By Cindy Sheehan, Urknet.info, June 29, 2010
I believe it is human nature to want to be right (as in “correct” not “conservative). I like to be right. I also like to research my facts because being wrong to me is embarrassing. The one time I would have loved to be in error, though, was in a conviction that began over two years ago.
I was convinced that Barack Obama was not the progressive-peace-savior that many of my friends and colleagues were making him out to be.
But, I was right about that, and I think the facts have borne me out: the Overseas Contingency Operation (formerly known as George’s War OF Terror) has become even more of a quagmire under the new regime; healthcare was not so much reformed or overhauled as it was a handout to the health insurance companies; the oppressive police state is increasing; no accountability for war criminals (few people will prosecute themselves); torture continues; financial industry reform looks like it is guaranteed for further rich v. poor conquest; and this administration has proven to be as good a friend to Big Oil as the last one.
By Nasir Khan
Dr George Barnsby, who died on April 11 at the age of 91 in Wolverhampton, was a leading radical activist and historian of the working class movement in the Black Country. Born in London in a working class family, his father died when he was only three years old. Now his mother had the sole responsibility to take care of her two infant sons in dire circumstances. The vicissitudes of his early life made George aware that the ‘station in life’ of many people was determined by their social and economic status. He certainly was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
He left school at 15 and did some ordinary jobs. He showed little interest in politics at that time. However, around the age of eighteen he became a reader of Daily Worker. It was the period when Nazism had emerged as the dominant voice of militarism and in many countries in Europe and the United States fascist parties emerged. Their model was the German Nazi party and their hero Adolf Hitler. When the Second World War started the young George was called up in 1939. At that time, he was 20 years old. When he went to fight for his ‘king and country’ his worldly possessions were two suits and a bicycle. He recalls in his ‘Subversive – One Third of the Autobiography of a Communist’ that for obvious reasons some people had more interest in ‘our country’ than he did!
He was sent to Burma. He experienced there inhumanity of the war and destruction caused by the Japanese. His contact with India and Indians subject to the imperial Raj gave him a broad political insight and awareness of the role of colonialism and imperialism. The Bengal Famine of 1943-44 occurred under the British rule. It is estimated that around 3 million Indians died from starvation and malnutrition. The Bengal government reacted to the disaster with little efficiency, and refused to stop the flow of rice from Bengal. George was an eye-witness to the apathy of the British rulers towards their subjects. There was no shortage of food in the British quarters either. There are still some hard questions about the role and knowledge of the British Prime Minster Winston Churchill into the affair. For instance, when the Secretary of State for India, Leo Amery, and Lord Wavell requested him an urgent release of food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram to Wavell asking, if food was so scarce, ‘why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.’
The end of the Second World War saw the defeat of fascism and militarism in Germany and Japan. But no such harm came to the Spanish fascism under Franco. The Soviet Union and its Red Army in the Great Patriotic War had borne the brunt of the war on the Eastern Front. With the Allied victory, the army conscripts returned to their homes. In 1946, George was demobbed, receiving a gratuity of about £100. This sum he used to get further education. First, he matriculated from Regent Street Polytechnic before he went to the London School of Economics where he obtained a B.Sc. Honours degree there. From Birmingham University he gained an M.A. degree by writing ‘Social Conditions in the Black Country’ and then from the same university he earned a Ph.D. degree on his thesis ‘Working Class Movement in the Black Country 1750 to 1868′. His studies and committment to revolutionary Socialism that wanted to serve the interests of the working class had taken the central stage in his life. He was to struggle for these objectives for the rest of his life.
When he came to Wolverhampton in 1954, he became the secretary of the local Communist Party. This was the period when the Cold war was in full swing and in the United States anti-Communist crusade of McCarthyism had become the new credo of the Cold War allies in the West. In Britain, Communists were looked upon as traitors; they were spied upon and their telephones tapped. Obviously, George like other Communists was also regarded as subversive and he had to confront what came his way.
The range of his social, academic and political activities in the Black Country extends over vast areas. He wrote a number of histories and pamphlets on Socialism, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Housing and the Radicals in the Black Country.
