Fallujah in Iraq, destroyed by Nato's stormtroopers in 2004
Sirte in Libya, destroyed by Nato's luftwaffe in 2011
By Felicity Arbuthnot, via Global Research
“Hypocrisy, the most protected of vices.” Moliere (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, 1622-1673)
Last week, a little more was learned as to the circumventions in Whitehall and Washington delaying the publication of the findings of Sir John Chilcot’s marathon inquiry in to the background of the Iraq invasion.
The UK’s Chilcot Inquiry, was convened under then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, to establish the decisions taken by the UK government and military, pre and post invasion. It ran from 24 November 2009 until 2 February 2011 and cost an estimated £7.5m. The as yet unpublished report is believed to run to 1,000,000 words.
The stumbling block – more of an Israeli-style ‘separation barrier’ in reality – has been the correspondence between Tony Blair and George W Bush, prior to an invasion and occupation that former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan finally told the BBC was “illegal”, and that “painful lessons” had been learned. ‘Lessons’ clearly not learned by the current British government. (16 September 2004)
The communications, in Sir John Chilcot’s words to former Cabinet Secretary Lord O’Donnell, related to “The question of when and how the prime minister (Tony Blair) made commitments to the US about the UK’s involvement in military action in Iraq, and subsequent decisions on the UK’s continuing involvement, is central to its considerations.” (Guardian, 17 July 2013)
Further: “Chilcot said the release of notes of the conversations between Blair and Bush would serve to ‘illuminate Mr Blair’s position at critical points’ in the run up to war.”
The inquiry had also been seeking clarification from O’Donnell’s successor, Sir Jeremy Heywood, regarding inclusion of references to “the content of Mr Blair’s notes to President Bush, and to the records of discussions between Mr Blair and Presidents Bush and Obama”. The wall remains in place.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, now the country’s most senior civil servant, was Tony Blair’s private secretary during the period of the trans-Atlantic lies that led to the Iraq war and during the creation of the Blair regime’s ‘dodgy dossiers’.
Interestingly too: “O’Donnell had consulted Blair before saying the notes must remain secret.” Effectively, one of the accused – in an action that has destroyed a country, lynched the president, murdered his sons and teenage nephew and caused the deaths of perhaps one and a half million people – is deciding what evidence can be presented before the court. Chilcot has seen the documents, but seemingly needs the accused’s permission to publish them.
A stitch-up of which any ‘rogue’ or ‘totalitarian’ regime would surely be proud.
Centre to the dispute between the inquiry, Cameron and his ennobled gate keepers is material requested for inclusion in the final report: “to reflect its analysis of discussions in Cabinet and Cabinet Committees and their significance”.
The documents being denied to the inquiry include 25 pieces of correspondence sent by Tony Blair to George W Bush and 130 documents relating to conversations between these lead plotters of Iraq’s destruction. Additionally: “dozens of records of Cabinet meetings”.
Ironically, on 31 October 2006, David Cameron voted in favour of a motion brought by the Scottish National Party and Wales’ Plaid Cymru (‘The Party of Wales’) calling for an inquiry into the Blair government’s conduct of the Gulf war.
On 15 June 2009, in a parliamentary debate, the terms of the Chilcot Inquiry were presented in detail, duly recorded in Hansard, the parliamentary records.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Blair’s successor stated: “In order that the committee is as objective and non-partisan as possible, the membership of the committee will consist entirely of non-partisan public figures acknowledged to be experts and leaders in their fields. There will be no representatives of political parties from either side of this House.”
David Cameron, then Leader of the Opposition stated piously:
“The whole point of having an Inquiry is that it has to be able to make clear recommendations, to go wherever the evidence leads, to establish the full truth and to ensure that the right lessons are learned … in a way that builds public confidence.”
Cameron was particularly concerned about: ‘openness’. How times change.
Further, said Cameron:
“The inquiry needs to be, and needs to be seen to be, truly independent and not an establishment stitch-up … The prime minister was very clear that the inquiry would have access to all British documents and all British witnesses. Does that mean that the inquiry may not have access to documents from the USA … On the scope of the inquiry, will the prime minister confirm that it will cover relations with the United States …”
Cameron concluded with again a demand for “openness and transparency”.
In response, Gordon Brown stated:
“I cannot think of an inquiry with a more comprehensive, wider or broader remit than the one that I have just announced. Far from being restricted, it will cover eight years, from 2001 to 2009. Far from being restricted, it will have access to any documents that are available, and that will include foreign documents that are available in British archives. [Emphasis mine.]
However, four years is a long time in politics, and last week, as David Cameron traveled to Sri Lanka for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, it transpired that the documents Sir John Chilcot had been pursuing and been denied for six months have been also blocked by: “officials in the White House and the US department of state, who have refused to sanction any declassification of critical pre-and post-war communications between George W Bush and Tony Blair”.
David Cameron is apparently also blocking evidence “on Washington’s orders, from being included in the report of an expensive and lengthy British Inquiry.”
However, ‘shame’ clearly not being a word in Cameron’s lexicon, he landed in Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon, a British Colony 1815-1948) as the above shoddy details broke, in full colonial mode.
Spectacular welcoming ceremonies barely over, he launched in to an entirely undiplomatic, public tirade, at this gathering of the ‘Commonwealth family of nations’ alleging that his host, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, was guilty of war crimes during the civil war with the Tamil Tigers.
It is not disputed that, as in any conflict, terrible crimes were committed on both sides. But these are accusations from the man both covering up the genesis of massacres of genocidal magnitude – and who enjoined in the near destruction of Libya, the resultant lynching of the country’s leader, the murder of his sons and small grandchildren and uncounted others in another decimation of a country that had threatened no other.
Cameron’s Libya is Blair’s Iraq. As in Iraq, the dying continues daily.
