Archive for December, 2010

India: Sedition decision against Binayak Sen ‘misuse’ of laws

December 31, 2010

By Amartya Sen, ZNet, Dec 30, 2010

Source: Telegraph India

I am very upset about the court decision in Chhattisgarh about Binayak Sen. It is a huge perversion of our system of justice, and particularly of the laws concerning sedition. It’s not at all clear, to start with, that the thing he has been exactly accused of — of passing letters — has been really proved beyond doubt.

Secondly, even if this were correct, that doesn’t amount to sedition. He hasn’t killed anyone, he hasn’t incited anyone to rise in violent protest or rebellion. In fact, we know that in his writings he has written against the use of violence in political struggle, arguing that this is neither correct, nor is it ultimately successful. So, I think, even if this is the case — that the exact thing he is accused of is exactly what they are saying it is, which is by no means clear — even then the charge of sedition does not stand.

Thirdly, in exercising any kind of judgment, one has to take into account the character of the person. In this case, Binayak Sen is a very dedicated social worker, working extremely hard for the welfare of some of the most neglected people in the world. He has dedicated his life to doing that rather than having the prosperous, successful life of a doctor, and making a lot of money. So his dedication is not in doubt.

To turn the dedicated service of someone who drops everything to serve the cause of neglected people into a story of the seditious use of something — in this case, it appears to be the passing of a letter, when sedition usually takes the form of inciting people to violence or actually committing some violence and asking others to follow, none of which had happened — the whole thing seems a ridiculous use of the laws of democratic India.

This is part of a legal process, and we have to bear in mind that this is only the first step in a state which has been extraordinarily keen in keeping Binayak Sen behind bars.

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America’s Slide toward Totalitarism

December 31, 2010

By Abby Martin, Consortium News, December 27, 2010

Editor’s Note: The chance of an American getting killed by a terrorist remains miniscule, especially compared to other possible causes of mortality, like not getting timely medical attention because of the wasteful and costly health-care system. But Americans continue to surrender freedoms (and spend a fortune) to add a tiny bit of protection from terrorism.

The larger picture is even grimmer, since the accumulation of surrendered freedoms to fight the “war on terror” is shifting the United States piece by piece from a constitutional republic toward a new-age totalitarian state, as Abby Martin notes in this guest essay:

In George Orwell’s 1984, Britain is depicted as a totalitarian police state that is ruled by the Party, or Big Brother – an enigmatic, ubiquitous elite that controls society through heavy surveillance, nationalist propaganda and historical revisionism.

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The concept seems like a far-fetched portrayal of a democratic nation’s demise into totalitarianism, but in America’s “post 9/11” climate of fear, the United States government has been building a comprehensive grid of surveillance and control that bears frightening similarities to Orwell’s fictional narrative.

The glaring difference between the two is that Orwell’s dystopian society is overtly totalitarian. America, conversely, operates under a “soft fascism” – an insidious, systematic method of preventative action and corporate top-down control over society’s media, economy and politics – while maintaining the necessary illusion of personal choice and freedom.

A populace with little to no concept of their subjugation makes them the perfect subjects to rule.

Many Americans might not feel the government’s hand or Big Brother’s watchful eye directly in their lives. However, with the use of GPS, cell phones and the Internet, every move we make can be tracked, cataloged and divided into demographics that are used to increase corporate advertising efficiency and to create a “chilling effect” throughout our culture, stifling dissent and diminishing activism.

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Many Arab officials have close CIA links: Assange

December 31, 2010

By MOBIN PANDIT & AHMED EL AMIN, The Peninsula, Dec 30, 2010

DOHA: Top officials in several Arab countries have close links with the CIA, and many officials keep visiting US embassies in their respective countries voluntarily to establish links with this key US intelligence agency, says Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website, WikiLeaks.

“These officials are spies for the US in their countries,” Assange told Al Jazeera Arabic channel in an interview yesterday.

The interviewer, Ahmed Mansour, said at the start of the interview which was a continuation of last week’s interface, that Assange had even shown him the files that contained the names of some top Arab officials with alleged links with the CIA.

Assange or Mansour, however, didn’t disclose the names of these officials. The WikiLeaks founder said he feared he could be killed but added that there were 2,000 websites that were ready to publish the remaining files that are in possession of WikiLeaks after “he has been done away with”.

“If I am killed or detained for a long time, there are 2,000 websites ready to publish the remaining files. We have protected these websites through very safe passwords,” said Assange.

