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South Tyneside Stop the War / Britain and Its Allies Must Cease All Intervention in Liby
« Last post by Roger on February 07, 2016, 07:21:18 PM »
Britain and Its Allies Must Cease All Intervention in Libya

As Yemen Bleeds, British Profits from Weapons Sales “Bury Human Rights”

By Felicity Arbuthnot

Global Research, February 04, 2016

Region: Europe, Middle East & North Africa

Theme: Law and Justice, US NATO War Agenda

David Cameron receives the King Abdullah Decoration One from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah. Cameron said: ‘The reason we have the relationship is our own national security. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Featured image: David Cameron receives the King Abdullah Decoration One from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah. (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“Out of the mirror they stare,

Imperialism’s face

And the international wrong.”

(W.H. Auden, 1907-1973.)

It is more than possible to speculate why Prime Minister David Cameron has declared it his mission to scrap the Human Rights Act – which is incorporated into the European Convention on Human Rights – it appears he simply does not believe in human rights.

For example, the fact that Saudi Arabia executed – including beheadings – forty seven people in one day last month, displaying their bodies from gibbets, failed to deter him from having British military experts to work with their Saudi counterparts, advising on which targets – and which people, it seems – to bomb in Yemen. Parliament has not been consulted, thus, without a chance to debate and vote, democracy too has been suspended.

 The fact that in May 2013 Saudi also beheaded five Yemenis, then used cranes to display their headless bodies against the skyline (Al-Akhbar, 21st May 2013) also did not trouble him. Neither did that by 10th November 2015, the year’s total of executions had already reached one hundred and fifty one, the highest for twenty years, in what Amnesty International called “a bloody executions spree.”

 But why care about human rights or outright savagery when there are arms to be sold? As written previously, in one three month period last year UK arms sales to Saudi soared by 11,000%. From a mere nine million pounds the preceding three months: “The exact figure for British arms export licences from July to September 2015 was £1,066,216,510 in so-called ‘ML4’ export licences, which relate to bombs, missiles, rockets, and components of those items.”

Cameron’s government treats such barbarism with astonishing sanguinity. For instance it has come to light that in 2011 the UK drew up a list of thirty: “ ‘priority countries’ where British diplomats would be ‘encouraged’ to ‘proactively drive forward’ and make progress towards abolishing the death penalty over five years.’ “

Saudi Arabia was not on the list, an omission which Amnesty International’s Head of Policy, Alan Hogarth called “astonishing.” (Independent, 5th January 2016.) However, a Foreign Office spokeswoman told the Independent that: “A full list of countries of concern was published in March 2015 in the (UK) Annual Human Rights Report and that includes Saudi Arabia and its use of the death penalty.”

Wrong. In the Report (1) under “Abolition of the Death Penalty”, there is much concentration on countries in the (UK) “Commonwealth Caribbean” and a casual, subservient nod at the US, but no mention of Saudi.

Under “The Death Penalty”, Jordan and Pakistan, were mentioned, as was the: “particular focus on two … regions, Asia and the Commonwealth Caribbean.” Singapore, Malaysia, China and Taiwan, Japan (the latter, three executions in 2014) Suriname and Vietnam are cited. Saudi Arabia is nowhere to be found.

Under the heading Torture Prevention, there is a quote by David Cameron: “Torture is always wrong”, (9th December, 2014.) Paragraph one includes: “The impact on victims, their families and their communities is devastating. It can never be justified in any circumstance.” A number of countries are listed. No prizes for guessing, in spite of mediaeval torture practices, which is not.

However, under “Criminal Justice and the Rule of Law” there is:

“The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued revised guidance on the human rights aspects of OSJA (Overseas Security and Justice Guidance) in February 2014. The guidance ensures that officials do their utmost to identify risks of UK actions causing unintended human rights consequences.”

What an irony as David Cameron is currently moving heaven and earth to halt legal action against British soldiers accused of acts of extreme human rights abuses in Iraq. As Lesley Docksey has written (2):

“The said ‘brave servicemen’ are in danger of being taken to Court over their abusive treatment, and in some cases murder, of Iraqi detainees during the invasion of Iraq.  Hundreds of complaints have been lodged with the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT), which was investigating between 1,300 -1,500 cases.  Many are simple complaints of ill treatment during detention, but some are far more serious:

        * Death(s) while detained by the British Army

        * Deaths outside British Army base or after contact with British Army

        * Many deaths following ‘shooting incidents.’ “

Worse, the British government is considering taking action against one of the law firms dealing with some of the cases, Leigh Day, with another, Public Interest Lawyers, in their sights. When it comes to hypocrisy, David Cameron is hard to beat.

