the ministry said.
Russia is seeking to “discredit and eventually undermine” NATO, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said in an interview published shortly after President Vladimir Putin said only a madman would think of Russia as a threat to NATO.
“I can’t tell you, as we sit here today, precisely what Putin and Russia intend to do,” Dempsey said in the interview to the Wall Street Journal. “They have demonstrated some behaviors outside the international order that clearly indicate that they are willing to push beyond what most of the nations with whom we deal consider to be international norms.”
Dempsey also called on the NATO allies to “harden against the subversive activities Russia has demonstrated its willingness to use.”
“We have the conventional threat posed by Russia’s conventional forces,” the Pentagon chief said.
“[Putin and Russia] have demonstrated some capabilities with long-range aviation and with their nuclear forces that are clearly intended to signal the nations in Europe and us of their willingness to consider all the instruments of military power,” Dempsey said.
The comments come shortly after the release of an interview with Vladimir Putin where he has warned against taking the West’s “Russian aggression” scaremongering seriously.
“I think that only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO,” Putin said. “I think some countries are simply taking advantage of people’s fears with regard to Russia. They just want to play the role of front-line countries that should receive some supplementary military, economic, financial or some other aid.”
The Russian president invited journalists to compare the global military presence of Russia, on one hand, and that of the US and NATO, and draw their own conclusions.
“We have dismantled our bases in various regions of the world, including Cuba, Vietnam, and so on,” Putin said. “I invite you to publish a world map in your newspaper and to mark all the US military bases on it. You will see the difference.”
Dempsey listed “capabilities that do threaten security in Europe” mentioning among them Russia’s being “very adept in the media space of propaganda.”
In April, Secretary of State John Kerry asked US lawmakers for more money for propaganda and “democracy promotion” programs around the world, having directly referred to RT’s growing influence. RT’s budget for 2015 is 13.85 billion rubles (some $277 million, according to the current exchange rate). By contrast, the US government media receives $721 million.
Among other threats Dempsey mentioned is Russia’s “ability to conduct snap exercises with conventional forces that can coerce or at least threaten borders.” The remark comes as military exercises close to Russian borders are being conducted on a non-stop basis.
The latest example is a major US-led exercise BALTOPS in the Baltic Sea, which began June 5. Around 50 vessels from 17 countries, involving overall 5,600 troops, are taking part in these war-games that are set to last 15 days, to show off NATO’s ability to protect the region.
In mid-May, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the alliance is going to increase its activity at its eastern borders, with more air and sea patrols, amid non-stop exercises.
Reports have come out that the UN was considering adding Israel to the list of “grave violations against children in armed conflict.” As detailed below, Israeli army and Israel’s state policies are systematically violent against Palestinian children.
A recent Independent article noted that [Special Envoy for Children and Armed Conflict Leila] “Zerrougui’s draft report cited IDF attacks on schools and hospitals during the 2014 war in the Gaza Strip…”
Even though the UN has historically not taken strong action against any of Israel’s war crimes over the decades, let alone those specifically against Palestinian children, Israel has reportedly exerted pressure to be de-listed from the draft list, with seeming success.
The Independent wrote, “UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, however, is said to be leaning towards not including Israel in the list, amid what several diplomatic sources anonymously said was intense lobbying from Israel.”
Apparently, Israel thinks such call for its joining the list is “a heinous and hypocritical attempt to besmirch the image of Israel and it is doomed to fail,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon reportedly said.
In fact, the UN should have listed Israel from at least 2009 when, as the UN website notes, “the Security Council decided to also list armed forces and groups who kill and maim children, commit sexual violence against children, and attack schools and hospitals.”
