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U.S. gives Cuba cold shoulder over prisoners and their suffering families April 27, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Cuba, Foreign Policy, Labor.
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Roger’s note: here is just another example of Obama following the same  foreign policy as bush and his predecessors  with respect to Latin America, as with  his ((and Secretary of State Clinton’s) tacit support for the coup in Honduras and Paraguay, not to mention Venezuela.  As a Latin Americanist I am more than disgusted with Obama and his phony campaign gimmick about change you can believe in.
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JOSE GOITIA / Toronto Star file photo

The Cuban Five, who were convicted in Miami of espionage, are portrayed on a billboard near Havana as then Cuban president Fidel Castro delivers a speech, in this photo from June 23, 2001

She’s 43 years old, childless, and lives in Cuba, while her husband of a quarter-century is incarcerated in a U.S. maximum-security prison, having served just 14 years of a soul-crushing sentence — two life terms plus 15 years.

So what are the odds that Adriana Perez and her spouse, Gerardo Hernandez, will ever have a child together?

Right now, those chances are looking extremely slim.

Or, as Perez put it just the other day: “It’s another one of our rights that is being violated.”

In this case, the right to bear children.

An intense, somewhat diminutive woman with dark, striking features and a crown of wavy black hair, the Cuban activist was in town last week to address an assembly of about 160 mostly left-leaning Torontonians. They crowded into the United Steelworkers Hall at 25 Cecil St. to hear a tale of American hard-heartedness and duplicity, at least as it’s framed by one of its victims.

Perez’s husband belongs to a group of convicted men who are now widely known as the Cuban Five, men long regarded as national heroes in Cuba, their pictures splashed across billboards, posters, TV screens and car bumpers.

In the United States, however, the same individuals are vilified as foreign spies, criminals who broke the law and who richly deserve to be behind bars.

Behold the core configuration of Cuba-U.S. relations in the early years of the third millennium: a tale of five Cuban convicts — plus one yanqui detainee.

The gringo in this story is a 63-year-old American by the name of Alan Gross, who is currently doing time in a Cuban jail.

Put them together, and what you’ve got is possibly the main obstacle to progress on what may well be the most bizarrely dysfunctional bilateral relationship in the world, a state of bitter enmity that has alternately fumed and flared for more than 50 years, pitting Washington and Havana in what some regard as the final battleground of the Cold War.

The Cold War, of course, is over — and ideological disagreement no longer has much to do with the stubborn antipathy that continues to dominate U.S.-Cuba relations.

Even the experts seem stymied by the remarkable and seemingly illogical persistence of the dispute.

“There is no explanation,” says Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a Washington-based think-tank. “This is the war without end — the war against Cuba.”

To some degree, that war can now be reduced to a conflict over prisoners — five Cubans and one American.

Where the Cubans are concerned, time is fast running out.

“The real fear is that the United States is essentially destroying the prospects of these families to have children,” says Birns. “The inability to have children confronts all of them.”

It is certainly staring Adriana Perez straight in the face, as she travels the world trying to drum up support for her husband and his four comrades.

In fact, her hopes for children may already be moot.

Here’s the story so far.

Dispatched to south Florida in the 1990s, the five Cuban men were on a long-term clandestine mission — no one denies that — but they were not spies in the conventional sense, according to their defenders. They were not interested in undermining the U.S. government or its institutions. Instead, they spent their time monitoring the activities of radical Cuban-American groups fiercely opposed to the government of Fidel Castro and not averse to violence.

Later, Havana offered to share its intelligence with the U.S. government.

That was a mistake.

Instead of saying gracias, compañeros, American authorities responded by arresting the five Cubans and charging them with a raft of espionage-related crimes.

Lawyers for the five sought to move the trial out of Miami, with its volatile anti-Castro community, but those efforts were rebuffed.

“That was quite shocking,” says Birns. “In south Florida, it’s hard to imagine you could get an impartial jury.”

Impartial or not, the Miami jurors subsequently convicted the defendants on all counts, and the men were sentenced in 2001 to sometimes astoundingly long prison terms, most notably the sentence meted out to the husband of Adriana Perez.

With one exception — Rene Gonzalez, who was released from a federal prison in 2011 but is still serving three years of parole — the Cubans have remained behind bars ever since.

“In spite of this, they have not lost their optimism that they will return to Cuba,” said Perez, who hasn’t seen her husband since the 1990s — and not for lack of trying.