The pontification also from a prime minister backing funding for the cannibalistic-orientated insurgents in Syria – the beheading, dismembering, looting, displacing, kidnapping, chemical weapons lobbying, child killing, infanticide-bent crazies – including those from his own country.
In Sri Lanka, he demanded the country ensure “credible, transparent and independent investigations into alleged war crimes” and said if this did not happen by the March deadline he arbitrarily imposed, he would press the UN Human Rights Council to hold an international inquiry.
Further: “truth telling”, he said, was essential. To cite hypocrisy of breathtaking proportions has become a redundant accusation, but words are failing.
In the event Cameron “left Colombo having failed to secure any concessions from President Rajapaksa or persuade fellow leaders to criticise Sri Lanka’s record in a communique”. (Guardian, 16 November)
As the prime minster slunk out, President Mahinda Rajapaksa delivered an apt, withering reaction: “People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” he responded.
Ironically, in spite a tragic recent past, Sri Lanka is the only country in South Asia rated high on the Human Development Index. The UK and ‘allies’ recent victims Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan barely make it to the bottom.
David Cameron returned to Britain still having to grapple with how to evade delivering truth to the Chilcot Inquiry.
Hopefully, he will read a letter from writer Lesley Docksey:
“It was British taxpayers’ money that funded the Chilcot Inquiry, and this taxpayer wants her money’s worth. All the British government papers concerning the sorry affair of an invasion of another country belong to this nation – not to the United States, not to Tony Blair and not to the current government. Taxpayers aren’t here to save the faces of politicians.
“Nor is it, in the words of the Cabinet Office, ‘in the public’s interest’ that exchanges between the UK prime minister and the US president are kept secret’ – sorry, ‘privileged’ – from those who are paying their wages. The phrase ‘in the public interest’ only ever means the interests of the government of the day.
“Unless Sir John Chilcot and his team can publish a full and honest report, no lessons will be learnt by future governments. But then, if those lessons were learnt, and we the public knew (as in fact we do) what they were, this country would find it difficult to ever invade anywhere ever again.
“So, Sir John, in the words of a former PM, the Duke of Wellington, ‘Publish and be damned!’” (Independent, 18th November 2013)
Oh, and as David Cameron was lecturing Sri Lanka on ‘transparency’, the Conservatives were removing “a decade of speeches from their website and from the main internet library – including one in which David Cameron claimed that being able to search the web would democratise politics by making ‘more information available to more people’”.
“The party removed records of speeches and press releases from 2000 until May 2010. The effect will be to remove any speeches and articles during the Tories’ modernisation period …”
Comment again redundant.
“It’s a proxy war by outside forces and the world must stand up against it.”
Human shields from Britain are greeted as they cross the border into Iraq, February 2003
Arriving first in Syria
by FRANKLIN LAMB
A sort of roller-coaster atmosphere pervades Damascus these days, with both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ news rippling through the airwaves every quarter hour or so. Much of the population monitors it all closely. People listen; they read; they discuss their interpretations of the latest media reports or the rumours circulating – wondering, surmising, deliberating on the timing of the now-assumed American attack on their country.
In the very popular Abaa coffee house, on the edge of the old city, in what is called the Sarugha section, customers, many of them students, enjoy the fine cool mist that is sprayed from ceiling pipes, providing welcome relief from the 37 degree celsius temperatures prevailing outside.
You want a Damascus tradition? Gathering at the Abaa is it. Many are glued to their laptops or else in animated conversation, analysing the extent and likelihood of the strike upon their homeland by those who profess to be acting out of ‘humanitarian’ concerns.
This observer often meets interlocutors in the Abaa because it’s very pleasant. It is large with dozens of tables. It is also cheap and two blocks from my hotel. I have noticed that common greetings are changing from “kif hallack” (how are you?) and “Arak lahekan” (see you later), to “Get home safely” and “Good luck with the checkpoints.”
But there is also a growing esprit de corps, a coming together of much of the population, as the countdown to the firing of the American missiles begins. Much in evidence also is a rallying around the Assad government – the opposite, one would presume, of what the White House had hoped would result from its threats.
A good friend from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARCS) described how her friends are preparing for the American attack. “We gather our important documents, birth, marriage certificate and passport and make photo copies. Then we leave them with friends in ‘safe’ areas or even bury them somewhere. No one knows how bad the Americans will bomb us. At work we have been told during our final practice drill that the next siren will be the ‘real thing’ and we will do as we have planned for.”
SARCS, by the way, has been providing some amazing rescue and medical services for Syrians and Palestinians during this expanding crisis.
“Many of my friends and family are leaving,” she added. “But it’s not easy, and is very expensive now to go to Lebanon, and they don’t want us – and my family has decided to stay in our home no matter what happens in the coming days.”
One topic getting a lot of attention here is the reluctance of the American public to attack Syria, and whether or not Obama will ignore it. “What kind of democracy do you have that your president can ignore the will of the American public?” this observer is frequently asked.
One soldier stationed with his unit outside my hotel seemed to speak from his heart: “You Americans claim you are trying to help the Syrian people. Every child knows, both here and in your country I think, that the coming attack will make things much worse for the Syrian people and many others. The American people are good and we hope they can control their government, but we are preparing for the worst.”
The government is assuring the public that Syria is ready for the American attack and that public services will continue. Round-the-clock images of heroic Syrian army exploits air on local TV channels, along with martial and patriotic music. Meanwhile, youngsters, students, and workers have begun gathering at presumed targets to offer themselves as shields while challenging President Obama to bomb them.
Interestingly, an international human shield movement is also coalescing, say informed sources here. One initiative reportedly will bring 1,000 Americans, along with thousands of others, to Syria within the next ten days to guard likely bomb sites – not so very different from efforts to protect Palestinian homes from bulldozing in Occupied Palestine.
