Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Diab

 

You can see, in this beautiful, soft face, the gentle soul of a professional who dedicated her life to helping others. A soul with hopes, fears, dreams, just like the rest of us. And now she is dead. For being a dentist.

We are posting this photograph in memory of Dr. Rou’aa Diab, a female dentist, who was arrested by the Islamic State on August 22, 2014.

She was arrested with four others in Al-Mayadeen, a city on the border of Iraq.

Without a trial, Diab was charged with the crime of “treating male patients”, and was executed by decapitation.

Dr. Diab was was beheaded for the crime of helping prevent and treat dental disease. She should be recognised by the dental community, and the world community, for her innocence, and her bravery and dedication.

And her name should never be forgotten.

May you rest in peace Dr. Rou’aa Diab.

IS are rabid animals who have slaughtered thousands upon thousands of completely innocent people. They must be put down.

Abdullah ElmirA Sydney teenager who ran away to join jihadists in Syria is the pawn of terrorists who “groomed” him just like pedophiles groom their child victims, a terror expert says.

Abdullah Elmir has turned up in a propaganda video for the IS group, also known as ISIL, after disappearing from his Bankstown home in June, saying he was going fishing.

The video is the fourth in a series called “Message of the Mujahid” which features foreign fighters, with previous releases showing British, French and Moroccan jihadists.

Grand Mufti quick to condemn "Islamic" extremists

Grand Mufti quick to condemn “Islamic” extremists

The Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammad, urged Muslims to reject calls from abroad tocommit violence against Australia and said it was “utterly deplorable for violent extremists to use Islam as a cover for their crimes and atrocities”.

In a joint statement, the nation’s peak Muslim organisations expressed “profound concerns and sadness” over Abdullah’s appearance in the Islamic State video and said there was an “urgent need” to examine how and why the teenager felt the need to leave the country and fight with a terrorist organisation.

In the clip, the 17-year-old threatens Australia and any nation that would try to stand in the group’s way.

Professor Greg Barton from Monash University’s Global Terrorism Research Centre says Elmir was recruited by wanted terrorist Mohammad Ali Baryalei, an Australian based in Syria.

He says terror recruiters lure targets by making friends through social media, like many sexual predators.

“It’s like sexual predation,” Professor Barton told the media.

“Somebody might strike up a friendship in an online chat forum and present themselves in a different fashion – to try to get them into their web. By the time they actually meet the people they’re speaking with, they may be in too deep to know better.”

He says the boy appears as a “pawn in the machine” in the chilling video.

“He thinks he’s the star … but the reality is, his new friends have got him a one-way ticket,” he said. “He’s not in charge of his own destiny at all, he’s being used.”

Prof Barton says young people are the easiest to radicalise.

“Teenagers, 20-somethings, particularly young men more than young women, are vulnerable to making rash judgments,” he said. “And they tend to be more rebellious toward (older) generations and sceptical of establishment figures.”

It is believed former Kings Cross bouncer Mr Baryalei, 33, recruited Elmir through western Sydney street preaching group Parramatta Street Dawah.

“He’s said to have recruited 30 plus young people – mostly in western Sydney through Street Dawah” Professor Barton said.

We agree with Professor Barton. What we are seeing is teenage braggadocio. No 17 year old understands the geo politics behind the likes of IS, they have no idea what the reality of death and injury is on the battlefield, they do not yet have an understanding of the terrible implications of the violence they may wreak on other families or what it really means to take another life, nor do they have the discretion to understand varying views of their own religion. What we are seeing here is the sophisticated internet version of the gathering of child soldiers by unprincipled militia in Africa and elsewhere.

abdullahThis young man will, one day, without any doubt, die a bloody death unknown, unmourned and unmarked in the conflict in Iraq. Those who recruited him as a footsoldier will not bat an eyelid at his passing.

Even if he does not, his life is effectively ruined, as he will no longer be welcome in his home country. The very best outlook he probaby has is to become a stateless refugee, in hiding.

It is all very sad, and a huge burden of guilt lies on the souls of those who recruit our innocents. The cases recently of two young Austrian women who travelled to join IS only to find themselves pimped out to fighters, impregnated, and now unable to leave after becoming utterly disillusioned, is yet more evidence that these people deserve our unflinching condemnation.

Meanwhile,  Abdullah’s family have said they are shocked and devastated. They believe he has been “brainwashed” and they want to know who paid for his air ticket and encouraged him to go. They have described him as academically bright and caring: and it is often so – those with intelligence, compassion and passion are the easiest to turn to the darkness.

We should all pray this young man somehow survives and is reuinted with those who can care for him. That, however, is vanishingly unlikely.

Akidi

Akidi

As the world focuses its attention on Ebola, Kurdish Journalist Muhanad Akidi and Iraqi cameraman Raad al-Azzawi have been murdered by Islamic State as acts of pure spite against those who oppose them.

Kurdish journalist Muhanad Akidi was murdered by IS militants on 13 October reportedly in retaliation for Kurdish self-defence in the north of Iraq and Syria.

His death was confirmed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party, who said he was executed at the Ghazlani military base.

Akidi’s death has not received as much coverage in the West as the beheading of American and british aid workers and journos. Akidi was reportedly captured two months ago whilst on assignment in the IS-held city of Mosul. He had been working as a journalist for a local news agency and also presented a television show.

Azzawi

Azzawi

News of the journalist’s death comes just days after reports that Iraqi cameraman Raad al-Azzawi was publicly executed near Tikrit.

The 37-year-old is believed to have been executed with a single shot, alongside his brother and two other civilians in the small village of Samra on Friday. It is thought they had refused to declare their support for Islamic State and work for the extremist group.

Their murders have also received relatively little attention in the West.

One of al-Azzawi’s relatives later said: “They came to his home and took him and his brother. He did nothing wrong; his only crime was to be a cameraman. He was just doing his job.”

Al-Azzawi, a father of three, was detained by IS militants on 7 September, according to Reporters without Borders.

Social media users have been circulating photos of Akidi and al-Azzawi, specifically calling for them to be remembered like western journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, who were beheaded.

The barbaric terrorists of “Islamic State” have declared that any journalist wanting to work in their territory must declare their allegiance to the caliphate or face execution.

One resident of the Islamic State-held city of Raqqa in Syria has confirmed that anyone who speaks to someone from the Western media will be killed.

plane

If only he WAS going to be flying one of the jets, Abbott might not be quite so enthusiastic.

In the last couple of weeks, we have watched dismayed as Australia has become perhaps the most gung ho of all the world’s nations waiting to wade in and “stop” IS – the so-called Islamic “State”.

Let there be no mistake – we also think these appalling thugs need expunging from the world, and as soon as practicable.

But we are alarmed and worried by the enthusiasm with which the Australian government – especially Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop – have not just fallen in lock-step with our Western allies. but have been seen to be stoking the fires of conflict with a triumphalist air that amounts to “Look at us, we’re strong leaders, and you want strong leaders, right?”

We are undoubtedly already seeing the first signs of a deeply unpopular government using the conflict to bolster its electoral fortunes – a so-called “khaki election” looms – and given that our bravura chest-beating almost certainly increases the likelihood of a terrorist attack against Australians, that’s a very risky card to play. Nevertheless, for a Prime Minister with a Government that has proven itself both tone-deaf and gaffe-laden, the conflict with IS is the gift that keeps on giving. “Hey! Let’s all stop worrying about Medicare co-payments and go BOMB something, already!”

This rhetorical style has been echoed to a lesser extent by Cameron in the UK and the Republicans in America, especially the surely past-pensionable John McCain, but much less so by a carefully-nuanced President Obama. It’s almost as if Barack phoned Tony and Dave and said “Ramp it up a bit, will ya, cobbers? We’re a bit bruised over here and I have to be a more laid back.” Surely not?

There’s no question that IS are pretty much the worst of the worst going round at the moment, but let us be absolutely clear what their murderous public tactics are designed to achieve. These are people playing a long game, who have no respect or care for their own lives or for others. They are trying to drag the democratic West, against which they have a visceral, systemic hatred, into a seemingly endless conflict in a war zone where the alliances and influences shift weekly, and where the sectarian divisions are about as deep as it is possible to find them. It’s virtually impossible to “pick winners” in this environment, because this week’s ally is last week’s mortal enemy. As even Abbott himself once presciently remarked about Syria, “it’s a choice between baddies and baddies”.

