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U.S. will pay a price for its hypocrisy on Egypt: Siddiqui August 15, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Egypt, Foreign Policy, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: Haroon Siddiqui is that rare journalist who continues to speak truth to power in the corporate mass media.  Canadian readers will appreciate his scathing references to Stephen Harper.

The U.S. and its allies have been enablers of the grave crimes committed by the Egyptian military.

egypt.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox

Mohsen Nabil / AP Photo

Supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi capture an Egyptian security forces vehicle in Cairo on Aug. 14, 2013, after Egyptian police in riot gear swept in to clear their protest camp.

 

 

 

There has always been a hierarchy to the value of life. Kings mattered more than peasants. Killing continental European colonialists in Africa or the British in India brought the wrath of the empire down on the natives, who were strapped to the cannons and blown to bits by the hundreds. The contemporary era, with its spread of democracy, globalization and greater egalitarianism, raised hopes that all human beings would have equal value.

But the murder of 2,977 innocents on Sept. 11, 2001, led to the killing of at least 100,000 Muslim civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan. An Israeli life is deemed infinitely more valuable than that of a Palestinian. Our own government in Ottawa makes no bones about caring more about Christians in Egypt and Pakistan than Muslim victims of similar religious persecution there or in Myanmar. When the West does care about Muslims, it does so for the secular “good Muslim,” not the Islamist “bad Muslim.”

When Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s thrice-elected “Islamist” prime minister, ordered tear gas and water cannons on peaceful protesters in Istanbul, he was duly reviled. But the Egyptian army that has been firing live ammunition into peaceful “Islamist” protesters and killing them by the hundreds in the last month has only been told, politely, of our “concern.”

On July 11, Ottawa raised just such a pipsqueak “concern.” Stephen Harper’s government was more emphatic as it condemned the shooting death of a Coptic Christian priest near El Arish. “The targeting of religious leaders is unacceptable.” Following the second massacre, July 27, in which about 80 protesters were gunned down, Ottawa was “deeply concerned and appalled” — and fixated on its clarion call for respecting “religious minorities,” namely Coptic Christians.

Barack Obama was also mostly silent about the two massacres. So was David Cameron. So was much of Europe. They had refused to call the July 3 military coup a coup. In fact, John Kerry passed the perverse judgment that in toppling the elected president Mohammed Morsi, the Egyptian army was “restoring democracy.” American annual aid of $1.3 billion was to continue.

It’s only now after Wednesday’s bloody massacre of pro-Morsi protesters that Obama stirred himself to shed crocodile tears. The U.S. and its allies have been enablers of the grave crimes committed by the Egyptian military as well of the Goebbelsian lies it has been peddling.

After each official atrocity, the army has under-reported the deaths and blamed the victims, accusing them of “inciting violence,” “hoarding weapons,” “torturing people in public squares,” “fomenting terrorism” and being “a threat to national security.” It has hurled a slew of charges against Morsi — murder, treason, espionage, conspiring with Hamas, attacking and insulting state institutions, etc. It has held him incommunicado, along with several top Brotherhood leaders. It has shut down a dozen pro-Morsi TV stations, with a nary a peep from free speech advocates in the West.

The U.S., the E.U and others have also been doing the Egyptian army’s bidding by calling on “all sides” to refrain from violence when, in fact, the violence has been almost always one-sided. Western governments and media have also accused Morsi of having been unduly partisan when, in fact, he was far less so than most ruling political parties in democracies. Proportionately, he appointed far fewer dummies than, say, Harper to the Senate, or the Republicans or Democrats named friends and funders to key posts.

Morsi was inept in the extreme. But he did reach out to his opponents who simply refused to accept their repeated defeats at the polls.

It has now been credibly reported that the secular anti-Morsi forces formed an unholy alliance with Egypt’s Deep State (the army, the intelligence, the security forces, the police, the interior ministry and its paid thugs, the judiciary and the bureaucracy), along with the beneficiaries of the Hosni Mubarak era (crony capitalists and corrupt politicians) to undermine the Muslim Brotherhood government. They collaborated in mounting mass protests, in a blaze of hateful anti-Brotherhood propaganda by both the state and privately-owned media, which heralded the unproven and unprovable claims that 20 million people had taken to the streets and 22 million had signed anti-Morsi petitions. Post-coup, acute shortages of gas and electricity miraculously disappeared overnight. Law-and-order situations improved in selective neighbourhoods.

Reportedly in on the plot were the intelligence agencies of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other oil-rich Gulf states except Qatar. They hate the Brotherhood, not so much for its Islamic ideology but the democratic threat it poses to their monarchies. They rewarded the coup with $12 billion in aid.

