Shelter Under the Anti-war Umbrella

Shelter Under the Anti-war Umbrella

As the atrocities of the occupation of Iraq continue to mount, at the same time, the war at home has been taking billions from schools, healthcare, Social Security, wages and benefits and our communities and transferring them to corporations, the wealthy and war. But where are the outraged thousands in the streets? Where did all of us anti-warriors go? What will it take?

The world seems to be waiting for those of us in the U.S. – and millions of us here are ready – to really stand up to the Bush administration and the bipartisan policies of empire. But it's hard to mobilize against the war and occupation when there is no clear logic to where our efforts are headed. What will another march or even nonviolent direct action add up to? How will we actually stop the war and occupation? Where is a strategy that could work?

The anti-war movement needs a strategy of how we are going to stop the war and occupation of Iraq.

The solution is written in last month's mountain road blockades and the citywide shutdown of El Alto, Bolivia that kicked out water privatizing transnational corporation Suez from devastating their water system. It's also in our own re-written history. It's called people power.

In 2003 we tried almost everything to stop the invasion of Iraq, and in 2004 we tried to un-elect the invader. Both times, incredible groundswells of grassroots activism from most nearly every sector of society hit the streets and doorsteps of America and won important, less visible victories, but failed on both counts.

We have clearly and massively exhausted the established channels of change; political pressure, lobbying and elections have not worked. It's time for a different approach.

People power is an assertion of real democracy. It can assert the democratic will of communities and movements to change the things that matter when the established so-called democratic channels turn out be little more than public relations for elite rule. Every successful movement in U.S. history, from the workers and civil rights movement to today's farmworker-led Taco Bell boycott, and every dictator toppled in recent history have relied on people power methods.

A people power strategy that identifies the key pillars that support the Iraq war and occupation and wages a determined campaign to weaken and eventually remove those pillars can stop the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. It can also take a major step in weakening the systemic pillars of empire at the root of so many problems in our communities and in the world. Do we have the guts and imagination?

Power to the People

Author and activist trainer George Lakey describes the people power strategy employed in former Yugoslavia, in his article "Strategy for a Living Revolution." He explains the group Otpur's (Serbian for "resistance") effort to oust Slobodan Milosevic by toppling the "pillars" that were supporting him:

One pillar of support for Milosevic was his police. Otpur systematically undermined that pillar. They took photos of their wounded. They enlarged the photos, put them on signs, and carried the signs in front of the houses of the police who hurt them. They talked to the cop's neighbors about it, took the signs to the schools of the police officers' children and talked with the children about it. After a year of this, police were plainly reluctant to beat Otpur activists even when ordered to do so, because they didn't want the negative reactions of their family, friends, and neighbors. When the movement ripened into a full-fledged insurgency in Belgrade, many police were sent out of the city by their commanders while other police simply watched the crowds take over the Parliament building.

In the lead up to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, as the world protested and pressured the warmongers to stop, some parts of the anti-war movements began to turn towards a people-power approach. In Ireland, a campaign of protest and direct action at Shannon Air Force Base successfully stopped it from being used as a major refueling stop for troop and supply flights on their way to Iraq. In Britain some dockworkers refused to load supplies for the U.S. war. In Italy activists blocked trains moving supplies for the war. In Turkey, mass protests forced the government to refuse to let the nation be used as a staging base for the invasion, which U.S. war planners had taken for granted.

In San Francisco, Direct Action to Stop the War called for a next-day shutdown of the city's financial district if the U.S. invaded Iraq. The well-publicized goals of the shutdown said in part, "We will impose real economic, social and political costs and stop business as usual until the war stops ... with the express intention of deterring a war in Iraq and future wars." A diverse San Francisco Bay Area anti-war movement united around this common framework. On March 19, 2003 the U.S. began its invasion. The next day, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted San Francisco police officer Drew Cohen as saying, "They succeeded this morning – they shut the city down. They're highly organized but they are totally spontaneous. The protesters are always one step ahead of us. "

Over the next ten weeks a series of mass actions imposed an economic, political and social cost on Bay Area corporate war profiteers. Actions disrupted and publicized the war profiteering at the headquarters of Chevron Texaco, Lockheed Martin and Bechtel. But, lacking a strategy, the actions became less frequent and the numbers smaller.

What if we, locally or national or internationally, had agreed on a long-term people power strategy that would place our direct action – and our education, grassroots organizing and demonstrations – into a longer term people power strategic framework? We could then pick our tactics and campaigns based on a shared understanding that we were not just trying to have our voices heard and influence those in power, but we were actually asserting our own power and withdrawing the sources of power or pillars of support for the war and occupation of Iraq and empire building policies. What if we do it now?

Pillars of War

A people power strategy to stop the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq means first identifying the key pillars of support, then waging campaigns to weaken or remove those pillars. Three key pillars are troops, corporate profiteers, and corporate media disinformation.


The Bush administration can't fight war or maintain an occupation without troops – or without obedient troops. Nor can they begin new wars without enough compliant soldiers. This pillar could be weakened with campaigns to support troops and National Guard (or private or government employees) who refuse deployment or orders in compliance with international law; counter-recruit to reduce the military's ability to recruit young people – disproportionately low-income and of color; and to resist the draft and draft registration by supporting young men to refuse to register for the selective service and prepare for mass resistance to a possible draft.

Former career military vet Stan Goff said recently, "Every successful revolution requires either the neutralization or active participation of military people. It's really time we factor that into our thinking. It's time we thought about organizing within the military. And organizing is not helping out a handful of conscientious objectors (though that is important) or dropping into Fayetteville with anti-war petitions for GIs to sign. Organizing is getting to know them, listening to them, building relationships with them, and standing alongside them when they confront their own institution."

Corporate Profiteers

Corporations are essential to continuing the war and occupation in Iraq and forcing them to withdraw their participation would shut down essential parts and motives for the war and occupation.

There are four main types of corporate involvement in the war and occupation:

  • Mercenary "private security" corporations providing logistics and services, like CACI, who provides interrogators, including those involved in Abu Ghraib torture.
  • "Reconstruction" contractors, like Bechtel, which has already been paid $680 million while failing to restore Iraq's water, sewage or electricity systems and still has over $2 billion in contracts.
  • Privatizers: Corporations who are working towards privatizing Iraq's economy, such as Chevron Texaco, which is poised to reap trillions of dollars off of the potential privatization of Iraq's oil sector.
  • Manufacturers of weapons and military supplies, like Lockheed-Martin.

This pillar of the war and occupation can be weakened through aggressive, relentless and innovative anti-corporate campaigns. These campaigns can create economic, political and social cost to profiting from war and occupation so that these corporations may be forced to pull out from profiting from the Iraq war and occupation.

Corporate Media Disinformation

Corporate media's steady stream of lies, distortions and repetition of the Bush administration "war on terror" assumptions was essential in propagating the pretense for the invasion and is key to maintaining some level of public support for the war and occupation. Imagine if switching to independent media sources had been a key component of all the anti-war organizing over the last two years – millions of people might have switched.

We can weaken this pillar by media accountability campaigns to educate the public to become critical of media bias, and possibly to curb some of the most outrageous lies and distortions. Additionally, independent media advocacy campaigns could set goals of switching over large numbers of people from watching/listening/reading corporate media to watching/listening/reading more alternative media.

A Shared Strategy Framework

Leading up to the 2003 Iraq invasion or up to the 2004 elections many had a shared strategic framework – a sense that everyone was doing what they could in their own way, but that we were working together and it was complementary and built on each others' efforts.

People now are coming to similar conclusions – that we need to turn to people power and find ways we can assert our own power or withdraw our support. It's clear we are not all going to agree on any one (or two or three) campaigns, but it is possible for us to be proactive and consciously adopt and promote a larger people power strategic framework that makes our various efforts and campaigns complementary and cumulative. I think of it as a massive umbrella under which we can – whether we are a national organization, a local group or a decentralized network – make our efforts add up. We can look for ways to collaborate with people and groups who are resisting the Bush administration and corporations' efforts to privatize Social Security to cut other critical social programs and to infringe on basic civil liberties, immigrant and workers rights. The war and occupation's costs alone are reasons to cultivate this collaboration but so is our shared commitment to a better world.

