Posts Tagged ‘UK government’

Wanted: Tony Blair for war crimes

January 26, 2010

Chilcot and the courts won’t do it, so it is up to us to show that we won’t let an illegal act of mass murder go unpunished

by George Monbiot, The Guardian/UK, January 26, 2010

The only question that counts is the one that the Chilcot inquiry won’t address: was the war with Iraq illegal? If the answer is yes, everything changes. The war is no longer a political matter, but a criminal one, and those who commissioned it should be committed for trial for what the Nuremberg tribunal called “the supreme international crime”: the crime of aggression.

But there’s a problem with official inquiries in the United Kingdom: the government appoints their members and sets their terms of reference. It’s the equivalent of a criminal suspect being allowed to choose what the charges should be, who should judge his case and who should sit on the jury. As a senior judge told the Guardian in November: “Looking into the legality of the war is the last thing the government wants. And actually, it’s the last thing the opposition wants either because they voted for the war. There simply is not the political pressure to explore the question of legality – they have not asked because they don’t want the answer.”

Others have explored it, however. Two weeks ago a Dutch inquiry, led by a former supreme court judge, found that the invasion had “no sound mandate in international law”. Last month Lord Steyn, a former law lord, said that “in the absence of a second UN resolution authorising invasion, it was illegal“. In November Lord Bingham, the former lord chief justice, stated that, without the blessing of the UN, the Iraq war was “a serious violation of international law and the rule of law“.

Under the United Nations charter, two conditions must be met before a war can legally be waged. The parties to a dispute must first “seek a solution by negotiation” (article 33). They can take up arms without an explicit mandate from the UN security council only “if an armed attack occurs against [them]” (article 51). Neither of these conditions applied. The US and UK governments rejected Iraq’s attempts to negotiate. At one point the US state department even announced that it would “go into thwart mode” to prevent the Iraqis from resuming talks on weapons inspection (all references are on my website). Iraq had launched no armed attack against either nation.

We also know that the UK government was aware that the war it intended to launch was illegal. In March 2002, the Cabinet Office explained that “a legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to law officers’ advice, none currently exists.” In July 2002, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, told the prime minister that there were only “three possible legal bases” for launching a war – “self-defence, ­humanitarian intervention, or UNSC [security council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.” Bush and Blair later failed to obtain security council authorisation.

As the resignation letter on the eve of the war from Elizabeth Wilmshurst, then deputy legal adviser to the ­Foreign Office, revealed, her office had ­”consistently” advised that an ­invasion would be unlawful without a new UN resolution. She explained that “an unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression”. Both Wilmshurst and her former boss, Sir Michael Wood, will testify before the Chilcot inquiry tomorrow. Expect fireworks.

Without legal justification, the war with Iraq was an act of mass murder: those who died were unlawfully killed by the people who commissioned it. Crimes of aggression (also known as crimes against peace) are defined by the Nuremberg principles as “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties”. They have been recognised in international law since 1945. The Rome statute, which established the international criminal court (ICC) and which was ratified by Blair’s government in 2001, provides for the court to “exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression”, once it has decided how the crime should be defined and prosecuted.

There are two problems. The first is that neither the government nor the opposition has any interest in pursuing these crimes, for the obvious reason that in doing so they would expose themselves to prosecution. The second is that the required legal mechanisms don’t yet exist. The governments that ratified the Rome statute have been filibustering furiously to delay the point at which the crime can be prosecuted by the ICC: after eight years of discussions, the necessary provision still has not been adopted.

Some countries, mostly in eastern Europe and central Asia, have incorporated the crime of aggression into their own laws, though it is not yet clear which of them would be willing to try a foreign national for acts committed abroad. In the UK, where it remains ­illegal to wear an offensive T-shirt, you cannot yet be prosecuted for mass ­murder commissioned overseas.

All those who believe in justice should campaign for their governments to stop messing about and allow the international criminal court to start prosecuting the crime of aggression. We should also press for its adoption into national law. But I believe that the people of this nation, who re-elected a government that had launched an illegal war, have a duty to do more than that. We must show that we have not, as Blair requested, “moved on” from Iraq, that we are not prepared to allow his crime to remain unpunished, or to allow future leaders to believe that they can safely repeat it.

