Aletho News


Russia exposes US’ hidden agenda in Syria

By M K Bhadrakumar | Rediff | September 14, 2015

The Syrian refugee problem was maturing slowly steadily and would have provided the perfect pretext for a US-led ‘humanitarian intervention’ in that country. But Russia is there first and the best-laid American plan may have gone awry.

The US’ Middle East policies have been fixated obsessively on ‘regime change’ in Syria for at least a decade ever since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. (The original neocon agenda had envisaged regime changes in Iraq, Iran and Syria, but it got derailed as the killing fields in Iraq began dictating the geopolitics.)

It stands to reason that the Russian intelligence has caught on to the US’ diabolical plot to create a fait accompli in Syria on the ground. Washington’s Faustian deal with Turkey and President Barack Obama’s authorization for air strikes in Syria (including against government forces), the haste with which Britain and Australia joined the US’ bombing mission on Syria, NATO statements, the behind-the-scenes undercutting by the US of Moscow’s robust efforts to kickstart an intra-Syrian peace process – the tell-tale signs on the politico-military plane were there aplenty.

But the clincher would have been the Russian intelligence input. In a rare public disclosure on Sunday during an interview with the state television – probably prearranged with deliberation – Russian Foreign Minister hinted at the hidden American agenda in Syria behind the so-called fight to ‘degrade and defeat’ the Islamic State. Lavrov said,

  • I hope I would not fail anyone by saying some of our counterparts, members of the coalition, say they sometimes have information about where, at which positions are the IS certain groups, but the coalition’s commander /in the U.S. naturally/ would not agree to deliver a strike.
  • Our American counterparts either from the very beginning were establishing the coalition not enough thoroughly, or the idea was it should have the goals other from those declared. The coalition was formed very spontaneously: within just a few days they declared it was ready, certain countries have joined, and they began some strikes.
  • Analysis of the coalition’s aviation causes weird impressions. The suspicions are (that) besides the declared goal of fighting the Islamic State there is something else in that coalition’s goals. I do not want to make any conclusions – it is not clear what impressions, information of higher ideas the commander may have – but signals of the kind are coming.

Lavrov is a highly experienced and brilliant diplomat. Most certainly, he wouldn’t have made an off-the-cuff remark of this sort. To be sure, the proxy war in Syria has acquired a terrible beauty. Lavrov has politely told the US to back off from undercutting Russia’s decision to go for the jugular veins of the IS — or else, there will be mud on Obama’s face. In plain terms, Lavrov has signaled to Washington that Moscow knows about the American game plan to foster the IS as its cats paw to be eventually inserted into Russia’s underbelly in Central Asia and North Caucasus.

Of course, Russian intelligence must be aware that hundreds of fighters have travelled from Russia to join the IS. (Actually, Abu Omar Shishani, an ethnic Chechen, is a prominent IS commander.) Given this grim reality, Moscow has decided to draw a red line. It has concluded that the IS poses a significant menace to the Muslim-majority regions of Russia’s north Caucasus.

The seriousness with which Moscow has taken this looming threat to its national security is evident from the decision by President Vladimir Putin to visit the UN General Assembly in New York later this month to make a high-profile call for international cooperation to defeat the IS.

The parallel tracks – stepping up of military involvement in Syria on the ground and the opening up of a diplomatic track through the UN podium – aim at defeating the US’ attempt to repeat the cold war era strategy of pitting militant Islam against Russia by isolating Washington.

The Russian diplomacy through the recent past has aimed at developing extensive networking in the Muslim Middle East. The effort seems to be paying off. Interestingly, Lavrov all but disclosed during the TV interview in Moscow yesterday that the US’ regional allies in the Middle East themselves have developed misgivings about Washington’s real intentions vis-à-vis the IS. It is a stunning disclosure, indeed.

Equally, Lavrov lifted the veil a little bit to let the Americans know that the Russian military intelligence has not only been monitoring the operations of the American military aircraft in Iraq but have scientifically analyzed the US aircraft’s flight plans and so on. In sum, Russians seem to have intelligence dope to substantiate something that the Iranians have been all along maintaining, namely, that the American aircraft are regularly airdropping supplies for the IS.

To be sure, the assertive Russian military move on Syria has taken Washington by surprise. Short of putting American boots on the ground in Syria, Washington’s options to push back at the Russians are limited. Greece and Iran have conveyed to Russia that they will provide air clearance for Russian aircraft flying to Syria. (Washington had pulled strings in Athens to deny clearance for Russian aircraft.)

But the biggest setback for the US’ containment strategy against Russia in Syria is stemming from the dramatic change in the mood of the European countries that are beset with the Syrian refugee problem. The Schengen visa system, which has been the pride of the European Union and a symbol of European unity, has overnight packed up and border controls have reappeared across the region. (here and here).

The call by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Europe and Russia must cooperate over Syria is a signpost of the shape of things to come. Quite obviously, Moscow must be sensing that the mood in Europe is becoming increasingly unfavorable for the Americans to push their containment strategy against Russia — not only over Syria but also Ukraine. (See my blog Ukraine tensions easing, but US won’t let go easily.)

The point is, the Europeans can’t be accepting it that they are being called upon by the US to handle the debris falling out of the covert US strategy to fuel a civil war to overthrow the established government of President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria. President Obama intends to prepare America to accept a token 10,000 Syrian refugees next year, but it is not even a drop in the bucket, considering that 4 million people, one fifth Syria’s population, have fled the country since the war began in 2011.

This must be turning into the biggest foreign-policy disaster of the Obama presidency. The US is caught between the rock and a hard place. Russia is unlikely to budge despite the US displaying annoyance, since its core interests of national security are involved in the fight against the IS for which it needs the participation of the Syrian government forces.

On the other hand, US’ regional allies and the neocons at home are pressing Obama ‘to do something’, while the European allies, on the contrary, have made it clear that they want an end to the conflict in Syria. The only option open to the US will be to dump the IS altogether and bury the project to manipulate militant Islamist groups as an instrument of its regional policies and to further its containment strategy against Russia. But then, it is not so easy to kill one’s own progenies.

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Solitary Confinement Under Attack

By Marjorie Cohn | teleSUR | September 15, 2015

Confirming Frederick Douglass’s adage, “Power concedes nothing without a demand,” prisoners held in solitary confinement for many years in California have won an unprecedented victory. After three hunger strikes, in which tens of thousands of California inmates participated, and a federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a landmark settlement was reached. It effectively consigns indefinite solitary confinement in California to the dustbins of shameful history.

