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What sort of TRUTH is it that crushes the freedom to seek the truth?
Nov 29, 2010
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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: Our next leak will expose secrets of a major financial institution (HURRAY!!!)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange: Our next leak will expose secrets of a major financial institution
BY NINA MANDELL
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Monday, November 29th 2010, 9:30 PM
In an interview with Forbes published on Monday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the site would release tens of thousands of documents in early 2011 that he claimed would be comparable to the Enron trial.
"It will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms, I presume," he promised.
Assange confirmed to Forbes that the upcoming leaks were about a U.S.-based financial institution, but refused to give any more detail about which bank it was.
While WikiLeaks made its name on publishing secret military and government documents, Assange says he has a huge amount of documents revealing private sector secrets too – in fact, he told Forbes, 50 percent of "whistleblower" submissions he has received are non-governmental documents.
The WikiLeaks founder warns that the next batch of documents he'll release will reveal flagrant violations, unethical practices and internal executive decision making structures.
"You could call it the ecosystem of corruption," he told Forbes.
In the near future, Assange said Wikileaks may be focusing its efforts on exposing secrets about finance and the private sector, including banks across the world and other major companies.
"We have a lot of finance related things," he said. "Of the commercial sectors we've covered, finance is the most significant."
Assange justified the future havoc he will wreak with his philosophy that leaking the information will mean good business for people who embrace ethical business practices and treat their employees well. After all, according to him, happy employees don't leak documents that will hurt their employer.
"Let's say you want to run a good company," he said. "It's nice to have an ethical workplace. Your employees are much less likely to screw you over if they're not screwing other people over."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/11/29/2010-11-29_up_next_for_wikileaks_a_major_financial_institution_julian_assange_promised.html#ixzz16jLOuKPR
Israeli media outlets like Haaretz are trumpeting the fact that the Wikileaks documents disclose multiple U.S. contacts with foreign leaders in which they urge the us to attack Iran's nuclear program. Here's a sampling from Yossi Melman in Haaretz:
WikiLeaks exposed all on Iran, but told nothing new
In the modern age, covert documents aren't necessarily
Date: Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 7:39 PM
Subject: Terrorists Kill Iran scientist
The Hoffman Wire
Dedicated to Freedom of the Press, Investigative Reporting and Revisionist History
Michael A. Hoffman II: Editor. RevisionistHistory.org
TERRORISTS ASSASSINATE IRANIAN SCIENTIST AND WOUND ANOTHER SCIENTIST AND
Top Iranian Nuclear Scientists Attacked
NY Times online | November 29, 2010
TEHRAN — Unidentified assailants riding motorcycles launched separate
bomb attacks here on Monday against two of the country's top nuclear
scientists, killing one and prompting accusations that the United States
and Israel were again trying to disrupt Iran's nuclear program.
...The motorcycle attackers attached the bombs to the professors' cars
and then drove off, detonating them from a distance, according to
Iranian media reports... (Prof. Fereydoon) Abbasi's wife was also hurt
in the blast, the reports said. Last January, a remote-controlled bomb
killed a physics professor, Masoud Ali Mohammadi, outside his home....
The slain scientist, Majid Shahriari, managed a "major project" for the
country's Atomic Energy Organization, Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar
Salehi, told the semiofficial IRNA news agency. His injured colleague,
Fereydoon Abbasi, is believed to be even more important; he is on the
United Nations Security Council's sanctions list for ties to the Iranian
Israel and the United States have often signaled that they will not
tolerate a nuclear Iran. Neither has acknowledged pursuing sabotage or
assassinations there, but both are widely believed to be pursuing ways
to undermine the country's nuclear program...
"They're bad people, and the work they do is exactly what you need to
design a bomb," said a (U.S.) federal official who assesses scientific
intelligence and spoke on condition of anonymity. "They're both top
P. J. Crowley, the State Department spokesman, did not address the
Iranian accusations in detail. "All I can say is we decry acts of
terrorism wherever they occur and beyond that, we do not have any
information on what happened," he said.
For more than six decades, Israel has been subjected to violence, warfare, and a relentless campaign of terror attacks deliberately targeting civilians. Today, these attacks are spearheaded by states, including Iran and Syria, and terror organizations like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizballah, Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the PFLP, and even al-Qaeda.
The End of the Right of Self-Defense? Andrew C. McCarthy, Commentary. If it gains currency, a ruling by the International Court of Justice will impair not only Israel's power to protect itself but the American war on terror, and place in question the future of international law. (2004, PDF)
Anne Herzberg is the legal adviser of NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based research institute. A second edition of her monograph, NGO "Lawfare": Exploitation of Courts in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, has just been released.
From: Cherifa Sirry <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, Nov 29, 2010 at 8:45 PM
Subject: Re: WikiLeaks: Red Crescent smuggled weapons for Iran
To: Michael Santomauro <email@example.com>
Wiki"leaks"?? Who the hell is Wiki"leaks"?? The same people who control US media and who have been broadcasting to the American people recordings of a dead Osama ben Laden (or Tim Osman) for the past God knows how long every time they need to justify in the eyes of American their illegal presence on Arab lands..
If the Americans fall for this trap again, they can kiss the Middle East goodbye and maybe Israel will supply the US with the oil it needs..
--- On Mon, 11/29/10, ReporterNotebook <RePorterNoteBook@Gmail.com> wrote:
Mongers of war//WIKILEAKS (30)//Israel/Palestine (7), Iraq, Afghanistan//IRAN (10)//The Cuban 5//Korea//Porno Screening//Atheism & Religion (4)
Robert Fisk: Oceans of blood and profits for the mongers of war
Saturday, 27 November 2010
Since there are now three conflicts in the greater Middle East; Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/"Palestine" and maybe another Lebanese war in the offing, it might be a good idea to take a look at the cost of war.
Not the human cost – 80 lives a day in Iraq, unknown numbers in Afghanistan, one a day in Israel/"Palestine" (for now) – but the financial one. I'm still obsessed by the Saudi claim for its money back after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. Hadn't Saudi Arabia, King Fahd reminded Saddam, financed his eight-year war against Iran to the tune of $25,734,469,885.80? For the custodian of the two holy places, Mecca and Medina, to have shelled out $25bn for Saddam to slaughter his fellow Muslims was pretty generous – although asking for that extra 80 cents was surely a bit greedy.
But then again, talking of rapacity, the Arabs spent $84bn underwriting the Anglo-American operation against Saddam in 1990-91 – three times what Fahd gave to Saddam for the Iran war – and the Saudi share alone came to $27.5bn. In all, the Arabs sustained a loss of $620bn because of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait – almost all of which was paid over to the United States and its allies. Washington was complaining in August 1991 that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait still owed $7.5bn. Western wars in the Middle East, it seemed, could be fought for profit as well as victory. Maybe Iraq could have brought us more treasure if it hadn't ended in disaster. At least it would help to have paid for America's constant infusion of cash to Israel's disastrous wars.
According to Israeli historian Illan Pappé, since 1949, the US has passed to Israel more than $100bn in grants and $10bn in special loans – more than Washington hands out to North Africa, South America and the Caribbean. Over the past 20 years, $5.5bn has been given to Israel for military purchases. But for sheer self-abuse, it's necessary to read of the Midas-like losses in the entire Middle East since just 1991 – an estimated $12,000,000,000,000. Yup, that's a cool $12trn and, if you don't believe me, take a look at an unassuming little booklet that the "Strategic Fortnight Group" published not long ago. Its statistic caught a few headlines, but was then largely forgotten, perhaps because it was published in faraway Mumbai rather than by some preposterous American "tink-thank" (as I call them). But it was funded by, among others, the Norwegian and Swiss foreign ministries. And the Indians are pretty smart about money, as we know as we wait in fear of its new super-economy.
So since there may soon be a new Israel-Hizbollah war, let's get an idea of the astronomical costs of all those F-16s, missiles, "bunker-busters", Iranian-made rockets, smashed Lebanese factories, villages, towns, bridges, power stations, oil terminals – we will not soil ourselves with Lebanon's 1,300 pathetic dead or Israel's 130 pathetic dead in the 2006 war for these are mere mortals – not to mention the losses in tourism and trade to both sides. Total losses for Lebanon in 2006 came to an estimated $3.6bn, for Israel $1.6bn – so Israel won hands down in terms of money, even if its rabble of an army screwed everything up on the ground. But among those who paid for this were American taxpayers (funding the Israelis) and European taxpayers, Arab potentates and the crackpot of Iran (funding Lebanon). So the American taxpayer destroys what the European taxpayer rebuilds. It's the same in Gaza; Washington funds the weapons to blow up EU-funded projects and the EU rebuilds them in time for them to be destroyed again. But boy oh boy, in the Lebanese war, US arms manufacturers make a packet – and so, to a lesser extent do the Iranian and Chinese missile dealers.
Let's break down the 2006 Lebanon war figures. Bridges and roads: $450m. Utilities: $419m. Housing: $2bn. But military "institutions": a paltry $16m. Hizbollah apparently spent $300m. Overall, rebuilding came to $319m, infrastructure repairs to $454m, oil spill costs to $175m. Just for sadistic fun, you can add forest fires ($4.6m), displaced civilians ($52m) and Beirut airport ($170m). But the biggest cost of all? Tourism, at $3-4bn. Now Israel. Tourism lost $1.4 bn, "government and emergency services" $460n, businesses $1.4bn, compensation paid out $335.4m, forest fires $18m. What have the Israeli army and Hizbollah got against forests? In all, the Israeli losses amounted to 1.5 per cent of GDP, the Lebanese 8 per cent of GDP.
And just look at the Middle East "arms race" – the jockeys being the arms manufacturers, the punters being the countries of the region and, of course, their "huddled masses". Saudi Arabia, as the Mumbai report said, leaps in a decade between 1996 and 2006 from $18bn to $30bn a year – it's just negotiating a $60bn deal with the US – and Iran from $3bn to $10bn. Israel has gone from $8bn to $12bn. In fact, there's an interesting correlation between Israel's state-of-the-art democratically minded missile-firings between 2000 and 2007 – 34,050 – and Hamas's evil, terrorist-inspired missile firings: a rather piffling 2,333.
There's a host of other goodies in this appalling list of financial and social horrors. On 11 September 2001, just 16 people were on America's "no-fly" list; by December, it was 594. By August 2008, it had reached an astonishing 100,000. At present rate, the US "terrorist watch list" will reach two million souls in two years' time. Since 1974, UN peacekeepers on the Golan Heights have cost $47.86m while the UN has forked out $680.93m for its forces in southern Lebanon since 1978.
So coming soon to a war near you; oceans of blood, bodies torn to shreds, of course. But bring your credit card. Or a cheque book. It's big business. And there may be profits.
US embassy cables leak sparks global diplomacy crisis
• More than 250,000 dispatches reveal US foreign strategies
• Diplomats ordered to spy on allies as well as enemies
• Hillary Clinton leads frantic 'damage limitation'
- David Leigh
- guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 November 2010 18.13 GMT
- Article history
The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year.
At the start of a series of daily extracts from the US embassy cables – many designated "secret" – the Guardian can disclose that Arab leaders are privately urging an air strike on Iran and that US officials have been instructed to spy on the UN leadership. These two revelations alone would be likely to reverberate around the world. But the secret dispatches which were obtained by WikiLeaks, the whistleblowers' website, also reveal Washington's evaluation of many other highly sensitive international issues.
These include a shift in relations between China and North Korea, high level concerns over Pakistan's growing instability and details of clandestine US efforts to combat al-Qaida in Yemen.
Among scores of disclosures that are likely to cause uproar, the cables detail:
• Grave fears in Washington and London over the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, with officials warning that as the country faces economic collapse, government employees could smuggle out enough nuclear material for terrorists to build a bomb.
• Suspicions of corruption in the Afghan government, with one cable alleging that vice president Zia Massoud was carrying $52m in cash when he was stopped during a visit to the United Arab Emirates. Massoud denies taking money out of Afghanistan.
• How the hacker attacks which forced Google to quit China in January were orchestrated by a senior member of the Politburo who typed his own name into the global version of the search engine and found articles criticising him personally.
• The extraordinarily close relationship between Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, which is causing intense US suspicion. Cables detail allegations of "lavish gifts", lucrative energy contracts and the use by Berlusconi of a "shadowy" Russian-speaking Italian go-between.
• Allegations that Russia and its intelligence agencies are using mafia bosses to carry out criminal operations, with one cable reporting that the relationship is so close that the country has become a "virtual mafia state".
• Devastating criticism of the UK's military operations in Afghanistan by US commanders, the Afghan president and local officials in Helmand. The dispatches reveal particular contempt for the failure to impose security around Sangin – the town which has claimed more British lives than any other in the country.
• Inappropriate remarks by a member of the British royal family about a UK law enforcement agency and a foreign country.
The US has particularly intimate dealings with Britain, and some of the dispatches from the London embassy in Grosvenor Square will make uncomfortable reading in Whitehall and Westminster. They range from political criticisms of David Cameron to requests for specific intelligence about individual MPs.
The cables contain specific allegations of corruption, as well as harsh criticism by US embassy staff of their host governments, from Caribbean islands to China and Russia. The material includes a reference to Putin as an "alpha-dog", Hamid Karzai as being "driven by paranoia" while Angela Merkel allegedly "avoids risk and is rarely creative". There is also a comparison between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Adolf Hitler.
The cables names Saudi donors as the biggest financiers of terror groups, and provide an extraordinarily detailed account of an agreement between Washington and Yemen to cover up the use of US planes to bomb al-Qaida targets. One cable records that during a meeting in January with General David Petraeus, then US commander in the Middle East, Yemeni president Abdullah Saleh said: "We'll continue saying they are our bombs, not yours."
Other revelations include a description of a near "environmental disaster" last year over a rogue shipment of enriched uranium, technical details of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva, and a profile of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, who they say is accompanied everywhere by a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse.
A worldwide diplomatic crisis for the US is in prospect following the leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret cables sent from its embassies.
The dispatches, to which the Guardian has obtained unprecedented access, reveal startling information about the behaviour of the world's major superpower.
They include high-level allegations of corruption against foreign leaders, harsh criticisms and frank insights into the world of normally- secret diplomacy.
Among literallyscores of revelations which may cause uproar, some will be particularly dismaying in Britain. They include:
• Highly critical private remarks about David Cameron and George Osborne's "lack of depth", made by Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, to the US ambassador.
• A scornful analysis of UK "paranoia" over the US-UK so-called special relationship. It is suggested that "keeping HMGthe British government "off-balance" about itthe relationship might be a good idea.
• US shock at the rude behaviour of Prince Andrew when abroad.
• Secret US military missions flown from a UK base, which Britain alleged could involve torture.
• A plan to deceive the British parliament over the use of banned US weapons.
The Guardian will be publishing extracts in the coming days from a selection of the most significant of more than 250,000 of these diplomatic cables, which were radioed back to Washington via satellite links from US embassies all over the world.
Among many allegations of corruption, the dispatches name a prominent western leader said to be in receipt of Russian bribes, a senior Afghan politician stopped at an airport with more than $50m in suitcases and a British businessman at the centre of a corruption scandal in Kazakhstan.
They name the "single most hated person" in a country the US relies on to help prosecute its war in Afghanistan; and they reveal deep fears about the safety of one state's nuclear weapons.
They also reveal why an alleged major Serbian war criminal has never been caught; why North Korea is soon likely to collapse and how an "environmental disaster" was only narrowly averted last year over secret shipments of highly enriched uranium.
Topics covered range from the technical detail of secret US-Russian nuclear missile negotiations in Geneva, to an intimate personality profile of Colonel Gaddaffi, the eccentric Libyan dictator, who they say is nowadays accompanied everywhere by a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse.
The cables cover secretary of state Hillary Clinton's work under the Obama administration, as well as thousands of files from the Bush presidency.Clinton led a frantic damage limitation exercise this weekend as Washington prepared foreign governments for the revelations, contacting leaders in Germany, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf, France and Afghanistan.
US ambassadors in other capitals were instructed to brief their hosts in advance of the release of unflattering pen-portraits or nakedly frank accounts of transactions with the US which they had thought would be kept quiet. Washington now faces a difficult task in convincing contacts around the world that any future conversations will remain confidential.
As the cables were published the White House released a statement condemning their release. "Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the US for assistance in promoting democracy and open government. By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals."
In London, a Foreign Office spokesman said: "We condemn any unauthorised release of this classified information, just as we condemn leaks of classified material in the UK. They can damage national security, are not in the national interest and, as the US have said, may put lives at risk. We have a very strong relationship with the US Government. That will continue".
The state department's legal adviser has written to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his London lawyer, warning that the cables were obtained illegally and that publication would place at risk "the lives of countless innocent individuals … ongoing military operations … and cooperation between countries".
The electronic archive of embassy dispatches from around the world was allegedly downloaded by a US soldier earlier this year and passed to WikiLeaks. Assange made them available to the Guardian and four other news organisations: the New York Times, Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. All five plan to publish extracts from the most significant cables, but have decided neither to "dump" the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to publish names that would endanger innocent individuals. WikiLeaks says that, contrary to the state department's fears, it also initially intends to post only limited cable extracts, and to redact identities.
The cables published today reveal how the US uses its embassies as part of a global espionage network, with diplomats tasked to obtain not just information from the people they meet, but personal details, such as frequent flyer numbers, credit card details and even DNA material.
Classified "human intelligence directives" issued in the name of Clinton or her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, instruct officials to gather information on military installations, weapons markings, vehicle details of political leaders as well as iris scans, fingerprints and DNA.
The most controversial target was the UN leadership. That directive requested the specification of telecoms and IT systems used by top officials and their staff and details of "private VIP networks used for official communication, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys".
PJ Crowley, the state department spokesman in Washington, said: "Let me assure you: our diplomats are just that, diplomats. They do not engage in intelligence activities. They represent our country around the world, maintain open and transparent contact with other governments as well as public and private figures, and report home. That's what diplomats have done for hundreds of years."
Last night the acting deputy spokesman for Ban Ki Moon, Farhan Haq, said the UN chief had no immediate comment: "We are aware of the reports."
The dispatches also shed light on older diplomatic issues. One cable, for example, reveals, that Nelson Mandela was "furious" when a top adviser stopped him meeting Margaret Thatcher shortly after his release from prison to explain why the ANC objected to her policy of "constructive engagement" with the apartheid regime. "We understand Mandela was keen for a Thatcher meeting but that [appointments secretary Zwelakhe] Sisulu argued successfully against it," according to the cable. It continues: "Mandela has on several occasions expressed his eagerness for an early meeting with Thatcher to express the ANC's objections to her policy. We were consequently surprised when the meeting didn't materialise on his mid-April visit to London and suspected that ANC hardliners had nixed Mandela's plans."
The US embassy cables are marked "Sipdis" – secret internet protocol distribution. They were compiled as part of a programme under which selected dispatches, considered moderately secret but suitable for sharing with other agencies, would be automatically loaded on to secure embassy websites, and linked with the military's Siprnet internet system.
They are classified at various levels up to "secret noforn" [no foreigners]. More than 11,000 are marked secret, while around 9,000 of the cables are marked noforn.
More than 3 million US government personnel and soldiers, many extremely junior, are cleared to have potential access to this material, even though the cables contain the identities of foreign informants, often sensitive contacts in dictatorial regimes. Some are marked "protect" or "strictly protect".
Last spring, 22-year-old intelligence analyst Bradley Manning was charged with leaking many of these cables, along with a gun-camera video of an Apache helicopter crew mistakenly killing two Reuters news agency employees in Baghdad in 2007, which was subsequently posted by WikiLeaks. Manning is facing a court martial.
In July and October WikiLeaks also published thousands of leaked military reports from Afghanistan and Iraq. These were made available for analysis beforehand to the Guardian, along with Der Spiegel and the New York Times.
A former hacker, Adrian Lamo, who reported Manning to the US authorities, said the soldier had told him in chat messages that the cables revealed "how the first world exploits the third, in detail".
He also said, according to Lamo, that Clinton "and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available in searchable format to the public … everywhere there's a US post … there's a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed".
Asked why such sensitive material was posted on a network accessible to thousands of government employees, the state department spokesman told the Guardian: "The 9/11 attacks and their aftermath revealed gaps in intra-governmental information sharing. Since the attacks of 9/11, the US government has taken significant steps to facilitate information sharing. These efforts were focused on giving diplomatic, military, law enforcement and intelligence specialists quicker and easier access to more data to more effectively do their jobs."
He added: "We have been taking aggressive action in recent weeks and months to enhance the security of our systems and to prevent the leak of information."
No-Longer Secret US Embassy Cables - Fulltext Search
US embassy cables: browse the database
Use our interactive guide to discover what has been revealed in the leak of 250,000 US diplomatic cables. Mouse over the map below to find key stories and a selection of original documents by country, subject or people
• Datablog: download the key data, and see how it breaks down
WikiLeaks embassy cables: download the key data and see how it breaks down
The WikiLeaks embassy cables release has produced a lot of stories but does it produce any useful data? We explain what it includes and how it breaks down - plus you can download the key data for every cable
• Get the data
• 21:35pm, 28.11.2010: We've just added a CSV download - see below. Remember this is the date, time, sender and tags for each cable - NOT the text of the cable itself
WikiLeaks embassy cables revelations cover a huge dataset of official documents: 251,287 dispatches, from more than 250 worldwide US embassies and consulates. It's a unique picture of US diplomatic language - including over 50,000 documents covering the current Obama administration. But what does the data include?