But how? As I found when I tried to apprehend John Bolton, one of the architects of the war in George Bush’s government, at the Hay festival in 2008, and as Peter Tatchell found when he tried to detain Robert Mugabe, nothing focuses attention on these issues more than an attempted citizen’s arrest. In October I mooted the idea of a bounty to which the public could contribute, ­payable to anyone who tried to arrest Tony Blair if he became president of the European Union. He didn’t of course, but I asked those who had pledged money whether we should go ahead anyway. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

So today I am launching a website – www.arrestblair.org – whose purpose is to raise money as a reward for people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest  of the former prime minister. I have put up the first £100, and I encourage you to match it. Anyone meeting the rules I’ve laid down will be entitled to one quarter of the total pot: the bounties will remain available until Blair faces a court of law. The higher the ­reward, the greater the number of ­people who are likely to try.

At this stage the arrests will be largely symbolic, though they are likely to have great political resonance. But I hope that as pressure builds up and the crime of aggression is adopted by the courts, these attempts will help to press ­governments to prosecute. There must be no hiding place for those who have committed crimes against peace. No ­civilised country can allow mass ­murderers to move on.

© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited

George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com

British spy chief weighs into torture row

August 11, 2009
Morning Star Online, Monday 10 August 2009
by Paddy McGuffin
Printable page
There has been "no torture and no complicity in torture" by the MI6, according to its head Sir John Scarlett

There has been “no torture and no complicity in torture” by the MI6, according to its head Sir John Scarlett

The government and MI6 head Sir John Scarlett have been accused of hiding behind ambiguities in their claims that British secret service agents were not complicit in torture.

Senior government figures and the spy chief have attempted to distance themselves from allegations of involvement in the torture of terror suspects in foreign countries.

The government currently faces a number of legal actions from torture victims who maintain that MI5 or MI6 agents were involved in their interrogation.

Yesterday, Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Home Secretary Alan Johnson wrote in a joint article for a national newspaper that there was no policy “to collude in, solicit or directly participate in abuses of prisoners” or to cover up alleged wrongdoing, although they added that it was not possible to “eradicate all risk.”

And in a highly unusual development, Mr Scarlett, who is usually content to remain in the shadows, emerged today in a bid to deflect criticism from MI6, stating that there was “no torture and no complicity in torture” by the British secret service.

He added that “our officers are as committed to the values and the human rights values of liberal democracy as anybody else.”

But responding to the comments, a spokesman for legal action charity Reprieve, which represents a number of torture victims, accused the spy chief and the government of a deliberate cover-up.

He said: “Like our government, the head of MI6 John Scarlett is hiding behind general statements rather than addressing specific allegations. This is simply not good enough.

“Failure to report torture is a serious crime. We would expect any citizen mixed up in such a crime to face the courts and governments should do the same.

“In the High Court case of Binyam Mohamed, the UK government has attempted to evade court scrutiny at every turn and behave increasingly as if they are above the law.”

Scotland Yard is conducting a criminal investigation into claims that MI5 was complicit in the abuse of Mr Mohamed, a British resident who alleges that he was tortured while being held at sites in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan.

“The Foreign Secretary denies covering up evidence of involvement in torture. Why then is he refusing to release a summary, written by High Court judges and stripped of all security-sensitive information, of what happened to Binyam Mohamed?” demanded the spokesman.

Today also saw an influential Westminster committee demand that torture victims be granted the right to sue foreign states through the British legal system.

The joint committee on human rights, chaired by Labour MP Andrew Dismore, called on ministers to lift state immunity, rejecting government claims that the decision would breach international obligations.

The committee concluded: “The practical questions of foreign relations, enforcement and litigation procedure are important, but they are secondary to the issue we are examining, which is, should there be a civil remedy available in the UK to victims of torture at the hands of foreign states?

“We are of the strong opinion that there should.”

The committee has also called for a full public inquiry into the allegations, a demand which has been backed by campaign groups such as Amnesty International and Liberty.

A Number 10 spokesman rejected the demands.

War comes home to Britain

March 6, 2009

By Pilger, John | ZSpace, March 6, 2009

John Pilger’s ZSpace Page

Freedom is being lost in Britain. The land of Magna Carta is now the land of secret gagging orders, secret trials and imprisonment. The government will soon know about every phone call, every email, every text message. Police can willfully shoot to death an innocent man, lie and expect to get away with it. Whole communities now fear the state. The foreign secretary routinely covers up allegations of torture; the justice secretary routinely prevents the release of critical cabinet minutes taken when Iraq was illegally invaded. The litany is cursory; there is much more.

