Friday, July 27, 2007

From Robert Fisks's The Great War for Civilization: Two excerpts on Rumsfeld and Saddam

In a comment thread at Annamarie's blog, I had the opportunity to transcribe from Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilization as the discussion had evolved into one on the hypocrisy of the US's approach to Saddam Hussein over the years. I am publishing it here, because I think it's important that any transcription from this splendid book should be put online.

This is how I introduced it:

My enemy of my enemy is my friend is a cop-out, especially when you know that your enemy of your enemy is partaking in grave human rights violations. The intellectually bankruptcy is rather apparent on the part of those who ignored rave human rights violations in the 80s, and then condemned later on when it was convenient for them. I am transcribing the following from the Great War for Civilization by Robert Fisk.
And here is the transcription:
Throughout the early years of Saddam's rule, there were journalists who told the truth about his regime while governments -- for financial, trade and economic reasons -- preferred to remain largely silent. Yet those of us who opposed the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 were quickly accused of being Saddam's 'spokesman' or, in my case, 'supporting the maintenance of the Baathist regime' -- this from, of all people, Richard Perle, one of the prime instigators of the whole disastrous war, whose friend Donald Rumsfeld was befriending Saddam in 1983. Two years later Rumsfeld's initial approach to the Iraqi leader -- followed up within months by a meeting with Tariq Aziz -- I was reporting on Saddam's gang-rape and torture in Iraq prisons. On 31 July, Wahbi Al-Qaraghuli, the Iraqi ambassador in London, complained to William Rees-Mogg, the Times Editor, that:
Robert Fisk's extremely one-sided article ignores the tremendous advances made by Iraq in the fields of social welfare, education, agricultural development, urban improvement and women's suffrage;and he claims, without presenting any evidence to support such an accusation, that 'Saddam himself imposes a truly terrorist regime on his own people.' Especially outrageous is the statement that: 'Suspected critics of the regime have been imprisoned at Abu Ghoraib (sic) jail and forced to watch their wives being gang-raped by Saddam's security me. Some prisoner's have had to witness their children being tortured in from of them.' It is utterly reprehensible that some journalists are quite prepared, without any supporting collaboration, to repeat wild, unfounded allegations about countries, such as Iraq...
'Extremely one-sided,' 'without presenting any evidence,' 'outrageous,' 'utterly reprehensible,' 'wild, unfounded allegations': these were the very same expressions used by the Americans and the British almost twenty years later about reports by myself or my colleagues which catalogued the illegal invasion of Iraq and its disastrous consequences. In February 1986, I was refused a visa to Baghadad on the grounds that 'another visit by Mr. Fisk to Iraq would lend undue credibility to his reports.' Indeed it would.

So for all these years -- until his invasion of Kuwait in 1990 -- we in the West tolerated Saddam's cruelty, his oppression and torture, his war crimes and mass murder. After all, we helped to create him. The CIA gave locations of communist cadres to the first Baathist government, information that was used to arrest, torture and execute hundreds of Iraqi men. And the closer Saddam came to war with Iraq, the greater his fear of his own Shia population, the more we helped him. In the pageant of hate figures that Western governments and journalists have helped to stage in the middle East -- peopled by Nasser, Ghadafi, Abu Nidal and, at one point, Yassir Arafat -- Ayatollah Khomeini was our bogeyman of the early 1980s, the troublesome priest who wanted to Islamicise the world, whose stated intention was to spread his revolution. Saddam, far from being a dictator, thus became, on the Associated Press news wires, for example -- 'a strongman.' He was our bastion -- and the Arab world's bastion -- against Islamic 'extremism.' Even after the Israelis bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, our support for Saddam did on waver. Nor did we respond to Saddam's clear intention of driving his country to war with Iran. The signs of impending conflict were everywhere. Even Shapour Bakhitiar, the Shah's last prime minister, was helping to stoke opposition to Khomeni from Iraq, as I discovered when I visited him in his wealthy -- but dangerous -- Paris exile in August 1980.
Here is another passage from Fisk's book:
What we had to forget if we were to support this madness, needless to say, was that President Ronald Reason dispatched a special envoy to meet Saddam Hussein in December 1983. It was essential to forget this for three reasons. First, because the awful Saddam was already using gas against the Iranians --which was one of the reasons we were now supposed to go to war with him. Second, because the envoy was sent to Iraq to arrange the re-opening of the US embassy -- in order to secure better trade and economic relations with the Butcher of Baghdad. And third, because the envoy was Donald Rumsfeld. One might have thought it strange, in the course of his folksy press conference, that Rumsfeld hadn't chatted to use about this interesting tit-bit. You might think he would wish to enlighten us about the evil nature of the criminal with whom he so warmly shook hands. But no. Until questioned much later about whether he warned Saddam against the use of gas -- he claimed he did, but this proved to be untrue -- Rumsfeld was silent. As he was about his subsequent and equally friendly meeting with Tariq Aziz -- which just happened to take place on the day in March 1984 that the UN released its damning report on Saddam's use of poison gas against Iran.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