Having wide sectors of the anti-war movements and allied movements understand and support a people power strategic framework is the first step. Being able to clearly articulate and popularize the strategic framework to many different constituencies is essential. This could involve widespread trainings, articles and literature explaining the people power strategy, and efforts to encourage more and more groups to adopt it either formally or informally.

To stop the next war – be it in Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela or elsewhere – and to counter the domestic impact of the policies of empire (of which the Iraq war and occupation are a symptom), it is essential that we think, and frame our campaigns and education within its systemic context. In this way our efforts to stop the Iraq war will build momentum towards stopping other wars and injustices without having to start new movements, organizations each time. Policies of war and occupation are one part of a global system of control called empire. Empire also includes polices of corporate globalization and the war at home policies of cutbacks in human needs and infringements on our basic rights.

In addition, organizing and thinking systemically can make the various movements taking on different parts of the same system complementary and cumulative rather than competitive and fractured.

We can also need to articulate positive, directly democratic, socially just, ecological alternatives to the policies and to the system we are fighting as an integral part of our campaigns. For example, if we are weakening the corporate pillar by opposing oil companies like Chevron Texaco, we can simultaneously advocate alternative fuel/transportation systems and democratic non-corporate institutions to take their place. This "saying yes as loudly as we say no" will help the movement we are building to continue on long after we have stopped the Iraq occupation.

Battle of the Story

A final key ingredient in a successful strategy is our ability to frame our own struggles or tell our story. If we are acting defensively within the framework or stories of the Bush administration and their "war on terror" story, we will always be on the defensive. If we allow them to define reality we will always lose. If we limit ourselves to defensively arguing that there are no nuclear weapons in Iraq, for example, without challenging the legitimacy and cost of the U.S. being an empire, then we are operating in a Bush defined reality. We have to be able to understand, fight and win the "battle of the story."

Grassroots social movements best tell our stories through action. The Zapatista uprising of 1994 was an incredible and contagious story that re-defined the post-Cold War reality. The Seattle direct action shut down was another powerful story whose significance is constantly under attack from The New York Times and the forces of corporate reality.

The world is hungry for a different story from within the heart of the empire and they have our back. It's our turn now.

By David Solnit, AlterNet
© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Indonesia: Journalists seized in Iraq

Indonesia: Journalists seized in Iraq

The Indonesian government has confirmed two of its journalists were abducted in Iraq as Aljazeera aired video footage purportedly showing them in the hands of an armed group.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said on Saturday two Indonesian journalists were being held hostage in Iraq, confirming reports after they were declared missing.

"I have just received a reconfirmation that indeed the two Indonesian nationals have been taken hostage in a place in Iraq," Susilo said at the presidential palace in Jakarta.

He appealed for the release of the pair, who Aljazeera earlier said were claimed to have been kidnapped by a previously unknown group, the Jaish al-Mujahidin, or Army of Warriors.

Televised appeal

"I, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, president of the Republic of Indonesia, convey that the two journalists are truly only carrying out their journalistic duties," the president said.

"There is no political involvement. There is no involvement by the two in the conflict," he said.

"Again they are only carrying out their journalistic work and, therefore, I on behalf of the Indonesian people appeal for the release of the two journalists immediately so they can return home to Indonesia.

"Their families are very worried and we, the Indonesian people, also truly want the innocent pair to return home and resume their journalistic duty."

Taken near Ramadi

Earlier, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry in Jakarta said the pair, working for the private Metro TV station, were in a rented car in Ramadi on Tuesday when they were last heard from.

"We are very worried about our staff. Hopefully they are just uncontactable at the moment, but we cannot rule out the fact that they may have been kidnapped," Don Bosco, Metro TV's news director told earlier in the week before the video was aired.

Foreign affairs spokesman Marty Natalegawa said in Jarkarta: "We have received information from the owner of a car rented by two journalists from Metro TV that on 15 February their vehicle heading for Ramadi was halted by an armed group.

"We do not want to use the word kidnapped or that they have been held hostage at the moment," he said, adding that the two had been "intercepted".

Indlieb Farazi contributed to this report.
Aljazeera + Agencies
Friday 18 February 2005 8:47 PM GMT


Still no word on Indonesian journalists, Metro TV urges caution


The management of the Metro TV, Indonesia's only 24-hour TV news station, continue to be very cautious about the reasons for the disappearance of their two journalists in Iraq, Meutya Hafid and Budiyanto, from whom there has been no word since 15 February.

"It is still not clear what has happened," Metro TV editor-in-chief Don Brosco told Reporters Without Borders. "I don't see how it could be a political abduction as Iraq and Indonesia are two great Muslim countries. It must be a criminal act or a case of mistaken identity."

Brosco said Hafid, aged about 25, is a "very professional and courageous" journalist and presenter. Before going to Iraq, she spent two weeks in Aceh reporting on the aftermath of the 26 December tsunami. Her cameraman, known simply as Budiyanto, is aged about 35 and has a great deal of experience in Iraq, having covered the war since 2003.

The two of them spent two weeks in Irak covering the January legislative elections then withdrew to Amman. Metro TV asked them to return to Irak to cover the festivities in the Shiite city of Kerbala, south of Baghdad. Their last contact with Metro TV in Djakarta was a phone call on 15 February when they were travelling along a highway inside Iraq.

One of Metro TV's owners, Surya Paloh, is to fly to Amman tomorrow with a six-member team to try to retrace their steps and track down people who could help find them.

18.02.2005 -
Concern about two Indonesian journalists said to have been "intercepted"

Reporters Without Borders voiced concern today about the disappearance in Iraq of two Indonesian TV journalists, reporter Meutya Hafid and her cameraman, identified only as Budiyanto. There has been no word of them since midday on 15 February. The two work for Metro TV, Indonesia's only 24-hour television news station.

The press freedom organization said it was extremely worried that the number of journalists going missing in Iraq is on the increase again. "We do not yet know if the two Indonesian journalists have been kidnapped, but we are following the situation closely and we are trying to ensure that all journalists in Iraq can work freely," the organization said.

Reporters Without Borders said Iraq continues to be the world's most dangerous country for journalists, with at least 32 killed and 15 kidnapped since the start of the war in March 2003. "We call on the foreign media that are continuing to cover Iraq to take extreme care," the organization added.

The reports about the disappearance of the two Indonesian journalists are conflicting. Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said : "We have received information (...) from the owner of a car rented by the two Metro TV journalists indicating that their vehicle, which was heading toward Ramadi, was intercepted by an armed group on 15 February. The car, driver and two journalists have been taken an unknown location. However, I will not use the word abduction yet."

Another witness reportedly said the two journalists were stopped as they were on their way to Baghdad by armed men wearing the uniforms of the Iraqi army. So far no group as claimed responsibility for any abduction.

Hafid and Budiyanto have been in Iraq since 31 January. They rented a car in Amman and were heading towards Baghdad when it was "intercepted." The report of their disappearance comes 44 days after that of French journalist Florence Aubenas and her interpreter Hussein Hanoun Al-Saadi (missing since 5 January) and two weeks after Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena was kidnapped (on 4 February).

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Ten serial rapists are serving in the U.S. military and have sexually assaulted dozens of fellow soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, a watchdog group has charged.

And more than a year after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared "zero tolerance" for rape, the number of troops who claim to have been violated has nearly tripled, the Miles Foundation reported.

"This indicates to us that rape in the ranks continues to be a problem in the military," said Anita Sanchez, spokeswoman for the Connecticut-based foundation. The nonprofit group assists service members who have been sexually assaulted.

Based on victim interviews, the group has identified 10 servicemen and a military contractor who allegedly each sexually assaulted anywhere from two to two dozen soldiers.

Sanchez said six of the suspects are in the Army, two are Marines, one each are in the Navy and Air Force - and their superiors have been alerted. So has the contractor's boss.

