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Jimmy Carter concerned about possible breach of international law by Washington

MEMO | March 31, 2014

Former American President Jimmy Carter has warned the US Secretary of State John Kerry of violating international law in his potential peace framework agreement between the Palestinians and the Israeli occupation.

He also expressed his concerns about the remarks of Kerry’s senior aides Martin Indyk, which were delivered before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other Jewish groups.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA)’s official news agency Wafa said Carter had shown the letter he sent to Kerry to the PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The letter included efforts to save the peace process and stressed on reaching an agreement to be accepted by the two sides.

According to Wafa, Carter warned of formulating an agreement which “in any form, breaches international law and the reinforced international precedents regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict which have been accepted since 1967.”

Carter reiterated the necessity to abide by UN resolution 242, which was accepted by the former Israeli PM Menachem Begin as part of the Camp David peace accords and supported by the Quartet, Arab League and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

The sponsor of the first peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs said: “Official US proposal to cancel or breach international law will make it impossible for the Palestinians in the Holy Lands, or outside, to accept the framework agreement as a new basis for peace talks.”

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Does the Right to Privacy Now Apply Only to the US Government?

By JAMES ROTHENBERG | July 25, 2013

Whatever our opinion of Edward Snowden, if we’re fair we see it being formed from a neutral perspective. This is because he was, until recently, a complete unknown. Snowden’s antagonist, the United States Government (USG), occupies the established part of this relationship in our minds.

How do we come to form our opinions? Largely from assessing new information against the background of existing information, in this case, what we know, or, what we believe we know. It’s clear that whatever our opinion of Snowden is is every bit as much a statement about our opinion of the USG.

The USG is not a blank background against which to measure the pros and cons of Snowden’s actions. My contention is simply this: In order to have achieved a position on Snowden close to neutral supposes a worldview in which the US is a neutral reactor to world events and is bent on opposing evil in the interest of creating a more secure world. This is not the history of states, particularly ours.

Even with only an appreciation of very recent American history, we are brought face to face with incessant bombing, crippling sanctions that harm a country’s “little people”, white phosphorus, napalm, depleted uranium, civilian humiliation, indefinite “Devil’s Island style” detention, targeted assassination, robotized and sanitized drone warfare, killing as revealed in Collateral Murder video, and officially sanctioned torture.

No, not a blank background. And now we know, as we should have known, that the vaunted “right to privacy” extends only to, and stops at, the USG. We are to put ourselves in the position of the child whose “parent” knows what is best for us and insists on our trust.

The word “insists” is very important. It has to be backed by something. In the case of the USG it is backed by force, all the force at its disposal. Imagine the reciprocal. The people insist that their government trust them! The absence of force at this level explains the current citizen/state relationship.

There’s a recent, seemingly benign, revelation regarding the United States Postal Service (USPS). Seems like they’ve been photographing the outside of every envelope, package, and postcard passing through its hands. Chalk up 160 billion eavesdropping bits for the USPS last year.

What’s troubling is the legal rationale provided for the intrusion. Loosely stated it’s that the postman has from time immemorial had visual access to the outside of envelopes, so that this was never a privacy concern! And we’re supposed to swallow this whole. The dog-fearing mailman, nosybody that he is, feels free to cop a peek. And, naturally, since he is an agent of the government this “freedom to peek” obtains to the USG as well, because it is unthinkable that an agent should possess powers that do not extend to that for which he is performing his lawful function.

Now that we’ve placed the mailman on a par with the state, and made no distinction between his mild transgression (actually closer to overhearing than snooping), why not extend this to the “Big Brother” image? Could the legal rationale for that be that since we are eminently observable by people in our everyday lives then there is no privacy concern when a certain, larger group of people decide to observe us?

Since the USPS goes lacking for funds, and since it performs a “national security” function, a working idea might be to place the USPS under the Department of Defense, to which money flows freely. That way we could keep the post offices open and possibly slow the escalation of its prices in the bargain.

Snowden has come under criticism because he fled the country. Some believe he should face US justice, what I would characterize as the “martyr solution”, because that is what it would amount to. He fled because this country is no longer safe for whistleblowers. Daniel Ellsberg said as much.

Some believe he should have come in through the front door and taken his case directly to Congress instead of Hong Kong. Go to Congress? To push an approach like this would be to completely ignore the working agenda of a capitalist, militarist, imperialist state and the role its politicians play in it.

To expect the politicians that are complicit with the state in the furtherance of its agenda to play an adversarial role against the very institutions, the financial and corporate elite that sustains them, and upon which they are dependent for their current and future livelihoods is to expect the sun to obey the earth. Whatever bias the public might show toward the USG is magnified times over by those in Congress, with few admirable exceptions.

The term “full spectrum dominance” signifies the ambitious national military project to control all of land, sea, air, space, biological, and cyber fighting capabilities. The term does not originate with avid leftists but is used by them, in quotes, because it is the Pentagon’s preferred description, an open confession of sorts. So, no, Snowden is really only waking the people who have been sleeping.

According to Der Spiegel (whose bias is distinctly anti-left) Jimmy Carter remarked, in defense of Edward Snowden, that “America does not have a functioning democracy at the present time”. He’s been known to have walked away from previous statements, and this remark seems to have been made to a private audience (making it no less true), but the remark itself is totally unsurprising. One can doubt the need for the ending qualifier, “at the present time”. Whether viewed domestically or from abroad, American behavior reveals itself for what it is.

When you see something that looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and in constantly seen in the company of other ducks, you can assume that it’s a duck. That’s funny, but even better it’s funny and speaks to something more. It’s a valuable heuristic.

Take the case of the USG. When you see a country that seeks out right wing dictatorships in foreign countries, aids the right-wingers, deals with the right-wingers, fights with the right-wingers, and is never but never seen in the company of left-wingers, you can assume you have a right-winger.

The slide into fascism is smooth and the momentum is particularly strong at the bottom. In many respects we are already there.

James Rothenberg can be reached at:  jrothenberg@taconic.net

Source

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment

Tales of Reagan’s Guatemala Genocide

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | April 16, 2013

The first month of the genocide trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt has elicited chilling testimony from Mayan survivors who – as children – watched their families slaughtered by a right-wing military that was supported and supplied by U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

As the New York Times reported on Monday, “In the tortured logic of military planning documents conceived under Mr. Ríos Montt’s 17-month rule during 1982 and 1983, the entire Mayan Ixil population was a military target, children included. Officers wrote that the leftist guerrillas fighting the government had succeeded in indoctrinating the impoverished Ixils and reached ‘100 percent support.’”

President Ronald Reagan meeting with Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt.

So, everyone was targeted in these scorched-earth campaigns that eradicated more than 600 Indian villages in the Guatemalan highlands. But this genocide was not simply the result of a twisted anticommunist ideology that dominated the Guatemalan military and political elites. This genocide also was endorsed by the Reagan administration.

A document that I discovered recently in the archives of the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, revealed that Reagan and his national security team in 1981 agreed to supply military aid to the brutal right-wing regime in Guatemala to pursue the goal of exterminating not only “Marxist guerrillas” but people associated with their “civilian support mechanisms.”

This supportive attitude toward the Guatemalan regime’s brutality took shape in spring 1981 as President Reagan sought to ease human-rights restrictions on military aid to Guatemala that had been imposed by President Jimmy Carter and the Democratic-controlled Congress in the late 1970s.

As part of that relaxation effort, Reagan’s State Department “advised our Central American embassies that it has been studying ways to restore a closer, cooperative relationship with Guatemala,” according to a White House “Situation Room Checklist” dated April 8, 1981. The document added:

“State believes a number of changes have occurred which could make Guatemalan leaders more receptive to a new U.S. initiative: the Guatemalans view the new administration as more sympathetic to their problems [and] they are less suspect of the U.S. role in El Salvador,” where the Reagan administration was expanding support for another right-wing regime infamous for slaughtering its political opponents, including Catholic clergy.

“State has concluded that any attempt to reestablish a dialogue [with Guatemala] would require some initial, condition-free demonstration of our goodwill. However, this could not include military sales which would provoke serious U.S. public and congressional criticism. State will undertake a series of confidence building measures, free of preconditions, which minimize potential conflict with existing legislation.”

The “checklist” added that the State Department “has also decided that the administration should engage the Guatemalan government at the highest level in a dialogue on our bilateral relations and the initiatives we can take together to improve them. Secretary [of State Alexander] Haig has designated [retired] General Vernon Walters as his personal emissary to initiate this process with President [Fernando Romeo] Lucas [Garcia].

“If Lucas is prepared to give assurances that he will take steps to halt government involvement in the indiscriminate killing of political opponents and to foster a climate conducive to a viable electoral process, the U.S. will be prepared to approve some military sales immediately.”

But the operative word in that paragraph was “indiscriminate.” The Reagan administration expressed no problem with killing civilians if they were considered supporters of the guerrillas who had been fighting against the country’s ruling oligarchs and generals since the 1950s when the CIA organized the overthrow of Guatemala’s reformist President Jacobo Arbenz.

