PUT THE PALESTINIANS ON A DIET

Israel has been forced to reveal what Palestinians and other observers on the ground have known for a long time: that the blockade of Gaza is state policy intended to inflict collective punishment, not to bolster Israeli “security”.

An Israeli human rights group has won a legal battle to compel the Israeli government to release three important documents. These outline state policy for permitting the transfer of goods into Gaza prior to the May 31 attack on the peace flotilla in which nine people were killed by Israeli forces. The group, Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, is demanding Israeli transparency. Meanwhile, Israel refuses to release documents on the current version of blockade policy which was “eased” after international condemnation following the flotilla attack.

The released documents, whose existence Israel had denied for eighteen months, reveal that the state approved “a policy of deliberate reduction” of basic goods, including food and fuel, in the Gaza Strip. Gisha Director Sari Bashi explains:

“Instead of considering security concerns, on the one hand, and the rights and needs of civilians living in Gaza, on the other, Israel banned glucose for biscuits and the fuel needed for regular supply of electricity – paralyzing normal life in Gaza and impairing the moral character of the State of Israel. I am sorry to say that major elements of this policy are still in place.” (Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, ‘Due to Gisha’s Petition: Israel Reveals Documents related to the Gaza Closure Policy’, October 21, 2010;  http://www.gisha.org/index.php ?intLanguage=2&intItemId=1904&intSiteSN=113)

As Saeed Bannoura of the International Middle East Media Center reports, the Israeli government imposed a deliberate policy:

“in which the dietary needs for the population of Gaza are chillingly calculated, and the amounts of food let in by the Israeli government measured to remain just enough to keep the population alive at a near-starvation level. This documents the statement made by a number of Israeli officials that they are ‘putting the people of Gaza on a diet’.” (Saeed Bannoura, ‘Israeli government documents show deliberate policy to keep Gazans at near-starvation levels’, International Middle East Media Center, November 6, 2010 21:32;  http://www.imemc.org/article/59843)

Bannoura adds:

“This release of documents also severely undermines Israel’s oft-made claim that the siege is ‘for security reasons’, as it documents a deliberate and systematic policy of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza.”

When Israel and the United States were reacting to Hamas’s election victory in Gaza in January 2006, long-time Israeli government adviser Dov Weisglass stated:

“The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” (‘Hamas readies for government, Israel prepares sanctions’, Agence France Presse, February 16, 2006)

The released documents contain actual equations used by the Israeli government to calculate the exact amounts of food, fuel and other necessities needed to do exactly that. (‘Submitted to Gisha in the framework of a Freedom of Information Act Petition, AP 2744/09 Gisha v. Defense Ministry’, Appendices B, C and D;http://gisha.org/UserFiles/File/HiddenMessages/ DefenseMinistryDocumentsRevealedFOIAPetition.pdf)

The policy is all the more disturbing, indeed repellent, given that almost half the people of Gaza are children under the age of eighteen. One might reasonably conclude that Israel has deliberately forced the undernourishment of hundreds of thousands of children in direct violation of international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Media Response? A Polite Silence

Our searches of the Nexis newspaper database show that, as far as we could determine, not a single UK newspaper has reported the release of these damning Israeli documents. We widened our searches to include all English-language publications covered worldwide by Nexis. We found just two: one from the Palestine News Network on October 21 and one in Palestine Chronicle on November 6.

We were so surprised by the uniform silence across the English-language press that we asked US-based media analyst David Peterson to check our findings. He was able to do so, spelling out his search results as follows (email to Media Lens, November 11, 2010):

Major World Publications: zero

All News (English): two (the same two that we found, as mentioned above)

Broadcast Transcripts: zero

A search of the Factiva database (covering all major English-language newspapers and wire services) found the same results. Peterson commented:

“No mentions in any of the major English-language newspapers or wire services of the fact that someone had revealed the actual Israeli government policy towards the Gaza Palestinians is to force a ‘deliberate reduction’ in their access to the necessities of everyday survival.”

It takes a peculiar form of social malaise for this astonishing media silence to be maintained in ostensibly free societies.

The Fiercely “Independent” BBC

On November 11, an online BBC article reported on the Gaza blockade but made no mention of the released documents. (Jon Donnison, ‘UN: No change in Gaza despite easing of Israel blockade’ BBC news online, November 11, 2010 Last updated at 00:25;  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-11731695)

Reporter Jon Donnison wrote:

“The UN says there has been ‘no material change” for people in Gaza since Israel announced it was ‘easing’ its economic blockade of the Palestinian territory.”

Jon Ging, the head of UN operations in Gaza, said few people had noticed any difference:

“There’s been no material change for the people on the ground here in terms of their status, the aid dependency, the absence of any recovery or reconstruction, no economy.”

Ging continued:

“The easing, as it was described, has been nothing more than a political easing of the pressure on Israel and Egypt.”

The BBC gave the final word to Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry:

“Why is the border blockaded? Because the territory has been overtaken by a declared terror movement.”