More than 500 prisoners had been held in isolation in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay prison for over 10 years, and 78 of them had been there for more than 20 years. They spend 22½ to 24 hours every day in a cramped, concrete, windowless cell, and are denied telephone calls, physical contact with visitors, and vocational, recreational, and educational programs.

Now California prisoners will no longer be sent to the SHU solely based on allegations of gang affiliation, but rather based on infraction of specific serious rules violations. Prisoners will only be put in solitary confinement if they commit a serious offense such as assault or murder in prison, and only after a due process hearing.

And they will be put into solitary for a definite term – no more indeterminate solitary confinement. An estimated 95 percent of California prisoners in solitary confinement based solely on gang affiliation (about 2,000 people) will be released into the general prison population.

The settlement also limits the amount of time a prisoner can spend in the SHU, and provides a two-year step-down program for transfer from SHU to general population. It is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 prisoners will be released from SHU within one year of this settlement.

“California’s agreement to abandon indeterminate SHU confinement based on gang affiliation demonstrates the power of unity and collective action,” the plaintiffs said in a joint statement. “This victory was achieved by efforts of people in prison, their families and loved ones, lawyers, and outside supporters.”

The plaintiffs in Ashker v. Governor of California argued that California’s use of prolonged solitary confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and denies the prisoners the right to due process.

The federal district court judge found that prolonged solitary confinement had deprived the plaintiffs of “normal human contact, environmental and sensory stimulation, mental and physical and health, physical exercise, sleep, nutrition, and meaningful activity” which could constitute cruel and unusual punishment.

Although no U.S. court has yet ruled that solitary confinement violates the Eighth Amendment, Justice Anthony Kennedy indicated in a concurring opinion in June that he would likely entertain such an argument in the future. Commenting on the case of a man who had been isolated for 25 years in California, Kennedy told the U.S. Congress in March that solitary confinement “literally drives men mad.”

Indeed, after visiting Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia in 1842, Charles Dickens noted, “The system here, is rigid, strict and hopeless solitary confinement. I believe it … to be cruel and wrong … I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.” Dickens felt that isolation of prisoners was a thing that “no man had the right to inflict upon his fellow creature.”

Juan Mendez, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, concluded that solitary confinement for more than 15 days constitutes torture. He wrote that prolonged solitary confinement violates the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The United States has ratified both of these treaties, making them part of U.S. law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

Ireland refused to extradite a man to the United States to face terrorism-related charges earlier this year. The High Court of Ireland worried that he might be held in indefinite isolation in a Colorado “supermax” prison, which would violate the Irish Constitution.

Between 80,000 and 100,000 people are held in some type of isolation in U.S. prisons on any given day, generally in supermax prisons, in 44 states and the federal system. Yet there is no evidence that solitary confinement makes prisons safer, the Government Accountability Office determined in 2013.

Solitary confinement exacerbates mental illness. In Madrid v. Gomez, a U.S. federal court judge wrote that for those with diagnosed mental illness, “placing them in [solitary confinement] is the mental equivalent of putting an asthmatic in a place with little air to breathe.”

Professor Craig Haney described the deprivation of basic human needs of social interaction and environmental stimulation as a “painfully long form of social death.”

The European Court of Human Rights has determined that “complete sensory isolation coupled with complete social isolation can no doubt destroy the personality,” in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Likewise, the Inter American Court of Human Rights has stated that prolonged solitary confinement may violate the American Convention on Human Rights.

Suicide rates in California, New York, and Texas are significantly higher among those held in solitary confinement than in the general prison population. And juveniles are 19 times more likely to take their own lives in isolation than in the general population. Connecticut, Maine, Oklahoma, New York, and West Virginia have banned or put restrictions on solitary confinement of juveniles.

President Barack Obama has asked his Attorney General to “start a review of the overuse of solitary confinement across American prisons.” Obama said, “The social science shows that an environment like that is often more likely to make inmates more alienated, more hostile, potentially more violent.”

The purpose of the penal system is social rehabilitation, according to the ICCPR. In contravention of that mandate, the California legislature has specified that the purpose of sentencing is punishment. Solitary confinement implicitly denies any chance of social rehabilitation. The ICCPR requires that prison guards respect the inherent dignity of every inmate. Prolonged solitary confinement, like other forms of torture, destroys a person’s dignity.

Mendez proposed a worldwide ban on nearly all uses of solitary confinement, which has increased throughout the globe, especially in the context of the “war on terror” and “threats to national security.” He particularly criticized the routine use of isolation in U.S. supermax prisons.

In his concurring opinion, Justice Kennedy quoted Dostoyevsky: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” So one must wonder why the United States refuses to ratify the U.N. Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which requires international inspection of prisons.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. She is editor and contributor to “The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse.” See

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

We help the Guardian fix some of its reporting on Syria

OffGuardian | September 17, 2015

Martin Chulov needs a little help getting the narrative straight on Syria. Here are the portions of his article in today’s Guardian we think most in need of work:

A large convoy of Russian vehicles was reportedly on the move through central Syria on Wednesday, sparking new claims that renewed Russian support for the ailing Assad regime could lead to Moscow effectively running the war.


Separately, the citizen journalism project Bellingcat said on Wednesday that photographs of a Russian communications-jamming vehicle in Latakia region proved that a military buildup was under way.

“Newly published images showing a Russian R-166-0.5 (ultra) high-frequency signals (HF/VHF) vehicle driving through Syria’s coastal region now leaves little to no doubt on Russia’s intentions in Syria,” the report said. “The R-166-0.5 provides jam-resistant voice and data communications over a long range, enabling Russian troops to communicate with their bases in the coastal strongholds of Tartus and Latakia while operating far inland.”

“The whole package is being presented by Putin as part of a global and regional endeavour to stop IS,” said Middle East analyst and associate fellow at Chatham House, David Butter. “And, as such, it should provide the basis for cooperation between Russia, the US, the Europeans and the Arabs.


“They are doing more than supplementing the Syrians,” said a senior western official in London. “They are taking over the air war for them. The Syrians are not good at attacking ground forces.”


The Russian intervention comes at an especially complicated time in Syria’s civil war. Battle lines between the regime and a largely homegrown opposition have remained mostly static around Damascus and Aleppo, but have been fluid elsewhere.


