Archive | July 6th, 2013

CIA WHISTLE-BLOWER TO SNOWDEN: ‘DO NOT COOPERATE WITH THE FBI’

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NSA leaker Edward Snowden is the subject of an open letter of support just published from behind bars by John Kiriakou, a former CIA agent currently serving time for sharing state secrets.

In a letter dated June 13 and published Tuesday by Firedoglake, the imprisoned CIA vet salutes Snowden for his recent disclosures of classified documents detailing some of the vast surveillance programs operated by the United States’ National Security Agency.

“Thank you for your revelations of government wrongdoing over the past week,” Kiriakou writes. “You have done the country a great public service.”

“I know that it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders right now, but as Americans begin to realize that we are devolving into a police state, with the loss of civil liberties that entails, they will see your actions for what they are: heroic.”

Beginning with the June 6 publication of a dragnet court order demanding the phone data of millions of Americans, The Guardian newspaper has released a collection of leaked documents attributed to Snowden for which the US government has charged him with espionage. He is reportedly now hiding in a Moscow airport and has sought asylum from no fewer than 20 countries to avoid prosecution in the US. Should he be sent home and forced to stand trial, however, Snowden will likely find himself in a peculiar position that the former Central Intelligence Agency analyst can most certainly relate to: Kiriakou is currently serving a 36-month sentence at the Loretto, Pennsylvania federal prison for revealing the identity of a covert CIA agent to reporters.

Before Kiriakou pleaded guilty to one count of passing classified information to the media last year, the government charged him under the Espionage Act of 1917. He has equated the prosecution as retaliation for his own past actions, saying the charge wasn’t the result of outing a secret agent but over exposing truths about the George W. Bush administration’s use of waterboarding as an interrogation tool in the post-9/11 war on terror. As in the case of Snowden, Kiriakou’s supporters have hailed him as a whistleblower. As the government sings a very different song, though, the CIA analyst offers advice to Snowden in what is the second of his “Letters from Loretto” published by Firedoglake since Kiriakou’s two-and-a-half-year sentence began earlier this spring.

“First, find the best national security attorneys money can buy,” writes Kiriakou. “I was blessed to be represented by legal titans and, although I was forced to take a plea in the end, the shortness of my sentence is a testament to their expertise.”

“Second, establish a website that your supporters can follow your case, get your side of the story and, most importantly, make donations to support your defense.”

Kiriakou goes on to encourage Snowden toward garnering support within members of Congress and other institutions capable of calling attention to his case, such as the American Civil Liberties Union. Before he concludes, however, he bestows on Snowden what he calls “the most important advice I can offer.”

“DO NOT, under any circumstances, cooperate with the FBI,” Kiriakou warns. “FBI agents will lie, trick and deceive you. They will twist your words and play on your patriotism to entrap you. They will pretend to be people they are not — supporters, well-wishers and friends — all the while wearing wires to record your out-of-context statements to use against you. The FBI is the enemy; it’s a part of the problem, not the solution.”

“I wish you the very best of luck,” Kiriakou writes before signing off. “I hope you can get to Iceland quickly and safely. There you will find a people and a government who care about the freedoms that we hold dear and for which our forefathers and veterans fought and died.”

When Snowden first revealed himself to be the source of the leaked documents last month, murmurings quickly began circulating of Iceland possibly extending his way an offer of asylum. The list of countries asked to consider his request reportedly now exceeds 20, and the likes of Ecuador, Bolivia, Cuba and Switzerland have all been floated as options. As Firedoglake’s Kevin Gosztola recalls, though, the Federal Bureau of Investigation likely won’t rule out dirty tricks to try and take down Snowden before he escapes, at least if Kiriakou’s experiences are any indication.

“According to Kiriakou, the FBI also tried to set him up,” Gosztola writes. He goes on to cite a January 2013 interview in which the CIA whistleblower recounted a previously untold story about the government’s alleged efforts to indict Kiriakou on even more charges.

“In the summer of 2010, a foreign intelligence officer offered me cash in exchange for classified information,” Kiriakou said. “I turned down the pitch and I immediately reported it to the FBI. So, the FBI asked me to take the guy out to lunch and to ask him what information he wanted and how much information he was willing to give me for it.”

“After the lunch, I wrote a long memo to the FBI — and I did this four or five times. It turns out – and we only learned this three or four weeks ago – there never was a foreign intelligence officer. It was an FBI agent pretending to be an intelligence officer and they were trying to set me up on an Espionage Act charge but I repeatedly reported the contact so I foiled them in their effort to set me up.”

