Saturday, May 03, 2014

Syria: News That Doesn't Make the News

News That Doesn't Make the News

by Eva Bartlett - In Gaza

[ed. note: Eva is in Syria now, filing stories of the everyday lives of Syrians caught in this proxy cum civil war. The materials she posted here are extremely disturbing, both in their visual content, and material context. - ape]

U.S. and Indonesian Right Coup History: A Look At Anti-Democratic Pro-Capitalist Crimes

The U.S. and The Indonesian Right: A Look At Anti-Democratic Pro-Capitalist Crimes

by Brian McAfee

The story of "post colonial" Indonesia begins on August 17, 1945 when Sukarno declared Indonesia an independent and free nation. The Dutch colonization of Indonesia had begun in 1602 with the establishment of the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch controlled all aspects of Indonesian life and its great wealth of natural resources including its vast quantities of oil and natural gas until the Japanese military invaded in 1942.

Sukarno became the newly independent Indonesia's first president in 1945. Much of Sukarno's popularity came from his strong opposition to colonialism and the exploitation of people and resources in poor and exploited lands. President Sukarno, ten years after becoming president of Indonesia, held a major international conference April 18-24 of 1955. The Bandung Conference aimed to encourage and map out strategies for independent economic and social development free from the control or dictates of any European country, the U.S. or the USSR.

Attendees of the first Bandung Conference included Burma, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), India, Indonesia, Pakistan. It was also attended by 18 other countries from Asia-Afghanistan, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Nepal, Peoples Republic of China, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Vietnam, Syria, Thailand, Turkey and Yemen. From Africa, there was Egypt, Ethiopia, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Liberia, Libya and Sudan.

The Bandung Conference and the concept and creation of the Non-Aligned movement (not aligned with or under the control of Europe, the U.S. or USSR's interests or influence) was seen as a threat, particularly to the U.S.. The very concept presented a grave threat to the hegemonic interests of the U.S.. Within three years of the conference many Indonesians would pay with their lives for the audacity of wanting to be free and attempting to control their own destinies and resources.

Indonesia's President Sukarno did seem to fully believe in and hold to the concept of Non-Alignment, wanting true independence, favoring neither Moscow or Washington. Indonesia did have a large communist party, the PKI, and this would be a factor in U.S. actions to come. Sukarno's determination to maintain control over Indonesian Oil and other natural resources put him on a collision course with the U.S. Even though Sukarno had no affiliation with the PKI President Eisenhower labeled Sukarno a communist and his administration and the CIA went to work spreading misinformation and in 1957 and 1958 the U.S. began to carry out attacks on the civilian population.

In 1958 the U.S. began to bomb Indonesian ships and airports in eastern Indonesia. On May 18, 1958 a B-26 piloted by Allen L. Pope after bombing a navel vessel at the port city of Ambon then flew over the city bombing a church and the central market, killing over 700 civilians. Pope was shot down and imprisoned until February of 1962 when then U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy visited Indonesia. Pope was released as a good will gesture after Kennedy had spoken with Sukarno.

The Suharto coup d'etat of September 30, 1965 and its subsequent mass killings began with a group of officers loyal to Suharto abducting and killing six generals that were loyal to Sukarno. Suharto then went immediately to spread the fabrication that the six were killed by the PKI and and military officers loyal to the PKI.

In John Roosa's excellent book on this subject "Pretext For Mass Murder" he writes:

"It has been difficult to believe that a political party, consisting entirely of civilians, could command a military operation. How could civilians order military personnel to carry out their bidding?" 

Numbers of those killed vary widely from 250,000 to a million Indonesian civilians. The main purpose for this crime was to destroy the Indonesian Left and to eliminate Sukarno with his Non-Aligned Movement.

In a May 1990 article on U.S. involvement in the coup, Kathy Kadane writes:

"The U.S. government played a significant role in one of the worst massacres of the century by supplying the names of thousands of communist party leaders to the Indonesian army, which hunted down the leftists and killed them, former U.S. diplomats say. For the first time U.S. officials acknowledge that in 1965 they systematically compiled lists of communist operatives, from top echelons down to village cadres. As many as 5,000 names were furnished to the Indonesian army, and the Americans later checked off the names of those who had been killed or captured, according to the U.S. officials." 

The U.S. was an active participant in one of the 20th century's worst mass murders.

The Indonesian province of West Papua has been enduring one of the world's longest running and most extreme cases of ongoing human rights abuse. On December 1, 1961, the First Papua Congress voted to rename the territory "West Papua" and the Morning Star flag was raised, signifying their nationhood, independence, and sovereignty as a nation. On August 14, 1962, Indonesia dropped hundreds of paratroopers into West Papua. In 1962, President Kennedy and the U.S. government forced the Netherlands to sign on the transfer of West Papua to Indonesia without Papuan consent. Since that occurred, over 500,000 civilians have been killed. Thousands more have been raped, tortured, imprisoned, or have "disappeared" after having been detained.

Many in the international human rights community see what is happening in West Papua as a deliberate, ongoing process of genocide of West Papua's indigenous people. They cite the case of the "Biak Massacre" in which over 200 people including women and children were rounded up by the Indonesian military, loaded onto vessels, taken to the sea, and thrown overboard. The use of torture by the Indonesian military on the indigenous population is widespread in West Papua as is rape and sexual assault by the military and police against the indigenous population. The Indonesian military has been able to act with impunity with the full support of the U.S. and Great Britain.

Another element in the West Papua story has been the U.S. mining company Freeport-McMoRan which mines copper and gold. In its original contract from 1967, Indonesia gave Freeport "the exclusive right to enter upon and to take possession of and to occupy the project area." This resulted in the forced relocation of about 2,000 indigenous West Papuans. Since that time, the perceived needs and desires of both Freeport and the government in Jakarta always took precedence over the people of West Papua.

Another joint project of the U.S., Great Britain, and Indonesia was the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. The U.S. and Britain gave Indonesia their blessings and millions of dollars worth of weapons and armaments to carry out the invasion with ease. By 1999 when East Timor regained its independence, 200,000 of the nation's 700,000 population had been killed.

Aside from providing Indonesia with armaments, the U.S. regularly holds joint training exercises with the Indonesian military. They do this with the Philippines as well where over 1,500 extra-judicial killings of activists, human rights workers, and journalists have occurred since 2001 and are continuing to happen. These joint military training and exercises are the Asian parallel of the School of the Americas which has trained Latin American militaries and dictators to torture and carry out extra-judicial killings throughout Latin America since the end of World War II.

The parallels and ongoing practices have gone on far too long and can still be seen with regularity in the Philippines. Speak out to end extra-judicial killings whenever and wherever they occur.

A Crisis of Convenience: Obama Escalates Ukraine

Obama's New Ukraine

by Mike Whitney - CounterPunch

“While Russia has been making efforts to de-escalate and resolve the crisis, the Kiev regime has chosen to launch airstrikes on peaceful residential areas, literally destroying the last hope for preserving the Geneva accords.” Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman
“The crisis in Ukraine is not the result of ‘Russian aggression,’ but of a criminal strategy by the US and its European allies to install a hostile regime on Russia’s borders in Ukraine and, ultimately, dismember Russia itself.” Johannes Stern, NATO boosts military build-up against Russia as protests spread in east Ukraine, World Socialist Web Site

Fighting broke out on Friday in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk when Kiev’s coup government deployed military helicopters to fire on the city while troops and armored vehicles stormed checkpoints. At the time this article went to press, two helicopters had been shot down killing at least two pilots while one was captured. In an impassioned statement on Russian TV, Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, appealed to allies in the EU to do whatever they could to persuade Ukrainian authorities to call off the operation and stop the violence.

“We are calling on the European capitals, the United States of America to give an assessment of the current events and are of course calling on those carrying out airstrikes on residential areas to…immediately end the punitive operation and any violence against its own people…”

So far, there has been no response from Washington although it’s clear that the Obama administration had a hand in organizing the crackdown.

Not only were the State Department and CIA directly involved in the putsch that removed democratically-elected president Viktor Yanukovych from office, but Washington has also been implicated in punitive operations directed against ethnic Russian protestors in east Ukraine.

Both CIA Director John Brennan and Vice President Joe Biden visited Kiev just hours before two previous crackdowns were ordered by imposter-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. As Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blandly noted, It’s clear that Washington is “calling the shots”.

On Thursday, it looked like violence might be avoided when coup-President Oleksandr Turchynov said that he had lost control of the situation. In an exasperated message to the media, Turchnov said, “It is hard to accept but it’s the truth, but the majority of law enforcers in the east are incapable of performing their duties.”