"The Pentagon should know about all of them," she said.

But the Defense Department, which recently bowed to congressional pressure and introduced sweeping policy changes for handling sexual assault of soldiers, did not return calls for comment about the foundation's findings.

Of the 307 reports of sexual assault received by the Miles Foundation from troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain, 104 cases have already been reported to military authorities, Sanchez said.

"Four of the rape victims are men and we believe the true number is higher," Sanchez said. "In the culture of the military, there is an enormous amount of shame."

Also, because of "don't ask, don't tell" rules, male victims are less likely to report an attack for fear of being labeled homosexual and getting drummed out of the service, Sanchez said.

But female victims also face roadblocks - both in the United States and abroad - when they report a rape.

In an interview that airs Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes," former Lt. Jennifer Dyer of the New Jersey National Guard said the Army treated her "like a criminal" when she reported being raped at Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Given two weeks to recover, Dyer said, "I was told that if I didn't return on time, they would send MPs to my door and have me arrested. They stated that two weeks was enough time to recover from such an incident."

But Dyer's alleged attacker was still on the base. So she went AWOL and was later granted an honorable discharge.

"I was fearful of my health and safety and sanity," says Dyer of Mays Landing, N.J., who is a police officer in civilian life.

The alleged attacker, who is married, insisted that the sex was consensual and that Dyer made up the rape story to get out of serving in Iraq. Last month, a military hearing officer said there was not enough evidence and recommended dropping the rape charge.

© 2005, New York Daily News.
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Four peace demonstrators who poured their blood on government property during a 2003 antiwar rally at a military recruiting office in Lansing have been indicted in federal court.

Peter De Mott and Clare Grady received subpoenas early Friday. Teresa B. Grady and Daniel Burns were in contact with federal officials and were waiting for their subpoenas to be delivered during the afternoon. The indictments, for "conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States," come nearly a year after a local case ended in a mistrial in Tompkins County Court.

The federal "officer" allegedly impeded was not identified on subpoena papers.

"A jury in Tompkins County was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Nine people would have acquitted us," De Mott said. "We're confident that the jury in Binghamton will reach a similar conclusion."

According to the subpoena delivered to De Mott, the indictment was signed by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas J. McAvoy on Thursday. The defendants are scheduled to appear before U.S. District Court Judge David E. Peebles on March 11.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Binghamton did not return calls seeking comment Friday afternoon. Tompkins County District Attorney George Dentes, whose office could not get a conviction in Tompkins County Court in April 2004, and a Syracuse-based media spokespeople for the U.S. military also did not return repeated calls for comment.

De Mott said he understands that he and the others could face up to six years in prison and "hefty fines" if convicted.

"We're facing more serious jail time than some of the soldiers who committed atrocities against prisoners in Iraq," Burns said.

On March 17, 2003, shortly before the United States began combat operations in Iraq, the Gradys, Burns and De Mott were among a group of about 20 people who gathered to demonstrate in front of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps recruiting station at the Cayuga Mall in Lansing.

The four who entered the office were arrested, but never convicted. The defendants -- who call themselves the St. Patrick's Day 4 --never denied they drew their own blood to poor at the recruiting station during the protest.

The four have repeatedly insisted, however, they are not guilty of a crime and said Friday they plan to plead innocent in this latest court action.

"We believe that we are upholding international law in that the U.S. has acted criminally in invading Iraq, a sovereign nation, without the backing of the United Nations," Teresa B. Grady said.

She said the United States also was guilty of crimes against humanity, environmental degradation and causing the deaths of U.S. service personnel.

Following last April's mistrial, Dentes dismissed all charges pending against the four in Tompkins County Court. Dentes, who said then that he believed the jury "focused on political ideology instead of the facts," asked the U.S. Attorney's office to get involved in the case.

As in their first trial, the four said they likely will represent themselves in court, with help from legal advisors.



Remember Pearl Harbor

February 18, 2005

Remember Pearl Harbor
by Christopher Manion

The war in Iraq has not gone well for neoconservatives. In the recent elections, Iraqis defied a "secular" candidate backed by tens of thousands of U.S. government troops and hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars, electing instead an anti-American Shi'ite coalition. The Bush administration was dead set against that outcome, but then, supporters of the war have found that reality has trumped them repeatedly in Iraq. Instead of facing that reality with an abject apology and returning to the sane and constitutional government promised by candidate George Bush in the 2000 campaign, the Bush administration is now desperately seeking a crisis of sufficient magnitude to distract Americans from Bush's Iraq failure.

The magnitude of that failure is hard to exaggerate. Even CIA director Porter Goss now admits what critics of the war have pointed out for two years: the U.S. invasion has created a recruiting and training ground that has produced tens of thousands of new, hardened, experienced terrorists bent on the destruction of America. Nine billion dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds is unaccounted for in Iraq. The world now knows that U.S. government personnel have tortured hundreds of prisoners and killed tens of thousands of innocent civilians. The Pentagon has instituted a backdoor draft because it is virtually out of troops. In the meantime, the war has lost America the support of virtually the entire international community.

Should Americans address these issues squarely in debate? Not on your life. Nobody in this administration wants to go down that road.

Frankly, no administration ever has. History amply demonstrates that politicians bent on war must lie to the American people even as the government secretly manipulates events to manufacture a "crisis" that turns America's peace-loving world upside down. A year after he was reelected as the "peace candidate," Woodrow Wilson lied us into World War One. A year after FDR promised "again, and again, and again" that he would not send American sons to foreign wars, he maneuvered the country into World War Two.

Supporters of expanding Bush's war to the rest of the Middle East are not unaware of the results for Wilson and Roosevelt of their malevolence. Today, they are heroes of America's civil religion. Their lies have been buried by sweet-sounding myths like "the war to end all wars" and "the greatest generation." And America has swallowed them whole.

Inspired by this legacy, neoconservative advocates of conflagration and revolution throughout the Middle East are looking to FDR as they desperately seek a pretext – any pretext – for a quick expansion of the U.S. war in Iraq to Syria and Iran – and then beyond. They know that most Americans would consider such a bald move tantamount to insanity or treason, but the neocons really have no choice. If peace returns and the cards are laid face up on the table, they are finished. It is no accident that the revolutionary consciousness the neocons share with their Jacobin and Trotskyite intellectual forebears requires constant war – "permanent revolution," as Lenin called it.

But neoconservatives know that Americans will hardly rally to the battle cry of "Remember Lenin!" Instead, they have decided on another course of action – and another slogan that was very successful in its day:

"Remember Pearl Harbor."

In the past few days, events have revealed just how earnestly neocons seek a Pearl Harbor in the Middle East. Just a few days ago, Americans were surprised to learn that U.S. government military aircraft have been violating Iranian airspace for over a year. If the Iranians adopted Bush's theory of "preemption," they could logically call the intrusions an act of war. Nonetheless, the revelation of this sustained and bellicose action has not outraged the American public – and the neocons knew it wouldn't. After all, our national political consciousness has long been unmoored from the twin anchors of rational prudence and the Constitution. Now, with passions at the fore, there's little that appeals more to "feelings" and "self-esteem" than a fine war against barbaric evildoers.

Do the neocons care if we wind up in a few more "cakewalks"? Evidently, quite the contrary. They long to goad the Iranians into a military response – and they expect one. After all, if Iraqi drones had been flying over New York and Los Angeles, few Americans would have objected to Bush's Iraq invasion. It is a distant memory, but we should recall the 2001 collision of a U.S. spy plane with a jet fighter off the Chinese coast. The Chinese pilot was killed, and the damaged U.S. plane was forced to land at a Chinese military airfield. Such provocations can quickly mushroom into flashpoints of war, and even the bellicose Bush knew better than to push his luck. He knew he didn't have a leg to stand on, so, after eleven days of bluster, he apologized to the Chinese and agreed to pay them compensation (the exact amount was long the subject of dispute).

That incident is instructive in two ways. First, it tells us that Bush did not want a war with China. Second, it tells us he does want one with Iran.