However, senior Russian officials have repeatedly told counterparts in the Arab world that their stance stems largely from the US-led intervention in Libya in 2011, which Moscow saw as a trick and a threat to its influence.

“They are very much disrespectful of the regime as a partner and an ally,” said Harling. “But they completely share its view of the war’s cause and structure. They are anti-Islamist, anti-west and anti-democratic.

“They have been fighting a Cold War on their own, which naturally they have been winning in different ways. It plays well at home, where people have nothing but nostalgia to cling on to. They position themselves as standing up to western designs, as exemplified by Syria, and are saying to the region itself that [they] are a power to be contended with.”

Here’s how we think this should read, if we remove the spin (our modifications in italics):

“A large convoy of Russian-built vehicles was reportedly on the move through central Syria on Wednesday. Although Russian-built vehicles have formed a significant part of Syria’s military hardware for many years, some commenters are claiming these particular vehicles imply an increased level of Russian support, though they do not say why.”

Separately, the self-styled one-man “citizen journalism project” Bellingcat, whose “research” has been rejected by many professional analysts and attracted widespread ridicule, said on Wednesday that photographs of a Russian communications-jamming vehicle in Latakia region proved that a military buildup was under way, and used as evidence a photograph of some Russian-made hardware, claiming it “[enabled] Russian troops to communicate with their bases in the coastal strongholds of Tartus and Latakia while operating far inland.”

However, he appears to have forgotten that a Russian-made vehicle doesn’t necessarily have “Russian troops” inside it, and has made an idiotic leap of inference that overlooks the crucial fact Syria is full to bursting with Russian-built military hardware, all being used by Syrians.


“The whole package is […] part of a global and regional endeavour to stop IS,” said Middle East analyst and associate fellow at Chatham House, David Butter. “And, as such, it should provide the basis for cooperation between Russia, the US, the Europeans and the Arabs.”

“They are doing more than supplementing the Syrians,” said a senior western official in London. “They are taking over the air war against ISIS for them. The Syrians are not good at attacking ground forces.”

The Russian intervention comes at an especially complicated time in Syria’s civil war. Battle lines between the regime and a largely western-trained and supplied opposition, consisting almost entirely of radical jihadists have remained mostly static around Damascus and Aleppo, but have been fluid elsewhere.

However, senior Russian officials have repeatedly told counterparts in the Arab world that their stance stems largely from the US-led intervention in Libya in 2011, when the US used a UN mandated no-fly zone as a cover to launch an unsanctioned attack on the Libyan government, which Moscow saw as a trick and a violation of international law.

“They are very much disrespectful of the [Syrian] regime as a partner and an ally,” said Harling. “But they completely share its view of the war’s cause and structure. They are anti-US hegemony and anti-ISIS.

There Mr C, fixed it for you.

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

New Hampshire library to implement Tor above DHS objections—and how

PrivacySOS | September 16, 2015

A few weeks ago the Department of Homeland Security tried to intervene in a local library’s privacy program. Last night, the community roundly rejected those calls, explicitly choosing freedom over fear. Library board meetings don’t usually attract crowds, media, or protest. But something highly unusual—and extraordinarily encouraging—happened last night in a small town on the New Hampshire/Vermont border.

The drama unfolded in Lebanon, New Hampshire, where dozens of residents attended a library board meeting and spoke passionately about privacy and freedom before a gaggle of reporters and even some out of town activists. People in the room told me the energy was incredible. Some people cried. At the end of the meeting, the crowd that had gathered to passionately discuss issues at the heart of civic action and democracy erupted in cheers, elated at their collective success and lived commitment to the state motto: Live Free or Die.

The question before the public at the meeting last night was whether or not the Kilton Library in Lebanon should implement a Tor middle relay. Doing so would make the library a part of a global network of internet anonymity nodes offering users some measure of security and safety to people living under the terror of despotic regimes and abusive boyfriends alike. Weeks prior, the cops and the feds had managed to pull the plug on the project, a collaboration among the library, the Tor Project, and the Library Freedom Project.

But despite the Feds’ backroom fear mongering, the people of Lebanon, New Hampshire were not scared—and unlike DHS, which was mysteriously nowhere to be found last night, the people did their lobbying in full public view.

Nearly everyone who attended spoke in favor of the library’s plan to participate in Tor’s global internet freedom network. The only people who voiced opposition were the police chief and the town manager. But in the face of overwhelming community support, to include a local newspaper’s editors, even these few opponents were quick to temper their criticism of Tor, stressing that they would never tell the public it couldn’t do something like this if people want to.

People clearly want to. The room was so festive and pro-privacy that at the end of the meeting, the library board appeared unsure of what to do. It was so obvious that for a moment they just looked around. The people had spoken, and they weren’t scared, despite what DHS had told the local police, and what the local police had told the library. The library director stood up and proclaimed: the Tor node will return! The crowd cheered.

There were many remarkable moments during the public testimony. One woman, a library employee originally from Colombia, said that she wished a technology like Tor had existed in her country during a period of extreme repression in the early 2000s. It could have helped people, she said.

Library board chairman Francis Oscadal got philosophical, saying, “With any freedom there is risk. It came to me that I could vote in favor of the good … or I could vote against the bad. I’d rather vote for the good because there is value to this.” Please mark that quote and return to it; it’ll be endlessly relevant.

The Kilton Library and the community of Lebanon, New Hampshire have put the world on notice: privacy isn’t shameful and we don’t have to apologize for wanting to be free. We’d all do well to take heed, and gain some courage from their collective wisdom. Instead of fearing the bad in the world, and reacting based on those fears, we should vote for the good.

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

Britain Moves From Democracy to Authoritarian State in Pernicious Veil of Secrecy


By Graham Vanbergen | TruePublica | September 16, 2015

One should not forget that “Openness and participation are antidotes to surveillance and control”.

When David Cameron won the 2015 election one of the first things he said was; “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone”. This ominous statement immediately threw a dark shroud over Britain’s civil liberties laws, its openness and participation.

Few of the mainstream establishment press thought this was worthy of mention. From ZeroHedge – It’s not just those domestic extremists and crazy “conspiracy theory” kooks who took serious issue with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s overtly fascist language when it comes to freedom of expression in Great Britain.” The Independent was more sanguine – “This is the creepiest thing David Cameron has ever said.”