Turchynov was referring to the fact that Ukrainian troops have refused to attack their own countrymen. The mutiny has reportedly spread from elite airborne units to local police who sympathize with the protestors. The only group that’s willing to carry out Washington’s proxy war is the Right Sector neo-Nazis who helped topple the Yanukovych government.

Just last week, members of this openly fascist party, commemorated “the perpetrators of the massacre of Yanova Dolina,” where “600 Poles were murdered by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) in what is now Bazaltovoye. The massacre marked the beginning of ethnic cleansing in what is now western Ukraine, where tens of thousands of Poles were killed within a few months.” (World Socialist Web Site)

These are Obama’s new allies in America’s war against Russia. Now check this out from Reuters:

“The International Monetary Fund warned that if Ukraine lost territory in the east it would have to redesign a $17 billion bailout of the country, probably requiring additional financing.” (Ukraine attacks rebel city, helicopter shot down, Reuters)

Tell me, dear reader, when was the last time you heard of the IMF threatening to withhold funds if a political leader didn’t wage war on his own people? Anyone with half a brain can see that the IMF is just acting on orders from the White House.

This is Obama’s war. His fingerprints are all over the policy. Obama is determined to draw Russia into a bloody guerrilla war that leaves Ukraine in the same condition as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now Syria.

Here’s a clip from the New York Times:

“Through stealth and misdirection, and in defiance of Western sanctions, Russia has managed to achieve its immediate goal of what Western and Ukrainian officials believe is rendering Ukraine so chaotic that it cannot guarantee order, mend its teetering economy or elect new leaders to replace Mr. Turchynov.” (Not Getting Through to Mr. Putin, New York Times)

Putin wants a “chaotic” failed state on Russia’s border? Have you ever read such nonsense in your life?

Putin didn’t topple the Ukrainian government. The US State Department did. (Victoria Nuland’s hacked phone calls prove it.) And Putin didn’t violate the Geneva agreement less than 24 hours after the deal was signed by launching a crackdown on civilian protestors in the east. That was US-puppet Yatsenyuk. Nor did Putin deploy the military to surround cities, cut off their water supplies and deploy helicopter gunships to fire missiles at civilian infrastructure and terrorize the local population. That was the work of Obama’s fascist junta in Kiev.

Putin had nothing to do with any of the trouble in Ukraine. It’s all part of the US “pivot to Asia” strategy to encircle and (eventually) dismember Russia in order to seize vital resources and control the flow of energy to China. Washington wants to reduce Ukraine to Mad Max-type pandemonium to justify establishing NATO bases on Russia’s perimeter. It’s all part of the plan to control Central Asia and rule the world.

Putin has acted as peacemaker throughout the crisis, but Obama is determined to provoke the Russian president by attacking and killing ethnic Russians. Consider the statement by Russia’s Foreign Ministry following the helicopter incident on Friday morning:

“As we have warned many times before, the use of the army against its own people is a crime and is leading Ukraine to catastrophe…By supporting the organizers of the Kiev coup in their strategy of violently putting down protests, the US and EU are taking on a huge responsibility, essentially closing the door to a peaceful solution to the crisis.” (Putin says Geneva agreement no longer viable after Ukrainian military action, Guardian)
It’s clear now that Obama merely used the Geneva agreement to buy time to move troops and military hardware to Poland and the Balkans.

It’s also clear that Obama invited German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Washington so that it would appear that Europe is united behind the US in its proxy war on Russia.

But what does Obama hope to achieve by stirring up this hornet’s nest? He knows that Putin cannot afford to back down on Crimea, so what’s the point? And, more importantly, what is Ukraine going to look like when Washington is finished using it as a staging-ground for its geopolitical landgrab?

Here’s an insightful piece by Russian academic, Andrei Fursov, who thinks he knows what Obama wants and explains the impact the policy is going to have on Ukraine for years to come.

“The Americans need controlled chaos and civil war…Moreover, it is clear that this country (post-coup Ukraine) is intended to be absolutely anti-Russian, nationalist, Banderite and neo-Nazi. So the dual goal of establishing this anti-Russian state is to constantly apply pressure on the Russian Federation…
As Bismarck (said) ‘We must cultivate among the Ukrainians, a people whose consciousness is altered to such an extent, that they begin to hate everything Russian.’ …

Thus we are talking about a historical psy-op, an information-psychological sabotage, whose purpose is to establish Russophobic Slavs… They are the means to separate Ukraine from Russia and to oppose Russia as a kind … totalitarian empire. This was all devised under the Galician Project, on which the intelligence services of Austro-Germany and Kaiser German worked, followed by the intelligence service of the Third Reich, later – CIA and BND…

Banderastan, if that’s what Ukraine is fated to become, as designed by the puppet-masters across the ocean, is to be an oligarchic, terroristic, Russophobic state…An oligarchic Banderite…oligarchy is the ideal vehicle for external control. Clearly, this will suit both the oligarchs and the West.” (Battleground Ukraine: A Comprehensive Summary, Zero Hedge)

So, there it is: Divide and rule. We saw the Bush administration pull it off with the Shia and Sunnis in Iraq, and now Obama wants to do the same with the Ukrainians and Russians. Same strategy, different continent.

This is Obama’s plan for the “New Ukraine” a fascist-ruled failed state that follows Washington’s directives and puts pressure on Russia thorough endless provocations, belligerence, and war. Ukraine will be Washington’s pit bull in the East, separating Moscow from crucial sources of revenue and thwarting efforts at greater EU-Russia economic integration.

This is how Washington hopes to insert itself into Eurasia, to improve its prospects in the Great Game, and to establish global hegemony into the next century.

(Note: “Banderite” refers to Stepan Bandera, who was a Ukrainian nationalist leader who collaborated with the Nazis. Bandera headed the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) According to the World Socialist Web Site: “The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) carried out numerous massacres of the Polish population in western Ukraine…The UPA served as a military executive organ of the OUN. It was founded in the spring of 1943 and recruited primarily from Nazi collaborators who were previously active in the SS.”)

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

Canada's All-time Tax Haven High

Canadian Money in Offshore Tax Havens Hits Record High


OTTAWA- Canadian money stashed in 10 offshore tax havens hit $170 billion in 2013. That’s $15 billion more than in 2012, according to Canadians for Tax Fairness using new data from Statistics Canada. The money flowing to tax havens is growing at a faster rate than investment in non-tax haven countries. At least 40 per cent of all Canadian direct foreign investment is held by the finance and insurance industry.

Three offshore tax havens, Barbados, Cayman Islands and Luxembourg hold more than $124 billion of Canadian money compared to $87 billion in 2010.

“This government can’t just shrug its shoulders and be outmaneuvered by corporations and very rich people looking to get even richer at the expense of the rest of us,” says Dennis Howlett, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness.

“The Canada Revenue Agency needs the resources and political will to tackle tax havens.”

Federal and provincial governments lose an estimated $7.8 billion in tax revenues each year because of tax havens.

“The scale of the problem gets larger while the federal government cuts back on food safety, rail inspections and services for veterans and their families,” Howlett says.

Statistics Canada has released information on fewer tax haven countries this year. Bahamas is a popular tax haven for Canadian banks and investment firms. It was dropped from the StatsCan report even though in 2010 it held $14.5 billion in Canadian money. That can indicate that the $14.5 billion is in a few hands and not reported for confidentiality reasons, Howlett says.

If Bahamas held at least as much money in 2013 as it did in 2010, then offshore money would add up to $185 billion.

Last year, Canada made commitments to the G8 to clamp down on a tax haven epidemic estimated at $30 trillion globally. However the 2013 federal budget did little to support that commitment.

Countries or regions
All countries
British Virgin Islands
Cayman Islands
Hong Kong
TOTAL incl. suppressed 


Prepared by Canadians for Tax Fairness using  
CANSIM table376-0051 and table376-0052

Press Release - Friday May 2, 2014

Friday, May 02, 2014

Day and Night: Damascus Then and Now

Damascus by day and night: life

by Eva Bartlett - In Gaza

While Damascus and environs are being pounded daily by terrorist mortars, and while the people have been enduring a brutal manufactured crisis for years, everyone I’ve met, everyone, just wants Syria to be back as it was.

I walk the streets, shop in the souks, talk to cabbies, food vendors, people at celebrations… they all have said the same thing: Damascus 4 years ago was so safe, you could stay out till 5 am and not feel any danger.

They’ve all said they want Syria united, they want the “foreign terrorists” out, and including opposition members our Peace Delegation met with, the vast majority (99% of the people I’ve talked to… Christian, Sunni, Shia, without religion…) have said they will vote for Bashar al-Assad in the upcoming elections, for a variety of reasons.

