Selective Outrage
Media Lens, London, 18 January 2012
News that a fourth scientist in two years, Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, had been assassinated in Iran by an unknown agency generated minimal outrage in the press.
Patrick Cockburn notedin the Independent:
?While the identity of those carrying out the assassinations remains a mystery, it is most likely to be Israel’s foreign intelligence service, Mossad??
The Sunday Times published a meticulous account of the planning and execution of the attack provided by ?a source who released details? on the actions of ?small groups of Israeli agents? operating inside Iran. (Marie Colvin and Uzi Mahnaimi, ?Israel’s secret war,? Sunday Times, January 15, 2012)
Julian Borger?s article in the Guardian warnedagainst ‘Goading a regime on the brink.’
We wonder if the Guardian would have described the Iranian assassination of scientists on US or Israeli streets as ?goading?. We also wonder if Borger would have described these as terrorist attacks. Continue reading “”

?Have a Nice Day, Buddy:? What The Actions of a Few US Marines Say About us All

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[Left: US Marines urinating on dead Afghans. Image from AFP. Right: Afghan civilian dead on the road. Image from unknown archive]
Golden, like a shower, said one of the US marines as he urinated, along with three of his fellow officers, on three dead Afghans. Over the last forty-eight hours this grizzly spectacle has resuscitated the horrific images of US soldiers? torturing and sexually humiliating men from Abu Ghraib prison to Guantanamo Bay.
Then as now, brown bodies are the raw material through and upon which US soldiers realize their darkest fantasies and their deepest secrets. The pornography that popularized the ?golden shower? and the Islamophobia that fuels the War on Terror inspire these scenes. In them, US soldiers feminize Muslim men and demonstrate their power over them. US soldiers can and will sodomize, piss on, and otherwise sexually humiliate Muslim and/or Arab men. And the world will witness this confident hierarchy of masculinity through the dissemination of the torturer?s documentation. Continue reading “?Have a Nice Day, Buddy:? What The Actions of a Few US Marines Say About us All”

West Bank 2011: One year of Humiliation in a Two Minutes Video

It is a new year in the West Bank

And on Christmas, a rainy and great wind swept over the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Trees bent and roofs rattled but the wind couldn?t carry away the suffering, vulnerability and the long 365 days of humiliation.

Israeli border soldier stands guard during repeated clashes with Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank town of Qalandia in 2011

 
IN the so called Middle East?s only democracy, they do not do guillotines. But there are other innovative rituals of humiliation, designed to reassure the Palestinians that every New Year could well be their last in the land of their ancestors, .. the land of olive trees. As the wind calms down everything returns to normal, but not for the Palestinians, they don?t. Continue reading “West Bank 2011: One year of Humiliation in a Two Minutes Video”

Marines Urinating on Dead Taliban: How Low Will We Go?

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Huffington Post Posted: 1/13/12 11:45 AM ET
I haven’t fully digested the disgusting news that U.S. Marines have been caught on video urinating on dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, so this post is not offered as a coherent think-piece. But what is there to think about, anyway? What is there to say, really, except that there’s absolutely no excuse? No excuse for the policy makers and officers, but neither is there one for the brutalized young perpetrators. Their lowly enlisted status doesn’t excuse them; we should offer them compassion, but not absolution, for the guilt they carry. The next time I’m in a U.S. airport and the passengers break out in applause when the gate agent or flight attendant congratulates “our men and women in uniform,” I’ll remember this incident.

In keeping with its maddening, self-regarding role as the American Pravda, a hand-wringing New York Times “analysis” worries that “the images could incite anti-American sentiment at a particularly delicate moment in the decade-old Afghan war.” Well, how could they not have that effect? And why shouldn’t they? Continue reading “Marines Urinating on Dead Taliban: How Low Will We Go?”

Not for art's sake

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Abstract of keynote presentation given at National University of Taiwan

