14 December 2006

Oliver Kamm: little man with large ego

I have just seen the interview on The Late Edition, and what surprised me most (I don't know why it surprised me really), apart from seeing just what a small man Kamm is (albeit with an enormous superiority complex), was his use of the classic myth of "we are a civilised state, Iran and North Korea are not," argument to justify Trident, and the UK's own breaking of the NPT. Like most of his opinion, this is contradicted by the historical record.

Kamm has either not read Mark Curtis' books Web of Deceit and Unpeople which document what such a 'civilised' state we really are or he just ignores them.

In fact Curtis could be pointing directly at Kamm when he writes "The history of British foreign policy is partly one of complicity in some of the world's worst horrors. If we were honest, we would see Britain's role in the world to a large extent as a story of crimes against humanity. Currently, contrary to the extraordinary rhetoric of New Labour leaders and other elites, policies are continuing on this traditional course, systemmatically making the world more abusive of human rights as well as more unequal and less secure" Mark Curts, Web of Deceit p. 432.

Not surprisingly, Kamm also resorts to inverted logic in his opinions, for example when he states his primary reasons for supporting Trident:

"Because nuclear armories will be around for at least the next 50 years, that is, the life span of the successor to Trident; the likely acquirers will be the worst of states, in the not so distant future Iran and North Korea; the costs of acquiring Trident are known; the costs of renouncing it are incalculable; it is a prudent thing to do"

Kamm apparently can't see, or more probably ignores:

1. That "as Britain, especially with the US, increases military spending, heightens 'power projection' capabilities, develops even more sophisticated weapons and ensures Western conventional miltary dominance", in order to impose on the world a fundamentalist economic ideology that promotes the increasing takeover of the global economy by big business, "these priorities breed increasing insecurity and further encourage others to acquire even more devastating weapons". Mark Curtis, Web of Deceipt

2. That as Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University, openDemocracy’s International Security Editor and a consultant to the Oxford Research Group, explains:
"The determination of Britain's political elite to maintain the country as a nuclear-weapons state is rooted in a half-century of military planning to which the possibility of tactical and first use of nuclear weapons is central."

3. The policy itself sends a "clear signal" to other states who are "serious about pursuing an independent course of development": "if a country does not have these weapons, it may be threatened wth destruction and pulverised, as in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia and Iraq. Nuclear weapons could be seen as protection against this new phase of Western threats and interventionism masquerading as the 'war against terrorism'." Mark Curtis, Web of Deceit pp.432-433

The simple explanation is that this policy actually encourages the proliferation Kamm talks about.

Finally he states "it is a prudent thing to do".

Prudent? For someone who acclaims his own superior intellect, and calls others 'ignoramus', this is a remarkable word to use.

Prudent: "characterized by, arising from, or showing prudence"

"1 : the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason
2 : sagacity or shrewdness in the management of affairs
3 : skill and good judgment in the use of resources
4 : caution or circumspection as to danger or risk "

In fact, as is common with Kamm, he uses words which describe the opposite of reality.

Trident is ill-considered, ill-judged, and rash.

Media Lens Message Board

Re: Oliver Kamm: little man with large ego

Posted by The Editors on December 14, 2006, 6:27 pm, in reply to "Oliver Kamm: little man with large ego "User logged in as: Editor

: Trident is ill-considered, ill-judged, and : rash.

Actually, David, I think that's extremely generous. I think Trident is completely, 100%, insane. How else to describe a massively expensive response to a threat that doesn't exist which simultaneously increases the danger from threats that do exist (nuclear terrorism, etc)? It reminds me of the 'debate' in some circles on whether climate change is real - it wouldn't even be happening but for the influence of big money, big interests and big power.

04 December 2006

West helps Lebanon build militia to fight Hezbollah

Sent: domingo, 03 de diciembre de 2006 0:00
To: Paul Reynolds
Subject: Lebanon

Dear Paul,

I was trawling away on the internet this afternoon and came across this intriguing piece from yesterday's Globe & Mail, the Canadian national newspaper:

West helps Lebanon build militia to fight Hezbollah

I was surprised to read this as I had not come across this news in the British media.

"Syria and Iran have long poured money and weapons into Lebanese groups, primarily Hezbollah. But since Mr. Siniora and his allies took office in 2005, the United States, France and several Sunni Arab countries have set about trying to create a counterbalancing force."

"Since the Syrian army's departure from Lebanon in early 2005, the United States and France have been providing money and training to the Internal Security Forces, as the light-blue-uniformed police force is known. With the political situation souring further in recent weeks, the United Arab Emirates stepped in to provide the unit with an emergency "gift" of thousands of rifles and dozens of police vehicles."

"The United States, which sees Mr. Siniora's government as a flagship for its "new Middle East," gave $1.5-million (U.S.) in "rushed" military assistance to the ISF just before the outbreak of the summer war between Israel and Hezbollah, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has provided training. Washington promised millions more, but it's unclear whether it was ever delivered.

The ISF has also set up a separate $30-million intelligence-gathering apparatus -- in a country that already had three other such services -- because the other forces were seen as dominated by Christians and Shiites and infiltrated by Syria. Observers say the ISF's intelligence unit is widely reviled by suspicious Christians and Shiites.

"There is no trust of the police here. The police are seen as a Sunni-dominated sectarian force," said Timur Goksel, a professor of public administration at the American University in Beirut.

According to Amin Hteit, a military analyst and retired Lebanese army general, the ISF was a secondary force of about 12,000 men, compared with 63,000 in the regular army, before the Syrian withdrawal. Reflecting the generally accepted population breakdown, a third of its members were Shiites.

The ISF has since doubled in number, with Sunnis and Christians making up most of the new troops. According to Gen. Hteit, just 1,000 of the 12,000 additions are Shiites."

This is extremely important news. I can't understand why it isn't on every newscast or bulletin. Or on the front page of every newspaper. Or is it it that because its 'us' lighting the fuse of the next civil war, we can just ignore it as if it isn't really happening? Or is the aim really to transform the Middle East into a series of small easily controllable states as suggested by Maj. Peters, formerly assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (US), where he was responsible for future warfare, in an article in the US Armed Forces Journal in early August 2006.

"International borders are never completely just. But the degree of injustice they inflict upon those whom frontiers force together or separate makes an enormous difference — often the difference between freedom and oppression, tolerance and atrocity, the rule of law and terrorism, or even peace and war.

The most arbitrary and distorted borders in the world are in Africa and the Middle East. Drawn by self-interested Europeans (who have had sufficient trouble defining their own frontiers), Africa's borders continue to provoke the deaths of millions of local inhabitants. But the unjust borders in the Middle East — to borrow from Churchill — generate more trouble than can be consumed locally."

"As for those who refuse to "think the unthinkable," declaring that boundaries must not change and that's that, it pays to remember that boundaries have never stopped changing through the centuries. Borders have never been static, and many frontiers, from Congo through Kosovo to the Caucasus, are changing even now (as ambassadors and special representatives avert their eyes to study the shine on their wingtips).

Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works."

"Correcting borders to reflect the will of the people may be impossible. For now. But given time — and the inevitable attendant bloodshed — new and natural borders will emerge. Babylon has fallen more than once.

Meanwhile, our men and women in uniform will continue to fight for security from terrorism, for the prospect of democracy and for access to oil supplies in a region that is destined to fight itself."

The article comes accompanied by a before and after map of the area.

When the Lebanon descends into a similar hellish chaos as Iraq, don't say you were never warned.

Best wishes

Update 04 December 2006:

After writing this letter yesterday, I see from reports in today's press that it has already started. In today's Haaretz we see the headline "Lebanon beefs up Beirut forces after Hezbollah man shot dead".

"In the most serious incident, gunmen fired from assault rifles at a group of protesters in the Sunni Qasqas neighbourhood, a stronghold for the anti-Syrian majority coalition, killing a man later identified as a Hezbollah guerrilla." Mind you we don't know who identified him as a a "guerrilla"...

UPDATE: 14 December 2006:

-----Original Message-----
From: Paul Reynolds-INTERNET
Sent: martes, 05 de diciembre de 2006 14:52
To: David Sketchley
Subject: RE: Lebanon

I have passed this on to the Middle East desk

-----Original Message-----
From: David Sketchley
Sent: 05 December 2006 13:42
To: Paul Reynolds-INTERNET
Subject: FW: Lebanon

I'm sorry you a) couldn't find the time or b) couldn't be bothered to reply or even to cover this aspect on the BBC website.

For your information another article backing this up has been published in the LA Times:

"The Lebanese government has nearly doubled the size of its security forces in recent months by adding about 11,000 mostly Sunni Muslim and Christian troops, and has armed them with weapons and vehicles donated by the United Arab Emirates, a Sunni state."