The army conveniently claimed that the coup was only a response to the people’s will. In turn, it has been forgiven all its sins — including the virginity tests on women protesters, and the shooting of Coptic demonstrators and running them over with armoured vehicles.

What we’ve witnessed is “fascism under the false pretence of democracy and liberalism,” said Amr Hamzawy, an Egyptian political activist and former MP.

All this will not be lost on the Muslim masses in Egypt and elsewhere. There will be a price to pay — we don’t quite know when and where and how. But as American pollster Dalia Mogahed, who has surveyed Muslim societies worldwide, says, it is useful to remind ourselves that “Al Qaeda was conceived in the prisons of Egypt and, contrary to conventional wisdom, not the caves of Afghanistan.”

Haroon Siddiqui’s column appears on Thursday and Sunday. hsiddiqui@thestar.ca

 

The Banana That Roared August 21, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Ecuador, Humor, Political Commentary.
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Roger Hollander, August 21, 2012

Ecuadorian military leaders confer in preparation for awaited British invasion, photo Ferlinghetty Images.

Citing unacceptable threats to its revered sovereignty, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa Delgado today officially declared war on Great Britain.  With unprecedented multi-partisan support from the Ecuadorian legislative assembly (37 of its 39 parties in support, with only the venerable Whigs – Pelacones in Spanish – voting in the negative, and the ultra right NSC – Neither Social Nor Christian – abstaining).

The news was taken with somewhat as a surprise at 10 Downing, with Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron insisting to reporters in a crowded news conference that the Ecuadorians have no sense of humour, than anyone could tell their threat to storm the Embassy was merely a joke.  Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ricardo Patiño, in response muttered something about “mad dogs and Englishmen,” but when pressed by reporters he admitted he had no idea what it meant.  He added, that he had also once heard something about, “no sex please, we’re British,” but again conceded that he had not the slightest notion how it related to their bellicose imperialistic history.

Nevertheless, Ecuador’s declaration of war left the British government no alternative but to gear up for another conflict with a Latin American upstart nation.  “We once ruled the seas,” boasted Britain’s Supreme Admiral, Horatio Starboard, “but we still have one of the world’s finest Navies – second only to the US, China, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia.  Our problem is with the size of the country.  Ecuador is a small country.  I repeat, a small country, a very small country.  We are still trying to locate it on our radar and expect success at any moment.”

Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest serving Monarch since Queen Victoria (Reina Puritana in Spanish), who recently celebrated sixty years on the throne (no pun intended), which the British refer to as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, aptly named for the Royal Family’s Fort Knox sized repository of that precious gem), has called upon the government to re-instate former Prime Ministress Margaret Thatcher (Trabajdora en Pajas in Spanish) to lead the proud nation once again to victory against an ungrateful colony and upstart super power.  “Ecuador is just another one of those bad vines (Mal Vinas in Spanish), and Maggie will know how to handle them,” the Queen stated before nodding off.

Meanwhile, Wikileaks founder and leader, Julian Assange, remains holed up the Ecuador’s London Embassy, where he reports having had no difficulty releasing or taking leaks.  “I am learning a lot about this wonderful nation,” enthused Assange, “who would have ever thought there were so many different and wonderful ways to prepare rice and beans.  They even do it with lentejas (lentils in English)!”

Assange’s enemies were quick to jump on this latest statement by Assange, asserting that it confirmed their allegations of his commitment to Marxist-Lentilism.”

Assange’s attorney, celebrated Spanish jurist Baltazar Garzón, famous for his prosecution of Chilean Dictator Augusto Pinochet, points out that the British had no qualms about releasing mass murderer Pinochet but seem to be intent upon persecuting Assange for allegedly having had intercourse without using a condom.  “No sex please, we’re British,” he added with a wry smile

The Banana That Roared August 21, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Ecuador, Humor.
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Roger Hollander, August 21, 2012

Ecuadorian military leaders in confab to discuss impending British invasion, photo, Ferlinghetty Images.

Citing unacceptable threats to its revered sovereignty, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa Delgado today officially declared war on Great Britain.  With unprecedented multi-partisan support from the Ecuadorian legislative assembly (37 of its 39 parties in support, with only the venerable Whigs – Pelacones in Spanish – voting in the negative, and the ultra right NSC – Neither Social Nor Christian – abstaining).

The news was taken with somewhat as a surprise at 10 Downing, with Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron insisting to reporters in a crowded news conference that the Ecuadorians have no sense of humour, than anyone could tell their threat to storm the Embassy was merely a joke (LOL).  Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ricardo Patiño, in response muttered something about “mad dogs and Englishmen,” but when pressed by reporters he admitted he had no idea what it meant.  He added, that he had also once heard something about, “no sex please, we’re British,” but again conceded that he had not the slightest notion how it related to that nation’s bellicose imperialistic history.

