Sunday, January 31, 2010

Haiti Quake Manmade ?

Chavez Says US ‘HAARP Weapon’ Caused Haiti Quake

Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez Wednesday accused the United States of causing the destruction in Haiti by testing a ‘tectonic weapon’ to induce the catastrophic earthquake that hit the country last week.

President Chavez said the US was “playing God” by testing devices capable of creating eco-type catastrophes, the Spanish newspaper ABC quoted him as saying.

A 7.0-magnitude quake rattled the desperately poor country on January 12, killing an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 people. As Haiti looks to the world for basic sustenance, the authorities say the biggest dangers facing survivors are untreated wounds and rising disease.

Following the quake, appeals for humanitarian aid were responded to globally. However, the nation is struggling with violence and looting as aid is still not enough for the tens of thousands left homeless and injured.

Chavez said the killer earthquake followed a test of “weapon of earthquakes” just offshore from Haiti. He did not elaborate on the source of his claim.

The outspoken leader had earlier accused the US of occupying Haiti “under the guise of the natural disaster.”

Did HAARP cause the damage? Hugo says so.

At least 11,000 US troops have been dispatched to the country to provide security for aid distribution efforts.

Venezuelan media have reported that the earthquake “may be associated with the project called HAARP, a system that can generate violent and unexpected changes in climate.”

HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, is a study run in Alaska directed at the occasional reconfiguration of the properties of the Earth’s ionosphere to improve satellite communications.

Former US Secretary of Defense William Cohen in 1997 expressed concerned over countries engaging “in eco-type of terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves.”

Source / Impact Lab

Fluxed Up World

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

War Gives Us PTSD, Depression, and Death

War is hell on the brain: Doctors map psychological disorders in Gaza and the West Bank
By Kathlyn Stone / January 7, 2010

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders reports that short-term psychotherapy could be an effective treatment in specific psychiatric disorders, especially in children.

Trauma from war and violence has led to a high incidence of psychological disorders in Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

The international medical nongovernmental organization Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders reports that even short-term psychological support can ease the burden of violence-induced psychiatric disorders, especially in children.

Emmanuelle Espié of the Paris-based Epicentre and colleagues from Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, along with researchers from four French hospitals shared data collected from Palestinian patients ages 1 year and older referred to the Médecins Sans Frontières psychological care program.

Data was gathered from 1,369 patients (773 from the Gaza strip and 596 from the Nablus area) who received psychological care between January 2005 and December 2008. All patients in the study were clinically assessed by a psychologist or psychiatrist.

The patients were evenly divided between male and female with a median age of 16 years. Among the 1,254 patients for whom full clinical information was available, 23.2 percent had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), 17.3 percent had an anxiety disorder (other than PTSD or acute stress disorder), and 15.3 percent had depression.

PTSD was more frequently identified in children under age 15, while depression was the main symptom observed in adults. Among children under 15, factors significantly associated with PTSD included being witness to murder or physical abuse, receiving threats, and property destruction or loss.

Sixty-five percent of patients took part in individual, short-term psychotherapy, with 30.6 percent requiring psychotropic medication (generally Fluoxetine or Alprazolam) along with counseling.

Following psychotherapy, 82.8 percent of children and 75.3 percent of adults had improved symptoms. Psychological care was conducted principally at the patient's home over a course of 8 to 12 weeks. Children tended to stay in therapy longer and to take part in group therapy sessions more often than adults.

Among patients that showed no improvement or aggravated symptoms at the last session, the main persistent symptoms were sadness (14 percent) and aggressive behavior (12.7 percent).

The study authors concluded, “These observations suggest that short-term psychotherapy could be an effective treatment for specific psychiatric disorders occurring in vulnerable populations, including children, living in violent conflict zones, such as in Gaza strip and the West Bank.”

The study was published in the open access journal International Journal of Mental Health Systems.

(The 48-month epidemiological study was concluding just as Operation Cast Lead was beginning. The intensive three-week military attack by Israel began December 27, 2008. More than 1,400 Palestinians -- 237 combatants and 1,172 non-combatants, including 342 children -- were killed and 5,000 civilians were injured during the air and land assault, according to the human rights organization, Al-Haq. More than 4,000 homes and much of Gaza's infrastructure and buildings were destroyed during the assault.)


International Journal of Mental Health Systems 2009, 3:21doi:10.1186/1752-4458-3-21

'Operation Cast Lead': A Statistical Analysis, August 2009, Al-Haq, the West Bank affiliate of the International Commission of Jurists-Geneva

Source / Flesh and Stone

Thanks to Juan Cole / Fluxed Up World

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Tribute to Howard Zinn

Thanks to Jeffrey Segal / Fluxed Up World

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Without Words

Source / El Universal

Fluxed Up World

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Haitian Tragedy: Opportunity for US Hegemony

A crowd gathers at a country club that U.S. soldiers are using as a forward operating base in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 16, 2010. DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III.

Haiti's suffering is a result of calculated impoverishment
By Seumas Milne / January 20, 2010

Last week's earthquake was a natural disaster, but the carnage is a result of a punitive relationship with the outside world

There is no relief for the people of Haiti, it seems, even in their hour of promised salvation. More than a week after the earthquake that may have killed 200,000 people, most Haitians have seen nothing of the armada of aid they have been promised by the outside world. Instead, while the US military has commandeered Port-au-Prince's ­airport to pour thousands of soldiers into the stricken Caribbean state, wounded and hungry survivors of the catastrophe have carried on dying.

Most scandalously, US commanders have repeatedly turned away flights bringing medical equipment and ­emergency supplies from organisations such as the World Food Programme and Médecins Sans Frontières, in order to give priority to landing troops. Despite the remarkable patience and solidarity on the streets and the relatively small scale of looting, the aim is said to be to ensure security and avoid "another Somalia" – a reference to the US ­military's "Black Hawk Down" ­humiliation in 1993. It's an approach that ­certainly chimes with well-­established traditions of keeping Haiti under control.