Indeed, there is so much more that the erosion of liberal freedoms is symptomatic of an evolved criminal state.  The haven for Russian oligarchs, together with corruption of the tax and banking systems and of once-admired public services such as the Post Office, is one side of the coin; the other is the invisible carnage of failed colonial wars. Historically, the pattern is familiar. As the colonial crimes in Algeria, Vietnam and Afghanistan blew back to their perpetrators, France, the United States and the Soviet Union, so the cancerous effects of Britain’s cynicism in Iraq and Afghanistan have come home.

The most obvious example is the bombing atrocities in London on 7 July 2005; no one in the British intelligence mandarinate doubts these were a gift of Blair.  “Terrorism” describes only the few acts of individuals and groups, not the constant, industrial violence of great powers. Suppressing this truth is left to the credible media. On 27 February, the Guardian’s Washington correspondent, Ewen MacAskill, in reporting President Obama’s statement that America was finally leaving Iraq, as if it were fact, wrote: “For Iraq, the death toll is unknown, in the tens of thousands, victims of the war, a nationalist uprising, sectarian in-fighting and jihadists attracted by the US presence.”  Thus, the Anglo-American invaders are merely a “presence” and not directly responsible for the “unknown” number of Iraqi deaths. Such contortion of intellect is impressive.

In January last year, a report by the respected Opinion Research Business (ORB) revised an earlier assessment of deaths in Iraq to 1,033,000. This followed an exhaustive, peer-reviewed study in 2006 by the world-renowned John Hopkins School of Public Health in the US, published in The Lancet, which found that 655,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the invasion. US and British officials immediately dismissed the report as “flawed” – a deliberate deception. Foreign Office papers obtained under Freedom of Information disclose a memo written by the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, in which he praised The Lancet report, describing it as “robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to ‘best practice’ given [the conditions] in Iraq.” An adviser to the prime minister commented:  “The survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones”. Speaking a few days later, a Foreign Office minister, Lord Triesman, said, “The way in which data are extrapolated from samples to a general outcome is a matter of deep concern.”

The episode exemplifies the scale and deception of this state crime. Les Roberts, co-author of the Lancet study, has since argued that Britain and America might have caused in Iraq “an episode more deadly than the Rwandan genocide”. This is not news. Neither is it a critical reference in the freedoms campaign organised by the Observer columnist Henry Porter. At a conference in London on 28 February, Lord Goldsmith, Blair’s attorney-general, who notoriously changed his mind and advised the government the invasion was legal, when it wasn’t, was a speaker for freedom. So was Timothy Garton Ash, a “liberal interventionist”. On 9 April, 2003, shortly after the slaughter had begun in Iraq, a euphoric Garton Ash wrote in the Guardian: “America has never been the Great Satan. It has sometimes been the Great Gatsby: ‘They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things …”. One of Britain’s jobs “is to keep reminding Tom and Daisy that they now have promises to keep”. Less frivolously, he lauded Blair for his “strong Gladstonian instincts for humanitarian intervention” and repeated the government’s propaganda about Saddam Hussein. In 2006, he wrote: “Now we face the next big test of the west after Iraq: Iran.”  (I have italicized we). This also adheres precisely to the propaganda; David Milliband has declared Iran a “threat” in preparation for possibly the next war.

Like so many of New Labour’s Tonier-than-thou squad, Henry Porter celebrated Blair as an almost mystical politician who “presents himself as a harmoniser for all the opposing interests in British life, a conciliator of class differences and tribal antipathies, synthesiser of opposing beliefs”. Porter dismissed as “demonic nonsense” all analysis of the 9/11 attacks that suggested there were specific causes: the consequences of violent actions taken by the powerful in the Middle East. Such thinking, he wrote, “exactly matches the views of Osma bin Laden … with America’s haters, that’s all there is – hatred”. This, of course, was Blair’s view.

