Archive | October 19th, 2013

Child Smuggled Into Britain To Have Her ‘Organs Harvested’


Huffington Post

girl smuggled organs

The girl was taken to the UK from Somalia with the intention of removing her organs and selling them to those in need of a transplant, reports The Telegraph.

Child protection charities believe the case in unlikely to be isolated, and suspect that smugglers used a group of children.

The case emerged as a government report revealed that human trafficking increased 50% in the UK last year.

The report reveals that a total of 371 children were smuggled into the UK from Asia, African and eastern Europe, with most being sexually abused or used as slaves.

The figures also show that 20 British girl were exploited.

Charities believe that criminal gangs are seeking to take advantage of a demand for organs in the UK.

Bharti Patel, the chief executive of Ecpat UK, the child protection charity, said: “Traffickers are exploiting the demand for organs and the vulnerability of children. It’s unlikely that a trafficker is going to take this risk and bring just one child into the UK. It is likely there was a group.”

The World Health Organisation estimates that as many as 7,000 kidneys are illegally obtained by traffickers each year around the world.

A black market exists for hearts, lungs and livers but kidneys are the most sought-after.

The process involves a number of people including the person who identifes the victim, the transporter, the medical professionals and the salesman who finds a buyer.

The government report also revealed that the number of British people being trafficked has increased, with the number of women rising by 12% to 786 and the number of men by 30% to 400.

Details of the scale of people smuggling were released as the government announced plans to give slave drivers a maximum sentence.

Under new proposals, offenders who already have a conviction for a serious sexual or violent offence will receive an automatic life sentence.

James Brokenshire, crime and security minister, said: “Modern slavery is an appalling evil in our midst.”

“All this is a good start, but we need everyone to play a part – government, law enforcement, business, charities – if we are to consign slavery to the history books where it belongs.”

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Clare Short on Anti-Semitism

Posted by Stephen Sizer

Dear Bishop Christopher,

I have read with great sadness the complaint which came to you through the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Stephen’s response.  I am afraid there is a pattern across many sectors of society of mobilising such complaints against people who criticise Israeli policy.  I believe this to be a very misguided policy, the history of anti semitism, particularly in Europe, has caused enormous evil, persecution and suffering, but to accuse anyone who is critical of Israeli policy, anti Semitic belittles the profound significance of anti semitism.  It is also being misused so widely that the accusation no longer has the power, a well informed accusation of anti semitism should have.

I have met Stephen at a variety of meetings and conferences and have read his most important work on Christian Zionism.  I hope that you have read it.  This movement is very powerful in the US and is I think gaining ground in the UK.  It is a complete distortion of the teachings of Christianity and is used to justify persecution, oppression and grave breaches of international law inflicted on the Palestinian people, including the Palestinian Christians who have been practising their religion in the Holy Land since Jesus moved amongst the places in which they live.  Stephen’s work in seeking peace and justice for all the people of the Holy Land follows Jesus’s teachings on the blessedness of peacemakers.

Stephen is not in the least way anti Semitic.  This is a disgraceful and completely false allegation and those who have made it should be held to account for their wickedness.  I hope you don’t mind me saying that you have made a serious mistake in letting this complaint run on for so long and thus letting the impression be given that there is any substance whatever to this complaint.  It has also wasted a lot of time and effort that should have been devoted to more important work.  I would like to suggest that you consider looking at whether a case has been made and then dismissing this nonsense.

Part of the evil that is being  done through this complaint, and similar complaints against others, is to frighten people from speaking out against the terrible injustices being inflicted on the Palestinian people. These complaints help to generate fear that similar hurtful and damaging allegations will be made against anyone who seeks to expose the grave breaches of international law being justified by Christian Zionists and those Israelis who favour Israel expanding its control over the whole of historical Palestine and therefore oppressing the whole Palestinian people causing terrible injustice and suffering.  In addition, these policies have helped to destabilise the wider Middle East and I am afraid in the long term will endanger Israel itself, as many wise Israelis have argued.

I hope you will be able to use the best of your wisdom  and live up to the best of Christian values in handling this complaint from now on.  I would be happy to arrange to meet with you to discuss the whole situation if you would find this helpful.

Best Wishes
Clare Short

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Posted by J




Exclusive: In the past when the CIA targeted a troublesome government, a key part of the strategy was to make the economy “scream” to get the people ready for regime change. This tactic now appears to have come home to roost in the Right’s efforts to destabilize President Obama’s government, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Americans who have studied CIA destabilization campaigns around the world may see some striking parallels to the strategy of Tea Party Republicans who have provoked a government shutdown and now are threatening a credit default. The idea is to make the country appear ungovernable and to make the economy “scream.”

This approach is similar to what CIA operatives do to get rid of disfavored political leaders in other countries, such as when President Richard Nixon ordered the spy agency to sabotage Chile’s economy and upset its political stability in the early 1970s.

President Barack Obama runs to the stage at the M. Luis Construction Company in Rockville, Maryland, before delivering remarks about the government shutdown, Oct. 3, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


The CIA’s thinking is that most people just want a chance to make a living. So, if an economic crisis can be ginned up – while propaganda outlets put the blame on the government leaders who are ostensibly in charge – then the people will ultimately turn against those leaders in an effort to restore normality.