8th January 2012. Taipei

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One of the videos presented. A compilation from several videos on major protests in 2011
Long before CSR had become a buzzword and superstars and corporates began to find it essential to have pet social causes to support, we had set up Drik, a small organisation in Bangladesh, which made social justice its raison d’?tre.
Over two decades later, when my show on extra judicial killings at the gallery of Drik, was interpreted by a group of international curators as a ?fantastic performance?. It was time for me to take stock, and see where the art world situated itself and whether I belonged to this marketplace.
As collective movements go, the sub-continent has had its share. Colonial rule, oppression by the landed gentry, women?s struggle for equality in a patriarchal society and the injustice of caste have all been challenged. The solidarity of sustained groups, often against overwhelmingly stronger entities with far greater resources. had been a trademark for undivided India and for Bengal in particular.
It was the dynamics of a ruling class propped up by local agents who stood to profit from inequality, that led to the Gandhian strategy of non-violent resistance. Other methods had also been tried, and Subhas Chandra Bose, with a much more militant outlook, also had a huge following. The Tebhaga peasant movement by the Kisan Sabha had led to laws being formulated that limited the share of the landlords.
Partition did not cure these ills. The ouster of the British did not break up the class structure, but replaced one set of exploiters with another. The British, and other imperial powers continued to maintain unequal trade relations, sometimes in the guise of aid.
Cultural activists in Bangladesh had operated within this milieu. With the military under the control of the West wing, the more populous East Pakistan felt the weight of oppression. Military rule became the vehicle for continued repression but failed to quell the unrest and even the final genocidal attack on the people of East Pakistan, was repulsed by a countrywide resistance.
An independent Bangladesh, free of foreign occupiers, should have been a land free of repression. The reality was very different and cultural activists have had to find new ways of resistance. This has required documentation, articulation and tools of creative expression to deal with injustice in many forms. Having been failed by the major political parties (both government and opposition), cultural actors formed their own groups. Operating with minimum resources, we devised numerous initiatives to mobilise public opinion. Using both new and traditional media, as well as the networking ability of social media we formed lean and tenacious campaigns that chipped away at the establishment and its cohorts insisting on being heard and bent on achieving justice.
But the corporatization of modern Bangladesh has brought about many changes. I remember as a child that we used to respond to natural disasters by grouping together, singing songs, raising money, collecting food and old clothes and going out to affected areas to distribute them. We now leave such activities to the NGOs. Social movements are now sponsored by multinationals and protesters in rallies have sunshades parading the brand logos of telecom companies.
We had simultaneously taken on the hegemony of the west and its new southern accomplices, as well as the repressive regimes that operated within the nation state. But today we also need to examine how social movements have been appropriated, and our inability to operate without ?funding? regardless of the cause seriously limits our capacity for social and political intervention.
As an artist, as an activist, and as an organizer, I have along with my colleagues taken on technology, art, education and culture in its diverse forms and have presented a cohesive front that has challenged the military, major political parties and corporates, while continuing to operate independently within public and private spheres.
The presentation attempts to show how, by resisting not only the formal entities that have usurped power, but also the cultural norms that attempt to pigeon-hole cultural practice in terms of ?fine art?, I as an individual artist, as well as worker in a commune, have tried to ensure that our ?art? does not limit itself to admiration in a gallery. It breathes the gunpowder laden air of street battles with police, the dank vapours of the factory floor and pervades the silence of patriarchal inner chambers.
Shahidul Alam
8th January 2012
Taipei

American Activists and the Birth of Bangladesh

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Celebrating victory. (c) Kishor Parekh

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Forty years ago this month, the country of Bangladesh declared its independence from Pakistan. Then-President Richard Nixon supported Pakistan during the war because he wanted to prove the US would stand by an ally.
Many Americans disagreed with that stance. And when a ship headed for Pakistan with military equipment and ammunition was set to stop at a US port, one group of Americans felt it was necessary to get involved.
?I was ready to risk my life there,? says 78-year-old Richard Taylor. ?I just wanted to get in front of that ship.? Continue reading “American Activists and the Birth of Bangladesh”

Taking Beitar to task: Mohammed Ghadir

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Striker Mohammed Ghadir puts Israeli anti-racism to the test

By James M. Dorsey


Maccabi Haifa striker Mohammed Ghadir believes that he and Beitar Jerusalem, the bad boy of Israeli soccer, are a perfect match.
“I am well suited to Beitar, and that team would fit me like a glove. I have no qualms about moving to play for them,” Mr. Ghadir is quoted by Israeli daily Ha?aretz as saying. Beitar has a large squad, a significant fan base, wide media coverge and lacks talented strikers, he says.
There is only one hitch: Beitar doesn?t want Mr. Ghadir. Not because he?s not an upcoming star and not because they wouldn?t need a player like Mr. Ghadir but because the striker is an Israeli Palestinian. “Our team and our fans are still not ready for an Arab soccer player,” Ha?aretz quotes Beitar?s management as saying. The club prides itself on being the only top league Israeli club to have never hired a Palestinian player in a country whose population is for 20 per cent Palestinian and in which Palestinians play important roles in most other top league teams. Continue reading “Taking Beitar to task: Mohammed Ghadir”