Nevertheless, Ecuador’s declaration of war left the British government no alternative but to gear up for another conflict with a Latin American upstart nation.  “We once ruled the seas,” boasted Britain’s Supreme Admiral, Horatio Starboard, “but we still have one of the world’s finest Navies – second only to the US, China, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia.  Our problem is with the size of the country.  Ecuador is a small country.  I repeat, a small country, a very small country.  We are still trying to locate it on our radar and expect success at any moment.”

Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest serving Monarch since Queen Victoria (Reina Puritana in Spanish), who recently celebrated sixty years on the throne (no pun intended), which the British refer to as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, aptly named for the Royal Family’s Fort Knox sized repository of that precious gem), has called upon the government to re-instate former Prime Ministress Margaret Thatcher (Trabajdora en Pajas in Spanish) to lead the proud nation once again to victory against an ungrateful colony and upstart super power.  “Ecuador is just another one of those bad vines (Mal Vinas in Spanish), and Maggie will know how to handle them,” the Queen stated before nodding off.

Meanwhile, Wikileaks founder and leader, Julian Assange, remains holed up the Ecuador’s London Embassy, where he reports having had no difficulty releasing or taking leaks.  “I am learning a lot about this wonderful nation,” enthused Assange, “who would have ever thought there were so many different and wonderful ways to prepare rice and beans.  They even do it with lentejas (lentils in English)!”

Assange’s enemies were quick to jump on this latest statement by Assange, asserting that it confirmed their allegations of his commitment to Marxist-Lentilism.”

Assange’s lawyer, the celebrated Spanish Jurist Baltazar Garzón, vehemently denied this assertion and added that he cannot understand how the British could release Chilean Dictator and mass murderer Augusto Pinochet but want to punish a man for allegedly failing to use a condom.  “No sex, we’re British,” he added with a wry grin.

 

 

 

Ecuador President Rafael “We Are Not A Colony” Correa Stands Up To The Jackbooted British Gestapo August 17, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Ecuador, Latin America, Media, Sweden.
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opednews.com, August 16, 2012

Cross-posted from Paul Craig Roberts

A coward dies many deaths; a brave man dies but once.

The once proud British government, now reduced to Washington’s servile whore, put on its Gestapo Jackboots and declared that if the Ecuadorean Embassy in London did not hand over WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, British storm troopers would invade the embassy with military force and drag Assange out. Ecuador stood its ground. “We want to be very clear, we are not a British colony,” declared Ecuador’s Foreign Minister. Far from being intimidated the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, replied to the threat by granting Assange political asylum.

The once law-abiding British government had no shame in announcing that it would violate the Vienna Convention and assault the Ecuadorean Embassy, just as the Islamic students in the 1979 Khomeini Revolution in Iran took over the US Embassy and held the diplomatic staff captive. Pushed by their Washington overlords, the Brits have resorted to the tactics of a pariah state. Maybe we should be worried about British nuclear weapons.

Let’s be clear, Assange is not a fugitive from justice. He has not been charged with any crime in any country. He has not raped any women. There are no indictments pending in any court, and as no charges have been brought against him, there is no validity to the Swedish extradition request. It is not normal for people to be extradited for questioning, especially when, as in Assange’s case, he expressed his complete cooperation with being questioned a second time by Swedish officials in London.

What is this all about? First, according to news reports, Assange was picked up by two celebrity-hunting Swedish women who took him home to their beds. Later for reasons unknown, one complained that he had not used a condom, and the other complained that she had offered one helping, but he had taken two. A Swedish prosecutor looked into the case, found that there was nothing to it, and dismissed the case.

Assange left for England. Then another Swedish prosecutor, a woman, claiming what authority I do not know, reopened the case and issued an extradition order for Assange. This is such an unusual procedure that it worked its way through the entire British court system to the Supreme Court and then back to the Supreme Court on appeal. In the end British “justice” did what the Washington overlord ordered and came down on the side of the strange extradition request.

Assange, realizing that the Swedish government was going to turn him over to Washington to be held in indefinite detention, tortured, and framed as a spy, sought protection from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. As corrupt as the British are, the UK government was unwilling to release Assange directly to Washington. By turning him over to Sweden, the British could feel that their hands were clean.

Sweden, formerly an honorable country like Canada once was where American war resisters could seek asylum, has been suborned and brought under Washington’s thumb. Recently, Swedish diplomats were expelled from Belarus where they seem to have been involved in helping Washington orchestrate a “color revolution” as Washington keeps attempting to extend its bases and puppet states deeper into traditional Russia.