In effect, the CIA takes the political process hostage by inflicting economic pain on the average citizen, sponsoring “populist” disorders, spreading confusion through propaganda outlets and then waiting for a weary population to give in. This technique has worked in many countries over the years – and surely the idea long predated the formation of the CIA in the late 1940s.

The Chilean Episode

But some of the best-studied examples of CIA operations have similar patterns to what the American Right is doing now to destabilize the U.S. economy and discredit President Barack Obama. For instance, in the early 1970s, Salvador Allende, a socialist politician, won the presidency of Chile through free and fair elections and began taking steps aimed at improving the conditions of the country’s poor.

To stop this perceived spread of “socialism,” President Nixon directed the CIA to engage in psychological warfare against Allende’s government and to make the Chilean economy “scream.” U.S. intelligence agencies secretly sponsored Chilean news outlets, like the influential newspaper El Mercurio, and supported “populist” uprisings of truckers and housewives. On the economic front, the CIA coordinated efforts to starve the Chilean government of funds and to drive unemployment higher.

Worsening joblessness was then spun by the CIA-financed news outlets as proof that Allende’s policies didn’t work and that the only choice for Chile was to scrap its social programs. When Allende compromised with the Right, that had the additional benefit of causing friction between him and some of his most ardent supporters who wanted even more radical change.

As Chile became increasingly ungovernable, the stage was set for the violent overthrow of Allende, the installation of a rightist dictatorship, and the imposition of “free-market” economics that directed more wealth and power to Chile’s rich and their American corporate backers.

There was other fallout from Allende’s ouster and death. Chile’s fascist Gen. Augusto Pinochet executed thousands of dissidents and sent assassins far and wide, including Washington, D.C., where former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier and an American co-worker, Ronni Moffitt, were murdered in a car bombing along Massachusetts Avenue in 1976. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

Though the Allende coup in Chile is perhaps the best known example of this intelligence strategy (because it was investigated by a Senate committee in the mid-1970s), the CIA has employed this approach frequently around the world. Sometimes the target government is removed without violence, although other times a bloody coup d’etathas been part of the mix.

In the case of Nicaragua in the 1980s, the leftist Sandinista government was presiding over a reasonably healthy economy when President Ronald Reagan ordered the CIA to achieve “regime change.” The Reagan administration went to work strangling the Nicaraguan economy, while the CIA trained a terrorist army known as the Contras.

Though the Sandinistas prevailed in an election in 1984, Reagan kept up the pressure, eventually breaking the back of the Nicaraguan economy, leaving children searching through garbage dumps for food while U.S.-financed media outlets blamed the Sandinistas and called for reconciliation on terms demanded by the U.S. government.

In 1990, amid threats of renewed Contra terrorism and a worsening economic catastrophe, the coerced Nicaraguan people elected the U.S.-backed presidential candidate Violeta Chamorro. After Chamorro took office, much of the CIA-created pain subsided, but the conditions for many Nicaraguan peasants continued to deteriorate.

Home to Roost

So, it is perhaps fitting that a comparable approach to politics would eventually come home to roost in the United States, even to the point that some of the propaganda funding comes from outside sources (think of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Washington Times and Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.)

Obviously, given the wealth of the American elites, the relative proportion of the propaganda funding is derived more domestically in the United States than it would be in a place like Chile or Nicaragua or some other unfortunate Third World country that has gotten on Washington’s bad side.

But the concept remains the same: Control as much as possible what the population gets to see and hear; create chaos for your opponent’s government, economically and politically; blame it for the mess; and establish in the minds of the voters that their only way out is to submit, that the pain will stop once your side is back in power.

Today’s Republicans have fully embraced this concept of political warfare, whereas the Democrats generally have tried to play by the old rules, acquiescing when Republicans are elected to office with the goal of “making government work,” even if the Republicans are the ones setting the agenda.

Unlike the Democrats and the Left, the Republicans and the Right have prepared themselves for this battle, almost as if they are following a CIA training manual. They have invested tens of billions of dollars in a propaganda infrastructure that operates 24/7, year-round, to spot and exploit missteps by political enemies.

This vertically integrated media machine allows useful information to move quickly from a right-wing blog to talk radio to Fox News to the Wall Street Journal to conservative magazines and book publishing. Right-wing propagandists are well-trained and well-funded so they can be deployed to mainstream news outlets to hammer home the talking points, regardless of the truth.

Thus, you have embarrassments like CNN’s “Crossfire,” where it doesn’t matter that the Democrats are actually telling the truth when they cite evidence that the Tea Party, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, provoked the government shutdown after refusing to allow House-Senate budget negotiations for six months and even after the Senate agreed to accept the House budget figures.

You still have the Republican voices repeating their talking points, laying the blame for the fiscal crisis on President Obama and the Democrats for refusing to negotiate. The dialogue of pathetic shows like “Crossfire” can be summarized as “talking point, talking point, counter-talking point, cross-talk talking point, another talking point.”

But the GOP’s politics of disruption have not only been the rule during Obama’s presidency. Though the ugliness of the Clinton years has largely faded from memory, the blueprint for the current chaos was drafted then. Barack Obama, like Bill Clinton, was treated as an illegitimate interloper on the rightful Republican ownership of the White House.