While neocon revolutionary theory embraces the proactive provocation of crisis, such as the brazen U.S. violations of Iranian airspace, the neocons also follow Mao and celebrate "seizing the contradictions" presented by crisis and disaster. Thus they have translated another recent event, the assassination in Beirut of Rafik Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon, into a virtual act of war by Syria against the United States. Freshly minted Secretary of State Rice pulled our ambassador from Damascus, a provocative gesture hardly designed to quell violence.

In fact, every aspect of the U.S. government policies in the Middle East appears to be designed to foment conflict, not peace. Clearly, this is also the goal of Osama bin Laden. Knowing this, why would Bush, of all people, foment in the Middle East the very conflagration that he desperately tried to avoid with China in 2001?

Remember Pearl Harbor.

The neocons recognize that American troop strength is stretched beyond capacities. Yet they publicly and shamelessly advocate a much larger Army capable of fighting a war throughout the Middle East. The only means to achieve their end is to reinstitute the draft, but they know Congress is dead set against it – and so are the American people.

What to do? In coming days, events in the Middle East will take many mysterious turns, some of them violent ones. While most American policy-makers study history in order to avoid past mistakes, neocon revolutionaries want to repeat those very mistakes. Every spark of violence that rational people want to quench is for the revolutionaries an open invitation to fan the flames.

What future event will present the neocons with their justification for all-out war in the Middle East? Well, as diplomatic historian Charles Burton Marshall said many years ago, there is no such thing as the foreseeable future. But the ingredients inviting broadened conflict are already there. During the inauguration, Dick Cheney blithely encouraged the Israelis to bomb Iran's multiple nuclear research sites, asserting with a shrug that such an act of war would leave only a "diplomatic mess" that the U.S. would have to "clean up."

Softer words were never spoken. But now Israel says that Iran's bomb is only six months away and "a threat to the world." Thus the stage is set for bombing Iran.

Ah, but what happens if the Iranians respond to such an act of war with a missile strike on Haifa and Tel Aviv? Most Americans would be surprised to hear that our politicians agree with Benjamin Netanyahu, who told Rush Limbaugh's audience the day after 9/11 that "Israel is an outpost of America." For years, American politicians have referred to Israel as "America's unsinkable aircraft carrier." Israel's bombing of Iran would never be carried out without American government consent, and Cheney's supposedly offhand remark signals that the Bush administration has given it.

Dick Cheney is hardly a flippant man. His casual asides are studied and determined. He inaugurated Bush's second term with a provocation that is almost a prediction. However smug, dismissive, and cavalier, he is calling the shots. But wait. If an attack on Israel is an attack on America, then an attack by Israel is also an attack by America. With this, Cheney has virtually charted the course for World War Three.

There are a hundred other scenarios that offer the neocons grist for their malevolent mill. But make no mistake: every turn of events that is violent for us is for them an opportunity. Their policies are designed to create more enemies of our country, then provoke them into violent acts against us. CIA director Goss confirms this when he reports that the war in Iraq is creating more anti-American terrorists by the thousands.

Bush's supporters of wider war are longing for a violent event that they can translate into a Pearl Harbor magnitude "attack on America," however it is provoked, whatever its true ingredients. As Solzhenitsyn observed, lies always bring violence in their wake – and the neocons want ever more violence. And they have proved it by lying to us incessantly.

Someday soon, expect to hear that America has been attacked – in the Middle East, in some other faraway land, or perhaps on our own soil. At that point, George Bush will gravely stride to the podium and announce that, while "9/11 changed everything," everything has changed yet again. America must adopt a "new realism," he will announce, and adopt a "true war footing" to address the world war we are in. Taxes will skyrocket, government powers will mushroom, and the draft will be brought back with a vengeance. And, like my father and his companions in America First before World War Two, opponents of this war will be expected to retire to the bleachers and cheer, wondering all the while how their drafted sons and daughters are faring out there in some distant desert far from home.

To ordinary Americans, this scenario might appear to be a nightmare. But it is the neocon dream. Ideas have consequences, said Richard Weaver, and the neocons are sowing ideas brimming with violent consequences, gleefully strewing minefields across America's future.

Plato said that a tyrant is one who acts out his nightmares when he is awake. The neocons want you wake up one morning to their nightmare. If you rub your eyes and see violence on all sides, and your family starts getting draft notices in the mail, you might wonder how it all happened.

Well, here's the answer:

Remember Pearl Harbor.

“CIA director Porter Goss now admits”

Cracked Facade: The Coming Crumbling of the Bush Era

Cracked Facade: The Coming Crumbling of the Bush Era
[W]hy the mighty Bush apparatus and its legions of propagandists and sycophants feel so threatened by a few expressions of dissent, a few facts, and a simple ethical statement. Could it be that they know that their edifice of lies will come crashing down if anyone is allowed to utter dissent or a word of truth? - PCR
"I wanted John Ashcroft to come busting through the wall with a submachine gun to round everyone up for an immediate trip to Gitmo, with Charles Graner on hand for interrogation." - T.A. Frank, The New Republic

Bush's Willing Sycophants
February 17, 2005

The conservative media will never recover from its role as Chief Sycophant for the Bush administration. Journalists who demanded that Clinton be held accountable for a minor sex scandal (Monica Lewinsky) and a minor financial scandal (Whitewater) now serve as apologists and propagandists for the Bush administration's major war scandals. The Republican House of Representatives saw fit to impeach President Clinton for lying about sex. The same Republicans defend to the hilt Bush's lies that launched America into an unjustified war that has killed and maimed tens of thousands of Iraqis and Americans, cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars, ruined America's reputation, and lost forever the hearts and minds of Muslims.

No decent or sensible person can have confidence in journalists and politicians who take partisanship to such extreme lengths.

There is plenty of room in journalism and politics for arguments over issues and policies. But two solid years of lies is beyond the pale. Conservative journalists and Republican politicians not only lie through their teeth, but also seek to destroy everyone who utters a word of dissent or truth.

For example, T.A. Frank of The New Republic (once considered to be part of the hated "liberal press") recently expressed his thoughts in that unfortunate magazine. Frank wrote that dissenters from Bush's gratuitous war should be beaten and even killed. He expressed his wish that Arnold Schwarzenegger would punch Stan Goff in the face. He wrote that seeing Arundhati Roy taken out with a "bunker buster" would be a satisfying experience. As for Sherry Wolf and other dissenters, "I wanted John Ashcroft to come busting through the wall with a submachine gun to round everyone up for an immediate trip to Gitmo, with Charles Graner on hand for interrogation."

What have Stan Goff, Arundhati Roy and Sherry Wolf done to inspire Tom Frank to reveal his brownshirted inner self?

A former Delta Force soldier, Goff joined up with Military Families Speak Out. Roy penned a defense of the right of Iraqis to resist military occupation, and Wolf agreed that Iraqis have a right to resist Bush's occupation of Iraq. Frank views beatings, arrests, interrogations, torture, and death as appropriate responses to these peaceful expressions of dissent. Conservatives regard dissent as a serious offense, but they think it is treasonous to give the public real information, as contrasted with Fox "News" propaganda. Former Newt Gingrich operative and current Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley believes America's premier investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, should be arrested for treason and perhaps shot for warning Americans about the Bush administration's plans to start a war with Iran. "Conservative" talk radio hosts and Republican politicians are foaming at the mouth over Ward Churchill, a University of Colorado professor of ethics. The professor's crime--and the crazed Republicans mean the word literally-- is to have stated that the US should apply to itself the same standards it applies to other countries.

Those conservatives who have not joined the New Brownshirts might ask themselves why the mighty Bush apparatus and its legions of propagandists and sycophants feel so threatened by a few expressions of dissent, a few facts, and a simple ethical statement. Could it be that they know that their edifice of lies will come crashing down if anyone is allowed to utter dissent or a word of truth? The conservative media has blown its great chance to gain credibility by holding Bush accountable as it did Clinton. Instead, the conservative media and talk radio have shown themselves to be political partisans who fight against truth. Justify Bush at all costs is their operative rule.

