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Obama’s war model

by Guy Billout

“U.S. decision-making [on Syria] will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.”

by B.J. Sabri, source

In the American culture of permanent war, time and circumstance change but never the method — pretext as an alibi for war. Obama’s plan to strike Syria under the pretext that its government used chemical weapons against civilians is in line with that culture. Pertinently, it follows the precedent set by his predecessor when he invaded Iraq under the pretext that it was hiding weapons of mass destruction. This emulated three precedents set by Bill Clinton. When he bombed Serbia over Kosovo, when he bombed Iraq under the pretext that it was not cooperating with weapons inspectors, and when he bombed Iraq before that under the pretext that Saddam Hussein tried to assassinate President George H.W. Bush. And so on.

Currently, America’s global agenda is specific and has for a target the imperialistic control of all Arab states still outside of its domain. Up to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, arming Israel with advanced weapons to keep its regional military superiority was the prominent aspect of the agenda. The Carter Doctrine consequent to that invasion expanded on the agenda when it declared the Persian Gulf a zone of vital interests to the United States. Three consecutive world events: the Iran-Iraq war, the crumbling of Soviet and Eastern European socialist systems, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, allowed the United States, using it self-serving “vital interests”, to deeply entrench itself in heart of the Arab world.

Phased control of strong Arab states opposing Israel is the keyword to understand the American strategy of imperialist conquest. First, it was Iraq, then Libya, then the partition of Sudan, and now it’s the turn of Syria. As for Egypt, the last among the strongest Arab states, voices are still circulating about its eventual partition. With Palestine taken by Zionists, with Iraq taken by the U.S., with Libya under Euro-American control, with Jordan and the Gulf countries already under soft military occupation, the U.S. is materially controlling most Arab nations except Algeria, Sudan, and Syria.

Of interest is Obama’s White House statement that U.S. decision-making on Syria, “Will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.”1This is a trite stratagem that most American presidents repeatedly used to justify actions already deliberated and decided. Is the “best interest” idea a political philosophy or pragmatic model of action? Whatever the answer may be, debiting to it the referee role for going to war is a handy mechanism to facilitate the adoption of war decisions without explaining their validity or necessity.

American interventionist premises and subtexts are unequivocal: War is a function of our self-interest; we can wage it at any time by choice or by pretext. Antony Blinken, national security advisor to Joseph Biden simplifies the interventionist model with his arrogant “maxim”: “A Superpower does not bluff.” American pretexts for war, therefore, belie U.S. pretension that wars are imposed on them to defend humanity from “evildoers”. Yet, when confronted on rigorous debating grounds, ideological models aiming at rationalizing war through convoluted conceptualization instantly lose their purported definiteness and expose their raw essence: procedures to implement agendas.

What is preposterous about the U.S. war-making mentality is that every time the U.S. attacks a nation, it declares morality as a guiding principle. Take for example the current “morality” model for possible war with Syria — should the Congress approve, but it would certainly approve with the Israeli lobby working around the clock to make it happen. Who established that such model is the exclusive responsibility of the U.S. Britain, and France? How ludicrous it is that three colonialist-imperialist states, whose long history of genocidal atrocities is a permanent stigma on the conscious of humanity, act as moral speakers for the world? Is Sweden, Malta, Nicaragua, Spain, Russia, Belize, Belarus, Vietnam, Greece, Venezuela, South Africa, China, Ghana, or any other country lacking morality so the United States volunteers to be the standard-bearer for all? Who decides on the meaning, degree, and substance of morality: American ideologues of empire, British colonialists, French megalomaniacs, or Israeli Zionists?

Pointedly, it is one thing that the U.S. has succeeded through intimidations and aggressions at obliterating accepted international norms; it is another when it goes around sermonizing on its exceptionalism in morality and values. What a sham without compare: the U.S. cries against death by chemical weapons but not for death by terrifying conventional weapons. On the hypocrisy side, the U.S. has no rivals: the news of over 100,000 killed by bullets, knives, explosions, artillery, and jets did not make the U.S. cringe; but a few hundreds die by an alleged gas attack whose perpetrators are still unknown, and the U.S. readies its fleets and Tomahawk missiles to a hit an entire country. Since violent death is one and the same, why the obscene hypocrisy differentiating between types and methods of death?

Caveat! There is a difference: death by unconventional weapons offers alibis for military interventions based on conventions that the imperialist West created to safeguard their monopoly of these weapons and to punish those who attempt possessing or making them. The American use of radioactive uranium (which the U.S. cynically calls “depleted” to conceal its lethal consequences of slow death by thyroid, prostate, and cervical cancers, not to mention genetic mutation) proves this point.

Besides, who consistently rejected a political solution to the Syrian situation if not the United States with the hope that the armed rebellion and defections could finish off the Assad regime? Who could be the principal organizer of the death and destruction that has been enveloping Syria for the past two and a half years if not the United States through its regional lackeys? Does morality motivate the U.S. Syrian policy? Based on history, the answer is no. Where was U.S. morality hiding when it destroyed millions of human beings during 235 years of its existence as an independent state? (In a solidly argued article, “What Is America’s Code of Morality?,” Canadian writer Kim Petersen eloquently answers the question from multiple perspectives.2

Moreover, with suspicion of the attack involving many entities, why accuse only the Syrian regime for perpetrating it? Why the determination to strike Syria for alleged but not verified chemical attack by its government? What is the nonsense that the U.S. wants to punish the regime but not Syria? Much more insidious is the British posturing. In its 6 September issue, the Economistpublishes the photo of Bashar Assad on the cover with the caption: Hit him hard. How could the U.S. (and its British poodle) punish a regime — assuming it is responsible — or a man by destroying the country first? Did not the U.S. invasion of Iraq prove the utter mendacity of such punishment?

To drive home the point on U.S. claimed “morality”, it suffices to cite just one example: Iraq. The U.S. invasion of Iraq and the use of radioactive “depleted” uranium, vacuum bombs, electronic bombs, suspected neutron bombs, and igniting confessional fights among Iraqis resulted in over two million Iraqis dead.3 Up to now, Iraqis are still dying at the hands of America’s appointed Iraqi government, American security companies, and other mercenaries at the payroll of the United States. Based on this fact alone, the U.S. is NOT AUTHORIZED to give any lecture on morality and use it as a rationale for its new wars. While Obama justifies his planned attack not on “humanitarian grounds”, but as enforcement of the Chemical Weapons Convention, media commentators of the empire jump to his aid by citing U.S. war against Serbia to “save” Kosovo. How odd though, a U.S. war of aggression in the recent past becomes a “rationalized” prototype for a new aggression in the present.

Here is one effective way to test the best interest paradigm: Was it in the best interest of the Syrian regime, which was fighting with teeth and nails to fend off a long-standing arbitrary accusation that it used chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war, to launch a chemical attack on the same day weapon inspectors were scheduled to arrive? Since the answer is no, then who framed Syria? To speculate in a logical manner, there are only three possible culprits each of which benefits from accusing the Syrian regime: Either the American “al-Qaida” in Syria — this leads back to the United States; or Israeli Syrian agents — which leads back to Israel —, or Israelis or Americans themselves since Syria’s borders are open to all. About the American “al-Qaida”: isn’t it curious that U.S. drones are roaming the skies from Pakistan to Yemen and to Somalia killing any one suspected for being Qaida-ist, while no drone has ever attacked all these black banners of “al-Qaida” flying, in broad daylight, over many parts of Syria?

Now to the unavoidable question: In whose best interest is it that the United States attacks Syria? Mali? No. Portugal? Slovenia? No. Argentina? No. China? No. Cambodia? No. Finland? No. Israel? Yes. With a U.S. attack on Syria, Israel would finally achieve its long-standing objective of defeating all Arab states combined through the American power. Besides Israel, U.S. imperialism is the other primary beneficiary. Geological research indicates that Syria is sitting on sea of oil.

Is Israel complicit in the planned attack against Syria? Here are two pieces of news:

“Over the weekend, telephone calls to coordinate a possible attack were made between the U.S. and Israel, including a call by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Israeli counterpart Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.”4

“Senior Israeli team in Washington as U.S. prepares for possible Syria attack: High-level Israeli delegation prepares for scenarios in wake of chemical attack; talks with U.S. officials will also focus on Iran’s nuclear program, Hezbollah and Iran’s role in the Syria crisis.”5

It is a public knowledge that Israel provided ample intelligence on targets to be hit by the U.S. in its wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003. It can be deduced from the two sources I just cited, and based on the history of U.S-Israeli relations, that Israel, in 2013, is providing intelligence about the targets it wants the U.S. to destroy in Syria — mainly missile and jetfighter depots. Nonetheless, while Israel, through its supporters in Congress and control of the White House, is the planner of the U.S. Arab policy and an instigator of its military interventions, it constantly plays the card of innocent victim. Fearing potential Syrian retaliatory strikes because of Israel’s involvement in the U.S. decision-making, American Zionist groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center went as far as asking the United States to declare that any attack against Israel is attack against the United States.6

It has been said that Obama is uncertain whether to strike Syria or not because of potential consequences that could go out of hand, and that his seeking of Congressional authorization is meant to share the blame if something goes wrong. This is rubbish. Decisions coming from higher quarters had been already made for Obama. He is only waiting for the go-ahead — should it come.

