28 February 2007

Hilary Benn MP - war criminal?

On 19 February 2007, nearly 100 eminent doctors, backed by a group of international lawyers, revealed in a letter to the Independent newspaper the desperate plight of children who are dying in Iraqi hospitals for the lack of simple equipment that in some cases can cost as little as 95p. The Independent also published a story the same day, based on the letter, "The battle to save Iraq's children ".

The group of international lawyers says this amounts to a breach of the Geneva conventions that require Britain and the US as occupying forces to protect human life, in other words it is a war crime.

I was first alerted to this story by a Media Lens Alert: "Iraqi Civilian Suffering - The Media Silence".

The Editors of Media Lens then posted to their message board this posting:
Latest Alert: Hilary Benn's shameful response to the doctors' letter - Posted by The Editors on February 26, 2007, 8:20 pm

"We have spoken to Nicholas Wood, one of the organisers behind the letter signed by 100 doctors and by lawyers that we featured in today's alert. He confirmed that Benn refused to meet with the doctors and refused to send emergency aid to a particular maternity hospital identified by the doctors as being in desperate need of help - a place where children are dying for want of equipment that costs a few pence.
Benn claimed that responsibility for the deaths lies with Saddam Hussein because of poor standards pre-2003 and with the Iraqi government now. Nothing to do with us! Here's the letter Benn published in the Independent. We should be writing to Benn in large numbers, should we not?"

Yes, we should. And I did. Of course, one never expects a response from politicians like Benn, as one is sure they scoff at the idea of participative democracy and believe they are not answerable to the ordinary citizen...

Here is the text of my letter, which was also copied to the Editors of Media Lens:


27-feb-2007 17:08

Iraqi health care

enviado por

Mr. Benn,

Your letter published in the Independent on 20 January 2007 is a cold excercise in supreme cynicism.

Firstly, you completely ignore the legal ramifications of British failure, as one of the occupying powers under UN resolution 1483, to comply with the Geneva and Hague conventions that require the UK and the US to "maintain order and to look after the medical needs of the population" of Iraq. I suppose this is not surprising, because, as Cabinet member of the British government of one of the occupying powers and as Secretary of State for International Development you are the person directly responsible for providing that aid, and because of this failure "to look after the medical needs of the population" you could be charged at the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

Secondly, as if that wasn't bad enough, you state in your letter "The terrible conditions you describe also have other causes. Their roots lie in what happened under Saddam's regime, which neglected healthcare, so that by 2000 health indicators for Iraq were comparable with some of the poorest countries in Africa." The reasons health indicators for Iraq were comparable with some of the poorest countries in Africa by 2000 had little to do with Saddam's regime neglecting healthcare as you well know, hence the supreme cynicism.

Iraq had one of the most advanced health care systems in the region prior to the 1991 Gulf War. A July 2003 report by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation noted that prior to 1990, 97% of the urban dwellers and 71% of the rural population had access to free primary health care; just 2% of hospital beds were privately managed. With the 1991 Gulf War that followed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the situation changed dramatically.

US/UK air strikes deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure such as electrical plants, oil refineries, transportation networks and water treatment facilities, hospitals were destroyed; after hostilities ceased foreign nurses left the country; and the health budget was slashed. Spending per capita fell from $86 to $17 in 1996. In the eight months following the war, mortality rates for children under five shot back up to 120 per 1,000 live births, the highest recorded increase for any country in the world in the 1990s, according to the UNICEF/WHO report. I could go on, but I am sure you aware of this information.

Then we come to the genocidal sanctions imposed on Iraq by the United Nations (backed strongly by the US and UK) which imposed harsh restrictions on imports of everything, including access to vital medical equipment, chemotherapy drugs (particularly important as a result of the use of depleted uranium muntions by the US/UK forces), and other key medicines, including even pain-killers. A 1999 Unicef report calculated that more than half a million children had died as a direct result of said sanctions. This has been well documented by John Pilger in his film 'Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq'.