This assertion that the Gaza blockade is motivated by security concerns went unchallenged.

World News Today, presented by Zeinab Badawi on BBC4, broadcast a piece by Donnison along similar lines to his article. (BBC World News Today, BBC4, Thursday, November 11, 2010, 7pm;http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwxZXfRTdj0)

We wrote to Jon Donnison and asked whether he was aware that the Israeli human rights group Gisha had obtained Israeli government documents confirming that the collective punishment of Gaza is based on politics, not security. We asked him:

“Have you reported the release of these documents?

“Will you be pursuing it in a new article?” (Email, November 11, 2010)

We emailed again on November 16 but have received no response to date.

Compare and contrast the BBC’s performance on this story with a new Foreign Office-sponsored piece on the BBC by news presenter Zeinab Badawi:

“Transparency, accountability of government actions is absolutely crucial. And frankly that’s the role of the media. You know, shining a harsh spotlight on truths and sunlight, after all, is a very strong antiseptic, isn’t it?” (‘Zeinab Badawi says freedom of expression is cornerstone of democracy in Britain’, November 5, 2010;  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rQM-kMPoy0&feature=player_embedded)

Badawi added that “the BBC’s constitution means that we absolutely, +absolutely+ cherish and protect and fight for our independence. We don’t even have an arm’s length relationship with the government, we just don’t deal with the government at all.”

Badawi continued the self-adulation:

“It [the BBC] really is a vital, vital tool for the dissemination of information in all sorts of ways. All these things have really served to underscore that freedom of speech that we have in this country. And I suppose the BBC best epitomises that tradition.”

She concluded:

“I’m very proud to be an employee of the BBC.”

SUGGESTED ACTION

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to Jon Donnison of the BBC
Email: jon.donnison@bbc.co.uk

Write to his editors:

Jeremy Bowen, BBC News Middle East editor
Email: jeremy.bowen@bbc.co.uk

Steve Herrmann, BBC News online editor
Email: steve.herrmann@bbc.co.uk

Write to Zeinab Badawi of the BBC
Email: zeinab.badawi@bbc.co.uk

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Spontaneous, massive and militant

This is the striking thing. 24 11 2010 protest had almost no significant institutional backing whatsoever. It’s been said, not quite accurately, that there was no left-wing organisation involved. I did see socialists, trade unionists and trade union banners present. To wit, I saw a Unison banner, I saw Billy Hayes of the CWU (looking a bit worried), I saw Right to Work and SWSS placards and stickers, and a few Socialist Worker paper sellers. I saw Socialist Students (that’ll be the Socialist Party), and a few ‘Revolution’ flags. I saw people with loudspeakers who I’d seen at protests before, leading chants and so on. However, the majority of these protesters weren’t actually mobilised by any union or party.

Most of the basic work of making people aware and getting them there happened through social media sites, and across the country it is estimated that 130,000 people turned out. I also heard a statistic which suggested that one in ten students were actually participating in the protests, but I can’t vouch for its accuracy, and I don’t know what its implications would be. In addition, 18 universities went into occupation yesterday. The point is that it was an almost spontaneous eruption of anger against the government. Watch this video to get a sense of the vibrancy, the joyful energy, the sense of purpose – all those qualities that normally seem redundant or perhaps over-stated when ascribed to a protest, but which capture yesterday perfectly.
“But surely,” you’re saying, “the NUS supported this?” No, it didn’t. I regret to say that the NUS played no part in yesterday’s action. Indeed, I understand that they had ‘distanced’ themselves from it. Aaron Porter’s response when asked for his view was apparently to reflexively denounce “violence”, blaming a handful of “professional troublemakers”, while saying absolutely nothing about the police’s violence. This latter included, for example, kicking a fifteen year old girl – that was Officer UC2128’s contribution to state-sponsored child abuse, if you want to complain – and kneeing a boy in the groin before dragging him along by his hair. The police repeatedly baton-charged the young people, showing little concern for their age and vulnerability. This sort of thing happened all over the country.

And the kettling, clearly planned by the Metropolitan Police in order to make nice to the Tory bosses after their little embarrassment last time, involved keeping thousands of people, mainly young people, in the freezing cold for hours and hours without food, without toilets and largely without water. In fairness to the Met’s PR department, they did give out a few bottles of water at the perimeter toward Parliament Square, but most people didn’t see a drop. Finally, in the late evening (I was released at close to 10pm), people were filtered out in ones and twos, very slowly, and with prolonged pauses in between. Every now and again, as the pauses built up, the temperature dropped another degree, and the music got just a little bit shitter, the chant went up again: “Let us out! Let us out! Let us out!” People tried to debate the rows of jutting jawlines holding back the crowd, tried to engage them, make them see how irrational and cruel they were being. No dice. The cops have their schtick worked out for situations like this. They calmly explain that you’re being held to prevent a breach of the peace, and then they go back to sniggering with the other filth. There’s really nothing to debate with such people. The police also arbitrarily switched the exit point several times, adding to the frustration. Two teenage blokes were talking next to me as this was going on. One said, “there’ll be a lot of fucking hatred of the police after this.” The other, “I’ve never had a reason to hate the police until now”. Similar sentiments were expressed over and over. And there was a particular passion when people sang along with NWA’s “Fuck the police”, and Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the name”. The chorus building up to “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!” was vented with real gusto and vim.