The cables themselves come via the huge Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet. SIPRNet is the worldwide US military internet system, kept separate from the ordinary civilian internet and run by the Department of Defense in Washington. Since the attacks of September 2001, there has been a move in the US to link up archives of government information, in the hope that key intelligence no longer gets trapped in information silos or "stovepipes". An increasing number of US embassies have become linked to SIPRNet over the past decade, so that military and diplomatic information can be shared. By 2002, 125 embassies were on SIPRNet: by 2005, the number had risen to 180, and by now the vast majority of US missions worldwide are linked to the system - which is why the bulk of these cables are from 2008 and 2009.
An embassy dispatch marked SIPDIS is automatically downloaded on to its embassy classified website. From there, it can be accessed not only by anyone in the state department, but also by anyone in the US military who has a security clearance up to the 'Secret' level, a password, and a computer connected to SIPRNet - which astonishingly covers over 3m people. There are several layers of data in here - ranging up to the "SECRET NOFORN" level, which means that they are designed never be shown to non-US citizens. Instead, they are supposed to be read by officials in Washington up to the level of current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The cables are normally drafted by the local ambassador or subordinates. The "Top Secret" and above foreign intelligence documents cannot be accessed from SIPRNet.
We've broken down the data for you - and you can download the basic details of every cable (without the actual content) below. Each cable is essentially very structured data. This is what's included:
• A source, ie the embassy or body which sent it
• There is a list of recipients - normally cables were sent to a number of other embassies and bodies
• There is a subject field - basically a summary of the cable
• Tags - each cable was tagged with a number of keyword abbreviations. We've put together a downloadable Google glossary spreadsheet of most of the important ones here
• Body text - the cable itself. We have opted not to publish these in full for obvious security reasons
• 251,287 dispatches
• The state department sent the most cables in this set, followed by Ankara in Turkey, then Baghdad and Tokyo
• 97,070 of the documents were classified as 'Confidential'
• 28,760 of them were given the tag 'PTER' which stands for prevention of terrorism
• The earliest of the cables is from 1966 - with most, 56,813, from 2009
What can you do with the data?
• DATA: every cable with date, time and tags, EXCLUDING BODY TEXT (via Google fusion tables, subject to heavy traffic)
• DATA: every cable with date, time and tags, EXCLUDING BODY TEXT (Zipped CSV file, 3.1MB)
• DATA: our analysis of the cable by location and tag
• DATA: glossary of keywords and tags
World government data
Development and aid data
Can you do something with this data?
Deceits, plots, insults: America laid bare
Diplomatic communiqués released by Wikileaks shine unprecedented light on the US and how it sees the world
By Jerome Taylor, Cahal Milmo and David Usborne, US Editor
Monday, 29 November 2010
President Obama's administration has backed the gathering of personal details of foreign dignitaries
The doors to a previously hidden world of diplomatic intrigue and insults were dramatically thrown open last night as the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks published its vast tranche of secret American diplomatic communiqués. The release of hundreds of thousands of secret messages from staff at US embassies revealed how Washington has struggled to confront the geopolitical realities of a post-9/11 world.
It also exposed the often less than diplomatic language used by State Department insiders to describe some of the planet's most powerful leaders. Contained within the quarter of a million secret memos are revelations that:
*The Obama administration has ordered diplomats to gather vast amounts of personal, biometric and banking details about key global figures, including the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon;
- Downing Street condemns publication of leaked cables
- US tries to contain damage from leaked documents
- Hilary Synnott: These leaks could deal a fatal blow to global trust
- John Kampfner: Wikileaks shows up our media for their docility at the feet of authority
- Wikileaks: How the reverberations will be felt in Downing Street and far beyond
- Search the news archive for more stories
*Key Arab allies in the Middle East, including King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, have pleaded with Washington to take military action against Iran's nuclear programme;
*Tehran is thought to have obtained from North Korea a cache of Russian-designed missiles that could be fired at targets as far away as Berlin;
* US officials warned their German counterparts not to arrest CIA officers who were suspected by Berlin of being involved in America's "extraordinary rendition" programme – the secret global abduction and internment of suspected terrorists;
* Washington has grown increasingly wary of Italy's close ties to Russia, with one official describing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi as the "mouthpiece of [Vladimir] Putin" in Europe.
* Officials from the US Drug Enforcement Administration accused the Afghan Vice-President, Ahmad Zia Massoud, of travelling to the United Arab Emirates with $52m in cash;
The communiqués – most written between 2006 and 2009 – use colourful language to describe political leaders in ways bound to cause embarrassment in Washington and abroad. The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, is referred to as a "pale and apprehensive man", while Nicholas Sarkozy of France is "an emperor with no clothes" and Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai is "driven by paranoia".
Some of the harshest criticism is reserved for key anti-American leaders opponents. The Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is described by one official as being "like Hitler", while North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-il is called a "flabby old man".
The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is praised as a strong US ally but dismissed as "risk-averse and rarely creative". Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, is derided as "an alpha dog" who plays Batman to Medvedev's Robin.
One of the most revealing personal details is the disclosure that the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, is accompanied at all times by a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse.
There are also claims of "inappropriate behaviour" by an unnamed member of the British Royal Family.
Iran's nuclear programme surfaces frequently in the memos and is viewed as a key concern by the Americans and their Arab allies. Reports from US embassies in the Middle East suggest that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia urged Washington to take military action against the Islamic republic and to "cut off the head of the snake". According to Wikileaks, leaders in Jordan and Bahrain also backed the use of armed force if necessary. One of the reports quotes Zeid Rifai, the then head of the Jordanian senate, telling a senior US official: "Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won't matter."
A message dated 24 February this year says that US officials believe the Iranians have stockpiled 19 advanced BM-25 missiles, based on a Russian design, with help from North Korea. They are thought to have a range of 2,000 miles – 800 miles further than any missile Iran has had before. The Tehran regime is not yet thought to have the technology to build a nuclear warhead small enough to fit inside a BM-25, but the memos offer growing evidence that Tehran has the ballistic capability to target western Europe.
The messages also reveal some of the diplomatic pitfalls of America's so-called "war on terror". In 2007, the US fell out with Germany over arrest warrants that were issued for CIA agents accused of being involved in rendition. A senior US diplomat told a German official "our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the US".
There is also mounting concern about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, which the US fears could be seized by Islamist militants. The leaked memos suggest that, since 2007, US officials have mounted a top secret but so far unsuccessful attempt to remove enriched uranium from a Pakistani research plant. In a message dated May 2009, the US ambassador, Anne W Patterson, says that Pakistan refused to grant American technicians access to the reactor because they feared that local media might get hold of the story and portray the visit as "the US taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons".
The cache of messages also casts aspersions upon the way US embassy staff are involved in collecting personal data about foreign nationals, blurring the line between standard diplomatic work and outright espionage. State Department personnel working at the UN, for example, were ordered in a July 2009 directive approved by Hillary Clinton to gather the credit card and frequent-flier details, work schedules, biometric data and other personal information about foreign dignitaries, including senior British representatives at the UN. They were also asked to collect details of "private VIP networks used for official communication, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys". Similar communiqués were sent to US staff in Burundi, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. One asked staff to acquire "internet and intranet 'handles', internet email addresses, website identification URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent-flier account numbers; work schedules and other relevant biographical information".
Classified State Department documents reveal that US embassy staff in Berlin recruited a German politician to supply them with confidential information about Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government shortly after it was elected in 2009.
Even though a significant number of the secret messages date back to before Mr Obama took office, the White House was aggressive yesterday in its condemnation of their release by Wikileaks, saying the publication could "deeply impact" US interests abroad and put lives "at risk".
Last night, the US ambassador to London, Louis Susman, said: "Releasing documents of this kind place at risk the lives of innocent individuals – from journalists to human rights activists and bloggers to soldiers and diplomats. It is reprehensible for any individual or organisation to attempt to gain notoriety at the expense of people who had every expectation of privacy in sharing information."
The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, rejected the suggestion that the publication of the memos would endanger lives. "As far as we are aware, and as far as anyone has ever alleged in any credible manner whatsoever, no single individual has even come to harm as a result of anything we have ever published," said the 39-year-old Australian.
Despite Washington's fears that a vast amount of uncensored information was to be published by the website, Wikileaks went some way towards redacting the names of informants it believes might be persecuted.
What has been released?
* Most of the cables were written between 2006 and 2009 although a small number go back to the early 1990s.
* They are thought to have been downloaded from SPIR-Net, the Pentagon's global secret-level computer network, by Bradley Manning, a former Iraq-based army intelligence analyst.
* In total the cache comprises more than 251,000 documents, 11,000 of which are marked "secret". An additional 9,000 or so carry the label "noforn", meaning the information should not to be shared with those outside of the US, and 4,000 are marked "secret/noforn". The rest are either marked with the less restrictive label "confidential" or are unclassified.
* That such a large amount of confidential data can be so easily copied and leaked is testament to how the US government has struggled to combine better communication between its various government agencies and the need to protect secret information.
* More than 2.5 million government employees have access to SIPR-Net
New WikiLeaks documents expose US foreign policy conspiracies
By David Walsh
29 November 2010
The batch of 250,000 US classified documents released by WikiLeaks to several news outlets, some of whose content was made public Sunday, sheds new light on the sordid nature of American imperialist intrigue and conspiracy around the globe.
The WSWS will analyze the documents more thoroughly in a subsequent article, but "highlights" published by the Guardian and the New York Times are revealing.
The leaked material consists of classified cables from US embassies, some dispatched as recently as early 2010. The cables, most of which date from 2007-2010, contain US officials' comments on foreign governments and leaders and speculation about the activities and maneuvers of the latter, as well as details about American foreign policy operations.
In a revelation that should surprise no one, the US State Department and American diplomacy in general turn out to be a vast nest of spies.
The Guardian explains that the WikiLeaks documents "reveal how the US uses its embassies as part of a global espionage network, with diplomats tasked to obtain not just information from the people they meet, but personal details, such as frequent flyer numbers, credit card details and even DNA material.
"Classified 'human intelligence directives' issued in the name of Hillary Clinton or her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, instruct officials to gather information on military installations, weapons markings, vehicle details of political leaders as well as iris scans, fingerprints and DNA."
The British newspaper reports that Washington's "most controversial target was the leadership of the United Nations." One of the leaked directives requests "the specification of telecoms and IT systems used by top UN officials and their staff and details of 'private VIP networks used for official communication, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys.'" In response, a UN spokesperson discreetly commented, "We are aware of the reports."
Among other revelations: Officials from numerous Arab regimes have repeatedly urged the US to bomb Iran and destroy its nuclear program. The Financial Times, based on the documents, reports: "The Saudi ambassador to Washington … spoke to General David Petraeus, then incoming central command chief, in April 2008 about King Abdullah's 'frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran.'"
The reactionary Arab states "fear a nuclear-armed Iran would make it the undisputed superpower in the region, particularly at a time when the power of their own ally, the US, has receded."
Moreover, notes the Financial Times, "The leaks will reinforce suspicions that Israel is considering an attack on Iranian facilities. According to reports of the cables, Ehud Barak, the defence minister, warned in 2009 that the world had six to 18 months to deal with Iran's nuclear programme."
The new WikiLeaks exposé also reveals that the US has been trying since 2007 "to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device." (New York Times) For its part, the Pakistani regime is fearful that if the media were to get word of the fuel removal, they would portray it as the US taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
The New York Times reports this gem as well: "When American diplomats pressed other countries to resettle detainees, they became reluctant players in a State Department version of 'Let's Make a Deal.' Slovenia was told to take a prisoner if it wanted to meet with President Obama, while the island nation of Kiribati was offered incentives worth millions of dollars to take in Chinese Muslim detainees, cables from diplomats recounted. The Americans, meanwhile, suggested that accepting more prisoners would be 'a low-cost way for Belgium to attain prominence in Europe.'"
US officials were thoroughly aware of the deep-going corruption of the Afghan government, the documents reveal. The Times reports that United Arab Emirates officials discovered that Afghan vice president Ahmed Zia Massoud was carrying $52 million in cash when he tried to enter that country last year. According to one of the cables, Massoud "was ultimately allowed to keep [the money] without revealing [its] origin or destination."
The US government is outraged that the world's population is getting a glimpse into its dirty operations. In a deeply hypocritical statement, the White House issued a statement Sunday denouncing WikiLeaks for its "reckless and dangerous action." The press release claimed that WikiLeaks had "put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals [named in the documents]."
On the eve of the new release of documents, the US State Department wrote WikiLeaks a threatening letter, claiming that making the material publicly available was illegal and would "place at risk the lives of countless individuals." The November 28 letter also asserted, without providing any proof, that the leaks would "place at risk on-going military operations," and "place at risk on-going cooperation between countries."
On Sunday afternoon, WikiLeaks reported that its web site had been compromised. "We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack," WikiLeaks said on its Twitter page. A DDOS attack is an attempt to make a given web site unavailable to the public, usually by flooding it with requests for data.
The State Department letter, signed by legal adviser Harold Hongju Koh, was addressed to WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange and the latter's lawyer, Jennifer Robinson. Assange and Robinson had written to Louis B. Susman, US ambassador to the United Kingdom, asking which individuals would be put at risk by the new disclosures and apparently offering limited redactions.
In his reply, Koh asserted that "We will not engage in a negotiation regarding the further release or dissemination of illegally obtained U.S. Government classified materials." The State Department official's letter has two indignant references to the "violation of U.S. law" involved in the documents being provided to WikiLeaks and that organization's holding and publishing them.
The analogy hardly does justice to the present situation, but Koh's effort might be likened to a Mafia hit man writing to an eyewitness of a mob slaying and complaining bitterly about his or her upcoming testimony. The US actions in Iraq and Afghanistan are criminal and murderous on a massive scale. WikiLeaks not only has the legal right, it has the moral obligation to do anything in its power to disrupt these bloody operations. It is to the everlasting shame of the mainstream media that it has not exerted any of its efforts along the same lines.
Washington attempted to weaken the impact of the WikiLeaks material by leaking its own story in regard to the material in the middle of last week. US officials and diplomats, including Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, have been scurrying about the past few days, attempting to alert and reassure some of the governments and leaders referred to in the documents.
By video link from an undisclosed location on Sunday, Assange told reporters that "The material that we are about to release covers essentially every major issue in every country." The WikiLeaks founder faces trumped up sexual assault charges in Sweden.
Among the apparent revelations not yet to appear in the Guardian or the Times, which are releasing the material piecemeal, is that the US has for years supported the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey, an organization that both Washington and Ankara have placed on their lists of "terrorist" groups.
Deborah Guido, spokeswoman for the US embassy in Ankara, told the media that the American government's policy "has never been nor will ever be in support of the PKK. Anything that implies otherwise is nonsense." Turkish commentators were more inclined to believe the report.
Mehmet Yegin, an expert at the Center for American Studies at the USAK research organization, suggested, according to the English-language version of the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, "that U.S. support for the PKK could have been a result of Turkey's decision in 2003 not to allow the United States to enter Iraq through Turkish soil."
Some of the more sensitive material yet to be published involves the US-UK relationship. The US diplomatic cables reportedly include scathing remarks about British operations in Afghanistan and Prime Minister David Cameron. The Daily Mail in Britain reports: "The documents include highly damaging and embarrassing communiques from U.S. embassies around the world, especially from London--revealing the truth behind the so-called 'special relationship' between the U.K. and the U.S.
"The U.S. ambassador to London made an unprecedented personal visit to Downing Street [the British prime minister's residence] to warn that whistleblower website WikiLeaks was about to publish secret assessments of what Washington really thinks of Britain."
The global diplomatic crisis triggered by the WikiLeaks documents speaks to the extremely volatile international situation and the number of flashpoints, which do not require much fuel to be ignited.
Furthermore, that a small organization with a computer bank and sympathizers within the US military and intelligence apparatus can wreak such havoc is testimony to the decline of American imperialism and the chaos and disorientation that characterize its daily activities. The US foreign policy establishment lurches from one improvised and violent plan to the next, resentful and fearful of foes and "friends" alike.
How 250,000 US embassy cables were leaked
From a fake Lady Gaga CD to a thumb drive that is a pocket-sized bombshell – the biggest intelligence leak in history
- David Leigh
- guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 November 2010 18.14 GMT
- Article history
An innocuous-looking memory stick, no longer than a couple of fingernails, came into the hands of a Guardian reporter earlier this year. The device is so small it will hang easily on a keyring. But its contents will send shockwaves through the world's chancelleries and deliver what one official described as "an epic blow" to US diplomacy.
The 1.6 gigabytes of text files on the memory stick ran to millions of words: the contents of more than 250,000 leaked state department cables, sent from, or to, US embassies around the world.
What will emerge in the days and weeks ahead is an unprecedented picture of secret diplomacy as conducted by the planet's sole superpower. There are 251,287 dispatches in all, from more than 250 US embassies and consulates. They reveal how the US deals with both its allies and its enemies – negotiating, pressuring and sometimes brusquely denigrating foreign leaders, all behind the firewalls of ciphers and secrecy classifications that diplomats assume to be secure. The leaked cables range up to the "SECRET NOFORN" level, which means they are meant never to be shown to non-US citizens.
As well as conventional political analyses, some of the cables contain detailed accounts of corruption by foreign regimes, as well as intelligence on undercover arms shipments, human trafficking and sanction-busting efforts by would-be nuclear states such as Iran and Libya. Some are based on interviews with local sources while others are general impressions and briefings written for top state department visitors who may be unfamiliar with local nuances.
Intended to be read by officials in Washington up to the level of the secretary of state, the cables are generally drafted by the ambassador or subordinates. Although their contents are often startling and troubling, the cables are unlikely to gratify conspiracy theorists. They do not contain evidence of assassination plots, CIA bribery or such criminal enterprises as the Iran-Contra scandal in the Reagan years, when anti-Nicaraguan guerrillas were covertly financed.
One reason may be that America's most sensitive "top secret" and above foreign intelligence files cannot be accessed from Siprnet, the defence department network involved.
The US military believes it knows where the leak originated. A soldier, Bradley Manning, 22, has been held in solitary confinement for the last seven months and is facing a court martial in the new year. The former intelligence analyst is charged with unauthorised downloads of classified material while serving on an army base outside Baghdad. He is suspected of taking copies not only of the state department archive, but also of video of an Apache helicopter crew gunning down civilians in Baghdad, and hundreds of thousands of daily war logs from military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It was childishly easy, according to the published chatlog of a conversation Manning had with a fellow-hacker. "I would come in with music on a CD-RW labelled with something like 'Lady Gaga' … erase the music … then write a compressed split file. No one suspected a thing ... [I] listened and lip-synched to Lady Gaga's Telephone while exfiltrating possibly the largest data spillage in American history." He said that he "had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ months".
Manning told his correspondent Adrian Lamo, who subsequently denounced him to the authorities: "Hillary Clinton and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public ... Everywhere there's a US post, there's a diplomatic scandal that will be revealed. Worldwide anarchy in CSV format ... It's beautiful, and horrifying."
He added: "Information should be free. It belongs in the public domain."
Manning, according to the chatlogs, says he uploaded the copies to WikiLeaks, the "freedom of information activists" as he called them, led by Australian former hacker Julian Assange.
Assange and his circle apparently decided against immediately making the cables public. Instead they embarked on staged disclosure of the other material – aimed, as they put it on their website, at "maximising political impact".
In April at a Washington press conference the group released the Apache helicopter video, titling it Collateral Murder.
The Guardian's Nick Davies brokered an agreement with Assange to hand over in advance two further sets of military field reports on Iraq and Afghanistan so professional journalists could analyse them. Published earlier this year simultaneously with the New York Times and Der Spiegel in Germany, the analyses revealed that coalition forces killed civilians in previously unreported shootings and handed over prisoners to be tortured.
The revelations shot Assange and WikiLeaks to global prominence but led to angry denunciations from the Pentagon and calls from extreme rightwingers in the US that Assange be arrested or even assassinated. This month Sweden issued an international warrant for Assange, for questioning about alleged sexual assaults. His lawyer says the allegations spring from unprotected but otherwise consensual sex with two women.
WikiLeaks says it is now planning to post a selection of the cables. Meanwhile, a Guardian team of expert writers has been spending months combing through the data. Freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke obtained a copy of the database through her own contacts and joined the Guardian team. The paper is to publish independently, but simultaneously with the New York Times and Der Spiegel, along with Le Monde in Paris and El País in Madrid. As on previous occasions the Guardian is redacting information likely to cause reprisals against vulnerable individuals.
US embassy cables: The job of the media is not to protect the powerful from embarrassment
It is for governments – not journalists – to guard public secrets, and there is no national jeopardy in WikiLeaks' revelations
- Robert Booth and Julian Borger
- guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 November 2010 18.14 GMT
- Article history
Is it justified? Should a newspaper disclose virtually all a nation's secret diplomatic communication, illegally downloaded by one of its citizens? The reporting in the Guardian of the first of a selection of 250,000 US state department cables marks a recasting of modern diplomacy. Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing's snake-oil salesmen claim. No organisation can treat digitised communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.
Verdict on the Middle East-related leaks
Anything said or done in the name of a democracy is, prima facie, of public interest. When that democracy purports to be "world policeman" – an assumption that runs ghostlike through these cables – that interest is global. Nonetheless, the Guardian had to consider two things in abetting disclosure, irrespective of what is anyway published by WikiLeaks. It could not be party to putting the lives of individuals or sources at risk, nor reveal material that might compromise ongoing military operations or the location of special forces.