The majority I’ve spoken with flat-out love him, others see him as a non-sectarian, unifying force, and the only force to combat the long-planned, imperialist-backed terrorism that plagues certain areas of Syria.

I know that if I were to visit Jobar or Mleeha, a couple of the areas just outside the city from where the mortars that assault Damascus daily originate, I’d hear a different story. But I’d also risk being abducted, be-headed or any number of gruesome fates which I don’t need to test to know where the truth is.

But this post is meant to highlight the beauties of Syria, seen via Damascus, an ancient and cultured and living city whose people are still… living, celebrating, trying to get on with life in spite of mortars and snipers.

Finally, everyone I meet says to me: if you like Syria now, you should have seen it four years ago. There is life here, and love.

Photos and videos here.

BREAKING: Lunatic Fringe Leads West

Mad Men: The Lunatic Fringe that Leads the West

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

I had in mind to write about Tony Blair's remarkable regurgitation of bloodlust and bile last week.

The former British PM managed to tear himself away from his consulting work for dictatorships and other lucrative sidelines long enough to make a "major speech" calling for -- guess what? -- even more military intervention in the endless, global "War on Terror."

The fact that this war on terror -- which he did so much to exacerbate during his time in power, not least in his mass-murder partnership with George W. Bush in Iraq -- has actually spawned more terror, and left the primary 'enemy,' al Qaeda and its related groups, more powerful than ever, has obviously escaped the great global visionary.

No doubt his mad, messianic glare -- coupled with the dazzling glow of self-love -- makes it hard for the poor wretch to see reality.

Anyway, I was going to take up Blair's genuinely lunatic barrage at some point, but I find that Patrick Cockburn, as you might expect, has covered it well in a new piece, quoted below. The idiocy and irrationality of Blair's speech are obvious, but they bear scrutiny because, unfortunately, they represent the dominant strain of thinking among Western leaders. We are led by people whose vision of reality is every bit as insane as those who think a suicide belt will send them to paradise: leaders who believe that all human activity, across the entire globe, must be bent to their will, and to their advantage -- and that they have the right, the duty, to kill or ruin anyone who stands in the way of this pathological obsession.

I'm not speaking metaphorically. The behavior exhibited by Western leaders, especially since the launching of the Terror War -- and especially in the Anglo-American alliance -- would be regarded as criminally insane by any dispassionate diagnosis. This is seen in large matters -- such as the hundreds of thousands of innocent people slaughtered in their criminal aggression in Iraq -- and in small matters. For example, a story in the Guardian this week related how the courageous statesfolk in the U.S. Senate once again kowtowed to their masters in the National Security apparat, and removed a very mild requirement that the United States government issue an annual report telling us how many civilians it killed with its drone-assassination programs the previous year. No dice, said the security archons -- and the Senate said, OK, boss!

But in the course of the story, the Guardian recalled how top Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been a staunch supporter of the remote-control assassination program, noting that "during a February 2013 confirmation hearing for CIA Director John Brennan, Feinstein stated that the CIA’s targeting procedures kills only “single digits” of civilians annually." Try to imagine an ordinary human being standing up in court to defend a serial killer by saying that he only kills single digits of people annually." Is that so wrong? Or hell, imagine your co-worker turning to you in the office and saying, "I ain't such a bad person, you know; I probably don't kill more than six or seven innocent people a year." Try to imagine what kind of mindset believes that as long you hold your murder rate of innocent people to "single digits," then that's OK. What would you say if someone talked to you in that way? You would say, quite rightly, that they were insane. Criminally insane, and very dangerous.

Yet this is precisely the kind of madness that our leaders, across the political spectrum, exhibit day in, day out, year after year. And today, that mindset -- a monomaniacal need for dominance coupled with a pathological lack of empathy and a delusional view of reality -- is on the cusp of blundering us into some unimaginable conflagration with Russia, after bankrolling the armed overthrow of a democratically elected government in Ukraine. (More on this in an upcoming post.)

But perhaps no one exemplifies this madness better than Tony Blair. It seems to leap out from his unhinged face, you can see it in his frantic gestures and bulging eyes. Not for him the affectless cool of Barack Obama or the phlegmatic doddering of Dubya Bush; Blair foams with the fury of a desert zealot -- albeit a zealot in a thousand-dollar suit, not a hairshirt or sackcloth and ashes. Cockburn takes his mad measure and dices up his idiocies well. It bears reading in full, but here are some excerpts:

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of the core group of al-Qa’ida, may well chortle in disbelief if he reads a translation of Tony Blair’s latest speech on the Middle East delivered last week. If Blair’s thoughts are used as a guide to action, then the main beneficiaries will be al-Qa’ida-type jihadist movements. Overall, his speech is so bizarre in its assertions that it should forever rule him out as a serious commentator on the Middle East. Reading it, I was reminded of a diplomat in Joseph Conrad’s Secret Agent called Mr Vladimir who fancies himself an expert on revolutionaries: “He confounded causes with effects; the most distinguished propagandists with impulsive bomb throwers; assumed organisation where in the nature of things it could not exist.”

The speech, entitled “Why the Middle East matters”, is about the threat from radical Islam, what it consists of and how it should be countered. Mr Blair says that “there is a titanic struggle going on within the region between those who want the region to embrace the modern world and those who, instead, want to create a politics of religious difference and exclusivity.” On one side stand those who want “pluralistic societies and open economies”, on the other those who want to impose an exclusive Islamic ideology.

Here the reader might suppose that Blair is building up towards some sharp criticism of Saudi Arabia and its fundamentalist Wahhabi creed. What could be more opposed to pluralism in politics and religion than a theocratic absolute monarchy such as Saudi Arabia which is so notoriously intolerant of other versions of Islam, such as Shi’ism, as well as Christianity and Judaism, and is, moreover, the only place in the world where women are not allowed to drive? Here is the home country of 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers and of the then leader of al-Qa’ida, Osama bin Laden, whose religious views are rooted in mainstream Wahhabism.

Blair denounces those who espouse an Islamist ideology in which the ultimate goal “is not a society which someone else can change after winning an election”. Surely he should be thinking here about King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, his namesake in Jordan and the Gulf royals who inherited their thrones. But Blair goes on to make the astonishing claim that the guilty party in fostering extreme jihadist Islam is none other than the Muslim Brotherhood which stood for and won an election in Egypt before it was overthrown by the military.

It is worth quoting Blair again to get the flavour of his thoughts about what happened in Egypt last year. “The Muslim Brotherhood was not simply a bad government,” he says. “It was systematically taking over the traditions and institutions of the country. The revolt of 30 June was not an ordinary protest. It was the absolutely necessary rescue of a nation.”

This is demented stuff. If the Muslim Brotherhood had indeed been taking over Egyptian institutions such as the army, police and judiciary, they would not have been so easily overthrown by the army on 3 July. And what great Egyptian traditions were being eliminated by the Brotherhood other than that of rule by unelected military governments? ... In reality, events in Egypt can only encourage recruitment by jihadi al-Qa’ida-type movements which will argue that the fate of the Brotherhood, which tried to take power democratically, shows that elections are a charade and the only way forward is through violence.

On Syria, Blair is a little more ambivalent about the future though he has no doubts what we should have done. He says that “in Syria, we call for the regime to change, we encourage the opposition to rise up, but when Iran activates Hezbollah on the side of Assad, we refrain even from air intervention to give the opposition a chance.” Presumably, by “air intervention” he means a Libya-style change of regime to put the opposition in power. But in Syria the armed opposition is dominated by the very jihadists – Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qa’ida affiliate and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, formerly al-Qa’ida in Iraq – against whom Blair is warning the world. They now control an area the size of Britain in north and east Syria and north and west Iraq and can operate anywhere between Basra and the Mediterranean coast of Syria.

… As I read Blair’s speech I could not quite believe he was going to conclude by proposing the absolute monarchies of the Gulf, some of the most authoritarian and corrupt countries on earth, as suitable models for the rest of the Islamic world. But that is exactly what he does do, advising the West to stick by our allies “whether in Jordan or the Gulf where they’re promoting the values of religious tolerance and open, rule-based economies, or taking on the forces of reaction in the shape of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, we should be assisting them”.

It is a curious fate for the man who claims to have tried as prime minister to modernise Britain and the Labour Party that he should end up lauding these ultra-reactionary states. In the past few months Saudi Arabia has criminalised almost all forms of dissent, the Sunni monarchy of Bahrain is crushing democratic protests by the Shia majority and Qatar last year sentenced a man to 15 years in jail for writing a poem critical of the emir.