In the last couple of days, another motivation has become clearer as the US has launched a full-scale naval blockade of Haiti to prevent a seaborne exodus by refugees seeking sanctuary in the United States from the desperate aftermath of disaster. So while Welsh firefighters and Cuban ­doctors have been getting on with the job of ­saving lives this week, the 82nd Airborne Division was busy parachuting into the ruins of Haiti's presidential palace.

There's no doubt that more Haitians have died as a result of these shockingly perverse priorities. As Patrick Elie, former defence minister in the government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide – twice overthrown with US support – put it: "We don't need soldiers, there's no war here." It's hardly surprising if Haitians such as Elie, or French and Venezuelan leaders, have talked about the threat of a new US occupation, given the scale of the takeover.

Their criticisms have been dismissed as kneejerk anti-Americanism at a time when the US military is regarded as the only force that can provide the ­logistical backup for the relief effort. In the context of Haiti's gruesome history of invasion and exploitation by the US and European colonial powers, though, that is a truly asinine response. For while last week's earthquake was a natural ­disaster, the scale of the human catastrophe it has unleashed is man-made.

It is uncontested that poverty is the main cause of the horrific death toll: the product of teeming shacks and the absence of health and public infrastructure. But Haiti's poverty is treated as some ­baffling quirk of history or culture, when in reality it is the direct ­consequence of a uniquely brutal ­relationship with the outside world — notably the US, France and Britain — stretching back centuries.

Punished for the success of its uprising against slavery and self-proclaimed first black republic of 1804 with invasion, blockade and a crushing burden of debt reparations only finally paid off in 1947, Haiti was occupied by the US between the wars and squeezed mercilessly by multiple creditors. More than a century of deliberate colonial impoverishment was followed by decades of the US-backed dictatorship of the Duvaliers, who indebted the country still further.

When the liberation theologist Aristide was elected on a platform of development and social justice, his challenge to Haiti's oligarchy and its international sponsors led to two foreign-backed coups and US invasions, a suspension of aid and loans, and eventual exile in 2004. Since then, thousands of UN troops have provided security for a discredited political system, while ­global financial institutions have imposed a relentlessly neoliberal diet, pauperising Haitians still further.

Thirty years ago, for example, Haiti was self-sufficient in its staple of rice. In the mid-90s the IMF forced it to slash tariffs, the US dumped its subsidised surplus on the country, and Haiti now imports the bulk of its rice. Tens of thousands of rice farmers were forced to move to the jerry-built slums of Port-au-Prince. Many died as a result last week.

The same goes for the lending and aid conditions imposed over the past two decades, which forced Haitian governments to privatise, hold down the minimum wage and cut back the already minimal health, education and public infrastructure. The impact can be seen in the helplessness of the Haitian state to provide the most basic relief to its own people. Even now, new IMF loans require Haiti to raise electricity prices and freeze public sector pay in a country where most people live on less than two dollars a day.

What this saga translates into in real life can be seen in the stark contrast between Haiti, which has taken its market medicine, with nearby Cuba, which hasn't, but suffers from a 50-year US economic blockade. While Haiti's infant mortality rate is around 80 per 1,000, Cuba's is 5.8; while nearly half Haitian adults are illiterate, the figure in Cuba is around 3%. And while 800 Haitians died in the hurricanes that devastated both islands last year, Cuba lost four people.

In her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein shows how natural disasters and wars, from Iraq to the 2004 Asian tsunami, have been used by corporate interests and their state ­sponsors to drive through predatory neoliberal ­policies, from ­radical deregulation to privatisation, that would have been impossible at other times. There's no doubt that some would now like to impose a form of ­disaster ­capitalism on Haiti. The influential US conservative Heritage Foundation initially argued last week that the ­earthquake ­offered ­"opportunities to ­reshape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and ­economy as well as to improve the ­public image of the United States".

The former president Bill Clinton, who wants to build up Haiti's export-processing zones, appeared to contemplate something similar, though a good deal more sensitively, in an interview with the BBC. But more sweatshop assembly of products neither made nor sold in Haiti won't develop its economy nor provide a regular income for the majority. That requires the cancellation of Haiti's existing billion-dollar debt, a replacement of new loans with grants, and a Haitian-led democratic reconstruction of their own country, based on public investment, redevelopment of agriculture and a crash literacy programme. That really would offer a route out of Haiti's horror.

Source / The Guardian

And then there's this from someone who experienced the earthquake:

Occupation in Humanitarian Clothing
By Jesse Hagopian / January 24, 2010

Everything you need to know about the U.S. aid effort to assist Haiti in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake can be summed up by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's touchdown in Port-Au-Prince on Saturday, January 16: they shut down the airport for three hours surrounding her arrival for "security" reasons, which meant that no aid flights could come in during those critical hours.

If there was one day when the Haitian people needed aid to flow all day long, last Saturday was it because the people trapped under the rubble on Tuesday evening couldn't survive much beyond that without water.

Defenders of Clinton will say that her disimpassioned, monotone, photo-op speech was needed in Haiti to draw attention to the plight of the Haitians. But no one north of hell can defend her next move: according to airport personnel that I spoke to during my recent evacuation from Haiti, she paralyzed the airport later that same day to have a new outfit flown in from the Dominican Republic. I am having a hard time readjusting to life back home after having survived the earthquake and witnessing so much death, so even typing those words is making my heart pound uncontrollably.

I guess for America's rulers a new pantsuit is more valuable than the lives of poor, Black Haitians.