  1. “US to act in its ‘best interests’ over Syria crisis,” BBC, August 30, 2013 []
  2. Kim Petersen, “What Is America’s Code of Morality?” Dissident Voice, August 29, 2013. []
  3. “Baghdad’s Neutron Bomb and America’s Nuclear Obama,” Veterans Today, Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri Interview Captain Eric H. May, Ghost Troop CO. []
  4. “Report: U.S. To Warn Israel in Advance of Syria Attack,” Algemeiner, August 25, 2013. []
  5. “Senior Israeli team in Washington as U.S. prepares for possible Syria attack,” Barak Ravid. Haaretz, August 26, 20013. Subscription required. []
  6. “Jewish Leaders: ‘US should say, Attack on Israel is Attack on US’,” Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Jewish Press, August 3o, 2013. []
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Seeking peace in Dadaab

Walking From the Ogaden

by GRAHAM PEEBLES, source

Many people living outside Africa, most perhaps, have never heard of the Ogaden (or Somali) region of Ethiopia, they know nothing of the murders rapes and destruction that the ethnic Somali’s allege are taking place there. We all have our problems and what can I do anyway, these governments are corrupt, we – meaning western governments shouldn’t be sending them money, especially now with all the public sector cuts taking place. So runs the uninformed, albeit understandable response.

I like it here in Dadaab, “it’s peaceful”, seven year-old, Khandra Abdi told me. Do you have lots of friends? “No, what would I do with a friend…. I have an imaginary friend called Roho, she is also seven years old.” Khandra had seen her mother and other women tortured, when, as an innocent child, of an innocent mother, she was imprisoned in the regional capital Jijiga, in the infamous Jail Ogaden, with its torture rooms and underground cells. Whilst in prison, Sahro received no medical treatment for the “wounds” sustained when she was violently arrested, and was detained without charge “for three years with my daughter”. Throughout that time she says, soldiers repeatedly gang raped, beat and tortured her. The soldiers “kept a record of the girls and women they want to rape. Women that resist or refuse are beaten, then raped and then raped again and again.” Resistance then, is futile in a world devoid of common humanity and the rule of law.

In the end “they let me go because my wounds had become infected and I could not be used [raped] by the soldiers anymore”. The military get rid of the women Saro says, when they are no more use to them. The arrests are arbitrary, so too the release.

After her release, in fear of her life and of her daughter’s safety, she set off, with no funds on the arduous journey to Kenya, aiming for Dadaab. With Khandra, she “firstly travelled by camel – given to me by my brother, to Danod in Wardheer. This took approximately 15 days. My brother gave me food to cook on the way and some money. Then I got a lift in a lorry to the Kenyan border.”

It’s an arid land inhabited by around five million people. Mainly pastoralists, they live simple lives tending their cattle and moving along ancestral pathways. Most have never been to school, cannot read or write and live hard but honest lives in tune with the land and the past.

There is natural gas and oil under the Ogaden or is it Ethiopian soil, first discovered when the Italians, under the dictator Benito Mussolini occupied Ethiopia for nine years.in the 1930’s.

Sahro, emotionally scarred and looking older than her 36 years, uneducated and desperately poor, she earned “some little money by making and selling tea to the villagers and pastoralists who came to the village”. The Ethiopian military and their paramilitary partners, the Liyuu police patrol the region, not all of it just the five targeted states. They move from base to village recruiting young men often at gunpoint, raping women, looting and burning homes, local people tell us. They work in five-day cycles, five on, five off, time is needed to recover I suppose, from the activities of the working week.

One evening the Ethiopian military descended upon Danod, a settlement in the district of Wardheer, where Sahro lived “in a tent… with two sisters and my daughter. I was divorced from the children’s father.” The military accused her of the heinous crime of making tea for the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF). Rebel group, or freedom fighters, depending on your viewpoint, that since their inauguration in 1984 have been calling for self-determination, politically, when they made up 60% of the regional government, and post 1994, militarily and politically.

The night Sahro was arrested they took her, “with Khandra into the forest and they tried to rape me. I fought them and ran from them, the soldiers shot at me, hitting me in the leg [shows me her scar] and hand [missing finger on right hand] and I fell to the ground. There were four soldiers chasing me, and many more in the village.” It’s hard for a woman with a child to fight off four soldiers and “many more in the village”. Bundled into a car she was driven to Jijiga and incarcerated.

People from the region fleeing government persecution, are not automatically granted refugee status, instead they are required to pass through an assessment process, undertaken by The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) ‘Refugee determination Unit’. An official position that, given the level of state criminality, in my view, warrants re-evaluating. UNHCR have limited resources and filling forms often takes months, adding up to years in some cases. Three separate sites make up the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya, with a total population of close to 500,000 – a small city, it is the largest refugee camp in the world. UNHCR manages it and gives basic support – shelter, blankets food and water rations to the people seeking refuge that knock on their door.

Many that arrive in Dadaab make the journey to the Kenyan border on foot, often walking in intense heat over harsh landscape for months: 40 year old Fadumu Siyad, arrived in Dadaab in August 2012 after walking for two months ”from Saga to Ceelbarda. It is a very long way; we used to walk all day and all night. At first we cooked food we carried with us, but after a month the food was finished, then we looked for pastoralists who helped us by giving us food and milk. I was walking with my three young children”, – a girl aged 14 and two boys aged 10 and 7 yrs. Another woman I met, walked with her two small children, she would carry one for 20 meters, put her down then go back for the other one. She did this for three months, until she reached the Kenya. The physical and indeed mental strength of such women is to be admired.

The inculcation of fear lies at the heart of the military methodology, “the first mission for all the military and the Liyuu is to make the people of the Ogaden region afraid of us”, said Dahhir, a divisional commander in the Liyuu force. In keeping with acts of (state) terrorism, he was told and dutifully carried out his orders, “to rape and kill, to loot, to burn their homes, and capture their animals – we used to slaughter some of the animals we captured, eat some and some we sold back to their owners.”

Rape, a weapon of war for centuries, is (allegedly) a favourite tool used by the Ethiopian forces to terrify and intimidate the people of the Ogaden, and we are told other parts of the country, Gambella and Oromo for example. In the safety of the UNHCR compound, a huge enclosure reminiscent of a French campsite, I met 18-year old Hoden on my first day in Dadaab. Dressed in a long black headscarf, she looked fragile and shy. We sat with Ahmed the translator, in a small portakabin the air conditioning on, surrounded by desks and she slowly began to answer my awkward questions.

She cried a lot as she told me her upsetting story. Brought up in Fiqq town, her family of pastoralists moved to Gode after her mother was arrested when she was 16. It was in Gode that she too was imprisoned, held for six months, caned, tortured and “raped every night by gangs of soldiers”. She was a frightened, innocent 17-year old child then, today she is a wounded, lonely mother with a one-year old baby girl – the result of one of the rapes.

Notions of Identity and freedom lie at the heart of the political and military struggle for autonomy from Ethiopia, who many regard as a foreign occupying force. The view from Addis Ababa is, unsurprisingly, somewhat different. The Government and most Ethiopians see the Ogaden as part of the federal state of Ethiopia, albeit a part given to them by the British. A detail, that whilst historically correct, is for the time being at least, largely irrelevant. The ONLF, heroes to the ethnic Somali’s, are seen by the Ethiopian regime as a band of unlawful terrorists, causing mayhem in the region, that the brave soldiers of the military, serving their country well, are trying to capture.

As the T word has now surfaced, perhaps at this point it’s worth repeating the definition of terrorism found in The US Department of Defense Dictionary of Military Terms. It is, they say “The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological”. So that would cover the rape and murder of civilians, the destruction of residential property, torture, false arrests and arbitrary executions, all of which are – we must say ‘it is alleged’, being carried out by the Ethiopian military, actions that (if true) earn the EPRDF government the international accolade of ‘State Terrorist’. An appropriate title that sits uncomfortably with the EPRDF’s democratic pretensions and the cozy relationship enjoyed with their western allies and principle donors. Western governments, who we must assume know well the level of state criminality being committed, and, to their utter shame, say nothing in support of the human rights of the people of Ethiopia.

Distressingly Hoden, is now “stigmatized amongst her own people” within Dadaab, for “having a child from an Ethiopian soldier“. Such are the narrow minded, judgmental attitudes that pervade such communities and destroy the lives of countless women, young and old. At the end of our time together, Hoden said, her “future has been ruined”. She lowered her head as she gently wept, and we sat together in silence.

Armed groups sponsor human organs trade in Aleppo

Moqawama

The Syrian city, Aleppo, turned to a center for wide human organs trade as the armed opposition group sponsored and protected the mafia behind these actions.

In this context, media sources revealed that human trade is done under the cover of first aid and medical help.

However, they really seek to steal human organs. Meanwhile, the sources accused the armed groups in the countryside of Aleppo of transferring the stolen bodies and organs across the Turkish border.

A mafia cell supervises these operations based on a fixed price: 10 thousand Syrian pounds per corpse and 100 thousand pounds for the wounded body.

A resident of Boustan al-Qasr neighborhood under the control of al-Nusra Front revealed that “in case of any explosion, the group members rush to the site under the pretext of an aiding the injured and removing the corpses.

In remarks to as-Safir Lebanese daily, the resident pointed out that “one of his wounded friends discovered that he has become with one kidney after returning from Turkey.”

This comes at a time when the Syrian media revealed that doctors are illegally infiltrating into Syria, particularly through the Turkish border, under the guise of treating the wounded. However, they are really involved in the crime of stealing organs.

Similarly, in Ankara, the Turkish Yurt daily reported that the armed groups are involved in the trade of human organs, revealing that the rebels cut off, and sold organs of who were killed after being kidnapped.

Ethiopian annihilation of the Ogaden people

Besieged, Abused, Ignored

by GRAHAM PEEBLES, source

In the harsh Ogaden region of Ethiopia, impoverished ethnic Somali people are being murdered and tortured, raped, persecuted and displaced by government paramilitary forces. Illegal actions carried out with the knowledge and tacit support of donor countries, seemingly content to turn a blind eye to war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed by their brutal, repressive ally in the region; and a deaf ear to the pain and suffering of the Ogaden Somali people.

Around five million traditionally nomadic pastoralists – live in what is one of the least developed corners of the world besieged by military oppression, drought and famine.