As for combating jihadi Islam: nothing is more likely to encourage its spread than the policy supported by Blair of persecuting moderate Islamists, who did stand for election, while giving full backing to autocratic kings and generals.

Achieving Peace from the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace

Reviewing Keeping Peace Among Ourselves and With All Nations by Angelo M. Codevilla

by Jim Miles

This work started as a request for a review which for the most part I oblige as it is in my interest to read as much diverse material as possible. The request proposed;

“I am inquiring as to whether you all might be interested in taking a preview look at his book as it is a dramatic new book on foreign policy which ought to appeal to segments of every ideological and political persuasion?” 

Sometimes the books, while they may be interesting, are not necessarily worth my time for a review, while others, such as this are worth reviewing.

Worth reviewing not because I agree with it, but worth reviewing as a look into the mindset of some whom consider themselves proponents of peace, but really argue war. Keeping Peace Among Ourselves and With All Nations provides interesting insight into some of the thinking of the conservative right, essentially supporting what I had thought I understood about them.

The book is generally poorly written, a sort of philosophy book and sort of history book, but not really succeeding at either or at their integration. It is loosely argued, selective with its facts, and quite revealing with some of the language used in its explanations and descriptions. It has a largely circular argument highlighted by an introductory argument that the first duty of the statesman is: “peace at home is a pre-requisite for earning peace abroad.”

Be aware of that requisite as a cause and effect as at the end of the work Codevilla argues about “securing respect” through “fearful examples” to establish a “reputation for favors rewarded” and “injury or slight punished.” Here the requisite is war abroad for peace at home, a rather different cause and effect.

Perhaps if one had peace at home first, then wars abroad might be unnecessary, but Codevilla also accepts the exceptionalist perspective so prevalent in most sectors of U.S. political arguments, writing that the U.S. has “the rank of steward of the world,” and that its “peculiar exceptional soul is the source of America’s external power.” Well, actually, the latter statement is true, as that “exceptional soul” is one of self-aggrandizement, hubris, and a callous lack of awareness of other people’s souls - all backed by the U.S.military.

The work is divided into two main parts. The first is a very short and poorly presented history of war and peace as viewed from the conservative western perspective - essentially the WASP society view. The second part takes a quick tour of U.S. history trying to argue that to maintain peace, the U.S. must use decisive warfare to ensure its own interests and security. I will return to that idea a bit later, but first some generalizations on my understandings.

What I learned

From what I read in Keeping Peace, I would have to formulate the following ideas about the author’s line of thinking:

  • There is a divide in the U.S. between “statesmen and elites” and a good part of the rest of the population, mainly the white part, who aspire to traditional values of “limited government, the influence of Judeo-Christian religion, and rugged individualism and personal liberty.”

  • The society is racist as the “Negro populations” were “unaccustomed to self-discipline” following the Civil War (now, who again slaughtered whom in this war?). Further for the native population “The Indians...made sure that Americans did not take peace for granted”, implying that all the Indian wars were the natives fault for not complying with the settler-colonialist demands for territory and resources. Finally (but not completely), there is an “American race” who by the previous arguments are the white, anglo-saxon Protestants of the nation.

  • Communism, the Soviet Union, and Russia have been the cause of all the wars of proxy that the U.S. participated in to keep their peace. They are evil, we are good.

  • Similarly today, the Islamic world has a general hatred for the U.S. - “those who despise us,” (although the reasons for this are never examined, assumed to be the superiority of western culture), being responsible for “nearly all other acts of terror” in spite of statistics and histories to deny this.

  • The lack of peace at home is a result of these ineffective wars abroad - wars that did not win the peace. 9/11 brought forth actions that were ready to be set in motion beforehand - the establishment of a security state to overcome the conservative populist bent against political correctness, against pro-life, for “homeschoolers”, for gun owners,for the reverence for the rugged individual and personal liberty, and for the Tea Party in general.

There is some truth to the latter point, as the security state became strongly reinforced after 9/11 (a strictly Muslim affair) with plans that had already been formulated. Unfortunately Codevilla’s arguments as to why operate only on the level of populism and cultural values, and not on the intentions of the deep state and the corporate-military-political alliances that want the security state for more than controlling these populist values.

That is the greater failure of this work - the complete lack of recognition that the powers in control are not really concerned with Codevilla’s populist values, but are quite concerned about maintaining their corporate-military-political truly “establishment” hegemony over global resources and global finances, both obviously highly intertwined. Similarly there is a lack of recognition that these tendencies carried forward from the birth of the nation, such that he says, “There is no evidence that it ever crossed the signers’ [of the Declaration of Independence] minds that Americans might ever force their will upon other peoples,” fully contradicted by the ownership of slaves and the genocide and acts of war against the native people.

The “wars abroad” are to ensure U.S. interests - the problem therein being how
those interests are defined. For the most part, U.S. self-aggrandizement, hubris, self-proclaimed exceptionalism, propaganda, whatever you might call it, has focussed on peace, freedom, and prosperity, with the U.S. leading the way, that their way is the best and only universal way to proceed with life. Sounds good, except that it generally comes from the barrel of a gun, a covert assassination or coup, or millions of dollars of bribery money, with the real purpose being to secure resources, mostly energy resources, and to retain the power of the US$ fiat currency. This reflects on domestic as well as foreign actions.

Domestic actions

Domestically, with many thanks to the foreign wars in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the ongoing Pentagon money hussle, the US$ has been greatly weakened by the demands of debt servicing. Add to that the loss of manufacturing businesses overseas - to Mexico, Taiwan, Vietnam, but mostly China - and the U.S. worker is slowly being overwhelmed with personal debt and unemployment. And add to that the financialization of the economy to try and make up for the lack of living wage employment, an element that creates bubbles in the various markets that are ensured of a bust as all bubbles will.

It all came together in 2008-09 with the bursting of the sub-prime bubble that almost took down the ‘too big to fail banks’ creating a Federal Bank printing press that added greatly to the money supply - supported by the U.S. treasury, all leading to a renewed and even bigger debt bubble which, as always, will burst again with even larger consequences for the domestic homeland situation.

In a large sense, that is why the arguments as presented by Codevilla act as a distraction away from what truly ails the U.S. system of governance/economics. They certainly have validity for the people involved with those issues, but they are not the issues of the deeper state, nor of concern directly for the elites in control of the Washington establishment of military-corporate-political alliances. The real problem will be the weakening US$ as it is printed into uselessness, creating a possible hyperinflation situation that the sectors of society that Codevilla argues for will be truly devastated economically...which is why the government wants the security state in order to control/suppress the unruly masses of unemployed hungry people.

Foreign affairs

Codevilla argues that the military is used to “secure US interests” abroad - and I have to agree. The difference is that Codevilla wants a decisive war and submissive opponents while currently simply the destruction of any attempt at avoiding the US$ fiat currency will suffice. Thus dictators and monarchies can be friends of the U.S. if they go along with the US$, while those that go against it - Iraq, Iran, Libya, Venezuela, et al - or signal their intent to go against it - become U.S. enemies, in need of ‘liberation, freedom, democracy’ from the barrels of guns and the pulse of rockets.

It is the US$ that is the crux of the matter. The domestic economy precariously weak, a huge Ponzi scheme of dollar chasing dollar, without security backing (other than the U.S. military), without productivity. To continue to support the domestic scene, the foreign markets need to be guarded in order to maintain the demand for the U.S. dollar, currently maintained through the pricing of oil in petrodollars - the US fiat currency. It is no surprise then that energy and resource rich regions of the world suffer the most from U.S. depredations in order to keep the dollar afloat. The oil itself is not a requisite, its control is.

In the modern day scenario, Russia and China are becoming the bogeymen, as Russia has always been a U.S. geopolitical target and China holds U.S. destiny by its debt. The Russian situation is fairly well defined, they are evil, the U.S. is good, and the U.S. will not rest until the state of Russia is torn apart and is no longer a geopolitical power contender. As for China, the U.S. needs “to convey to the Chinese that it is our business and ours alone what relationship with the nations of East Asia would best serve our military security.”

Orwell for sure

There are many smaller items that I could walk through and critique but the general flaws make that unnecessary, although I must by peeve mention my favorite. My favorite peeve is Codevilla’s multiple references to the Iran seizure of the U.S. embassy as an “act of war,” which by the Geneva Conventions on diplomacy it may well be, but it is never put into context. That context is that the U.S. CIA and the UK MI6 conspired to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran led by Mossadegh in 1953 because guessed it...control of oil resources.