Does Israel violate the six areas detailed? Five out of six, most definitely:
– Killing or maiming of children; [See below]
– Sexual violence against children; [The Israeli army routinely threatens and enacts sexual abuse of Palestinian children]
– Attacks against schools or hospitals; [The Israeli army routinely fires ammunition and tear gas at Palestinian schools; it has repeatedly bombed schools and hospitals in Gaza]
– Abduction of children; [See below]
– Denial of humanitarian access for children. [Israel’s blockade on Gaza strangles the medical sector; Israel routinely denies exit to Palestinians ( including children) for medical care outside of Gaza; the illegal wall Israel has constructed throughout much of the West Bank prevents Palestinians (including children) from accessing medical care.] [see also: Al Mezan Releases Factsheet on Gazan Children’s Access to Medical Care]
– Recruitment or use of children by armed forces and groups; [This is the one point which strictly speaking doesn’t apply. However, the Israeli army has used Palestinian children as human shields]
Members of the Israeli army themselves have admitted various crimes. A Breaking the Silence report “Children and Youth – Soldiers’ Testimonies 2005-2011” noted:
“This booklet reveals how physical violence is often exerted against children, whether in response to accusations of stone-throwing or, more often, arbitrarily.”
Further testimonies following the the July/August 2014 war on Gaza highlight the brutality meted out on Palestinians (including children).
Killing or maiming of children
Having between November 2008 and March 2013 lived a cumulative three years in the Gaza Strip, including during two Israeli waged massacres of Palestinians in Gaza, I present three (of too many) cases of Israel targeting children, of which I have personal knowledge.
On January 4, 2009, Shahed Abu Halima lay cradled in her mother’s arms, the family terrorized like Palestinians all over Gaza by incessant Israeli bombing. Their area, al-Atatra, west of Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, was particularly hard-hit, and had been invaded by Israeli tanks. Of the two shells that hit baby Shahed’s home, at least one was white phosphorous, raining clumps of the chemical weapon down on the family. The flames which enveloped Shahed’s body were not extinguishable, nor could her mother Sabah see through the smoke and flames to reach the infant. Shahed’s dog-eaten, charred corpse was only found days later when Palestinian medics were finally allowed to enter the area. [see: Next Time It Will Hurt More]
Farah Abu Halima, 3, severely burned by Israeli-fired White Phosphorus, January 4, 2009 (Photo by Eva Bartlett)
Also on January 4, 2009, Shireen Abu Helou continued nursing her dying baby, Farah (“joy” in Arabic), in a futile effort to bring the infant comfort while her family took cover from Israeli fire behind a bulldozed dirt mound in the Zeitoun district just south of Gaza City (infamous for the herding of entire families from the Samouni clan into one building and repeatedly bombing it; infamous for the point blank shootings of individuals, including 4-year-old Ahmed shot dead after crying about his father’s execution). One-year-old Farah did not survive the Israeli sniper’s bullet to her abdomen, her intestines falling out as she bled to death over the course of a few hours. [see: They Killed Me Three Times]
On November 21, 2012, a 14-year-old boy asked his father for 10 shekels, to go to the small store up the road to buy food for his siblings who hadn’t eaten anything but bread for the past five days of Israeli bombing. The bombing had not quite stopped, but Nader Abu Mghaseeb believed he was safe, a ceasefire due to be enforced in just under two hours. He was incorrect. Minutes after the precision drone strike hit Nader, his father rushed out to find the dying, tangled mass of flesh that had been his son.
In Deir al-Balah’s al-Aqsa hospital, I saw the teen’s mangled corpse brought in. His stunned father stood outside trying to comprehend that Israeli-fired, precision drone technology had obliterated his clearly unarmed 14-year-old son. [see: Killing before the Calm: “Israeli” Attacks on Palestinian Civilians Escalated before Cease-fire]
Two years and many Palestinian child martyrs and maimings later, during the July/August 2014 Israeli massacre of Gaza, four small boys ran for their lives across an empty Gaza beach as the Israeli navy chased them with shelling, eventually hitting their prey. The shelling of the Bakr boys, aged nine to 11, was recorded by a number of Palestinian and foreign journalists camped out at the nearby Deira hotel, many of whom broke down at witnessing this savagery.
Of the July/August Israeli massacre of Gaza, Defense for Children International-Palestine’s (DCI-Palestine) April 16, 2015 report noted:
“DCIP independently verified the deaths of 547 Palestinian children among the killed in Gaza, 535 of them as a direct result of Israeli attacks. Nearly 68 percent of the children killed by Israeli forces were 12 years old or younger. Those who survived these attacks will continue to pay the price for many years. More than 1,000 children suffered injuries that rendered them permanently disabled, according to OCHA.”