Sympathy for the Generals

The distinction was spelled out in “Talking Points” for Walters to deliver in a face-to-face meeting with General Lucas. As edited inside the White House in April 1981, the “Talking Points” read: “The President and Secretary Haig have designated me [Walters] as [their] personal emissary to discuss bilateral relations on an urgent basis.

“Both the President and the Secretary recognize that your country is engaged in a war with Marxist guerrillas. We are deeply concerned about externally supported Marxist subversion in Guatemala and other countries in the region. As you are aware, we have already taken steps to assist Honduras and El Salvador resist this aggression.

“The Secretary has sent me here to see if we can work out a way to provide material assistance to your government. … We have minimized negative public statements by US officials on the situation in Guatemala. … We have arranged for the Commerce Department to take steps that will permit the sale of $3 million worth of military trucks and Jeeps to the Guatemalan army. …

“With your concurrence, we propose to provide you and any officers you might designate an intelligence briefing on regional developments from our perspective. Our desire, however, is to go substantially beyond the steps I have just outlined. We wish to reestablish our traditional military supply and training relationship as soon as possible.

“As we are both aware, this has not yet been feasible because of our internal political and legal constraints relating to the use by some elements of your security forces of deliberate and indiscriminate killing of persons not involved with the guerrilla forces or their civilian support mechanisms. I am not referring here to the regrettable but inevitable death of innocents through error in combat situations, but to what appears to us a calculated use of terror to immobilize non politicized people or potential opponents. …

“If you could give me your assurance that you will take steps to halt official involvement in the killing of persons not involved with the guerrilla forces or their civilian support mechanism … we would be in a much stronger position to defend successfully with the Congress a decision to begin to resume our military supply relationship with your government.”

In other words, though the “talking points” were framed as an appeal to reduce the “indiscriminate” slaughter of “non politicized people,” they amounted to an acceptance of scorched-earth tactics against people involved with the guerrillas and “their civilian support mechanisms.” The way that played out in Guatemala – as in nearby El Salvador – was the massacring of peasants in regions considered sympathetic to leftist insurgents.

The newly discovered documents – and other records declassified in the late 1990s – make clear that Reagan and his administration were well aware of the butchery underway in Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America.

According to one “secret” cable also from April 1981 — and declassified in the 1990s — the CIA was confirming Guatemalan government massacres even as Reagan was moving to loosen the military aid ban. On April 17, 1981, a CIA cable described an army massacre at Cocob, near Nebaj in the Ixil Indian territory, because the population was believed to support leftist guerrillas.

A CIA source reported that “the social population appeared to fully support the guerrillas” and “the soldiers were forced to fire at anything that moved.” The CIA cable added that “the Guatemalan authorities admitted that ‘many civilians’ were killed in Cocob, many of whom undoubtedly were non-combatants.” [Many of the Guatemalan documents declassified in the 1990s can be found at the National Security Archive’s Web site.]

Dispatching Walters

In May 1981, despite the ongoing atrocities, Reagan dispatched Walters to tell the Guatemalan leaders that the new U.S. administration wanted to lift the human rights embargoes on military equipment that Carter and Congress had imposed.

The “Talking Points” also put the Reagan administration in line with the fiercely anticommunist regimes elsewhere in Latin America, where right-wing “death squads” operated with impunity liquidating not only armed guerrillas but civilians who were judged sympathetic to left-wing causes like demanding greater economic equality and social justice.

Despite his aw shucks style, Reagan found virtually every anticommunist action justified, no matter how brutal. From his eight years in the White House, there is no historical indication that he was morally troubled by the bloodbath and even genocide that occurred in Central America while he was shipping hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to the implicated forces.

The death toll was staggering — an estimated 70,000 or more political killings in El Salvador, possibly 20,000 slain from the Contra war in Nicaragua, about 200 political “disappearances” in Honduras and some 100,000 people eliminated during a resurgence of political violence in Guatemala. The one consistent element in these slaughters was the overarching Cold War rationalization, emanating in large part from Ronald Reagan’s White House.

Despite their claims to the contrary, the evidence is now overwhelming that Reagan and his advisers knew the extraordinary brutality going on in Guatemala and elsewhere, based on their own internal documents.

According to a State Department cable on Oct. 5, 1981, when Guatemalan leaders met again with Walters, they left no doubt about their plans. The cable said Gen. Lucas “made clear that his government will continue as before — that the repression will continue. He reiterated his belief that the repression is working and that the guerrilla threat will be successfully routed.”

Human rights groups saw the same picture. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission released a report on Oct. 15, 1981, blaming the Guatemalan government for “thousands of illegal executions.” [Washington Post, Oct. 16, 1981]

But the Reagan administration was set on whitewashing the ugly scene. A State Department “white paper,” released in December 1981, blamed the violence on leftist “extremist groups” and their “terrorist methods” prompted and supported by Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

What the documents from the Reagan Library make clear is that the administration was not simply struggling ineffectively to rein in these massacres – as the U.S. press corps typically reported – but was fully on board with the slaughter of people who were part of the guerrillas’ “civilian support mechanisms.”

U.S. intelligence agencies continued to pick up evidence of these government-sponsored massacres. One CIA report in February 1982 described an army sweep through the so-called Ixil Triangle in central El Quiche province.

“The commanding officers of the units involved have been instructed to destroy all towns and villages which are cooperating with the Guerrilla Army of the Poor [the EGP] and eliminate all sources of resistance,” the report said. “Since the operation began, several villages have been burned to the ground, and a large number of guerrillas and collaborators have been killed.”

The CIA report explained the army’s modus operandi: “When an army patrol meets resistance and takes fire from a town or village, it is assumed that the entire town is hostile and it is subsequently destroyed.” When the army encountered an empty village, it was “assumed to have been supporting the EGP, and it is destroyed. There are hundreds, possibly thousands of refugees in the hills with no homes to return to. …

“The army high command is highly pleased with the initial results of the sweep operation, and believes that it will be successful in destroying the major EGP support area and will be able to drive the EGP out of the Ixil Triangle. … The well documented belief by the army that the entire Ixil Indian population is pro-EGP has created a situation in which the army can be expected to give no quarter to combatants and non-combatants alike.”

On Feb. 2, 1982, Richard Childress, one of Reagan’s national security aides, wrote a “secret” memo to his colleagues summing up this reality on the ground:

“As we move ahead on our approach to Latin America, we need to consciously address the unique problems posed by Guatemala. Possessed of some of the worst human rights records in the region, … it presents a policy dilemma for us. The abysmal human rights record makes it, in its present form, unworthy of USG [U.S. government] support. …

“Beset by a continuous insurgency for at least 15 years, the current leadership is completely committed to a ruthless and unyielding program of suppression. Hardly a soldier could be found that has not killed a ‘guerrilla.’”

The Rise of Rios Montt

However, Reagan remained committed to supplying military hardware to Guatemala’s brutal regime. So, the administration welcomed Gen. Efrain Rios Montt’s March 1982 overthrow of the thoroughly bloodstained Gen. Lucas.

An avowed fundamentalist Christian, Rios Montt impressed Official Washington where the Reagan administration immediately revved up its propaganda machinery to hype the new dictator’s “born-again” status as proof of his deep respect for human life. Reagan hailed Rios Montt as “a man of great personal integrity.”

By July 1982, however, Rios Montt had begun a new scorched-earth campaign called his “rifles and beans” policy. The slogan meant that pacified Indians would get “beans,” while all others could expect to be the target of army “rifles.” In October, Rios Montt secretly gave carte blanche to the feared “Archivos” intelligence unit to expand “death squad” operations in the cities. Based at the Presidential Palace, the “Archivos” masterminded many of Guatemala’s most notorious assassinations.

The U.S. embassy was soon hearing more accounts of the army conducting Indian massacres, but ideologically driven U.S. diplomats fed the Reagan administration the propaganda spin that would be best for their careers. On Oct. 22, 1982, embassy staff dismissed the massacre reports as communist-inspired “disinformation campaign,” concluding that “that a concerted disinformation campaign is being waged in the U.S. against the Guatemalan government by groups supporting the communist insurgency in Guatemala.”

Reagan personally joined this P.R. campaign seeking to discredit human rights investigators and others who were reporting accurately about massacres that the administration knew, all too well, were true.

On Dec. 4, 1982, after meeting with Rios Montt, Reagan hailed the general as “totally dedicated to democracy” and added that Rios Montt’s government had been “getting a bum rap” on human rights. Reagan discounted the mounting reports of hundreds of Maya villages being eradicated.

In February 1983, however, a secret CIA cable noted a rise in “suspect right-wing violence” with kidnappings of students and teachers. Bodies of victims were appearing in ditches and gullies. CIA sources traced these political murders to Rios Montt’s order to the “Archivos” in October to “apprehend, hold, interrogate and dispose of suspected guerrillas as they saw fit.”

Despite these grisly facts on the ground, the annual State Department human rights survey praised the supposedly improved human rights situation in Guatemala. “The overall conduct of the armed forces had improved by late in the year” 1982, the report stated.