Worth noting is that in the UK government’s own list of “countries of humanitarian concern”, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), the UK has sold weapons to twenty four out of twenty seven of them, with Saudi Arabia in a deal to purchase seventy two Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft in a deal worth an eventual £4.5 Billion. (3)

“Aside from the purchase of the Typhoon jets, major deals between Saudi Arabia and British companies include a £1.6bn agreement for Hawk fighter jets and bulk sales of machine guns, bombs and tear gas.

“In fact, Saudi Arabia have access to twice as many British-made warplanes as the RAF does, while bombs originally stockpiled by Britain’s Armed Forces are being sent to Saudi Arabia” – to currently decimate Yemen.

“The overriding message is that human rights are playing second fiddle to company profits,” said CAAT spokesperson Andrew Smith, adding: “The Government and local authorities up and down the country are profiting directly from the bombing of Yemen. Challenging them to divest from Saudi Arabia … is something people can do directly.”

In the light of a fifty one page UN Report on the bombing of Yemen obtained by various parties on 27th January, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn called for an immediate suspension of arms sales to Saudi, pending the outcome of an independent Inquiry. David Cameron stated, farcically, that: “Britain had the strictest rules governing arms sales of almost any country, anywhere in the world.”

However, in one of the key findings, the UN Report (4) says:

“The panel documented that the coalition had conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana’a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes.”

It adds: “The panel documented 119 coalition sorties relating to violations of international humanitarian law.”

It also reported cases of civilians fleeing and being chased and shot at by helicopters.

Moreover it stated that the humanitarian crisis was compounded by the Saudi blockade of ships carrying fuel, food and other essentials that are trying to reach Yemen.

The panel said that: “civilians are disproportionately affected” and deplored tactics that: “constitute the prohibited use of starvation as a method of warfare.” (Emphasis added.)

David Mepham, UK Director of Human Rights Watch commented: “For almost a year, (Foreign Secretary Philip) Hammond has made the false and misleading claim that there is no evidence of laws of war violations by the UK’s Saudi ally and other members of the coalition.”

The UK Ministry of Defence, declining to say how many UK military advisers were in Saudi Command and Control Centres, said that the UK was: “ … offering Saudi Arabia advice and training on best practice targeting techniques to help ensure continued compliance with International Humanitarian Law.” (Guardian, 27th January 2016.) Yet another quote from the ‘You could not make this up’ files.

It has to be wondered whether the Ministry’s “best practice targeting techniques” includes the near one hundred attacks on medical facilities between March and October 2015, a practice which compelled the International Committee of the Red Cross, in November, to declare the organization: “appalled by the continuing attacks on health care facilities in Yemen …” (5)

They issued their statement after: “Al-Thawra hospital, one of the main health care facilities in Taiz which is providing treatment for about fifty injured people every day was reportedly shelled several times …)

“It is not the first time health facilities have been attacked … Close to a hundred similar incidents have been reported since March 2015. (Emphases added.)

“Deliberate attacks on health facilities represent a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law (IHL).”

An earlier attempt to have the UN Human rights Council to establish an Inquiry failed due to objections from Saudi Arabia, who, with help from Britain, currently Chairs an influential panel on the same Human Rights Council. Farce is alive and well in the corridors of the UN.

The repeated attacks on a targeted medical facility and other IHL protected buildings and places of sanctuary is a testimony to the total disregard for International Humanitarian Law, by the British, US and their allies and those they “advise”, from the Balkans to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and now Yemen.

However, in spite of the horrors under which Yemenis suffering and dying, and Saudi’s appalling human rights deficit, UK Foreign Office Minister Tobias Ellwood, an American-born former soldier, in a visit to Saudi Arabia last month was quoted in the country’s Al Watan newspaper as revealing: “ the ignorance of the British to the notable progress in Saudi Arabia in the field of human rights, confirming throughout the visit of a British FCO delegation… that he had expressed his opinion regarding the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia before the British Parliament, and that the notable progress in this area has been obscured.” (See 6: “Saudi Arabia urged to make more of its human rights successes by Foreign Office minster Tobias Ellwood.”)

The Foreign Office strongly denied that Ellwood had expressed such a view.

The Saudi led, British advised and US ”intelligence” provided coalition is reported to have formed “an independent team of experts” to assess “incidents” (which should be described as outrages and war crimes) in order to reach “conclusions, lessons learned …” etc. (7) Thus, as ever, the arsonist is to investigate the cause of the fire.

Amnesty, Human rights Watch, Médecins Sans Frontières (who have had three medical facilities bombed) and The Campaign to Stop Bombing in Yemen have all called for an independent Inquiry with the power to hold those responsible for atrocities to account. None of which, however, would bring back the dead, restore the disabled, disfigured, limbless, or beautiful, ruined, ancient Yemen – another historical Paradise lost.


