Monday, December 26, 2011

The power struggle in Iraq may be more about Exxon and other oil companies wanting contracts with the Kurdistan regional government than sectarianism

and the US and it’s allies have not tried to prevent sectarian violence, but encouraged it as a means to divide and conquer

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki’s sacking and arrest warrants for Iraqi Sunni Vice President Tareq Al Hashemi and the bombings happening at the same time are being talked of as sectarian politics resuming due to the withdrawal of US forces.

In fact the divisions in Iraq are about politics and power more than ethnicity or religion and the US government and American oil companies have encouraged them, partly to divide and conquer Iraqis and partly to get the power to negotiate oil contracts devolved to regional governments, which will give oil companies a stronger hand in negotiations than they would have with the central government. The current crisis has probably been triggered by the Maliki government’s decision to declare contracts between Exxon-Mobil and the regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan, made in November 2010, illegal (1).

This and the fact that Maliki allied himself with Moqtadr Al Sadr’s party to get a majority after the 2010 elections may have led the Americans to go all out to try to get the opposition Iraqiya coalition, which includes their client Ayad Allawi, into government.

There are major divisions between Maliki’s Dawa party and it’s ISCI allies on the one hand and the third main Shia party in Iraq – Moqtadr Al Sadr’s; and as in the past Sadr is closer on many issues to two of the three Sunni parties in the Iraqiya opposition than to the Shia Dawa and ISCI.

During the build up to the 2004 Coalition offensive on Sunni rebels in Fallujah, Sadrists and other Shia in Najaf declared their support for the rebels and sent aid convoys of food and medicines to Fallujah (2). Sunnis and Shia have often marched together against the occupation over the last eight years (3) – (4).

In 2008 Maliki, a Shia, was leading the Shia ISCI and Dawa government in joint Coalition and Iraqi government offensives on Al Sadr’s Shia Madhi army militia in Baghdad, but not on other militias responsible for as much or more killing, including the ISCI’s Badr Brigades (5) – (6).

One reason was that Maliki was reliant on US support for his position; and Sadr and his party were allied to Sunni parties in opposing the presence of US troops, US influence in Iraq, and the oil law the US government wanted to get favourable contracts for it’s oil companies. Another was that Sadr was Maliki’s rival for Shia votes. (7)

The ISCI and Dawa are both closer to Iran’s government than Sadr and his party are – the Sadrists historically being strong Iraqi nationalists. The US government’s belief that all Shia are pro-Iranian or Iranian backed is also far from the truth. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s Khomeini hoped that Iraqi Shia would defect from Saddam’s forces. A few did and joined armed exile groups in Iran, but the vast majority of Shia conscripts fought loyally for Saddam, not because they supported him, but because they were Iraqi before they were Shia. Most Iraqis, with the exception of the Kurds, remain Iraqi first and whatever religious or ethnic group they are second.

The US and other Coalition governments are mostly net oil importers and their main aim in Iraq is to get their own oil companies contracts in Iraq on favourable terms. They are torn between on the one hand wanting to keep a strong central government in Iraq under their control ; and on the other wanting to weaken the central government so they can make separate contracts with regional governments like that of Iraqi Kurdistan. As long as Maliki remains allied to Sadr to stay in power the US has failed in it’s attempt to control the central government so will prefer strengthening the regional governments by dividing Iraqis.

However Sadr and Maliki are increasingly at odds again and the Sadrists’ call for early elections may be more about trying to gain seats from Dawa and the ISCI than about keeping Sunnis out of it, though the Sadrists will not be comfortable with all of the Iraqiya party as it includes former Baathist and then US client Ayad Allawi (8).

One Iraqi website quoting Sadr says he said that “The issue of Hashimy’s trial should take place under the auspices of the Parliament and the people….even the sacking of politicians from their posts must take place in a legal manner.”

“The issue of confessions against Vice-President, Tareq al-Hashimy and the raising of this issue at the current period may harm the country, its unity and security, including the downfall of the current political process and the security situation, along with harming the political process as well,” Sadr said.

Sadr also stressed that the said case “had boosted the isolation of Iraq nowadays, including the transformation of the government into a single-party government and the imposition of its power on the necks of everybody.” (9)

The quotes seem to be confirmed by a CNN report that repeats part of the above and adds ‘Al-Sadr said the crisis could tarnish the prime minister's [i.e Maliki’s] reputation and result in the consolidation of power with one-man rule.’ (10)

An alliance between the Kurds and the Iraqiya party would suit the US as a potential alternative to the Iranian brokered alliance between Maliki’s Dawa, the ISCI and the Sadrists. If Maliki’s accusation that Hashemi and Mutlak were proposing an autonomous Sunni regional government , that would suit Exxon very nicely too (11).

Former Bush (senior) official Peter Galbraith wrote a book called ‘The End of Iraq’ advocating the break up of Iraq into three states – Kurdish, Sunni and Shia – but his motives were cast into doubt when it was found that he was receiving money from oil companies seeking contracts in Iraqi Kurdistan and had a 5% share of any profits in contracts on some  deals. A complete breakup of Iraq would not be needed to achieve the oil companies’ aims though – only a change to regional governments having the final say on oil contracts (12).

