Saturday, July 16, 2016

Releasing Finally the Last Pages of the Congressional Report on 9/11

US releases Saudi documents: 9/11 coverup exposed

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

16 July 2016 

The public release Friday afternoon of a section of the Congressional report on the 9/11 attacks, which had been kept secret for 13 years, has provided fresh evidence of a deliberate coverup of the role played, not only by the Saudi government, but US intelligence agencies themselves, in facilitating the attacks and then covering up their real roots.

The 28-page segment from the report issued by the “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001” provides abundant and damning evidence of extensive Saudi support for the 9/11 hijackers—15 out of 19 of whom were Saudi nationals—in the period leading up to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that claimed nearly 3,000 lives.

The Obama White House, the CIA, the Saudi monarchy and the corporate media have all tried to portray the documents—released on a Friday afternoon to assure minimal exposure—as somehow exonerating the Saudi regime of any culpability in the 9/11 attacks.

“This information does not change the assessment of the US government that there’s no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi individuals funded al-Qaeda,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary said Friday, boasting that the main significance of their release was its proof of the Obama administration’s commitment to “transparency.”

In reality, the 28 pages have been kept under lock and key since 2002, with only members of Congress allowed to read them, in a Capitol Hill basement vault, while prohibited from taking notes, bringing members of their staff or breathing a word of their content.

The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, maintained this secrecy for several reasons. First, it was concerned that the documents would jeopardize its relations with Saudi Arabia, which, after Israel, is Washington’s closest ally in the Middle East, a partner in bloody operations from Afghanistan to Syria to Yemen, and the world’s biggest buyer of American arms.

Even more importantly, it was concerned that the 28 pages would further expose the abject criminality of the US government’s role in facilitating the attacks of 9/11 and then lying about their source and exploiting them to justify savage wars of aggression, first against Afghanistan and then against Iraq. These wars have claimed over a million lives. The false narrative created around the September 11 attacks remains the ideological pillar of the US campaign of global militarism conducted in the name of a “war on terror.”

Media reports on the 28 pages invariably refer to the absence of a “smoking gun,” which presumably would be tantamount to an order signed by the Saudi king to attack New York and Washington. The evidence is described as “inconclusive.” One can only imagine what would have been the response if, in place of the word “Saudi,” the documents referred to Iraqi, Syrian or Iranian actions. The same evidence would have been proclaimed an airtight case for war.

Among those who were involved in preparing the report, John Lehman, the former secretary of the navy, directly contradicted the official response to the release of the previously censored section. “There was an awful lot of participation by Saudi individuals in supporting the hijackers, and some of those people worked in the Saudi government,” he said. “Our report should never have been read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia.”

Similarly, former Florida Senator Bob Graham, who chaired the committee that carried out the investigation, suggested that the information released Friday was only the beginning. “I think of this almost as the 28 pages are sort of the cork in the wine bottle. And once it’s out, hopefully the rest of the wine itself will start to pour out,” he said.

What clearly emerges from the newly-released document, which is titled “Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters,” is that there were multiple indications of funding and support for the 9/11 hijackers and Al Qaeda in general, but that investigations were either shut down or never initiated because of the close ties between Washington and the Saudi monarchy, and between US and Saudi intelligence.

“While in the United States, some of the September 11 hijackers were in contact with, and received support or assistance from, individuals who may be connected to the Saudi government,” the document begins. It cites FBI sources as indicating that some of these individuals were “Saudi intelligence officers.”

It goes on to indicate that FBI and CIA investigations of these links were initiated solely in response to the Congressional inquiry itself. “[I]t was only after September 11 that the US government began to aggressively investigate this issue,” the report states. “Prior to September 11th, the FBI apparently did not focus investigative sources on [redacted] Saudi nationals in the United States due to Saudi Arabia’s status as an American ‘ally.’”

The report focuses in part on the role of one Omar al-Bayoumi, who was described to the FBI as a Saudi intelligence officer, and, according to FBI files, “provided substantial assistance to hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi after they arrived in San Diego in February 2000.”

The inquiry report deals with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar only from after they arrived in California, and says nothing about the circumstances under which they were allowed to enter the country in the first place. Both were under CIA surveillance while attending an Al Qaeda planning meeting in 2000 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and placed on a “watch list” for FBI monitoring if they came to the United States. Nonetheless, the two men were allowed to enter the United States on January 15, 2000, landing at Los Angeles International Airport, eventually going to San Diego. From then on, they were permitted to operate freely, attending flight training school in preparation for their role as pilots of hijacked planes on September 11, 2001.

Al-Bayoumi, the report establishes, “received support from a Saudi company affiliated with the Saudi Ministry of Defense,” drawing a paycheck for a no-show job. The report states that the company also had ties to Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

According to the report, al-Bayoumi had previously worked for the Saudi Civil Aviation Association and, in the period leading up to 9/11, was “in frequent contact with the Emir at the Saudi Defense Ministry responsible for air traffic control.” Phone records showed him calling Saudi government agencies 100 times between January and May of 2000.

FBI documents also established that the $465 in “allowances” that al-Bayoumi received through the Saudi military contractor, jumped to over $3,700 shortly after the arrival of al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. During this period, al-Bayoumi initially allowed the two future hijackers to stay in his apartment before finding them their own place—with an informant of the San Diego FBI—cosigning their lease and advancing them a deposit and the first month’s rent.

The report states that FBI investigations following 9/11 indicated that al-Bayoumi had “some ties to terrorist elements.” His wife, meanwhile, was receiving a $1,200 a month stipend from Princess Haifa Bint Sultan, the wife of Prince Bandar, then the Saudi ambassador to the US and later head of Saudi intelligence.

Also named in the document as a likely Saudi intelligence agent is one Osama Bassnan, who lived across the street from the two hijackers in San Diego and was in telephone contact with al-Bayoumi several times a day during this period. He apparently placed the two in contact with a Saudi commercial airline pilot for discussions on “learning to fly Boeing jet aircraft,” according to an FBI report. Bassnan’s wife also received a monthly stipend from Princess Haifa, the Saudi ambassador’s wife, to the tune of $2,000 a month. As well, the FBI found one $15,000 check written by Bandar himself in 1998 to Bassnan. The report states that FBI information indicated that Bassnan was “an extremist and supporter of Usama Bin Ladin,” who spoke of the Al Qaeda leader “as if he were god.”

Appearing before the Congressional inquiry in October 2002, FBI Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Pasquale D’Amuro reacted with undisguised cynicism and contempt when asked about the payments from the Saudi ambassador’s wife to the wives of the two reputed intelligence agents involved with the 9/11 hijackers.

“She gives money to a lot of different groups and people from around the world,” he said. “We’ve been able to uncover a number of these... but maybe if we can discover that she gives to 20 different radical groups, well, gee, maybe there’s a pattern here.” Spoken like a man who believes he is above the law in defense of a figure that he clearly sees as untouchable.

Among other material in the report was the recounting of an FBI interrogation of Saleh al-Hussayen, a prominent Saudi interior ministry official, who stayed in the same Virginia hotel as three of the hijackers the night before the 9/11 attacks. While he claimed not to know the hijackers, the FBI agents “believed he was being deceptive.”

According to the report, al-Hussayen “feigned a seizure” and was released to a hospital, which he left several days later, catching a flight back to Saudi Arabia without any further questioning. During the same period, nearly 1,200 people, with no links to the attacks, were being rounded up and held incommunicado on little more evidence than that they were Arab or Muslim.

Also in the report was the fact that a phone book belonging to Abu Zubaydah, the Al Qaeda operative who is still held at Guantanamo after extensive torture at the hands of the CIA, was found to contain the unlisted numbers of companies that managed and provide security for Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar’s residence in Colorado, as well as that of a bodyguard at the Saudi embassy who, the report states “some have alleged may be a [words redacted].”

Redactions of this sort recur throughout the document in relation to individual Saudis, suggesting their membership in some sort of secret service whose name must remain unmentioned. This is only part of what the secret material still conceals. Members of the inquiry’s staff reportedly protested angrily over the failure to clearly present the evidence of Saudi involvement, leading to the firing of at least one staffer.

If the government is determined to continue to shield such Saudi connections, it is undoubtedly because they would expose the involvement of the US intelligence agencies themselves in the events of 9/11.

If such whitewashes are required, it is because elements within the US government were aware that Al Qaeda was preparing an operation on US soil, turned a blind eye to it and even facilitated it because they knew it could be used as a pretext to carry out longstanding plans for aggressive war in the Middle East.

The release of even the limited material on the Saudi-US-9/11 connection is a devastating exposure of the criminals in the US government, from George W. Bush on down, and the lies they employed to engineer wars that have devastated the lives of millions.

These new facts demand a thorough, impartial and international investigation, as well as the indictment and arrest of top-level officials, both American and Saudi. Only a powerful intervention of the international working class, on the basis of a socialist program, will see these war criminals brought to justice.

Into the Breach, Hosers: Canada Lustily Enjoins NATO War Frenzy

Canada's Liberal Gov't Joins NATO's War Escalation in Eastern Europe

by Roger Annis - New Cold 

 July 15, 2016

Canadians who hoped the federal election last October 19 would usher in change to the aggressive foreign policy of the defeated Conservative government are wondering what happened to their wishes.

The transition in imperialist foreign policy from the Harper Conservatives to the Justin Trudeau-led Liberals has been utterly seamless, if not predictable.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Kyiv
July 11, 2016 (PMO photo by Adam Scotti)

In the Middle East, Canada’s support to ‘regime change’ in Syria stands

The Liberals stirred controversy during the election when they promised to end Canada’s participation in the U.S.-led military intervention in northern Iraq. But surprise: while the Liberals did carry out a promised withdrawal of the six fighter jets that weren’t doing much anyway in the skies over Syria and Iraq, they ended up tripling the presence of Canadian soldiers on the ground in Iraq, to approximately 200.

And the new government made unpleasant waves when it upheld the export permit approval by the Conservatives for the U.S. arms manufacturer General Dynamics to sell $15 billion worth of the armoured personnel transport vehicles it manufactures in London, Ontario to the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia.

Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, proudly told a ceremony in Ottawa on July 14, “We’ve seen a shift toward foundational training, preparing for a wide range of future tasks. Internationally, the army is at the forefront, managing conflicts around the world, contributing to operations in Iraq, building capacity with allies and partners in Poland, Ukraine and very soon in Africa.”

Sabre rattling by the new-same-old government in Ottawa has been expressed most fully during and after the NATO summit meeting held in Warsaw, Poland on July 8 and 9.

Canada and the NATO war summit in Warsaw, Poland

The NATO summit approved a final communiqué which places the military alliance on a collision course with Russia. The communiqué voices NATO’s determination to escalate its threats against Russia, using the pretexts of an alleged “annexation” of Crimea by Russia and military intervention by it in eastern Ukraine.[1]

Clause five of the 138 clauses in the communiqué reads:

Russia’s aggressive actions, including provocative military activities in the periphery of NATO territory and its demonstrated willingness to attain political goals by the threat and use of force, are a source of regional instability, fundamentally challenge the Alliance, have damaged Euro-Atlantic security, and threaten our long-standing goal of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.

Clause ten details the alleged transgressions of Russia:

Russia’s destabilising actions and policies include: the ongoing illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, which we do not and will not recognise and which we call on Russia to reverse; the violation of sovereign borders by force; the deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; large-scale snap exercises contrary to the spirit of the Vienna Document, and provocative military activities near NATO borders, including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean; its irresponsible and aggressive nuclear rhetoric, military concept and underlying posture; and its repeated violations of NATO Allied airspace. In addition, Russia’s military intervention, significant military presence and support for the regime in Syria, and its use of its military presence in the Black Sea to project power into the Eastern Mediterranean have posed further risks and challenges for the security of Allies and others.[2]

Ottawa announced at the summit it will send hundreds of additional soldiers to eastern Europe to join the latest NATO provocation: Canada will lead one of the four, new, proto-combat brigades being established by NATO in countries bordering Russia, landing some 450 troops in Latvia.

Ottawa is also re-equipping its entire army, including its soon-to-be Latvia force on the Russian border, with anti-tank missiles.

Canada’s voice has been one of the loudest amidst NATO’s anti-Russia rhetoric as first the Conservatives, now the Liberals pander to the extremist minority among the estimated 1.2 million Canadians of Ukrainian origin. That pandering was on full display in Ukraine when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid a visit to the country immediately following the NATO summit.

Ongoing intervention in Ukraine

The Latvia intervention adds to Canada’s existing military presence in Ukraine. Since last year, Canadian, British and U.S. soldiers began an intervention into the country consisting, in the first instance, of training the Ukrainian army and extremist paramilitaries at the so-called International Peacekeeping and Security Center in western Ukraine. Canada has 200 troops in the country.

The military training is designed to improve Ukraine’s capacity to wage the civil war it launched against the populations of the Donbass region in the east of the country in April 2014. There, the large majority of the population rejected a violent seizure of power by a right-wing coalition of conservatives, extreme-rightists and neo-Nazis in February 2014. When the new regime in Kyiv sent soldiers and extremist paramilitaries to eastern Ukraine to quash civil resistance against the ‘Maidan coup’, self-defense forces were hastily thrown up and military conflict ensued.

Prime Minister Trudeau visited the military training center on July 11. His media entourage reported a disturbing insight into what the foreign soldiers are up to there. A July 13 article by the Canadian Press‘ Lee Berthiaume wrote:

Trudeau flew into Lviv in western Ukraine before driving to a nearby military base for a first-hand look at the work of 200 Canadian soldiers who have been training the Ukrainian army since last summer.

From a distance, Trudeau, his son Xavier and defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance watched through binoculars as a Soviet-era armoured personnel carrier led a group of Canadian and Ukrainian soldiers toward a wooden building. The air shook as the vehicle’s cannon fired several bursts in quick succession.

The troops then moved away from the vehicle and spread out in a line facing the building. Four Canadians followed close behind as the eight Ukrainians slowly closed on the building while firing their rifles before placing an explosive inside and setting it off.

The exercise was the type of attack those Ukrainian soldiers could soon be conducting on their own in the east of their country, where the army has been fighting Russian-backed separatists for more than two years.

Trudeau’s son Xavier is nine years old. It’s not known what the “building” in the training exercise represents in real life. Ukraine’s ‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’ in the east heavily targets residential neighbourhoods. In addition to houses and apartment buildings, schools, daycare centers and even medical centers have been struck by Ukrainian tank and other artillery shelling. The ongoing reports of the Donetsk International News Agency document the havoc. (Latest report, dated July 11, is here).

Effective anti-aircraft defense on the rebel side is the only reason why Ukraine has not employed fighter aircraft against its nominal citizens, as NATO-member Turkey is doing in its civil war against the Kurdish population in the east of that country.

Earlier the same day, Trudeau addressed Canadian soldiers about their work in Ukraine. He said, “It has been a long time since Canada had to defend our valour and defend our territory. But we need to continue to work with those who are fighting for democracy and their territorial integrity.”

Trudeau voiced the usual NATO stories about Russia’s actions in the region since the Maidan coup. “Russia has not been a positive partner,” he told his hosts in Ukraine, speaking of the situation in eastern Ukraine.

“It has not been moving appropriately on things like ceasefires and international observers.”

While in Ukraine, Trudeau also signed a “free trade” agreement with Ukraine. The agreement is unlikely to change much in the small amount of trade between the two countries. According to the Canadian government, Canada exported some $210 million in goods to Ukraine in 2015, including pharmaceuticals, fish and seafood and coking coal. Ukraine sent to Canada some $67 million the same year, including fertilizers, iron and steel and anthracite coal.

Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion trundled off to Latvia following the Warsaw summit to voice his own harsh language. He told a press conference in Riga, “A neighboring country [Russia] chooses to throw its weight around and cause trouble and international instability. Latvia and Canada, together with our NATO allies, answer the call both for strong deterrence and strong dialogue [sic].

“We will stay strong as long as the relationship has not been changed for something positive – as long as Russia is a troublemaker in the region we need to be strong together and Canada will be part of it.”

Dion said Ukraine, too, has been “confronted directly with aggression from our shared neighbour.”

What about the Minsk-2 ceasefire?

As with its NATO partners, Canada’s government tells lies when it comes to the ongoing violations by Kyiv of the ceasefire agreement for eastern Ukraine that was signed in Belarus on February 12, 2015.

Ukraine has failed to live up to all of the 13 clauses of Minsk-2. This was noted (though understated) in the aforementioned Canadian Press report when it said, “[Trudeau] called Russia’s recent actions in the region “illegitimate” and “illegal”, and voiced strong support for NATO members in Eastern Europe as well as Ukraine, despite rampant corruption in Ukraine and its failure to implement parts [sic] of a peace deal with Russia and the rebels.”

Ukraine continues its military attacks against Donetsk and Lugansk (the two former provinces of Ukraine which make up the historic region called Donbass). It does not recognize the elected authorities of the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, and so no progress has been made on a political settlement, including a regional election. Prisoner exchanges have been very partial. And so on. (Text of Minsk-2 ceasefire here.)

Canada, the U.S. and the rest of NATO have nothing to say about Ukraine’s dereliction of duty with the ceasefire. On the contrary, they accuse Russia of failing to live up to the agreement, even though Russia, with France and Germany, is but a guarantor, not a signator, of the agreement. As the Russian government has patiently explained for the past 18 months, only the Ukrainian government and the rebel side against which it is fighting can and should decide what happens on Ukrainian soil.

The criticism of Russia by Canada is carefully orchestrated to shield the true state of affairs. In 2014, following the Maidan coup, Russia stood by the people in Crimea and then in Donbass who rose up to oppose the coup. This is what has infuriated the NATO countries. According to their script, Russia is supposed to act like the other countries of the region and meekly accept NATO diktats. In this case, Russia was supposed to stand aside and allow an illegal, right-wing regime in Kyiv to wage a violent campaign against civil dissent opposing the new regime’s pro-Europe, anti-Russia and pro-austerity course to proceed. Oh, and Russia was supposed to meekly give up its historic, centuries old naval base in Crimea and turn the keys over to NATO.

The NATO powers are not used to defiance. They don’t like the “bad” example that Russia’s defiance sets for people or countries in Europe who may wish to battle EU-dictated austerity and violations of national sovereignty, as, for example, the people in Greece and, more recently, in Britain are trying to do.

The other large, longstanding factor at play in eastern Europe is the historic, U.S.-led drive by NATO to weaken and dismantle first the Soviet Union and now the Russia Federation. Events in Ukraine and Crimea have given the U.S., its allies and pliant media new propaganda ammunition to bamboozle world opinion and renew the post-WW2, not-so-cold-anymore war.

Media and Parliamentary opposition in Canada join the pro-war chorus

The obfuscation over Minsk-2 and the dangerous, ‘new cold war’ backdrop rely on a compliant mainstream media to dissuade questioning if not opposition by ordinary citizens. As in the U.S. and Europe, mainstream media in Canada does little or nothing to accurately inform the public of the true state of affairs in Ukraine and Crimea and the broader region. Instead, it is increasingly parroting whatever line emanates from NATO country capitals while adding its own unique stamp to the mix.

The national daily Globe and Mail editorialized on July 13 in favour of the Liberal’s latest moves. It wrote, ” The risk of a new cold war, let alone a third world war in Eastern Europe, is small, but Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and its thinly disguised subversion of order in eastern Ukraine, shows how willing President Vladimir Putin is to make serious mischief…

“The risk of leaving a whole set of countries [the Baltic region] virtually undefended would be most unacceptable.”[3]

The same compliance goes for Canadian Parliamentarians. A case in point is an op-ed commentary by Thomas Mulcair published on July 12 in the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper.

Mulcair is the leader of Canada’s social democratic party, the New Democratic Party, the third largest party in Parliament. He writes in the Star,

“There can be no doubt Russia poses a significant threat to the people of Eastern Europe. In March, the United Nations estimated that at least 9,160 civilians have died in Ukraine since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.” 

Note the writer’s named starting date of the tragic deaths of thousands in eastern Ukraine: not the launching of Ukraine’s civil war (‘Anti-Terrorist Operation’) in April-May 2014 but the Crimea referendum in March.

Mulcair writes further, “Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown himself to be a volatile leader, not above searching for any pretext to escalate into violence.”

The op-ed expresses some unease with the decision of Canada to join and head up one of NATO’s projected combat brigades. Parliament has not been consulted, Mulcair complains. And he worries, “If military buildup becomes our only way of communicating with Russians, there is a real risk that falling into a permanent deterrence mode will lead to escalation and the re-emergence of a dangerous Cold War-style deadlock.”

But the headline to the commentary summarizes the essence. It reads, ‘Military-only response to Russia is dangerous’. In other words, a military posture against Russia is needed, yes, and so are additional measures. To wit, Mulcair says Canada should extend its sanctions against Russia’s economy. He urges adoption of a version of the ‘Magnitsky Act’ which was adopted in the United States in 2012 and which extended the freezing of assets and banning of travel by Russian political and business leaders. The law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian accountant working in the financial industry who died while in prison in Russia in 2009.

Evidently, Mulcair has not viewed the new documentary film exposing the propaganda campaign behind the U.S. law. The film is titled ‘The Magnitsky Act. Behind the Scenes’. The Russian filmmaker began his documentary quest by presenting the accepted story of Magnitsky as a fighter against endemic corruption and favouritism in the Russian government. But along the way, he discovered a very different view of events in which the Russian government happened to be battling, not coddling, corruption, in this case by going after a set of foreign and Russian businessmen who had hired Magnitsky to manage their books.

Mulcair concludes his commentary with a repeat that it is “the Russian threat” which is at fault for escalating tensions in eastern Europe and that more than military means alone are needed to meet the “threat”.

Such is the state of official political opposition in Canada today on the Ukraine file, where ‘opposition member of Parliament’ means ‘compliant member of Parliament’.

Oppose war and militarism

Since last year’s election in Canada, the language coming out of Ottawa with respect to Russia has shifted ever so slightly. Stéphane Dion has been speaking of the need for “dialogue” with Russia. But nothing with respect to policy has changed. Canada is stepping up its military intervention in Ukraine and eastern Europe. It maintains the U.S. and EU-led sanctions targeting Russia’s political leaders and business men and women. It still calls Crimea’s referendum vote in 2014 to rejoin the Russia Federation a Russian “annexation”. It still accuses Russia of conducting a military intervention into eastern Ukraine.

The larger danger in all of NATO’s war posturing is the threat of nuclear war. Three of the countries ganging up against Russia are nuclear powers–the United States, France and Britain. Each of them are busily renewing and improving their nuclear arsenals, led by the estimated trillion dollars which the U.S. is slated to spend on new nuclear arms technologies, which it hopes might provide it with a cherished, first-strike nuclear capacity.

Progressive social and political forces in Canada that should be opposing the war posturing in eastern Europe have been largely silent. That’s because they have dug themselves into a hole during the past two and a half years by ignoring events in and around the Maidan coup in Ukraine or, worse, by buying into the NATO rhetoric of ‘aggressive Russia’ and ‘imperialist Russia’. Ignorance and prejudice about Russia, rather than factual analysis, rules the day.

As Canadians begin to rebuild an antiwar movement out of the ashes of the old, four key demands should come to the fore. One is to end the sanctions, threats and outright attacks by NATO and Ukraine against Russia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine. Two is to demand the government in Kyiv implement the terms of the ceasefire agreement it signed in Minsk in February 2015.

Thirdly and fourthly, it is high time to renew two historic demands of the peace and antiwar movements over the decades which, sadly, have a new urgency:

Abolish nuclear weapons!
Canada out of the NATO alliance! 

This article also appears in Counterpunch on July 15
and in the author’s blog on

[1] On March 16, 2014, the people of Crimea voted overwhelmingly to secede from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation. The vote was conducted by the elected, autonomous assembly of Crimea. The March 2014 referendum was prompted by the violent overthrow one month earlier of the elected president of Ukraine. Victor Yanukovych had received the large majority of votes in Crimea in Ukraine’s 2010 presidential election.

Crimea was annexed to then-Soviet Ukraine in 1954 by a decision of the government of the USSR in order to facilitate post-WW2 reconstruction. But the Crimean people were given no vote on the matter.
[2] Clause ten of the NATO communiqué introduces a novel concept into international diplomacy: not only do nation states and countries (or parts thereof) have “borders”; apparently, self-proclaimed military alliances have borders, too. Clause ten of the NATO communiqué refers to “NATO borders [sic], including in the Baltic and Black Sea regions and the Eastern Mediterranean”.
[3] With one exception–the Toronto Star–the entirety of Canada’s print mainstream media supported the re-election of Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in the October 19, 2015 election.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Bragg on Post-Brexit Britain

A New Britain? Billy Bragg On Brexit And The Nation's Future

by Billy Bragg- NME Blog

July 14, 2016

Billy Bragg: "Since the Brexit result, our political environment has shattered. The Brexiteers have been mown down like characters in Game Of Thrones and the Labour Party has jumped off the end of the pier and tried to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn, who was elected with a bigger mandate than any other Labour candidate before him. It’s hard to keep up.

There was a gap in the rain the other morning and I went for a walk. When I came back Theresa May was Prime Minister. Everything’s up in the air.

In the week that Theresa May became Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn lives to fight another day, Barking singer and political activist Billy Bragg gives us his view on politics, Brexit and Britain's future. (NME)

"People aren’t buying into the politics being offered"

The nation is at a fork in the road. Politics has been trying to realign itself ever since the Conservatives went into coalition with the Liberal Democrats [in 2010]. When a system that’s meant to give strong governments fails to give a strong government, then clearly people aren’t buying into the politics being offered.

The public’s mood has been misjudged on a number of issues: the Scottish referendum, the election of Jeremy Corbyn and the EU vote. The political class of the 1990s – centrist, Blairite politics that doesn’t really offer anything except economic growth – has finally had its day. People are no longer looking for politicians who promise to manage the economy. Instead they’re looking for someone who will either listen to them or change things. It’s a move to a more transformative politics. If people believe their vote counts they’ll participate – you saw that with the referendum.

People realised they had an opportunity and they voted for change. I don’t agree with that, but you’ve got to recognise there’s a feeling out there. It wasn’t just David Cameron that assumed British people would vote remain, it was all parties apart from UKIP.

"There's a sense that, as a nation, we’ve totally fucking flipped out"

The referendum was all things to all people: immigration, multiculturalism, the speed of change, modernity, metropolitan elites. It was about what the EU stood for – it became an object into which you could load any general anger you had with the world. Not everybody was voting cynically but the overall result was probably swung by people who, for five or 10 years, have seen everything they hoped would happen cancelled by events beyond their control, thinking, ‘Here’s an opportunity to hit back at the ruling class’.

This is probably the most tumultuous period I’ve experienced. The [1984-85] miners’ strike was a terrible period but it was clear what each side was doing. The thing about Brexit is we don’t know. We’re through the looking glass. There’s no plan or direction. At least with an election the government has a mandate and a roadmap. There’s nothing in the referendum result that gives a steer on what to do. When the Prime Minister resigns and the Labour party try to overthrow the leader, the sense that as a nation we’ve totally fucking flipped out is just underscored.

It hasn’t ended yet. You’ve now got a Remain Prime Minister in Theresa May who’s got to negotiate the Brexit deal. The Leavers who won have been chased from the field, which is quite shocking. Those that weren’t chased walked anyway, like Nigel Farage. 'Good luck with it! See ya!' Where’s the responsibility in that?

It defies belief, and the fact is we’re doing this is because David Cameron wanted to sure up his party against angry Eurosceptic backbenchers. Now we’re adrift politically, possibly economically and certainly emotionally.

"Music can make you feel like you’re not the only one who cares about this shit"

I was at Glastonbury when it went down. Corbyn was supposed to come and speak but the coup put an end to that. We spent the weekend trying to make sense of it. I was on stage the night of the result and the tent was rammed. It was very emotional. They made this noise when I went on that they’d normally make when I finish. Music can make you feel like you’re not the only one who cares about this shit. At Glastonbury there were a lot of people in favour of remaining, in fact the BBC couldn’t find anyone to speak up for leave in a Green Fields debate. Then they found one person in the audience and when he stood up he was wearing a t-shirt that said ‘tell your boobs to stop staring at my eyes’. For fuck’s sake.

"Young people can't give in to cynicism"

As far as what young people can do, those that didn’t vote probably didn’t think the country would be daft enough [to leave]. The first time I could vote in 1979 I was a snotty nosed punk rocker and I didn’t bother. What happened? Margaret Thatcher got elected. Within a year I realised that she would threaten things I’d taken for granted. These people have woken up on that Friday and suddenly everything’s changed. We live in a different society. I don’t blame them for imagining it couldn’t have happened, but the question is what do you do now it has?

The temptation is to give in to cynicism, but you’ve got to overcome that and engage in building a different consensus. The rising attacks against immigrants since the referendum have clearly legitimised the racism that’s been bubbling away. As much as I am willing to support any movement that takes on the xenophobic element legitimised by the Brexit result, it’s up to young people to manifest that. We need to hear what you think and you need to find a way to articulate that. There are lots of different mediums you can use to talk about the world. Young people need to articulate themselves because if they don’t, others will speak for them, like Theresa May. I’m hoping Brexit will galvanise a new generation of activists and artists who have something to say about the world and want their voice heard.

They don’t need to give me graphs and details, I want to know how they feel. We tried to argue the case for Remain by using facts and figures but it didn’t work – we couldn’t break through the shield of cynicism that built up after 30 years of negative headlines in the Daily Mail. Some people don’t like to talk about these issues because they fear they’ll get abuse online. But no one can tell you how to feel. You’ve got to be able to articulate that and let people build from there."

Hotting Up the Cold War

Western Propaganda for a New Cold War

by Rick Sterling  - Consortium News

July 14, 2016

Recently I went on a 15-day visit to Russia organized by the Center for Citizen Initiatives. The group visited Moscow, the Crimean peninsula, Krasnodar (southern Russia) and St. Petersburg. In each location we met many locals and heard diverse viewpoints.

CCI has a long history promoting friendship and trying to overcome false assumptions between citizens of the USA and Russia. The founder Sharon Tennison has focused on making people-to-people connections including the business community, Rotary clubs, etc. This delegation was organized because of concern about escalating international tensions and the danger of a drift toward world threatening military conflict.

We were in Russia in late June as Russians were commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. They call it the Great Patriotic War where 27 million Soviet citizens died.

In Russia it’s a very sober occasion in which they pay tribute to the fallen, acknowledge the heroes and underscore the horrors of war. Virtually everyone in Russia lost family members in World War Two and there seems to be a deep understanding of what war and invasion mean.

It is alarming to see the constant drumbeat in Western media that Russia is “aggressive,” that Russia “invaded” Crimea, Russia is “a threat.” Hardly a day goes by that The New York Times does not have an editorial or news story with the assertion or insinuation that Russia is “aggressive”.

Thursday’s op-ed by Andrew Foxall is an example. A director of the neocon Henry Jackson Society think tank, Foxall bemoans the British departure from the European Union and suggests, without evidence, that Russian President Putin may be behind it:

“Mr. Putin has spent the past 16 years trying to destabilize the West. … After Brexit, the union has lost not only one of its most capable members, but also one of its two nuclear powers and one of its two seats at the United Nations Security Council. … Mr. Putin checked the European Union’s expansion when he invaded Ukraine in 2014. The Continent’s security order is now in a perilous plight: If Mr. Putin senses weakness, he will be tempted into further aggression.”

It is now common to hear the claim that Russia “invaded” Ukraine and is “occupying” Crimea. The U.S. and its European allies have imposed sanctions on Russia because of Crimea’s decision – supported by a referendum with nearly 90 percent participation and a 96 percent favorable vote – to separate from Ukraine and rejoin Russia.

Because of the sanctions, tourist cruise ships no longer stop at Crimean ports and international airlines are prohibited from flying directly to the international airport at the Crimean capital, Simferopol. Students from Crimean universities cannot transfer their academic credits to universities internationally.

Despite the sanctions and problems, Crimea appears to be doing reasonably well. In the past two years, the airport has been rebuilt and modernized. The streets of Balaclava, Sevastopol, Simferopol and Yalta are busy and bright. No doubt things could be much better and residents want the sanctions lifted, but there were no evident signs of shortages or poverty.

On the contrary, kids were enjoying ice cream, parks were full and streets busy late into the night. The famous Artek Youth Camp near Yalta is being refurbished with new dormitories, state of the art swimming pool and gymnasium. Right now they are handling 3,000 youth in the camp at one time with 30,000 kids from all over Russia this year.

A 12-mile bridge connecting Crimea to southern Russia is now half complete. A impressive video showing the design is here.

What Provoked Crimea?

After 22 years as part of independent Ukraine following the breakup of the Soviet Union, what drove the people of Crimea to overwhelmingly support a referendum calling for “re-unification” with Russia? Was this the result of intimidation or an “occupation” by Russia?

We received a very strong sense from talking with many different people in Crimea that they are happy with their decision. The impetus was not aggression from Russia; the impetus came from the violence and ultra-nationalism of the foreign-backed coup in Ukraine overthrowing the democratically elected President Viktor Yanukovych, who was strongly supported by Crimea’s voters.

U.S.-supported protests against Ukraine’s Yanukovych government began in November 2013 in the “Maidan” (central square) in Kiev. Protesters included right-wing nationalist and Nazi sympathizers hostile to the Yanukovych government. A significant faction in the Maidan glorified the Ukrainian Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera.

The U.S. was deeply involved in promoting the “Maidan” protests and strategizing how to bring a new government to power. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland demanded the Yanukovych government do nothing to stop or prevent the increasing vandalism, attacks and intimidation. With thugs in the street increasingly clashing with police, U.S. officials pressed the Ukrainian government to break economic ties with Russia as a condition for closer relations with Europe and loans from the International Monetary Fund.

On the surface, the U.S. was encouraging Ukraine to strengthen ties with the European Union but in reality Nuland’s goals were about expanding NATO and undermining Russia. This was dramatically revealed in a secretly recorded phone call between Nuland and the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt.

Nuland and Pyatt discussed who should and should not be in the coup government two weeks before the coup happened. As they conspired over the phone, Nuland expressed her displeasure with the European Union’s reluctance to push the coup. “Fuck the E.U.,” Nuland said.

When the audio recording of Nuland and Pyatt discussing how to “midwife” the Kiev coup was revealed, the State Department’s spokesperson was grilled about it. She responded “That’s what diplomats do.”

Six weeks before the phone call – at a conference of U.S.-Ukrainian business leaders sponsored by Chevron – Nuland spoke glowingly of Ukraine’s “European aspirations” and the U.S. investment in promoting “democracy” in Ukraine.

In that Dec. 13, 2013 speech, Nuland said “Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991 the United States has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good governance, all of which are preconditions for Ukraine to achieve its European aspirations. We have invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals.” (approximately 7:30 into the recording of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation conference).

In mid-December 2013, hundreds of Crimeans traveled to Kiev in buses to join peaceful protests in opposition to the Maidan protests seen on television. They stayed in Kiev through January and into February until the violence exploded on Feb. 18, 2014. Altogether, 82 persons were killed including 13 police and 1,100 injured.

At that point, the Crimeans decided peaceful protest was useless and to return home. The bus caravan departed Kiev on Feb 20 but was stopped at night near the town of Korsun. The buses were torched and the Crimean travelers brutalized, beaten and seven killed. When news of this reached Crimea, it was yet another cause for alarm.

A video titled “The Crimes of Euromaidan Nazis” documents the events and includes interviews with numerous passengers. These atrocities against unarmed Crimeans were committed on a public highway with no intervention from local Ukrainian police.

Rejecting Compromise

On Feb 21, the Yanukovych reached a compromise brokered by three European governments, calling for reduced presidential powers and early elections so Ukrainians would have the opportunity to elect a new leader. But those concessions did not appease the most violent Maidan protesters or their supporters. A parliamentarian was beaten in broad daylight and threats issued.

A screen shot of U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for 
European Affairs Victoria Nuland speaking to U.S. and Ukrainian 
business leaders on Dec. 13, 2013, at an event sponsored by 
Chevron, with its logo to Nuland’s left.

President Yanukovych fled for his life and a new government, led by Victoria Nuland’s choice Arseniy Yatsenyuk, took charge. The U.S. and its Western allies quickly recognized the new government as “legitimate” while Russia objected to it as an illegal coup. In the first days of the new government, a bill was passed to make Ukrainian the sole official language of the country despite the fact that many Ukrainians speak Russian.

Indeed, there was aggression and violence in Ukraine but it was not from Russia. Rather, the evidence shows that the violence was instigated by the forces that led the coup. This was revealed in an intercepted phone conversation between British representative to the European Union, Catherine Ashton, and the Estonian Foreign Minister, Urmas Paet.

Paet reported that he had been to Kiev and “there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition.” Ashton responded, “Oh gosh …. We will need to look into that” and quickly moved on. Nearly 2½ years later, the post-coup regime in Kiev has failed to conduct a serious investigation into the sniper attacks.

While this history is largely ignored by the U.S. and Western media – The New York Times won’t even admit that there was a “coup” – the reality is well known in Crimea and other ethnic Russian areas of Ukraine. Crimeans whom we spoke with described their shock and outrage at the events that unfolded in the winter of 2013-14.

In just four months they witnessed violent Maidan protests, the overthrow of the elected government, beatings and killings of citizens returning from Kiev, and then a parliamentary vote to remove Russian as an official language.

In response, local leaders recommended a Crimea wide referendum with the option to officially re-unite with the country that Crimea had been part of for over two centuries. A referendum was held on March 16. Turnout was 89 percent with 96 percent voting in favor of the “reunification of Crimea with Russia.”

With the violent overthrow of the Kiev government and clear proof of U.S. involvement in the coup, it seems highly inaccurate to say that Russia “invaded” or is “occupying” Crimea. (Russian troops were already stationed in Crimea as part of the lease agreement for the Sevastopol naval base.) On the contrary, it seems to be the U.S. and its allies were the “aggressive” ones.

The same reversal of reality is going on with the expansion of NATO. In recent weeks, NATO has placed armed forces in Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania while complaining about Russia engaging in threatening military deployments inside Russia.

NATO military expenses are already 13 times greater than that of Russia yet NATO plans to increase military spending even more. Meanwhile the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty in 2002 and is busy building and installing ABM sites in Alaska and now Eastern Europe. With a serious face, U.S. officials have previously claimed these sites are being installed because of the danger of “Iranian missiles” but only a fool could take that seriously.

There is the additional risk that the same sites could be converted from anti-ballistic missiles to contain nuclear warheads.

Are NATO and the U.S. preparing for war? The public should be asking hard questions to our political and military leaders as they waste our tax dollars and risk global conflagration. And, enough of the nonsense about Russian “aggression” when the evidence indicates it’s the U.S. and its allies that are destabilizing other countries, escalating a new arms race and promoting conflict instead of diplomacy.

Rick Sterling is an independent writer/researcher.
He can be reached at

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Feeling Burned: Don't Call Me, "Bernie"

Don’t Call Him “Bernie” Anymore: the Sanders Sell-Out and the Clinton Wars to Come

by Gary Leupp - CounterPunch

July 14, 2016

The worst disservice Sanders has done to his supporters, other than to lead them on a wild goose chase for real change, is to virtually ignore his rival’s vaunted “experience.” He need not have mentioned Hillary Clinton’s Senate record, since there was nothing there; her stint as law-maker was merely intended to position her for a run for the presidency, according to the family plan.

But there was a lot in her record as Secretary of State.

Crush Rush |

As she recounts in her memoir, she wanted a heftier “surge” in Afghanistan than Obama was prepared to order. Anyone paying attention knows that the entire military mission in that broken country has been a dismal failure producing blow-back on a mind-boggling scale, even as the Taliban has become stronger, and controls more territory, than at any time since its toppling in 2001-2002.

Hillary wanted to impose regime change on Syria in 2011, by stepping up assistance to armed groups whom (again) anyone paying attention knows are in cahoots with al-Nusra (which is to say, al-Qaeda). In an email dated Nov. 30, 2015, she states her reason: “The best way to help Israel…is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.”

In her memoir she criticizes Obama for not doing more to oust the secular Assad regime. She has repeatedly stated during her campaign that she favors a no-fly zone over Syria, like the one she advocated for Libya. That means conflict with Russia, which is bombing sites in Syria, with the permission of its internationally recognized government, under what Russia’s leaders (and many rational people) consider to be terrorists’ control.

Sanders–sorry, I cannot call him “Bernie” anymore, since he has become precisely as avuncular as Dick Cheney–could have effectively attacked Hillary the Skjaldmær (Old Norse for “Shield-maiden,” referring to an often berserk warrior-woman) for her role in the destruction of Libya. But no! Always referring to her deferentially as “Secretary Clinton”—as though her actions in that role merit respect—he rarely alluded to her greatest crime at all. That’s unforgivable.

(Yes, in one debate he mentioned Libya in passing—timidly, and with no follow-up. While he repeatedly mentioned how The Secretary had voted for the Iraq War and he hadn’t, he hardly exuded moral outrage about that or any other Clinton decision. His campaign was all about her Wall Street ties and well-paid, secret talks, the transcripts of which he once wanted to see but has now apparently lost interest. It was never about “foreign policy,” which is supposedly her forte. He may call himself a “socialist,” but he’s no anti-imperialist. He has voted in favor of every “defense spending” bill, supported the NATO assault on Serbia in 1999, supported Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2014, etc.)

He could have attacked Clinton savagely—with the savagery of mere matter-of-fact honesty—by citing those emails exchanged between Clinton and her vicious confidant and former adviser Anne-Marie Slaughter, in which the latter—under the subject line “bravo!”—congratulates her on engineering Obama’s agreement for the bombing of Libya. (On March 19, 2011, as the bombing of Libya began, Slaughter wrote: “I cannot imagine how exhausted you must be after this week, but I have NEVER been prouder of having worked for you. Turning [Obama] around on this is a major win for everything we have worked for.”

He could have quoted that email from Sidney Blumenthal, that Svengali figure who has long been Clinton’s unofficial mentor (along with Henry Kissinger and others): “No-fly! Brava! You did it!” (Brava, if you’re interested, is the feminine form of Bravo.)

He could have repeatedly used that damning clip that reveals Hillary’s joy at the grotesque murder of Moammar Gadhafy—-who had become a friend of Tony Blair, Silvio Berlusconi, and the CIA as of 2011—at the hands of Islamist thugs, who rammed a stick and knife up his anus on camera just to make it more humiliating. His ads could have started with some appropriately edited version of this. And ended with this. And left the people to draw their own conclusions.

He could have asked, “Why the hell did you appoint Dick Cheney aide Victoria Nuland as Under Secretary of State for Eurasia, and support and fund that coup in Ukraine in 2014 in your goddamn ambition to expand NATO?”

But no. He didn’t have it in him. And now he wants his youthful erstwhile followers to transfer their support to someone who is not only the embodiment of Wall Street, with all its blood-sucking and all its crookedness, but the personification of U.S. imperialism in an era when its depth of crisis has produced a state of perpetual war.

Savvy people in Syria and elsewhere surely understand what the Sanders endorsement means: Syria is the next Libya.

Hillary in the Oval Office, Binyamin Netanyahu at her side, will laugh as Assad gets her knife up his ass, chaos deepens, the draft is re-instated, and boys and girls—of all ethnicities, gay and straight together—march off to fight the Brava Wars drastically reducing youth unemployment and making legions more eligible for the GI Bill.

Even if Sanders doesn’t vote for the war (and why should there be a vote, after all, in this post-constitution era?), he will share responsibility.

Shame! And shame on any once “Bernie” supporter who follows him into his moral morass.

* * *

Feel the burn. The burn of the rigged system. Why be drawn into it—the object of Hillary’s praise, for switching so readily from him to her (for the sake of “unity”)?

What is there to unite with, but more corruption, exploitation, and wars based on lies?

The votes that matter are the votes on the street. Either Trump or Clinton will provoke mass upheaval. The key contribution of the Sanders campaign has been to lay bare for idealistic youth the magnitude of the rot in the system itself, while raising (however dishonestly) the prospect of “political revolution.”

It’s the hope Sanders has sold out. But yes, that’s what we need. Social, economic, and political revolution. Too bad he’s chosen the other side.

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa Japan; Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at:

More articles by:Gary Leupp

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Colombia's Sons of the AUC: The Case of El Bagre, Antioquia

Paramilitaries Continue Rampage in Colombia: the Case of El Bagre, Antioquia 

by Dan Kovalik  - CounterPunch

July 13, 2016

The peasant residents of El Bagre, Colombia, in the Department of Antioquia, have been brutalized this year by the paramilitary group known as the Autodefensas Gatinastas, a successor group to the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (“AUC”) – the paramilitary umbrella group which was designated as a “terrorist organization” by the U.S. State Department, and which feigned a demobilization back in 2006.

Thus, according to reports coming out of Colombia, at least 17 peasants have been brutally murdered in the first half of this year by the paramilitaries. As Contagio Radio explains, these victims were “killed, dismembered, [and] thrown into rivers or buried in mass graves.” As a result of these assaults, peasants have set up a humanitarian refuge within El Bagre for the now hundreds of peasants displaced by this violence. I first learned of the this crisis from messages on the Twitter account of former Colombian Senator, Piedad Cordoba, who has been one of the lone voices calling for international attention to the situation in El Bagre, Antioquia.

The Department of Antioquia is ground zero for paramilitarism in Colombia, and its former Governor, and later Colombia’s President, Alvaro Uribe, one of the key intellectual authors of the paramilitaries. As one AUC leader explained, Uribe “was our commander . . . . He never fired a gun; but he led, he contributed, he was our man at the top. . . . The massacres, the disappearances, the creation of an [AUC] group: he is responsible.” Indeed, for years there have been credible allegations that Uribe was responsible for the formation of an AUC bloc while governor of Antioquia department from 1995 to 1997, and that he used the AUC to coerce millions of voters into electing him President in 2002.

But again, this is not news to the U.S. government which has been quite aware of Uribe’s paramilitary ties for years. Thus, as Colombia Reports points out:

In 2004, a declassified US Intelligence Report, originally written in 1991, stated that Uribe had “worked for the Medellin Cartel,” run by notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, who the report described as a “close personal friend.”

In 2007, another US intelligence report – leaked to the Los Angeles Times – alleged that Uribe instructed General Mario Montoya, a local army commander who was later promoted to become the army’s top commander, to lead a controversial counter-insurgency push in the city of Medellin in which AUC forces played a major role. At least 14 people were killed in “Operation Orion” and dozens were forcibly disappeared.

Uribe’s known paramilitary ties did not prevent the U.S. from arming his military to the teeth, nor did they prevent President George W. Bush from considering Uribe his closest friend in the region and even awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Moreover, despite the continued allegations against Alvaro Uribe, and the recent arrest of his brother Santiago on charges that he himself was a paramilitary leader responsible for dozens of assassinations, Alvaro Uribe continues to be an important figure in Colombian politics, and the most outspoken public figure in Colombia against the ongoing peace discussions between the Colombian government and the FARC guerillas.

This puts the current grisly violence in El Bagre, Antioquia into context. This violence is but further proof that there can be no lasting peace in Colombia in the absence of the Colombian government putting an effective end to the paramilitaries which continue to have powerful political allies. So far, the Colombian government, which continues to deny the very existence of the paramilitaries, has shown little will to do this. And, it certainly has shown no will to do so in El Bagre, thus sending military forces to that town to dismantle illegal mining operations set up by local residents to eke out a living, while at the same time leaving the paramilitaries alone to terrorize these residents.

The U.S., which itself denies the existence of the paramilitaries, and which has in fact encouraged paramilitarism over the years in order to combat the threat of progressive change in Colombia, must be vocal in its opposition to the paramilitaries now in order to ensure the success of the peace process – a process which represents the only real hope for war-torn Colombia.
Daniel Kovalik lives in Pittsburgh and teaches International Human Rights Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.
More articles by:Dan Kovalik

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Indigenous Resistance and Discrediting International Observers in Honduras

In the Aftermath of the Murder of Berta Cáceres: Squashing Indigenous Resistance and Discrediting International Observers in Honduras

by James Phillips  - CounterPunch

July 12, 2016

People who work for human rights, the rights of Indigenous communities, protection of our global environment, and social justice, are demanding justice after the murder of Berta Cáceres. She was killed in early March when gunmen broke into her house and shot her.

It is abundantly clear to many Hondurans and international supporters and observers that her killing was political. Cáceres was the charismatic leader of COPINH, an organization begun in 1993 by Lenca communities in Honduras to promote their rights and protect their traditional lands, and to work with other Indigenous and popular organizations.

In the three years before her murder, Cáceres led COPINH in actively opposing construction of the Agua Zarca hydroelectric dam across the sacred Gualcarque River that runs through traditional Lenca lands in western Honduras. For her work she was awarded the international Goldman Prize in 2015 for Indigenous environmental activism. Cáceres helped to bring the Lenca struggle into global awareness, delivering an impassioned acceptance speech upon receiving the award in San Francisco. In Honduras, the Lenca and other Indigenous communities are widely seen as the front line of defense of the environment and the nation’s natural resources.

But Cáceres’ work also roused the fear and concern of those who wanted the dam as part of a larger economic development plan for Honduras that promoted foreign investment and large-scale resource extraction (mining, lumber, tourism, agribusiness) at the expense of hundreds of indigenous and peasant rural communities. These interests included the Honduran government and its powerful supporters, as well as U.S., Canadian, Chinese and other foreign interests. The Honduran company Desarollos Energéticos (DESA), with government support, held the contract for the Agua Zarca dam.

The dam builders cleared a dirt road to the construction site through traditional Lenca land without asking Lenca permission. Honduras is bound by national and international laws and treaties, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and International Labor Organization Convention 169 that prohibit taking or using indigenous lands or resources without “full, prior, and informed consent” of the affected communities. The Lenca claimed they were never consulted about the dam or the road. The company, DESA, also ordered them to stop using the river that had been central to their lives for many generations. In addition to private company security guards, a unit of Honduran military guarded the company’s construction compound, as if to emphasize the government’s interest in completion of the dam.

Beginning in April, 2013 and for more than four months, COPINH and the Lenca continued peaceful protest, sometimes leading processions or protest walks along the road, attracting Hondurans from other areas as well as international observers from the U.S., Europe, and Latin America. During one of these protests a Honduran soldier in the military unit guarding the dam construction compound shot and killed Lenca protester Tomás Garcia and seriously injured his teenage son, Alan.

Blaming the victim or innocent third parties is a common strategy of oppression and control. Authorities accused Cáceres and two other COPINH leaders–Tomás Gómez and Auriliano Molina–of fomenting violence, and claimed to have found a gun in Cåceres’ vehicle. DESA officials accused the three of causing economic damage by delaying the dam’s construction. After a court hearing at which more than one hundred Lenca and others gathered in support of Cáceres, she was ordered to stay away from the area of the dam protests and from any other protest activities. She was later forced into hiding for a time as authorities briefly sought her arrest, and for months before her assassination she continued to receive death threats. She reported at least thirty-three to the authorities, she said, but they did nothing, even though the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (an arm of the Organization of American States) had mandated the Honduran government to extend protective measures to Cáceres and other COPINH activists.

In the days after the murder of Cáceres, Honduran police held and interrogated COPINH leaders Gómez and Molina and Mexican citizen Gustavo Castro, director of Mexico’s Friends of the Earth. Castro was visiting Cáceres when she was killed. He was shot but survived and was given refuge in the Mexican Embassy when Honduran authorities refused to allow him to leave the country.

The police later released Gomez and Molina, but only after a hint of suspicion had been planted against them. In response, COPINH’s lawyer Victor Fernandez said, “Blaming people close to Berta is part of the crime. Leaders are murdered to terrorize communities, contaminate organizations, and squash resistance movements. This is the pattern.”

After two months of widespread popular demonstrations and protests in Latin America, the U.S., and Europe, the Honduran judicial prosecutor’s office announced charges against four men in Cåceres’ death. The identity of the four is revealing of the forces arrayed against the Lenca. Government and news sources reported that three of the four were active or retired military officers, and two are or have been DESA personnel. Sergio Rodriguez served as engineer for the Agua Zarca dam. Douglas Bustillo is a retired military officer and former head of security for DESA. Mariano Chavez is an active member of the Honduran military, and Edison Duarte is a former military officer. Before her death, Cáceres reportedly identified at least one of these men among those who had threatened her. In addition to these arrests, there are calls for the investigation and arrest of the intellectual authors of the crime, since many believe the murder was ordered, or at least condoned by higher authorities in Honduras. DESA officials have denied any responsibility.

In Honduras it is rare that prominent or powerful individuals are charged with crimes. A culture of official impunity allows the powerful literally to get away with murder. Impunity is the linchpin of the whole system of control and oppression. Some observers believe that because of the widespread and continuing concern and protests after Cáceres’ murder–concern that also aroused members of the U.S. Congress–the Honduran government was forced to show that it was treating this particular murder seriously and to bring credible charges.

Since the killing of Cáceres, COPINH members have been subjected to ongoing threats and attacks. On July 6, 2016, the body of Lesbia Janeth Uruquía, 49, was found stabbed to death near the municipal dump in Marcala, western Honduras. Like Cáceres, Uruquía was the mother of several children. She was a COPINH member and a leader in the effort to stop construction of a private hydroelectric dam on the Chinacla River. This construction project was headed by Gladys Lopez, president of the ruling National Party and vice-president of the National Congress that had authorized the project. As of this writing, no one had been charged in Uruquía’s murder.

Cáceres saw the conflict over the Agua Zarca and other such projects in the context of the support shown by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the 2009 coup against the government of Manual Zelaya. The coup is widely blamed for ushering in the current era of rampant resource extraction, violence, and repression in Honduras. In Hard Choices, Clinton writes that she advocated swift recognition of the coup and the post-coup government as an exercise in “clear-eyed pragmatism,” even as most of the hemisphere’s governments withheld recognition and demanded the restoration of the elected Zelaya government.

There is a history behind this. In the early 1980s, the Reagan Administration sent the Honduran government a blueprint for economic development (popularly known as Reaganomics for Honduras) that emphasized turning Honduras into a country wide open to foreign investment and resource extraction. Honduran government plans almost exactly mirrored this, until the Zelaya government seemed to deviate from the plan by listening to the voices of the country’s rural, peasant, and Indigenous people. The 2009 coup ended that challenge by removing Zelaya. It appeared that rhetoric about democracy and human rights clashed with the model of economic development the U.S. needed in Honduras.

Both the Agua Zarca project and the Chinacla River project are part of the larger national development plan that includes as an integral component the construction of hydroelectric dams across many of the country’s major rivers, including the Patuca (one of the largest Honduran rivers) that runs through the lands of at least three Indigenous peoples—Miskito, Pech, and Tawahka—in eastern Honduras. The electricity to be generated by these dams is intended, at least in part, to serve the needs of major mining operations in various parts of Honduras—mining projects (Honduran and foreign) that displace Indigenous and peasant communities without ever seeking their “free, prior, and informed consent.” Since the 2009 coup against Zelaya, the post-coup governments have granted a flurry of such mining concessions to U.S., Canadian, Chinese, and other foreign interests.

Murder and community displacement are two costs of such “development” projects. Another is the inequitable appropriation and use of essential resources that local communities need. Geology and hydrology experts estimate that a medium-sized mining project such as some of those proposed for Honduras can consume as much water in a few hours as a rural Honduran family would consume in a year.

Many Hondurans have long criticized this model of development. In 1980, Honduran Central Bank economist Edmundo Valladares referred to “the misery financing the model of development.” By contrast, World Bank president Jim Kim recently (April 2016) responded to the murder of Berta Cáceres in an address at Union Theological Seminary by expressing regret at her murder, then adding, “You cannot do the kind of work we are trying to do and not have some of these incidents happen. We just have to be honest when it happens, admit it, and then try to face it as best we can.” Was he implying that the killings of Indigenous and other leaders were an acceptable price for constructing the model of development? The World Bank has denied any involvement in the Agua Zarca dam project.

With its charismatic director eliminated and ongoing threats to those that remain, COPINH relies more than ever on the support of the international community. Lenca often express gratitude for the interest and support of foreign individuals and the global community. Observers from the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Europe have been present at Lenca and COPINH events. Recently, however, several international observers were public denounced by government officials and in media with questions such as, “Why is this foreigner present at a COPINH event?” In at least one case, an Italian human rights observer was deported after a campaign to discredit her.

At the same time, Honduran authorities have taken much uncharacteristic and seeming friendly interest in COPINH. Critics call this “mobbing,” a tactic of killing with kindness. The new attention is designed to confuse and co-opt COPINH’s remaining leaders and the Lenca people. But as human rights activist Ismael Moreno, SJ (Padre Melo) said several years ago after a long protest walk led by COPINH and the Garifuna organization OFRANEH, “The Indigenous peoples were highly disciplined and resistant…They were the most firm on the journey. They have resources that the rest do not have: their long history of resistance.”

Foreigners can help the Lenca and other Indigenous people of Honduras by becoming aware of the corporate and government interests and investments that their own countries have in Honduras. This extends also to foreign development and security aid and the conditions and accountability in which this aid is used. Some members of the U.S. Congress are beginning to demand this of their own government. 

James Phillips, Ph.d., is a cultural anthropologist at Southern Oregon University. His book, Honduras in Dangerous Times: Resistance and Resilience, was published by Lexington Books in 2015.
More articles by:James Phillips

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Laura Carlsen, Ingmar Lee, Janine Bandcroft July 13, 2016

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook -

July 13, 2016

The war against environmentalists and the indigenous people of Honduras continues. Last week, the body of Lesbia Yaneth Urquía was discovered in a garbage dump.

The indigenous Lenca was a member of COPINH, or the Civic Council of People's and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras; it is the organization formerly headed by Berta Cáceres, too an indigenous Lenca member, murdered last March for her opposition to extractive industry practices, and especially the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric Project, a mega-scheme involving several dams along the Rio Gualcarque undertaken by mining interests, and supported by the right-wing coup government of Juan Orlando Hernández.

Listen. Hear.

Laura Carlsen is Director of the Center for International Policy's Americas Program in Mexico City, and serves as an advisor to Just Associates (JASS), an international women's collective organization working at "building women's collective power for justice." She also hosts, Hecho en America, a Spanish language television program on Latin America.

Laura Carlsen in the first half.

And; what would you do? While eating with his family in their Denny Island home, off BC's remote central coast, renowned environmental champion, Ingmar Lee got a message about a nearby Humpback whale in distress. Entangled in a fishing net, it seemed to Lee the weary animal would not have long survived without help. To any who know Ingmar, it's no surprise he leapt to the rescue, but the shocking reaction by the government, and its media arm, should more than surprise.

Ingmar Lee and a whale for the saving in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus, Janine Bandcroft will join us at the bottom of the hour to bring us news of good goings on in and around our town and beyond planned for the coming week. But first, Laura Carlsen and violent days for grassroots movements in Latin America.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:
G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Israel and Militarizing America's Police

Israel and the Militarization of the US Police

by Mazin Qumsiyeh - Palestine

July 11, 2016 

Today marked the day that the results of Tawjihi (secondary school matricuation) were released. A lot of people are celebrating, some not (one girl in Gaza committed suicide after learning she did not pass). But an uncertain future hangs on these aspiring graduates because in one year we will have been under foreign military occupation and colonization for 50 years in the West Bank and Gaza and nearly 70 years in the rest of Palestine. Life goes on in its ups and downs.

photo: Jonathan Bachman - Reuters

The US is at the brink of civil war. The militarization of the US police has been driven largely by Israel touting the need for “counter-terrorism training”. That training in which hundreds (perhaps thousands so far) of senior US police officers travel to our country (Palestine, now under the regime called “Israel”) to train in the same methods used to quell the native Palestinians. Those “methods” are not too complicated. They rely on two elements: brutality and racism.

Jewish soldiers and “police” learn and teach that rights are only for the chosen people and the natives have no rights. So shoot first then if need be you can ask questions later. The US officers trained by Israeli regime officers go back to the USA and train yet more white officers to be racist. People are fed-up in the US (now it has the highest incarceration rate in the world and yet is not safer than most Western countries).

The US public needs to be told the truth about what is going on here. The militarization of the US police forces must end and be reversed now. Police should become community policing and reflective of the diversity of the communities they serve. The Israel lobby should be at least registered as foreign lobby and curbed when it undermines US interests. This is the only way to end the precipitous decline of the US.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Africa last week. The highpoint of his visit was to mark the 40th anniversary of Israeli air raid on Entebbe airport where a French Airliner had been hijacked and passengers held hostage. The violation of Ugandan sovereignty and violation of international law was touted as a success!!

The death of one Israeli soldier (and many Ugandans) allowed his brother, a chronic liar, to become the current Israeli prime minister. Netanyahu was out trying to sell more weapons and more divisions in Africa (soon after Israel forcibly kicked out African refugees). Pushing Ethiopia to build the dam at the Nile sources hurt Egypt economically and yet the traitor Egyptian foreign minister visited Israel even as Israeli drones violated Egyptian territories in the Sinai.

Israeli media had praise for Egyptian dictator Sisi. Israel also had praise for Ugandan ruler (who ruled for 30 years so far) Museveni. Like many leaders friendly to Israel he is a rambling fool. Here he is welcoming Netanyahu and referring to Palestine when he meant Israel!

These are Israel’s friends: fools and despots who put interests of Israel ahead of their own people for short term personal gains.

The occupation of the American Mind is a video about how media is used to brainwash the American public and serve racist agendas that contradict US national interest:

Welcome to visit us

Mazin Qumsiyeh
Professor and (volunteer) Director
Palestine Museum of Natural History
Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability
Bethlehem University
Occupied Palestine

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Killing Poets in the Name of God: Saudi "Justice" Demands Death for Apostasy

Free Ashraf Fayadh: Palestinian Poet Facing Execution in Saudi Arabia

by Steven Katsineris  - Dissident Voice

July 10th, 2016

“We, poets from around the world, are appalled that the Saudi Arabian authorities have sentenced Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh to death for apostasy. It is not a crime to hold an idea, however unpopular, nor is it a crime to express opinion peacefully. Every individual has the freedom to believe or not believe. Freedom of conscience is an essential human freedom.” - PEN International letter signed by a group of poets in an expression of solidarity with Ashraf Fayadh.

Ashraf Fayadh (35) is a Palestinian refugee and writer living in Saudi Arabia. He is also a leading member of the young Saudi art scene. Fayadh is awaiting execution, after being sentenced to death by a Saudi court on charges of apostasy, or abandoning his faith in Islam.

The charges against him appear to be based on his poetry and other writing, but maybe also retaliation for Fayadh posting an online video showing Saudi religious police lashing a man in public.

In January 2014, he was arrested and his identity documents confiscated and Fayadh was held for a lengthy period without charge. He was then sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes for what he wrote in his book of poetry and for allegedly having illicit relations with women. After he appealed the sentence, Fayadh was re-tried and sentenced to be executed. He did not have any legal representation.

Fayadh was sentenced to death for renouncing Islam, a charge which he denies. Evidence used against him included poems from his collection ‘Instructions Within’, which is banned in Saudi Arabia, as well as his posts on Twitter and a conversation he had in a coffee shop in the town of Abha which was said to be blasphemous.

Fayadh said his poetry book, Instructions Within, is “just about me being a Palestinian refugee … about cultural and philosophical issues.” But Saudi religious extremists claimed his writings were destructive ideas against God.

According to Human Rights Watch, as well as the charges of blasphemy and spreading atheism, Fayadh was also charged with having an illicit relationship with women, based on pictures found on his phone. He told the court the pictures were of women he had met at an art gallery.

His supporters are now asking how the case could draw such different verdicts, especially when, according to US-based Human Rights Watch, two of the three judges in the original case also served in the later retrial. The case illustrates how courts in Saudi Arabia can issue vastly different punishments based on how judges interpret Islamic law, a system derived from scholarly interpretations of the Koran and verified and documented rulings and sayings of the prophet Muhammad.

Fayadh’s friends have submitted testimony disputing the veracity of a complaint filed to the religious police by an acquaintance who has accused him of making blasphemous comments about God, the prophet Muhammad and the Saudi state during a heated discussion at a cafe in Abha, the city where the case was heard.

The one-page court document says the friend’s testimony was not accepted in the retrial because the defendant’s own “admission is the strongest evidence”, without specifying what Fayadh had allegedly admitted to. Fayady was arrested and released within a day for that argument in August 2013.

Just days earlier, Fayadh’s friends say he may have caught the attention of religious police when he filmed one of them slapping a man on the face and forcibly pinning him against a wall in Abha. The video on YouTube has been viewed over 195,000 times.

While judges in the initial trial accepted Fayadh’s repentance for anything deemed offensive to religion in his poetry book, the judges in the retrial said the case was considered an instance of Hadd (literal meaning “limit”, or “restriction” this is an Islamic concept about punishments which under Islamic Sharia law are mandated and fixed by God. The Sharia divided offenses into those against God and those against man) with specific crimes, such as apostasy, having fixed punishments in Islam.

Sharia is open to various interpretations and many Muslim clerics say the death penalty is not the standard punishment for someone who leaves the faith or is an apostate, sourcing it to the prophet Muhammad’s pardon of a Muslim who had renounced Islam.

Saudi Arabia’s ultra-conservative teachings of Islam, known as Wahhabism, have drawn comparisons to some of the ideologies behind the group Islamic State, which executes non-Muslims and Muslims alike for criticism of the faith.

In Saudi Arabia there are no known cases in recent years of executions for apostasy, although 152 people have been executed in the past year or so for crimes such as murder, rape, and drug smuggling according to Amnesty International.

Saudi Sharia courts can issue discretionary judgments on a wide range of crimes, which also allows leniency. But in crimes of Hadd even the Saudi king cannot issue a pardon, though he can interject if there are questions around how the case was handled, according to Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle and Fayadh’s Saudi friends who are familiar with the situation.

The judges in Fayadh’s retrial sentenced him to death after only one hearing, but the first trial lasted six hearings. Nowhere in the court’s second judgment did it state what Fayadh actually said that was allegedly insulting to God and religion.

Fayadh’s brother-in-law, Osama Abu Raya, described the artist’s 2008 Arabic poetry book, Instructions Within, as a compilation of his thoughts as a young man. The court began assessing the book last year after a man filed a complaint against him and mentioned his poetry to the religious police. Then a fatwa council, which issues religious edicts, was asked to analyse it.

Fayadh had been better known for his role in the modern art world, curating an exhibition of Saudi artists at the 2013 Venice Biennale. He also curated a show in Saudi Arabia called ‘Mostly Visible’, which was visited by the director of London’s Tate Modern, Chris Dercon. He also produced Saudi artist Ahmed Matar’s presentation, ‘Word Into Art’, at the British Museum in 2005.

Ahmed Matar said Fayadh’s poetry book was about Palestinian issues. He said Fayadh, who was born and raised in Abha, “is in a weak position” because he is Palestinian and does not have the backing of a powerful Saudi tribe to mediate. In a statement, the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank of Palestine has publicly appealed to Saudi Arabia to release him.

The Saudi government’s human rights body says it sent representatives to meet Ashraf Fayadh in prison in Abha, where he has been under arrest since January 2014. Fayadh’s case will likely now go back to the appeals court and then to the Supreme Court for a final ruling.

“He’s not an atheist. He is a Muslim artist and poet … He’s very sensitive, he’s very intelligent. He’s a very good friend to major artists,” said Stephen Stapleton, founding director of the London-based Edge of Arabia, which promotes Saudi artists.

Over one hundred Arab intellectuals, as well as many cultural, free speech and human rights groups, such as Pen International, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network have joined the calls for the immediate freedom of Ashraf Fayadh.

In protest at the terrible treatment of Fayadh, many Palestinian poets, writers and intellectuals held rallies in Ramallah and other towns in the West Bank to read poems to urge Saudi Arabia to save Fayadh’s life and the release him from prison. These actions are part of an international campaign, with Fayadh’s poems read in 42 countries.

Poets from around the world are also lining up in solidarity with the Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh, with the Syrian poet Adonis, Ireland’s Paul Muldoon and Britain’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy signing a PEN letter stating they are, “appalled” at the death sentence he has been handed by Saudi Arabian authorities. Among other poets who rallied and joined in signing the letter attacking the Saudi ruling were Serbian-American poet Charles Simić, the American John Ashbery, Palestinian Ghassan Zaqtan, Israeli Amir Or and the Hungarian-born George Szirtes.

“We, Fayadh’s fellow poets, urge the Saudi authorities to desist from punishing individuals for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and call for his immediate and unconditional release,” they wrote.

The letter says that Fayadh’s death sentence “is the latest example of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s lack of tolerance for freedom of expression and ongoing persecution of free thinkers,” it ended with a plea for the Palestinian’s release.

“Incitement can be a crime, hate speech may be a crime, but opinions are not… It runs counter to all our thoughts, habits and instincts, not just as poets or writers but as human beings. Nor is it just a cultural matter: it is a matter of exactly that which we describe as universal human rights.” Szirtes said.

The appeal follows the release of a joint statement signed by more than a dozen cultural and free speech organisations condemning the conviction of the Palestinian poet, including PEN International.

PEN said that during his trial, the poet “expressed repentance for anything in the book that religious authorities may have deemed insulting”, and said, according to trial documents: “I am repentant to God most high and I am innocent of what appeared in my book mentioned in this case. Fayadh stated, “I didn’t do anything that deserves death”.

In a message to his supporters on 25 November 2015, Fayadh said he was “grateful for everyone working on my behalf. To be honest, I was surprised because I felt alone here. I am in good health. I’m struggling to follow all the developments. People should know I am not against anyone here, I am an artist and I am just looking for my freedom”.

Fayadh’s imprisonment, persecution and death sentence by the Saudi regime reflects the extremely conservative role played by the Saudi regime in the region, with the support of its close allies, as it seeks to repress Palestinian and Arab culture and any independent movements or struggles for genuine free expression.

In another separate, but similar case that also drew widespread condemnation, even from Saudi Arabia’s closest Western allies, Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was publicly flogged 50 times this year and is serving a 10-year sentence for expressing his opinions and criticising the kingdom’s powerful religious establishment online.

The deplorable situation of Fayadh is very dire, his human rights have been abused and his life is in danger. Please act to express your solidarity with Ashraf Fayadh and do whatever you can to publicize his case and exert pressure on the Saudi regime. Help save Fayadh’s life and support his struggle for justice and freedom.

“They accused me of atheism and spreading some destructive thoughts into society,” he said, describing his poetry collection as “just about me being a Palestinian refugee … about cultural and philosophical issues. But the religious extremists explained it as destructive ideas against God.” Ashraf Fayadh.


To Take Action: What to do to Help Save Fayadh:

Information from Samidoun (Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network)-

1. Call the Saudi Embassy in your area and demand freedom for Ashraf Fayadh. In the United States, call 202-342-3800. In Canada, call 613-237-4100. Find the embassy in your country here:

2. Protest at the Saudi Embassy in your area for freedom for Ashraf Fayadh. Print signs and materials, and gather outside the Saudi embassy with Palestine rights activists, artists and others to demand his freedom. See the list of Saudi embassies here:

3. Contact your government officials. The Saudi regime is a close partner of the United States, Canadian and various European governments. Demand that your government pressure the Saudi regime to release Fayadh. In Canada, Call the office of the Foreign Minister, Stéphane Dion, at 613-996-5789 and demand Canada pressure Saudi Arabia to release Fayadh, or email: In the US, call the White House (202-456-1111) and the US State Department (202-647-9572); demand the US pressure Saudi Arabia to release Fayadh. In the EU, contact you’re MEP – you can find your MEP here.

Steven Katsineris is a freelance writer of political commentary, short stories, poetry and articles. His main focus is liberation struggles, political prisoners, the environment and other social justice issues. Steven lives with his family in Melbourne, Australia.
Read other articles by Steven.