We have already seen America co-operating with Iran and Russia to attack IS – both countries currently under sanctions and blockades from the West. We have seen America calling openly for Iran to aid in the fight against IS, despite the fact that they already are, a call that has been rejected by the top Ayotollah, despite the fact that this is exactly what they are already doing.

We have moved from being a day away from air strikes against Assad in Syria (thankfully averted when it became clear that the gas attacks on the Syrian public were probably carried out by rebels, and perhaps that the White House knew that all along, and even allegedly that the rebels were deliberately encouraged to do so, under Western guidance) to now cautiously needing to support him against IS, which will lead to the partial abandonment of the non-extremist Syrian opposition, or what may be even more bizarre, the joining of Assad with his former enemies to create a newly viable Syrian state to defeat the IS and Al Nusra insurgents.

How anyone is supposed to conduct a sane rational policy in this environment is beyond us. It’s a floating, shifting miasma of shifting lines, and we see no end to it. We are reasonably sure, though, that bellicose trumpeting is the least helpful thing we can do, especially as we have no idea how that plays amongst the general public in the contested regions.

What IS knows is that in this confused environment, mistakes can and will happen. IS and their backers know that the first time a bunker buster hits a school in Mosul there will be a flood of worldwide sympathy from both within the Sunni Muslim community and without it, and there’ll be a fresh rash of recruits flooding to a simpler, less complex view of the world than that offered by democracy. The angst and confusion created by the Israeli bombardment of Gaza will be seen to be just a shadow of what’s going to happen in northern Iraq and parts of Syria. Indeed, the mistakes (and concomitant slaughter of innocent civilians) are already happening, even if they’re not being widely reported in mainstream media.

Is there any question Bishop sees this as her chance to leap Malcom Turnbull and become Abbott's obvious replacement? We think not. Mind you, if we could win wars just with her "death stare", we'd be home and hosed. She scares the hell out of us, wonder what she does to IS?

Is there any question Bishop sees this conflict – and that with Russia in the Ukraine – as her chance to leap Turnbull and become Abbott’s most obvious replacement? We think not. Mind you, if we could win wars just with her “death stare”, we’d be home and hosed. She scares the hell out of us, wonder what she does to IS?

But that’s only the half of it. We cannot deploy hundreds of Australian troops (and thousands of Americans) plus people from all parts of the globe, and not expect some of them to fall into IS hands.

If we see that the road to war has been greased by the appalling executions of journalists and aid workers, not to mention the mass slaughter of civilians, Peshmerga and Iraqi army fighters, then imagine what will happen the first time video is released of a clean-cut Aussie or Yank fighter pilot or special forces hero having his head clumsily sawn off for the camera.

The calls for “boots on the ground” would surely become irresistible, especially if a newly-bolstered Iraqi army makes no discernible progress in recapturing rebel-held areas, or in forming a more broadly based Government capable of yoiking together Sunni and Shia in a workable state.

Having failed once to pacify Iraq, there is little doubt that we are very close to being dragged into the same maelstrom again, with a side serve of Syria and for all we know Lebanon and God knows where else as as well. We do not purport to know what the answer is – although one thing we cannot understand is why the Arab states, who are at least as much at risk from IS as anyone else, especially Saudi Arabia, cannot be prevailed upon to play a much more intrinsic role – perhaps they are so aware of the powder keg many of them sit upon that they dare not risk enraging them by sending ground troops to attack the Sunni IS as 85-90% of Saudis are Sunni – but as a start we could at least begin by not looking so goddamned happy to be heading off to war again.

We are not alone in our caution, which frankly borders on despair. This excellent opinion piece by experienced Middle East hand Paul McGeogh in the Sydney Morning Herald deserves to be widely read. His neat skewering of the lack of Arab co-operation, the unseemly rush to attack and the lack of an exit strategy (yet again) is spot on, and echoes our own concerns.

war sheepIt seems to us that only those who have actually fought wars show real reluctance to engage in them again. That is rarely politicians, especially those who have spent their entirely career crawling slowly up the political ladder.

Having seen the slaughter of innocents, the gore, the messy incompleteness of most military solutions, military men are almost invariably more cautious before setting off to the trenches once more.

But politicians revel in the limelight. It’s that set jaw, that gleam in the eye, the grimly-expressed determination. Not a hint of doubt, or worry, or regret. Nothing is allowed to ruffle their seeming purposefulness.

The prelude to war always looks to us like people with their egos way out of control about to play roulette with other people’s lives, and right now, it sure as hell looks that way again.

Russian SU25s are in action in Iraq. Who is flying them or telling them what to attack is less clear.

Russian SU25s are in action in Iraq. Who is flying them or telling them what to attack is less clear.

The current emergence of the ISIS (Islamic State) insurgency in Syria and Iraq reveals the curious nature of the background diplomacy that goes on all the time, invisible to the man in the street, because you have to read the news stories BEHIND the news stories to work out what is really going on.

The ritualistic condemnation of Russia over the shooting down (most likely by separatist pro-Russian rebels) of MH17 near Donetsk (and the previous less violent kerfuffle over the Crimea) has led to mild sanctions being employed by the West, and a lot of publicly-expressed anger, at least some of which was undoubtedly sincere.

In return, Putin and his cronies have placed bans on certain imports from the West, such as Australian wheat, which are going to be virtually ineffective as we can’t produce enough wheat for world demand as it is, and the Russian business will be quickly replaced by delivering the wheat to countries like Indonesia, instead. Nevertheless, there has been a general chilling of the relationship between the West and Russia, or at least it appears so on the surface.

And as usual, the relationship between America and Iran seems pretty well stuck in deep freeze, although some very minor steps towards a rapprochement have taken place recently, and especially since the departure of the conservative idealogue Ahmadinejad and his replacement with the much more pragmatic and moderate Hassan Rouhani.

Ironically, though, America, the West in general, and Russia and Iran find themselves on the same side against the Sunni insurgents now slicing off the heads of those they disagree with – including, according to some sources, beheading children and putting their heads on display in a public park in Mosul – stoning so-called adulterous women, perpetrating the most horrific massacres, driving out religious minorities including Christians, and generally proving themselves to be the worst of the world’s current crop of uncivilised, idiotic savages.

In a shocking revelation, it has emerged that in the week-long Islamic State offensive in Sinjar, which began last Sunday, the militants killed at least 500 Christian Yazidis, according to Iraq’s human rights minister.

Several residents, including children, were buried alive, while around 300 women (believed to be from those Buried_aliveChristians who chose to pay a fine rather than leave the area or convert to Islam) have been kidnapped as slaves. The revelation was made by Iraq’s human rights minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani. In an interview al-Sudani alleged that the ISIS buried some of their victims alive, including women and children.

“We have striking evidence obtained from Yazidis fleeing Sinjar and some who escaped death, and also crime scene images that show indisputably that the gangs of the Islamic States have executed at least 500 Yazidis after seizing Sinjar,” Sudani pointed out.

“Some of the victims, including women and children were buried alive in scattered mass graves in and around Sinjar,” Sudani said.

In response to the Yazidi crisis, President Obama has authorised air drops of relief food to fleeing refugees and air strikes against the murderous ISIS, but interestingly recent air strikes have been claimed not to be by US jets. In which case, who is doing the bombing?

The most likely answer is almost certainly a mixture of Iraqi planes, flown and maintained by Russian and Iranian pilots and engineers, as the nascent Iraqi Shia government hasn’t got around to training its air force yet, and Iran has definitely bombed ISIS previously as their fighters neared the iranian border. Or it may have been Iraqis themselves, although this is considered unlikely. Or even Turkish fighters, as Turkey (especially the Turkish military establishment) is alarmed in the extreme about the pressure on the Kurds in the north (who, despite their antipathy towards Turkey, provide a useful buffer against the chaos further south) and their fears that the extremist Sunni ISIS could start to destabilise their secular democracy even more than it is already being notoriously weakened by the populist and increasingly authoritarian President Erdogan who was re-elected over the weekend in a poorly-attended poll.