One major area of communal activity was around Bilston College of Further Education. Some teachers of the College and governors realised that many working-class people were excluded from formal institutional education who formed unqualified work force with little basic skills. Among the excluded were a disproportionate number of people from ethnic minority communities, mainly Afro-Caribbean and Asian. George was an active educator and a leading voice in the new approach to uplifting the working class people and providing them with education that met their needs. This progressive approach in a multicultural and multi-ethnic society was to counterbalance the legacy of Enoch Powell and his followers.
When American President George W. Bush and his close ally, Prime Minister Tony Blair, started their genocidal war of aggression against Iraq and the subsequent destruction of Iraq and Iraqis, George steadfastly opposed the imperial war. For him, the Anglo-American war in Iraq was a crime against humanity, a genocide, and its central figures the war criminals who need to be brought to justice. He focused on Bush and Blair and their allies, writing extensively on their policies on his website and informed the populace of the realities of the cover-up of their crimes and their incessant lies.
George Barnsby is survived by his wife Esme and two sons, William and Robert.
By Yamin Zakaria, Information Clearing House, January 29, 2010
“We were convinced that all the fissile material that could be used for any weapons purposes had been taken out of Iraq, and we knew that we had eliminated and destroyed the whole infrastructure that Iraq had built up for the enrichment of uranium.”
As the toothless Chilcot Inquiry collates the evidences from the various individuals, not many are asking some basic questions regarding the Iraq War. As a layperson, the following questions come to my mind:
I see the above questions are at the heart of the issue regarding Iraq war. The only answer I can conclude is – the new world order is governed by the brute force of the Wild West; far from some noble principle that is applicable equally to all nations. I do not want to “move on” like Blair, I want to see justice. I want to see criminals like Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Jeremy Greenstock face the gallows for the slaughter of innocent Iraqis, yet these armed robbers are parading themselves as ambassadors of peace. It is disgusting!
The evidence given by the former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, at the Chilcot Inquiry revealed that he had conveniently changed his mind after meeting the American Lawyers, and added pressure from Jack Straw and possibly few others, just weeks before the actual invasion is launched. Note, whilst he is mulling over this, the British troops are already there, poised to attack a nation that has been systematically disarmed for a decade. Therefore, the British government still would have gone into war with the Americans, even if Goldsmith managed to standby by his conviction. Nevertheless, if he did remain firm, it would have helped, even if it could not halt the war.
It should have taken a “smoking gun” to change someone’s mind on a serious issue of this nature, which Hans Blix and his team of inspectors with unrestricted access could not find in Iraq. Given the circumstances under which the sudden change of mind occurred, it shows that Lord Goldsmith is a feeble man; all he needed was a little ‘push’ to rubberstamp the war that was already on the verge of being launched. Unlike some of the other principled individuals, he could not standby his conviction, and if needed resign from the post. Perhaps, the folks from Spooks whispered in his ear about the fate of Dr. Kelly! So, his ears only consulted those who were bent on going to war. Indeed, it was a one-sided conversation.
Why did he not consult other lawyers with an opposing view concurrently? Why did he not consider that other major powers in the UN Security council were of the view that UN resolution of 1441 did not authorise war? Why did Britain go back to the UN Security Council to seek a second resolution if the first was adequate? Being a democracy, it is imperative to discuss such matters with the Cabinet, but Jack Straw denied Lord Goldsmith that opportunity, obviously, Jack did not want to be late for the war party.
People say lawyers are shark, but Goldsmith proved to be a spineless cod! His ‘fatwa’ is like the ‘fatwa’ given to the Saudis during the First Gulf War at the last minute by some cleric, to permit the US Forces to setup base inside Saudi Arabia. By the time the Fatwa was given, the US armed forces had already arrived at the shores of Saudi Arabia, as if the fatwa was necessary. Again, the basic question, what did the Iraqis do to the Saudis?
There is no doubt the majority opinion amongst the prominent legal experts is that the UN resolution of 1441 did not authorise war, and more pertinently, this was view held by the majority of the nations inside the UN Security Council, including France and Russia with Veto powers. Therefore, the war had no mandate from the UN Security Council; it was a unilateral and barbaric act of aggression by the Anglo-US regime. Without a legal backing – the invasion was state terrorism dispensed to the innocent civilians of Iraq.
