Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cicero and the Great Law

by Mohawk News Network

History repeats itself. As Cicero said [106-43 BC], "A nation can survive its fools and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less dangerous, for he is known and he carries his banners openly against the people. But the traitor moves among those within the gates freely, his sly whispers rustling through all alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor doesn't appear like a traitor. They speak in the accents familiar to their victims. They wear their face and their clothes and appeal to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of their people. They rot the soul of a nation. They work secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a community. They infect the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared. The traitor is the plague."

Sounds like the colonial band and tribal council system set up by the invaders, which violates the Great Law, our constitution and philosophy. The only legal national governments on Great Turtle Island are those of the Indigenous Peoples. Those band or tribal councilors secretly negotiating with these pirates are committing treason [Great Law, Wampum 58].

At the near empty U.S. border crossing on the south shore a few trucks sit while cars cross the bridge.

The Canadian border mobsters have left Akwesasne for good. The temporary checkpoint tent set up by the Canadian Border Services Agency CBSA sits on a small sliver of Akwesasne land. These robber barons sit around waiting to pounce on passers-by to confiscate money and favors.

The old abandoned Canada customs house in the middle of Kawenoke on Cornwall Island rests empty, boarded up like those foreclosed homes and businesses caused by capitalist corruption. It has a lonely sign telling us to proceed slowly. Spiders, raccoons, ants, birds, bats, coyotes, foxes and mice are sniffing around waiting to start making permanent homes. Vines and natural growth are already starting to envelope the buildings. As time goes on, this and other imperial neo-con infra structures will crumble and mother nature will take over. Great Turtle Island will once again look like a garden burying colonial ghosts. The portable checkpoint looks like those quickie cardboard stolen goods salestables on the sidewalks of Time Square.

This posse wants us to come across from the US side of Akwesasne, drive over the bridge, go through Kawenoke and over the bridge to Cornwall. Then they want us to check in with them so they can extort something and let us cross the bridge back to our homes in Kawenoke. Few actually do it. Everybody knows the checkpoints of these two invading entities are legal. Our law predominates on Great Turtle Island. [Read the Mohawk Manifesto].

On August 13th at the Canadian border tent eight Mohawks were pulled over, handcuffed and arrested. One was charged with running the port in a previous lifetime. They were kept in a compound without food or water. One was seven months pregnant. One managed to use his cell phone, "They're detaining us", he yelled.

The goons got angry at the detainees for speaking Mohawk. They supposedly had just finished taking cultural sensitivity training, which seems to be making them oversensitive to us. They could learn to politely say SEGO, ONEN and NIA:WEN? They probably want a law making Mohawk at the border a criminal offence.

A group of elders and people went over to see what was going on. The border goons refused to let them see the detainees. Natalie the Liar came out and told us, "Believe me, believe me", two have been sent to Ottawa, two to the RCMP holding station and two to Cornwall. It wasn't true.

Eventually the detainees were charged with "hindrance", or not smiling or something, and released at 1 am, except for the one who supposedly ran the imaginary line.

In the North Shore Claim Mohawks want the land back and refuse money. The Canadian band council puppets want money. CBSA knows they will soon have to break camp and move again.

Trying to confuse the issue are a few people who declare themselves to be natural human beings, not Mohawks. These hippie types are flashing around Egyptian symbols. They say we signed the preposterous Camel Hair Treaty of 409 AD that brought down the Roman Empire!! They even carry new age camel hair identity cards. Shouldn't they be on stone tablets? They tell us the Moors were here before us. A few of our people are being recruited to become mindless flakes to eliminate Ongwehonwe thinking. These preachers gave up and incite others to give up.

We Mohawks have a responsibility to assert our inherent relationship on Great Turtle Island and to uphold the Great Law. Those adhering to foreign doctrines are committing espionage, conspiracy and treason.

Our birthright cannot be blurred by cult followers or anyone else. Such false prophets and their illusions might be sent in to disrupt, demoralize and confuse us. We should rely on ourselves, our own laws, our language and our relationships that we can substantiate.

These foreign fantasies are trying to overshadow what we know, touch, feel and see. It's meant to stop us from working in harmony with each other, the natural world and the Great Law.

To stop the CBSA from coming in, we need to keep our fire going and to erect a building. To help, please contact 613-937-1813.
Kahentinetha MNN Mohawk Nation News, Note: Your financial help is needed and appreciated. Please send your donations by check or money order to "MNN Mohawk Nation News", Box 991, Kahnawake [Quebec, Canada] J0L 1B0. Or go to PayPal on website. Nia:wen thank you very much. Go to MNN "BORDER" and "AKWESASNE" categories for more stories; New MNN Books Available now! Purchase t-shirts, mugs and more at our CafePressStore; Subscribe to MNN for breaking news updates; Sign Women Title Holders petition!

[1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.
Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions - US novelist (1922 - 2007)- ed.]

Hurricane Katrina's Lingering Shadows

The Secret History of Hurricane Katrina
by James Ridgeway

Confronted with images of corpses floating in the blackened floodwaters or baking in the sun on abandoned highways, there aren't too many people left who see what happened following Hurricane Katrina as a purely "natural" disaster. The dominant narratives that have emerged, in the four years since the storm, are of a gross human tragedy, compounded by social inequities and government ineptitude -- a crisis subsequently exploited in every way possible for political and financial gain.

But there's an even harsher truth, some New Orleans residents learned in the very first days but which is only beginning to become clear to the rest of us: What took place in this devastated American city was no less than a war, in which victims whose only crimes were poverty and blackness were treated as enemies of the state.