A different picture — far closer to the secret information held by the U.S. government — was coming from independent human rights investigators. On March 17, 1983, Americas Watch condemned the Guatemalan army for human rights atrocities against the Indian population.

New York attorney Stephen L. Kass said these findings included proof that the government carried out “virtually indiscriminate murder of men, women and children of any farm regarded by the army as possibly supportive of guerrilla insurgents.”

Rural women suspected of guerrilla sympathies were raped before execution, Kass said, adding that children were “thrown into burning homes. They are thrown in the air and speared with bayonets. We heard many, many stories of children being picked up by the ankles and swung against poles so their heads are destroyed.” [AP, March 17, 1983]

Putting on a Happy Face

Publicly, senior Reagan officials continued to put on a happy face. In June 1983, special envoy Richard B. Stone praised “positive changes” in Rios Montt’s government, and Rios Montt pressed the United States for 10 UH-1H helicopters and six naval patrol boats, all the better to hunt guerrillas and their sympathizers.

Since Guatemala lacked the U.S. Foreign Military Sales credits or the cash to buy the helicopters, Reagan’s national security team looked for unconventional ways to arrange the delivery of the equipment that would give the Guatemalan army greater access to mountainous areas where guerrillas and their civilian supporters were hiding.

On Aug. 1, 1983, National Security Council aides Oliver North and Alfonso Sapia-Bosch reported to National Security Advisor William P. Clark that his deputy Robert “Bud” McFarlane was planning to exploit his Israeli channels to secure the helicopters for Guatemala. [For more on McFarlanes’s Israeli channels, see Consortiumnews.com’sHow Neocons Messed Up the Mideast.”]

“With regard to the loan of ten helicopters, it is [our] understanding that Bud will take this up with the Israelis,” wrote North and Sapia-Bosch. “There are expectations that they would be forthcoming. Another possibility is to have an exercise with the Guatemalans. We would then use US mechanics and Guatemalan parts to bring their helicopters up to snuff.”

However, more political changes were afoot in Guatemala. Rios Montt’s vengeful Christian fundamentalism had hurtled so out of control, even by Guatemalan standards, that Gen. Oscar Mejia Victores seized power in another coup on Aug. 8, 1983.

Despite the power shift, Guatemalan security forces continued to murder with impunity, finally going so far that even the U.S. Embassy objected. When three Guatemalans working for the U.S. Agency for International Development were slain in November 1983, U.S. Ambassador Frederic Chapin suspected that “Archivos” hit squads were sending a message to the United States to back off even mild pressure for human rights.

In late November, in a brief show of displeasure, the administration postponed the sale of $2 million in helicopter spare parts. The next month, however, Reagan sent the spare parts anyway. In 1984, Reagan succeeded, too, in pressuring Congress to approve $300,000 in military training for the Guatemalan army.

By mid-1984, Chapin, who had grown bitter about the army’s stubborn brutality, was gone, replaced by a far-right political appointee named Alberto Piedra, who favored increased military assistance to Guatemala. In January 1985, Americas Watch issued a report observing that Reagan’s State Department “is apparently more concerned with improving Guatemala’s image than in improving its human rights.”

It was not until 1999, a decade after Ronald Reagan left office, that the shocking scope of the atrocities in Guatemala was publicly revealed by a truth commission that drew heavily on U.S. government documents that President Bill Clinton had ordered declassified.

On Feb. 25, 1999, the Historical Clarification Commission estimated that the 34-year civil war had claimed the lives of some 200,000 people with the most savage bloodletting occurring in the 1980s. The panel estimated that the army was responsible for 93 percent of the killings and leftist guerrillas for three percent. Four percent were listed as unresolved.

The report documented that in the 1980s, the army committed 626 massacres against Mayan villages. “The massacres that eliminated entire Mayan villages … are neither perfidious allegations nor figments of the imagination, but an authentic chapter in Guatemala’s history,” the commission concluded.

The army “completely exterminated Mayan communities, destroyed their livestock and crops,” the report said. In the northern highlands, the report termed the slaughter “genocide.” [Washington Post, Feb. 26, 1999]

Besides carrying out murder and “disappearances,” the army routinely engaged in torture and rape. “The rape of women, during torture or before being murdered, was a common practice” by the military and paramilitary forces, the report found.

The report added that the “government of the United States, through various agencies including the CIA, provided direct and indirect support for some [of these] state operations.” The report concluded that the U.S. government also gave money and training to a Guatemalan military that committed “acts of genocide” against the Mayans. [NYT, Feb. 26, 1999]

During a visit to Central America, on March 10, 1999, President Clinton apologized for the past U.S. support of right-wing regimes in Guatemala dating back to 1954. “For the United States, it is important that I state clearly that support for military forces and intelligence units which engaged in violence and widespread repression was wrong, and the United States must not repeat that mistake,” Clinton said. [Washington Post, March 11, 1999]

Impunity for Reagan’s Team

However, back in Washington, there was no interest in holding anyone accountable for aiding and abetting genocide. The story of the Guatemalan butchery and the Reagan administration’s complicity quickly disappeared into the great American memory hole.

For human rights crimes in the Balkans and in Africa, the United States has demanded international tribunals to arrest and to try violators and their political patrons for war crimes. In Iraq, President George W. Bush celebrated the trial and execution of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for politically motivated killings.

Even Rios Montt, now 86, after years of evading justice under various amnesties, was finally indicted in Guatemala in 2012 for genocide and crimes against humanity. The first month of his trial has added eyewitness testimony to the atrocities that the Guatemalan military inflicted and that Ronald Reagan assisted and covered up.

On Monday, the New York Times reported on some of this painful testimony, but – as is almost always the case – the Times did not mention the role of Reagan and his administration. However, what the Times did include was chilling, including accounts from witnesses who as children fled to mountain forests to escape the massacres:

“Pedro Chávez Brito told the court that he was only six or seven years old when soldiers killed his mother. He hid in the chicken coop with his older sister, her newborn and his younger brother, but soldiers found them and dragged them out, forcing them back into their house and setting it on fire.

“Mr. Chávez says he was the only one to escape. ‘I got under a tree trunk and I was like an animal,’ Mr. Chávez told the court. ‘After eight days I went to live in the mountains. In the mountain we ate only roots and grass.’”

Lawyers for Rios Montt and his co-defendant, former intelligence chief José Mauricio Rodríguez Sánchez, have maintained that the pair did not order the killings, which they instead blamed on over-zealous field commanders.

However, the Times reported that “prosecution witnesses said the military considered Ixil civilians, including children, as legitimate targets. ‘The army’s objective with the children was to eliminate the seed for future guerrillas,’ Marco Tulio Alvarez, the former director of Guatemala’s Peace Archives, testified last week. ‘They used them to get information and to draw their parents to military centers where they arrested them.’

“In a study of 420 bodies exhumed from the Ixil region and presumed to date from the Ríos Montt period, experts found that almost 36 percent of those who were killed were under 18 years old, including some newborns.

“Jacinto Lupamac Gómez said he was eight when soldiers killed his parents and older siblings and hustled him and his two younger brothers into a helicopter. Like some of the children whose lives were spared, they were adopted by Spanish-speaking families and forgot how to speak Ixil.”

Though some belated justice may still be possible in Guatemala, there is no talk in the United States about seeking any accountability from the Reagan administration officials who arranged military assistance to this modern genocide or who helped conceal the atrocities while they were underway.

There has been no attention given by the mainstream U.S. news media to the new documents revealing how the Reagan administration gave a green light to the slaughter of Guatemalans who were considered part of the “civilian support mechanisms” for the Mayan guerrillas resisting the right-wing repression.

Ronald Reagan, the U.S. official most culpable for aiding and abetting the Guatemalan genocide, remains a hero to much of America with his name attached to Washington’s National Airport and scores of other government facilities. U.S. officials and many Americans apparently don’t want to disrupt their happy memories of the Gipper.

~

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

April 17, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The collective punishment of anti-Iran sanctions

By Kourosh Ziabari | Aletho News | January 12, 2013

It’s not all about Iran’s civilian nuclear program. Since Iranians removed from power the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who carried the accolade of the closest ally of the White House in the Persian Gulf region, the first flames of hostility between Tehran and Washington were fanned.

It’s been more than three decades that Iran and the United States have failed to sit at a negotiation table and settle their disputes and come to a comprehensive agreement over forgetting grievances and starting a new era of reconciliation, mutual understanding and rapprochement. The Iranians every year storm into the streets to chant “Death to America,” and the United States every year intensifies the anti-Iranian sanctions, funds terrorist groups to assassinate Iranian politicians and scientists and ratifies plans to advance “pro-democracy” movements in Iran. We are not here to give a value judgment on which party is doing the right thing, but one thing is for sure, which is that the Iranian people are the only victims of this inexplicable hostility and animosity between Tehran and Washington.