The Clinton Case

After getting elected in 1992, Clinton complained that his “honeymoon” period – when presidents are generally afforded the benefit of the doubt and their policies get respectful attention in Congress – didn’t even last through the transition, the two-plus months before a new president takes office.

Clinton found himself facing especially harsh hazing from the Washington press corps, as the mainstream media – seeking to shed its “liberal” label and goaded by the right-wing media as “soft on Clinton” – tried to demonstrate that it would be tougher on a Democrat than any Republican.

The mainstream press hyped minor “scandals” about Clinton’s Whitewater real estate investment and Travel-gate, a flap about some routine firings at the White House travel office. Meanwhile, the Right’s news media spread false stories implicating Clinton in the death of White House aide Vince Foster and other “mysterious deaths.”

Republicans in Congress did all they could to feed this press hysteria, holding hearings and demanding that special prosecutors be appointed. When the Clinton administration relented, the choice of prosecutors was handed over to right-wing Republican Appeals Court Judge David Sentelle, who consciously picked political enemies of Clinton to oversee zealous investigations.

The use of scandal-mongering to destabilize the Clinton administration peaked in late 1998 and early 1999 when the Republican-controlled House voted impeachment because of Clinton’s extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky and Clinton had to endure (but survive) a humiliating trial in the Senate.

The Republican strategy, however, continued into Campaign 2000 with Vice President Al Gore facing attacks on his character and integrity. Gore was falsely painted as a delusional braggart, as both right-wing and mainstream media outlets freely misquoted him and subjected him to ridicule (while simultaneously bowing and scraping before Republican candidate George W. Bush).

When Gore managed to win the national popular vote anyway – and would have carried the key state of Florida if all legally cast ballots were counted – the Republicans and the Right rose up in fury demanding that the Florida count be stopped before Bush’s tiny lead completely disappeared. Starting a riot at the vote-counting center in Miami, the Republicans showed how far they would go to claim the White House again.

Then, five Republican partisans on the U.S. Supreme Court – wanting to ensure that the new president would keep their side in control of the courts and recognizing that their party was prepared to spread disorder if Gore prevailed – stopped the counting of votes and made Bush the “winner.” [For details, see the book, Neck Deep.]

Democratic Timidity

Despite the partisan Supreme Court ruling putting Bush in the White House, Gore and the Democrats stepped back from a political confrontation. The right-wing press cheered and gloated, while the mainstream news media urged the people to accept Bush as “legitimate” for the good of the country.

For most of Bush’s disastrous presidency, this dynamic remained the same. Though barely able to complete a coherent sentence, Bush was treated with great deference, even when he failed to protect the country from the 9/11 attacks and led the nation into an unprovoked war with Iraq. There were no combative investigations of Bush like those that surrounded Clinton.

Even at the end of Bush’s presidency – when his policies of bank deregulation, tax cuts for the rich and massive budget deficits combined to create the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression – the prevailing message from the Establishment was that it was unfair to lay too much blame on Bush. Shortly after Barack Obama took office in 2009, a Republican/right-wing talking point was to complain when anyone took note of the mess that Bush had left behind: “There you go again, blaming Bush.”

The Republicans and the Right also set to work demonizing and undermining Obama’s presidency. For weeks, instead of letting the Democrats enact legislation to address the financial and economic crisis, Senate Republicans launched filibuster after filibuster.

When Obama and the Democrats did push through emergency legislation, such as the $787 billion stimulus package, they had to water it down to reach the 60-vote super-majority. The Republicans and the Right then quickly laid the blame for high unemployment on the “failed” stimulus.

There also were waves of propaganda pounding Obama’s legitimacy. The Right’s news media pressed bogus accusations that Obama had been born in Kenya and thus was not constitutionally eligible to be president. He was denounced as a socialist, a Muslim, a fascist, an enemy of Israel, and pretty much any other charge that might hit some American hot button.

When Obama welcomed American students back to school in 2009, the Right organized against his simple message – urging young people to work hard – as if it were some form of totalitarian mind control. His attempt to address the growing crisis in American health care was denounced as taking away freedoms and imposing “death panels.”

Soon, billionaires such as oil men David and Charles Koch and media mogul Murdoch, were promoting a “grassroots” rebellion against Obama called the Tea Party. Activists were showing up at presidential speeches with guns and brandishing weapons at rallies near Washington.

The high-decibel disruptions and the “screaming” economy created the impression of political chaos. Meanwhile, the mainstream press faulted Obama for failing to live up to his campaign promise to bring greater bipartisanship to Washington.

The Tea Party Victory

By November 2010, the stage was set for a big Republican comeback. The party swept to victory in the House and fell just short in the Senate. But Congress was not the Republicans’ ultimate goal. What they really wanted was the White House with all its executive powers. However, following Obama’s success in killing Osama bin Laden on May 1, 2011, the Right’s best hope for regaining complete control of the U.S. government in 2012 was to sink the U.S. economy, which had just recently begun to right itself.

Despite worries about the fragile recovery – and a warning from Moody’s about a downgrade on U.S. debt if Congress delayed action on raising the debt limit – the Republicans pushed the debt-limit vote to the brink before extracting major reductions in government spending (the so-called “sequester”).