Kiriakou is one of eight Americans charged under that World War One-era legislation by President Barack Obama, who has prosecuted more people under that law that all previous leaders combined. Snowden became the latest US citizen to have their name added to that list and joins the likes of WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake. In a question-and-answer session hosted by The Guardian last month, Snowden celebrated those men as “examples of how overly-harsh responses to public-interest whistle-blowing only escalate the scale, scope and skill involved in future disclosures.”

“Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they’ll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it. Instead, these draconian responses simply build better whistleblowers. If the Obama administration responds with an even harsher hand against me, they can be assured that they’ll soon find themselves facing an equally harsh public response,” Snowden said.

In his first statement since entering Moscow more than a week ago, Snowden published a note through WikiLeaks on Monday dismissing the White House’s hunt for leakers, calling their tactics deceptive, unjust and “bad tools of political aggression.”

“In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be,” Snowden wrote.

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What REALLY Caused the COUP Against the Egyptian President: Another U.S. Puppet?

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What REALLY Caused the COUP Against Egyptian President: Another US Puppet?
Post Categories: Africa
at 4th media
The Washington’s Blog | Thursday, July 4, 2013, 11:00 Beijing
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Egypt’s Support for Intervention in Syria Was the Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back

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The protests in Egypt against president Mohammed Morsi were – according to the BBC – the largest in history.

The Egyptian military threw Morsi out in a coup today.

Why?

Irish Times reports:

Army concern about the way President Mohamed Morsi was governing Egypt reached tipping point when the head of state attended a rally packed with hardline fellow Islamists calling for holy war in Syria, military sources have said.

***
Mr Morsi himself called for foreign intervention in Syria against Mr Assad, leading to a veiled rebuke from the army, which issued an apparently bland but sharp-edged statement the next day stressing that its only role was guarding Egypt’s borders.

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“The armed forces were very alarmed by the Syrian conference at a time the state was going through a major political crisis,” said one officer, whose comments reflected remarks made privately by other army staff. He was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to talk to the media.

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For the army, the Syria rally had crossed “a national security red line” by encouraging Egyptians to fight abroad, risking creating a new generation of jihadists, said Yasser El-Shimy, analyst with the International Crisis Group.

At the heart of the military’s concern is the history of militant Islam in Egypt, homeland of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. The military source condemned recent remarks made by “retired terrorists” allied to Mr Morsi, who has deepened his ties with the once-armed group al-Gamaa al-Islamiya.

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Obama had recently sent American troops to prop up Mursi, and the protesters were furious at the U.S. for backing Islamic radicals.

(The U.S. backed Egypt’s previous dictator, as well).

Support of Western intervention in Syria was also one of the main causes of the recent enormous protests in Turkey … which came close to toppling the Turkish leadership.

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Indeed, the American government has been providing arms, money and logistical support to Al Qaeda in SyriaLibya, Mali, Bosnia and other countries – and related Muslim terrorists in Chechnya, Iran, and many other countries.

So moderate Arabs all over the Middle East and North Africa are becoming furious at U.S. interventionist policies.

Note: The coup is a set-back for the U.S. , because Egypt – unlike Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Iran – isn’t on the 20-year-old list of countries targeted for regime change.

The Washington’s Blog, http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/07/what-really-caused-the-coup-against-the-egyptian-president.html

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Mark Dankof: Prosecute Clapper for ‘perjury’

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A political commentator says National Intelligence Director James Clapper is a ‘liar’ and should be prosecuted for ‘perjury’ due to his denial of National Security Agency’s collection of U.S. citizens’ personal data during a Senate hearing.

“James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence of the United States, is a provable liar. He has lied to the United State Congress under oath. He has committed perjury which is a crime. He should be removed from office. He should be prosecuted for lying to the Congress,” Texas based former U.S. Senate Candidate Mark Dankof said to the U.S. Desk.

Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, asked Clapper at a March 12 congressional hearing whether the NSA “collects any type of data at all on hundreds of millions of Americans?”

Clapper told Wyden: “No sir, it does not.” When asked for clarification, he said “not wittingly.”

Dankof also added that the message of this whole issue is that people “cannot trust the government.”

It’s a very sad situation that reinforces duplicity in the government”.

Both President Barack Obama and Clapper have defended the NSA’s spying program as transparent and necessary.

The embarrassing revelations landed the U.S. government in a brewing scandal and shocked even Washington’s closest allies in Europe, especially after German magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that the NSA bugged European Union’s offices in Washington, New York and Brussels.