"The quiet, speedy buildup indicates that Lebanon's anti-Syria ruling majority, led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, has been bracing for armed sectarian conflict since the withdrawal of Syrian forces in the spring of 2005"

Another aspect of the Lebanon problem that you have failed to address is that there is a class aspect to this struggle as well. The fact is that the Shiites are mostly poor and underrepresented by the outdated Taif Agreement.

Megan Stack in another LA Times article:

"Some of the poorest and most marginalized people in the country, Shiite Muslims, have abandoned their homes in suburban slums to camp out on the nation's priciest bit of real estate...Shiites have languished for generations in the impoverished east and south of the country. Even when they poured into the capital to escape poverty and war, they ended up squatting on the fringes of the city. Neglect of their plight provided the fertile ground in which
Hezbollah took root, not only as a band of fighters that stood up to Israel, but also as an efficient welfare network. The group built schools, founded clinics and helped squatters win the right to stay in their homes..."This part of town is for the French, for the Americans, for the rich," said Ali Hamdan, 30, a member of the Shiite Amal party. "It's not for us anymore. It's not really Lebanon. This is only on a map."


03 December 2006

How Israel demolishes ceasefires

Gideon Levy, whose reporting from the 'territories', Noam Chomsky describes as "difficult to match in quality anywhere" (Failed States p.192), has laid open the Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) strategy against the Palestinians in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Levy describes the process:

"In a few days, there will be a targeted killing operation. The military correspondents will recite: "He was one of the senior operatives of Hamas (or Islamic Jihad), and was responsible for producing and smuggling large amounts of armaments." In response, a barrage of Qassams will fall on Sderot. One of the residents might be injured. In the process of the targeted killing operation, some passersby might also be killed; the correspondents will then recite: "They were armed." Several days later, there might be a terror attack. The leaders of the right-wing parties and the Labor Party will be interviewed on television and will recite: "Abu Mazen has once again demonstrated that he is incapable and unwilling to fight terror. There is no one to talk to." Public Security Minister Avi Dichter will propose turning Beit Hanun into a ghost town. Eli Yishai will suggest bombing from the air. The next day, Qassams will fall again, and the IDF will enter the northern Gaza Strip. The cease-fire will go up in flames. This is not a bold wager. This is almost the exact series of events that occurred in previous cease-fires. What was is what will be. There are plenty of examples. "

Levy proceeds to provide us with at least 9 examples of the same Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) strategy since January 2002.

Another important point is that:

"The current cease-fire was achieved thanks to the U.S. president's visit in Jordan. Israel responded to the Palestinian initiative *- again it is a Palestinian initiative, there has never been an Israeli initiative - after the military operations were bitter failures. After "Summer Rains" and "Autumn Clouds," after 80 were killed in one week in Beit Hanun, the firing of Qassams did not stop.

The IDF hurried to respond with a typical sour countenance: Senior officers in the Southern Command expressed strong opposition in off-the-record conversations, the chief of staff was quick to declare that "the IDF was only a partially a partner in the decision" and the defense minister expressed reservations about expanding the cease-fire to the West Bank. The IDF is not interested in the cease-fire. One can assume that neither is the Shin Bet. Reports on how the cease-fire is already being exploited for redeployment on the other side are flooding the media. And the end is known in advance.

Instead of Israel promoting the cease-fire, it is acting to undermine it. A cease-fire is bad for the IDF, especially when it stems from its failures as in Lebanon and Gaza. How intolerably easy it is for the IDF to undermine the relative quiet that has been achieved. One assassination is enough."

* The NYT on 26 November 2006 reported "The deal started with a phone call from the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, to Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, according to both sides. "

However, the real importance of the article, and something you will never see exposed in European or N. American MSM is that "It is now not only a matter of the danger of renewed hostile activity, but a much more fateful question: Who rules in Israel and who is really dictating its path?"

The politicians or the IOF?

23 November 2006

Do the Guardian leader writers read their own newspaper?

Today's Guardian leader is called Death in Beirut and talks about cui bono - who benefits? - in relation to the assassination of Pierre Gemayel.

It says "most see two likely suspects behind the assassination of the industry minister, Pierre Gemayel. Neighbouring Syria is still a powerful player in the Land of the Cedars despite having been forced to withdraw its troops and intelligence agents last year after being blamed for the murder of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister...The other prime suspect in this latest case is Hizbullah"

Don't they even read their own bloody newspaper?

In a special report in today's Guardian "Who benefits? Rival theories over the murder of Gemayel", Clancy Chassay writes:

"There are two competing theories in Beirut for who killed Pierre Gemayel."

"The US-backed government and its supporters accuse Syria and, in some cases, its ally Hizbullah." Note that the US is one of its supporters.

"The other main theory accuses the US or its allies in Lebanon of killing Mr Gemayel to stop the opposition, led by Hizbullah, from bringing down the government and curtailing American influence. It also suggests an attempt to isolate Syria once again, just as the west wants to re-engage Damascus over possible help in Iraq. "The killing of Gemayel gave the embattled government a bit of breathing space and reinvigorated the pro-government forces' withering anti-Syrian cause, which has been primarily fuelled by the assassination of its leaders," said Amal Saad Ghorayeb of Beirut's Carnegie Middle East Centre."

This is completely ignored by the leader writer. Why?

I mean how blinkered can you get?

It couldn't possibly be the US or Israel, could it? I mean they have absolutely nothing to gain have they? Neither of them have a history of international terrorism, using targeted murders, or are experts in the art of carbombing, are they? Neither of them have special forces and intelligence that indulge in false flag operations, do they?

Michael McClintock, Director of Research at Human Rights First has written a book called "Instruments of Statecraft: U.S. Guerilla Warfare, Counterinsurgency, and Counterterrorism, 1940-1990", which was published in 1992 by Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

It is now available free online here.

In the preface he writes:

"Since World War II, assassination, sabotage, kidnaping, torture, the overthrow of foreign governments, and other terroristic activities have been intrinsic to US national defense policy. These have been justified time and again as necessary to combat communist insurgency and, more recently, terrorism-as the only effective response to the barbarism ascribed to, or projected onto, US enemies- be they Sandinistas or the PLO." (We could also add later examples like Saddam Hussein, Iran, etc.).

"So it is that America has maintained forces -including the OSS, the CIA, the Green Berets, and the Delta Force-that have specialized in dirty warfare with impunity, in Nicaragua, Lebanon, Laos, Vietnam, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Africa, Cuba, Central America, and Greece, among other places."

In 2002 we first heard about the Proactive and Preemptive Operations Group (P2OG) from an article in the LA Times by its military affairs analyst William Arkin "The Secret War".

"In what may well be the largest expansion of covert action by the armed forces since the Vietnam era, the Bush administration has turned to what the Pentagon calls the "black world" to press the war on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The Defense Department is building up an elite secret army with resources stretching across the full spectrum of covert capabilities. New organizations are being created. The missions of existing units are being revised. Spy planes and ships are being assigned new missions in anti-terror and monitoring the "axis of evil."

"The development of the Pentagon's covert counter-terror capability has its roots in the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. The Army created a highly compartmentalized organization that could collect clandestine intelligence independent of the rest of the U.S. intelligence community and follow through with covert military action.

Known as the Intelligence Support Activity, or ISA, when it was established in 1981, this unit fought in drug wars and counter-terror operations from the Middle East to South America. It built a reputation for daring, flexibility and a degree of lawlessness."

"Today, the ISA operates under the code name Gray Fox"

"Rumsfeld's influential Defense Science Board 2002 Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism says in its classified "outbrief" -- a briefing drafted to guide other Pentagon agencies -- that the global war on terrorism "requires new strategies, postures and organization."

The board recommends creation of a super-Intelligence Support Activity, an organization it dubs the Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group, (P2OG), to bring together CIA and military covert action, information warfare, intelligence, and cover and deception.

Among other things, this body would launch secret operations aimed at "stimulating reactions" among terrorists

According to Seymour Hersh, Gray Fox was recently (2005) given a new code name and was formally assigned from the Army to the Special Operations Command (socom) in Tampa in July 2002. The aim being to take away Congressional oversight according to an anonymous Republican member of Congress with a substantial role in national security oversight quoted in the Washington Post in January 2005 "It sounds like there's an angle here of, 'Let's get around having any oversight by having the military do something that normally the [CIA] does, and not tell anybody.' That immediately raises all kinds of red flags for me. Why aren't they telling us?".

There is enough information in the public domain to conclude that Gray Fox is now P2OG.

Asia Times reported: "Defense Science Board (DSB) conducted a 2002 "Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism". Excerpts from that study, dated August 16, were leaked and obtained by the Federation of American Scientists, which posted them on their website. The report was produced by a 10-member panel of military experts that included Vice Admiral William O Studeman, former director of the National Security Agency.