By paying the ransom and avoiding default in 2011, Obama kept the weak economic “recovery” moving forward, achieving sufficient job growth to win reelection in 2012. But the Tea Party Republicans were no more chastened by their political reversals than the Republican “revolutionaries” were in 1998. They simply ramped up the pain.

It was the Clinton impeachment then; it is the double-barreled fiscal crisis of shutting down the government and threatening to default on the debt now. In both cases, there was some method to the madness.

By inflicting maximum political damage on Clinton, the Republicans weakened Al Gore’s candidacy in 2000; by confronting Obama with a new economic crisis now, the Tea Partiers feel they can expect a win-win, either Obama succumbs to their demands or he oversees a new recession, possibly even a depression.

The economy will be screaming so much – with the Right’s media blaming the collapse on Obama’s “failed” policies – that many Americans may be desperate for a change, perhaps even the radical “free-market” prescriptions and “small government” nostrums of the Libertarians and the Tea Party.

Those tattered old ideas won’t help most Americans, who have seen the middle class shrink over the past several decades amid right-wing economics and deregulatory extremism. More of Ayn Rand’s winner-take-all capitalism will only concentrate more wealth at the top one percent while further hollowing out the 99 percent.

However, if Republicans are allowed to get their way and the Democrats, as usual, give way, the deliberate infliction of pain on the national political structure will likely end. Thus, the public screaming will be more muted, heard only in the desperation of individual Americans scrambling to make ends meet.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America’s Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.


DOJ Brings Fresh Manslaughter Charges Against Blackwater Mercenaries for Iraqi Massacre

Four  private  military  contractors  reindicted for their role  in 2007  Nisour Square massacre that left fourteen Iraq civilians dead
– Jon Queally

The Justice Department on Thursday announced new manslaughter charges against four Blackwater mercenaries involved in the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Iraq that left dozens of innocent civilians dead or severely wounded.

Ali Kinani, only nine years old at the time, was among the victims in the 2007 killings in Nisoor Square.The deadly incident in many ways began the unraveling of Blackwater, founded by a wealthy, ex-Navy Seal named Eric Prince. Subsequent to Nisour Square, Blackwater changed its name twice—first to Xe and then to its current name, Academi—and Prince ultimately severed ties with his company following a stream of bad press.

Justice for the victims of the killings, however, remained illusive as earlier charges against the for-profit militants were dropped and coverage of the story dimmed as the U.S. media turned its attention away from the damage wrought by the bloody and extended damage caused by the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

As The Washington Post reports:

A federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia returned a fresh indictment charging the four guards with voluntary manslaughter and other crimes in the shooting in Nisour Square.

The guards were providing security under a State Department contract for diplomats in Iraq at the time of the shooting. On Sept. 16, 2007, they were part of a four-vehicle convoy that was securing an evacuation route for U.S. officials fleeing a bombing. The guards told U.S. investigators that they opened fire on the crowd in self-defense.

In a long investigation after the attack, the FBI and federal prosecutors concluded that the shooting was an “unprovoked illegal attack” on civilians.

“Today’s indictment charges four Blackwater guards with killing or wounding 32 defenseless Iraqi citizens, including women and children, in a Baghdad traffic circle in September 2007,” U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. said in a statement. “These defendants abused their power through a relentless attack on unarmed civilians that recklessly exceeded any possible justification.”

And Al-Jazeera adds:

The original US charges filed against the men in 2008 were thrown out in December 2009, about a month before a scheduled trial.

The dismissal outraged many Iraqis, who said it showed Americans considered themselves above the law. Vice President Joe Biden, speaking in Baghdad in 2010, expressed his “personal regret” for the shootings and declared that the US would appeal the court decision.

The case ran into trouble because the State Department promised the guards that their statements explaining what happened would not be used in a criminal case.

The guards told investigators that they fired their weapons, a crucial admission because forensic evidence could not determine who fired.

Because of a limited immunity deal, prosecutors had to build their case without those statements, a high legal hurdle.

The case was reinstated in 2011 and prosecutors began a lengthy review of what charges they could prove in court.

The new indictment returned by a grand jury in Washington charges 33 counts, including voluntary manslaughter, attempt to commit manslaughter and using a firearm in a crime of violence.

The men, Paul Slough, Nicholas Slatten, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard had pleaded not guilty to the nearly identical charges brought five years ago.

Writing in The Nation in 2010, journalist Jeremy Scahill recounted the story of the massacre’s youngest victim, Ali Kinani, who was just nine years old when he was gunned down by the Blackwater soldiers. Scahill concludes his story about Kinani and the events of that day by quoting Ali’s father, Mohammed, who said: “I wish the US Congress would ask [Erik Prince] why they killed my innocent son, who called himself Allawi. Do you think that this child was a threat to your company? This giant company that has the biggest weapons, the heaviest weapons, the planes, and this boy was a threat to them?”

“I want Americans to know that this was a child that died for nothing.”