Some argue the war was necessary, as Saddam posed a threat to the region, but the region was not calling for war, with the exception of Israel. Maybe that was enough, serving Israel is enough to prove that the West are no longer anti-Semitic and they can redeem their past sins by the punishing some innocent third party, once again. Israel is a nation that routinely engages in killing innocent civilians, and is busy in the process of ethnic cleansing to make the land pure for the chosen race of God, add to that ‘accolade’, they are harvesting the organs of dead Palestinians in the true spirit of the shylocks!
Yamin Zakaria ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
The British government’s grovelling apology to Israel after an arrest warrant was issued against former foreign minister Tzipi Livni was compounded by its promise to change the law to allow war criminals to roam freely.
Livni was up to her neck in the mass slaughter perpetrated against Palestinians in Gaza and declares her pride in all her decisions taken with regard to Operation Cast Lead.
Khalid Amayreh, uruknet.info, October 21, 2009
In its rabid efforts to whitewash the Goldstone report, Israel is likely to carry out another disingenuous probe into its genocidal onslaught against the Gaza Strip nearly ten months ago.
The report, compiled by South African judge Richard Goldstone, himself a Jew, accused Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians.
As many as 1400 Palestinians, mostly non-combatants including more than 330 children, were killed during the 22-day campaign which some historians and intellectuals compared to the allied saturation bombing of the German city of Dresden at the close of the Second World War.
Paul Craig Roberts, Information Clearing House, Oct 12, 2009
The double standard under which the Israeli government operates is too much for everyone except the brainwashed Americans. Even the very Israeli Jerusalem Post can see the double standard displayed by “all of Israel now speaking in one voice against the Goldstone report”:
“This is the Israeli notion of a fair deal: We’re entitled to do whatever the hell we want to the Palestinians because, by definition, whatever we do to them is self-defense. They, however, are not entitled to lift a finger against us because, by definition, whatever they do to us is terrorism.
“That’s the way it’s always been, that’s the way it was in Operation Cast Lead.
“And there are no limits on our right to self-defense. There is no such thing as ‘disproportionate.’
“We can deliberately destroy thousands of Gazan homes, the Gazan parliament, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, courthouses, the only Gazan flour plant, the main poultry farm, a sewage treatment plant, water wells and God knows what else.
“Why? Because we’re better than them. Because we’re a democracy and they’re a bunch of Islamo-fascists. Because ours is a culture of life and theirs is a culture of death. Because they’re out to destroy us and all we are saying is give peace a chance.
“The Goldstones of the world call this hypocrisy, a double standard. How dare they! Around here, we call it moral clarity.”
A person would never read such as this in the New York Times or Washington Post or hear it from any US news source. Unlike Israeli newspapers, the US media is a complete mouthpiece for the Israel Lobby. Never a critical word is heard.
This will be even more the case now that the Israel Lobby, after years of effort, has succeeded in repealing the First Amendment by having the Hate Crime Bill attached to the recently passed military appropriations bill. This is the way the syllogism works:
It is anti-semitic to criticize Israel. Anti-semitism is a hate crime. Therefore, to criticize Israel is a hate crime.
As the Jerusalem Post notes, this syllogism has “moral clarity.”
Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, John Sawers, stepped into the hate crime arena when he told Israel Army radio that the Goldstone report on Israel’s military assault on Gaza contains “some very serious details which need to be investigated.” A year from now when the Anti-Defamation League has its phalanx of US Department of Justice (sic) prosecutors in place, Sawers would be seized and placed on trial. Diplomatic immunity means nothing to the US, which routinely invades other countries, executes their leaders or sends them to the Hague for trial as war criminals.
In the meantime, however, the Israeli government put Sawers and the UK government on notice that British support for the Goldstone Report would result in the destruction of the double standard that protects the West and Israel and create a precedent that would place the British in the dock for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“London,” declared the Israeli government, “could find itself in handcuffs if it supports the document [the Goldstone report].”
Once the DOJ’s hate crime unit us up and running, “self-hating Jews,” such as leaders of the Israeli peace movement and Haaretz and Jerusalem Post journalists, can expect to be indicted for anti-semitic hate crimes in US courts.
With two months still to go before his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama and his transition team are already getting off on the wrong foot, signaling that they have no intention of investigating anyone in the Bush administration for possible war crimes.
What we’re talking about here is the torture of detained terrorist suspects in American custody in a grotesque violation of both our treaty obligations under the Geneva Conventions and our historic principles as a democratic nation.