The entire world, including Washington’s servile puppet states, understands that once Assange is in Swedish hands, Washington will deliver an extradition order, with which Sweden, unlike the British, would comply. Regardless, Ecuador understands this. The Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino announced that Ecuador granted Assange asylum because “there are indications to presume that there could be political persecution.” In the US, Patino acknowledged, Assange would not get a fair trial and could face the death penalty in a trumped-up case.

The US Puppet State of Great (sic) Britain announced that Assange would not be permitted to leave Britain. So much for the British government’s defense of law and human rights. If the British do not invade the Ecuadorean Embassy and drag Assange out dead or in chains, the British position is that Assange will live out his life inside the London Embassy of Ecuador. According to the New York Times, Assange’s asylum leaves him “with protection from arrest only on Ecuadorean territory (which includes the embassy). To leave the embassy for Ecuador, he would need cooperation that Britain has said it will not offer.” When it comes to Washington’s money or behaving honorably in accordance with international law, the British government comes down on the side of money.

The Anglo-American world, which pretends to be the moral face of humanity has now revealed for all to see that under the mask is the face of the Gestapo.

 

 

http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal, has held numerous university appointments and is Contributing Editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. His columns are at (more…)

 

Imperial Affront: Ecuador Will Face US Wrath for Asylum Decision

(about the author)

opednews.com

It is apparent that the nation of Ecuador will now be in the frame for what American foreign policy elites like to call, in their dainty and delicate language, “the path of action.” Ecuador granted political asylum to Julian Assange on Thursday for one reason only: the very real possibility that he would be “rendered” to the United States for condign punishment, including the possibility of execution.

None of the freedom-loving democracies involved in the negotiations over his fate — Britain, Sweden, and the United States — could guarantee that this would not happen … even though Assange has not been charged with any crime under U.S. law. [And even though the sexual misconduct allegations he faces in Sweden would not be crimes under U.S. or UK law.] Under these circumstances — and after a sudden, blustering threat from Britain to violate the Ecuadorean embassy and seize Assange anyway — the government of Ecuador felt it had no choice but to grant his asylum request.

As we all know, some of America’s top political figures have openly called for Assange to be put to death for the crime of — well, what was his crime, exactly, in American eyes? His crime is this: he published information leaked to him by a whistleblower — exactly as the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, NBC, Fox News, etc., etc., do on a regular basis. Some American leaders and media blowhards have demanded he be executed for “treason,” although, as an Australian citizen, he cannot commit treason against the United States. Others say his leaking of classified documents (none of them remotely as sensitive as, say, the much-celebrated Pentagon Papers from the Vietnam Era) has put “American soldiers in danger” — even though America’s own military and intelligence officials have repeatedly stated that no one has been harmed from the publication of documents on Wikileaks.

No one has been physically harmed, that is. Of course, great harm has been done to the pride of the puffed-up poltroons who strut and preen atop the imperial battlements, thinking themselves the lords of all the earth and the apple of every little peon’s eye. Their crimes and lies and third-rate minds were exposed — in their own words — by Wikileaks: and it is for this that Assange must pay. (And be made an example of to all those who might do likewise.) Our imperial elites (and their innumerable little yapping media sycophants on both sides of the political fence) simply cannot bear to have American power and domination resisted in any way, at any time, for any reason, anywhere, by anyone. It offends their imperial dignity. It undermines their extremely fragile, frightened, frantic egos, which can only be held together by melding themselves to an image of monstrous, implacable, unstoppable power.

It also — and by no means incidentally — threatens to put a slight crimp in their bottom line, for the American system is now thoroughly militarized; the elite depend, absolutely, on war, death, terror and fear to sustain their economic dominance. As the empire’s chief sycophant, Thomas Friedman, once put it: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.” You really can’t put it any plainer than that. The only path to prosperity is through domination by armed force. Others must die, must suffer, must quake in fear, to preserve our comfort. This is Modern American Militarism in a nutshell: the ruling ideology and national religion of American society today.

Anything or anyone who threatens this dominance — or just disagrees with it, or simply wants to be left alone by it — is automatically judged an enemy of the imperial state. You must accept the system. You must get with the program. You cannot question it. The beliefs or religion or ideology of the resister (or perceived resister) do not matter in the slightest. Even the impact (or lack of impact) of the resistance doesn’t matter. It is resistance that it is the crime. It is the refusal to acknowledge the greatness and goodness of the strutters on the battlements, and the legitimacy of their armed domination over the earth, and over you.

It is not enough that you obey; you must be seen to obey. You must obey cheerfully, without complaint — just ask any of thousands and thousands of your fellow citizens who have been tasered or beaten or arrested for failing to show due deference to a police officer or security guard or any of the many other heavily armed figures out there who can stop us, hold us, put us away — or put us down — on the merest whim.