It’s almost 33 years that Iran has been under the hard-hitting sanctions imposed by consecutive U.S. administrations which are renewed and built up every single year. The first set of economic sanctions against Iran were approved by President Jimmy Carter who issued the Executive Order 12170 on November 14, 1979, 10 days after a group of Iranian students captured the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in protest at the U.S. support for the deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and took a total of 52 Americans working at the embassy as hostage: “I, Jimmy Carter, President of the United States, find that the situation in Iran constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.”

“I hereby order blocked all property and interests in property of the Government of Iran, its instrumentalities and controlled entities and the Central Bank of Iran which are or become subject to the jurisdiction of the United States or which are in or come within the possession or control of persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,” President Carter ordered.

The sanctions were not lifted after Iran released all the hostages on January 20, 1981, and following the invasion of Iran by Iraq which was spearheaded and supported by the United States and its European allies, the United States astonishingly tightened the grip of sanctions on Iran, exacerbating the life of innocent civilians at a critical time when Saddam Hussein, armed to the teeth, was pounding and bombing Iranian cities on a daily basis. In 1984, a new set of sanctions were adopted which prohibited the sales of arms and provision of military or financial assistance to Iran during the war with Iraq, and on October 29, 1987, President Ronald Reagan issued the Executive Order 12613 by which all kinds of financial transactions with Iran were declared illegal and forbidden.

The tensions between the two arch-foes continued until a time when a remarkable event transformed the political atmosphere of Iran. When Iranians elected Seyed Mohammad Khatami in 1997 as the president, everybody expected that Washington may alter its attitude toward Iran, because President Khatami was a pro-reform figure whose foreign policy was based on détente and reconciliation with the West and the United States. However, Bill Clinton didn’t ease the sanctions and hostilities continued, even though President Khatami used every opportunity to reach out to the United States despite the pressure he was facing from the conservatives in Iran who didn’t favor dialogue with the U.S.

With George W. Bush’s coming to power in 2001, Iran’s nuclear program became a central theme in the U.S. foreign policy, and Iran was branded as a part of the so-called Axis of Evil. The sanctions were toughened and an international campaign for isolating Iran gradually began to take shape under the leadership of the Bush administration. Bush penalized many of his fellow citizens for doing business with Iran, and blocked the properties of hundreds of Iranian companies and individuals. He threatened Iran with the use of force and warned it repeatedly against a possible military strike on its nuclear facilities and even a regime change in Tehran, which he was not ashamed of openly bragging about. In 2007, ABC news reported that President Bush had authorized a $400 million bill for covert operations to create unrest in Iran. It was during his tenure that the Congress passed a law and allocated $120 million for anti-Iranian media propaganda. Oddly enough, the sanctions even encompassed scientific cooperation between the Iranian academicians and American universities and scientific institutions. For instance, in 2002 the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) deprived its Iranian members of different advantages and benefits, including the use of IEEE logo for promotional activities, electronic access to publications and access to job listings. In 2004, the U.S. Department of the Treasury ruled that editing or publishing scientific manuscripts from Iran violates the trade embargo on the country and thus several U.S. scientific publications started to refuse articles and research papers by Iranian academicians.

The legacy of confrontation with Iran as a “rogue state” was inherited by President Obama who came to the Oval Office with a shining motto of “change.” Many Iranians had expected that he would practically realize the changes he had promised, and especially revise the course of Bush’s adventurous foreign policy. But after a while, it transpired that he is not that much different from his predecessor as he renewed the U.S. economic sanctions against Iran only one year after he came to office.

“The actions and policies of the government of Iran are contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and pose a continuing and unusual and extraordinary threat,” said Obama in a message to the U.S. Congress after renewing the annual sanctions against Iran in March 2009. In 2012 and with the escalation of conflicts with Iran over its nuclear program, the United States hardened the sanctions and somewhat forced Iran’s major trade partners in the European Union, Asia and Africa to stop doing business with and buying oil from Iran. As a result of the U.S. pressures, the EU imposed an oil embargo against Iran and stopped buying its crude since July 1, 2012. Subsequently, Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Switzerland also adopted unilateral sanctions against Iran and the oil-rich country was literally targeted with all-out economic warfare launched by the United States and its allies. As a result of these backbreaking sanctions, Iran’s currency, rial, dropped to its lowest value against dollar in the late 2012 and according to economists, lost almost 70% of its value. The country also began to experience a staggering hyperinflation with the price of consumer goods increasing twofold and threefold every single day.

Now, aside from the oil embargo, a variety foodstuff, agricultural corps, medicines and medical equipment, computer devices, gold, clothes and humanitarian goods are considered banned goods for Iran and this is what makes daily life more difficult every day. To add insult to the injury, consider the number of civilians killed every year in Iran in deadly air crashes, a direct result of the U.S. embargo that makes it impossible for Iran to buy new and modern aircraft and refresh its aging, outdated fleet.

But is Iran capable of maintaining its economy in the face of these overwhelming sanctions? What will happen to the lives of the Iranian people? Won’t these sanctions decimate the chances of a possible reconciliation between Iran and the United States? Aren’t these sanctions some kind of violation of human rights? In order to find compelling answers for these questions, I contacted some renowned Iranian experts whom I knew had interesting things to say about the sanctions.

Richard Javad Heydarian, a foreign affairs analyst and Asia Times contributor says, “Although touted as ‘targeted’ measures against Iran’s nuclear and ballistic programs, the transatlantic sanctions, beginning in late-2011 and coming into full force on July 2012, are ruthlessly eroding the very foundations of Iran’s entire civilian economy, upon which almost 75 million Iranians depend for daily survival.”

“In the language of international law, we are arguably speaking of ‘collective punishment,’ because they directly hit Iran’s main exports, namely oil and gas, and shut out Iran’s major financial institutions, including the Iranian Central Bank from mainstream global financial channels, so it comes as no surprise that they are affecting Iranians of all walks of life, especially the poor and the majority lower-middle class population,” he added.

Analyzing the economic impacts of the sanctions, Heydarian notes, “Oil revenues are down by almost 50 percent, the fiscal deficit is widening to a decade-high, inflation has passed the 25% threshold, and the currency has lost almost 70% of its value… With a 40% merchandise-to-GDP ratio (the total value of merchandize trade in dollar terms), Iran is indeed vulnerable to the massive currency fluctuations. The IMF and IIF are estimating about 3 percent GDP contraction this year, so the sanctions are disruptive and hurting the whole country.”

According to Richard Javad Heydarian, the sanctions have deprived Iran of the opportunity to meet its most rudimentary needs: “due to the sanctions, Iran is finding it increasingly difficult to access international markets for purchase of even the most basic commodities, from food to clothing and medicine, as it struggles to process multi-billion oil deals in foreign currencies. It is already forced to engage in barter deals with countries such as India and China, which are crowding out Iran’s large domestic industrial base.”

This political analyst believes that Iran is losing its trade partners as a result of the sanctions: “Due to financial sanctions and growing American pressure, even regional trading partners such as the UAE and Oman have increasingly denied Iranian traders short-term loans, credit financing, and banking access, while more liquid traders are forced to rely on unscrupulous financial intermediaries and/or highly expensive payment schemes to conduct trade transactions.”

So, what will happen in the future? Where is the current standoff over Iran’s nuclear program headed? Are the sanctions going to remain in place and make daily life painful for Iranians? Heydarian responds:

“Not only has the West refused to show significant flexibility in three consecutive high-level talks, namely the Istanbul, Baghdad, and Moscow negotiations this [last] year, between Iran and the world powers, the so-called P5+1, but its incessant push on the sanctions regime is undercutting negotiations – given the dearth of an atmosphere of mutual-compromise and trust. In absence of West’s flexibility on the sanctions, I do not think that Iran will consider unilateral concessions.”

Abolghasem Bayyenat, an independent political analyst and a Ph.D. candidate at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University also believes that the sanctions are not “targeted” and “smart” as claimed by the West, and only serve to punish and penalize the ordinary citizens:

“It should be evident that the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran lack any sound moral and legal justifications and are contrary to international human rights standards as well as what has publicly been advertised by Western politicians themselves. The sanctions are not targeted and ‘smart’, as initially claimed by Western politicians, but are indiscriminate and ‘dumb’ in nature, in that they hurt the whole civilian population of Iran and impose collective punishment on them.”

“Funding nuclear activities constitute a tiny fraction of Iran’s public budget and, as such, trying to deprive a nation of its entire public revenues to only deny it funding sources for its IAEA-monitored nuclear program is not only absurd and illogical but is also hypocritical,” he added.

This political commentator believes that the sanctions will increase the government’s legitimacy and create solidarity among the people instead of pushing them to revolt. He also says that the sanctions undermine the spirit of cooperation and constructive dialogue between Iran and the world powers: “The current Western strategy to impose crippling economic sanctions on Iran is detrimental to the prospects of peacefully resolving Iran’s nuclear issue and is not likely to meet its stated goal of bringing drastic change in Iran’s nuclear position.”