By their own machinations and attempts to redefine and pervert both treaties and our own laws, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington and any number of lesser suspects sought to shield themselves from, or put themselves above, justice.
They did so knowing full well that what they were doing — clearing the way for interrogators at Guantanamo and in the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret dungeons around the world to do anything it took, short of murder, to extract information from terror suspects.
The “harsh interrogation methods” included water-boarding, stripping and humiliating prisoners, subjecting them to extremes of temperature, putting them into stressful physical positions for hours, the use of psychotropic drugs and doubtless other equally uncivilized practices.
Water boarding has always been treated as a criminal act in this country. Military officers were court-martialed at the turn of the last century for water boarding Filipino guerrillas. More recently, an East Texas sheriff was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for water boarding a suspect and extracting a confession from him.
Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue, and its no way to begin an administration that was elected on promises of change. What it says is that if you’re one of the elite and powerful, your violations of the law will be overlooked, no matter how much damage you did to our country’s standing in the world.
What signal does it send to Mr. Bush’s gang of unindicted co-conspirators, who’ve unwrapped a Pandora’s boxful of other offenses — from perverting the administration of justice, to illegally eavesdropping on the phone conversations and e-mails of ordinary Americans, to salting the stream of intelligence with bogus material, to inviting their cronies to loot the Treasury with no-bid military contracts, to lying under oath to congressional oversight committees, to applying political litmus tests to the hiring of civil service employees to the wholesale destruction of White House e-mails and records? Etcetera. Etcetera.
This nation was founded on the principle of equal justice under the law. No one — no one — ought to be able to skate or hold a get-out-of-jail-free card by virtue of having been the most powerful felon in the land, or of working for him.
This signal on torture investigations says that Sen. Obama wants to start his administration as a uniter, not a divider, trying to untangle the unholy mess that the Decider and Co. are leaving behind them in the economy, in our military, in virtually every walk of our national life. It speaks to his desire to reach across the aisle to the defeated Republicans and try to bring them back into the fold as Americans.
That’s all well and good, but not if it comes at the cost of lifting the blindfold off Justice’s eyes and letting her pick and choose who’ll pay for criminal acts and who won’t. That’s no way to begin, and no way to continue.
Out in West Texas, crusty old ranchers plagued by coyotes killing their calves and baby sheep shoot the offending beasts and hang their carcasses on the nearest barbed wire fence as an object lesson to the rest of the pack.
Unless the newly empowered Democrats in the White House and on Capitol Hill hang a few coyotes on some fences in Washington, D.C., they’re making a huge mistake that will come back to haunt them, and all the rest of us, too.
Unless the truth, the whole truth, is unearthed, justice is done and the Republican closet is emptied of festering transgressions, the next pack will do it again, secure in the knowledge that their positions will protect them from the penalties that more ordinary citizens must pay for the same crimes.
The people of this nation have spoken loudly. They voted to throw the rascals out. They voted for a different way of governing, a different way of law making. They voted for equal rights under the law.
If their desires aren’t satisfied — if the new broom sweeps no cleaner than the old one — the next time around they may move things up a notch and throw all the bastards out — and they’d be fully justified in doing so.
When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of August 6, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, then walked down to the river and met a man called Yukio, whose chest was still etched with the pattern of the shirt he was wearing when the atomic bomb was dropped.
He and his family still lived in a shack thrown up in the dust of an atomic desert. He described a huge flash over the city, “a bluish light, something like an electrical short”, after which wind blew like a tornado and black rain fell. “I was thrown on the ground and noticed only the stalks of my flowers were left. Everything was still and quiet, and when I got up, there were people naked, not saying anything. Some of them had no skin or hair. I was certain I was dead.” Nine years later, when I returned to look for him, he was dead from leukaemia.
In the immediate aftermath of the bomb, the allied occupation authorities banned all mention of radiation poisoning and insisted that people had been killed or injured only by the bomb’s blast. It was the first big lie. “No radioactivity in Hiroshima ruin” said the front page of the New York Times, a classic of disinformation and journalistic abdication, which the Australian reporter Wilfred Burchett put right with his scoop of the century. “I write this as a warning to the world,” reported Burchett in the Daily Express, having reached Hiroshima after a perilous journey, the first correspondent to dare. He described hospital wards filled with people with no visible injuries but who were dying from what he called “an atomic plague”. For telling this truth, his press accreditation was withdrawn, he was pilloried and smeared – and vindicated.
