| The Media’s Hypocritical Oath – Mandela And Economic Apartheid!

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The Media’s Hypocritical Oath – Mandela And Economic Apartheid ~ David Edwards, MEDIA LENS.

What does it mean when a notoriously profit-driven, warmongering, climate-killing media system mourns, with one impassioned voice, the death of a principled freedom fighter like Nelson Mandela?

Does it mean that the corporate system has a heart, that it cares? Or does it mean that Mandela’s politics, and the mythology surrounding them, are somehow serviceable to power?

Consider, first, that this is what is supposed to be true of professional journalism:

‘Gavin Hewitt, John Simpson, Andrew Marr and the rest are employed to be studiously neutral, expressing little emotion and certainly no opinion; millions of people would say that news is the conveying of fact, and nothing more.’ (Andrew Marr, My Trade – A Short History of British Journalism, Macmillan, 2004, p.279)

Thus, Andrew Marr, then BBC political editor, offering professional journalism’s version of the medical maxim, ‘First, do no harm’. First, do no bias.

The reality is indicated by Peter Oborne’s comment in the Telegraph:

‘There are very few human beings who can be compared to Jesus Christ. Nelson Mandela is one… It is hard to envisage a wiser ruler.’

Responding to 850 viewers who had complained that the BBC ‘had devoted too much airtime’ to Mandela’s death, James Harding, the BBC’s director of news, also expressed little emotion and certainly no opinion when he declared Mandela ‘the most significant statesman of the last 100 years, a man who defined freedom, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness’.

In other words, the corporate media had once again abandoned its famed Hypocritical Oath in affirming a trans-spectrum consensus. As ever, a proposition is advanced as indisputably true, the evidence so overwhelming that journalists simplyhave to ditch ‘balance’ to declare the obvious.

The motive is always said to be some pressing moral cause: national solidarity and security at home, opposition to tyranny and genocide abroad. In these moments, the state-corporate system persuades the public of its fundamental humanity, rationality and compassion. But in fact this ‘compassion’ is always driven by realpolitik and groupthink.

‘Emotionally Potent Over-Simplifications’

Because it is an integral part of a system whose actual goals and methods would not be acceptable to the public, the corporate media cannot make sense of the world; it must deal in what US foreign affairs advisor Reinhold Niebuhr called’emotionally potent over-simplifications’.

Thus we find the endlessly recurring theme of the archetypal Bad Guy. When bin Laden is executed, Saddam Hussein lynched and Gaddafi bombed, beaten and shot, it is the same Enemy regenerating year after year, Doctor Who-like, to be ‘taken down’ by the same Good Guy archetype. This is the benevolent father figure who forever sets corporate hearts aflutter with hope and devotion.

In 1997, the Guardian declared the election of Tony Blair ‘one of the great turning-points of British political history… the moment when Britain at last gave itself the chance to construct a modern liberal socialist order’. (Leader, ‘A political earthquake,’ The Guardian, May 2, 1997)

The editors cited historian AJP Taylor’s stirring words: ‘Few now sang England Arise, but England had risen all the same.’

In October 2002, the Guardian’s editors were ravished by a speech by former president Bill Clinton:

‘If one were reviewing it, five stars would not be enough… What a speech. What a pro. And what a loss to the leadership of America and the world.’ (Leader, ‘What a pro – Clinton shows what a loss he is to the US,’ The Guardian, October 3, 2002)

Of Barack Obama’s first great triumph, the same editors gushed:

‘They did it. They really did it… Today is for celebration, for happiness and for reflected human glory. Savour those words: President Barack Obama, America’s hope and, in no small way, ours too.’

Impartiality? Nowhere in sight. Why? Because these are obviously good men, benign causes of great hope. The media are so passionate because they are good men. From this we know who to support and we know that these media are fundamentally virtuous.

In identical fashion, the media have covered themselves in reflected moral glory by hailing Nelson Mandela as a political saint. The Daily Mirror declared: ‘He was the greatest of all leaders,’ (Daily Mirror, December 7, 2013). He ‘showed a forgiveness and generosity of spirit that made him a guiding star for humanity’, an ‘icon’, ‘a colossus’.

Forgiveness was not a major theme in the title of the Mirror’s October 21, 2011 editorial, following the torture and murder of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi: ‘Mad Dog’s Not A Loss.’ The editors commented: ‘Libya is undoubtedly better off without Mad Dog on the loose.’

Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4 News agreed that Mandela was a ‘colussus [sic], hero and rare soul’. (Snowmail, December 6, 2013)

For the Telegraph, Mandela was ‘regal’. Indeed, ‘his life had a Churchillian aura of destiny’. He was ‘the kind of man who comes upon this earth but rarely.’

For the equally impartial Guardian, Mandela was, ‘A leader above all others… The secret of [his] leadership lay in the almost unique mixture of wisdom and innocence’.

The paper managed to hint at a darker truth to which we will return; as president, Mandela had ‘discarded his once radical views on the economy’.

For the Gandhians at The Times, Mandela was a near-mythological figure: ‘a man of unyielding courage and breathtaking magnanimity, who defied the armed enforcers of a white supremacist state, made friends of his jailers and could wear a mask of calm on a plane that seemed about to crash’. (Leading article, ‘True Valour,’ The Times, December 6, 2013)

Although: ‘Critics point to his consistent support for Fidel Castro and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi as proof that his judgment was not infallible.’

Indeed, it ought to be surprising that the media would so readily forgive a man who had supported armed violence, and who was close to some of the West’s foremost enemies. In March 1998, as South African president, with US president Bill Clinton at his side, Mandela said:

‘I have also invited Brother Leader Gaddafi to this country [South Africa]. And I do that because our moral authority dictates that we should not abandon those who helped us in the darkest hour in the history of this country. Not only did they [Libya] support us in return, they gave us the resources for us to conduct our struggle, and to win. And those South Africans who have berated me, for being loyal to our friends, literally they can go and throw themselves into a pool.’

The capitalist, Russian oligarch-owned Independent on Sunday helped explain media enthusiasm for Mandela when ithailed his views on big business:

‘For all his left-wing rhetoric, he recognised that capitalism is the most important anti-poverty policy.’

As for Africa’s environmental problems, ‘Ultimately, as with human poverty, economic growth is the solution.’

It is of course profoundly impressive that Mandela could emerge from 27 years of imprisonment with apparently no desire for revenge. And as Peter Oborne commented:

‘It took just two or three years to sweep away white rule and install a new kind of government. Most revolutions of this sort are unbelievably violent and horrible. They feature mass executions, torture, expropriation and massacres… let’s imagine that Nelson Mandela had been a different sort of man. Let’s imagine that he emerged from his 27 years of incarceration bent on revenge against the white fascists and thugs who had locked him up for so long.’