Be-heading `parched souls' in modern Saudi Arabia

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By rahnuma ahmed
Ma, my soul feels parched. It quivers like a kite.
(`ma, amar attay pani nai, atta ghuddir moto khali orey’)
— Masud Hossain of Purbashinda village, Tangail, one among eight be-headed
in Saudia Arabia on October 7, 2011.
Chopped off in a clean stroke, his head rolled away. His body slumped, it hit the ground.
He had been made to kneel, to wait. A parched soul, quivering inside.
Alongwith seven other young men — Suman from Kishoreganj, Mamun, Suman and Shafiq from Tangail, Faruque from Comilla, Abul and Matiar from Faridpur — Masud was found guilty of murdering Hussain Saeed, an Egyptian security guard in April 2007. They’d allegedly been apprehended stealing cable from a warehouse. All eight were sentenced to death, the following year.

Magic Movement organised a mock execution of 8 publicly executed Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia, outside the National Museum in Shahbagh, Dhaka on October 15, 2011. ? Monirul Alam

Faruk, the eldest among five sons, worked as a tractor-driver before going to Saudi Arabia as a cleaner. He was a very good boy, said Daudkandi’s union chairman. Twenty-seven year old Suman of Kishoreganj went when he was only 18, earnings sent back had not yet freed the mortgaged family land. My cousin and a muktijoddha union porishod member have been feeding us for the last six months, said his father. Abul too, had gone as a cleaner. His wife left him after he was convicted, say press reports, to re-marry (Kalerkantho, October 10, 2011).
Mamun rang his mother on the day he was executed. Take care, ma. Don’t cry for me. Don’t forget to take your medicine. I’ll call you later. False promises, made by a loving son.
What does it take to carry on a normal conversation with one’s closest ones, when death beckons impassively? To not betray, not even the slightest trace of the soul’s quiver?
I watched one of the be-headings on Youtube, twice. Each time, I cried. Who was it, I wondered. Shafiq? Abul? Maybe Matiar…?
Continue reading “Be-heading `parched souls' in modern Saudi Arabia”