The assault on Palestinian children is, of course, not merely limited to its times of bombing Gaza. Almost daily in Gaza’s border regions and on the sea, children are machine-gunned and shelled by the genocidal bully of the region, under the pretext of “security.” Having witnessed this on countless occasions, myself under fire with the brave farmers, I can say one hundred percent affirmatively that they posed no security threat to the well-armed Israeli army (nor navy).
In the rest of occupied Palestine, whether during the criminal routine Israeli army invasions and lock-downs of West Bank and Jerusalem areas, or during demonstrations against the illegal Wall stealing yet more Palestinian land, or merely randomly, Palestinian children are targeted by Israeli live ammunition, tear gas canisters, and hands-on brutality, not only by the so-called “most morale army” but also the unspoken of proxy soldiers: those vile, racist, illegal Jewish colonists who (claiming God’s approval) abuse Palestinians of all ages, without consequences.
Early in the morning of July 2, 2014, Mohammed Abu Khdeir went missing while going to mosque for morning prayers in occupied Jerusalem. His slight body was found a few hours later charred and beaten. Before his Jewish colonist tormentors poured gas down his throat and lit him alive, they beat he the 16 year old with a blunt object to his head. The autopsy report “showed soot in the victim’s lungs and respiratory tract, indicating he was alive and breathing while he was being burnt.”
Reham Nabaheen, 4, killed by Israeli shrapnel to her head, November 21, 2012 (Photo by Eva Bartlett)
The systematic brutality of Israel’s colonists and Israeli soldiers against Palestinians is met with virtually no reprimand by Israel. On their “Settler violence: Lack of accountability,” rights group B’Tselem noted in 2011 (updated January 2013):
“When Israelis harm Palestinians, the authorities implement an undeclared policy of forgiveness, compromise, and leniency in punishment. Israeli security forces have done little to prevent settler violence or to arrest offenders. Many acts of violence have never been investigated; in other cases, investigations have been drawn out and resulted in no action being taken against anyone.”
“According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the number of settler attacks resulting in Palestinian casualties and property damage increased by over 144 percent in 2011, compared to 2009. In 2013, the report of the United Nations International Fact-Finding Mission on Settlements highlighted the failure of the Israeli authorities to enforce the law by investigating such incidents and taking measures against their perpetrators. The Fact-Finding Mission came to the “clear conclusion that there is institutionalised discrimination against the Palestinian people when it comes to addressing violence. Acts of settler violence are intended, organised, and publicly represented to influence the political decisions of Israeli State authorities.”
Throughout the West Bank and Jerusalem, Jewish colonists routinely run over Palestinian children. Two examples include an October 2014 hit and run near Ramallah of two 5 year old Palestinian girls, one of whom—Inas Shawkat Khalil—died from her injuries.
Child abduction and imprisonment
According to Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association’s April 2015 update, 182 Palestinian children are imprisoned by Israel, including 26 under the age of 16. They note that“8,000 Palestinian children have been arrested since 2000.”
“Israel is the only country in the world that automatically prosecutes children in military courts that lack basic and fundamental fair trial guarantees. Interrogations tend to be coercive, including a variety of verbal abuse, threats and physical violence that ultimately result in a confession.”
They further note that most Israeli-imprisoned Palestinian children are nabbed in the middle of the night, something youths from Resistance villages like Bil’in are well-familiar with. Bil’in, known for its popular demonstrations against the illegal, land-grabbing Wall, has lost many a martyr, including children to Israel’s brutal attempts at stifling dissent (On that note: to all the media that leapt on the false, “Bashar is killing unarmed protesters band-wagon,” Israel is actually doing so).
That the UN is even considering not including Israel on the list speaks further volumes to the uselessness of this institution, a body that serves only to put the odd band-aid on the seeping Palestinian wound and to endorse criminal bombings of sovereign nations.
In any case, Israel need not worry that anyone is trying to “besmirch” its reputation. It has proven quite adept at doing that all on its own. Every blown-off Palestinian child’s head, every Palestinian child behind Israeli bars, every Mohammed Abu Khdair tortured and killed by Jewish colonists, and every colonists’ intentional running over of Palestinian children “besmirches” what is left of the racist, genocidal state’s reputation, with or without UN recognition.
Eva Bartlett is a freelance journalist and rights activist who has lived in the Gaza Strip since late 2008.