Edward Snowden, the leaker of controversial espionage grogram, has been stranded in a transit area of a Moscow airport for more than a week. He is now asking asylum from 21 countries after Russia and Ecuador reportedly denied his asylum request.

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The Arabs And Their Spring

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By Gilad Atzmon
It is not a secret that summer skipped Europe this year and some meteorologists even predict a sun eclipse for the next seven to ten years. When asked to explain this dire prediction a few experts ended up blaming the Arabs, ‘it is all because of the Arabs, they took all the spring.’

Joking aside, looking at the Arabs and their “Spring” reveals a chilling sight. It is basically an ongoing bloodbath.

A vast popular uprising in the name of “liberation,” “human rights,” “democracy” and other big words has matured in a very short time  into regional chaos, civil wars, carnage, loss of life on a huge magnitude scale and scores of interventionist apparatuses that guarantee more havoc to come.

What happened? Why did the “Arab Spring” turn into a regional winter? Why didn’t the Egyptian democracy last more than a year?

I am not going to answer any of these questions. Instead, I will offer a simple method to address these issues.

Some 18 months ago I published The Wandering Who, A Study of Jewish Identity Politics. I argued that if we want to grasp Israel or the extent of Jewish Power we must dig into the ideologies and culture that formed the “Jewish State” and sustain Jewish tribalism and politics.

The book caused a storm, it was praised by some of the most important academics and humanists but it was also harshly opposed by many Jewish tribal activists  and a few of their dedicated Sabbath Goyim.

It was, however, the opposition to my work that actually convinced me that I was on the right track — a theoretical and critical study of culture and identity politics is clearly the way forward. The study of Jewish culture explains Israeli barbarism, as it does the Israeli negligence of human rights, it throws light on the Neocon interventionist agenda and it also elucidates the spin at the heart of Jewish Left and Anti-Zionist Zionists (AZZ).  It clearly explains why Palestinians are still living in refugee camps while American and British soldiers are fighting Zionist wars.
I would argue here that scholars and Arab intellectuals in particular should similarly examine closely the Arab culture and identity politics in order to understand and amend the grave current situation.

Such an examination could reveal, for instance,  that “Western democracy” may not be the optimal political system for various states in the Middle East. Such a study will have to take into account  Islam’s take of the notion of the “civil,” it would have to consider the demographics of different Arab regions and states. It may even have to question the notion of “State” in reference to Arab culture and history. Class division in the Arab society is also a crucial topic that must be examined. Such a study could benefit from a theoretical examination of  the unique manner in which the Islamic Republic of Iran balances Islam and democracy. Such a study would transcend beyond  politics, global affairs and the decaying material dialectic manner of thought. It would locate the subject matter i.e., the Arab and the Arab World, at the centre of the discourse.

Such scholarship should raise the following questions: Who are the Arabs, the Egyptians, the Syrians, the Palestinians and so on? What do they believe in?  What unites them? What separates them? What can they agree upon? What terrifies them? What makes them happy?

Once Arabs start to deal with these questions they may realise that rather than killing  each other for Israel, America or Russia they should identify who they are for real and who their real enemies are.

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Zio-Nazi forces continue systematic attacks against Palestinian civilians and property in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt)

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  • 1 Palestinian civilian was killed and 5 others were wounded during incursions in the West Bank.
  • Israeli forces have continued to use excessive force against peaceful protestors in the West Bank.

–       3 protestors were wounded during peaceful protests against the annexation wall and settlement activities.

  • Israeli forces conducted 65 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and 2 limited ones into the Gaza Strip.

–       64 Palestinian civilians were arrested in the West Bank, including a Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and 6 children.

  • Israel has continued to impose a total closure on the oPt and has isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world.

–       Israeli forces established dozens of checkpoints in the West Bank.

–       7 Palestinian civilians, including 4 children and a woman, were arrested at checkpoints and border crossings in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

  • Israeli forces have continued to support settlement activities in the West Bank and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property.

–       34 notices to halt construction work and a demolition notice were distributed in Susya village, to the southeast of Yatta, south of Hebron.

–       Settlers destroyed the metal fence surrounding Cordoba Primary School in Hebron.

–       A settler attacked a Palestinian civilian near the entrance of Azzoun village, east of Qalqilya.

 

  • Israeli naval forces have continued to target Palestinian fishermen at sea.

–       A Palestinian fisher was wounded.

Summary

Israeli violations of international law and international humanitarian law in the oPt continued during the reporting period 27 June – 03 July 2013.