New powers being brought in by the Conservatives should be of great concern to everyone. They are expected to be the introduction of banning orders for organisations who use hate speech in public places, but whose activities fall short of proscription and include;

  1. New Extremism Disruption Orders to restrict people who seek to radicalise young people;
  2. Powers to close premises where extremists seek to influence others;
  3. Strengthening the powers of the Charity Commission to root out charities who misappropriate funds towards extremism and terrorism;
  4. Further immigration restrictions on extremists;
  5. A strengthened role for Ofcom to take action against channels which broadcast extremist content.

Simply take out the word ‘extremist’ from those five points and you have the existence of something completely different. Of course you could be forgiven for thinking that the government would not abuse such laws. But they already allow for such abuses to take place on current terror laws, for instance:

  1. The BBC is using laws designed to catch terrorists and organised crime networks to track down people who dodge the £145.50 licence fee.
  2. The Metropolitan Police Service has also come under fire for using the same powers to access the phone logs of journalists on two newspapers to trace their protected sources.
  3. In addition, Big Brother Watch discovered 372 councils had been authorised (by gov’t) to use the terror laws 9,607 times -the equivalent of around eleven spying missions a day to hunt down non-payment of council tax.
  4. Seven public authorities, including the BBC, refused under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose why or how often they had used the powers. The BBC now refuses 48% of such requests.

What is most striking about these events are that publicly funded bodies such as the BBC, the Police and local authorities are refusing to answer perfectly reasonable Freedom of Information Act requests. They are exercising powers they shouldn’t have but were given by a government that the electorate were not consulted on and do not approve of in the first place.

There is proof that local authorities have even used terror laws to surveillance dog fouling, underage sunbed users and people breaking smoking bans.

Now that the Conservative government in Britain has it’s feet under the desk it is preparing to enact new legislation that, under the guise of the “war on terror,” that will vastly expand police-state powers and essentially criminalise speech and other political activity.

Presented officially as an anti-terrorism bill, the proposed measures will be targeted at any popular opposition to the government’s policies of aggressive militarism abroad and austerity measures in Britain, or for that matter anything the government deems worthy of oppressing.

The new bill will include a series of measures targeting groups and individuals deemed by the government to be “extremist.” This term is defined so vaguely as to encompass a wide array of political activity.

The new bill will create extremist “disruption orders” for individuals and “banning orders” for groups. The targets for these new police powers will be those who have conducted “harmful” behaviour.

The “harmful” behaviour covers activities that pose “a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, even alarm or just distress or creating a ‘threat to the functioning of democracy’.”

This will be used to criminalise campaigns critical of government policy and protests, which are frequently dispersed by the police on precisely the grounds that they disrupt public order. The language also indicates that the government would have the authority to target those merely planning such activity prior to it taking place – and they would do that through mass surveillance.

UK intelligence agency GCHQ has already been caught acting unlawfully by spying on two international human rights organisations. In addition, last year it was revealed that GCHQ were illegally eavesdropping on sacrosanct lawyer-client conversations in order to both disrupt and make gains on negotiations. GCHQ failed to follow its own secret procedures. “If spying on human rights NGOs isn’t off-limits for GCHQ, then what is?” said Privacy International.

From here we can see we now have a vast illegal state surveillance system that Mussolini would have had wet dreams about. The government is slowly closing down Britain’s very open society and they intend on doing so using one of Britain’s finest philosophers and a well tried theory.

The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by the English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a single watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without the inmates being able to tell whether or not they are being watched. Although it is physically impossible for the single watchman to observe all cells at once, the fact that the inmates cannot know when they are being watched means that all inmates must act as though they are watched at all times, effectively controlling their own behaviour constantly.

The internet has become the architecture of the state managed panopticon.

Speaking to the Guardian weeks after his appointment as the UN special rapporteur on privacy, Joseph Cannataci described British surveillance oversight as being “a joke”, and said the situation is worse than anything George Orwell could have foreseen.

Terror laws we have are already being abused. One is reminded of 82 year old Mr Wolfgang‘s pass being seized and he then detained under the Terrorism Act for interrupting Tony Blair’s speech at the Labour party conference in 2005.

Some of the most egregious cases of misuse include: a council in Dorset putting three children and their parents under surveillance to check they were in the catchment area for the school they had applied to.

Like the prisoners of Jeremy Bentham’s building – there is nowhere to hide in the panopticon.

A report by the House of Lords Constitution Committee, Surveillance: Citizens and the State, had warned in 2009 that increasing use of surveillance by the government and private companies was a serious threat to freedoms and constitutional rights, stating, “The expansion in the use of surveillance represents one of the most significant changes in the life of the nation since the end of the Second World War. The government’s of 2010 and 2015 have taken no notice at all.

Tempora‘ was one such government mass surveillance and spying programme among many. It is alleged that GCHQ produces larger amounts of metadata than America’s NSA. By May 2012 300 GCHQ analysts and 250 NSA analysts had been assigned to sort data.

The amount and type of data collected and stored is mind-boggling. Every email, phone call, location data, relationships, family and friends, affairs, work, income, expenditure, social habits, it simply has no end. You would not write down the passwords to your email account, bank or Amazon account, social media platforms and give a stranger the list. But that is exactly what GCHQ and other organisations have got.

Optic Nerve‘, another UK state surveillance mission, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing. They have stored naked pictures of you, your little daughter and pictures you have sent to family and friends in a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy. This was a biometric exercise of epic scale – collating nearly 2 million citizen images in just a few months.

On May 13th 2013, Edward Snowden made a dash via Hong Kong to Moscow. That June the spying and surveillance revelations came forth. And what came forth was the stunning realisation that our government has been lying to us about the sheer scale of state surveillance conducted on a truly industrial scale.

Not happy with all this illegal state activity over its citizens, new orders that the government are now seeking contain bans on individuals broadcasting their views on television, and anyone subject to an order will be compelled to submit any written publication, including social media posts, to the police before it is printed. In addition, the orders will make it illegal for individuals to attend or address public gatherings or protests.

Banning orders will allow the government to outlaw any organisations it feels is not in their interests. If such a move is taken, anyone found to be a member of such an organisation will be guilty of a criminal offence. Authorities will also be able to shut down premises used by groups.

Human rights group Privacy International branded the new proposal as an “assault on the rights of ordinary British citizens.”

As the Guardian’s home affairs editor wrote in an analysis of the proposal, “the official definition of non-violent extremism is already wide-ranging” and, as Big Brother Watch has pointed out, the national extremism database already includes the names of people who have done little more than organise meetings on environmental issues.”