“Economic hardships do not automatically and mechanically produce public revolt against the government in Iran. What is more important than the scope of objective economic hardships is how they are perceived by the general public in Iran. The general public in Iran tend to sympathize with the official narrative that economic hardships are the price that they need to pay for safeguarding their political independence,” he said. Bayyenat says that the impact of the West’s sanctions on Iran can be felt in two ways: “The first impact is effected through fueling rampant inflation in Iran. The sharp rise in the price of commodities and other consumer goods aggravated by the partly sanctions-induced currency depreciation has eroded the general welfare of ordinary Iranians and is likely to create further economic hardships for them, if not mitigated.” “Second, the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran gradually undermine the capacity of the government of Iran to provide public welfare programs and other social services to its people by cutting its revenues and hindering its capacity to engage in financial transactions with foreign countries to import necessary foodstuffs and medicine. The sick, the elderly, children and the working class in general suffer the most as a result of the Western-imposed sanctions on Iran,” he adds.

Dr. Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, a Reader in Comparative Politics and International Relations and Chair of the Centre for Iranian Studies at SOAS, University of London opines that domestic mismanagement coupled with the economic sanctions of the United States and its European allies have made daily life in Iran increasingly breathtaking:

“The sanctions hit Iran’s embattled civil society which is caught between a largely incompetent state and a predatory international community that is taking every advantage out of the domestic situation in the country and the crisis of politics that ensued in the last couple of years.”

“The sanctions have made it harder for Iranian families to access drugs and medication including for cancer and blood disorders such as hemophilia. The negative impact on Iran’s aging civilian planes is well known. The sanctions have also made it gruelingly difficult to transfer money into and from Iran, and so many students studying abroad are short of funds from their family members. None of this really has a political dividend or bothers the Iranian state. It is Iranian society that is bearing the brunt of an intolerable situation,” Adib-Moghaddam noted.

This university professor admits that the sanctions are inhumane and unjustifiable, but he also argues that the government has played its own role in the emergence of the current crisis: “There is no doubt that these kinds of sanctions are a war by other means. The hypocrisy is obvious to anyone with a hint of political intelligence. But here as well, Iranians are targeted from two sides: the sanctions regime enforced by the United States and the systematic violation of human dignity by influential sections of the Iranian state. The inability of the current government of President Ahmadinejad to navigate the nation out of either crisis is testimony to its political failure.”

Canadian-Iranian freelance political analyst, Shahir Shahid Saless, whose writings have appeared in the Guardian, Al-Monitor and Asia Times traces the roots of current tensions between Iran and the United States in a historical mistrust that started when Iranians toppled the U.S.-backed Shah in a popular revolution in 1979:

“Iran and the U.S. are locked in a cold war relationship which, while not unprecedented, is almost unique for its pattern of non-communication (or inconsistent and failing communications) and non-compromise. This state of relations has lasted three decades. Even during the Cold War the U.S. not only would negotiate with its adversaries but also had diplomatic and economic relations with them. [The] U.S.-Iran relationship is an abnormality where the two governments simply cannot talk to each other in a meaningful way. Accumulation of decades of perceived betrayals, which has resulted in the formation of profound mutual mistrust, is largely responsible for the failure of the formation of a negotiation process between the two states.”

“It is a sound contention that when the Islamic Republic came to exist, seeds of mistrust between the two states had already been planted. The admitted role of the U.S. in the 1953 coup d’état and the overthrow of Mossadegh, Iran’s popular and democratically-elected Prime Minister, is central to and the beginning of the debate of mistrust between Iran and the U.S. The seizure of the American embassy in 1979 and the disclosure of espionage documents taken from the embassy escalated the Iranian regime’s mistrust of the U.S. in an already unsteady relationship. Since then the fear of regime change has acted as a barrier to the restoration of the relations. The hostage crisis created a cycle of mistrust that has not been addressed, let alone broken to this date,” he stressed.

Shahid Saless believes that Iran’s nuclear program further heightened the wall of mistrust and with the imposition of sanctions on Iran by the United States, the two countries are now literally entangled in a diplomatic stalemate:

“Sanctions, ostensibly, heightens mistrust. Interestingly, this is acknowledged by experts such as Ray Takeyh and Kenneth Pollack, who are consulted by the U.S. government and are advocates of draconian sanctions. You don’t need to be a genius to understand that extreme mistrust will continue to block the formation of negotiation process let alone a negotiated solution.”

There are few wise and decent people in the world who endorse the U.S. sanctions regime against Iran. First of all, there’s no convincing evidence that Iran’s nuclear program has a military dimension and so there’s no reason to punish Iran with such unbridled sanctions, and most importantly, these sanctions are paralyzing the daily life of the Iranian citizens who want to live a peaceful and untroubled life aside from the political differences and conflicts their government has had with the Western states.

The United States has regularly chastised Iran for its alleged violations of human rights, but it seems that it’s taking the lead in violating the most fundamental rights of the Iranian people, equally human beings, in an atrocious manner by imposing these stringent sanctions with their huge humanitarian impact.

Although some progress was made in last year’s dialogues between Iran and the six world powers over Tehran’s nuclear program, it seems that the only key to resolving the erosive conflict over Iran’s nuclear program is lasting bilateral talks between Iran and the United States; the two adversaries which can bring peace and stability to the Middle East by putting aside the acrimony and moving toward reconciliation which will be an all-out diplomatic breakthrough for the whole international community.

Kourosh Ziabari is an award-winning Iranian journalist, media correspondent and peace activist. He was born on April 27, 1990, in the northern Iranian city of Rasht.Articles and interviews by Kourosh Ziabari have been published in a variety of international newspapers, magazines, journals and news websites including Press TV, Tehran Times, Counter Punch, Fars News Agency, The Nation (Pakistan), Rebelion, Middle East Online, Intrepid Report, Dissident Voice, Mehr News Agency, Info Palestine, and many others. Visit his website www.kouroshziabari.com

January 11, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Wake-Up May Be Too Late

By Philip Giraldi | The Passionate Attachment | June 27, 2012

Is it possible that Americans are finally waking up to the dangers resulting from Washington’s involvement in Israel’s foreign policy? In the New York Times on June 24th there was an astonishing feature opinion piece by Professor Misha Glenny writing from London about “A Weapon We Can’t Control.” The editorial slammed the “decision by the United States and Israel to develop and then deploy the Stuxnet computer worm against an Iranian nuclear facility,” describing the development as a “significant and dangerous turning point in the gradual militarization of the internet.” Glenny warned that to use such a devastating weapon in peacetime will “very likely lead to the spread of similar and still more powerful offensive cyberweaponry across the Internet,” also noting that “virus developers generally lose control of their inventions, which will inevitably seek out and attack the networks of innocent parties.”

Glenny also mentioned the second generation Flame virus, developed jointly by Israel and the US, and which has now spread to computers throughout the Middle East.

On the same day in the same issue of the Times, Jimmy Carter chimed in with an op-ed, “A Cruel and Unusual Record,” which asserted that “Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.” Carter did not mention Israel or name President Obama, but the decade long transition of the United States into a nation that believes itself to be above the law, following the Israeli example, would have been all too clear for the reader.

One day before the editorial and op-ed’s appearance, there was also another emperor’s new clothes moment at the Times. Regular columnist Nicholas Kristof had just completed a trip across Iran with his family in tow. And guess what? He found in “Not-So-Crazy in Tehran” that Iran was a “complex country,” not a police state, has a “vigorous parliament and news media,” and most university students are women who later obtain important jobs after graduation. Kristof’s advice? “Let’s not bluster…or operate on caricatures. And let’s not choose bombs over sanctions…”

I would add that it is about time that people in the United States begin to realize that unlimited support of Israel has turned US foreign policy into the poison that is bidding to destroy the republic.

Alas, over the same weekend that the Times was possibly coming to its senses, Mitt Romney was meeting in Park City Utah with his large donors. At a breakout session to discuss his support of Israel he revealed that he speaks regularly with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to get advice on the Middle East. Unseemly does not begin to describe such an arrangement, as Oren is not exactly a disinterested party re the advice he is giving. Oh, and Bill Kristol and Michael Chertoff also spoke to the pro-Israel group.

Philip Giraldi is the executive director of the Council for the National Interest and a recognized authority on international security and counterterrorism issues.

June 27, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Future Direction of Egypt’s Revolution

By ESAM AL-AMIN | CounterPunch | June 19, 2012

Against all odds the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) candidate, Dr. Muhammad Mursi won Egypt’s first presidential election since the ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak… but barely. Although the official results will not be announced until Thursday, the final tally shows that Mursi received 13.3 million votes (52 percent) while Mubarak’s last prime minister and the candidate of the military and the regime remnants, Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, garnered 12.4 million votes (48 percent).

It should never have been that close. Countless people wonder how a popular revolution that united millions of Egyptians against a corrupt regime and earned the world’s admiration, could have resulted in that same loathed regime on the brink of reclaiming power after little more than a year. Of course, the direct answer to this question is the ominous role played by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took control of the country after Mubarak’s downfall, as well as the institutions of Egypt’s deep security state.

