Sunday, October 16, 2005

Repress Your People, Maintain Power!

Sleepwalking into Slavery?
by William Bowles
Thursday, 13 October 2005

The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State. — Dr. Joseph M. Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda

The great British public apparently don't think that Home Secretary Clarke's proposed additions to the anti-terror legislation, including the 90-day detention without trial, apply to them, at least as far as we know, as nobody has actually asked them. Perhaps they need to be reminded that almost identical laws were passed by the Apartheid regime of South Africa. Commonly known as the '90-day law', it was first used to imprison 'terrorist' Ruth First, later murdered by a South African assassination squad in Maputo, Mozambique.

Mr Clarke, the Home Secretary, when asked by Labour MP Dave Winnick whether anyone who supported Nelson Mandela's African National Congress would have been prosecuted had the proposals been in force during when the Apartheid government was in power, Clarke replied that "people would not have been guilty merely by not condemning the ANC" but said nothing about what would have happened to people who actively supported the ANC, thus revealing the fraudulent argument used by the government to justify its 'war on terror'.

And, like the string of laws passed by the Apartheid regime, including the Suppression of Communism Act, Banning Orders, et al., an almost identical set of increasingly repressive legislation has been passed by the Labour government since it took power in 1997.

The similarities between the two are no accident nor were the original South African laws, modelled as they were on laws passed by the Nazis in 1930s, and enacted for exactly the same reason – to suppress dissent and to cover up the lies the state uses in order to justify its policies.

What unites all of these and similar laws enacted elsewhere is the fact that the state, when its policies are under threat, resorts to repression not only to carry out its policies but most important of all, because it lacks legitimacy. And ultimately a state which claims to be democratic, that is, claims to represent the wishes of the electorate, finds itself trapped in a vicious cycle of lies.

Please, first let us disabuse ourselves of the notion that the 'war on terror' is about terrorists, unless of course we are all potential terrorists. The lie is exposed by the vast range of countries and people who get caught up by the phrase, from Chavez of Venezuela, to Castro of Cuba and all the stops in-between. If so, does that make anybody who opposes the imperium a terrorist? Are we to believe that we who oppose capital are ultimately to be tarred with the same brush? Apparently so, for ultimately we are all targets of the same laws. Why else have such all-encompassing laws, unless this is, after all, the objective?

The 82-year old man who was detained and questioned under 'anti-terror' laws at the Labour Party conference two weeks ago just for shouting out "rubbish", is a harbinger of things to come, just as a handful of No2ID demonstrators arrested in Newcastle last week, before they'd even demonstrated! 'Anti-terror' laws are the catch-all for the assault on our liberties and illustrate on the one hand, just how weak and vulnerable the state is, and on the other, just how weak is our opposition, devoid as it is of politics, of a political understanding of what the hell is going on!

Blair tells us that the terrorist activity of today is "of a wholly different order" from any before, yet he does not explain how, exactly, today's "terrorist activity" is different from that of previous actions, for example the IRA bombing campaign.

Nor does he explain how preventive detention will stop any possible future actions when he says "We need to make sure therefore that we give ourselves every possible opportunity to prevent such terrorist acts occurring" short of locking up anybody who might possibly resort to some future 'terrorist' activity. But how does one link a thought to a prelude to action?

One of the deeper ironies of the state's 'war on terror', which is, we are informed, to defend democracy and the 'Western way of life', has been the increasing encroachment of the state's control over its citizens. Prime minister Blair's speech attempting (in the vaguest of terms) to justify the latest round of repressive measures actually links 'anti-social behaviour' to both 'terrorism' and 'organised crime'.

The upshot therefore is a state machine which claims greater and greater power and control over its citizens and, tellingly, not just over their alleged criminal activities but over their day-to-day lives, whether it be their relations with their neighbours or their behaviour in public.

By linking 'organised crime' and 'terrorism' to 'anti-social behaviour', the state creates an all-encompassing climate of fear. So by implication 'anti-social behaviour' is treated as the first step on the road to 'extremism' just as smoking a joint is allegedly the first step on the road to 'hard drugs' and hence to 'organised crime'.

But when the slogans are unpacked what we discover is a state that views its citizens as the enemy! And indeed, that is potentially what we are, for it reveals a political class that lives in fear — in fear of its own citizens. Worse still, it reveals a state that no longer trusts its citizens to accept its dictates or the rationale for its actions, hence the need to criminalise the thoughts of its citizens, for what else can a law be that talks of making it a crime to 'glorify terrorism'?