Although the study is filled with lots of the usual buzzwords and phrases that Pentagon planners love, such as "robust connectivity, agile ground forces, adaptive joint command and control and discriminant use of force", one thing that does stand out is its call for preemption/proaction/interdiction/disruption/quick-response capabilities

The other thing that stands out in the DSB Power Point presentaton which is available online, is the reference on p.26 to

"Highly specialized people with unique technical and intelligence skills such as information operations, PSYOP, network attack, covert activities, SIGINT, HUMINT, SOF, influence warfare/deception operations "

Project Censored is right when it says: "Exactly what type of actions would be required to "stimulate reactions" by terrorist groups has yet to be revealed."

Chris Floyd has suggested "agents provocateurs, perhaps, who infiltrate groups then plan and direct the attacks themselves?--they can then take measures against the "states/sub-state actors accountable" for "harboring" the Rumsfeld-roused gangs. What kind of measures exactly? Well, the classified Pentagon program puts it this way: "Their sovereignty will be at risk.""

Some of us have no doubts.

07 November 2006

Guardian Leader writer Richard Adams and "the Republican party's awesome vote-winning machine"

Richard Adams, a Guardian leader writer, has unwittingly slipped up big time.

His Freudian slip in the subtitle almost gave the game away, but it's in this paragraph that the real damage was done:

"The Republicans achievement in this election will be to blunt the progress of the Democratic party, just as it was beginning to gain momentum. And if they do it won't be because of Saddam Hussein's death sentence or electronic voting devices. It will be because the Republicans have built an awesome and well-oiled machine (oiled by money and people)."

Note his turn of phrase "to blunt the progress of the Democratic party".

This "well-oiled machine" and how it blunts the progress of the Democratic party is what Greg Palast has been investigating for some time, and put in an article written for the Guardian's Comment is Free. Here's just one example:

"A legion of pimple-faced Republicans with Blackberries loaded with lists of new voters is assigned to challenge citizens in heavily Black and Hispanic (i.e. Democratic) precincts to demand photo ID that perfectly matches registration data.

Sounds benign, but it's not. The federal HAVA law and complex new ID requirements in states like New Mexico will easily allow the GOP squads to triple the number of voters turned away. Rather than deny using these voter suppression tactics, Republican spokesmen are claiming they are 'protecting the integrity of the vote.'

I've heard that before. In 2004, we got our hands on fifty confidential internal memos from the files of the Republican National Committee. Attached to these were some pretty strange spreadsheets. They called them "caging lists" - and it wasn't about zoo feeding times. They were lists (70,000 for Florida alone) of new Black and Jewish voters - a very Democratic demographic - to challenge on Election Day. The GOP did so with a vengeance: In 2004, for the first time in half a century, more than 3.5 million voters were challenged on Election Day. Worse, nearly half lost their vote: 300,000 were turned away for wrong ID; 1.1 million were allowed a "provisional" ballot - which was then simply tossed out.

Tomorrow, new federal ID requirements and a dozen new state show-me-your-ID laws will permit the GOP challenge campaign to triple their 300,000 record to nearly one million voters blocked

Adams ignores all the facts about the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters in today's US., and disguises what is really happening by the use of unexplained phrases such as highlighted above: "awesome and well-oiled machine (oiled by money and people)". Why didn't you explain what you meant Mr Adams?

I suggest Adams, and anyone else for that matter, watches the award-winning documentary 'American Blackout' to get a real understanding on how the dienfranchisement works. It was the winner of the Special Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

American Blackout chronicles the recurring patterns of disenfranchisement witnessed from 2000 to 2004 while following the story of Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who took an active role in investigating these election debacles.


03 November 2006

Professors Michael Spagat, Neil Ferguson & their conflict of interest in criticising Lancet report

Media Lens Message Board
Professors Michael Spagat, Neil Ferguson & their conflict of interest in criticising Lancet report
Posted by David Sketchley on October 22, 2006, 12:13 pm, in reply to "Re: exchange with Les Roberts re "main street bias""

Is it really any wonder that Professors Michael Spagat & Neil Ferguson want to discredit the Lancet report?

I think not when you look closely at their work and in particular some of their latest research papers which Spagat tells us proudly on his website "has been written up in Nature, the Economist and the Guardian":

Welcome to Michael Spagat's Home Page!"

"I am also proud to announce the launching of a new web site called Civil Conflict Analysis Resources that I hope will become a major resource for conflict researchers, especially economists and political scientists. This site is the brainchild of my infinitely energetic and entreprenuerial PhD student, Jorge Restrepo, who is about to finish his disseratiation on the Colombian conflict. Also please visit the web site of CERAC, a think tank that we have set up in Bogota specializing in the analysis of conflict and violence.

New on the research page you can find a paper on Iraq, Colombia and global terrorism that finds surprising similarities between the three. This work has been written up in Nature, the Economist and the Guardian."

The research paper is called:

""From Old Wars to New Wars and Global Terrorism," with Neil Johnson, Jorge Restrepo, Juan Camilo Bohórquez, Nicolás Suarzez, Elvira María Restrepo, and Roberto Zarama.
This paper has received press coverage in the Economist, The Guardian and Nature."

The important thing to notice however is that Professor Michael Spagat uses data from IBC for all his conflict analysis research that includes Iraq. This also applies to Professor Neil Johnson.

Obviously if all their reserach is based on IBC figures, then their findings would be virtually useless if the Lancet figures were correct.

Hence their desire to discredit it.

They are most definitely not 'honest brokers' in this affair:

"From old wars to new wars and global terrorism"N. Johnson1,7, M. Spagat2,7, J. Restrepo3,7, J. Bohórquez4, N. Suárez5,7, E. Restrepo6,7, andR. Zarama41 Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K.2 Department of Economics, Royal Holloway College, University of London, Egham, U.K.3 Department of Economics, Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia4 Department of Industrial Engineering, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia5 Department of Economics, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia6 Department of Economics, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia7 CERAC, Conflict Analysis Resource Center, Bogotá, Colombia
"Our analysis uses our ownunique dataset for killings and injuries in Colombia, plus publicly available data forcivilians killed in Iraq."
"For the Iraq data we work with killings of civilians as provided by the Iraq Body Count Project."

"Universal patterns underlying ongoing wars and terrorism"Neil F. Johnson1,6, Mike Spagat2,6, Jorge A. Restrepo3,6, Oscar Becerra6, Juan Camilo Bohórquez4, Nicolas Suárez6, Elvira Maria Restrepo5,6, and Roberto Zarama41 Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Oxford, U.K.2 Department of Economics, Royal Holloway College, University of London, Egham, U.K.3 Department of Economics, Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia4 Department of Industrial Engineering, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia5 Faculty of Economics, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia6 CERAC, Conflict Analysis Resource Center, Bogotá, Colombia

"Our findings are backed up by extensive statistical tests on carefully prepared datasets, as discussed in the Appendices."

"PART 2: Data and methods...For Iraq we work with the CERAC Integrated Iraq Dataset (CIID). The CIID builds on the event description from three datasets that monitor violence in Iraq: Iraq Body Count (http://www.iraqbodycount.net/), iCasualties (http://iCasualties.org/oif/) and ITERATE (http://www.cba.ua.edu/~wenders/). All three sources contain event data on the Iraq war from its beginning on March 20, 2003. The first two are continually updated whereas ITERATE is updated on an annual basis so at present only extends through the end of 2004. As we discuss below, ITERATE has a very small impact on CIID so the fact that it stops early does not affect the work of this paper.The Iraq Body Count Project (IBC) monitors the reporting of more than 30 respected online news sources, recording only events covered by at least two of them. For each event IBC logs the date, time, location, target, weapon, estimates of the minimum and maximum number of civilian deaths and the sources of the information.vii IBC attaches the most confidence to their figures on the minimum number of killings in each event so the figures in the paper are based on these minimum numbers. However, figure S8 (below) shows that Figure 1 changes very little if we substitute the maximum number of killings for the minimum number of killings. The concept of civilian is broad, including, for example, policemen. The list of events, posted online, covers the full range of war activity, including suicide bombings, roadside bombings, US air strikes, car bombs, artillery strikes and individual assassinations.The IBC data has two principle drawbacks which need to be addressed in order for the reader to have confidence in our results. First, some lines in the IBC spreadsheet contain entries that are not proper events. The most important entries of this form are based on reports from morgues around Iraq. For example, entry x355a lists 26 deaths between May 1, 2003 and May 31, 2003 described as “Violent deaths recorded at the provincial morgue of Karbala”. The following hypothetical calculation illustrates how IBC handles these entries. The Karbala morgue actually reports a higher figure, say 39 violent deaths for May of 2003. However, IBC already has two events in Karbala for May of 2003, a car bomb killing 4 and a suicide bombing killing 5. It is likely that these 9 deaths are included among the 39 violent deaths recorded by the Karbala morgue so IBC subtracts them off, leaving 30. In addition, the murder rate in Karbala before the war was 4 per months so we might expect that 4 out of the remaining violent deaths would have happened even without the war. IBC subtracts off these 4 leaving the figure of 26 which is the one they enter into the database. This procedure is reasonable on its own terms, however deeply problematic for our purposes in this paper for two reasons. First, most of the deaths in entries of this form are likely to have occurred as single homicides since larger conflict events would be likely to have their own entry. Clearly we would not wish to treat 26 individual homicides as one event in which 26 people were killed. Second, most of the killings in events of this form are more tied to crime than to the conflict directly and we prefer to focus on a narrow definition of conflict killing. For these reasons we delete from the IBC database entries of this nature. We provide a list of events we deleted from IBC in Part 4 of the Appendices.The second drawback of IBC is that it measures only civilian deaths, albeit with a wide concept of civilian. Therefore, to get of fuller picture of the conflict we have added in events from iCasualties in which coalition military personnel and contractors are killed in conflict events (but not in accidents). This is a highly reliable source as the military services keep solid records on the fate of their own personnel. Finally, as a check for coverage of IBC and iCausualties we also integrated events from ITERATE, which is a global terrorism database that records terrorism events of international significance.This integration required careful matching of events between the three sources to avoid double counting. The following Venn diagrams give the results of this matching work, with event counts and numbers of killings accounted for by these events in parentheses below. They show that most of the deaths in CIID come from IBC alone but that iCasualties does make a significant contribution. The overlap between IBC and iCasualties is small, since they are measuring different things. However, there is some overlap because sometimes both military personnel and civilians are killed in a single incident. The impact of adding ITERATE into CIID is negligible, indicating that IBC and iCasualties give very full coverage of the Iraq war."