Shooting:

During the reporting period, Israeli forces killed a 19-year-old Palestinian and wounded 8 others; 5 civilians were wounded during Israeli incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, including the nephew of the victim, while 3 other civilians were wounded in peaceful protests against the annexation wall and settlement activities.

In the West Bank, on 02 July 2013, Israeli forces killed 19-year-old Moutaz Edris Abdel-Fatah Sharawna after being hit by a sound bomb then being stepped on by Israeli soldiers.  His nephew, Bahaa (22) sustained a bullet wound while trying to rescue his uncle in Doura, southwest of Hebron.  This took place when Israeli soldiers, who had moved into the town, fired live ammunition, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at a group of youngsters.

On 28 June 2013, 4 Palestinian civilians sustained bullet and shrapnel wounds after Israeli forces engaged in clashes with Palestinians during an incursion into Qalandia refugee camp.

Israeli forces continued the systematic use of excessive force against peaceful protests organised by Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists against the construction of the annexation wall and settlement activities in the West Bank. As a result, 3 Palestinian civilians were wounded: a 23-year-old male was hit in the right thigh by a tear gas canister; a 35-year-old male sustained a bullet wound in the back; and a 24-year-old male sustained a bullet to the shoulder.  Also, dozens of civilians suffered due to tear gas inhalation and others sustained wounds.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces continued to pursue fishermen at sea.  On 03 June 2013, Israeli gunboats stationed off al-Soudanya area, northwest of Beit Lahia in the north of the Gaza Strip, opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats that were around 6 nautical miles offshore.  The shooting was focused on a fishing boat boarding 7 Palestinian fishers causing fear among them.  As a result, while Sharif Hussein Khalil ‘Arafat(29), son-in-law of the owner of the boat, from al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, was trying to hide from the shooting, his right leg stuck in the fishing spinner and wrapped around it causing the leg to bleed.

The full report is available online at:

http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9656:weekly-report-on-israeli-human-rights-violations-in-the-occupied-palestinian-territory-27-june-03-july-&catid=84:weekly-2009&Itemid=183

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Ironies in the Fireworks: America’s Independence Day. The Meaning of the 1791 Constitution

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Global Research
What would the Fourth of July be without nostalgia?

In the nostalgic spirit of the Fourth of July, here are some of the things that seemed important 27 years ago, at least to the editor of the Progressive:

— President Reagan was promoting the Strategic Defense Initiative, a theoretical missile defense system referred to as “Star Wars” that continues to cost billions of dollars a year (well past $100 billion total, no one really knows how much) without useful accomplishment for the nation. Reagan promised that the program would make nuclear missiles “impotent and obsolete.”

— Military spending continued to remain larger and to grow faster than any other budget category worldwide. There were roughly 15 wars being fought.

— U.S. advisors and CIA personnel continued to train and work with government-supported death squads in El Salvador

— Conservative William F. Buckley was advised that “This is the moment for skillful diplomacy. We need to go a step further than to leave our bases in the Philippines at the mercy of democratic whimsy.”

 

Names May Change to protect the Guilty, But Corrupt Corporations Abide

— Corporate corruption was a rising concern. The names in the news then included E.F. Hutton, W.R. Grace, General Dynamics, Raytheon, as well as less familiar outlaws like Rocco Enterprises (turkey processing), Kerr-McGee (nuclear waste processing), and A.H.Robins (purveyor of the lethal Dalkon Shield).

— A cartoon in an ad for Mother Jones magazine showed a TV host holding out a glass to a guest and saying, “Perhaps a glass of water to wash down that incredible bunch of lies.”

– Democratic party “realists,” reacting to the Reagan landslide of 1984, were re-shaping the party, arguing that it could no longer appeal to voters as a liberal party, much less a progressive one.

– A review of Robert Heilbroner’s book, “The Nature and Logic of Capitalism,” noted that: “… questions of morality cannot intrude upon the drive to amass wealth. The sacred and the secular – religion and science – serve to promote the capitalist logic of untrammeled growth. Under the juggernaut lie two victims: nature and culture.”

– At the Federal prison in Marion, Illinois, the U.S. Justice department encouraged guards to use as much violence and brutality as they felt appropriate, claiming the prisoners there were the “most difficult and recalcitrant.” That was a lie. The Bureau of Prisons continued to resist investigation by Congress or the Federal courts.

Missile Protests May Have Faded, But the Nuclear Missiles Abide

– In Rhode Island, five anti-nuclear activists damaged missile tubes at the Electric Boat shipyard. A state judge told them, “your acts are the first-cousin to the bomb-throwers, grenade-throwers, and airplane hijackers.” The judge castigated a prosecutor for proposing a plea bargain and sentenced the five to the maximum of a $500 fine and a year in jail.

