21 February 2008

Letter to the Editor, International Herald Tribune


In his opinion piece about Kosovo dated 13 February 2008 and entitled "Cohen: Here comes Kosovo", Roger Cohen states:

"Slobodan Milosevic, the late dictator, set Serbia's murderous nationalist tide in motion on April 24, 1987, when he went to Kosovo to declare that Serbian
"ancestors would be defiled" if ethnic Albanians had their way
I would be grateful if Roger Cohen could give his source for this as Diana Johnstone states categorically:

"I don't know where Roger Cohen got that quotation, but it is not to be found in the speech Milosevic made that day in Kosovo. And certainly, Milosevic did not go to Kosovo to declare any such thing, but to consult with local Communist League officials in the town of Kosovo Polje about the province's serious economic and social problems."

Considering US newsapers have had problems in the recent past with their reporters making up stories with false sources, Roger Cohen needs to provide his source for this statement.

Yours Sincerely

17 February 2008

US takes over management team for Hariri Special Tribunal

A UN Press release from Wednesday 13 Feb 2008 states:

The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

The Secretary-General today established the Management Committee of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. This Committee, which will inter alia, provide advice and policy direction on all non-judicial aspects of the operations of the Special Tribunal and review and approve its annual budget, is composed of the main donors to the Tribunal

So who are the main donors? Well we just didn't know until the Daily Star in Lebanon published this piece yesterday:

Ban creates management team for Special Tribunal"

In the article, which reported on the above statement, we find that 2 days before making this statement, Germany announced it would extend $1 million for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and the day after the UN announcement, the US doubled its contribution:

"The United States also announced on Thursday that it is doubling to $14 million its contribution to the Tribunal."

The chtutzpah of Rice is astounding as she declared: "We hope the Tribunal will help deter further political assassinations, end an era of fear for Lebanese citizens and impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes, and help protect the sovereignty of Lebanon".

I say chutzpah because, according to today's
Sunday Times, Israel is behind 6 other car bombings in the Middle East since August 2002 which have "taken out" 'militants':

"December 2002 Ramzi Nahara, Israeli agent who defected to Hezbollah and planned attacks against Israel. Dagan knew him personally. Killed in Lebanon by car bomb

March 2003 Abu Mohammed Al-Masri, Al-Qaeda member building cell to target Israeli border with Lebanon. Killed by car bomb in Lebanon

August 2003 Ali Hussein Saleh, Hezbollah explosives expert. Killed by car bomb in Beirut

July 2004 Ghaleb Awali, Hezbollah official with links to activists in Gaza Strip. Killed by car bomb in Beirut

September 2004 Izz el-Deen al-Sheikh Khalil, Hamas official liaising between headquarters in Syria and members in Gaza and West Bank. Killed by car bomb in Damascus

May 2006 Mahmoud Majzoub, Islamic Jihad official liaising with Hezbollah. Killed by car bomb blast in Lebanon "

The total now stands at 5 car bombings in the Lebanon and 2 in Syria. So just who are the real experts in assassinations using car bombs?

Curious also that there were no 'militants' killed by car bombs in the Lebanon between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005 or at later dates.

Why is that curious? Because according to
UNSC Resolution 1757, the "Agreement on the establishment of the Tribunal states that, if the court finds that other attacks that occurred in Lebanon between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005, or any later date decided by the Parties, and with the consent of the Council, are connected in […] and are of a nature and gravity similar to the attack on Mr. Hariri, the Tribunal “shall also have jurisdiction over persons responsible for such attacks”. That connection includes, but is not limited to, a combination of the following elements: criminal intent (motive), the purpose behind the attacks, the nature of the victims targeted, the pattern of the attacks (modus operandi) and the perpetrators.

The Israelis need not worry though, UNSC 1757 also states that this is subject to "the consent of the Security Council", and we all know who controls that...

Meanwhile, Israeli newspaper
Jerusalem Post boasts of how it got the BBC to apologise "for equating former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and Hizbullah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh as "great national leaders", in what it describes as "an uncommon act of journalistic contrition".

Just shows where the power really lies. The BBC have difficulty in even acknowledging ML letters, while they bend over for the Israelis...

Further info and links:

FACTSHEET: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Special Tribunal for Lebanon

12 February 2008

Yet another official complaint to the BBC

It seems that once again the BBC's (and the rest of the British media's) pro-Israeli bias knows no bounds.