Oborne compared the results of Mandela’s strategy with those of the West’s Official Enemies: ‘Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Milosevic, Saddam Hussein. The list goes on and on.’ Although not so far as to include Western leaders, by doctrinal fiat.

Oborne noted that Mandela and Gandhi ’embraced humanity, rather than excluded it. They sought moral rather than physical power’.

Unlike Oborne’s own newspaper, which wrote of Nato’s devastating and illegal assault on Libya in 2011:

‘As the net tightens round Muammar Gaddafi and his family, Nato deserves congratulations on having provided the platform for rebel success.’

In March 2003, the same paper declared:

‘Any fair-minded person who listened to yesterday’s [parliamentary] debate, having been genuinely unable to make up his mind about military action against Saddam Hussein, must surely have concluded that Mr Blair was right, and his opponents were wrong.’

 

Economic Apartheid

As discussed, many journalists have rightly praised Mandela’s forgiveness. But the state-corporate system also has a generous capacity for excusing torturers, dictators, terrorists, and even former enemies like Mandela – anyone who serves the deep interests of power and profit in some way.

John Pilger noted of Mandela:

‘The sheer grace and charm of the man made you feel good. He chuckled about his elevation to sainthood. “That’s not the job I applied for,” he said dryly.’

But Mandela ‘was well used to deferential interviews and I was ticked off several times – “you completely forgot what I said” and “I have already explained that matter to you”. In brooking no criticism of the African National Congress (ANC), he revealed something of why millions of South Africans will mourn his passing but not his “legacy”.’

Once in power, Pilger explained, the ANC’s official policy to end the impoverishment of most South Africans was abandoned, with one of his ministers boasting that the ANC’s politics were Thatcherite:

‘Few ordinary South Africans were aware that this “process” had begun in high secrecy more than two years before Mandela’s release when the ANC in exile had, in effect, done a deal with prominent members of the Afrikaaner elite at meetings in a stately home, Mells Park House, near Bath. The prime movers were the corporations that had underpinned apartheid…

‘With democratic elections in 1994, racial apartheid was ended, and economic apartheid had a new face.’ (See Pilger’s 1998 film, Apartheid Did Not Die, for further analysis)

In 2001, George Soros told the Davos Economic Forum: ‘South Africa is in the hands of international capital.’

Patrick Bond, director of the centre for civil society and a professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa,commented:

‘I happened to work in his office twice, ’94 and ’96, and saw these policies being pushed on Mandela by international finance and domestic business and a neoliberal conservative faction within his own party.’

Bond paraphrased the view of former minister of intelligence and minister of water Ronnie Kasrils, ‘probably the country’s greatest white revolutionary ever’, who described how ‘as a ruler Mandela gave in way too much to rich people. So he replaced racial apartheid with class apartheid’.

Bond argues that ‘big business basically said, we will get out of our relationship with the Afrikaner rulers if you let us keep, basically, our wealth intact and indeed to take the wealth abroad’.

In the Independent, Andrew Buncombe reported that ‘for many in Alexandra, and in countless similar places across the country, the situation in some respects is today little different’ from before Mandela began his liberation struggle:

‘Figures released last year following a census showed that while the incomes of black households had increased by an average of 169 per cent over the past ten years, they still represented a sixth of those of white households.’

Former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook also recognised Mandela’s ‘huge achievement in helping to bring down South African apartheid’. But:

‘Mandela was rehabilitated into an “elder statesman” in return for South Africa being rapidly transformed into an outpost of neoliberalism, prioritising the kind of economic apartheid most of us in the west are getting a strong dose of now.’

And Mandela was used:

‘After finally being allowed to join the western “club”, he could be regularly paraded as proof of the club’s democratic credentials and its ethical sensibility… He was forced to become a kind of Princess Diana, someone we could be allowed to love because he rarely said anything too threatening to the interests of the corporate elite who run the planet.’

This helps explain why Mandela is feted as a political saint, while late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, who profoundly challenged economic apartheid in Latin America, was a ‘controversial’, ‘anti-American bogeymen’, a ‘people’s hero and villain’ who had ‘pissed away’ his country’s wealth, for the BBC. Chavez was a peddler of ‘strutting and narcissistic populism’ for the Guardian. Rory Carroll, the paper’s lead reporter on Venezuela between 2006-2012, commented:

‘To the millions who detested him as a thug and charlatan, it will be occasion to bid, vocally or discreetly, good riddance.’

For the Independent, Chavez was ‘egotistical, bombastic and polarising’, ‘no run-of-the-mill dictator’. He was ‘divisive’ for the Guardian, Independent and Telegraph, and ‘reckless’ for the Economist.

Chavez’s real crime was that he presented a serious threat to the state-corporate system of which these media are an integral part.

The point is a simple one. State-corporate expressions of moral outrage and approval are never – not ever – to be taken at face value. While of course there may be some truth in what is being said, the systemic motivation will always be found in the self-interested head rather than the altruistic heart.

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| British TV “celebrity” Simon Cowell, US singer Lionel Ritchie, come out as Israel pimps!

British TV “celebrity” Simon Cowell, US singer Lionel Ritchie, come out as Israel pimps ~ Redress Information & Analysis.

A famous British television personality and an American has-been singer have come out as a pimps for Israel.

According to the Israeli news website Ynet, Simon Cowell, a judge on shows such as “American Idol”, “The X Factor” and “The Next Big Thing”, set aide his dignity by singing at an event organized to raise money for the Israeli occupation forces:

“… the event’s host, billionaire Power Rangers creator Haim Saban, offered to make a 1-million-dollar donation if Cowell sang the show’s theme tune with him.

 

The 54-year-old British star delighted the packed room of guests after he accepted the challenge. Midway through his performance of Ron Wasserman’s Go Go Power Rangers, Simon jokingly offered to donate 100,000 dollars of his own money if he was allowed to stop. Saban then agreed he could stop singing for 250,000 dollars.”

 

The vacuous British TV character was not the only so-called “celebrity” to come out as an Israel pimp. Has-been singer Lionel Ritchie, who had previously been hired by Libyan tyrant Muammar Gaddafi, also “gave a rare performance to loosen the attendees’ purse strings” in aid of the Israeli occupiers.

Other pimps and stooges included Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, who gave 4.5 million dollars; Haim Saban, who gave 2.3 million dollars; and software company Oracle’s chief executive Larry Ellison, who gave 1 million dollars.

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| Libyan Oil Outage Chart That’s Driving Oil Prices Higher Around The World!

Here’s The Libyan Oil Outage Chart That’s Driving Oil Prices Higher Around The World ~

Business Insider.

The biggest story in world oil markets is… Libya.

The FT reports on something we talked about last week, which is the fall off in output in recent months.

While Syria may have stolen the headlines in the oil market last week, oil traders and refiners are paying closer attention to Libya.