At least the German press and the Soviet press were forced into these roles by Hitler and Stalin. The American conservative media willingly adopted the role on its own. The function of a journalist is to speak truth to power and to hold accountable those with power. Abandoning this role, the conservative media cheerleads for war, incompetent leaders, and a police state.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at:


I am resigning from the Territorial Army because I believe the war in Iraq is wrong...

CAIRO, February 17 ( – George Solomou, a lance corporal in the Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to the London Irish Rifles, has recently tendered his resignation to protest the illegality of the US-led invasion-turned-occupation of Iraq.

“I am resigning because I don't want to fight a war that is unjustified and illegal,” 38-year-old Solomou, a member of Military Families Against the War, wrote in The Guardian Tuesday, February 15. [SEE BELOW]

“I am resigning as a conscientious objector because I don't want any part of it, and also because I hope my action might just encourage other soldiers to speak out or opt out.”

Two US soldiers have applied for political asylum in Canada in protest at the atrocities committed by the US army in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In graphic testimonies to a Canadian tribunal, former Marine Sergeant Jimmy Massey and fugitive paratrooper Jeremy Hinzman said they could no longer tolerate killing innocent civilians in Iraq or treat Iraqis as terrorists.

The US army also admitted that hundreds of Marine reservists summoned to boost troops in Iraq asked to be exempted from duty or even defied call-ups.

Months after the US-led invasion of Iraq, carried out without a UN mandate, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called the onslaught “illegal”.

In an interview with the BBC World Service Wednesday, September 15, Annan said the invasion was “not in conformity with the UN Charter from our point of view, from the chapter point of view, it was illegal.”



Why I won't fight in Iraq

George Solomou
Tuesday February 15, 2005
The Guardian

I am resigning from the Territorial Army because I believe the war in Iraq is wrong. This has not been an easy decision. I have been in the TA for five years - years in which I have learned a lot; won a humanitarian award for helping save the life of a fellow soldier; made many friends; and, I hope, contributed something to this country.

I have no doubt that some of my fellow soldiers will feel I am letting them down. Since I have spoken out against the war in the last few weeks I have had a lot of support from soldiers, but I have also been called a coward. I am a trained medic and there is no doubt my skills could be used in the field to save lives. But after a lot of soul-searching I have concluded my priority must be to try to save lives by taking a public stand against this war.

Of course, when you join the armed forces you have to be prepared to fight. But not any war. Most people in Britain think the war in Iraq is wrong, and that is presumably because all the arguments used to justify it have proved to be hollow. We know there were no links between Iraq and international terrorism at the time the war started (though there are now). It is now official that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and the idea that the war has made the world a safer place is a sick joke.

Soldiers cannot be above moral considerations. Though the British army scandalously tries to hide this fact, the UN enshrines the right of members of the armed forces to object and opt out of particular wars on political, religious or moral grounds. Before the war started even our own generals were demanding firm commitments from Tony Blair that there was proof that Saddam Hussein was armed and dangerous. They were worried about the legality of the war. The UN resolutions used to justify the war only had force if Iraq was a threat to the world or to the region. We now know there was no evidence for this. So we are faced with a situation where even the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, has said the war was illegal.

So I am resigning because I don't want to fight a war that is unjustified and illegal. But I also have a deep concern that British soldiers are being used in Iraq. Soldiers from my regiment tell me that much of their work in southern Iraq involves protecting convoys of oil tankers shuttling between Basra and the Kuwaiti border. Their stories have just confirmed my growing cynicism about the motives for the war. It has taken me two years to be able to say it, but I really believe that our foreign policy is being driven by the needs of US power, particularly the need to control the flow of oil.

This is a very bitter thing to say because the troops are suffering. Two close colleagues have suffered permanent injuries in Iraq. Their lives have been shattered and it must be said they have been treated very poorly by the army. Reports suggest that on top of the 80 dead, 7-800 British troops have been seriously wounded. Many more are suffering mental trauma. The experience of the Falklands and the first Gulf war shows that the scars of war run very deep, even among the officially uninjured. I know veterans who struggle daily with post-traumatic stress disorder more than 10 years after seeing active service. The legacy can last a lifetime. It is a scandal that young lives are being lost and ruined just so George Bush can keep control of the oil in the Middle East.

People have said to me that we created this mess, we should sort it out. The Iraqis need many things: they need medical supplies, they need their infrastructure rebuilt, they need jobs. The one thing they don't need is foreign troops on their streets. In fact, it is the presence of US and British troops that is creating the tension and violence, which seems certain to continue regardless of last month's elections. We have become symbols of foreign domination. That is why there is no way we can provide security. Only the Iraqis themselves can do that, and the longer we stay, the more the situation will get out of hand. We must allow the Iraqis to get on with building their own future - even if they make mistakes.

The continuing occupation is a disaster for the people of Iraq and a nightmare for the British and US troops on the front line. I am resigning as a conscientious objector because I don't want any part of it, and also because I hope my action might just encourage other soldiers to speak out or opt out.

· George Solomou is a lance corporal in the Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to the London Irish Rifles. He is a member of Military Families Against the War. This is an edited version of the letter he is submitting to his commanding officer today
(FEBRUARY 15, 2005),,1414661,00.html

Two new books demonstrate the use of ‘refined.. legalized torture’ techniques

Nobody is talking

The evidence of two new books demonstrates that 9/11 created the will for new, harsher interrogation techniques of foreign suspects by the US and led to the abuses in Guantánamo, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond. In a special report, James Meek reveals that it is the British who refined these methods, and who have provided the precedent for legalised torture

Friday February 18, 2005

One day in the autumn of 1942 Kim Philby, an officer in Britain's secret intelligence service, received a message from a colleague in MI5. The MI5 man, Helenus Milmo, was in a state of near despair about a Spanish prisoner and suspected spy, Juan Gomez de Lecube, who had been under interrogation since his arrest in the Caribbean that summer.

Despite Spanish protests, Lecube had been transported across the Atlantic and imprisoned, incommunicado, in Britain's interrogation centre for suspected enemy agents at Camp 020, the codename for Latchmere House in Middlesex.

MI5 and MI6 had high hopes for war-shortening information from Lecube. They believed they had verified beyond doubt that he was a spy. They only needed to make him talk. But after a week, Milmo wrote: "No progress has been made ... it looks as though he is going to be an extremely obstinate nut to crack." Soon afterwards, Milmo wrote to Philby, seeking approval to apply special measures to the interrogation of the detainee.

Sixty years later, in the aftermath of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Milmo and Philby's counterparts in US military intelligence and the CIA faced what they believed was a similar dilemma. All over the world, US agents and soldiers were seizing and interrogating hundreds of foreign men whom they suspected held information that would enable new terrorist attacks to be prevented. Like Milmo, they began coming up against stubborn prisoners. Like Milmo, they wrote to those higher up the chain of command seeking permission for special measures to make the prisoners talk.

It has taken more than half a century for Britain's government to put the details of Camp 020 into the public domain. But thanks to a small group of leakers, journalists and freedom of information campaigners, together with the testimony of released detainees, the story of torture and its official endorsement in America's secret overseas prison system - in Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan and other locations - is emerging more quickly.

This month, British readers get the chance to study in full the catalogue of leaked memos and government investigations which track the evolution of the White House's torture policy from 9/11 to Afghanistan, Guantánamo and Iraq, with the publication here of Torture and Truth by the US journalist Mark Danner, and The Torture Papers, edited by two US lawyers, Karen Greenberg and Joshua Dratel.

The story that emerges from the assembled documents is of a group of lawyers, bureaucrats, politicians and soldiers convinced not only of the rightness of their cause but of the unprecedented danger posed by the terrorists.

Had they made the same arguments, Britain's second-world-war spy interrogators would have had a stronger case for using whatever methods they felt necessary to extract information from secret agents. At the time Milmo of MI5 and his fellow-interrogators started grilling Lecube, London and other British cities had barely begun to recover from a Nazi bombing campaign that had killed 42,000 civilians and destroyed 130,000 houses. Britain's merchant fleet was losing 50 ships a month. Most of Europe was under fascist rule and millions of civilians were being slaughtered and enslaved. Britons did not know they would win the war.