And Democracy Now! now hosted this exclusive report by Scahill and filmmaker and journalist Rick Rowly about Kinani and Nisour Square:

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US Activist to Undergo “Forced-Feeding” Outside Federal Court in Solidarity with Guantánamo Prisoners


Nasal Tube Feeding to Follow Hearing on Human

Rights Violations at Guantanamo


Anti-torture activists will hold a nasal-tube feeding of a long term-faster to dramatize the abusive force-feeding of hunger strikers at Guantánamo and to protest indefinite detention at the prison. The feeding will take place at 11 am, following consideration at 9:30 am by a federal appeals court of a lawsuit arguing that force-feeding at Guantánamo is a violation of human rights and religious liberties.

Andrés Thomas Conteris — on day 103 of a water-only fast — will undergo the nasal tube feeding. “Forced-feeding is torture,” says Conteris, who has lost 57 pounds. “I wish to make visible what the U.S. government is perpetrating against prisoners in Guantánamo and to remind the world that indefinite detention continues.”

Conteris, age 52, has held nasogastric feedings at the White House, in Oakland, California, and at US embassies in Uruguay and Argentina. “The nasal tube feeding feels like endless agony,” says Conteris. “It feels like I’m drowning.”

Beginning last February, more than 100 men at Guantánamo engaged in a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention. To try to break the protest, the US military subjected dozens of the hunger strikers to nasogastric force-feeding. “The case before the appeals court goes to the heart of the evil of Guantánamo,” says Witness Against Torture organizer Jeremy Varon, “as it argues that the purpose of force-feeding is to sustain an illegal and immoral policy of indefinite detention.”

Sixteen men remain on hunger strike at Guantánamo, all force-fed. Senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain, the American Medical Association, and the United Nations have all denounced force-feeding.

Prompted by the hunger strike at Guantánamo, President Obama on May 23, 2013 renewed his pledge to close the prison. Since that time, only two prisoners have been freed.

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UN: Covert Drone Programme “Undermines the Rule of Law and May Threaten International Security”



WASHINGTON – October 17 – A new report by a United Nations expert has warned that the US’ secretive drone programme threatens international security due to a “lack of appropriate transparency and accountability.”

The report on ‘Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions,’ by Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns, also warns that so-called ‘signature strikes,’ based upon insufficient information are “clearly unlawful,” and condemns the practice of follow-up attacks on rescuers as a “war crime.”

Mr Heyns demands greater openness from the US Government, stating that there should be “at least a preliminary investigation” into any drone strike where there is reason to believe violations of international law may have taken place, and says that “Civilian casualties must be determined and should be disclosed.”

In a clear criticism of the shadowy drone programme carried out by the CIA and Special Forces, which has never been officially acknowledged by the US Government, he warns that “A lack of appropriate transparency and accountability concerning the deployment of drones undermines the rule of law and may threaten international security.”

Mr Heyns also emphasises the heavy toll that drones take on those civilians living in the areas where the strikes are carried out – and cautions against taking at face value the claims that those they kill are necessarily ‘terrorists,’ stating that:

“Drones come from the sky, but leave the heavy footprint of war on the communities that they target. The claims that drones are more precise in targeting cannot be accepted uncritically, not least because terms such as ‘terrorist’ or ‘militant’ are sometimes used to describe people who are in truth protected civilians.”

The report has been submitted to the UN General Assembly, ahead of a debate on the issue on October 25.

Commenting, Kat Craig, Legal Director at human rights charity Reprieve, which represents a number of civilian victims of drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, said: “This report rightly states that the US’ secretive drone war is a danger not only to innocent civilians on the ground but also to international security as a whole. The CIA’s campaign must be brought out of the shadows: we need to see real accountability for the hundreds of civilians who have been killed – and justice for their relatives. Among Reprieve’s clients are young Pakistani children who saw their grandmother killed in front of them – the CIA must not be allowed to continue to smear these people as ‘terrorists.’”

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It’s Time to Put an End to I$raHell’s ‘Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell’ Nuclear Policy


by Medea Benjamin and Pam Bailey

The negotiations this week in Geneva between Iran and the “P5+1” (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany) offer a promising vehicle for avoiding another destructive war. The talks came on the heels of a virtual uprising by the American people that stopped President Barack Obama’s plan to attack Syria, clearly demonstrating their desire to solve conflicts at the negotiation table rather than at the point of a gun.


However, Israel and its allies in the U.S. Congress continue to lobby against a deal that would meet Iran in the middle, insisting on a “zero-enrichment” policy that is a deal-breaker for Iran.

The Israeli cabinet said in astatement Tuesday that “Israel does not oppose Iran having a peaceful nuclear energy program. But as has been demonstrated in many countries, from Canada to Indonesia, peaceful programs do not require uranium enrichment or plutonium production. Iran’s nuclear weapons program does.”

The ‘elephant in the room’: Israel and the bomb

The Israeli cabinet’s statement is more than ironic, in light of Israel’s own nuclear-weapons program — often called the world’s “worst-kept secret” because of the taboo surrounding any public discussion of its existence.

The Washington Post’s Walter Pincus is one of the few journalists openly questioning this obvious hypocrisy. He writes, “When the Israeli prime minister asked (at the UN), ‘Why would a country that claims to only want peaceful nuclear energy, why would such a country build hidden underground enrichment facilities?’ I thought Dimona.”

Israel’s nuclear facility at Dimona, a city in the Negev desert, reportedly has six underground floors dedicated to activities such as plutonium extraction, production of tritium and lithium-6, for use in nuclear weapons.

