Archive | December 7th, 2013

Hezbollah denies receiving chemical weapons from Syria

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gestures as he speaks during a live broadcast in this still image taken from video, June 24, 2011. REUTERS/Manar TV via Reuters Tv

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah gestures as he speaks during a live broadcast in this still image taken from video, June 24, 2011.

(Reuters) – Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah denied on Monday that his group had received chemical weapons from Syria.

Last month, members of the Syrian National Coalition opposition group accused President Bashar al-Assad of transferring chemical weapons to the Lebanese Shi’ite group to avoid inspection after agreeing to put them under international control.

“This accusation is truly laughable,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech. “We understand the dimensions and background of these accusations, and these have dangerous consequences for Lebanon.

“We decisively and conclusively deny these accusations which have absolutely no basis in truth.”

Syria has agreed to give up its chemical weapons under a plan agreed by the United States and Russia after Western powers blamed Assad’s government for a chemical attack that killed hundreds of people in a Damascus suburb last month.

Israel’s commander on the frontier with Syria, Major-General Yair Golan, said this month that Hezbollah sought precision ground-to-ground rockets, anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles from Syria in return for helping Assad, but “as far as we can tell” it did not want his chemical weapons.

Nasrallah called for a political solution in Syria and urged Sunni powers TurkeySaudi Arabia and Gulf Arab countries that have backed the rebels to “review their positions”.

“A gamble on a military resolution and on military success is a losing and destructive gamble,” he said.

The intervention of Hezbollah fighters in Syria has raised fears among some Lebanese that the small Mediterranean country could become engulfed by its much larger neighbor’s conflict, which has killed over 100,000 people.

Rocket and bomb attacks have hit Hezbollah strongholds in the Bekaa Valley and in the capital – the worst of which was a car bomb that killed 20 people in southern Beirut last month.

Nasrallah accused a radical Sunni Islamist group “working in the framework of the Syrian opposition” of carrying out the attack. He said the group had Lebanese and Syrian members but did not name it.

Earlier on Monday, Lebanese security forces replaced Hezbollah forces at checkpoints in the southern suburb which the Shi’ite group had set up after the car bomb.

Nasrallah said the group welcomed the deployment of the security forces and urged residents to cooperate with them.

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Hezbollah assassination marks biggest blow to group since Mughniyeh killing


Hassan Laqis, who was killed in a clean and especially professional assassination, was a veteran Hezbollah military leader and described by Western intelligence as a ‘brilliant mind.

Hezbollah commander Hassan al-Laqis who was assassinated on Tuesday night.

Hezbollah commander Hassan al-Laqis who was assassinated on Tuesday night. Photo by AFP

The death of Hassan al-Laqis, a senior Hezbollah commander who was killed on Tuesday in what looks like a clean and especially professional assassination in Dahieh, the Shi’ite quarter of Beirut, is the biggest operational blow to the Lebanese organization since the death of Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh, who was described as the Hezbollah chief-of-staff, was assassinated in Damascus in February 2008. At the time Hezbollah blamed Israel, which refrained from responding. On Wednesday morning the organization blamed Israel for the assassination of Laqis as well.

Laqis, one of Hezbollah’s veteran military leaders, has been familiar to Western intelligence services since the 1980s. Intelligence officials have described him in the past as a “brilliant mind” who played a combined role in the Shi’ite organization, which could be compared to the head of Israel Defense Forces’ research and development as well as technology and logistics branch.

Laqis was knowledgeable of and involved in all the organization’s operational secrets – from the acquisition and development of advanced weapons to the establishment of classified communication systems to Hezbollah’s operative plans. His death strips Hezbollah of a “intelligence source” – a person whose experience and widespread connections to Syrian and Iranian intelligence organizations served Hezbollah well for almost three decades.

Aside from a general and almost automatic denial by the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Israel has not reacted to the claims from Lebanon. That is part of a regular policy, whose main purpose is to maintain a “sphere of denial” which Israel has been using in recent years regarding all the activities attributed to it in Syria and Lebanon. The absence of an official announcement or denial creates a certain ambiguity for the other side. At the same time, it also enables it to refrain from an immediate response.

The same was true when Israel was accused of the assassination of Mugniyeh, the bombing of the nuclear facility in Syria in 2007 and a series of at least six aerial attacks on weapons arsenals and convoys in Syria earlier in the year. In several cases, based on deliberate leaks by the U.S. administration among other things, the foreign media nevertheless attributed these moves to Israel.

In several other cases Israel was not suspected, despite specific accusations by Hezbollah and Iran. That was the case with the series of serious explosions in recent months in Beirut, including an attack on the Iranian embassy there and a booby-trapped car that blew up in Dahieh. The foreign media seem to be well aware that Israel would try to avoid indiscriminate acts of slaughter of civilians, as opposed to a targeted military operation.

If this really was an Israeli manoeuver, there may be an attempt here to exploit the present chaos in Lebanon – which is a consequence of the murderous civil war in Syria – to strike at Hezbollah. Laqis was the address on the other side of the efforts to smuggle advanced weapons systems from Syria to Hezbollah, which in the past Israel has vowed to prevent.

Several hours following the report of Laqis’ death, an extremist Sunni organization released a statement in which it assumed responsibility for the assassination. Since anyone with a basic knowledge of Arabic and familiarity with the relevant Internet forums can present himself today as an extremist Sunni organization, it is hard to judge the reliability of the report. As far as Hezbollah is concerned, there is no question that if the organization believes that Israel is responsible, it will retaliate. We can assume that the basic interest of the organization – to avoid an overall conflict with the IDF – remains unchanged. The question is what options are now open to it – from attempts to strike at Israeli and Jewish targets abroad (which take time to prepare) to firing Katyusha rockets at Israel under cover of some ephemeral organization without taking official responsibility.