This interesting article seeks to make sense of the conflicting signals coming out of northern Iraq currently.

What is certain is that behind the scenes, American, Russian, Turkish and Iranian diplomats and spooks are undergoing a much less antagonistic relationship than we see in public. Information sharing is the very least that’s going on – in all probability, “real time” battlefield intelligence is also being shared to make the fight against ISIS more effective.

Which is yet another modern example of the famous old adage Amicus meus, inimicus inimici mei or “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. This understanding has powered geo-politics since it was first expressed in Sanskrit in the 4th century BC by Kautilya, the “Indian Machiavelli”, so perhaps it’s unsurprising to see it happening again.

As the fiercely anti-Communist British Prime Minister Winston Churchill declared during the Second World War, “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons,” when speaking in support of British aid to Soviet forces.

So the next time you hear a politician thumping the table and weighing in against some other country, bear in mind the reality of what’s happening behind the scenes may be far different. Or to put it more simply, politicians frequently feed us bullshit.

Really, who knew?

 

The Guardian reports that the Mayor of London (and probably Britain’s most popular Conservative politician, a possible replacement for Prime Minister David Cameron) has issued a strong condemnation of the former prime minister’s views on the Middle East.

Boris JohnstonBoris Johnson, (seen left) said the former prime minister is unhinged in his attempt to rewrite history and is undermining arguments for western intervention in Iraq, the London mayor claimed in an extraordinary personal attack on the former Prime Minister. (Photograph: Stuart C Wilson/Getty)Blair took to the media over the weekend to make the case for a tough response to the extremist insurgency in Iraq, insisting it was caused by a failure to deal with the Syria crisis rather than the 2003 US-led invasion which he helped to instigate.His intervention was met with widespread criticism from Labour figures and others as extremists posted pictures apparently showing the killing of dozens of Iraqi soldiers by jihadist fighters.

In his condemnation of Blair the London Mayor accused the ex-Labour leader of having sent British forces into the bloody conflict in part to gain personal “grandeur”.

Exactly echoing what we said a couple of days ago, Johnson said in his Daily Telegraph column that Blair and then-US president George Bush had shown “unbelievable arrogance” to believe toppling Saddam Hussein would not result in instability which resulted directly to the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis and hundreds of British and American troops. In fact, the figure of Iraqi losses is well over 500,000, according to a range of impeccable sources.

He suggested there were “specific and targeted” actions that could be taken by the US and its allies to deal with latest threat – as Barack Obama considers a range of military options short of ground troops.

But he said that by refusing to accept that the 2003 war was “a tragic mistake”, “Blair is now undermining the very cause he advocates: the possibility of serious and effective intervention.

“Somebody needs to get on to Tony Blair and tell him to put a sock in it, or at least to accept the reality of the disaster he helped to engender. Then he might be worth hearing,” Johnson concluded. And he is exactly right.

Unhinged? You be the judge.

Unhinged? You be the judge.

 

As to whether Blair is actually unhinged, we couldn’t possibly say. But there is something about the messianic glare that overcomes his eyes when he is defending his position that we find quite disturbing to watch.

The row over the events of 11 years ago came amid suggestions of serious atrocities being committed in the militants’ advance.

Taking on critics in an eight-page essay on his website, Blair rejected as “bizarre” claims that Iraq might be more stable today if he had not helped topple Saddam.

The former premier – now a Middle East peace envoy – said Iraq was “in mortal danger”, but pinned the blame on the sectarianism of the al-Maliki government and the spread of Syria’s brutal three-year civil war, not on the instability created by the West’s invasion of Iraq.

“The choices are all pretty ugly, it is true,” he wrote in a push for military intervention – though not necessarily a return to ground forces. “But for three years we have watched Syria descend into the abyss and as it is going down, it is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us, pulling us down with it. We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save the future. Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force. Every time we put off action, the action we will be forced to take will be ultimately greater.”

Former foreign minister and United Nations Depity Secretary-general Lord Malloch Brown urged Blair to “stay quiet” because his presence in the debate was driving people to oppose what might be the necessary response.

Clare Short, one of a number of MPs who quit Blair’s cabinet over the 2003 invasion, said he had been “absolutely, consistently wrong, wrong, wrong” on the issue, and opposed more strikes.

A victim of US bombing in Iraq.

A victim of US bombing in Iraq.

We were wildly opposed to the “allied” invasion of Iraq all along.

It was blindly obvious to millions of people around the world that the West had blurred reasons for invading, that the “weapons of mass destruction” argument was almost certainly a nonsense cooked up by Neo-Con influencers in Whitehall and Washington, that oil was probably the real reason for the war (as later confirmed by Australian Foreign Minister Alistair Downer) and the net result would be to de-stabilise the country and the entire region, with hundreds of thousands of likely civilian deaths – as predicted by the Australian Defence Force Chiefs, amongst others – and thousands of Western forces deaths, too.

Do we really have the appetite for this again?

Do we really have the appetite for this again?

Indeed, we were on 3AW radio with John Howard BEFORE the invasion asking him to justify that coming loss of civilian lives.

He flatly denied it would happen. The host, populist right-winger Neil Mitchell, cut the call before we could challenge the then-Prime Minister’s staggering complacency.

No United Nations approval for the invasion was ever obtained, making Howard, Bush and Blair nothing more nor less than war criminals, in our opinion. But history, of course, is written by the victors. Even when that “victory” was won at such painful cost in terms of our own losses and those of those surrounding our invasion.

For the record, the death toll of civilians in Iraq currently stands at over 500,000. Hardly a family has not been affected.

Now, the entirely predictable southward march of the ultra-extremist ISIS has the West in a flat panic again, and with good reason.

With typical shoot from the hip macho-man thoughtlessness, today the Australian Prime Minister has already signalled that the country might join another invasion of the country. Washington is weighing up “boots on the ground” versus air-strikes, versus doing nothing like a rabbit stuck in headlights.

Perhaps Abbott should remember his unusually pertinent comment on Syria, that “it’s hard to know what to do, because it’s essentially baddies against baddies”. It’s just about the only thing he’s ever said we agreed with. Apparently, he can’t seem to get his head around the fact that Iraq is the same.

The following articles are educatory and very relevant to what the West does next.

How George Bush and Al-Maliki lost Iraq.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-who-lost-iraq-the-iraqis-did-with-an-assist-from-george-w-bush/2014/06/12/35c5a418-f25c-11e3-914c-1fbd0614e2d4_story.html

How ‘Iraq’ was never going to be, and Al-Maliki’s failure.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10896711/Iraq-crisis-Rebels-are-fighting-with-a-moral-force-that-the-army-lacks.html

The following facts are certain:

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is currently the world’s most appalling extremist bunch of thugs, and must be opposed. If they were to take over Iraq it would be an utter disaster for local people, and the world. They make the Taliban and even Al-Qaeda look like mild-mannered nuisances.

 

Isis at a glance

ISIS at a glance

 

ISIS is a response to Sunnis being pushed to the margins by the Alawite-led Shia in Syria and the Shia in Iraq. Western meddling in both countries has made the situation uncountably worse.

Saddam Hussein was a brute. So is Hafez Assad. Unfortunately, we now look very much like we are replacing them with something even worse.

ISIS executes prisoners in Syria

ISIS executes prisoners in Syria

Do we know what to do? No, we don’t. We suspect the West’s response will be airstrikes on the insurgents, to uncertain effect strategically, and to the certain effect of enraging Sunni opinion yet further.

What is certain is that whatever happens next will not be a long term solution to the tensions of the Middle East, and the ongoing conflict between Sunnis and Shia in particular.

The only long-term solution will be a political one, involving mutual respect, and effective power-sharing. The recent developments in Iraq have renewed the possibility, much discussed during the war a decade ago, and a possibility that we considered made much sense at the time, that Iraq be divided into three separate regions or even nations – the mostly Shiite section, made up of Baghdad and much of the south and east bordering Iran; a Sunni area, comprised of western Iraq and parts of the north; and a Kurdish zone, also in the north and including the cities of Erbil and Kirkuk, which Saddam tried to populate with Arabs.