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a criminal act on an epic scale. It was premeditated mass murder that unleashed a weapon of intrinsic criminality. For this reason its apologists have sought refuge in the mythology of the ultimate “good war”, whose “ethical bath”, as Richard Drayton called it, has allowed the west not only to expiate its bloody imperial past but to promote 60 years of rapacious war, always beneath the shadow of The Bomb.
The most enduring lie is that the atomic bomb was dropped to end the war in the Pacific and save lives. “Even without the atomic bombing attacks,” concluded the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, “air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion. Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that … Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”
See also The Decision to Drop the Bomb
Even war criminals have fan clubs. On Tuesday, 15,000 people in Belgrade, Serbia, protested the transfer of indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic to the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague. Karadzic is implicated in torture, rape, murder and genocide, but to some self-styled Serbian patriots, these are mere details. “Long Live Radovan!” chanted the protesters.
For the many Americans who read of Karadzic’s arrest but wondered, “Yes, great — and when will George W. Bush and Dick Cheney face trial for war crimes?” this is something to keep in mind. Karadzic was the leader of a small, unrecognized rogue republic and presided over a genocide — but he evaded justice for more than a decade and still keeps a loyal fan base.
Bush and Cheney are the leaders of the most powerful state in the world, and their misdeeds, though egregious, aren’t on the same level as Karadzic’s. (Unless — ahem — you count the Iraq war, on the “it was all a tissue of lies” theory. But for the sake of the argument, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.) So no one should be surprised that there’s still a Bush fan club (albeit a small one) or that the prospects of criminal proceedings against the president and his henchmen are virtually nonexistent.
It’s not that Bush, Cheney and Co. don’t deserve to end up in the dock. Retired Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who was commissioned by the Pentagon in 2004 to investigate the abuses at Abu Ghraib, recently concluded that “the commander in chief and those under him authorized a systematic regime of torture. … A government policy was promulgated to the field whereby the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice were disregarded. … There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes.”
The human cost of those crimes? It’s hard to say for sure, given the administration’s penchant for secrecy (understandable, because the president was warned as early as January 2002 of “the threat of domestic criminal prosecution under the War Crimes Act” by his then-chief counsel, Alberto Gonzales). But when the nongovernmental Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project examined thousands of pages of internal government records, it documented more than 330 cases “in which U.S. military and civilian personnel are credibly alleged to have abused or killed detainees” at “U.S. facilities throughout Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay.”
A McClatchy Newspaper Group report released a few weeks ago came to a similar conclusion, finding that brutal mistreatment of prisoners was routine in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo, even though in many cases the abused detainees had no ties to Al Qaeda.
Did all this violate U.S. and international law? You betcha. The U.S. is party to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, and torture is also a federal crime. At the time most of the abuses were committed, the War Crimes Act also criminalized violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits “cruel treatment and torture [and] outrages upon personal dignity.” And under the doctrine of “command responsibility,” senior civilian and military leaders could all face criminal liability for authorizing or tolerating the abuses.
But don’t hold your breath. As far back as 2001, administration lawyers were crafting legal opinions designed to shelter their bosses from any future criminal liability, and much evidence has since been hidden and destroyed. Then in 2006, the GOP-dominated Congress amended the War Crimes Act — with retroactive effect — to make future prosecutions almost impossible.
In any case, neither Democrats nor Republicans have the stomach for criminal proceedings against high-ranking current or former officials who still retain substantial public support. Meanwhile, no international tribunal is ever likely to have jurisdiction over the U.S. participants involved in the abuses.
But that doesn’t mean we should give up on accountability. John McCain and Barack Obama should be urged to establish a high-level, nonpartisan “truth commission” with robust subpoena powers early in 2009. That commission should investigate, hold hearings and issue a public report on responsibility for torture, war crimes and other abuses committed during the Bush administration.
Such a panel wouldn’t satisfy those who’d like to see Bush and Cheney in prison garb, but it would be a major step toward undoing the damage the administration did to our reputation as a nation committed to human rights. And as more incriminating details come out — and they will — some Bush-Cheney fan club members might even turn in their membership cards.