When we go to the website Spragat's protegé Restrepo has set up - the Civil Conflict Analysis Resources, we find that they too use IBC data for their research:

"Country specific datasetsIraq Body Count
Ron Francisco's civil war data (Spain and US Civil Wars)
Sutton Index of Deaths in Northern Ireland
Restrepo-Vargas-Spagat Colombia Civil War Dataset (1988-2002"

Update 03/11/06:

In fact the website which notes IBC as a country specific dataset is the Dept. of Economics at the Royal Holloway. I discovered this while I was writing the following mail to Dr. Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks. :

Dear Dr, Hicks,

I have recently read an analysis by you of the new Lancet study of deaths in Iraq that was posted by Josh Dougherty on the Media Lens Message Board: A comment on the methodology described by Burnham et al. used to estimate ‘Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq’ published on October 12, 2006 in the Lancet

I am interested in how you came to write this analysis. In particular I am interested to learn whether you were approached by anyone specifically asking for your comments. If so, was it , by chance, someone from IBC, Iraq Body Count, or perchance from the Royal Holloway, University of London or the Dept. of Physics at Lincoln College, University of Oxford?

I ask because I notice that you are a research associate of CERAC, and as such, you are a colleague of Prof. Neil Johnson and Prof. Mike Spagat who are also "academic visitors" to CERAC, and who also, curiously, recently criticised the latest Lancet report.

I say curiously, because the overwhelming body of opinion of scientists in the field of bio-statistics, actually supports the Lancet methodology.

I also find it interesting that Prof. Neil Johnson and Prof. Mike Spagat were the co-authors of a research paper called "Universal patterns underlying ongoing wars and terrorism"(2), an updated version of a previous research paper called "From Old Wars to New Wars and Global Terrorism"(1).
Curiously, in both research papers, calculations and conclusions were made, based on data for civilian killings provided by: IBC.
(1) "For the Iraq data we work with killings of civilians as provided by the Iraq Body Count Project."
(2) Appendices PART 2: Data and methods "For Iraq we work with the CERAC Integrated Iraq Dataset (CIID). The CIID builds on the event description from three datasets that monitor violence in Iraq: Iraq Body Count , iCasualties and ITERATE."

In fact, apart from CERAC using IBC as part of its Integrated Iraq Dataset (CIID), it transpires that the Dept. of Economics at the Royal Holloway, University of London, also uses IBC in its country specific datasets (click on 'datasets' link).

This leads me to believe that there is a conflict of interest here. If IBC figures are wrong, and the Lancet figures are correct, then the conclusions reached in these research papers and indeed any other that used the IBC figures, could be seriously compromised. Therefore, the scholars in question cannot possibly be 'honest brokers' in this affair but are merely defending their own interests.

And as a colleague of theirs at CERAC which also uses IBC, there also appears to be a conflict of interest.

I would be grateful for any comments you could find the time to make.

Yours Sincerely,

David Sketchley
Seville, Spain

02 November 2006

"Why are the Republicans so worried? Diebold ARE still making the electronic voting machines, aren't they?"

"Why are the Republicans so worried? Diebold ARE still making the electronic voting machines, aren't they?"

This was someone called ikiwisi's post in reply to Sydney Blumenthal's piece on Karl Rove in today's Guardian. My answer:

Possibly they're worried that their scam has been found out...

"Security Assessment of the Diebold Optical Scan Voting Terminal" Department of Computer Science and Engineering,University of Connecticut October 30, 2006

"We identify a number of new vulnerabilities of this system which, if exploited maliciously, can invalidate the results of an election process utilizing the terminal. Furthermore, based on our findings an AV-OS can be compromised with off-the-shelf equipment in a matter of minutes even if the machine has its removable memory card sealed in place. The basic attack can be applied to effect a variety of results,including entirely neutralizing one candidate so that their votes are not counted, swapping the votes of two candidates, or biasing the results by shifting some votes from one candidate to another. Such vote tabulation corruptions can lay dormant until the election day, thus avoiding detection through pre-election tests."

Voter Registration Fraud Scheme in Santa Ana

Jefferson County Voters Continue To Raise Concerns About Voting Machines October 28,2006

"Early voting runs through Friday, November 3rd. KFDM continues to get complaints from Jefferson County voters who say the electronic voting machines are not registering their votes correctly. Friday night, KFDM reported about people who had cast straight Democratic ticket ballots, but the touch-screen machines indicated they had voted a straight Republican ticket. Some of those voters including Lamar University professor, Dr. Bruce Drury, believe the problem is a programming error. Saturday, KFDM spoke to another voter who says it's not just happening with straight ticket voting, he says it's happening on individual races as well, Jerry Stopher told us when he voted for a Democrat, the Republican's name was highlighted. Stopher said, "There's something in these machines, in this equipment, that's showing Republican votes when you vote for Democrats, and I know Ms. Guidry's a nice lady, and she's working hard, but her theory that my fingernail was somehow over the Republican button is just unrealistic, my fingernail was not. The equipment is not working properly as far as I can tell."

Electronic Vote Machine Security - Google Video
Professor Avi Rubin demonstrates how electronic vote machines can be compromised.

Report Warns of Potential Voting Problems in 10 States
By Amy Goldstein Washington Post Staff WriterWednesday, October 25, 2006; Page A03

Electronic Voting Machines Could Skew ElectionsThursday, 26 October 2006, 12:30 pm
Article: Scoop Link
Electronic Voting Machines Could Skew Elections
Researchers, candidates have little confidence in machines designed to make elections easier to call
By Jake Tapper, Rebecca Abrahams and Eduardo Sunol ABC News Sunday 22 October 2006 See Full Story

31 October 2006

Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, Wayne Madsen and Israel's covert program to provoke the Muslim riots in France

Wayne Madsen: "Mossad logo: The imprimatur of Israeli intelligence is found all over Muslim riots in France."

On 25 October 2006, Wayne Madsen published this information:

"October 25, 2006 -- A new book in Germany is casting light on Israel's
covert program to provoke violence among Muslims in Western Europe and engage in "false flag" operations in order for Western governments to blame Muslim radicals.

The book, Der Krieg im Dunkeln (War in the Dark) by Udo Ulfkotte, formerly a correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, provides details of the operations of two Israeli intelligence units -- the Metsada, which specializes in sabotage, including "false flag" terrorist attacks and assassinations; and LAP (Lohamah Psichlogit), which engages in psychological warfare.

Ulfkotte's previous book on Islamist extremism, titled The War In Our Cities, was withdrawn from the German market because of "massive legal pressures by Islamic plaintiffs."

Ulfkotte claims that British and German intelligence agents encountered Metsada and LAP agents in France stirring up violence during the November 2005 riots, blamed on Islamic extremists.
WMR has also reported that Interior Minister and presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, who is supported by pro-right wing Israeli (Likud/Netanyahu/Olmert) factions in France, coordinated and continues to coordinate the paying of agents provocateurs to engage in violence in the predominantly Muslim Banlieus of Paris and other cities.