ISIS - well organised, well disciplined, utterly fanatical, and extremely dangerous.

ISIS – well organised, well disciplined, utterly fanatical, and extremely dangerous.

As night follows day, the fundamental drive to create such a solution will have to come from the Mid-East’s own Islamic populations.

And given their inability to resolve the issue in the last thousand plus years, we should be prepared for it to take some time yet, perhaps generations. If the population fail to create the peace, it is they that shall be mired in seemingly endless conflict, it is their children, wives, husbands, brothers, uncles, sisters and mothers who will be oppressed and slaughtered.

In the meantime, the rest of the world needs to do this:

  • stay out of ill-thought out military adventures in the region,
  • create energy independence for itself,
  • support those in the Middle East who argue for a secular, peaceful, long-term solution, not merely those who appear to be aligned with our perceived interests, and
  • STOP the flow of weaponry to the region, which merely fuels the endless conflict. (We need to remember that well over 90% of people killed in conflicts in the world are not killed by bombs, rockets or missiles, but by bullets.)

The devil is in the detail, of course, but the broad brushstrokes are clear to Blind Freddie. If all the think-tanks in the world can’t get Governments to understand, we give up.

tony-benn

 

Tony Benn was my hero.

I have read his diaries from cover to cover more than once – and if for no other reason than his remarkable capacity as a diarist recording the reality of government – shining a light on its intrigues, its soaring ambitions and its farcial incapacities – history owes him a huge debt of gratitude.

Benn was notorious for talking naive, cheery nonsense. It was an inevitable feature of a man whose passion for social and international justice was never far below the urbane surface of his Edwardian facade.

 

Tony Benn

 

As an ironed-on member of what used to be called the Hard Left he could strike ridiculous poses: in conversation with a Chinese diplomat calling the worst mass murderer of the 20th century, Mao, the “greatest man of his era”, for example, and recording the conversation in his diaries without a trace of a pause for self-reflection. But surely such ridiculous excesses and flights of fancy can be forgiven, for they are more than balanced by a man who was enduringly courteous, kind, Christian, humble, dedicated, hugely knowledgeable and well read, and unflaggingly energetic in pursuit of the causes he championed. It was certainly a general understanding of these facets of his nature that saw him elevated, towards the end of his life, to “national treasure” status.

As one of the longest-standing and most highly-regarded Parliamentarians of his era, it is a great irony that his most dramatic impact on the consciousness of two generations was not his part in the internecine struggles of the Labour Party – where his compulsion to see the party not drift to the right was subsequently proven to be entirely justified by the advent of Blairism – nor his leadership in many quixotic iconic struggles such as the Miner’s strike against Thatcher, where recent disclosures again show him to have been on the right side of history – but in his extra-Parliamentary leadership of the anti-war movement that coalesced around outrage against the West’s invasion of Iraq.

The war in Iraq and the consequent dismemberment of that society, with civilian deaths now estimated by the most conservative estimates to be over 600,000 and still climbing, is a terrible blight on the reputation of the West, and America and Britain especially. And that is not to detract from the courage of those who have served there honourably under very difficult circumstances, just as it is an indictment of the donkeys that sent them there.

Saddam Hussein, his family and his cohorts were a bunch of brutes responsible for many horrors. But they were useful brutes for the West, for a time, and were supported uncritically while they toed the line. There is little doubt in my mind that the invasion and the subsequent and parlous current state of Iraq was and is a worse outcome for the people of Iraq than if Hussein had remained in power, just as the awful Assad regime in Syria is nevertheless the lesser of two evils when compared with the butchering extremist Al Qaeda-led forces that now oppose it, who are laying waste to whole areas of the country, murdering indiscriminately and driving millions into internal or external exile.

Anyhow, to experience again the rage that broke on the heads of the West’s leaders at the time of the Iraq invasion, and to understand the moral force of Benn’s trenchant opposition to war as a means to solve diplomatic ends, we recommend you watch this short video of him raging against the hypocrisy of the West’s position, and that of then American UN Ambassador John Bolton in particular.

It is also, and especially towards the end of the item, an example of Benn as his most excoriatingly honest and clear-sighted, and at his most impressive.

 

 

Unlike those politicians who endlessly prevaricate, who wait for an opinion poll or focus group before telling us what they think, and who hide timidly behind ranks of advisors and flunkies, Tony Benn always knew, instinctively, which side of the barricades he was on, when push came to shove.

He convinced me to join him there thirty five years ago, even though I was never a supporter or member of his party, and I have never regretted throwing in my lot with the poor, the dispossessed, those with no voice, those with no power.

As a callow youth, I chatted to Benn for an hour in a hotel bar after a fringe meeting at a Liberal Assembly in Harrogate. I was clutching a pint, him a mug of tea, as was his wont.

Never once “talking down” to me, he passionately laid out why he believed democracy to be under threat from the power of capital and its fellow travellers in the industrial-military machine. He quietly and intensely outlined events to me during his own Ministerial tenure which he probably shouldn’t have, and which I will not reveal here, to prove his point, but it was typical of the man that he would not be hidebound by convention when he saw the opportunity to win another mind to the cause, believing that truth – and his reliance on the wisdom of ordinary folk to grasp it – was much more important that mere quibbles about whether or not he should be chatting to a complete stranger about matters that were undoubtedly confidential.

His was the politics of discourse, of argument, of analysis, of debate. Above all, it was the politics of truth, as he saw it. Of the need to unflinchingly tell the truth even if it cost him power personally, or led him to be ridiculed, or marginalised.

He struck me then, and ever since, as charming, polite to a fault, and utterly sincere. If only – if only – we had more like him, on all sides of politics, the world would be a better place. Which was, above all, what he worked for all his life.

His legacy will endure. Our sympathies go to his family, and all who knew and loved him. The one consolation is the hope that he is now united with his beloved Caroline, who did so much to support him for so long.

The accused

The accused

Why? Because the post-traumatic disorder being experienced by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is real. Combat, especially in wars with unclear goals, inadequate planning, lack of resources, and hopeless re-integration back into society, f**** with people’s minds, and it’s not their fault. And we argue it would be counterproductive to jail him because the treatment for such trauma in US prisons is woeful. Tens of thousands of veterans currently languish in American jails, forgotten and unaided.

They didn’t ask to go to war, and many US service people are simply desperate refugees from poverty and unemployment anyway.

In a civilised society, this man should be diverted into intensive psychological care and properly rehabilitated. At least given the opportunity to be rehabilitated. He is clearly suffering from trauma in his current life, not just when serving.

The quality of mercy is measured by how we treat those who think, say or do things we would find unconscionable, but whose responsibility is diminished by their mental state.

When that mental state is directly related to their efforts on behalf of the rest of us, for which they are inadequately rewarded, then we should be doubly careful in how we respond when they go off the rails.

The issues raised in the case apply equally to Australia, the United Kingdom, and many other countries …

From Raw Story:

kkk

 

An Alabama man is asking a judge for mercy after pleading guilty to hiring a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) hitman to murder his black neighbor.

Defense attorneys for Allen Wayne Morgan told U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre that their client — a veteran of over 175 combat missions in Iraq who struggled with post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and drug addiction — should not spend more than five years in prison. Judge Bowdre referred the matter to a government expert, who will review the report on Morgan’s mental health submitted by the defense.

On August 29, 2013, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested Morgan at an Econo Lodge in Oxford, Alabama. He thought he was speaking with the KKK hitman he had hired to kill his neighbor, Clifford Maurice Mosley, a black man he believed had raped his wife.

He allegedly told an undercover agent that “I want this man hung from a tree like he is an animal. I want his penis cut off and I want him cut. You’re a hunting man right? I want him hung from a tree and gutted.”

Morgan is also alleged to have told the agent that he had recently confronted Mosley outside his house, firing several shots in his direction, but that he did not intend to kill him that day because there would be witnesses. He also said that he was certain Mosley had raped his wife, because when confronted, he did not attempt to stand his ground or reason with him.