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Diskin: Netanyahu, Barak too weak

Dror Moreh

In first interview since leaving office, former Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin paints disconcerting picture of how Israel’s most sensitive decisions are made


Yuval Diskin was once privy to top secret government discussions. As former Shin Bet chief, he sat in on meetings dealing with the Iranian threat, the Palestinian issue and Israel’s most grave security concerns.

By the nature of his office, Diskin witnessed Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak‘s conduct up close and personal. And by his own admission – he was horrified.

Diskin, a self-professed patriot and war hawk who insists he has no political agenda, served the defense establishment for 38 years, the majority of which were spent on counterterrorism efforts.

In his first interview since leaving office, he told Yedioth Ahronoth that he simply cannot keep quiet anymore. He has to say something, he said, before it is too late – before the third intifadabecomes a fact, before Israel finds itself embroiled in a military campaign vis-à-vis Iran.

“My colleagues and I were very unsure of whether Netanyahu and Barak can lead an Iranian campaign. We didn’t trust their motives. We were worried that they might pursue various moves that would compromise Israel based on irrelevant considerations or via underhanded ways. We had a feeling that they were trying to sneak something under the radar,” he said in the interview, published on Friday.

Diskin and Netanyahu (Archives: GPO)

As for Israel’s policy vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority, Diskin said that “Israel upgraded Hamas and humiliated Abbas. We could have pursued various military moves that would have changes the picture, but Bibi and Barak are too weak.”

The prime minister’s personal and political interests, he said, always outweigh those of the State.

A game of egos

Diskin’s tone is unmistakable – a mixture of cynicism, disgust and profound concern – from one of the most prominent defense establishment chiefs of the past few decades. Interviewing for the documentary “The Gatekeepers” he sounded more angry and worried than ever.

“I’ve had the chance to work with the top political echelons since 1994,” he said. “I’ve seen all kinds of leaders – Rabin, Peres, Bibi, Barak, Sharon, Olmert and Bibi again. When I consider this spectrum I can say that Rabin, Peres, Sharon and Olmert – in the moment of truth – would always prefer State interests over their own.

“They didn’t always make the right decision, but you knew where they were coming from – Israel’s interests trumped anything else,” he said.

“Unfortunately, my feeling, and many others in the defense establishment share it, is that in the case of Netanyahu and Barak, the personal, opportunistic interests came first.”

The heads of the defense establishment, he added, often felt that Barak was even more ego-driven than Netanyahu: “With Barak, even when it came to the most sensitive discussions, the question of who gets credit for them was very important and at times it led to some very odd decisions.

“Obviously I can’t go into details, but suffice to say it left the members of those closed forums flabbergasted on more than one occasion.”

The Prime Minister’s Office issued the following statement following the interview: “Diskin’s ridiculous statements, made by a man who until six months ago wanted to be head of the Mossad, are recycled at this time for political reasons and stem from his own frustration about not being named to head the Mossad.”

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‘Revolution’s Candidate’ campaign throws weight behind Nasserist leader

Nasserist leader Hamdeen Sabbahi chosen by Revolution’s Candidate campaign as potential presidential candidate to represent revolutionary current.

Father of revolutionary icon Gaber Salah AKA Jika speaks during the ‘Revolution’s Candidate’ press conference, 25 November (Photo: Ahram Online)

Former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi is willing to run in the upcoming presidential elections if a consensus is reached by political forces regarding his candidacy, the “Revolution’s Candidate” campaign announed Monday.If revolutionary forces agree to support another individual Sabbahi “would be honoured to back that candidate”, the statement added.

The announcement of the Nasserist leader was read on Monday afternoon by the “Revolution’s Candidate” campaign, amid celebratory chants and applause.

The campaign has been running for almost two months, and was officially launched on Monday under the slogan, “The revolution will definitely rule.”

Members of the campaign belong to the Egyptian Popular current, formed by Sabbahi in September 2012, after he came third in the post-revolution presidential elections.

Samah Amer, a member of the popular current, told Ahram Online that Sabbahi was voted as a potential candidate by members of the group and the Nasserist Al-Karama party.

“This campaign is for the dreams of our martyrs: Khaled Said, El-Gendy, Jika, El-Hosseiny Abu-Deif… those who were martyred for the revolution to obtain power through a civilian president.”

“The campaign is also the dream of historic fighters and leaders such as: Ahmed Orabi, Mostafa Kamel and Gamal Abdel-Nasser,” said Amr Badr campaign coordinator.

He went on to explain that the reason behind choosing Sabbahi was mainly due to his long history in struggling for economic and social freedoms and the rights of the poor.

Badr further expressed his optimism regarding Sabbahi’s chances of winning, saying proof of his popularity is the 2012 elections.

Fifty-nine year-old Sabbahi, described as the dark horse of the 2012 presidential elections, came third, behind Mubarak-era PM Ahmed Shafiq and Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi.

The campaign further called on all revolutionary forces to hold a serious dialogue regarding their stance towards Sabbahi’s candidacy.

It also urged General Commander of the Armed Forces Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi not to run for presidency.

El-Sisi’s popularity soared following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi on 3 July, and the general has been called on by many to run for the presidency. While he initially announced that he does not seek power, El-Sisi more recently said that the possibility is open.