So if people want to talk about ‘violence’, by which they mean vandalism, it’s worth saying that most such small-scale acts took place inside a kettle, which the police controlled like an experiment with fucking lab rats. We expect the media to be hostile, but the NUS is supposed to represent students, present and future. Porter’s crawlingly servile attitude doesn’t reflect this mandate. It just shows that he’s another careerist creep, probably the next Phil Woolas. But given the scale of what happened yesterday outwith the NUS’ organisation, the latter now have to make themselves relevant to the fightback against the cuts. It’s obvious that hacks like Aaron Porter have nothing sensible to say or do on this front.

Speaking of ‘violence’, the Daily Mail is leading the chorus of execration (I think they’ll know the phrase and like it) regarding young girls being the new face of ‘violent’ protest. Now, of course there were loads and loads of young girls out there yesterday. They make up at least half the population of school students after all – the smarter half according to those tests the Mail is so fond of. But they weren’t remotely ‘violent’, and the majority were too clued up to attack the ‘bait van’ – the police van left unattended in the middle of the crowd, apparently to get people to attack it and provide a pretext for the police’s kettling operation. Most people knew perfectly well why the van was left there. And among these secondary school and higher education students, there was a serious, open air debate about how to handle situations like this. There were arguments about strategy, and most people concluded that the police had deliberately created a situation designed to provoke petty vandalism and then cite that as justification for kettling. The impromptu speeches, the small debating circles, the gathered crowds, all more or less repeated this verbatim.

I mention this because the news has focused on one young student who they say ‘fearlessly’ faced down the ‘angry mob’ and protected police property from vandalism. I suppose this sort of thing feeds their fantasy of good breeding facing down the oiks, and in fairness I don’t suppose the student in question will be happy to have been used that way. What they don’t say is that the vast majority of students were making similar arguments. The majority of people therefore deliberately neglected to break glass or even spray paint buildings. They sat down and strummed out songs by The Libertines, or danced to Rage Against the Machine, or argued politics, or rationed out rolling tobacco and bottles of water. Some couples engaged in longing embraces and snogged. Some kids had apparently heated arguments, shoved one another. Some were a bit silly. And since the media is depicting these kids as mindless hooligans, it’s worth saying that the political arguments were wide-ranging and sophisticated. It wasn’t just about fees, it was about the future – war, global warming, everything that concerns us as a species. It’s not that everyone sounded off like a right-on socialist. No such thing. Some of the arguments were baffling, some naive, some perverse, but most of it was thoughtful, sensible, and streets ahead of what is offered as serious discussion in the news.

And that’s what yesterday was mostly about – thoughtful, intelligent people, pushed to the brink, forced to take some sort of militant action, and by doing so providing an example to the rest of us. It’s obviously time to make haste with the student-worker coalition that was vaunted at the last protest. The energy behind this will be squandered if the protesters are left alone to the tender mercies of the police

posted by lenin

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Aki from Fun Da Mental reports from Pakistan

As we traveled towards Noshera again, I reflected what I had seen on the previous visit to villages around Ahmanabad a few days before, it was about the worst the floods could get really, what else could water destroy?

The villages had been totally flattened and as we gave money out “cash in hand” once again the same predictable anger, “NO GOVT HELP, NO MONEY. NOTHING”.

We had driven to some camps and it was really complete sadness to see people reduced to this kind of life. We talk about poverty but seeing poverty, is the real test. The POOR always pay a heavy price, they never had anything in the first place, but they pay with their souls when these disasters come.

“I REALLY HATE MONEY,” I think as I walk through the camp and see elders dressed in an “undignified manner” in an air of stench. These noble human beings born into this world with exactly the same ingredients, which brought me into this world, have lived a life of improvised opportunities, many of them wasted into a life and cycle of “begging politics”.

Shameless words and sound-bite expectations from the political elites have always somehow kept these people praying for the day that their hardened lives will take “the promised turn” as they wait for the false promises, politicians get fat and fatter.

These people are the cause of this very profitable business of charity, a successful disaster economy and here in Pakistan it is the exposed, the poor are the perfect visuals to earn money from and they THEMSELVES receive hardly anything.

I love Pakistan but I hate this aspect with such venom I would think that a suicide mission would be absolutely justified against the people and institutes that benefit, maybe I get too emotional and that is supposedly a unprofessional weakness or is it really?

I have to hold my soul steady as I see old women, frail, worn out, the lines on her thin features smile slyly, she wants that paper in my hand- I feel like a piece of shit –why should she even have to attempt to ask me? – We/I have no right to even expect her to live another night in this urine stinking camp on the roadside.

“Here mother” I say to her, how dare I call her “mother” AND then leave her to the open elements of a cold night underneath a dirty 8 by 8 cloth?