The Iraqiya party is made up of three parties. Two of them – Hashemi’s and Mutlak’s are Sunni parties and  have been as strongly opposed to the presence of US troops and US influence in Iraq as the Sadrists, but the third – Ayad Allawi’s party – are US clients and mostly secular (13) – (14).

Allawi, although a Shia, started off as a Ba’athist under Saddam , assassinating Iraqi dissidents who had fled to Europe. Later he fell out with Saddam, went into exile himself and was carried out car and cinema bombings in Baghdad with CIA support. He was appointed Interim Iraqi Prime Minister by Bush’s ‘Governor of Iraq’ Paul Bremer and oversaw El Salvador style US trained Iraqi death squads, along with the TV programme ‘Terrorism in the Hands of Justice’ in which torture victims confessed live to being terrorists (15) – (16).

In the first post-war elections Allawi was the candidate backed by the US and British governments, but he lost heavily. US support for Allawi has continued though under Bush and Obama. The Iraqiya coalition of parties did far better in the 2010 parliamentary elections and was initially thought to have won, but couldn’t form a working coalition.

The idea that the US government and military have been trying to prevent sectarian violence in Iraq , or that their withdrawal and a fall in US influence has been the cause of it, are also pretty far fetched.

The US government and other Coalition members have encouraged sectarian divisions and violence among Iraqis from the start, because unless Iraqis are divided and fighting one another for power, foreign powers can’t have that much influence in Iraq. In the first few years of the Iraq war they trained mostly Shia extremist units like the Wolf Brigade of the US trained ‘Special Police Commandos’ to target Sunnis, on the faulty logic that all Sunnis were Saddam supporters (17) – (19).

Then in 2007 came what Seymour Hersh called ‘the re-direction’. The US government had decided that Shia dominance of Iraq’s politics had given the Shia Iranian government too much influence in Iraq and began paying the same Sunni tribal militias that had been fighting US forces to fight Al Sadr’s Medhi army militia and the Sunni extremist Al Qa’ida instead (but not the Shia, pro-Iranian ISCI’s Badr Brigades, who didn’t oppose the oil law). This was on the dodgy theory that the Sadrists were proxies of the Iranian government, which became a self-fulfilling prophecy (20) – (22).

(1) = NYT 13 Nov 2011 ‘Iraq Criticizes Exxon Mobil for Its Deal With the Kurds’, ; ‘A deputy prime minister overseeing Iraq’s oil industry criticized Exxon Mobil on Sunday over its effort to expand into the semiautonomous Kurdish region in the country’s north…. The statement from the official, Hussein al-Shahristani, said the central government had cautioned Exxon against pursuing oil deals in Kurdistan. The government considers such agreements to be illegal until long-awaited rules can be worked that would divide revenues among Iraq’s fractious regions.

Mr. Shahristani’s office issued its statement after Exxon, whose headquarters are in Irving, Tex., became the first major international oil company to sign a contract in Kurdistan.’

(2) =

(3)  = Guardian 10 Apr 2004, ‘Sunni and Shia unite against common enemy’,

(4) = Guardian 10 Apr 07, ‘Moqtada rallies Shia to demand withdrawal of foreign troops’,,,2053247,00.html

(5) = Washington Post 26 Mar 2008 ‘U.S. Armor Forces Join Offensive In Baghdad Against Sadr Militia’,

(6) = HRW 28 Oct 2006 ‘Iraq: End Interior Ministry Death Squads’,

(7) = BBC News 3 July 2007, ‘Iraqi cabinet backs draft oil law’,

(8) = NYT 26 Dec 2011 ‘In Blow to Government, Sadr Followers Call for New Elections’,

(9) = the 25 Dec 2011 ‘Shiite Cleric, al-Sadr, calls for trial of Iraq’s Vice-President Hashimy under Parliament’s auspices’,

(10) = CNN 26 Dec 2011 ‘Al-Sadr's bloc calls for dissolution of Iraqi parliament’,

(11) = Al Jazeera 25 Dec 2011 ‘Iraqi VP refuses to face court in Baghdad’, ; ‘Maliki convened a meeting of his crisis-response cell on Saturday, his office said. …In separate comments on Saturday, Maliki warned that any efforts to create an autonomous Sunni region within Iraq would cause deep divisions in the country and lead to "rivers of blood".’

(12) = NYT 11 Nov 2009 ‘U.S. Adviser to Kurds Stands to Reap Oil Profits’,

(13) = Al Jazeera 28 Oct 2008 ‘Iraq Sunni party severs US ties’,  ; ‘But the IIP has been locked in a bitter rivalry with the Sunni tribal leaders who joined forces with the US and that has raised concerns that the political tensions could spark violence and disrupt the Awakening Councils.’

(14) =

(15) = Times 01 May 2005 ‘West turns blind eye as police put Saddam's torturers back to work’,

(16) = NYT magazine 01 May 2005 ‘The Way of the Commandos’,

(17) = BBC News 11 Jun 2005 ‘Profile: Iraq's Wolf Brigade’,

(18) = See (14) above

(19) = 28 Oct 2010 ‘Iraq war logs: 'The US was part of the Wolf Brigade operation against us'’,

(20) = The New Yorker 05 Mar 2007 ‘Annals of National Security - The Redirection’,

(21) = NPR 17 July 2008, 'U.S. Trains Ex-Sunni Militias as Iraqi Police',

(22) = Sunday Times 25 Nov 2007, ‘American-backed killer militias strut across Iraq’,

Saturday, December 24, 2011

David Cameron's talk of Christian values is empty while he punishes the poorest and the majority while helping the wealthiest get wealthier

Prime Minister David Cameron’s talk of Christian values is empty coming from a man whose government is cutting benefits for the disabled and forced people into homelessness by increasing rents for people living in social housing  - including hundreds of thousands of disabled people - to 80% of market rates, while capping housing benefit (1) – (9).