He planned to check himself into a Veterans Administration hospital in order to provide himself with an alibi.

After being taken into custody, Morgan confessed to having tried to hire the hitman.

The previous year, Morgan had been profiled in a Birmingham News piece on Iraq veterans dealing with post traumatic stress disorder and depression via music.

“During times of my deepest abuse, I would try to cancel myself out chemically,” he said. “But even if we’re just jamming, it’s like time stands still. I’m not saying like all of my problems go away. But for that little bit of a moment, everything is OK. If it can make me feel like that, I know it can make others feel like that.”

He also said that when unexpected people arrive at his house, “I usually pull out a gun and run them off.”

[Image via Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed]

Read more of what we have to say on the appalling treatment of Veterans here: http://wellthisiswhatithink.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/the-country-who-failed-its-vets/

Eisenhower

Eisenhower

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

Dwight Eisenhower, speaking to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953

In my opinion, American defence spending is bloated beyond belief, beyond anything necessary to fulfil either a defensive or offensive role in the world, and this is the result of an active and ongoing conspiracy between corrupt politicians (perhaps I should say, a corrupted political system) and the military-industrial complex.

Remember, American defence spending is greater than ALL of the next ten biggest defence budgets in the world, and that includes Russia and China.

And who pays for this? American taxpayers.

The role of the military-industrial complex is hardly new - as this 19th century cartoon exemplifies. Isn't it time we really tackled it?

The role of the military-industrial complex is hardly new – as this 19th century cartoon exemplifies. Isn’t it time we really tackled it? Over to you, taxpayers.

See, I cannot understand, for the life of me, why Americans – and especially those who detest taxes and Government waste of public money – do not rise up and demand that their defence budget is radically trimmed.

I cannot understand, for example, why Tea Party activists – almost universally anti excessive taxation – do not target defence spending first.

Just why is defence spending protected from cuts that are clearly necessary?

Why does the right wing demand defence spending be exempted from cuts?

Is it somehow a measurement or reflection of some deeply ingrained macho-psyche bullsh*t?

Is it merely that the political forces are so deep in their trenches that they cannot move from ossified positions?

Is it simply  that defence is a dog-whistle topic for the GOP base, and it’s better to try and make cuts to needed social security spending, despite the harm it causes, than to seek to educate their own supporters?

In which case, shame on them. And shame on the Democrats for letting them get away with it.

Yes, I understand that decisions about what items to cut are always complex … I have heard persuasive arguments from friends in the US Navy that they believe expenditure on capital ships has fallen to dangerously low levels. But I am talking here of the overall budget. Someone needs to get to it with a serious knife and cut deep, hard and long. It’s time.

There is another good reason for America to get it’s defence spending under control. Without excess (and excessive) forces, they will be less inclined to engage in military adventures overseas that are both morally and legally dubious. Iraq – and the 500,000 subsequent dead – would never have happened. And Afghanistan, in the absence of Iraq, would have been a two year event, and a much more likely success, rather than the morass it has become.

So – it’s over to you, American taxpayers. We are all relying on you. Are you really happy with the way things are going?

Feel free to cut and paste this on your Facebook page, blog, etc

Feel free to cut and paste this on your Facebook page, blog, etc. It is from the excellent “Ethical Reporters Against Faux News” Facebook page, a source of regular facts that need to be known.

Yes, before someone upbraids me, I know US military spending IS tipped to fall. From $638 billion this year to $538 billion by 2020.

But it’s not enough. And anyway, if pressure is not kept on, who says if that goal will be met?

Do I think it is beyond the wit and wisdom of Washington insiders to dream up another false-flag reason to suddenly ramp up spending again?

No. Sadly, I do not. Do you?

Oh, and Ike? He was a Republican. The type of moderate, thoughtful Republican that doesn’t seem to exist any more, more’s the pity. He was hawkish against communism, expanded America’s nuclear arsenal, but also launched the Interstate Highway System; the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which led to the internet, among many invaluable outputs; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), driving peaceful discovery in space; the establishment of strong science education via the National Defense Education Act; and encouraging peaceful use of nuclear power via amendments to the Atomic Energy Act.

In social policy, he sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools. He also signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote. He implemented desegregation of the armed forces in two years and made five appointments to the Supreme Court. He was no captive of extremists – he actively and adroitly condemned the excesses of McCarthyism without upsetting his own right wing – in marked contrast to the current leadership of the GOP, he articulated his position as a moderate, progressive Republican: “I have just one purpose … and that is to build up a strong progressive Republican Party in this country. If the right wing wants a fight, they are going to get it … before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism or I won’t be with them anymore.”

He was a talented politician. He prevented the GOP from collapsing into extreme-right irrelevance, and became, in doing so, wildly popular with both Democrats, independents and Republicans.

In summary, Eisenhower’s two terms were peaceful and productive ones for the most part and saw considerable economic prosperity except for a sharp recession in 1958–59.

So why was Eisenhower so chary of military spending?

Further comment superfluous.

Further comment superfluous.

Perhaps it was because, unlike most politicians today, he had actually witnessed the effects of that spending at first hand.

Not just the theft from those who needed the money spent on them, but also the carnage that war let loose really entails.

He walked the beaches after D Day.

He had ordered into battle legions that he knew would suffer 50%, 60%, 75% casualties.

He spoke with those men, face to face, hours before they left for France, knowing that most were just hours from dismemberment, disablement, or a  grisly death.

For him, every bullet fired, on both sides, was a disaster. But that understanding did not prevent him being one of the greatest military commanders in history.

And it didn’t stop him being a Republican.

English: Slogan for the support of the persecu...

Slogan for the support of the persecuted American ex-soldier who is claimed to have leaked secret documents to WikiLeaks.

A lot of hoo-hah has been made about whether American whistle-blower Bradley Manning should have released the quantity of cables he did – and what his motivations were, and what the outcomes have been – in what became known as Cablegate or the Wikileaks scandal. I feel it is time Manning’s actions and their consequences – as he approaches 1,000 days in jail without trial, which is a direct contravention of the American constitution – be put in some sort of perspective.

First: did the documents reveal anything new or important?

While some of the revelations in the documents were previously suspected by academics or human rights advocates carefully studying these topics, the documents uncovered many details that were previously unknown.

The documents give American (and world) citizens greater insight into the reasoning behind U.S. foreign policies than they have ever been privy to before. It is one thing to suspect something is occurring, but is another thing to have it confirmed by primary sources in the government.

At the end of April 2011, The Atlantic Wire published a study in which they found that for the first four months of 2011, nearly one-half of New York Times editions cited one or more of the leaked cables in their news stories. Many facts brought forth in the documents are of great significance to those working in the fields of foreign policy and human rights advocacy.

Dead child in Iraq

The civilian dead in Iraq and elsewhere are not mere statistics. They are people. And they are innocent. Thanks to Bradley Manning, we know the American Government knows how many have died.

The leaked documents include information about the following:

1. There is an official policy to ignore torture in Iraq.
2. There is an official tally of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
3. Guantanamo prison has held mostly innocent people and low-level operatives.
4. The State Department authorized the theft of the UN Secretary General’s DNA.
5. The U.S. Government withheld information about the indiscriminate killing of Reuters journalists and
innocent Iraqi civilians.
6. The State Department backed corporate opposition to a Haitian minimum wage law.
7. The U.S. Government had long been faking its public support for Tunisian President Ben Ali.
8. U.S. officials were told to cover up evidence of child abuse by contractors in Afghanistan.
9. The Japanese and U.S. Governments had been warned about the seismic threat at Fukushima.
10. The Obama Administration allowed Yemen’s President to cover up a secret U.S. drone bombing
campaign.
11. Known Egyptian torturers received training from the FBI in Quantico, Virginia.

I simply ask anyone who believes Bradley Manning should be in prison – which of these didn’t you want to know, or don’t think you have a right to know? Which of these are you too stupid or too irresponsible to know?

Yes, you. You personally.

Let us now consider a few of the other oft-repeated canards about Manning’s action.

Did Bradley Manning endanger lives?

To date, the government has made no allegation that any U.S. soldier, citizen, ally, or informant has been physically injured as a result of the revelations.