On at least 10 occasions, she has sought a U.S. visa in order to visit Hernández in jail, only to be turned down each time.

This past week, she called on a highly sympathetic Toronto audience to step up their efforts to win the release of the five.

“I ask each one of you, when you leave here, to think, ‘What would I do if it was my son or brother or father who was in jail?’ ” she said. U.S. President Barack Obama “is not going to give freedom to the five spontaneously or because he is a good person.”

What’s needed, she said, is political pressure.

That pressure could take many different forms, but it seems unlikely they will include a prisoner exchange, although the Cubans have earnestly sought one.

Cue Alan Gross, a possibly somewhat naive American who was arrested in Havana in 2009, while working on a “pro-democracy” project funded by the United States Agency for International Development, a contract that involved providing electronic communications equipment to the island’s minuscule Jewish community.

For that activity, the Cubans arrested the American and put him on trial. He is now serving a 15-year sentence for crimes against the Cuban state.

Havana has left no doubt that it would agree to a swap — Gross’s freedom in return for the release of some or all of the five. But Washington says no.

“The U.S. position is these are not comparable detainees,” says Christopher Sabatini, policy director at the Council of the Americas, a research and analysis forum based in New York. “I don’t think the United States is going to budge on this.”

As a result, the two neighbours remain suspended in the same state of mutual hostility and diplomatic paralysis that has prevailed for almost as long as Cuba has been governed by someone named Castro.

Nowadays, the man in charge in Havana is Raul Castro, Fidel’s slightly younger brother and a considerably more pragmatic individual than his elder sibling ever was.

By most accounts, Raul badly wants to ease tensions with Washington — for economic reasons, above all, given the dilapidated state of the island’s economy. But his government also seems deeply committed to securing the release of the Cuban Five.

“They have tried every conceivable measure to show they are conciliatory,” says Birns in Washington. “They are giving away the store in terms of the concessions they are granting. You would think that Washington would want to dance around the maypole.”

Instead, the Obama administration continues to include Cuba on its list of “terrorist” states — a tired anachronism at best — and to maintain its long-running economic embargo against the island.

“We’re in a complete stalemate,” says Sabatini.

It sometimes seems that nothing short of the Second Coming could inspire a change in the official U.S. stance on Cuba.

Consider the recent appointment of John Kerry as U.S. secretary of state. Many observers expected the former Democratic presidential candidate to provide a fresh new look to Washington’s outmoded policy toward the island. After all, he has long advocated a range of measures that would reduce tensions between the two sides. So far, however, there is little sign that Kerry is sparing much time pondering the fate either of the Cuban Five or of the remaining 11 million islanders still sweltering in the Antillean sea breeze roughly 100 kilometres across the Straits of Florida from Key West.

“That’s the shamefulness of it,” says Birns. “This is the great curse. It’s an unvisited policy.”

According to Sabatini, Cuba receives little attention from the State Department in Washington at least partly because the U.S. has far bigger foreign-policy concerns, from North Korea to China to the Middle East.

Besides, he says, improved relations with the island would spell only minor economic and political benefits for the United States, while risking a much more formidable downside — the outrage of Cuban-Americans in south Florida.

“The amount of noise they would cause is huge,” he says. “So why do it?”

In the absence of a clear directive from the White House, he believes it is inevitable that Cuba policy will remain mired in bureaucratic inertia and outdated thinking.

After all, the U.S. Senate’s foreign affairs committee is chaired by Bob Menendez, a retrograde Cuban-American who would not look fondly on ambassadorial candidates with a history of progressive-minded ideas about his ancestral island home.

“The problem is that, for career people in Washington, being behind a Cuba change is a death sentence,” says Sabatini. “They want to be ambassadors. They’d never be approved.”

Still, there may be at least a glimmer of change on the short-term horizon, as Obama prepares to travel to the region next month, a trip that will include stops in Mexico and Costa Rica.

The United States is now the only country in the Americas that does not have normal diplomatic relations with Havana, and Latin American leaders are impatient with what they see as U.S. foot-dragging.

That frustration might be enough to produce a shift in Washington’s tone, if not something more concrete.

“There are rumblings of change,” says Sabatini. “But it will have to come from the White House.”

Meanwhile, Adriana Perez continues to traverse the globe, on an increasingly urgent campaign to secure the release of her husband.