The children run around barefooted, beautiful technicolour of eyes and natural kaleidoscope of coloured hair, they smile and laugh as they collect cow dung and other tasteless stuff on their feet, parasites find nice homes in their skin, lucky parasites. Yes parasites is probably the correct word for those that sit on that money donated by millions as a sign of goodwill whilst mum and the old man worry that God may just send them to the other side for been poor.

“Lets Make Poverty History”, they f****** said a few years ago, I just heard that another Hellfire Missiles had killed a bunch of people, another 80,000 dollars per missile –

“They can deliver bombs but they cannot deliver aid”.

The one exposing aspect of this natural disaster very rarely, in fact never talked about is the obscene racism against these Pathaan/Pushtaan people from many quarters- someone said to me “they are like leeches when you show them the money” they obviously forget many instances of looting etc in parts of the civilized parts of the world when disasters occur and they do not consider for a moment that they too would do the same if they were in this predicament.

We do what we are here to do, give money in hand and see some smiles and pat ourselves on the back and drive to the next town with the same stories been repeated, not been depressed but angry because I ask them do they know the GOVT has “their” money and is sitting on it- they all know – do they know its “their” money not the GOVTs –yes they know-

“We are living worse than animals because we are waiting for that money, if we begin to re-build then when they come to look at the buildings they will say that they cannot see any damage so the money is not warranted, they will pocket the money, so we live in this misery”

But the NGOs and Govt are using the “blockbuster disaster” to collect money but none of the actors are getting paid!!!

I pray that this country can pick up the courage to run down that hill with a Molotov cocktail aimed at Zardari and those Parasites.

Wasim and his mother are absolutely impeccable, they have created these avenues for me to see the disaster in its true light and alongside the small contingent of volunteers who have relentlessly helped people even to the embarrassment of the UN i.e. they helped them too –the Khidmet guys are there in the thick mud, alongside the elderly, the women, the widows, the children, the young and the middle aged – they are all human and they are not holding guns to peoples heads and chopping off hands, they are in real time helping people- BLESS THEM WHILST THEY CONTINUE THEIR WORK WITH DIGNITY.

BACK TO THE PRESENT
I arrive in a place called Pir SABAQ – a town not a village and I am just speechless, honestly this place is the worst it could get, there is nothing to see but destruction, it was as if there was barbaric conflict here- no NGOs visual, No Govt Visual- it is horrendous. This town was completely submerged in water, a small hill saved the people or there could have been a natural genocide here. I stand about 60 foot high from the river; the house behind me is completely destroyed,

“The water came around the town and back down here and took everything with it”.

Some say the houses were poorly constructed but when I point to the local school and the elegant villas, a silence falls. We sometimes want to blame the poor for their cheap houses yet the rich got this also; some of the rich are now back WITH THE  POOR.

The waterline is invisible on the walls for some of the houses, they must have been saved I thought, but they were actually completely submerged, opening the gates to the entrance shows the evidence as thick mud once again is happily occupying every inch- it conquered as it sits there proud reminding us all that however powerful we think we are, nature has no match.

The usual simple questions are asked, “Who has helped, has anyone been given money etc?” the usual answers – NO NO NO !!!!!.

This PLACE reminds me of the car scrap yards in Bradford but this is humanity and how it looks, is repulsive-thankfully they still have their own pride and are keeping themselves fed and clothed but they cannot rebuild until the officials come and they can get money to begin again.

I do not hold too much hope for those officials arriving.

The local mosque has got things under control and the imam is making good progress at attempting to look after the widows and women who really have suffered. These imams are usually displayed as “macho etc” and not caring about women but once again we see that generalizing is a dangerous occupation.

Small houses are been constructed for the women firstly, cheap but it will be welcome as winter is only a few weeks away.

People really lost everything here as time goes on the breadwinners have nothing to work for, they too need help.

There is too much to see and too much pain to write about, Pakistan’s people have helped these people amazingly but Pakistan’s Govt, as they do in everything have let them down.

As I get back to Rawalpindi, heavy on thoughts, I experience an earthquake, switch the TV on and it says the disaster areas visited that day were also affected but thankfully it was not a full on attack. What is happening to Pakistan?

I go out to clear my head-its 3.30 am and I can hear some people playing cricket and then I hear someone shout “NO BALL!!!!!!!!”

PLEASE HELP THROUGH THE RIGHT CHANNELS

LOVE ALL LATER THERE MAYBE NONE!!

Words by Aki Nawaz.

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Guantánamo detainee, acquitted on 284 of 285 charges, faces 20 years

In a blow to the Obama administration’s effort to manipulate the civilian justice system to achieve guilty verdicts for alleged terrorists, a New York City jury on Wednesday unexpectedly acquitted a Guantánamo detainee, Ahmed Khaifan Ghailani, on 284 of 285 charges. The case was related to the 1998 terrorist attacks on US Embassy in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, which killed at least 11 people and injured another 85.