Whereas Iran signed the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), giving the international community the right to demand inspections and controls, Israel has not — and is therefore not subject to external oversight.

According to Avner Cohen, author of “Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb,” David Ben-Gurion began planning how to arm Israel with a nuclear shield even before the creation of the Jewish state, soon after the United States dropped its own atomic payload on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The first president of Israel took action to initiate a nuclear-development project by the end of the new state’s first decade, with its successful “birth” on the eve of its 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The U.S. government got wind of the project and objected strenuously. But when the Israelis brought it to fruition regardless and refused to give up their new arsenal, a covert agreement was struck between Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Richard Nixon – rather like the old U.S. policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” for gays in the military. The Israelis agreed to keep their newfound strength under wraps, and the Americans pledged to pretend it didn’t exist.

Cohen uses the Hebrew term amimut (opacity) to describe the taboo that developed within Israel around any sort of public acknowledgement of its nuclear arsenal – which estimates peg at up to 200 warheads. To this day, there is total censorship within Israel of any mention that the weapons exist, and the United States actively plays along.

Edward Snowden’s predecessor

In fact, there is an eerie similarity between the stories of Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu, a nuclear technician who revealed details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the British press in 1986, and Edward Snowden. Both held junior positions in organizations serving the defense industry, in which they had access to sensitive national secrets. Both became convinced their employers were responsible for immoral acts and decided to violate their oaths of secrecy to tell the world about them. They both shared what they learned with a British newspaper and set off an international storm. And both have been persecuted since then by their governments, in retaliation for their leaks.

While Snowden has so far evaded capture by his government, Vanunu spent 18 years in prison, including more than 11 in solitary confinement. Although released in 2004, he has been subjected to a broad array of restrictions on his speech and movement, including several re-arrests for giving interviews to foreign journalists and attempting to leave Israel. Yet, just as activists, foreign governments and others would never have known the U.S. government is tapping their emails and phone calls without Snowden, the world would have known very little – if anything – about Israel’s weapons of mass destruction without Vanunu.

‘Blowback’ from Israel’s nuclear lead

Although Israel, the United States and its European allies continue to dance around the subject, Israel’s nuclear capacity is widely known and has changed the dynamics in the region in dangerous ways. On Sept. 19, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that “Syria came into possession of chemical weapons as an alternative to Israel’s nuclear weapons.”  (It’s also worth noting that while Israel was one of the first countries to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1993, it remains one of only six countries that has not ratified it.)

Some analysts believe that Israel’s insistence on zero enrichment for Iran is designed to ensure that no deal is struck at all – allowing Israel to maintain its military superiority in the region. “Netanyahu ultimately fears the success of diplomacy, not its failure,” explains Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, in Foreign Affairs.  “Israel…understands that a resolution to the nuclear standoff would significantly reduce U.S.-Iranian tensions and open up opportunities for collaboration between the two former allies. This is what Israelis refer to as the fear of abandonment — that, once the nuclear issue is resolved or contained, Washington will shift its focus to other matters while Israel will be stuck in the region facing a hostile Iran, without the United States by its side.”

Neither the world, nor Israel, is served legally or morally by continuing to condone a practice of don’t ask-don’t tell for an issue that is so central to global security and safety. As long as Israel refuses to acknowledge its possession of nuclear weapons or even that it has produced weapons-grade materials, it is difficult, if not impossible, to engage it in any meaningful arms control or other nuclear-related diplomacy. It certainly makes it impossible to move towards a nuclear-free Middle East—a goal to which the entire international community should aspire, and that has been endorsed by the new Iranian president.

Isn’t it time for the world to start asking, and for Israel to tell?

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What Did the 1973 Oil Embargo Teach Us?


Forty years ago this month, Syria and Egypt launched a Yom Kippur surprise attack on Israel to regain land and prestige lost in the 1967 Six-Day War. Israeli forces were nearing Damascus and Cairo when a ceasefire took hold. But as the Soviet Union resupplied its Arab clients and President Nixon resupplied Israel, Arab members of the OPEC oil cartel, led by Saudi Arabia, announced a 5% monthly cut in oil output, then embargoed oil exports to the U.S. and later others. OPEC provided 35% of America’s oil at the time.

Click to enlarge. (Graphic:

Prices soared and deliveries faltered. “No gas today” signs spread. People waited in line for gasoline, risking scuffles and occasional gunshots. America had lost her energy innocence.

Relaxed regulations and massive subsidies tried to expand fossil, unconventional fossil, and nuclear energy. (In 1975 oil fueled 15% of U.S. electricity vs. less than 1% today.) Most such efforts proved far too costly, but President Carter’s shift toward renewables and especially energy efficiency was strikingly successful.

On his watch, President Ford’s 1975 auto standards took effect in 1978, raising new domestic cars’ efficiency 7.6 mpg during 1977–85. They drove 1% fewer miles on 20% fewer gallons, and became lighter, cleaner, safer, but scarcely smaller and no less peppy, saving fuel even when 55-mph top speed limits were abandoned 13 years later. New federal and state policies also made buildings and factories more frugal. Appliance efficiency standards passed Congress without a single nay vote.