Many facts that the leaks brought to light about U.S military actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen, for example, were already well known by citizens of those countries, experiencing the reality at their doorstep.

Wikileaks redaction

Wikileaks redaction of the Manning material was so thorough and responsible that to date the US Government has not claimed a single person was harmed by the secret information’s release. Manning is denied the right to enter this fact in his defence, however. Why?

The leaks merely served to inform the American people of aspects of the U.S. governments’ actions abroad that are not frequently covered by domestic mainstream news outlets.

The Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary were comprised of years-old field reports written by combat troops in the midst of battle.

Names of local persons are spelled phonetically in these reports, usually with general descriptions of region or cities.

The majority of these names were redacted (removed/obscured) by WikiLeaks prior to release.

The U.S. State Department has declared that of the non-redacted names, there was not enough identifying information released on any individual to justify taking preventive action.

Meanwhile, scores of U.S. and foreign citizens continue to die on a daily basis in these occupation zones due not to Bradley Manning, but due to the controversial policies that he exposed.

But what about the quantity of material exposed by Manning? It is often asked: wasn’t he just thoroughly irresponsible?

Did Bradley Manning leak documents “indiscriminately”?

PFC Bradley Manning held a Top Secret clearance while working as an army intelligence analyst in Iraq.

Yet the vast majority of documents he is accused of leaking consisted of low-level classified documents – about half of the documents were even “unclassified”. Of those that were classified, most were simply “Confidential.”

About 11,000 documents were “Secret.” None of the released documents were “Top Secret,” the highest classification. Bradley Manning clearly had access to a much larger number of documents than what was leaked.

Disgracefully, in our opinion, President Obama encouraged the perception that Bradley Manning leaked documents indiscriminately when he declared in April, 2011 that Bradley Manning “dumped” information.

He then went on to mistakenly declare that now widely-respected Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg was “different” than Bradley Manning because Ellsberg didn’t release information that was classified in the same way.

The fact is that Ellsberg (who is campaigning for Manning’s release) released “Top Secret” information when he gave information to The New York Times, while Manning is only accused of releasing lower-level classified information.

Daniel Ellsberg has also stated in interviews that alongside critical revelations the Pentagon Papers contained thousands of pages of information of little to no public significance. Like many other whistle-blowers, Ellsberg had to trust media organizations to do some of the sorting of an immense amount of data.

In the online chat logs between Adrian Lamo and Bradley Manning, Manning allegedly describes the documents he was later accused of leaking, along with some reasons why he felt they needed to be public:

Bradley Manning: Hypothetical question: if you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time… say, 8-9 months… and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do?
Bradley Manning: or Guantanamo, Bagram, Bucca, Taji, VBC for that matter…
Bradley Manning: things that would have an impact on 6.7 billion people
Bradley Manning: say… a database of half a million events during the iraq war… from 2004 to 2009… with reports, date time groups, lat-lon locations, casualty figures… ? or 260,000 state department cables from embassies and consulates all over the world, explaining how the first world exploits the third, in detail, from an internal perspective?

Adrian Lamo: What sort of content?
Bradley Manning: Uhm… crazy, almost criminal political backdealings… the non-PR-versions of world events and crises… uhm… all kinds of stuff like everything from the buildup to the Iraq War during Powell, to what the actual content of “aid packages” is: for instance, PR that the US is sending aid to pakistan includes funding for water/food/clothing… that much is true, it includes that, but the other 85% of it is for F-16 fighters and munitions to aid in the Afghanistan effort, so the US can call in Pakistanis to do aerial bombing instead of Americans potentially killing civilians and creating a PR crisis
Bradley Manning: theres so much… it affects everybody on earth… everywhere there’s a US post… there’s a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed … Iceland, the Vatican, Spain, Brazil, Madagascar, if its a country, and its recognized by the US as a country, its got dirt on it

Adrian Lamo: what kind of scandal?
Bradley Manning: hundreds of them
Adrian Lamo: like what? I’m genuinely curious about details.

Bradley Manning: uhmm… the Holy See and its position on the Vatican sex scandals
Adrian Lamo: play it by ear
Bradley Manning: the broiling one in Germany
Bradley Manning: im sorry, there’s so many… its impossible for any one human to read all quarter-million… and not feel overwhelmed… and possibly desensitized

Bradley Manning: Apache Weapons Team video of 12 JUL 07 airstrike on Reuters Journos… some sketchy but fairly normal street-folk… and civilians

Bradley Manning: at first glance… it was just a bunch of guys getting shot up by a helicopter… no big deal… about two dozen more where that came from right… but something struck me as odd with the van thing… and also the fact it was being stored in a JAG officer’s directory… so i looked into it… eventually tracked down the date, and then the exact GPS co-ord… and i was like… ok, so thats what happened… cool… then i went to the regular internet… and it was still on my mind… so i typed into goog… the date, and the location… and then i see this http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/13/world/middleeast/13iraq.html

Adrian Lamo: what do you consider the highlights?
Bradley Manning: The Gharani airstrike videos and full report, Iraq war event log, the “Gitmo Papers”, and State Department cable database

So last, but by no means least, is what Manning did treason?

Bradley Manning fits the definition of a whistle-blower – not a traitor.

shhh

The state wants us silent, and compliant. If we do nothing to save Bradley Manning, we are as guilty of his persecution as those who are embarrassed by his honesty. Civil society will be immeasurably weakened if he is convicted.

In online discussions attributed to PFC Bradley Manning, he says that he hopes his actions will spur “discussion, debates, and reforms” and that he “want[s] people to know the truth, no matter who they are, because without information you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

This is the classic definition of a whistle-blower (a person who tells the public about alleged dishonest or illegal activities or misconduct occurring in a government department).

Unfortunately, the government is charging PFC Bradley Manning with “knowingly [giving] intelligence to the enemy, through indirect means,” under Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice – an allegation of treason and a capital offense.

By this rationale, scores of service-person-posted blogs, photos, and videos, would now be punishable by death – simply because they are accessible on the Internet.

The charge against Bradley Manning appears to be about sending a message to other would-be whistle-blowers.

The Founding Fathers restricted the definition of treason in the U.S. Constitution to, “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort….” They did so because they wanted to prevent a repeat of Britain’s abuse of power when it was the colonial overlord of America.

The information above is mainly from bradleymanning.org, the website devoted to securing Manning’s release. In the opinion of this writer, the legal shenanigans over what Manning’s defence lawyers can and cannot say in court, the previous illegal detention of Manning in solitary confinement, the gale of misinformation and bias about his case emanating from Washington, and the inordinate amount of time he has been held without trial, all point to one thing.

Obama and the American ruling elite and their allies wish Manning persecuted because they are embarrassed by his actions, not because they genuinely believe what he did was wrong, or dangerous.

Securing Manning’s release should unite people of conscience from all sides of politics, and because what he disclosed affects the entire world, it should unite them from all countries, but especially America’s allies.

I have no doubt that in due course Bradley Manning will come to be seen as a hero for the common man, the man who rolled back to curtains of Government secrecy for no other reason other than he believed ordinary people have the right to know what is being done and said in their name. Meanwhile, he rots in jail, an intelligent, passionate, but frightened young man who sought to serve his country – and a higher purpose, too.

I am Bradley Manning. Most importantly, so are you.

Are you?

Are you?

Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning

If you want to know what it must be like to be trapped in a legal system which shows no sign of wanting you to have a fair trial, and every sign of being determined to punish you for your offensiveness to the state, you might look at the case of Pussy Riot in Russia, a group of young female musicians locked up in the harshest possible conditions for daring to sing a song for two minutes.

Or you could imagine you were a young American soldier, horrified by what you were reading in secret transcripts, who wanted his country to return to the principles on which it was founded, and who decided to leak the contents of those transcripts so the world could see what was happening, and make a judgement.

Not the great and good of the world, but people just like you and me.

Indeed, one has to ask, if Bradley Manning is charged with “aiding the enemy” for sharing government lies and secrets with us, then are we the enemy?

