Sympathy for the devil

The list of outrageous actions Justice Secretary Jack Straw has performed in his various guises for the UK government is long, from his role in the Iraq War to his scandalous support for BAE systems which seen the scrapping of a corruption enquiry into arms deals worth billions. This Guardian article by Duncan Campbell on Straw’s decision not to pardon ‘Great Train Robber’ Ronnie Biggs  reminds us of one of his most disgraceful acts; his compassion for the mass murderer General Augusto Pinochet.

As to why Straw let Pinochet escape back to Chile, John Pilger, enthusiast of writes that if he had been sent to trial, he “almost certainly would have implicated at least one British prime minister and two US presidents in crimes against humanity.” (For more on the US and UK’s involvement in Latin American politics, watch Pilger’s documentary, The War on Democracy, available here.)

This reminds us of the fast-tracked trial of Saddam Hussein, which saw the Iraqi dictator tried for just one of the many human rights massacres he was accused of. Saddam was then hurriedly executed thus preventing other families from getting answers to how the ‘Butcher of Bagdhad’ was able to perpetrate such atrocities. And why? Well our leaders were well aware that investigations into some of Saddam’s larger scale uses of chemical weapons and where the ingredients came from would lead an embarrassing trail back to European and American companies.

Here is the Guardian article.

A frail old man, barely able to communicate, guilty of a crime committed many decades earlier, but unrepentant about his past, wants only to be released so that he can spend his final days with his family. Some people object, saying that the nature of the crime is such that the old man deserves to die in custody. Enter Jack Straw, the member of the government who must make the onerous decision on the old man’s future. He realises that the old man is barely able to walk and is in a confused state of mind. He allows him to return home.

The old man was General Pinochet. In 2000, the then home secretary Jack Straw declined requests from Spain for Pinochet to stand trial for gross human rights violations and sent him back to Chile. Pinochet was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 people, the torture of many thousands more, the removal of a democratically elected president and the looting of the national coffers. Straw still felt that mercy was appropriate. Continue reading “Sympathy for the devil”

Web 2.0 warfare from Gaza to Iran

Twitterati hack official Iranian websites
Twitterati hack official Iranian websites

by Tom Griffin

Recent weeks have seen an explosion of interest in Twitter, a social networking application which has been used by thousands of internet users to pass on news, views and rumours about the situation unfolding in Iran in the wake of the disputed presidential election.

The Iranian struggle is not however, the first conflict in which emerging ‘Web 2.0’ social media technologies have played a significant role. Israel’s offensive in Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009 provides an important precedent which shows that, despite its undoubted potential for empowering new forms of bottom-up organisation, the social web is not immune from very traditional propaganda techniques.

Operation Cast Lead – The First Social Media War
The roots of Israel’s media strategy in Gaza emerged in the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon War. The Winograd Commission appointed by the Israeli Government to look into the conflict criticised a lack of co-ordination in the country’s media effort. This led to the creation of the National Information Directorate in the Prime Minister’s Office to co-ordinate efforts across government departments.[1][2]

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Derailing Veolia and Alstom

With thanks to Angus Geddes and Ruth Tenne. See also Derailing Veolia in the UK.

veolia_tramrouteIf you live in the UK, check the rubbish skips used by your place of worship and local shops and businesses: if they are using Veolia Environmental Services, Onyx or Cleanaway get them to switch to another contractor. All these indicate Veolia, the multinational company aiding and abetting Israeli war crimes. For contracts with local councils, where Veolia has a contract expiring within the next two or three years we can be sure that Veolia will bid for the replacement contract, so these are the key councils to challenge to exclude Veolia.

So how is Veolia involved in apartheid Israel? A large French multinational employing 320,000 people, Veolia is helping build and operate a tramway linking illegal Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel. Not only do the settlements contravene article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention, but in most cases their establishment involved war crimes too. The tramway tightens Israel’s hold on occupied East Jerusalem, ties the settlements more firmly into Israel and undermines chances of a just peace for the Palestinian people. So don’t let your local authority give Veolia Environmental Services contracts for waste management or Veolia Transport contracts for bus services. Ask local businesses using Veolia to switch to another rubbish collector.

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The Wall Street White House

Andrew Cockburn on ‘How Goldman Sachs and Citi Run the Show‘.

Is this where Obamas financial policies are made?
Is this where Obama's financial policies are made?

Robert Hormats, Vice Chairman of Goldman Sachs, is to be installed as Under Secretary of Economics, Business, and  Agricultural Affairs. This  comes as one more, probably unnecessary reminder of the total control exercised by Wall Street  over the Obama administration’s economic and financial policy.  True, Hormats is “a talker rather than a decider” according to one former White House official, but he will find plenty of old friends used to making decisions, almost all of  them uniformly disastrous for the U.S. and global economy.