It started immediately after the storm and flood hit, when civilian aid was scarce -- but private security forces already had boots on the ground. Some, like Blackwater (which has since redubbed itself Xe), were under federal contract, while a host of others answered to wealthy residents and businessmen who had departed well before Katrina and needed help protecting their property from the suffering
masses left behind. According to Jeremy Scahill's reporting in The Nation, Blackwater set up an HQ in downtown New Orleans. Armed as they would be in Iraq, with automatic rifles, guns strapped to legs, and pockets overflowing with ammo, Blackwater contractors drove around in SUVs and unmarked cars with no license plates.

When asked what authority they were operating under, Scahill reported, "one guy said, 'We're on contract with the Department of Homeland Security.' Then, pointing to one of his comrades, he said, 'He was even deputized by the governor of the state of Louisiana. We can make arrests and use lethal force if we deem it necessary.' The man then held up the gold Louisiana law enforcement badge he wore around his neck.'"

The Blackwater operators described their mission in New Orleans as "securing neighborhoods," as if they were talking about Sadr City. When National Guard troops descended on the city, the Army Times described their role as fighting "the insurgency in the city." Brigadier Gen. Gary Jones, who commanded the Louisiana National Guard's Joint Task Force, told the paper, "This place is going to look like Little Somalia. We're going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control."

Ten days after the storm, the New York Times reported that although the city was calm with no signs of looting (though it acknowledged this had taken place previously), "New Orleans has turned into an armed camp, patrolled by thousands of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers, as well as National Guard troops and active-duty soldiers." The local police superintendent ordered all weapons, including legally registered firearms, confiscated from civilians. But as the Times noted, that order didn't "apply to hundreds of security guards hired by businesses and some wealthy individuals to protect property…[who] openly carry M-16's and other assault rifles."

Scahill spoke to Michael Montgomery, the chief of security for one wealthy businessman who said his men came under fire from "black gangbangers" near the Ninth Ward. Armed with AR-15s and Glocks, Montgomery and his men "unleashed a barrage of bullets in the general direction of the alleged shooters on the overpass. 'After that, all I heard was moaning and screaming, and the shooting stopped. That was it. Enough said.'"

Malik Rahim, a Vietnam veteran and longtime community activist, was one of the organizers of the Common Ground Collective, which quickly began dispensing basic aid and medical care in the first days after the hurricane. But far from aiding the relief workers, Rahim told me this week, the police and troops who began patrolling the streets treated them as criminals or "insurgents." African American men caught outside also ran the risk of crossing paths with roving vigilante patrols who shot at will, he says. In this dangerous environment, Common Ground began to rely on white volunteers to move through a city that had simply become too perilous for blacks.

In July, the local television station WDSU released a home video, taken shortly after the storm hit, of a local man, Paul Gleason, who bragged to two police officers about shooting looters in the Algiers section of New Orleans.

"Did you have any problems with looters," [sic] asked an officer.

"Not anymore," said Gleason.

"Not anymore?"

"They're all dead," said Gleason.

The officer asked, "What happened?"

"We shot them," said Gleason.

"How many did you shoot?


"Thirty-eight people? What did you do with the bodies?"

"We gave them to the Coast Guard," said Gleason.

Gleason told his story with a cup of red wine in one hand and riding a tractor from Blaine Kern's Mardi Gras World.

Although the government's aid efforts were in chaos, those involved in the self-generated community rescue and relief efforts were often seen as a threat. Even so, Common Ground eventually managed to serve more than half a million people, operating feeding stations, opening free health and legal clinics, and later rebuilding homes and planting trees. But they "never got a dime" from the federal
government, says Rahim. The feds did, however, recruit one of Common Ground's founders, Brandon Darby, as an informant, later using him to infiltrate groups planning actions at the 2008 Republican National Convention.

And while the government couldn't seem to keep people from dying on rooftops or abandoned highways, it wasted no time building a temporary jail in New Orleans.

Burl Cain, the warden of the notorious Angola Prison, a former slave plantation that's now home to 5,000 inmates, was rushed down to the city to oversee "Camp Greyhound" in the city's bus terminal.

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the jail "was constructed by inmates from Angola and Dixon state prisons and was outfitted with everything a stranded law enforcer could want, including top-of-the-line recreational vehicles to live in and electrical power, courtesy of a yellow Amtrak locomotive. There are computers to check suspects' backgrounds and a mug shot station -- complete with heights marked in black on the wall that serves as the backdrop."

In the virtual martial law imposed in New Orleans after Katrina, the war on the poor sometimes even spilled over into the war on terror. In his latest book, Zeitoun, published in July, Dave Eggers tells the story of a local Syrian immigrant who stayed in New Orleans to protect his properties and ended up organizing makeshift relief efforts and rescuing people in a canoe. He continued right up until he was arrested by a group of unidentified, heavily armed men in uniform, thrown into Camp Greyhound, and questioned as a suspected terrorist. In an interview with Salon, Eggers said:

Zeitoun was among thousands of people who were doing "Katrina time" after the storm. There was a complete suspension of all legal processes and there were no hearings, no courts for months and months and not enough folks in the judicial system really seemed all that concerned about it. Some human rights activists and some attorneys, but otherwise it seemed to be the cost of doing business. It really could have only happened at that time; 2005 was just the exact meeting place of the Bush-era philosophy towards law enforcement and incarceration, their philosophy toward habeas corpus and their neglect and indifference to the plight of New Orleanians.

Through all the time that the federal and local governments, in concert with wealthy New Orleanians, were pitching their battle, there was virtually no one fighting on the other side. Reviewing the "available evidence" a month after Katrina, the New York Times concluded that "the most alarming stories that coursed through the city appear to be little more than figments of frightened imaginations."