While he claims ‘there is no money’ for the disabled or those he makes homelessness or  unemployed, he provides taxpayer subsidies to arms companies and won’t tax banks or hedge funds a penny more.

The government is paying BAE billions to build an aircraft carrier which will be left to rust; and billions more for another which will have just 6 aircraft by 2020. The National Audit Office found Cameron’s claim that it would be more expensive to cancel the contract was false (10) – (13).

Department for International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell told parliament that UK foreign aid to India is intended to secure trade deals with India including £6.6bn of  British fighter jets (14). There is money for the war in Afghanistan too and for new PFI contracts, which the Treasury Select Committee found cost taxpayers 70% more to repay per pound than funding by taxation or loans (15) – (16).

Cameron protects the City of London financial sector from new taxes and regulations (17). This includes stock market traders and hedge fund and bank managers who caused the financial crisis, on an average income of £100,000 per year including bonuses, who got a 12% pay increase in 6 months (18) – (19). At the same time he’s making hundreds of thousands of teachers, nurses, police and others unemployed (20).

Then, with six people unemployed for every job available, even on the government’s fiddled figures, his party labels them lazy scroungers (21) – (22).

His government cracks down hard on benefit fraud, which amounts to just £1.6 billion each year out of over £187 billion, with fraudulent claims made by just 0.6% of benefit claimants, often for very small amounts (The inaccurate £6 billion figure the government sometimes claims for benefit fraud actually includes mistakes made – many of them by Department of Work and Pensions staff, not claimants.) (23) – (24).

Meanwhile each year between £6.9 billion and £12.7 billion of benefits that people are entitled to go unpaid either because they are unclaimed or because staff wrongly or mistakenly refuse them to people entitled to them (25).

So at least 4 times as much money isn’t paid out in benefits to people entitled to them as is taken by fraud.

The UK National Fraud Authority’s reports show that the vast majority of fraud each year in the UK is tax fraud (around £15 billion a year) and private sector company and individual criminal fraud most of the rest (around £16 billion a year) (see page 7 of their annual report for 2011). So benefit fraud is peanuts by comparison (26).

At the same time Cameron allows tax havens in the Channel Islands and Belize to remain and lets the Inland revenue do sweetheart deals with big companies to get off with billions in taxes each year (27).

While it’s estimated at least 3,000 people will die of cold related illnesses this year in the UK  due to being unable to afford to heat their homes ; and with the proportion of households in fuel poverty having risen from a fifth to a quarter under the Coalition, Cameron’s government allows the big energy companies off with what a study by Manchester University found to be profiteering – raising their prices immediately by 80% of cost increases when their costs go up, but when costs fall cutting prices to consumers by only 50% of the fall in the wholesale costs of gas, coal and oil generated electricity (28) – (30).

As a result the gap between energy companies’ costs per unit of electricity or gas and their prices in the UK rose from £1.93 in 2004 to £4 in 2010. It’s since fallen due to media coverage – but is still much higher than in 2004 at £2.73 (31).

Yet no hint of capping energy profiteering coming from Cameron’s government.

In Cameron’s version of the Bible does Jesus invite the money-changers into the temple to discuss how they can work together to ring more money out of the poorest?

 (1) = 16 Dec 2011 ‘Cameron calls for return to Christian values as King James Bible turns 400’,

(2) = 21 Oct 2011 ‘Disability groups fear further benefit cuts after miscalculation’,

(3) = BBC 08 Jul 2011 ‘Affordable rent housing plans 'to hit London families'’, ; ‘Families will struggle to afford multi-bedroom homes in London if government proposals for a new "affordable rent" tariff are introduced, a report by the London Assembly has said. Social housing tenants would be charged 80% of the market rent under the plans.But this is generally higher than the current level and may make payments tricky for families, the assembly's planning and housing committee said. And the proposed cap on benefits could make things even worse, it added. "In this example, new clients could therefore be facing rents that are higher by nearly 100% for a one-bedroom flat and over 300% for a four-bedroom property." This week the government said the changes to housing benefits were about "fairness" and were needed to reduce a bill "which has spiralled to £21bn a year under Labour". But Labour criticised the coalition after it emerged a senior civil servant had warned 20,000 people could be left homeless by the cap on benefits.’

(4) = Observer 21 Aug 2011 ‘Families 'will be priced out of social housing by plans for higher rents' - Proposed rent rises will be unaffordable across much of urban England, not just London, study warns’,

(5) = BBC News 11 Mar 2011 ‘Housing benefit cut to hit 450,000 disabled people’, , ‘An assessment from the Department for Work and Pensions shows the change will leave 450,000 disabled people an average of £13 a week worse off.’