URGENT ACTION REQUIRED: Protect Ecuadorian Community Activists

This is via the team blog to which I belong, Business & Human Rights in Vancouver. Please distribute widely.

Ecuadorian community activists are facing death threats and attacks for being against copper mining operations.


AI Index: AMR 28/002/2007

UA 193/07

Fear for safety

25 July 2007


Jaime Polivio Pérez Lucero (m), community leader in García Moreno parish

Mercy Catalina Torres Terán (f)

Others opposed to the Intag copper mining project

According to reports, community leader Jaime Polivio Pérez Lucero has been threatened and activist Mercy Catalina Torres Terán has been attacked, as a result of their opposition to a mining project close to their homes in the Intag area of Imbabura province, northern Ecuador. Their lives, and those of others who voice opposition to the mine, are in danger.

Jaime Polivio Pérez Lucero, from Garcia Moreno parish in Imbabura, a group of villages close to a site where the authorities and a mining company are planning to excavate for copper, has received a series of death threats in recent months. In December 2006, while he was taking part in a protest against the mining project, Jaime Polivio Pérez Lucero was reportedly approached by an armed civilian. The armed man told Jaime Polivio Pérez: “Si te sigues oponiendo a la minera vamos a tener que matarte” (if you continue to oppose the mining company we will have to kill you). According to reports, the armed civilians and security guards used tear gas and shot at the demonstrators, injuring several people. Among those injured was Jaime Polivio Pérez’s brother, Israel Pérez, who was shot.

Following the incident, Jaime Polivio Pérez reportedly received several anonymous calls on his mobile phone, in which the caller said, “Si no abandonas la dirigencia te vamos a matar. Deja de subir a Barcelona porque de caso contrario tendrás tu merecido” (If you do not quit the leadership [of a community organization in García Moreno] we are going to kill you. Stop going to Barcelona [one of the communities of the García Moreno parish] or you will get what you deserve).

On 23 June 2007, according to reports, another member of the community received an anonymous email referring to a plan to kill Jaime Polivio Pérez.

On 9 July, activist Mercy Catalina Torres was outside her home in Garcia Moreno when she was reportedly beaten by a man wearing a balaclava. She was cut and bruised in the attack. Mercy Catalina Torres had allegedly been threatened in her home two months before the attack, when a man apparently shouted at her: “porque ya vino el carro, te salvaste perra” (“because someone just arrived in a car, you saved yourself, bitch”).

Jaime Polivio Pérez and Mercy Catalina Torres reported the incidents to the local Attorney’s Office. However, to date, Amnesty International is not aware of any investigation being opened into the threats or the attack, and no protection has been granted to them.

Both Jaime Polivio Pérez and Mercy Catalina Torres have been very active and outspoken in their campaigning against the planned copper mine. They believe that the communities which will be affected by the mining project have not been consulted in a meaningful, open and transparent way by the authorities. Members of these communities are concerned about the environmental impact it might have on the area, a nature reserve where most inhabitants depend on agriculture.


During a visit to Ecuador in November 2006, Amnesty International visited Imbabura and met with some members of the communities affected by the mining project in Intag. The delegation received testimonies and reports of acts of intimidation, harassment and attacks against those who campaign against the mining project. Amnesty International wrote to the authorities asking for investigations to be opened into these incidents. However, to date, the organization is not aware of any investigations into these events.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Using your own words, please choose a few of the suggestions below to create a personal appeal and send it as quickly as possible:

- expressing concern for the safety of Jaime Polivio Pérez Lucero, Mercy Catalina Torres Terán, and other inhabitants of the Intag area, Imbabura, who are opposed to the copper mining project;

- expressing concern that Jaime Polivio Pérez Lucero has been repeatedly threatened with death since December 2006, and that Mercy Catalina Torres Terán was beaten in July 2007;

- stating that these acts of intimidation appear to be linked to their campaigning actions to defend the rights of the communities in Intag to a meaningful, open and transparent consultation prior to the development of any mining project in the area;

- urging the authorities to take steps to guarantee the safety of Jaime Polivio Pérez Lucero and Mercy Catalina Torres Terán, in accordance with their own wishes;

- urging the authorities to carry out an independent and impartial investigation into the death threat received by Jaime Polivio Pérez Lucero and the attack against Mercy Catalina Torres Terán, making the results public and bringing those responsible to justice;

- asking to be informed of the results of these investigation.