The north African country has seen oil output slashed from around 1.4m barrels a day to around 250,000, as ports and oilfields have been closed by striking workers and militias.

In the context of global crude production of around 90m b/d, that may not sound like a huge loss. But in the much smaller market for high quality crude oil in which Libya plays a key part, it is critical.

This chart from UBS (which we’ve marked up slightly) shows monthly outages from various countries around the world, and as you can see, in the last two months there’s been a big spike in how much oil has come offline.

 

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Anyway, while Syria seems to be moving the price of oil psychologically (oil dropped hard in the opening of trading after strikes were delayed), this is where a lot of the real supply issues are coming from.
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| How Tony B’Liar helped Colonel Gaddafi in £1bn legal row!

Tony Blair helped Colonel Gaddafi in £1bn legal row ~ , and Edward Malnick, TELEGRAPH.CO.UK

Tony Blair promised to help Col Muammar Gaddafi in a billion-pound legal dispute with victims of a Libyan terrorist attack, according to official correspondence obtained by The Sunday Telegraph.

Tony Blair with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

Tony Blair with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2007. Photo: PETER ACDIARMID/AFP

Documents show that Gaddafi turned to Mr Blair after a US court ordered Libya to pay $1.5billion (£1billion) in damages to relatives of seven Americans killed when a bomb exploded on a Paris-bound passenger jet in west Africa. According to the email, Mr Blair approached President George W Bush after promising the Libyan leader that he would intervene in the case.

Mr Bush subsequently signed the Libyan Claims Resolution Act in August 2008, which invalidated the $1.5billion award made by the court.

UTA Flight 772 from Chad was blown up on Sept 19, 1989, by Libyan intelligence services, killing all 170 passengers. The attack took place nine months after Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie killing 270 people.

The relatives of UTA Flight 772 had won the billion-pound court case in January 2008 after a seven-year legal battle, causing serious difficulties for the Libyan regime in the US. The ruling meant the proceeds of Libyan business deals, mainly in oil and gas but including other investments, could be seized in the US.

Mr Blair’s involvement in the case is outlined in an email obtained by The Sunday Telegraph. The document was written by Sir Vincent Fean, the then British ambassador to Libya, and was sent to Mr Blair’s aides on June 8, 2008, two days before Mr Blair met Gaddafi in Libya.

It was one of at least six private trips made by Mr Blair to Libya after he quit as prime minister in June 2007. The first trip to meet Gaddafi was made in February 2008. The previous month a US federal court had made the $1.5billion award to Flight 772 victims.

The email written by Sir Vincent outlines points for Mr Blair to raise in his meeting with Gaddafi. It also shows that a key aide to Mr Blair had met with a senior US diplomat to discuss the Flight 772 case.

Sir Vincent wrote: “On USA/Libya, TB should explain what he said to President Bush (and what Banner [a Blair aide] said to Welch [a US diplomat]) to keep his promise to Col Q [Gaddafi] to intervene after the President allowed US courts to attach Libyan assets.”

The memo went on: “He [Blair] could express satisfaction at the progress made in talks between the US and Libya to reach a Govt to Govt solution to all the legal/compensation issues outstanding from the 1980s. It would be good to get these issues resolved, and move on. The right framework is being created. HMG is not involved in the talks, although some British citizens might be affected by them (Lockerbie, plus some UK Northern Irish litigants going to US courts seeking compensation from Libya for IRA terrorist acts funded/fuelled by Libya).”

The memo reveals that Nick Banner, Mr Blair’s chief of staff in his role as Middle East peace envoy, had spoken to David Welch, the US official who was negotiating with the Libyans over compensation for victims of terrorism.

The American lawyer who had won the court order in January 2008 only to have it made invalid by the act signed by Mr Bush said his clients had “got screwed”.

Stuart Newberger, a senior partner at the international law firm Crowell & Moring, said: “This case was thwarted by President Bush, who directed the State Department to negotiate a package deal that ended all Libyan-related terrorism cases, including my judgment. I had heard rumours about Blair’s involvement but this is the first time that role was confirmed.”

He added: “I never considered this an honourable way to carry out diplomacy. It sent the wrong message to terrorist states – don’t worry about these lawsuits and judgments as the politicians will eventually fix it.”

Under the terms of the Libyan Claims Resolution Act, Libya made a one-off payment to victims of all Libyan state-sponsored terrorism including the bombings of Pan Am Flight 103, UTA Flight 772 and a Berlin discotheque. The payment, totalling $1.5billion, gave Libya immunity from all terrorism-related lawsuits.

The relatives of victims of UTA 772 received about $ 100million, rather than the court award of $1.5billion. Relatives of victims of Pan Am 103 welcomed the agreement which saw them get the final instalment of compensation already agreed. The deal meant all victims of Libyan terrorism received the same award.

The Sunday Telegraph has also obtained a separate letter, sent on June 2 from Gavin Mackay – a Foreign Office official seconded to Mr Blair in his role as Middle East peace envoy at the Office of the Quarter Representative (OQR) – to Libya’s ambassador in London.

The letter, on OQR-headed notepaper details Mr Blair’s gratitude that Libya is providing him with a private jet to fly him from Sierra Leone to Tripoli for a four-hour stopover and then on to the UK.

Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Foreign Secretary, expressed concern that the trip appeared to be arranged through Mr Blair’s public role as Middle East envoy.

He said: “Unless Mr Blair can come up with a convincing explanation as to why the Quartet secretariat should have been involved in this visit, it would indeed be a reason for legitimate and serious criticism.”

A spokesman for Tony Blair said: “The only conversation he ever had with regard to this matter was to give a general view that it was in the interests of both Libya and the USA to resolve those issues in a fair manner and move on.”

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| US considers no-fly zone after Syria crosses nerve gas ‘red line!’

U.S. considers no-fly zone after Syria crosses nerve gas ‘red line’ ~ Parisa Hafezi and Erika Solomon, ANKARA/BEIRUT, Reuters.

(Reuters) – The United States is considering a no-fly zone in Syria as it weighs options for intervention into the 2-year-old civil war, Western diplomats said on Friday, after the White House said Syria had crossed a “red line” by using nerve gas.

After months of deliberation, President Barack Obama’s administration said on Thursday it would now arm rebels, having obtained proof the Syrian government used chemical weapons against fighters trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Two senior Western diplomats said the United States was looking into a limited no-fly zone close to Syria’s southern border with Jordan.

“Washington is considering a no-fly zone to help Assad’s opponents,” one diplomat said.

Imposing a no-fly zone could require the United States to destroy Syria’s sophisticated Russian-built air defenses, thrusting it into the war with the sort of action NATO used to help topple Muammar Gaddafi in Libya two years ago.