Dead men tell no tales

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By Vijay Prashad

21 October 2011 ??The Greanville Post ? Qaddafi, From Beginning to End
NATO?s Agenda for?Libya
gaddafi.jpgOn the dusty reaches out of Sirte, a convoy flees a battlefield. A NATO aircraft fires and strikes the cars. The wounded struggle to escape. Armed trucks, with armed fighters, rush to the scene. They find the injured, and among them is the most significant prize: a bloodied Muammar Qaddafi stumbles, is captured, and then is thrown amongst the fighters. One can imagine their exhilaration. A cell-phone traces the events of the next few minutes. A badly injured Qaddafi is pushed around, thrown on a car, and then the video gets blurry. The next images are of a dead Qaddafi. He has a bullet hole on the side of his head.
These images go onto youtube almost instantly. They are on television, and in the newspapers. It will be impossible not to see them.
The Third Geneva Convention (article 13): ?Prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.?
The Fourth Geneva Convention (article 27): ?Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honor, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity.?
One of the important ideological elements during the early days of the war in Libya was the framing of the arrest warrant for Qaddafi and his clique by the International Criminal Court?s selectively zealous chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo. It was enough to have press reports of excessive violence for Moreno Ocampo and Ban Ki-Moon to use the language of genocide; no independent, forensic evaluation of the evidence was necessary. [Actually, independent evaluation was soon forthcoming from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, decisively debunking Ocampo?s charges. AC/JSC.]
NATO sanctimoniously said that it would help the ICC prosecute the warrant (this despite the fact that the United States, NATO?s powerhouse, is not a member of the ICC). This remark was echoed by the National Transitional Council, NATO?s? political instrument in Benghazi.
Humanitarian intervention was justified on the basis of potential or alleged violations of the Geneva Conventions. The intervention?s finale is? a violation of those very Conventions.
It would? have been inconvenient to see Qaddafi in open court. He had long abandoned his revolutionary heritage (1969-1988), and had given himself over to the U. S.-led War on Terror at least since 2003 (but in fact since the late 1990s). Qaddafi?s prisons had been an important torture center in the archipelago of black sites utilized by the CIA, European intelligence and the Egyptian security state. What stories Qaddafi might have told if he were allowed to speak in open court? What stories Saddam Hussein might have told had he too been allowed to speak in an open court? As it happens, Hussein at least entered a courtroom, even as it was more kangaroo than judicial.
No such courtroom for Qaddafi. As Naeem Mohaiemen put it, ?Dead men tell no tales. They cannot stand trial. They cannot name the people who helped them stay in power. All secrets die with them.
Qaddafi is dead. As the euphoria dies down, it might be important to recall that we are dealing with at least two Qaddafis. The first Qaddafi overthrew a lazy and corrupt monarchy in 1969, and proceeded to transform Libya along a fairly straightforward national development path. There were idiosyncrasies, such as Qaddafi?s ideas about democracy that never really produced institutions of any value. Qaddafi had the unique ability to centralize power in the name of de-centralization. Nevertheless, in the national liberation Qaddafi certainly turned over large sections of the national surplus to improve the well-being of the Libyan people. It is because of two decades of such policies that the Libyan people entered the 21st century with high human development indicators. Oil helped, but there are oil nations (such as Nigeria) where the people languish in terms of their access to social goods and to social development.
By 1988, the first Qaddafi morphed into the second Qaddafi, who set aside his anti-imperialism for collaboration with imperialism, and who dismissed the national development path for neo-liberal privatization (I tell this story in Arab Spring, Libyan Winter, which will be published by AK Press in the Spring of 2012). This second Qaddafi squandered the pursuit of well-being, and so took away the one aspect of his governance that the people supported. From the 1990s onward, Qaddafi?s regime offered the masses the illusion of social wealth and the illusion of democracy. They wanted more, and that is the reason for the long process of unrest that begins in the early 1990s (alongside the Algerian Civil War), comes to a head in 1995-96 and then again in 2006. It has been a long slog for the various rebellious elements to find themselves.
The new leadership of Tripoli was incubated inside the Qaddafi regime. His son, Saif al-Islam was the chief neoliberal reformer, and he surrounded himself with people who wanted to turn Libya into a larger Dubai. They went to work around 2006, but were disillusioned by the rate of progress, and many (including Mahmud Jibril, the current Prime Minister) had threatened to resign on several occasions. When an insurengy began in Benghazi, this clique hastened to join them, and by March had taken hold of the leadership of the rebellion. It remains in their hands.
What is being celebrated on the streets of Benghazi, Tripoli and the other cities? Certainly there is jubilation at the removal from power of the Qaddafi of 1988-2011. It is in the interests of NATO and Jibril?s clique to ensure that in this auto-da-f? the national liberation anti-imperialist of 1969-1988 is liquidated, and that the neoliberal era is forgotten, to be reborn anew as if not tried before. That is going to be the trick: to navigate between the joy of large sections of the population who want to have a say in their society (which Qaddafi blocked, and Jibril would like to canalize) and a small section that wants to pursue the neoliberal agenda (which Qaddafi tried to facilitate but could not do so over the objections of his ?men of the tent?). The new Libya will be born in the gap between the two interpretations.
The manner of Qaddafi?s death is a synecdoche for the entire war. NATO?s bombs stopped the convoy, and without them Qaddafi would probably have fled to his next redoubt. The rebellion might have succeeded without NATO. But with NATO, certain political options had to be foreclosed; NATO?s member states are in line now to claim their reward. However, they are too polite in a liberal European way to actually state their claim publically in a quid-pro-quo fashion. Hence, they say things like: this is a Libyan war, and that Libya must decide what it must do. This is properly the space into which those sections in the new Libyan power structure that still value sovereignty must assert themselves. The window for that assertion is going to close soon, as the deals get inked that lock Libya?s resources and autonomy into the agenda of the NATO states.
VIJAY PRASHAD?is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT His most recent book,?The Darker Nations: A People?s History of the Third World,?won the Muzaffar Ahmad Book Prize for 2009. The Swedish and French editions are just out. He can be reached at:?vijay.prashad@trincoll.edu

The secret interrogation policy that could never be made public

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Tony Blair evaded questions over his role in document, and ministers have refused to say if they were aware of details

This article was published on?guardian.co.uk at?18.46 BST on Thursday 4 August 2011. A version appeared on p10 of the?Main section section of?the Guardian on?Friday 5 August 2011. It was last modified at?00.06 BST on Friday 5 August 2011.

Rapid Action Battalion headquarters
The headquarters of the Rapid Action Battalion in Uttara, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photograph: Shahidul Alam for the Guardian