The results were stunning. During 1977–85, the U.S. economy grew 27%, oil use fell 17%, oil imports fell 50%, and imports from the Persian Gulf fell 87%; they’d have reached zero in 1986 had President Reagan not reversed the policy. Oil burned per dollar of GDP fell by 35% in eight years, or an average of 5.2% per year—enough to displace a Persian Gulf’s worth of net imports every two and a half years.

OPEC’s oil sword was shattered in a dozen years as customers saved oil faster than OPEC could conveniently sell less oil. Its sales plummeted 48%, breaking its pricing power for a decade. Then in 1985–86, as massive new energy supplies belatedly arrived to meet needs efficiency had already filled, energy gluts crashed prices. Policymakers, instead of finishing the job, hit the snooze button for a decade.

By the 1991 Gulf War, we put our kids in 0.56-mpg tanks because we hadn’t put them in 32-mpg cars (enough to displace Persian Gulf oil). Yet oil imports continued to soar, reaching 60% of oil use in 2005 and returning to 1973-level dependence only this year. Thus today, America pays $2 billion a day for oil, plus $4 billion a day for its hidden economic and military costs.

Four times since 1980, U.S. forces have intervened in the Persian Gulf to protect not Israel but oil. The Gulf hasn’t become more stable. Readiness for such interventions costs a half-trillion dollars per year—about ten times what we pay for oil from the Gulf, and rivaling total defense expenditures at the height of the Cold War. And burning oil emits two-fifths of fossil carbon, so abundant oil only speeds dangerous climate change that destabilizes the world and multiplies security threats.

Yet practical, profitable solutions are at hand. Producing a dollar of GDP now uses less than half the energy and one-third the oil it took in 1973. Last year, wind and solar power, now cheaper than gas-fired power in favorable sites, added half of new U.S. generating capacity, and making a dollar of GDP took 3.4% less electricity than a year earlier.

That’s just the start. By 2050, the U.S. could triple its energy efficiency, switch supplies from one-tenth to three-fourths renewable, and run a 158% bigger economy with no oil, coal, or nuclear energy and one-third less natural gas. This could cost $5 trillion less than business-as-usual, emit 82–86% less fossil carbon, need no new inventions nor Acts of Congress, and be led by business for profit. The 2011 book Reinventing Fire by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) details how.

America’s two-ton steel autos use nearly half our nation’s oil. In the past quarter-century, they gained weight twice as fast as we did, yet their weight causes two-thirds of the energy needed to move them. Moreover, each unit of energy saved at the wheels saves six more units that needn’t be lost getting that energy to the wheels, saving seven units of fuel in the tank—huge leverage.

Making cars 2–3 times lighter with today’s ultralight but ultrastrong materials can make them safer, sportier, buildable more simply with four-fifths less capital investment, affordable to electrify (because they need 2–3 times fewer costly batteries or fuel cells), and more profitable for automakers and dealers. The first such carbon-fiber electric cars have entered production at VW (a 235-mpg two-seat plug-in hybrid) and BMW (a ~110-mpg battery-electric 4-seater). Other automakers, including Audi and Toyota, have shown equally impressive concept vehicles. And such electrified autos’ batteries add distributed storage to the grid, helping integrate varying solar and windpower that could get electricity off coal.

Fracked oil and gas, Canadian tar sands, Saudi oil—none can beat modern efficiency and renewables on direct cost, price stability, or impacts.

Such 125-to-240-mpg-equivalent autos, 2–4 times today’s best standards, can run on any mix of electricity, hydrogen, and advanced biofuels needing no cropland; superefficient trucks and planes, on the latter two (or trucks on natural gas). Thus a far more mobile U.S. economy could need no oil. Global competition can spread these technologies, not forced by policy but demanded by customers.

Displacing or saving each barrel for $25 rather than buying it for over $100 would save the U.S. $4 trillion in net present value. That’s $12 trillion including our curable oil addiction’s hidden economic and military costs—plus any damage to climate, environment, health, global development and stability, or our nation’s independence and reputation.

That’s why my RMI colleagues have assembled a supply chain to scale Detroit’s production and adoption of carbon-fiber auto parts and developed technology to make them at automotive cost and speed. It’s why RMI’s Electricity Innovation Lab convenes industry leaders to devise the next electricity industry, and why we’re cutting solar power’s installation cost, simplifying its financing, and helping utilities and customers pay each other fairly for the services they exchange. It’s why our RetroFit program is helping real estate portfolio owners triple or quadruple energy productivity. (U.S. buildings’ energy use costs more than Medicare, but their energy efficiency opportunities offer $1.4-trillion net savings with a juicy 33% internal rate of return.) It’s why we’ve redesigned over $40 billion worth of industrial plants for radical energy efficiency at juicy profits.

This hard work’s growing success is exhilarating. And we’d be doing it even if the 1973 oil embargo hadn’t happened, because the energy system’s other existential threats, from climate change (a known threat even in the late 1960s) to nuclear proliferation, compel the same actions. But the oil embargo did concentrate the mind wonderfully. Many smart people rose to the challenge. Their efforts are making oil uncompetitive even at low prices even before it becomes unavailable even at high prices.