You pass responsibility to the Iraqis for the current situation when it is the criminal failure of the occupying powers to fulfill their international legal obligations that is at fault. I will certainly support any initiative to bring you and the rest of the Blair regime before the International Criminal Court to answer for these crimes.

Yours Sincerely,

23 February 2007

Three out of four Israelis would like to be part of EU

Today's Independent informs us that:

"Three-quarters of Israelis want to be in the European Union and more than a tenth would actually leave Israel for Europe if they were granted EU citizenship, according to an opinion poll published yesterday. "

The report by Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem tells us that contrary to "the country's political class" Israelis "have a startlingly positive view of the EU".

Perhaps it would be a decent bargaining chip: we'll consider letting you into the EU, but obviously on the conditions of complete withdrawal from all occupied Palestinian land, withdrawal of all colonies and settlers, release of all political prisoners and bringing to justice all the war criminals. Because the country is littered with them.

Meanwhile the Guardian today neatly sidestepped the most serious charges of the latest UN report "on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967".

The thrust of Rory McCarthy's article on the UN report is on the issue of apartheid:

"A UN human rights investigator has likened Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories to apartheid South Africa and says there should be "serious consideration" over bringing the occupation to the international court of justice."

McCarthy finally gets round to mentioning Israeli war crimes in the last sentence of his article, but only after first managing to introduce the fact that Palestinians are guilty of war crimes themselves:

"Prof Dugard...described as a violation of international humanitarian law the firing of rockets by Palestinians from Gaza into Israel. "Such actions cannot be condoned and clearly constitute a war crime," he said. "Nevertheless, Israel's response has been grossly disproportionate and indiscriminate and resulted in the commission of multiple war crimes."

The very first paragraph of the report's summary says:

"The siege of Gaza is a form of collective punishment in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949. The indiscriminate use of military power against civilians and civilian targets has resulted in serious war crimes."

Further quotes from the report:

"In effect Israel and sections of the international community have imposed collective punishment on the Palestinian people."

This refers to "the economic isolation of the territory by the United States, the European Union (EU) and other States in response to the election of the Hamas Government."

In effect, we in Europe are complicit in war crimes.

"The international community has identified three regimes as inimical to human rights -colonialism, apartheid and foreign occupation. Israel is clearly in military occupation of the OPT. At the same time elements of the occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law. What are the legal consequences of a regime of prolonged occupation with features of colonialism and apartheid for the occupied people, the occupying Power and third States? It is suggested that this question might appropriately be put to the International Court of Justice for a further advisory opinion.

The Occupied Palestinian Territory is the only instance of a developing country that is denied the right of self-determination and oppressed by a Western-affiliated State. The apparent failure of Western States to take steps to bring such a situation to an end places the future of the international protection of human rights in jeopardy as developing nations begin to question the commitment of Western States to human rights."

Further evidence of Western barbarity comes with Naomi Klein's excellent comment piece, also in today's Guardian: "The US psychological torture system is finally on trial". Klein sums up thus:

"the US government has been deliberately driving hundreds, possibly thousands, of prisoners insane around the world. What is on trial in Florida is not one man's mental state. It is the whole system of US psychological torture."

03 February 2007

Mysterious death of Iran’s top (nuclear) scientist

I most certainly missed this. Did anyone else see it?

"Mysterious death of Iran’s top scientist"

Tehran, Jan. 26:

"One of Iran’s top nuclear scientists, Ardeshir Hassanpour, a professor at the University of Shiraz, has died under mysterious circumstances.

Hassanpour’s death was announced by Iranian state television, a week late, on Thursday.
No reason was given for his death. The scientist was proclaimed the best scientist in the military field in the Islamic Republic in 2003. Hassanpour directed the centre for nuclear electromagnetic studies he had founded in 2005. Ardeshir Hassanpour had also co-founded the centre for atomic research in Isfahan, the most important in the country, Iranian state television reported. Last year, Ardeshir Hassanpour was awarded Iran’s most prestigious scientific award, the Kharazmi Prize."