The reports of residents firing at National Guard helicopters, of tourists being robbed and raped on Bourbon Street, and of murderous rampages in the Superdome -- all turned out to be false.

Since then it has become increasingly clear that the truth of what happened in New Orleans -- vigilantism and racially tinged violence, a military response that supplanted a humanitarian one -- is equally sinister.

Veteran reporter James Ridgeway is a senior correspondent for Mother Jones magazine.

Copyright © 2009 Mother Jones -- distributed by Agence Global

Thursday, August 27, 2009

plundered for their organs

Our sons plundered for their organs

By Donald Boström

You could call me a “matchmaker,” said Levy Yitzhak Rosenbaum, from Brooklyn, USA, in a secret recording with an FBI-agent whom he believed to be a client. Ten days later, at the end of July this year, Rosenbaum was arrested and a vast, Sopranos-like, imbroglio of money-laundering and illegal organ-trade was revealed. Rosenbaum’s matchmaking had nothing to do with romance. It was all about buying and selling kidneys from Israel on the black market. Rosenbaum says that he buys the kidneys for 10,000 dollars, from poor people. He then proceeds to sell the organs to desperate patients in the States for 160,000 dollars. The accusations have shaken the American transplantation business. If they are true it means that organ trafficking is documented for the first time in the US, experts tell the New Jersey Real-Time News.

On the question of how many organs he has sold Rosenbaum replies: “Quite a lot. And I have never failed,” he boasts. The business has been running for quite some time. Francis Delmonici, professor of transplant surgery at Harvard and member of the National Kidney Foundation’s Board of Directors, tells the same newspaper that organ-trafficking, similar to the one reported from Israel, is carried out in other places of the world as well. 5-6,000 operations a year, about ten per cent of the world’s kidney transplants are carried out illegally, according to Delmonici.

Countries suspected of these activities are Pakistan, the Philippines and China, where the organs are allegedly taken from executed prisoners. But Palestinians also harbor strong suspicions against Israel for seizing young men and having them serve as the country’s organ reserve - a very serious accusation, with enough question marks to motivate the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to start an investigation about possible war crimes.

Israel has repeatedly been under fire for its unethical ways of dealing with organs and transplants. France was among the countries that ceased organ collaboration with Israel in the nineties. Jerusalem Post wrote that “the rest of the European countries are expected to follow France’s example shortly.”

Half of the kidneys transplanted to Israelis since the beginning of the 2000s have been bought illegally from Turkey, Eastern Europe or Latin America. Israeli health authorities have full knowledge of this business but do nothing to stop it. At a conference in 2003 it was shown that Israel is the only western country with a medical profession that doesn’t condemn the illegal organ trade. The country takes no legal measures against doctors participating in the illegal business - on the contrary, chief medical officers of Israel’s big hospitals are involved in most of the illegal transplants, according to Dagens Nyheter (December 5, 2003).

In the summer of 1992, Ehud Olmert, then minister of health, tried to address the issue of organ shortage by launching a big campaign aimed at having the Israeli public register for postmortal organ donation. Half a million pamphlets were spread in local newspapers. Ehud Olmert himself was the first person to sign up. A couple of weeks later the Jerusalem Post reported that the campaign was a success. No fewer than 35,000 people had signed up. Prior to the campaign it would have been 500 in a normal month. In the same article, however, Judy Siegel, the reporter, wrote that the gap between supply and demand was still large. 500 people were in line for a kidney transplant, but only 124 transplants could be performed. Of 45 people in need of a new liver, only three could be operated on in Israel.

While the campaign was running, young Palestinian men started to disappear from villages in the West Bank and Gaza. After five days Israeli soldiers would bring them back dead, with their bodies ripped open.

Talk of the bodies terrified the population of the occupied territories. There were rumors of a dramatic increase of young men disappearing, with ensuing nightly funerals of autopsied bodies.

I was in the area at the time, working on a book. On several occasions I was approached by UN staff concerned about the developments. The persons contacting me said that organ theft definitely occurred but that they were prevented from doing anything about it. On an assignment from a broadcasting network I then travelled around interviewing a great number of Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza - meeting parents who told of how their sons had been deprived of organs before being killed. One example that I encountered on this eerie trip was the young stone-thrower Bilal Ahmed Ghanan.

It was close to midnight when the motor roar from an Israeli military column sounded from the outskirts of Imatin, a small village in the northern parts of the West Bank. The two thousand inhabitants were awake. They were still, waiting, like silent shadows in the dark, some lying upon roofs, others hiding behind curtains, walls, or trees that provided protection during the curfew but still offered a full view toward what would become the grave for the first martyr of the village. The military had interrupted the electricity and the area was now a closed-off military zone - not even a cat could move outdoors without risking its life. The overpowering silence of the dark night was only interrupted by quiet sobbing. I don’t remember if our shivering was due to the cold or to the tension. Five days earlier, on May 13, 1992, an Israeli special force had used the village’s carpentry workshop for an ambush. The person they were assigned to put out of action was Bilal Ahmed Ghanan, one of the stone-throwing Palestinian youngsters who made life difficult for the Israeli soldiers.

As one of the leading stone-throwers Bilal Ghanan had been wanted by the military for a couple of years. Together with other stone-throwing boys he hid in the Nablus mountains, with no roof over his head. Getting caught meant torture and death for these boys - they had to stay in the mountains at all costs.

On May 13 Bilal made an exception, when for some reason, he walked unprotected by the carpentry workshop. Not even Talal, his older brother, knows why he took this risk. Maybe the boys were out of food and needed to restock.