Here are some descriptive specifics that have been disclosed to this observer from an international organising committee working round-the-clock to bring the human shield initiative into being:
“International Human Shields coming to Syria in solidarity with the Syrian people and in an effort to send a global message and hopefully deter an American attack next week.
“Timing – While moves can be made fast and with all other key elements in place, time is not in our favor. Ten more days for preparation would be ideal. The HS initiative assumes that it must be done in such a way that very little time lapses from the official announcement of the action to the actual arrival of the human shields on the ground in Syria.
“Impact – In order to achieve a significant impact, the objective is to have at least 1000 Americans and several thousand international human shields deployed in Syria. Ideally, this would include at least one representative from every UN Member State, and would serve as evidence of the true ‘international community’ opposing the American attack.”
The US activist-based steering committee is quickly bringing together professionals in IT, marketing, logistical planning and implementation, public relations, accounting, documentarians, and experienced project managers.
Ferries from European ports will need to be arranged to carry significant numbers of human shields from major European cities. Ideally, several jumbo jets will be chartered from some of the world’s major cities to carry those joining the effort.
“HS/Government Relations – The first objective of the enemies of Syria will be to portray the human shields as nothing more than pawns of President Bashar al-Assad. This was precisely what the mainstream media did in 2003, presenting human shields as pawns of Saddam.
“To be effective, the human shields must be seen not only as independent supporters of the people of Syria, but also as representative of the will of the vast majority of people around the world—namely those opposed to the pending US-led western attack.
“To this end, the HS should work with prominent leaders in the civilian sector of Syrian society. No effort should be spared to produce daily news stories of HS and Syrian people working hand-in-hand to protect the country from the ongoing foreign-instigated aggression. Once again, many details here need to be discussed and agreed upon if any action is to reach its full potential.
“Strategy – The sites that HS deploy to must be very well publicized and must be identified as protected sites under the Fourth Geneva Convention.
“The White House is saying that they are not going to attack infrastructure (as they did with Iraq in 2003), but in point of fact, the infrastructure must be attacked if the goal is to drive Syria into the stone age and to make it so weak that Israel, through its Takfiri agents, will eventually take the country over. Moreover, it is well known that the Syrian people and military cannot be defeated without massive attacks on the infrastructure.
“Therefore it becomes absolutely vital that human shields deploy to all power plants, water treatment facilities, bomb shelters (should they exist), civilian communications sites, food storage facilities, and any other sites critical to the civilian population.
“As for military sites, although I personally feel such deployment would be morally defensible, the power of HS in the public relations realm would probably be significantly compromised, and intelligent public relations is absolutely critical.
“At this point, a comprehensive list of protected sites needs to be produced immediately, and the sites will need to be verified by the most independent sources we can manage to obtain. UN representatives or former representatives, human rights attorneys, legal experts, and others of this type all could render invaluable assistance in this.
“Deployment to sites not specifically listed in the Fourth Geneva Convention should also be undertaken, including ethnic and religious minority communities whose members are deathly afraid of the foreign invaders/terrorists. Special emphasis should be placed on christian populations as the western audience, sadly, has more sympathy for christians than muslims.
“Public Relations - It cannot be over stated that smart public relations strategies are the key to success.
“Our goal is to personalise the people of Syria and show their suffering through the eyes of the HS. This can be done with effective daily reports to be uploaded on the internet and reported by legitimate news agencies such as Press TV, RT and Telesur.
“A massive effort must be made to educate the public about the reasons for the Fourth Geneva Convention (FGC) and the imperial powers’ undeniable record of knowingly destroying the lives of ‘protected persons’ as defined in the FGC. Essential to this effort are well-spoken Arabic/English speaking spokespersons.
“We should be ready to provide evidence of any attack on such sites the moment it happens, and to have legal briefs prepared so as to immediately charge the aggressors with war crimes. This is why it is critical that the HS are almost exclusively at sites that are protected by the FGC.
“We cannot necessarily stop them from doing what they intend to do, but we can make their aggression harm them far more than Syria and its people in the end. Herein lays the power, using the enemy’s momentum against him in the most advantageous way possible.
“Note: a contract has been drafted to protect human shields in their home country courts against the accusation that they are aiding and abetting and providing material support to a foreign power that is considered hostile. Human shields are acting in a manner consistent with, and in promotion of, international law and to save innocent, civilian lives.”
Time will tell which Americans will arrive first in Syria, the military or the American public. Many Syrians are today praying it will be the latter and have pledged to join them to defeat the coming aggression.
Franklin Lamb is doing research in Syria and Lebanon and can be reached c/o email@example.com
US soldiers protesting military strikes against Syria are taking to Facebook to voice their opposition to a war.
With the ruling class split over the ‘wisdom’ of an all-out attack on Syria (ie, some of our rulers have realised that imperialism might not win and that more war might just be counterproductive at home), more and more evidence is filtering through from marginalised ‘alternative’ media sources into the public eye.
Here are just a few of the articles currently circulating that together confirm what communists and anti-imperialists have said all along: that it is the Nato imperialists who are perpetrating illegal massacres and deliberately stoking up a sectarian and potentially genocidal war in Syria, and that the Syrian government and army are waging a heroic battle for national liberation from this fascistic neo-colonial onslaught.
The job of all anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and progressive people is to show the British working class that they have the power to stop the war criminals in their tracks. The corporate media, the munitions industry, the transporting and logistics as well as the forces themselves are all operated by workers. If we don’t do the work, these criminal wars cannot be fought!
‘Doctors’ behind Syrian chemical weapons claims are aiding terrorists (Land Destroyer Report)
Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) is fully funded by the very same corporate financier interests behind Wall Street and London’s collective foreign policy, including regime change in Syria and neighbouring Iran. Doctors Without Borders’ own annual report includes as financial donors Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Google, Microsoft, Bloomberg, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, and a myriad of other corporate-financier interests.