Several times during the work Codevilla refers to George Orwell, an accurate reference to the security state. But his own participation in the “Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict” is in its own way Orwellian, as “The result of such study is an in-depth and dispassionate understanding of contemporary wars….” Keeping Peace is neither dispassionate nor in-depth and yields little for the understanding of contemporary wars. Its basic element is a circular philosophical argument based tenuously on selected historical incidents with narrow interpretations leading to the conclusion that the U.S. should be able and willing to wage decisive war in order to obtain its domestic peace. By avoiding any consideration of imperial hegemony for energy resources and power and wealth harvesting by the elites, Keeping Peace will not further the cause of peace at all, domestically or abroad.

Syria's "Foreign Worker Revolutionaries" Attack: Mortar Terror for Civilians of Latakia, Damascus

an inside look at life in Latakia under terrorist attacks

by Eva Bartlett - In Gaza

On Tuesday, in addition to the massacre of civilians in Homs by multiple terrorist car-bombings and a rocket attack, and the terrorists’ mortar attack-murder of 14, mostly children, in the west of Damascus’ old city, there were attacks as well as in other areas of Damascus and outskirts.

Yesterday, mercenaries attacked Latakia.

Lilly Martin, an American living in Syria for the past 22 years, had this to say yesterday:

“Today, in Latakia, this afternoon there were 2 long range missile attacks. Both landed in a crowded residential area inside the city which is called “Bastan al Rayhan”. One home was destroyed, but no deaths and no injuries reported.

These long range missiles started landing in Latakia on March 9th. Since then many have landed, but not every day. They are random and sporadic. Some have hit without death and injuries, and one hit with 15 dead and dozens injured seriously. So it is very ‘hit and miss’.

None of the missiles have a TARGET. They do not calculate and target an Army base for example. It seems the terrorists have these long range, military grade missiles, but they don’t have a method of targeting. Or, they don’t know how to use them, or they don’t care?

In each case, the missiles are put in the back of a pick up, driven from Turkey to a spot inside Syria, then shot off, then the truck drives back to Turkey. The military can trace each missile. Today’s missiles came from Rabiah. Rabiah is a village which is within hiking distance of of Turkey. Driving it would take 20 minutes, going fast. Rabiah is in the Latakia province, it is located just north and east of Latakia. This Rabiah area has been a constant source of terrorists. It is the Turkish government support of the terrorists which allows these missiles to be shot. The terrorists count on the Turkish official support. When they get to Turkey, they are ‘home-safe’.

Meanwhile, the refugees from Kassab are still at the church here. Kassab remains occupied. Is Kassab the ‘new’ Palestine? Will the residents of Kassab wait 60-70 years to go back home? I am very upset about Kassab, and not just because my own home there was destroyed, but because I really hate and hold the Turkish gov’t responsible. By contrast, I don’t hold the Lebanese gov’t responsible, I don’t even consider Lebanon as having a gov’t or a military. I blame the terrorists themselves who have come in from Lebanon.

But, in the case of Turkey, that is a very sophisticated and well organized gov’t. I have spent a lot of time in Turkey, it is a high-class place, it is not run by idiots. This is why it hurts so much to see their direct involvement in crimes against humanity in Syria. I really would not have guessed they could be so evil.”

Lilly isn’t the first to have told me that the mortars and missiles the mercenaries/terrorists are firing are largely un-guided. However, although they are not guided, the terrorists do seem to have a system of firing and when someone on the ground confirms the hit, more mortars are fired from the same position, which is quite likely the case as with Tuesday’s repeated mortaring of the school in Damascus’ west part of the old city.

From “The mortars falling on Damascus are made in Eastern Ghouta“:

“The Damascus countryside: Jobar and al-Maliha are the two largest areas for manufacturing mortar bombs in Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta. This is mainly due to the presence of many scrap metal yards in both areas, which have provided materials for iron smelting factories that are also abundant there.

…The barrel of the mortar looks like an eggplant before it takes its new shape after it is hollowed out so it can be filled later with gunpowder and other metal pieces to ensure more injuries after the shell explodes.

…During the firing process, some of the armed opposition fighters use applications on tablet devices to locate the target more precisely. This method, however, cannot remedy the problem that the mortars’ targeting is very imprecise.

…Mortar shells land on random and imprecise sites, that is why armed opposition fighters resort to another method to ensure the most accurate targeting possible. The method is based on trial and error as a way to locate the target.

When the target is hit, they bolt the mortar’s bipod to make sure the building will be hit with dozens of shells later on….”

In a longer post on her FB page, Syria is My Home, Lilly lists some of the recent attacks on Latakia:
March 9, 2014: Two long range missiles, #107 GRAD, landed behind Orange Mall, and in a residential neighborhood in North Latakia city, killing one small boy and injuring his family, who were in a taxi. Windows were blown out of homes in the neighborhood from the power of the blast.

March 19, 2014: a long range missile landed in the residential neighborhood called Zeerah, which is near to the University of Tichrine, in Latakia City. Several cars were destroyed, and the missile left a large crater near the sidewalk, which is home to numerous sidewalk cafes. There were numerous injuries.

March 22, 2014: Mother’s Day in Syria: a long range missile attacked and landed at the Engineering Department at the University of Tichrine, in Latakia. No injuries reported, as it was Friday, and the students were not in class.

March 23, 2014: Saturday, long range missiles attack Latakia city. They landed on Baghdad Street, near the Main Police station, and not far from the Latin Church, which is an old Roman Catholic Church. The Commander of the Home Defense Forces, Hilal Al Assad, died while defending Latakia. The Home Defense Force is an armed and trained volunteer Army, which is under the direction and Command of the Syrian Arab Army. The Military Hospital, and other free government health care hospitals, is filling up quickly with injured soldiers and civilians, from the fighting in and around Kasab, and the Latakia countryside.


what the “revolution” bringeth: more mortars on Damascus, more dead civilians

by Eva Bartlett - In Gaza 

The mortars are truly terrorizing the people of Damascus, and in the countryside where civilians are also coming under mortar fire from the great “revolutionaries.”

Sana News reported Thursday:

“Terrorists fired Thursday a mortar shell which hit the roof of al-Sa’ada private school in al-Qanawat street in Damascus, causing the injury of two teachers.

A source at Damascus Police Command told SANA that a mortar shell fell over the roof of al-Sa’ada private school, causing the injury of two teachers and material damage to the school.

Armed terrorist groups fired 4 terrorist mortar shells on al-Shagour neighborhood in Damascus two days ago. Two of the mortar shells fell on Bader Eddin al-Hassni Institute for religious science, killing 14 students and injuring 86 others.

One citizen was killed of mortar shells launched by terrorists on al-Tijara and al-Abassiyeen areas in Damascus.

A police source told SANA a mortar shell fell on al-Tijara Corniche, killing one citizen and causing material damages to the properties.

The source added 3 more mortars fell on the Abassiyeen square and the Mall, causing fire and material damages in the place.

Meanwhile, A child was killed and 22 others wounded of terrorist mortars on Jaramana in Damascus countryside.

A police Command source told SANA that 13 mortar shells launched by terrorists fell on the neighborhoods of al-Rawda, Qraiyat and other areas, claiming the life of one child and wounding 22 others in addition to huge material damages to the properties.

In another context, an armed terrorist group assassinated veterinarian Nawras Salman al-Jba’ei and killed his 1-year-old son, while injuring his wife in Sweida on Wednesday evening.

A Police Command source told SANA reporter that a group of armed terrorists intercepted the veterinarian’s car as he was driving along with his son and wife between the villages of Rami and al-Shreihi in the eastern countryside of the province.

The terrorists forced the family members to get off and opened fire on them, killing the father and his son and seriously injuring the mother, who was taken to a hospital in Sala village, the source added.

A source at the Police Command told SANA that a mortar shell fired by terrorists fell on a house the area surrounding al-Abbassein Stadium, causing the injury of its owner and material damage to the house.

The source added that another shell landed in a house near al-Huda Mosque in al-Dweil’a neighborhood, causing material damage to it with no human casualties.

Also, the flourishing of “freedom” in extremist-controlled Raqqa:

Syria’s Raqqa silently slaughtered under ISIL radical rule

Public execution of three Syrian civilians by extremist militants in Raqqa

Apr 27, 2014, al Alam

Residents of Syria’s Raqqa, suffering from a harsh rule imposed by the foreign-backed extremist group of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, use every opportunity to run away from their hometown.

The Western-backed Syrian opposition which has been leading the extremist-marked war in the country, left Raqqa residents to the radical al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s representative on the ground, in March, last year.

The group was later replaced with the ISIL, another extremist group which wanted to be with al-Qaeda in Syria’s multinational war, but was disbanded.

The opposition has totally left Raqqa after tearing it apart with long battles between its fractions.