Everything went according to plan for the Israeli special force. The soldiers stubbed their cigarettes, put away their cans of Coca-Cola, and calmly aimed through the broken window. When Bilal was close enough they needed only to pull the triggers. The first shot hit him in the chest. According to villagers who witnessed the incident he was subsequently shot with one bullet in each leg. Two soldiers then ran down from the carpentry workshop and shot Bilal once in the stomach. Finally, they grabbed him by his feet and dragged him up the twenty stone steps of the workshop stair. Villagers say that people from both the UN and the Red Crescent were close by, heard the discharge and came to look for wounded people in need of care. Some arguing took place as to who should take care of the victim. Discussions ended with Israeli soldiers loading the badly wounded Bilal in a jeep and driving him to the outskirts of the village, where a military helicopter waited. The boy was flown to a destination unknown to his family. Five days later he came back, dead and wrapped in green hospital fabric.

A villager recognized Captain Yahya, the leader of the military column who had transported Bilal from the postmortem center Abu Kabir, outside of Tel Aviv, to the place for his final rest. “Captain Yahya is the worst of them all,” the villager whispered in my ear. After Yahya had unloaded the body and changed the green fabric for a light cotton one, some male relatives of the victim were chosen by the soldiers to do the job of digging and mixing cement.

Together with the sharp noises from the shovels we could hear laughter from the soldiers who, as they waited to go home, exchanged some jokes. As Bilal was put in the grave his chest was uncovered. Suddenly it became clear to the few people present just what kind of abuse the boy had been exposed to. Bilal was not by far the first young Palestinian to be buried with a slit from his abdomen up to his chin.

The families in the West Bank and in Gaza felt that they knew exactly what had happened: “Our sons are used as involuntary organ donors,” relatives of Khaled from Nablus told me, as did the mother of Raed from Jenin and the uncles of Mahmud and Nafes from Gaza, who had all disappeared for a number of days only to return at night, dead and autopsied.

- Why are they keeping the bodies for up to five days before they let us bury them? What happened to the bodies during that time? Why are they performing autopsy, against our will, when the cause of death is obvious? Why are the bodies returned at night? Why is it done with a military escort? Why is the area closed off during the funeral? Why is the electricity interrupted? Nafes’s uncle was upset and he had a lot of questions.

The relatives of the dead Palestinians no longer harbored any doubts as to the reasons for the killings, but the spokesperson for the Israeli army claimed that the allegations of organ theft were lies. All the Palestinian victims go through autopsy on a routine basis, he said. Bilal Ahmed Ghanem was one of 133 Palestinians killed in various ways that year. According to the Palestinian statistics the causes of death were: shot in the street, explosion, tear gas, deliberately run over, hanged in prison, shot in school, killed at home et cetera. The 133 people killed were between four months to 88 years old. Only half of them, 69 victims, went through postmortem examination. The routine autopsy of killed Palestinians - of which the army spokesperson was talking - has no bearing on the reality in the occupied territories. The questions remain.

We know that Israel has a great need for organs, that there is a vast and illegal trade of organs which has been running for many years now, that the authorities are aware of it and that doctors in managing positions at the big hospitals participate, as well as civil servants at various levels. We also know that young Palestinian men disappeared, that they were brought back after five days, at night, under tremendous secrecy, stitched back together after having been cut from abdomen to chin.

It’s time to bring clarity to this macabre business, to shed light on what is going on and what has taken place in the territories occupied by Israel since the Intifada began.

Donald Boström


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

All Tunnel

Afghanistan -- All Tunnel, No Light
by Robert Dreyfuss

Yesterday afternoon at the Brookings Institution, four analysts portrayed a bleak and terrifying vision of the current state of affairs in Afghanistan in the wake of the presidential election. All four were hawkish, reflecting a growing consensus in the Washington establishment that the Afghanistan war is only just beginning.

Their conclusions:
1) A significant escalation of the war will be necessary to avoid utter defeat.
2) Even if tens of thousands of troops are added to the US occupation, it won't be possible to determine if the US/NATO effort is succeeding until eighteen months later.
3) Even if the United States turns the tide in Afghanistan, no significant drawdown of US forces will take place until five years have passed.

The experts at the panel were Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA veteran and adviser to four presidents, who chaired President Obama's Afghan task force; Michael O'Hanlon, a military expert and adviser to General David Petraeus; Tony Cordesman, a conservative military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Kim Kagan, head of the Institute for the Study of War.

Not a single panelist questioned the goals, purpose or objectives of the Afghan war. Not one said anything about a political solution to the war, about negotiations, or about diplomacy. Not one questioned the viability of an open-ended commitment to the war. And none of them had any doubts about the strategic necessity of defeating the Taliban and its allies. Although the growing political opposition to the war was referenced in passing -- more than half of Americans say the war isn't worth fighting, and liberal-left members of Congress are beginning to raise objections -- the panel seemed to believe that President Obama can and must ignore politics and push to expand the war when General McChrystal, as expected, recommends an increase in the level of US forces once again. O'Hanlon, a well-connected, ultra-hawkish Democrat who backed the war in Iraq, said that the chances that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi will lead congressional opposition to the war in Afghanistan in 2009-2010 are zero. "Congress will not pull the rug out from under Barack Obama, before the mid-term elections," he asserted, calling the very idea "unthinkable" and "political suicide."

O'Hanlon, who had just returned from Afghanistan, acknowledged that McChrystal is "fully aware that, right now, America is not winning this war." But he gently scolded Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs, for saying that the war is "deteriorating." If Mullen goes around saying that in public, even after the addition of 21,000 US troops in 2009, he makes it harder to convince Americans that the war is winnable. O'Hanlon strongly favors adding yet more troops, but he didn't provide numbers on how many forces the US will need ultimately. If the United States can turn things around, "In four to five years we will be able to substantially downsize."