Although Britain is acting as the beard in this case, the government of the Nobel Peace Laureate is clearly driving the action. It is simply inconceivable that Washington will not find ways to punish Ecuador for this act of lèse-majesté. What form it will take remains to be seen (although it could begin with covert backing for Britain’s violation of the Ecuadorean embassy in London). But the fragile, frantic strutters will not let this pass.

***
UPDATE: Just to make it clear, sexual assault is a very serious matter. To say that the accusations now being made against Assange would not constitute a crime under U.S. or UK law is not to diminish the right of all women to be free from sexual assault in any form.

But these concerns have nothing to do with what is being played out in London right now. Assange has not actually been criminally charged with sexual assault, although this claim is repeated unceasingly in stories about the situation. [Including my post above, when I carelessly wrote "charges" in place of "allegations"; now corrected.] He is wanted for questioning in a case involving such allegations; a case which was at first dismissed by a prosecutor then reopened later by a different prosecutor. This prosecutor did not charge Assange with a crime, but wanted to question him further in the process of re-examining whether formal charges are warranted.

Now here is one of the many bizarre turns in this story. Assange was in the UK after the case was re-opened. If the prosecutors wanted to question him, they could have done so at any time, either by coming to London or interviewing him via video hookup. There are ample precedents in European and Swedish law for either course. They refused to do so. (They have also refused Ecuador’s offer to have Assange interrogated in their London embassy.) Assange has also said he would return to Sweden for questioning if the government there would guarantee he would not be extradited to the United States. This was also refused.

Given the fact that Swedish prosecutors have repeatedly turned down opportunities to question Assange about the case — even though they say this is their sole aim — it is not entirely unreasonable to assume, as Assange has done, that there is some other intention behind the process that has led to the standoff we see today. If the primary concern was justice for the two women involved in the allegations, who have had the case hanging over their heads for almost two years, Assange could have been questioned by Swedish authorities at any time during that period, and the process of resolving the case, one way or another, could have moved forward. But this has not been done.

As Assange’s lawyer, Per Samuelson, notes:

“In August 2010, Assange was interviewed by the police for the first time, then released. A month later, the prosecutor requested an additional police interrogation be held, insisting this time that it be done with Assange behind bars. She called for Assange’s arrest, issued a European arrest warrant and ordered that he be deported from the UK. Stockholm district court and the Svea court of appeal upheld her request and arrested Assange in absentia.

“Neither Assange nor I can understand the motivation. Why couldn’t the second police interview be conducted with Assange at liberty? Assange is not a Swedish citizen. He does not reside in Sweden. His work has worldwide impact and he must be able to travel freely to accomplish this. He would happily have presented himself for interrogation and, had the case gone to trial, willingly returned to Sweden to face charges. All this could have been done while he remained at liberty. Had Sweden handled the case in this way, the issue would have been resolved a long time ago.

“Instead, Sweden insists on Assange’s forcible removal to Sweden. Once there, he will immediately be seized by police and put in jail. He will be taken to the detention hearing in handcuffs, and will almost certainly be detained. He will remain in custody for the duration of the proceedings. This is unnecessary. The prosecutor is at liberty to withdraw the arrest warrant and lift the detention order, and a hearing in Sweden could be arranged very quickly. The prosecutor could also arrange a hearing in the UK or at the Swedish embassy in London.”

Again, it seems evident that the Swedish authorities did not want to pursue any of these options, but have instead sought relentlessly to put Assange in a Swedish jail and keep him there. Whatever their motives for this heavy-handed course of action, concern for victims of sexual assault does not seem to be among them.

 

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…)

UK Unions Plot a Winter of Discontent as They Ballot More Than a Million Workers for Biggest General Strike Since 1926 September 14, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Europe, Revolution.
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Published on Wednesday, September 14, 2011 by the Daily Mail/UK

 

Millions of workers including police, firefighters, health workers, teachers and prison officers could strike over bitter pension row Unions describe potential walk-out as ‘unprecedented’ in scale and ‘the biggest fight of our lives’ Unison says they will be ‘vilified’ for striking but urges members to ‘stay strong’

by Anna Edwards

A ‘winter of discontent’ looks imminent as Unison, the country’s biggest public sector workers’ union, gave formal notice today that its 1.1 million members will be balloted for industrial action in the bitter row over pensions.

A crowd of protesters made their feelings clear in London as marches take place across the country, sparked by a proposed increase in the retirement age for public sector workers and paying more into their pensions The Government face the threat of the biggest outbreak of industrial action since the 1926 General Strike after unions served notice of ballots over the row which will see workers pay an extra 3.2 per cent in pension contributions.

Unison’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, said 9,000 separate employer groups would be involved in the action, describing the ballot as ‘unprecedented’ in scale.