Syria: The questions that must be answered before any aggression (Dissident Voice)
Why do you not explain to your citizens that President Assad has the support of the vast majority of the population of his country and would you please draw up a list of the popularity ratings of the 30-odd terrorist/opposition groups fighting against the State?
US planned Syrian civilian catastrophe since 2007 (Press TV)
While the UN and nations across the West feign shock over the growing humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in and around Syria, the goal of a violent sectarian conflict and its predictable, catastrophic results along with calls to literally ‘bleed’ Syria have been the underlying strategy of special interests in the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and their regional partners since at least 2007.
News of chemical weapons attack in Syria published one day before massacre happened (Voice of Russia)
This evidence shows that the terrorists massacred people then recorded the scenes to deceive the world.
‘Rebels’ admit responsibility for chemical weapons attack (Info Wars)
Syrian ‘rebels’ in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta have admitted to Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak that they were responsible for last week’s chemical weapons incident which western powers have blamed on Bashar al-Assad’s forces, revealing that the casualties were the result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia.
Syria (In Gaza)
What a potential bloody ‘humanitarian’, ‘right-to-protect’ (right to bomb and pillage) intervention will do is rape yet another country of everything, including its culture, history, identity, and of course people … and further colonial interests and power in the region of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon … and on to Iran.
The American people have spoken: calls to Congress 499 to 1 against Syria war (Global Research)
Americans are slamming at least 24 members of Congress with thousands of phone calls and emails, urging lawmakers not to approve a military strike on Syria.
Russia releases key findings on chemical attack near Aleppo indicating similarity with rebel-made weapons (RT)
Russia’s foreign ministry has criticised the “flawed selective approach” of certain states in reporting the recent incidents of alleged chemical weapons use in August. The hype around the alleged attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta showed “apparent attempts to cast a veil over the incidents of gas poisoning of Syrian army soldiers on 22, 24 and 25 August,” the ministry said, adding that all the respective evidence was handed to the UN by Syria.
Five things anti-war activists should know about Syria (FightBack! News)
The notion that there is a ‘red line’ that no one is allowed to cross is cynical at the core. Iraq is saturated with cancer-causing depleted uranium from US bombs. The US military used the chemical weapon white phosphorus in Fallujah and Israel used white phosphorus in Gaza in a manner that violates the Geneva Convention. Chemical weapons are a pretext to do what the US government, weapons manufacturers, Israel, and the Saudi ruling class wants to do - bomb Syria.
While Syria doesn’t have much oil, there is a whole lot of it in the neighbourhood. The conflict in Syria has been ongoing because it is being used as a geopolitical chess piece by the West. The point of the attack is to defeat Syria so the US can next move onto Iran and strike at other forces that are opposed to US domination.
Syria’s real ‘crime’ is to remain independent, ignoring the agenda of US empire in the Middle East and befriending the patriotic peoples of Iran, Lebanon and Palestine. The US speaks of chemical weapons, hoping that we have forgotten their plan for ‘regime change’ in Syria. The US government has no right to determine who should lead the Syrian government.
The author of the statement below is a former Second Class Petty Officer in the US Navy (2007-2012) who served on the USS Fitzgerald and the USS The Sullivans. He now helps to organise anti-war actions in Los Angeles.
To my fellow sailors, shipmates and service members on active duty,
Many of you are now in the Mediterranean Sea near Syria to be used to carry out strikes against the country. Ninety-one percent of the American public opposes these strikes. The Obama administration has failed to produce the ‘evidence’ it says would justify them.
Do not be fooled into yet another war based on lies in the Middle East. The events that came to pass in Iraq and Afghanistan go to show that “defending freedom and democracy around the world“, as the Sailor’s Creed so wrongfully suggests, is just a scheme to defend the interests of the rich at our expense. Syria – which is the only remaining country in the Arab world that is independent of Wall Street – is a huge prize for the oil and defence industries. But the billionaires who will profit don’t send their own children. They send us.
What we learned from the Iraq war in particular is that the US government will fabricate intelligence, lies to our faces, and create a false story about ‘protecting civilians’ to cover up their true motives.
Don’t be a part of a war machine that kills innocent lives and separates entire families. Tomahawks and MK45 rounds kill indiscriminately.
Do not be fooled into yet another endless watch, duty day, sleepless night and deployment in support of a corrupt system that constantly puts you in harm’s way. I ask you, is it really worth it?
I enlisted on 20 July 2007, right out of high school, in the hopes that I could persue an education and travel the world through the Navy. The longer I was in, the more I realised that the community I was exposed to in the Navy was so far removed from the everyday lives of American civilians.
Military spending always goes up. I was surrounded by billions of dollars’ worth of equipment, while schools have to fundraise for supplies and scholarships, whole cities were going bankrupt, and students struggled to pay their loans.
I realised then that the system in place had left me no choice but to join the military. It was an illusion of choice when the reality is that more and more of us join to escape economic hardship. Then we are used to carry out missile strikes against other struggling people just like us all over the globe. It is a cycle that continues to fuel the war machine.
To me, patriotism is doing what you think is right for your country, not blindly following its government. It means that when we receive orders from corrupt high-ranking officers to launch strikes against Syria, against the will of the American people and against the will of the Syrian people, that it is our duty to refuse to carry them out.
Getting out of the military was the best decision I ever made, because the military tried to make me into a tool of oppression for other people around the world – but failed.
If I were at sea now, ordered to carry out this new war, I would refuse. You can too. Disobey the bogus orders to launch a new war. Refuse deployments and reenlistments. Come home to your families and fight the real battle that has been waged by the government against its own people in the form of unemployment, poor education, high interest rates for college students, police brutality and the erosion of our civil liberties.
30 August 2013
Act together to stop war … Join the axis of resistance!