The bleakest account of the war came from Cordesman, Washington's resident Cassandra. He delivered a blistering assessment of the Bush administration's complete failure to pursue the Afghan war, with "almost no coherence in strategy" for seven years. President Bush, he said, didn't properly "resource" (i.e., fund) the war, kept troop levels far too low, and failed to build the Afghan National Army (ANA). In addition, he said, US intelligence was extremely poor. The Bush administration and the Pentagon lied about how the war was going, saying, for instance, that only 13 out of 364 Afghan districts were threatened by the Taliban, when if fact nearly half of the country was under siege. And he said that, even under McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry, a former military commander, coordination between the military command and the embassy is "extremely poor."

Cordesman warned that McChrystal and the NATO/ISAF command is under pressure from the White House and the National Security Council not to increase troops levels, and he warned that if "politically correct" limitations are imposed on the US war effort, "I believe we will lose this war." He blasted General James Jones, the national security adviser, for expressing White House opposition to additional troops during a meeting with McChrystal at which Bob Woodward of the Washington Post was present. Of the four panelists, Cordesman was the only one who suggested that Obama and the NSC might resist McChrystal's request for additional forces.

Riedel presented a series of alternative outcomes of the presidential election, which may or may not result in a second-round runoff election in October. He seemed gloomy about the overall election results, noting that overall turnout was held to 30 to 40 percent, and that in some provinces turnout would be far less, below 20 percent. In some areas, less than 5 percent of women voted at all, he said. And he said that President Karzai, if he wins, will emerge even more dependent than before on warlords. Indeed, amid charges of widespread fraud being leveled by leading opposition candidates, general apathy and disaffection about the vote from the majority Pashtun population, and effective Taliban-led intimidation, the election may not create any sense of legitimacy for the next government.

But Riedel's more apocalyptic point came in response to a questioner who wondered why the war is important. If we lose in Afghanistan, or if we withdraw, it will trigger a victorious war dance throughout the Muslim world by radicals and militants, he said. Riedel portrayed the stakes in the war as nothing less than dealing a fatal blow to jihadism. "The triumph of jihadism, in driving NATO out of Afghanistan, will resonate throughout the Muslim world," he said, comparing to the belief among many Al Qaeda and Taliban types that the defeat of the USSR in Afghanistan in the 1980s led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nowhere did Riedel suggest that there is a middle ground between crushing the Taliban and an outright Taliban victory over the United States -- say, by reaching a political solution brokered by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and other outside parties with large sections of the Taliban leadership. Nor did any of the panelists suggest that it's possible to split Al Qaeda and the most extreme elements of the anti-Western forces in Afghanistan-Pakistan away from other Islamists, such as the Taliban's core leadership and guerrilla chieftains -- like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former US and CIA ally in the 1980s, who is now a key ally of the Taliban.

Martin Indyk, who runs foreign policy for Brookings, asked Riedel if reality, so far, clashed with the plan that he helped draw up for Obama earlier this year. No, said Riedel. He said that Obama had inherited a disaster in Afghanistan from the Bush administration. "Trying to turn that around overnight is an illusion," he said. (He failed to note that in trying to turn it around, Obama is turning it in the wrong direction, i.e., toward escalation rather than de-escalation.) "Anyone who thinks that in 12 to 18 months we're going to be anywhere close to victory is living in a fantasy," Riedel said. He did leave open the possibility that the conflict is now unwinnable, and that the US escalation is "too little, too late." But, like the rest of the panelists, Riedel suggested that there is no alternative to victory.

Sadly, like Richard Holbrooke, who two weeks ago told a Washington audience that he can't define victory, none of the panelists bothered to explain what victory might look like, either -- but that it will take a decade or more to get there.

Robert Dreyfuss is a contributing editor to The Nation magazine, and the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Metropolitan).

Copyright © 2009 The Nation -- distributed by Agence Global

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Healthcare 666

Health Care Reform and the American Apocalypse
by James Ridgeway

Across the nation this summer, unknown numbers of people are hunkering down and arming up for what they believe is an imminent battle for the soul of America. Town halls and tea parties provide just a small glimpse of the rage, fear, and paranoia fomenting on front porches and in Internet chat rooms, in the conservative heartland and beyond. While the details may vary, the visions in such forums share a common theme: In one way or another, a fight to the death is coming, and coming soon.

These deep-seated fears explain at least some of the vitriol, the violent scuffles, and death threats bubbling up in town hall protests against health care reform. It's all too easy for certain right-wing activists to accept that the president's plan will create death panels or mandate taxpayer-funded abortions. Because some of these
people don't just believe that Obama wants to destroy capitalism and kill their granny and their unborn child -- they believe he wants to kill them, too.

At a town hall meeting with Democratic Senator Ben Cardin in Hagerstown, Maryland, on August 12, one attendee carried a sign that read "Death to Obama," and "Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids." Another sign at the same event compared Obama to Hitler. At least some of the Obama-Hitler iconography originates from followers
of perennial whack-job Lyndon LaRouche, but the comparison has been disseminated by Rush Limbaugh to a wider audience of hardline conservatives.

That’s not the only insidious comparison making the rounds: One protester who attended a raucous town hall with Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter told a Village Voice reporter that Obama was a "21st-century Marxist" who would adopt the same methods Hugo Chavez used to take power in Venezuela: "infiltration of the education system, political correctness, class warfare ideology, voter fraud, brainwashing through the mainstream media."