Last year the government even attempted to hold an entire terrorism trial in secret before abandoning it at the last minute.

Together with a sweeping attack on democratic rights and legal norms, the Conservatives’ anti-terror bills will further advance the government’s right-wing agenda. Cameron’s proposals make clear that the Conservatives are determined to vastly expand the repressive powers of the state.

In little more than five years the state has gone from an open society of democratic principle to one that resembles an authoritarian state. Soon, it will be impossible to have a dinner party with friends without the state knowing about it and wanting to know the purpose of your gathering. Quite the opposite of his ‘big society’.

The British government and its intelligence services are acting under a pernicious veil of secrecy to the detriment of all citizens.


September 17, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 2 Comments

Kremlin Slams Kiev for Including Journalists in Sanction List

Sputnik – 17.09.2015

Moscow condemns the inclusion of journalists in Kiev’s new sanctions list and believes the move to be unacceptable and violating freedom of speech, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday.

“The fact that there are many individuals from the media in that list is, of course, absolutely unacceptable and completely against any principles in the freedom of speech, and in this case we strongly condemn this decision, especially in regard to including individuals in the media,” Peskov told journalists.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree sanctioning 90 entities and barring almost 400 people, including several high-ranking individuals and journalists, from entering Ukraine for one year. The Ukrainian president said the sanctions would contribute to his country’s defense amid the conflict in the southeast.

More than 40 journalists and bloggers from countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Poland, Israel, Latvia and Russia, were targeted by the restrictions.

Later that day, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) slammed the decree, saying it blocked vital news and information about the crisis in the country.

Amid violence in Ukraine’s southeast, the freedom of media, particularly Russian media, has been repeatedly violated in the country. According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), a number of international journalists working in Ukraine have been kidnapped, tortured and killed since the start of the conflict.

This is not the first restriction of Russian media in Ukraine. In February, Kiev stripped 115 Russian news outlets of accreditation in governmental institutions.

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 1 Comment

How did Rawabi get its water?

By Jan Selby | MEMO | September 17, 2015

In February this year, the new Palestinian town of Rawabi at last managed to secure a water supply, after several years of acrimonious negotiations with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. With the greatest obstacle to populating Rawabi overcome, the first 200 families of this planned “shining city on a hill” have now finally started moving in.

Rawabi’s water woes have received extensive coverage in the Israeli, Palestinian and international media, not least owing to a campaign instigated by the town’s owners, the Bayti Real Estate Investment Company. But why did Rawabi encounter such problems? And how did they eventually get resolved? For all the media coverage, the reasons are not well known.

When I meet Amir Dajani, Deputy Manager Director of Bayti in his Rawabi office, he reserves most of his anger for the Palestinian Authority. “No one did anything to support Rawabi,” he says of the PA. He recognises, of course, that Israel’s occupation poses huge challenges to a billion-dollar investment project, but about these he is pragmatic. The contrast between his visceral anger at the PA and his cool realism about the occupation is striking.

For all that, it is Israeli demands and an Israeli-drafted document which were the ultimate reasons for the hold-up. Under Article 40 of the 1995 Oslo II Agreement – which Palestinian negotiators were simply handed and accepted when they should have known better – all new water facilities in the West Bank require prior approval from a Joint Water Committee, meaning that Israel has complete veto rights over Palestinian water developments in the occupied West Bank.

Worse still, while Article 40 did not directly mention water projects for Israeli settlements, it did not preclude them from being brought to the Committee either. Israel exploited this ambiguity by making its approval of Palestinian water projects conditional on Palestinian approval of settlement water infrastructures. For fifteen years, the PA’s pragmatic policy response – pursued with the full knowledge of Presidents Abbas and Arafat – was to consent, however unhappily, to this blackmail and approve every single water facility proposed by Israel for its settlements.

This changed only in 2010, when the Palestinian Water Authority and later the PLO Executive Committee decided that they would no longer approve settlement water infrastructures. The result has been five years of deadlock within the Committee; the PA refuses to approve settlement water projects, and Israel in turn refuses to approve new wells and pipelines for Palestinian communities.

Until February, this included Rawabi. But then, following a media campaign plus a series of high-profile interventions – including from Israeli President Rivlin – and a very public disagreement between the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) head, Major-General Yoav Mordechai and Infrastructure Minister Silvan Shalom, the issue was finally decided by Benjamin Netanyahu. Rawabi became an exception, the site of the only new West Bank Palestinian water infrastructure to have been formally approved by Israel since August 2010.

Contrary to reports, however, this was neither a “goodwill gesture” nor a function of a new era of Israeli “water generosity”; simultaneous to approving Rawabi’s connection, Mordechai and Netanyahu also unilaterally approved a handful of settlement water projects (one source has told me “four or five”, another says “six or seven”). These projects included, for instance, a new water supply line for Tekoa in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, supposedly needed because of declining groundwater levels in the Herodian area from which Tekoa is currently supplied.

Rather than an act of generosity, approval for Rawabi’s water was an internal Israeli quid pro quo. The Israeli government bowed to domestic and international pressure to provide the new Palestinian town with water, but could only square this with itself by simultaneously accommodating – nay, supporting – the country’s illegal settlements, by providing them with even more.

When I discuss this with Baruch Nagar of Israel’s Water Authority, he offers two justifications: that these settlement projects were “emergencies”; and that the Palestinian Water Authority, by refusing to approve settlement facilities, is acting unreasonably and is disrespecting Article 40. “We can’t understand why they stopped,” he says, as if the PA was just behaving irrationally. “We respect the water agreement,” he claims, “the Palestinians do not.”

This, though, is specious. Israel’s unilateral approval of settlement water facilities is a clear violation of Article 40, and invoking the false label of “emergency” does not alter this. There are scores of Palestinian communities across the West Bank which have no water in their pipes for days, weeks, even months on end each summer, and plenty of others which are not connected at all or whose small water collection systems are routinely demolished by the Israel Defence Forces. If “emergency” is the standard, then the PA would have every right – but not of course the power – to implement water projects unilaterally across the West Bank.

Moreover, no amount of deadlock within the Water Committee gives Israel the right to decide which new water facilities should be allowed to go ahead, and which not. However, this typifies Israel’s approach to the vestiges of the Oslo agreements, which can be summed up as bilateral “cooperation” when possible (i.e. when the Palestinians are compliant), unilateral violations whenever deemed necessary.