Guantanamo is the new Dachao - and the US imperialists are the true inheritors of Nazi fascism
When Obama covered himself in glory by promising to close down the Guantánamo concentration camp by the end of 2009, many on the petty-bourgeois left crowed loudly. The neo-cons were dead, long live the new age!
Yet, four years on, the camp not only maintains its illegal squat on Cuban soil, but, on 7 March, the president issued an executive order, at a stroke ‘legalising’ indefinite incarceration without trial within its walls.
Now it was the turn of the Republican chair of the House Homeland Security Committee to crow, saying: “I commend the Obama administration for issuing this executive order. The bottom line is that it affirms the Bush administration policy that our government has the right to detain dangerous terrorists until the cessation of hostilities.”
Quite so. Let all who hailed the rise of Obama the peace-prize winner now take heed.
The majority of the men illegally detained in the camp have been thrust into a limbo aptly described by Cuban paper Granma: “They have not been accused of any crime which would require a trial, but neither have they been acknowledged as belonging to an enemy force, which would have guaranteed them recognition and rights reserved for prisoners of war.” (‘Guantánamo: endurance and shame’, 11 April 2013)
Of the 166 inmates held captive within ‘Gitmo’, under conditions which UN human-rights chief Navi Piallay felt obliged to denounce as being in “clear breach of international law”, only nine have been convicted or even charged with any crime. According to justice department lawyers, 48 of the men “could not be prosecuted in military commissions or in federal court because evidentiary problems would hamper a trial”, or, to put it in plain English: there’s no proof other than ‘confessions’ extorted through torture that they have ever done anything wrong.
Sooner than follow the principle of innocent till proven guilty, however, these kidnap victims of US imperialism have been summarily branded as a threat and told they can’t go home. As one of the defence team, Lt Col Barry Wingard, summed it up: “Forty-eight men will be condemned to die never being given a trial or given an opportunity to defend themselves. They are essentially dead men who just happen to breathe.” (‘Men live in Guantánamo animal cages, will never get trial,’ RT.com, 24 March 2013)
Half the inmates have in theory been cleared for transfer or resettlement, but wait in vain for this to translate into reality.
The ‘lucky few’ who have the dubious privilege of actually facing prosecution by a kangaroo court are in reality faring no better. Cases are getting bogged down as numerous documents arguing the defence case are snooped on or deleted in an obvious sabotage of even this travesty of legal process.
As RT.com reported recently: “Pre-trial hearings in the Guantánamo Bay war-crimes tribunals have been delayed to address the disappearance of defence legal documents from Pentagon computers, military officials said …
“Defence lawyers representing inmates at the prison camp were ordered Wednesday to halt all computer transmission of sensitive material because of a security risk. The problem reportedly stems from a Pentagon-provided computer server that was supposed to transmit information from Washington to Guantánamo. Instead of transmitting files effectively, however, the system has been deleting documents since January of this year.” (‘Guantánamo Bay hearing delayed after mysterious disappearance of legal files’, 11 April 2013)
The lawyer for one defendant noted that officials had mishandled over half a million defence emails and were even trawling through the defence team’s internet searches.
Stripped of even the hope of a trial, let alone repatriation or justice, a growing number of the men have resorted to their sole remaining avenue of protest. In a last-ditch attempt to force their plight before the world’s attention, more than a hundred of them have now joined a hunger strike that was initiated in the first week of February.
The response has been brutal, including an assault with rubber bullets, ‘justified’ by the pretence that inmates had equipped themselves with improvised weapons. A lawyer for one of the defendants pointed out the extreme improbability of this assertion, given that the sharpest object prisoners are permitted are the refills from ballpoint pens, stripped of their plastic casing.
In a vain effort to break the hunger strike, the men have been cruelly separated into isolation cells. But these victims of imperialist brutality are made of sterner stuff, as is clear from the words of one such, Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel.
This brave man was able to tell his story via a phone call to the legal charity Reprieve. His account, which has been printed under the headline ‘Gitmo is killing me’, is in its essentials common to that of many of his fellow prisoners.
“One man here weighs just 77 pounds. Another, 98. Last thing I knew, I weighed 132, but that was a month ago. I’ve been on a hunger strike since 10 February and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity.
“I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial. I could have been home years ago – no one seriously thinks I am a threat – but still I am here.
“Years ago the military said I was a ‘guard’ for Osama bin Laden, but this was nonsense, like something out of the American movies I used to watch. They don’t even seem to believe it anymore. But they don’t seem to care how long I sit here, either.
“When I was at home in Yemen, in 2000, a childhood friend told me that in Afghanistan I could do better than the $50 a month I earned in a factory, and support my family. I’d never really travelled, and knew nothing about Afghanistan, but I gave it a try.
“I was wrong to trust him. There was no work. I wanted to leave, but had no money to fly home. After the American invasion in 2001, I fled to Pakistan like everyone else. The Pakistanis arrested me when I asked to see someone from the Yemeni embassy. I was then sent to Kandahar, and put on the first plane to Gitmo.”
After Samir joined the hunger strike, he was force-fed, a supposedly humanitarian procedure which in reality is a particularly nasty form of torture.
“A team from the ERF (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray.
“I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.
“I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11.00pm, when I’m sleeping.
“There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren’t enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up.
“During one force-feeding the nurse pushed the tube about 18 inches into my stomach, hurting me more than usual, because she was doing things so hastily. I called the interpreter to ask the doctor if the procedure was being done correctly or not. It was so painful that I begged them to stop feeding me. The nurse refused to stop feeding me.”
He concluded: “The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply. At least 40 people here are on a hunger strike. People are fainting with exhaustion every day. I have vomited blood. And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment.
“Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made. I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late.” (Printed in the New York Times, 15 April 2013)
These hunger strikers are resisting imperialism with the only means they possess – their bodies. Even as their religious faith is abused; even as they are locked away in isolation cells, beaten up and subjected to all the horrors of force feeding; even as they are routinely exposed to the thuggery of their captors and the chicanery of their prosecutors, they continue to resist and stand tall in the ranks of all those who struggle against imperialist oppression.
In their resolute stand they will serve as an inspiration to all who fight against oppression, broadening the axis of resistance ever wider. In particular their dignity and courage should inspire all workers in Britain who are struggling within the belly of the beast itself.
Let us take courage from their example and sever the social-democratic ties that cripple our unions and drag the workers’ movement along behind the imperialist war chariot.
No cooperation with imperialist oppression!
Shut down Guantánamo; free the captives!
Return Guantánamo to Cuban sovereignty; Yankees go home!
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress recognises that the imperialist beasts of the USA, Britain and France planned, financed and played the major role, assisted by their various middle-eastern puppets, in the overthrow of the popular Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi.
This congress notes that they, through the trickery of a UN resolution to impose a ‘no-fly zone’, supposedly to ‘protect’ the Libyan people, used the combined air power of Nato member states to carpet-bomb and destroy Libyan airports, military bases, media stations, hospitals, schools, electricity and water supplies, general infrastructure and residential areas alike.
Congress further notes that, even with the great military advantage that this onslaught from outside gave the rats of the Transitional National Council (TNC), they were so numerically weak and lacking in any support within Libya that they could not make decisive use of this advantage. So it was that Libya was flooded with military ‘advisors’ from the imperialist regimes and elite troops from all the neighbouring states that were under the sway of imperialism.
This congress applauds the heroic struggle that the Libyan people and their army waged against Nato’s proxy forces on the ground, despite the horrendous effects of the imperialists’ all-out air war, noting that they held out for more than six months until the capture, torture and public murder of the leader of Libya’s green revolution, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Congress also sends a red salute to the brave green fighters in Libya, who are continuing to put up resistance to imperialism and its puppets today.
Closer to home, this congress condemns the disgusting role played during the war on Libya by the ‘left’ supporters of imperialism – the social democrats, revisionists and Trotskyists. In Britain, the worst of these enemies of the international proletariat once more proved themselves to be the Labour party, the SWP, Counterfire, the CPB, and the ‘anti-war’ umbrella group in which many of those parties’ spokespeople play a leading role: the Stop the War Coalition (StW). StW held a single nationally-organised demonstration over the issue of the overthrow of the sovereign state of Libya by imperialism – but they held it outside the Libyan embassy supporting the imperialist-backed TNC and opposing the anti-imperialist leadership of Colonel Gaddafi!
This congress affirms that imperialism is the main enemy of the international working class, and that US imperialism, as the biggest and most powerful imperialist state, is the biggest enemy to world peace.
Congress further affirms that in an imperialist war the duty of the working class in an imperialist country is to work for the defeat of its own government. And an essential part of that process must be exposing and leading workers away from the misleadership of social democracy and its revisionist and Trotskyist hand-maidens, who will try with all their guile to keep workers tied to the imperialist war machine through revolutionary-sounding phrases and lies.
This congress resolves to continue working to show our class that we do have the power to stop the imperialist war machine by starving it of all the necessary supplies for its wars of brigandage, whether those supplies be weapons, transport or soldiers!
Congress further resolves to use all means at the party’s disposal to disseminate information about the ongoing battle in Libya, in order that British workers should understand that there is a popular resistance movement fighting to rid the country of imperialist forces. Our party will continue to expose the vile and rapacious doings of the TNC rats who now hope to rule Libya (with imperialist troops stood at their shoulders). These villains have murdered, kidnapped, raped, looted and evicted from their homes those supporting or suspected of supporting the green resistance. From the earliest days, even before coming to power, it was well known that the TNC rats were lynching black Libyans, as well as other black Africans working in the country, and our party will continue to remind the world of this fact.
Finally, this congress resolves to continue pointing out that this bloody war was brought upon the Libyan people in order to grab the country’s oil, to remove its anti-imperialist leadership, and to kick open the door to the re-conquest of Africa. The freedom and protection of the Libyan people was never a real reason for waging the war – except, perhaps, in the minds of a few simple souls who simply cannot, or will not, see the jackboot an inch from their face, even when it is pointed out to them.
This congress remains confident that the Libyan masses will rise again to rid their land of the imperialist puppets and bring the imperialists’ dreams of world domination to nought.
Long live the memory of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, hero of the Libyan and African peoples!
Victory to the anti-imperialist peoples!
Death to imperialism!
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress condemns the ongoing unjust imprisonment and detention in the United States of Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, the Cuban citizens who went to the United States with the aim of infiltrating Miami Cuban circles for the purpose of finding out in advance about any intended terrorist attacks being prepared against Cuban national interests. Their arrest and conviction on charges of espionage against the US and conspiracy to commit criminal acts constitute one of the most glaring indictments of the US legal system.
This congress notes that even ex-US president Jimmy Carter has been shocked at the treatment meted out to these men, known to the world as the Miami Five, and has said: “I believe that there is no reason to keep the Cuban Five imprisoned. There were doubts in the US courts and also among human-rights organisations in the world. Now, they have been in prison 12 years, and I hope that in the near future they will be released to return home.”
Congress further notes that recent evidence shows that the US government was paying journalists in Miami to keep writing tendentious articles about the case at the time that it was being heard with a view to influencing public opinion, the jury, and the likely outcome of the trial. At the time of the trial it was well known that the Miami press was printing such material, and application was made several times for a change of venue for the trial because the publicity was ensuring that there was no way a trial in Miami could be a fair one. However, the judge refused to countenance a change of venue. One can surmise what would have been the effect on the judge’s career had she flown in the face of government expectations in this regard!