Unfortunately, Clinton's model of diverting and delaying critical aid to the Haitian people, while emphasizing security, has become standard operating procedure.

Alain Joyandet, the French minister responsible for humanitarian relief in Haiti, charged the U.S. with treating this as a military operation rather than an aid mission. Mr. Joyandet told the Daily Telegraph he had been involved in an argument with a U.S. commander in the airport's control tower over the flight plan for a French evacuation flight, saying, "This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti."

But with the U.S. occupying Iraq and Afghanistan, and funding the Israeli occupation of Palestine, it seems our government knows how to do little else when it comes to international affairs.

The day I left the Toussaint L'Ouverture International Airport I saw lots of crates of food, water and medical supplies piled on the tarmac. But I didn't see that aid being transported out of the airport to actually be used by Haitians. Undoubtedly, there has been some aid distributed, but because there was no serious effort to disperse that aid in the first four days after the quake, tens of thousands of people trapped under rubble have died needlessly because they couldn't get a sip of water.

The Geneva-based organization Doctors Without Borders has been turned away from the airport numerous times to allow U.S. troops to land. A ring of U.S. war ships surround Haiti to make sure that Haitians don't escape the disaster and try to get to the United States. The U.S. has taken control of Haiti's main airport and seaport, and is in the process of deploying 18,000 U.S. troops to bolster the 9,000 UN troops already occupying the island nation--and as an eyewitness I can tell you those troops are guarding their own compounds rather than distributing aid.

The Obama administration will try to dress up their ambition to occupy and pillage Haiti in a humanitarian evening gown. But clothing is in short supply in Haiti and we can't afford to waste it.

As a man from Leogane, Haiti, told Democracy Now,

"Myself, if you look at me, I don't have shoes, and I don't have food. Even my shoes, if you look at them, you see. I need clothes. We need everything. Even medicines, we need."

[Jesse Hagopian, a teacher from Seattle, was in Haiti with his wife (who works on HIV education in the country) and one-year-old son when the earthquake hit. Jesse can be contacted at:]

Source / Common Dreams

Thanks to Juan Cole / Fluxed Up World

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Singin' on Saturday - Bossa Dorado

Great show at the Elephant Room in Austin Texas, September 10, 2009. Wonderful gypsy jazz from these amazing musicians: Tony Airoldi, Steve Carter, David Carroll, Phillip Fajardo, and Ruby Jane.

Fluxed Up World

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Marx's Criticisms of Capitalism Are Understated

How Wall St Destroyed Private Medicine
By Paul Craig Roberts / January 22, 2010

At my annual check-up, my doctor handed me a sheet explaining the reasons for office fee increases for Medicare Patients. It is worth reporting at length.

Medicare fixes the prices for Medicare patients’ health care. All office charges for Medicare, including office visit charges, have been set by the Federal government since 1984. In real terms (adjusted for inflation), these fixed prices are less today than they were three decades ago.

During the last four years, there have been large decreases in Medicare reimbursements for laboratory services provided in-house by private physicians. Payments for in-office blood work, for example, have been cut 35 to 47 percent. Yet, a physician’s overhead continues to increase as a result of uncontrollable costs, such as property taxes, building insurance, electricity, maintenance, malpractice and workers compensation insurance.

As one result, my doctor had to close both the x-ray unit and the state and federally licensed medical laboratory on his premises. Now patients are inconvenienced by having to go to other locations for services that formerly were provided by the doctor at lower cost. A one day medical check-up is now a multiple day event and more expensive.

While Medicare payments to doctors have been cut, regulations have been increasing: “Almost every outside diagnostic procedure (CT, MRI scan, sonogram) ordered by this office now has to be pre-approved by some outside agency. Many medications are now requiring pre-approval or step therapy. Each requires filling out 1-2 pages of forms and/or two or more phone calls. This requires personnel time and therefore more cost. Consultant referrals are requiring more paperwork and time to schedule.”

My doctor has more people employed doing paperwork than he does delivering health care.

While Medicare payments for in-office services to private doctors, including those for blood work and x-ray units, were drastically cut, payments to outside corporate facilities for the same services were increased. It is obvious what is afoot. Corporate lobbies are using their whores in Congress to shift income from physician offices to corporate labs, corporate medical service providers, and hospitals that are owned by national corporations.

Legislation that cuts payments to private physicians and increases the payments to large corporate entities is intended to destroy private practice and to create in its place corporate bureaucracies in which doctors are wage slaves. The physician’s income is diverted to shareholders, CEO bonuses, and Wall Street. Health care is being replaced with health business.

As a result of the way American medicine is being reconstructed, patients will cease to have a doctor whom they know and who knows them. Important information is lost in a system of bureaucratized “health care” in which a patient sees whatever face happens to be on duty at the corporate provider. Impersonal health care thus brings a cost of its own, and its quality can be low compared to private practice. Indeed, the U.S. is creating a “health care” system that is more costly and less efficient than single-payer national health systems. But it will enrich corporations and provide play for Wall Street.

It turns one’s stomach to watch libertarians and “free market economists” defend bureaucratized impersonal health care as “free market medicine.” There is no free market present. Corporate lobbies and campaign contributions use government power to create bureaucratized monopolies that destroy medicine for the practitioner and the patient. Wall Street pushes for greater shareholder earnings, which are achieved by denying care.

Just as independent businesses have been destroyed by corporate chains from Wal-Mart to auto parts to fast food, medicine is being destroyed by monopoly capital. The risks of starting a private business today are many times higher than they were a half century ago. Chains have turned Americans who once were independent business men and women into employees.