At least, though, Rawabi got its water supply, at least for now. For the other far-from-minor detail about this case is that Rawabi’s new water connection is only temporary; it will only supply 300 cubic metres of water per day, sufficient for the town’s first 5,000 residents and the next eighteen months. Thereafter, Rawabi will need another source, which is still being negotiated with Israel and the PA. Expect another raft of headlines about Rawabi’s water problems in a year or so.

Jan Selby is Professor of International Relations at the University of Sussex, UK

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

US Presidential Hopeful Fiorina Promises to Rule Out Talking With Russia

Sputnik – 17.09.2015

Republican 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina claimed that she would rule out talking with the Russian leader if won the elections and would launch a huge rearmament program in the US.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said during the Republican presidential debate that she would refuse to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin if elected and would engage in a massive US rearmament program.

“We’ve talked way too much to him,” Fiorina said during the debate held at the Roland Reagan Presidential Library in California on Wednesday night, adding that, if elected president, she would carry out aggressive military maneuvers in the Balkans and rebuild US missile defense forces in Poland.

“What I would do immediately, I would begin rebuilding the Sixth Fleet, I would begin rebuilding the missile defense program in Poland, I would also conduct military exercises in the Baltic states, I’d probably send a few thousand more troops to Germany,” she said.

Fiorina added that she would send weapons to arm the Kurds against Islamic State (IS) militants and would supply US bombs to Jordan.

“We could give the Jordanians what they’ve asked for, bombs and material. We have not supplied it, I will,” she added. “We could arm the Kurds; they have been asking for this for three years. This is in our control.”

Fiorina has been running with only around 3 to 4 percent support among US Republican voters in recent opinion polls.

Moscow’s relations with the United States have deteriorated dramatically since 2014 over Crimea’s reunification with Russia and the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

Russia has repeatedly expressed concerns over NATO’s recent military buildup along its borders. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the “Cold War mindset” still prevails in the bloc, which ceased what it refers to as “practical cooperation” with Russia in April 2014, when the armed confrontation in Ukraine’s southeast began.

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Anne-Marie Slaughter Admits She Was Wrong About Iran, Doesn’t Care Enough to Issue Correction

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep In America | September 16, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post addressing the myriad falsehoods and inaccuracies proffered by influential think tank head and former Obama official Anne-Marie Slaughter in an August 20 op-ed she wrote for USA Today about the multilateral nuclear agreement reached between Iran and six world powers this summer in Vienna.

During the course of her column, Slaughter gets some very basic facts about the Iranian nuclear program, the history of negotiations, and the deal itself totally wrong. For instance, she claims the deal “completely dismantles its nuclear supply chain.” It doesn’t. She calls the Iranian nuclear program – the one fully safeguarded and monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency – “illegal.” It is not.

One of the most flagrant and repeated errors in Slaughter’s piece is that Iran currently has in its possession “stockpiled plutonium and highly enriched uranium.” Again, this isn’t even remotely true as Iran has never produced nor stockpiled any plutonium or highly enriched uranium. Ever.

Alas, despite my (and others) efforts to force this to Slaughter’s attention and get her to respond, she didn’t.

Until Sunday.

First came the obvious “I’m busy” stuff, but soon thereafter came the full admission of error about her “stockpiled plutonium and highly enriched uranium” claim. Apparently, explains Slaughter in lieu of actually owning up to being dead wrong, she was “writing 2 quickly” and “didn’t mean 2 say stockpiles of plutonium.”

How someone accidentally writes and publishes something they claim to know isn’t true is beyond me. But, amazingly, what she tweeted after that is even more damning.

According to Ms. Slaughter, who has been a professor and department chair at elite academic institutions, served as a top aide to the Secretary of State, and now runs a major D.C. think tank, “writing for [a] mass audience” means ignoring the truth, or what she refers to for some reason as omitting “nuance.”

First off, facts aren’t nuance. They are facts. Iran not having stockpiles of weapons-grade fissile material is not some bit of inane minutiae when one has decided to argue that Iran is a potential nuclear-armed threat. No, falsely claiming the opposite is an integral part of your overall argument and it is erroneous information upon which less informed or interested readers (yes, the “mass audience”) will base their own judgments on the matter. If your facts are wrong, and you’re supposed to be the “expert,” then how are we to expect the non-experts to know what the truth is?

Which brings us to the second thing: Anne-Marie Slaughter clearly isn’t concerned about the truth. She’s concerned about making her case in support of the Iran deal, and still sounding tough on the Iranian bogeyman, regardless of what she needs to pretend is true to do it.

This is exactly why most people are so poorly-informed about Iran’s nuclear program and why faulty assumptions lead, not only to warmongering and threats, but to bad policy.

But, hey, for Anne-Marie Slaughter, she only had so much room to “frame [the] core debate,” which clearly doesn’t leave any space for telling the truth about things. I mean, writing “low enriched uranium” takes up far more space than “plutonium and highly enriched uranium,” right?

Slaughter only addressed that one mistake, however, ignoring the other obvious errors published in her op-ed.

When asked whether she would contact USA Today and ask them to issue a correction on her article about the “stockpiles” claim, Slaughter demurred.

Besides the fact that September 15 is not “over a month” after August 20, Slaughter is apparently uninterested in setting the record straight and believes her commentary, published in USA Today, has an extremely short shelf-life of relevance. Why correct my mistakes when the damage is already done?

Such is the emphasis on truth and the importance of honesty in the mainstream commentariat. After all, if the “mass audience” doesn’t know they’re being lied to by Very Important People like Anne-Marie Slaughter, why would she let them find out? I mean, hey, she’s got a book to promote!

Reflecting on how tragically wrong she and other supporters of the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq were about what they claimed they knew was true, Slaughter wrote in 2013, “We can only hope we have gained a lesson in humility.”

Sadly enough, that lesson, for Slaughter herself, appears yet unlearned.

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 4 Comments

The Dirty Politics Behind the Syrian Conflict

By Francesca Megaloudi | CounterPunch | September 17, 2015

Over recent months the situation in the Mediterranean has served as a dramatic reminder of what the leaders of Europe have tried hard to forget. The Syrian crisis has reached Europe. Although a lot of talk has been made over numbers and percentages of refugees that every country may or may not accept, let’s not forget that behind those numbers and the showy emotionalism of the politicians hides the ugly side of world politics.