He blamed the Government for the ballot decision, which could see workers in school, hospitals, police and voluntary sectors, join the move.

He said: ‘A ballot unprecedented in scale will cover over a million workers in health, local government, schools, further education, police, the voluntary sector and the environment and private sector.

‘It’s a decision we don’t take lightly and the stakes are high, higher than ever before, but now is the time to make our stand.

‘It will be hard, we’ll be vilified, attacked, set against each other, but we must stay strong and united.’

The union was joined by Unite and the Fire Brigades Union, who all gave notice of ballots in the worsening row over pensions and launched angry attacks against the Government.

Mr Prentis announced to the TUC Congress in London that unions were involved in the ‘fight of our lives’ over the Government’s controversial reforms of pensions, which will see workers pay an extra 3.2 per cent in contributions.

He said Unison would work with the GMB and Unite, which could mean the country grinding to a halt if millions of the members decide to strike together.

His announcement was met with a standing ovation as delegates applauded the move, which brings the prospect of a winter of strikes closer.

Mr Prentis accused the Government of an ‘unprecedented’ attack on workers with its ‘audacious and devious’ pension reforms.

Mr Prentis said that exhaustive talks had not worked for the unions: ‘We’ve been patient, we’ve co-operated, but there comes a time when we say enough is enough because, if we don’t, they’ll be back for more.

Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary of Unite, told the conference: ‘When the coalition came to power we knew we faced the fight of our lives, we knew they would seek to weaken and divide us.

‘While we will never walk away from talks, neither can we sit on our hands. We will support days of action and tactical selective action.’

The Fire Brigades Union’s ballot of its 43,000 members raises the threat of a walkout without ‘Green Goddess’ military cover.

Firefighters last took national strike action in 2003, when Green Goddesses were used as emergency cover, but the ageing military vehicles have since been taken out of service.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, which has already announced fresh industrial action in November, said today’s moves showed that opposition was growing to the Government’s ‘raid’ on public sector pensions.

‘Following the hugely successful strike by civil servants, teachers and lecturers in June, there is a clear momentum behind our campaign that ministers cannot ignore, and they must now enter into serious and open negotiations.

‘We will now join our colleagues from across the public sector to discuss the nuts and bolts of this fightback, which we fully expect will mean industrial action on a scale not seen for many years.’

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, which is not allowed to take industrial action, warned that his members would defy the law if no deal was reached on pensions.

Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB, announced that his union’s 250,000 public sector members will also be balloted for strikes, warning that industrial action could last for months.

‘We are not talking about a day – we are talking about something that is long and hard and dirty, running through the winter, into next year and following the legislative programme right into the summer.’

The dispute will involve hospital and ambulance workers, meals-on-wheels staff, refuse collectors and cemetery workers, he said.

Mr Strutton said recent talks over pension reform had been held between Government ministers and local authority leaders, with unions ‘not even in the room’.

Public sector unions will meet later today to discuss co-ordinated action ahead of more talks with the Government planned for next week.

Joining them, workers at four British Sugar plants are to be balloted on industrial action in a dispute over pay and the ‘soaring cost of living’.

Unite said 250 members based in the East of England will vote in the coming weeks on whether to launch a campaign of strikes after rejecting a 3.5 per cent pay offer.

The union said it was seeking a pay deal equal to RPI inflation, currently running at 5.2 per cent, plus 0.5 per cent for the year to next April.

Regional officer Mick Doherty said: ‘Our members are being hit very hard by the soaring cost of living.

‘British Sugar is a very profitable company and despite its complaints that the sugar beet crop was hit by last winter’s bad weather, it is well able to afford a decent pay rise.’

The Government hit back at the ‘disappointing’ strikes, saying they had tried to reach a negotiation with unions.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s official spokesman described the calls for strike ballots as ‘disappointing’, and slammed the industrial action would be irresponsible at a time of economic difficulty.

‘Our view is that the best way forward is to continue with talks and we have always been very clear that we should try to have a constructive dialogue with the unions,’ said the spokesman.

‘Clearly, it is disappointing that there have been calls for industrial action, particularly as the talks are still ongoing.

‘On pensions, we have been very clear about the need for reform, but we have also been making the point that even after these reforms come through, public sector pensions will still be amongst the very best available.’

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, answering questions after a speech in London, said: ‘It is very regrettable that they are rushing to announce days of strikes when the discussions are still ongoing.

‘It would lovely to wave a magic wand and say we have discovered pots of gold, and the ageing population is not ageing, and, hallelujah, pension funds are entirely sustainable.

‘We entered into these discussions in good faith and we will continue to do so.”

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, who is leading negotiations for the Government, told BBC News: ‘I think the public will be really fed up if they see industrial action damaging the economy, damaging their ability to get to work and earn their own living when (they) may be paying more towards public sector pensions than they are towards their own.