Organisers stressed that the goal of the campaign is to counter the state of polarisation and division among the people, and to “learn from the mistakes of the past” through uniting behind one candidate representing the January 25 revolution and its goals.

“We don’t want to repeat our mistakes; everyone abstained from becoming a leader of the revolution, we now need to unite behind one leader so we will not to be fooled or allow Mubarak’s men or the Muslim Brotherhood to come back,” said Salah, father of revolutionary icon Gaber Salah (“Jika”) who was killed during clashes with security forces in November 2012.

According to Salah, his slain 16-year old son was a member of Sabbahi’s presidential campaign last summer. He added that all of his family voted for Sabbahi during the first round of the elections and refused to participate in the runoffs between Shafiq and Morsi.

“I was not going to choose between dying with poison or fire,” added Salah.

Mother of Ahmed Salah, who lost her son during the second Mohamed Mahmoud clashes in 2011, stressed her hope for retribution.

“A few years ago Sabbahi promised that he wouldn’t enter the presidential palace without the families of martyrs. My hope is that he will bring us back the rights of our children,” added Salah’s mother.

Meanwhile, Amaly Farag, one of the coordinators vowed that if Sabahi breaks his promises and does not meet their expectations, they will become his fiercest enemies.

Several attendees and campaign members explained their stance on controversial matters.

Campaign coordinator Amr Badr stressed that they vehemently rejected the recently issued ‘protest law,’ describing it as a deviation from the principles of the January 25 revolution.

Egypt’s interim president approved on Sunday the protest law, which outlines in detail the conditions that must be met before a protest, political meeting or march is held. It also lists the penalties for violations of the law.

The law has been met with fierce criticism by political forces, who view it as a mean to supress popular movements.

“There is only one way to end the revolution and that is to enforce justice. Until justice is achieved the revolution will continue forever,” said Jika’s father, who slammed the new legislation as an anti-revolution law.

The campaign also refutes article 174 in the 2012 constitution, which allows military trials for civilians in situations that “harm the armed forces.”

According to organisers, the article has been appealed by the legal committee of the campaign’s office in the Nile delta governorate of Beheira.

The campaign also critiques calls by the interim-government for the removal of state subsidies, planned to take place gradually starting in 2014.

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A Guide to Egypt’s Challenges: Slums & Random Housing

Bassem Sabry provides a multi-pronged overview of the political, economic and social challenges facing Egypt’s first post-Mubarak president, with an emphasis on the everyday problems facing average Egyptians
Bassem Sabry

Slums in Egypt have always been understood to be a ticking bomb. Initially, concerns were primarily over informal or random housing areas becoming or being hotbeds of crime. But as the construction of informal settlements increased exponentially, due to rapid population growth and migration from the countryside, the problem became broader and more visible.But it was the 2008 Doweia disaster that truly brought the issue to the headlines. The collapse of a rock face on the edge of Moqattam led to the deaths of tens and the injury of scores living in slums below, reminding people of the urgency of addressing housing challenges.

According to a reported statement by high ranking official with the Local Development Authority, random housing and slums constitute around 40 per cent of urban areas around Egypt, a figure echoed by President Mohamed Morsi in a recent address. The same source states that Cairo alone has 1000 random housing settlements, with 300 in need of immediate removal due to lack of safety while the rest remain in dire need of facilities and proper development.

President Morsi recently stated that there have been around 600,000 cases of illegal construction on agricultural land since the beginning of the 2011 revolution alone.

While definitions, and thus the count, of “random housing” vary, all figures are troubling. In 2009, studies of random housing in Egypt estimated of the number of people living in them reportedly averaged between 7.17 to 15 million people, a massive number at either end. The numbers have since increased.

The larger estimates include not only people living in houses that were insecurely constructed, and thus subject to potential collapse, or those built without proper legal licenses, but also people living in graveyards, mosques, slums, incomplete buildings and other non-conventional and non-viable housing.

Officials and experts remain divided over how to address these challenges. An early preference focused on relocation into proper low-cost housing projects. But as the numbers of informal settlements continued to grow, the prospects of such mass relocation lowered.

The second approach focused on engaging the safer segments of such settlements, providing them with government aid for the purpose of developing them into viable living spaces, while only using relocation for the most dangerous and unviable of areas.

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EGYPT: النص الكامل النهائي لـ«مشروع دستور مصر

المستشار حسام الغرياني، رئيس الجمعية التأسيسية للدستور يسلم الرئيس محمد مرسي، النسخة النهائية من مسودة الدستور، خلال احتفالية بحضور أعضاء الجمعية التأسيسية بقاعة المؤتمرات بمدينة نصر، القاهرة، 1 ديسمبر 2012. دعا الرئيس محمد مرسي خلال الاحتفالية الشعب المصري إلى الاستفتاء على الدستور يوم 15 ديسمبر الجاري.