Washington says it has not excluded a no fly zone but is also considering other options.

“We have been clear that we are not excluding options but at this stage no decision has been taken,” said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to theUnited Nations and Obama’s incoming national security adviser.

“A no-fly zone … would carry with it great and open-ended costs for the United States and the international community. It’s far more complex to undertake the type of effort, for instance, in Syria than it was in Libya,” U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said on Thursday.

Any such move would also come up against a potential veto from Assad ally Russia in the U.N. Security Council. The Kremlin dismissed U.S. evidence of Assad’s use of nerve gas.

“I will say frankly that what was presented to us by the Americans does not look convincing,” President Vladimir Putin‘s senior foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov said.

In a letter to the United Nations secretary general, Rice said the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in four attacks between March and May.

Rice provided the dates and locations for the attacks and said sarin was used in two of the attacks in areas close to Aleppo in March and April. Unspecified chemicals were used in the other attacks in May, she said.

The commander of Syria’s main rebel fighting force urged Western allies to supply anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles and to create a no-fly zone, saying if properly armed he could defeat Assad’s army within six months.

Free Syrian Army commander Salim Idriss told Reuters his forces urgently needed heavier weapons in the northern city of Aleppo, where Assad’s government has said its troops are preparing a massive assault.

“If we have done the training … and have enough weapons and ammunition I think it will be a matter of time, about six months, maybe less, maybe more, to collapse the regime.”

France said a no-fly zone would be impossible without U.N. Security Council authorization, which made it unlikely for now.

Nevertheless, Washington has quietly taken steps that would make it easier, moving Patriot surface-to-air missiles, war planes and more than 4,000 troops into Jordan, officially as part of an annual exercise in the past week but making clear that the assets could stay on when the wargames are over.

MOMENTUM TURNS

Syria’s civil war grew out of protests that swept across the Arab world in 2011, becoming by far the deadliest of those uprisings and the most difficult to resolve, with powers across the Middle East squaring off on sectarian lines.

Western countries have spent the past two years demanding Assad leave power but declining to use force as they did in Libya, because of the far greater risk of fighting a much stronger country that straddles sectarian divides at the heart of the Middle East and is backed by Iran and Russia.

Just months ago, Western countries believed Assad’s days were numbered. But momentum on the battlefield has turned in his favor, making the prospect of his swift removal and an end to the bloodshed appear remote without outside intervention.

Thousands of fighters from Lebanon’s pro-Iranian Hezbollah militia have joined the war on Assad’s behalf and last week helped the Syrian government recapture Qusair, a strategic town. Assad’s government says its troops are now preparing for an assault on Aleppo, mainly in rebel hands since last year.

Activists reported an intensified assault on parts of Aleppo and its countryside near the Turkish border overnight, sparking some of the most violent clashes in months.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said the guerrilla group would not be shaken in its support for Assad: “Wherever we need to be, we will be.”

The arrival of Shi’ite Hezbollah in the war on behalf of Assad, a member of the Shi’ite offshoot Alawite sect, has exacerbated the war’s dangerous sectarian overtones across the tumultuous region. Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood backed a call by Sunni clerics for holy war.

OBAMA’S CALCULUS

The use of chemical weapons provides a straightforward reason for Washington to intervene. Deputy national security adviser Rhodes said Washington now believed 100 to 150 people had been killed by government poison gas attacks on rebels.

“The president … has made it clear that the use of chemical weapons or transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups is a red line,” he said. “He has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has.”

Syria, which says rebels used chemical weapons not the government, said the U.S. statement was full of lies.

“The White House … relied on fabricated information in order to hold the Syrian government responsible for using these weapons, despite a series of statements that confirmed that terrorist groups in Syria have chemical weapons,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

An implicit threat to join the conflict puts Washington on a diplomatic collision course with Moscow, which has used its U.N. Security Council veto three times to block resolutions that might be used to threaten force against Assad.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said U.S. military support for rebel forces in Syria risked escalating violence in the Middle East.

U.S. officials say Obama will try to persuade Putin to abandon support for Assad when the two leaders meet at a G8 summit in Northern Ireland next week.

Washington and Moscow have called for a peace conference in Geneva, the first attempt in a year by the Cold War foes to find a diplomatic solution to the war, but prospects for the talks even being held on time next month now seem dubious.

The United Nations now estimates at least 93,000 people have been killed in Syria and millions driven from their homes.

Western powers have been reluctant in the past to arm the rebels, worried about the rising strength of Sunni Islamist insurgents who have pledged loyalty to al Qaeda.

The White House said Washington would now provide “direct military support” to the opposition. A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed it would now include arms as opposed to “non-lethal” aid sent in the past.

Syrian rebels already receive light arms from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They have asked for heavier weapons including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

Islamist rebel fighters in Syria were skeptical about the U.S. move. “We consider America an enemy and see it as quite unlikely that it will actually give the mujahideen weapons,” Abu Bilal, a Sunni insurgent in Homs, told Reuters via Skype.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said increasing the flow of arms to either side “would not be helpful.”

(Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Matt Spetalnick, Roberta Rampton, Mark Felsenthal, Jeff Mason, Susan Heavey and Rachelle Younglai in Washington, Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations; Writing by Peter Graff; Editing by Giles Elgood and Doina Chiacu)

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| Barack Obama is pushing gun control at home, but he’s a killer abroad!

Barack Obama is pushing gun control at home, but he’s a killer abroad ~

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    President Obama’s appeals to respect human life in the US are at odds with his backing for drone strikes in foreign parts.
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A man holds up a gun control sign as President Obama's motorcade passes in Minneapolis, Minnesota

A supporter of Barack Obama’s gun control campaign holds up a sign as the president’s motorcade passes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

On 27 January CBS aired an interview with the newly inaugurated President Barack Obama and his outgoing secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, during which the president faced accusations that under his watch America had retreated from its key role in world affairs. “The biggest criticism of this team,” said the interviewer,” has been [that there is] an abdication of the United States on the world stage, sort of reluctance to become involved in another entanglement.”

Obama interrupted. “Well, Muammar Gaddafi probably does not agree with that assessment,” he said. “Or at least if he was around, he wouldn’t agree with that assessment.” Quite. Gaddafi, to whom the US authorised $15m worth of arms sales in 2009, is not around because he was murdered by a mob shortly after being sodomised by a bayonet following his ousting by US-led Nato bombardment. In the minutes between the sodomising and the summary execution there just wasn’t time to reflect on US foreign policy.

The day after the interview was screened, Obama met with the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association. The president, fresh from boasting about having Gaddafi “smoked”, wanted to discuss how to stop guns getting into the wrong hands, bolster the forces of law and order, and stem violence in US cities.