As the town halls have become more heated, the hints of violence have become increasingly overt. One man showed up outside the president's town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with a hand gun strapped to his thigh; on August 17, another brought an assault rifle to a demonstration at the site of Obama's speech to veterans in Phoenix. It emerged that the latter's presence at the meeting had been coordinated with a former member of the Viper Militia, whose adherents were convicted of weapons and conspiracy charges in the 1990s and were accused of plotting to blow up federal buildings.

Clearly, this is about far more than health care policy. Instead, it's just one sign out of many heralding a resurgence of the extreme right wing. It's been widely reported that extremist groups are growing, in numbers and membership, since Obama launched his presidential campaign. As in the past, some of the ideas espoused by
these groups are working their way further toward the political core with the help of right-wing politicians and media figures.

For instance, take Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) claim that expanding AmeriCorps would result in liberal "re-education camps."

This statement has now morphed into rumors that the young community service volunteers are being armed to take over the country -- possibly with some help from the New Black Panther Party.

Similarly, Dick Armey, the former House majority leader and lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, is predicting an October surprise from Obama in the form of "a hyped-up outbreak of the swine flu, which they'll say is as bad as the bubonic plague to scare the bed-wetters to vote for health care reform."

The assertion may sound ludicrous, but it dovetails nicely with a view among conspiracy theorists that a sweeping and deadly plot lurks behind the swine flu pandemic. Influenced by the work of a whacked-out Austrian "journalist" named Jane Bürgermeister, some on the far right believe the virus was manufactured by the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and the rest of the black helicopter crowd's usual suspects, as "part of a long-term plan by the syndicate, who have built large numbers of FEMA concentration camps with incinerators and prepared mass graves in states such as Indiana and in New York to quarantine people and dispose of the bodies of the people who are killed by the bioweapons attack." This depopulation" scheme has in turn been linked by conspiracy theorists to the Obama administration's plans for a "global planetary regime to enforce forced abortion" and sterilizing the population through the water supply.

Among liberals, the dominant take on all of this seems to be ridicule and derision, or else impotent hand-wringing about the demise of "civil discourse." It's as if they'd forgotten that many of these so-called loonies just happen to own guns -- and while liberals go on chattering, these folks are stocking up on ammunition. And right-wing radicals have an advantage when it comes to ideological fervor. Obama and the Democrats in Congress quickly frittered away any populist energy that might have come out of the recession, the fiasco of the Bush years, or the 2008 election. All that's left are compromises on top of compromises that they call policymaking -- for which no one can muster much enthusiasm. Right-wing zealots, on the other hand, think they are fighting for their lives by standing fast against communism, or the anti-Christ, or both; they're not only doing God's work, but also fulfilling their destiny as true American patriots.

Indeed, the right-wing revival is infused with the words and imagery of the American Revolution. The gun-toting protestor at Obama's New Hampshire health care town hall was also carrying a sign that read, "It Is Time To Water The Tree Of Liberty” -- a clear reference to a quote from Thomas Jefferson that the "tree of liberty must be
refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." (Because he had a permit and wasn't in shooting range of the tyrant, the patriot was allowed to keep his gun.) On a website also called The Tree of Liberty, members exchange Obama insults and apocalyptic visions in a forum called Committees of Correspondence, named for assemblies in colonial America that protested tyrannical British policies.

The denizens of these gatherings and websites, the tea parties and the raucous town halls, represent a long-standing force in the country's political culture: American nativism. This oft-ignored strain draws its central impulse from an opposition to anything that challenges the vision of America as a white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant
nation. Nativists have taken aim at Catholics, Jews, freed slaves, and successive waves of immigrants, beginning with the Irish fleeing the potato famine in the 1840s and continuing through to present-day immigrants from Latin America. They call for a closing of US borders and support strict adherence to the Constitution in its most literal sense, shorn of equivocating amendments, as a remedy for unwanted social change. And they have been inextricably linked to racist right-wing movements, from the Ku Klux Klan to the Militias to the Minutemen who now "guard" the border. (In the current debate over health care reform, one of the most powerful myths is that it will extend free coverage to illegal immigrants at the expense of "real" Americans.)

Many followers of modern extremist right-wing groups also adhere to the doctrine of Christian Identity, which teaches that white men are the descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel, who traced their lineage back to Adam and Eve. The black and yellow people, they believe, are of lesser stature, likened by some to a bad first copy made by God in his fashioning of the Garden of Eden. They are not real people, the thinking goes, and should be cast down as "mud people." The American Founding Fathers were among the true sovereigns, and the white patriots of today are their descendants.

Even before Obama's election, many believed that the nation's political and economic systems had been taken over by the Zionist Occupied Government. Jews, according to them, are not true white people, and are bent upon world domination, with the aid of their henchmen, the racial minorities.

That's why the election of Barack Obama adds even more fuel to nativist rage: The president is a black man, child of an interracial union, the son of a foreigner who bears a foreign name. According to some, he is not even an American citizen. "[T]he face of the federal government -- the enemy that almost all parts of the extreme right see as the primary threat to freedom -- is now black," says a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups.

"And the fact that the president is an African American has injected a strong racial element into even those parts of the radical right, like the militias, that in the past were not primarily motivated by race hate."

For me, the recent outpourings on the right-wing fringe resonate strongly with what I witnessed in the mid-1980s, when I was working on a book and film on the racialist far right called Blood in the Face. I came across people caught in the misery of economic depression, caused by tough loan practices and declining prices for farm commodities, along with a drive by big banks and insurance companies -- the primary farm lenders -- to consolidate smaller farms into bigger and bigger agribusiness units in the interest of larger profits. Many residents were losing farms that had been in their families for generations.