“We hope it comes soon,” she said in Toronto last Saturday, “because it’s already too late.”

For more about Cuba — the good, the not-so-good, and the downright glorious — check out Oakland Ross’s eRead, Cuba Libre. Simply go to stardispatches.com and subscribe for $1/week. Cuba Libre is also available for single-copy purchase at itunes.ca or starstore.ca for $2.99.

Evacuate Guantanamo – It Belongs to Cuba November 24, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Foreign Policy, History, Latin America, Torture.
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A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Washington’s illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay is now 111 years old.”

As the world witnesses the latest chapter in Israel’s occupation and blockade of Palestinians, it is important to remember that the United States has also been engaged in many of the same violations of international law against one of its own neighbors – and for an even longer period of time. The U.S. embargo against Cuba is seven years older than the Israeli seizure of the West Bank and Gaza, in 1967, while Washington’s illegal occupation of Guantanamo Bay is now 111 years old, predating Israel’s 1948 formation out of Palestinian land by nearly half a century.

Guantanamo Bay was seized by the United States during the Second Cuban War of Independence from Spain, which the Americans prefer to call the Spanish American War. The United States intervened in that war in 1898, with the purpose of making Cuba into a U.S. colony, as it did to Puerto Rico and the Philippines. In 1901, the United States Senate passed the Platt Amendment, which demanded that Cuba lease naval bases to Washington. Guantanamo was signed away in perpetuity under the point of a gun, although it is a principle of international law that treaties concluded under military occupation are not valid. After the Revolution, the Cuban constitution repudiated all agreements made “under conditions of inequality.” But the Americans remained. They turned one of Cuba’s most precious natural resources, Guantanamo Bay, into a curse on the lips of the world, as a prison camp for desperate Haitian refugees, and then as a nexus of American international criminality and torture.

Most Americans know Guantanamo’s recent, shameful notoriety, but few are aware that the U.S. presence there has always been a crime against the Cuban people – a crime that goes back more than twice as far as the 1960 embargo.

In Latin America, it is the United States that has been a direct and constant threat to the sovereignty and dignity of its neighbors.”

But Cuba does not forget. When the United Nations voted 188 to 3, last week, to condemn the U.S. embargo, Cuba submitted to Washington a “draft agenda” aimed at normalizing relations. At the top of the list, of course, is “the lifting of the economic, commercial and financial blockade.” Also included among the “fundamental topics” for any “respectful dialogue” is “return of the territory occupied by the Guantanamo Naval Base.” The Cubans insist on their removal from the U.S. list of “terrorism-sponsoring countries”; an end to U.S. immigration policies that single out Cuba; compensation for economic and human damages inflicted on Cuba by the United States; a halt to “radio and TV aggressions” against Cuba; and that the U.S. stop financing subversion inside Cuba.

The Cubans say release of the Cuban Five, imprisoned for infiltrating right-wing Cuban exile groups in Florida, is “an essential element” of meaningful talks.

U.S. media pundits worry that Washington has lost its ability to act as a mediator in the Middle East, because it has for generations protected the expansionist, hyper-aggressive and thoroughly racist Israeli regime. And this is true. But in Latin America, it is the United States that has been a direct and constant threat to the sovereignty and dignity of its neighbors, through centuries of gunboat diplomacy, invasions, the colonization of Puerto Rico and the near-colonization of Cuba. The occupation of Guantanamo Bay is part of that imperial legacy – a game in which Israel is a relative – although extremely dangerous – upstart. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

The Crime of Truth: Obama’s Persecution of the Peacemaker March 11, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, War.
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(about the author)

opednews.com

If any one person can be said to have ended the direct involvement of the United States military in Iraq, it is not the man whose champions  claim this deed as one of his glorious accomplishments: Barack Obama. As we all know (and 99 percent of us have forgotten), Obama fought  doggedly to extend the murderous occupation of Iraq into the indefinite  future.
No, if you had to choose one person whose actions were  the most instrumental in ending the overt phase of the war, it would not the commander-in-chief of the most powerful war machine in world  history, but a lowly foot-soldier — mocked, shackled, tortured,  defenseless — Bradley Manning

William Blum points this out in his latest “Anti-Empire Report,” as he recaps the impact of the revelations made by Manning and  Wikileaks. He begins by noting a painful irony: Manning’s own defense  team is playing down the heroic nature of this act and instead insisting that such a “sexually troubled” young man should never have been sent  to the homophobic environment of the American occupation force in the  first place. He was under too much stress, acting irrationally, they  say, and thus should not be held accountable for his actions.