The media for its part, mostly talks about the 'encroachment upon our civil liberties' as a 'knee-jerk reaction' to the events of July 7, ignoring entirely the history of the increasing build-up to the 'war on terror' through a series of increasingly repressive measures designed expressly to stifle dissent.

Nor is the history of such laws referred to in the slightest; instead we read of comparisons with some other European countries such as France which not only have very different legal systems, but where the centrality of habeas corpus is absent. Moreover, are we to accept that because some other countries have repressive legal systems that allow the state to detain, virtually indefinitely, alleged 'enemies of the state', we should too?

It is no accident therefore that, as the occupation of Iraq disintegrates into chaos precisely because it is illegitimate not to mention illegal, the government has to repress dissent under the guise of preventing terrorism, for as Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda said, "It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State."


This article previously appeared on William Bowles' website,
Investigating New Imperialism


Torture victim speaks out.

One victim's story

Investigation by Neil Mackay

ON each stage of his journey, as he descended further and further into the gulags and torture chambers of the war on terror, Benyam Mohammed al-Habashi was shadowed by British intelligence. The British were there in Karachi when Americans interrogated him and Pakistanis tortured him; they were feeding questions to the Moroccan torturers who took a scalpel to his penis; they stood back and watched as he was dragged to an American torture chamber in Afghanistan and then to the gulag of Guantanamo, where he languishes to this day.
Al-Habashi is a perfect example of what happens to a person who has been subjected to “extraordinary rendition”. This process sees someone suspected of involvement in terrorism snatched off the streets, usually in a third world country, then flown around the world by the CIA to regimes which indulge in torture, to be questioned on behalf of the US.

Hundreds of these “rendition flights” come through the UK, and the payback for the UK is that British intelligence gets to question some of the suspects by proxy – the proxy usually being a Middle Eastern torturer.

If al-Habashi was anything, he was naive, according to Clive Stafford Smith, his internationally acclaimed campaigning lawyer, who has been awarded the OBE for his human rights work. An Ethiopian by birth, al-Habashi came to the UK when he was just 16, seeking political asylum. He soon became a popular young teenager in the Kensington area of London, but got mixed up with a bad crowd and wound up on drugs.

In a bid to kick his habit, he decided to take a trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan to get himself together and to see what life under Islamic law was like. Stafford Smith says: “He wanted to see the Taliban with his own eyes to decide whether it was a good Islamic country.”

September 11 happened, and al-Hab ashi was on his way back to the UK when he was seized at Karachi airport. The authorities said his passport was invalid. Many young Muslims from around the world, who had been foolish enough to take a voyeuristic trip to the Taliban’s regime around the time of the attacks on the twin towers, were seized in Pakistan and Afghanistan in follow-up anti-terror swoops. A lot of them, like al-Habashi, claim they were just curious civilians and devout Muslims, with no links to terrorism.

Al-Habashi was seeking refugee status in the UK and thought of himself as British, so he was surprised when the American FBI arrived at the Pakistani jail to interrogate him. They told him he was a top al-Qaeda operative. Al-Habashi pointed out that he couldn’t even speak Arabic.

He laughed at them, and the Americans told him that if he didn’t start talking, he’d be taken to an Arabic country and tortured. When they left, angry at his refusal to talk, the Pakistanis came into his cell. He was beaten with a belt and had a gun stuck in his chest. In comparison to what he was to go through later, this was nothing.

After his beating, two MI6 officers came into the room. In a statement taken by Stafford Smith in Guantanamo Bay, Habashi says: “They gave me a cup of tea with a lot of sugar in it. I initially only took one. ‘No, you need a lot more. Where you are going, you need a lot of sugar,’ they said.

“I didn’t know exactly what [the MI6 officer] meant by this, but I figured he meant some poor country in Arabia. One of them did tell me that I was going to get tortured by the Arabs.”

This is the first time evidence has come forward to show British intelligence directly co-operating with torture – in this case the torture of a man claiming political asylum in the UK. Previously, the UK was thought only to have offered logistical support in the torture of terror suspects, allowing planes ferrying captives held by the Americans to regimes such as Egypt and Syria where they would be tortured, to refuel at airports such as Glasgow International.

The Pakistanis then gave al-Habashi to masked American soldiers. A report by Stafford Smith reads: “They stripped him naked, took photos, put fingers up his anus and dressed him in a tracksuit. He was shackled, had earphones put on, and was blindfolded. He was put into a plane.” He landed in Morocco eight hours later.