In this light, two backup checks were applied. The US government was told in advance the areas or themes covered, and "representations" were invited in return. These were considered. Details of "redactions" were then shared with the other four media recipients of the material and sent to WikiLeaks itself, to establish, albeit voluntarily, some common standard.
The state department knew of the leak several months ago and had ample time to alert staff in sensitive locations. Its pre-emptive scaremongering over the weekend stupidly contrived to hint at material not in fact being published. Nor is the material classified top secret, being at a level that more than 3 million US government employees are cleared to see, and available on the defence department's internal Siprnet. Such dissemination of "secrets" might be thought reckless, suggesting a diplomatic outreach that makes the British empire seem minuscule.
The revelations do not have the startling, coldblooded immediacy of the WikiLeaks war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan, with their astonishing insight into the minds of fighting men seemingly detached from the ethics of war. The's disclosures are largely of analysis and high-grade gossip. Insofar as they are sensational, it is in showing the corruption and mendacity of those in power, and the mismatch between what they claim and what they do.
Few will be surprised to know that Vladimir Putin runs the world's most sensational kleptocracy, that the Saudis wanted the Americans to bomb Iran, or that Pakistan's ISI is hopelessly involved with Taliban groups of fiendish complexity. We now know that Washington knows too. The full extent of American dealings with Yemen might upset that country's government, but is hardly surprising. If it is true that the Pentagon targeted refugee camps for bombing, it should be of general concern. American congressmen might also be interested in the sums of money given to certain foreign generals supposedly to pay for military equipment.
The job of the media is not to protect power from embarrassment. If American spies are breaking United Nations rules by seeking the DNA biometrics of the UN director general, he is entitled to hear of it. British voters should know what Afghan leaders thought of British troops. American (and British) taxpayers might question, too, how most of the billions of dollars going in aid to Afghanistan simply exits the country at Kabul airport.
No harm is done by high-class chatter about President Nicolas Sarkozy's vulgarity and lack of house-training, or about the British royal family. What the American embassy in London thinks about the coalition suggests not an alliance at risk but an embassy with a talent problem.
Some stars shine through the banality such as the heroic envoy in Islamabad, Anne Patterson. She pleads that Washington's whole policy is counterproductive: it "risks destabilising the Pakistani state, alienating both the civilian government and the military leadership, and provoking a broader governance crisis without finally achieving the goal". Nor is any amount of money going to bribe the Taliban to our side. Patterson's cables are like missives from the Titanic as it already heads for the bottom.
The money‑wasting is staggering. Aid payments are never followed, never audited, never evaluated. The impression is of the world's superpower roaming helpless in a world in which nobody behaves as bidden. Iran, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, the United Nations, are all perpetually off script. Washington reacts like a wounded bear, its instincts imperial but its power projection unproductive.
America's foreign policy is revealed as a slave to rightwing drift, terrified of a bomb exploding abroad or of a pro-Israeli congressman at home. If the cables tell of the progress to war over Iran or Pakistan or Gaza or Yemen, their revelation might help debate the inanity of policies which, as Patterson says, seem to be leading in just that direction. Perhaps we can now see how catastrophe unfolds when there is time to avert it, rather than having to await a Chilcot report after the event. If that is not in the public's interest, I fail to see what is.
Clearly, it is for governments, not journalists, to protect public secrets. Were there some overriding national jeopardy in revealing them, greater restraint might be in order. There is no such overriding jeopardy, except from the policies themselves as revealed. Where it is doing the right thing, a great power should be robust against embarrassment.
What this saga must do is alter the basis of diplomatic reporting. If WikiLeaks can gain access to secret material, by whatever means, so presumably can a foreign power. Words on paper can be made secure, electronic archives not. The leaks have blown a hole in the framework by which states guard their secrets. The Guardian material must be a breach of the official secrets acts. But coupled with the penetration already allowed under freedom of information, the walls round policy formation and documentation are all but gone. All barriers are permeable. In future the only secrets will be spoken ones. Whether that is a good thing should be a topic for public debate.
US diplomats spied on UN leadership
• Diplomats ordered to gather intelligence on Ban Ki-moon
• Secret directives sent to more than 30 US embassies
• Call for DNA data, computer passwords and terrorist links
Washington is running a secret intelligence campaign targeted at the leadership of the United Nations, including the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon and the permanent security council representatives from China, Russia, France and the UK.
A classified directive which appears to blur the line between diplomacy and spying was issued to US diplomats under Hillary Clinton's name in July 2009, demanding forensic technical details about the communications systems used by top UN officials, including passwords and personal encryption keys used in private and commercial networks for official communications.
It called for detailed biometric information "on key UN officials, to include undersecretaries, heads of specialised agencies and their chief advisers, top SYG [secretary general] aides, heads of peace operations and political field missions, including force commanders" as well as intelligence on Ban's "management and decision-making style and his influence on the secretariat". A parallel intelligence directive sent to diplomats in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi said biometric data included DNA, fingerprints and iris scans.
Washington also wanted credit card numbers, email addresses, phone, fax and pager numbers and even frequent-flyer account numbers for UN figures and "biographic and biometric information on UN Security Council permanent representatives".
The secret "national human intelligence collection directive" was sent to US missions at the UN in New York, Vienna and Rome; 33 embassies and consulates, including those in London, Paris and Moscow.
The operation targeted at the UN appears to have involved all of Washington's main intelligence agencies. The CIA's clandestine service, the US Secret Service and the FBI were included in the "reporting and collection needs" cable alongside the state department under the heading "collection requirements and tasking".
The leak of the directive is likely to spark questions about the legality of the operation and about whether state department diplomats are expected to spy. The level of technical and personal detail demanded about the UN top team's communication systems could be seen as laying the groundwork for surveillance or hacking operations. It requested "current technical specifications, physical layout and planned upgrades to telecommunications infrastructure and information systems, networks and technologies used by top officials and their support staff", as well as details on private networks used for official communication, "to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, personal encryption keys and virtual private network versions used".
The UN has previously asserted that bugging the secretary general is illegal, citing the 1946 UN convention on privileges and immunities which states: "The premises of the United Nations shall be inviolable. The property and assets of the United Nations, wherever located and by whomsoever held, shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action".
The 1961 Vienna convention on diplomatic relations, which covers the UN, also states that "the official correspondence of the mission shall be inviolable".
The emergence of the directive also risks undermining political trust between the UN leadership and the US, which is the former's biggest paying member, supplying almost a quarter of its budget – more than $3bn (£1.9bn) this year.
Washington wanted intelligence on the contentious issue of the "relationship or funding between UN personnel and/or missions and terrorist organisations" and links between the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Middle East, and Hamas and Hezbollah. It also wanted to know about plans by UN special rapporteurs to press for potentially embarrassing investigations into the US treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, and "details of friction" between the agencies co-ordinating UN humanitarian operations, evidence of corruption inside UNAids, the joint UN programme on HIV, and in international health organisations, including the World Health Organisation (WHO). It even called for "biographic and biometric" information on Dr Margaret Chan, the director general of WHO, as well as details of her personality, role, effectiveness, management style and influence.
The UN is not the only target. The cables reveal that since 2008 the state department has issued at least nine directives to embassies around the world which set forth "a list of priorities intended to guide participating US government agencies as they allocate resources and update plans to collect information".
They are packed with detailed orders and while embassy staff are particularly encouraged to assist in compiling biographic information, the directive on the mineral and oil-rich Great Lakes region of Africa also requested detailed military intelligence, including weapons markings and plans of army bases. A directive on "Palestinian issues" sent to Cairo, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Amman, Damascus and Riyadh demanded the exact travel plans and vehicles used by leading members of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, without explaining why.
In one directive that would test the initiative, never mind moral and legal scruples, of any diplomat, Washington ordered staff in the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi to obtain biometric information of leading figures in business, politics, intelligence, military, religion and in key ethnic groups.
Fingerprints and photographs are collected as part of embassies' consular and visa operations, but it is harder to see how diplomats could justify obtaining DNA samples and iris scans. Again in central Africa, embassy officials were ordered to gather details about countries' military relations with China, Libya, North Korea, Iran and Russia. Washington assigned high priority to intelligence on the "transfer of strategic materials such as uranium", and "details of arms acquisitions and arms sales by government or insurgents, including negotiations, contracts, deliveries, terms of sale, quantity and quality of equipment, and price and payment terms".
The directives, signed simply "Clinton" or "Rice", referring to the current and former secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, form a central plank of America's intelligence effort and reveal how Washington is using its 11,500-strong foreign service to glean highly sensitive information on both allies and enemies.
They are compliant with the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, which is approved by the president, and issued by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence who oversees the CIA, the Defence Intelligence Agency, FBI and 13 other intelligence agencies.
Washington circulated to its Middle Eastern embassies a request for what was effectively a counter-intelligence operation against Mukhabarat, the Palestinian Authority's secret service, and Istikhbarat, its military intelligence.
The directive asked for an assessment of the foreign agencies' "signals intercept capabilities and targets, decryption capabilities, intercept sites and collection hardware, and intercept operation successes" and information of their "efforts to illicitly collect classified, sensitive, commercial proprietary or protected technology information from US companies or government agencies".
Missions in Israel, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were asked to gather biometric information "on key Palestinian Authority and Hamas leaders and representatives, to include the young guard inside Gaza, the West Bank", as well as evidence of collusion between the PA security forces and terror groups.
Taken together, the directives provide a vivid snapshot of America's perception of foreign threats which are often dazzlingly interconnected. Paraguayan drug traffickers were suspected of supporting Hezbollah and al-Qaida, while Latin American cocaine barons were linked to criminal networks in the desert states of west Africa, who were in turn linked to Islamist terrorists in the Middle East and Asia.
High on the list of requests in an April 2009 directive covering the Saharan west African countries, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, was information about the activities of fighters returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Information was wanted on "indications that international terrorist groups are seeking to take advantage of political, ethnic, tribal or religious conflict".
Diplomats were told to find out about the links between drug traffickers in the region to Latin American cocaine cartels, as well as terrorist or insurgent groups' income derived from the drugs trade.
Sometimes the directives appear linked to forthcoming diplomatic obligations of the secretary of state. In a cable to the embassy in Sofia last June, five months before Clinton hosted Bulgaria's foreign minister in Washington, the first request was about government corruption and the links between organised crime groups and "government and foreign entities, drug and human trafficking, credit card fraud, and computer-related crimes, including child pornography".
Washington also wanted to know about "corruption among senior officials, including off-budget financial flows in support of senior leaders … details about defence industry, including plans and efforts to co-operate with foreign nations and actors. Weapon system development programmes, firms and facilities. Types, production rates, and factory markings of major weapon systems".
Top tips for dealing with defectors and turncoats
One cable offered a detailed and practical guide for embassies on how to handle possible defectors, known as "walk-ins", who turned up at embassies offering to switch sides. It called for them to be treated with considerable care because they "may be sources of invaluable intelligence".
"Walk-ins may exhibit nervous or anxious behaviour, particularly because access controls and host nation security forces around many of our diplomatic posts make it difficult for walk-ins to approach our facilities discreetly," it warned. "All briefings should also stress the importance of not drawing attention to the walk-in or alerting host nation security personnel."
Embassy staff should immediately copy the person's identification papers or passport, in case they got cold feet and ran off, it said. A walk-in who possessed any object that appeared potentially dangerous should be denied access even if the item was presented "as evidence of some intelligence he offers, eg, red mercury [a possibly bogus chemical which has been claimed to be a component of nuclear weapons] presented as proof of plutonium enrichment".
Cables: US diplomats 'spied' on UN
Leaked diplomatic files reveal details of secret programme of intelligence gathering by US diplomats around the world.
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2010 06:07 GMT
US diplomats were ordered to gather intelligence on senior foreign figures, including UN officials, a huge cache of leaked diplomatic cables have revealed.
The revelations came on Sunday, as details of thousands of classified state department files were posted on news websites around the world.
The cables show that in recent years officials at the US state department were ordered to gather detailed information, including credit card details and frequent-flier numbers of senior international figures for the US government's human intelligence programme.
The UN appears to have been a particular target of the secret programme, with diplomats directed to gather a range of information about the organisation and its staff.
"The intelligence community relies on state reporting officers for much of the biographical information collected worldwide," the cable says. "Informal biographic reporting via email and other means is vital to the community's collection efforts."
The directive, which came from Condoleeza Rice, the then US secretary of state, was circulated to US missions at the UN, and to 33 embassies and consulates around the world.
A separate directive on the same issue, issued by Hillary Clinton, Rice's successor, in 2009, appears to blur the traditional line between espionage and diplomacy.
The order calls for biometric information of important UN officials and intelligence on Ban Ki Moon, the UN secretary-general, to be collected by embassy staff.
The order asks for information on the "personalities, biographic and biometric information, roles, effectiveness, management styles, and influence of key UN officials, to include under secretaries, heads of specialised agencies and their chief advisers, top SYG [Secretary General] aides, heads of peace operations and political field missions, including force commanders".
The cables reveal that Washington was also interested in gathering details of any relationship between UN field offices and terrorist groups, specifically asking for "evidence of relationship or funding between UN personnel and/or missions and terrorist organisations".
The orders also appeared to instruct US officials to collect information about private communications technology used at the UN, asking for "information systems, networks, and technologies used by top officials and their support staffs."
The information asked for includes "private VIP networks used for official communications, to include upgrades, security measures, passwords, [and] personal encryption keys" of top UN officials, as well as information on "key personnel and functions of UN entity that maintains UN communications and computer networks."
"Our diplomats are just that, diplomats," he said.
The documents, details of which have been published in the New York Times, The Guardian and European publications who were been given prior access to the files, provide a rare unvarnished insight into inside workings of the US foreign service.
The US government has condenmed the leak, describing the publication of the files as "reckless and dangerous."
| http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2010/11/20101128194925449573.html |
U.S. Expands Role of Diplomats in SpyingUnited Nations, ordering State Department personnel to gather the credit card and frequent-flier numbers, work schedules and other personal information of foreign dignitaries.
Articles in this series will examine American diplomatic cables as a window on relations with the rest of the world in an age of war and terrorism.
Revealed in classified State Department cables, the directives, going back to 2008, appear to blur the traditional boundaries between statesmen and spies.
The cables give a laundry list of instructions for how State Department employees can fulfill the demands of a "National Humint Collection Directive." ("Humint" is spy-world jargon for human intelligence collection.) One cable asks officers overseas to gather information about "office and organizational titles; names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of telephones, cellphones, pagers and faxes," as well as "internet and intranet 'handles', internet e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers; frequent-flier account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant biographical information."
Philip J. Crowley, a State Department spokesman, on Sunday disputed that American diplomats had assumed a new role overseas.
"Our diplomats are just that, diplomats," he said. "They represent our country around the world and engage openly and transparently with representatives of foreign governments and civil society. Through this process, they collect information that shapes our policies and actions. This is what diplomats, from our country and other countries, have done for hundreds of years."
The cables, sent to embassies in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the United States mission to the United Nations, provide no evidence that American diplomats are actively trying to steal the secrets of foreign countries, work that is traditionally the preserve of spy agencies. While the State Department has long provided information about foreign officials' duties to the Central Intelligence Agency to help build biographical profiles, the more intrusive personal information diplomats are now being asked to gather could be used by the National Security Agency for data mining and surveillance operations. A frequent-flier number, for example, could be used to track the travel plans of foreign officials.
Several of the cables also asked diplomats for details about the telecommunications networks supporting foreign militaries and intelligence agencies.
The United States regularly puts undercover intelligence officers in countries posing as diplomats, but a vast majority of diplomats are not spies. Several retired ambassadors, told about the information-gathering assignments disclosed in the cables, expressed concern that State Department employees abroad could routinely come under suspicion of spying and find it difficult to do their work or even risk expulsion.
Ronald E. Neumann, a former American ambassador to Afghanistan, Algeria and Bahrain, said that Washington was constantly sending requests for voluminous information about foreign countries. But he said he was puzzled about why Foreign Service officers — who are not trained in clandestine collection methods — would be asked to gather information like credit card numbers.
"My concerns would be, first of all, whether the person could do this responsibly without getting us into trouble," he said. "And, secondly, how much effort a person put into this at the expense of his or her regular duties."
The requests have come at a time when the nation's spy agencies are struggling to meet the demands of two wars and a global hunt for militants. The Pentagon has also sharply expanded its intelligence work outside of war zones, sending Special Operations troops to embassies to gather information about militant networks.
Unlike the thousands of cables, originally obtained by WikiLeaks, that were sent from embassies to the State Department, the roughly half-dozen cables from 2008 and 2009 detailing the more aggressive intelligence collection were sent from Washington and signed by Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
One of the cables, signed by Mrs. Clinton, lists information-gathering priorities to the American staff at the United Nations in New York, including "biographic and biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats."
While several treaties prohibit spying at the United Nations, it is an open secret that countries try nevertheless. In one 2004 episode, a British official revealed that the United States and Britain eavesdropped on Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The requests for more personal data about foreign officials were included in several cables requesting all manner of information from posts overseas, information that would seem to be the typical business of diplomats.
State Department officials in Asunción, Paraguay, were asked in March 2008 about the presence of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas in the lawless "Tri-Border" area of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. Diplomats in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo were asked in April 2009 about crop yields, H.I.V. rates and China's quest for copper, cobalt and oil in Africa.
In a cable sent to the American Embassy in Bulgaria in June 2009, the State Department requested information about Bulgaria's efforts to crack down on money laundering and drug trafficking and for "details about personal relations between Bulgarian leaders and Russian officials or businessmen."
And a cable sent on Oct. 31, 2008, to the embassies in Israel, Jordan, Egypt and elsewhere asked for information on "Palestinian issues," including "Palestinian plans, intentions and efforts to influence US positions on the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations." To get both sides, officials also sought information on "Israeli leadership intentions and strategy toward managing the US relationship."
Andrew W. Lehren contributed reporting from New York.
Leaked Cables Offer Raw Look at U.S. Diplomacy
By SCOTT SHANE and ANDREW W. LEHREN
Published: November 28, 2010
WASHINGTON — A cache of a quarter-million confidential American diplomatic cables, most of them from the past three years, provides an unprecedented look at back-room bargaining by embassies around the world, brutally candid views of foreign leaders and frank assessments of nuclear and terrorist threats.
Articles in this series will examine American diplomatic cables as a window on relations with the rest of the world in an age of war and terrorism.
- WikiLeaks and U.S. Government Trade Letters
- Profile of the Libyan Leader
- A Wild Wedding in Dagestan, Russia
- Ambassador Reports on Zimbabwe's Leader
- U.S. Warns Germany on Bungled Rendition
- 2009 Meeting with Ahmed Wali Karzai
- All Related Documents »
Pfc. Bradley Manning is accused of leaking diplomatic cables and other classified documents to WikiLeaks.
Some of the cables, made available to The New York Times and several other news organizations, were written as recently as late February, revealing the Obama administration's exchanges over crises and conflicts. The material was originally obtained by WikiLeaks, an organization devoted to revealing secret documents. WikiLeaks posted 220 cables, some redacted to protect diplomatic sources, in the first installment of the archive on its Web site on Sunday.
The disclosure of the cables is sending shudders through the diplomatic establishment, and could strain relations with some countries, influencing international affairs in ways that are impossible to predict.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and American ambassadors around the world have been contacting foreign officials in recent days to alert them to the expected disclosures. A statement from the White House on Sunday said: "We condemn in the strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and sensitive national security information."
The White House said the release of what it called "stolen cables" to several publications was a "reckless and dangerous action" and warned that some cables, if released in full, could disrupt American operations abroad and put the work and even lives of confidential sources of American diplomats at risk. The statement noted that reports often include "candid and often incomplete information" whose disclosure could "deeply impact not only U.S. foreign policy interests, but those of our allies and friends around the world."
The cables, a huge sampling of the daily traffic between the State Department and some 270 embassies and consulates, amount to a secret chronicle of the United States' relations with the world in an age of war and terrorism. Among their revelations, to be detailed in The Times in coming days:
¶ A dangerous standoff with Pakistan over nuclear fuel: Since 2007, the United States has mounted a highly secret effort, so far unsuccessful, to remove from a Pakistani research reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device. In May 2009, Ambassador Anne W. Patterson reported that Pakistan was refusing to schedule a visit by American technical experts because, as a Pakistani official said, "if the local media got word of the fuel removal, 'they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons,' he argued."
GOP Rep. asks Clinton to declare WikiLeaks a "foreign terrorist organization'By theWeb (about the author) Page 1 of 2 page(s)
A Republican Congressman from New York has invented a new definition for the word "terrorism" that doesn't require guns, bombs, vast underground networks of sleeper cells, a criminal conspiracy or even violence.
All that's needed to be a terrorist, according to Rep. Peter King, is a website and some inconvenient information.
That's why King sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder on Sunday, demanding that whistleblower website WikiLeaks be deemed a "foreign terrorist organization" and its founder declared a terror ringleader.
"To me they are a clear and present enemy to the United States of America," he told a CBS radio reporter on Sunday.
King said the website's release of sensitive -- but not "top secret" -- US diplomatic cables was "worse than a military attack."Declaring the site a "terrorist" group, King suggested, would allow the US "to seize their funds and go after anyone who provides them with any help or contributions or assistance whatsoever."
He also called for site founder Julian Assange to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act.