Freedoms are being lost in Britain because of the rapid growth of the “national security state”. This form of militarism was imported from the United States by New Labour. Totalitarian in essence, it relies upon fear mongering to entrench the executive with venal legal mechanisms that progressively diminish democracy and justice. “Security” is all, as is propaganda promoting rapacious colonial wars, even as honest mistakes. Take away this propaganda, and the wars are exposed for what they are, and fear evaporates.  Take away the obeisance of many in Britain’s liberal elite to American power and you demote a profound colonial and crusader mentality that covers for epic criminals like Blair. Prosecute these criminals and change the system that breeds them and you have freedom.

www.johnpilger.com

UK Gov’t Accused of Cover-Up over Iraq War Minutes

February 26, 2009

LONDON  – The government said Tuesday it would veto publication of minutes from ministerial discussions about the legality of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, immediately drawing accusations of a cover-up.

[Tony Blair (C) disembarks from a hellicopter after arriving at Basra airport in Iraq, in 2004]Tony Blair (C) disembarks from a hellicopter after arriving at Basra airport in Iraq, in 2004

Anti-war campaigners believe the minutes may conceal damaging information about how then prime minister Tony Blair’s government reached the decision to support the US-led invasion. However, current Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s administration fears publishing the minutes may hinder ministers’ ability to speak freely at confidential weekly Cabinet meetings.

“Confidentiality serves to promote thorough decision-making,” Justice Secretary Jack Straw told parliament’s lower House of Commons.

“Disclosure of the Cabinet minutes in this case jeopardises that space for thought and debate at precisely the point where it has its greatest utility.

“In short, the damage that disclosure of the minutes in this instance would far outweigh any corresponding public interest in their disclosure.”

Some lawmakers greeted his announcement with cries of “shame!”

One who supported his decision was Lord Robin Butler, once Britain’s highest ranking civil servant, who said Cabinet minutes should be exempted from the freedom of information rules under which the government had faced calls to release the minutes.

“There will always be an inhibition to candour in important discussions in government because those taking part in them will be uncertain whether what they are going to say is going to be revealed under the Freedom of Information Act or not,” said Butler, who led a 2004 inquiry on government intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in the lead up to the invasion.

The government’s unprecedented move came after the Information Tribunal watchdog last month ordered the release of minutes from Cabinet meetings on March 13 and 17, 2003, when ministers had discussed whether war was allowed under international law.

Campaigners are particularly keen to get hold of the minutes due to concerns about advice given to Blair’s Cabinet by Peter Goldsmith, then the attorney general, or senior legal adviser.

In advice published on March 17 of that year, Goldsmith stated that military action against Iraq was legal. But Goldsmith’s earlier, more equivocal counsel was not disclosed at that stage and eventually leaked out.

Goldsmith then denied that ministers had pressured him into changing his mind to rule that invading Iraq would be legal under international law, even without a second United Nations Security Council resolution.

Blair faced heavy criticism from many for backing former US president George W. Bush in invading Iraq to oust dictator Saddam Hussein despite failing to secure a second UN resolution.

Kate Hudson, chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, called the veto “disgraceful,” adding it was “yet another attempt to suppress public debate on the biggest political scandal in decades.”

“The use of the veto cannot be justified in any way — there is no risk to candid discussions in Cabinet as such minutes do not single out those making each point,” she said.

“The disgrace of the attorney general ‘changing his mind’ on whether the war could be justified must be exposed in all its detail.”

Straw’s move was backed by the main opposition Conservative Party, although justice spokesman Dominic Grieve urged a public inquiry into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war.

Bring Binyam home

February 13, 2009

The greatest injustice I fear is that Binyam Mohamed is still being held at Guantánamo only to suppress evidence of his torture

I am a lawyer and a soldier, and I act for Binyam Mohamed, who is currently on hunger strike in Guantánamo Bay. I came to England to ask everyone to work as hard as possible to get Binyam home. The new administration in the US has said that it wants to close Guantánamo. The UK government says that it has been asking for Binyam’s return since August 2007. Despite that, and despite England being the US’s closest ally, Binyam is still in a cell in Guantánamo Bay. I believe that now is the time to press the new administration.

Guards told Binyam that he was going home in December, and so he is on hunger strike (together with 50 or so other prisoners). This means that he is tube-fed while strapped to a chair, twice a day. Binyam has lost so much weight that he speaks of the pain he suffers from being strapped to the chair for hours each day – he speaks of feeling his bones against the chair. I am really worried that if Binyam does not come home soon, he will leave Guantánamo Bay in a coffin.