After having to put up with article after article on the BBC website referring to the dubious claims that the Iranian President threatened to wipe Israel 'off the map' (1), we now have the case that the Israeli interior minister, Meir Sheetrit, has said that the IDF should "wipe out a neighborhood" of Gaza, in effect committing a war crime for inciting collective punishment.

However, if we were to get our news solely from the BBC we would probably not know anything beyond "The Israeli interior minister, Meir Sheetrit, said the army should choose a neighbourhood of Gaza, give its residents a day to leave, and then destroy it.". (2)

However, the chances are slim as this is literally hidden away in the last paragraph of the article - a favourite ploy used by western news corporations to hide embarrasing news.

Here are his full remarks:

"The heads of Hamas must pay the price. Hamas doesn't understand any other language; the problem is we are talking to them in English instead of in Arabic. They only understand [the language of force]. The situation at present doesn't make sense; every other country faced with rockets on its citizens would go in and destroy the area. We should warn the [Arabs in Gaza] in advance, give them a day's notice, and then wipe out a neighborhood. We should also hit their leaders, regardless of who or what they are."(3)

As you can see, this Israeli politician and Cabinet Minister is calling for whole areas of Gaza to be "wiped out". This fits the definition of terrorism: "The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence against people or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies, often to achieve political, religious, or ideological objectives. (JCS Pub 1-02)" (4) Indeed, the Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism in the first section of the Act, as follows (5):

Section 1. -
(1) In this Act "terrorism" means the use or threat of action where-
(a) the action falls within subsection (2),
(b) the use or threat is designed to influence the government [or an international governmental organisation] or to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and
(c) the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political,
religious or ideological cause.
(2) Action falls within this subsection if it-
(a) involves serious violence against a person,
(b) involves serious damage to property,
(c) endangers a person's life, other than that of the person committing the action,
(d) creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public, or
(e) is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.
(3) The use or threat of action falling within subsection (2) which involves the use of firearms or explosives is terrorism whether or not subsection (1)(b) is satisfied.

If the Iranian foreign minister had suggested part of Tel Aviv should be "wiped out", it most certainly would not be slipped into the last paragraph of a story titled "Ahmedinejad urges calm". Instead a whole story would be generated around his statement.

Surely, in balanced news reporting, the same weight needs to be given to similar 'threats' from both sides? This case case shows that the same weight is not being provided in BBC coverage. If an official 'enemy' makes an aggressive statement, the hype is there for all to see, but if an official 'friend' makes a similar statement its buried at the bottom of an unrelated article or not reported at all - there is not one word about this in any of the British 'quality' dailies, Guardian, Times, Telegraph or Independent.

(1) BBC search results for Iran "wiped off the map"
(2) Olmert urges calm after strikes BBC Online Last Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2008, 11:49 GMT
(3) Sderot Mayor & Minister Sheetrit: Wipe Out Gaza Neighborhoods Arutz Sheva Israel National News Published: 02/10/08, 11:30 AM
Sheetrit: 'IDF should wipe out parts of Gaza' Jerusalem Post Feb 11, 2008 0:05 Updated Feb 12, 2008 5:07
IDF to step up Gaza assassinations Haaretz Tue., February 12, 2008
Sheetrit: We should level Gaza neighborhoods YnetNews.com Published: 02.10.08, 13:38
(4) Glossary GlobalSecurity.org
(5) Terrorism Act 2000

09 February 2008

Reuters: stenographers to power

Reading the headline this morning and my immediate reaction was a scoffing chortle. The headline read "U.S. military loses records for bin Laden's driver".

The Reuters article gave the details:

"GANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - The U.S. military has lost a year's worth of records describing the Guantanamo confinement of Osama bin Laden's driver, a prosecutor said at the Yemeni captive's war court hearing on Thursday.
Lawyers for the driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, asked for the records to support their argument that prolonged isolation and harassment at the Guantanamo prison have mentally impaired him and could affect his ability to aid in his defense against war crimes charges.
"All known records have been produced with the exception of the 2002 Gitmo records," one of the prosecutors, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Stone, told the court. "They can't find it."
He said the military was still looking for the records kept at the remote U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba, which he referred to by its nickname.
The chief prosecutor, Army Col. Larry Morris, said all of Hamdan's interrogation records were given to the defense at least a year ago and that the missing 2002 documents are "local detention records that deal with issues of confinement such as diet, exercise, hygiene and the location of the detainee" within the camp.
Defense lawyers contend there are still records missing, including some that would show Hamdan was coerced into making some statements that could be used as evidence against him.