(6) = Scottish Government Communities Analytical Services January 2011 ‘Housing Benefit Changes : Scottish Impact Assessment’ (1st draft version),

(7) = Shelter (England) 12 Oct 2011 ‘Rent rises hit home’,

(8) = Shelter Scotland 21 Sep 2011 ‘50% Cut In Affordable Housing Budget As SNP Government’s Manifesto Pledge Turns to Rubble’,

(9) = BBC News 27 Oct 2010 ‘No change to housing benefit plan - Cameron’,

(10) = Guardian 07 Jul 2011 ‘National Audit Office challenges £6bn project to build aircraft carriers’,

(11) =  11 Jul 2011 ‘David Cameron 'prevented independent watchdog seeing aircraft carrier papers'’,

(12) = Channel 4 News 07 Jul 2011 ‘Guardian 07 Jul 2011 ‘Full fact check : the real cost of cancelling aircraft carriers’; ‘In 2007, the Labour government decided to build two 65,000-ton Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers at an estimated cost of £3.65bn….But since then, costs have spiralled dramatically, with the projected outlay now thought to be £6.24bn for just one fully operational carrier, the Queen Elizabeth…..The second ship – the Prince of Wales – will be built, but left in a state of “extended readiness”, meaning that fighter planes won’t be able to launch from or land on its deck…..It gets worse: the NAOnow thinks the eventual bill for the programme “will significantly exceed £10 billion”.’

(13) = Guardian 29 Nov 2011 ‘MPs warn Royal Navy's carriers will be costly, late, and of limited use’, ; government admits one carrier to be mothballed on construction in 2016, one to have no planes on it till 2020, when it will have only 6, raised to 12 in 2023

(14) = Independent 17 Dec 2011 ‘Aid to India part of broad plan to build trade and investment, says minister ’, , ‘The Government's controversial decision to continue giving money to India, a nation that has more billionaires than the UK and an aid programme of its own, is directly linked to developing trade and investment opportunities, a senior minister admitted yesterday.

In terms of perhaps surprising bluntness, international development minister Andrew Mitchell said the decision to spend £1.2bn over the next five years was part of a broader partnership that also included the hoped-for sale of fighter jets to India…. One potential deal officials are anxiously following is the sale of 126 fighter jets to Delhi. The EuroFighter Typhoon, made by a European consortium including Britain's BAE Systems, is one of two jets that have made the final shortlist in a deal worth an estimated £6.6bn.’

(15) = 19 Jul 2011 ‘300 schools to be built with £2bn PFI scheme’,

(16) = BBC News ‘PFI projects 'poor value for money', say MPs’, ; ‘The Private Finance Initiative (PFI) used by successive governments to pay for new schools and hospitals is poor value for money, MPs have said. The Treasury select committee said PFI was no more efficient than other forms of borrowing and it was "illusory" that it shielded the taxpayer from risk. Government had become "addicted" to PFI, the committee's Tory chair said…. In a critical report, the cross-party Treasury select committee said the long-term expense of PFI deals - where the private sector shoulders the upfront cost and is typically repaid by the taxpayer over a 30-year period - were now much higher than more conventional forms of borrowing. Due to the financing costs involved, it said paying off a £1bn debt incurred through PFI cost the taxpayer equivalent to a direct government debt of £1.7bn.

(17) = Guardian 07 Dec 2011 ‘David Cameron threatens veto if EU treaty fails to protect City of London’,

(18) = Astbury Marsden Compensation Survey 2011 – Banking Infrastructure London, ; shows average salary for city of London financial sector is £83,000 with 12% increase in 6 months in 2011

(19) = Guardian 28 Nov 2011 ‘Banks under fresh pressure to curb bonus and dividend payouts’, ; ‘According to a survey by headhunters Astbury Marsden published on Monday, City professionals expect an average bonus of 24% of their basic pay for 2011, indicating a payout of £19,920 on an average salary of £83,000.’ (which brings their average annual income including bonuses to about £103,000)

(20) = 29 Nov 2011 ‘Cuts: an extra 300,000 public sector jobs now face the axe’, , ‘The Office for Budgetary Responsibility now reckons 710,000 public service jobs - not 410,000 - will go over the next five years.’

(21) = Office for National Statistics ‘Labour Market Statistics, November 2011’, ; shows 2.62 million people unemployed in 3rd quarter of 2011

(22) = Labour market statistics: 16 Nov 2011 – Vacancies - ; shows 462,000 job vacancies in 3rd quarter of 2011

(23) = Guardian  01 Feb 2011 ‘Benefit fraud: spies in the welfare war’, ; ‘The Salvation Army and a number of other charities have written to the prime minister pointing out that the £5bn figure highlighted by the chancellor was "a threefold exaggeration of the true government estimate of benefit fraud". The frequently cited figure is achieved by adding the estimated amount of fraudulent claims (approximately £1.6bn) to the estimated total of claims made as a result of an error either by the claimant or the official handling their claim….There is an artful misrepresentation here; the suggestion is that the benefits bills is out of control because vast quantities of fraud is being committed by benefits claimants – so cutting the bill is just a question of tackling fraud. It is true that the benefits bill has grown rapidly, from £125bn in 1996/7 to £187bn in 2009/10, but this is not the result of increased fraud. The cost is higher because more people are (legitimately) claiming benefits and because an ageing population is making the cost of pensions soar. Less than 1% of people on benefits commit fraud, and those who do, campaigners argue, are often the poorest of the poor, and the sums involved very small.