– “Under Surveillance,” the lead editorial by Edwin Knoll, commented on a ten-year-old lawsuit by 25 individuals and organizations who claimed that authorities spied on them, kept dossiers on then, and disrupted their lawful activities. The claim was true and the court awarded them, collectively, $306,250.

– Another editorial described Rev. Paul Kabat, who was serving a 10-year sentence for damaging a missile silo hatch near Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri. Rev. Kabat wrote an article for the Progressive. The magazine with his article, mailed to the prison, came back stamped “NOT ACCEPTABLE.” After the Progressive complained, the warden said it was a mistake by a new staff person.

– In a story about the cross-country trucking of radioactive waste, by Samuel H. Day, Jr., there was this sub-head: “The Government’s fixation – secrecy as its first defense against nuclear terrorists – puts the public at risk of contact with radioactive, explosive matter.”

– Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan were in the early stages of discussing ways to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons.

Few Recognized Climate Change in 1986, But it, too, Abides

Close to half the people alive in America today were not alive in 1986 or have no meaningful memory of the time. An equal proportion of, but likely not all the same Americans are “certain God exists,” and a much greater percentage is affiliated with a religion.

So what does Independence Day mean to Americans today? The United States has been fully independent from the English crown since 1791 and there’s no danger of losing that independence to any other power now or in the near future, and there almost never has been such a danger.

So the country is independent, and the people might celebrate that with happy satisfaction — if only the federal government hadn’t slowly, steadily, and sometimes stealthily declared its independence from the people. Across the political spectrum, people despair of bringing the government under control again, if it ever was.

The Power Structure May Keep a Low Profile, But it Abides Most of All

Celebrating Independence Day is more than a little ironic for most Americans, especially those who perceive that the people have been colonized by their own government.

On July 4, 1776, in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, which ends with these words:

“That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

And so we celebrate the words and thoughts that created free and independent states, and independent white men in 1776, and we mostly take some pride in the independence other people have slowly achieved since then, but we don’t give much thought to what the 1791 Constitution has meant for free and independent states.

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President Obama Bashes Private Religious Education

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A little over one week after President Obama’s controversial rebuke of “segregated schools”, Catholics and evangelical Protestants alike continue to criticize what they see as the president’s meddling in religious affairs. Obama’s speech during the G8 summit in Northern Ireland implied that private religious education was one of the chief factors in perpetuating the long-running unrest of the nation.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks from the White House

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Off Grid News

In front of an audience of about 2,000 young people that included many Catholics, the president contended that Catholic education divides people and blocks peace. “If towns remain divided—if Catholics have their schools and buildings and Protestants have theirs, if we can’t see ourselves in one another and fear or resentment are allowed to harden—that too encourages division and discourages cooperation,” Obama said.

Catholics in Ireland were quick to respond to the assertions, making what one Catholic paper called “an alarming call for an end to Catholic education,” which is “a critical component of the Church.” Criticism in the U.S. has proven much sharper in its assessment of the president’s view of the impact of religious education on civic life. Consider this statement from American Catholics for Religious Freedom:

President Obama’s anti-faith, secular agenda was shamefully on full display yesterday when he told the young people of Northern Ireland that Catholic education and other faith-based schools were divisive and an obstacle to peace. All Americans of faith should be outraged by these comments which clearly telegraph the president’s belief system and are in fact at their core, even anti-American.

While the use of the term “segregated” may appear to be mere semantics, astute commentators note that term is more than problematic when speaking of private religious education. Obama’s direct implication is that religious schools foster division and are incubators of “fear or resentment.” Use of the term “segregated” paints a picture of forced inferior education for one group and superior education for another. The word is intentionally charged and intended to inflame.

 

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Why President Obama Called Out Congo’s Neighbors Without Mentioning Names?

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President Barack Obama concluded his trip to Africa on Tuesday, July 2, 2013. After visiting Senegal and South Africa, President Obama’s last stop on his African tour was in Tanzania where he visited President Jakaya Kikwete. Both President Obama and Kikwete have made auspicious statements regarding the crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Last week, President Kikwete called on both Rwanda and Uganda to enter into dialogue with their respective rebel militia who are present in the Congo instead of continuously utilizing rebel presence as a rationale for repeated interventions in the Congo.