However, that's not all. Yesterday's Christian Science Monitor had this little gem hidden away in the last paragraph of an article on a different subject ("US intelligence report projects deteriorating situation in Iraq"):

"Stratfor, the military intelligence site (subscription needed)...goes on to say that Israel, not wanting to take any chances and having realized that an overt attack on Iran is not really possible, is conducting covert activities in Iran, hinting that the recent death of a top Iranian nuclear scientist may be connected to Israel's secret service, the Mossad."

Propaganda or truth?

UPDATE: Sunday 04 February 2007

The Sunday Times has picked up the story and adds some detail:

Iranian nuclear scientist ‘assassinated by Mossad’
By Sarah Baxter in Washington

"A PRIZE-WINNING Iranian nuclear scientist has died in mysterious circumstances, according to Radio Farda, which is funded by the US State Department and broadcasts to Iran.
An intelligence source suggested that Ardeshire Hassanpour, 44, a nuclear physicist, had been assassinated by Mossad, the Israeli security service.
Hassanpour worked at a plant in Isfahan where uranium hexafluoride gas is produced. The gas is needed to enrich uranium in another plant at Natanz which has become the focus of concerns that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons.
According to Radio Farda, Iranian reports of Hassanpour’s death emerged on January 21 after a delay of six days, giving the cause as “gas poisoning”. The Iranian reports did not say how or where Hassanpour was poisoned but his death was said to have been announced at a conference on nuclear safety.
Rheva Bhalla of Stratfor, the US intelligence company, claimed on Friday that Hassanpour had been targeted by Mossad and that there was “very strong intelligence” to suggest that he had been assassinated by the Israelis, who have repeatedly threatened to prevent Iran acquiring the bomb. "

02 February 2007

Third Carrier deploys/Iraq Surge costs/Clinton bends over for the Israeli Lobby

According to The Fresno Bee, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan "will set sail to the western Pacific Ocean today, U.S. Navy spokesman Dennis McGrath said. About 40 F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet fighter jets from four squadrons are scheduled to leave Lemoore on Sunday and fly onto the Reagan, McGrath said."

The USS Reagan is deploying "earlier than scheduled as part of a worldwide redeployment of forces resulting from the president's decision"..."for a troop surge in Iraq".

Why is it deploying so suddenly? According to The Fresno Bee, The USS Reagan ended its last deployment in July 2006 and "Usually, sailors have months to prepare for a deployment and spend more than a year at home before being asked to go to sea again".

The paper continues: "The Reagan's rapid deployment is part of the Fleet Response Plan, which the Navy says will provide the military with the ability to respond to any global commitment on short notice. "

"While the Reagan is scheduled to tour the western Pacific, destinations for aircraft carriers can change rapidly, McGrath said. The Stennis is headed to the Persian Gulf and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is near the African coast, he said. "They go wherever they're needed," McGrath said. "The world situation could change. He said deployments usually last about six months."

The US is moving its pieces...

...meanwhile, the Army Times informs us that that the "Iraq surge could actually total 50,000" trops, not the 21,500 Bush declared.

"A new congressional report says the increase of 21,500 combat troops for Iraq proposed by the Bush administration could result in up to 50,000 troops actually being deployed to the region.
The report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office bases that projection on the fact that the Bush plan is unclear about whether the 21,500 troops needed to quell violence are all combat troops or if that number already includes support forces."

Not only would the number of troops increase, but so too the amount of money Bush is asking, as Reuters informs: "President George W. Bush will request slightly more than $100 billion to cover war operations in Iraq & Afghanistan for the rest of this year and an even larger amount for fiscal 2008 that begins on October 1, congressional sources said on Thursday. "

The "surge" is looking more and more ominous as the propaganda war hots up in the western press.