That may prove difficult, however, given that WikiLeaks did not steal any of the documents it released to the media -- they were given to the site by a whistleblower, allegedly a young soldier named Bradley Manning.
That sequence of events, of a whistleblower contacting a high profile news venue with explosive information that needs to be made public, happens in newsrooms all across the country every week.
Though inconvenient for officials, the revelation of information contained in any of the WikiLeaks files, much like the Pentagon Papers amid the Vietnam war, is crucial to maintaining an enlightened public -- a point the US Supreme Court made abundantly clear in New York Times Co. v. United States in 1971.
"In seeking injunctions against these newspapers and in its presentation to the Court, the Executive Branch seems to have forgotten the essential purpose and history of the First Amendment," Justices Hugo Black and William Douglas wrote, taking the side of the Times, which had recently published what was then considered the largest cache of secret military information in US history.
"In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy," they continued. "The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government."
After the release of the Pentagon Papers, Justices Black and Douglas opined that "newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do."
According to Daniel Ellsberg, the man responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers, WikiLeaks has done just the same.
Concurring with the court's majority, Justice Potter Stewart added: "In the absence of the governmental checks and balances present in other areas of our national life, the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defense and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry -- in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government. For this reason, it is perhaps here that a press that is alert, aware, and free most vitally serves the basic purpose of the First Amendment. For without an informed and free press there cannot be an enlightened people."
"[The WikiLeaks] documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match," the Times added.
"The Attorney General and I don't always agree on different issues, but I believe on this one, he and I strongly agree that there should be a criminal prosecution [of WikiLeaks]," Rep. King told CBS radio.
Attorney General Holder has not made any announcement regarding a criminal prosecution of the site or its founder. The White House strongly condemned the site's actions on Sunday, calling the publication of State Dept. documents a continuation of a violation of law.
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anonymously sourced from either the web or a forwarded email.http://www.opednews.com/articles/Raw-Story--GOP-Rep-asks-by-the-web-101129-263.html
US embassy cables: Verdict on the leaks about the Middle East
What do the cables released by WikiLeaks tell us about diplomacy and US foreign policy in the Middle East?
- Gary Younge, Seumas Milne, Craig Murray, Richard Norton-Taylor, Juan Cole, Abbas Edalat, Phil Wilayto
- guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 November 2010 11.50 GMT
- Article history
Gary Younge: 'Leaks reveal how tight room for manoeuvre can be'
The behind-the-scenes revelations about American diplomacy really only shock three groups of people.
The first is those who believe the US is a force for unalloyed good in the world with a foreign policy rooted in principle rather than pragmatism. Even after the past nine years the number of those in that category is higher than many would think. For them, the problem with the US invading Iraq was not that it broke international law on a false pretext, leaving thousands dead or displaced, but that it lost. The lesson they have drawn is not that the US needs to adopt more subtle methods than bombing, torturing and invading but that not all of the world is ready for freedom. Last month, during the final debate between the Colorado Senatorial candidates, Republican, Ken Buck, said: "It's a fundamental mistake to assume that a people as backward as the Afghans are going to be able to build the industrialised nation and the democracy that it takes to be able to achieve what we would consider a western-style democracy."
The second group is those who believe that the US can call the shots unilaterally and need not care about whatever anyone else thinks. This has long been acknowledged by the country's intelligence forces.
"Owing to the relative decline of its economic and, to a lesser extent, military power, the US will no longer have the same flexibility in choosing among as many policy options," concluded the National Intelligence Council (which co-ordinates analysis from all US intelligence agencies) in early 2009.
The leaks reveal, among other things, just how tight the room for manoeuvre can be in the current period. They show the US attempting to trade a presidential visit to Slovenia in return for the Slovenes taking a Guantánamo prisoner and expose its inability to prevent Syrians arming Hezbollah in Lebanon.
These first two may appear like straw men. But in the domestic political arena it is a bold national politician who insists that the US is anything but unrivalled in might and morality. And after the Republican victories in the mid-term elections, they will now need to be bolder still.
But, finally, the third group: those on the left, who mistook American diplomacy for acts of either unalloyed evil or delusion. News of America resisting calls from the Arab world to bomb Iran simply show it is more than capable of a rational appraisal in global affairs. The diplomats in question, charged with looking after their national interests, understand that such an attack would not be in the country's interests in the region. These were probably the same diplomats who desperately tried to dissuade George Bush from invading Iraq. The state department, lest we forget, voiced internal opposition to the war and predicted many of the things that went wrong.
If anything, what the leaks tell us is, in light of recent events, is that we should not confuse America's domestic politics with its diplomatic engagements; nor should we assume that its foreign and military actions are necessarily guided by its diplomatic assessments.
Seumas Milne: 'Global mobilisation of US power against Iran is an ominous thread'
The relentless global mobilisation of US power against Iran – and of Washington-backed Arab autocracies and dictatorships for an American attack on Tehran – is an ominous thread that runs through thousands of the leaked state department WikiLeaks cables published in the Guardian.
Not only do they underline the danger represented by the threat of aggression against Iran over its nuclear programme, which of course Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes only; but the repeated private demands by the Saudi king Abdullah to "cut off the head of the snake" – backed up by Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain (and, of course, Israel) – also serve to drive home the utterly unrepresentative nature of the client Arab regimes that underpin western power in the Middle East.
While the Arab rulers fear Iran and want the US to attack it, the majority of their people support Iran's nuclear programme and believe it would be "positive" for the region if Iran did develop nuclear weapons – according to the most recent poll carried out by the US Zogby polling organisation and Maryland University in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and other pro-western Arab states. Asked which countries threatened their security, 88% replied Israel, 77% the US and just 10% Iran.
No doubt Saudi and Egyptian leaders will be more careful about what they say to American ambassadors in future.
But then they're not the only ones. Now it's emerged from the WikiLeaks cables that Hillary Clinton has instructed US embassy staff around the world to spy on UN staff and leaders, as well as a wide range of political, business and religious figures, down to their biometric and credit card details. Plenty of others who meet US diplomats are likely to keep a closer eye on their pockets.
Craig Murray: 'The best policy advice is not shielded from peer review'
The securitocracy has been out in force in the media, attacking WikiLeaks and repeating their well-worn mantra: government secrecy is essential to keep us all safe. It is seriously argued that ambassadors will not in future give candid advice if there is a chance that that advice might become public. In the past 12 hours I have heard this remarkable proposition put forward on five different television networks, without anybody challenging it. I was wearily familiar with these pro-secrecy arguments in more than 20 years as a British diplomat, six of them in the senior management structure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Put it another way and the cracks start to appear. The best advice is advice you would not be prepared to defend in public. Really? Why? In today's globalised world, embassies are not a unique source of expertise. Often, expatriate, academic and commercial organisations are a lot better informed. The best policy advice is not advice that is shielded from peer review.
What the establishment mean is that ambassadors should be free to recommend things that the general public would view with deep opprobrium, without any danger of being found out. But should they really be allowed to do that, in a democracy?
I have never understood why it is felt that behaviours that would be considered reprehensible in private or even commercial life – like lying, or saying one thing to one person and the opposite to another person – should be considered acceptable, or even praiseworthy, in diplomacy.
When ambassador to Uzbekistan, I was rebuked by the then head of the diplomatic service for reporting to London by unclassified email the details of dreadful human rights abuses by the Uzbek government. The FCO were concerned that the Uzbeks, who were intercepting our communications, would discover that I disapproved of their human rights violations. This might endanger the Uzbek alliance with British forces in neighbouring Afghanistan. For the FCO, diplomacy is synonymous with duplicity.
Among British diplomats, this belief that their profession exempts them from the normal constraints of decent behaviour amounts to a cult of Machiavellianism, a pride in their own amorality. It is reinforced by their narrow social origins – still in 2010, 80% of British ambassadors went to private schools. As a group, they view themselves as ultra-intelligent Nietzschean supermen, above normal morality.
Some web commenters have noted that the released diplomatic cables reflect the US's political agenda, and there is even a wedge of the blogosphere suggesting that WikiLeaks is therefore a CIA front. This is nonsense. Of course the documents reflect the US view – they are official US government communications. What they show is something I witnessed personally, that diplomats as a class very seldom tell unpalatable truths to politicians, but rather report and reinforce what their masters want to hear, in the hope of receiving preferment.
There is therefore a huge amount about Iran's putative nuclear arsenal and an exaggeration of Iran's warhead delivery capability. But there is nothing about Israel's massive nuclear arsenal. That is not because WikiLeaks has censored criticism of Israel. It is because any US diplomat who made an honest and open assessment of Israeli crimes would very quickly be an unemployed ex-diplomat.
• Craig Murray is a political activist and former ambassador to Uzbekistan
Richard Norton-Taylor: 'Most diplomats and spies will see the leaks as embarrassing more than anything else'
An ambassador is a man of virtue sent abroad to lie for his country. To lie, but not to spy, a much more dangerous activity, as the 16th century wit who penned the well-known adage would have known only too well.
The WikiLeaks cables suggest the lines between diplomacy and spying have become blurred. "The intelligence community relies on state [department] reporting officers for much of the biographical information collected wordwide," says one of cables. What appears to have shocked most journalist commentators is the apparently brazen and unembarrassed request for detailed personal information, including credit card numbers and frequent flyer account numbers, of senior UN officials.
Will the US ever learn? Shortly before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, a conscientious GCHQ translator, Katharine Gun, leaked a memo from the National Security Agency urging the British to help bug the phones of the UN. It caused a storm in the media.
Intelligence agencies and diplomats eager for recognition demand more and more information; the question is, is it useful.
The irony is that these 250,000 or so cables, subjected to varying degrees of classification (but not the highest, there are no intelligence agency cables here) were distributed to 2.5 million people because of the failure to share relevant information before the 9/11 attacks.
US agencies are flooded with information as it is – what good would it really achieve getting the flyer accounts of a UN official?
One test is to consider whether the information in the cables contain such information which could – or should – change US policy. Elements in the Iranian, Russian and Chinese regimes, will make use of these leaks. But in the end, most diplomats and spies will see them as simply embarrassing, hugely so but embarrassing more than anything else.
The work of US diplomats will prove more difficult, perhaps for a long time to come. The real spies are likely to carry on, calmly, and hidden, as before.
Juan Cole: 'The yield of the documents is actually thin'
The WikiLeaks revelation that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia repeatedly urged Washington to "cut off the head of the snake" and launch a surgical air strike on Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities sounds more sensational than it actually is. The elderly monarch risked nothing by his urgings, which put all the onus, and the possible backlash, on the United States.
It is no secret that the Sunni Arab leaders in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have been alarmed by the rise of Iran as a regional power. That rise has taken place for three reasons. First, the worrisome deterioration in the condition of stateless Palestinians under rightwing governments of Israel since 2001, and that country's increasing belligerence toward neighbours, as with the 2006 Lebanon war, have inflamed passions throughout the region, allowing Iran to position itself as a champion of the weak. Second, the Bush administration destroyed the Sunni Arabs' bulwark against Iran, the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and brought pro-Iranian Shias to power in Baghdad.
Third, Iran has made progress in its nuclear enrichment program. There is no evidence that the Iranians have a nuclear weapons program, but even for Iran to possess the knowledge of how to close the fuel cycle and enrich to the level needed for a bomb would change the power equation in the Middle East. This development would give Iran the "Japan option" of at any time going for broke to put together a warhead.
The aged Saudi monarch has been pursuing an unrealistic policy of trying to put the big blue Iranian genie back in its lantern. But note that King Abdullah has also hosted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Riyadh and has kept a dialogue going with Tehran, buttering his bread on both sides.
Riyadh is not alone in its hysteria. But although Arab officials like Prince Turki al-Kabir of the Saudi foreign ministry threaten the US with a nuclear arms race if Iran gets a warhead, there is no reason to take such assertions as more than a way to put pressure on the Pentagon to do the bidding of Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. If the US is wise, it will avoid being stampeded into yet another ruinous Middle Eastern war based on exaggerated fears about alleged weapons programs. Israel already has a nuclear arsenal, which is what is fuelling the current arms race in the region, and if Arab states don't care enough about Tel Aviv's nuclear weapons to seek atomic bombs themselves, it is hard to see how Iran's civilian research program could induce them to do so.
Despite the breathless headlines they generated, the yield of the documents is actually thin. The most populous and militarily most important Arab state, Egypt, appears not to have been among those urging military action. There is no sign in the diplomatic cables of any practical steps toward an Arab attack on Iran, no evidence of logistical or military preparations. At most there is high-level gossip in Arab capitals that something should be done, and by someone else. In any case, if this is the anti-Iranian Arab axis, Tehran can sleep peacefully at night.
• Juan Cole is the Richard P Mitchell collegiate professor of history at the University of Michigan and author of Engaging the Muslim World
Abbas Edalat and Phil Wilayto: 'Iran's independent stance is hugely popular among Arabs'
The latest batch of WikiLeaks revelations give the impression that it is the Arab states that are most energetically pressuring the US to attack Iran. That's definitely putting the cart before the horse.
In the first place, the Arab governments mentioned as being hostile to Iran – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates – are all undemocratic, unpopular regimes that depend on US support to stay in power. As such, they seem to have absorbed the US claims that Iran is the region's greatest threat to peace.
A completely different view, however, is held by these governments' own subjects, among whom Iran's independent stance is hugely popular. According to a recent poll that asked Arab people in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates to name two countries they thought were the greatest threat to the region, 88% stated Israel, 77% stated the US and only 10% mentioned Iran.
Of course, no Arab country has the military capability of launching a serious attack against Iran. Only Israel has that ability in the region, but Israel is dependent for its continued existence on its $3bn in annual US subsidies and its US-supplied diplomatic firewall in the UN security council. There is almost no way Israel could attack Iran unless it had first been given a green light from Washington or because it had calculated the US would have no choice but to back it up with military force.
Without a doubt, Iran does represent a threat to US imperial interests. Iran takes no orders from Washington, its natural resources are off-limits to Western corporations and it has no love for the corrupt, pro-Western governments that dominate the region. As such, it represents an obstacle to US hegemony.
To demonise Iran, the US has for eight years promoted the myth of an Iranian nuclear weapons programme, much as it demonised Iraq through its false charges about weapons of mass destruction. And while this myth has formed the basis for four sets of UN sanctions against Iran, the US has never provided the first shred of proof and its "evidence" of Iran's nuclear weapons studies has now been shown to be simply a fabrication.
No, the principal threat to Iran remains the United States, which for years, prodded by nuclear-armed Israel, has declared that "all options are on the table."
On 5 December, Iran is scheduled to begin revived negotiations with the five permanent UN security council members, plus Germany. This would be an ideal time for Washington to make the following declaration: that it will not attack Iran, will not allow an attack by Israel, will end all sanctions against Iran, will recognise Iran's right under the UN's Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to pursue peaceful nuclear power, will return Iran's nuclear file from the UN Security Council to the IAEA in exchange for Iran's stated pledge to allow the intrusive inspections of the IAEA's Additional Protocol and will agree to discuss all outstanding differences in a spirit of mutual respect.
• Abbas Edalat is founder of the Campaign Against Sanctions & Military Intervention in Iran. Phil Wilayto is an anti-war activist and author of In Defence of Iran: Notes from a US Peace Delegation's Journey through the Islamic Republic
WikiLeaks exposé: Israel tried to coordinate Gaza war with Abbas
In diplomatic cable documenting 2009 meeting, Defense Minister Barak says Egypt, PA refuse to take over Gaza in case of Hamas defeat.By Barak Ravid
Israel tried to coordinate the Gaza war with the Palestinian Authority, classified diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks said on Sunday, adding that both the PA and Egypt refused to take control of the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave.
Ehud Barak, right, and Mahmoud Abbas speaking during the 23rd congress of the Socialist International in Greece, July 1, 2008.
|Photo by: AP|
The whistle-blowing website obtained some 250,000 diplomatic cables between the U.S. and its allies, which Washington had urged the site not to publish.
In a June 2009 meeting between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and a U.S. congressional delegation, Barak claimed that the Israeli government "had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas."
"Not surprisingly," Barak said in the meeting, Israel "received negative answers from both."
While similar reports of such attempts to link the PA and Egypt to Israel's war with Hamas had already surfaced in the past, the cable released by WikiLeaks on Sunday represents the first documented proof of such a move.
In the document, Barak also expressed his feeling that "the Palestinian Authority is weak and lacks self-confidence, and that Gen. Dayton's training helps bolster confidence."
The meeting which the cable documents took place just days before U.S. President Barack Obama's Cairo speech, and a few weeks after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first visit to the United States, a visit which revealed the deep differences between Obama and himself.
The cable also refers to what Barak describes as the debate within the Israeli cabinet in regards to a "development of a response to President Obama's upcoming speech in Cairo."
in New York, on September 22, 2010. Photo: Thaer Ganaim, MaanImages
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel approached the PA and Egypt about potentially assuming control of the Gaza Strip following a theoretical "defeat" of Hamas before Israel's winter war on Gaza, a leaked US diplomatic cable revealed Sunday.
Made public by The New York Times, the document is a report on a conversation between US Senator Bob Casey, Representative Gary Ackerman, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak from June 2009.
The cable is one of an unprecedented trove of more than a quarter million formerly classified US Embassy cables obtained by WikiLeaks. The organization released the documents to several news organizations for publication Sunday.
In the report, US officials say that Barak explained, "GOI [Government Of Israel] had consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas.
"Not surprisingly, Barak said, the GOI received negative answers from both," the document states.
A US government in 2008 directed its personnel across the Middle East to gather meticulous intelligence on Hamas and Palestinian Authority officials, a leaked diplomatic cable reveals.
US spied on Hamas, PA
A separate cable, provided to The Guardian by the whistleblower group WikiLeaks, lays out a "national human intelligence collection directive" asking US personnel to obtain "Details of travel plans such as routes and vehicles used by Palestinian Authority leaders and HAMAS members."
The cable demands "[b]iographical, financial and biometric information on key PA and HAMAS leaders and representatives, to include the young guard inside Gaza, the West Bank and outside."
The document, related from the State Department in Washington to the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, shows that the US sought extensive, detailed information on all aspects of governance, security, policies, attitudes and capabilities of both the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas government in Gaza.
A representative passage of the lengthy cable directs personnel to gather information on: "Plans, intentions, key focus and rivalries of senior PA security force officials, including the General Intelligence Organization (Mukhabarat), the Preventive Security Organization (PSO), Military Intelligence (Istikhbarat), the National Security Force (NSF), and the Civil Police, as well as HAMAS's Security Support Force in the Gaza strip."
A 2007 cable from then US ambassador to Israel to Secretary of State Condi Rice shows a) that the Israeli leadership did not want the US to withdraw from Iraq and b) that Israeli politicians think that even if Iran never used a nuclear weapon, just for it to have one would doom Israel.
Since the US is in fact withdrawing from Iraq, and will be mostly out by next year this time, we may conclude that the Israeli leadership is very nervous about Tel Aviv – Baghdad relations. That the new government being formed by Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki depends deeply on the support of Muqtada al-Sadr and his Sadrist movement, the most anti-Israel political force in Shiite Iraq, must petrify Prime Minister Netanyahu and his security cabinet. The likelihood of the Sadrists further coordinating with Lebanon's Hizbullah party-militia is high. So the fall of Saddam did not in fact take away the Iraq file from consideration in Israel's future.
As for Iran, US intelligence still cannot find evidence of a nuclear weapons program, and the UN inspectors again certified spring, 2010, that no nuclear material has been diverted from the Natanz facility to non-civilian purposes.
But the cable shed light on the thinking of high Israeli officials about why Israel cannot, as many US analysts have suggested, just live with an Iranian bomb if one is achieved. They believe that such a development would create a psychological nervousness in the Israeli public that would likely doom it as a Jewish state.
What is being implicitly referred to is the expectation that if the Middle East turns even more dangerous for Israelis, such that they lose their status as the sole nuclear regional superpower, then Israeli Jews may well simply emigrate in large numbers. Over time, this development would ensure that Palestinian-Israelis, now over 20% of the population, become a plurality and even a majority.
At some point the Palestinian-Israelis and those Jewish Israelis tired of the increasing boycotts and constant wars may just vote to give citizenship to the Palestinians outside the green zone, creating a binational state. This process, which is likely whether Iran gets a bomb or not, resembles what happened to the Maronite Catholics of Lebanon, who were a majority in the 1920s when the French created the country, but whose high rates of out-migration and low population growth rates reduced them to about 22% of the population (if you count the children) today. Israel will likely be Lebanonized over the next five decades, in any case.
Natan Sharansky has admitted that the days of mass migration of Jews to Israel are over, and only 18,000 are likely to come in 2010. In one recent year, 2005, over 21,000 Israelis emigrated out, almost all of them Jews or ex-Soviets, and they had not returned by 2008. Because thousands of expatriates do return, there is not a net outflow at the moment, but obviously immigration no longer gives Jewish Israelis a demographic edge.
In polling, a third of Israelis say that they would emigrate if Iran got the atomic bomb, so the Israeli officials are not imagining things. Here is how the cable reported the sentiment.