The Americans told al-Habashi that they wanted him to give evidence against Jose Padilla, an American who has been in custody awaiting trial for three and a half years, accused of planning to plant a “dirty bomb” in the US. They also wanted him to give evidence against senior al-Qaeda figures in captivity, including Abu Zubaydah, the number three in the terror organisation, and Khalid Sheikh Moh ammed, the mastermind of 9/11. The Americans told him they believed he was al-Qaeda’s “ideas man” – an accusation that Stafford Smith says is “beyond absurd”.

Al-Habashi was then confronted with the Moroccan torture team. With a macabre flourish, some even wore bondage-type masks to give the torment an added mediaeval flavour. Stafford Smith says: “The British government was complicit in some of the abuse that took place against Benyam, at least to the extent that the government told the Moroccans information that they would then use against him in the torture sessions.” The Moroccans knew about his personal fitness trainer, what grades he got at school, where he studied and where he lived.

Until now, it has never been alleged that British intelligence aided and abetted torture by passing information to interrogators, which was then used to question suspects. Lying in his cell, al-Habashi says in his statement: “I was not of this world. I did not believe this was real, that this was happening to me. It never, never crossed my mind that I’d end up being hauled half-way across the world by the Americans to face torture in a place I had never been – Morocco.”

One guard told him how the torture would happen, saying: “They’ll come in wearing masks and beat you up. They’ll beat you with sticks. They’ll rape you first, then they’ll take a glass bottle, they break the top off and they make you sit on it.”

When he was hit with questions that could only have come from British intelligence, he told his interrogators that the British should ask him the questions themselves. The lead interrogator then said: “Why do you think the Brits sold you out to us so cheaply? Why do you think they sent you here?” An interrogator added: “We have been working with the British, and we have photos of people given to us by MI5”. He was later shown pictures of people suspected by the British of being in al-Qaeda and questioned about them.

Al-Habashi’s statement says: “I realised that the British were sending questions to the Moroccans ... I sought asylum in Britain rather than America because it’s known as one country that has laws that it follows. To say that I was disappointed at this moment would be an understatement.”

Later, the men in masks arrived. First, they just beat him until he vomited. “I awoke on the floor,” he wrote. “I’d pissed on myself.” He was refused access to the lavatory and his food was stopped. The beatings became regular.

One day, he was taken into a room with meat hooks hanging from the ceiling. He was shackled and tied up and beaten again. When he awoke from unconsciousness he could hear screams in the rooms nearby. Soon he worked out why his neighbouring prisoners were crying out.

During his next torture session he was tied up again. His clothes were cut off with a scalpel and he was left naked in front of his captors. His torturer-in-chief told one of the guards: “Show him who’s a man.” The interrogator then began to slice his own chest with the scalpel.

“One of them,” al-Habashi’s statement says, “took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction. I was in agony, crying, trying desperately to suppress myself, but I was screaming ... They must have done this 20 or 30 times in maybe two hours. There was blood all over ... They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better to just cut it off as I would only breed terrorists … there were even worse things. Too horrible to rem ember, let alone talk about.”

In total, al-Habashi spent 18 months in Moroccan detention. He was tortured with the scalpel once a month. He once asked a guard why they were doing this to him and was told: “It’s just to degrade you, so when you leave here you’ll have these scars and you’ll never forget. So you’ll always fear doing anything but what the US wants.”

It didn’t take long for al-Habashi to start confessing to anything his torturers accused him of: that he’d met Osama bin Laden six times; that he’d suggested targets to bin Laden; that he was close to 25 leading al-Qaeda figures; that he was the al-Qaeda “ideas man”.

The other forms of torture he was subjected to included prolonged sleep deprivation; being drugged; forced to listen to music by Meatloaf and Aerosmith non-stop; being made to watch pornographic films; having naked women paraded in front of him. He says thinking of Jesus and the prophet Mohammed kept him going.

In January 2004, his guards told him he was going home. He was handed over to the Americans and one female soldier was horrified at his physical state. She took pictures of him, she said, in order “to show Washington it’s healing”.

He wasn’t going home, though. He was off to a US-controlled holding centre in Kabul, Afghanistan. There, he was beaten by the Americans and dumped in a cell with a bucket for a lavatory. Urine and excrement were all over his bedding. The cell was pitch black most of the time.

He was hung up from a pole and allowed to sleep only every second day. His legs swelled and his hands became numb. Again he was exposed to loud music, this time Eminem and Dr Dre, and horror-movie soundtracks were also played to him 24 hours a day for two full weeks.