Several things struck me immediately. This is a claim by the prosecutors, not a fact. So why is the word 'lost' not in inverted commas? Obviously its not a direct quote so it shouldn't be in double inverted commas: "lost", but grammatically speaking (and I'm an English teacher), it should at the very least have single inverted commas which denotes it as being used in an unusual way: in other words it is claimed as 'lost' .

I sent off a letter to the Reuters editors, and am awaiting a reply. It could be a long wait...The letter referred to the universal habit in western main stream media (MSM) of always treating claims by governments and military as gospel truth, rather than the interested claims they really are, and taking into consideration the record of proven lies in which they have been caught time after time in the past.

Finally! An American newspaper that has broached the subject, albeit fleetingly. The LA Times has this headline: "Attacks up sharply on Iraqis aiding U.S."

The article went further:

"Attacks on Iraqi security volunteers...have doubled since October, the U.S. military said Thursday."

What it doesn't spell out is what this actually means. Well, actually that's not strictly true. The LA Times does give the US miltary's thoughts on what it means, and by the same process as referred to above on the Reuters piece treats these 'views' as facts:

"The U.S. military says the rising attacks are a sign that Sunni Muslim militants feel squeezed by the grassroots security program".

Well its one interpretation. Another, mine, is that it is yet more proof that there is no religious civil war in Iraq as claimed, rather attacks by Iraqis on Iraqis are the same as attacks by the French resistance on French supporters and members of the Vichy government: against collaborators of the invaders...

Its the legal resistance to a brutal occupation resulting from an illegal and aggressive invasion - itself the "supreme crime".

Another report from Reuters tells us that the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, told a news conference in Mexico City that the controversial interrogation technique known as waterboarding and used by the United States, qualifies as torture:

"I would have no problems with describing this practice as falling under the prohibition of torture".

The article continues:

"Arbour made her comment in response to a question about whether U.S. officials could be tried for the use of waterboarding that referred to CIA director Michael Hayden telling Congress Tuesday his agency had used waterboarding on three detainees captured after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Violators of the U.N. Convention against Torture should be prosecuted under the principle of 'universal jurisdiction' which allows countries to try accused war criminals from other nations, Arbour said.
"There are several precedents worldwide of states exercising their universal jurisdiction ... to enforce the torture convention and we can only hope that we will see more and more of these avenues of redress," Arbour said."
"Arbour referred to an arrest warrant issued in 1998 by a Spanish judge for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, who died in 2006, on charges of torture, murder and kidnapping in the years that followed his 1973 coup.
Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and 1980s were known to use waterboarding on political prisoners."

Spain is one of the most active countries in this respect. They are excercising their universial jurisdiction to bring to trial torturers and murderes from the Argentinian military dictatorship as well as Chile, and there are also several genocide investigations open too, such as those in Guatemala, Rwanda and Tibet.

Bad news from AP: "Germany drops CIA kidnap investigation"! The reason? They saw no prospect of achieving results.

"Prosecutors said they had been unable to establish the identity of the pilot or others on the plane, and also could not determine whether anyone at Ramstein, in western Germany, was involved.
"They said Nasr himself says he is "not able to identify the pilot or other members of the crew."
"U.S. authorities for their part were not prepared to give the corresponding information and contribute to clearing up the matter," they added in a statement, noting that Italian prosecutors were unsuccessful in seeking U.S. legal assistance.
"German prosecutors said they had dropped the investigation against persons unknown "because further investigative approaches that would promise success are not apparent."

And finally, the stupidest comment of the week comes from British Conservative MP Julian Lewis (the Shadow Defence Minister no less). Not only that but Lewis has some curious friends. According to the Guardian, Lewis is a 'friend' of Paul Mercer, named by CAAT as a Bae spy, and was one of those who voted for the illegal invasion of Iraq and as such will be a defendant in any future torture and genocide cases brought before the courts. On the secret extradition from Zimbabwe to Equitorial Guinea of the British mercenary Simon Mann and his imminent trial this criminal Lewis had this to say:

"Quiet diplomacy has failed and we now have to save this man, whatever he has and hasn't done, from torture and a horrible death."

If only he applied this universally and not just for fellow British criminals.