Minister of the Interior:

Dr. Gustavo Larrea

Ministro de Gobierno, Policía,

Justicia, Cultos y Municipalidades

Ministerio de Gobierno y Policía

Espejo y Benalcázar,

Quito- Ecuador

Fax: 011593 2295 5666 Ext. 155 or 011 593 2295 5666 Ext. 150 – 151 (ask for fax tone)

Salutation: Dear Minister/Señor Ministro

Attorney General:

Dr. Jorge Germán

Ministro Fiscal General del Estado

Fiscalía General del Estado

Av. Eloy Alfaro Nº 32-240 y República

Quito, Ecuador

Fax: 011 593 2255 8561 (may be difficult to reach)

Salutation: Dear Minister/Señor Ministro

Minister of Energy and Mines:

Econ. Alberto Acosta

Ministro de Energía y Minas

Ministerio de Energía y Minas

Juan León Mera Nº 26-220 y Orellana

Quito - Ecuador

Fax: 011 593 2290 6350

Salutation: Dear Attorney General/Sr. Ministro Fiscal


Human Rights Non-governmental Organization CEDHU:

Comisión Ecumenica de Derechos Humanos

Carlos Ibarra 176 y 10 de Agosto

Edif. Yuraj Pirca 9no. Piso,

Quito, Ecuador

Fax: 011 593 2258 9272

E-mail: denuncias@cedhu. org

His Excellency Fernando Ribadeneira Fernández Salvador

Ambassador for Ecuador

50 O'Connor Street, Suite 316

Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6L2

Email: mecuacan@rogers. com

Fax: (613) 235-5776


Monday, July 23, 2007

A good news story for a change: a council of Elders

A council of Elders has been formed, pushed by Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel, and composed of Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson, andAung San Suu Kyi, symbolically represented by an empty chair:

The Elders have no formal role – nor, Mr. Mandela stressed, will they seek to replace or compete with any official or elected body. None of the group was willing to commit specifically to which issues they will take on, although former Irish president Mary Robinson said they are already at work. Darfur was mentioned repeatedly and a source who sat in on one of their meetings told The Globe that they have also made overtures to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, seeking to negotiate a way to have him leave office.

But former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said it would be fine with him if no one outside their council ever knew what issues they worked on. “The Elders neither want, nor will we ever have, any kind of authority except that that comes from common moral values,” he said. “We will be able to risk failure and we will not need to claim successes.”

The group's work is being funded with an initial infusion of $18-million (U.S.) by wealthy friends of Sir Richard.

Introducing him and Mr. Gabriel, the archbishop remarked that he should ask Mr. Gabriel to sing Biko – his iconic hymn about the murder of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko 30 years ago. Sir Richard's head snapped up at that, and he shouldered his way back to the microphone, saying, “If you won't ask him, I will!” Moments later an abashed-looking Mr. Gabriel found himself in front of the crowd, clearing his throat.

It was a fitting place to sing this song: the gathering was held on the grounds of South Africa's Constitutional Court, which was once an apartheid prison. As the archbishop said, “This was a place of tears, of suffering, of humiliation. People were detained without trial here, people were tortured here. But they didn't buckle.”

So Mr. Gabriel squared his shoulders and sang Biko, every haunting word, and the audience – journalists and dignitaries and a row of South Africa's Constitutional Court justices – joined him with a low and rhythmic hum.

Tumultuous applause erupted as he finished, but then just as quickly died away, as people noticed the archbishop: He was hunched over, hands clutched in fists, weeping inconsolably.

“We stand on the shoulders of incredible people,” he choked out, taking off his glasses and wiping the tears. “We owe our freedom to incredible people.”
.Read the whole article here.

It's people and events like this that remind my why my activism is worthwhile, and that give me the strength to carry on.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Guardian: White House leaning toward attack on Iran.