Ghailani, 36, was convicted of only one charge, conspiring to destroy government buildings. The 12-member jury was unconvinced by government charges related to allegations of murder. Ghailani nonetheless faces a sentence of 20 years to life in prison.

Ghailani, who is Tanzanian, was abducted from Pakistan in 2004 along with his wife and children. He was then turned over to the Central Intelligence Agency, which transported him to “black site” prisons, including one in Poland, and then ultimately to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba in 2006. Like most prisoners caught up in the global dragnet known as the war on terror, Ghailani was repeatedly tortured by US intelligence personnel during his imprisonment.

From any ethical and rational legal standpoint, this makes information extracted from Ghailani by his interrogators inadmissible in court, and, indeed, all of the proceedings against him illegitimate. However, the presiding Federal District Court judge in the case, Lewis A. Kaplan, earlier in the year overruled defense requests that the trial be dismissed because Ghailani had been tortured. Kaplan also quashed another motion requesting dismissal because the court proceedings, taking place six years after his arrest, violated Ghailani’s right to a speedy trial.

The Ghailani case was handpicked by the Obama administration to test whether or not the civilian court system could be entrusted to produce guilty verdicts in terrorism cases, with Attorney General Eric Holder all but guaranteeing it would be prosecuted to a successful conclusion. It was to serve as a trial run for the prosecution in federal court of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged ringleader of the 9/11 terror attacks. Mohammed was extensively tortured―it is documented that he was waterboarded at least 183 times. The Ghailani verdict now makes it more likely that Mohammed will face a military tribunal.

While the one count against Ghailani may well result in a life sentence, the government’s failure to convince jurors of the other 284 charges was quickly seized on by the media and both Republicans to assert that alleged terrorists should be processed at drumhead military tribunals such as the one at Guantánamo Bay.

As always, this was dressed up in the hysterical language of “national security.” Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech from the floor of the Senate that the verdict is “all the proof we need that the administration’s approach to prosecuting terrorists has been deeply misguided and indeed potentially harmful as a matter of national security.”

“The Obama administration recklessly insisted on a civilian trial for Ahmed Ghailani, and rolled the dice in a time of war,” said Liz Cheney of the pro-torture group Keep America Safe (and the daughter of the former vice president Dick Cheney.) “It’s dangerous. It signals weakness in a time of war.”

The verdict was also criticized among Obama’s Democratic and liberal allies. Virginia Senator Jim Webb said in a statement that the case shows that “those charged with crimes of war and those who have been determined to be dangerous law-of-war detainees do not belong in our courts, our prisons or our country.”

The New York Times struck at the same theme, asserting that “the result may again fuel debate over whether civilian courts are appropriate for trying terrorists.” For the “newspaper of record,” decisions that do not realize the pre-designed aims of the state are illegitimate.

The Times blamed the result on Judge Kaplan’s refusal to hear testimony from Hussein Abebe, who the government claims was prepared to tell the court he had sold large quantities of the TNT used to blow up the embassy at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Ghailani revealed Abebe’s name while he was tortured at Guantánamo.

There were also those who celebrated the case as an example of the effectiveness of the US justice system. Ghailani’s lawyer, Peter Quijano, called Wednesday’s verdict “a reaffirmation that this nation’s judicial system is the greatest ever devised [and] is truly a system of laws and not men,” he said.

This is absurd. Had Ghailani been convicted on all counts, the celebration of the supposed greatness of the US judicial system would have been trumpeted even more. In fact, the court case was largely pro forma. As Judge Kaplan himself declared, the defendant’s status as an “illegal enemy combatant”―a legal chimera invoked by the US under both Bush and Obama―meant that whatever happened in federal court, Ghailani would remain “a prisoner of war until hostilities between the United States and Al Qaeda and the Taliban end, even if he were found not guilty.”

Obama ran for office on the promise to quickly close down the Guantánamo prison camp, and soon after his inauguration he issued an executive order that it be closed within one year. The Obama campaign articulated concerns among elements in the US foreign policy establishment that America’s standing abroad was threatened by the Guantánamo prison camp, which will be forever associated in the popular consciousness with torture, men bound hand and foot on their knees wearing orange jumpsuits, unsheltered from the sun. Obama and his powerful backers hoped to effect a change in appearance, while continuing nearly all of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” policies.

Even this symbolic change has proven impossible, however. Guantánamo remains open with 170 prisoners, and the Obama administration appears set to end the civilian judicial system’s role in the prosecution of alleged terrorists, with Attorney General Holder earlier this year suspending civilian trials for 9/11 suspects that were scheduled to take place in Manhattan. It is noteworthy that the White House has so far been silent in the face of the criticism of its handling of the Ghailani case.

If ruling circles find even heavily rigged civilian trials for alleged terrorists intolerable, it is not because of the supposed dangers they pose to the population.