The rotted residue of primeval swamp goo—a cubic mile of oil costing $3.5 trillion that the world burns each year, plus three cubic miles of coal and gas—is becoming no longer economic. Fracked oil and gas, Canadian tar sands, Saudi oil—none can beat modern efficiency and renewables on direct cost, price stability, or impacts. Now-worthless old energy studies long claimed we’re fated to burn oil forever. We’re not, and we won’t. The end of the conflict-creating, climate-threatening Oil Age is coming clearly into view, and not a moment too soon.

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Washington Post Takes Govt’s Lead on ‘Kill List’ Reporting

Government officials request redactions on how NSA assists CIA in drone assassination   program
– Jon Queally

According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the NSA can be added to the list of those agencies behind the controversial assassination program run by the CIA. (Photo: AFP/Getty)The Washington Post is reporting new revelations about how the National Security Agency uses its vast global surveillance capabilities to assist the CIA in its controversial worldwide drone assassination program.

To be more accurate, however, the Post is only releasing information deemed non-threatening to what it describes as “ongoing operations” and “national security,” based on the guidance of the U.S. government itself.

The newspaper admits that it is “withholding many details […] at the request of U.S. intelligence officials” and that the documents discussed in their redacted coverage may, in fact, “bolster the agency’s case that its resources are focused on fighting terrorism and supporting U.S. operations overseas.”

It has long been suspected that the NSA has played a key role in the CIA’s overseas drone operations and President Obama’s so-called “kill list” program, but the documents reviewed by the Post are the first to confirm that role with internal documents.

The NSA files, provided to the Post by whistleblower Edward Snowden, explain how the NSA leveraged its large budget and technical capabilities to help the CIA pinpoint a man, Hassan Ghul, they claimed to be a major figure within al-Qaeda believed to be in the tribal areas of western Pakistan in 2012.

According to the report:

The documents do not explain how the Ghul e-mail was obtained or whether it was intercepted using legal authorities that have emerged as a source of controversy in recent months and enable the NSA to compel technology giants including Microsoft and Google to turn over information about their users. Nor is there a reference to another NSA program facing scrutiny after Snowden’s leaks, its metadata collection of numbers dialed by nearly every person in the United States.

To the contrary, the records indicate that the agency depends heavily on highly targeted network penetrations to gather information that wouldn’t otherwise be trapped in surveillance nets that it has set at key Internet gateways.

The new documents are self-congratulatory in tone, drafted to tout the NSA’s counterterrorism capabilities. One is titled “CT MAC Hassan Gul Success.” The files make no mention of other agencies’ roles in a drone program that escalated dramatically in 2009 and 2010 before tapering off in recent years.

Even so, former CIA officials said the files are an accurate reflection of the NSA’s contribution to finding targets in a campaign that has killed more than 3,000 people, including thousands of alleged militants and hundreds of civilians, in Pakistan, according to independent surveys. The officials said the agency has assigned senior analysts to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, and deployed others to work alongside CIA counterparts at almost every major U.S. embassy or military base overseas.

According to the Bureau of Investigation Journalism’s most recent estimate, between 407 and 926 innocent people have been killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan since 2004, with as many 200 children among the dead.

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US Court to Hear Appeal on ‘Painful, Humiliating, and Degrading’ Force-Feeding at Guantanamo


LONDON – October 16 – A federal court will on Friday hear an appeal from Guantanamo Bay detainees asking that it rule to end force-feeding – during which ‘a detainee is shackled to a specially-made restraint chair and a tube is forced into his nostril, down his esophagus, and through to his stomach’. As the appeal is heard, an activist from Witness against Torture will be force-fed on the steps of the court.

The petitioners in the appeal are Abu Wa’el Dhiab, Shaker Aamer, and Ahmed Belbacha, represented by human rights charity Reprieve and Jon B Eisenberg. All of the men on hunger strike at the prison – currently at least 16 – are being force-fed, a practice denounced by the World Medical Association and the UN, and described in a recent judgement by Judge Gladys Kessler as ‘painful, humiliating, and degrading’.

At 11am on the morning of the appeal, activist Andrés Conteris, 52 and on day 103 of a fast, will himself be force-fed on the steps of the court. Conteris began his fast on July 8th of this year to protest the force-feeding of hunger-striking detainees in Guantanamo Bay and Pelican Bay Prison, California.

In response to the Government’s claim that force-feeding is “humane,” the appeal notes “that the Ninth Circuit recently upheld California’s legislative ban on force-feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras, deeming the ban to be a lawful pursuit of the state’s ‘interest in preventing animal cruelty,’” adding: “The irony of protecting ducks and geese from a practice that is inflicted on human beings at Guantánamo Bay speaks volumes.”

While the Government has attempted to argue that the issue does not lie within the court’s jurisdiction, lawyers for the detainees say it does, as the force-feeding taking place is a “deprivation of substantial rights,” and “a seizure of [the detainee’s] internal organs through the forcible invasion of his gastro-intestinal tract.”

The appeal also argues that the detainees were denied their right to religious free exercise because authorities at the prison deprived them of the ability to conduct communal prayer unless they stopped hunger-striking.

Reprieve’s Strategic Director and lawyer for the detainees, Cori Crider, said: “Detainees at Guantanamo Bay are still being brutally and painfully force-fed twice a day. It is abhorrent that the prison authorities continue to conduct this practice which President Obama, the Commander in Chief, himself said was an affront to our nation’s values.”

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