The original source of this article is Global Research

Copyright © Felicity Arbuthnot, Global Research, 2016
News Items / Peace Talks “Paused” after Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo
« Last post by nestopwar on February 05, 2016, 07:20:32 PM »
Peace Talks “Paused” after Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo

By Mike Whitney

Global Research, February 05, 2016


“This is the beginning of the end of jihadi presence in Aleppo. After 4 years of war and terror, people can finally see the end in sight.”

A last ditch effort to stop a Russian-led military offensive in northern Syria ended in failure on Wednesday when the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) backed by the National Defense Forces (NDF) and heavy Russian air cover broke a 40-month siege on the villages of Nubl and al-Zahra in northwestern Aleppo province. The Obama administration had hoped that it could forestall the onslaught by cobbling together an eleventh-hour ceasefire agreement at the Geneva peace talks.  But when the news that Syrian armored units had crashed through al Nusra’s defenses and forced the jihadists to retreat, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura suspended the negotiations tacitly acknowledging that the mission had failed.

“I have indicated from the first day that I won’t talk for the sake of talking,” the envoy told reporters, saying he needed immediate help from international backers led by the United States and Russia, which are supporting opposite sides of a war that has also drawn in regional powers.” (Reuters)  De Mistura then announced a “temporary pause” in the stillborn negotiations which had only formally begun just hours earlier. Developments on the battlefield had convinced the Italian-Swedish diplomat that it was pointless to continue while government forces were effecting a solution through military means.

After months of grinding away at enemy positions across the country,  the Russian strategy has begun to bear fruit. Loyalist ground forces have made great strides on the battlefield rolling back the war-weary insurgents on virtually all fronts. A broad swathe of the Turkish border is now under SAA control while the ubiquitous Russian bombers continue to inflict heavy losses on demoralized anti-regime militants. Wednesday’s lightening attack on the strategic towns of  Nubl and Zahraa was just the icing on the cake.  The bold maneuver severed critical supply-lines to Turkey while  tightening the military noose around the country’s largest city leaving hundreds of terrorists stranded in a battered cauldron with no way out.

For the last two weeks, the Obama team has been following developments on the ground with growing concern. This is why Secretary of State John Kerry hurriedly assembled a diplomatic mission to convene emergency peace talks in Geneva despite the fact that the various participants had not even agreed to attend. A sense of urgency bordering on panic was palpable from the onset. The goal was never to achieve a negotiated settlement or an honorable peace, but (as Foreign Policy magazine noted) to implement “a broad ‘freeze’ over the whole province of Aleppo, which would then be replicated in other regions later.” This was the real objective, to stop the bleeding any way possible and prevent the inevitable encirclement of Aleppo.

The recapturing of Nubl and Zahraa leaves the jihadists with just one route for transporting weapons, food and fuel to their urban stronghold. When loyalist forces break the blockade at Bab al Hawa to the northeast, the loop will be closed, the perimeter will tighten, the cauldron will be split into smaller enclaves within the city, and the terrorists will either surrender or face certain annihilation. Wednesday’s triumph by the Russian-led coalition is a sign that that day may be approaching sooner than anyone had anticipated.

It’s worth noting, that a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Michael O’Hanlon– whose plan to “deconstruct Syria” by using “moderate elements”  to “produce autonomous zones”–advised Obama and Kerry “not to pursue the failed logic of the current Syria peace talks but to explore a confederal model and seek buy-in from as many key players and allies as possible.”   In other words, the main architect of the US plan to break up Syria into smaller areas, (controlled by local militias, warlords and jihadists) thought the peace talks were “doomed” from the very beginning.

According to O’Hanlon the US needs to commit “20,000 combat troops” with  “the right political model for maintaining occupation”.   The Brookings analyst says  that “Any ceasefire that Kerry could negotiate…would be built on a foundation of sand” for the mere fact that the “moderate” forces it would support would be much weaker than either the SAA or ISIS. That means there would be no way to enforce the final settlement and no army strong enough to establish the authority of the new “unity” government.

O’Hanlon’s comments suggest western elites are deeply divided over Syria. The hawks are still pushing for more intervention, greater US, EU, and NATO involvement, and American and allied “boots on the ground” to occupy the country for an undetermined amount of time. In contrast, the Obama administration wants to minimize its commitment while trying desperately to placate its critics.

That means Syria’s troubles could resurface again in the future when Obama steps down and a new president pursues a more muscular strategy.  A number of  powerful people in the ruling establishment are as determined-as-ever to partition Syria and install a US puppet in Damascus. That’s not going to change. The Russian-led coalition has a small window for concluding its operations, eliminating the terrorists, and reestablishing security across the country.  Ending the war as soon as possible, while creating a safe environment for Syrian refugees to return home, is the best way to reduce the threat of escalation and discourage future US adventurism. But Putin will have to move fast for the plan to work.

Excerpts from:  “Deconstructing Syria: A new strategy for America’s most hopeless war“, Michael O’ Hanlon, Brookings Institute.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at

Joint announcement from the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations on the Syria Donors Conference 2016


We - the leaders of the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations - are increasingly concerned about the plight of the Syrian people.

We have been at the forefront of global efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to those displaced by the conflict.

The international community has a responsibility to help the 13.5 million vulnerable and displaced people inside Syria, and the 4.2 million Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and we must step up our efforts.

Current funding to the 2015 UN appeals has not even reached last year’s levels - $3.3 billion against an appeal of $8.4 billion. As an international community, we must do more.

Now is the time to act. So we will together host a conference on the Syria humanitarian crisis in London in early February 2016, building on previous conferences in Kuwait.

We will invite leaders from countries around the world, NGOs and civil society to come together to:

•raise significant new funding to meet the needs of all those affected by the Syria crisis within the country itself and by supporting neighbouring countries who have shown enormous generosity in hosting refugees to cope with the impact of the crisis.

•identify long term funding solutions, covering 2016 and subsequent years.

•address the longer term needs of those affected by the crisis by identifying ways to create jobs and provide education, offering all those that have been forced to flee their homes greater hope for the future.

The Syria Donors Conference will also pave the way for a broader discussion about how the international community responds to protracted crises, in advance of the UK, UN and World Bank High-Level Forum on Forced Displacement in Protracted Crises later in 2016 and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May.

We continue to believe that a political solution is necessary to bring the Syrian conflict to an end and we commit to working with each other and international partners to achieve that and to support the development of an inclusive, peaceful and prosperous Syria.
News Items / London to host Syria donors
« Last post by nestopwar on February 05, 2016, 07:06:25 PM »

 London to host Syria donors
Feb 2

 The capital of Britain, London is set to host world leaders who will come together to try to raise $9 billion for the millions of Syrians hit by the country's conflict and a refugee crisis spanning Europe and the Middle East.

The donor conference, the fourth of its kind is slated for Thursday. It hopes to meet the UN's demand for $7.73 billion to help in Syria plus $1.23 billion assistance for countries in the region affected by the crisis.

More than 70 international leaders are expected to take part in the summit including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Jordan's King Abdullah II, Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Jordan has accommodated more than 630,000 Syrian refugees and Abdullah warned earlier that his debt-riddled country needed help to ease the burden or Europe would face the consequences.

The Syrian war, which began in March 2011, has claimed more than 260,000 lives and caused a major humanitarian crisis.

The conflict has forced 4.6 million Syrians to seek refuge in countries in the region - Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands have attempted to reach Europe, sometimes paying with their lives while making the risky Mediterranean Sea crossing.

"We need to agree concrete action," Cameron said, calling for the provision of jobs and education in countries neighboring Syria as the living conditions of refugees deteriorate by the day.

"This is not just in the interests of Syria and her neighbors. It is in the interests of Europe too. The more we do to enable people to stay in the region, the less likely we are to see them coming to Europe," he said.

David Cameron calls with the Emir of Qatar and the Prime Minister of Canada - Supporting Syria 2016 
Monday 1 February 2016

 The UK Prime Minister made calls to the Emir of Qatar His Highness Sheikh Tamim and to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the London Conference. Number 10 Downing Street

A Number 10 spokesperson said:

 The Prime Minister made separate telephone calls to the Emir of Qatar and the Canadian Prime Minister yesterday evening to discuss preparations for this week's Syria donors conference.

 Speaking first to His Highness Sheikh Tamim, Emir of Qatar, the Prime Minister expressed his concerns over the Qatari hostages taken in Iraq. The Prime Minister and Emir also discussed the importance of seeing swift progress on the political track in Syria.

 Both the Emir and Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, agreed with the Prime Minister that it was very important that the international community were generous in their pledges to the Supporting Syria conference, to be held in London later this week.

 The Emir and the Canadian Prime Minister both confirmed they would be sending delegations to the conference and the Prime Minister said he looked forward to welcoming them to London.
News Items / US Army Launches Ground Offensive in Syria and Iraq
« Last post by nestopwar on January 28, 2016, 08:30:42 AM »
US Army Launches Ground Offensive in Syria and Iraq (101st Airborne Division deploys to Middle East)
 Peter Korzun, Strategic Culture Foundation 
Jan 27

 In a significant change of strategy, the United States has announced that it is going to deploy «boots on the ground» soon to assist local forces in fighting the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

With the Iraq and Afghanistan wars fresh in memory, the US has made public its decision to get involved militarily in another Middle East conflict.

US Vice President Joe Biden said on January 23 that the United States and Turkey were prepared for a military solution against the Islamic State in Syria should the Syrian government and rebels fail to reach a political settlement.

The Syria peace talks planned to begin on January 25 in Geneva are at risk of being delayed partly because of a dispute over the composition of the opposition delegation.

The US plans are detailed enough. «The storied 101st Airborne Division will soon deploy 1,800 troops to Iraq to aid in the fight against ISIL (Islamic State). They will head there with the support of the American people and armed with a clear campaign plan to help our allies deliver the barbaric organization a lasting defeat», writes US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in an article published by Politico.

The Secretary said the US focuses on three military objectives. One, to take back the cities of Mosul, Iraq and Raqqah, Syria – the objectives that constitute terrorists' centers of gravity. Two, fight the Islamic State (IS) group worldwide. Three, protect the homeland.

The same day CNBC quoted a statement by the US Secretary of defense Ashton Carter that the Western coalition to use ground troops in the fight against the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq.

Though the US military presence in Iraq has been steadily growing over the past year-and-a-half, this marks the first time a senior official acknowledged the presence of combat troops (not instructors) on spot. The policy shift is a clear turnaround from the Obama's previous stance of not deploying combat troops in Iraq and Syria and one sure to shape the foreign policy debate in the 2016 election. These announcements provoke experts into making a lot of hay over whether that meant the US was engaged in ground war in these countries. Secretary Carter told Congress members that American soldiers would be conducting raids in places including Syria as far back as last October.

The US War Powers Resolution requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days, with a further 30 day withdrawal period, without a Congressional authorization for use of military force or a declaration of war.

The US ground presence in Iraq, which began with the commitment of a mere 300 advisors in June of 2014, has increased to over 3,500. In Syria, the Obama Administration has moved to establish a permanent presence by US special operators, ostensibly to bolster the logistics of local fighters battling the jihadists. This isn't the first time US special operations units have been on the ground in Syria, but it is the first time they will stay. Like in Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia and a host of other locations, the commitment of ground troops gradually grows into an often ill-defined unpopular military campaign in a country of marginal consequence.

The new White House policy directly contradicts multiple promises personally made by President Barack Obama that he would not put combat boots on the ground in Syria.

«I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria», Obama said during a televised national address on September 10, 2013. «I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan».

During his 2013 address, Obama said one major reason for his firm, no-troops-in-Syria policy is that Americans are «sick and tired» of aimless, unending wars in the Middle East. The Obama administration is yet to publicly identify the goals it plans to achieve through the deployment of combat troops in Syria.

The Islamic State became a major player in the region after US departure from Iraq. The US military had largely wiped out extremists in the province of Anbar before withdrawing. With US troops gone, the group was able to rebuild in what is often referred to by outsiders as the «vacuum» that followed America's presence. Winning war, the US fails to build peace with no local governments and militaries in place to effectively maintain law and order. The probability is great that injecting US ground forces into the fight against the Islamic State would result in the very same thing America has experienced all too frequently in recent years – a kind of perpetual war with little chance of reaching the expected outcome and the risk to spark broader escalation. This is confirmed by terrible outcomes of the recent operations in Libya and the mishandled ventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is a crucially important aspect of the matter that the US leaders have not mentioned in their statements. What other countries will commit ground forces? Have they made arrangements regarding the rules of engagement? What norms of international law exactly will be used to justify the action? It's hard to imagine the Syrian and Iraqi governments approve the idea of having US combat troops deployed on their soil. For instance, Iraqi leaders have said «no» on many occasions. Once the decision is taken and the operation actually started, the US has to make arrangements with the Russia-Syria-Iran coalition. The deployment of ground troops is impossible without coordinating activities with the Russian and Syrian forces. Even if the US and its NATO allies act in violation of international law, the deployment should be preceded by intensive talks between the Russian and military leaders. The establishment of a coordination cell is inevitable. It all makes intensive Russia-NATO military-to-military contacts an issue of paramount importance.

No doubt, it's not a pure coincidence that the US troops deployment takes place at the very same time the UN-sponsored negotiation process on Syria is about to kick off in Geneva.

I Assumed Putin's Russia Had Litvinenko Killed Then I Looked for Myself
  By Washington's Blog 
Jan 22

 I've always assumed that Putin's KGB (now called the FSB) killed Alexander Litvinenko.

But today's announcement by the British that Putin "probably" approved Litvinenko's murder made me curious enough to take a look for myself.

Initially, Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive polonium as he sipped tea in an upscale London hotel. The report makes it sound like only Russia had access to polonium, but it's actually available online to anyone.

Antiwar notes:

 If the Russians wanted to off Litvinenko, why would they poison him with a substance that left a radioactive trail traceable from Germany to Heathrow airport – and, in the process, contaminating scores of hotel rooms, offices, planes, restaurants, and homes? Why not just put a bullet through his head? It makes no sense.

 But then conspiracy theories don't have to make sense: they just have to take certain assumptions all the way to their implausible conclusions. If one starts with the premise that Putin and the Russians are a Satanic force capable of anything, and incompetent to boot, then it's all perfectly "logical" – in the Bizarro World, at any rate.

 The idea that Litvinenko was a dangerous opponent of the Russian government who had to be killed because he posed a credible threat to the existence of the regime is laughable: practically no one inside Russia knew anything about him, and as for his crackpot "truther" theories about how Putin was behind every terrorist attack ever carried out within Russia's borders – to assert that they had any credence outside of the Western media echo chamber is a joke.


 The meat of the matter – the real "evidence" – is hidden behind a veil of secrecy. Lord Owen's inquiry was for the most part conducted in secret closed hearings, with testimony given by anonymous witnesses, and this is central to the "evidence" that is supposed to convict Kovtun, Lugovoy, and the Russian government. Lord Owen, explains it this way:

 "Put very shortly, the closed evidence consists of evidence that is relevant to the Inquiry, but which has been assessed as being too sensitive to put into the public domain. The assessment that the material is sufficiently sensitive to warrant being treated as closed evidence in these proceedings has been made not by me, but by the Home Secretary. She has given effect to this decision by issuing a number of Restriction Notices, which is a procedure specified in section 19 of the Inquiries Act 2005. The Restriction Notices themselves, although not, of course, the sensitive documents appended to them, are public documents. They have been published on the Inquiry website and are also to be found at Appendix 7 to this Report."

 In other words, the "evidence" is not for us ordinary mortals to see. We just have to take His Lordship's word for it that the Russian government embarked on an improbable assassination mission against a marginal figure that reads like something Ian Fleming might have written under a pseudonym.

So who killed Litvinenko ?

Well, Mario Scaramella met with Litvinenko during the meal when Litvinenko was poisoned. Scaramella didn't eat or drink a thing during the lunch, and then himself came down with a mild case of polonium poisoning.

La Republica (one of Italy's largest newspapers) wrote in 2006 (English translation) that Scaramella was a bad guy who may have worked with the CIA:

 Mario Scaramella is suspected of arms trafficking. Earlier this year, the public prosecutor of Naples has written for this offense to the docket and, soon after, had to stop the investigation. [He was convicted in Italy for selling arms (original Italian).]


 Sources found to be very credible by the prosecutor recalled that investigators suspected that Scaramella was actually in close relationship, if not actually working for, the CIA and that his ECPP could be a front company of the agency's Langley.

Antiwar notes:

 As I pointed out here:

 "Litvinenko was an employee of exiled Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky – whose ill-gotten empire included a Russian syndicate of car-dealerships that had more than a nodding acquaintance with the Chechen Mafia – but was being slowly cut out of the money pipeline. Big-hearted Boris, who had initially put him on the payroll as anti-Putin propagandist, was evidently getting sick of him, and the out-of-work "dissident" was reportedly desperate for money. Litvinenko had several " business meetings " with Lugovoi in the months prior to his death, and, according to this report , he hatched a blackmail scheme targeting several well-known Russian tycoons and government officials."

 Indeed, Litvinenko, in the months before his death, had targeted several well-known members of the Russian Mafia with his blackmail scheme. That they would take umbrage at this is hardly shocking.

Alternatively, Litvinenko may actually have accidentally poisoned himself. Antiwar again:

 Furthermore, there are indications that Litvinenko was engaged in the smuggling of nuclear materials. That he wound up being contaminated by the goods he was peddling on the black market seems far more credible than the cock-and-bull story about a vast Russian plot originating in the Kremlin,. Apparently Lord Owen has never heard of Occam's Razor.

See also - Litvinenko - Jewish Mafia's Nuclear Smuggling: News analysis - Litvinenko, reportedly had links to the Israel-based Russian mafia and the smuggling of radioactive materials.
Media More Outraged by Possible Murder by Putin Than Definite Murder by Obama
 By Matt Peppe, Information Clearing House
 January 25, 2016

 The British government, whose foreign policy is overtly hostile to their Russian counterpart, declared last week that their investigation into the killing of a former Russian intelligence agent in London nearly a decade ago concluded there is a "strong probability" the Russian FSB security agency was responsible for poisoning Alexander Litivenko with plutonium. They further declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin "probably approved" of the act. The British investigation, which was likely politically motivated, seemingly raised more questions than it answered. But American corporate media were quick to use the accusations against Putin to demonize him, casting him as a pariah brazenly flaunting his disregard for international conventions.

The Washington Post (1/23/16) editorial board wrote that "Robert Owen, a retired British judge, has carefully and comprehensively documented what can only be called an assassination... Mr. Owen found (Andrei) Lugovoi was acting 'under the direction' of the FSB in an operation to kill Mr. Litivenko - one that was 'probably approved' by the director of the FSB and by Mr. Putin."

Actually, Owen did not find that former KGB operative Lugovoi was acting under the direction of the FSB to kill Litivenko. He found there was a "strong probability" this was the case. This means that even in Owens's view, there is not near certainty, which would meet the legal standard of reasonable doubt that would preclude a guilty judgement. There is even more doubt that even if it were the case the FSB ordered the murder, they did so on Putin's orders.

The New York Times editorial board (1/21/16) finds the investigation's results "shocking." For the Times, this confirms a pattern of Putin's rogue behavior. They claim Putin's "deserved reputation as an autocrat willing to flirt with lawlessness in his global ventures has taken on a startling new aspect."

Both of the prestigious and influential American newspapers argue that the British findings impugn Putin's respectability in international affairs. The Times says:

 Mr. Putin has built a sordid record on justice and human rights, which naturally reinforces suspicion that he could easily have been involved in the murder. At the very least, the London inquiry, however much it is denied at the Kremlin, should serve as a caution to the Russian leader to repair his reputation for notorious intrigues abroad.

The more hawkish Post says: "This raises a serious question for President Obama and other world leaders whose governments do not traffic in contract murder. Should they continue to meet with Mr. Putin as if he is just another head of state?"

Putin's alleged "sordid record on justice and human rights," which is taken for granted without providing any examples, is seen as bolstering the case for his guilt in the case of the poisoning death of Litivenko. This, in turn, adds to his "notorious" reputation as a violator of human rights.

The Post draws a line between the lawless Putin and the respectable Western heads of state, such as Obama. Though they frame their call to treat Putin as an outcast as a question, it is clearly intended as a rhetorical question.

It is curious that The Post draws a contrast between Putin and Obama, whose government is supposedly above such criminality. The newspaper does not mention the U.S. government's drone assassination program, which as of last year had killed nearly 2,500 people in at least three countries outside of declared military battlefields. Estimates have shown that at least 90 percent of those killed were not intended targets. None of those killed have been charged with any crimes. And at least two - Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Abdul Rahman - were Americans.

Obama himself is personally responsible for those killed by missiles launched from unmanned aircraft over the skies of sovereign countries. Several news reports have indicated that Obama is presented in meetings each week by military and national security officials with a list of potential targets for assassination. Obama must personally approve each target, at which point they are added to the state-sanctioned "kill list."

The British government has also assumed for itself the power to assassinate its own citizens outside a declared battlefield. Last fall, Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the deaths of two British citizens in Syria, who were subsequently disposed of in a lethal drone strike.

The Washington Post editorial board (3/24/12) claimed that Obama was justified in carrying out lethal drone strokes that kill American citizens "to protect the country against attack." Their lone criticism was that "an extra level of review of some sort is warranted."

After it was revealed that an American hostage was inadvertently killed in a drone strike in Pakistan, The Post (5/1/15) said that the issue of whether the American government continues to conduct drone strikes should not be up for debate. "(T)here is little question that drones are the least costly means of eliminating militants whose first aim is to kill Americans," they wrote.

While they tacitly accept the legal rationale for Obama's assassination program, the New York Times editorial board at least demonstrated some skepticism. In "A Thin Rationale for Drone Killings" (6/23/14), they called the memo "a slapdash pastiche of legal theories - some based on obscure interpretations of British and Israeli law - that was clearly tailored to the desired result." They say that "the rationale provides little confidence that the lethal action was taken with real care."

Yet they do not chastise Obama for his "intrigues abroad" nor do they condemn this as an example of his "sordid record on justice and human rights," language they used for Putin. The idea that relying on what are transparently inadequate legal justifications for killing an American citizen without due process would merit prosecution is clearly beyond the limits of discussion for the Times.

 Recently Faheem Qureshi, a victim of the first drone strike ordered by Obama in 2009 (three days after his induction as President), who lost multiple family members and his own eye, told The Guardian that Obama's actions in his native lands are "an act of tyranny. If there is a list of tyrants in the world, to me, Obama will be put on that list by his drone program."

Surely both The New York Times and Washington Post disagree with Qureshi, because they believe the U.S. government is inherently benevolent and its motives are beyond reproach. But based on their editorials about the British investigation of the Litivenko poisoning, if Putin was responsible and was described by Qureshi in the same way, they would wholeheartedly agree.

The U.S. government and its allies in NATO, like Great Britain, have a clear agenda in vilifying Russia and its President. The US-NATO alliance supported the government that came to power in Ukraine in 2014 through a coup. After provinces in Eastern Ukraine - the vast majority of whose population is ethnically Russian and Russian-speaking - refused to recognize the NATO-backed coup government in Kiev, the Russian government supported them.

It should be easy to see how, from Russia's perspective, the Ukranian conflict can be understood as an extension of NATO encroachment towards Russia's borders that has continued unabated since James Baker told Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991 NATO would move "not an inch east."

"We're in a new Cold War," Stephen Cohen, professor of Russian studies and politics, told Salon. "The epicenter is not in Berlin this time but in Ukraine, on Russia's borders, within its own civilization: That's dangerous. Over the 40-year history of the old Cold War, rules of behavior and recognition of red lines, in addition to the red hotline, were worked out. Now there are no rules."

Additionally, Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since 2011 throughout that country's civil war, and more recently its direct military intervention in the conflict that has turned the tide against US-backed rebels, has strongly rankled Washington.

The language used by top government officials to describe Russia has been astoundingly combative. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the man in charge of the entire US military, claimed Russia is responsible for aggression and is "endangering world order."

The U.S. government's hyping of the Russian "threat" has been used to justify massive spending on the U.S. space program and other military expenditures, such as $1 trillion to upgrade nuclear weapons.

One could even argue that the narrative of an aggressive and belligerent Russia is the principal justification for the continued existence of the NATO itself, two and a half decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union. The alliance allows the US military to be stationed in hundreds of bases throughout Europe under the guise of a purely defensive organization.

The U.S.'s most prominent media organizations should demonstrate the strongest skepticism towards the policies and actions of their own government. At the very least, they should hold their own country's leaders to the same standards as they do others. But time and again, the media choose to act as a mouthpiece to echo and amplify Washington's propaganda. They do the government's bidding, creating an enemy and rallying the public towards a confrontation they would otherwise have no interest in, while allowing the government to avoid accountability for its own misdeeds.

Matt Peppe writes about politics, U.S. foreign policy and Latin America on his blog. You can follow him on twitter
For Your Information / CIA staged suicides in Gitmo: Ex-guard
« Last post by nestopwar on January 26, 2016, 01:24:03 PM »
CIA staged suicides in Gitmo: Ex-guard
Jan 24

 The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has staged suicides to cover up inmate deaths at the notorious US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, says a former guard.

Nearly 10 years ago, the Pentagon announced that three Guantanamo inmates "killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact."

"Two Saudis and one Yemeni, each located in Camp 1, were found unresponsive and not breathing in their cells by guards," Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF) said June 10, 2006, adding that "all lifesaving measures had been exhausted."

The camp was quickly shuttered the next day.

However, former Guantanamo guard Joseph Hickman says the alleged suicides were in fact staged by the CIA, saying the US government might have had an interest in silencing the prisoners who "caused a lot of problems."

In an interview with Russia Today, which was published on Saturday, Hickman unveiled what he saw in the few hours leading up to the deaths.

He said he witnessed hunger strike "leaders" being brought to a secret CIA "black site," where CIA agents would make their deaths look like suicide by hanging.

"I witnessed a van – we used to call it paddy wagon – it was a detainee transport van," he said. "The van came into the gate, backed up to Camp 1 and took a detainee out of Camp 1 Alpha Block and put him into the paddy wagon and drove [him away]."

This happened two more times over 20 minutes, he said, suggesting that there were "a total of three out of Camp 1 Alpha Block."

Hickman said that the unusual transfer became more suspicious when the van went to a facility called "Camp No, which is a CIA black site on Guantanamo at the time."

At the time, the JTF command interrogated up to 200 prisoners per week, according to Hickman. However, detainees made this difficult as they knew Washington-approved Guantanamo interrogation policies would prohibit questioning inmates if they were on a hunger strike.

Consequently, starting from 2005, detainees held long-term hunger strikes.

"All three of those detainees that went to that CIA black site that night were all leaders of the hunger strikes, massive hunger strikes," Hickman said. "There were constant hunger strikes since they arrived. They caused a lot of problems for the command."

The US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) claimed then that all three were preparing for the suicide and hanged themselves with torn sheets and T-shirts, while their hands were tied.

"After those three deaths, there were two other detainees that committed suicide," Hickman told RT. "I wasn't there to say exactly what happened, but I knew from my experience. Those men did not commit a suicide. It brought up questions, which brought up nightmares. It just haunted me until I came forward."

Guantanamo was established by former president George W. Bush's administration in 2002 as a prison for alleged foreign terrorism suspects following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US.

A Senate report in December 2014 revealed that the CIA has used a wide array of torture as part of its interrogation methods against Guantanamo prisoners.

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