 

As Blum  notes, this defense — though doubtless well-intentioned, a desperate  bid to keep Obama’s massive war machine from crushing Manning completely under its wheels — partakes of the same deceitful twisting of reality  that has characterized the entire war crime from the beginning. Blum:

“It’s unfortunate and disturbing that  Bradley Manning’s attorneys have chosen to consistently base his legal  defense upon the premise that personal problems and shortcomings are  what motivated the young man to turn over hundreds of thousands of  classified government files to Wikileaks. They should not be presenting  him that way any more than Bradley should be tried as a criminal or  traitor. He should be hailed as a national hero. Yes, even when the  lawyers are talking to the military mind. May as well try to penetrate  that mind and find the freest and best person living there. Bradley also wears a military uniform.

“Here are Manning’s own words from an  online chat: ‘If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the  public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in  Washington DC … what would you do? … God knows what happens now.  Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. … I want people  to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make  informed decisions as a public.’
Is the world to believe that  these are the words of a disturbed and irrational person? Do not the  Nuremberg Tribunal and the Geneva Conventions speak of a higher duty  than blind loyalty to one’s government, a duty to report the war crimes  of that government?”

Every scrap of evidence presented about Manning’s alleged crimes  makes it clear that he was acting from rational, well-considered  motives, based on the highest ideals. Indeed, wasn’t Manning simply  following the words of Jesus Christ — words carved in stone, with the  most bitter irony, in the entranceway of the original headquarters of  the CIA: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you  free.”
In any case, as Blum points out, the effects of Manning’s actions were far-reaching:

“It was after seeing American war crimes  such as those depicted in the video ‘Collateral Murder’ and documented  in the ‘Iraq War Logs,’ made public by Manning and Wikileaks, that the  Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes.  The video depicts an American helicopter indiscriminately murdering  several non-combatants in addition to two Reuters journalists, and the  wounding of two little children, while the helicopter pilots cheer the  attacks in a Baghdad suburb like it was the Army-Navy game in  Philadelphia.
“The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal  jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law —  something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many  countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama  administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country.
“If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today …”

But he is not a free man, of course. It is very likely that he will  never be free again. He will spend the rest of his life in a federal  prison for the unforgivable crime of telling the truth to people who  don’t want to hear it.

 
NOTE: A tribute to Bradley and his fellow truth-tellers can be found here: The Good Corporal: To the Exposers of Power and the Troublers of Dreams.

 

This one goes out to Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Daniel Ellsberg, Sibel Edmonds, and “all those who speak the hard truth to the state.”

 

The Good Corporal

Good corporal, good corporal, now what have you done?

You’ve laid out the dead in the light of the sun.

 You’ve opened the door where the dark deeds go on,

Where the fine words of freedom are broken like bones.

Good corporal, good corporal, you tell us of crime

Done in the name of your country and mine.

Of torture and murder, corruption and lies,

In a land where no echo will carry the cries.

Good corporal, good corporal, now who do we blame

For the horrors you bring us, for this undying shame?

Should we lay all the guilt on the grunts with no name,

Or the high and the mighty who rigged up this game?
Good corporal, good corporal, don’t you know the fate

Of all those who speak the hard truth to the State

And all who trouble the people’s sweet dreams?

They’re mocked into scorn and torn apart at the seams.

Good corporal, good corporal, what have you done?

You’ve laid out the dead in the light of the sun.

  © 2010 by Chris Floyd

Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times and many (more…)

The Anti-Empire Report

March 5th, 2012   by William Blum www.killinghope.org

The Saga of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Wikileaks, to be put to ballad and film

“Defense lawyers say Manning was clearly a troubled young soldier whom the Army should never have deployed to Iraq or given access to classified material while he was stationed there … They say he was in emotional turmoil, partly because he was a gay soldier at a time when homosexuals were barred from serving openly in the U.S. armed forces.” (Associated Press, February 3)

It’s unfortunate and disturbing that Bradley Manning’s attorneys have chosen to consistently base his legal defense upon the premise that personal problems and shortcomings are what motivated the young man to turn over hundreds of thousands of classified government files to Wikileaks.  They should not be presenting him that way any more than Bradley should be tried as a criminal or traitor.  He should be hailed as a national hero.  Yes, even when the lawyers are talking to the military mind.  May as well try to penetrate that mind and find the freest and best person living there.  Bradley also wears a military uniform.