… the very fact that Iran possesses nuclear weapons would completely transform the Middle East strategic environment in ways that would make Israel's long-term survival as a democratic Jewish state increasingly problematic. That concern is most intensively reflected in open talk by those who say they do not want their children and grandchildren growing up in an Israel threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran…
The Israelis and their US supporters lobbied to destroy Iraq because of similar fears. Now they are pulling out the stops to get up a US war on Iran. But given that the al-Maliki government called for the diplomatic isolation of Israel during the Gaza War in 2008-2009, the policy of having hostile neighbors' legs broken by Washington has not actually worked out very well. There is no guarantee that a post-Khomeinist government in Iran will be friendly to Israel. And, Israelis who worry so much about the Bomb are losing sight of the real dangers of modern warfare– asymmetrical movements and micro-weapons.
Here are the relevant passages:
"Monday, 08 January 2007, 16:38
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 TEL AVIV 000064
EO 12958 DECL: 01/05/2017
TAGS PREL, PTER, PGOV, IS, KWBG
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE SECRETARY'S JANUARY 13-15
VISIT TO ISRAEL
Classified By: Ambassador Richard H. Jones, Reason 1.4 (b) (d)
… 4. (S) While Israeli anxiety over a possible dramatic shift of U.S. policy as a result of the Iraq Study Group's report has been allayed by statements by you and the President, there continues to be deep uneasiness here that the Baker-Hamilton recommendations reflect the shape of things to come in U.S. policy. Israelis recognize that U.S. public support for the Iraq war is eroding and are following with interest the President's upcoming articulation of the revamped policy, but they are deeply concerned that Israeli-Palestinian issues not become linked in American minds to creating a more propitious regional environment for whatever steps we decide to take to address the deteriorating situation in Iraq.
5. (S) Iran's nuclear program continues to cause great anxiety in Israel. Given their history, Israelis across the political spectrum take very seriously Ahmadinejad's threats to wipe Israel off the map. Olmert has been quite clear in his public comments that Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran, a position stated even more emphatically by opposition leader Netanyahu, who compares today's Iran to Nazi Germany in 1938. Despite the worst-case assessments of Israeli intelligence, however, there is a range of views about what action Israel should take. The MFA and some of the think tank Iran experts appear increasingly inclined to state that military action must be a last resort and are taking a new interests in other forms of pressure, including but not limited to sanctions, that could force Iran to abandon its military nuclear program. The IDF, however, srikes us as more inclined than ever to look toward a military strike, whether launched by Israel or by us, as the only way to destroy or even delay Iran's plans. Thoughtful Israeli analysts point out that even if a nuclear-armed Iran did not immediately launch a strike on the Israeli heartland, the very fact that Iran possesses nuclear weapons would completely transform the Middle East strategic environment in ways that would make Israel's long-term survival as a democratic Jewish state increasingly problematic. That concern is most intensively reflected in open talk by those who say they do not want their children and grandchildren growing up in an Israel threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran."
What they tell us:
In summer of 2009, it was revealed that Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair informed the US Congress that, according to Marcus Baram at HuffPo,
"Iran is covertly supplying arms to Afghan insurgents while publicly posing as supportive of the Afghan government." That includes the provision of small arms, mines, rocket-propelled grenades, rockets, mortars and plastic explosives. Ironically, Blair also noted that Iran has been assisting Afghanistan with developing their security capabilities through the "construction of border security facilities."
Gen. Stanley McChrystal publicly made similar charges in fall, 2009.
What they tell each other:
Gates "noted that intelligence indicated there was little lethal material crossing the Afghanistan-Iran border."…
I have been saying for years that the occasional Pentagon or other USG allegations of Iranian support for the hyper-Sunni, Shiite-killing Taliban are just war propaganda. Iran has Afghan President Hamid Karzai on a $2 mn. a year retainer! Why would Tehran want to overthrow him? Gates told Frattini the real story, not the cover story.
It appears that in private they level with other security bureaucrats, but then lie in public to Obama and the Congress.
You could imagine a good Saturday Night Live skit about "Wikileaks Gates" (the honest straight shooter) and "Television Gates" (who says what we've all been hearing). And, mind you, Gates is not by any means the worst offender.
Saudis' Janus Face: While they advocate war on Iran, they are the biggest financiers of global terrorism...
• Embassy cables show Arab allies want strike against Tehran
• Israel prepared to attack alone to avoid its own 9/11
- Ian Black and Simon Tisdall
- guardian.co.uk, Sunday 28 November 2010 20.54 GMT
- Article history
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear programme, according to leaked US diplomatic cables that describe how other Arab allies have secretly agitated for military action against Tehran.
The revelations, in secret memos from US embassies across the Middle East, expose behind-the-scenes pressures in the scramble to contain the Islamic Republic, which the US, Arab states and Israel suspect is close to acquiring nuclear weapons. Bombing Iranian nuclear facilities has hitherto been viewed as a desperate last resort that could ignite a far wider war.
The Saudi king was recorded as having "frequently exhorted the US to attack Iran to put an end to its nuclear weapons programme", one cable stated. "He told you [Americans] to cut off the head of the snake," the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir said, according to a report on Abdullah's meeting with the US general David Petraeus in April 2008.
The cables also highlight Israel's anxiety to preserve its regional nuclear monopoly, its readiness to go it alone against Iran – and its unstinting attempts to influence American policy. The defence minister, Ehud Barak, estimated in June 2009 that there was a window of "between six and 18 months from now in which stopping Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons might still be viable". After that, Barak said, "any military solution would result in unacceptable collateral damage."
The leaked US cables also reveal that:
• Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, warned in February that if diplomatic efforts failed, "we risk nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, war prompted by an Israeli strike, or both".
• Major General Amos Yadlin, Israeli's military intelligence chief, warned last year: "Israel is not in a position to underestimate Iran and be surprised like the US was on 11 September 2001."
Asked for a response to the statements, state department spokesman PJ Crowley said today it was US policy not to comment on materials, including classified documents, which may have been leaked.
Iran maintains that its atomic programme is designed to supply power stations, not nuclear warheads. After more than a year of deadlock and stalling, a fresh round of talks with the five permanent members of the UN security council plus Germany is due to begin on 5 December.
But in a meeting with Italy's foreign minister earlier this year, Gates said time was running out. If Iran were allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, the US and its allies would face a different world in four to five years, with a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. King Abdullah had warned the Americans that if Iran developed nuclear weapons "everyone in the region would do the same, including Saudi Arabia".
America is not short of allies in its quest to thwart Iran, though some are clearly more enthusiastic than the Obama administration for a definitive solution to Iran's nuclear designs. In one cable, a US diplomat noted how Saudi foreign affairs bureaucrats were moderate in their views on Iran, "but diverge significantly from the more bellicose advice we have gotten from senior Saudi royals".
In a conversation with a US diplomat, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain "argued forcefully for taking action to terminate their [Iran's] nuclear programme, by whatever means necessary. That programme must be stopped. The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it." Zeid Rifai, then president of the Jordanian senate, told a senior US official: "Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won't matter."
In talks with US officials, Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed favoured action against Iran, sooner rather than later. "I believe this guy is going to take us to war ... It's a matter of time. Personally, I cannot risk it with a guy like [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad. He is young and aggressive."
In another exchange , a senior Saudi official warned that Gulf states may develop nuclear weapons of their own, or permit them to be based in their countries to deter the perceived Iranian threat.
No US ally is keener on military action than Israel, and officials there have repeatedly warned that time is running out. "If the Iranians continue to protect and harden their nuclear sites, it will be more difficult to target and damage them," the US embassy reported Israeli defence officials as saying in November 2009.
There are differing views within Israel. But the US embassy reported: "The IDF [Israeli Defence Force], however, strikes us as more inclined than ever to look toward a military strike, whether launched by Israel or by us, as the only way to destroy or even delay Iran's plans." Preparations for a strike would likely go undetected by Israel's allies or its enemies.
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told US officials in May last yearthat he and the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, agreed that a nuclear Iran would lead others in the region to develop nuclear weapons, resulting in "the biggest threat to non-proliferation efforts since the Cuban missile crisis".
The cables also expose frank, even rude, remarks about Iranian leaders, their trustworthiness and tactics at international meetings. Abdullah told another US diplomat: "The bottom line is that they cannot be trusted." Mubarak told a US congressman: "Iran is always stirring trouble." Others are learning from what they describe as Iranian deception. "They lie to us, and we lie to them," said Qatar's prime minister, Hamad bin Jassim Jaber al-Thani.
By Full US Embassy Cable
Posted November 28, 2010
xSunday, 22 March 2009, 10:14
S E C R E T RIYADH 000447
NSC FOR JBRENNAN AND JDUNCAN; STATE FOR S/WCI
EO 12958 DECL: 03/16/2019
TAGS PREL, PTER, KWBG, SA, AF, IN, PK, IR, IZ
SUBJECT: COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER BRENNAN'S MEETING WITH
SAUDI KING ABDULLAH
REF: RIYADH 427
Classified By: Pol Counselor Lisa Carle, 1.4(b),(d)
1. KEY POINTS
-- (S) Saudi King Abdullah welcomed White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan, S/WCI Ambassador Williamson, and Ambassador Fraker to his private palace March 15 for a 90-minute discussion focused on U.S. Saudi-relations, counterterrorism cooperation, the Yemeni Guantanamo Bay detainees, Iran, and Iraq.
-- (S) Brennan presented the King with a letter from President Obama expressing a personal message of friendship, appreciation for our close and collaborative relationship and concern over the disposition of Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo.
-- (S) The King said he had told Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki only minutes before that Iran should stop interfering in Arab affairs, and had given Iran a one-year deadline to improve its relations with Saudi Arabia.
-- (S) The King expressed a complete lack of trust in Iraqi PM al-Maliki and held out little hope for improved Saudi/Iraqi relations as long as al-Maliki remains in office.
-- (S) When asked what advice he had for President Obama, the King said he had "one request": that it was "critically important to restore America's credibility" in the world.
U.S. SAUDI RELATIONS
2. (S) PLEDGES OF FRIENDSHIP: Brennan asserted that the U.S./Saudi alliance must remain strong, and assured the King of President Obama's wishes for a long and healthy U.S./Saudi relationship, and the President's personal commitment that Saudi Arabia had a friend in the White House. The King replied that he appreciated the sentiments and that he had great respect for President Obama. "We (the U.S. and Saudi Arabia) spilled blood together" in Kuwait and Iraq, the King continued, and Saudi Arabia valued this tremendously. Friendship can be a difficult issue that requires work, Abdullah said, but the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have done it for 70 years over three generations. "Our disagreements don,t cut to the bone," he stated.
3. (S) U.S. CREDIBILITY IS CRITICAL: The Bush Administration is now in the past, the King said. Both President Bushes were his friends, but the recent President Bush didn,t take his advice on dealing with issues in the region, and they found their problems "compounded." The King said, "we are ready to consult, provide guidance and to do whatever is necessary. We are people of the region and we know it well." Brennan responded that President Obama wants to listen, and asked what advice the King would offer to President Obama. Abdullah said his one piece of advice was that restoring U.S. credibility in the world was critically important. Brennan responded that this was an important issue for President Obama as well. Brennan said that under President Obama we will restore our credibility. He said the U.S. is a great country and we know what we have to do.
4. (S) THE WORLD NEEDS OBAMA: Brennan said President Obama looked forward to seeing the King at the G-20 summit in London. "Thank God for bringing Obama to the presidency," the King answered, which has created "great hope" in the Muslim world. "May God grant him strength and patience, Abdullah continued, "May God protect him. I'm concerned about his personal safety. America and the world need such a president."
5. (C) THAT WITHOUT WHICH NO SAUDI MEETING IS COMPLETE: Abdullah said "as a friend" that "it was a mistake" to limit access of Saudi citizens to the U.S., since "this damages bilateral relations and the image of the U.S. in Saudi Arabia." The King noted there were 60,000 Saudi students abroad, about one third of whom were in the U.S., and "others would have gone" but for the difficulties in gaining access to the U.S. The King noted that for many years very senior Saudi officials, including Prince Saud al-Faisal, had studied in the U.S. He then noted that Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., Adel al Jubeir (who was interpreting for the King) had studied in the U.S. and was "half American" as a result. He also said he was aware of, and appreciated, Ambassador Fraker's efforts to improve the visa situation "even though there were people in Washington who fought him." Finally, he observed that anyone from Saudi Arabia who studies in the U.S. inevitably becomes a friend and advocate of the United States and that we only hurt ourselves by cutting off this flow of students.
6. (S) GUANTANAMO WILL BE CLOSED: Brennan explained that President Obama had made a commitment to close Guantanamo to eliminate the potential propaganda benefits its existence provided to Al-Qaeda, but also because it was the right thing to do. Brennan reassured the King, however, that President Obama would remain strong on counterterrorism. Brennan presented the King with a letter from President Obama addressing the issue of Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo. Brennan noted that he had met with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN) the day before to discuss at length The issue of the Yemeni detainees. Brennan further stated that he would be traveling to Sanaa the next day to meet with President Saleh, as the issue of the remaining 99 Yemeni detainees still needed to be resolved. Brennan praised MbN as an outstanding counterterrorism partner, and that the MOI was doing a wonderful, courageous job in countering the terrorist threat to the Kingdom. Returning to the subject later in the conversation, Brennan warned that the U.S. feared Yemen could become another Waziristan, and urged that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia needed to work together to keep Al-Qaeda in Yemen from growing even more dangerous. The King replied that having Somalia next door to Yemen only adds to the danger. Brennan said that the capabilities of the Ministry of the Interior security forces had grown impressively over the past 10 years. Brennan added that counterterrorism and intelligence sharing cooperation between our countries had never been better and that MbN deserved the credit. In an unusual concession, made at the conclusion of their conversation, the King said, "be assured I am fully briefed on the work you are doing with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef."
7. (S) HOW TO TRACK DETAINEES: "I've just thought of something," the King added, and proposed implanting detainees with an electronic chip containing information about them and allowing their movements to be tracked with Bluetooth. This was done with horses and falcons, the King said. Brennan replied, "horses don,t have good lawyers," and that such a proposal would face legal hurdles in the U.S., but agreed that keeping track of detainees was an extremely important issue that he would review with appropriate officials when he returned to the United States.
8. (S) A "HEATED EXCHANGE": The King noted that Iranian FM Mottaki had been "sitting in that same seat (as Brennan) a few moments ago." The King described his conversation with FM Mottaki as "a heated exchange, frankly discussing Iran's interference in Arab affairs." When challenged by the King on Iranian meddling in Hamas affairs, Mottaki apparently protested that "these are Muslims." "No, Arabs" countered the King, "You as Persians have no business meddling in Arab matters." The King said the Iranians wanted to improve relations and that he responded by giving Mottaki an ultimatum. "I will give you one year" (to improve ties), "after that, it will be the end."9. (S) "SPARE US YOUR EVIL":
November 29, 2010
Wikileaks: Latin America: The fun begins
Oh boy, that Wikileaks data-dump that came out today is yielding some nuggets. Here's some truly disgusting (and very in-character) dirt on the US State Dept. and its activities in Latin America...
The digital page of the Spanish newspaper El País revealed that US diplomats tried to get various countries in Latin America to isolate Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, according to secret documents released by Wikileaks.
El País tells of the "efforts" of US diplomats "to court Latin American countries to isolate Hugo Chávez of Venezuela," without publishing the pertinent document distributed by Wikileaks.
Wikileaks distributed secret information from the US State Department to the Spanish newspaper, as well as the British Guardian, the New York Times, Le Monde of France, and Der Spiegel of Germany.
According to the documents, the US secretary of state requested information on the "state of mental health" of Argentina's president, Cristina Fernández. The pertinent document was not published by El País.
The paper indicated that on Monday it will offer details over this revelation and "the suspicions the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, awakened in Washington."
The Wikileaks information shows "unsuspected details" which the United States obtained "regarding the personalities of some distinguished leaders" of foreign countries and "the role they played in the most intimate human facets of political relations."
"This was particularly evident in Latin America, where they have made known the judgments of US diplomats and many of their spokespeople over the character, affiliations and sins of the most controversial figures," according to El País.
I'm not a bit surprised that they tried to isolate Chavecito. Anyone who follows this blog or any other non-mainstream source will be yawning at that; it was hardly a secret, and the outcome was a foregone conclusion. Boy, was THAT an epic fail or what?
But the bit about Cristina Fernández shows just what low blows they're willing to resort to. Inquiring about the state of her mental health. I'm presuming this was in conjunction with the recent death of her husband, Néstor Kirchner, although they might have also probed into it sooner, like whenever Cristina said something anti-imperialistic that didn't sit well with Her Royal Clintoness or Auntie Condi. Either way, it sounds to me like the usual CIA shenanigan of looking for a weak spot to exploit. I don't think they found shit; Cristina Fernández strikes me as an extraordinarily strong woman. And from all that I've seen, her marriage to Néstor was solid. They'd have had no luck with her. Unless, maybe, they tried to pull what they did with poor Frank Olson.
Meanwhile, what Hugo Llorens did in Honduras proves him to be a putschist fucking dick. The NYT has the cables in which he admits that it was a coup, that Manuel Zelaya was illegally removed from power, and that the reasons given for doing so were spurious. Nothing that you or I could not have known sooner; the only thing new is that now we have documentation showing that Llorens was in it up to his eyeballs, covering for the putschists and essentially doing nothing while Hondurans died and continue to die, and while their real president remains in exile and his life remains in danger. Just in case the Old Grey Bandit gets all shy, though, here's Otto with the same data. Llorens is still dead wrong on key details--Zelaya was NOT looking to extend his term, and what he was doing with his "fourth ballot" referendum was perfectly legal. Meanwhile, Honduras continues to live with a fake, illegitimately "elected" president, and no new constitution, and consequently, no democracy.
And the fun has just begun.
Posted by Sabina Becker
THE CASE OF THE HONDURAN COUP
Honduran Coup "Illegal and Unconstitutional"
By Ambassador Hugo Llorens
November 29, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch.
DE RUEHTG #0645/01 2050023
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0237
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS IMMEDIATE 0735
RHEHAAA/THE WHITE HOUSE WASHDC IMMEDIATE
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RUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUMIAAA/USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L TEGUCIGALPA 000645CONTINUED: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article26933.htm
WHA FOR A/S TOM SHANNON
L FOR HAROLD KOH AND JOAN DONOGHUE
NSC FOR DAN RESTREPO
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/23/2019
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KJUS TFH01 HO
SUBJECT: TFHO1: OPEN AND SHUT: THE CASE OF THE HONDURAN COUP
REF: TEGUCIGALPA 578
Classified By: Ambassador Hugo Llorens, reasons 1.4 (b and d)
¶1. (C) Summary: Post has attempted to clarify some of the legal and constitutional issues surrounding the June 28
forced removal of President Manuel "Mel" Zelaya. The
Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the
military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and
unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch, while
accepting that there may be a prima facie case that Zelaya
have committed illegalities and may have even violated the constitution. There is equally no doubt from our perspective
that Roberto Micheletti's assumption of power was
illegitimate. Nevertheless, it is also evident that the
constitution itself may be deficient in terms of providing clear procedures for dealing with alleged illegal acts by
the President and resolving conflicts between the branches
of government. End summary.
¶2. (U) Since the June 28 removal and expulsion of President Zelaya by the Honduran armed forces, the Embassy has
consulted Honduran legal experts (one cannot find a fully
unbiased professional legal opinion in Honduras in the
current politically charged atmosphere) and reviewed the text of the Honduran Constitution and its laws to develop a
better understanding of the arguments being parlayed by the
coup's supporters and opponents.
Arguments of the Coup Defenders -------------------------------
¶3. (SBU) Defenders of the June 28 coup have offered some
combination of the following, often ambiguous, arguments to assert it's legality:
-- Zelaya had broken the law (alleged but not proven);
-- Zelaya resigned (a clear fabrication);
-- Zelaya intended to extend his term in office
-- Had he been allowed to proceed with his June 28
constitutional reform opinion poll, Zelaya would have
dissolved Congress the following day and convened a
constituent assembly (supposition);
-- Zelaya had to be removed from the country to prevent a bloodbath;
-- Congress "unanimously" (or in some versions by a 123-5
vote) deposed Zelaya; (after the fact and under the cloak
of secrecy); and
-- Zelaya "automatically" ceased to be president the moment he suggested modifying the constitutional prohibition on
Cuba and Venezuela mentioned in WikiLeaks documents (morning roundup)
Top News: The whistleblower organization WikiLeaks released a batch of roughly 250,000 classified and sensitive documents pilfered from the U.S. government on Sunday, some of which relate to Latin America and will likely fuel indignation amongst Cuban authorities.
One of the most controversial documents was a directive signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton instructing U.S. diplomats to collect "biographic and biometric information" for diplomats from a number of foreign countries. According to an article posted to Foreign Policy Magazine's Turtle Bay blog, Cuban diplomats were among those targeted.
Several news organizations, including The New York Times, El País and The Guardian, received the documents ahead of time and posted reports Sunday. Spanish daily El País' writeup notes that the documents reveal "the efforts to woo Latin American countries into isolating Venezuelan Hugo Chávez."
State-run Web site CubaDebate reposted the report by El País announcing the contents of the WikiLeaks documents. The site has followed the story, but has yet to post a statement from the Cuban government on the matter.
At the time of writing, the only document that any news agencies had reported on in detail was a cable written by Cuban-American ambassador to Honduras, Hugo Llorens, following the 2009 coup in that country. Llorens wrote that "a case could well have been made" that Zelaya had broken the country's laws by attempting to alter the constitution, but that no process had been initiated against him, making the coup against him illegal.
"Unfortunately, the President was never tried, or convicted, or was legally removed from office to allow a legal succession," Llorens wrote in the confidential cable.