أعلنت الجمعية التأسيسية لوضع لدستور، الجمعة، 30 نوفمبر الماضي، عن انتهائها من إعداد المشروع النهائي لدستور مصر الجديد، بعد ثورة 25 يناير.
ووجّه الدكتور محمد مرسي، رئيس الجمهورية، الدعوة للناخبين للاستفتاء على الدستور السبت 15ديسمبر، وذلك بعد تسلمه مسودة الدستور النهائية من المستشار حسام الغرياني، رئيس الجمعية التأسيسية للدستور، وذلك خلال خطابه أمام أعضاء الجمعية التأسيسية، الذي شكرهم فيه على المجهود الذي بذلوه للانتهاء من الدستور.
وكُتِب على غلاف المشروع النهائي للدستور، في ديباجة وثيقة الدستور، «هذا هو دستورنا.. وثيقة ثورة الخامس والعشرين من يناير، التى فجرها شبابنا، والتف حولها شعبنا، وانحازت إليها قواتنا المسلحة، بعد أن رفضنا فى ميدان التحرير وفى طول البلاد وعرضها كل صور الظلم والقهر والطغيان والاستبداد والإقصاء والنهب والفساد والاحتكار، وجاهرنا بحقوقنا الكاملة (عيش، حرية، عدالة اجتماعية، كرامة إنسانية)، مشفوعة بدماء شهدائنا وآلام مصابينا وأحلام أطفالنا وجهاد رجالنا ونسائنا».
وننشر النص الكامل النهائي لـ«مشروع دستور مصر»، والذي سيعرض على الاستفتاء في منتصف الشهر الجاري.
ديباجة وثيقة الدستور
نحن جماهير شعب مصر،
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم وبعونه،
هذا هو دستورنا.. وثيقة ثورة الخامس والعشرين من يناير، التى فجرها شبابنا، والتف حولها شعبنا، وانحازت إليها قواتنا المسلحة.
بعد أن رفضنا فى ميدان التحرير وفى طول البلاد وعرضها كل صور الظلم والقهر والطغيان والاستبداد والإقصاء والنهب والفساد والاحتكار.
وجاهرنا بحقوقنا الكاملة (عيش، حرية، عدالة اجتماعية، كرامة إنسانية)، مشفوعة بدماء شهدائنا وآلام مصابينا وأحلام أطفالنا وجهاد رجالنا ونسائنا.
واستعدنا أجواء حضارتنا العظيمة وعبق تاريخنا الزاهر؛ فأقمنا أعرق دولة على ضفاف النيل الخالد، عرفت معانى المواطنة والمساواة وعدم التمييز، وقدمت للعالم أول أبجديات الكتابة، وأطلقت عقيدة التوحيد ومعرفة الخالق، واحتضنت أنبياء الله ورسالاته السماوية، وزينت صفحات التاريخ الإنسانى بمواكب الإبداع.
واستمرارا لثورتنا الطاهرة التى وحدت المصريين على كلمة سواء، لبناء دولة ديمقراطية حديثة ؛ نعلن تمسكنا بالمبادئ التالية:
أولا: الشعب مصدر السلطات؛ يؤسسها، وتستمد منه شرعيتها، وتخضع لإرادته.. ومسئولياتها وصلاحياتها أمانة تحملها، لا امتيازات تتحصن خلفها.
ثانيا: نظام حكم ديمقراطى؛ يرسخ التداول السلمى للسلطة، ويعمق التعددية السياسية والحزبية، ويضمن نزاهة الانتخابات، وإسهام الشعب فى صنع القرارات الوطنية.
ثالثا: كرامة الفرد من كرامة الوطن.. ولا كرامة لوطن لا تكرم فيه المرأة؛ فالنساء شقائق الرجال، وشريكات فى المكتسبات والمسئوليات الوطنية.
رابعا: الحرية حق، فكرا وإبداعا ورأيا، وسكنا وأملاكا وحلاً وترحالاً، وضع الخالق أصولها فى حركة الكون وفطرة البشر.
خامسا: المساواة وتكافؤ الفرص بين الجميع: مواطنين ومواطنات؛ فلا تمييز، ولا وساطة، ولا محاباة، فى الحقوق والواجبات.
سادسا: سيادة القانون أساس حرية الفرد، ومشروعية السلطة، وخضوع الدولة للقانون؛ فلا يعلو صوت على قوة الحق، والقضاء مستقل شامخ, صاحب رسالة سامية فى حماية الدستور وإقامة موازين العدالة وصون الحقوق والحريات.
سابعا: الوحدة الوطنية فريضة، وركيزة بناء الدولة المصرية الحديثةوانطلاقتها نحو التقدم والتنمية؛ ترسخها قيم التسامح والاعتدال والوسطية وكفالة الحقوق والحريات لجميع المواطنين دون تفرقة بين أبناء الجماعة الوطنية.
ثامنا: الدفاع عن الوطن شرف وواجب؛ وقواتنا المسلحة مؤسسة وطنية محترفة محايدة لا تتدخل فى الشأن السياسى، وهى درع البلاد الواقى.
تاسعا: الأمن نعمة كبرى؛ تسهر عليه شرطة تعمل فى خدمة الشعب وحمايته, وفرض موازين العدالة، فلا عدل بلا حماية، ولا حماية بغير مؤسسات أمنية تحترم كرامة الإنسان وسيادة القانون.
عاشرًا: الوحدة أمل الأمة العربية؛ نداء تاريخ ودعوة مستقبل وضرورة مصير، يعضدها التكامل والتآخى مع دول حوض النيل والعالم الإسلامى الامتداد الطبيعى لعبقرية موقع مصر ومكانها على خريطة الكون.
حادى عشر: ريادة مصر الفكرية والثقافية، تجسيد لقواها الناعمة ونموذج عطاء بحرية مبدعيها ومفكريها، وجامعاتها، ومجامعها العلمية واللغوية ومراكزها البحثية، وصحافتها وفنونها وآدابها وإعلامها، وكنيستها الوطنية، وأزهرها الشريف الذى كان على امتداد تاريخه قوّاما على هوية الوطن، راعيا للغة العربية الخالدة، والشريعة الإسلامية الغراء، ومنارة للفكر الوسطى المستنير.
نحن جماهير شعب مصر، إيـمانـا بالله ورسـالاتـه، وعرفانا بحق الوطن والأمة علينا، واستشعارًا لمسئوليتنا الوطنية والإنسانية، نقتدى ونلتزم بالثوابت الواردة بهذا الدستور، الذى نقبله ونمنحه لأنفسنا، مؤكدين عزمنا الأكيد على العمل به والدفاع عنه، وعلى حمايته واحترامه من قبل جميع سلطات الدولة والكافة.