Democracy denied

When the British, with due colonial duplicity, arrogantly handed the Ogaden region over to Ethiopia in 1954, the ethnic Somali people found themselves under occupation by, what they regard as a foreign power. The centuries old struggle for self-determination, has since 1984 been taken up by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), predictably regarded as ‘terrorists’ by the Ethiopian government; which hunts them down and, with impunity, tortures, imprisons and rapes its members and suspected supporters while carrying out widespread extrajudicial killings.

In 1992 as part of the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front’s (EPRDF) much trumpeted, never realized policy of Ethnic Federalism, that promised autonomy and cultural respect to the many tribal groups in the country; ethnic Somalis in the Ogaden were officially acknowledged and inaugural regional elections held. The ONLF, a secular group in a largely Muslim region, “won 60% of seats… and formed the new (regional) government” Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported. Two years later, and in response to the will of the people, the ONLF called for a referendum on self-determination. The government’s reaction to such democratic gall was to kill 81 unarmed civilians in the town of Wardheer, disband the regional parliament, arrest and imprison the vice-president and several other members of the parliament, instigate mass arrests and indiscriminate killings; this brutal act ignited the current struggle and drove the ONLF into the shadows and its current guerilla war.

Resource rich

The region, rich in oil and gas reserves, is potentially the wealthiest area of Ethiopia. Resources that the indigenous people are understandably keen to benefit from, that the EPRDF sees as another party asset to add to its burgeoning portfolio. Genocide Watch (GW) tell us that, “immediately after oil and gas were discovered in the Ogaden, Ethiopian government forces evicted large numbers of [Ogaden Somalis] from their ancestral grazing lands and herded them into Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, causing a humanitarian disaster”. If the ONLF are correct and their view sounds more than plausible, the Ethiopian military intends to secure the resources for the government and exclude the local people. The Africa Faith and Justice Network confirms such suspicions, saying: “With the discovery of petroleum leading to exploration missions by foreign companies, the government’s motives are questionable.”

Upfront fees for exploration rights are reputed to have been sold to foreign corporations for between $50 – $100 million, paid by under-informed, overexcited multinationals, who subsequently pull out, having underestimated the logistical problems of working in the region. China Petroleum was one such; they were subjected to an unprecedented ill-judged attack by the ONLF in 2007 that caused the deaths of nine Chinese workmen and, according to China Daily, “65 Ethiopian employees”. The Ethiopian government, itching to intensify the conflict that had been simmering for over three decades, retaliated with excessive brutality, by HRW reports, “launching a brutal counter-insurgency campaign in the five zones of [the] Somali Region primarily affected by the conflict… [Where] the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) has deliberately and repeatedly attacked civilian populations,” killing hundreds of men women and children.

Displaced & destitute

Thousands of terrified Ogaden Somalis have since fled the affected areas. They seek refuge “in neighbouring Somalia and Kenya from widespread Ethiopian military attacks on civilians and villages that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,“(ibid). Large numbers have been made homeless and destitute, accurate numbers are difficult to collate due to restricted access, however human rights groups estimate the number, to be greater than one hundred thousand.

The Ogaden, GW states “has been transformed into a vast military occupied area, with thousands in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps.” Most displaced persons, the International Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) reports, “sought shelter with relatives or safety in the bush, rather than gathering in organized camps,” where widespread abuse is known to take place, including starvation that GW describes as “genocide by attrition”. These desperate, frightened people are not regarded as refugees and so receive no humanitarian aid support from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). And the EPRDF, consistent with their duplicitous approach to governance, fails to meet dutiful obligations under the historic Kampala Convention which “reaffirms that national authorities have the primary responsibility to provide assistance to IDPs…. (And) … to address the plight of people uprooted within their borders”. The ruling party ignores these requirements, acting not in accordance with international law, the federal constitution or indeed their moral duty.

Especially violent

In 2009, after widespread condemnation of the Ethiopian army’s conduct in the region, the regime formed the highly suspect Liyu (Special) Police. Somaliland Press (26/9/12) states, the government “deliberately recruited unemployed youths from the streets”. This shadowy paramilitary force of 10,000 – 14,000, fits, HRW says, “into the context of impunity where security forces can more or less do what they want.” Not a group, then, that the British government should be supporting. In a baffling move however, according to The Guardian (10/1/13), the Department for International Development (DFID) has submitted, a “tender to train security forces in the Somali region of Ogaden”, Amnesty International’s Claire Beston said: “It was highly concerning that the UK was planning to engage with the Special Police..…. There is no doubt that the Special Police have become a significant source of fear in the region.”(Ibid) The DFID in denying the report ambiguously states that, “reforming the Special Police is critical for achieving a safe and secure Somali Region”, failing to recognize that the Liyu force needs not reforming but disbanding and, along with all Ethiopian military personnel, marched out of the region immediately.

State-sanctioned terrorism and genocide

In addition to murder and rape, appalling levels of torture and extrajudicial execution are reported. Thousands, according to GW, “have been arrested without any charges and held in desolate desert prisons”. Mass detention “without any judicial oversight are routine. Hundreds—and possibly thousands—of individuals have been arrested and held in military barracks, sometimes multiple times, where they have been tortured, raped, and assaulted”, HRW report.

Children and women being the most vulnerable suffer acutely, the rape of Ogaden Somali women is a favored weapon of the Ethiopian paramilitary; held in military barracks women are imprisoned as sex slaves, where they are subjected to multiple gang rape and torture. African Rights Monitor (ARM) recount one woman’s story that mirrors many and shocks us all. She claims to have been, “raped by fifty soldiers for a period of twelve hours and hung upside down over a pit of fire that had chili powder in…. to suffocate her lungs”.

Statistics of abuse are impossible to state, the numbers are perhaps of less importance than the crimes and the suffering caused, survivors bear the physical scars and mental trauma of their ordeals, from which many may never recover.

A scorched-earth policy involving burning of crops and homes and killing cattle is part of the campaign of state terror, as HRW record, “Confiscation of livestock [the main asset], restrictions on access to water, food, and other essential commodities” have “been used as weapons in an economic war”. As has the destruction of villages, confirmed by evidence from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, proving, “that the Ethiopian military has attacked civilians and burned towns and villages in eight locations across the remote Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia.” Such inhumane methods are employed by the EPRDF to instill fear in the Ogaden Somali people and suppress their legitimate demands for autonomy. It is shocking criminal abuse which staggeringly, “GW considers to have already reached stage 7 [of 8], genocidal massacres against many [Ogadeni, Anuk, Oromo and Omo] of its people”. International donors however, who provide a third of Ethiopia’s total federal budget – around $4 billion a year, to their utter shame say and do nothing; neglect constituting complicity.

Village executions

With the region virtually shut off, video evidence smuggled out of Ethiopia by Abdullahi Hussein, a former Ethiopian civil servant is rare. Revealing Somaliland Press say that, “whole villages have been emptied of inhabitants through executions and mass flight from terror… you can hear members of the Liyu Police desecrate a civilian they have just killed. They stomp on his head and poke his face with a stick.” Such attacks on settlements are routine: Demanding our attention is Qurille village in the Wardeer district attacked in September 2012: Ogaden Online recounts how troops: “Shoot each resident of the town in their custody at point blank range” including women and children. Bodies are hung from trees in a public display of state terrorism, to engender lasting fear. This type of brutality is widespread. HRW records how in Raqda village in the Gashaamo district during March 2012, “the Liyu police force summarily executed at least 10 men – in their custody, killed at least nine residents… [and] abducted at least 24 men.”

The killing continued two days later on 17th March, when “Liyu police took another four men from their homes and summarily executed them. A woman whose brother was a veterinarian told HRW: “They caught my brother and took him outside. They shot him in the head and then slit his throat.” Defenseless villages are easy prey for the Liyu and their brutal methodology, as HRW state, “troops have forcibly displaced entire rural communities, ordering villagers to leave their homes within a few days or witness their houses being burnt down and possessions destroyed—and risk death”. Page upon page could be filled with such violent disturbing accounts.

Exclusion of foreign media and aid workers

Contrary to constitutional and human rights law, the EPRDF has imposed a widespread blockade on the Ogaden region, seeking to control the flow of information outside the country as it does within its borders, where it allows no freedom of the media; of expression, of assembly or of political dissent. Add to this the outlawing of trade unions and the partisan distribution of aid and a picture of a brutal totalitarian regime emerges from the duplicitous mist of politically correct, democratic rhetoric.

Attempts to work in the region by international media and humanitarian groups are seen as criminal acts, punishable under the widely condemned anti-terrorist proclamation. Two Swedish journalists investigating human rights abuses in the Ogaden, made headlines in July 2011 when they were attacked and arrested by the Liyu police and subjected to a terrifying ‘mock’ execution. Charged and sentenced in Ethiopia’s kangaroo court to 11 years imprisonment, they were later released having served 400 days in appalling conditions. Reporters from the New York Times, The Telegraph and Voice of America have also been imprisoned and expelled, so too United Nations (UN) workers and staff from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) who were arrested and accused of being spies! Wrapped in paranoia, the EPRDF suspended 42 NGOs in 2009 for reporting government human rights abuses in the region and, in 2007 in what must be the EPRDF’s Pièce de résistance, the International Committee of the Red Cross were expelled.

In addition to the information embargo, the region is subject to what HRW describe as “severe restrictions on movement and commercial trade, minimal access to independent relief assistance,” and the “politicized manipulation of humanitarian operations, particularly food distribution”; meaning food supplied by donor countries is stolen to feed the Ethiopian army and the Liyu force. This in one of the worst areas for drought and famine in the country, where, In-Depth Africa reports, “1,539,279 people (30% of the population) in the region lack food, water and health services”.

Peace and justice for the people

The little known conflict in the Ogaden is a cause of intense tension between Ethiopia and Somalia and a destabilizing issue in an unstable region. It is a fight that has been distorted by the former Government of Somalia, which sought to misrepresent the issue and transform it into a boundary dispute; a misconception that suits the Ethiopian regime keen to avoid the substantive point of regional autonomy.