On Monday, July 1, 2013 during his state visit to Tanzania, responding to a question from a Congolese journalist, President Obama said “The countries surrounding the Congo, they’ve got to make a commitment to stop funding armed groups that are encroaching on the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Congo.”

President Obama’s response is fascinating in two respects. First, in spite, of sixteen years of intervention in the DRC by U.S. allies Rwanda and Uganda, which has triggered the deaths of millions of Congolese, President Obama still did not mention either country by name; he merely uttered the phrase “Congo’s neighbors.” Secondly, while the U.S. has repeatedly acknowledged that its allies, Rwanda and Uganda are funding armed groups in the Congo, it continues to arm, train, finance and provide diplomatic and political cover for both countries.

Philippe Bolopion of Human Rights Watch says it best when he observed in a New York Times commentary: “So how do you get away with arming a rebel force that attacks U.N. peacekeepers, rapes women and recruits children? You need powerful friends, and Rwanda has had one. Born from the guilt of the Clinton administration’s inaction in the face of the Rwandan genocide, and a recognition of Rwanda’s relatively efficient use of development aid, the United States has proven to be one of Kigali’s staunchest allies.”

It would stand to reason that as the U.S. calls on its allies to cease funding of armed groups in the Congo, the U.S. itself would cease funding of Rwanda and Uganda as long as they continue fueling the conflict in the DRC. In fact, U.S. law calls on the Obama Administration to do as much.  Section 105 of Public Law 109-456, the law that President Obama sponsored as senator and co-sponsored by Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, authorizes the Secretary of State to withhold aid from Congo’s neighbors, should they destabilize the country. The Obama Administration has yet to fully implement this law.

Pressure has been mounting around Rwanda and Uganda’s support of militia gangs in the Congo. In light of the two UN Group of experts reports published in 2012, the United States government has said that “there is a credible body of evidence that corroborates key findings of the Group of Experts’ reports – including evidence of significant military and logistical support, as well as operational and political guidance, from the Rwandan government to the M23.” The administration response to the report has been a suspension of $200,000 of Foreign Military Financing provided to a Rwandan military academy and a phone call from President Barack Obama to Paul Kagame to discuss Rwanda’s role in the destabilization of the Congo. Unfortunately, these small steps have not been enough to stop Congo’s neighbors from intervening in the Congo, nor are they commensurate with the level of suffering the people of the Congo face daily due to the brutal killings perpetrated by militia gangs.

One of the key changes needed in U.S. policy in the Great Lakes Region of Africa is to cease its support of U.S. allies who are fueling conflict in the DRC. As he did in his 2009 trip to Ghana, President Obama repeated again during his Cape Town speech that “we are interested in investing not in strongmen but in strong institutions.” However, the US government’s continued support of strongmen in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC, stands in stark contrast to President Obama’s declaration in Cape Town.

A second key change required in US policy is for the U.S. to in fact support strong institutions and democracy both in the Congo and the region.  The lack of democracy and democratic institutions and the militarization of the political space in the region have been a major driver of the instability in the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda. These structural changes in U.S. Foreign Policy are vital steps needed to advancing peace and stability in the Congo and the Great Lakes region of Africa.

Despite the millions of Congolese who have perished in the past 16 years in what the United Nations says is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War II, the response from the United States in particular and other global leaders has been lackluster at best in the face of what is arguably the greatest human tragedy at the dawn of the 21st century. The recently initiated Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Region,” is one such example; as it fails to hold Rwanda and Uganda accountable, lacks a serious justice component, did not include the Congolese people in its development and mistakenly argues that legitimizing Rwanda and Uganda’s looting of the Congo under the guise of trade and economic integration will bring stability.

The degree to which action has been taken, to hold aggressor countries like Rwanda and Uganda accountable has been a result of global pressure on world leaders by ordinary people.  We have repeatedly seen the constructive role that global pressure can play in advancing peace in the Congo. Recently, the UN Group of Experts on the DRC leaked a report documenting reduced support for Rwandan and Ugandan militias in the Congo. This is a clear sign that the pressure on the U.S. and its allies Rwanda and Uganda needs to be sustained and stepped-up.

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MAN JAILED FOR REFUSING TO TURN OFF NEON ANTI-ROMNEY SIGN

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Man jailed for refusing to turn off neon anti-Romney sign

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Steven Showers’ code-violating sign (RomneysRacistHeart.com)
Dylan Stableford 20 hours ago
Yahoo! News SocietyPoliticsMitt Romney

A 59-year-old California man who refused to unplug a flashing neon lawn sign protesting Mormonism and attacking Mitt Romney’s “racist heart” was arrested and sent to jail on Monday.