Over the last few weeks there has been a distinct incongruity – to say the least – between the agenda Obama is promoting at home and the one he defends abroad. His justification for targeted killings and drone strikes in foreign parts, prompted by his nomination of a CIA director, has coincided with his advocacy for stiffer gun control and appeals to respect human life following mass shootings. The result is an administration raising life and death issues in its actions and pronouncements but being unable to talk with any moral authority or ethical consistency on either.

In short, the credibility of a president in challenging lawless social violence in US cities is fundamentally undermined when he has his own personal kill list in violation of international law to terminate enemies elsewhere.

“The diplomatic historian traces foreign affairs as if domestic affairs were offstage disturbances,” writes Walter Karp in his book The Politics of War. “The historian of domestic politics treats the explosions of war as if they were offstage disturbances. Were that true, we would have to believe that presidents who faced a mounting sea of troubles at home have nonetheless conducted their foreign policy without the slightest regard for those troubles – that individual presidents were divided into watertight compartments, one labelled ‘domestic’ and the other ‘foreign’.”

Yet that is precisely how the Obama administration appears to have compartmentalised its response to violence and its victims. One moment the Obamas are mourning the tragic loss of Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old girl who attended his inauguration. She was shot less than a mile from their Chicago home while sheltering from the rain in a park. The first lady, Michelle Obama, who attended Hadiya’s funeral on Saturday, said, through a spokeswoman: “Too many times, we’ve seen young people struck down with so much of their lives ahead of them.”

The next, his administration is maintaining a stony silence over the murder of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old American born in Denver who was killed by a drone in Yemen in 2011. His father, Anwar (also American), was an Islamist cleric – killed by a drone a few weeks earlier. When asked about the incident during the election campaign, Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary and senior adviser to Obama’s re-election campaign, essentially blamed Abdulrahman for having the kind of dad the US wanted to kill. “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the wellbeing of their children.”

On the one hand, we should not be surprised. These contradictions are inherent in the tension between the position to which he was elected and the forces that elected him. For all the global investment in Obama – peaking early, stratospherically and ridiculously, in the Nobel peace prize just nine months after he was voted in – he was elected to represent the interests of the most powerful and well-armed nation on Earth at a time of war. Murder was in the job description of the office he applied for and won to great fanfare. For all the claims of him becoming a great role model for young black men, he was always going to be responsible for the deaths of more innocents than Biggie and Tupac combined.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 2004 and 2013 drone strikes have killed up to 893 civilians (including 176 children) in Pakistan, 178 civilians (including 37 children) in Yemen, and 57 civilians (including three children) in Somalia (while these started under Bush they were accelerated under Obama). According to the New York Times, his ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, complained to colleagues that “he didn’t realise his main job was to kill people”, a colleague said.

 

But Obama was returned to office by the votes of – among others – blacks, Latinos, youth and the poor, the very people and communities most likely to be blighted by gun violence. Michelle Obama came to Hadiya’s funeral after considerable pressure had been applied by black communities in Chicago and nationwide. Since the shootings of children at Sandy Hook elementary school Obama has led an audacious push to galvanise a majority, in the country and in Congress, for tougher gun controls.

The unfortunate timing has highlighted the discrepancy between his foreign and domestic policies, exposing them not only as hypocritical but deeply tragic. While shop windows all around Obama’s Chicago home hang posters saying “Stop killing people”, the man they sent to the White House is doing precisely the opposite. Having shown his ability to rally human empathy to progressive causes at home, he then fails to recognise the common humanity of the innocents he is killing abroad.

“[America can be] a moral power,” said Martin Luther King – on whose Bible Obama swore in as president – during the Vietnam war. “A power harnessed to the service of peace and human beings, not an inhumane power unleashed against defenceless people.” That’s as true on the streets of Chicago as it is in the border regions of Pakistan.

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MLK Image 2 silenceBSa Tolerance

| Secret courts: what they don’t want the British people to know!

Secret courts: what they don’t want the British people to know ~ Yvonne Ridley, Our Kingdom.

 

The ‘secret courts bill’ is heading through the Lords, just as former ministers and MI6 officials face the prospect of public court appearances over torture allegations.

Liberties and freedoms enshrined in Magna Carta more than 800 years ago are under threat from the British government’s plans to deliver a bill that undermines the principle of open justice. This piece will look at the context in which the Justice and Security Bill, or ‘secret courts bill’ as it is nicknamed, is being pushed through and the powerful resistance to the legislation.

The bill is passing through the House of Lords while the country still reels from the most recent Hillsborough inquiry, which exposed a wide-scale cover up involving the police, politicians, and members of the emergency services. It took more than two decades for the truth to surface after the deaths of 96 Liverpool football fans at the stadium in Sheffield, and during that period ordinary people and their communities were demonised by those placed in a position of trust. The toxic legacy of Hillsborough should be followed by more transparency, not more secrecy. Yet the Justice and Security Bill has the potential to make it far easier for such cover-ups to take place.

Furthermore, the bill is being proposed at a time when former ministers from the Blair government including Jack Straw as well as senior establishment figures in the Secret Intelligence Services and Whitehall face the unprecedented prospect of being questioned by Scotland Yard detectives investigating claims of British collusion in the US rendition and torture programme. Crucial evidence of the UK’s role in at least two US-led renditions is detailed in a number of documents held by the Libyan security services, which came to light subsequent to the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

Britain’s role in the rendition of Libyan rebel leader Abdul Hakim Belhadj is pointed to in a letter from Sir Mark Allen, former director of counter-terrorism at MI6, to Moussa Koussa, Head of the Libyan intelligence agency at the time. Dated March 18 2004, Sir Mark writes about how grateful he is to Koussa for helping to smooth the way for Tony Blair’s latest visit to Colonel Gaddafi. He adds: “Most importantly, I congratulate you on the safe arrival of Abu Abd Allah Sadiq [aka Abdul Hakim Belhadj]. This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years. I am so glad. I was grateful to you for helping the officer we sent out last week.”

It also emerged another rebel leader Sami Al-Saadi was detained whilst flying from his home in Hong Kong to the UK with his wife and four children – the youngest a girl aged six. The family were forced onboard an aircraft bound to Libya two days after Blair’s famous visit. The 45-year-old former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group commander, who was committed to over-throwing Gaddafi, believes documents discovered after the tyrant’s death show British personnel were instrumental in his detention and rendition.

Both he and Belhadj spent more than six years in custody where they say they were subject to torture. Legal papers were served in April on the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw by Belhaj’s lawyers Leigh Day & Co and also lodged at the High Court. The documents clearly accuse Straw, Allen, MI6, MI5, the Foreign Office and Home Office of being liable for the false imprisonment as well as “complicity in torture and/or inhuman and degrading treatment; conspiracy to injure; conspiracy to use unlawful means; misfeasance in public office and/or negligence” suffered by the Belhadj and al Saadi families.