‘We want this to be a proper settlement so that we know that public sector workers are going to be able to enjoy these good pensions – better pension schemes than are available almost anywhere else – but that’s on a sustainable basis.

‘I don’t want governments to be coming back in five or 10 years’ time and saying ‘We need to have another go at this because it wasn’t sorted out properly in 2011′.

‘I think the unions need to think about the effect on the public and the effect on the economy and on their own members.

‘Their own members want to be going to work, they don’t want to be giving up a day’s pay, or more than that, at a time when we are all of us working under major constraints.’

Increasingly militant transport union leaders joined in with the walkout threats, warning they were planning the ‘biggest campaign’ of civil disobedience in Britain’s history.

They plan to disrupt public services and block motorways as well as declaring they are ready to ‘go to prison’ in protest at proposed changes to pensions.

In a bid to persuade them to stop striking and wrecking the Games, transport bosses have offered hefty bonuses to railway workers amid fears the militant RMT union could wreck the Games with strikes.

Train drivers will pocket up to £1,800 simply for turning up for work during the London Olympics next summer.

Last night, MPs condemned the payments as a ‘bribe’ and accused the unions of holding the public to ransom.

Astonishingly, the Daily Mail understands that the £1,800 bonus deal with Tube drivers does not even include a no-strike clause.

The glaring omission leaves them free to pocket the cash and still cause mass disruption with industrial action.

A senior source connected with the talks said: ‘The drivers could have demanded fur coats for the wives or football season tickets for the men if they wanted.

‘It’s an amazing deal but one which the Tube had to do. There was no alternative.’

Union sources revealed a battle plan has been devised, mapping out ‘blocks’ of strikes running in ‘target areas’ for two to three days at a time.

One union leader said to expect scenes reminiscent of the 1978 ‘winter of discontent’ when rubbish filled the streets.

Another, unnamed, told the BBC: ‘In some areas there will be two or three days. In other areas it will be continuous. In other areas it will be a rolling programme.’

 

© 2011 Associated Newspapers Ltd

Britain responds to the “rule of law” nuisance March 27, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Britain, Torture.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Glenn Greenwald

(updated below - Update II)

One of the problems for the U.S. Government in releasing Guantanamo detainees has been that, upon release, they are free to talk to the world about the treatment to which they were subjected.  When the Bush administration agreed to release Australian David Hicks after almost 6 years in captivity, they did so only on the condition that he first sign a documenting stating that he was not abused and that he also agree — as The Australian put it — to an “extraordinary 12-month gag order that prevent[ed] Hicks from speaking publicly about the actions to which he has pleaded guilty or the circumstances surrounding his capture, interrogation and detention,” a gag order which “also silence[d] family members and any third party.”

Last month, in response to increasing pressure in Britain over reports of British resident Binyam Mohamed’s deterioration in Guantanamo, the Obama administration released him back to Britain.  Ever since, he has been detailing the often brutal torture to which he was subjected over several years, torture in which British intelligence officials appear to have been, at the very least, complicit.  As a result, despite the efforts of both the British Government and the Obama administration to keep concealed what was done to Mohamed, the facts about his treatment have emerged and a major political controversy has been ignited.

That’s because torture is illegal in Britain, as it is in the United States.  But unlike the United States:   Britain hasn’t completely abandoned the idea that even political officials must be accountable when they commit crimes; their political discourse isn’t dominated and infected by the subservient government-defending likes of David Ignatius, Ruth Marcus, David Broder and Stuart Taylor demanding that government officials be free to commit even serious war crimes with total impunity; and they don’t have “opposition leaders” who are so afraid of their own shadows and/or so supportive of torture that they remain mute in the face of such allegations.  To the contrary, demands for criminal investigations into these episodes of torture (including demands for war crimes investigations from conservatives) span the political spectrum in Britain:

The Conservative leader, David Cameron, called for a “targeted and clear review . . . to get to the bottom of whether Britain was knowingly or unknowingly complicit in torture”.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, said: “It is not enough for Gordon Brown to say the government does not endorse torture. There remain serious questions concerning how far senior political figures were implicated in these alleged practices.”

Because of those facts, the British Government has now been forced to commence a criminal investigation into whether British government agents colluded in Mohamed’s torture:

The attorney general, Lady Scotland, announced the unprecedented move in light of damning evidence that Britain’s security and intelligence agencies colluded with the CIA in Mohamed’s inhuman treatment and secret rendition.

She said the police inquiry would look into “possible criminal wrongdoing” in what the high court described as Mohamed’s unlawful questioning.