Steven Showers, who erected the 14-foot sign last August in front of his Newbury Park, Calif., home was recently convicted of eight misdemeanor zoning code violations for the display. He had until 5 p.m. on June 26 to comply with a judge’s order to unplug the sign. But Showers, who describes himself as a Republican and a Christian, refused.

At a hearing at Ventura County Superior Court on Monday, Showers refused to sign an agreement to turn off the lights that would have kept him out of jail. Bail was set at $5,000, according to Ventura County Superior Court records, and Showers was remanded into custody of the Ventura County Jail. His next court date is scheduled for July 15.

Showers told the Ventura County Star last year that while researching the then-presumptive Republican presidential nominee, he was “stunned to find out that the Mormon religion is a white supremacist, anti-black, racist ideology.”

The custom sign promotes Showers’ website, RomneysRacistHeart.com, which documents his ongoing battle with county officials. A postelection update reads:

I stood up and I gave it my best effort, with the neon sign installation that I built in my front yard, to make sure that the Monster of Mormon Racism did not make it into the White House. The election was close, but this important goal was achieved. Mitt Romney was defeated, and a great victory was won against this bold attempt to resurrect racism in America. It is my hope and belief that my efforts with my neon sign and Romneys Racist Heart Dot Com contributed in some small way to that victorious outcome.

However, after the election, I find that I am being carried into court on a wave of partisan anger and retaliation, to face criminal charges for my efforts in this regard. That’s right, criminal charges that hold the threat of jail time over my head.
Showers says he was first ordered to appear in court on Nov. 16, 2012, to address the alleged building code violations. He showed up in a monk’s robe:

I mounted a shield onto my shepherd’s staff, and pasted onto that shield the text of Article 1, Section 2, of the California Constitution’s Declaration of Rights. This is to signify my unwavering conviction that this constitutional safeguard is supposed to shield my free speech and publishing rights from any effort of the California State Government to suppress those rights. One Deputy Sheriff stopped me to make sure the shield was plastic. Once he was sure it was plastic, he let me pass.

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“My hope is that my children will one day be allowed to visit their father”

NOVANEWS

Nidaa’ Al-Aqra’a (12), Ra’ed Al-Aqra’a (10) and Nara Al-Aqra’a (8), children of Nahed Al-Aqra’a

Ghadir Anwar Al-Aqra’a, a 34 year old mother of four children, Nidaa’ (12), Nisma (15), Ra’ed (10) and Nara (8), lives with her children in the Al Sheikh Redwan neighbourhood of Gaza City. Her husband, Nahed Al-Aqra’a (42), was arrested on 20 July 2007 by the Israeli military, is incarcerated in Ramle Prison Hospital in central Israel, and since that date has been denied any prison visits by his wife or children.

Since being arrested in 2007 none of Nahed’s family members from Gaza have been allowed to visit him. Ghadir explains the situation, “The only person who has been allowed to visit Nahed since 2007 has been his mother. She is forced to see him through a glass window and can only speak to him via an internal phone. She cannot touch or hug her son.” The last time that Nahed saw his children was in March 2007. Neither Ghadir nor any of her four children have been allowed to see Nahed since his arrest.

The issue has been made all the worse by the fact that Nahed has faced extremely serious medical problems, issues which have been severely exacerbated since his imprisonment in 2007. Ghadir’s husband sustained multiple gunshot injuries to his legs during internal Palestinian clashes relating to the Hamas take-over of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

In order to obtain medical treatment, Nahed travelled through the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt to gain access to Jordan. During this medical trip and as a result of the injuries he sustained, Jordanian doctors were forced to amputate his left leg. On his return trip to Gaza from Jordan, Rafah Crossing was closed. As a result, Nahed was forced to cross by the Israeli controlled, Al Karama Crossing between Jordan and the West Bank. It was here that Israeli forces arrested him. He was interrogated, arrested and subsequently received three life sentences for his role Palestinian military offensives before 2005.

A portrait of Nahed Al-Aqra’a in his family home 

Nahed’s mother has told Ghadir of the terrible pain Nahed endures daily due to the deterioration of his health, “He suffers terribly from the pain of his injuries and serious medical complications due to neglect by the Israeli authorities.” Nahed was arrested mere days after his leg was amputated in Jordan. He has since been denied all appropriate medical care for his injuries as well as being kept in conditions completely inappropriate for adequate recovery.