Sami al-Saadi with his daughter. Image credit: Reprieve, all rights reserved.

The prosecution may fail. The accusations may turn out to have no foundation at all. But stand or fall the case must be held in an open court so that justice is seen to be done. Under the current judicial system the proceedings would be open to journalists and members of the public. However, should the Justice and Security Bill be passed through Parliament this year in its present form then it is almost certain that both the press and the public will be denied access to the trial. Human rights lawyer Saghir Hussein said of this prospect: “What this means is that everyone outside of the court proceedings will not know who has been charged or the detail of what they have been charged with. Even the defendants may not be allowed in to the proceedings and may never find out why the charges have been brought, why they have been charged and what is the evidence against them. In other words they lose the right to defence. Nor will those seeking justice be allowed in to the court to see what is happening to their alleged tormentors”. He added, “It has not been lost on anyone that the drive for this new legislation emerged around the same time some very powerful people in very powerful places realised they could be forced to give evidence in an open court…”

The resistance

Last week, the London-based NGO Cageprisoners launched a campaign from the House of Commons, No More Secrets, to kill the proposed legislation. Respect MP George Galloway opened the press conference by talking about the need for transparency following the Hillsborough inquiry, saying: “When I learned that the police had systematically falsified the truth in literally 168 statements including allegedly at a high level, and the fact that this was all covered up for 23 years and would have remained a secret if it were not for the campaigning zeal, fortitude and courage of the families of the 96 football fans, then it struck me this is what secret courts would be like. One would never know the truth but it would be legal this time to cover those truths up.” Following on from Galloway, Natalie Bennett, the new leader of the Green Party, said: “Closed justice, not open to the scrutiny of the media or the public, is no justice at all and these closed courts further undermine an absolutely critical principal of the British legal system that everyone is equal before the law; because what it is doing is putting the government above the law.” Moazzam Begg, a director of Cageprisoners and former Guantanamo detainee, concluded the press conference by arguing that the introduction of secret courts would destroy the reputation of British justice, which has been respected and exported around the world.

It can take years for a campaign to attract enough pressure to force the hand of authority, as witnessed over Hillsborough; but the momentum against Clarke’s Justice and Security Bill has already built up a full head of steam. Opponents are diverse and drawn from all political parties, human rights groups and the legal profession. Some of the most eminent names in human rights circles expressed concern about the legislation in The Guardian earlier this year. Former shadow home secretary David Davis is vehemently against the bill, as is the controversial Labour MP Paul Flynn who has added his full weight to the No More Secrets campaign. One of the most powerful opponents is Lord MacDonald, the former director of public prosecutions, who has made clear his view that the bill would invite ministers to seek to hide “awkward or embarrassing” actions under the guise of protecting national security. On the same day as the Cageprisoners campaign launch, the issue was being discussed at the Liberal Democrat conference. Jo Shaw, a former parliamentary candidate, tabled a motion in Brighton to withdraw from part of the bill. She said: “This motion is not saying that all the security services or government officials or police are bad or corrupt. But some may be. Some may make mistakes and wish to cover them up. Part two [of the bill] will allow a few bad apples to rot our judicial system from behind closed doors. In simple words, this is a bad bill.”

The Justice and Security Bill will undermine public faith in the judicial system, a system which, as Moazzam Begg pointed out, is admired and embraced around the world. If this bill becomes a reality we may never find out what is being done in our name, behind closed doors.

Yvonne Ridley is a patron of Cageprisoners. She produced and narrated the documentary ‘Lies, Spies & Libya’, directed by award-winning film-maker Hassan al Banna Ghani. For details of the documentary, to be shown as part of the nationwide No More Secrets tour, see the Cageprisoners website.

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| Implicating France: Assad ‘betrayed Col Gaddafi to save his Syrian regime!’

Bashar al-Assad ‘betrayed Col Gaddafi to save his Syrian regime’ ~   , Nick Squires, Henry Samuel and Ruth Sherlock, The Telegraph.

The Assad regime in Syria brought about Muammar Gaddafi’s death by providing France with the key intelligence which led to the operation that killed him, sources in Libya have claimed.

Bashar al-Assad 'betrayed Col Gaddafi to save his Syrian regime'

Col Gaddafi, killed almost exactly a year ago Photo: AFP/GETTY

French spies operating in Sirte, Gaddafi’s last refuge, were able to set a trap for the Libyan dictator after obtaining his satellite telephone number from the Syrian government, they said.

In what would amount to an extraordinary betrayal of one Middle East strongman by another, President Bashar al-Assad sold out his fellow tyrant in an act of self-preservation, a former senior intelligence official in Tripoli told the Daily Telegraph.

With international attention switching from Libya to the mounting horrors in Syria, Mr Assad offered Paris the telephone number in exchange for an easing of French pressure on Damascus, according to Rami El Obeidi.

“In exchange for this information, Assad had obtained a promise of a grace period from the French and less political pressure on the regime – which is what happened,” Mr El Obeidi said.

A National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter holds a picture of the Libyan fallen leader Muammar Al Gaddafi

While it was not possible independently to verify his allegation, Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, played a leading role in both the Nato mission to bomb Libya and in bringing international pressure to bear on the Assad regime.

The claims by Mr El Obeidi, the former head of foreign intelligence for the movement that overthrew Gaddafi, followed comments by Mahmoud Jibril, who served as prime minister in the transitional government and now leads one of Libya’s largest political parties. He confirmed over the weekend that a foreign “agent” was involved in the operation that killed Gaddafi.

He did not identify his nationality. However the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera quoted Western diplomats in Tripoli as saying that if a foreign agent was involved “he was almost certainly French”.

The news of the Syria deal could potentially embarrass Nato, which initially claimed that it did “not target individuals”.

According to the alliance’s official version, an RAF reconnaissance plane spotted a large convoy of vehicles trying to flee Sirte on Oct 20th last year, two months after Gaddafi fled Tripoli.

Nato warplanes then bombed the convoy, apparently unaware of who was travelling in it, before militia fighters later found Gaddafi hiding in a drainpipe. He is believed to have been killed by his captors en route to the city of Misurata, west of Sirte.

But Mr El Obeidi said that France had essentially masterminded the operation by directing Libyan militiamen to an ambush spot where they could intercept Gaddafi’s convoy.

He also suggested that France had little interest in how Gaddafi was treated once captured, although the fighters were encouraged to try to take him alive.

“French intelligence played a direct tole in the death of Gaddafi, including his killing,” Mr El Obeidi said.

“They gave directions that he was to be apprehended, but they didn’t care if he was bloodied or beaten up as long as he was delivered alive.”