(24) = Full Fact 01 Nov 2010 ‘Calls grow for George Osborne to correct the record’,

(25) = Hansard House of Commons Written Answers 16 March 2011column 401w  ‘Social Security Benefits’ ; ‘Dr Whiteford: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of monetary value of unclaimed benefits in the latest period for which figures are available; and how much was unclaimed for each benefit and allowance type. [45049].Chris Grayling: For the six income-related benefits for which estimates are available there was between £6,930 million and £12,700 million left unclaimed in 2008-09’

(26) = National Fraud Authority Jan 2011 ‘Annual fraud indicator’,

(27) = Guardian 20 Dec 2011 ‘HMRC hid 'sweetheart' tax deals for big business, MPs say’,

(28) = 19 Oct 2011 ‘Fuel poverty 'will claim 2,700 victims this winter'’, ; figure is if only 10% of 27,000 cold related excess deaths in winter are due to fuel poverty ; figure is for England and Wales only so including Scotland , with Scotland having a population of 5.2 million and England and Wales 63 million, there will be 222 cold related deaths in Scotland this winter, which, added to the 2,700 in England and Wales comes to 2922 – roughly 3,000)

(29) = 01 Dec 2011 ‘Fuel poverty affects a quarter of UK's households as bills soar and pay freezes’,

(30) = 02 Dec 2011 ‘Big six energy firms face fresh accusations of profiteering’,

(31) = See (30) above

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Obama has taken the civil liberties and human rights Bush couldn’t and expanded the war on terror – the big changes are in rhetoric not reality

President Obama has now said he will no longer veto the National Defense Authorisation Act 2012 that includes amendments   passed by both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and Congress, which give the US military the power to detain anyone suspected of terrorism indefinitely without trial – including US citizens on US soil and imposes US sanctions on any bank in the world that does business with Iran’s Central Bank (1) – (5).

The power to imprison US citizens indefinitely on mere suspicion is one Bush and Cheney attempted to get in the PATRIOT Act and in their planned follow ups to it, but were blocked from getting by opposition by congress and the American public. Now Obama, by appearing more progressive, is approving it without the same media or public attention.

So the Obama administration will take the civil liberties and democratic rights that the Bush administration couldn’t – and continue to ratchet up the tension towards war with Iran, under the cover of talk of hope and change.

Of course this time the bill was proposed by Senators of both parties, not Obama, while Bush proposed the PATRIOT Act and its successors, but the end result of a President approving it is the same

This is another nail in the coffin of the hope that Obama would be significantly more progressive in foreign policy or civil and human rights than Bush was. Whether it’s the result of what Obama’s own preferences, or merely political pragmatism in not wanting to be accused of being “soft on terrorism” with the Republicans controlling congress now, is pretty academic.

Three years into Obama’s first four year term, the similarities between his administration and George W Bush’s are greater than the differences. There’s stripping away civil and human rights through jail without trial and ‘extra- l, , civilian deaths in air and drone strikes, backing dictatorships and using ‘Salvador option’ US trained native death squads.

Bagram air base has replaced Guantanamo, with any rights gained by Guantanamo prisoners lost to those in Bagram; the war in Afghanistan has been expanded to Pakistan; and Obama is moving dangerously close to making an Iran war his Iraq war. Torture had not ended even before this NDAA either, though the numbers involved and who’s carrying it out may have changed.

Whether this is all due to Obama’s own politics or more due to his modelling himself on Abraham Lincoln and putting unity between Democrats and Republicans above anything else is another question.

Is Obama a principled progressive frustrated into unwelcome compromises with the Republicans and the right wing of his own party? Or are his aims and methods basically the same as Bush's, Cheney's and Rumsfeld's, but carried out with more subtlety and better public relations, without carrying out things like torture on a scale so large as to ensure detection? Or is it a bit of both? Whichever it is the differences between Obama's policies and Bush's in office are a matter of degree, not kind.

Obama like Rumsfeld, gives up the name, but keeps ‘the thing’

In February 2002, under Bush, Pentagon staff briefed New York Times reporters on the establishment of an Office of Strategic Influence, which would be “developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organisations”. The resulting outcry resulted in the OSI being publicly closed down (6) – (7).

It wasn’t really gone though. Only the name was gone.

In November 2002 Rumsfeld told interviewers “And then there was the office of strategic influence. You may recall that. And "oh my goodness gracious isn't that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall." I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.” (8).

Obama, like Rumsfeld with the OSI, dropped the name ‘ war on terror ’ – but that’s not the end of the thing.

Guantanamo to Bagram, extra-ordinary rendition  (kidnapping) and torture

Photo - looks like Guantanamo under Bush? It's Bagram under Obama

While saying he would close Guantanamo, end indefinite imprisonment without trial and end military tribunals Obama merely modified the tribunals – which don’t come close to being real courts offering a fair trial and shifted indefinite imprisonment from Guantanamo to Bagram and ‘black sites’ in Afghanistan. This was certainly partly due to criticism from Republicans, but from the day he took office Obama has directed administration lawyers and CIA officials to argue in court and before congress that the CIA has the right to carry out ‘extra-ordinary rendition’ (i.e kidnapping for illegal detention without trial) from any country in the world to Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan – and that Bagram prisoners should not have the access to appeal US military tribunal rulings (based on ‘trials’ with no independent lawyer and no jury) in US courts  - a right which some US courts have granted Guantanamo prisoners (9) – (15).