This congress believes that, even if the Five had been guilty of the offences with which they were charged, the sentences imposed on them would be considered totally disproportionate in any country that laid claim to being observant of human rights. These patriotic comrades were convicted on 8 June 2001 and sentenced to four life terms and 75 years in December 2001.
Congress notes that, on 9 August 2005, after seven years of unjust imprisonment, the Miami Five won an unprecedented victory on appeal. In a unanimous 93-page decision, a brave three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions and ordered a new trial. The court rightly called their prosecution “a perfect storm” of pervasive community prejudice, government misconduct and extensive negative publicity before and during the trial. However, the Bush administration appealed, and exactly one year after the favourable ruling granting the Five a new trial, the full panel of the 11th Circuit Court ruled to reverse their decision. The Cubans’ convictions were reinstated, although later court decisions reduced the sentences of Fernando González, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero. René Gonzalez has already been released (on 7 October last year) but is being kept in the US on three years’ probation, so that he cannot return to Cuba but has to remain in Miami, where he is at risk of being murdered by Cuban expatriate terrorists.
Congress further notes that there are ongoing appeals for habeas corpus, which have been given added impetus through the discovery of the large payments made by the US government to journalists reporting on the trial to the prejudice of the defendants. The appeals have been heard and the outcome is awaited. In the meantime, Gerardo is serving two life sentences and cannot under US law be paroled, while the current release dates of Ramón, Antonio and Fernando are:
- Ramón: 30 October 2024
- Antonio: 18 September 2017
- Fernando: 27 February 2014
This congress joins with the Cuban government, all the people of Cuba, and all of progressive humanity the world over in calling for the immediate release of the Miami Five, their immediate return to Cuba and significant compensation to be paid to them for the long years of unjust imprisonment, which have robbed them of years of their lives.
Mumia Abu Jamal
Download this article as a leaflet
The United States puts itself forward as a ‘democracy’; it calls itself the ‘land of the free’; it considers that it has the right to police the world, the right to label other countries as ‘undemocratic’ or lacking in freedom; it imposes sanctions and wages wars in the name of ‘human rights’.
And yet the US state, along with its fellow imperialist vultures in Britain and elsewhere, is the worst violator of human rights in the world.
By waging unjust wars for economic and geo-political advantage, the US and its allies deny millions of people the most fundamental human right: the right to life.
Through its economic stranglehold over the third world, imperialism is responsible for the extraordinary poverty that leads to the death of 13 million children a year from malnutrition-related diseases.
Despite the US government’s ostensible love of ‘freedom’, the US increasingly resembles a fascist state, with repressive laws, political prisoners and a massive prison population.
- Over 1 percent of the adult population is incarcerated – a massive 2,319,258 people. The US leads the world both in absolute numbers and in the proportion of its population behind bars.
- The US population accounts for approximately 5 percent of the world population, but its prison population accounts for 25 percent of the world total.
- The US incarceration rate is 3.4 times higher than that of Iran and 6.3 times higher than that of China – both countries about whose ‘human rights record’ the imperialist media (and their liberal hangers-on) bang on incessantly.
- One in 15 black men and 1 in 36 Hispanics over the age of 18 are in prison, as opposed to 1 in 106 white males.
- Whereas African Americans comprise only 12.2 percent of the US population and 13 percent of its drug users, they make up 38 percent of those arrested for drug offences and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offences.
Why are so many US citizens in prison? Because of the dedication of its ruling class to ‘freedom’: the freedom to exploit and the freedom to own vast amounts of private property.
Even in the richest country in the world, the system of exploitation means that while a handful of people are living in Dallas-style luxury, millions more live in abject poverty.
- The US is the richest country in the world, and yet, such is the disparity of wealth that almost one in eight US citizens lives in poverty.
- According to the US Department of Agriculture, about 11 million people suffer “very low food security”.
- The poverty rate for blacks was 24.3 percent in 2006; for whites it was 8.2 percent.
- The unemployment rate for blacks was 8.4 percent in November 2007; for whites it was 4.2 percent.
The job of the capitalist state is to protect the private property ‘earned’ through exploitation, and so hundreds of victims of capitalism, driven to crime through a desperation aggravated by consumerism promoted by capitalism in the interests of enhancing the profits of the rich, are thrown into prison in order to maintain capitalist order.
In addition to imprisoning petty criminals, the US is also in the habit of using the prison system in an attempt to silence discontent.
It has a long history of politically-motivated frame-ups, including those of Huey Newton, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur and Mumia Abu-Jamal.
- Mumia Abu-Jamal has been in prison since 1981 and on death row since 1983.
- There is clear evidence that Mumia was the victim of a police frame-up.
- Mumia is behind bars because he is a journalist and political activist. He was an influential member of the Black Panthers, a talented organiser and publicist. The state tried to silence him by framing and locking him up.
Much like the British state, the US state does not respect civil liberties.
Under the guise of fighting against terrorism, the US has introduced laws that allow state agencies access to emails, telephone conversation recordings, medical records, financial records, etc. These laws are being used to clamp down on those who oppose the injustices of imperialism.
International human rights abuser
- The US is by far the most aggressive state in the world. Since the end of WW2, it has been involved in dozens of large-scale military actions: Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Somalia, Cuba, Congo, Panama, Dominican Republic and Lebanon, to name but a few. These are illegal, ruthless and unjust wars, fought solely for the economic benefit of the US ruling class.
- The invasion of Iraq, led by the US and fully supported by Britain, has been a disaster for the human rights of the Iraqi people: well over 1 million have been killed, over 2 million are refugees abroad, another 2 million are internal refugees. There is chronic malnutrition, minimal access to clean water and electricity, unemployment is well over 60 percent, and most schools and hospitals are defunct.
- The US has dozens of secret prisons around the world, where it tortures its victims as far away from the public eye as possible. Britain is wholly complicit in this (and, of course, has its own extensive record of prison torture).