At every turn the United States Government, presumably with the full cognisance and approval of the so-called Democratic president, Barack Obama, has treated Bradley Manning with mental cruelty beyond belief – including for a time keeping him locked in a small windowless solitary confinement cell for no good reason – which led to a paltry reduction in any future terms of imprisonment – and has steadfastly refused to allow him to make the defence he wishes to make.

Just so that is clear, in some Kafkaesque world of their own making, the military and civil authorities in the USA are telling this man how to, and how not to, defend himself against the charges laid against him.

Bradley Manning served his country. Now his country wants to lock him up and throw away the key - or worse.

Bradley Manning served his country. Now his country wants to lock him up and throw away the key – or worse.

Now the military judge in his case has ruled that Manning will not be allowed to present evidence about his motives for the leak – a key plank of his defence. Colonel Denise Lind ruled that general issues of motive were not relevant to the trial stage of the court martial.

This must be the first time in legal history that motive could not be considered germane to the question of guilt.

By denying Manning the chance to make a whistleblower defence in his upcoming court martial in which he faces possible
life in military custody with no chance of parole his situation will be rendered much weaker. Manning’s lead defence
lawyer, David Coombs, had argued that his motive was key to proving that he had no intention to harm US interests
or to pass information to the enemy.

It should also be noted that neither the US government (nor anyone else) has ever claimed that the information released by
Manning has caused any harm to a single individual, such as soldier, spy, or government official.

Unsurprisingly, given the way this is going, the judge also blocked the defence from presenting evidence designed to
show that WikiLeaks caused little or no damage to US national security. Coombs has devoted considerable time and
energy trying to extract from US government agencies their official assessments of the impact of WikiLeaks around the
world, only to find that he is now prevented from using any of the information he has obtained.

The general issue of motive must be held back until Manning either entered a plea or was found guilty, at which
point it could be used in mitigation to lessen the sentence. The ruling is a blow to the defence as it will make it harder
for the soldier’s legal team to argue he was acting as a principled whistleblower and not as someone who knowingly
damaged US interests at a time of war.

“This is another effort to attack the whistleblower defence,” said Nathan Fuller, a spokesman for the Bradley Manning
Support Network, after the hearing.

The 25-year-old intelligence analyst faces 22 charges relating to the leaking of hundreds of thousands of classified
diplomatic cables, war logs from the Afghan and Iraq wars, and videos of US military actions. The most serious
charge, “aiding the enemy”, which carries the life sentence, accuses him of arranging for state secrets to be published
via WikiLeaks on the internet knowing that al-Qaida would have access to it.

The US government is expected at trial to present evidence that allegedly shows that Osama bin Laden personally
requested to see some of the WikiLeaks publications attributed to Manning and that documents were found on his
computer following the US navy Seals raid that killed him.

In a limited victory for the defence, Coombs and the defence team will be allowed to talk about the soldier’s motives
on two narrow counts: where it can be used to show that he did not know that his leaks would be seen by al-Qaida;
and as evidence that he consciously selected certain documents or types of documents in order to ensure they
would not harm the US or benefit any foreign nation.

Lind’s ruling means that some of the most impassioned statements by Manning about why he embarked on the
massive transfer of information to WikiLeaks will now not be heard at trial. In the course of a now famous web chat
he had with the hacker-turned-informer Adrian Lamo, Manning wrote : “information should be free / it belongs in
the public domain / because another state would just take advantage of the information … try and get some edge /
if its out in the open … it should be a public good.”

Public pressure is the key to determining whether this man gets anything remotely resembling a fair trial. Many,
including this writer, consider him a hero for wanting the public to know what was being done and said in their
name, including when their Governments were openly lying to them.

You can read more about the case, and get involved in the fight for justice for Bradley Manning, as many of
your fellow concerned citizens such as veterans, journalists, Nobel Peace Prize winners, and legal experts
worldwide already have, at http://www.bradleymanning.org/

Facebookers will also find this page interesting https://www.facebook.com/savebradley?ref=ts&fref=ts and
you can also visit a remarkable outpouring of popular outrage and at your own photograph at
http://iam.bradleymanning.org/

Expect to hear much more from Wellthisiswhatithink on this vital public interest case as the trial continues …

Are you?

Are you?

Iraqi dead child is prepared for burial

A young Iraqi girl who suffered a violent death is prepared for burial. The photograph originally appeared at Salon.com some years ago.

I want you all to look carefully at this paragraph from a Yahoo report of a story on Obama’s television announcement that all US troops will be out of Iraq by Christmas. (The full report (jncluding Associated Press TV coverage) is here: http://au.news.yahoo.com/world/a/-/world/10693945/obama-announces-iraq-troop-pullout-by-end-2011/)

After nearly nine years, the deaths of more than 4,400 US troops, tens of thousands of Iraqis and the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars, Obama said the last American soldier would leave with his head held high.

Now, can you see anything wrong with that paragraph?

Am I about to contentiously argue with the President’s phrase “leave with his head held high”?

Actually, no: although I disagreed profoundly with the invasion, and consider Bush, Cheney, Blair and Howard to be criminals for invading without appropriate UN sanction, that is not the section my eye was drawn to.

With some notable exceptions – sometimes actions of deliberate cruelty, sometimes of wanton disregard for civilian safety – I believe the American troops in Iraq, and other Coalition forces, have acquitted themselves with dignity and courage in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Many good men and women have died or been horribly injured doing their political leader’s bidding, and thousands more have endured the psychological trauma of a bloody and frightening conflict, and their sacrifice should be respected. We should also remember the effects on their families and friends.

No, it is that phrase “tens of thousands of Iraqis”.

Have a look here, at the excellent and carefully accurate website Iraq Body Count: http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ It shows civilian deaths to be somewhere between 103 thousand and 127 thousand. This is a closely researched figure, as immediately becomes clear from a perusal of the site.

Other studies, including one by the respected Lancet journal, (although it has been contested), put the figure as high as 600,000+ deaths, and even as high as a million. Governments were quick to discredit the findings, although they did not mention the advice of the UK Ministry of Defence’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, who had called the study “robust” and its claimed methods “close to ‘best practice’ in this area”.

What is clear to anyone but Blind Freddie (and those who choose not to see the truth), is that many, many more than “tens of thousands” of innocent Iraqi civilians have died or been maimed, certainly in the hundreds of thousands, not just by Coalition action, of course, but as a result of the breakdown in civil society that inevitably and predictably resulted from the allied invasion.

So why does a respected journalistic outlet play down the figure by subtly reporting “tens of thousands” of civilian casualties. “Hundreds of thousands” has a completely different emotional and rational impact. What is the reason for downplaying the body count? Mere lazy journalistic sloppiness? Or something more subtle, and insidious, and deliberate?

I think the people should be told. I invite you to re-blog this story, post it to your friends, and ask media outlets directly.

Because if history is written by the victors, we need to be doubly careful that we write it accurately. We owe that to the dead and injured – remember, they are people, not numbers – and to those who served.

You might also care to check out a shirt I designed some years ago reminding us that Collateral Damage Is People. I deliberately chose to illustrate it with a photo of my own daughter, aged about 2, playing happily in our kitchen. She is still alive, thank God. Other people’s daughter’s aren’t. How many families must be torn to pieces before we find better ways to resolve our differences?

http://www.cafepress.com/yolly.431431260

Collateral Damage Is People

Collateral Damage Is People t-shirt. Buy a shirt, change the world.

9-11 World Trade Centre

10 years on, what have we learned?

As time marches on and we edge ever closer to the fateful 10-year anniversary of the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre, I am reminded of the act of witnessing it, as I am sure many other people are. Where and when I was, what I thought and felt, what I did.

Even without watching the nightly wall-to-wall programming of commemorative programmes (some of which I confess I find unpleasantly ghoulish) it is impossible to ignore how the event presses in on one’s consciousness. I have been tempted to try and glide past the memorialising because I have done all my thinking about that awful morning, I know what I think, and remembering the awful scenes and its aftermath often reduces me to great sadness. But then, as I do my best to ignore it, I feel guilty for not respecting the memory of those who died or were injured or bereaved, and also for avoiding active consideration of the geo-political implications of what happened, so I end up beating myself up.

In order to square this circle I do what any writer would do. I give up ignoring it, and write.