Here are Manning’s own words from an online chat: “If you had free reign over classified networks … and you saw incredible things, awful things … things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC … what would you do? … God knows what happens now.  Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms. … I want people to see the truth … because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”

Is the world to believe that these are the words of a disturbed and irrational person?  Do not the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Geneva Conventions speak of a higher duty than blind loyalty to one’s government, a duty to report the war crimes of that government?

Below is a listing of some of the things revealed in the State Department cables and Defense Department files and videos.  For exposing such embarrassing and less-than-honorable behavior, Bradley Manning of the United States Army and Julian Assange of Wikileaks may spend most of their remaining days in a modern dungeon, much of it while undergoing that particular form of torture known as “solitary confinement”.  Indeed, it has been suggested that the mistreatment of Manning has been for the purpose of making him testify against and implicating Assange.  Dozens of members of the American media and public officials have called for Julian Assange’s execution or assassination.  Under the new National Defense Authorization Act, Assange could well be kidnaped or assassinated.  What century are we living in?  What world?

It was after seeing American war crimes such as those depicted in the video “Collateral Murder” and documented in the “Iraq War Logs,” made public by Manning and Wikileaks, that the Iraqis refused to exempt US forces from prosecution for future crimes.  The video depicts an American helicopter indiscriminately murdering several non-combatants in addition to two Reuters journalists, and the wounding of two little children, while the helicopter pilots cheer the attacks in a Baghdad suburb like it was the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.

The insistence of the Iraqi government on legal jurisdiction over American soldiers for violations of Iraqi law — something the United States rarely, if ever, accepts in any of the many countries where its military is stationed — forced the Obama administration to pull the remaining American troops from the country.

If Manning had committed war crimes in Iraq instead of exposing them, he would be a free man today, as are the many hundreds/thousands of American soldiers guilty of truly loathsome crimes in cities like Haditha, Fallujah, and other places whose names will live in infamy in the land of ancient Mesopotamia.

Besides playing a role in writing finis to the awful Iraq war, the Wikileaks disclosures helped to spark the Arab Spring, beginning in Tunisia.

When people in Tunisia read or heard of US Embassy cables revealing the extensive corruption and decadence of the extended ruling family there — one long and detailed cable being titled: “CORRUPTION IN TUNISIA: WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE” — how Washington’s support of Tunisian President Ben Ali was not really strong, and that the US would not support the regime in the event of a popular uprising, they took to the streets.

Here is a sample of some of the other Wikileaks revelations that make the people of the world wiser:

      • In 2009 Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano became the new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which plays the leading role in the investigation of whether Iran is developing nuclear weapons or is working only on peaceful civilian nuclear energy projects.  A US embassy cable of October 2009 said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency.  Amano reminded the [American] ambassador on several occasions that … he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”
      • Russia refuted US claims that Iran has missiles that could target Europe.
      • The British government’s official inquiry into how it got involved in the Iraq War was deeply compromised by the government’s pledge to protect the Bush administration in the course of the inquiry.
      • A discussion between Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and American Gen. David H. Petraeus in which Saleh indicated he would cover up the US role in missile strikes against al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen.  “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh told Petraeus.
      • The US embassy in Madrid has had serious points of friction with the Spanish government and civil society: a) trying to get the criminal case dropped against three US soldiers accused of killing a Spanish television cameraman in Baghdad during a 2003 unprovoked US tank shelling of the hotel where he and other journalists were staying; b )torture cases brought by a Spanish NGO against six senior Bush administration officials, including former attorney general Alberto Gonzales; c) a Spanish government investigation into the torture of Spanish subjects held at Guantánamo; d) a probe by a Spanish court into the use of Spanish bases and airfields for American extraordinary rendition (= torture) flights; e )continual criticism of the Iraq war by Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, who eventually withdrew Spanish troops.
      • State Department officials at the United Nations, as well as US diplomats in various embassies, were assigned to gather as much of the following information as possible about UN officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, permanent security council representatives, senior UN staff, and foreign diplomats: e-mail and website addresses, internet user names and passwords,  personal encryption keys, credit card numbers, frequent flyer account numbers, work schedules, and biometric data.  US diplomats at the embassy in Asunción, Paraguay were asked to obtain dates, times and telephone numbers of calls received and placed by foreign diplomats from China, Iran and the Latin American leftist states of Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia.  US diplomats in Romania, Hungary and Slovenia were instructed to provide biometric information on “current and emerging leaders and advisers” as well as information about “corruption” and information about leaders’ health and “vulnerability”.  The UN directive also specifically asked for “biometric information on ranking North Korean diplomats”. A similar cable to embassies in the Great Lakes region of Africa said biometric data included DNA, as well as iris scans and fingerprints.
      • A special “Iran observer” in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku reported on a dispute that played out during a meeting of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.  An enraged Revolutionary Guard Chief of Staff, Mohammed Ali Jafari, allegedly got into a heated argument with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and slapped him in the face because the generally conservative president had, surprisingly, advocated freedom of the press.
      • The State Department, virtually alone in the Western Hemisphere, did not unequivocally condemn a June 28, 2009 military coup in Honduras, even though an embassy cable declared: “there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch”.  US support of the coup government has been unwavering ever since.
      • The leadership of the Swedish Social Democratic Party — neutral, pacifist, and liberal Sweden, so the long-standing myth goes — visited the US embassy in Stockholm and asked for advice on how best to sell the war in Afghanistan to a skeptical Swedish public, asking if the US could arrange for a member of the Afghan government to come visit Sweden and talk up NATO’s humanitarian efforts on behalf of Afghan children, and so forth.  [For some years now Sweden has been, in all but name, a member of NATO and the persecutor of Julian Assange, the latter to please a certain Western power.]
      • The US pushed to influence Swedish wiretapping laws so communication passing through the Scandinavian country could be intercepted.  The American interest was clear: Eighty per cent of all the internet traffic from Russia travels through Sweden.
      • President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy told US embassy officials in Brussels in January 2010 that no one in Europe believed in Afghanistan anymore.  He said Europe was going along in deference to the United States and that there must be results in 2010, or “Afghanistan is over for Europe.”
      • Iraqi officials saw Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state.  The Iraqi leaders were keen to assure their American patrons that they could easily “manage” the Iranians, who wanted stability; but that the Saudis wanted a “weak and fractured” Iraq, and were even “fomenting terrorism that would destabilize the government”.  The Saudi King, moreover, wanted a US military strike on Iran.
      • Saudi Arabia in 2007 threatened to pull out of a Texas oil refinery investment unless the US government intervened to stop Saudi Aramco from being sued in US courts for alleged oil price fixing.  The deputy Saudi oil minister said that he wanted the US to grant Saudi Arabia sovereign immunity from lawsuits
      • Saudi donors were the chief financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba,  which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
      • Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company, hired investigators to unearth evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general in order to persuade him to drop legal action over a controversial 1996 drug trial involving children with meningitis.
      • Oil giant Shell claimed to have “inserted staff” and fully infiltrated Nigeria’s government.
      • The Obama administration renewed military ties with Indonesia in spite of serious concerns expressed by American diplomats about the Indonesian military’s activities in the province of West Papua, expressing fears that the Indonesian government’s neglect, rampant corruption and human rights abuses were stoking unrest in the region.
      • US officials collaborated with Lebanon’s defense minister to spy on, and allow Israel to potentially attack, Hezbollah in the weeks that preceded a violent May 2008 military confrontation in Beirut.