- More than six years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the US is still holding over 350 people prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. These men have been given no trial and have been subjected to routine torture in complete violation of international law.
- Conscientious objectors in the US are put in prison. For example, Kevin Benderman, a US Army sergeant, served 12 months for refusing to deploy to Iraq.
Nobody in their right mind could label the US as the ‘land of the free’.
Only socialism will bring us real rights
Ultimately, the working class and the oppressed masses have no lasting political rights under capitalism. To the extent people enjoy democratic rights under capitalism, it is only in so far as the rule and privileges of the super-rich – the bourgeoisie – are not under threat.
Only socialism will bring real human rights for all: the right to live, the right to work, the right to education, the right to health care, the right to participate in the running of society, the right to be free from exploitation, the right to develop as an individual.
Free Mumia! Free all US political prisoners!
No freedom while imperialism lives. Forward to socialism!
Leaflet issued by the CPGB-ML in April 2008.
Sadly, the only change since we wrote the article above is that the situation has got worse - and there are two more criminal wars to add to the charge-sheet. The war against Libya and the war against Syria.
The graphic below shows just how many US citizens are locked up - and who benefits from their incarceration.
Invisible Children's founders pose with members of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army in April 2008
‘Going viral’ refers to the phenomenon of a video or website becoming popular, or at least widely known, via the medium of public sharing.
In the age of social networking this is no longer as impressive as it once was, but nonetheless it was certainly surprising when Kony 2012 – a short documentary which purported to dish the dirt on a fundamentalist christian terrorist organisation in Uganda, known as the Lord’s Resistance Army, and its not-so-charismatic leader Joseph Kony – ‘went viral’ a few weeks ago. And it was even more surprising when, just as his popularity was peaking, the director of Kony 2012 was arrested for public masturbation.
So, masturbation aside, what on earth is going on here?
Kony 2012 is the 11th documentary released by an allegedly not-for-profit organisation called Invisible Children. All eleven documentaries produced by Invisible Children have been about the same subject – Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
The name ‘Invisible Children’ refers to the group’s principal gripe with the LRA, namely, its use of child soldiers in its war against the Ugandan state. Not content with merely documenting the situation in Uganda, however, Invisible Children seeks to prescribe a solution: it wants US military action both in Uganda and in central Africa more generally. This is not a covert objective, but a stated goal of the organisation.
In fact, Invisible Children has been widely recognised for galvanising public support around the US senate’s Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, passed in 2010 – an act which led to the active deployment of US troops in Uganda.
Invisible Children is not just an advocacy group, but also an active supporter of imperialist causes in Africa. It channels a sizable percentage of the revenue it accrues through donations and merchandise sales directly into the Ugandan army and government, as well as the armies and governments of several other central African states.
Once again, these activities are not covert, but public. The founders of the organisation have gone so far as to be photographed posing with members of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, all three of them proudly carrying weapons that their organisation, or others like it, probably helped pay for.
The reality is that Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army are a bugbear whose relatively minor role in African regional politics has been grossly distorted by Invisible Children. This was the point made by three commentators writing in the US establishment’s Foreign Policy journal in November of last year: “[Invisible Children] manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasising the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.”
Moreover, though Invisible Children continues to focus on the LRA’s activities in Uganda, most experts are now questioning whether the group still operates in Uganda at all.
Arthur Larok, the director of Action Aid in Uganda, has criticised Invisible Children on precisely this point: “Six or 10 years ago, this would have been a really effective campaign strategy to get international campaigning. But today, years after Kony has moved away from Uganda … I’m not sure that’s effective for now. The circumstances in the north have changed.”
These changed circumstances are also highlighted by the freelance journalist Michael Wilkerson, who has pointed out that “in 2006, the LRA was pushed out of Uganda and has been operating in extremely remote areas of the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. … the small remaining LRA forces are still wreaking havoc and very hard to catch, but northern Uganda has had tremendous recovery in the six years of peace”.
So why do Invisible Children continue to act as though Uganda is the LRA’s main base of operations and, moreover, that the LRA are a serious threat? The answer is either shameful ignorance or deliberate deception. Whichever of these two is the correct answer, Invisible Children’s shortcomings as documentarians have certainly been helpful in furthering the foreign policy aims of the United States.
As senior research fellow at the Makerere Institute of Social Research in Uganda, Adam Branch, has pointed out, the popularity of Invisible Children’s campaigns “[has been] an excuse that the US government has gladly adopted in order to help justify the expansion of their military presence in central Africa”.
More specifically, by appearing to be ‘responding’ to misguided public pressure on Uganda, the Obama administration has been given a useful cover for expanding its military presence in the country at precisely the time when its unpopular, pro-western government, and the lucrative oil contracts that it can dispense, are under threat from the population whom it has been exploiting.
Invisible Children and its supporters, whether they realise it or not, are playing a significant role in supporting western imperialism in central Africa. Through their ignorance of the complex reality of African regional politics and their naïve prejudices and faith in the altruistic motivations of imperialism, they have given ammunition (both figurative and literal) to the worst forces of reaction and obscured the fact that American troops in Uganda are not there to help the children of central Africa, but to help the US imperialist aims of monopolising Africa’s oil and mineral wealth and trying to undermine China’s ability to trade on the continent.
If people in the imperialist countries are serious about helping the people of central Africa, it is not Joseph Kony they need to focus on, but imperialist looting – and the military force it uses, both directly and indirectly, to back that up. As Adam Branch has said: “In terms of activism, the first step is to re-think the question: Instead of asking how the US can intervene in order to solve Africa’s conflicts, we need to ask what we are already doing to cause those conflicts in the first place. How are we … contributing to land grabbing and to the wars ravaging this region? How are we, as US citizens, allowing our government to militarise Africa in the name of the ‘War on Terror’ and its effort to secure oil resources?”