The Joint Task Force, which runs Guantánamo Bay, gives me no information about Binyam. When I called to enquire about his condition, they said first, that they would look into it and then that they would tell me nothing and that I should make a Freedom of Information request, which would have taken months to process. Therefore, whenever I want information about Binyam, I have to make the 5-hour trip to Guantánamo. Each time, he asks why he is still there.

It is worth bearing in mind that all charges against Binyam have been dropped and that Binyam’s chief prosecutor resigned, citing the unfairness of the system.

I profoundly hope that he is not being kept in Guantánamo to avoid information surrounding his rendition and torture coming out. Clive Stafford Smith and I are testifying at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition in Portcullis House, Westminster today, which is open to members of the public. I understand that a number of intelligence agents and politicians will also speak in an attempt to get Binyam home. I am meeting with David Miliband , this Thursday, and I hope that he will assure me that Binyam is coming home.

Lord Bingham: US and UK acted as ‘vigilantes’ in Iraq invasion

November 18, 2008

Former senior law lord condemns ‘serious violation of international law’

A British soldier patrols the northern suburbs of the southern Iraqi city of Basra

A British soldier patrols the northern suburbs of the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Photograph: Dave Clark/AFP/Getty images

One of Britain’s most authoritative judicial figures last night delivered a blistering attack on the invasion of Iraq, describing it as a serious violation of international law, and accusing Britain and the US of acting like a “world vigilante”.

Lord Bingham, in his first major speech since retiring as the senior law lord, rejected the then attorney general’s defence of the 2003 invasion as fundamentally flawed.

Contradicting head-on Lord Goldsmith’s advice that the invasion was lawful, Bingham stated: “It was not plain that Iraq had failed to comply in a manner justifying resort to force and there were no strong factual grounds or hard evidence to show that it had.” Adding his weight to the body of international legal opinion opposed to the invasion, Bingham said that to argue, as the British government had done, that Britain and the US could unilaterally decide that Iraq had broken UN resolutions “passes belief”.

Governments were bound by international law as much as by their domestic laws, he said. “The current ministerial code,” he added “binding on British ministers, requires them as an overarching duty to ‘comply with the law, including international law and treaty obligations’.”

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats continue to press for an independent inquiry into the circumstances around the invasion. The government says an inquiry would be harmful while British troops are in Iraq. Ministers say most of the remaining 4,000 will leave by mid-2009.

Addressing the British Institute of International and Comparative Law last night, Bingham said: “If I am right that the invasion of Iraq by the US, the UK, and some other states was unauthorised by the security council there was, of course, a serious violation of international law and the rule of law.

“For the effect of acting unilaterally was to undermine the foundation on which the post-1945 consensus had been constructed: the prohibition of force (save in self-defence, or perhaps, to avert an impending humanitarian catastrophe) unless formally authorised by the nations of the world empowered to make collective decisions in the security council …”

The moment a state treated the rules of international law as binding on others but not on itself, the compact on which the law rested was broken, Bingham argued. Quoting a comment made by a leading academic lawyer, he added: “It is, as has been said, ‘the difference between the role of world policeman and world vigilante’.”

Bingham said he had very recently provided an advance copy of his speech to Goldsmith and to Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the invasion of Iraq. He told his audience he should make it plain they challenged his conclusions.

Both men emphasised that point last night by intervening to defend their views as consistent with those held at the time of the invasion. Goldsmith said in a statement: “I stand by my advice of March 2003 that it was legal for Britain to take military action in Iraq. I would not have given that advice if it were not genuinely my view. Lord Bingham is entitled to his own legal perspective five years after the event.” Goldsmith defended what is known as the “revival argument” – namely that Saddam Hussein had failed to comply with previous UN resolutions which could now take effect. Goldsmith added that Tony Blair had told him it was his “unequivocal view” that Iraq was in breach of its UN obligations to give up weapons of mass destruction.

Straw said last night that he shared Goldsmith’s view. He continued: “However controversial the view that military action was justified in international law it was our attorney general’s view that it was lawful and that view was widely shared across the world.”

Bingham also criticised the post-invasion record of Britain as “an occupying power in Iraq”. It is “sullied by a number of incidents, most notably the shameful beating to death of Mr Baha Mousa [a hotel receptionist] in Basra [in 2003]“, he said.

Such breaches of the law, however, were not the result of deliberate government policy and the rights of victims had been recognised, Bingham observed.