I recall I was watching TV in bed, resolutely awake as I often am, at around eleven or midnight (I forget the exact time difference). Newsflashes started breaking, and I found a news channel, woke my wife from her slumbers, and then, like so many millions of others, we watched with growing horror and realisation of the scale of the attack. I think I guessed immediately that the first plane to hit a tower was the work of terrorists. Something just twigged. Soon enough, of course, the second plane and subsequent news made it clear that this was an assault of unprecedented viciousness and effective co-ordination.

I turned to my wife and said “This means war.” I mused. And after a while I added: “But it won’t solve anything. Until we find out why these people hate us so much, this will just go on and on.”

She asked me who it meant war with. I answered: “We’ll find someone.”

Looking back, I think it is revealing that I instinctively used the word “We”.

It is easy to forget now, in the aftermath of the vitriolic debate about the wisdom of “what the West did next”, how much of the world felt at one with America at that moment. Whether or not we approved of America’s exercise of its diplomatic or military might, and Lord knows many of us had not, for a generation or more, there was a profound sense that this great wrong was simply that – unfathomably, appallingly, unutterably, cruelly wrong. And that therefore, and without equivocation or analysis, we stood united with the victims, and with those who would extract justice for their deaths.

The subsequent squandering of that goodwill by America may, in fact, be the ultimate tragedy of what has happened since.

America had certainly been lumbering around the world stage since World War II with all the subtlety of an overweight and rather unintelligent schoolyard bully. Overthrowing and murdering democratically-elected leaders either directly or by proxy – Allende in Chile, Lumumba in the Congo – tacitly or actively supporting brutal regimes or wars – 200,000 dead in Guatemala, 3 million dead in Pakistan’s attempted suppression of Bangladesh,75,000 dead in El Salvador – and, of course, its highly questionable involvement in Vietnam. Amongst others. And in the Middle East, America was implicated in various coups d’etat, police actions, aggressive growing of its military presence, and so on. The list of clumsy and often murderous American actions is tragically long, and if I fleshed it out here this article would be about little else.

And yet, for many, even those who had felt the heavy-handed might of American influence and not always benignly, there was an abiding opinion that, for all its faults, America was basically on the side of the good guys. For example, it almost single-handledly paid for the United Nations infrastructure, and its aid programmes, year after year. Its people donated more to overseas charity, per head of population, and in gross terms, than any other nation on earth. Its own overseas aid programmes were mammoth. Many of us were old enough to recall (or to have been told, first hand) how American money had essentially re-built Europe after World War II. And Japan. And Americans themselves – while they might occasionally have been a little brash or unsubtle for countries lucky enough to host their holiday-makers – were recognisably good natured, polite, free-spending, and generous with their praise, too.

America was looked on as a child which was occasionally naughty or untutored, but which was always striving to do better, and as such, should be encouraged. A great and glorious and ever-evolving experiment in free-market economics tied to a healthy, forceful democracy, never likely to be perfect, but my goodness it was prepared to give it a go.

In the years since 9-11, the general opinion of America has changed out of all recognition. And Americans are to blame.

There are many reasons why the stock of the good old USA has fallen so far and so fast, not least the way the rest of the world is appalled at the current American inability to find a way out of an economic mess which is largely of its own making, and the refusal of its political class to sit down and nut out a bi-partisan approach to problem solving. Both the White House and those on the Hill (and don’t get me started on the state of the GOP generally) look and sound like they are in the grip of a bunch of egotistical village idiots high on crack cocaine … talking aggressively and confidently about nothing that has any passing contact with the reality of the world.

But most of all, the current mistrust and downright dislike of America is down to one thing.

Conflating the search for Al Qaeda and the assassins of 9-11 into an excuse to finally get rid of Sadaam Hussein and his ugly regime in Iraq and to secure America’s strategic access to the region’s oil was a terrible, perhaps unforgivable mistake. Blind Freddie can see that it has left a legacy of bitterness and instability in the area that will not be overcome in my lifetime, and not, I fear in the lifetime of my precious daughter, nor even her children if they arrive.

There are many, and they are by no means all Middle Eastern, Muslim, or liberal politically, who can simply never forgive Bush and Cheney – especially – but also Tony Blair, John Howard and others – for a conflict that rapidly and predictably led to umpteen entirely avoidable civilian casualties. 100,000? 200,000? Half a million? More? No one will ever be entirely sure. It seems like the upper estimates are the more accurate. (If you doubt my assertion that the bloody, never-ending quagmire in Iraq was predictable, just “google” Dick Cheney’s remarks on why Bush Snr didn’t continue on and depose Hussein when he had the chance. They are instructive.)

And yet, faced with ample evidence and growing certainty that a terrible error had been made, the American political establishment steadfastly refused, year after year, (and still refuses), to allow any official suggestion that the war was ill-advised, ill-planned, badly prosecuted and very possibly illegal. No mea culpa was allowed to pass its lips.

It gave every impression that the on-going civilian disaster in Iraq was just a mild disappointment on the road to a greater good, despite mounting evidence that Iraq was not (and won’t be) pacified, that the chaos would spread to neighbouring nations (as it has, and will continue to do so), and that its new Government, despite democratic trappings, would likely end up just as corrupt, brutal and inefficient as the last.

The rest of the world could see this very well, (most saw it before the first shot was fired), and were appalled by America’s stupidity, cupidity, insensitivity and intransigence.

And blinded by that instinctive knee-jerk patriotism which can in some circumstances be so useful and laudable, but which when the American government is behaving badly is so unhelpful and damaging, and captured by the almost religious fervour and respect in which those who “serve” are held in the American consciousness, the American people seemed only mildly discomforted by what was going on in Iraq.

Yes, of course there were notable and honourable exceptions. And, of course, the intelligentsia and the chattering classes engaged with the debate.

But the vast mass of Americans seemed to care less that their military, (and it was, almost entirely, American troops), were slaughtering thousands, whether deliberately or accidentally, (as if it really matters), and were compounding the madness by foolishly creating  a power vacuum into which assorted madmen rushed waving AK-47s, and  football stadiums full of entirely innocent civilians were dying every year. In Vietnam, this produced a near revolution inside America. Nowadays, the wave of bloody death visited on families going about their ordinary lives seems to have become so commonplace – or so well hidden – that it creates barely a ripple on the body politic. Until one starts discussing the cost, in dollar terms, of the military adventure, or the body bags of American casualties coming home with such tragic regularity, and then people really do seem to get riled up.

I do not propose to discuss Afghanistan as well here because I believe the conflict in that sad and much-battered country is entirely different in nature, although it can appear similar if one only looks at the surface detail. The war in Afghanistan was a genuine international effort, welcomed by many of its people, with specific aims (even if they have since proven intractably difficult to achieve), and morally supportable. The Taliban were and are the latest manifestation of brutal fascism on our planet, and their influence would undoubtedly have spread (into the former Soviet Union, and into Pakistan and Iran) if they had not been displaced, along with their medieval rejection of learning, medicine, individual rights, and hatred of women. Because they have not essentially changed their nature, or their agenda, the war to sustain quasi-freedom in some parts of Afghanistan is still, in my opinion, justified. (Although we need to start working out with much greater urgency how the hell to end it.)

So what do I think, ten years on from 9-11? I think, if America is to somehow regain its international standing, at least with its friends, if not its enemies, then sooner or later someone with great leadership qualities and backed by a surge of public moral support is going to have to stand up and say, without prevarication, “We acknowledge that – despite the courage of our troops, despite the fact that many of us thought we were doing the right thing – Iraq was not only not our finest hour, it may have been our ugliest. We fatally miscalculated: we over-reached ourselves. We didn’t care enough about the people of Iraq. We were misled by those who should have known better, and we failed to think hard enough. Never again – never again – will we behave in such a cavalier and dangerous manner. Forgive us, world. We know we messed up, big time, and we have learned. Just watch us, we won’t do it again.”

Because that’s why some people hate America, and why so many people who love America nevertheless despair of its future, despite their love.

You just never seem to say sorry.

And remember: until we work out while these people hate us so much, this will just go on and on.

God bless America.