All efforts to facilitate a lasting peaceful resolution to what is an age-old struggle should be urgently made, Ethiopia’s donors and facilitators, principally America, along with the European Union and Britain must act with due responsibility. Action should be taken to: Close down IDP camps and the people allowed to return to their communities; aid provided for rebuilding villages (not to train the Liyu) destroyed by the military; regional elections organised and a referendum on self-determination held.

The appalling atrocities committed daily by the Ethiopian paramilitary constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity that should immediately be referred to the International Criminal Court for prosecution. They are, though, just the deepest wounds within a scarred body of human rights abuses, violating federal and international law, being perpetrated by the EPRDF regime throughout the country and with utter impunity. This must end and the Ogaden Somali people, allowed to determine their own destiny and to live in peace.

Will Syria go on offense at The Hague?

by Franklin Lamb, source

A “legal intifada” appears likely for more than just the Palestinians

La Maison d’Avocats, Damascus

Even before the historic 139 to 8 vote of the UN General Assembly on November 29 of this year which opened up a plethora of legal remedies for Palestinians, a “legal intifada” — to borrow a phrase from Francis Boyle, Professor of International Law and a longtime advocate of advancing resistance to the illegal occupation of Palestine through the rule of law — has been taking form in this region.

The reasons include nearly seven decades of countless Zionist crimes against Muslims and Christians in occupied Palestine and far beyond. As Professor Boyle has suggested, the opportunities presented to the PLO by the lopsided UN vote “…can mean numerous available legal remedies ranging from the securing of a fair share of the gas deposits off the shores of Gaza, control of Palestinian airspace and telecommunications and, crucially, bringing the Zionist regime to account at the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.

Syria too, currently under enormous pressure from international interference into the internal affairs of the country and the subject of an intense regime change project led by the US and France, has international legal remedies immediately available to it stemming from the actions of the US, UK, France and others in imposing on Syria’s civilian population one of the most severe and clearly illegal layers of sanctions. Were Syria and others to file an Application for an Advisory Opinion with the ICJ few in the international legal community have much doubt that targeting civilians economically and attempting to destroy the Syrian economy — for no other purpose than to ignite rebellion — would be considered a violation of international law at the International Court of Justice.

Granted there are some potential jurisdictional problems given that Syria has not yet accepted the Article 36 Compulsory Jurisdiction of the World Court, as provided in the Statute of the Court, and the strong campaign at the UN that would certainly be waged by the Obama Administration to challenge ICJ jurisdiction to hear a case on behalf of Syria and its civilian population, but they can be overcome. As a general rule, an Advisory Opinion requires a simple majority affirmative vote by the UN General Assembly or an Application by one of the designated UN Specialized Agencies. This might be a tough job to secure the former but it is doable with the latter. Moreover, should Syria accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ it could likely quickly resolve the issue of sanctions by claiming a legal dispute with one or more states that also accept CJ and are supporters of sanctions. For example, the UK, France and their NATO and Gulf allies.

Aspects of a possible filing at the International Court of Justice on the legality of US-led sanctions are currently being researched by seasoned international lawyers and academics, at various Western and International law centers. Supporting efforts being worked on include drafting amicus curie briefs on the issue of the legality of the US-led sanctions to be submitted to the Court, plans for securing the widest possible political support for challenging the US-led sanctions from among Non-Aligned Movement countries, international peace groups, NGO’s, pro-peace websites, bloggers, social media and online activists as well as organizing a skilled media center to disseminate information about the case including quickly publishing, in paperback book form, one of the key Annexes to be submitted to the ICJ upon filing the Application. This volume will present Syrian government and International NGO prepared data on the inhumane effects of the US led sanctions in all their aspects, including by not limited to children, the elderly and the infirm, plus the effects of the US-led sanctions on the Syrian economy generally, i.e. consumer goods, medical delivery systems, financial institutions, currency values and related aspects of the lives of the civilian population of Syria.

Were Syria, and others, to take the illegal and immoral US-led sanctions case to the World Court and other available venues, they would shift their diplomatic position from a defensive status to taking the offense. Such a bold initiative would advance accountability under international law and, because the ICJ would likely grant a Petition for Interim Measures of Protection, the US-led sanctions could be suspended during the course of the judicial proceedings. Obviously this lifting/freezing of the sanctions would immediately and directly inure to the benefit of the Syrian civilian population, including the half million Palestinian refugees in Syria as well as thousands from Iraq.

This would work in concert with the “THREE B’s”, to borrow a phrase from Russia’s top middle east envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Boganov, referring to Mr. Brahimi, Mr. Bogdanov, and Undersecretary William Burns, a former ambassador to Moscow, who would be urged to intensify their focus on achieving a diplomatic resolution of the Syrian crisis based on modified June 2011 Geneva formulation of a transition period leading to the 2014 elections.

According to several International lawyers surveyed between October andDecember, 2012, Syria clearly has the facts of the US sanctions case in its favor and there are ample solid legal theories to argue to and convince the World Court. Under the ICJ Statute, the Court must decide cases solely in accordance with international law. Hence the ICJ must apply: (1) any international conventions and treaties; (2) international custom; (3) general principles recognized as law by civilized nations; and (4) judicial decisions and the teachings of highly qualified publicists of the various nations. From this body of international law the International Court of Justice would find ample basis to support Syria’s claims not only for the benefit of its civilian population but also to advance the rule of law in the global community.

The ICJ is made up of 15 jurists from different countries. No two judges at any given time may be from the same country. The court’s composition is static but generally includes jurists from a variety of cultures. Among the Principles, Standards and Rules of international law that Syria may well argue to the World Court, may include but not be limited to, the following:

The US led sanctions violate international humanitarian law due to the negative health effects of the sanctions on the civilian population of Syria. This renders the sanctions illegal under international customary law and the UN Charter for their disproportionate damage caused to Syria’s civilian population;

The US led severe sanctions regime constitutes an illegitimate form of collective punishment of the weakest and poorest members of society, the infants, the children, the chronically ill, and the elderly;

The US, France and the UK, as well as their allies, have violated the UN Charter by their imposition of severe economic sanctions and threats of military force. The United States, Israel, and some of their allies, regularly threaten Damascus with the “option” of a military strike. The ICJ has ruled previously that “A threat or use of force is contrary to Article 2, paragraph 4, of the UN Charter and fails to meet all the requirements of Article 51, is therefore unlawful”. It has further ruled that “A threat of use of force must be compatible with the requirements of the international law applicable in armed conflict, particularly those of the principles and rules of humanitarian law, as well as with specific obligations under treaties and other undertakings which expressly deal with threats to members of the United Nations.”

Moreover, unilateral US sanctions, without the imprimatur of the United Nations are blatantly illegal under International Law because they are in fact multilateral and impose penalties on any country which opposes the sanctions or does not choose to participate in them;

The US led sanctions amount to an Act of War given their effects including hardships on the general public and that Syria therefore has a legal right to Self-Defense.

The US led sanctions, given their design and intent, constitute acts of aggression against Syria in violation of Article 2 (4) of the UN charter.

The indisputable facts of the US led sanctions case warrant the imposition by the ICJ of Restraining Orders designed to prevent any type of blockade or no-fly zones in Syria and the immediate cessation of the imposition of further economic sanctions against Syria, and also their efforts of securing more sanctions against Syria at the United Nations Security Council. The Restraining Orders, under the umbrella of Interim Measures of Protection, would presumably also seek to prohibit the US and its allies from the Persian Gulf region and elsewhere, from advocating aggressive military actions against Syria, including supplying funding, weapons, and jihadists, as well as Western “Special Forces” currently pouring into Syria from its northern border with Turkey and to negotiate with the Syrian government in good faith to end the current crisis.

Syria can legitimately claim, and would presumably argue at the ICJ and other international forums that the bi-lateral or multilateral economic sanctions, led by the US and its Gulf allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are illegal, indeed criminal due to their assault on international humanitarian law and required state practice.

Syria could successfully argue, according to a recent survey of international lawyers conducted in Brussels and The Hague, as well as within Syria’s Maison d’Avocats, that the US led sanctions violate the international law principle of Non-intervention in the internal affairs of UN member states and that the stewards of these sanctions could themselves be subject to international sanctions plus compensatory and punitive damages for the benefit of their victims.

In summary, as Germany’s Green Party, and increasingly, legal scholars and human rights organizations generally are insisting, sanctions against Syria’s civilian population fundamentally violate international law.

Should NATO sets up a no-fly zone and were to launch airstrikes against Damascus, it can and should immediately be sued at The Hague and if the situation deteriorates NATO can and should be held to account for targeting Alawites and Christians on the basis of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. All participating countries, 142 to date, are obliged to prevent and punish actions of genocide in war and in peacetime. Article 2 of the Convention defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, elements of a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group including killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.

Despite Syria’s strong case on both the facts and the law, and the diversity in structure and composition of the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal has a few times over the years been criticized for favoring established powers. Under articles 3 and 9 of the ICJ Statute, the judges on the ICJ should represent “the main forms of civilization and principal legal systems of the world.” This definition suggests that the ICJ does not represent the interests of developing countries. Nevertheless, the World Courts record has been by and large exemplary in applying principles, standards and rules of international law both in contested cases and advisory opinions and Syria has an excellent opportunity to protect its citizens, thwart US and Israeli designs on the region, and advance international accountability — all to the inestimable benefit of all people and nations.