Reading through the transcripts and letters relating to Lecube's interrogation in the Public Records Office at Kew, the modern reader awaits the moment the MI5 men would talk about hooding the Spaniard, stripping him naked, handcuffing him till his hands went numb, beating him up, subjecting him to extremes of cold and heat, menacing him with guard dogs, sodomising him or pretending to drown him with wet towels.

They did none of these things.

Violence towards the prisoner, or humiliation of the kind practised in Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, was ruled out. "Never strike a man," wrote Robin "Tin-Eye" Stephens, the monocled commander of Camp 020, in his secret advice to interrogators. "For one thing it is the act of a coward. For another, it is unintelligent, for the spy will give an answer to please, an answer to escape punishment. And having given a false answer, all else depends upon the false premise."

And so Milmo's letter to Philby contained only a request to put into operation "Plan Squealer", which involved nothing more brutal than trying to convince Lecube that another spy had betrayed him. The plan failed. A few days after the war ended, the mysterious Spaniard was deported, vanishing from history.

In the feverish atmosphere of America in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Stephens's advice was reversed. In mutterings from the US secret service and op-ed pieces in the US media, it was suggested that moral courage demanded support for torture. "Nobody is talking. Frustration has begun to appear," a senior FBI official told the Washington Post a month after the attacks. A few days later, a CIA veteran was quoted in the LA Times: "A lot of people are saying we need someone at the agency who can pull fingernails out." Alan Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard, wrote that judges should be able to issue warrants licensing the torture of suspects where the authorities somehow knew that the suspects were concealing information about "an imminent large-scale threat".

In a recent paper for the New England Journal of Public Policy, Alfred McCoy, a history professor at Wisconsin-Madison University, surveys the CIA's use of torture over half a century in Vietnam, Central America and Iran, and marvels at the recklessness of the commentators of 2001. "In weighing personal liberty versus public safety," he writes, "all those pro-pain pundits were ignorant of torture's complexly perverse psychopathology, that leads to both uncontrolled proliferation of the practice and long-term damage to the perpetrator society."

In the new collections of memos and reports, the American will to inflict pain on captives and the conviction that the 9/11 killing of civilians was unique in history is spelled out. In January 2002 the senior White House lawyer, Alberto Gonzales - now attorney general - writes to Bush claiming that there have never been wars before in which civilians are "wantonly" killed, or where it has been necessary to "quickly obtain information" from prisoners. The Geneva Convention, he argues, is a quaint relic. "In my judgement," he tells the president, "this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners."

In October 2002 the commander of the interrogation teams at Guantánamo, Lt-Col Jerald Phifer, pleads to be allowed to inflict more suffering on the prisoners there. "The current guidelines ... limit the ability of interrogators to counter advanced resistance," he writes. He asks for his people to be able to force prisoners to stand for up to four hours, put prisoners in solitary for 30 days or more, hood them, interrogate them continuously for up to 20 hours, subject them to sensory deprivation, take away their Korans, strip them naked, forcibly shave them, frighten them with dogs, deceive them into thinking they or members of their family are about to be killed or savagely tortured, "expose them" to cold temperatures or cold water, grab them, poke them, push them, and use the "waterboarding" technique, which involves covering the prisoner's mouth and nose with a cloth and pouring water into it so it forces itself down his throat and makes him believe he is about to drown. Phifer's memo makes it plain that a torture school exists in the US. "Any of these techniques that require more than light grabbing, poking, or pushing, will be administered only by individuals specifically trained in their safe application," he writes.

Phifer's request worked its way up to the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who works at a lectern-style desk in his office. He scribbled on one of the memos in December 2002: "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?"

It was not until October 2003 that Rumsfeld approved a watered-down version of Phifer's request which, as the testimony of released prisoners shows, still left in place a harsh interrogation regime of extremes of hot and cold, confinement in solitary cells, depriving prisoners of everything except their prison clothes, deafening music and "short-shackling", the painful and perhaps permanently disabling practice of binding prisoners with short lengths of chain.

Most of the detainees who have been released from Guantánamo have described being tortured and ill-treated. Nuri Mert of Turkey spoke of "psychological and physical torture". Mehdi Ghezali of Sweden described systematic sleep deprivation, and extremes of temperature, noise and light. Mamdouh Habib of Australia said he had what appeared to be menstrual blood thrown at him by a woman interrogator. Shafiq Rasul of Britain still has back pain from short-shackling. Martin Mubanga of Britain has described being painted with his own urine while being racially abused and being trodden on while chained. Moazzam Begg of Britain was kept in solitary confinement in Guantánamo for 19 months, Feroz Abbasi of Britain for 18 months. Ayrat Vakhitov, of Russia, has described a system of sleep deprivation that automatically moved prisoners from one cell to another every 15 minutes. None of the released men has been charged with a crime.

Greenberg and Dratel's book includes a series of internal memos from the FBI, dating from last spring, in which the agency plainly expresses its alarm at the failure of the Guantánamo interrogations to get results any better than the FBI's techniques, and warns that the agency could be implicated. Since the book went to press, still more disturbing FBI memos have been obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union using the Freedom of Information Act.

One FBI agent describes leaving the interview room at Camp Delta one evening. "I heard and observed in the hallway loud music and flashes of light ... From the monitoring room, I looked inside the adjacent interview room. At that time I saw another detainee sitting on the floor of the interview room with an Israeli flag draped around him, loud music being played and a strobe light flashing."

Another writes: "On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a foetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far ... that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold.

"On another occasion, the air-conditioning had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room probably well over 100 degrees ... The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night."

Guantánamo is only part of the network of US prisons overseas that the Bush administration has created since 9/11. What emerges from the paper trail assembled in these new books is the way in which military interrogation techniques migrated from installation to installation. Danner's book, for instance, includes the report by Major-General Geoffrey Miller, the Guantánamo commander, after he was asked to advise interrogators at Abu Ghraib and other US prisons in Iraq how to get better information from prisoners about the wave of attacks on US forces. Gen Miller suggests reorganising the prisons so that the guards help the interrogators "set the conditions for ... successful interrogation".

It was following his visit that torture and humiliation by the guards began in earnest. Prisoners were hooded, threatened with rape, threatened with torture, had pistols held to their heads, made to strip naked, forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, beaten till they bled - sometimes with implements, including a broom and a chair - hung from doors by cuffed hands, deceived into thinking they were to be electrocuted, ducked in toilet buckets, forced to simulate masturbation, force to lie naked in a pile and be photographed, urinated on, menaced and, in one case, severely bitten by dogs, sodomised with a chemical light, ridden like horses, made to wear women's underwear, raped, deprived of sleep, exposed to the midday summer sun, put in stress positions and made to lie naked, in empty concrete cells, in complete darkness, for days on end.

On one visit to Abu Ghraib, the International Committee of the Red Cross came across a Syrian prisoner lying in an unlit cell, two metres long and less than a metre wide, without a window, latrine, water tap or bedding. On the door was written "the Gollum", with a film still of the character from the Lord of the Rings. The ICRC was not allowed to talk to him.

The worst may be to come. Little has yet emerged about conditions inside the prisons run by the US in Afghanistan, where eight deaths in US custody remain unexplained, and an internal military report remains unpublished. In an essay accompanying the documents, Danner draws attention to the language of one of the official investigators of Abu Ghraib, James Schlesinger, who wrote in his report of "five cases of detainee deaths [worldwide] as a result of abuse by US personnel". Danner points out that Schlesinger could as easily have written: "American interrogators have tortured at least five prisoners to death."

The worst treatment in Afghanistan seems to have been reserved for those who have been, in effect, kidnapped by the US from third countries, held in Afghanistan, and subsequently transferred to Guantánamo. In a previously unpublished sworn affadavit obtained by the lawyer Clive Stafford-Smith, Hussain Adbulkadr Youssouf Mustafa, a teacher of Islamic law with Palestinian citizenship, describes how he was arrested in Pakistan, in May 2002, handed over to the Americans and taken to Afghanistan.