Bashar al-Assad, right, and his brother Maher

According to Mr El Obeidi, French intelligence began to monitor Gaddafi’s Iridium satellite telephone and made a vital breakthrough when he rang a senior loyalist, Yusuf Shakir and Ahmed Jibril, a Palestinian militant leader, in Syria.

As a result, they were able to pinpoint his location and monitor his movements. Although Turkish and British military intelligence officers – including the SAS – who were in Sirte at the time were informed of the ambush plans in advance they played no role in what was “an exclusive French operation”, Mr El Obeidi said.

At the time of Gaddafi’s death, Mr El Obeidi had fallen out of favour with the most powerful faction in Libya’s transitional government because of his links with Gen Abdul Fatah Younes, a senior rebel commander killed by his own side in July last year.

Even so, he continued in his intelligence role in a semi-official but senior capacity.

Sources quoted by Corriere della Sera said one reason for the French lead in the operation was that then President Nicolas Sarkozy wanted Gaddafi dead after the Libyan leader openly threatened to reveal details of the large amounts of money he had donated to Sarkozy for his 2007 election campaign.

“Sarkozy had every reason to want to get rid of the colonel as quickly as possible,” Western diplomats said, according to the newspaper.

A spokesman at the French foreign ministry refused to confirm or deny the claims.

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| US under spotlight over emerging evidence of Libya attack disrupting major CIA operation!

Attack in Libya disrupted major CIA operation ~ Bill Van Auken,  World Socialist Web Site.

The September 11 attack that claimed the life of the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans disrupted a major CIA operation in the North African country.

According to the New York Times, at least half of the nearly two dozen US personnel evacuated from the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi following the fatal attack on the US consulate and a secret “annex” were “CIA operatives and contractors.”

“It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss,” a US official who had been stationed in Libya told the Times. “We got our eyes poked out.”

The Times report describes the mission of the CIA station in Benghazi as one of “conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city,” including Ansar al-Sharia, an Islamist militia that has been linked by some to the September 11 attack, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.

It further states that the CIA “began building a meaningful but covert presence in Benghazi” within months of the February 2011 revolt in Benghazi that seized the city from forces loyal to the government of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Stevens himself was sent into the city in April of that year as the American envoy to the so-called “rebels” organized in the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council (NTC).

What the Times omits from its account of CIA activities in Benghazi, however, is that the agency was not merely conducting covert surveillance on the Islamists based in eastern Libya, but providing them with direct aid and coordinating their operations with those of the NATO air war launched to bring down the Gaddafi regime. In this sense, the September 11 attack that killed Stevens and the three other Americans was very much a case of the chickens coming home to roost.

There is every reason to believe that the robust CIA presence in Benghazi after Gaddafi’s fall also involved more than just surveillance. Libyan Islamists make up the largest single component of the “foreign fighters” who are playing an ever more dominant role in the US-backed sectarian civil war being waged in Syria with the aim of toppling the government of President Bashar al-Assad. According to some estimates, they comprise anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 of approximately 3,500 fighters who have been infiltrated into Syria from as far away as Chechnya and Pakistan.

The CIA has also set up a center on the border between Turkey and Syria to oversee the funneling of arms, materiel, money and fighters into the Syrian civil war. Given the relationship established between the US agency and the Libyan Islamist militias during the US-NATO war to topple Gaddafi, it seems highly probable that the departure of such elements from eastern Libya and their infiltration into Syria would be coordinated by CIA personnel on both ends.

The government installed by the US-NATO war in the Libyan capital of Tripoli was apparently unaware of the size of the CIA presence in Benghazi, though the agency was supposedly cooperating with Libyan intelligence officials in monitoring the activities of the Islamists.

According to a report published September 21 in the Wall Street Journal, the attempt by Libyan government forces to coordinate a response to the militia assault on the US consulate and the “annex” used by the CIA was hindered by the refusal of American officials to provide the Libyans with GPS coordinates for the “annex,” which came under sustained assault and where two security contractors, former Navy Seals, were killed.

When the US and Libyan rescuers managed to evacuate some 30 Americans from the “annex” and bring them to the Benghazi airport, Libyan officials were stunned by the number of US personnel there and had to bring in a second plane to fly them all out.

“We were surprised by the numbers of Americans who were at the airport,” Libyan Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagour told the Journal. “We have no problem with intelligence sharing or gathering, but our sovereignty is also key,” he added.

In the aftermath of the attack in Benghazi, the question of security at US facilities has become a politically contested issue, with Republicans charging that the Obama administration had behaved irresponsibly in not having US military personnel protect Stevens and other personnel. They have also accused the administration of misleading the public by describing the assault on the two buildings as an outgrowth of a spontaneous demonstration over the anti-Islamic film that has triggered protests throughout the Muslim world, rather than a terrorist attack.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon, a California Republican, last week declared the lack of military guards in Benghazi as “inconceivable” given an earlier attack on the Benghazi compound and other incidents of armed violence in the city.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to the criticism by insisting that local security forces and a private security company that deployed Libyan guards had provided security “of the kind that we rely on in many places around the world.”

By late last week, administration officials had begun referring to the assault as a “terrorist attack.” With the US having deployed warships, drones and a 50-member US Marine rapid reaction force to Libya, this may be preparation for military retaliation.

In Libya itself, thousands of people marched in Benghazi on Friday against the militias. Crowds laid siege to the headquarters of Ansar al-Sharia and another Islamist militia, the Rafallah Sahati brigade, leading to at least four deaths.

The demonstrations clearly expressed public anger over the sway of the Islamists over Benghazi, with participants talking of the need for “a new revolution.”

Late on Saturday, the authorities in Tripoli responded to the popular frustration. The Libyan army chief, Yusseff Mangoush, and national assembly leader Mohamed Magrief announced that “illegitimate” militias would have 48 hours to disarm and disband, or the army would use force.

What this meant was far from clear, however, as Libyan President Mohamed el-Megaref called upon Libyan protesters to leave the “legitimate” militias alone. The president demanded that the demonstrators stop attacks on militias that are “under state legitimacy, and go home.”

The spokesman for the national assembly went further. According to the Wall Street Journal, the spokesman, Omar Humidan, declared that while the militias “have wrong practices… serve their own agenda and have their own ideology… striking these militias and demanding they disband immediately will have grave consequences.”

He continued: “These are the ones that preserve security. The state has a weak army and no way it can fill any vacuum resulting in eviction of these militias… The street is upset because of the militias and their infighting. We are worried of the fallout in the absence of those militias. The state must be given time.”

The militias in Benghazi are almost all offshoots of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a jihadist group that had ties to Al Qaeda and whose leaders were abducted and tortured by the CIA as part of Washington’s “global war on terror.” This is the case with Ansar al-Sharia, which is responsible for providing security at the Al Jala hospital in Benghazi, as well as the Rafallah Sahati brigade, which has also been deployed as a security force in the city, including during the national elections.