In this atmosphere of desperation, paranoia flourished. Some talked about a hunting party in Mexico that had spotted a secret airfield of MIGs. Some had heard reports from Baja California of a troop of North Korean troops hidden in the forest. Others said they knew the Russians were breeding an especially strong horse to haul heavy
artillery across the Bering Strait for the coming attack. Still others told me that the United States and the Soviets were making deals aboard small submarines under the Arctic ice. And the new superhighways leading from Texas up the Mississippi River, they said, were part of a secret plan to accommodate Mexicans carrying backpacks stuffed with small nuclear bombs. Many also saw social factors like abortion, feminism, homosexuality, and interracial marriage as symptoms of the general devolution of American culture after it had been wrested from the hands of the true sovereigns. Behind it all, they believed were the Jewish bankers, the Trilateral Commission, the Federal Reserve, the UN -- and the US government.

The people who believed these things bought food and ammunition and hid it in safe places. They got out of the banks, went from paper money to gold, bought mini 14s. Some built bomb shelters, or small forts for defense. They studied the Bible at night and believed they had discovered in Scripture secret plans to eradicate their way of life. They got ready to fight. A few actually died in bloody shoot-outs with the Feds: Elusive Posse Comitatus leader Gordon Kaul and the Order's Bob Mathews were the movement's first martyrs in the 1980s, followed by those who died in the 1990s at Ruby Ridge and WACO -- both cited by Timothy McVeigh as inspiration for the Oklahoma City bombing. The vision of dead babies being carried out of the Murrah
building in 1995 prompted a crackdown on far-right movements by federal law enforcement. But even before Obama's election, pockets of activity remained.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has reported rapid growth among right-wing fringe organizations, although it says the numbers don't yet equal the heyday of the militias in the 1990s. Still, the greatest danger is likely to come not from card-carrying members of any organization, but from small, leaderless cells or lone gunmen, perhaps inspired by another far-right favorite: the biblical story of the Phineas Priest, a man who caught an interracial couple together and slew them both, declaring that he was acting in the name of a just God. It is the same notion of justifiable homicide -- whether in self-defense or in defense of a just cause -- that has reportedly drove Scott Roeder, the gunman accused of killing abortion doctor George Tiller, and James von Brunn, accused of murdering a guard at the Holocaust Museum.

The people I met back in the 1980s told me about their theories and their plans for the coming conflict earnestly, fervently. I first saw this fervor resurface last year, while covering the election in the so-called heartland. I saw it on the fringes of Sarah Palin rallies, and I saw it when a Missouri ethanol plant manager leaned forward confidentially and declared, for the video cameras, why he was
against Obama -- because the candidate, he said, bore the mark of the Beast, of Satan, or the anti-Christ: 666.

Veteran reporter James Ridgeway is a senior correspondent for Mother
Jones magazine.

Copyright © 2009 Mother Jones -- distributed by Agence Global

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lockerbie suspect working for US?

Was Lockerbie suspect working for US?
Published Date: 27 October 2008
By David Maddox

CAMPAIGNERS yesterday renewed calls for the United States to answer fresh questions over a Lockerbie bombing suspect.
Former Labour MP Tam Dalyell and Edinburgh law professor Robert Black urged the Scottish and UK governments to answer reports there is evidence Abu Nidal was a US agent.

They have long believed Abu Nidal, who died in Iraq in 2002, and his Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command were responsible for co-ordinating the bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie on 21 December, 1988 with the loss of 270 lives.

Intelligence reports, said to have been drawn up for Saddam Hussein's security services, said Kuwaitis had asked Abu Nidal, whose real name was Sabri al-Banna, to find out if al-Qaeda was present in Iraq.

The reports referred to Abu Nidal's "collusion with both the American and Kuwaiti intelligence apparatuses in co-ordination with Egyptian intelligence".

And campaigners said the latest evidence adds weight to the claims that Libyan secret agent Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi – who was found guilty of the atrocity in 2001 – and the Libyan government were scapegoats to cover up a wider plot.

Mr Dalyell said the reports added weight to the theory that Lockerbie was a "tit-for-tat" attack for the shooting down of an Iranian passenger airliner by the warship USS Vincennes in 1988, and was allowed by the US administration.

He said the claims that Abu Nidal was working for the Americans would explain some of the mysteries that surrounded the Lockerbie outrage. These included a notice that went up at the American embassy in Moscow warning diplomats not to travel on Pan Am flights, and senior South African figures being "hauled off" the plane before its final flight.

The diplomats were replaced by students, who lost their lives.

Added to that is the mystery over why then prime minister Margaret Thatcher overruled her transport secretary, Cecil Parkinson, and stopped a public inquiry into the attack. It has been claimed this was because the US administration did not want an inquiry.

In a joint statement issued yesterday, Mr Dalyell and Prof Black said: "If the American public had known of a link with Abu Nidal, and had known that the US government knew enough to pull VIPs off the plane and let home-going students take their place, there would have been fury at a time of transition between the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Snr.

"The fact that the Iraqi government either executed Abu Nidal or forced him to commit suicide suggests they had discovered he was an American spy."

Mr Dalyell and Prof Black – who with Lockerbie relative Dr Jim Swire persuaded the Libyan government to hand over Megrahi for trial – said they were "deeply and personally concerned" about the Libyan, who is suffering from cancer.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Lies of Lockerbie

Lockerbie: Will the Truth Ever Come Out?
By Paddy McGuffin
August 23, 2009 "Morning Star" -- August 21, 2009 -- Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds, although welcomed by many campaigners in Britain, means we are no further forward in terms of establishing the truth regarding the Lockerbie bombing.