The November 2005 riots spread from Paris to Rouen, Lille, Nice, Dijon, Strasbourg, Marseilles (where Mossad's Brach C, also responsible for Paris and London, maintains a large station), Bordeaux, Rennes, Pau, Orleans, Toulouse, Lyon, Roubaix, Avignon, Saint-Dizier, Drancy, Evreux, Nantes, Dunkirk, Montpellier, Valenciennes, Cannes, and Tourcoing.

Ulfkotte also quotes a British MI-6 source who reported that Israel's goal is to portray Muslims as unpredictable threats who cannot be integrated into Western society

I wanted to check what Wayne Madsen was saying was true, so I sent an e-mail to Dr. Udo Ulfkotte on Sunday 29 October 2006, asking if this information was true. I received the following reply a few hours later:

"From: Udo Ulfkotte
Sent: domingo, 29 de octubre de 2006 18:35
David Sketchley
Subject: Re: Der Krieg im Dunkeln

funny what people report who have not read the book. Its quite right that I have written a book on espionage. But I never have written any sentence like this: quote from Wayne Madsenl: The book, Der Krieg im Dunkeln (War in the Dark) by Udo Ulfkotte, formerly a correspondent for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, provides details of the operations of two Israeli intelligence units -- the Metsada, which specializes in sabotage, including "false flag" terrorist attacks and assassinations; and LAP (Lohamah Psichlogit), which engages in psychological warfare. I have written that there was rumours within the German and UK intelligence that some Israelis MIGHT (and I never mentioned "Metsada" or "LAP" - like MWayne Madson did) have jumped on the train to get the best out of the situation that you have discribed. As I am a friend of the state of Israel I clearly deny that Israel was "behind" the outbreak of unrest of muslims last october in France. What I have written is that my sources said they heared that Israel MIGHT have treid to encourage them AFTER the outbreak of the unrest but that nobody knows if this is wrong or right. It was just a question. And even beeing a clear fried of Israel I have quoted that remarks - nothing more.
I privately DON`t think that the Israeli intelligence has anything to do with the unrest in France but being honest if there is quotes like that I had to take it. The reader is intelligent enough to make up his mind ...
Best regards from Udo

Well, after a reply like that, I then e-mailed Wayne Madsen to find out what he had to say about this reply and this afternoon I received his reply:

"From: Wayne Madsen
Sent: lunes, 30 de octubre de 2006 18:04
David SketchleySubject:
RE: Der Krieg im Dunkeln

Hi This is the translation that I received from a German translator:
From pages 56 and 57 "Der Krieg im Dunkeln", War in the Dark, ISBN 3-8218-5578-9

"The departments Metsada (sabotage, covert assassinations) and LAP (psychological warfare), e.g., were jointly active in France during the riots in November 2005: in the cities of Rouen, Lille, Nice, Dijon, Strasbourg, Marseille, Bordeaux, Rennes, Pau, Orleans, Toulouse, they stirred up unrest with agents provocateurs, which soon spread to Lyon, Roubaix, Avignon, Saint-Dizier, Drancy, Evreux, Nantes, Dunkirchen, Montpellier, Valenciennes, Cannes, and Tourcoing.

While the media spread the story launched by Mossad, that [the riots] are spontaneous uprisings of socially weak immigrants from the suburbs, western intelligence circles already for a long time had observed the efforts of Mossad in France, which has been pro-Arabic for years, to foment anti-Arabic and anti-Muslim sentiments.

British and German intelligence agents reported to me in November 2005 congruently, that, in the cities mentioned, in some cases Israeli agents provocateur have been encountered. It was unclear, however, whether the Mossad had started or just secretly fuelled the riots.

According to one source from MI6, Israel's goal is to portray Muslims as unpredictable threats that cannot be integrated

I then wrote to Dr. Udo Ulfkotte once again this time pointing out:

"If the 4 paragraphs he (Madsen) quotes are correctly translated, then your denial that "I never have written any sentence like this" or "I never mentioned "Metsada" or "LAP" - like MWayne Madson did" (sic), does not stand up.
The translation, pages 56/57, states quite clearly that "The departments Metsada (sabotage, covert assassinations) and LAP (psychological warfare), e.g., were
jointly active in France during the riots in November 2005". This is a definite fact, not as you stated in your e-mail to me "rumours" or doubts "that some Israelis MIGHT (and I never mentioned "Metsada" or "LAP" - like MWayne Madson did) have jumped on the train to get the best out of the situation".

Further you stated in your e-mail to me that " I clearly deny that Israel was "behind" the outbreak of unrest of muslims last october in France. What I have written is that my sources said they heared that Israel MIGHT have treid to encourage them AFTER the outbreak of the unrest but that nobody knows if this is wrong or right. It was just a question."

From the translation provided by Madsen:

1. " Israeli agents provocateur have been encountered" - a definite fact NOT a supposition,
2. "It was unclear, however, whether the Mossad had started or just secretly fuelled the riots" This is not a denial, Dr. Ulfkotte. This is another statement of fact, the provoceurs were encountered, and they either started or fuelled the riots, but there is no question from these quotes that they were involved in some way. There is only supposition as to the level of their involvement.

The last reply from Dr. Udo Ulfkotte is quite revealing.

"From: Dr. Udo Ulfkotte
Sent: martes, 31 de octubre de 2006 19:10
To: David Sketchley
Subject: Re: Der Krieg im Dunkeln

Dear David

thanks for your mail. As I wrote with my last mail I have written what I heared from my intelligence sources. And I personally don`t think that the Mossad was/is behind that

Best regards from Udo"

26 October 2006

Genocide in all but name?

Not really. Its genocide pure and simple if we take the Bush Administration's own definitions as reported by the BBC in September 2004:

"Powell declares genocide in Sudan

The US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the killings in Sudan's Darfur region constitute genocide."

So, what figures brought Powell to declare genocide in Darfur and how do they compare to Iraq:

"Up to 50,000 killed"
"More than 1m displaced"
"state department investigators...interviewed more than 1,800 refugees" BBC


"About 601 000...deaths were due to violent cause" (Lancet) or
Up to 49610 killed (IBC)
"more than 1.5 million people displaced" (UNHCR)
"data from 1849 households that contained12 801 individuals in 47 clusters was gathered" (Lancet)

However, Powell went further than just the numbers in decribing the killings in Darfur. CNN reported:

"Powell described the three criteria used to identify genocide under the Genocide Convention:
Specific acts are committed -- killing, causing serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction of a group in whole or in part, imposing measures to prevent births or forcibly transferring children to another group;
Such acts are committed against members of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, and;
Such acts are carried out "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, [the group] as such.""

Using this definition there is no doubt there is genocide in Iraq.

12 October 2006

Latest Lancet Report -

From: David Sketchley
Sent: jueves, 12 de octubre de 2006 17:07
To: Sarah Boseley
Cc: Media Lens
Subject: Lancet report
Importance: High

Dear Sarah
Regarding your piece this morning.

Firstly, the subtitle is inaccurate. "US and Britain reject journal's finding that death toll has topped 650,000". No, the US and Britain do not reject the findings, it is the UK and US governments that reject the findings. A very big difference.

Secondly, why did you give pride of place to comments by the US president, the Foreign Office, and the US Defence Department dismissing the report even before explaining the details of same? This gives the appearance that you attach more weight to these lay points of view than to the scientists that carried out the survey.

Thirdly, nowhere can I read in your piece that you have contacted other eminent medical epidemiologists or statisticians to find their reactions to the Lancet report. Why not? Are you statistically literate enough to judge the sampling techniques used in the Lancet report?
BBC Newsnight interviewed Sir Richard Peto, Professor of Medical Statistics at the University of Oxford, last night who called this study "statistically reliable".