Syria, which the US and Israel and their allies are today working to keep off balance and on the defensive diplomatically, should consider immediately filing an application with the International Court of Justice, and use all other available international legal, political and humanitarian tribunals, to directly challenge and boldly confront the US led sanctions campaign against its people. The Syrian Arab Republic, by taking the offensive at the World Court and elsewhere, will help relieve the enormous pressures on its civilians and advance the principles, standards and rules of international law—for the benefit of all mankind.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Damascus and can be reached c/o fplamb@gmail.com

London: Parasites’s Paradise

Or the Best Criminal Sanctuary Money Can Buy

by James Petras, source

Whenever financial swindlers prosper at the expense of investors or a bank jiggers interest rates to bugger their competitors or tax evaders flee fiscal crises or rent gouging petrol monarchies recycle profits or oligarchs pillage economies and drive millions to drink, drugs and destitution they find a suitable secure sanctuary in London. They are wooed and pursued by big British realtors eager to sell them multi-million dollar estates, trophy properties and landmark mansions. Pompous and pretentious British academics convince them to send their progeny to six digit private schools, promising them that when they graduate they will be speaking English through their nasal cavities, rolling their r’s and mastering the art of eloquent but vacuous elocution. British governments, Labor, Liberal, and Conservative, in the best and most hypocritical legal traditions, fashion the legal loopholes to attract the biggest and wealthiest parasites of the world.

Crime Wave Sweeps City of London

A veritable crime wave1 has invaded the City of London, where millionaire investment bankers cook the books for billionaire clients and bilk the Treasury to pay their fines and flout the Law. Courses in business ethics are obligatory at Oxford and Cambridge since it has become standard operating procedure for mega-swindlers to plead guilty, to pay a fine and avoid jail and to solemnly promise to never, ever, flout the law… until the next mega-deal.

London has become the center of global financial capital by engaging in long term large scale active collaboration with multi-billion pound drug, arms, people smuggling and sex-slave cartels. The “Brits” specialize in laundering funds from the Mexican, Colombian, Peruvian, Russian, Polish, Czech, Nigerian narco-kings. Albanian white slavers have their ‘private bankers’ at prestigious City banks with a preference for graduates of the London School of Economics. Bi-lingual Greek kleptocrats, lifelong billion dollar tax evaders, fleeing from their pillaged homeland have their favorite real estate brokers, who never engage in any sort of naughty ‘due diligence’ which might uncover improper tax returns. The City Boys with verve and positive initiative, aided and abetted by the hyper-kinetic “Tony” Blair’s open door policy to swindlers and saints of all colors and creeds, welcomed each and every Russian gangster-oligarch-democrat, especially those who paid cash for multi-pound ‘Olde English’ landmark estates’.

The London Sanctuary for the world’s richest plunderers and parasites offers unprecedented services, especially protection from extradition and criminal prosecution at the site of their crimes. Impartial British legal and judicial officials are experts in citing constitutional precedents that, in strict regard for the established legal order, uphold the denial of extradition, denying the legal and justice systems of every pillaged country and the cries of justice of the impoverished Irish, Russians, Greeks and Spaniards.

Real and feigned indignation among the highly moralistic City Boys and cynical grins among the experienced senior partners, greet the unruly victims of their guest billionaires. The impoverished masses demand that the British creditor banks should collect their debt payments from the accounts of the swindlers who received the loans, passed their debt to the public treasury and recycled their ill-gotten gains into their British accounts.

When the Saville dressed, swashbuckling swindlers cross swords with their counterparts, as when the venerable and respectable, Barclays Bank fixed the Libor to profit on the interest rate differentials, at the expense of other banks, the bankers all agreed the solution was to pay a 290 million pound fine, admit the crime and try to save a system which should “only” bilk the public treasury, retail investors and ‘market takers’. Barclay’s “crime” was, of course, poisoning the trough from which their peers and partners prosper.

The Barclay Boys of both sexes, outraged by the indecent finger pointing by the other City Boys, raised an issue which nobody could deny: they were not alone. HSBC, Standard Charter, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds of London and many other bankers of equal or lesser assets across the Atlantic were engaged in similar unethical, (daresay criminal) or at least questionable undertakings. They also paid fines and were duly chastised. The older and more experienced senior officers of the City sent internal memos to their brash PR underlings to stop this unseemly washing of soiled silk shirts in public; mutual denunciations created the false image that there was a crime wave running through the suites of the City of London.

Unfortunately, the British legal system is not merely protective of overseas billionaire swindlers, it is also accommodative, supremely vindictive and bending over frontward when it comes to requests for extradition from its “Special Partner” in Washington. Let it be an Islamic religious figure or an Australian whistleblower (Assange) and, in due haste, with the extradition papers in hand, “the bobbies” are ready to break embassy doors to facilitate compliance.

London: Pimping for Parasites

The global economic crisis is a boon for London’s high end real estate corporations, as overseas millionaires and billionaires, tax evaders, political raiders of the public treasury, abandon pillaged economies and pour billions into mansions and penthouses. Super-rich rentier monarchists from the despotic Gulf States join Russian commodity speculators and new rich Chinese sweatshop owners in bidding up London properties in prestigious postal codes in Belgravia (Ebury Street, Eton Place, and Eton Square) Knightbridge, Mayfair (Park Street). Corpulent Russian oligarchs and pious Saudi royalty loll in country estates in, Hertfordshire, Herefordshire and Cheshire overlooking their elegant English gardens and enjoy the purring and caresses of their very upscale British courtesans, in one or another of the two dozen bedrooms. The British government’s tolerance and open minded attitude to Russian and Albanian gangster oligarchs, whose bloody ascent to wealth can match any Sicilian godfathers, greases the wheels for the rise of what the Financial Times chooses to call, the real estate ‘industry’, bankrolled by the financial ‘community’ and aligned with the insurance ‘investors’.

The predators international, take their afternoon tea at 4 p.m., sherry at 6:30 p.m. They are entertained by the gossip of Her Majesty’s Court and the Queen’s Anniversary Celebration and indulge in the sporting life (soccer teams over polo horses). They cultivate a taste for culture. Accompanied by Oxbridge experts they shop for “collectibles” – paintings at Ordovas on Saville Row, Richard Nagy on Old Bond Street, Frank Auerbach at the Malborough, sculpture in Jean & Luc Baroni at St. James and jewelry shops for a Vacheron Constatin.

The Gulf oil oligarchs, who gouge exorbitant rents from energy poor African and Asian countries and Chinese and Indian billionaires who exploit hundreds of millions of Asian female factory workers and deny migrant workers residence, rest and health insurance, spent $9 billion pounds ($14.4 billion dollars) on central London houses in 2010-2011.2 Between 2011 and mid-2012, 60 percent of the buyers in the prime central London market were foreign millionaires and billionaires.2

The Cameron-Clegg regime demands sacrifice, austerity and belt tightening in Greece, condemning millions to destitution, suicide and desolation, even as it encourages the top 1% of Greek kleptocrats to “invest” and reside in central London’s exclusive neighborhoods. According to the IMF 56,000 Greek plutocrats are tax evaders.3 According to a US study of their annual income, $28 billion Euros ($36 billion USD) is unreported.3 Most of which is deposited in London banks or ‘invested’ in luxury property in Mayfair, Belgravia or thereabouts. If the illegal accounts were taxed or better still used to pay for the foreign debt, it would conform to Greek law, reduce the deficit and social cuts and perhaps revive the economy. But respecting Greek tax laws would mean fewer commissions for the real estate moguls at Savells, Marsh and Parsons, Knight Frank; less private accounts for HSBC and Barclay’s; less sales at the upscale art galleries; fewer patrons for the high end ‘escort’ agencies of both sexes.

Crime pays. FIRE4 plays. Public hospitals close. Tuition rises. Private clinics and schools catering to the overseas oligarchs and their British partners flourish. Where’s “the crises”? Not to be found in central London, nor in the City; nor in the legal system; nor in the Special Forces. Bank swindlers flourish. Judicial litigation among oligarchs pays. Dirty mercenary wars in Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria and elsewhere provide lucrative contracts for retired Colonel Blimps– in the best traditions of empire.

The crises? That’s for the other England outside of the City, with the wrong postal codes. Where workers crowd emergency rooms, where the poor await evictions in what were once council houses and where those who study and work can look forward to debt and dead end jobs.

God bless God d*** London, the Parasites Paradise!

Notes:

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism (October-November 2012) p. 1, 3.
Financial Times, “Global Prosperity Insight”, Oct. 3, 2012, p. 5.
Financial Times, Oct. 6, 7, 2012, p. 4.
FIRE, shorthand for the parasitic troika Finance, Insurance and Real Estate.

Gassing the revolution: The US origins of Tahrir’s tears

by Ahmed Feteha, Michael Gunn, Ahramonline

The liberal use of US-manufactured tear gas on protesters in recent days has raised questions about its public health effects – and who is actually ordering its use.

Egyptian security forces are digging deeper into their budget with each volley of increasingly fatal US-made tear gas they launch at demonstrators.

The human cost of the violent crackdown in central Cairo is increasingly clear — among the 39 fatalities reported to date, several are said to have died of asphyxiation caused by tear gas.

But the financial background to the use of crowd control weapons raises questions about the extent of Washington’s financial assistance to Egypt’s military and how this might filter down to the ministry of interior.

The USA is the biggest arms supplier to Egypt, providing an average of US$1.3 billion in military and law equipment every year since 2000.

Records from the US Department of State show the US supplied $1.7 million of “toxicological agents” — “including tear gases and riot control agents” — to Egypt in 2010.

This was the largest dispatch of such agents in at least 10 years.

In 2009, the US supplied 33,000 units of ‘tear gas and riot control agents’ worth $460,000. It did not supply in 2007 nor 2008, but gave 17,000 units worth $240,000 in 2006, documents show.

This assistance, however, was granted to the military, and it is not clear whether it was then channelled to the ministry of interior.

The Central Security Forces (CSF), Egypt’s riot control machine, is a division within the Ministry of Interior, but is closely tied to the armed forces, as its troops are conscripted through the military then transferred to CSF.

“The military’s arming includes tear gas and riot control weapons. The ministry of interior supposedly buys its own weaponry through other channels,” Mahmoud Kotri, a retired brigadier general who wrote a book suggesting radical police reforms, told Ahram Online.