In other words if Obama had closed Guantanamo it would only have been to transfer it to Bagram. Initially Obama’s lawyers lost that argument in court – but by May 2010 they had won it, allowing anyone newly kidnapped anwyhere in the world, or currently held in Guantanamo, who might get access to a fair trial in the US, to be transferred to Bagram where they won’t (16) – (17).

Bagram was the Abu Ghraib of Afghanistan under Bush –  one of the sites of systematic torture by US forces, where two detainees were beaten to death , one by a private security contractor using a mag-lite. Dilan Dilawar turned out to be a taxi driver with no involvement in terrorism (18) – (19).

Under Obama the number of prisoners at Guantanamo has fallen to 170, but the number held at Bagram has increased to 3,000, as $60 million was spent on expanding the prison, – some prisoners moved from Guantanamo, others newly kidnapped from elsewhere – and in September this year the administration put out a contract to build a larger prison to hold 2,000 prisoners , near Bagram at an estimated cost of between $25 million and $100 million (20) – (22).

Obama has banned physical torture by the US military by law, but not ‘psychological’ forms of torture, added to approved interrogation techniques in the US Army field manual in ‘Appendix M’ by the Bush administration in 2006. These can include sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation over days, weeks or months as well as inducing fear , for instance by targeting phobias (recalling the scene with the rats in Room 101 in Orwell’s 1984) (23) – (25).

 Studies of people tortured in Bosnia and Northern Ireland and of Americans subjected to sleep deprivation have found that psychological torture techniques cause the same kind and degree of permanent and severe mental illness in victims as physical torture does (26) – (27).

What’s more many previous administrations have formally made torture illegal while actually authorising it’s use from world war two to the Phoenix Programme in Vietnam and organised torture from Chile to Nicaragua and Colombia in the 1970s to 1990s, with the notorious US military ‘School of the Americas’ training Latin American militaries in torture techniques. (The US military gave up the name ‘School of the Americas’ due to it’s notoriety in 2000, renaming it the ‘Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Co-operation’. This is likely to be a cosmetic change of the OSI and war on terror kind) (28) – (31).

The British government also formally banned hooding and attacking prisoners with dogs in the 1970s after scandals in Northern Ireland – yet was still using those methods plus severe beatings ,sometimes to death, in Iraq in 2003 to 2008 . So it remains to be seen whether making physical torture illegal will end the practice this time.

Bush and Condoleezza Rice also claimed that “We do not torture” and that they only used legal interrogation methods and obeyed the Convention against Torture to which the US was a signatory (32) – (34). The reality  recorded by US veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq, the ICRC, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch was very different (35).

Obama has made it clear that waterboarding is among the banned torture techniques, but the torture methods actually used are always worse than those that are formally made legal or authorised. Neither waterboarding nor humiliation nor stress positions were the worst forms of torture under Bush. We know from American veterans that actual methods used from Iraq and Afghanistan to Guantanamo included beatings, breaking arms and legs with baseball bats, battering heads off concrete floors and electric shocks.

In fact there have been reports from the BBC, the New York Times , the Associated Press and Human Rights Watch of ‘psychological’ torture methods plus beating by the CIA or US Special forces continuing under Obama at secret US jails in Afghanistan, including one near to Bagram but separate from it, called the ‘Tor jail’ ‘black jail’ or Parwan facility. Methods reported including beating, sleep deprivation, being left naked in extreme heat or cold; and lack of enough food. The jail is referred to as a ‘transit facility’ rather than a prison or ‘detention center’ by the US military in order to justify not giving the ICRC access to prisoners held there (36) – (40).

Leon Panetta as Obama’s first head of the CIA also told congress he might ask the President for permission to use unspecified ‘tougher’ interrogation techniques than those specified in the US army field manual (41).

The fact that in May 2009 Obama replaced the highest ranking general in Afghanistan with General Stanley McChrystal, who commanded units which tortured prisoners by beatings with rifle butts, punching people in the spine and kicking them in the stomach in Iraq, was not encouraging either. When Obama finally sacked McChrystal it was for allowing his aides to speak insultingly of Obama and his Vice President. (42) – (44).

The  descriptions of beatings with fists, feet and rifle butts; sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation with blacked out goggles and shackling with metal shackles by American units at ‘black sites’ in Iraq under Bush are similar to Afghans’ descriptions of the ‘black sites’ in Afghanistan under Obama (45) – (46).

Killing civilians by air strikes, drone strikes, night raids and ‘El Salvador Option’ torture and death squads

Photo - an Afghan child injured in US air strikes on Bala Boluk in Afghanistan under Obama

While Obama claimed he would end the heavy use of air strikes which have killed thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, in fact airstrikes killing dozens to hundreds of civilians at a time have continued, along with a massive expansion of drone strikes in Pakistan which also kill far more civilians than combatants (47) – (50).