Channel 4 News interviewed Prof. Sheila Bird of the Biostatistics Unit at the Medical Research Council who stated "They have enhanced the precision this time around and it is the only scientifically based estimate that we have got where proper sampling has been done and where we get a proper measure of certainty about these results"

Exactly the same happened with the previous Lancet report when the mainstream media ignored the report and it was left to others to point this out:

'Michael J. Toole, head of the Center for International Health at the Burnet Institute, an Australian research organisation, has said of the Lancet report:
"That's a classical sample size." Researchers typically conduct surveys in 30 neighbourhoods, so the Iraq study's total of 33 strengthens its conclusions. "I just don't see any evidence of significant exaggeration," Toole added.
(Cited, Lila Guterman, 'Researchers Who Rushed Into Print a Study of Iraqi Civilian Deaths Now Wonder Why It Was Ignored,' The Chronicle Of Higher Education, January 27, 2005)
David R. Meddings, a medical officer with the Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention at the World Health Organization, has said surveys of this kind always have uncertainty because of sampling and the possibility that people gave incorrect information about deaths in their households. However, Meddings added:
"I don't think the [Lancet] authors ignored that or understated. Those cautions I don't believe should be applied any more or any less stringently to a study that looks at a politically sensitive conflict than to a study that looks at a pill for heart disease." (Ibid)
Dr. Bradley Woodruff, a medical epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has said, "Les [Roberts, lead author of the Lancet report] has the most valid estimate." (Ibid)
Dr. Toole agreed: "If anything, the deaths may have been higher [than the Lancet study's estimate] because what they are unable to do is survey families where everyone has died." (Ibid)

Fourthly, you state: "The Foreign Office also cast doubt on the findings, stating that the government preferred to rely on the body count of the Iraqi ministry of health, which recorded just 7,254 deaths between January 2005 and January 2006." and 'Yesterday the Foreign Office repeated the government's criticism of two years ago. "We will be looking at it in more detail but it is a fairly small sample they have taken and they have extrapolated across the country," said a spokesman. "We rely on the Iraqi government themselves. They are producing their own figures these days"'

These days?

Why do you only cite 1 year's count from the Iraqi MoH? Could it be anything to do with the fact that in December 2003, Iraq's Health Ministry was ordered to stop counting civilian dead from the war and its aftermath?

As a result what you write is incredibly misleading.

Moreover, note that in the same USA Today report it also quotes the then Iraqi Minister of Health, Dr. Khodeir Abbas "It would be almost impossible to conduct such a survey, because hospitals cannot distinguish between deaths that resulted from the coalition's efforts in the war, common crime among Iraqis, or deaths resulting from Saddam's brutal regime,"

Further, in your own newspaper, Peter Beaumont also throws doubt on the body count of the Iraqi ministry of health today: "Some Sunni families have stopped going to Baghdad's morgue, which is in an area controlled by Shia militias, who are responsible for the death squads. The families of two recently murdered Sunni soldiers in a largely Shia battalion of the Iraqi army, their colonel said, were followed to the morgue and attacked. Funerals have also been targeted. Death follows death. Hospitals have been used for holding and torturing the disappeared."

Why did you not challenge the FO on their statement before writing your article?

Apart from all this, as you well know and as (Lancet editor) Richard Horton wrote in his Comment piece today "we have a legal obligation under the Geneva conventions to do all we can to protect civilian populations. These findings show not only that are we not adhering to this legal obligation, but also that we are progressively subverting it year on year."

I notice this aspect did not merit any comment in your piece.

I look forward to your comments.

Yours Sincerely
David Sketchley
Seville, Spain

22 September 2006

CIA ‘refused to operate’ secret jails

The hidden news appeared today in the Financial Times.

Remember the recent televised speech by President Bush in which, for the first time, he acknowledged the existence of CIA 'secret prisons', and his 'alternative set of procedures' programme?

According to the BBC,

"Mr Bush said he was making a limited disclosure of the CIA programme because interrogation of the men it held was now complete and because a US Supreme Court decision had stopped the use of military commissions for trials."
This theory was not entirely supported by the LA Times who reported at the time:

"The CIA, however, has become increasingly uncomfortable in its role running secret overseas prisons; agency officers in some cases are wary of carrying out orders for fear their actions might leave them vulnerable to legal liability, if not criminal prosecution, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials."CIA personnel were being left hanging without appropriate legal protections," said Robert Grenier, who ran the CIA's counter-terrorism center before retiring this year. Grenier said there had been a "period of stock-taking" within the agency after Congress late last year passed a measure, introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), that placed new restrictions on the handling of detainees.The legal uncertainty brought interrogation work to a halt in some cases. The operation of the secret facilities also became a strain on agency resources, even as the information obtained from the so-called high-value detainees — including Mohammed — slowed to a trickle,"

However, according to an article in yesterday's Financial Times, the "CIA ‘refused to operate’ secret jails". Guy Dinmore in Washington reported:

"The Bush administration had to empty its secret prisons and transfer terror suspects to the military-run detention centre at Guantánamo this month in part because CIA interrogators had refused to carry out further interrogations and run the secret facilities, according to former CIA officials and people close to the programme.

The former officials said the CIA interrogators’ refusal was a factor in forcing the Bush administration to act earlier than it might have wished.When Mr Bush announced the suspension of the secret prison programme in a speech before the fifth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, some analysts thought he was trying to gain political momentum before the November midterm congressional elections.

The administration publicly explained its decision in light of the legal uncertainty surrounding permissible interrogation techniques following the June Supreme Court ruling that all terrorist suspects in detention were entitled to protection under
Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions.

But the former CIA officials said Mr Bush’s hand was forced because interrogators had refused to continue their work until the legal situation was clarified because they were concerned they could be prosecuted for using illegal techniques. One intelligence source also said the CIA had refused to keep the secret prisons going. Senior officials and Mr Bush himself have come close to admitting this by saying CIA interrogators sought legal clarity. But no official has confirmed on the record how and when the secret programme actually came to an end.

John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, who was interviewed by Fox News on Sunday, said in response to a question of whether CIA interrogators had refused to work: “I think the way I would answer you in regard to that question is that there’s been precious little activity of that kind for a number of months now, and certainly since the Supreme Court decision.”

In an
interview with the Financial Times, John Bellinger, legal adviser to the state
department, went further, saying there had been “very little operational activity” on CIA interrogations since the passage last December of a bill proposed by Senator John McCain outlawing torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

Mr Bellinger said the secret prisons remained empty for the moment. But he defended the US position that use of such prisons did not contravene international conventions as some in Europe have argued. He also said that, theoretically, the Pentagon as well as the CIA had the legal right to run such facilities. The CIA declined to comment.

Key figures among the 14 prisoners transferred to Guantánamo, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had been held in secret centres for three years or more

Backing this up we have this report from a few days later in the Washington Post: "Worried CIA Officers Buy Legal Insurance". According to Post staff writer R. Jeffrey Smith,

"CIA counterterrorism officers have signed up in growing numbers for a government-reimbursed, private insurance plan that would pay their civil judgments and legal expenses if they are sued or charged with criminal wrongdoing, according to current and former intelligence officials and others with knowledge of the program.

The new enrollments reflect heightened anxiety at the CIA that officers may be vulnerable to accusations they were involved in abuse, torture, human rights
violations and other misconduct, including wrongdoing related to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They worry that they will not have Justice Department representation in court or congressional inquiries, the officials said.

The anxieties stem partly from public controversy about a system of secret CIA prisons in which detainees were subjected to harsh interrogation methods, including temperature extremes and simulated drowning. The White House contends the methods were legal, but some CIA officers have worried privately that they may have violated international law or domestic criminal statutes."

According to the Manual for Judges and Prosecutors: Combating Torture prepared by the University of Essex, a project "sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom":

"General prohibition

1.7 The prohibition of torture is found in a number of international human rights and humanitarian treaties and is also regarded as a principle of general international law. The prohibition of torture is also considered to carry a special status in general international law, that of jus cogens, which is a 'peremptory norm' of general international law.2 General international law is binding on all states, even if they have not ratified a particular treaty. Rules of jus cogens cannot be contradicted by treaty law or by other rules of international law.

1.8 The prohibition of torture is found in Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and a number of international and regional human rights treaties. The vast majority of states have ratified treaties that contain provisions that prohibit torture and other forms of ill-treatment. These include: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966),
3 the European Convention on Human Rights (1950),4 the American Convention on Human Rights (1978)5 and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (1981).6 The texts of the Articles relating to torture from some of these treaties and a table of country ratifications of selected universal treaties are included in the Appendices
to this manual.

1.9 A number of treaties have also been drawn up specifically to combat torture. These are: the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1984 (Convention against Torture) the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment 1987 the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture 1985. The absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment is underlined by its non-derogable status in human rights law. There are no circumstances in which states can set aside or restrict this obligation, even in times of war or other emergency threatening the life of the nation, which may justify the suspension or limitation of some other rights.
7 States are also restricted from making derogations which may put individuals at risk of torture or ill-treatment -- for example, by allowing excessive periods of incommunicado detention or denying a detainee prompt access to a court.8 This prohibition operates irrespective of circumstances or attributes, such as the status of the victim or, if he or she is a criminal suspect, upon the crimes that the victim is suspected of having committed.9

1.10 State officials are prohibited from inflicting, instigating or tolerating the torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of any person. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification for torture.10 States are also required to ensure that all acts of torture are offences under their criminal law, establish criminal jurisdiction over such acts, investigate all such acts and hold those responsible for committing them to account.11

1.11 Torture and other ill-treatment of any person in the power of another party are also banned as a war crime under the laws of armed conflict (humanitarian law).12 The prohibition against torture in humanitarian law is expressly found in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and in various provisions of the four Geneva Conventions, including the grave breaches provisions,13 and the Additional Protocols of 1977.14 Torture is also considered to be a crime against humanity when the acts are perpetrated as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, whether or not they are committed in the course of an armed conflict. Thus, for example, Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) includes torture and rape within the Court's jurisdiction. The text of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions and Articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute are included in Appendix One of this manual.