According to a difficult-to-read graph on the WikiLeaks Web site, roughly 3,000 of the records released concern Venezuela, while about 2,000 refer to Cuba.
In Other News:
- Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega plans to meet with freed dissidents, whose release he helped to broker, in Madrid today (link in Spanish).
- The remains of Cuban dissident and hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo will be exhumed today from the cemetery of Banes, in Holguín, and taken to Havana for cremation, Zapata's mother Reina Luisa said Friday (link in Spanish).
- The Cuban government announced it will spend $130 million to import products and raw materials to supply the the planned expansion of private enterprise (link in Spanish).
In State Media:
- Fidel Castro posted an unusually short "Reflection" to CubaDebate Saturday, in which he said that a week had passed without a cholera death in the medical centers attended by Cuban doctors in Haiti (link in Spanish).
- More than 81,000 Cubans have applied for licenses to open small businesses or rent their homes, and 31,000 have been granted, according to Communist Party daily Granma (link in Spanish).
In the Blogosphere:
- A Twitter account that appears to belong to Gorki Águila of Cuban punk band Porno para Ricardo said via that a concert planned for Saturday to launch a tour of Havana's Committees for Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) was canceled because of "police harrassment and the real fear that they would confiscate the instruments." A later tweet read "What are these people afraid of? It's just rock and roll!!!" Spoof blog Periódico Guamá posted a press release from the group.
- In a 7-page .pdf file breaking down the State Department cables released by WikiLeaks, Tracey Eaton at "Along the Malecón" found that some 507 originate from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.
What did we miss? Post links to relevant articles in the comments.-- Roque Planas
Israeli troops violently attack Bil'in and Ni'lin anti-wall marches
|[ 27/11/2010 - 02:44 PM ]|
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Dozens of Palestinian citizens and multinational activists suffered suffocation and some of them fainted when the Israeli occupation forces attacked the weekly anti-wall protests organized yesterday in the villages of Bil'in and Ni'lin in the West Bank.
In the village of Bil'in, in central West Bank, Israeli and international supporters joined villagers after the midday prayers at the local mosque and marched towards the Israeli segregation wall built on farmers' lands.
As soon as protesters reached the gate of the wall, soldiers stationed there fired tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at them, many were treated for the effects of tear gas inhalation. Soldiers then chased people back to the village.
In the nearby village of Ni'lin, the weekly protest started when villagers conducted the Friday prayers in an area not far from the Israeli wall. Multinational supporters also joined Ni'lin villagers.
When all participants approached the wall, soldiers started to fire tear gas at them. Many received medical treatment after they inhaled tear gas.
In the village of Ma'sarah, south of Bethlehem on the same day, Israeli troops detained five participants, four foreign activists and a child, during the weekly anti-wall march organized in the village.
Violent clashes between the protesters and troops, and dozens of tear gas suffocation cases were reported.
Wave of demolitions in Jordan Valley
A wave of demolitions by Israeli forces occurred in the Jordan valley, Palestine on 24 and 24 November 2010. In just two days, in two different locations, 8 Palestinian structures were demolished, including 2 homes, one mosque and animal sheds. In total 25 Palestinians were made homeless.
In the village of Khirbet Yarza, a village of less than 200 residents, located East of Tubas in a very isolated area in the Jordan valley on 25.11.2010, leaving 14 people including 7 children homeless. The only local mosque was also destroyed. The mosque was built prior to 1967 but was recently innovated and extended. Members of one of the families who lost their homes, the Anabousy family, were seen sitting in front of the furniture of their house, while other members started rebuilding. Anabusi family have lived there for the last 7 years. This was the third time their homes had been destroyed.
In another location in the Jordan Valley, Al Jiflek, other demolitions occurred on 24, November 2010.
The Israeli forces also demolished the home of 11 people, including one 4 year-old child. In total, they demolished 3 large structures, including 2 buildings that were used for residential and livelihood-related purposes and 1 building used to store fodder for animals. During the demolition some sheep and goats were killed as the structures were demolished on top of them.
One of the owners Shehdeh Mohamed tried to resist the demolition and the massacre of hss animals, he was violently pushed by the Israeli forces, two of his sons interned to protect him. All three were arrested. The owner was released the same day but the two sons remain in jail.
Dead goats can be still seen among the remains of animal barracks destroyed two days earlier. Photos by Anne Paq/Activestills
Officer Who Shot American Activist In Her Eye Exonerated
The Israeli District Police in the Occupied West Bank exonerated an Israeli Army officer who shot an American peace activist in her eye during a protest at the Qalandia terminal, north of Jerusalem, six months ago.
On May 31, the 21-year old American Art student, Emily Henochowicz, was hit in her eye with a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier during a nonviolent protest.
Henochowicz, a student at the Cooper Union College based in New York was participating in a protest against the Israeli May 31 attack on the Turkish ship, Marmara, that was heading to Gaza to deliver humanitarian supplies. Nine Turkish peace activists were killed in the attack.
She was carrying a Turkish flag during the protest when a soldier fired a gas canister at her hitting her in the eye. She lost her eye and suffered several other fractures.
Her family filed a complaint to the Israeli Police arguing that the police officer deliberately fired the canister at her.
But the officer, the Border Police battalion commander and the company commander claimed that the canister hit her in the eye after it ricocheted off a barricade, Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported. They said that their claim is "backed by video footage".
Representing Henochowicz and her family, Israeli Attorney, Michael Sfrad, slammed the police investigation and stated that the investigation was negligent and described it as a "sewage treatment plant for the Border Police", Haaretz reported.
Sfrad said that the police did not speak to Haaretz reporter, Avi Issacharoff, and photographer Daniel Bar-On, who were both at the scene and managed to capture the attack in print and photos, Haaretz added.
Sfrad stated that failing to question objective witnesses, who stated that the officer took direct aim at Henochowicz, is considered an obstruction to the investigation and a "confession that there is no interest in finding the truth".
The case is currently in the hands of the district attorney's office, the police told Haaretz without giving any further information.
Emily was studying at an Art School in Jerusalem; she holds Israeli citizenship, her father was born in Israel and her grandparents are holocaust survivors.
After arriving in Israel, she started spending time in East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories, and her drawings started reflecting the suffering of the Palestinian life in the occupied territories.
Israel refused to pay a 37,000 USD bill for her treatment in Jerusalem and claimed that she was not intentionally shot. and that she "endangered herself by participating in the demonstration".
Full August 5 Democracy Now Interview with Emily
Emily Henochowicz - Democracy Now
Palestinian young woman severely tortured by Israeli soldiers from Nahshon unit
|[ 28/11/2010 - 05:49 PM ]|
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian female detainee Sumoud Karrajeh, 22, said She was violently attacked and seriously wounded by Israeli troops from Nahshon prison unit during her transfer from jail to a military court earlier this month.
Karrajeh told a human rights organization that she was transferred by Nahshon soldiers on the eighth of November from Damon prison to Ramle prison in order to take her the second day to Ofer military court for trial, but during this transfer the soldiers, composed of men and women, confiscated her belongings and wanted to strip search her.
She added that when she strongly rejected the strip search, the soldiers and female jailers started to violently beat her all over her body and pulled her up using handcuffs many times which caused her terrible pains and bruises in different parts of her body, adding they kept doing that until she almost fainted.
The young women noted that one of the soldiers, whose name was "Sahar", pulled the head cover from her head, tightened his hold on her neck, severely beat and pushed her to the floor, spat on her and dragged her with his handcuffs.
The detainee added that after this physical assault, she was locked up in a small dirty cell infested with cockroaches and stayed up all night scared and in pain lying on the floor without any blanket, sheet or mattress.
In this context, the higher national committee for the support of prisoners strongly denounced the physical assault on Karrajeh, saying this act proved the extent of violence and cruelty used by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian prisoners.
The committee emphasized that the Israeli occupation authority deals violently with female detainees and does not respect their privacy, adding that this incident was not the first of its kind, where many Palestinian women in Israeli jails were beaten and tortured as happened before with prisoner Abeer Odeh in Ramle jail.
It noted that the Israeli prison units and jailers committed frequents assaults on female prisoners, but a few of these incidents were reported by the media.
|Ameer Makhoul (Adri Nieuwhof)|
The lighthouse, al-fanar in Arabic, is an inspiration. I have built a lighthouse here in jail. It has been built in my mind because I am not allowed to use the space, but my mind is totally mine. Al-fanar became part of my vision and dream for freedom and human dignity. The lighthouse is out of prison, while the role of the anchor is to be rooted and safe. In fact, I need both -- al-fanar to give direction to my vision, while the role of the anchor is to understand where I currently am. I need to be balanced and realistic to act within a totally unbalanced reality. I need to challenge and to change. I need, and we need to change. The anchor is needed in order to act. The lighthouse shows how and where and for what.
It is not easy to have both elements, especially to "new" prisoners of freedom. It is defined as new but it is almost half a year that I have been in prison. Several prisoners have already been here 23 to 28 years. So I am relatively new here, but for me every day is a lot of time, with a lot of suffering and reflecting on the reality of being Palestinian in my homeland.
To be proven innocent is totally not accepted by the court. Thousands of cases show that both the rate and the number of Palestinians who have been released as innocents is zero. Palestinians are guilty, it is the only option. The Shabak [Israel's internal intelligence agency, also known as the Shin Bet] monitored and recorded 30,000 of my telephone calls and those in relevant circles; in addition they surveilled all email, Skype, Internet and electronic media. Yet they declared in the court that they have no material evidence.
Based on my experience and on the findings regarding 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, the Shabak having no evidence does not mean the end of the game. They have their secret weapon, which is the so-called "secret evidence." They present it to the judges, but neither me nor my lawyers are allowed to know what it is about. The Israeli system will never blame the state or the Shabak, but will blame their Palestinian victims.
Statistics and experience show that without a deal with the attorney general the sentence would be double the length! So the lack of evidence is not the road to freedom. Israel will never allow its court to declare me as innocent. On the other hand, every Palestinian refugee of Arab friend or partner in the Arab world is potentially considered a so-called "foreign agent." The state's role is to blame and the victim's role is to explain, even to prove that he or she is innocent. I have so many friends and partners all around the Arab world and among people in the homeland and diaspora. I have no illusions, but I have a lot of energy to struggle for freedom and dignity.
|Artist Jane Frere at her exhibition In the Shadow of the Wall. (Malcolm Crowthers)|
Scottish artist Jane Frere's exhibition In the Shadow of the Wall reminds us that the plight of the Palestinian people is not just confined to periods of overt conflict, but is an ongoing, everyday experience. Indeed, the paintings on display in the countryside of northeast Scotland through 30 November were inspired by what Jane Frere witnessed living behind Israel's wall in the occupied West Bank and in Palestinian refugee camps.
In an artist's statement, Frere said "my work is a response to having been there, to what I witnessed using all five senses" and this hints at the style and tone of the paintings. They bear witness to the atrocities inflicted on the Palestinian people, but they also question our own indifferent responses to this. Eyes feature prominently, often disembodied, in paintings such as "An eye for an eye" and "Scarlet tears." They are both the eyes of the world, bearing witness, and the eyes of the victims, watching us witnessing their suffering.
Of course, images of the suffering of the Palestinian people are already very familiar to us from news reports, but these paintings recontextualize them. They are as much about representations of this suffering, and the question of how to represent it, as they are about the suffering itself. They reference many of these representations, particularly those in the mainstream media. There are fragments of newspaper reports amongst the jumble of images in some of the paintings. Many also feature stenciled, graffiti-like words and phrases. The canvases are like an extension of the wall, which Frere says is "covered in graffiti, slogans, messages, insults and sometimes striking artistic images" extended to Britain, a country which has the influence to intervene in the situation and helped create it in the first place. These paintings incorporate the art of resistance, and attempt to achieve that status themselves. In that sense they are a call to action. Indeed, the text in one of the paintings reads "Keeping silent against violence is to be a part of it."
Silence is another prominent theme of the exhibition. Against the perceived silence of the international community over Israel's actions in the West Bank and Gaza, the paintings scream. Many feature screaming heads, with echoes of Francis Bacon's anguished figures, and the word "silence" reappears several times, while others are a great deal more abstract. "The color of confrontation" and "Seeking Confrontation" are composed of swirls and slashes of garish color, removing the human object and confronting our gaze directly. However, these paintings are not an existential howl of rage. They respond with anger to needless suffering, rather than with sadness. But they also rage against our indifference to suffering. The screaming heads attempt to wake us from our ennui. Yet, they are also aware that their rage is impotent, that it is a futile effort. As the title of one painting suggests -- "what is the color of gassed tears?" -- these paintings wrestle with the dilemma of how to represent suffering, injustice and inhumanity, and the impossibility of representing the feelings of those who have witnessed it. In that sense they are existential. It is noticeable that some of the heads have no eyes, or eyes that are detached from them. Witnessing such horror is not enough anymore. Shouting is required. This is done in a visual, rather than an aural, medium, as the screaming itself is thwarted and silent.
Nevertheless, their power to shock remains. A depiction of the Virgin Mary and Christ, a standard in Western art, is reconfigured as a nightmarish scene in "Check point birth: Madonna and Child." In its chaotic composition and in the form of its figures it also recalls a famous depiction of the effects of war on civilians, Picasso's "Guernica," with the horses that feature in that painting replaced here by snarling dogs. The subject is, of course, symbolic, but it also references an event which happens regularly, and which Frere has witnessed. She said "The reality of pregnant women being held at checkpoints (and at gunpoint), sometimes until they had to deliver their babies on the ground, was brought home to me. Many babies have died as a result, and some mothers too." As well as suffering, the other main theme of this exhibition is Israel's wall itself. It looms large in some of these paintings, such as "Beneath the Wall," as it must do in the consciousness of those who live behind it. You almost miss the dozens of tiny figures along the bottom, sheltering from the wall or raging against it.
A wood-lined barn in a beautiful countryside may seem an incongruous place for life behind the wall to be represented, but it is precisely this contrast that makes the exhibition so powerful and important. It is right that these paintings be exhibited in public, which is why it was disappointing to see that all but one of them was for sale, especially considering they are certainly not suitable for decorative purposes. Horrific and distressing images of the suffering of the Palestinian people are familiar to most of us, but this exhibition revives their horror and power to shock. It asks the questions the news reports don't ask, and it attempts to jolt us out of the inert stupor we enter when viewing such images, and I can only hope that it succeeds.
In the Shadow of the Wall continues at Lang Byre Gallery at the Woodend Barn Arts Centre, Banchory, AB31 5QA through 30 November 2010.
Stephen Fiddes is a postgraduate student of Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen, and is active in the Stop the War Coalition. He can be contacted at s.j.fiddes.03 A T aberdeen D O T ac.uk.
IDF officers get photo of dead child
'How will you explain this to God?' says letter sent from Spain to homes of officers exposed on 'war criminals' website. 'I've gotten used to curses, but when such a thing arrives at your doorstep, it's very unpleasant,' reserve colonel tells Ynet
Colonel (res.) Bentzi Gruber, a deputy commander of an Israel Defense Forces division, was at a training base in Tze'elim last week. His wife called to tell him that he had received a letter from Spain, which didn't particularly surprise him. But when she opened the envelope, she was shocked.
"Unfortunately, I've gotten used to curses and scathing words against me, but when such a thing arrives at your doorstep, it's very unpleasant," he tells Ynet.
The poster includes a picture of a young child buried in the sand. His head is the only thing sticking out and he appears to be dead. Two hands in the background, apparently belonging to a soldier, are directed at him. The picture's caption reads, "How will you explain this to God?'
The letter was sent in an envelope from Madrid to the homes of Colonel (res.) Gruber and several other IDF officers, including Central Command Chief Avi Mizrahi and outgoing Military Intelligence Director Amos Yadlin. Some of the posters include a picture of an injured or dead young woman being held by a soldier. The English sentence is similar.
The army does not know at this stage the exact number of letters sent to the officers' home. The website included dozens of addresses of IDF officers, most of whom are believed to have received such letters.
"When my wife told me what it was all about, I felt bad," recounts Colonel (res.) Gruber, an Armored Corps officer who played an active role in the Gaza operation due to his senior position. "It's disgusting. It's really unpleasant when such a thing reaches your doorstep, but it won't make me stop doing what I do."
Since the end of the Gaza operation, Gruber has delivered more than 150 lectures in many countries on the IDF's activity and ethical code. He admits that he has been met with curses and signs reading "wanted" quite a few times.
"I've gotten used to this attitude in some places, but such a letter is much more difficult to deal with," he says.
Gruber's exact home address appeared on the same website that was later removed. The letter was signed by "Rodriguez", and the address is handwritten on the envelope.
"There's no doubt that it could get worse," the reserve officer says. "It might even result in real harm to one of the officers. I've been thinking about it a lot. I'm supposed to travel to the United States for a series of lectures, and this is something that cannot be ignored. It's extremely troubling."
After Operation Cast Lead, the army placed a gag on the identity of brigade commander for fear of legal proceedings against them. The prohibition was lifted later on, but fears that the information will be misused remain.
The IDF is also checking whether the details published on the website were revealed by a military source. Officials estimate, however, that the information was collected on the Web and did not originate in the army.
"The phenomenon of classifying IDF officers as 'war criminals' is unacceptable, and it's even worse when their homes and relatives are targeted with this filth. We must do all we can to back this officers, while working to reduce this phenomenon," says a senior military source.
Iraqi Christians fleeing to Turkey
Last Updated: Nov 28, 2010
Christians, mostly Iraqi immigrants, attend a Sunday mass in the Catholic Chaldean church in Istanbul.
Mustafa Ozer / AFP
ISTANBUL // When extremists in Baghdad told Hadeer Khawaja, a Christian in Iraq, to leave the country, a friend suggested he should get a visa from Turkey. So together with several members of his family, Mr Khawaja went to Istanbul, the metropolis of a Muslim country that has become a haven for a small, but growing number of Iraqi Christians.
"We received a threat by some people" in Iraq, Mr Khawaja, a 37, an engineer who works as a volunteer at a Christian charity in Istanbul, said this week. "There is no security. Sometimes when you go out in Baghdad, you cannot even be sure that you can return home," Mr Khawaja said. "They are killing Christians every day in Iraq."
In his new job, Mr Khawaja meets many other Iraqi refugees who have been flocking to Turkey and who sometimes bring news from Baghdad, most of it grim. "Just the other week, I spoke with some people here who told me our house in Baghdad had been bombed," he said. "It's gone."
There are about 3,800 Christian Iraqi refugees in Turkey at the moment, according to the Chaldean-Assyrian Association, or Kader, the charity where Mr Khawaja works. Many more have fled to Arab-speaking neighbours of Iraq, but Turkey is attracting a growing number of them lately despite the language barrier. Since the attacks on churches in Baghdad earlier this month, 300 to 400 Iraqi Christians have knocked on the association's door in Istanbul. "There were two families last week," Mr Khawaja said. "One had nine members, the other 13."
While most Iraqi Christians do not see Turkey as their permanent new home but want to move on to the United States, Canada, Australia or Europe, Ankara lets the refugees in and allows them to stay for an average of two to three years before they find a country willing to take them, said Francois Yakan, the Patriarchal Vicar and leader of the Chaldean-Assyrian Church in Turkey. Most Iraqi Christians are Chaldeans, who regard the Pope as their spiritual head even though their rites differ from those of Catholics.
"Injustice is being done to Christians" in Iraq, Father Yakan said. "We do not know who does it. All we know is that Christians leave Iraq and go to Turkey, Syria, Jordan or Lebanon." He said there were 1.2 million Christians in Iraq before the US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003. "Today there are less than 500,000."
Father Yakan, a Turkish national who runs the Kader charity, praised Ankara's attitude towards the refugees. Several European countries, which often criticise Turkey for the way it treats its Christians, have taken in a small number of Iraqi refugees in the past, but those initiatives were mostly symbolic and "for the media", Father Yakan said.
When Kader was confronted with the steep increase in Iraqi Christians seeking refuge in Turkey after the attacks this month, offers of support poured in from Turks, but not from Europeans, Father Yakan said. "Muslim associations and Turkish authorities asked us if there was anything we needed," he said. "But Europe? No."
In co-operation with Turkish aid groups and Turkish authorities, Kader is trying to help the refugees by providing advice to get registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, or UNHCR, by providing translators for hospital visits and by handing out food cards, medicine and clothes.
"They come by plane or by bus, and all they have is one suitcase," Father Yakan said about the refugees. Financed by contributions from international aid organisations and by individual donations, Kader does not help only Iraqi Christians, but people from all religions and countries, he said. Turkey, a major transit hub for people from Asia and Africa trying to get to the West, does not recognise refugees from non-European countries but relies on the UNHCR to find a place for them.
The Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants, or Asam, a Turkish aid group that has an office next door to Kader and has been working closely with the Chaldean organisation, is offering English language courses to refugees. This week, four young men from Afghanistan, Congo, Somalia and Sudan sat together with an American volunteer teacher who was explaining the concept behind the word 'wish' to them. "I wish I find a good country," one of the men said.
While Turkey may be unwilling to provide the refugees with a new home, authorities are ready to find pragmatic solutions for those who have fled to the country, Father Yakan said. "About a month ago, the education ministry told all state schools to accept refugee children free of charge," he said. "That is a very important development for us."
That kind of attitude is not the only reason Turkey has become an attractive destination for many Christian refugees from Iraq, Mr Khawaja said. "We can't trust the Arab countries, their politics change. Turkey is better," he said.