Currently, his whistle-blowing website is exposing files in a ‘responsible’ manner, he claimed. “But if I am forced we could go to the extreme and expose each and every file that we have access to,” thundered the WikiLeaks founder. “We must protect our sources at whatever cost. This is our sincere concern.”

Some Arab countries even have torture houses where Washington regularly sends ‘suspects’ for ‘interrogation and torture’, he said.

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Exiled Israeli historian Ilan Pappe seeks change

December 30, 2010

Morning Star Online, December 29, 2010

Pappe left Israel for Britain after condemnation from the Israeli public and parliament for his work The Ethnic Cleansing Of Palestine, published in 2006.

Based upon his PhD thesis, The Ethnic Cleaning Of Palestine studies the history of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Using previously unseen documentation from the British and Israeli governments Pappe rewrote the historical zionist narrative to include the expulsion or flight of 700,000 Palestinians in the same year.

“We were not the ‘new historians’ as we were often called,” said Pappe. “We were the first historians – there was no detailed historiography before this. But emotionally and ideologically there was a history – every visit to a demolished Arab village tells the story of 1948.”

This intellectual piece of work cost Pappe his academic credibility in Israel and led him to fear for both his and his family’s safety. He recalled friends and acquaintances receiving phone calls from anonymous people in which they were warned that it was not good to be seen with him. Death threats by phone, e-mail and post became frequent.

The discovery of this new evidence fell upon deaf ears. In Israeli society still, no-one addressed the ethical values of zionism, the ideology upon which the state of Israel is founded.

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At Least 42 Killed as US Drones Continue to Rock North Waziristan

December 29, 2010

Officials Don’t Know Identities of Any of Slain

by Jason Ditz, Antwar.com, December 28, 2010

Another 17 people were killed today in a flurry of US drone strikes against the North Waziristan Agency, bringing the two day toll to 42 slain and an unknown number of people wounded.

Officials have termed everyone killed a “suspected militant” but conceded that they don’t know any of the identities of the slain and that civilians are almost certain to be amongst the toll. With virtually no media allowed into the region, identifying the victims of US attacks is virtually impossible.

But we do know the circumstances of the attacks, including that a number of the people killed yesterday were not in the targeted vehicles but were simply nearby when the missiles landed. Today, the first drone strike destroyed a home and the second strike targeted neighbors who went to the site of the home to look for survivors.

The US has launched 115 strikes this year killing over a thousand people. Of these, only a handful were ever identified as “high value targets” and a number of those reemerged later, alive and well. The vast, vast majority will forever be known as “suspects,” despite mounting evidence that they are by and large civilians.

Greenwald: The merger of journalists and government officials

December 29, 2010
By Glenn Greenwald, Salon, Dec 28, 2010

The merger of journalists and government officials
CNN

(updated below)

The video of the CNN debate I did last night about WikiLeaks with former Bush Homeland Security Adviser (and CNN contributor) Fran Townsend and CNN anchor Jessica Yellin is posted below. The way it proceeded was quite instructive to me and I want to make four observations about the discussion:

(1) Over the last month, I’ve done many television and radio segments about WikiLeaks and what always strikes me is how indistinguishable — identical — are the political figures and the journalists. There’s just no difference in how they think, what their values and priorities are, how completely they’ve ingested and how eagerly they recite the same anti-WikiLeaks, “Assange = Saddam” script.  So absolute is the WikiLeaks-is-Evil bipartisan orthodoxy among the Beltway political and media class (forever cemented by the joint Biden/McConnell decree that Assange is a “high-tech Terrorist,”) that you’re viewed as being from another planet if you don’t spout it.  It’s the equivalent of questioning Saddam’s WMD stockpile in early 2003.

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Enough Grandstanding About Khodorkovsky, Ms. Clinton!

December 29, 2010

By YVONNE RIDLEY, Counterpunch, Dec 29, 2010

I wonder if Hillary Clinton really believes in the pompous invective that sprays from her lips with the rapidity of machine gun fire.

We had a classic example of it just the other day when she let rip in her grating, robotic monotone over a Moscow court’s decision to jail an oil tycoon.

To be fair to Clinton, she was not alone. There was a whole gaggle of disapproving foreign ministers who poured forth their ridiculous brand of Western arrogance which has poisoned the international atmosphere for far too long.

The US Secretary of State said Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s conviction raised “serious questions about selective prosecution and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations”.