A separate system of justice is being constructed under the control and discipline of the military, immune to the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Geneva Conventions, in which hearsay evidence and evidence solicited through torture will be admissible. The president and the executive branch arrogate to themselves the right to declare anyone in the world, even US citizens, enemy combatants and subject to arrest, rendition, torture and indefinite detention without trial―that is, if the president does not order summary assassination instead, a right the Obama administration has also proclaimed.

There is no room in this setup for the vestiges of an independent judiciary or the rule of law. What is being built, in short, is the judicial machinery of a military dictatorship. This will inevitably be deployed against those in the US and abroad who resist the policies of the American ruling class.

Tom Eley

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The Surveillance State

Full Fact recently researched the claim that “council-run CCTV cameras have trebled in the last ten years.” It established that FoI requests to all 428 UK Local Authorities resulted in a combined total of 59,753 council-run cameras in 2009 – more CCTV cameras per capita than any other European country. The best figure for 1999 was 21,000, likely an overestimate as it included planned cameras as well as extant ones. If you feel that the number of CCTV cameras surrounding us has been increasing to oppressive levels, the impression is not unfounded.

I can remember when CCTV was first introduced in this country. Initially, it was used primarily in large department stores, limited to locations in town centres and on London Underground routes. It’s hard to argue against measures to discourage crime and record evidence of specific incidents for use in prosecutions. But these days, it can feel as if the CCTV cameras are more ubiquitous than police officers.

There will always be those who could not care less whether or not they are filmed by a CCTV camera. But no-one likes being talked about behind their back, and who is to know what is going through the minds of our those doing the surveillance? Even when their observations are not officially recorded, comments on the observed must inevitably be shared by the watchers. You don’t have to have something to hide to want a right to privacy.

The potential exists for database records which the public know nothing about, compiled using images or related data from CCTV recordings. This may be speculation, but do you trust the state to tell you what they’re doing with your image?

Many authors, including George Orwell and Philip K. Dick, have predicted authoritarian societies in which all are watched, watching or both. The idea of the camera as a tool of social control is entrenched in our consciousness. And yet, we justify acceptance of increasingly oppressive surveillance on the basis that they help reduce crime. The huge expense of public money, the intrusion of privacy, the authoritarian overtones of the all-seeing eye of the state – all are tolerated as a means to an end. But a Home Office report released in 2002 indicated that CCTV has a negligible impact on reducing crime.

The expense is considerable, and all the more shocking in the light of recent scrutiny of public spending. Heather Brooke reveals that “a House of Lords report published in January this year estimated that during the 1990s the Home Office spent 78 per cent of its crime prevention funds – estimated to be in excess of £500 million – on CCTV”.

As for its efficacy:

According to the two meta-analyses of CCTV conducted for the Home Office and published in 2002 and 2005, video surveillance has had only limited impact on crime prevention and detection.

The most frequently cited and comprehensive review of CCTV is the detailed Home Office study by Professor Martin Gill and others, published in 2005. Gill and his team evaluated 14 CCTV systems around Britain and concluded: “Only two showed a statistically significant reduction relative to the control, and in one of these cases the change could be explained by the presence of confounding variables. Crime increased in seven areas but this could not be attributed to CCTV. The findings in these seven areas were inconclusive as a range of variables could account for the changes – including fluctuations in crime rates caused by seasonal, divisional and national trends and additional initiatives. ( Source)

Brooke suggests that government officials are seduced by a symbol of technological crime prevention which makes them seem to be “doing something”; and the symbol is apparently powerful enough to override the evidence.

Julian L Hawksworth

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In defence of the action at Millbank.

10 11 2010 upwards of 50,000 students marched against the Con-Dem onslaught on education, which will result in massively increased tuition fees, a declining standard of education with job cuts and departmental budget cuts and potentially a more class divided society, with many being cut out from the chance of attending university.

Such a large demonstration is indicative of the massive feeling of anger that students feel toward the Tories and the spineless LibDems. For the most part, it was a peaceful demo too, which was loud and vibrant, with messages of ‘No ifs, no buts, no education cuts’.

 

However the march passed by Conservative party HQ in Millbank. This became the focal point of action for many thousands of students. The building was battered to pieces, with hundreds infiltrating it, and many reaching the roof, with thousands in the crowds outside cheering.

 

However the action has produced a hysterical reaction from the right wing media, with arguments about how the action was “despicable” and “marred” the demonstration. I wish to take on these arguments head on, and also to provide a synopsis of some of the events too.

 

The first media argument is that a “small minority” had “hijacked” the demonstration. It is true that the demo was “hijacked”. So surely a useful media should be asking ‘why’? The reason is that students wanted further action than just a simple march. There is a genuine feeling of anger, and the NUS proposals have seemed at best fairly innocuous to building a movement to fight back against cuts. Very simply, one demonstration would register student disquiet about what the Con-Dems are doing, but here comes the first difference, how do we STOP the government measures? It won’t just be from a single demonstration, what is needed is a united fightback across campuses and universities, and to link to wider struggles of working people who seek to defend their jobs, their pensions, their pay and conditions, their services and their welfare provisions.