He contrasted that with the “unilateral decisions of the US government” on issues such as the detention conditions in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

After referring to mistreatment of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib, Bingham added: “Particularly disturbing to proponents of the rule of law is the cynical lack of concern for international legality among some top officials in the Bush administration.”

100 Nations to Ban Cluster Bombs – But not the biggest user, the USA

November 16, 2008

By Angus Crawford | RINF.COM, Nov 14, 2008

On 3 December, more than 100 countries, including the UK, will sign a treaty banning cluster bombs.

As a result Britain, by law, will have to destroy more than 30 million explosives.

The UK does not have the facilities, so they are being exported to Germany for disposal.

“I feel good to work for a good thing in the world and for peace,” says Jorg Fiegert, production manager for Nammo Demil.

It runs a site in Pinnow in Germany which destroys munitions.

Over the next five years its work will include taking apart bomblets from British cluster munitions.

“It can punch through armour,” Jorg explains as he holds up a British bomblet.

It is only the size of an egg cup, and came from the MLRS, the Multiple Launch Rocket System.

Each one has six rockets, and within each rocket are 644 bomblets. They are designed to split open in the air and spread small bomblets over a wide area.

Cluster bombs have been used in countries including Cambodia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Lebanon, and were used in the conflict in Lebanon in 2006.

Those who ratify the convention in December will then have eight years to get rid of their stockpiles of the weapons.

The UK government had already begun getting rid of its stocks by shipping them to Germany and elsewhere.

Nammo has a contract with the UK Ministry of Defence to destroy 28 million of these bomblets, and there are another 3.5 million in other systems to be disposed of.

“In principle everything except the explosive can be recycled,” explains Ola Pikner, Nammo’s vice president of marketing.

Whole weapons enter the factory, but raw materials for civilian use leave it.

He shows me how the MLRS rocket is split open.

The bomblets are extracted, the fuses are cut off and the copper inners are removed.

The explosive is then burnt off using red hot plasma.

MLRS

The bombs have been used in Cambodia, Lebanon and Kosovo

The copper, aluminium and other metals are sold for scrap. The packaging for the bomblets is burnt for heating.

This will take up to 40% of their work for the next five years.

“There is huge potential”, says Ola Pikner, “but the number of cluster munitions from each country is not known.”

Campaigners believe there may be as many as a billion of them across Europe.

But the world’s biggest users – Israel and the USA – will not sign this treaty.

Nor, it’s thought, will China, Russia, India and Pakistan.

But Thomas Nash from the Cluster Munition Coalition remains undaunted by this.

“What you are going to see is a comprehensive stigmatisation of the weapon,” he says.

“Countries that don’t sign up won’t be able to use this weapon on operations with those that do.

“You’re going to see this weapon becoming a thing of the past.”

Behind the Panic: Financial Warfare and the Future of Global Bank Power

October 15, 2008

By F. William Engdahl | AxisofLogic, Oct 10, 2008, 11:28

What’s clear from the behavior of European financial markets over the past two weeks is that the dramatic stories of financial meltdown and panic are deliberately being used by certain influential factions in and outside the EU to shape the future face of global banking in the wake of the US sub-prime and Asset-Backed Security (ABS) debacle. The most interesting development in recent days has been the unified and strong position of the German Chancellor, Finance Minister, Bundesbank and coalition Government, all opposing an American-style EU Superfund bank bailout. Meanwhile Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson pursues his Crony Capitalism to the detriment of the nation and benefit of his cronies in the financial world. It’s an explosive cocktail that need not have been.

“There is serious ground to believe that [Henry Paulson] is actually moving according to a well-thought-out long-term strategy.”

Stock market falls of 7 to 10% a day make for dramatic news headlines and serve to foster a broad sense of unease bordering on panic among ordinary citizens. The events of the last two weeks among EU banks since the dramatic state rescues of Hypo Real Estate, Dexia and Fortis banks, and the announcement by UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling of a radical shift in policy in dealing with troubled UK banks, have begun to reveal the outline of a distinctly different European response to what in effect is a crisis ‘Made in USA.’

There is serious ground to believe that US Goldman Sachs ex CEO Henry Paulson, as Treasury Secretary, is not stupid. There is also serious ground to believe that he is actually moving according to a well-thought-out long-term strategy. Events as they are now unfolding in the EU tend to confirm that. As one senior European banker put it to me in private discussion, ‘There is an all-out war going on between the United States and the EU to define the future face of European banking.’