      • Gabon president Omar Bongo allegedly pocketed millions in embezzled funds from central African states, channeling some of it to French political parties in support of Nicolas Sarkozy.
      • Cables from the US embassy in Caracas in 2006 asked the US Secretary of State to warn President Hugo Chávez against a Venezuelan military intervention to defend the Cuban revolution in the eventuality of an American invasion after Castro’s death.
      • The United States was concerned that the leftist Latin American television network, Telesur, headquartered in Venezuela, would collaborate with al Jazeera of Qatar, whose coverage of the Iraq War had gotten under the skin of the Bush administration.
      • The Vatican told the United States it wanted to undermine the influence of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez in Latin America because of concerns about the deterioration of Catholic power there.  It feared that Chávez was seriously damaging relations between the Catholic church and the state by identifying the church hierarchy in Venezuela as part of the privileged class.
      • The Holy See welcomed President Obama’s new outreach to Cuba and hoped for further steps soon, perhaps to include prison visits for the wives of the Cuban Five.  Better US-Cuba ties would deprive Hugo Chávez of one of his favorite screeds and could help restrain him in the region.
      • The wonderful world of diplomats: In 2010, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton the question of visas for two wives of members of the “Cuban Five”.  “Brown requested that the wives (who have previously been refused visas to visit the U.S.) be granted visas so that they could visit their husbands in prison. … Our subsequent queries to Number 10 indicate that Brown made this request as a result of a commitment that he had made to UK trade unionists, who form part of the Labour Party’s core constituency.  Now that the request has been made, Brown does not intend to pursue this matter further.  There is no USG action required.”
      • UK Officials concealed from Parliament how the US was allowed to bring cluster bombs onto British soil in defiance of a treaty banning the housing of such weapons.
      • A cable was sent by an official at the US Interests Section in Havana in July 2006, during the runup to the Non-Aligned Movement conference.  He noted that he was actively looking for “human interest stories and other news that shatters the myth of Cuban medical prowess”.  [Presumably to be used to weaken support for Cuba amongst the member nations at the conference.]
      • Most of the men sent to Guantánamo prison were innocent people or low-level operatives; many of the innocent individuals were sold to the US for bounty.
      • DynCorp, a powerful American defense contracting firm that claims almost $2 billion per year in revenue from US tax dollars, threw a “boy-play” party for Afghan police recruits.  (Yes, it’s what you think.)
      • Even though the Bush and Obama Administrations repeatedly maintained publicly that there was no official count of civilian casualties, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs showed that this claim was untrue.
      • Known Egyptian torturers received training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.
      • The United States put great pressure on the Haitian government to not go ahead with various projects, with no regard for the welfare of the Haitian people.  A 2005 cable stressed continued US insistence that all efforts must be made to keep former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, whom the United States had overthrown the previous year, from returning to Haiti or influencing the political process.  In 2006, Washington’s target was President René Préval for his agreeing to a deal with Venezuela to join Caracas’s Caribbean oil alliance, PetroCaribe, under which Haiti would buy oil from Venezuela, paying only 60 percent up front with the remainder payable over twenty-five years at 1 percent interest.  And in 2009, the State Department backed American corporate opposition to an increase in the minimum wage for Haitian workers, the poorest paid in the Western Hemisphere.
      • The United States used threats, spying, and more to try to get its way at the crucial 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen.
      • Mahmoud Abbas, president of The Palestinian National Authority, and head of the Fatah movement, turned to Israel for help in attacking Hamas in Gaza in 2007.
      • The British government trained a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a “government death squad”.
      • A US military order directed American forces not to investigate cases of torture of detainees by Iraqis.
      • The US was involved in the Australian government’s 2006 campaign to oust Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
      • A 2009 US cable said that police brutality in Egypt against common criminals was routine and pervasive, the police using force to extract confessions from criminals on a daily basis.
      • US diplomats pressured the German government to stifle the prosecution of CIA operatives who abducted and tortured Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen.  [El-Masri was kidnaped by the CIA while on vacation in Macedonia on December 31, 2003.  He was flown to a torture center in Afghanistan, where he was beaten, starved, and sodomized.  The US government released him on a hilltop in Albania five months later without money or the means to go home.]
      • 2005 cable re “widespread severe torture” by India, the widely-renowned “world’s largest democracy”: The International Committee of the Red Cross reported: “The continued ill-treatment of detainees, despite longstanding ICRC-GOI [Government of India] dialogue, have led the ICRC to conclude that New Delhi condones torture.”  Washington was briefed on this matter by the ICRC years ago.  What did the United States, one of the world’s leading practitioners and teachers of torture in the past century, do about it?  American leaders, including the present ones, continued to speak warmly of “the world’s largest democracy”; as if torture and one of the worst rates of poverty and child malnutrition in the world do not contradict the very idea of democracy.
      • The United States overturned a ban on training the Indonesian Kopassus army special forces — despite the Kopassus’s long history of arbitrary detention, torture and murder — after the Indonesian President threatened to derail President Obama’s trip to the country in November 2010.
      • Since at least 2006 the United States has been funding political opposition groups in Syria, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country.

William Blum is the author of:

      • Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
      • Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower
      • West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
      • Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Portions of the books can be read, and signed copies purchased, at www.killinghope.org

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