Meanwhile, back in New York, the Associated Press (AP) informs us via the International Herald Tribune (IHT) that the woman who drove Bill Clinton into the mouth of a chubby intern, has herself, well and truly bent over for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC):

"Calling Iran a danger to the U.S. and one of Israel's greatest threats, U.S. senator and presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said "no option can be taken off the table" when dealing with that nation. "U.S. policy must be clear and unequivocal: We cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons," the Democrat told a crowd of Israel supporters. "In dealing with this threat ... no option can be taken off the table."

When will the Americans understand that the aims of both the Democrats and Republicans are the same, as this amply demonstrates. Time for a new American revolution, methinks.

The IHT continues with the discredited Israeli propaganda "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called the Holocaust a "myth" and said Israel should be "wiped off the map" and its Jews returned to Europe."

Have you noticed how recently the phrase is repeated day in, day out? Demonise the bastard and then kill him seems to be the tactic. First one then another leading to "The Age of Perpetual Conflict".

Some thoughts from Gabriel Kolko:

"America has power without wisdom, and cannot, despite its repeated experiences, recognize the limits of its ultra-sophisticated military technology."

"That the U.S. end its self-appointed global mission of regulating all problems, wherever, whenever, or however it wishes to do so, is an essential precondition of stemming, much less reversing, the accumulated deterioration of world affairs and wars."

"Ultimately, there will not be peace in the world unless all nations relinquish war as an instrument of policy, not only because of ethical or moral reasoning but because wars have become deadlier and more destructive of social institutions. A precondition of peace is for nations not to attempt to impose their visions on others, adjudicate their differences, and never to assume that their need for the economic or strategic resources of another country warrants interference of any sort in its internal affairs."

"The world will be safer to the extent that the U.S.’ alliances are dissolved and it is isolated"

01 February 2007

Questions for Mary Dejevsky regarding: "The Big Question: Does the US intend to attack Iran, or is it only sabre-rattling?"

Dear Mary Dejevsky

I have an online blog and would like to ask you some questions regarding the above named article, in which you list a series of falsities masquerading as facts. The article is also littered with suppositions, why is there no caveat?

"US charges" (makes an assertion against), "Iran's alleged support", "Washington claims", "The US also objects to what it sees", "Behind these accusations lies a greater concern", "the fear that", "the deep resentment", "is also seen by some" (who exactly?), "Others see the "surge" as", "Iran's...priority, so far as can be judged" (it can't unless you are in the Iranian government), "in an announcement that seemed to cock a snook ", "While the US seems to be cultivating", "Iran's response suggests that the regime", "Mr Ahmadinejad seems to have lost some authority", "It is not hard to imagine", "Israel is seen by some as a power that could do Mr Bush's dirty work in Iran ",

The questions are:

1. Regarding the question in the title, why do you include the word 'only' before sabre-rattling?

'Sabre-rattling', as you call it, is in fact the threat of the use of force, which as you well know is prohibited under Article 2(4) of the UN Charter. Why did you not state this? It only gives the appearance that you approve of actions that are illegal under international law.

2. You state "the US seems to be cultivating a deliberate ambiguity vis a vis Iran - speaking loudly while carrying a very small stick".

"a very small stick"? It's interesting to see how you describe US gunboat diplomacy: 2 aircraft carrier groups - some 50 ships - , at least 4 nuclear submarines, a squadron of F-16's in Turkey, all with nuclear weapons capability, as 'a very small stick'. What would you call a big stick?

3. You state: "The temptation to talk big must be great. The risks associated with such a stance, however, were illustrated all too graphically by Saddam Hussein"

Actually the risks were illustrated by the US aggression not Saddam Hussein. The historical record counts for little it seems.

4. You state: "It is true that Israel has taken a hawkish stance towards Iran, largely because of Mr Ahmadinejad's threat to "wipe Israel off the map"."

This is nonsense. As you well know Israel's hawkish stance is primarily to do with its intentions for hegemony and domination in the region.

Why do you repeat US/Israeli propaganda? As you must be well aware, this deliberate use of a mistranslation as a 'casus belli' is both immoral and repugnant. To merely relay this propaganda yet again speaks volumes about the Independent's desire for fair and balanced reporting.