In this banker’s view, the ongoing attempt of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and France’s Nicholas Sarkosy to get an EU common ‘fund’, with perhaps upwards of $300 billion to rescue troubled banks, would de facto play directly into Paulson and the US establishment’s long-term strategy, by in effect weakening the banks and repaying US-originated Asset Backed Securities held by EU banks.

Using panic to centralize power

As I document in my forthcoming book, Power of Money: The Rise and Decline of the American Century, in every major US financial panic since at least the Panic of 1835, the titans of Wall Street—most especially until 1929, the House of JP Morgan—have deliberately triggered bank panics behind the scenes in order to consolidate their grip on US banking. The private banks used the panics to control Washington policy including the exact definition of the private ownership of the new Federal Reserve in 1913, and to consolidate their control over industry such as US Steel, Caterpillar, Westinghouse and the like. They are, in short, old hands at such financial warfare to increase their power.

Now they must do something similar on a global scale to be able to continue to dominate global finance, the heart of the power of the American Century.

That process of using panics to centralize their private power created an extremely powerful, concentration of financial and economic power in a few private hands, the same hands which created the influential US foreign policy think-tank, the New York Council on Foreign Relations in 1919 to guide the ascent of the American Century, as Time founder Henry Luce called it in a pivotal 1941 essay.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that people like Henry Paulson, who by the way was one of the most aggressive practitioners of the ABS revolution on Wall Street before becoming Treasury Secretary, are operating on motives beyond their over-proportional sense of greed. Paulson’s own background is interesting in that context. Back in the early 1970’s Paulson started his career working for a rather notorious man named John Erlichman, Nixon’s ruthless adviser who created the Plumbers’ Unit during the Watergate era to silence opponents of the President, and was left by Nixon to ‘twist in the wind’ for it in prison.

Paulson seems to have learned from his White House mentor. As co-chairman of Goldman Sachs according to a New York Times account, in 1998 he forced out his co-chairman, Jon Corzine ‘in what amounted to a coup’ according to the Times.

Continued . . .

A UK Window on CIA Abuses

August 30, 2008

The Case of Binyam Mohamed

By JOANNE MARINER | Counterpunch, August 29, 2008

Britain’s High Court will hold a hearing to assess whether the UK government should be ordered to hand over secret documents to lawyers for a Guantanamo detainee. The detainee in question, Binyam Mohamed, faces possible charges of conspiracy and material support for terrorism before a military commission at Guantanamo.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian national and former UK resident, was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002. Transferred to US custody, he was reportedly rendered by the CIA to Morocco, detained there secretly for over a year, and then moved for several months to a secret CIA detention site in Afghanistan. He then spent a few months in military detention at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and was ultimately brought to Guantanamo Bay in September 2004.

Mohamed claims that he was brutally tortured during his time in secret detention, and that the evidence that will likely be used to prosecute him is a result of that torture. He also claims that the UK government has information that supports his claims of abuse.

Last week, in an important judgment, the UK High Court ruled in Mohamed’s favor. It found that the British government was under a legal obligation to disclose to Mohamed’s counsel the information it possesses relating to Mohamed’s whereabouts, treatment, and interrogation between April 2002 and May 2004. The court emphasized that this information is “not merely necessary but essential” to Mohamed’s defense against military commission charges.

While the court stopped short of ordering the foreign secretary to hand over the information—allowing additional time for the national security implications of disclosure to be considered—it will reach the mandatory disclosure question at its hearing this week.

From Britain to Pakistan to the Prison of Darkness

Binyam Mohamed came to Britain in 1994, when he was a student, after having spend a short period in the United States. He converted to Islam while in the UK, and in mid-2001 he left the UK for Pakistan and Afghanistan. He claims that he traveled to the region because he wanted to kick a drug habit.

The military commission charges that have been sworn against Mohamed allege that he attended an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and later received training in building remote-controlled explosive detention devices in Pakistan. While living at an Al Qaeda safe house in Lahore, Pakistan, the charges say, Mohamed allegedly agreed to be sent to the United States to conduct terror operations.

Mohamed was arrested at the Karachi airport on April 10, 2002, as he attempted to leave Pakistan to fly to London. Although he was initially detained in Karachi, he claims that he was interrogated there by US agents. The UK High Court has also confirmed that a British agent visited Mohamed in Pakistani custody on May 17, 2002.