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Escaping The Abusive State: After Snowden


 by Richard Falk


            The more contact one has with the modern state, even in those societies that have long constitutional traditions entrenching civil liberties, the more grounds there are for deep and growing concern. I suppose that the most dramatic exhibition of the dangers being posed as 2014 approaches, and we are reminded that this will be 30 years after 1984, are associated with Edward Snowden’s extraordinary disclosures of the global network of surveillance being operated by the National Security Agency in the United States(NSA).  Such a network presupposes that we are all, that is, every inhabitant on the planet to be regarded as worth investigating as potential terrorist threats, and along the way establishing a huge data bank of information that can be used for nefarious purposes at any point to disempower and subvert protest movements or even blackmail anyone seen to be obstructing projects dear to the government or any special interest group that has the government’s ear on matters it cares about.


            In important respects more disturbing than the Snowden revelations was the rabid response of the supposedly liberal government presided over by Barack Obama. No stone was left unturned, other than assassination or kidnapping, in the effort to gain physical custody over Snowden evidently with the intention of prosecuting him to the full extent of the law as an odious criminal offender. Foreign governments were badgered to cooperate in the pursuit, a plane carrying the Bolivian president was improperly denied access to the airspace of several European countries and forced to land in Vienna, because it was suspected of carrying Snowden. Such an enforcement dynamic completely overlooked thepolitical nature of Snowden’s crimes, which have been uniformly regarded as placing an accused individual beyond the reach of extradition if outside of sovereign territory, which was definitely the case here, making Snowden legally unreachable even in the event that countries involved had extradition treaty arrangements for cooperative criminal law enforcement. Such treaties did not exist in relation to China and Russia, the countries where Snowden was physically present, and yet the United States persisted in its demands, and treated the Chinese and Russian governments as behaving in a hostile fashion of diplomatic relevance when they rejected the demands of the U.S. State Department to treat Snowden as a routine fugitive from criminal justice. Not so incidentally, the United States government has long shielded those accused of even violent crimes by foreign governments through reliance on this exception to extradition based on the political nature of the crime.


            Perhaps, the most troubling aspect of this still festering situation is the energy devoted to Snowden as the whistleblower, more derisively referred to as ‘a leaker,’ while ignoring implications for a humane and democratic future by treating everyone, everywhere as a potential enemy who would be spied upon to the extent technology allowed. There was some mild pushback by Congress, seeking clearer guidelines on the mandate of the NSA, and searching for the outer limits of the permissible encroachment on the privacy of individuals, governments, and economic entities. In the background is a well-grounded suspicion that part of the motivation for global surveillance is to assure a competitive edge for American property, trade, and investment interests, and to gain dirt on foreign diplomats and political leaders.


            Overlapping with the official fury directed at Snowden was the broader anger directed at whistleblowers whose disclosures sought to set off alarm bell. Those who had the temerity to disclose governmental criminal wrongdoing were themselves criminalized by a focus on their breach of  excessive classification restrictions. It should be clear, as highlighted by Daniel Ellsberg’s notable reflections on the release of the Pentagon Papers gathered in his book appropriately titled Secrets, that the excesses of governmental secrecy are joined at the hip to extravagant surveillance in what amounts to a perverse twinning relationship. The very government that refuses to accept restrictions on its invasions of the privacy of its citizens and people around the world, mounts unprecedented and simultaneous claims that it needs to operate without any accountability behind several high walls of secrecy.


            The experiences of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning are of a piece with that of Edward Snowden: vindictive backlash, exaggerated security claims, and an arrogant refusal to gaze in the mirror. The Wikileaks/Manning disclosures revealed serious war crimes and governmental cover ups,  the existence of which make a strong case for violating pledges of secrecy that are relied upon to hide the ugly dimensions of what is involved in foreign policy, especially in relation military interventions carried out in such distant countries as Afghanistan and Iraq. Should not the American people have a write to know about state crimes committed in their name? Should not the peoples living in foreign countries have the right to know about such crimes that produce suffering and victimization in their supposedly sovereign countries? And when such disclosures do occur, should not the government have the decency to acknowledge its own wrongdoing, and thank the whistleblower and apologize to those who were victimized?


            My motivation in writing this piece was prompted by seemingly different more personal outrages associated with the behavior of the liberal state. In the first instance, I have been deeply moved by the continuing tragic saga of Lynne Stewart, a courageous American lawyer who has a long record of defending unpopular political and indigent clients, who has been allowed to languish for months in a Texas jail despite suffering from an acute form of terminal cancer. Her apparent crime that landed her in prison was to pass on information and private messages to the family of ‘the blind Sheik’ (Omar Abdel-Rahman) whom she was representing (alongsideRamsey Clark, the former U.S. Attorney General) in the terrorist conspiracy trial arising out of the earlier 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. What has been most shocking is that despite numerous recommendations from medical and prison officials to the effect that Stewart easily qualifies for ‘compassionate release’ from prison, a position even endorsed by judicial officials, she remains to this day cruelly confined because Charles Samuels,  Director of theFederal Bureau of Prisons,  has refused to sign off on her plea. This incarceration of Lynne Stewart is such an extreme instance of vicious and sadistic state behavior toward an honorable citizen that its full horror cannot be fully comprehended by a mere description of her experience. For Lynne Stewart’s story to be credibly portrayed will likely depend on some future artistic enactment as by film or fiction. As so often is true, such a descent into the domain of unspeakable evil can only be grasped if expressed through film or fiction.