The plans to overthrow the “annoying” regimes in the Middle East began at the time when the war hawks of Washington and their European allies prepared the first Iraqi war.

In a 2007 speech, US General Wesley Clark recounted a conversation he had back in 1991 with the then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. During that talk, the Secretary told the General that the Pentagon had already drawn plans in order to achieve the change of regimes in Iraq, Syria and Iran. “…We’ve got about 5 or 10 years to clean up those old Soviet regimes – Syria, Iran, Iraq – before the next great superpower comes on to challenge us.”

General Clark went on to reveal that six weeks after the attack on the twin towers in 2001, an official from the Department of Defense told him that the Pentagon had issued a classified document describing the strategy of the USA in order to overthrow the regimes of seven countries in the next five years. The beginning would be made with Iraq, followed by Syria and Lebanon, then Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finally, Iran.

Those claims were confirmed by the former French Minister of Foreign affairs, Roland Dumas when he told a French television station that Great Britain used to train and support Syrian rebels at least two years prior to the revolt aiming to overthrow Assad from power.

The money that fuels the war

Between 2006 to 2010, the US spent 12 million dollars in order to support and instigate demonstrations and propaganda against the Syrian government. WikiLeaks released over 7000 secret diplomatic cables that document that funding. The cables revealed that up to 6,3 million dollars was funneled to the Movement for Justice and Development, a Syrian dissident organization based in London. The Movement operated the Barada satellite channel that broadcasted anti-government propaganda in Syria and that played an important part in the 2010-11 anti-Assad protests.

The remaining 6 million were spent by the US in order to support rebels and activists and educate journalists in ways of manipulating the news about the Syrian crisis in a manner that would benefit the rebels. In Aprιl 2011, the spokesman for the State Department, Mark Toner, admitted that the WikiLeaks documents were authentic and he claimed that the US supported several “civil movements in Syria” with “the goal of strengthening freedom of expression”.

In 2012, the French Minister of Foreign affairs, Laurent Fabius, alongside the UK, pushed for a relaxation of the EU arms embargo to Syria to enable “defensive arms to reach opposition fighters”. France was the first European power to recognize the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, a coalition of several rebel groups formed in Doha that according to the French president François Hollande, was the “only representative of the Syrian people”. The coalition was also recognized by neighboring Turkey and the Arab League as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people’s aspirations.”

In December 2012, at a meeting held in Marrakesh, the United States backed the National Coalition as the transitional government of Syria. By that time more than 100 countries, including the European Union, had recognized the Syrian opposition, despite fears that it might be linked to Al Qaeda-related groups. According to the French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, “important” financial contributions were announced at the meeting: Saudi Arabia offered $100 million, the US pledged a further $14m in medical aid and Germany offered $29m.

Two years later, in 2014, French president Hollande, cynically told French media that France was arming and training Syrian rebels, for an unspecified period of time, because “they are the only ones to take part in the democratic process”. In an interview with French daily Le Monde he admitted that France cannot “go it alone” and that there was “a good understanding with Europe and the Americans.”

Indeed there was.

The Libyan connection

Back in September 2012, the US consulate in Benghazi and a CIA base located a mile from the consulate were attacked by local militias. The attacks resulted to the death of four people, including the American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.

President Obama and Hillary Clinton were heavily criticized over the lack of security at the consulate and the delayed response.

But the official narrative failed to address some key issues: why the CIA base was attacked and what was the exact role of the consulate in an area partially controlled by local militia?

Officially the consulate’s role was to establish a cultural center and a library in Benghazi. But media reports indicate that the consulate had a much more obscure role.

Soon after the war to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in Libya began, in February 2011, the CIA set up a base for its spying operations in Benghazi. The CIA base was known as the Annex and according to the Wall Street Journal the sole aim of the consulate was to “provide diplomatic cover to the Annex”.

The Sunday Times of London reported that the United States had been secretly purchasing the stockpiled weapons of Gaddafi — including anti-aircraft SA-7 missiles, anti-tank rounds, rocket-propelled grenades and mortar shells. Via a connection with Middle Eastern countries that were already supporting various opposition groups in Syria some of these weapons were channeled to the rebels.

Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh has also revealed that President Obama and the Turkish PM, Erdogan had reached a secret deal in the beginning of 2012. The deal was that the CIA and the British M16 would undertake to move Gaddafi heavy weapons out of Libya and use them to supply the Free Syrian Army; Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were to provide the funds for this operation that was covered under the auspices of an Australian entity.

It is very likely that most of those weapons ended up in the hands of the Al-Nusra front – an extremist group that is linked to Al Qaeda in Syria. When the US and its European and Middle Eastern allies were channeling heavy weaponry to the rebels in Syria, up to 9 per cent of the Free Syrian Army’s total fighters belonged to the Al Nusra Front. In 2012 Washington Post reported that the jihadist group is growing fast “in part because it has been the most aggressive and successful arm of the rebel force”

Indeed, by 2013, virtually all rebel areas controlled in Syria would be led by jihadists. 

The Ghouta massacre

In August 2013, yellow smoke rose over the rebel -controlled suburb of Ghouta near Damascus. A few hours later and the lifeless bodies of 1,000 people, including 300 children would be lying in the streets. It was one of the worst sarin attacks in the history of the Syrian civil war.

President Obama accused the Syrian regime for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons and announced US military intervention in Syria.

However, two days before the planned strike, Obama said that he would seek congressional approval of the intervention.

So what has made the US President change his mind?

Seymour Hersh presents an alternative narrative to the events: The US intelligence feared that Turkey was supplying sarin gas to rebels’ months before the attack took place. This information was never made public.

Hersh writes that “the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page “talking points” briefing on June 19th which stated the Syrian rebel group al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell”. According to the paper “Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria”.

According to Hersh’s exposé, in 2012 the US intelligence services believed that the rebels would lose the war. This prompted the Turkish national intelligence agency and Gendarmerie, the nation’s paramilitary law enforcement arm, to work with al-Nusra Front in Syria in order to help them build their chemical development. Erdogan allegedly hoped that the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians would led to a military response from the United States against Assad.

Hersh’ report has sparked controversy and the New Yorker and Washington Post declined to publish it.

It would take years until the political and military games surrounding the Syrian conflict come to light.

Meanwhile, 4 million Syrians are forced to escape the conflict and over 250,000 people have tried to reach Europe in August 2015. Western countries are willing to grant asylum, but are not willing to stop the actions that fuel the war.