Mohamed claims that he was rendered by the CIA to Morocco in July 2002. There, he claims, he was beaten, repeatedly cut on his genitals, and threatened with rape, electrocution and death. Interrogators reportedly asked him detailed questions about his seven years in London, based on information that his lawyers believe came from British sources.

In late January 2004, Mohamed says, he was sent to Afghanistan, where he was held in a secret CIA prison—called the “Prison of Darkness”—until May 2004. At that point, he was transferred to military detention, first at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, then at Guantanamo, where he remains.

According to the UK High Court, the military commissions case against Mohamed is based on confessions Mohamed made while in military custody—after May 2004—not on anything he said while being interrogated by the CIA. Mohamed claims, however, that it was the abuse in CIA custody that induced him to confess while in military custody, and so proof of those CIA abuses are crucial to his defense.

Refusal to Disclose

As part of a continuing effort to cover up the CIA’s misdeeds, US officials have refused to provide Mohamed or his lawyers any information whatsoever about his treatment or whereabouts from the time of arrest in April 2002 until he was transferred to Bagram in May 2004. To date, the UK government has similarly refused to provide Mohamed’s lawyers any such information, although it has acknowledged that some documents in its possession might be exculpatory.

In last week’s ruling, the High Court noted that the UK foreign secretary had acknowledged that Mr. Mohamed had established an arguable case that he had been subject to illegal rendition and torture. The court also found that the British security forces had facilitated Mohamed’s interrogations by supplying information and questions to US officials, even while they knew that Mohamed was being held incommunicado in a non-military detention facility overseas.

The court found, in short, that the relationship of the UK government to the US authorities with regard to Mohamed “was far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing.” Because the UK was in some way a participant, not simply an observer, the court held that the UK is legally obligated to provide Mohamed with information relating to his abuse.

Not only did the court deem this information to be “essential” to Mohamed’s ability to adequately defend himself, it emphasized the need for the government to provide the necessary information as soon as is practically possible. The reason for the hurried timing lies in the military commissions’ timetable. At present, military commission charges against Mohamed have been prepared, but the commission’s convening authority has not yet signed off on them. In order to potentially affect the charging decision, Mohamed has a important interest in getting exculpatory information to the convening authority before that decision is made.

The Prospect of Mandatory Disclosure

The UK court decried the fact that the US authorities have failed to provide this potentially exculpatory information to Mohamed’s counsel, particularly since both his counsel are security-cleared. But it recognized, as well, that the United States’ failure is no excuse for Britain’s inaction.

Unless the UK foreign secretary voluntarily provides the relevant documents to Mohamed’s counsel, the High Court will consider ordering disclosure. Such an order, which the court seems presently inclined to grant, would open an important crack in the wall of secrecy that surrounds the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation abuses.

Joanne Mariner is a human rights attorney.

Revealed: Britain’s secret propaganda war against al-Qaida

August 26, 2008

BBC and website forums targeted by Home Office unit

A Whitehall counter-terrorism unit is targeting the BBC and other media organisations as part of a new global propaganda push designed to “taint the al-Qaida brand”, according to a secret Home Office paper seen by the Guardian.

The document also shows that Whitehall counter-terrorism experts intend to exploit new media websites and outlets with a proposal to “channel messages through volunteers in internet forums” as part of their campaign.

The strategy is being conducted by the research, information and communication unit, [RICU] which was set up last year by the then home secretary, John Reid, to counter al-Qaida propaganda at home and overseas. It is staffed by officials from several government departments.

The report, headed, Challenging violent extremist ideology through communications, says: “We are pushing this material to UK media channels, eg a BBC radio programme exposing tensions between AQ leadership and supporters. And a restricted working group will communicate niche messages through media and non-media.”

The disclosure that a Whitehall counter-terrorism propaganda operation is promoting material to the BBC and other media will raise fresh concerns about official news management in a highly sensitive area.

The government campaign is based upon the premise that al-Qaida is waning worldwide and can appear vulnerable on issues such as declining popularity; its rejection by credible figures, especially religious ones, and details of atrocities.

The Whitehall propaganda unit is collecting material to target these vulnerabilities under three themes. They are that al-Qaida is losing support; “they are not heroes and don’t have answers; and that they harm you, your country and your livelihood”.

Continued . . .


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