1.12 The main focus of this manual is on torture and ill-treatment by state agents, particularly law enforcement officials. However, there is also a growing acceptance of the importance of safeguarding people from similar treatment carried out by private groups or individuals against persons under the effective control of those groups or individuals. Sates are responsible for safeguarding the rights of everyone within their jurisdiction and may be held accountable for acts carried out by private individuals if it supports or tolerates them, or fails in other ways to provide effective protection in law against them.

1.13 The right of an individual to protection against torture and other prohibited forms of ill-treatment includes the right not to be returned to a country where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she is at risk of suffering such treatment.16 People have a right not to be forcibly returned where they are at risk of suffering torture -- even if they have not yet been recognised as refugees. A state responding to an extradition request also needs to ensure that the other country is complying with its obligations under international law in respect of torture and ill-treatment before it may hand someone over to that jurisdiction.17"

The University of Essex Manual also sets out the definitions of torture:

"Legal definitions
1.17 Article 1 of the Convention against Torture sets out an internationally agreed definition of acts that constitute 'torture'. This states that: the term 'torture' means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is ntentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

1.18 The exact boundaries between 'torture' and other forms of 'cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' are often difficult to identify and may depend on the particular circumstances of the case and the characteristics of the particular victim. Both terms cover mental and physical ill-treatment that has been intentionally inflicted by, or with the consent or acquiescence of, the state authorities. The 'essential elements' of what constitutes torture contained in Article 1 of the Convention against Torture include: The infliction of severe mental or physical pain or suffering; By or with the consent or acquiescence of the state authorities; For a specific purpose, such as gaining information, punishment or intimidation.

1.19 Cruel treatment, and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are also legal terms. These refer to ill-treatment that does not have to be inflicted for a specific purpose, but there does have to be an intent to expose individuals to the conditions which amount to or result in the ill-treatment. Exposing a person to conditions reasonably believed to constitute ill-treatment will entail responsibility for its infliction. Degrading treatment may involve pain or suffering less severe than for torture or cruel or inhuman treatment and will usually involve humiliation and debasement of the victim. The essential elements which constitute ill-treatment not amounting to torture would therefore be reduced to: Intentional exposure to significant mental or physical pain or suffering; By or with the consent or acquiescence of the state authorities It is often difficult to identify the exact boundaries between the different forms of ill-treatment as this requires an assessment about degrees of suffering that may depend on the particular circumstances of the case and the characteristics of the particular victim. In some cases, certain forms of ill-treatment or certain aspects of detention which would not constitute torture on their own may do so in combination with each other. Ill-treatment is, however, prohibited under international law and even where the treatment does not have the purposive element or, as far as degrading treatment is concerned, is not considered severe enough (in legal terms) to amount to torture, it may still amount to prohibited ill-treatment.31

1.20 The Human Rights Committee has stated that: 'The Covenant does not contain any definition of the concepts covered by article 7, nor does the Committee consider it necessary to draw up a list of prohibited acts or to establish sharp distinctions between the different kinds of punishment or treatment; the distinctions depend on the nature, purpose and severity of the treatment applied.'32 It has, however, stated that the prohibition in article 7 relates not only to acts that cause physical pain but also to acts that cause mental suffering to the victim.33 The European Court of Human Rights has also noted in Selmouni v France: 'Certain acts which were classified in the past as 'inhuman and degrading treatment' as opposed to 'torture' could be classified differently in the future ... the increasingly high standard being required in the area of the protection of human rights and fundamental liberties correspondingly and inevitably requires greater firmness in assessing breaches of the fundamental values of democratic societies.'34

1.21 The drafters of the Geneva Conventions also avoided a detailed list of prohibited acts. In its Commentary on the Geneva Conventions, the International Committee of the Red Cross has stated 'It is always dangerous to go into too much detail -- especially in this domain. However great the care taken in drawing up a list of all the various forms of infliction, it would never be possible to catch up with the imagination of future torturers who wished to satisfy their bestial instincts; the more specific and complete a list tries to be, the more restrictive it becomes. The form of wording adopted is flexible, and, at the same time, precise.'35"

Well, one assumes the CIA 'interrogators have read these international regulations on the subject, and therefore, if they are "worried" they "may have" violated international law, then they probably have good cause to be!

17 September 2006

Outlawed - Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the 'War on Terror'

Human rights groups and several public inquiries in Europe have found the U.S. government, with the complicity of numerous governments worldwide, to be engaged in the illegal practice of extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture.

The U.S. government-sponsored program of renditions is an unlawful practice in which numerous persons have been illegally detained and secretly flown to third countries, where they have suffered additional human rights abuses including torture and enforced disappearance. No one knows the exact number of persons affected, due to the secrecy under which the operations are carried out.

"Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the 'War on Terror'" tells the stories of Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed, two men who have survived extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture by the U.S. government working with various other governments worldwide.

"Outlawed" features relevant commentary from Louise Arbour, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, U.S. President George W. Bush, Michael Scheuer, the chief architect of the rendition program and former head of the Osama Bin Laden unit at the CIA, and Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State.

"Outlawed" places the post-9/11 phenomenon of renditions and the "war on terror" in a human rights context and calls for action end these human rights abuses. Click here to act now.

Film can be viewed here.

14 September 2006


“We felt the country was at risk from terrorists and from incompetence…and maybe worse.” —Lorie Van Auken, September 11th Widow

Following the attacks of September 11th, a small group of grieving families waged a tenacious battle against those who sought to bury the truth about the event—including, to their amazement, President Bush. In ‘9/11 PRESS FOR TRUTH’, six of them, including three of the famous “Jersey Girls”, tell for the first time the powerful story of how they took on the greatest powers in Washington—and won!—compelling an investigation, only to subsequently watch the 9/11 Commission fail in answering most of their questions.

Adapting Paul Thompson’s definitive Complete 9/11 Timeline (published by HarperCollins as ‘The Terror Timeline’), the filmmakers collaborate with documentary veterans Globalvision (‘WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception’, ‘Beyond JFK’) to stitch together rare overlooked news clips, buried stories, and government press conferences, revealing a pattern of official lies, deception and spin. As a result, a very different picture of 9/11 emerges, one that raises new and more pressing questions.

What actions were taken by top government officials who received dozens of specific warnings before the attack? Was Osama Bin Laden and his top al Qaeda leadership allowed to escape U.S. forces in Afghanistan? And what has been the reason for the deliberate obscuring of evidence for state sponsorship? Perhaps the most important one of all: Why, five years later, are so many of the families’ questions still unanswered?

View this video here:

09 September 2006

What planet do the Guardian Leader writers live on? Planet Hollywood?

Having just read today's Guardian Leader "Bleak horizons", here are a few comments:

Once again the Guardian leader writers prefer a Hollywood version of events to reality.

Once again, for the Guardian, the US and Britain's problems in Iraq are "no clear exit strategy in the face of a weak government, the strength of the insurgency and the sectarian nature of the conflict" not the fact that they waged a war of aggression on a sovereign country committing in the process what the Nuremberg principles, enshrined in international law, call the "supreme crime". It is this fact that unites the majority of the people in the world against the US/UK's criminal acts, not the supposed expert 'propaganda' of Bin Laden, which is, in reality, pale in comparison to Western media propaganda.

Once again, for the Guardian, all resistance to the US/UK attempt to dominate the world by force is labelled Al Qaeda, although there is no proof that the majority of the attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan are anything other than resistance forces at work to expel foreign invaders.

Once again, the Guardian bombards us with the official conspiracy theory that "this prolonged global crisis" began when 19 Arabs from caves in Afghanistan hijacked 4 planes with boxcutters, which is, in fact, manifestly false as any student of Modern History could explain. We are expected to ignore 60 years of US/UK meddling in the affairs of sovereign countries, especially in the ME, all in the name of 'our way of life' which is in fact nothing more than code for our selfish, avaricious society enriching itself at the expense of others.

Once again, the Guardian turns truth on its head describing the Israeli genocide of the Palestinian people as an "impasse", reinforcing Israeli propaganda that the conflict is between 2 equal parties with only one (Israel) facing an existentialist danger. The reality is that only one nation on this planet faces being "wiped of the map": and that is Palestine.

Once again, the Guardian's Hollywood/Made-in-Israel version describes the recent Israeli aggression in the Lebanon as "almost accidental", when we now know for a fact was planned with the Americans well in advance.