While at Bagram air force base, Hussain said, he was blindfolded, tightly handcuffed, gagged and earplugged and sodomised with a stick while three soldiers held him down. "It was excruciatingly painful," said Hussain. "I have always believed that I am not a person who would scream unless I was really hurt. Only when the pain became overwhelming did I think I would ever scream. But I could not stop screaming when this happened. This torture went on for several minutes, but it felt like hours, and the pain afterwards was almost as bad as anything I experienced at the time."

Hussain said that besides the physical pain, he could not go to the bathroom to this day without remembering what had happened. "The Americans never said anything about why they were doing it to me," he said. "I think maybe they wanted to make me so embarrassed that it would live with me for the rest of my life. It would dehumanise me." Hussain has never been charged with a crime. He was kept without explanation and released without apology after more than two years. When he got out, he learned that his eldest son had died.

In late 2001 and early 2002, when the pro-torture lobby in the US was in full cry, the case of Abdul Hakim Murad, arrested in Manila in 1995, was often cited as justification. According to the story popularised in the US, torture by the Philippines police drew confessions from Murad which revealed a plot to blow up 11 US aircraft over the Pacific and led the FBI to captured Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, Murad's co-conspirator and the man behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York. Both men are now serving life sentences in US prisons.

In fact, while the plot and the torture were real enough, the notion that the torture helped save lives is bogus. In an investigation the Philippines journalists Marites Vitug and Glenda Gloria found that Yousef was actually caught after he visited his dentist in Pakistan. He had left his dentist's address in the conspiratorial flat. As for the aircraft plot, the information came from a computer found in the same flat.

Murad's torture may have cast its bane beyond tortured and torturers. The recent report of the 9/11 commission drew heavily on still-classified transcripts of interrogations with the three dozen or so most senior suspected Bin Laden associates captured and held by the US at secret locations around the world, particularly Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Yousef's uncle, thought to be the chief architect of the 9/11 attacks. Under interrogation, he seems to have talked freely about Murad - and contradicted almost everything Murad told the Philippines police.

The issue of the secret detainees, only 10 of whom have been named, flags up a crucial, if unavoidable, omission in the two new collections of US torture papers. The discussions about torture being carried on behind the scenes in the US in the weeks after 9/11 weren't so much about the kind of military interrogations being carried out at Guantánamo, in Afghanistan or, later, in Iraq, as about how far non-military interrogators could go. We now know a great deal about the rules the US military has set itself. But to find out what the CIA is up to now, how it works on unknown prisoners in hidden cells in unknown places, there is little to go on.

The most detailed statement about the early thinking on torture in Washington came in August 2002, with a memo to Alberto Gonzales from Jay Bybee, then assistant attorney general. A devout Mormon and a keen kazoo player, Bybee spent seven years in the Reagan and elder Bush administrations, and returned to the capital with the inauguration of Bush Jr. After the Bybee memo was leaked last year, the administration disavowed it with a new, milder legal opinion. Their disavowal might have been more convincing had the departing Bybee not been rewarded with a federal judgeship in Las Vegas.

In the memo, Bybee's concern is not with the wellbeing of suspects, but with the risk that a US government employee might be prosecuted.

Bybee goes to great lengths to differentiate between "torture", which US citizens are forbidden by law from inflicting on foreigners, and "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment", which they aren't. "Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death," he writes. "The infliction of pain or suffering per se, whether it is physical or mental, is insufficient to amount to torture."

According to Bybee, an interrogator won't be criminally liable if, in the course of subjecting a prisoner to cruel, inhuman and degrading acts, he accidentally tortures them: "A defendant could show that he acted in good faith by taking such steps as surveying professional literature, consulting with experts, or reviewing evidence gained from past experience."

In passing, Bybee mentions something disturbing to British readers. The US law criminalising the torture of foreigners overseas was passed in the 1990s as the final stage in Washington's ratification of the United Nations Convention Against Torture (CAT). The Reagan and elder Bush administrations added a rider to the law which would allow US organisations such as the CIA an opt-out from punishment for all but the most savage treatment of captives.

There was one country, however, which had sought an even narrower definition of torture: Britain. And, Bybee writes, the Reagan administration had relied on a legal precedent in Europe for its argument that torture was a word which meant only "extreme, deliberate, and unusually cruel practices". That legal precedent also involved Britain. It concerned the brutal treatment of detainees in Northern Ireland.

Britain, the US and Canada had begun talking about psychological warfare together at least as early as June 1951, when Sir Henry Tizard, the Ministry of Defence's senior scientist, met Canadian scientists and Cyril Haskins, the senior CIA researcher, in Montreal. Among the Canadians was Donald Hebb of McGill University, who was looking for funds to research "sensory deprivation" - blocking out sight, sound and touch to affect people's personality and sense of identity. Early photographs show volunteers, goggled and muffled, looking eerily similar to prisoners arriving at Guantánamo.

Panicked by the ability of communists in Korea, China and the Soviet Union to "turn" captured westerners, the CIA took over the funding of the sensory deprivation programme and gave it to one of Hebb's colleagues, Ewen Cameron. After six years of damaging experiments with drugs, electricity, taped messages and isolation on often unwitting subjects, Cameron simplified his techniques and, according to McCoy, "laid the scientific foundation for the CIA's two-stage psychological torture method".

By 1957 Britain had set up an "intelligence research unit" at Maresfield in Sussex, and by 1962, SAS and paratroop units were being given training there to cope with capture. In April 1971, in conditions of great secrecy, a course in sensory deprivation was held at Maresfield for members of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. In the early morning of August 9 that year, the British army began its mass internment programme, arresting and imprisoning, without charges or courts, hundreds of suspected members of the IRA. Hidden within the mass internments was another programme, involving 14 prisoners, to test the new interrogation techniques.

Jim Auld, now director of a human rights organisation in Northern Ireland called Community Restorative Justice, was one of the men seized by the army. He was 20. In Crumlin Road prison, he was savagely beaten. He had been beaten up by British soldiers once before, but what happened next, in retrospect, is the link between Canadian experiments in the 1950s and Afghanistan-Guantánamo-Iraq in the 21st century. He was hooded, stripped, put into a boiler suit, handcuffed behind his back and put into a helicopter. After a 30-minute ride he was thrown out and run across a grass field till he hit a concrete post and was knocked unconscious. When he woke up he was being dragged along a wooden floor. He was made to stand with his legs spread, his hands flat against the wall. There was an amplified hissing sound in the background. His hands quickly became numb but whenever he tried to move he was beaten with a baton.

"After a while the noise in the background started becoming more prominent ... I couldn't concentrate, this noise was in the centre of my head. I had shit myself and pissed myself a couple of times at this stage. They sat me down, lifted my hood to the bottom of my nose and gave me a piece of dry bread. I just couldn't take it. They pulled the hood down, put me back against the wall and beat me again."

At intervals, Auld was taken to be interrogated and asked who he knew in the IRA. "If you talked, the hood stayed off, and you stayed in the interrogation room. I learned to talk shite for hours." He reckons he was on the wall for seven days and seven nights.

"When you're on the wall, you start hallucinating. I thought I was at sea, looking out the front windows of a ship, and somebody was standing beside me, a soldier who kept standing to attention, and he came down on my toe and it was sore. They'd realise I was sleeping and the bastards were standing on my feet. When I came out of the place I had no toenails."

To this day, Auld has never been charged with any crime. The episode left him, and the other men subject to what later came to be known as the "five techniques" of sensory deprivation, mentally scarred. "For months afterwards, if I heard a helicopter, I shook, broke out into a sweat and ran into a corner," says Auld. He believes he was a guinea pig for the techniques the Americans are using now, with tacit British support.

"It certainly makes me very, very angry," says Auld, about news reports about the treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Guantánamo. "It justifies the opposition to America and Britain in Iraq. What they are doing is wrong, they know that, and no matter what noble reasons they are giving, they are prepared to corrupt them by engaging in that sort of process."