 

This leads to the second aspect, the “small minority”. It almost certainly was not “small”. The hundreds who managed to get into the building could not have got there if it wasn’t for the thousands outside. Many thousands witnessed the actions, which struck a chord with many who wanted to see a more visible method of fighting back against the Tories. The “small minority” was in fact very sizeable, and could be crucial to radicalising thousands of students into action to fight back against the cuts. What is also significant is how much media coverage this attracted. Without the action being taken, it is almost certain that the demonstration would have been largely ignored by media, and also disregarded with contempt by those in power. However the radical approach taken at Millbank has put the student movement at the vanguard of resistance to the cuts, and made the action the object of all front page headlines today. This method of resistance will resonate amongst wider layers of people who will be taking action to resist the Tories onslaught in the coming months. Furthermore, the damage and destruction caused, and the feelings from which these actions emanated, cannot be ignored by the Con-Dems, this is the POLITICAL price they pay for THEIR vandalism of the welfare state and education.

 

Who comprised the “small minority”? The NUS and media are trying to paint the picture that “dedicated anarchists” and “unemployed members of the Socialist Workers Party” were the small group involved, and that no students were involved with the Millbank actions. This simply isn’t true. The anarchists, worker’s power, Socialist Worker members and others were themselves students, and furthermore, many hundreds who got into the building were not aligned to any particular political ideology. The vast bulk, [about 99%] were students. I spoke to many, who said it was their first demonstration ever. It was certainly not a motley crew of “non-student” radicals, but largely a spontaneous decision to take radical action to bring the message home to the Government. Such an action would not have been possible if it wasn’t for the support of the thousands who left the NUS demo to join in the action.

 

DAMAGE

The damage caused was extensive. Firstly many infiltrated through the front windows of the building, which in the end were completely detroyed. Many more also outflanked the thin line of police by going round to the left of the building. Lots of windows higher up were damaged, and the fabric of the building was destroyed. Bonfires lit in the square will also have to be dealt with.

 

To many, this sort of destruction will seem like “vandalism”, like “hooliganism” and an incorrect method of going about confronting the government.

 

I disagree. Whilst such actions may not appeal much to bourgeois gentility, they are significant and important for many reasons:

 

As I have already mentioned, one single demonstration will NOT BE ENOUGH to break the coalition government. It is the angry action of thousands, which cannot be disputed, which will rock this government to its core. I believe that if we really seek to stop the cuts, then we have to realise it is our own actions that will make the difference. We have the power. Thousands of students have been radicalised, and it is an opportunity to build strong campaigns across the country. The more people involved, the stronger it will be, and the more likely that cuts can actually be STOPPED, by bringing down the government, rather than waiting until future elections, when damage will be irrevocable.

 

As for the “vandalism” charge. Glass, metal, windows and doors cannot feel pain. They are inanimate objects. They can be made and re-made. They can be replaced. Contrast this to people. People can feel pain, hardship and strife. This is something that Cameron, Clegg and Osborne, with their cabinet of millionaires cannot comprehend. We live in a country  where 5 people seek every 1 job available, and yet are being further punished by slashed welfare payments. Disability discrimination exists massively, with those disabled more likely to be made redundant first by employers, then to find that Cameron and co regard them as “scroungers”, “workshy” and making a “lifestyle choice”… all so as to cut back on £30 a week. If we want to know what is despicable… THIS IS DESPICABLE… and this is what we should be remembering in all of this.

 

At the same time, a conservative estimate of £120 billion is not collected in tax from the richest individuals and corporations. Vodafone for example have had £6 billion of tax owed written off by the treasury. Add to this companies like M&S, Tesco, etc… all of whom dodge tax on a vast scale. If we are “all in this together” why aren’t these companies forced to pay their tax? Very simply, they are all chums of the Tories, which is why both before and after the election, big bosses wrote in support of George Osborne.

 

In essence, the “vandalism” shown by students toward some glass and a building [which cannot feel pain] are nothing compared to the misery being unleashed by the Tories, who are vandalising higher education and the welfare state. They have sought to do this for generations, and now they feel they have their chance. It is up to students and workers to do all they can to protect the gains which took 160 years to implement [free education, welfare provisions from taxation, the vote, the NHS, etc etc]. From Thomas Paine to the Attlee government, people have campaigned for protections against the most exploitative and oppressive aspects of capitalism. The Tories and Con-Dems have set out to wreck this.

 

A potent example is Iain Duncan Smith’s suggestion to get benefits claimaints to do unpaid labour. It is not necessarily a bad thing to get people to acquire skills, but to go UNPAID for this is slave labour, and something akin to the chain gangs in America during the 30s. No doubt benefits claimants will have to wear stripey black and white tops and be chained to each other by the ankles as they break rocks for no particular purpose. Look closer and it is also much more sinister. With council provided services such as gardening and community maintenance jobs being cut, they have suddenly found a supply of cheap labour to do these tasks, without the benefits of employment rights protection in the law, or the miniumum wage. What is this if not DESPICABLE?