Although Khodorkovsky, 47, and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, 54, were found guilty of theft and money laundering by a Moscow court, critics like Clinton say the trial constitutes revenge for the tycoon’s questioning of a state monopoly on oil pipelines and propping up political parties that oppose the Kremlin.

Clinton’s censure was echoed by politicians in Britain and Germany, and Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, urged Moscow to “respect its international commitments in the field of human rights and the rule of law”.
Now while it may appear to be quite touching to see all these Western leaders express their outrage over a trial involving the one-time richest and most powerful man in Russia’s oil and gas industry, you have to ask where were these moral guardians when other unjust legal decisions were being made in US courts, for example?

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Indian Human Rights Activist Dr. Binayak Sen Sentenced to Life in Prison in Widely Criticized Ruling

December 29, 2010

Sen

Renowned Indian physician and human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen has been sentenced to life in prison on charges of sedition and conspiracy. Described as Indian’s most famous political prisoner, Dr. Sen is known as the “physician of the poor.” We play an interview with Dr. Sen, speaking while out on bail earlier this year, and we talk to his wife, Ilina Sen. [includes rush transcript]

Democracy Now, Dec, 28, 2010
Dr. Binayak Sen, interviewed in May 2010,

AMY GOODMAN: The renowned Indian physician and human rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen has been sentenced to life in prison. On Friday, Dr. Sen and two others were convicted in court in India on charges of sedition and conspiracy.

Described as India’s most famous political prisoner, Dr. Sen is known as the “physician of the poor.” He spent many years working as a doctor in the rural-tribal areas of Chhattisgarh in central India and reported on unlawful killings of indigenous people by the police and private militias. The region is the site of intensifying conflict between India’s central government and the Maoist Naxalites.

In May of 2007, Dr. Sen was charged under the the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act. The allegations against him ranged from helping the Maoist insurgency, being a member of a terrorist organization, to waging war against the Indian state.

In a statement released after his conviction, Amnesty International called Dr. Sen a “prisoner of conscience.” Asia-Pacific director Sam Zarifi said, quote, “This sentence will seriously intimidate other human rights defenders who would provide a peaceful outlet for the people’s grievances… Amnesty International believes that the charges against Dr. Sen are baseless and politically motivated,” the statement said.

Immediately after the sentencing Friday, Dr. Sen was taken back into custody. He had been free on bail since May of 2009. Earlier this year, Democracy Now!’s Anjali Kamat had a chance to speak with Dr. Sen by telephone while he was out on bail.

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US drone attacks are no laughing matter, Mr Obama

December 29, 2010

The president’s backing of indiscriminate slaughter in Pakistan can only encourage new waves of militancy

Mehdi Hasan, The Guardian, Dec 28, 2010

Speaking at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in May, Barack Obama spotted teen pop band the Jonas Brothers in the audience. “Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but, boys, don’t get any ideas,” deadpanned the president, referring to his daughters. “Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.” The crowd laughed, Obama smiled, the dinner continued. Few questioned the wisdom of making such a tasteless joke; of the US commander-in-chief showing such casual disregard for the countless lives lost abroad through US drone attacks.

From the moment he stepped foot inside the White House, Obama set about expanding and escalating a covert CIA programme of “targeted killings” inside Pakistan, using Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles (who comes up with these names?) that had been started by the Bush administration in 2004. On 23 January 2009, just three days after being sworn in, Obama ordered his first set of air strikes inside Pakistan; one is said to have killed four Arab fighters linked to al-Qaida but the other hit the house of a pro-government tribal leader, killing him and four members of his family, including a five-year-old child. Obama’s own daughter, Sasha, was seven at the time.

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All Pakistani Parties Demand End to Drone Attacks

December 29, 2010

Ahmad Noorani, uruknet.info, Dec 28, 2010

ISLAMABAD: As another drone attack killed more than 20 people on North Waziristan on Monday, all leading political parties of the country unanimously declared that these attacks were tantamount to compromising the sovereignty of Pakistan and the government and the Pakistan Army should take immediate measures to stop them.

Leaders of these parties said the government and authorities should sort out the matter in accordance with parliament’s unanimous resolutions and take action against the extremists by itself wherever it is needed.

Senior leaders of these leading political forces say that compromising the sovereignty of the country would lead to making Pakistan a banana republic and foreign forces will keep on extending their targeted areas of attacks which consequently will damage the unity of the already troubled nation.

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