Once again the Guardian describes the leader of one the US/UK's 'official' enemies as "led by a populist loose cannon of a president". Would the Guardian ever describe George Bush as "populist loose cannon of a president"?

Once again, despite any evidence to back them up, the Guardian's Leader writer claims that Iran "seems on course to acquire nuclear weapons". In fact, the evidence all points to the contrary. The Guardian says it's "because, after Iraq, the international community is powerless to stop it " Powerless? What utter bullshit. They rest of the international community just doesn't agree with the US/UK worldview, and can you blame them? As if we have a monopoly on the truth.

Once again, for the Guardian, the "view that democracy could be exported on American bayonets " is only "misplaced" not criminal.

Once again, the Guardian turns the truth on its head when it declares that "jihadi terrorism" now threatens "our most cherished freedoms". I was unaware until this morning that the "jihadi" terrorists were able to pass laws in the British Parliament cutting our civil liberties. I foolishly thought it was Blair and his "Socialist" majority government that were doing this.

But finally, The Guardian gives some good advice: "Governments on this side of the Atlantic must work harder to tackle the Middle Eastern grievances that feed the resentment on which jihadi ideology thrives". Obviously due to lack of space (I can't see any other reason) we are not told what these "grievances" are.

08 September 2006

The Genocide in Gaza continues with the complicit silence of the West

In today's Independent, Patrick Cockburn reports:

"Gaza is dying. The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the edge of starvation. Here on the shores of the Mediterranean a great tragedy is taking place that is being ignored because the world's attention has been diverted by wars in Lebanon and Iraq.
A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in the most heavily populated area in the world."

What Patrick Cockburn doesn't tell us is that in a report issued on 06 September 2006, the UNDP estimates the damage to infrastructure in Gaza caused by the Israeli Occupation Forces in just 2 months between 26 June 2006 and 28 August 2006 at US$46 million!

I quote the UNDP Press Release:

"JERUSALEM -- The UNDP's Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People (PAPP) released the findings of an extensive damage assessment it conducted of the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip over the past two months. Covering the damage incurred since the beginning of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) operation that began on 28 June to August 27, 2006, the assessment examined physical and material damage to six sectors: municipal infrastructure, housing, public buildings, agriculture, energy and industry.

The assessment was divided across 5 distinct geographic areas in the Gaza strip, namely the officially established Governorates: Gaza, Rafah, Khan Younis, Middle and North.

The team of over 25 UNDP engineers and programme specialist, who assessed every single damaged site in the Gaza Strip, estimated that the total cost of the damage for the period between June 28 and August 27, 2006 is around US$ 46 million.

Commenting on these initial findings, the acting Special Representative of UNDP/PAPP in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt.), Ms. Minna Tyrkko stated: "As a leading development agency in the oPt., with a long history of building essential infrastructure, we felt it necessary to take stock of the physical damage incurred by in the Gaza strip in the past two months" "We would not be able to begin the process of recovery if we did not empirically know the extent of the damage," she added.

It is important to note that the figure of US$46 million reflects the actual estimated costs of damage and not estimates for the required repairs. Nor does this figure represent the total aggregated economic loss, which would be in the hundreds of millions.

Below is a breakdown of the estimates. For a full copy of the damage assessment report visit PAPP's web site at: www.undp.ps

The initial damage estimates per sector hitherto yielded are:

1. Municipal infrastructure (including bridges water and wastewater lines and roads) US$ 8 million

2. Energy (including the electricity lines and power station) US$ 8 million

3. Agriculture (including olives and citrus orchards, greenhouses, poultries and livestock farms, water wells) US$ 23.5 million

4. Housing US$ 2 million

5. Public buildings (both governmental and NGO) US$ 4.2 million; and

6. Industry US$ 0.3 million

The damage estimates per Governorate are:

1. Gaza - US$ 13.5

2. Middle - US$12 million

3. Rafah - US$ 9.6 million

4. North - US$ 6.6 million

5. Khan Younis - US$ 4.2 millions"

Patrick Cockburn also falls into the Israeli trap and accepts that this episode started, as he puts it "in the aftermath" of the "the kidnap of Cpl Gilad Shalit by Palestinians on 25 June".

This is the Israeli version of events, but the actual events are not that cut and dried as Media Lens informed us in their alert of 10 July 2006, BLAMING THE VICTIM IN GAZA:

"The media have emphasised the capture of the Israeli soldier as key in escalating tensions. On June 29, Stephen Farrell reported in The Times "a dramatic escalation of the conflict sparked by the abduction". (Farrell, 'Tanks go into Gaza as Jewish settler is murdered,' The Times, June 29, 2006)

On June 30, the Financial Times reported "the rapid escalation of the crisis sparked by last Sunday's kidnap" (Ferry Biedermann and Roula Khalaf, 'Abbas appeals to UN over arrests,' Financial Times, June 30, 2006).

The BBC described the Palestinian attack as "a major escalation in cross-border tensions". (BBC World News, June 25, 2006)

Few readers will be aware that on June 24, the day before the "kidnapping", Israeli commandos had entered the Gaza Strip and captured two Palestinians claimed by Israel to be members of Hamas. (See our Guest Media Alert by Jonathan Cook, 'Kidnapped by Israel'; )

Nor have the press suggested that the one-sided nature of the killing in the weeks leading up to the capture of the Israeli soldier might have "sparked" Palestinian actions.

On June 8, the Israeli army assassinated the recently appointed Palestinian head of the security forces of the Interior Ministry, Jamal Abu Samhadana, and three others. On June 9, Israeli shells killed seven members of the same family picnicking on Beit Lahiya beach. Some 32 others were wounded, including 13 children.

On June 13, an Israeli plane fired a missile into a busy Gaza City street, killing 11 people, including two children and two medics. On June 20, the Israeli army killed three Palestinian children and injured 15 others in Gaza with a missile attack. On June 21, the Israelis killed a 35-year old pregnant woman, her brother, and injured 11 others, including 6 children. Then came the Israeli capture of two Palestinians, followed by the Palestinian capture of the Israeli soldier and the killing of the two other soldiers.

After the beach deaths, Hamas, the ruling party in the Palestinian Authority, broke an 18-month ceasefire and joined other militant groups in firing Kassam rockets into Israel. The Financial Times reported on June 23 that the missiles, principally targeted towards the Israel town of Sderot, have caused damage and some casualties but no fatalities in the recent barrages. A June 29 Guardian leader noted that the home-made Kassam rockets are "not in the same league as Israel's hi-tech (though not always accurate) weaponry". (Leader, 'Storm over Gaza,' The Guardian, June 29, 2006)

In an interview for Democracy Now, Norman Finkelstein, Professor of Political Science at DePaul University in Chicago, compared the lethality of Israeli and Palestinian weapons:
"Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in September 2005 'til today, the estimates run between 7,000 and 9,000 heavy artillery shells have been shot and fired into Gaza. On the Palestinian side, the estimates are approximately 1,000 Kassam missiles, crude missiles, have been fired into Israel. So we have a ratio of between seven and nine to one.

"Let's look at casualties. In the last six months, approximately 80 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza due to Israel artillery firing... There have been exactly eight Israelis killed in the last five years from the Kassam missiles. Again, we have a huge disproportion, a huge discrepancy." ('AIPAC v. Norman Finkelstein: A Debate on Israel's Assault on Gaza,' June 29, 2006; http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/06/29/1420258)

Finkelstein also compared the situation with regard to hostages: "let's talk about those 9,000 Palestinians who are effectively hostages being held by Israel. 1,000 of them are administrative detainees... Administrative detainees who are being held without any charges or trial. And the other 8,000 are being held after military courts have convicted them, almost always on the basis of confessions which were extracted by torture. So if we're going to look simply at the numbers, we have one hostage on the Palestinian side, and effectively we have about 9,000 on the Israeli side."

Earlier this month, the Israeli human rights organisation, B'Tselem, published fatality figures for June 2006 in the Occupied Territories and Israel. Forty-two Palestinians, six of them minors, were killed by Israeli armed forces. Twenty-four of the fatalities were bystanders not involved in the conflict. (http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/RWB.NSF/db900SID/EKOI-6RC53K?OpenDocument&rc=3&cc=isr )

B'Tselem's figures do not include the seven members of the Ghaliya family killed on Beit Lahiya beach. However, a June 17 report by Donald Macintyre in the Independent "cast doubt on crucial elements of the conclusion of the military investigation which absolved Israel of any responsibility". (Macintyre, 'Hospital casts doubt on Israel's version of attack that killed seven Palestinians,' The Independent, June 17, 2006)

According to B'Tselem, in May 2006, 36 Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces, one Israeli civilian died from injuries he sustained the previous month. At time of writing, Israeli soldiers have killed a total of six Palestinians since the re-invasion.