As The Guardian reported, the British Government was, in essence, forced into the criminal investigation once government lawyers “referred evidence of possible criminal conduct by MI5 officers to home secretary Jacqui Smith, and she passed it on to the attorney general.”  In a country that lives under what is called the “rule of law,” credible evidence of serious criminality makes such an investigation, as The Guardian put it, “inevitable.”  British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has clearly tried desperately to avoid any such investigation, yet as The Washington Post reported this morning, even he was forced to say in response:  “I have always made clear that when serious allegations are made they have got to be investigated.”   

Wouldn’t it be nice if our government leaders could make a similar, extremely uncontroversial statement — credible allegations of lawbreaking by our highest political leaders must be investigated and, if warranted, prosecuted?   In a country with a minimally healthy political culture, that ought to be about as uncontroversial as it gets.  Instead, what we have are political leaders and media stars virtually across the board spouting lawless Orwellian phrases about being “more interested in looking forward than in looking backwards” and not wanting to “criminalize public service.”  These apologist manuevers continue despite the fact that, as even conservative Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum recently acknowledged in light of newly disclosed detailed ICRC Reports, “that crimes were committed is no longer in doubt.” 

Even in the U.S., each new disclosure of just how pervasive and brutal was our Government’s criminality prompts new calls for investigations from previously government-defending precincts, and — thanks largely to the ACLU and other groups — some of the most potent new disclosures are imminent.   As a result, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for David Ignatius and friends to dismiss advocates of investigations as “liberal score-settlers” when people like Bush 41 U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Reagan FBI Director William Sessions, Gen. Antonio Taguba, and Anne Applebaum are now demanding investigations into these crimes of torture. 

As more detainees are released and are thus able to speak publicly about what was done to them, and as more documents are leaked and are formally disclosed, the extent of our Government’s depraved criminality will be increasingly difficult to ignore, no matter how eager our current Government might be to do so.  Indeed, even investigations in places like Britian — which centrally involve receipt of CIA telegrams detailing Mohamed’s torture — are highly likely to lead to the disclosure of even more graphic and incriminating evidence proving that American leaders committed war crimes.  The profoundly incriminating evidence is piling up, and will continue to, on its own.

Still, just look at what is happening in Britain to see how far off course we are from even a pretense to living under the rule of law.  The British have hardly been paragons of human rights and transparency.  They’ve worked as closely with the Bush administration in most of these abuses as any other country in the world (with the possible exceptions of Egypt and Morocco).  And their government has been almost as desperate as ours to keep secret what was done.

Nonetheless, despite allegations of criminality far less extensive than those that have been made against the U.S., their political system is compelling serious investigations into these crimes.  That’s because for countries that aren’t completely corrupted to their core, political leaders aren’t free to commit serious crimes and then simply be shielded from investigation and accountability.  Credible allegations of high-level criminality — and only the hardest-core Bush followers deny that we have that — compel criminal investigations.  As the British controversy demonstrates, that isn’t remotely a controversial proposition for anyone who believes in the most basic precepts of the rule of law.

* * * * *

Just as a reminder of two upcoming events:

(1) On the evening of March 31, I’ll be at Ithaca College to receive the first annual Izzy Award for independent journalism — named after the great I.F. Stone — along with my co-recipient Amy Goodman.  Both Amy and I will be speaking at the event on independent media and related issues, and more than 1,000 people are expected.  The event is free and open to the public and event details are here.

(2) On April 3, beginning at noon, I’ll be at the Cato Institute in Washington to present my drug policy report, entitled Drug Decrimialization in Portugal, which details that country’s successes with its 2001 decision to decriminalize all drug possession and usage.  Event details and RSVP are on Cato’s site (here), where it can also be watched live.  I wrote about the background of the report here.

 

UPDATE:  Just to underscore one point:  Britain also has a financial crisis to deal with.  They also have a “future,” not just a past, to address.  They also have faced, and still face, terrorist threats.  Criminal investigations and prosecution would also be controversial for them and create partisan divisions.

But they’re still proceeding to investigate credible allegations of serious crimes on the part of their government officials.  That’s what the “rule of law” means.

 

UPDATE II:  Knowing that exposure of its actions would prove its severe criminality, it was just recently revealed the Bush administration also tried to induce Mohamed to accept a gag order similar to the one Hicks accepted, whereby Mohamed would have been freed from Guantanamo last year if he agreed (a) not to talk publicly about the treatment he received and (b) cease all efforts to prove in court that he was tortured and/or to obtain documents proving that he was mistreated (h/t Jim White). He refused.

So:  we put people into cages for years with no charges and tortured them, and then told them that we would release them only if they agreed to keep silent about what we did to them and renounce all claims for judicial accountability and disclosure.  If they refused the vow of silence — as Mohamed did — they would stay in their cage. 

– Glenn Greenwald

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