When the case came before the European court of human rights in 1977, the court ruled that although Britain had breached article 3 of the European Human Rights Convention, and must pay the men compensation, it had not actually "tortured" them. The five techniques of wall-standing, hooding, noise, sleep deprivation and reduced diet, it ruled, amounted to "inhuman and degrading treatment", not torture.

What at the time seemed like a partial victory for the defence of individual human life and dignity now looks like a defeat. For it is exactly that distinction the European Court made 30 years ago that the White House has used as a precedent to claim that the US government may inflict pain and suffering on any foreigner it suspects of doing something it doesn't like. The European Court ruling was cited not only by Bybee but by Diane Beaver, a US military lawyer based at Guantánamo, when she gave a formal written opinion in 2002 that the water-boarding technique didn't constitute torture.

In 1977, the British government gave a solemn undertaking to the European Human Rights Commission that it would never again use the "five techniques". Yet British prisoners released from Guantanamo have testified that British soldiers and intelligence officers interrogated them at the US base and in Afghanistan while they were being subjected to hooding, noise and sleep deprivation, as well as beating and short-shackling.

One of the reasons torture persists may be that the voices on the inside of any country's security establishment arguing for increased brutality inevitably sound louder to the interrogators than those on the outside, urging restraint. After the second world war, Kim Philby, the MI6 man Helenus Milmo had consulted about how to crack the most stubborn wartime prisoner, turned out to be one of the most successful traitors ever to infiltrate the British secret service. In the early 1950s Milmo was asked to interrogate him. He never managed to break Philby, and the KGB man escaped to Russia. Milmo's peers were not entirely forgiving. "Some felt," wrote Peter Carter-Ruck when Milmo died in 1988, "that he was perhaps too much of a gentleman for that daunting task."

Special reports
Guantánamo Bay
United States

Full text

Detention in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay:
statement by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed (pdf)

Office of Military Commissions
Read the letter from Moazzam Begg (pdf)

Useful links

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights
Centre for Constitutional Rights

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

rabid Bush-worshippers learn that liberals hate America and that we really did find WMD in Iraq

A popular poster image of President Bush as Uncle Sam that was for sale at the Conservative Political Action Conference. (artistic liscence has ben added)

Among the believers
At the Conservative Political Action Conference, where rabid Bush-worshippers learn that liberals hate America and that we really did find WMD in Iraq.
It's a good thing I went to the Conservative Political Action Conference this year. Otherwise I never would have known that, despite the findings of the authoritative David Kay report and every reputable media outlet on earth, the United States actually discovered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, vindicating all of George W. Bush's pre-war predictions. The revelation came not from some crank at Free Republic or hustler from Talon News, but from a congressman surrounded by men from the highest echelons of American government. No wonder the attendees all seemed to believe him.

The crowd at CPAC's Thursday night banquet, held at D.C.'s Ronald Reagan Building, was full of right-wing stars. Among those seated at the long presidential table at the head of the room were Henry Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, Dore Gold, foreign policy advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and NRA president Kayne Robinson. Vice President Dick Cheney, a regular CPAC speaker, gave the keynote address. California Rep. Chris Cox had the honor of introducing him, and he took the opportunity to mock the Democrats whose hatred of America led them to get Iraq so horribly wrong.

"America's Operation Iraqi Freedom is still producing shock and awe, this time among the blame-America-first crowd," he crowed. Then he said, "We continue to discover biological and chemical weapons and facilities to make them inside Iraq." Apparently, most of the hundreds of people in attendance already knew about these remarkable, hitherto-unreported discoveries, because no one gasped at this startling revelation.

And why would they? Like comrades celebrating the success of Mao's Great Leap Forward, attendees at CPAC, the oldest and largest right-wing conference in the country, invest their leaders with the power to defy mere reality through force of insistent rhetoric. The triumphant recent election is all the proof they need that everything George W. Bush says is true. Sure, there's skepticism of the president's wonder-working power among some of the old movement hands -- including the leaders of the American Conservative Union, which puts CPAC on. For much of the rank and file, though, the thousands of blue-blazered students and local activists who come to CPAC each year to celebrate the völkisch virtues of nationalism, capitalism and heterosexuality, Bush is truth. They don rhinestone W brooches and buy mouse pads, posters and T-shirts showing the president as a kind of beefcake Uncle Sam, with flowing white hair and bulging muscles threatening to rend his red, white and blue garments.

It's not only liberals who have noticed that Bush's most committed followers are caught up in the fact-filtering force field of a personality cult. In January, Paul Craig Roberts, assistant secretary of the treasury during the Reagan administration and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal's far-right editorial page, published a damning column in the progressive Z Magazine about fascist tendencies in the conservative movement. "In the ranks of the new conservatives, however, I see and experience much hate. It comes to me in violently worded, ignorant and irrational emails from self-professed conservatives who literally worship George Bush," he wrote. "Even Christians have fallen into idolatry. There appears to be a large number of Americans who are prepared to kill anyone for George Bush … Like Brownshirts, the new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy."

This kind of ground-level devotion was key to the volunteer-driven get-out-the-vote campaign, and the administration sent important emissaries to convey the president's gratitude. Although the Republicans always have high-powered representatives at CPAC, this year the lineup at the three-day conference is particularly impressive. On the first day alone, attendees heard from Karl Rove and Sen. Rick Santorum as well as Cheney. Tonight, there will be a speech by Zell Miller, the former Democratic senator who delivered the vein-popping keynote address at this year's Republican National Convention. He'll be delivering a "Courage Under Fire" award to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Tomorrow, we'll hear from Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman and Newt Gingrich.

Neither Cheney nor Rove said anything very interesting. As he does most years, the vice president essentially rehashed Bush's State of the Union, although he mercifully omitted any reference to the Federal Marriage Amendment. Rove's speech was about the growth of the right from "a small principled opposition" to "a broad and inclusive movement that is self-assured, confident and optimistic, and forward leading, and most important of all, dominant in American politics today."

Their mere presence was more significant than their words, putting the White House imprimatur on an event that featured, in addition to the Swift Boat Veterans, venomous CPAC regulars like Ann Coulter, Oliver North and Michelle "In Defense of Internment" Malkin. It was yet more evidence that this administration puts little distance between itself and the most reactionary forces in the Republican Party.

The people who come to CPAC range from very conservative to proto-fascist. Within that grouping, though, are a host of different concerns. Some of CPACers hate taxes and love guns but are basically social libertarians. Others, like the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, a far-right Catholic outfit, support the criminalization of homosexuality and oppose legalized birth control. A few have very specific grievances, like the man who stood after Santorum's talk to rant about judges who discriminate against fathers during custody disputes and women who won't let their ex-husbands see their children more than twice a month.

In his speech, Santorum tried to unite the various constituencies behind the anti-gay marriage amendment with the Orwellian argument that such an amendment is actually necessary to keep government out of people's private lives.

"I know there are some people who may be economic conservatives and not consider themselves cultural conservatives," he said. Addressing himself to them, he tried to explain how banning gay marriage is crucial to laissez-faire governing. "Think about those communities where marriage does not exist," he said, invoking their poverty and illegitimacy. "What you see is a model of what life would look like in a country that has fathers and mothers not wedded together in strong relationships to raise children." In poor neighborhoods, he said, there's a strong government presence, "because if Mom and Dad isn't there to raise the child, someone else has to bridge the gap, and that someone else is always the government."

Santorum didn't quite explain how proscribing gay unions would strengthen families in poor communities. The assumption seemed to be that homosexuality would make a travesty of matrimony. Like a suburban block where undesirables insist on moving in, its worth would go down. "If we deconstruct marriage in society, if we say marriage is whatever you want it to be, then marriage loses its intrinsic value," he said.

"I'm talking at a very protective level about what is important to our society if we are to be a free people," he said. "The less virtue we have in our society, the more the need for government to control our lives, to govern our lives." In other words, government needs to enforce virtue in order to keep government out of our lives.

This argument seemed to make sense to his audience.

Who needs logic when you've got power?

Michelle Goldberg is a senior writer for Salon based in New York.