Night raid death squads have killed large numbers of Afghans who turned out to be uninvolved in terrorism – including teenage boys. That is the nature of ‘war on terror’ methods which involve a bullet in the back of the head on mere suspicion rather than a trial with evidence put before a jury. (see this link – scroll down to sub-headings ‘Night Raids and the El Salvador Option moving from Iraq to Afghanistan’ and ‘sources for Night Raids and the El Salvador Option’).

The ‘El Salvador’ option of US trained native torture and death squads has continued in Iraq under Obama just as under Bush – and been extended to Afghanistan and Pakistan. (Also see this Guardian article on use of Afghan militias) (51)

Other Bush administration double standards also remain on place – on defending war crimes by US forces and their allies such as Israeli, British and Pakistani forces versus condemning war crimes by enemies of the US and its allies; on providing arms to the enemies of the US like Hezbollah (a crime) versus arming its allies like Israel, even as they too target and kill thousands of civilians (not an issue); on nuclear weapons produced in breach of the non-proliferation treaty by US allies (e.g Israel, Pakistan) versus by its enemies (e.g Iran, North Korea).

Talking about promoting freedom and democracy, while actually backing dictatorships – except where it suits US oil and arms companies

The bodies of protesters against dictatorship in Yemen, killed by the US and British trained Yemeni military

Obama has been good at making speeches about promoting democracy, but the fact that his Cairo speech was made in Egypt under the Mubarak dictatorship which he was still backing should have been a hint that he would be no different from Bush in continuing to talk a lot of rhetoric about promoting freedom and democracy while actually funding and arming dictatorships rather than backing democracy protesters from Honduras to Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi and Yemen. The only calls for dictators to stand down coming from Obama or Hillary Clinton or their subordinates on these countries have been for them to stand down in favour of their deputies – a continuation of dictatorship or military rule under new figureheads.

The only dictatorships which the Obama administration opposes are the ones who are not US clients and were already on Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ (Iran and Syria) or who have haggled too much over oil prices while making noises about nationalisation and made American oil companies nervous of being expelled from the country (Gaddafi in Libya).

 In Bahrain there has been no action to stop the killing of unarmed democracy protesters in the street or in ‘detention’. There has been no action against the Saudi monarchy for sending troops to help crush and torture and jail democracy protesters – just more arms sales. In Yemen the military have been killing unarmed protesters with sniper rifles, tanks and artillery for almost a year without any suggestion of the US ending military aid funding to the Yemeni military never mind intervening to stop it (in fact Clinton ruled out ending that aid early on and has never budged since).

Treating Palestinians as if they were all equivalent to Al Qa’ida

Photo : Gaza after Israeli attacks in December 2008 to January 2009, the one-sided 'Gaza war' - photo from Japan Focus

The false idea that Hamas and the Palestinians are equivalent to Al Qa’ida and so US support for Israel is supposedly protecting democracy against terrorism, has also continued under Obama.

While Obama did call for the blockade of Gaza to be ended he did and said nothing while Israeli forces killed a thousand Palestinian civilians mostly in deliberate attacks , except to say that he ‘understood’ why the Israelis were doing it due to the rockets fired from Gaza – which were the result of Israeli governments’ refusal to negotiate with and determination to blockade the elected Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas – and which had killed 1 Israeli civilian in the six months before the Gaza ‘war’ – and that’s on Israeli foreign ministry figures (The same figures show Israeli attacks killing Palestinian civilians predictably led to an increase in rocket attacks – which killed three civilians in the three weeks of ‘Operation Cast Lead’) (52) – (55).

Obama has continued to back Israeli governments refusing to negotiate with Hamas on the grounds that they refuse to accept fully recognising Israel before negotiations begin, ignoring Israeli Professor Yossi Alpher and former Israeli military intelligence head General Shlomo Gazit when they say that such a pre-condition on negotiations with Egypt or Jordan would have ensured no peace deal resulted (Alpher) and that the pre-conditions are ‘ludicrous or an excuse not to negotiate’ (Gazit).

Obama ‘the healer’ and would-be Lincoln compromises too far with the wrong people

Photo from Gawker

This may be because Obama is too focused on ‘healing the divisions’ among Americans that he sees as having been caused by the Bush years. He is too willing to compromise with the Republican party for the sake of ‘unity’, failing to see that the Republican party are now so extreme that compromising with them constantly can only lead to a continuing slide to the right that could well end with democracy in the US gone forever as a means of placating the Tea Party and the military-industrial complex, the big banks and the big firms.

Some American historians, like Kearns Goodwin, who wrote a biography of Lincoln called ‘Team of Rivals’ say  Obama has modelled his administration on the Lincoln Administration. Lincoln brought all his political opponents into the administration in order to ensure there would be full debate of all policies, reasoning that this would lead to the best policies being produced by full debate. That’s not going to work with John McCain never mind Michelle Bachmann. The Republicans are not interested in co-operating with Obama for the good of the country – they’re only interested in blaming him for everything – including the results of their own actions.

The prospective Republican candidates for the 2012 Presidential election all look pretty awful, but Obama had better hope the Republicans choose one of the worst, because otherwise he may end up losing to a barely tolerable candidate due to his failure to end mass unemployment and economic depression and his failure to deliver on any of his 2008 election campaign pledges other than Health Insurance.