For many, Megrahi was a convenient scapegoat, deflecting attention away from a wealth of evidence which would bring into question the official version of events.

This suspicion has deepened with the suggestion that Megrahi had been forced to withdraw his appeal against conviction or be refused leave to return to Libya to see out his dying days.

An estimated 600 pages of evidence, much of which may prove Megrahi's innocence, has been withheld from the public.

The families of British victims of the bombing are understandably dismayed that, with the withdrawal of the appeal, the best chance to have the evidence exposed has faded.

Although we cannot know the exact details of what the withheld documents contain, there is enough evidence already in the public domain to raise serious questions over the Libyan's conviction and why he was fitted up for a crime he almost certainly did not commit.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombing, investigations centred on Iran, Syria and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) - the secular resistance group founded by George Habash.

Three weeks before the Lockerbie bombing, German anti-terror officers arrested Marwan Khreesat, a known bomb-maker with links to the PFLP. He was released, apparently due to lack of evidence, but in April 1989 further raids discovered two more bombs designed by Khreesat, both of which were specifically made for targeting aircraft.

Among those arrested were a number of Palestinians with links to the PFLP-GC.

PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril was at that time under the protection of Syria.

It has been suggested that Jibril was assigned the Lockerbie bombing by the Iranian regime in revenge for the shooting down of an Iranian Airbus passenger plane by the USS Vincennes earlier in 1988 with the loss of 290 lives.

During the German arrests, a Toshiba tape-recorder packed with Semtex was discovered. Pieces of a similar model recorder were discovered among the Lockerbie debris. One of the Palestinian group, Abu Talb, is known to have been in Malta shortly before the bombing.

Despite the large amount of evidence pointing to Iranian or Syrian involvement, these lines of inquiry abruptly ended, apparently with a phone call from George Bush Senior to Margaret Thatcher warning her to stop Scottish police digging.

It is argued that the pending invasion of Iraq required the support of Iran and Syria, both of whom had pariah status a year earlier, and that therefore exposing their involvement in the atrocity was not helpful.

A politically expedient scapegoat was sought.

Libya fitted neatly into the frame. It was commonly regarded as a terrorist state with a history of funding and supporting armed groups including the IRA and its leader Muammar Gaddafi had been branded a "mad dog" by Ronald Reagan.

Two years earlier the US had bombed Gaddafi's residence in Tripoli, killing his adopted daughter. There also remained the unresolved issue of the murder of PC Yvonne Fletcher at the Libyan embassy in London.

In addition, Libya was the only Middle Eastern state to openly support Iraq during the US-led invasion.

As this seismic shift in political alliances occurred, new evidence conveniently appeared, in the form of a fragment of circuitboard from a timing device, apparently discovered in the remote Scottish countryside after the bombing.

This fragment was reportedly traced by the FBI to a swiss manufacturer who sold timers to Libya.

In November 1991, indictments for murder were issued against Megrahi, who was head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), and Lamin Khafilah Fhimah, Maltese station manager for LAA.

Crippling United Nations-imposed sanctions eventually forced Libya to hand over the two men in 1999 in exchange for the lifting of the embargo.

Libya also agreed to pay $2.7 billion in compensation to the victims of the bombings, although it has been argued that this was not, as has been claimed, an admission of guilt but rather a way of having the punitive sanctions removed.

The two accused men were handed over to Scottish custody at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

The trial at Camp Zeist, before a panel of three Scottish judges, was a farce.

Megrahi was convicted solely on the spurious and lucrative evidence of a Maltese shop-owner who claimed the Libyan had bought items of clothing from his store weeks prior to the bombing.

These items, which had been found in the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103, had been traced back to the shop of Tony Gauci.

Megrahi's co-accused Lamin Khafilah Fhimah was acquitted on the same evidence after a so-called "Libyan defector," in the pay of the CIA, was wholly discredited.

Investigative reporter Paul Foot commented at the time: "His testimony was such a fantastic farrago of lies and fantasies that it was thrown out by the Scottish judges."

Gauci was also handsomely paid for his "evidence" to the court but even then gave a wildly inaccurate description of the man whom he claimed had bought the clothes from his shop.

In addition, little if any evidence was provided to explain how Megrahi had allegedly secreted a suitcase bomb on a feeder flight in Malta, which was then transferred twice through Frankfurt and Heathrow airports undetected.

The claim that an explosive device was physically handled through three airports without suspicions arising is ludicrous.

Police investigating the atrocity had even been told by a security guard at Heathrow that a Pan Am baggage storage area at the airport had been broken into on the night of the bombing.

This, one would have thought, should have set major alarm bells ringing and added massive weight to the long-argued hypothesis that the bomb was placed on the flight at Heathrow, not Malta.

This evidence, given in a sworn affidavit, was withheld from the trial.

At the time UN observer to the trial Dr Hans Kochler described it as "a spectacular miscarriage of justice."

In 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission referred Megrahi's case to the High Court of Justiciary. SCCRC chairman Rev Dr Graham Forbes said: "The commission is of the view, based upon our lengthy investigations, the new evidence we have found and other evidence which was not before the trial court, that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice."

The full SCCRC report into the Lockerbie bombing has never been disclosed, however.

With the dropping of his appeal by Megrahi this week, in a step strongly believed to have been forced upon him in exchange for his freedom, campaigners and the families of the victims fear that the report may now never be published.

The calls for a full public inquiry into the bombing have been dismissed by consecutive governments, both Tory and Labour.

The main argument against such an inquiry was that it would jeopardise the criminal investigation.

In truth, the "criminal investigation" ended with Megrahi's indictment in 1991. There has never been any attempt to arrest the real culprits.