Kotri confirmed that when the current minister of interior, Mansour El-Essawy, was appointed in March he issued explicit instructions to CSF not to carry live ammunition when confronting protesters.

This directive apparently included a ban on shotguns. Kotra explained these weapons were formerly used to fire tear gas canisters via an ad-hoc launcher. El-Essawy’s instructions probably forced CSF to acquire new types of gas bombs and new ways of launching them, says Kotri.

Nevertheless, doctors on Tahrir Square treating the injured say they have seen many protesters hit by live ammunition, including shotgun wounds.

Kotri believes that a third party might be involved in the shootings

“No MOI official in his right mind would order the use of live ammunition. Not after what happened in January and the former security leadership currently on trial for killing protesters — it just doesn’t add up,” he says.

Protesters and medical staff in Cairo have also expressed concern about the kind of gas being deployed by security forces.

Speaking to Ahram Online at the field hospital in Qasr El-Dobara church behind Tahrir Square on Monday night, volunteer doctor Lilian Sobhy said their improvised clinic had seen 290 patients in 24 hours, the majority with breathing problems.

“Some in contact with the gas are suffering from a severe burning sensation in the lungs,” Sobhy said. “This is not normal gas and these are not normal symptoms.”

Others, however, claim the symptoms — serious though they are — are no different from those caused by extreme exposure to CS gas in the past.

A former police officer told Ahram Online a colleague of his in the CSF was exposed to tear gas used by Egyptian border guards on Palestinians who broke through Rafah crossing in 2008.

He said the army’s gas was “unbearable and different from that used by CSF”.

Given the impressions above, many questions arise.

Is this a new kind of gas? If so, what is its nature? Is it designed use on civilians or is it a much more powerful assault tool used for military purposes? Who provided such weapons to the CSF? Was it the army, or did it get them through other channels?

For its part, the Armed Forced issued Communiqué’ no. 83 on their official Facebook page denying that it had used “gases” on protesters.

The 2010 supply of “Toxicological Agents, Including Chemical Agents, Biological Agents, and Associated Equipment”, which includes tear gas from the United States, which came under the auspices of ‘foreign defence assistance’, comprised 94,000 unspecified units.

Figures suggest the vast majority of these ‘units’ were tear gas canisters.

A crude calculation, made by dividing the aid sum by the number of units, shows the cost of a single tear gas canister may be around $18. Other, much-higher, figures have also been touted.

On Wednesday night, Amr El-Leithy, a prominent TV anchor, estimated the price of a single canister at $48, but did not give a source for this figure.

Eyewitnesses on the frontline in Cairo have reported hundreds of volleys of tear gas in the six days since the crackdown began.

Canisters found on the battle-scarred streets around Tahrir Square bear the manufacturing stamp of Combined Systems Inc (CSI), a US-based firm that provides equipment to military forces and law enforcement agencies around the world.

Among CSI’s investors is the Carlyle Group — an asset management firm which once counted former US President George Bush Snr among its advisors.

CSI produces its ‘riot control devices’ under its law enforcement brand name, Combined Tactical Systems (CTS), a firm headquartered in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.

CTS’s website — http://www.less-lethal.com — displays what it calls the company’s “full line of chemical irritant and smoke munitions”.

Demonstrators have gathered three common types of gas canister with the following serial numbers and catalogue descriptions:

#4230 – CS Smoke
#6230 – CS Smoke – marketed as an ‘outdoor grenade’
#3321 – Long-range CS Smoke – effective for 137 metres

A catalogue on the company’s website displays the latest devices, but the dates of manufacture and design of some of the canisters show Egypt’s Central Security Forces are using older, often-expired versions.

Instructions on gas canisters say they should not be used after expiry, which is five years after the manufacturing date. Some cans found near Tahrir have a manufacture date of 2001. The Minister of Interior has admitted using expired canisters but said this only means that they would be “less effective.”

All the canisters above unleash CS gas — a standard riot control agent — but CTS also makes canisters that use CN gas, a more toxic formulation that takes longer to disperse and can cause disorientation and fainting.

Other media have reported finding CR gas canisters around Tahrir — an agent that medical experts say can cause pulmonary, heart and lung problems among those subjected to intense exposure.

CR gas is banned for military use under the Paris Convention on Chemical Warfare of 1993 but several governments still use it against their own people and, allegedly, those under their military occupation. These governments include the United States, Sri Lanka and Israel, as well as Egypt.

Gas manufacturer CTS has been linked with the ‘non-lethal’ weapons used by Israeli forces that have been unleashed on Palestinian protesters, reportedly causing several deaths due to asphyxiation.

Its supply to the Israeli market might suggest why several canisters found in Cairo with CTS numbers and designs also have Hebrew markings.

Iraqi civilians file lawsuit against US

Press TV

Iraqi Lawyers’ Syndicate says more than 3,000 civilians in Iraq have lodged an official complaint against the US government and its military troops in the Middle Eastern country, Press TV reports.

The lawsuit has been filed against US forces for crimes they have committed against Iraqi civilians and the destruction of their private properties during the US-led occupation of the country that began in March 2003, the Iraqi Lawyers’ Syndicate said.

The Iraqis have the right to call for the prosecution of those US soldiers that have committed crimes against the civilians during their military missions, said the director of the Iraqi legal body, Razzaq al-Abadi.

“According to the international conventions and as the US and the UK are members of the Geneva Conventions, they know that have to compensate Iraq for the invasion and the violence and destruction [that] followed the invasion,” al-Abadi added.

Meanwhile, members of Iraq’s State of Law Coalition say the cases against the US government are in process in Iraqi courts and people are receiving legal assistance to proceed with their complaints.

“It is part of the rights of the Iraqi people to raise those claims, legal claims, and the government and the embassy is providing all necessary assistance and help in this matter and I believe that the foreign office should be more active,” member of Iraq’s State of Law Coalition Saad al-Muttalibi said.

He added that the Iraqi parliament is now studying the cases and is about to introduce a legislation to send the complaints to the international courts.

“If the parliament succeeds in passing a legislation forcing the Iraqi government into steps, into demanding compensation for the individuals, then the government will be in a position to enter a legal claim against the United States,” al-Muttalibi went on to say.

Nearly 47,000 US troops have remained in Iraq, but they must all leave the country by the end of 2011 under the terms of a 2008 bilateral security agreement between Washington and Baghdad.

Afghans’ fingers cut as trophies for a US soldier

Al Manar

A US army staff sergeant slaughtered Afghan victims with grenades and powerful machine guns during patrols in Kandahar province, then dropped weapons near their bodies to make them appear to have been combatants, an act that annul every human dignity and rights conventions.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, of Billings, Montana described by a comrade as “evil incarnate” cut fingers off the corpses of three Afghan civilians.

His lawyer alleged that he had nothing to do with any plot to slaughter those unarmed men for sport. A court martial opened for the soldier who has pleaded not guilty to 16 criminal charges ranging from murder to taking the fingers as bloody mementos.

Of the five soldiers charged as part of the “kill team” within the platoon, three have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Gibbs, who faces up to life in prison without parole if convicted.

Gibbs, 26, is the highest-ranking of those charged. Others in the unit, including some of his co-defendants, portrayed him as an imposing sociopath with little respect for life – a man who gunned down dogs without provocation, threatened fellow soldiers and who tallied his kills with skull tattoos on his calves.

Another lead figure in the plot, Pvt. Jeremy Morlock, testified Monday that Gibbs played with the corpse of the first victim, a teenager, as if it was a puppet. The jurors were shown graphic photographs, including one in which Morlock stood over the victim’s body and held up his head as though he had just bagged a deer.

Gibbs, who had more combat experience than most of the others, did talk frequently of previous shootings he’d been involved in – including one in Iraq, when Gibbs fired on a car that refused to stop at a checkpoint, only to later learn that the vehicle was carrying an innocent Iraqi family.

Special treatment gives Israeli mobsters free access to US soil

Special treatment gives Israeli mobsters free access to US soil: WikiLeaks

by Ali Abunimah, EI

Known Israeli organized crime bosses are able to travel freely to the United States, unlike counterparts from Italy, China and Central America, because the State Department has failed to apply US law to them.

It appears that at least one prominent Israeli crime family member was able to reach the United States with a specific intent to commit murder, as a result of this exemption.

This revelation comes in a May 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Tel Aviv titled “Israel: A Promised Land for Organized Crime?”

The cable, which was released by Wikileaks on 26 August, details the growing alarm of American officials that “Organized crime in Israel now has global reach, with direct impact inside the United States.”

Israel, according to the cable, is a world center of money laundering, drug trafficking, and trafficking in women for prostitution; and Israeli crime families operate international criminal syndicates involved in gambling, credit card and technology fraud spanning the globe.

Israel mobsters use IDF training to kill

The cable points out that Israeli organized crime families have grown increasingly murderous and that:

the new style of crime features knowledge of hi-tech explosives acquired from service in the Israeli Defense Forces, and a willingness to use indiscriminate violence, at least against rival gang leaders. New OC [organized crime] business also includes technology-related crimes, such as stock market and credit card fraud, and operates on a global scale.

Efforts to fight Israeli crime in US hampered by legal exemption

Under a heading titled “Israeli OC Operating Freely in United States,” the cable states:

it is fair to assume that many known OC figures hold valid tourist visas to the United States and travel freely.

It notes that the US Embassy in Tel Aviv

is currently utilizing all available tools to deny Israeli OC [organized crime] figures access to the United States in order to prevent them from furthering their criminal activities on US soil.

But the American officials are hampered in a key respect – the special exemption apparently granted to known Israeli mob bosses:

Unlike OC [organized crime] groups from the former Soviet Union, Italy, China, and Central America, application of INA [Immigration and Nationality Act] 212(a)(3)(A)(ii) against Israeli OC is not specifically authorized per Foreign Affairs Manual 40.31 N5.3. As such, Israelis who are known to work for or belong to OC families are not automatically ineligible for travel to the United States.