“The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night,” he says. “Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.” Al-Habashi says he met a fellow prisoner in Guantanamo Bay who was in the same Kabul jail and has now “totally lost his head”.

Initially, al-Habashi was threatened with torture, but he just asked the Americans to tell him what they wanted to know. “From then on,” he wrote, “they would give me the name and the story behind each picture [of a suspect].”

They then coached him in how to make a statement against himself and Jose Padilla, the “dirty bomber”.

“They said ‘this is the story that Washington wants’. It was about a ‘dirty bomb’. I was meant to steal the parts and build it with Padilla in New York. I didn’t even know what a dirty bomb was ... I could not understand and got it wrong. They hung me up for 10 days, almost non-stop.”

He was transferred after about four months to the US prison at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. While the prisoners showered, GIs talked about which of them “was worth penetrating”. In May 2004, he was finally shown to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Americans then helped him compose his confession. “The story was like this,” al-Habashi says. “First, Jose Padilla and I were meant to have good connections because we both spoke English. We were meant to have been hanging out together. Second, I was meant to have come to Afghanistan with him ... third, I was meant to say that he and I were going to go to the US to explode a dirty bomb … By then, I just did what they told me.”

In September 2004 he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. There he was threatened with rape by soldiers. Stafford Smith is now to sue the British government for its part in al-Habashi torture.

“I never thought the British government would allow me to be slashed with a razor blade for a year,” al-Habashi wrote in his statement. “I never thought they would let me be hauled to Kabul for further abuse before my trip to Guantanamo. I want out of this hellish cell [in Guantanamo] and back to my home on the Goldborne Road in London.”

16 October 2005

Frank Rich.....We Were Hijacked by Bush and Cheney!

Go to Original

It's Bush-Cheney, Not Rove-Libby
By Frank Rich
The New York Times

Sunday 16 October 2005

There hasn't been anything like it since Martha Stewart fended off questions about her stock-trading scandal by manically chopping cabbage on "The Early Show" on CBS. Last week the setting was "Today" on NBC, where the image of President Bush manically hammering nails at a Habitat for Humanity construction site on the Gulf Coast was juggled with the sight of him trying to duck Matt Lauer's questions about Karl Rove.

As with Ms. Stewart, Mr. Bush's paroxysm of panic was must-see TV. "The president was a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts," Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post. Asked repeatedly about Mr. Rove's serial appearances before a Washington grand jury, the jittery Mr. Bush, for once bereft of a script, improvised a passable impersonation of Norman Bates being quizzed by the detective in "Psycho." Like Norman and Ms. Stewart, he stonewalled.

That stonewall may start to crumble in a Washington courtroom this week or next. In a sense it already has. Now, as always, what matters most in this case is not whether Mr. Rove and Lewis Libby engaged in a petty conspiracy to seek revenge on a whistle-blower, Joseph Wilson, by unmasking his wife, Valerie, a covert C.I.A. officer. What makes Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation compelling, whatever its outcome, is its illumination of a conspiracy that was not at all petty: the one that took us on false premises into a reckless and wasteful war in Iraq. That conspiracy was instigated by Mr. Rove's boss, George W. Bush, and Mr. Libby's boss, Dick Cheney.

Mr. Wilson and his wife were trashed to protect that larger plot. Because the personnel in both stories overlap, the bits and pieces we've learned about the leak inquiry over the past two years have gradually helped fill in the über-narrative about the war. Last week was no exception. Deep in a Wall Street Journal account of Judy Miller's grand jury appearance was this crucial sentence: "Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group."

Very little has been written about the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG. Its inception in August 2002, seven months before the invasion of Iraq, was never announced. Only much later would a newspaper article or two mention it in passing, reporting that it had been set up by Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff. Its eight members included Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby, Condoleezza Rice and the spinmeisters Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin. Its mission: to market a war in Iraq.