The fate of the health care bill demonstrates the power of private lobbies. What was to be health care for Americans was instantly transformed into 30 million new patients for the private health insurance industry. The “solution” to tens of millions of Americans being unable to afford health care is a law that requires them to purchase a private health care policy or be annually fined. As most of these uninsured Americans cannot afford to purchase a private policy, the plan is for the federal government to use taxpayers’ money to subsidize their purchase of a policy from private companies.

In other words, tax money is being diverted to the pockets of private businesses. This is par for the course in “capitalist” America.

In today’s America, Karl Marx’s criticisms of capitalism are understated. Wherever one looks, the scene is one of the government using taxpayers’ money to enrich private interests. Taxes are collected from people who can barely make it, and the revenues are transferred to multi-millionaires and billionaires. The federal government piles debt on the backs of heavily-burdened and dispossessed Americans in order that investment banksters can pay annual bonuses that exceed the lifetime earnings of most Americans.

Every aspect of the US military has been mined for private profit. Supply and other functions for the military, such as those provided by Halliburton and Blackwater, services once provided by the military itself at low cost, have been privatized. These services now cost many multiples of the cost to taxpayers of in-house military provision.

The “war on terror” enriches the armaments/security industry and enables Israeli territorial expansion. The Israel Lobby and the munitions industry are major sources of funding for U.S. political campaigns.

Prisons have been privatized in order to create profits for private corporations. The prisons require high incarceration rates in order to be profitable. Consequently, “freedom and democracy” America not only has the highest incarceration rate and the highest absolute number of prisoners in the world, but also a prison population comparable in size to the prison population of Stalin’s Gulag Archipelago.

Congress allows private companies run by hardline Republicans to count electronically without paper trails the votes in elections. It has been proved over and over that the electronic voting machines, with proprietary undisclosed codes, can rig any election, especially if there are no exit polls or the captured media can find a way to discredit the exit polls.

And now we have private health care destroyed by the greed for profit. There are many reports of health care corporations, but not private doctors, rationing and even denying health care to policy holders in order to maximize profits. There are reports of people with treatable forms of cancer who were not told by their corporate health care providers in order to avoid the cost of their treatment. These reports are in compliance with capitalist America’s emphasis on profits uber alles, to hell with people, the environment, honor and integrity.

Wall Street is romanticized by libertarians and “free market economists.” They believe, entirely on the basis of their ideology, that Wall Street finances venture capitalists who bring economic progress and higher living standards. Wall Street does no such thing, especially since financial deregulation turned Wall Street into a speculative hedge fund.

Wall Street is concerned with annual bonuses. It will do anything to get them.

Today the interests of American capitalists are as far removed from the interests of the population as the bureaucrats of state owned firms under socialism. Neither can fail, no matter how incompetent or inefficient, as they have the public purse as their backup.

The Wall Street investment banks, which created with the compliance of the regulatory authorities and the credit rating agencies, “toxic” instruments that were sold world wide, thus destroying the prospects of people in many countries, are devoid of integrity and honor. Their only god is greed. And they control the US government, which is too dependent on campaign contributions to restore regulation.

The lobbies of greed rule America. The White House, Congress, even the federal judiciary are impotent in the face of capitalist greed. The recent Supreme Court decision permitting corporations to use shareholders’ money in corporate treasuries to influence elections increases the control that corporations have over the outcome of elections and the decisions of the government of the United States.

There is no government of the people, for the people, by the people, only the rule of private interests.

[Dr. Roberts was assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury in the Reagan administration, associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, Senior Research Fellow in the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and held the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University.]

Source / Information Clearing House

Thanks to Diane Stirling-Stevens / Fluxed Up World

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

American Crimes Against Humanity Are Pervasive

Omar Deghayes: 'I gave them a really hard time.' Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters.

How I fought to survive Guantánamo
By Patrick Barkham / January 21, 2010

For nearly six years, British resident Omar Deghayes was imprisoned in Guantánamo and subjected to such brutal torture that he lost the sight in one eye. But far from being broken, he fought back to retain his dignity and his sanity

It is not hot stabbing pain that Omar Deghayes remembers from the day a Guantánamo guard blinded him, but the cool sen­sation of fingers being stabbed deep into his eyeballs. He had joined other prisoners in protesting against a new humiliation – inmates ­being forced to take off their trousers and walk round in their pants – and a group of guards had entered his cell to punish him. He was held down and bound with chains.

"I didn't realise what was going on until the guy had pushed his fingers ­inside my eyes and I could feel the coldness of his fingers. Then I realised he was trying to gouge out my eyes," Deghayes says. He wanted to scream in agony, but was determined not to give his torturers the satisfaction. Then the officer standing over him instructed the eye-stabber to push harder. "When he pulled his hands out, I remember I couldn't see anything – I'd lost sight completely in both eyes." Deghayes was dumped in a cell, fluid streaming from his eyes.

The sight in his left eye returned over the following days, but he is still blind in his right eye. He also has a crooked nose (from being punched by the guards, he says) and a scar across his forefinger (slammed in a prison door), but otherwise this resident of Saltdean, near Brighton, appears ­relatively ­unscarred from the more than five years he spent locked in Guantánamo Bay. Two years after his release, he speaks softly and calmly; he has the unlined skin and thick hair of a man younger than his 40 years; he has just remarried and has, for the first time in his life, a firm feeling that his home is on the clifftops of East Sussex.

Deghayes must, however, live with the darkness of Guantánamo for the rest of his days. There are reminders everywhere, from the beautiful picture of Saltdean that was painted for him while he was incarcerated, to the fact that Guantánamo ­remains open 12 months after Barack Obama vowed to close it within a year.