            My immediate reason for writing in this manner has been an unfolding tale of apparently well-intentioned cruelty by the state that occurred recently in Great Britain. A 35 year old pregnant Italian woman, whose name cannot be disclosed under British criminal law, was visiting the UK a few months ago for the sake of job training course at Stansted Airport in Essex, not far from London. While there she apparently stopped taking medication for a preexisting bipolar condition, resulting in what has been described in the media as ‘a panic attack.’


Only then did a perfect storm engulf her life. Her disturbed condition was reported to British authorities under the Mental Health Act whose personnel stepped in and took over the case. In disputed testimony the woman was alleged to need to be constrained. Accordingly, she was transferred to a mental hospital where she was heavily sedated, during which time her baby was delivered by C-Section surgery without her consent, and even her knowledge as she was unconscious. Her lawyer contends that she at all times, including when suffering from mental distress, retained the capacity to give or withhold her consent from the procedure undertaken. If correct, a state-ordered invasive approach to her pregnancy was certainly improper, a violation of the most basic of reproductive rights. Even if she was not sufficiently stable to make an informed decision, it seemed at least necessary to refer such a question to a responsible process of assessment, which was not done as far as is known, or consult with a family member.


But the abusive behavior did not stop after the child was born. Quite incredibly, some reports contend that she was not even allowed to see her own baby, while others say she was allowed for two days to have her baby in the hospital room, but it was then summarily removed with the intent to sever her connection permanently. She returned to Italy where her health and mental stability were fully restored by resuming medication at which point she appealed to British courts to acquire custody of the child who had by this time been turned over to foster care. Her appeal was denied despite her Italian nationality, place of residence, and the evidence that she was a competent mother to children growing up under her parental supervision. She didn’t owe the slightest allegiance to Britain and yet her desire and capacity to handle the upbringing of her biological child was rejected by judicial fiat. In a secondary development, her former husband, the father of the child, who was living in America appealed to a British court to have the child brought up by his sister, the aunt of the child, who was certified to be a highly responsible person with excellent parental qualifications and a readiness to undertake the task. The request was denied by the British judge on the ground that there was no ‘blood’ link with the American relative, and that kinship was not sufficient. The result, to date, is the assignment of the baby to a foster home that has no familial connection whatsoever, denying the mother even visitation rights. I doubt that even the most absolutist monarchy would be as contemptuous of humane treatment as has been the behavior of this British welfare/judicial bureaucratic nightmare, an unfolding post-Kafka horror story.


            Even granting the well-intentioned innocence of government in relation to these problematic undertakings affecting this mother and child, it is one more distressing example of what happens to people when the government insists that it knows best what to do in situations of admitted social and ethical complexity.  In this instance, it is not acting beyond the law or above the law, but within the law. What took the place was decreed from start to finish by official institutions and administered by bureaucrats probably thinking that they were doing their job in a responsible fashion. As has been observed in some critical writing in the British print media, this story has come to light in part because the victim mother had the resources and composure to seek help from lawyers and friends, as well as the Italian government, and was perceived as a ‘European.’ If instead she was an unlawful immigrant or, worse, a Roma, it is likely that the public would never even have heard of these events, and the whole episode would have been kept within the black box of standard operating procedures when it came to handling the grievances of those among us who are unwanted and marginalized.


            In my view, these seemingly disparate occurrences are all expressions of the moral arrogance of the modern liberal state, and its failure to strike a decent balance between freedom and security.  There is no doubt that the recent challenges posed by extremist non-state actors do require adjustments in how government protects those resident within its borders, but the tendency to exaggerate the threat so as to instill sufficient fear in the population to justify the wide spectrum of responses that feature high defense spending, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib at one end and Snowden and Manning at the other end is what should be an occasion for an entirely rational collective panic attack in democratic societies, showing healthy signs of deep attachment to the values and practices of freedom, and when there is instead relative quiet, it adds to concerns about a general mood of passivity, resignation, and even acquiescence in ‘the new authoritarianism,’ encouraging more of the same. Such patterns in the domain of national security is  reinforced by such gratuitous abuses as when harmless prisoners are deprived of contact with their loved ones when at death’s doorstep and a newborn child is removed forever from the love and care of a desiring mother for the sake of some misguided ideas of petty bureaucrats engaged in  ‘social services’ and ‘welfare.’ 


            We can and must do better, above all as citizens engaged in the protection of the sort of society we wish to live in; without civic activism of a militant character we can wave goodbye to the promise of genuine democracy.  

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Venezuelan government launches economic campaign


Popular mobilizations back revolutionary leaders

Ernesto Villegas in campaign rally, Dec. 1
Photo: Villegas campaign

As the Dec. 8 mayoral elections approach, Venezuela’s revolutionary government is employing extraordinary measures to curb sabotage, price-gouging and massive hoarding of food and other essentials by giant conglomerates.

Beginning with revolutionary leader Hugo Chávez’s first election as president in 1998, the Bolivarian Revolutionary process has undergone 18 national elections, with economic and social gains for the people advancing each time.

But the right-wing opposition, backed by U.S. imperialism, has tried to sabotage those elections by creating economic chaos and consumer panic.

The capitalists foment economic dislocation in an attempt to adversely affect the elections.