Their tactics included the direct manipulations of the elections process, the inexplicably favorable decisions by the Mubarak-era Presidential Elections Commission, the use of state media as well as private media outlets controlled by Mubarak-era corrupt businessmen to frighten the public about the specter of an impending theocracy, the clever ability to play the pro-revolution groups against each other, and the SCAF-appointed government’s deliberate disruption of the daily lives of ordinary Egyptians through the constriction of key staples and a lack of security in the street.  Soon the public associated the revolution with instability, shortages and chaos. Dejected, many wished for the days of the old regime.

Throughout last year and aided by the Muslim Brotherhood’s missteps and behind-the-scenes dalliances with the generals, SCAF was able to create acute alienation and sow real mistrust between the MB, the country’s largest organized movement, and the rest of the pro-revolution and youth groups. By the end of March 2012, SCAF felt so emboldened by the success of its plan that it began to openly challenge and threaten the now alienated MB, despite the fact that the group was by that time firmly in charge of both chambers of parliament.

By the end of the first round of the presidential elections, SCAF succeeded in propelling its preferred candidate to second place behind the MB candidate. Ironically, both sides calculated that their chances of capturing the presidency would be greatly enhanced if they faced each other. The military’s candidate believed that he would then reinvent the old regime by presenting to the confused and frightened public with the stark choices between the civil state represented by himself and a menacing religious state epitomized by his opponent. On the other hand, the MB believed that its best chance would be to face a candidate from the loathed Mubarak era so as to force the pro-revolution groups to support its candidate despite the ill feelings generated towards the Islamic group (especially when it abandoned the youth groups during their confrontations with SCAF during much of last year).

After the first round of the presidential elections, the pro-revolution groups garnered almost 15 million votes (with Mursi receiving 5.8 million). On the other hand, Mubarak-era affiliated candidates received 8 million votes (led by Shafiq’s 5.5 million votes.) But the two major (though defeated) candidates supported by the pro-revolution groups in the first round were Hamdein Sabahi and Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, receiving 4.8M and 4.1M votes respectively.

Although Abol Fotouh promptly threw his support behind Mursi, citing the threat to the revolution if the military man won, Sabahi asked his supporters to invalidate their votes or boycott the elections, hoping to create a dynamic where both candidates could somehow lose in the court of public opinion.  This would set the stage for his comeback as the pro-revolution and pro-civil state candidate. Quietly, SCAF’s candidate hoped that enough of Sabahi’s supporters would boycott the elections or invalidate their votes so that the numerical advantage of the pro-revolution groups would be neutralized.

As the military’s scheme was in full force relying on media offensive, bribes, and scare tactics, several polls conducted by state-sponsored institutions confirmed to SCAF that Shafiq had the momentum. The support of the military and the institutions of the deep state became even bolder, so much so that many political analysts thought the elections were practically over. To push this sentiment of inevitability, SCAF threw caution to the wind and committed a major error in judgment.  In fact, it might have actually cost Shafiq the election.

Since the standoff between SCAF and the MB in March, it was widely known that SCAF could push for the dissolution of the elected parliament at any time in order to check the MB’s rise to power. The argument advanced by many pro-revolution groups that had reservations in supporting Mursi was that they did not want the MB to have unchecked control over both branches of government, the legislative and the executive. So when the High Constitutional Court dissolved the parliament two days before the elections, this brazen act of disregard for the electoral will of the Egyptian people actually backfired. A major segment of the Egyptian electorate, who intended to boycott or invalidate their votes, were so infuriated that they decided to vote for Mursi even if they initially did not intend to cast a vote at all (in the final count, less than 1 percent of the electorate invalidated their votes by checking both names on the ballot). Had a half million people out of over 25 million votes cast flipped their votes, the military’s candidate would have won.)

Last winter, in a moment of candor President Jimmy Carter said after meeting with SCAF’s leaders that the military had no intention of relinquishing power. In recent weeks it became quite clear what that observation meant. First, SCAF would utilize the instruments of power of the deep state to install its candidate. If such a scheme did not materialize, SCAF had a back-up plan. In such a case, it would not only take several actions that strip the real powers of the elected president (if he comes from the revolutionary camp), but also usurp all the legislative and executive powers from the newly empowered groups.

Many political figures including former presidential candidate Abol Fotouh called SCAF’s blatant acts “a soft military coup d’état.” Here are a few examples of the power grab measures taken by SCAF in a matter of days:

1)    On June 14, SCAF sent the army to occupy the parliamentary building in anticipation of the dissolution of parliament by the High Court. Within days it issued its own decree to dissolve the parliament and reclaimed all legislative powers to itself. Typically when the parliament is dissolved, the president would be granted temporary legislative powers, to be reviewed later by the parliament when it is reconstituted.

2)    On the same day the Justice Minister made a mockery of the repealed martial laws by effectively restoring the emergency laws and empowering the military and security agencies to arrest and detain anyone indefinitely, as well as to try in military courts any person deemed a threat to public order.

3)    Within two hours of the closing of the polls on June 17, SCAF unilaterally issued a sweeping amended constitutional declaration that effectively transferred much of the presidential powers to itself. For example, it stripped the president of his role as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and gave it to SCAF’s top general, Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi. It prevented the president from promoting or dismissing any military personnel. It also granted itself veto power over any decision by the president related to any military matter including the declaration of war or any domestic use of the armed forces.

Now instead of the military working under the country’s president, the new declaration places the democratically elected president under the thumb of the military. It must be noted that such incredible measures are not dissimilar to the infamous and disastrous 1997 Turkish military coup d’état against the late Prime Minister Necmttin Erbakan.

4)    SCAF stripped the president and the executive branch from any matters related to the state budget. It even declared its own budget secret and not subject to any accountability while providing itself total immunity.

5)    Further, SCAF imposed its will on the new president by effectively retaining for itself the appointment of the most senior cabinet positions such as defense, foreign, and interior ministries, police, finance, justice, and intelligence.

6)    SCAF also started the process of dissolving the one-hundred member constitution-writing committee, appointed delicately by the parliament last week from across all the spectrum of Egyptian political and civil society. In the new constitutional declaration, SCAF gave itself the right to reappoint the one-hundred committee members in a direct violation of the constitutional amendments passed by the people in the March 2011 referendum.

Moreover, if that committee refused to give the military its coveted special status in the new constitution, SCAF claimed a veto power over any articles written in the draft. If the committee then overrides SCAF’s veto, the declaration empowers Mubarak’s appointed judges in the High Court to decide the dispute between the two parties, in an incredible attempt to impose the military’s dictates on the country.

7)    One day after the elections, as it became apparent that SCAF’s candidate was defeated, SCAF issued another decree that revived the National Defense Council (NDC), a body that has been dormant since the late 1980s.  The function of this council is to make decisions on all strategic, defense, and national security matters. In another affront to the first-ever civilian (not to mention democratically elected) president, the NDC’s members comprise eleven generals (all from SCAF) and only five civilians, including the president. It decides all matters by a majority vote, thus tying the hands of the president regardless of where he stands on a particular issue.

8)    Not content with its sweeping power grab, SCAF’s head, Tantawi, then issued another decree appointing one of his assistants, another military general, as the chief of staff of the new elected president to act as the eyes and ears of SCAF over the new president before he even took office. In the eyes of the military the new (read puppet) president would not even be allowed to appoint his own chief of staff.

As expected this wholesale usurpation of power by the military was universally condemned not only by the new elected president, the MB, and the rest of the revolutionary groups, but also by most civil society groups and public figures. Meanwhile, counting on a business as usual with the MB, SCAF has quietly started another tactic to pressure the MB into submission. It revived a court case seeking the dissolution of the MB, declaring it an illegal group and confiscating its assets. A decision on the matter is expected soon.

One of the reasons that SCAF hopes to get its way this time is because it relies on its experience during the last year of making behind-the-scenes deals with the MB. In fact, just a week before the elections, MB deputy leader and strongman Khairat El-Shater met with senior SCAF leaders, offering them a deal that would have granted the military generals many (but not all) of their requests in return for an accommodation of the MB candidate. SCAF’s response was cold and aloof, believing that their candidate was a shoe-in in the elections without the need to compromise.  Little did El-Shater know, they were in fact preparing not only to defeat the Islamic candidate but also to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament.

But after the dissolution of parliament and the anticipated disbanding of the constitution-writing committee, as well as the usurpation of legislative and executive powers by SCAF, the MB decided to re-join the other pro-revolution and civil society groups in challenging the military’s suffocating control over the country, taking to the streets in massive numbers in all of this week.

This showdown between SCAF and the deep state on one hand, and the pro-revolution forces (newly empowered by the defeat of the military’s candidate) promises to engulf the country for the days and weeks ahead. If the Islamic parties led by the MB and the other pro-revolution supporters led by the youth groups, as well as many respected judges across the country such as Judge Husam El-Gheryani (head of the Supreme Judiciary Council as well as the chairman of the constitution-writing committee) join together and take a firm stand against the military, then it might be very difficult for SCAF to have its way.