 

Finally, SOLIDARITY with Millbank activists.

 

Many of whom were young and at their first demo. Buildings can be repaired and maintained, but once the welfare state has been vandalised and destroyed, the damage cannot be repaired. For political reasons we should support those who face charges against the Millbank action. We should remember that if we fail to support them, then we are intimating and sending a message that our side is not prepared to take effective action to stop the cuts. This would be a terrible message. Aaron Porter would have been far wiser to be neutral, and to have said something like “this shows the anger of some students to the Tories”. Instead he has taken up the lead of the right wing press and is doing the Con-Dem dirty work, by dismissing radical action as “despicable”. This will mean that taking actions like strikes, occupations and student .actions in future will be made more difficult, as the media will be looking to its responsible darling, the President of NUS, to diffuse students from realising their power to make a difference.

 

I believe that those arrested and detained also deserve our solidarity for other reasons. The fact is, 200 or so would not have entered the building if it weren’t for the thousands outside. Those thousands may be reeling under the media scrutiny, and questioning what happened yesterday. Have no doubt, that a radical flame was ignited in the hearts of the thousands yesterday, however it could possibly be expunged if we are not prepared to step in to justify the Millbank action and to set the early flames of resistance into a dedicated inferno burning in the hearts of those who seek to stop the Con-Dems in their tracks.

 

I therefore urge you to support the solidarity motion:

https://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2010/11/467763.html

 

http://www.facebook.com/pages/We-need-unity-defend-the-Millbank-protestors/128397300550227

 

and more info:

http://www.socialistworker.co.uk/graphics/2010/keep/student.pdf

 

thanks comrades

 

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Friday’s terror nonsense US Intelligence Trades On Fear

We are in the grip of yet another so-called terror plot designed to terrify the wits out of everyone.

Anyone of a nervous disposition was sent in to a tailspin of panic over the increasingly dramatic news coverage … this manifested itself in a tsunami of 911 calls in America which paralysed parts of New York, Maine and Philadelphia for several hours.

Mercifully in Britain the majority of us refuse to get caught up in this bloody nonsense for many different reasons. The primary one being we had already endured more than three decades of this during the height of the IRA activities in London.

Virtually every single day for 30 years there would be some terror alert in the English capital – it was called shoestring terrorism. One telephone call could bring a halt to a section of the London Underground.

The police would make their necessary checks, the media would ignore it and we all got on with our lives refusing to be intimidated by Irish terrorism.

And that is exactly how we should have treated Friday’s terror nonsense – that does not mean to say people should be reckless or less vigilant but governments should stop trying to impose a fear factor on its citizens..

We can not sacrifice our freedoms and liberties just because America wants to impose its own neurosis, hysteria and paranoia on the rest of the world.

While British anti-terror police say no explosives were found in a suspicious package found onboard a UPS flight, the White House issued a statement completely contradicting this. Now the parcel has been removed for full forensic testing!

Call me cynical, but I find it too much of a coincidence that this bizarre alert came less than 24 hours after British Airways chairman Martin Broughton has accused the country of bowing to US demands for increased airport security measures.

Mr Broughton criticised the US for imposing more security checks on US-bound flights, but not on its own domestic services.

He urged the UK to stop kowtowing to demands for passengers to take their shoes off and to put any laptop computers through scanners to be screened separately.

The UK government said it would give airport operators permission to review their security procedures and I hope they stick to their promise despite all this nonsense.

One of the most ridiculous procedures we have to go through is to submit all of our potions, lotions and liquids to airport security.

This came about because of the so-called plot to blow 10 airliners out of the sky. That the fools behind this crazy scheme didn’t even have passports or a collective IQ of George W Bush mattered not.

A video was shown of an explosion onboard a plane if this chemical had been mixed with that chemical.

The fact the bombmakers would have had to create sub zero laboratory conditions onboard a plane which would take around 40 minutes, mattered not.

As a frequent flyer I can tell you no would would be allowed to hog the tiny toilets for more than five minutes.

Yet despite this nonsense we have to hand over our liquids, but can buy them in vast quantities minutes later having past through airport security.

Just recently I was stopped because I had a brand new 200ml jar of Eve Lom face cleanser and was told I could not take it through. I pleaded for some commonsense from the security officer and he even went to his superior when I pointed out that the jar cost more than my airline ticket.

A nearby passenger who had just wistfully given up his full bottle of Remy Martin brandy sympathized with me.

Since when did Eve Lom become a threat to Britain’s national security?

The British Government’s COBRA emergency committee is meeting as I write this. God only knows what will transpire but I hope this coalition government distances itself from these crazy security terror alerts coming over from the Americans.

US President barack Obama is facing his mid-term elections this weekend … if either he or his team have resorted to the “terror threat” ploy so often used by his predecessor to try and win votes then shame on them.

Of course what better way to divert voters’ minds from Afghanistan, Iraq and Wikileaks than to create a fresh new bogeyman … Yemen.

Any government which uses security and fear to win votes does not deserve to be in power.

Yvonne Ridley

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