The cable refers to a specific section of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) – the guide for US consular officers issuing visas – that deals with visa applications by “Aliens Engaging in Organized Crime.” The FAM list of known criminal organizations includes:

the Chinese Triads; the Mafia; the Yakuza; any of the various groups constituting the organized crime families of the Former Soviet Union; any of the organized Salvadoran street gangs in North America, including, but not limited to, the Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS 13) and 18th Street (18th Street) gangs; and the biker gangs the Hells Angels, the Outlaws, Bandidos, and the Mongols.

Yet the many known Israeli crime organizations detailed in the US Embassy cable are absent. This version of the FAM is dated 19 July 2011, which means that more than two years after the plea from US Embassy officials in Tel Aviv, no action had been taken to stop the free access for Israeli mob bosses to the US.

Exemption allowed Israeli hitman to reach US soil

The cable details at least one case where treating Israel the same as other countries with a major organized crime problem might have prevented a criminal reaching US soil.

It concerns Adam Abitbul [also spelled in the cable “Abutbul”], the son of, as the cable puts it, “crime-family head Charlie Abutbul.” Charlie Abutbul was gunned down in a September 2008 mob hit. The cable states:

In June 2008, Post [the embassy] issued Adam Abitbul a valid tourist visa. Abitbul had no prior criminal convictions, and carried no visa ineligibilities. Several months later, Post received information from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) that he had traveled to the United States to carry out a hit. Abitbul returned to Israel prematurely for his father’s funeral, at which time Post revoked his visa.

Would Abitbul have gotten a visa if the State Department applied the same law to Israel as it does to other countries?

Once again, it appears that special treatment for Israel means that Israeli citizens with known criminal ties are able to come to the United States to commit crimes against Americans including, potentially, murder.

The Age of Predators

“Where is Your Democracy?”

by KATHY KELLY, source

On May 5, 2011, CNN World News asked whether killing Osama bin Laden was legal under international law. Other news commentary has questioned whether it would have been both possible and advantageous to bring Osama bin Laden to trial rather than kill him.

World attention has been focused, however briefly, on questions of legality regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden. But, with the increasing use of Predator drones to kill suspected “high value targets” in Pakistan and Afghanistan, extrajudicial killings by U.S. military forces have become the new norm.

Just three days after Osama bin Laden was killed, an attack employing remote-control aerial drones killed fifteen people in Pakistan and wounded four. Last month, a drone attack killed 44 people in Pakistan’s tribal region. CNN reports that their Islamabad bureau has counted four drone strikes over the last month and a half. Friday’s suspected drone strike was the 21st this year. There were 111 strikes in 2010. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated that 957 innocent civilians were killed in 2010.

I’m reminded of an encounter I had, in May, 2010 ,when a journalist and a social worker from North Waziristan met with a small Voices for Creative Nonviolence delegation in Pakistan and described, in gory and graphic detail, the scenes of drone attacks which they had personally witnessed: the carbonized bodies, burned so fully they could be identified by legs and hands alone, the bystanders sent flying like dolls through the air to break, with shattered bones and sometimes-fatal brain injuries, upon walls and stone.

“Do Americans know about the drones?” the journalist asked me.

I said I thought that awareness was growing on University campuses and among peace groups.

“This isn’t what I’m asking,” he politely insisted. “What I want to know is if average Americans know that their country is attacking Pakistan with drones that carry bombs. Do they know this?”

“Truthfully,” I said, “I don’t think so.”

“Where is your democracy?” he asked me. “Where is your democracy?”

Ideally, in a democracy, people are educated about important matters, and they can influence decisions about these issues by voting for people who represent their point of view.

Only a handful of U.S. officials have broached the issue of whether or not it is right for the U.S. to use unmanned aerial vehicles to function as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner in the decision to assassinate anyone designated as a “high value target” in faraway Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Would we want unmanned aerial vehicles piloted by another country to fly over the U.S., targeting individuals deemed to be a threat to the safety of their people, firing Hellfire missiles or dropping 500 pound bombs over suspected “high value targets” on the hunch of a soldier or general without evidence and without any consideration of which innocent civilians will also be killed?

Fully informed citizens might be invited to consider the Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” but they would certainly be involved in the debate over how we will be treated in future years and decades when these weapons have proliferated. In 1945, only one country possessed the atomic bomb, but within decades, the “nuclear club” had expanded to five declared and four non-declared nuclear-armed states in a much less certain world. Besides the risk of nuclear war, this weapon proliferation has consumed resources that could have been directed toward feeding a hungry world or eradicating disease or easing the effects of impoverishment.

As of now, worldwide, 49 companies make over 150 different drone aircraft. Drone merchants expect that drone sales will earn $20.2 billion over the next 10 years for aerospace war manufacturers, with 20.6 billion spent on Research and Development. Who knows? One day drone missiles may be aimed at us.

Also worth noting is the observation that drones will make it politically convenient for any country to order military actions without risking their soldiers’ lives, thereby making it easier, and more tempting, to start wars which may eventually escalate to result in massive loss of life, both military and civilian.

Voices for Creative Nonviolence believes that standing alongside people who bear the brunt of our wars helps us gain needed insights. Where you stand determines what you see.

In October and again in December of 2010, while in Afghanistan, I met with a large family living in a wretched refugee camp. They had fled their homes in the San Gin district of the Helmand Province after a drone attack killed a mother there and her five children. The woman’s husband showed us photos of his children’s bloodied corpses. His niece, Juma Gul, age 9, had survived the attack. She and I huddled next to each other inside a hut made of mud on a chilly December morning. Juma Gul’s father stooped in front of us and gently unzipped her jacket, showing me that his daughter’s arm had been amputated by shrapnel when the U.S. missile hit their home in San Gin.

Next to Juma Gul was her brother, whose leg had been mangled in the attack. He apparently has no access to adequate medical care and experiences constant pain.

It’s impossible to conjecture what would have happened had Osama bin Laden been apprehended and brought to appear before a court of law, charged with crimes against humanity because of his alleged role in masterminding the 9/11 attacks. But, I feel certain beyond doubt that Juma Gul posed no threat whatsoever to the U.S., and if she were brought before a court of law and witnesses were helped to understand that she was attacked by a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle for no reason other than that she happened to live in proximity to a potential high value target, she would be vindicated of any suspicion that she committed a crime. The same might not be true for those who attacked her.

Kathy Kelly (kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Visit http://www.vcnv.org for a resource packet on drone warfare http://vcnv.org/drone-resisting-sanitized-remote-control-death

Inching towards Complete Moral Breakdown

by Ahmad Barqawi, source

Beyond the sensational news headlines of America’s ‘humanitarian’ interventions and democracy-spreading escapades lies a grim reality; one of a brutal military occupation, systematic torture practices and horrendous abuses of basic human rights.

The entire world got to witness first hand what an imperial power, drunk on its military supremacy and callous sense of self righteousness, had in store for the indigenous populations whom were unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of the U.S.’s vigilantism in Afghanistan and Iraq; both countries have become disastrous cautionary tales for the kind of democracy that is served with F-16s, indiscriminate high altitude bombings and Tomahawks.

The heartbreaking consequences of the extensive use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium in the bombing of fallujah city in Iraq seven years ago are still evident till this very day in the city’s deformed newborn babies, the leaked photos of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib reeks with the gore and terror that took place behind its walls and the sweeping attacks of unmanned fighter jets have –so far- claimed the lives of innocent civilians by the hundreds in Afghanistan and Pakistan where entire villages have virtually become burial grounds to its inhabitants; and while it’s been almost three years since that woebegone George W. Bush-era, let’s just say that things haven’t changed a bit, on the contrary; predatory drone strikes have only increased in frequency and intensity; trigger-happy private military contractors still roam the streets of Afghani towns using local residents as dartboards for their automatic machine guns and “sport killing” has become the preferred pastime for U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

The latest (graphic) evidence of this sinister and dark reality came from the German publication “Der Spiegel” which, in its most recent issue, published photos of several U.S. Army officers, high on their “unmatched” military might, posing “victoriously” with the bloody corpses of Afghan civilians.

One picture showed a soldier kneeling down on an Afghani victim; holding the dead body’s head towards the camera with one hand and a cigarette in the other; invoking the image of a hunter celebrating his “kill”; another picture showed a different soldier assuming the very same position with the same victim; albeit with a smirk on his face; one would assume that the entire unit took turns taking “trophy pictures” with the mutilated corpse.

In a proactive move to soften the sting of criticism; the United States Army offered a meek apology; stressing that “rogue” elements within the ranks of its military bore the brunt of the blame and that the actions depicted in these photos were “contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army” according to a statement released by Col. Thomas Collins.

Like a sleight of hand magician; Col. Collins wants us to believe that these were isolated incidents carried out by a handful of “bad apples” –so to speak- within the U.S. military; but in light of the notorious Abu Graib scandal, the pictures of Guantanamo Bay detainees and last year’s video footage of an American apache helicopter gunning down nine Iraqi civilians at close range in Baghdad; one has to wonder; how many individual “rogue elements” will it take Col. Collins to realize (or admit) that there is in fact an endemic pathological pattern at play here?

Incidentally; these “trophy” pictures remind us of the infamous “facebook” photos of one Israeli female soldier; of which one snapshot showed her posing in front of handcuffed and blindfolded Palestinian prisoners and smiling sneeringly for the camera while another showed her cozying up to a young Palestinian detainee and using him in that posture as a punchline for sleazy jokes and comments among her friends on the social networking website; and of course who can forget that tasteless Youtube video of yet another Israeli soldier dancing hysterically around a blindfolded Palestinian woman prisoner; cornering her into a wall and preying on her public humiliation, the parallels between these two “incidents” and the “Der Spiegel” story are both so eerie and horrid that it leaves little room for doubt that the Israeli Army cooks in the same kitchen with the same toxic ingredients as its American patron.