In the aftermath of last Friday’s demonstrations, the militias struck back, claiming that the popular repudiation of their policies had been stirred up by supporters of the former Gaddafi regime.

The Rafallah al-Sahati militia announced Monday that it had rounded up 113 people for alleged involvement in the protests. A leader of the group claimed that most of those detained were former members of the Gaddafi-era military or supporters of the deposed president.

Libyan state television reported Monday that on the outskirts of Benghazi the bodies of six Libyan soldiers were found shot, execution style, with their hands cuffed behind them. It was also reported that an army colonel had disappeared and was believed to have been kidnapped.

According to the Wall Street Journal: “Some media reports accused militiamen of taking revenge on Gaddafi-era veterans in the military; in contrast, a military spokesman, Ali al-Shakhli, blamed Gaddafi loyalists, saying they were trying to stir up trouble between the public and the militias.”

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| Jack Straw faces legal action over ‘rendition!’

Jack Straw faces legal action over ‘rendition’ ~ BBC News.

A Libyan military commander is taking legal action against Jack Straw, to find out if the ex-foreign secretary signed papers allowing his rendition.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj claims CIA agents took him from Thailand to Gaddafi-led Libya, via UK-controlled Diego Garcia.

His lawyers have served papers on Mr Straw after the Sunday Times reported claims that he allowed this to happen.

UK ministers have denied any complicity in rendition or torture and Mr Straw did not comment further.

He said he could not do so because of the ongoing police investigation into the UK’s alleged role in illegal rendition.

Earlier this month, the BBC revealed that the UK government had approved the rendition of Mr Belhadj and his wife – Fatima Bouchar – to Col Muammar Gaddafi‘s regime, though it was unclear at what level.

On 15 April, the Sunday Times published an article, which quoted sources as alleging Mr Straw had personally authorised Mr Belhadj’s rendition to Libya.

On Tuesday, Mr Belhadj’s lawyers – Leigh Day & Co – served papers on Mr Straw, referencing the article and seeking his response to allegations that he was complicit in torture and misfeasance in public office.

The civil action is against Mr Straw personally – Mr Belhadj’s lawyers believe it is the first time legal action of this kind has been taken against a former foreign secretary.

Mr Belhadj and his wife allege Mr Straw was complicit in the “torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, batteries and assaults” which they say were perpetrated on them by Thai and US agents, as well as the Libyan authorities.

They are seeking damages from Mr Straw for the trauma involved.

Sapna Malik: ”Renditions such as this would have been sanctioned at the highest level”

Analysis

image of Frank  Gardner
Frank GardnerBBC security correspondent

Serving legal papers on Jack Straw probably marks the high water mark in this case, in terms of trying to apportion blame in Britain for what happened to Mr Belhadj.

The only person higher up the chain at the time was Tony Blair.

And much as Mr Blair’s detractors may want to see him embroiled, as PM it is unlikely he would have been involved in the minutiae of a secret intelligence operation.

So for now, this will be a matter for the Foreign Office, MI6, the Met Police, Jack Straw and the lawyers.

Whatever the final outcome, Mr Belhadj will draw some comfort that his case is now being aired in the most public way possible.

‘Inhuman and degrading treatment’

Downing Street declined to comment on the case but said it was “looking closely” at the legal action brought against Mr Straw.

A spokeswoman said: “The Government’s position on torture is well-known. We stand firmly against it and any cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. We do not condone that and we do not ask others to do it on our behalf.”

In 2004, Mr Belhadj was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and was living in exile after leading opposition to the Gaddafi regime. MI5 had believed the LIFG was close to al-Qaeda.

Mr Belhadj alleges he and his wife were detained by CIA agents in Bangkok as they travelled to Britain to claim political asylum – he believes the plane they were transported on refuelled at the UK territory of Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean.

Mr Belhadj claims that he and his wife were tortured during the rendition process and in Libya, where he was subsequently imprisoned.

Papers have already been served in the High Court to sue the UK government, its security forces, and senior MI6 officer Sir Mark Allen, for damages.

Mr Belhadj’s lawyers said their letter of claim against Jack Straw relied on the same allegations and evidence set out in the letters to Sir Mark and the government.

They said Mr Straw had been foreign secretary with responsibility for MI6 at the time of Mr Belhadj’s rendition and that a 2004 letter from Sir Mark to Libya’s former intelligence chief congratulated the Libyans on Mr Belhadj’s safe arrival.

‘Neither confirm nor deny’The lawyers said they anticipated that Mr Straw’s response would mirror the government solicitor’s “neither confirm nor deny” reaction to their previous letters of claim regarding Mr Belhadj.

They said therefore that, while Mr Straw would ordinarily have six months in which to respond their allegations, they sought a response by close of business on 17 May “following which proceedings may be issued against you without further notice”.

If Mr Straw did not admit liability within that time, they said they expected him to provide copies of the documents described in the Sunday Times article and copies of government communication and memos relating to Mr Belhadj.

Abdel Hakim Belhadj
Mr Belhadj wants to know whether Jack Straw personally approved his illegal rendition in 2004.

Sapna Malik, a partner at Leigh Day & Co, said she believed Mr Straw did approve Mr Belhadj’s rendition.

“If the former foreign secretary does not now own up to his role in this extraordinary affair, he will need to face the prospect of trying to defend his position in court.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme, Ms Malik said that the real issue was not the amount of compensation but a public acknowledgement and an admission from Mr Straw and those involved about their role in the rendition.

“It’s not some sort of cheap publicity stunt, but there are real concerns here about who signed off on what.”

‘Not complicit’Cori Crider, legal director of the campaign group Reprieve, described the case as a breakthrough.

“I think what makes this case unique is that finally people are coming forward and saying exactly who it was.”

The Metropolitan Police is investigating Mr Belhadj’s claims and Ms Malik said that if its inquiry were broadened, Mr Straw could face criminal prosecution.

In an interview with Radio 4 last year, Mr Straw said the Labour government had been opposed to unlawful rendition.

“We were opposed to any use of torture or similar methods. Not only did we not agree with it, we were not complicit in it and nor did we turn a blind eye to it.”

But Mr Straw added, “No foreign secretary can know all the details of what its intelligence agencies are doing at any one time.”

More on This Story

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*ALSO SEE:
| Special report: Documentary proof that Britain initiated ‘extraordinary rendition!’   April 9th, 2012.

| Jack Straw sued over illegal rendition of Abdel Hakim Belhadj ~ , The Telegraph, 18 Apr 2012.

A Libyan military commander is suing the former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw over his alleged complicity in illegal rendition and torture.

Former Justice Secretary Jack Straw (left) and Abdelhakim Belhadj former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (left) and Abdel Hakim Belhadj former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group Photo: Lewis Whyld/PA/Geoff Pugh