One tactic is the systematic hoarding of everyday essentials, from food, soap and toilet paper, to construction materials and appliances. The most extreme example of sabotage was the highly destructive oil-industry shutdown, from October 2002 to February 2003, which caused widespread hardship.

The Venezuelan capitalist class, in its constant search for higher profits, is notorious for raising prices of consumer goods sky-high and for raking in hard currency through illegal means. That capital is then exported by the super-rich in the phenomenon of “capital flight.” This practice bleeds the country of needed reserves and contributes to inflation.

Ultimately, the aim of the Venezuelan elite and U.S. imperialism is the overthrow of the revolutionary process. Assassination plots, violent attacks and U.S. funding of the opposition have also increased since the death of Hugo Chávez on March 5 of this year.

Government counter-offensive

In recent weeks, President Nicolás Maduro and other leaders have launched a major offensive against what they term the opposition’s “economic war.” The people and their community organizations are mobilizing to defend the offensive measures and their revolution.

These are not just emergency measures to assure sufficient supplies to the population, but steps towards more permanent economic change, toward the stated goal of a socialist revolution.

On Nov. 19, President Nicolás Maduro requested and won new executive powers by National Assembly approval, through the means of an “Enabling Law.”

With a one-year limit in effect, Maduro can take now executive action on matters normally the domain of the National Assembly, and pass laws. According to the Constitution, the Assembly can delegate its powers to the president by a 60 percent vote. The Nov. 19 vote was 99 members in favor, 60 opposed and two abstentions.

Two days later, Maduro decreed two new laws. The first is the Law for the Control of Costs, Prices and Profits. Consumer prices are being lowered and prices and profits greatly restricted. Commercial rental rates that landlords can charge to small businesses will be restricted to no more than 250 bolívares per square meter and new auto prices will be regulated.

The second law was the establishment of the National Center of Foreign Trade and the Foreign Trade Corporation of Venezuela. These entities will control non-oil imports and exports, to assure that the needs of the population are met by an organized and regulated foreign commerce.

Among the corporate abuses the law will curb is massive speculation by the importing corporations. In order to import goods from abroad, corporations operating in Venezuela must apply for U.S. dollars from the government.

Profits will be limited to no more than 30 percent over cost. Up to now, many importers have hiked up prices as high as 1,000 percent to the consumer. Previously, hundreds of fake corporations had been set up to obtain dollars, which were then sent abroad illegally.

Now, with the new law, all companies wishing to import or export must register with the foreign trade corporation, and be subject to price controls.

More than 8,300 committees headed by women, called “Madres del Barrio” (neighborhood mothers), are working hard to defend the economy and to be the eyes and ears of the community. They are called on to monitor the economic activity in their communities, and report on illegalities. During the debates leading up to the Enabling Law, the masses turned out by the thousands in front of the National Assembly building to demand the new powers for Maduro.

Government institutions are leading the way, and the pro-government media explains the counter-offensive and call to action.

People’s defender targeted for attack

Eduardo Samán, longtime revolutionary, is a popular figure among the masses.

As president of the Indepabis institute — Institute in Defense of the Peoples’ Access to Goods and Services — he is greatly respected as an ardent defender of the people against corporate exploitation.

He has led an aggressive campaign against corporate gouging and mobilized a workers’ control of La Gaviota sardine-production plant in 2010, among other actions. He is hands-on, activating communities directly through the media, exposing the corporations and calling on people to investigate and blow the whistle on wrongdoing.

On Oct. 2, as he drove from the Indepabis office in his armored vehicle, three gunmen with semi-automatic weapons and grenades shot directly into his driver’s window. The armored glass deflected the bullets and he escaped. The gunmen were killed by his bodyguard.

The assassination attempt on Samán shows how far the right wing will go to defend its system and profits, and why more resolute action is needed.

Critical elections on December 8

Across Venezuela, elections for mayors, municipal councils and indigenous councils will take place next Sunday, Dec. 8.

Up for election are the posts for 335 mayors, 2,435 municipal councilors, 69 indigenous representatives, two metropolitan mayors, and 20 district councils. Currently, the right wing controls 56 of those mayor positions.

In the pro-Revolution campaign, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) collaborated with the Great Patriotic Pole — a coalition of pro-Chávez parties, including the PSUV — to select the mayoral candidates internally, rather than rely on primary elections. As a result, 20 percent of the unity slate includes mayoral candidates who are not PSUV members.

One of the most important elections is in Caracas, for the office of mayor of the Metropolitan District, which oversees the five municipalities of the capital.

Running for principal Caracas mayor as a PSUV candidate is longtime journalist and former Communications Minister under President Maduro, Ernesto Villegas. He is running against opposition incumbent Antonio Ledezma.

Below is an interview with Freddy Bernal, the former mayor of Caracas

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Nelson Mandela: Obama, Clinton, Cameron, Blair – Tributes of Shameful Hypocrisy

Global Research

Accusing politicians or former politicians of “breathtaking hypocrisy” is not just over used, it is inadequacy of spectacular proportions. Sadly, searches in various thesaurus’ fail in meaningful improvement.

The death of Nelson Mandela, however, provides tributes resembling duplicity on a mind altering substance.

President Obama, whose litany of global assassinations by Drone, from infants to octogenarians – a personal weekly decree we are told, summary executions without Judge, Jury or trial – stated of the former South African’s President’s passing:

“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again … His acts of reconciliation … set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives.