Ghadir continues, “In prison they just give him painkillers. They do not provide him with proper medical care. The painkillers gave him temporary relief however they did not solve his medical problems. As a result of the conditions he lives in, he has suffered repeated infections in his legs. The pain is now more than he can stand and painkillers have ceased to work.”

In April 2013 Nahed had to undergo a second surgery in the prison hospital to amputate his right leg. Ghadir states that, “If Israeli authorities had paid proper attention to his medical situation he would never have reached this point. In the hospital in Jordan, doctors stated that he all he needed to save his right leg was a nerve transplant. This was not provided to him. When he was jailed in Israel he was just given painkillers.”

Even suffering these extremely serious medical issues and the loss of both his legs, Nahed has never received any sympathy from Israeli officials. Ghadir discusses the issues relating to her husband’s imprisonment, “His mother is the only person allowed to visit him as she is from the West Bank. Families from the West Bank are allowed to visit their sons, families from Gaza are not. Ramle Military Hospital (where Nahed is incarcerated) denies visitation rights to all family members from Gaza. Whether a prisoner is allowed visitors depends solely on the whim of Israeli officials. I have no idea about the conditions that Nahed is currently living in. I have been denied all rights to visit him since his arrest in 2007.”

When I ask her why she does not move to be with her husband’s family in the West Bank and thus have the ability to visit him, Ghadir explains, “I have a Gaza identity card and therefore I am banned from travelling to the West Bank. There is no way for me or my children to move there.”

Ghadir was not allowed to speak to Nahed from July 2007 until January 2013. Six months ago, Nahed was allowed his first 10 minute phonecall to his wife and family in Gaza since he was arrested. This was the first time they had spoken since 2007. Two months ago, Ghadir and her children received a second 10 minute phonecall from Nahed.

Ghadir explains that since his imprisonment she has attempted on multiple occasions to mail Nahed, “I have sent him multiple letters with photos of our children attached. I do not know whether he has ever received any of the letters. Nahed’s mother has informed me that he has received some photos; otherwise he would not know what his children look like. Nahed has never been allowed to write a reply to any of my written correspondence.”

Israeli authorities’ official stance to deny visitation rights to the Gazan families of Palestinian prisoners is for “security reasons”. Ghadir states that “I have never been provided with a reason for not being able to visit my husband however I am not the only one who has been denied the right to visit my loved one. Many families are denied their rights.”

Ghadir explains to us that in some cases prisoners have been transferred to a different, less strict prison for one day so that family members from Gaza can meet them. Nahed’s lawyer had called her a few days ago to inform her that this may be a possibility for Hahed, “They might transfer Nahed to Aishal prison for a day so as to accommodate a visit between me and my husband. There might be the opportunity to visit him. This is my greatest hope.”

However, even if Ghadir is eventually allowed to visit her husband she would be restricted by severe visitation rules. Only a wife and children may visit their husband/ father. Also, children over 8 years of age are denied the right to see their parent under any circumstances. “Of my four children, only one daughter currently aged 8 years old has the right to visit Nahed. Once Nara turns 9 none of my children will be allowed to see him.”

When I ask Ghadir what her difficulties she faces as a result of not being able to communicate with her husband, tears well in her eyes and she reveals that she as an adult, can bear the difficulties in being denied communication with her husband, “My children however are not able to cope. The children need to see their father. They cannot remember what he looks like. My youngest daughter was only one year old the last time she saw her dad. She has no recollection of him and only associates him with his photos we have hung around our house. My children don’t know what it’s like to have a father. The hardest thing however is having a father who’s alive but who they are unable to speak, touch or see. My youngest daughter often cries at nighttime due to suffering the sadness of being unable to see her father.” Nidaa’, Ghadir’s daughter, explains what it is like without being able to speak to her father, “It is terrible that I cannot visit my father. I see his picture everyday and know that he is still alive however I cannot speak to or see him.”

Assessing her hopes for the future, Ghadir states that “My hope is that at my children will one day be allowed to visit their father. This is my only request. While I sincerely hope that one day he leaves jail, the chance to visit him is the only thing I seek. My only hope is in God. I do what I can and leave all other things to Him.”

Israel’s restriction of visitation rights to Nahed’s family is in direct violation of Article 37 of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, “[p]risoners shall be allowed under necessary supervision to communicate with their family and reputable friends at regular intervals, both by correspondence and by receiving visits.”  This is supported by Principle 19 of the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, which states that “[a] detained or imprisoned person shall have the right to be visited by and to correspond with, in particular, members of his family and shall be given adequate opportunity to communicate with the outside world.” Moreover, under Article 9 (3) of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, States Parties shall respect the rights of the child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.

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