There are still around 200 prisoners left in the detention camp, many of whom have been there for eight years. Of the 800 freed, only one has been found guilty of any crime and he was convicted by a dubious military commission, a verdict that is likely to be overturned. Deghayes, too, does not want to forget. He says there is so much still to be ­exposed about the ­conditions there, and about British ­collusion in the ­extraordinary rendition and torture of men such as him in the months following the American-led ­invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

Deghayes, one of five children of a prominent Libyan lawyer, first came to Saltdean from Tripoli aged five, to learn English with his brothers and ­sisters on their summer holidays. He would return and stay with British families every summer. Then, in 1980, his father, an opponent of the increasingly totalitarian Gaddafi, was taken away by the authorities. Three days later, Deghayes' uncle was told to ­collect his body from the morgue. ­Harassed and increasingly fearful for their safety, Deghayes' mother sought asylum for her family in Britain. They settled in the place they knew best, Saltdean, in a large white house with fine views over the sea. More than two decades on, the family still lives there.

After a secular upbringing in ­Saltdean, Deghayes became a practising Muslim while at university in ­Wolverhampton, where he graduated in law. When he finished studying to become a solicitor, he had a "longing" to return to Libya but couldn't because of his family name and opposition to Gaddafi, so he left for a round-the-world trip to ­experience Arabic cultures and visit university friends. He enjoyed ­Pakistan's mixture of west and east, and was then tempted into a trip to ­Afghanistan: he saw business oppor­tunities and the chance to use his ­languages (Farsi, Arabic and English) and legal training (understanding both western and Sharia law) to help ­import-export companies.

He fell in love with the country and an Afghani woman; they married and had a son. "I liked the country – such beautiful rivers and different terrains. The people were difficult to get to know at first, but if they knew you and liked you, they'd open their hearts and houses to you," he says. Afghanistan, it seems, triggered many ambitious dreams: he says he helped set up a school in Kabul, assisted NGOs, ­experimented with an agricultural ­social enterprise and exported apples to Peshawar. "I was generating income for myself but I had more ambition than that – to establish myself as a ­lawyer," he says. "Things were really good. Then this war broke out and ­everything was shattered."

Fearing for his new family's safety, he paid people-smugglers to get them all back to Pakistan in early 2002 after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. He hoped his mother would take his wife and child back to England, while he planned to return to Afghanistan and continue his NGO and legal work. "I still thought I had nothing to fear. Even if there was an invasion, there was nothing I had been doing that was illegal."

They rented a house in Lahore, "far away from the war atmosphere". But then the Americans began paying large amounts of money to find Arabs who had been in Afghanistan. Suddenly, he was lucrative bounty for the Pakistani authorities. "The atmosphere changed completely. Nice Pakistan turned into a trap," he says. One day, their house was surrounded by armed police. He was seized, but not taken to a ­normal police station. Instead he was driven, fast and under heavily armed guard, between secure rooms in hotels and villas. A Kafkaesque nightmare had begun.

Deghayes says he was beaten and ­interrogated first by Pakistani officials. He thinks the Americans and the ­Libyans competed to "buy" him from the Pakistanis, and it appears the Americans won: when he was moved from Lahore to Islamabad, a man ­introduced himself as the head of the CIA's Libyan section. Taken between hotels by armed guards, Deghayes ­believes he saw a man who is now listed as a disappeared prisoner: an Italian Moroccan. "I remember seeing him; he was with me in the same car in Islamabad. He came out crying from the meeting, scared; he was saying, 'No, don't do this to me.'"

Deghayes also describes meeting a British interrogator when he met the CIA section head for the second time. "I was facing the British man, who introduced himself as Andrew. He spoke in an obvious British accent." According to Deghayes, Andrew said he was from the intelligence services and wanted to question him.

"I was really annoyed and said, 'You shouldn't do this, you're helping these people – I'm kidnapped, abducted against my will. Your job is to get me out of here. I'm British and if I go back to England, I will take you to court for what you are doing now.' Andrew was a little bit scared, but he looked at me and said, 'What case would you bring against me?' I had nothing in my mind. He said, 'Listen, if you answer my questions and co-operate with me, I will do my best. I will get you out of there.'"

Deghayes was shown an ­album of 100 photographs of supposed terrorists. He says he did not recognise anyone. One morning, he was tied, bound and blindfolded and taken to an airport. The "thin black bag" was removed from his head: he was standing in front of a mirror, guarded by two US soldiers. They tied another bag over his head, which "felt worse than the first bag – it suffocated me." It smelt "like socks or cheese," he says. "This was an indi­cation of the new regime – there were even harder times coming up."

Inside the plane, it was mayhem: his feet and hands bound together and covered in bags, Deghayes was bundled on top of others in the hold. "People were crying. People were throwing up. Some people were suffocating, and there was a kick here and a kick there: 'Get your head down, you bastard!' Things like that. Then the plane took off and you could smell [the guards] drinking spirits."

They landed in what he later ­realised was Bagram military air base. Here, Deghayes' clothes were taken away and he was given two pieces of blue uniform. He was not allowed to speak to fellow inmates, and was bound to barbed wire before, he says, being beaten and made to suffer "all sorts of humiliation". He spent several months there. "There were no rules in Bagram; people just went in and kicked people if they didn't like them."

He says he did not eat for more than 50 days. "I was really sick; I became a skeleton. I couldn't walk any more. I lost my mind – I was really scared for my mental safety. I tried to eat but I threw up. I started to hear voices in my head because of the hunger. People would say something and I could not understand what they were saying. You hear shouts and you're speaking to yourself inside your head. I started to become really scared because I thought I was losing my brains and ­going crazy."

While he was in Bagram, he was again interrogated several times by ­officials he believes were from Britain. "They felt I was lying to them. I said to them I studied in ­Holborn, London. They said, 'Which train did you take to get there?' They didn't believe anything," he says. "They weren't free to do what they liked; the Americans were running the show." When he said he was too sick to speak, they called him "a bandit".