“I studied his words and his writings … like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, (as) long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him … it falls to us … to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love …”

Mandela, said the Presidential High Executioner, had: “… bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”(i)

Mandela, after nearly thirty years in jail (1964-1990) forgave his jailors and those who would have preferred to see him hung. Obama committed to closing Guantanamo, an election pledge, the prisoners still self starve in desperation as their lives rot away, without hope.

The decimation of Libya had no congressional approval, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan’s dismembered. Drone victims are a Presidential roll call of shame and horror and the Nobel Peace Laureate’s trigger finger still hovers over Syria and Iran, for all the talk of otherwise. When his troops finally limped out of Iraq, he left the biggest Embassy in the world and a proxy armed force, with no chance of them leaving being on even the most distant horizon.

Clearly learning, justice and being “guided by love” is proving bit of an uphill struggle. Ironically, Obama was born in 1964, the year Mandela was sentenced to jail and his “long walk to freedom.”

Bill Clinton, who (illegally, with the UK) ordered the near continual bombing of Iraq throughout his Presidency (1993-2001) and the siege conditions of the embargo, with an average of six thousand a month dying of “embargo related causes”, paid tribute to Mandela as: “a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation … a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was … a way of life. All of us are living in a better world because of the life that Madiba lived.” Tell that to America’s victims.

In the hypocrisy stakes, Prime Minister David Cameron can compete with the best. He said:

“A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero.

… Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life.

On Twitter he reiterated: “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time.” The flag on Downing Street was to hang at half mast, to which a follower replied: “Preferably by no-one who was in the Young Conservatives at a time they wanted him hanged, or those who broke sanctions, eh?”

Another responded: “The Tories wanted to hang Mandela.You utter hypocrite.”

The two tweeters clearly knew their history. In 2009, when Cameron was pitching to become Prime Minister, it came to light that in 1989, when Mandela was still in prison, David Cameron, then a: “rising star of the Conservative Research Department … accepted an all expenses paid trip to apartheid South Africa … funded by a firm that lobbied against the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime.”

Asked if Cameron: “wrote a memo or had to report back to the office about his trip, Alistair Cooke (his then boss at Conservative Central Office) said it was ‘simply a jolly’, adding: ‘It was all terribly relaxed, just a little treat, a perk of the job … ‘ “

Former Cabinet Minister Peter Hain commented of the trip:

“This just exposes his hypocrisy because he has tried to present himself as a progressive Conservative, but just on the eve of the apartheid downfall, and Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, when negotiations were taking place about a transfer of power, here he was being wined and dined on a sanctions-busting visit.

“This is the real Conservative Party … his colleagues who used to wear ‘Hang Nelson Mandela’ badges at university are now sitting on the benches around him. Their leader at the time Margaret Thatcher described Mandela as a terrorist.” (ii)

In the book of condolences opened at South Africa House, five minutes walk from his Downing Street residence, Cameron, who has voted for, or enjoined all the onslaughts or threatened ones referred to above, wrote:

“ … your generosity, compassion and profound sense of forgiveness have given us all lessons to learn and live by.

He ended his message with: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.” Hopefully your lower jaw is still attached to your face, dear reader. If so, hang on to it, worse is to come.

The farcically titled Middle East Peace Envoy, former Prime Minister Tony Blair (think “dodgy dossiers” “forty five minutes” to destruction, illegal invasion, Iraq’s ruins and ongoing carnage, heartbreak, after over a decade) stated:

“Through his leadership, he guided the world into a new era of politics in which black and white, developing and developed, north and south … stood for the first time together on equal terms.

“Through his dignity, grace and the quality of his forgiveness, he made racism everywhere not just immoral but stupid; something not only to be disagreed with, but to be despised. In its place he put the inalienable right of all humankind to be free and to be equal.

“I worked with him closely …“ (iii) said the man whose desire for “humankind to be free and equal” (tell that to the Iraqis) now includes demolishing Syria and possibly Iran.

As ever, it seems with Blair, the memories of others are a little different:

“Nelson Mandela felt so betrayed by Blair’s decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq that he launched a fiery tirade against him in a phone call to a cabinet minister, it emerged.

“Peter Hain who (knew) the ex-South African President well, said Mandela was ‘breathing fire’ down the line in protest at the 2003 military action.

“The trenchant criticisms were made in a formal call to the Minister’s office, not in a private capacity, and Blair was informed of what had been said, Hain added.

‘I had never heard Nelson Mandela so angry and frustrated.” (iv)

On the BBC’s flagship morning news programme “Today” former Prime Minister “Iraq is a better place, I’d do it again” Blair, said of Nelson Mandela:

“ … he came to represent something quite inspirational for the future of the world and for peace and reconciliation in the 21st century.”

Comment is left to former BBC employee, Elizabeth Morley, with peerless knowledge of Middle East politics, who takes no prisoners:

“Dear Today Complaints,

“How could you? Your almost ten minute long interview with the war criminal Tony Blair was the antithesis to all the tributes to the great man. I cannot even bring myself to put the two names in the same sentence. How could you?

“Blair has the blood of millions of Iraqis on his hands. Blair has declared himself willing to do the same to Iranians. How many countries did Mandela bomb? Blair condones apartheid in Israel. Blair turns a blind eye to white supremacists massacring Palestinians. And you insult us by making us listen to him while our hearts and minds are focussed on Mandela.

How could you?” (Reproduced with permission.)

As the avalanche of hypocrisy cascades across the globe from shameless Western politicians, Archbishop Desmond Tutu reflected in two lines the thoughts in the hearts of the true mourners:

“We are relieved that his suffering is over, but our relief is drowned by our grief. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”






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