The demands of the revolutionary groups should be clear: the return of the military to its barracks without any interference of the political or civilian affairs of the state. SCAF must immediately rescind its unconstitutional declaration usurping the legislative and executive powers from the democratically elected parliament and president. It should also cease all efforts to dissolve the constitution-writing committee and allow the political process as negotiated by all various political parties to take place. It should finally halt its behind-the-scenes manipulation of the judiciary to interfere in political matters.

The pro-revolution forces have fortunately dodged a bullet by defeating the military’s candidate. But the struggle to reclaim their revolution must continue to persist. This time all pro-revolution and pro-democracy groups must realize that they will have to swim or drown together as they face the last battle to dismantle the military and security state. No more making behind-closed-doors deals or giving the benefit of the doubt in a tacit understanding between the military and some political groups. The MB must realize that it gained more than 7.5M votes (for a total of 13.3M) from the pro-revolution forces in the second round, after reaching its peak in the first round with 5.8M votes. It must show respect and offer real partnership to these groups.

Hall of fame baseball player Yogi Berra once said, “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice there is.” In theory, pro-revolution supporters should put all their disagreements aside and unite until their remarkable revolution prevails as all counter-revolutionary elements within the state are purged and all the obstacles to its ultimate success are eradicated. It is indeed prudent to think that all such groups could set aside their differences (whether perceived or real) once they realize how hard and to what extent their opponents are determined to break their spirit for real change.

Revolutions are ultimately about the simultaneous act of a great number of people who decide to stand up for the greater good of society over self-interest. Such selfless conduct is often accompanied with the willingness to sacrifice whatever it takes to fulfill the genuine desire for public good and human progress.

Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at alamin1919@gmail.com

June 20, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Comments Off on The Future Direction of Egypt’s Revolution

The True Face of Egypt’s Military

By ESAM AL-AMIN | CounterPunch | June 15, 2012

The masks dropped. The cards are shown.

For over a year, Egyptians have wondered who was leading the efforts to frustrate and obliterate their nascent revolution, or what was dubbed in the local media as the “third party” or the “hidden bandit.”

But the mystery is no more.

It was none other than the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the same body that took power from deposed president Hosni Mubarak under the guise of leading the transitional period towards democracy. It was a masterful work of political art.

The final act was on display on Thursday, June 14, 2012, when Egypt’s High Constitutional Court (HCC) not only ruled against banning the military’s candidate and Mubarak’s last Prime Minister, Gen. Ahmad Shafiq, but also dissolved parliament, the only institution that represented the political will of the people in post-revolutionary Egypt. It is important to note that all the justices on the HCC were appointed by Mubarak, and that most if not all are considered regime loyalists.

Incidentally, last March, Parliamentary Speaker and MB leader, Dr. Saad Katatni, said that he was told, in the presence of SCAF’s deputy commander, Gen. Sami Anan, by SCAF’s appointed Prime Minister Dr. Kamal Ganzouri, that the order to dissolve the parliament was in the drawer but would come at the appropriate time.

This dramatic announcement was therefore followed by the parliament passing a law banning most of the former senior officials of the Mubarak regime (including Shafiq) from politics on the grounds of corrupting Egypt’s political life and institutions for decades. Nevertheless, Shafiq was shortly reinstated by the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC) even though it had no jurisdiction on the matter. It is perhaps important to note that the head of the PEC is also the Chief Justice of the HCC. He declared on the same day that the parliamentary elections’ law (that resulted in the victory of the Islamic parties, led by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), winning seventy five percent of the seats) was unconstitutional. It was the same law that several of the same justices assured all political parties last summer that it passed constitutional muster.

With this brazen act of thwarting the political will of the Egyptian people, the emerging Islamic and revolutionary parties have now been totally stripped of their political ascendency, less than five months after their rise to power. This was accomplished simply by utilizing the institutions of the deep state crafted by a regime that was controlled for decades by corrupt officials, senior military officers, and intelligence agencies. Further, a Mubarak era military man is now on the verge of being “elected” president using the assorted tools of the democratic process.

One of the major demands of the revolution was to end the three-decade old emergency law that allowed the security agencies and the military to arbitrarily arrest and abuse the civil and human rights of any activist at will. But under tremendous public pressure throughout last year, these laws were repealed at the end of last May. But what was kicked out of the door crawled back through the window. Egypt’s Justice Minister announced this week, less than two weeks after the repeal went into effect, that he was empowering all military officers and intelligence personnel to arrest indefinitely any person deemed a security threat to public order.

In a transparently coordinated fashion, before parliament could react to this shameless challenge to the essence of the revolution, it was dissolved within 24 hours by the High Court. Further, within minutes of the decision to dissolve the parliament, hundreds of military and security officers occupied its buildings, preventing any member to enter or even clear their offices. In short, Egypt has come a full circle, the transition to democracy was aborted, the process hijacked, and its remarkable revolution put on life support.

The final act of quietly killing the hopes of Egypt’s youth and the aspirations of its people is coming this Sunday when the presidential elections end in the declaration of a Shafiq presidency. The other candidate in this charade is represented by the MB’s Dr. Muhammad Mursi. For weeks, the MB has been warning against elections fraud perpetrated by the institutions of the deep state and led by its security and intelligence services.

For example, the Elections Commission has refused to hand over the voter lists, which it had no problem doing last winter during the parliamentary elections. But the problem is that these same lists have now increased by a whopping 4.5 million voters, raising suspicions of multiple registrations of regime loyalists who might vote multiple times in different provinces over the two-day elections process (for example 200 thousand regime loyalists voting in twenty different precincts.) Furthermore, elections officials announced that they would refuse to allow elections’ monitors to stay in the same rooms where the ballot boxes are left unattended for 12 hours between the first and the second days of the elections, although they were allowed to stay in and watch the boxes overnight in the previous parliamentary elections last winter.

In addition, the government announced that it is giving all its 6 million employees a two-day vacation and free public transportation to boost participation (an indirect prodding of government employees and their families to vote for Shafiq). In a blatant violation of elections’ laws, hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on media propaganda to boost SCAF’s candidate, as well as payments to local officials especially in the delta region, to secure the peasants’ votes.

In a nutshell, the intense involvement of the security state is now in the open. But most Egyptians are frustrated and feel that they have been robbed of making a choice consistent with their sixteen-month popular uprising. Before their own eyes they see how the Mubarak regime is slowly being re-invented with the full backing of state institutions under the direction of SCAF, the same military that promised to fulfill the objectives of the revolution.

Most pro-revolution groups, activists, and public intellectuals have called on MB’s candidate Mursi to withdraw from the presidential elections so as to deny the military’s candidate any claim of legitimacy once he is “elected.” But in its desperate attempt to show any achievement in its one-year dalliance with SCAF, it appears that the MB is pressing ahead with the elections. Once again the Islamic group has demonstrated its inability to join in, let alone lead, any revolutionary path, even though its leaders understand fully the determination of SCAF and the state institutions to manipulate the elections and force their candidate on the rest of the people.

During his final interview before the elections, Mursi understood the stakes and his long electoral odds as the elections are being manipulated. Although he believed that he would easily win in free and fair elections, he admitted that elections’ fraud were certain to take place. He further said that he was recently told by President Jimmy Carter that Mubarak was for decades “sleeping in Israel’s bed,” and that “Shafiq would follow in his footsteps.” The former president, who raised many concerns about the first round elections, had earlier stated that he did not believe that the military would hand over power to civilian rule.

Meanwhile, Shafiq, who does not deny his admiration for Mubarak and considers him a role model, has brazenly declared that his first state visit would be to the U.S. in order to signal that he was its preferred candidate. He also said that he would not only keep the peace treaty with Israel, but would also deepen it.

Thus, the MB’s delusion that SCAF will allow it to contest power will soon be exposed. Sooner or later the group will realize that it simply can neither outmaneuver nor win against the military or the deep security state on its own. It will have to fundamentally change its strategic choices and genuinely adopt the revolutionary path in order to defeat the entrenched interests of the deep state. Even if by some miracle their candidate wins the election, the past year has demonstrated that in every state-controlled institution, including the judiciary, no real change will take place unless all the counter-revolutionary elements are purged, a concept that is lost on the MB’s leadership that is used to slow approach reforms or behind-the-scenes questionable deals to preserve its interests.

Disappointed, yet again, with the MB’s attitude to ignore their consensus, most of the revolutionary groups have vowed to press on with their revolution that has been deeply, but not yet gravely, wounded. Former presidential candidate Dr. Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh, a favorite among many revolutionary and youth groups, has declared that the latest decisions by the High Court allowing the candidacy of Shafiq and the dissolution of parliament were nothing short of a soft coup d’état orchestrated by the military. He called for the immediate establishment of a revolutionary leadership council comprised of all pro-revolution groups and leaders to challenge the military hold on power and Shafiq’s inevitable presidency.

Sensing these threats dozens of such groups that have sacrificed so much since the early days of the revolution, have vowed to join in and continue the difficult struggle to dislodge the military and achieve the main objective of the revolution in establishing a true democratic civil state and ending the culture of the deep security state. Thousands have taken to the streets, while hundreds started a sit-in in Tahrir Square.