His British interrogators "came up with lots of ­stupid things" – suggesting the scuba­diving lessons he had taken in the shabby lido in Saltdean, within yards of his family home, were terrorist training. "The Americans took that up in Guantánamo. It was a big headache. They showed me books of military ­scubadiving and ships and mines and they said, 'Which ones did you see?'" The British also accused him of teaching people to fight in terrorist training camps in Chechnya, and claimed they had secret video evidence.

Deghayes had never been to ­Chechnya, and thought all these allegations ­laughable. Only later did he discover through Clive Stafford Smith, director of the human rights charity Reprieve, that his apparent appearance in an ­Islamic terrorist training video in Chechnya was the crucial evidence in a flimsy case against him. The ­authorities refused to give Stafford Smith, who campaigned for Guantánamo detainees, a copy of this videotape, but he eventually obtained one through the BBC.

It was, says the Reprieve director, an ­obvious case of mistaken identity: the person depicted lacked Deghayes' small childhood scar on his face. ­Stafford Smith was able to show that the videotape was of a completely different ­person, actually a Chechnyan rebel called Abu Walid, who was dead. "This was typical of the whole Guantánamo experience," says Stafford Smith. "They said they had evidence and they wouldn't let you see it. Then when you did, it was incorrect."

After two months in Bagram, Deghayes was flown to Guantánamo in autumn 2002. There, prisoners were treated brutally. According to Deghayes, when guards physically subdued them by tying them down, they would "do actions to pretend as if they are raping you. They put you down on your stomach. It was really horrible, all sexual and psychological stuff." On other occasions, he says, guards would hold a prisoner's head and "bang it on the floor".

Deghayes developed a personal ­policy of resistance. Guards would ­typically arrive at a prisoner's cell and spray pepper and other chemicals through the "bean-hole", the hatch in the door. While most prisoners cowered at the back of their cell, Deghayes says he would grab the guards' hands and attack them. He fought back, as viciously as he could, trying to take the fights with guards out of the privacy of his cell and into the corridors.

"It was chaos; they would fall on top of each other and it was embarrassing [for them]. They were wearing all this heavy stuff [body armour] which didn't help either," he says. Some guards ­became afraid of going into his cell. Most, he says, were Puerto Rican and were not driven by the patriotism of the "war on terror". They did not want to get hurt for their meagre wages.

Deghayes did not realise how badly his eye had been beaten until a year ­after the incident, when he looked in a mirror for the first time in four years. He accepts his resistance caused him more physical pain, but believes it ­subsequently helped him. In the camp, he was less fearful.

"I was targeted more, but I was also relaxed compared with others who didn't do that. It was really scary for [the guards] to come into my cell," he says. "Being humiliated by getting beaten up is better than giving your own trousers out. If I'd done those things, I would've been really bitter now. I'm probably less bitter than ­anyone else because I know I gave them a really hard time. If I had given in, and all this was bottled up, I would have been like I see them [other ex-prisoners] – really bitter, full of hatred."

Deghayes says his suffering made his faith stronger; it helped him ­survive. "We knew there's a Muslim [God] ­behind things, there's a hereafter, our patience and hardships will be ­rewarded and the pain has to end sometime. Our religion teaches these things – the good always prevails and the bad is only temporary; the patience of Job, the patience of Moses. All these teachings make a difference." Praying five times a day delivered ­transcendence, removing him from the material world of bodily suffering. "My body and physical being can be chained, can be tarnished, can be beaten, can be raped," he says now, "but not the spiritual: that is something that nobody can bind down. The spirit is what makes us who we are."

As a campaign to free him gained momentum back in Brighton, Deghayes languished in Guantánamo for nearly six years. He was never charged or convicted of anything, by any authority. "And never been apologised to either," he adds. Finally, in August 2007, the British government requested the ­release of Deghayes and four other ­detainees who were legal British ­residents. In the month before his ­release in December 2007, he says, he was deliberately fed well so he would not emerge looking gaunt and half-starved. "For one month we were ­fattened up with milk shakes, ­chocolates and really good cakes."

When he returned to his family in ­Saltdean, he was happy but also dis­orientated. "You know if you are in a forest or walking on the moon, you can't tell what is what. I was like this when I came out," Deghayes says. He was stunned by some of the changes in ­Britain. "To my shock, when I came out from prison the whole country had changed – the surveillance, the Islamophobia, the control orders, secret ­evidence, and people being under ­curfews not being able to leave the house." His neighbourhood also ­appeared to have altered: "We never had thugs and mobs in the street ­before, and kids didn't go binge-drinking or stealing. When I came back, these were some of the changes that I had to adjust to," he says.

While he is very appreciative of the support he had in Brighton, after he was freed his family was targeted by racist teenagers who bullied his ­nephews and threw stones and bottles at their house for months. This stopped, abruptly, after a community meeting and media coverage led the police, rather belatedly, to install a video camera in the window of their home.

His imprisonment also caused his marriage to break down. His wife wrote to him in prison but her letters were never delivered; nor were his to her. "It's cruel, isn't it? These were just ­normal letters between husband and wife." Both believed they had abandoned each other, and they divorced. She now lives with her family in ­Afghanistan. His son, Sulaiman, who is now eight, is staying with Deghayes' mother in the Emirates. They hope eventually to bring him to Britain and give him a western education.

Two years after he was released, Deghayes remarried in ­December and is now busy buying furniture for a new place in Brighton. "Brighton is such a nice city. You can just walk by the sea, and the fresh air comes across. It ­reminds me of Tripoli. ­Before, I used to long for Tripoli; now, only recently, I have started to prefer Brighton. Maybe when you are younger you want to go back to dreams, and when you get to 40 you start to think, this is nicer, this is really what I like."