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How to Deal with America’s Empire of Bases

From the indispensable Chalmers Johnson comments on the new $736 million US embassy in Pakistan and offers ‘A Modest Proposal for Garrisoned Lands‘.

The latest in Chalmer Johnson's Blowback Trilogy.

The U.S. Empire of Bases — at $102 billion a year already the world’s costliest military enterprise — just got a good deal more expensive. As a start, on May 27th, we learned that the State Department will build a new “embassy” in Islamabad, Pakistan, which at $736 million will be the second priciest ever constructed, only $4 million less, if cost overruns don’t occur, than the Vatican-City-sized one the Bush administration put up in Baghdad. The State Department was also reportedly planning to buy the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel (complete with pool) in Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan, to use as a consulate and living quarters for its staff there.

Unfortunately for such plans, on June 9th Pakistani militants rammed a truck filled with explosives into the hotel, killing 18 occupants, wounding at least 55, and collapsing one entire wing of the structure. There has been no news since about whether the State Department is still going ahead with the purchase.

Continue reading “How to Deal with America’s Empire of Bases”

Amnesty International: Impunity for war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel a recipe for further civilian suffering

candle_1Impunity for war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel a recipe for further civilian suffering

2 July 2009

Israeli forces killed hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians and destroyed thousands of homes in Gaza in attacks which breached the laws of war, Amnesty International concluded in a new report published on Thursday. Operation ‘Cast Lead’: 22 days of death and destruction, is the first comprehensive report to be published on the conflict, which took place earlier this year.

“Israel’s failure to properly investigate its forces’ conduct in Gaza, including war crimes, and its continuing refusal to cooperate with the UN international independent fact-finding mission headed by Richard Goldstone, is evidence of its intention to avoid public scrutiny and accountability,” said Donatella Rovera, who headed a field research mission to Gaza and southern Israel during and after the conflict.

Continue reading “Amnesty International: Impunity for war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel a recipe for further civilian suffering”

Callous and impenitent

Bolton at the Hay Festival last year before his attempted arrest for war crimes
Bolton at the Hay Festival last year before his attempted arrest for war crimes

John Bolton, with his characterisic contempt for international law, writes in today’s Washington Post that ‘with no other timely option, the already compelling logic for an Israeli strike [on Iran] is nearly inexorable’. The article is reproduced in full below. It should, I suggest, be read whilst mindful of Article 2 of the UN Charter by which it was agreed that: ‘All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.’

Last year, you may recall, the Guardian columnist George Monbiot attempted a citizens arrest on Bolton. It was a futile but symbolic act; and a rare acknowledgment that this man is a war criminal by any decent standard – and an unrepentant one at that.

Time for an Israeli Strike?

By John R. Bolton
Thursday, July 2, 2009

With Iran’s hard-line mullahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unmistakably back in control, Israel’s decision of whether to use military force against Tehran’s nuclear weapons program is more urgent than ever.

Iran’s nuclear threat was never in doubt during its presidential campaign, but the post-election resistance raised the possibility of some sort of regime change. That prospect seems lost for the near future or for at least as long as it will take Iran to finalize a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.

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Israeli doctors colluding in torture

Jonathan Cook reports about the collusion of Israeli doctors in the torture of Palestinians based on evidence presented in a new joint report by the Public Commitee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. This comes in the wake of a petition signed by 725 physicians from 43 countries who are demanding that the current president of the World Medical Association Yoram Blachar be removed from office, claiming that the Israel Medical Association which he heads has ignored evidence that doctors working in detention facilities are allowing torture. In return, Blachar has recruited the help of Hadassah – the Women’s Zionist Organization of America – to launch a couter-campaign to discredit the work of the human rights NGOs. (See also the recent report by PCATI which documents the torture and physical abuse of prisoners held by Israeli security forces.)

Israel’s watchdog body on medical ethics has failed to investigate evidence that doctors working in detention facilities are turning a blind eye to cases of torture, according to Israeli human rights groups.

The Israeli Medical Association (IMA) has ignored repeated requests to examine such evidence, the rights groups say, even though it has been presented with examples of Israeli doctors who have broken their legal and ethical duty towards Palestinians in their care.

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The Color of the Race Problem Is White

Robert Jensen is one of the best US scholars whose analysis on issues ranging from race, class, media to foreign policy is always insightful and free of dogma.

In The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois suggested that the question white people so often want to ask black people is, How does it feel to be a problem? This program turns the tables and recognizes some simple facts: Race problems have their roots in a system of white supremacy. White people invented white supremacy. Therefore, the color of the race problem is white. White people are the problem. White people have to ask ourselves: How does it feel to be a problem?

Continue reading “The Color of the Race Problem Is White”

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