Under the farcical guise of democracy, protecting civilians and ridding the region of dictatorial backward regimes; the United States has laid complete waste to entire nations all the while desperately attempting to cloak its hegemonic ambitions in a “moral authority” it can’t even afford; the “Der Speigel” images are too powerful to be ignored; it revealed one more time; the true ugly face of an imperial super power inching closer towards complete moral breakdown.

Ironically; the revelation of these scandalous photos itself has taken a backseat to the ongoing escalation of yet another western military intervention; this time in Libya; one more oil rich country where the American empire and its European cronies can really sink their sharpened teeth into; but as the sea of innocent blood overflows in Libya and the western coalition hands the whole operation over to the ill-famed NATO forces; we need to temper our exuberance and expectations for what the Odyssey Dawn might eventually bring us and pray that in a year’s time we won’t be confronted with “trophy” photographs of Libyan civilian victims.

– Ahmad Barqawi, a Jordanian freelance columnist & writer based in Amman, he has done several studies, statistical analysis and researches on economic and social development in Jordan.

US soldiers killing, torturing civilians in Afghanistan

by Batoul Wehbe, Al Manar

Afghan President Hamid Karzai spoke out for the first time Wednesday about the “heart-rending” media accounts of a rogue US army unit accused of deliberately killing civilians for sport.

In his first public reaction to the scandal, Hamid Karzai said he wanted to ensure ordinary Americans knew about a rogue army unit “kill team” accused of murdering Afghan civilians and mutilating their corpses.

Karzai said in a speech to a group of newly-qualified teachers in Kabul he was disturbed by the accounts in US media of American soldiers deliberately killing children and elderly Afghans who posed no threat to them.

“I want the ordinary American people to hear my voice and to know that Afghans old and young are being oppressed in their name.”

Rolling Stone magazine this week published a series of graphic images and a long story including extensive detail of the actions of the American soldiers. The story related how a teenage farm worker was picked out in January last year as the first victim of a drug-addled rogue unit that slaughtered Afghan civilians in the explosive Kandahar region early last year.

Two soldiers initially threw a grenade at the teenager before gunning him down, and pretending the youth had attacked them with the grenade.

With his body on the floor events took an even more sinister turn as one soldiers started ‘messing around with the kid’, moving his arms and mouth and ‘acting like the kid was talking’.

He then took a pair of medic’s scissors and snipped off the boy’s pinky finger and handed it to another soldier as a trophy for his first kill in Afghanistan.

In the following months they and others staged a number of such killings, according to the Rolling Stone account, citing witnesses questioned by military investigators after the killings were revealed by a fellow soldier.

The investigation by Rolling Stone also revealed how:
• Troops shot dead civilians and tried to cover their tracks;
• U.S. soldiers hacked off part of a dead man’s skull;
• Soldiers cheered as they filmed a U.S. airstrike blowing up two Afghan civilians;
• A video showed two Afghans on a motorcycle being gunned down.

“I read all nine pages last night. It was a heart-rending story,” said Karzai. “May God punish them.”

The US military has apologised for the distress caused by the pictures, which recall the notorious Abu Ghraib prison abuse images from Iraq.

In the meantime, the US-led NATO occupation force in Afghanistan said Wednesday an airstrike “accidentally” killed two children and two women in the south of the country.

Afghan authorities at the weekend said that seven civilians, three of them children were killed in a NATO air strike in Helmand province.

NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which conducted the attack said it had launched a probe after the allegations of civilian deaths in a raid aimed at two vehicles in the province’s Sangin district.

On Thursday the force said its joint assessment with Afghan authorities of the incident found that four civilians, two children and as many women were “mistakenly” killed in the attack.

US soldiers posing with corpses: video

US Pays Blood Money to Free CIA Contractor: Raymond Davis Walks

by DAVE LINDORFF, source

Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor indicted for the murder of two young Pakistani motorcyclists, whom he gunned down in the back in broad daylight through his car windshield in a busy section of Lahore, Pakistan, has been freed, after the payment of $2.34 million in “blood money,” called diyya, to relatives of the two slain men.

The surprise “deal,” which Pakistani news reports are saying appears to have been forced on the relatives of the two men, who up to March 15 had insisted they wanted no blood money, but only justice, was announced in a court session March 16 in Lahore, at which the prosecution’s case of murder was to have been presented.

Both the US Ambassador, who expressed regret for the killings and gratitude to the victims’ families for their “generosity” in asking for the pardon, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denied that they had paid any blood money for a deal, but that did not mean the CIA didn’t put up the cash. The New York Times (which withheld for two weeks at the behest of the White House information it had that Davis was a CIA contractor, even as it reported the official US lie that he was a “diplomat”) is reporting that a “new” counsel” representing the families of Davis’s victims, Raja Irshad, is saying the blood money was paid by the Pakistani government, but it, and the Wall Street Journal, are both also reporting that the US is reimbursing Pakistan. A more likely ultimate source of the funds is the CIA, which operates with a “black budget,” free of outside scrutiny.

The integrity of this “deal” is in question, though, with Pakistani media reporting that the two families suspiciously “went missing” several days before the hearing, with some having been seen taken away by unidentified men. They were delivered, also by unidentified men, to the court the day of the hearing, where each was asked by the judge if they pardoned Davis, and if they had received the blood money required under the country’s Sharia Law. Each reportedly applied affirmatively to both questions.

The 19 have subsequently vanished, leading to charges in Pakistan that they were compelled to accept a deal, and have subsequently left the country, fearing retaliation from groups that were demanding that Davis face trial for murder.

Lawyers for the families, who disclosed the size of the payment, say they too were held captive before the trial. “I and my associate were kept in forced detention for hours,” said the attorney for the family of one of the slain men, Faizan Haider.

A cousin of Haider, Aijaz Ahmed, was quoted in the Christian Science Monitor as saying eight members of his immediate family had gone missing since news of the deal.

The Express Tribune, an English-language daily in Pakistan partly owned by the International Herald Tribune, reports that lawyers for the two families claim both families’ members were “forcibly taken to Kot Lahkpat Jail by unidentified men and made to sign papers pardoning Davis.”

It appears that the “deal” with the families was brokered by the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s intelligence service. The Associated Press reports that an unidentified ISI official says CIA Director Leon Panetta met in a long session with ISI Chief Gen. Schuja Pasha, and that Pasha told the Panetta the ISI would agree to a deal freeing Davis and would help broker a blood money payment if the Agency agreed to “identify all the Raymond Davises working in Pakistan behind our backs.” Panetta is said to have agreed to the deal “in principal,” though the New York Times on March 17 reports that “US officials insisted Wednesday the CIA made no pledges to scale back operations in Pakistan or to give the Pakistani intelligence agency a roster of US spies operating in the country — assertions that Pakistani officials disputed.”

There had been tremendous pressure brought on President Asif Ali Zardari by the US, with visits by Senate Foreign Relations Chair John Kerry, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, all of whom threatened the struggling Pakistani government with a cut-off of US aid if Davis was not released and was tried for murder. At the same time, public sentiment across Pakistan in this case has been running high, with one poll suggesting 99 percent of the public wanted Davis tried for murder and if found guilty, executed.

Most US reports on Davis being sprung claimed he had been acquitted. This is incorrect. He was pardoned by the victims’ families (blood money was also paid to the family of the18-year-old wife of one of the two men, who had later committed suicide, saying she did not believe her husband would ever receive justice), which led the Punjab district judge to lift the murder charges. But Davis was still fined on a charge of carrying an illegal handgun, and was sentenced to time served on that conviction.

There were angry protests in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad following the court’s ruling lifting the indictment against Davis. Police clashed with demonstrators outside the US Consulate in Lahore.

Left unanswered is what “all the Raymond Davises” in Pakistan, and Raymond Davis himself, were actually doing. Davis reportedly left the country immediately.

What is not in doubt is that Raymond Davis was not “our diplomat” in Pakistan, as President Obama falsely proclaimed at a press conference on Feb. 15, when he demanded that Pakistan grant him immunity under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Immunity of 1961. Nor is there any doubt about what was found in his car at the time of the shooting incident: masks, makeup, night-vision equipment, several semi-automatic pistols with large-capacity clips, over a hundred killer bullets for both a Glock and Beretta pistol and also an M-16, multiple cell phones, a cell-phone locator, a special GPS with removable chips, wire cutters, batteries and a camera, on the memory card of which police investigators found photos of Pakistani military installations, as well as mosques, madrassas and even a Montessori School. Police say they found over 27 calls on his cell phones to key people in both the Pakistani Taliban and a terror organization called Laskhar-e-Taiba, which has been linked to both the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and to the kidnap/murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Pakistani papers, including the Express Tribune, have suggested that Davis, a 10-year Army Special Forces veteran, and a former employee of Blackwater/Xe, appears to have been involved in orchestrating terrorism, not just monitoring it.

As I initially reported in Counterpunch on Feb. 7, Davis, when arrested, was found to be carrying a photo ID describing him as a Department of Defense contractor. He also had cards on him identifying him as an employee of a US company called Hyperion Protective Consultants LLC, which I discovered had as its address a vacant storefront in Orlando which had not been occupied for several years.

Without any trial, what the CIA has been up to in Pakistan, a country that has been suffering a rash of terror bombings in the last few years, can only be a subject for speculation. But one thing is clear–whatever it was, it is not going to be doing it going forward.

Press reports say that at least 30 “Raymond Davis”-type US contractors have fled the country since his arrest, and the arrest of a second contractor associated with a murky private mercenary service called Catalyst Services, LLC, an American named Aaron DeHaven (he was picked up and charged with overstaying a visa).

DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, the new independent, collectively-owned, journalist-run, reader-supported online alternative newspaper.