Deghayes now works with ­Reprieve and other survivors of Guantánamo on legal challenges, ­including a civil case being brought against the Home Office with help from Gareth Peirce, the human rights lawyer. Deghayes hopes there will be a public inquiry into Guantánamo to bring those to account who were ­involved in his interrogation. Financial damages are not, he says, his ­motivation. "Even if I get damages, I will give them to ­charity. The court is an opportunity to embarrass and ­expose those who committed these crimes."

While Reprieve campaigned to get Deghayes released, Stafford Smith ­explains how Deghayes "was a ­tremendously helpful ally in Guantánamo because he was fluent in English and he had a bit of legal training". Stafford Smith brought him legal textbooks but they were censored as a "threat" to national security, and he says he worried for Deghayes' safety during his incarceration. "If it had been me, I would have taken the course of quieter resistance. I was always afraid for Omar, that he would get himself beaten up. I was concerned for him ­because he was constantly being beaten up by the guards, but there's nothing you can do to stop Omar loudly saying what is just and right."

Stafford Smith believes Deghayes has fared better than many veterans of Guantánamo since his release because he had the support of his family, an ­education – and because he has taken a very positive approach to his experiences. "He's not just sat back and taken it; he's tried to do something positive. Omar works a lot with us to try to help other prisoners who are still in Guantánamo. He's also always been up for a good argument or a good ­debate."

Deghayes appears remarkably calm; but his brother, Abubaker, says he has noticed signs of trauma. "His memory is not as good as it was. He forgets to switch off lights. If he opens a window, it stays open. He stays up at night a lot, thinking." Abubaker is not surprised his brother struggles to sleep. "Imagine the lights are on for six years." Has Deghayes changed as a person? "A lot of the things Omar had in his character seem to have deepened, like rebellion and resistance and not accepting oppression. I think they became more rooted in him rather than being beaten out of him."

But isn't he ever tempted to retreat to a quiet place, start his own business, and ­renounce the ­hassles of political campaigning? "I don't want that life," Deghayes says firmly. "I never ­intended to live like that before imprisonment, and nor do I intend that after imprisonment. I would not be true to ­myself if I did.

"Life is worth more. It's good to be a number in society rather than a zero. There are many zeros around but every ­human is ­worthy of being a number, and I hope I will be something of a change for the good, rather than for harm and wars. I hope so. I really hope so."

Source / The Guardian

Fluxed Up World

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Isn't Just About All of the GWOT Scandalous?

Top Ten Counter-Terrorism Scandals 2010
By Juan Cole / January 19, 2010

The new year is not very old, but several recent revelations cast the US fight against al-Qaeda (a tiny if deadly fraternity of a couple thousand fanatics spread in dozens of countries) in a bad light, if not to say a scandalous one. The entire premise of combating al-Qaeda as though it were an enemy army, using the Pentagon as the lead agency, while simultaneously militarizing the CIA, needs to be questioned. But so too do a lot of other premises about a so-called American 'Long War' with parts of the Muslim world, including drone strikes, secret bases, and torture. Worst of all, embarrassing revelations are coming out about damaging or even criminal actions and policies that can only harm any genuine counter-terrorism program.

1. Evidence is surfacing, according to Scott Horton writing in Harper's, that the supposed group suicide of three prisoners at Guantanamo in summer of 2006 may have in fact been murder - that is, they may have died of asphyxiation during aggressive interrogation that involved stuffing rags in their throats to cut off air. The explosive allegations may put further pressure on President Obama to fulfill his pledge to close the prison.

2. The FBI falsely invoked terrorism emergencies 2000 times between 2002 and 2006 to engage in illegal phone wiretapping of Americans without obtaining a warrant. The agency was using a provision of the PATRIOT act, which Bush administration officials had assured Congress would never be used for ordinary domestic cases.

3. The FBI photoshopped the face of leftist Spanish parliamentarian Gaspar Llamazares, combining it with the features of Usama Bin Laden, to produce a supposed portrait of what the aging terrorist now looks like. Spain was furious and the whole incident spoke of amateurism and stupidity in an area, counter-terrorism, where neither is desirable. Hint to the FBI: Usama Bin Laden has not produced a video message since October 2004. We may conclude that he is either badly disfigured by a strike on his position that almost succeeded, or that he is dead. You can't project his appearance forward with photoshop usefully either way.

4. George W. Bush claimed that he had misspoken when he called his 'war on terror' a 'crusade.' But it turns out that the Michigan company that makes rifle sights for the US military inscribes them with Bible verses. The capture of the US Air Force Academy by Christian fundamentalists is worrisome enough, but a Military-Evangelical Complex is truly frightening.

5. The Iraqi government that came to power under the auspices of George W. Bush is spearheading a class action suit against the Xe (then known as Blackwater) mercenary corporation for injuries its security men inflicted on Iraqis. Xe, headed by militant fundamentalist Christian [Erik Prince], is a prime Pentagon contractor, which replicates the work of GIs but charges 12 times as much for it. The Iraqis were furious when a government case against Blackwater mercenaries for shooting up Nisour Square in Baghdad and killing over a dozen civilians collapsed because of prosecutorial misbehavior. Based on this good recommendation, the US military has brought Xe mercenaries to Pakistan where they are allegedly involved in US drone attacks on that country, further winning hearts and minds.

6. Worse, the Pentagon is considering bringing thousands more Blackwater security men to Afghanistan. The great Rep. Jan Schakowski (D-Ill.) is introducing a bill banning the use of such mercenary firms.

7. Der Spiegel has revealed yet another CIA plot to kidnap a citizen of an allied country on suspicion of involvement in terrorism (a suspicion years of investigation by German authorities was unable later to support). Allies don't take kindly to this sort of thing. An Italian judge recently convicted 23 CIA operatives in absentia for carrying out a kidnapping in Italy.