Mr Khawaja said many Iraqis wanted to go on to European countries but had to give up their plan because the Europeans did not let them in. "So they go to the United States, because they don't have another choice."
For Mr Khawaja, the choice was clear from the start. His mother and his sister went to the United States four years ago, and the rest of the family is eager to join them there.
That dream may be about to come true soon. "I just received a call, I have to get my medical check-up," Mr Khawaja said. "They accepted my file." The plane ticket to the US would be the next step. "I hope to celebrate Christmas with my family. Today is my lucky day.
The US of A breaks the Soviet record
Even for the humble among us who try to avoid jingoistic outbursts, some national achievements are so grand that they merit a moment of pride and celebration:
US presence in Afghanistan as long as Soviet slog
The Soviet Union couldn't win in Afghanistan, and now the United States is about to have something in common with that futile campaign: nine years, 50 days.
On Friday, the U.S.-led coalition will have been fighting in this South Asian country for as long as the Soviets did in their humbling attempt to build up a socialist state.
It seems clear that a similar -- or even grander -- prize awaits us as the one with which the Soviets were rewarded. I hope nobody thinks that just because we can't identify who the Taliban leaders are after almost a decade over there that this somehow calls into doubt our ability to magically re-make that nation. Even if it did, it's vital that we stop the threat of Terrorism, and nothing helps to do that like spending a full decade -- and counting -- invading, occupying, and bombing Muslim countries.
The good news -- beyond our shattering this record and thus showing that we can still kick those Soviets around even after they no longer exist -- is that this decade of utter futility hasn't at all diminished the Government's appetite for endless war in the Muslim world. By all accounts, the administration its actively debating whether to accelerate its already escalated intervention in Yemen. We've dramatically increased our covert actions in countless countries across the Muslim world. And today, former Bush State Department legal adviser John Bellinger III (one of the "moderates" from that era) argues in The Washington Post for a re-writing of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) -- not in order to rescind it after nine years of endless war-fighting, but rather to expand it, on the ground that it "provides insufficient authority for our military and intelligence personnel to conduct counterterrorism operations today" and outrageously fails to empower the President's "wish to target or detain a terrorist who is not part of al-Qaeda" (for good measure, he also wants the new law to authorize the killing of American citizens and to allow detention without charges).
Clearly, the AUMF is far too narrow and weak for our purposes since -- as Bellinger notes -- this is all we've been able to do in its name:
The Bush and Obama administrations have relied on this authority to wage the ground war in Afghanistan; to exert lethal force (including drone strikes) against al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia; and to detain suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban members in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Afghanistan.
What kind of lame AUMF is that? A decade's worth of war, some slaughtering through the use of remote-controlled sky robots over a few countries, and a worldwide regime of lawless detention? How are we supposed to Stay Safe when we tie one arm behind our back that way?
Fortunately, if this vision of Expanded Endless War proves to be unwise, the harm will be contained, since the U.S. -- unlike the former Soviet Union -- is so financially strong that it can easily sustain this. And whatever else is true, there's one thing we should all be able to agree on: the person presiding over all of this deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
UPDATE: In a New York Times article today on the possibility that many newly elected Tea Party candidates will dare to include military spending in demanded budget cuts and will be similarly hostile to foreign aid -- including, most alarmingly for some, to Israel -- the following passage appears (h/t Matt Duss):
"One of the first things Congressman Cantor can do is to make sure that his colleagues vote for aid to Israel," said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who also met with Mr. Netanyahu.
In the face of all these economic difficulties, austerity measures, and calls for Endless War, it's comforting that at least some of America's representatives in Congress -- such as the Good Democrat Chuck Schumer -- have their priorities straight.
Statement on Shahla Jahed's Imminent Execution: International Campaign of Human Rights LawyersNovember 29, 2010
A Statement by the International Campaign of Human Rights Lawyers on the Imminent Execution of Shahla Jahed:
Considering the various flaws and misgivings as well as the existing documents and evidences, the International Campaign of Human Rights Lawyers (ICHRL) asks the head of the Judiciary to immediately halt the execution of Shahla Jahed. There are serious questions and doubts about the veracity and accuracy of the verdict and death sentence.
On February 3, 2003, Shahla Jahed, before the judicial and police authorities and in the presence of national media, stated that she is not the murderer of Laleh Saharkhizan and has insisted many times that she was not involved in the murder. Based on the statement of Major Abharian, one of the officers assigned to the investigation of the case, the fate of Shahla Jahed changed forever after she received a private and illegal visit at Tehran's Agahi (the police criminal investigation unit) by Nasser Mohammad Khani and one of his friends. After this meeting and due to her extreme affection for Nasser Mohammad Khani, and apparently because of his private request in the meeting, Shahla Jahed denied admitting earlier (of non-guilt) and confessed to the murder.
Major Abharian states that he had obtained evidence that pointed to the innocence of Shahla Jahed. However, the case was taken away from Major Abharian he is not allowed any involvement in the case anymore. Major Abharian is one of the senior officers of the Tehran police force and has a long experience in investigating serious crimes, and honour, serial, and organized killings. He explicitly stated that Shahla Jahed is innocent and he believes that the police and the security agents have planned [all along] to blame Shahla Jahed for the murder of Laleh Saharkhizan who was killed by the security organizations. He also believes there were evidences in favour of the defendant's (Shahla) innocence that were intentionally not collected. He adds that the crime scene was compromised and destroyed from the start of the investigations. The traces of the crime were cleared and the evidences that showed Shahla Jahed was innocent were destroyed by some of the plainclothes agents acting under the supervision of Colonel Kashfi, Tehran's Criminal Investigation Unit deputy director.
ICHRL, out of duty and to prevent the death of an innocent human, condemns any form of death penalty. It joins the opponents of the death penalty across the world to remind [the authorities] that the death penalty is irreversible, and once carried out, if the defendant is proven to be innocent, there is no return. Given the serious flaws and doubts in the course of the investigations and due to the explicit contradictions in the evidences presented, including the statements of the investigating officer, the verdict and the death sentence were issued in a manner inconsistent with the legal procedures and do not have the required legal credibility. The hesitation of the former Head of the Judiciary as to whether Shahla Jahed was really behind this murder and his orders that the case be re-investigated and retired is a testament to [our] claim.
ICHRL once again insists that the execution of Shahla Jahed has to be halted and asks all international human rights institutions and organizations to protest such unfair proceedings and prevent the Islamic Republic Judiciary from, once again, unfairly take the life of an innocent person.
International Campaign of Human Rights Lawyers
Tuesday, November, 23, 2010
Editor's Note: In 2002, Iran's state media filled TV channels with the news of the murder of soccer player Nasser Mohammad Khani's wife Laleh Saharkhizan. The accused is Mohammad Khani's lover Shahla Jahed. A documentary titled Red Card was created by Mahnaz Afzali to highlight the court proceedings and Shahla Jahed's testimonials throughout the trial.
RED CARD (2006) Directed by Mahnaz Afzali (via YouTube)
In earnest or just bragging? Just in case: Stop the War! The Iranian people is suffering already more than enough, they have to find out their way, no imperialist aggression and destruction will help them.
Monday, November 29, 2010
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WASHINGTON: Suspicious of Iran's nuclear capacity, the US is weighing military options in the face of Tehran's announcement it had a nuclear power plant up and running, the top US military officer said Sunday.
"We've actually been thinking about military options for a significant period of time," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff said in an interview with CNN.
Mullen said that he doesn't believe Iran's nuclear plant is for civilian use "for a second."
"In fact, the information and intelligence that I've seen speak very specifically to the contrary. Iran is still very much on a path to be able to develop nuclear weapons, including weaponizing them, putting them on a missile and being able to use them," he said.
Mullen said the United States was focused on dialogue and engagement about Iran's nuclear ambitions, but "in a realistic way."
"They've got a history of gamesmanship that certainly doesn't include closing on significant steps to indicate to the international community that they're not doing this," he said.
Iran said Saturday its first atomic power plant built by Russia in Bushehr had begun operations, ahead of a new round of talks with Western powers over the country's controversial nuclear drive.
"Without any propaganda and fuss we sealed the cover of the reactor and all the fuel rods are in the core of the reactor," atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by Fars news agency, without specifying when.
But Salehi said the authorities in Iran "hope that electricity produced at the Bushehr plant will be connected to the national grid in a month or two."
Iran says it needs the plant to meet growing demand for electricity.
But Western governments suspect Iran's nuclear program masks a drive for an atomic weapons capability, an ambition Tehran has steadfastly denied. – AFPRead more: http://dailystar.com.lb/article.asp?edition_id=10&categ_id=2&article_id=121955#ixzz16iRG6is1
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)
Israel's Mossad behind killing of Iranian nuclear scientist, says news agency
November 29, 2010 "Al Bawaba" -- An Iranian nuclear scientist was killed on Monday and another university professor and his wife were hurt in two separate car blasts in Tehran. News agencies reported "unknown terrorists" detonated the cars of Dr. Majid Shahriari and Prof. Fereydoun Abbasiin in separate locations in the capital on Monday morning, IRNA reported.
Shahriari was killed immediately, but Abbasi and his wife suffered injuries and were transferred to hospital.
The two were professors at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. Fars news agency said Israel and the US stand behind the explosions.
Bomb kills Iran's top nuclear scientist
A prominent Iranian nuclear scientist has been killed and another wounded in two bomb attacks in Tehran. Reports suggest they were targeted in two different locations. Both by men on motorcycles who attached bombs to their cars. RT talks to Kian Mokhtari is a journalist and broadcaster in Tehran.
Posted November 29, 2010
CHECK OUT VIDEO: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article26939.htm
Special Report From Iran: Visiting the Ghosts At the US EmbassyBy Danny Schechter (about the author) Page 1 of 4 page(s)
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Memories That Still Hold US Hostage: Reflections On A Visit To The Former Embattled US Embassy in Tehran
The latest massive Wikileaks revelations released Sunday show how the US and its allies have been covertly discussing military attacks and covert actions against Iran. If history is any judge, this doesn't always work out the way Washington wants as Danny Schechter recounts in this report on a recent visit to the former US Embassy in Tehran, Iran, known locally then as a "spy nest."
By Danny Schechter, Author of The Crime Of Our Time
Tehran, Iran: The building was smaller than I remembered. The fading images in my mind were grainy: angry crowds, students marching, flags burning, chants of "Death to America," and Americans diplomats in blindfolds, It became a soap opera: Ted Koppel started his rise in TV News with ABC's nightly "America Held Hostage" series, the forerunner to "Nightline."
Back then, I was in radio news, just transitioning into TV. I remember publicly debating about what we should do with a DJ friend who had turned from a Vietnam War peacenik into a bomb Iran hawk.
In Iran, the takeover of the US Embassy--what students called its "conquering"-- was justified as a blow against imperialism, the seizure of a "spy nest." It was, at the time, the most globally covered aspect of the Iranian Revolution, an audacious confrontation between people power and a foreign power.
The events that followed may have been considered revolutionary in Iran, but for progressive Americans they became the nail in President Jimmy Carter's political coffin. He angered Iranians first when he toasted the Shah calling him a beloved figure. He then tried and failed to negotiate through third parties and later sent in a military "rescue" operation that crashed and burned leading to his own downfall.
The Iranians held him responsible for sheltering the ailing Shah; he in turn was being pressured by the likes of David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger to shelter the fleeing Monarch.
These events also helped bring on the turn to the right with the elevation of the actor we called "Ronnie Raygun." The hostages were released in a tacit agreement after 444 days in the very hour of his inauguration.
We are still living with the consequences, when wages declined, unions were broken, and military spending escalated. Reagan invaded Grenada and Beirut where the killings of hundreds of US soldiers sparked what we now label a War on Terror and which Iranians see as a "Clash of Civilizations."
The despotic Shah, our faithful servant for so many years, was driven from power by a popular revolt with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini soon becoming the man we loved to hate.
Now, thirty plus years later, I am standing in front of what was once our Embassy surrounded today by well-kept lawns as it was then.
It is as if the past is never past, with so many ghosts still around.
The tragedy is that polarization between our two countries remains symbolized by what is now a very politicized museum with photos of the activists who crawled through a basement window and tunnel to take it over. They were demanding the return of the Shah to stand trial. They were protesting US interference in their internal affairs.
I didn't remember that eight hostages -women and black employees -- were released by Khomeini as a gesture. He urged the black men to return home and carry on the work of our most famous Muslim martyr, Malcolm X.
Malcolm was one of the Americans they admired.
|FILM: THE GREEN WAVE|
A film by Ali Samadi Ahadi
The Green Wave will be screened at Around the World in 14 Films festival in Berlin
CAST & CREW
Written & Directed by Ali Samadi Ahadi
Green is the color of hope. Green is the color of Islam. And Green was the symbol of recognition among the supporters of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who became the symbolic figure of the Green Revolution in Iran last year. The presidential elections on June 12th, 2009 were supposed to bring about a change, but contrary to all expectations the ultra-conservative populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was confirmed in office. As clear as was the result, as loud and justified were the accusations of vote-rigging. The on-going Where is my vote? protest demonstrations were again and again worn down and broken up with brutal attacks by government militia. Images taken from private persons with their cell phones or cameras bear witness to this excessive violence: people were beaten, stabbed, shot dead, arrested, kidnapped, some of them disappearing without trace. What remains is the countless number of dead or injured people and victims of torture, and another deep wound in the hearts of the Iranians.
THE GREEN WAVE is a touching documentary-collage illustrating the dramatic events and telling about the feelings of the people behind this revolution. Facebook reports, Twitter messages and videos posted in the internet were included in the film composition, and hundreds of real blog entries served as reference for the experiences and thoughts of two young students, whose story is running through the film as the main thread. The film describes their initial hope and curiosity, their desperate fear, and the courage to yet continue to fight. These fictional 'storylines' have been animated as a motion comic - sort of a moving comic - framing the deeply affecting pictures of the revolution and the interviews with prominent human rights campaigners and exiled Iranians. Ali Samadi Ahadi's documentary is a highly contemporary chronicle of the Green Revolution and a memorial for all of those who believed in more freedom and lost their lives for it.
Following the award-winning documentary LOST CHILDREN that he did together with Oliver Stoltz (among others the German Film Award) and his affectionate comedy SALAMI ALEIKUM - in his film THE GREEN WAVE Ali Samadi Ahadi reflects the dramatic events before and after the presidential elections 2009 in Iran. Like an eager sigh, like an unstoppable wave, the desire for more freedom began to spread out in Iran last summer. The color Green of the supporters of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi became the ever-present symbol of a potential change. But on election day the peaceful revolution failed and the regime under Ahmadinejad took action against the oppositionists, activists and demonstrators with a brutality almost too difficult to imagine.
Framed by animated 'scenes' which from the perspective of two young students convey a sense of the events, the film shows the real pictures of the revolution, taken with cameras or cell phones: election meetings, demonstrations, unrest and finally the attacks of the militia with batons and knives. Ahadi's film produced by Oliver Stoltz and Jan Krueger (both of Dreamer Joint Venture Filmproduktion) is a courageous and encouraging collage composed of blog quotes, real video recordings, illustrative interviews with prominent exiled Iranians and human rights activists, and of a motion comic narrative thread - resulting in a stirring plea, an appeal for awareness and actions, and a shaking up, shocking and touching chronicle of the Green Revolution in Iran.
"For a few weeks we had the feeling of being so close to our goal as never before ..." - blog entry.
The Green Revolution in Iran owes its name to the color that became the symbol of recognition among the supporters of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Being the color of Islam and the color of hope, and being one of the Iranian national colors this Green unfolded an unforeseen signal effect and symbolic power going far beyond the mere commitment to Mousavi. It was not just about election campaigning, not even about dissatisfaction with the regime under Ahmadinejad, but about a new collective spirit and the confidence that there could be another way for Iran, a way that is not characterized by reprisals, oppressions and despotism. This Green was the signal to set out, the symbol of courage and of the chance for a change that had been considered improbable for a long time.
In the streets of Tehran and other big cities, the euphoria was evident: cloths, bracelets, scarfs, nail polish, almost anything was appropriate as a green greeting, as an attribute of peaceful unity and as a gesture of rebellion.
Though news coverage from Iran was almost impossible, the Green Movement could also be sensed abroad, where usually nothing but Ahmadinejad's provocations were received. Twitter and Facebook messages, YouTube videos and especially numerous blogs reflected an unforeseen euphoric mood. The Iranian blogger scene, which is considered to be one of the largest in the world, came up in the years 1999 to 2003 at the height of the reform movement of those days. Since 2005 this internet forum has had to struggle with more strict controls by the regime und has been curtailed as much as possible. Any blogger making critical comments has to live with the risk of prosecution by the government. In the months before the presidential elections in 2009 this scene started to flourish again and the internet has become an important vital lifeline for the revolution.
Over a thousand different entries in Iranian blogs have been the inspiration for the two 'fictional' students - their thoughts being the emotional thread running through the real events: how they perceive the awakening of the Green Movement, how they wake up from a frustrating hopelessness and feel that there is after all a chance to shape the future, how they become desperate with fear beginning to grow again, and how they despite all that do not give up hope.
The stories of the students Azadeh and Kaveh are animated as a motion comic, and rich in contrast going along with the real video images of the revolt and with the interviews with prominent Iranian personalities and human rights activists like Dr. Shirin Ebadi (Noble Peace Prize winner), the Shiite cleric Dr. Mohsen Kadivar (one of the most important critics of the Islamic Republic), the young journalist Mitra Khalatbari, Dr. Payam Akhavan (former UN war crimes prosecutor and a specialist in human rights), or with Mehdi Mohseni (blogger and election assistant to Mir-Hossein Mousavi).
The hopes of the Green Movement for a victory of Mousavi and for reforms were bitterly dashed on the election day and the accusations of vote-rigging still called people into the streets. But ever since the supreme clerical leader of Iran, Khamenei, declared the election result official and uttered an explicit threat to the protesters, the measures against the peaceful resistance became more and more brutal. The images of Neda killed by a shot in the chest during a demonstration shortly afterwards went around the world. Countless videos taken with cameras or cell phones and put on the internet give evidence for the excessive brutality that the government militia used against the demonstrators: militias driving on motorbikes into the crowd of people, beating them with knives and batons, or treading on casualties lying defenselessly on the ground. The regime systematically took action against the ongoing protests, against oppositionists and - like in a frenzy of violence - also against innocent bystanders. Raids at night, arrests on a large scale, never-ending interrogations, raping, abductions, torture - any desire for freedom, any thought of rebellion should be suppressed with inhuman cruelty. Up to this day the pressure of the regime continues, but although the Green Revolution has been subjugated with every available means, the desire of the people for more freedom and dignity is unbroken - just as is their willingness to fight for it.
It was June 12th, 2009. After having worked very hard for two years all of us were very much looking forward to the premiere of our comedy SALAMI ALEIKUM. From all over Germany our colleagues gathered together for the International Film Festival in Emden where the film would be shown to the public for the first time. On the very same day my wife and I went to Bonn to submit our voting slip for the presidential elections in Iran. I always felt both, as an Iranian and as a German. So did my wife. We met in the no man's land of cultures and tried to bring together in our lives the positive aspects of both of the two worlds.
On the very same evening of June 12th it suddenly became clear that one of those worlds was in flames. Despite SALAMI ALEIKUM being a great success in Emden, our team did not at all feel like celebrating. We felt kind of petrified. Paralyzed. And this feeling of helplessness was to remain for weeks. Iran was in flames and we could not do anything. Day by day we were sitting in front of the television for hours, being on the phone with each other, one in Vienna, the others in Berlin and Cologne. Silent. We were not in the mood for talking, but then again did not want to be alone during these hours. We moved together - if only on the phone.
It really took me weeks to get out of this dizziness and to take the decision to do what I can do best: a film about the events in Iran in the summer of 2009.
But very soon it became clear that we had to find a special narrative style for this, because for the events behind us there existed only fragmentary poor-quality pictures taken with cell phones or images from archives covering the situation only in part. A reenactment was out of question for me, especially since it was clear to me that as long as the regime in Iran was in power I could no longer visit Iran.
Iran is a nation of bloggers. Thousands of young people write down their feelings, write down what is on their minds in their blogs. If it was no longer possible for me to shoot my film in Iran, to interview the people there, these blogs were exactly the right source to reach the inner voices of the people.
For a long time Ali Soozandeh and I have been searching for an adequate visual language, when we came across the so-called motion comic to tell about these blogs. I chose 15 blogs from 1,500 websites which we then translated into images. We attracted a range of actors like Pegah Ferydoni, Navid Akhavan, Jasmin Tabatabai and Caroline Schreiber. With them we re-enacted the scenes and took photos.
Alireza Darvish, a wonderful artist, accepted to do the drawings of the characters, and Sina Mostafawy and his team began with the animation of the scenes. Finally, from the archive material, the recently shot interviews, the pictures from cell phones and the animations, Barbara Toennieshen and Andreas Menn composed this collage.
The whole production took 10 months. Within these 10 months the concept, the financing, 42 minutes of animations, the editing as well as the sound design, the music and the compositing came off.
The time pressure was immense and could only be put up with, because everybody plunged into the project and worked day and night.
And at the same time one thing was clear for the team of Iranian descent: because of their participation in this project they will never be able to visit Iran again. But as has Saadi so nicely said,
"Human beings are members of a whole,
Dr. SHIRIN EBADI - since many years the Noble Peace Prize winner and Iranian lawyer is fighting for more human rights and for freedom in Iran. She is the founder of the Centre for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran. On October 10th, 2003 she was awarded the most important peace prize for her ceaseless and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights - especially women's, children's and refugee rights - being the first Iranian, and the first Muslim woman to have received this prize.