Raqqa is today without a state, and its people grapple with death every day, with no hope in sight for a normal life.

But Syrian activists have recently shed light on what they call ‘Raqqa’s silent crimes’ committed by ISIL radicals.

Activists say hundreds of people have been abducted by ISIL in recent months; no one knows what they are going through, or whether they are even alive or not.

Women gather in front of ISIL base in Raqqa, which is set inside city’s historic church, and cry to get information about their abducted relatives.

“They cry, begging for information and for their sons’ release,” said Amer Matar, whose citizen journalist brother Mohammad Nour has been detained by ISIL for nine months, according to AFP.

“My mother suffers every day, because she is not given any information about her youngest child,” said Matar, a filmmaker from Raqa who became a refugee in Germany.

Many have left the town and many are still trapped inside, suffering from ISIL rule.

Sema Nassar, a prominent human rights activist, says ISIL is believed to be holding “more than 1,000 Syrians in Raqa province, though it is impossible to know the exact number.”

She also said those suspected of opposing ISIL or violating its puritanical social code vanish, all too often without a trace, while others have been publicly executed.

The province is home to an unknown number of detention facilities, including secret prisons where torture is especially severe, says Nassar, who works with the Syrian Network for Human Rights.

“ISIL sees activists as a challenge to their power, who must be eliminated,” said Nassar.

Despite the dangers, a group of dissidents using secret identities last week launched a campaign calling on ISIL to leave Raqa under the name ‘Raqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’.

Protesters across opposition areas last Friday adopted the slogan: “Cleansing Raqa of (ISIL chief Abu Bakr) al-Baghdadi’s Gang” and on Facebook and Twitter activists share photos of the group’s abuses.

One shows a field execution of several men, who kneel blindfolded in a public square, while another shows a man who has already been executed, tied to a makeshift cross in front of wide-eyed children.

Other groups report incidents including a woman given 40 lashes for failing to veil her face.

The campaign has already raised ISIL’s ire, prompting the arrest of some 70 people in Raqa in the past week alone, said Nassar.

“They’ve arrested anyone they’ve caught even opening Facebook for entertainment, people who aren’t political at all. They’ve imposed some crazy version of emergency law on Raqa,” Nasser told AFP.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Art of Peace: Another Way to Look at the Struggle

The Art of Satyagraha

by David Swanson - ICH 

Michael Nagler has just published The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide for Practical Action, a quick book to read and a long one to digest, a book that's rich in a way that people of a very different inclination bizarrely imagine Sun Tzu's to be. That is, rather than a collection of misguided platitudes, this book proposes what still remains a radically different way of thinking, a habit of living that is not in our air. In fact, Nagler's first piece of advice is to avoid the airwaves, turn off the television, opt out of the relentless normalization of violence.

We don't need the art of war applied to a peace movement. We need the art of satyagraha applied to the movement for a peaceful, just, free, and sustainable world. This means we have to stop trying to defeat the Military Industrial Complex (how's that been working out?) and start working to replace it and to convert the people who make up its parts to new behaviors that are better for them as well as for us.

It can seem out of place to shift from a discussion of the world's largest military to personal interactions. Surely giving John Kerry a complete personality transplant would leave in place corrupt elections, war profiteering, complicit media outlets, and the assumption held by legions of career bureaucrats that war is the way to peace.

No doubt, but only by learning to think and live nonviolence can we build an activist movement with the greatest potential to transform our structures of government. Nagler's examples highlight the importance of knowing what is negotiable, what should be compromised, and what must not be; what is substantive and what symbolic; when a movement is ready to escalate its nonviolence and when it is too soon or too late; and when (always?) not to tack on new demands in the middle of a campaign.

Tiananmen Square should have been abandoned and other tactics pursued, Nagler believes. Holding the square was symbolic. When protesters took over the Ecuadorean Congress in 2000 one of their leaders was elected president. Why? Nagler points out that the Congress was a place of power, not just a symbol; the activists were strong enough to take power, not just ask for it; and the occupation was part of a larger campaign that preceded and followed it.

Nagler has a lot of praise and hope for the Occupy movement, but also draws examples of failure from there. When a group of churches in one city offered to join with Occupy if everyone would stop cursing, Occupiers refused. Dumb decision. Not only is the point not to get to do every little thing we want, but we are not engaging in a struggle for power -- rather, in a learning process and a process of building relationships, even with those we are organizing to challenge -- and certainly with those who want to help us if we'll refrain from cussing. It can even be helpful, Nagler documents, to be accomodating to those we are challenging, when such steps are taken in friendship rather than subservience.

We are after the welfare of all parties, Nagler writes. Even those we want removed from office? Even those we want prosecuted for crimes? Is there restorative justice that can make an official who has launched a war see his or her removal from office and sanctioning as advantageous? Maybe. Maybe not. But seeking to remove people from office in order to uphold the rule of law and end injustices is very different from acting out of vengeance.

We should not seek out victories over others, Nager advises. But doesn't the organizing of activists require informing the deeply victory-dependent of every partial success achieved? Maybe. But a victory need not be over someone; it can be with someone. Oil barons have grandchildren who will enjoy a livable planet as much as the rest of us.

Nagler outlines obstructive and constructive actions, citing Gandhi's efforts in India and the first Intifada as examples of combining the two. The Landless Worker Movement in Brazil uses constructive nonviolence, while the Arab Spring used obstructive. Ideally, Nagler thinks, a movement should begin with constructive projects and then add obstruction. The Occupy Movement has gone in the opposite direction, developing aid for storm victims and banking victims after protests were driven out of public squares. The potential for change, Nagler believes, lies in the possibility of Occupy or another movement combining the two approaches.

Nagler's sequential steps in a nonviolent action campaign include: 1. Conflict Resolution, 2. Satyagraha, 3. The Ultimate Sacrifice.

I imagine Nagler would agree with me that what we need as much as peaceful behavior by our government is Conflict Avoidance. So much is done to generate conflicts that need not be. U.S. troops in 175 countries, and drones in some of the remaining few, are known to generate hostility; yet that hostility is used to justify the stationing of more troops. While it's important to realize we'll never rid the world of conflict, I'm sure we could come a lot closer if we tried.

But Nagler is outlining a plan for a popular campaign, not for the State Department. His three stages are a guide for how we ought to be outlining our future course of action. Step 0.5, then, is not Conflict Avoidance but Infiltration of Corporate Media or Development of Alternative Means to Communicate. Or so it occurs to me. I'll host Nagler on Talk Nation Radio soon, so send questions I should ask him to david at davidswanson dot org.

Nagler sees growing success and even greater potential for nonviolent action done wisely and strategically, and points out the extent to which violence remains the default approach of our government. And the case Nagler makes is made strong and credible by his extensive knowledge of nonviolent campaigns engaged in around the world over the past several decades. Nagler looks helpfully at successes, failures, and partial successes to draw out the lessons we need moving forward. I'm tempted to write a review of this book nearly as long as or even longer than the book itself, but believe it might be most helpful simply to say this:

Trust me. Buy this book. Carry it with you.

A Crime Of Compassion: The Shocking Case of Dr. Rafil Dhafir

Dr. Rafil Dhafir's Crime Of Compassion

by Steve Lendman - Progressive Radio News Hour

"A shocking miscarriage of justice"

Steve Lendman Interviews Katherine Hughes, a dedicated human rights activist. She’s committed to help wrongfully incarcerated US political prisoners.

Dr. Rafil Dhafir should be celebrated as the outstanding humanitarian he is, not turned into convenient props in the War on Terror.

On October 27, 2005, after being detained 31 months and being denied access to his own records, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, an oncologist from Upstate New York, was sentenced to 22 years in Federal prison.[1] A man of Iraqi descent and Muslim faith, he lived in the U.S. since 1974 and has been an American citizen for almost 30 years. Continue

Crime Of Compassion

by Katherine Hughes -  ICH

Muslims like Dr. Rafil Dhafir should be celebrated as the outstanding humanitarians they are, not turned into convenient props in the War on Terror.

On October 27, 2005, after being detained 31 months and being denied access to his own records, Dr. Rafil Dhafir, an oncologist from Upstate New York, was sentenced to 22 years in Federal prison.[1] A man of Iraqi descent and Muslim faith, he lived in the U.S. since 1974 and has been an American citizen for almost 30 years. As a direct response to the humanitarian catastrophe created by the Gulf War and U.S. sanctions Dhafir founded the charity Help the Needy (HTN). Despite many difficulties, including the U.S. embargo and a brutal dictatorship in Iraq, HTN got food and medicines to millions of starving Iraqis for 13 years.[2] Without HTN aid the UN statistic of 5,200 preventable deaths per month of children under the age of five would undoubtedly have been much higher.