Why has the Independent never passed the Farsi version of the speech to a minimum of 3 independent, academic Farsi experts to have it independently analysed so that the question can be settled once and for all? Its the very least the Independent could do if it genuinely wants to avoid a nuclear aggression in the Middle East, I mean this is a fundamental issue, and a leading British newspaper does not even bother to search for the truth? There is abundant evidence in the public domain.

Why do you not report that the translation of the "wiped off the map" phrase is disputed and has been refuted by Iranian authorities?

5. You ask a further question: "Precisely what does the US have against Iran?"

Now, it is entirely unclear what you mean by this question? Do you mean by this what proof does the US have or do you mean what beef does it have? Because if you mean proof, there is none. But you do not specifically state this, which gives the effect that the claims are true. What do you mean?

6. You state: "Iran has defied the IAEA and the UN; it is in clear breach of its international legal obligations."

This is once again nonsense, and it is irresponsible in the extreme to publish false and misleading information.

Iran's international legal obligations are set out in the NPT. El Baradei stated to Reuters on 30 March 2006: 'Nobody has the right to punish Iran for enrichment. We have not seen nuclear material diverted to a nuclear weapon' .

The issue of Iran's nuclear activities was reported to the Security Council as a result of a resolution passed by the IAEA Board on 4 February 2006. This requested El Baradei to inform the Security Council that certain steps, defined in paragraph 1 of the resolution, were 'required of Iran' (and to send the Security Council all future IAEA reports and resolutions about Iran). Chief among these steps is the re-suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.

None of these steps are 'required of Iran' under the NPT. The resolution itself makes this clear in paragraph 5, where the steps are referred to as 'confidence-building measures, which are voluntary, and non legally binding' .

In other words, Iran was reported to the Security Council, not because it refused to take measures required by the NPT, but because it refused to take measures that were explicitly stated to be voluntary and not required by the NPT .

Iran first agreed to the suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities in November 2004, when it signed the Paris Agreement with the EU (represented by UK, France and Germany). This suspension was a voluntary act of goodwill on the part of Iran while negotiations with the EU were taking place.

The Paris Agreement itself states: "'The E3/EU recognize that this suspension is a voluntary confidence building measure and not a legal obligation …. In the context of this suspension, the E3/EU and Iran have agreed to begin negotiations, with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement on long term arrangements ."

Iran's only crime was to voluntarily resume what it had voluntarily suspended in November 2004. If Iran is forbidden to enrich uranium by a mandatory Security Council resolution, that is tantamount to amending the NPT, without Iran's consent , to take away Iran's right to engage in nuclear activities for peaceful purposes. The NPT may need to be revised, but this should be done properly through the correct channels and in consultation with all the countries involved.

Further, you ignore the fact that all 5 permanent veto-holding members of the UN Security Council are themselves "in clear breach of (their) international legal obligations " (under Article VI of the NPT), again, as you must be well aware, Why is this not mentioned in the article? Is it not incredibly relevant?

7. You state: "A nuclear Iran would destabilise a region that is already highly volatile and encourage others to acquire nuclear weapons"

This statement is a supposition not a fact. But worse than that, why do you ignore the elephant in the room: the fact that a nuclear Israel is already destabilising the region and encouraging others to acquire nuclear weapons by its own nuclear weapons?

8. You state: " Iran, with its particular strain of militant Islam, is a menace not just to the US, but to wider western interests, and should be curbed"

You do not explain this strange assertion. In what way is Iran a menace to the US? What are the "wider western interests" you talk about and most importantly are they legitimate?

9. Finally, nowhere in the article do you mention US policy of regime-change in Iran - as in Iraq - its real intention. Why is that? In fact, the historical record tells us that the US, with the UK, have continuously intervened in the region to install pro-western undemocratic regimes: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, the Gulf States, Iran itself in 1953, etc. in complete defiance of international law.

I would be grateful for your comments.

Yours Sincerely