8. It has been revealed that then British foreign minister Jack Straw wrote a letter to PM Tony Blair in 2002 warning him that a war on Iraq would be illegal, that many Labor MPs would oppose it, that Saddam was not connected to 9/11 or al-Qaeda, that Iraq likely had no weapons of mass destruction of any importance, and that there was no guarantee that the condition of Iraqis in the wake of such a war would be an improvement on their situation in 2002. The letter shows that Blair committed to the war at Crawford, TX in April 2002, even though he later repeatedly told his own MPs that no decision had been made. The letter vindicates the 'Downing Street memo' from a few months later in which the head of British intelligence complained that the decision to go to war had been made and that the intelligence was being fixed around the policy. It also shows that the mantra of the Bush administration, that all US allies had made the same errors of judgment about Iraq as had Bush-Cheney, is simply incorrect. The British foreign ministry knew better.

9. The Obama administration has been forced by an ACLU suit to release the names of the prisoners it holds at Bagram base in Afghanistan. The Obama administration maintains that these individual have no human rights at all, though some are scheduled to be tried in military tribunals. It is hard to see why Guantanamo is bad but Bagram is good. There have been allegations of torture of inmates, including of teenagers. The whole facility and its prisoners are to be turned by the US over to the Afghan government later this year.

10. The Obama administration's initial reaction to the underpants bomber was flatfooted and included forbidding children to hold teddy bears on their laps during the last hour of a flight, as well as renewed drone strikes and deeper involvement in Yemen, on the grounds that there are 300 al-Qaeda members in that craggy, inaccessible and tribally-organized country. Al-Qaeda has dug trapping pits for the US to fall into as it pursues its small, nimble foe, and the US keeps lumbering into them. The prospect of a US troop presence in Yemen provoked its council of clerics to threaten to call a jihad or holy war on the US if any attempt were made to occupy the country. The US attempted to allay such concerns with a firm statement it would not send troops, but not before the Yemenis had already gotten their backs up and anti-Americanism increased.

Source / Informed Comment

Fluxed Up World

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Surprise: Iraq War Is Illegal Under International Law

US President George W Bush, left, and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2001. The Dutch government's decision to support George Bush and Tony Blair's attack on Iraq had no basis in international law, the Davids report found. Photo: Mario Tama/AFP.

Iraq invasion violated international law, Dutch inquiry finds
By Afua Hirsch / January 12, 2010

Investigation into the Netherlands' support for 2003 war finds military action was not justified under UN resolutions

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a violation of international law, an independent inquiry in the Netherlands has found.

In a damning series of findings on the decision of the Dutch government to support Tony Blair and George Bush in the strategy of regime change in Iraq, the inquiry found the action had "no basis in international law".

The 551-page report, published today and chaired by former Dutch supreme court judge Willibrord Davids, said UN resolutions in the 1990s prior to the outbreak of war gave no authority to the invasion. "The Dutch government lent its political support to a war whose purpose was not consistent with Dutch government policy. The military action had no sound mandate in international law," it said.

The report came as the Chilcot inquiry in the UK heard evidence from Tony Blair's former press secretary, Alastair Campbell, about Britain's decision to enter the war.

Comparisons between the Davids report, which looked at the decision-making process surrounding the Dutch decision to back the war, and Chilcot's have led to criticism that the UK was not conducting a similar analysis of the legal implications in the run-up to the war.

The findings of the Davids report has serious implications for the UK, experts say, as it raises questions about the use of intelligence about weapons of mass destruction (WMD), an issue addressed by Campbell in his evidence before the Chilcot panel this morning.

"In its depiction of Iraq's WMD programme, the [Dutch] government was to a considerable extent led by public and other information from the US and the UK," the Davids report says.

It found that when the Dutch government decided in August 2002 to support the attack on Iraq it treated intelligence about WMD and the legality of an invasion as "subservient". The Dutch cabinet's policy was laid out in a 45-minute meeting, and came at a time when the newly elected prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, was preoccupied with domestic concerns, it said.

The Dutch intelligence agencies were "more reserved" in their assessments than the government when discussing the initiative in parliament, the report found.

During the build-up to the war, in 2003, the US abandoned an attempt to get a UN security council resolution approving the invasion when it became apparent it would not be granted. In 2004, the UN secretary general at the time, Kofi Annan, said the invasion was illegal.

Source / The Guardian

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Racism in Amerikkka - Proudly, Arrogantly Alive

Racially motivated threats against Obama rose to new heights in the first months of his presidency, with the US seeing nine high-profile race killings in 2009. Meanwhile white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups claim their membership is growing and that visits to their websites are increasing. Filmmakers Rick Rowley and Jacquie Soohen went inside the white nationalist movement to investigate.

Source / Information Clearing House

Fluxed Up World

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

No Justice, No Peace

Fluxed Up World

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Facts, Just the Facts, Folks

A Nation of Cowards
By Jerome Dolittle / December 28, 2009

Here is the estimable and sensible Nate Silver, once again laying out the numbers for us:

Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.

These departures flew a collective 69,415,786,000 miles. That means there has been one terrorist incident per 11,569,297,667 miles flown. This distance is equivalent to 1,459,664 trips around the diameter of the Earth, 24,218 round trips to the Moon, or two round trips to Neptune…

Therefore, the odds of being on a given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.

Are your pants wet nonetheless? Your lips trembling, your hair standing on end? Are you pathetically grateful for the friendly folks who make you take your shoes off and scan your body and search your baby’s diaper at the airport? If so, my friend, you are a typical American.

Source / Bad Attitudes

Fluxed Up World

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Hundreds Gather to Protest Global Warming

Thanks to Jeffrey Segal / Fluxed Up World

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