PROFESSOR DR. PAYAM AKHAVAN - the former war crimes prosecutor is a professor of international law at McGill University in Montr�al. He teaches and researches in the areas of public international law and international criminal law with a particular interest in human rights and multiculturalism, UN reforms and the prevention of genocide. Akhavan has published numerous articles and books. His article Beyond Impunity about the chances and barriers in international criminal prosecution, published in 2001 in American Journal of International Law, is considered to be one of the most significant published journal essays in contemporary legal studies. Professor Akhavan was the first Legal Advisor to the Prosecutor's Office of the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda and played a key role in the trial of Slobodan Milo�ević. He also served with the UN in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cambodia, Guatemala, East Timor and Rwanda, and was appointed as legal advisor in many important cases before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the European Court of Human Rights. Professor Akhavan is a prominent human rights advocate for Iranian political prisoners and cofounder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, an organization documenting human rights violations by Iranian leaders to prepare for legal actions.
Dr. MOHSEN KADIVAR - the Shiite cleric and philosopher, university lecturer, author and political dissident is one of the leading cleric critics of the Iranian system of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist, established by Khomeini. Kadivar studied theology and got his PhD in Islamic law and Islamic philosophy. For a long time Kadivar has been an advocate for more democracy and also religious reforms in Iran. At the end of the 90ies, for example, he fell into disgrace after having voiced public criticism and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
MEHDI MOHSENI - in his publications the blogger and journalist has advocated for reforms in Iran. He also was election assistant to Mousavi prior to the presidential elections. In summer 2009 he came to Germany in the course of a scientific exchange and since then has been living in exile there, because it would be too dangerous for him to return.
MITRA KHALATBARI - the award-winning journalist has experienced the consequences of the controversial presidential elections firsthand. To escape the pressure and the persecution of the regime, in autumn 2009 she fled from Iran to Cologne and has been living in exile since then.
Director and author Ali Samadi Ahadi was born in 1972 in the north Iranian city of Tabriz. In 1985, when he was 12 years old, he came to Germany without his family and later took his Abitur in Hannover. In Kassel he studied visual communication with the focus on film and television. At the end of the 90's he started his career as a filmmaker. He participated in several documentaries and reports as director, film editor or cinematographer. For his documentary CULTURE CLAN he was nominated for the Rose d'Or award, and in Cape Town he won the Channel O Award in the category of "Best Foreign Music Film". Literally a flood of awards followed soon after for his documentary LOST CHILDREN in co-production with Oliver Stoltz, which won the German Film Award 2006 as well as numerous international awards (among others the UNICEF Award, Al Jazeera Award). Recently, Ahadi made his first feature film SALAMI ALEIKUM, in 2009 reaching a top position in the Arthouse charts with this culture clash comedy.
|The Green Wave screens in Berlin festival|
| Source: Radio Zamaneh|
The Green Wave by Ali Samadi Ahadi will be screened at Around the World in 14 Films festival in Berlin. The Green Wave combines animation with films recorded by Iranian citizens on their cell phones during the street protests in order to visualize the events that followed the controversial re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 which protesters claim was fraudulent.
While actual documentary footage for the protests tell the story, sections of the story such as those at Evin Prison and abuse of detainees at Kahrizak Prison are done in animation to fill the gaps in the protest movement of the past year and a half that has come to be known as the Green Movement.
The Green Wave's website: thegreenwave-film.com
A documentary about the uprising in Iran
Iranian Peoples Struggle for Freedom, The era of constitutional revolution (Mashroottiat)
| By Abbas Sadeghian, Ph.D.|
Towards the end of 19th century, colonialism was at its peak in the Middle East. The Russians and the English were competing on every peace of land, over any treaty of natural resources, manpower and anything else which could be plundered. Iran was practically divided into two halves. The northern part was under the influence of the Russians. The Iranian army was run by the Russian officers called Persian Cossacks. They were in charge of the capital as well.
The southern part of the country was run by the English and they had their own military force called Southern Persia Police.
The power of the Iranian king was limited to his own castle, and a few cities around Tehran. The British did not like the influence of the Russians on the Shah. They were afraid of a day that a person with some brains might become the king and threaten their interests in the Middle East and India.
The incident of the British tobacco company
Mozafareldin Shah Ghajar (1896-1906)
20 Days & No News on 6 Arrested Supporters of Jailed Secular ClericNovember 28, 2010
Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- There has been no news on Ayatollah Boroujerdi and six of his supporters for 20 days now. The supporters were arrested on November 8, 2010 and transferred to an undisclosed location. [All six] support Boroujerdi's views on separation of religion and state. [Boroujerdi was arrested on October 8, 2006]
Based on the information obtained by HRANA, no information is available on the whereabouts and [conditions] of these prisoners of conscience.
Ayatollah Boroujerdi is a jailed secular cleric who, according to reports, was in a critical physical state due to suspicious injections that left parts of his body paralyzed. He also lost much of his eyesight to the point that he was not able to distinguish between [nearby] objects.
It seems that the goal of arresting and transferring these prisoners is to place additional pressure on Ayatollah Boroujerdi to write a letter of repentance.http://persian2english.com/?p=16956
Extra: European Union Calls on US to Drop MKO from Terror List
25 Nov 2010 20:067 Comments
EU Urges U.S. to Remove Iran Group From Terror List
Wall Street Journal | Nov 25
The European Parliament Thursday passed a written declaration calling on the U.S. to remove the People's Mujahideen of Iran from its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
The resolution became official when more than half the members of the 736-seat chamber signed it, but support was nearly unanimous, a parliament official said.
The People's Mujahideen, which aims to overthrow the Iranian government, has been on the list since 1997, when the U.S.'s Clinton administration put it there in a bid to secure closer cooperation with Tehran.
In July, a U.S. federal appeals court ordered the State Department to reconsider its decision.
Specifically, the European Parliament demanded that EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton "urge" the U.S. to remove People's Mujahideen from the list. Mrs. Ashton hasn't yet responded, a spokeswoman said.
EU Lawmakers Urge U.S. to Remove Iranian Group From Terror List
Bloomberg | Nov 25
In January 2009, the EU allowed the group to operate freely throughout the 27-nation bloc, ending restrictions imposed in 2002.
Ashton should also push the United Nations to provide "urgent protection" for the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, which has been a base for the group's members since 1986, lawmakers said in the statement.
U.S. forces handed over responsibility for security at the camp to Iraq in February 2009. Since then, the group says its 3,400 residents have been deliberately mistreated by the pro-Iranian Iraqi government.
Iran blames the Mujahedeen for the assassinations of high-ranking Iranian officials in the 1970s and 1980s. The group says it has foresworn violence.
related reading | No Exit: Human Rights Abuses Inside the Mojahedin Khalq Camps (Human Rights Watch) | The Bloody Red Summer of 1988 (Tehran Bureau)http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/tehranbureau/2010/11/extra-european-union-calls-on-us-to-drop-mko-from-terror-list.html
2nd Korean War? South admits firing first shells in row with North Korea
South Korea has admitted it fired artillery shells that triggered an early morning clash with North Korea. However it says it was part of a military drill and denied it was directed at the North. Earlier Seoul blamed the North for what it called an unprovoked shelling of its island. Pyongyang claimed the South had violated its maritime border during the military drills. Seoul has since threatened its neighbour with what it called 'enormous retaliation'. Russia's foreign ministy said the clashes were unacceptable and called on both sides to show restraint....
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Enhanced Airport Screening Controvery
By Stephen Lendman
29 November, 2010
On November 23, Washington Post writers Jon Cohen and Ashley Halsey III headlined, "Poll: Nearly two-thirds of Americans support full-body scanners," according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, even though "half of those polled say enhanced pat-down searches go too far."
A new Zogby (11/19 - 22) poll disagreed, saying:
At 61% opposed, "(i)t's clear (most) Americans are not happy with TSA and their enhanced security measures recently enacted. The airlines should not be happy with 48% of their frequent fliers seeking a different mode of transportation due to these enhancements."
Neither should passengers facing molestation and harm to their health. More on that below.
Calling enhanced screening a "virtual strip search," the ACLU also objected, saying:
"We need to act wisely. That means not trading away our privacy for ineffective (and overly intrusive) policies. Ultimately, it is up to the American people to figure out just how much privacy they want to abandon....The ACLU represents those who value privacy in this debate."
AP reported it already received over 600 complaints, passengers saying "they were subjected to humiliating pat-downs at US airports, and the pace is accelerating, according to ACLU legislative counsel Christopher Calabrese."
He added: "It really drives home how invasive it is and (harassing) they are....All of us have a right to travel without such crude invasions of our privacy....You shouldn't have to check your rights when you check your luggage."
Public outrage also makes headlines, passengers complaining about intrusive screening, especially being groped. The more often they fly and endure it, the louder perhaps disapproval will grow, especially for techniques some critics call ineffective.
Reports also call them heavy-handed. A Michigan bladder cancer survivor, wearing a body bag to collect urine, said its contents spilled on his clothing after a Detroit airport security agent patted him down aggressively. He called the experience "absolutely humiliat(ing). I couldn't even speak." Other accounts are also unsettling, and for what!
Screening Fails the Test
An October 28, 2006 Ron Marsico Newhouse News Service article headlined, "Airport screeners fail to see most test bombs," saying:
'Screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport...failed 20 of 22 security tests conducted by undercover US agents last week, missing concealed bombs and guns at checkpoints throughout the major air hub's three terminals, according to federal security officials."
Atheist Group's Billboard Targets 'Closet' Non-Believers
November 27, 2010 10:55 PM
(Photo/Terry Sheridan, 1010 WINS)
NORTH BERGEN, N.J. (1010 WINS) – An atheist group that has paid for a large billboard outside the Lincoln Tunnel reading "You KNOW it's a Myth" says it is targeting "closet" atheists as part of its Christmas season campaign.
The large billboard featuring a silhouette of a traditional manger scene is located on the New Jersey side of the tunnel and sponsored by a group called American Atheists.
David Silverman, the president of the organization, spoke to 1010 WINS Saturday and said the purpose of the billboard was to "attract atheists who are currently in the closet."Justin Schrager of 1010 WINS interviews Silverman
Silverman described the target audience as "people who are secretive not only to their friends and family, but maybe even to themselves about [their atheism]."
The billboard is causing some controversy among those in the Garden State.
Here is the transcript of the debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens on the motion, "Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world".
It is being said that after-event polling suggests that Mr. Hitchens demolished Mr. Blair with the audience attending.
The form of the proposition was unfortunate, since it led Blair to emphasize the good works that people inspired by religion do. This argument from religion-driven altruism is weak for many reasons. It allowed Hitchens to reply in several ways at once. He pointed out that lots of people help others from motives of human decency rather than hope of heaven or fear of hell, and that such unvarnished altruism is better than the one galvanized by hellfire. In essence, he argued, that it is all very well if religious people help others. But secularists help others as well, so we don't need religion for the good and would be better off without it given the bad it brings in its train.
On the other hand, Hitchens says, religious people are often fanatics and are always condemning unbelievers to eternal damnation and demanding that everyone else agree with them, so that they do a great deal of harm–even to the extent of wars and massacres, over their doctrines. So, if religion is not necessary as a motive for altruism, wouldn't it be better just to have the innocuous humanist do-gooders who are unburdened by the dark side, of religious fanaticism and bigotry?
Blair never really succeeded in answering this argument, and just went on giving examples of the good works done by religious people he has encountered in various parts of the world. (Sociologists of religion don't generally find that religious people are in fact more altruistic than the general population. They just seem more self-disciplining, denying themselves pleasures in which the non-religious are happy to partake).
Blair advanced other arguments for religion. He said that many believers saw it as a framework within which they could realize themselves. He cited the example of Jesus Christ as a role model in life. And he pushed back against the image of religious people as all a bunch of foaming-at-the-mouth Inquisitors, saying that some disputes are unlikely to be resolved unless the religious play a central role in their resolution. He gave the example of the disposition of Jerusalem.
Hitchens was amused at the idea that we need religious leaders to resolve disputes such as Israel-Palestine or Northern Ireland, since it was the religious leaders who made those conflicts so intractable in the first place.
Hitchens did not reply directly to the other points Blair made, about religion as a way of self-realization or about the salutary effect if a person adopts an exemplary personality such as Jesus of Nazareth as a role model. (It might be objected that Jesus can only be imperfectly known from the Gospels, which depict him in cryptic and self-contradictory ways. Did he teach turning the other cheek, or did he say he brought not peace but a sword? ) Hitchens, in response, simply blamed religion for being superstitious, irrational, overbearing and producing bad public policy. He gave the example of the harm the Catholic Church did in opposing condoms as a means of battling the AIDS epidemic.
So, I agree that Blair made a bad showing. Religion for him seems to be sort of missionary medicine, urban Catholic schools, some religious dialogue sessions, and some homilies on the virtues of Jesus. It struck me as a sort of social gospel lite. It also seemed to me to have something in it that was patronizing toward the poor of the global South.
Blair caught one break, in that any other debater than Hitchens would probably have thrown in his face his partnering with Bush to destroy Iraq. That poor country has lost hundreds of thousands of lives, seen 4 million displaced (out of 28 million!), seen jobs and livelihoods disappear, and has lost most of its middle class, now laboring in slums under militia rule. Since Hitchens has himself never come to terms with the epochal calamity he helped visit on that country, he held Blair harmless on that issue. Interestingly, Hitchens displays exactly that disregard for the suffering of ordinary people in the service of an abstract principle (overthrowing tyranny, I suppose) of which he accuses the religious. He did take pleasure in pointing out to Blair that Pope John Paul II strongly opposed the Iraq War
Although Blair put up a weak defense of religion, apparently because he is as superficial as he seems on television, Hitchens's arguments were full of holes as well.
Hitchens blames religion for virtually all social conflict, which is weird. In his book, he blames religion for the guerrilla war in the 1980s-1990s between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government. But while it is true that Tamils are Hindus and the government represents the Theravadin Buddhist Sinhalese, it is also true that the Tamil Tigers were a secular, Marxist organization that hardly acted in the name of Siva! In this debate he blamed the violence attending the break-up of Yugoslavia on religion, whereas almost nobody involved was actually religious. Serbs, Bosnians and Croats speak virtually the same language, and the only difference among them is that Serbs have an Eastern Orthodox heritage, Bosnians a Muslim one and Croats a Catholic one. But these are latent markers of identity in today's southern Balkans, functioning to create a vague ethnicity. Slobodan Milosevic was a nationalist entrepreneur who thought there was power to be had by whipping up a Serbian chauvinism. But really, religion was irrelevant except as a stage prop.
And, Hitchens does not have a good response to the enormity of the evil done by secular leaders such as Stalin or Mao. While the death tolls often attributed to Stalin were inflated by the Cold War (you can't actually blame him for slaughters of Russians committed by the Nazis), he probably was responsible for 10 million deaths. Mao's Great Leap Forward was implicated in a famine that killed 3 million, not to mention all the lives and livelihoods destroyed in the Cultural Revolution. Yet both Stalin and Mao were resolutely secular individuals who actively combated religion and religious belief. (Stalin sent the Komsomol debaters to Uzbekistan to argue the Muslims there out of their faith, in which they appear to have had a good deal of success). So the argument that religion causes people to become fanatical and to harm large numbers of others could be countered by an argument that secular people have also exhibited large-scale bloody-mindedness. My guess is that the secular killed far more people in the 20th century than did the religious.
The best argument for religion might be that there is no secular reason for which to forgive either of these two for following George W. Bush around like puppies and assenting to his illegal war and occupation of a country that had attacked neither the US nor the UK. But the religions teach that neither of them is beyond redemption, and that the rest of us should worry about our own imperfections rather than obsessing about the foibles of others. But then, as Hitchens points out, the actually-existing believers in the religions seldom achieve that blessed state of minding their own business so often recommended to them by the great religious Teachers.
Hitchens has esophageal cancer, and he is fighting the good fight, needing some miracle in which he doesn't believe and is unlikely to get. You have to respect him for sticking to his principles in the face of the imminent Great Void. Me, I hope he gets his miracle, so that we can go on arguing with him. On matters of principle.
Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens debate religion
Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens debated the idea 'Religion is a force for good in the world'
Former UK PM Tony Blair has defended the role of religion in global affairs, in a televised debate in Canada with atheist columnist Christopher Hitchens
Mr Blair, a Catholic convert, said faith was a force for good and it was "futile" to attempt to drive it out.
But Mr Hitchens, who is terminally ill with cancer, argued religion forced people into doing terrible things.
In a vote after the debate, the audience voted two-to-one in Mr Hitchens' favour.
A 23-country poll paid for by the debate's Canadian organisers suggests the world is evenly split on the issue.
The confrontation took place in front of a sell-out audience of 2,700 people in Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall.
The two men were asked to debate the motion: "That religion is a force for good in the world".'Cruel experiment'
The BBC's Paul Adams, who was in the hall, said it was a carefully moderated and largely polite debate, without the rumbles of thunder many had been hoping for.
- Former Labour PM, aged 57
- Brought up in a Christian family, he says he became a practising Christian while studying at Oxford University
- Converted to Catholicism in 2007
- Launched Tony Blair Faith Foundation in 2008
- Sixty-one-year-old journalist, author and critic
- Refused to take part in prayers at his Christian boarding school
- Says his "bohemian and rackety" lifestyle may have caused his cancer of the oesophagus
- Regarded as a leader of the "New Atheism"
Mr Blair, a lifelong Christian who converted to Catholicism after leaving office in 2007, acknowledged that "horrific acts" had been committed in the name of religion.
But he said that a "world without faith would be morally diminished".
He said the most challenging issue for people of faith was how to explain the relevance of ancient scripture in the modern world.
Mr Blair also insisted that his decision to support the US invasion of Iraq was based on policy and not on his faith.
Mr Hitchens, who has previously described Christianity, Judaism and Islam as the "real axis of evil", said religion was "a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and ordered to be well".
Humans gained little, and compromised their freedom, by acting like sheep, said Mr Hitchens.
He said religions created a "celestial dictatorship" which was "greedy for praise from dawn to dusk". He won a laugh from the audience and Mr Blair when he compared such an authority to the North Korean leadership.
In the end, the audience seemed more impressed, and perhaps more entertained, by Mr Hitchens, says our correspondent, and he won the debate by a margin of two to one.Global poll
Prior to the debate, the organisers had commisioned a 23-country poll on religion by Ipsos.
Anyone expecting verbal pugilism, or a blood-soaked gladitorial contest, with Tony Blair as the Christian thrown to the hungry atheist lion, might have walked out into Toronto's chilly night a little disappointed.
It's not that the two men didn't debate with conviction, but the format engendered politeness - this is Canada, after all- and somewhat stifled argument.
And perhaps the lion is wounded. Mr Hitchens is starting to look frail, in the throes of a cancer that he acknowledges will probably kill him. Tony Blair, by contrast, looks a picture of well-dressed health.
When asked which of each other's arguments they found convincing, both men were polite, respectful.
Tony Blair admitted that it wasn't always easy for people of faith to explain the importance of scripture in the modern world.
Mr Hitchens admitted no such intellectual difficulties, saying he preferred the awe-inspiring wonders of the cosmos to what he sees as the destructive teachings of organised religion.
An audience of 2,700 sat in rapt attention, frequently applauding both men. But a random sample afterwards tended to tell a consistent story. People weren't necessarily opposed to Mr Blair's argument, but they found Mr Hitchens the more persuasive speaker.
Some 48% of the 18,192 people questioned by Ipsos took the view that "religion provides the common values and ethical foundations that diverse societies need to the thrive in the 21st Century".
Fractionally more - 52% - supported the view that "religious beliefs promote intolerance, exacerbate ethnic divisions, and impede social progress in developing and developed nations alike".
Rich countries were less likely to see religion as a force for good than poor countries - the main exception being the United States, where 65% said it had a positive impact.
The Ipsos poll, conducted in September, found that Europe was the region most doubtful about the benefits of religion, with just 19% in Sweden agreeing that it was a force for good.
At the other end of the scale, in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, it was seen as a positive force by more than 90% of those questioned.
Within North America, there was a pronounced divide. In Canada, only 36% agreed with the positive view of religion whereas 64% saw it as a negative force - figures almost exactly the reverse of those in the US.
Christopher Hitchens has continued his outspoken attacks on religion in interviews as he is treated for cancer of the oesophagus.
He is scathing about those who suggest his illness might lead him to retract his atheism.
In a BBC Newsnight interview to be broadcast on 29 November, he says he is not afraid of death, but regrets the fact that it will cause distress to friends and family.
Blair v Hitchens on the BBC
- BBC World Service radio will air the Blair-Hitchens debate on 4 December, followed by Radio 4 on 11 December
- It can be viewed on BBC World News and the News Channel on 1 January 2011
In comments released by the debate's organisers he said it was "bizarre" that Mr Blair, a Catholic since 2007, had converted "at one of the most conservative times for the Catholic Church, under one of the most conservative popes".
Speaking before the debate, Tony Blair said: "The good that people of faith all over the world do every day, motivated by their religion, cannot be underestimated and should never be ignored."
It could, and should, be a force for progress, he said.
"They have succeeded in dominating us more
through ignorance, than through force".
"Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." Voltaire