On February 26, 2003, the day that Dhafir was arrested, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that ³supporters of terrorism had been apprehended.² Since that day senior government officials have continued to paint Dhafir as a terrorist, and Judge Norman Mordue denied Dhafir bail on four occasions. Yet local prosecutors successfully lobbied Mordue to prevent the charge of terrorism from being part of the trial. This ruling turned into a brick wall that the defense kept hitting during the proceedings: prosecutors could hint at more serious charges, but the defense was never allowed to follow this line of questioning. Despite denying Dhafir the right to address the charge in court, Mordue allowed prosecutors to bring the charge to his sentencing.

Although the government continues to characterize Dhafir as a criminal supporting terrorism, the only context in which this case makes any sense is the overwhelming humanitarian crisis created by the brutal U.S. sanctions on the country of Iraq.[3]

Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness (VITW), speaking about mainstream U.S media coverage before the Iraq War had begun, said, ³I try to point out to the mainstream journalists that they have succeeded enormously in informing the U.S. public about the horrors committed by the current regime in Iraq while for the most part neglecting the horrors the United States has committed. That the regime here has used chemical weapons, engaged in torture, and violated the political and civil rights of Iraqi civilians is repugnant to all who cherish human rights. And yet, what the U.S. public doesn¹t understand and will possibly never comprehend is that the greatest violations of human rights in Iraq since the Gulf War have happened as a result of U.S.-led UN economic sanctions against Iraq.²[4] Indeed, three senior UN officials living and working in Iraq resigned because they considered the sanctions to be a ³genocidal² policy.[5]

Talking about her return to the U.S. after a 1998 visit to Iraq, Kelly said, ³Upon our return to the U.S., customs agents turned my passport over to the State Department, perhaps as evidence that, according to U.S. law, I¹ve committed a criminal act by traveling to Iraq. I know that our efforts to be voices in the wilderness aren¹t criminal. We¹re governed by compassion, not by the laws that pitilessly murder innocent children. What¹s more, Iraqi children might benefit if we could bring their story into a courtroom, before a jury of our peers.²[6]


During the course of the proceedings the government did its utmost to prevent any discussion of the state of Iraq under the sanctions from being part of the trial. Government employees, including Susan Hutner, of the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), testified to having no knowledge of the effects of the sanctions. As the government attorney addressing the situation in Iraq, she helped draft the initial legal documentation to implement the sanctions and then worked on the sanctions for 12 years. When the defense attempted to question Hutner about the Oil for Food program, the court ruled the line of questioning irrelevant.[7]

Several government witnesses of Iraqi descent broke down on the stand when they began to talk of the effects of the sanctions on their families.[8] Each time this happened the prosecution immediately interrupted the testimony.[9] The only newspaper reporting on the proceedings, the local Syracuse Post-Standard, failed to address the sanctions as they pertained to the case.

Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on August 1, 1990, and on August 2, U.S. sanctions against Iraq were put in place. On January 17, 1991, the first bombs of the Gulf War were dropped on Baghdad. Before this war the people of Iraq had a standard of living comparable to many Western countries. Although a brutal dictatorship, the government provided universal healthcare and education including college for all its citizens. There was virtually no illiteracy and the education system and health system were the best in the region.

The result of the war was total devastation: more bombs were dropped on Iraq in a six-week period than were dropped by all parties together in the whole of World War II. Taken together, these bombs are at least six times more powerful than two atomic bombs. Many types of bombs were used including ones containing depleted uranium (DU), the waste matter from nuclear plants; hundreds of tons of DU ammunition now lie scattered throughout Iraq. The DU dust has entered the food chain through the soil and the water, and as a result many formerly unknown diseases have become prevalent in Iraq. Many pregnant women are delivering their babies as early as six months, and many babies are born with terrible deformities. Cancer rates have skyrocketed, and if current trends continue 44% of the population could develop cancer within the next ten years. [10]

All major bridges and communication systems were bombed, making any communications both inside and outside the country extremely difficult. The water purification system was bombed and the UN has never allowed it to be repaired; as a result 15 years of raw sewage has piled up in the streets. This has been the cause of much disease and death, particularly among the young and very old. Hospitals and schools were not spared and, as a result of the bombing and the sanctions, the health and education systems in Iraq went from being the best in the region to being the worst. [11]

Robert Fisk in his new book about the Middle East says, ³There was one final scourge to be visited upon the Iraqi people, a foul cocktail in which both our gunfire and our sanctions played an intimate, horrific role, one that would contaminate Iraqis for years to come, perhaps for generations. In historical terms, it may be identified as our most callous crime against the Middle East, against Arabs, against children. It manifested itself in abscesses, in massive tumours, in gangrene, internal bleeding and child mastectomies and shrunken heads and deformities and thousands of tiny graves.²[12]

In 1998 Denis Halliday, Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations resigned from the UN after thirty-four years of distinguished service. At the time he was serving as the humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad, and his resignation was a direct result of the conditions he witnessed. He said, ³I had been instructed to implement a policy that satisfies the definition of genocide: a deliberate policy that has effectively killed well over a million individuals, children and adults. We all know that the regime, Saddam Hussein, is not paying the price of economic sanctions; on the contrary, he has been strengthened by them. It is the little people who are losing their children or their parents for lack of treated water. What is clear is that the Security Council is now out of control, for its actions here undermine its own Charter, and the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention. History will slaughter those responsible.²[13]

Hans Von Sponeck succeeded Denis Halliday as humanitarian coordinator in Baghdad and, and in early 2000 he too resigned from that position. Von Sponeck, talking about the Oil for Food program, said that it was impossible for each person to live on the $100 per year that was being allocated, especially because of the conditions prevalent in Iraq at the time. He said, ³Set that pittance against the lack of clean water, the fact that electricity fails for up to 22 hours a day, and the majority of sick people cannot afford treatment, the sheer trauma of trying to get from day to day, and you have a glimpse of the nightmare. And make no mistake, this is deliberate. I have not in the past wanted to use the word genocide, but now it is unavoidable.²[14]

And in a report to the UN Secretary General, Professor Marc Bossuyt, an authority on international law, stated that the ³Ssanctions regime against Iraq is unequivocally illegal under existing human right law and could raise questions under the Genocide Convention.²[15]


Over the course of 13 years, from 1990 until 2003, HTN sent food and medicines that reached millions of starving Iraqi civilians. The aid was first sent to Maher Zagha in Jordan. Zagha is a former Onondaga Community College and Utica College student who lived in the Upstate New York area for several years before returning to Jordan.[16] He is listed as a co-conspirator with Dhafir on the indictment.

On the day of Dhafir¹s arrest, Zagha was arrested in Jordan and then held in solitary for 21 days. The Jordanians interrogated him and released him and since then he has gone about his normal life, including traveling internationally. After Dhafir¹s conviction in February 2005 the remaining HTN money in Jordan, $138,564.53 was confiscated along with $25,000 of Dhafir¹s personal money.

Throughout the period of the sanctions container loads of good were shipped by HTN from Jordan to Iraq. Receipts from the purchase of food were shown in court. For example, an invoice from January 29th, 1997, showed the purchase of 25 tons of Thailand rice, 35 tons of flour and 2000 cans of cooking oil. Invoices from other days and years list tons of; American rice, Turkish sugar, Iranian flour, chickpeas and Iraqi lentils. Tea and tomato paste was also shipped. Zagha sent the aid into Iraq using the correct official channels required by the Jordanian authorities. When he was unable to comply, he gave the aid over to the authorities. In 1990 when Dhafir sent 900 kilograms of medicine to Zagha without the correct paper work, Zagha had to give the medicine to the Iraqi embassy in Jordan. It was the only way to get the medicine into Iraq and he could only hope that it would reach the people for whom it was intended.[17]

From 1996 through 2003 Zagha sent money to Iraq and local exchangers were used because there were no banks operating at that time. The money was sent to Dhafir¹s brother Najim in Baghdad (also a physician) and two other men, Mustapha and Ammar. By getting money into Iraq from Jordan HTN was able to provide starving civilians with meat protein. The three men in Baghdad bought animals at the open markets surrounding the city, and these purchases usually coincided with the major holidays of the Muslim faith. For example, in January 2003, for one of the most holy of Muslim holidays, Eid, Zagha sent four lots of money totaling $285,000. This money bought about 4,000 lambs and cows which were sacrificed, and the food was distributed to the needy.[18] Looking at the quantities of aid provided to Iraqi civilians by HTN, it is easy to believe that they were indeed feeding more people in Iraq than all the other aid agencies put together.[19]

An email read in court showed that Dhafir believed that the U.S. government was not opposed to Iraqi civilians receiving humanitarian aid of the form that HTN was supplying. HTN and other groups, like VITW, openly advertised that they were sending aid to civilians. They did this through leaflets, websites and fundraising events. For 13 years the government took little action against people who sent aid to Iraqi civilians, and this tacit approval must have helped confirm Dhafir¹s belief.[20]

Since the day of his arrest, using unfair tactics and innuendo, the government has managed to transform Dhafir from a compassionate humanitarian into a crook and supporter of terrorists. They have done this with the aid of a complicit press and a willfully ignorant public.