They now quietly admit that a hard lesson has been learned. This time their slogan is not “the people and the army are one.” Rather their cry is: “This time we are serious, we will not leave it (the revolution) to anyone.”

Esam Al-Amin can be contacted at alamin1919@gmail.com

June 15, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , | Comments Off on The True Face of Egypt’s Military

Romney’s Made-up History on Iran

By Robert Parry | Consortium News | March 6, 2012

Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has taken a page from right-wing mythology as the foundation for his tough-guy policy toward Iran, citing the supposed “history” of Ronald Reagan scaring the Iranians into releasing 52 American hostages on Jan. 20, 1981.

This account of a macho Reagan staring down the Iranians after they had mocked Jimmy Carter for 444 days is a cherished canard of the American Right, reprised again Tuesday in Romney’s Washington Post op-ed, which states:. “Running for the presidency against Carter [in 1980], Ronald Reagan made it crystal clear that the Iranians would pay a very stiff price for continuing their criminal behavior.”

But that swaggering tale of Reagan’s toughness is not supported by the historical record. Not only does the overwhelming evidence now show that Reagan’s campaign team negotiated secretly behind President Carter’s back to undercut his efforts to free the hostages, but Reagan then followed up their release by authorizing secret shipments of weapons to Iran via Israel.

In other words, instead of bullying the Iranians over their hostage-taking, Reagan rewarded them. And those shipments did not begin in 1985, with the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostage deals, but rather almost immediately after Reagan took office in 1981, according to a number of Israeli and U.S. government officials.

For instance, Israeli arms dealer William Northrop claimed in an affidavit that even before Reagan’s inauguration, Israel had sounded out the incoming administration regarding its attitudes toward more weapons shipments to Iran and got “the new administration’s approval.”

By March 1981, millions of dollars in weapons were moving through the Israeli arms pipeline, Norththrop said, including spare parts for U.S.-made aircraft and tons of other hardware. Northrop added that Israel routinely informed the new Reagan administration of its shipments.

(Northrop was indicted by the U.S. government in spring 1986 for his role in allegedly unauthorized shipments of U.S. weapons to Iran, but the case was thrown out after Reagan’s Iran-Contra arms deal with Iran was exposed in fall 1986).

Lost Plane

On July 18, 1981, one of Israel’s secret weapons deliveries to Iran went awry. A chartered Argentine plane strayed off course and crashed (or was shot down) in Soviet territory, threatening to reveal the clandestine deliveries, which surely would have outraged the U.S. people if they had learned that Israel was supplying weapons to Iran with Reagan’s secret blessing – just months after the hostage crisis had ended.

After the plane went down, Nicholas Veliotes, a career diplomat serving as Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, tried to get to the bottom of the mysterious weapons flight.

“We received a press report from Tass [the official Soviet news agency] that an Argentinian plane had crashed,” Veliotes said in a later interview with PBS “Frontline” producers. “According to the documents … this was chartered by Israel and it was carrying American military equipment to Iran. …

“And it was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment. Now this was not a covert operation in the classic sense, for which probably you could get a legal justification for it. As it stood, I believe it was the initiative of a few people [who] gave the Israelis the go-ahead. The net result was a violation of American law.”

The reason that the Israeli flights violated U.S. law was that Reagan had not given formal notification to Congress about the transshipment of U.S. military equipment as required by the Arms Export Control Act. If he had, the embarrassing reality of the arms pay-off to Iran would almost surely have leaked — and questions might have been asked about why Reagan was making the pay-off in the first place.

In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election.

“It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”

Q: “Between?”

Veliotes: “Between Israelis and these new players.”

Veliotes added that the embarrassing facts about the downed plane were obscured by Reagan’s State Department, which issued misleading guidance to the U.S. press.

Israeli Pipeline

In my work on the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, I also had obtained a classified summary of testimony from a mid-level State Department official, David Satterfield, who saw these early arms shipments as a continuation of Israeli policy toward Iran.

“Satterfield believed that Israel maintained a persistent military relationship with Iran, based on the Israeli assumption that Iran was a non-Arab state which always constituted a potential ally in the Middle East,” the summary read. “There was evidence that Israel resumed providing arms to Iran in 1980.”

Over the years, senior Israeli officials have claimed that those early shipments, which Carter had tried to block, received the blessing of Reagan’s team.

In May 1982, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon told the Washington Post that U.S. officials had approved Iranian arms transfers. “We said that notwithstanding the tyranny of [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini, which we all hate, we have to leave a small window open to this country, a tiny small bridge to this country,” Sharon said.

A decade later, in 1993, I took part in an interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Tel Aviv during which he said he had read Gary Sick’s 1991 book, October Surprise, which made the case for believing that the Republicans had intervened in the 1980  hostage negotiations to disrupt Jimmy Carter’s reelection.

With the topic raised, one interviewer asked, “What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?”

“Of course, it was,” Shamir responded without hesitation. “It was.”

Walsh’s Suspicions

Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh also came to suspect that those later arms-for-hostage deals traced back to 1980, since it was the only way to make sense of why the Reagan team kept selling arms to Iran in 1985-86 when there was so little progress in reducing the number of American hostages then held by Iranian allies in Lebanon.  When one hostage was released, another was taken.

In conducting a polygraph of Vice President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser (and former CIA officer) Donald Gregg, Walsh’s investigators added a question about Gregg’s alleged participation in the secret 1980 negotiations between Reagan’s team and the Iranians.

“Were you ever involved in a plan to delay the release of the hostages in Iran until after the 1980 Presidential election?” the examiner asked. Gregg’s denial was judged to be deceptive. [See Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters, Vol. I, p. 501]

So, the historical evidence suggests that the dramatic timing of Iran’s hostage release – as Reagan was giving his Inaugural Address – was not the result of the Iranians fearing Reagan’s retaliation, but rather was a choreographed P.R. event between Reagan’s team and the Iranians.

In the days before Reagan’s Inauguration, his acolytes had been busy circulating a joke around Washington which went: “What’s three feet deep and glows in the dark? Tehran ten minutes after Ronald Reagan becomes President.”

Instead the Iranians released the hostages at the moment most favorable to Reagan – to enhance his standing with the American people as someone whom America’s enemies feared. Republicans got busy working the myth of the Mighty Reagan while Reagan’s team quietly approved Israeli-brokered weapon sales to Iran.

Now, this mythology has found a new place in Romney’s campaign, which has entrusted its foreign policy largely to neoconservatives who came of age during the Reagan administration in the 1980s and helped shape George W. Bush’s foreign policy last decade. In part, here is what Romney published in Tuesday’s Washington Post:

“Beginning Nov. 4, 1979, dozens of U.S. diplomats were held hostage by Iranian Islamic revolutionaries for 444 days while America’s feckless president, Jimmy Carter, fretted in the White House. Running for the presidency against Carter the next year, Ronald Reagan made it crystal clear that the Iranians would pay a very stiff price for continuing their criminal behavior.

“On Jan. 20, 1981, in the hour that Reagan was sworn into office, Iran released the hostages. The Iranians well understood that Reagan was serious about turning words into action in a way that Jimmy Carter never was.

“America and the world face a strikingly similar situation today; only even more is at stake. The same Islamic fanatics who took our diplomats hostage are racing to build a nuclear bomb. Barack Obama, America’s most feckless president since Carter, has declared such an outcome unacceptable, but his rhetoric has not been matched by an effective policy.

“While Obama frets in the White House, the Iranians are making rapid progress toward obtaining the most destructive weapons in the history of the world. …

“The overall rubric of my foreign policy will be the same as Ronald Reagan’s: namely, ‘peace through strength.’ Like Reagan, I have put forward a comprehensive plan to rebuild American might and equip our soldiers with the weapons they need to prevail in any conflict. By increasing our annual naval shipbuilding rate from nine to 15, I intend to restore our position so that our Navy is an unchallengeable power on the high seas. …

“My plan includes restoring the regular presence of aircraft carrier groups in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously. It also includes increasing military assistance to Israel and improved coordination with all of our allies in the area.”

Historical Need

Sometimes, I’m asked why I have worked so hard trying to get the history of the Reagan era correct. The question often goes: “Why not leave that to the historians?” In the tone, there is a suggestion that this history is not as important as investigating current events.

But my concern is this: If the bogus history is allowed to stand unchallenged today, the Reagan mythology will continue to control how many Americans perceive their recent past – and thus this propaganda will keep influencing the present and the future.

Romney’s op-ed is a good example of the price the nation and the world might pay for the tendency of many Americans (including prominent Democrats) to duck difficult confrontations with Republicans over a truthful accounting of the Reagan history.

With the Reagan myth lovingly protected by Republicans (and rarely contested by Democrats), it can become a touchstone for dangerous policies, now and in the future, both foreign and domestic.

[For more details on Reagan’s secret dealings with Iran, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege or Consortiumnews.com’s “New October Surprise Series.”]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek.

March 17, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment