| UK POLL: Send medicine to Syria, not guns or soldiers!


(28/08/13): 50% of the public oppose using British missiles in Syria, while 25% support using them

Reports of a deadly gas attack in Damascus this week have triggered some of the strongest indications yet that Western powers may take direct military action in the two and a half year-old Syrian conflict. P.M. David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama have threatened a “serious response” if allegations are proven true that the Syrian government, led by President Bashar Al-Assad, carried out the attacks, and already U.K. and U.S. military planners are reportedly looking at potential targets for missile strikes.

However, new YouGov research for the Sunday Times conducted after the latest chemical weapons incident shows that the British public remains largely opposed to British military involvement of any kind. 

77% of the British public support sending “food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies” to Syria. However, only 9% support sending British troops, while 74% oppose the action. Support is equally minor (10%) for sending full-scale military supplies or even small arms (16%) to the Anti-Assad troops.

Moreover, support for various possible actions in Syria has hardly changed over the past few months – and in some cases appears to have even deteriorated – amid mounting evidence that chemical weapons have been used repeatedly by the Syrian government and even possibly by rebel fighters.  In May, 50% of Britons supported sending protective clothing, such as flak jackets and helmets, to the rebels and 28% opposed doing so; now support is at 41% and opposition at 33%.

The most recent survey supports findings in a YouGov survey from April, which suggested the use of chemical weapons in Syria would make little if any difference at all to the British public’s disinclination towards greater involvement.

UPDATE (28/08/13):

A YouGov poll for The Sun reveals that 50% of the public oppose using British missiles to attack military sites in Syria, while 25% support the use of missiles.

New Syria

Limited missile strikes, using mostly U.S. missiles but possibly also some British missiles, is reportedly the most likely military action to be taken by Western powers.

The new survey also asked Britons about using British aircraft and missiles to impose a no-fly zone in Syria, an action which drew more support, but is still opposed by 42%-34% for enforcing a no-fly zone.

Image: Getty

See the full poll results


US Barb2


| More UK soldiers + veterans committed suicide in 2012 than died fighting Taliban!

UK soldier and veteran suicides ‘outstrip Afghan deaths’ ~ BBC.

Dan Collins
After serving in Afghanistan, L/Sgt Dan Collins was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder

More British soldiers and veterans took their own lives in 2012 than died fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan over the same period.

BBC Panorama learned that 21 serving soldiers killed themselves last year, along with 29 veterans.

The Afghanistan death toll was 44, of whom 40 died in action.

Some of the soldiers’ families say the men did not get enough support. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said every suicide was a “tragedy”.

The Panorama programme obtained the figure of 21 through a Freedom of Information request to the MoD.

The MoD said that rates of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within the serving military were lower than comparative rates in the civilian population.

Seven serving soldiers have been confirmed as having killed themselves last year, and inquests are pending for a further 14 deaths where suicide is suspected.

The British government, unlike its American counterpart, does not record the suicide rate among ex-soldiers.

But Panorama has independently established that at least 29 veterans took their own lives in 2012.

It wrote to every coroner in the country to ask for the names of soldiers and veterans who killed themselves last year and also analysed newspaper reports of coroners’ inquests.

‘Hell on earth’One serving soldier who killed himself was L/Sgt Dan Collins, who had fought in Operation Panther’s Claw in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in the summer of 2009.

Deana Collins
Deana Collins, the mother of L/Sgt Collins, said her son was a “victim of war”

L/Sgt Collins, a Welsh Guardsman, twice survived being shot and was blown off his feet by a roadside bomb.

His friend, L/Cpl Dane Elson, was blown to pieces just yards away from him.

L/Sgt Collins’s mother Deana had noticed a difference in her son during his time in Afghanistan.

Continue reading the main story

Number of suicides, open verdicts and suspected suicides awaiting inquests among serving soldiers

  • 2010 – 7
  • 2011 – 15
  • 2012 – 21

Source: Ministry of Defence

“The phone calls changed and I remember him telling me, ‘Mum, this place is hell on earth and I just want to get out of here’,” she said.

After a six-month tour, L/Sgt Collins came home, returning to his girlfriend Vicky Roach’s house.

Miss Roach said: “Obviously then I started noticing things. Nightmares were the main thing. It was pretty clear he was back there reliving everything.”

Return to dutyThe Army diagnosed L/Sgt Collins with PTSD.

Dan Collins
L/Sgt Dan Collins’s name is not engraved on the wall at the National Memorial Arboretum

After 10 months of intermittent treatment, the Army told L/Sgt Collins he had recovered and would soon be ready to return to duty.

Over the next three months, he twice tried to kill himself.

He started missing his weekly NHS appointments and told his girlfriend his flashbacks were getting worse.

“I wanted to help him but I didn’t know what to do,” said Miss Roach. “It takes a toll on your relationship and I just asked him to leave.”

On New Year’s Eve in 2011, L/Sgt Collins left her house, put on his Army uniform, and drove into the Preseli mountains in Pembrokeshire.

He recorded a farewell video on his phone and then hanged himself. He was 29. The inquest into his death is still to be held.

A ‘natural response’Clinical psychologist Dr Claudia Herbert said PTSD is the body’s “natural response” to distressing events.

It can take years to emerge but is treatable if caught early. Symptoms include flashbacks, severe anxiety and depression.

Darren’s story

Darren Booker, a Welsh Guardsman, was disturbed by what he had experienced in Afghanistan.

He said: “I went into camp one morning and I just broke down. So they took me to the doctor’s and he said you might have PTSD.”

An appointment was arranged but he missed it because he was on paternity leave. When he left the Army in January 2011, he had not been formally diagnosed with PTSD and then became chronically depressed.

“I’d feel suicidal every day,” he said. “I probably didn’t leave the house properly for about a year.”

He applied for compensation from the Army but it was refused because he had never been formally diagnosed with PTSD.

He has been unable to work since so his partner must support him and their three children.

The MoD said 2.9% of serving soldiers developed PTSD, which is lower than the general population.

The number of soldiers with PTSD has more than doubled in the past three years among those who served in Afghanistan, according to MoD figures obtained via Panorama’s FOI request.

But Dr Herbert said: “Post-traumatic stress disorder in itself should not lead to suicide.”

“PTSD is a condition that indicates something has deeply disturbed the system and is a warning that the system needs help and needs to regulate again.”

Nobody can be sure how many of the 21 soldiers and 29 veterans who took their own lives in 2012 were suffering from PTSD as the reasons for suicide are complex.

“The evidence suggests there’s more of a problem than the government and the MoD are admitting to,” said Colonel Stuart Tootal, a former commander of 3 Para.

The former head of the British army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, wants the suicide rate among veterans to be monitored.

“It’s pretty clear to me that it should be happening because once you have some statistics you can start to do something about it,” he said.

‘Victims of war’The MoD said it was not prepared to talk about individual cases but has committed £7.4m to ensure there is extensive mental health support in place for everyone who needs it.

It said 134,780 soldiers have been deployed to Afghanistan since 2001.

Number of soldiers with initial diagnosis of PTSD who served in Afghanistan

  • 2009 – 108
  • 2010 – 180
  • 2011 – 183
  • 2012 – 231

Source: Ministry of Defence

The National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire honours the military casualties of every conflict since WWII.

The names of soldiers who killed themselves in Afghanistan are engraved on the wall but those who took their own lives after returning home are not mentioned.

L/Sgt Collins was a serving soldier at the time of his death on 1 January 2012 but his name will not be on the memorial.

“It’s heartbreaking because Daniel would have been so proud to have his name carved somewhere,” said Mrs Collins.

“Soldiers with PTSD are exactly the same. They’re victims of war and they should be treated exactly the same.”

You can watch a Panorama special, Broken by Battle, on BBC One at 21:00 BST or Monday, 15 July or catch up later on the iPlayer.

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UK False Economy1


| Britain’s wars fuel terror. Denying it only feeds Islamophobia!

Britain’s wars fuel terror. Denying it only feeds Islamophobia ~ The Guardian.

Eight years on, nothing has been learned. In the week since a British soldier was horrifically stabbed to death by London jihadists on the streets of Woolwich, it’s July 2005 all over again. David Cameron immediately rushed to set up a task force and vowed to ban “hate clerics”. Now the home secretary wants to outlaw “nonviolent extremist” organisations, censor broadcasters and websites and revive plans to put the whole country’s phone and web records under surveillance.

“Kneejerk” barely does it justice. As for the impact on Muslims, the backlash has if anything been worse than in 2005, when 52 Londoners were killed by suicide bombers. As the police and a BBC reporter described the alleged killers as of “Muslim appearance” (in other words, non-white), Islamophobic attacks spiked across the country. In the first five days 10 mosques were attacked, culminating in a triple petrol bombing in Grimsby.

As politicians and the media congratulated themselves that Britain was “calmly carrying on as usual”, it won’t have felt like that to the Muslim woman who had her veil ripped off and was knocked unconscious in Bolton. Nor, presumably, to the family of 75-year-old Mohammed Saleem, stabbed to death in Birmingham in what had all the hallmarks of an Islamophobic attack last month – or, for that matter, the nearly two-thirds of the population who think there will be a “clash of civilisations” between white Britons and Muslims, up 9% since the Woolwich atrocity.

One key change since 2005 is the rise of the violently anti-Muslim English Defence League, given a new lease of life by Woolwich. More than 40% of Islamophobic incidents recorded by the Muslim organisation Faith Matters last year were linked to the EDL or other far-right groups. “It makes me feel I don’t belong here”, one Muslim community leader quotes his teenage son as telling him this week.

But almost nobody in public life mentions the war. The reason cited by the alleged Woolwich killers – the role of British troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror – has been mostly brushed aside as unseemly to discuss. Echoing his predecessors, the prime minister insisted the Woolwich killing was “an attack on the British way of life”. London mayor Boris Johnson declared there could be “no question” of blaming British foreign policy or “what British troops do in operations abroad”.

Instead, the problem is once again said to be “Islamism”, regardless of the string of democratic Islamist governments elected from Turkey to Tunisia. Or the focus is on the “mistakes” of MI5, as if any amount of spooking could detect the determination of an enraged takfiri killer to exact revenge with kitchen knives and meat cleavers. Whatever the focus, even to mention the western wars that drive these attacks is deemed to justify them.

That is, of course, absurd. Targeting a soldier who fought in Afghanistan might not be terrorism in the sense of an indiscriminate attack on civilians. But the random butchery of an unarmed man far from the conflict by disconnected individuals who have nonviolent political alternatives is clearly unjustifiable in any significant religious or political tradition.

The fact that the US declared the war on terror to be a war without national borders and routinely targets unarmed or unidentified victims has fatally blurred those boundaries. The grisly, intimate killing of Lee Rigby was the absolute antithesis of high technology drone attacks. But both embody the degradation of the human spirit.

There can be no surprise, however, that such attacks take place. It’s not just opponents of the war on terror who predicted from the start that it would fuel terrorism not fight it. The intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic did the same. The perpetrators of one attack after another, from London 2005 to Boston 2013, say they’re carrying them out in retaliation for the vastly larger scale US and British killing in the Muslim world.

It’s true that all kinds of personal factors and experiences help create the mentality to carry out such attacks. But as Abdul Haqq Baker – head of the south London “counter-radicalisation” outfit Street – puts it, the tipping point that has turned people to violence has been shown again and again to be episodes in the war on terror.

There is already some evidence that torture of one of the Woolwich suspects in Kenya – after which MI5 tried to recruit him – may have been such a catalyst. Azad Ali, a Muslim community activist who has advised the Metropolitan police, says there has been a pattern of official abuse of British Muslim activists in Arab countries, apparently using British-supplied intelligence, who are then pressed to work for the British security services when they return home.

What is indisputable is that there were no jihadist attacks in Britain before 9/11, itself claimed as a response to US support for Arab dictatorships, Israeli occupation and murderous sanctions on Iraq. Wars supposedly fought to keep Britain safe have been shown to do the exact opposite.

Given the bloodshed, torture, mass incarceration and destruction that US-British occupation has inflicted on Afghanistan and Iraq, and the civilian slaughter inflicted in the drone war from Pakistan to Yemen, the only surprise is that there haven’t been more terror attacks.

Three years ago WikiLeaks gave a glimpse of the routine killing of Afghan civilians by British troops – as did the jailing for 18 months of a grenadier guardsman for stabbing an Afghan boy who asked him for chocolate. Now Britain is preparing to supply weapons directly to the Islamist-dominated rebels in Syria. But at home ministers want to use their “Prevent strategy” to freeze out still further nonviolent Islamist groups that have been most effective at isolating those drawn to violence.

Denial of the role of US-British wars, occupations and interventions in the Muslim world in fuelling terror attacks at home helps to get politicians off the hook. But it also plays into the hands of those blaming multiculturalism and migration, feeding racism and Islamophobia in the process. The wars should be ended because they are wrong and a failure – but also because they fuel terrorism and divide communities.

Those who carried out last week’s killing are of course responsible for what they did. But those who have sent British troops to wage war in the Arab and Muslim world for more than a decade must share culpability.



| Muslims must not apologise for terror – they are no more responsible than the rest of us!

Muslims must not apologise for terror – they are no more responsible than the rest of us ~  ,  Politics.co.uk.

It is too early to know exactly what happened in Woolwich this afternoon, but it seems very likely it was a terrorist killing of a British soldier by Islamic extremists.

Shortly after it emerged it could be a terrorist attack, a hashtag appeared online: #notinmyname. The Muslims who expressed this sentiment had honourable motives, but it is a mistake. They do not need to condemn what has happened. This killing has no more to do with them than it does with the rest of us.

Doing so suggests Muslims are somehow more responsible for the attack than other Brits. It vindicates the central message of Islamic extremists: that we are not, ultimately, British. We are Christians, Muslims and Sikhs, endlessly divided by race and faith and culture.

This is false. It has always been false. We are Brits first.

When World War Two began, many intellectuals openly wondered how long it would take for British society to collapse into civil chaos. People assumed a society so strained by inequality and competing political groups could never withstand such pressure. To a very important extent, France failed to do so. In Britain, the essential solidarity of the people prevailed. 

It prevailed during the Blitz. It prevailed during the IRA strikes. And it prevailed after 7/7. This is as diverse a society as any in the history of mankind. But it is British, and united, regardless of race or religion or even income. There is no reason to mention such things in day-to-day life. But on days like today, we should proclaim them proudly.

Muslims have nothing to apologise for and nothing to justify. They are no more culpable for what happened this afternoon than I am for the insane rants of Nick Griffin.

ITV today showed footage of a black man dressed in western clothes, his hands covered in blood, talking to the camera. “In our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe,” he says.

And yet he speaks in a London accent. This is his land.

Now we will have to undertake the solemn, confusing, despairing process of understanding how people who live in our society could do this to other people in it. That is the debate which should take place. How can Britain still be so beset with alienation that these events could take place?

But that is a question for Brits to answer: not for British Muslims alone. In so far as anyone outside the killers is culpable, we are all culpable.

And when we answer this question, we should remember the following piece of information: After they dragged his body into the road, a group of women crowded around the body and protected it from the assailants. That’s why he mentioned the women in the first place. Because they were brave enough to stand between thugs and their victim.

Those women represented Britain too.

The opinions in politics.co.uk’s Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.


Propaganda Dummies1

| Was the London killing of a British soldier ‘terrorism?’

Was the London killing of a British soldier ‘terrorism’? ~ Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian.

What definition of the term includes this horrific act of violence but excludes the acts of the US, the UK and its allies?

Woolwich attack, suspect on street

A man appearing to be holding holding a knife following the Woolwich attack. Photograph: Pixel8000

Two men yesterday engaged in a horrific act of violence on the streets of London by using what appeared to be a meat cleaver to hack to death a British soldier. In the wake of claims that the assailants shouted “Allahu Akbar” during the killing, and a video showing one of the assailants citing Islam as well as a desire to avenge and stop continuous UK violence against Muslims, media outlets (including the Guardian) and British politicians instantly characterized the attack as “terrorism”.

That this was a barbaric and horrendous act goes without saying, but given the legal, military, cultural and political significance of the term “terrorism”, it is vital to ask: is that term really applicable to this act of violence? To begin with, in order for an act of violence to be “terrorism”, many argue that it must deliberately target civilians. That’s the most common means used by those who try to distinguish the violence engaged in by western nations from that used by the “terrorists”: sure, we kill civilians sometimes, but we don’t deliberately target them the way the “terrorists” do.

But here, just as was true for Nidal Hasan’s attack on a Fort Hood military base, the victim of the violence was a soldier of a nation at war, not a civilian. He was stationed at an army barracks quite close to the attack. The killer made clear that he knew he had attacked a soldier when he said afterward: “this British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

The US, the UK and its allies have repeatedly killed Muslim civilians over the past decade (and before that), but defenders of those governments insist that this cannot be “terrorism” because it is combatants, not civilians, who are the targets. Can it really be the case that when western nations continuously kill Muslim civilians, that’s not “terrorism”, but when Muslims kill western soldiers, that is terrorism? Amazingly, the US has even imprisoned people at Guantanamo and elsewhere on accusations of “terrorism” who are accused of nothing more than engaging in violence against US soldiers who invaded their country.

It’s true that the soldier who was killed yesterday was out of uniform and not engaged in combat at the time he was attacked. But the same is true for the vast bulk of killings carried out by the US and its allies over the last decade, where people are killed in their homes, in their cars, at work, while asleep (in fact, the US has re-defined “militant” to mean “any military-aged male in a strike zone”). Indeed, at a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on drone killings, Gen. James Cartwright and Sen. Lindsey Graham both agreed that the US has the right to kill its enemies even while they are “asleep”, that you don’t “have to wake them up before you shoot them” and “make it a fair fight”. Once you declare that the “entire globe is a battlefield” (which includes London) and that any “combatant” (defined as broadly as possible) is fair game to be killed – as the US has done – then how can the killing of a solider of a nation engaged in that war, horrific though it is, possibly be “terrorism”?

When I asked on Twitter this morning what specific attributes of this attack make it “terrorism” given that it was a soldier who was killed, the most frequent answer I received was that “terrorism” means any act of violence designed to achieve political change, or more specifically, to induce a civilian population to change their government or its policies of out fear of violence. Because, this line of reasoning went, one of the attackers here said that “the only reasons we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily” and warned that “you people will never be safe. Remove your government”, the intent of the violence was to induce political change, thus making it “terrorism”.

That is at least a coherent definition. But doesn’t that then encompass the vast majority of violent acts undertaken by the US and its allies over the last decade? What was the US/UK “shock and awe” attack on Baghdad if not a campaign to intimidate the population with a massive show of violence into submitting to the invading armies and ceasing their support for Saddam’s regime? That was clearly its functional intent and even its stated intent. That definition would also immediately include the massive air bombings of German cities during World War II. It would include the Central American civilian-slaughtering militias supported, funded and armed by the Reagan administration throughout the 1980s, the Bangledeshi death squads trained and funded by the UK, and countless other groups supported by the west that used violence against civilians to achieve political ends.

The ongoing US drone attacks unquestionably have the effect, and one couldreasonably argue the intent, of terrorizing the local populations so that they cease harboring or supporting those the west deems to be enemies. The brutal sanctions regime imposed by the west on Iraq and Iran, which kills large numbers of people, clearly has the intent of terrorizing the population into changing its governments’ policies and even the government itself. How can one create a definition of “terrorism” that includes Wednesday’s London attack on this British soldier without including many acts of violence undertaken by the US, the UK and its allies and partners? Can that be done?

I know this vital caveat will fall on deaf ears for some, but nothing about this discussion has anything to do with justifiability. An act can be vile, evil, and devoid of justification without being “terrorism”: indeed, most of the worst atrocities of the 20th Century, from the Holocaust to the wanton slaughter of Stalin and Pol Pot and the massive destruction of human life in Vietnam, are not typically described as “terrorism”. To question whether something qualifies as “terrorism” is not remotely to justify or even mitigate it. That should go without saying, though I know it doesn’t.

The reason it’s so crucial to ask this question is that there are few terms – if there are any – that pack the political, cultural and emotional punch that “terrorism” provides. When it comes to the actions of western governments, it is a conversation-stopper, justifying virtually anything those governments want to do. It’s a term that is used to start wars, engage in sustained military action, send people to prison for decades or life, to target suspects for due-process-free execution, shield government actions behind a wall of secrecy, and instantly shape public perceptions around the world. It matters what the definition of the term is, or whether there is a consistent and coherent definition. It matters a great deal.

There is ample scholarship proving that the term has no such clear or consistently applied meaning (see the penultimate section here, and my interview with Remi Brulin here). It is very hard to escape the conclusion that, operationally, the term has no real definition at this point beyond “violence engaged in by Muslims in retaliation against western violence toward Muslims”. When media reports yesterday began saying that “there are indications that this may be act of terror”, it seems clear that what was really meant was: “there are indications that the perpetrators were Muslims driven by political grievances against the west” (earlier this month, an elderly British Muslim was stabbed to death in an apparent anti-Muslim hate crime and nobody called that “terrorism”). Put another way, the term at this point seems to have no function other than propagandistically and legally legitimizing the violence of western states against Muslims while delegitimizing any and all violence done in return to those states.

One last point: in the wake of the Boston Marathon attacks, I documented that the perpetrators of virtually every recent attempted and successful “terrorist” attack against the west cited as their motive the continuous violence by western states against Muslim civilians. It’s certainly true that Islam plays an important role in making these individuals willing to fight and die for this perceived just cause (just as ChristianityJudaismBuddhism, andnationalism lead some people to be willing to fight and die for their cause). But the proximate cause of these attacks are plainly political grievances: namely, the belief that engaging in violence against aggressive western nations is the only way to deter and/or avenge western violence that kills Muslim civilians.

Add the London knife attack on this soldier to that growing list. One of the perpetrators said on camera that “the only reason we killed this man is because Muslims are dying daily” and “we apologize that women had to see this today, but in our lands our women have to see the same.” As I’ve endlessly pointed out, highlighting this causation doesn’t remotely justify the acts. But it should make it anything other than surprising. On Twitter last night, Michael Moore sardonically summarized western reaction to the London killing this way:

I am outraged that we can’t kill people in other counties without them trying to kill us!”

Basic human nature simply does not allow you to cheer on your government as it carries out massive violence in multiple countries around the world and then have you be completely immune from having that violence returned.

Drone admissions

In not unrelated news, the US government yesterday admitted for the first time what everyone has long known: that it killed four Muslim American citizens with drones during the Obama presidency, including a US-born teenager whom everyone acknowledges was guilty of nothing. As Jeremy Scahill – whose soon-to-be-released film “Dirty Wars” examines US covert killings aimed at Muslims – noted yesterday about this admission, it “leaves totally unexplained why the United States has killed so many innocent non-American citizens in its strikes in Pakistan and Yemen”. Related to all of these issues, please watch this two-minute trailer for “Dirty Wars”, which I reviewed a few weeks ago here:


The headline briefly referred to the attack as a “machete killing”, which is how initial reports described it, but the word “machete” was deleted to reflect uncertainty over the exact type of knife use. As the first paragraph now indicates, the weapon appeared to be some sort of meat cleaver.


In the Guardian today, former British soldier Joe Glenton, who served in the war in Afghanistan, writes under the headline “Woolwich attack: of course British foreign policy had a role”. He explains:

“While nothing can justify the savage killing in Woolwich yesterday of a man since confirmed to have been a serving British soldier, it should not be hard to explain why the murder happened. . . . It should by now be self-evident that by attacking Muslims overseas, you will occasionally spawn twisted and, as we saw yesterday, even murderous hatred at home. We need to recognise that, given the continued role our government has chosen to play in the US imperial project in the Middle East, we are lucky that these attacks are so few and far between.”

This is one of those points so glaringly obvious that it is difficult to believe that it has to be repeated.




| Camp Nama: British personnel reveal horrors of secret US base in Baghdad!

Camp Nama: British personnel reveal horrors of secret US base in Baghdad ~


Detainees captured by SAS and SBS squads subjected to human-rights abuses at detention centre, say British witnesses

View Baghdad’s secret torture facility


baghdad international airport

Detainees were taken to Camp Nama, a secret US detention centre at Baghdad international airport. Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/AP

British soldiers and airmen who helped to operate a secretive US detention facility in Baghdad that was at the centre of some of the most serious human rights abuses to occur in Iraq after the invasion have, for the first time, spoken about abuses they witnessed there.

Personnel from two RAF squadrons and one Army Air Corps squadron were given guard and transport duties at the secret prison, the Guardian has established.

And many of the detainees were brought to the facility by snatch squads formed from Special Air Service and Special Boat Service squadrons.

Codenamed Task Force 121, the joint US-UK special forces unit was at first deployed to detain individuals thought to have information about Saddam Hussein‘s weapons of mass destruction. Once it was realised that Saddam’s regime had long since abandoned its WMD programme, TF 121 was re-tasked with tracking down people who might know where the deposed dictator and his loyalists might be, and then with catching al-Qaida leaders who sprang up in the country after the regime collapsed.

Suspects were brought to the secret prison at Baghdad International airport, known as Camp Nama, for questioning by US military and civilian interrogators. But the methods used were so brutal that they drew condemnation not only from a US human rights body but from a special investigator reporting to the Pentagon.

A British serviceman who served at Nama recalled: “I saw one man having his prosthetic leg being pulled off him, and being beaten about the head with it before he was thrown on to the truck.”

On the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, a number of former members of TF 121 and its successor unit TF6-26 have come forward to describe the abuses they witnessed, and to state that they complained about the mistreatment of detainees.

The abuses they say they saw include:

• Iraqi prisoners being held for prolonged periods in cells the size of large dog kennels.

• Prisoners being subjected to electric shocks.

• Prisoners being routinely hooded.

• Inmates being taken into a sound-proofed shipping container for interrogation, and emerging in a state of physical distress.

It is unclear how many of their complaints were registered or passed up the chain of command. A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said a search of its records did not turn up “anything specific” about complaints from British personnel at Camp Nama, or anything that substantiated such complaints.

Nevertheless, the emergence of evidence of British involvement in the running of such a notorious detention facility appears to raise fresh questions about ministerial approval of operations that resulted in serious human rights abuses.

Geoff Hoon, defence secretary at the time, insisted he had no knowledge of Camp Nama. When it was pointed out to him that the British military had provided transport services and a guard force, and had helped to detain Nama’s inmates, he replied: “I’ve never heard of the place.”

The MoD, on the other hand, repeatedly failed to address questions about ministerial approval of British operations at Camp Nama. Nor would the department say whether ministers had been made aware of concerns about human rights abuses there.

crispin blunt nama

Former army officer Crispin Blunt accused defence secretary John Hutton in 2009 of sweeping under the carpet the evidence of direct British service involvement. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PAHowever, one peculiarity of the way in which UK forces operated when bringing prisoners to Camp Nama suggests that ministers and senior MoD officials may have had reason to know those detainees were at risk of mistreatment. British soldiers were almost always accompanied by a lone American soldier, who was then recorded as having captured the prisoner. Members of the SAS and SBS were repeatedly briefed on the importance of this measure.

It was an arrangement that enabled the British government to side-step a Geneva convention clause that would have obliged it to demand the return of any prisoner transferred to the US once it became apparent that they were not being treated in accordance with the convention. And it consigned the prisoners to what some lawyers have described as a legal black hole.

Surrounded by row after row of wire fencing, guarded by either US Rangers or RAF personnel, and with an Abrams tank parked permanently at its main gate, to the outside observer Camp Nama seemed identical to scores of military bases that sprang up after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Once inside, however, it was clear that Nama was different.

Not that many people did enter the special forces prison. It was off limits to most members of the US and UK military, with even the officer commanding the US detention facility at Guantánamo being refused entry at one point. Inspectors from the International Committee of the Red Cross were never admitted through its gates.

One person who has been widely reported to have been seen there frequentlywas General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of US Joint Special Operations forces in Iraq.

general Stanley McChrystal

General Stanley McChrystal, then commander of US Joint Special Operations forces in Iraq, was said to have visited Nama. Photograph: Christian Sinibaldi for the GuardianWhile Abu Ghraib prison, just a few miles to the west, would achieve global notoriety after photographs emerged depicting abuses committed there, Camp Nama escaped attention for a simple reason: photography was banned. The only people who attempted to take pictures – a pair of US Navy Seals – were promptly arrested. All discussion of what happened there was forbidden.

Before establishing its prison at Nama, TF 121 had been known as Task Force 20, and had run a detention and interrogation facility at a remote location known as H1, in Iraq’s western desert. At least one prisoner had died en route to H1, allegedly kicked to death aboard an RAF Chinook.

The British were always junior partners in TF 121. Their contingent was known as Task Force Black. US Delta Force troops made up Task Force Green and US Army Rangers Task Force Red. One half of Task Force Black comprised SAS and SBS troopers, based a short distance away at the government compound known as the Green Zone. They detained so-called high-value detainees, who were brought to Camp Nama. The other half were the air and ground crews of 7 Squadron and 47 Squadron of the RAF, and 657 Squadron of the Army Air Corps, who lived on the camp itself, operating helicopters used in detention operations and a Hercules transport aircraft.

“The Americans went out to bring in prisoners every night, and British special forces would go out once or twice a week, almost always with one American accompanying them,” one British serviceman who served at Nama recalled earlier this month.

”The prisoners would be brought in by helicopter, usually one at a time, although I once saw five being led off a Chinook. They were taken into a large hangar to be bagged and tagged, a bag put over their heads and their hands plasticuffed behind their backs. Then they would be lifted or thrown on to the back of a pick-up truck and driven to the Joint Operations Centre.”

The Joint Operations Centre, or JOC, was a single storey building a few hundred yards from the airport’s main runway. Some of those who served at Nama believed it had formerly been used by Saddam’s intelligence agencies.

The US and UK forces worked together so closely that they began to wear items of each others’ uniforms. But while British personnel were permitted into the front of the JOC, few were allowed into the rear, where interrogations took place. This was the preserve of US military interrogators and CIA officers based at Camp Nama. “They included a number of women,” said one British airman. “One had a ponytail and always wore two pistols, so we had to nickname her Lara Croft.”

There were four interrogation cells at the rear of the JOC, known as the blue, red, black and soft rooms, as well as a medical screening area. The soft room contained sofas and rugs, and was a place where detainees could be shown some kindness. Harsh interrogations took place in the red and blue rooms, while the black room – described as windowless, with hooks in the ceiling, and where every surface was painted black – is said to be the cell where the worse abuses were perpetrated.

According to an investigation by Human Rights Watch, the New York-based NGO, detainees were subject to “beatings, exposure to extreme cold, threats of death, humiliation and various forms of psychological abuse or torture” at the JOC. The New York Times has reported that prisoners were beaten with rifle butts and had paintball guns fired at them for target practice.

Signs posted around Nama are said to have proclaimed the warning “No Blood, No Foul”: if interrogators did not make a prisoner bleed, they would not face disciplinary action.

There was also an overspill interrogation room cell behind the JOC: a shipping container lined with padding. “You could see people being taken in there, and they were in pretty poor shape when they were taken out,” said one British witness. He adds: “Everyone’s seen the Abu Ghraib pictures. But I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”

A number of British soldiers who served with TF 121 said that some SAS officers were permitted to attend interrogations at the rear of the JOC. Human Rights Watch reports that one SAS officer took part in the beating of a prisoner thought to know the whereabouts of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

While not being interrogated, according to witnesses, prisoners were held in cells the size of large dog kennels. “They were made of wire mesh with sloping corrugated roofs,” said a British ex-serviceman who served at Nama. “They were chest high, and two feet wide. There were about 100 of them, in three rows, and they always appeared to have at least one prisoner in each. They would be freezing at night, and really hot during the day.

“The prisoners were mostly men, although I did see two women being taken into the JOC for interrogation. I’ve no idea what became of them, or to any of the male prisoners after their interrogation was completed.”

Some of the scenes at Nama were so disturbing that personnel serving there would literally look the other way, rather than witness the abuse. “I remember being on sentry duty at a post overlooking the dog kennels, and the guy I was with wouldn’t even look at them,” one British eyewitness recalls. “I was saying: ‘Hey turn around and look at them.’ And he wouldn’t. He just wouldn’t turn around, because he knew they were there.”

Some complaints made at the time by British personnel were immediately suppressed. “I remember talking to one British army officer about what I had seen, and he replied: ‘You didn’t see that – do you understand?’ There was a great deal of nervousness about the place. I had the impression that the British were scared we would be kicked off the operation if we made a fuss,” the ex-serviceman said.

According to one US interrogator interviewed by Human Rights Watch, however, written authorisations were required for many of the abuses inflicted on prisoners at Nama, indicating that their use was approved up the chain of command.

“There was an authorisation template on a computer, a sheet that you would print out, or actually just type it in,” the interrogator said. “It was a checklist. It was already typed out for you, environmental controls, hot and cold, you know, strobe lights, music, so forth. But you would just check what you want to use off, and if you planned on using a harsh interrogation you’d just get it signed off. It would be signed off by the commander.”

iraq detainees

According to one British serviceman who was at Nama, US soldiers would bring prisoners in every night. Photograph: Jehad Nga/CorbisCamp Nama was such a secret location that when General Geoffrey Miller, the commander of the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, was sent to Iraq in August 2003 to advise on interrogation regimes he was initially refused entry, according to Human Rights Watch.

At the end of 2003, the Pentagon sent a special investigator, Stuart Herrington, a retired military intelligence colonel, to discover more about the methods being employed at Nama. In December that year Herrington reported:“Detainees captured by TF 121 have shown injuries that caused examining medical personnel to note that ‘detainee shows signs of having been beaten’. It seems clear that TF 121 needs to be reined in with respect to its treatment of detainees.”

More than 30 members of the task force were subsequently disciplined for abusing prisoners. Yet the beatings continued, according to British witnesses. The dog kennel cells remained in place, and UK special forces continued to be used to snatch suspects to be brought in for interrogation. “I can see now that we were supplying the meat for the American interrogators,” says one.

In February 2004, senior British special forces and intelligence officers felt emboldened enough to mount a detention operation without an accompanying US soldier. Troopers surrounded a house in southern Baghdad that MI6 had identified as a safe house for foreign fighters. Two men were killed in the raid and two others of Pakistani origin were detained and handed over to the US authorities.

After questioning at Nama, the pair were flown to Bagram, north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, where they are thought to remain incarcerated, despite efforts by lawyers to secure their release by persuading the appeal court in London to order the issuing of a writ of habeas corpus.

Two months later, in April 2004, US news media published a series of shocking photographs showing the abuse of prisoners at a different prison, Abu Ghraib, where individuals detained by regular troops rather than special forces were being held. A few days later Task Force 121 was renamed Task Force 6-26. Shortly after this, two US Navy Seals – who had their own compound with Camp Nama – were seen taking photographs from the roof of their building. Both men were immediately arrested, British witnesses say and were not seen at Nama again.

Later that summer the secret prison was moved to Balad, a sprawling air base 50 miles north of Baghdad, where it became known as the Temporary Screening Facility (TSF). The Army Air Force and RAF troops continued their role there.

SAS troops continued to provide detainees for interrogation, operating from their base in one of a row of seven large villas inside the Green Zone. The villa next door was occupied by troops from Delta Force. Each of the homes had a swimming pool, and at the end of the long garden behind the SAS villa was a large hut occupied by a UK military intelligence unit, the Joint Forward Interrogation Team, or JFIT.

Individuals detained by the SAS – accompanied by their lone American escort – would be flown by helicopter to a landing pad behind the villas, and taken straight to the JFIT. According to former members of TF 6-26, after a brief interrogation by the British, they would be handed over to US forces, who would question them further before releasing them, or arrange for them to be flown north to Balad.

In late 2003, according to former taskforce members, two SAS members wandered next door to the Delta Force villa, where they were horrified to see two Iraqi prisoners being tortured. “They were being given electric shocks from cattle prods and their heads were being held under the water in the swimming pool. There were less visits next door after that.”

While a complaint was made, it is not thought to have reported through the chain of command. And it certainly appears not to have reached Downing Street, as shortly afterwards Tony Blair, then prime minister, visited the SAS house to thank the troopers for their efforts.

By the end of 2004, according to the BBC journalist Mark Urban, MI6 officers who had visited the secret prison at Balad were expressing concern that the kennel cells had been reconstructed there, and the British government later warned the US authorities that it would hand over prisoners only if there was an undertaking that they would not be sent there.

Shortly afterwards, the RAF Hercules operated by the task force was shot down while flying from Nama to Balad, with the loss of all 10 men on board. It was the largest loss of life suffered by the RAF in a single incident since the second world war.

By now, a growing number of British members of the task force were deeply disillusioned about their role. When one, SAS trooper Ben Griffin, decided he could not return to Iraq, he expected to be face a court martial. Instead, he discovered that a number of his officers sympathised with him, and he was permitted to leave the army with a first-class testimonial.

When Griffin went public, making clear that British troops were handing over to the US military large numbers of prisoners who faced torture, the MoD came under pressure to explain itself. In February 2009 the then defence secretary, John Hutton, told the Commons that “review of records of detention resulting from security operations carried out by UK armed forces” had disclosed that two men who had been handed over had since been moved to Afghanistan. His statement made no mention of the joint task force, of H1, or of Camp Nama or Balad or how British airmen and soldiers were helping to operate the secret prisons.

Crispin Blunt, a Tory MP and former army officer, accused Hutton of “simply sweeping under the carpet the apparent evidence of direct British service involvement with delivery to gross mistreatment amounting to torture involving hundreds if not thousands of people”.

Today, 10 years after the invasion and the creation of the joint US-UK taskforce that detained and interrogated large numbers of Iraqis, the MoD responds to questions about their abuse by stating that it is aware only of “anecdotal accounts” of mistreatment, and that “any further evidence of human rights abuse should be passed to the appropriate authorities for investigation”.

Griffin had done just that, asking the MoD itself to investigate the activities of the taskforce of which he had been a member. The MoD obtained an injunction to silence him, and warned he faced jail if he ever spoke out again.




head_up_ass EWMD Collage 


| Social Media: Free Speech or Free Insult? Britain’s terrifying new censorship!

Have we got such a debased and demoralised view of freedom that we’re now willing to lock up people for posting angry comments on social media.

Another day, another example of how our police and judiciary are criminalising nastiness. Today a young Muslim man who is angry at the UK’s involvement in the ongoing Afghanistan conflict was sentenced for posting angry comments on Facebook stating that British soldiers “should die and go to hell”. Not exactly the nicest of sentiments, but is it really something we should be criminally prosecuting through the courts?

Azhar Ahmed, from Dewsbury, Yorkshire, escaped jail partially because he quickly took down his unpleasant posting and tried to apologise to those he offended. But he will still have to carry out 240 hours community service after he was convicted under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 for making “grossly offensive comments”.

His sentence came just 24 hours after a 20-year-old Matthew Woods from Lancashire was given three months in jail for posting ill-timed and very unpleasant jokes online about the missing schoolgirl April Jones.


By the looks of it neither Woods nor Ahmed are amiable or eloquent people. But that doesn’t mean we should be locking them up or giving them criminal records for the stupid things they say.

Of course free speech isn’t wholly free. That’s why we have laws banning incitement to violence or encouraging hatred based solely on something a victim cannot change such as their religion, disability or sexual preference.

But in recent years we have increasingly begun to criminalise the offensive, a precedent that should be deeply worrying for anyone who cares about the importance of free speech. It’s problematic because offence – like art, music, comedy or food – is inherently subjective. What one person finds outrageous or disgusting might be hilarious, harmless or tasty to another.

Free speech is not just the right to say nice things to people. It is also the right to be nasty, unpleasant, boring, unfunny and stupid. If you start to criminalise the offensive, you pave the way for both real and self-censorship.

It’s worth taking a look at exactly what Ahmad said to earn his conviction. Two days after six British soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device in March he wrote on Facebook:

“People gassin [venting off] about the deaths of soldiers! What about the innocent familys who have been brutally killed.. The women who have been raped.. The children who have been sliced up..! Your enemy’s were the Taliban not innocent harmless familys. All soldiers should DIE & go to HELL! THE LOWLIFE F*****N SCUM! gotta problem go cry at your soliders grave & wish him hell because that where he is going.”


It’s neither pleasant, nor eloquent. But criminal? There are plenty of people up and down the country – Muslim and non-Muslim alike – who are deeply uncomfortable about Britain’s foreign policy and its military operations in predominantly Islamic countries. They have a right to be heard and speak out. We might not like what they have to say – or even how they say it – but we shouldn’t be shutting them down.

In sentencing Ahmed, District Judge Jane Goodwin insisted she was not stopping legitimate political opinions being strongly voices. Instead, she said, the test is whether what something which has been written or said is “beyond the pale of what’s tolerable in our society”.

That’s a very slippery slope because what society finds tolerable at any given time changes or evolves. It was only a little more than a century ago that giving women the right to vote was beyond the pale of what society found tolerable.

At the moment there is something sacrosanct about our armed forces. Over the years we have been traumatised by the steady trickle of coffins and injured veterans ferried back from theatres of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of us want to pay tribute to our armed forces. So we are sensitive to criticism of “our boys”, especially if those attacks come from British Muslims.

But our soldiers mustn’t be above criticism especially given that – unlike in some previous twentieth century conflicts Britain fought in – those going to war are volunteers, not conscripts. Like it or not our wars of the last decade have proven deeply unpopular among a large section of the population, not to mention the soldiers fighting them.

The sad fact it that whilst trying to defend Britain from the genuine threat of violent Islamism, British personnel have killed and maimed innocent Muslims. When the rights and wrongs of our wars are debated the conversation is inevitably emotional. People say things in the heat of the moment that are unpleasant, even offensive. But should it be criminal?


Many American soldiers returning from Vietnam might have been horrified by what they felt were “grossly offensive comments” made to them about the rights and wrongs of the Washington’s military engagements in South-East Asia. But challenging, radical, even offensive remarks were all part and parcel of the democracy they were supposedly trying to protect.

Defending Woods and Ahmed, however unpleasant or ineloquent they are, is necessary because of the wider ramifications that their prosecutions have on free speech and the broad way in which section 127 of Communications Act and section five of the Public Order Act are being used to criminalise the offensive or unpleasant.

How long before comedians are arrested for making a joke pegged to a recent tragic event which is – so the joke goes – “too soon”? How long before pub arguments are broken up by flashing blue lights after someone says something “beyond the pale”? How long before the next Salman Rushdie is not protected from the mob but thrown to it?

As alarmist as this may sound, that’s the direction we’re headed.



| MP ejected from parliament for saying UK Govt lying about Afghan War!

MP kicked out of parliament for saying the government is lying about the Afghanistan war ~ Robin Beste, Stop the War Coalition.

MP Paul Flynn says government ministers are using British soldiers as human shields for ministers’ reputations by sending them to die in vain in a war in Afghanistan which is lost.

IN THE HOUSE of Commons, on 18 September 2012, MP Paul Flynn was kicked out of the UK parliament for telling the defence secretary Phillip Hammond that he was using British soldiers as human shields for ministers’ reputations by sending them to die in vain in a war which was lost.

He compared Hammond and other government ministers to politicians in the First World War “who lied and soldiers died.” Paul Flynn refused to withdraw the accusation of lying and was banned from the House of Commons for five days.

Paul Flynn’s accusation of lying came the day after a number of MPs called in parliament for British troops to be withdrawn immediately from Afghanistan, and not wait for the supposed exit date in 2014.

The former Labour minister Denis MacShane — who had previously supported all the wars of the last eleven years — asked why the government was allowing British soldiers to “be sacrificed without any purpose”.

They were engaged in an unwinnable conflict to no strategic benefit to the UK, he said.

The former Conservative minister John Redwood said: “Bring our troops home for Christmas.”

Hammond replied: “We have a legacy in Afghanistan that has been won at a great cost: 430 British service personnel have given their lives and we intend to protect that legacy by ensuring that the UK’s national security interests are protected in the future by training and mentoring the Afghan national security forces to take over the role we are currently playing.”

Did Hammond know when he said this, that Nato was about to announce that it was suspending all of this “training and mentoring” of Afghan soldiers and police because there have been so many “green on blue” attacks, in which Afghan forces are killing their trainers and mentors.

The number of “green-on-blue” attacks this year has seen 51 Nato troops killed, with fifteen of them in the last three weeks. Nine British troops have died in 2012 at the hands of “rogue Afghan forces”. In 2011, the British Army suffered just one green-on-blue death.

So much for the “legacy” of the 430 UK soldiers killed — and of the tens of thousands of Afghans who have also died in the past decade.

In March 2012, Paul Flynn joined with fellow MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Caroline Lucas to deliver a Stop the War Coalition letter to David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, which demanded the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. If the government had heeded that call we would not have had the wasted lives of the 25 British soldiers who have died since then, nor of the countless Afghans that have been killed in the same period.

The only question now to be asked of David Cameron should be the same that was put to the US Senate in 1971 by John Kerry, then a soldier returning from the war in Vietnam: How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Afghanistan?

The US president Richard Nixon thought the deaths of American soldiers was a price worth paying to avoid admitting the war was lost. It was four more years before the US military scuttled out of the country, in which time over one million Vietnamese and Cambodian civilians were killed.

How many lives are David Cameron and his government prepared to sacrifice to save their reputations?

Paul Flynn MP is kicked out of parliament for calling defence minister Phillip Hammond a liar.


Paul Flynn MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP and Caroline Lucas MP deliver a Stop the War Coalition letter to David Cameron at 10 Downing Street, in March 2012, demanding the immediate withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.