Government ministers were extraordinarily sensitive about the contents of the secret?MI5 and?MI6 interrogation policy document when the Guardian became aware of its existence two years ago.
Initially, its purpose was to permit the questioning of prisoners being held at Bagram air base, north of Kabul, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, despite it being clear that these men were being severely abused by members of the US military.
In time, the policy developed into one governing the conduct of British intelligence officers who were questioning terrorism suspects held by some of the world’s most notorious security agencies.
As a number of these men began to emerge from captivity, some bearing clear signs of having been tortured, the ministers became even more nervous. The disclosure of the contents of the document helps explain why.
Tony Blair evaded a series of questions over the role he played in authorising changes to the instructions in 2004, while the former home secretary David Blunkett maintained it was potentially libellous even to ask him questions about the matter.
As foreign secretary, David Miliband?told MPs the secret policy could never be made public as “nothing we publish must give succour to our enemies”.
Blair, Blunkett and the former foreign secretary Jack Straw also declined to say whether or not they were aware that the instructions had led to a number of people being tortured.
The head of MI5,?Jonathan Evans, said that, in the post 9/11 world, his officers would be derelict in their duty if they did not work with intelligence agencies in countries with poor human rights records, while his opposite number at MI6, Sir John Sawers,?spoke of the “real, constant, operational dilemmas” involved in such relationships.
Others, however, are questioning whether, in the?words of Ken Macdonald, a former director of public prosecutions, “Tony Blair’s government was guilty of developing something close to a criminal policy”.
The Intelligence and Security Committee, the group of parliamentarians appointed by the prime minister to assist with the oversight of the UK’s intelligence agencies, is known to have examined the document while sitting in secret. However, it is unclear what ? if any ? suggestions or complaints it made.
Paul Murphy, the Labour MP and former minister who chaired the committee in 2006, declined to answer questions about the matter.
A number of men, mostly British Muslims, have complained that they were questioned by MI5 and MI6 officers after being tortured by overseas intelligence officials in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Guant?namo Bay. Some are known to have been detained at the suggestion of British intelligence officers.
Others say they were tortured in places such as Egypt, Dubai, Morocco and Syria, while being interrogated on the basis of information that could only have been supplied by the UK.
Some were subsequently?convicted of serious terrorism offences or subjected to control orders. Others were returned to the UK and, after treatment, resumed their lives.
One is a?businessman in Yorkshire, another a?software designer living in Berkshire, and a third is a?doctor practising on the south coast of England.
Some of the men have brought civil proceedings against the British government, and a number have received compensation in out-of-court settlements. Others remain too frightened to take action.
Scotland Yard has examined the possibility that one officer from MI5 and a second from MI6 committed criminal offences while extracting information from detainees overseas, and detectives are now conducting what is described as a “wider investigation into other potential criminal conduct”.
A new set of instructions was drafted after last year’s election,?published on the orders of David Cameron, on the grounds that the coalition was “determined to resolve the problems of the past” and wished to give “greater clarity about what is and what is not acceptable in the future”.
Human rights groups pointed to what they said were serious loopholes that could permit MI5 and MI6 officers to remain involved in the?tortureof prisoners overseas.
The issue of alleged torture in custody continues to haunt political, military and intelligence elites on both sides of the Atlantic. On Thursday a judge in America allowed a former military contractor who claims he was imprisoned and tortured by the US army in Iraq to sue the former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld personally for damages.
The man, an army veteran whose identity has been withheld, was working as a translator for the US marines in the volatile Anbar province when he was detained for nine months at Camp Cropper, a US military facility near Baghdad airport dedicated to holding “high-value” detainees.
The US government says he was suspected of helping to pass classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces enter Iraq. But he was never charged with a crime, and he says he never broke the law.
Lawyers for the man, who is in his 50s, claim he was preparing to return to the US on annual leave when he was detained without justification and that his family were told nothing about his whereabouts or whether he was still alive.
Court papers filed on his behalf say he was repeatedly abused, then released without explanation in August 2006. Two years later, he filed a suit in Washington arguing that Rumsfeld personally approved torturous interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis and controlled his detention without access to the courts, in violation of his constitutional rights.

Alleged victims

Binyam Mohamed, 33, returned to Britain in 2009 after his release from Guantan?mo Bay. An MI5 officer was alleged to have been involved in an interview with Mohamed in Pakistan and to have seen him three times while he was being held in Morocco.
Faisal Mostafa, 47, a chemist from Stockport, was repatriated from Bangladesh last summer after being detained in Dhaka in 2009. He is said to have been hooded, strapped to a chair and questioned about the UK while a drill was driven into his shoulder and hip.
Alam Ghafoor, 40, from Huddersfield, said he was held on a business trip in the United Arab Emirates after the London 7/7 bombings. The Foreign Office insisted he had not been detained at the request of the UK. Released after signing a false confession.
Zeeshan Siddiqui, a British citizen detained by the Pakistani security services and tortured while they accused him of being a member of al-Qaida. He returned to the UK and was placed under a control order. He absconded and is still missing.
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Previous articles on RAB
Death Squad
Bangladesh Torture Centre