It seems the struggle over White House policy toward Iran seems to be tilting toward military intervention:

The vice-president, Dick Cheney, has long favoured upping the threat of military action against Iran. He is being resisted by the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and the defence secretary, Robert Gates.

Last year Mr Bush came down in favour of Ms Rice, who along with Britain, France and Germany has been putting a diplomatic squeeze on Iran. But at a meeting of the White House, Pentagon and state department last month, Mr Cheney expressed frustration at the lack of progress and Mr Bush sided with him. "The balance has tilted. There is cause for concern," the source said this week.

Nick Burns, the undersecretary of state responsible for Iran and a career diplomat who is one of the main advocates of negotiation, told the meeting it was likely that diplomatic manoeuvring would still be continuing in January 2009. That assessment went down badly with Mr Cheney and Mr Bush.

"Cheney has limited capital left, but if he wanted to use all his capital on this one issue, he could still have an impact," said Patrick Cronin, the director of studies at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The Washington source said Mr Bush and Mr Cheney did not trust any potential successors in the White House, Republican or Democratic, to deal with Iran decisively. They are also reluctant for Israel to carry out any strikes because the US would get the blame in the region anyway.

"The red line is not in Iran. The red line is in Israel. If Israel is adamant it will attack, the US will have to take decisive action," Mr Cronin said. "The choices are: tell Israel no, let Israel do the job, or do the job yourself."
Read the whole article.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Canada should stand up for one of its own in China

This is something the federal government should continue to raise a stink about this Interesting that if this was a country in which Canddian businessmen did not have dollar signs in their eyes, Canada would probably be making a strong diplomatic stand about this:

A high court in far west China on Tuesday rejected an appeal from Huseyin Celil, who was sentenced to life for terrorism in April in a case that has strained Beijing's relations with Canada.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the High People's Court in China's far western Xinjiang region had upheld the life sentence handed down by a lower court because the "facts were clear, evidence was reliable and adequate."

Celil was convicted of the crimes of "separating China" and "organizing, leading and participating in terrorist groups, organizations."

Celil's status has been a point of contention between Canada and China, which does not recognize Celil's Canadian citizenship and says his case is not subject to consular agreements.

The Canadian government has been upset because Celil appeared in court without a Canadian diplomat present — a violation of his rights as a Canadian citizen.

"We are examining the court's decision and will comment at the appropriate time," a Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson, Rodney Moore, said by telephone from Ottawa.
Pressure PM Harper and Foreign Minister McKay to take stronger diplomatic action on this.

Segregationist racism alive and well in the US south

This is from Amy Goodman of Democracy Now: the case of six black youths from Jena, Louisiana who are basically being lynched by the racist legal system there:

AMY GOODMAN: Jena is a small town nestled deep in the heart of Central Louisiana. Until recently, you may well never have heard of it. But this rural town of less than 4,000 has become a focal point in the debate around issues of race and justice in this country.

Last December, six black students at Jena High School were arrested after a school fight in which a white student was beaten and suffered a concussion and multiple bruises. The six black students were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy. They face up to 100 years in prison without parole.

The Jena 6, as they have come to be known, range in age from fifteen to seventeen. Just over a week ago, an all-white jury took less than two days to convict seventeen-year-old Mychal Bell, the first of the Jena 6 to go on trial. He was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy charges and now faces up to twenty-two years in prison. Black residents say race has always been an issue in Jena, which is 85% white and that the charges against the Jena 6 are no exception.

The origins of the story can be traced back to early September, when a black high school student requested permission to sit under a tree in the schoolyard, where usually only white students sat. The next day, three nooses were found hanging from the tree
. In an interview Amy does with parents of the Jena 6, a mother suggest what we can do to help:
CASEPTLA BAILEY: I would like to leave this message to the people of the United States, that we are asking for a plea to the governor of Louisiana, Governor Kathleen Blanco, to come in and assist, investigate, and do as she needs to do on this case with Mychal Bell, as well as the other Jena 6.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you all for being with us. And, finally, Catrina, one more time, that address that you gave out. Catrina Wallace, secretary of the LaSalle Parish NAACP.

CATRINA WALLACE: Yes, it’s the Jena 6 Defense Committee, PO Box 2798, Jena, LA 71342.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Olbermann: Bush, Resign!

Via Matthew Good.

This is the most powerful vocal indictment of Bush I think I've come across. Transcript and video also on Crooks and Liars.