It seems that the bodies of the drowned Syrian children shocked a lot of consciences, but changed no policies.

Francesca Megaloudi is a Greek journalist specializing in human rights reporting. Her latest book on North Korea will be published this fall.

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Burning cane and planting corn to reclaim territory in southwestern Colombia

By Lisa Taylor – NACLA – 09/15/2015

Sunlight filters through the trees and whiffs of vegetable beef stew float through the air as dozens of women, men and youths of the Nasa indigenous people congregate together in the southwestern  Colombian province of Cauca once a month for a “minga.” During the minga – a type of communal work found throughout the Andes – approximately one thousand people clear hundreds of hectares of sugarcane with machetes and controlled fires.

Replacing the “green desert” of monoculture sugarcane with their own crops is part of the “Liberation of Mother Earth” movement initiated in 2005 by the Nasa. Cauca is one of the most militarized provinces in the country, and indigenous communities have been heavily affected by violence from armed groups including state security forces, paramilitaries and guerrillas.  After suffering displacement and the exploitation of their lands by multinational corporations, the Nasa are reclaiming their ancestral territory, sowing subsistence crops including corn, beans, plantains and yucca.

“The Liberation of Mother Earth is a strategy for the defense of life; it’s the protection of life. It’s for our community well-being and so, convinced by this ancient struggle, we are here today,” said one representative attending the July minga from the indigenous reservation of Jambaló.*

The newest phase of the Liberation movement began last December when over 3000 Nasa began peacefully occupying seven sugarcane farms in three different municipalities (Corinto, Caloto and Santander de Quilichao) in northern Cauca. On these farms, they discovered various indigenous artifacts buried in the land, relics from previous generations of Nasa who had been displaced over the last century by armed groups and corporate interests. Statistics from the United Nations indicate that 3.1 million internally displaced persons in Colombia have abandoned an estimated 4 million hectares since 1985.

Under a 2000 ruling by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), certain lands currently occupied by sugarcane farms are legally owed to the Nasa people after the 1991 El Nilo massacre, when 20 indigenous people were assassinated by members of the national police and other unknown armed actors.

The Colombian state agreed to title 15,663 hectares to the Nasa people as part of a collective reparations deal negotiated by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). After a delay of more than ten years, the government turned over most of the land, but more than half of it is either infertile or located in protected forest reserves. The government argues that as the price of fertile land in the region has tripled in the intervening ten years, the national budget cannot cover purchasing land currently dedicated to sugarcane for reparations owed the Nasa.

When the government failed to fulfill the reparations agreement and guarantee their security – after El Nilo, three similar massacres occurred in 2001 nearby in the River Naya, Gualanday and San Pedro – the Nasa decided to take back their lands independently. They demand at least 20,000 hectares of land for their survival, adequate agrarian policy reform and special economic and social development programs tailored for indigenous peoples, as called for by Colombian government Decree 982 issued in 1999.

“We’re here because it is our right, but also because of necessity,” a representative from the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) said. “We don’t have anywhere to sow. . .We’re not going to wait for the government to say, ‘here, have this,’ so bit by bit we’re going to go about achieving our own goals and liberating Mother Earth, liberating her from all monoculture crops.”

According to the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN), 56 percent of children in the region suffer from hunger or malnutrition and 6,000 of 25,000 local families have inadequate land for survival. Meanwhile, less than one percent of Colombia’s population owns 62 percent of all land, and eight sugar company giants possess over 330,000 hectares (about 1274 square miles) of local land which is planted horizon to horizon with sugarcane, used principally to produce foodstuffs, ethanol and molasses for both domestic consumption and export.

The Nasa have concentrated their occupation on the fields owned by INCAUCA, the multinational sugar company owned by Colombian billionaire Carlos Ardila Lülle. They contend his company represents a “transnational model of plunder and agribusiness.” The Nasa criticize this as an unsustainable model of development that depends upon the cultivation of monoculture crops (sugar, bananas, palm oil and flowers) for export.

“The story of capital and of those who accumulate capital is a project of death that ends up destroying all nature, including the lives of human beings. For us, the land is our mother and they are committing a crime against her,” wrote the ACIN in a 2010 statement.

Artisanal sugarcane production arrived in Cauca in 1538 after the Spanish invasion, and by the beginning of the 19th century, the first modern sugar mill was installed by the company Manuelita. Later railway expansion and mechanization led to a production boom in the 1930s and 1940s – a boom that corresponds with the first waves of indigenous displacement.

Although the Nasa’s recent land occupation is peaceful, since last December at least 143 indigenous people have been injured, 37 seriously, by firearms, tear gas, rubber bullets and confrontations with state security forces. On April 10, 19-year old indigenous guard Guillermo Pavi was killed after he was reportedly shot by the Colombian riot police (ESMAD) and the army. With the road blocked, his injuries proved fatal because his companions could not get him to a hospital.

On May 28, riot police attempted to evict people with tanks, tractors and tear gas, announcing over a megaphone that “this one will be worse than El Nilo.” State security forces have also repeatedly burned and destroyed newly planted crops, recently decimating 580 hectares of corn, beans, yucca and plantains in mid-June and returning for a second round of destruction in July.

The Nasa have received threatening letters, phone calls and text messages from neo-paramilitary groups such as the Aguilas Negras that falsely accuse them of being affiliated with guerrilla groups, which still have a strong presence in the region.

“The Aguilas Negras intelligence has a hundred names of people who are doing harm on the farms . . . who support the narco-terrorists [the FARC . . .] It won’t be a surprise when dismembered bodies appear among those Indian sons-of-bitches,” read one written threat.

Despite the attacks, the Nasa remain committed. Maintaining a constant presence and planting crops, they reclaim their territory day by day, hectare by hectare, advocating against the imposition of monoculture agriculture and extractive economic models, arguing that these do not lead to real development but rather the exploitation of the earth and people that can only be ended with the Liberation of Mother Earth.

“The truth is that today nature ought to be quite content because she has begun to feel our presence again,” said a CRIC representative. “Hopefully as soon as possible, we won’t see all of this sugarcane but rather we’ll see fruit, shade, water . . . This is the challenge each one of us has. It’s not easy but it’s not impossible.”

*Interviewees are unnamed at their request to emphasize the movement’s collective nature and because of concerns for their safety.

Lisa Taylor works for Witness for Peace in Colombia.

September 17, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , | Leave a comment