From the outset in this case the approach of the government has been one of circumambulation. Michael Powell of the Washington Post said, ³There is a shadow-boxing quality to the terror allegations lodged against Dhafir. In August [2004], Gov. George E. Pataki (R) described Dhafir's as a Omoney laundering case to help terrorist organizations . . . conduct horrible acts.¹ Prosecutors hinted at national security reasons for holding Dhafir without bail. But no evidence was offered to support the allegations.²[21]

In April 2004 the U.S. government brought new charges against Zagha to Interpol, and Zagha had to give up his passport. It was returned so that he could make a business trip to Syria, but on December 20, 2005, the authorities again took his passport.

To this day no evidence has been offered to link Dhafir to terrorists. And yet, on November 15, 2005, the government presented a lecture at Syracuse University¹s law school entitled, ³A Law Enforcement Approach to Terrorist Financing,² in which Dhafir¹s case was highlighted. [22] The three prosecutors from the case, Michael Olmstead, Greg West and Steve Green were present along with Jeff Breinholt, Deputy Chief, Counterterrorism Section United States Department of Justice who was the main speaker.

Breinholt asserted that the Dhafir case had been ³under prosecuted,² this despite the fact that the government brought 60 counts against Dhafir and gained conviction on 59. He cited HTN¹s use of tax exemption numbers other than its own as an example of how charities functioned in their criminal activity. Many of Dhafir¹s convictions on tax evasion and fraud charges are based on the assumption that people who gave money to HTN used the tax exemption number of another charity and therefore did not pay tax. The government is holding Dhafir responsible for this lost tax revenue.

One of the two numbers Dhafir used was from a charity that is the Saudi Arabian equivalent of the American charity United Way.[23] The use of another charity¹s number is not an uncommon practice. What is uncommon is the fact that it resulted in a criminal prosecution. Barrie Gewanter, Director of the Central New York ACLU, has explained the normal procedure for this type of situation in numerous interviews about the HTN case. Ordinarily the state government intervenes and shuts the charity down until the situation is sorted out to their satisfaction. When and if this is achieved, the charity continues its work.[24]

The government¹s philosophy in prosecuting this case was made clear in the course of the lecture. Olmstead, the head prosecutor of the Dhafir case, cited the philosopher Emmanuel Kant¹s imperative, ³To obey the law because it is the law.² He added that ³if you break the law, you must pay the price,² apparently regardless of the unfairness of the law and the humanitarian nature of the act. Compassion comes with a very high price.

Dhafir is undoubtedly paying the price of breaking the genocidal policy of U.S. sanctions against Iraq. However, the government was unwilling to prosecute him for this without the attendant obfuscation and cover provided by the laundry list of charges that he faced. A clear message is being sent that humanitarian acts like this will not be tolerated and will be punished accordingly.

By hosting this lecture on terrorist financing, Syracuse University Law School provided the government with a platform that gives credence to an accusation that is wholly lacking in evidence. They have become the most recent government accomplice. The ³shadow boxing² continues with the media, public and the local law school as willing participants in the charade.

The journalist John Pilger writes, ³It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and the myths that surround it²[25] It is also not enough for citizens in a democracy to see themselves as mere receptors of information. As citizens in a democracy we have an obligation to seek justice for each other. In this case it means actively going beyond the government¹s obfuscation and seeking hard facts and other sources of information. If this can be achieved, Dhafir and the other HTN defendants will be vindicated; but it is no easy task.


Many people are reassured by the fact that Dhafir can appeal against his conviction and sentencing. But most have no idea what this means in terms of practicalities. Under the best possible circumstances the chances of a successful appeal are slim.

Seven government agencies investigated this case for five years. The prosecutors presented the case in minutia over the course of the seventeen weeks of proceedings. What was expected to be a 6-week trial turned into a
17-week trial and the three defense lawyers have received a fraction of their fee. Due to this lack of finances a request for transcripts was made at the beginning of the trial.[26] Judge Mordue denied this request and so one of the three defense lawyers typed the proceedings on his laptop.

But official transcripts are essential to an appeal and even if ordered today, it would take two years to get the transcript in full. The cost would be around $60,000. before any lawyer fees or other costs are taken into account.

Dhafir has been bankrupted by this course of justice and has no money for an appeals lawyer. His only hope is that people who care about compassion and justice will be able to raise enough money for him to have a viable chance of a successful appeal.

Katherine Hughes is a potter and a voracious reader of history and current events. She responded to a request from the ACLU for court watchers and attended virtually all of the Dhafir trial. To find out more about this case, please visit her website: < > .

[1] Write to Dr. Dhafir: Rafil Dhafir, 11921-052, FCI-Fairton, PO Box 420, Fairton, NJ 08320.

[2] We learned in the proceedings that a HTN volunteer was caught and killed
by Saddam Hussein¹s regime.

[3] The first 15 counts of Dr. Dhafir¹s 60-count indictment involve
violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA),
commonly known as the sanctions. The full indictment is available on my

[4] Kathy Kelly, "Other Lands Have Dreams" (Oakland: Counterpunch and AK
Press, 2005), p.51.

[5] John Pilger, "The New Rulers of the World" (London: Verso 2002), p.54.

[6] Ibid, Kelly. P.37.

[7] From my witness of the proceedings and official transcript of Susan
Hutner¹s cross examination by the defense, November 10, 2004.

[8] One witness broke down on the stand when testifying that his mother had
died because she did not have access to necessary blood pressure medicine.

[9] A video of an HTN fundraising event was shown early in the proceedings.
The government intended to play only the first few minutes, but the defense
insisted that the whole video be shown.

[10] John Pilger, ³The Impact of the Sanctions,² found at

[11] Information about Iraq under the sanctions can be found on the Voices
in the Wilderness website: . A video of
a fundraising event in which Dr. Dhafir describes conditions of Iraq using
the Pentagon and UNICEF as his sources is available at the address below.
The file is 12 MB:

QuickTime version:

Flash version:

[12] Robert Fisk, "The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the
Middle East" (New York: Alfred A. Knopf 2005) p.727.

[13] John Pilger, The New Rulers of the World (London: Verso 2002), p.53.

[14] Ibid, Pilger, p.59

[15] Ibid, Pilger, p.95.

[16] In Syracuse, New York, and Rome, New York, respectively.

[17] From my witness of the proceedings

[18] Maher Zagha sent me pictures of the animals being slaughtered. A sign
in each photograph shows that the animals were purchased by HTN.

[19] From my witness of the proceedings, correspondence with Maher Zagha and
Dr. Dhafrir¹s sentencing statement to the media.

[20] The government¹s tacit approval in this case reminds me of the way that
people are granted dual-citizenship: this is achieved by taking the Oath of
Allegiance (and swearing away their original citizenship) and keeping the
country of origin passport. This is the ³accepted² practice and the media
write freely about ³dual-citizens.² But what if the government decides to
prosecute this action in years to come?

[21] Michael Powell, ³High-Profile N.Y. Suspect Goes on Trial: Arrest Was
Called Part of War on Terrorism, but Doctor Faces Other Charges,² The
Washington Post, October 19, 2004.

[22] The lecture was advertised by the ³Institute For National Security and
Counterterrorism², INSCT, which is hosted by Syracuse University Law School:

A photograph of Greg West can be seen at this site. It was taken during the
lecture and IEEPA violations are chalked on the blackboard behind him.

[23] Elaine Cassel, The War on Civil Liberties: How Bush and Ashcroft Have
Dismantled the Bill of Rights (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 2004). See the
chapter, ³Guilt by Association: The Islamic Charities,² pp 87 - 105

[24] See WCNY Public Television, ³Access² with George Kilpatrick. This
program aired on Wednesday, 26th October at 11pm, the night before
Dr.Dhafir¹s sentencing. I was part of a three-person panel with Barrie
Gewanter (ACLU) and Julienne Oldfield, another of the Dhafir trial court

[25] John Pilger¹s Homepage:

[26] Pages that need to be transcribed cost $5.75 each, and already
transcribed pages cost 50c a page.