Of course, the official Bush history would have us believe that in August 2002 no decision had yet been made on that war. Dates bracketing the formation of WHIG tell us otherwise. On July 23, 2002 - a week or two before WHIG first convened in earnest - a British official told his peers, as recorded in the now famous Downing Street memo, that the Bush administration was ensuring that "the intelligence and facts" about Iraq's W.M.D.'s "were being fixed around the policy" of going to war. And on Sept. 6, 2002 - just a few weeks after WHIG first convened - Mr. Card alluded to his group's existence by telling Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times that there was a plan afoot to sell a war against Saddam Hussein: "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

The official introduction of that product began just two days later. On the Sunday talk shows of Sept. 8, Ms. Rice warned that "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," and Mr. Cheney, who had already started the nuclear doomsday drumbeat in three August speeches, described Saddam as "actively and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons." The vice president cited as evidence a front-page article, later debunked, about supposedly nefarious aluminum tubes co-written by Judy Miller in that morning's Times. The national security journalist James Bamford, in "A Pretext for War," writes that the article was all too perfectly timed to facilitate "exactly the sort of propaganda coup that the White House Iraq Group had been set up to stage-manage."

The administration's doomsday imagery was ratcheted up from that day on. As Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus of The Washington Post would determine in the first account of WHIG a full year later, the administration's "escalation of nuclear rhetoric" could be traced to the group's formation. Along with mushroom clouds, uranium was another favored image, the Post report noted, "because anyone could see its connection to an atomic bomb." It appeared in a Bush radio address the weekend after the Rice-Cheney Sunday show blitz and would reach its apotheosis with the infamously fictional 16 words about "uranium from Africa" in Mr. Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address on the eve of war.

Throughout those crucial seven months between the creation of WHIG and the start of the American invasion of Iraq, there were indications that evidence of a Saddam nuclear program was fraudulent or nonexistent. Joseph Wilson's C.I.A. mission to Niger, in which he failed to find any evidence to back up uranium claims, took place nearly a year before the president's 16 words. But the truth never mattered. The Bush-Cheney product rolled out by Card, Rove, Libby & Company had been bought by Congress, the press and the public. The intelligence and facts had been successfully fixed to sell the war, and any memory of Mr. Bush's errant 16 words melted away in Shock and Awe. When, months later, a national security official, Stephen Hadley, took "responsibility" for allowing the president to address the nation about mythical uranium, no one knew that Mr. Hadley, too, had been a member of WHIG.

It was not until the war was supposedly over - with "Mission Accomplished," in May 2003 - that Mr. Wilson started to add his voice to those who were disputing the administration's uranium hype. Members of WHIG had a compelling motive to shut him down. In contrast to other skeptics, like Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner), Mr. Wilson was an American diplomat; he had reported his findings in Niger to our own government. He was a dagger aimed at the heart of WHIG and its disinformation campaign. Exactly who tried to silence him and how is what Mr. Fitzgerald presumably will tell us.

It's long been my hunch that the WHIG-ites were at their most brazen (and, in legal terms, reckless) during the many months that preceded the appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald as special counsel. When Mr. Rove was asked on camera by ABC News in September 2003 if he had any knowledge of the Valerie Wilson leak and said no, it was only hours before the Justice Department would open its first leak investigation. When Scott McClellan later declared that he had been personally assured by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby that they were "not involved" with the leak, the case was still in the safe hands of the attorney general then, John Ashcroft, himself a three-time Rove client in past political campaigns. Though Mr. Rove may be known as "Bush's brain," he wasn't smart enough to anticipate that Justice Department career employees would eventually pressure Mr. Ashcroft to recuse himself because of this conflict of interest, clearing the way for an outside prosecutor as independent as Mr. Fitzgerald.

"Bush's Brain" is the title of James Moore and Wayne Slater's definitive account of Mr. Rove's political career. But Mr. Rove is less his boss's brain than another alliterative organ (or organs), that which provides testosterone. As we learn in "Bush's Brain," bad things (usually character assassination) often happen to Bush foes, whether Ann Richards or John McCain. On such occasions, Mr. Bush stays compassionately above the fray while the ruthless Mr. Rove operates below the radar, always separated by "a layer of operatives" from any ill behavior that might implicate him. "There is no crime, just a victim," Mr. Moore and Mr. Slater write of this repeated pattern.

THIS modus operandi was foolproof, shielding the president as well as Mr. Rove from culpability, as long as it was about winning an election. The attack on Mr. Wilson, by contrast, has left them and the Cheney-Libby tag team vulnerable because it's about something far bigger: protecting the lies that took the country into what the Reagan administration National Security Agency director, Lt. Gen. William Odom, recently called "the greatest strategic disaster in United States history."

Whether or not Mr. Fitzgerald uncovers an indictable crime, there is once again a victim, but that victim is not Mr. or Mrs. Wilson; it's the nation. It is surely a joke of history that even as the White House sells this weekend's constitutional referendum as yet another "victory" for democracy in Iraq, we still don't know the whole story of how our own democracy was hijacked on the way to war.