Obama’s temptation to use war on Iran as a distraction – and end up with a disaster worse than Iraq

Obama’s line on Iraq is virtually identical to Bush and Cheney’s – that under his Presidency the US will use any means necessary – i.e military force – to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons – and his administration, like Bush’s on Iraq, is adamant that no matter what evidence is presented on Iran not having built nuclear weapons, they’ll claim it is and is hiding the fact.

The Republicans’ re-capture of congress, which blocks any further action to create jobs or end the depression this side of an election, may be tempting Obama to try to have a ‘foreign policy success’ by taking action against Iran.

If he does that he will create a disaster more terrible than Iraq on the same dubious premises – that Iraq/Iraq has WMD/nuclear weapons and that it’s government would committ national suicide by provoking a nuclear counter-strike on itself by using WMD/nuclear weapons on nuclear armed states or their allies (the US/ Israel).

In fact both governments – Iran’s in 1988 and Saddam’s in 1991 – proved they were not willing to take that risk – the former making peace with a US backed Saddam Hussein rather than risk defeat when Ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard Officers feared the US forces were going to fight alongside Saddam’s; and the latter not using chemical warheads for his scuds on Kuwait or Israel or Coaliton forces when he did have them, opting for conventional warheads instead to avoid nuclear retaliation (56) – (58).

If Obama makes the Iran war mistake he will have become George W. Bush Mark II in almost every way. As George Bush senior’s 1991 Iraq war showed it’s not guaranteed to win the next election either.

Obama is not solely to blame – assuming the struggle’s over when you elect a candidate is a mistake

Obama is not solely to blame for any of this. What he can do is partly dependent on who controls congress, what the media are saying and what the public are demanding most vocally. FDR would never have got the New Deal measures through congress against the lobbying of the richest and the biggest companies if it hadn’t been for demonstrations and occupations of banks and factories by people across the US. If enough Americans want Obama to push progressive reforms through congress they need to demand them more vocally than the Tea Party and the corporate lobbyists and AIPAC are demanding the opposite.

Having said that Obama has the most powerful political office in the US and possibly the world and is making a mistake by giving in to the Republicans and Fox News every time they demand he does so, as if they were rational or had good intentions.


(1) = NYT ‘Obama Drops Veto Threat Over Military Authorization Bill After Revisions’,

(2) = 15 Dec 2011 ‘Military given go-ahead to detain US terrorist suspects without trial’,

(3) = Human Rights Watch 01 Dec 2011 ‘US: President Should Veto Detainee Bill’,

(4) = Wired 01 Dec 2011 ‘Senate Wants the Military to Lock You Up Without Trial’,

(5) = LA Times 15 Dec 2011 ‘Congress approves $662-billion defense spending bill’,

Obama like Rumsfeld, gives up the name, but keeps ‘the thing’

(6) = New York Times 19 Feb 2002 ‘Pentagon Readies Efforts to Sway Sentiment Abroad’,

(7) = Reporters sans frontieres Update - 27 February 2002  ‘The Bush administration shuts down the OSI’ ,

(8) = US Department of Defense news transcript 18 Nov 2002 ‘Secretary Rumsfeld Media Availability En Route to Chile’,

Guantanamo to Bagram, extra-ordinary rendition  (kidnapping) and torture

(9) = AP Foreign 15 Sep 2009 ‘Obama admin fights Bagram detainee court access’, ‘The Obama administration argued late Monday that allowing terrorism detainees in Afghanistan to file lawsuits in U.S. courts challenging their detention would endanger the military mission in that country… In a filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, the Justice Department said Bagram detainees should not be given equal rights to sue in the United States that the Supreme Court granted last year to detainees being held at the Guantanamo Bay facility in Cuba…..the Obama administration stuck with Bush administration policy in a court filing Monday night that said the Bagram detainees' rights shouldn't extend as far as U.S. courtrooms…. Obama's Justice Department has sided with the congressional Republicans and put forward the same argument as the Bush administration. It said in Monday's 85-page filing that allowing Bagram detainees access to U.S. courts would divert military personnel at Bagram and "have serious adverse consequences for the military mission in Afghanistan."

(10) = AP 20 Feb 2009 ‘Obama: No rights for Bagram prisoners  - Sides with Bush, says detainees can't challenge detention in U.S. courts’ ,

(11) = Amnesty International 16 Sep 2009 ‘USA must grant Bagram detainees access to US courts’,

(12) = Amnesty International 16 Sep 2009 ‘USA: Government opposes habeas corpus review for any Bagram detainees; reveals ‘enhanced’ administrative review procedures’,

 (13) Panetta Open to Tougher Methods in Some C.I.A. Interrogation, ; ‘Leon E. Panetta, the White House pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, …. Mr. Panetta also said the agency would continue the Bush administration practice of “rendition” — picking terrorism suspects off the street and sending them to a third country.’

(14) = Der Spiegel (Germany) 21 Sep 2009 ‘Human Rights Lawyer on Bagram Prison ‘The Obama Administration Has Completely Failed’’,,1518,650324,00.html

(15) = HRW 01 Jun 2010 ‘The Bagram Detainee Review Boards: Better, But Still Falling Short’,

(16) = See (3) above

(17) = LA Times ‘Court: No habeas rights for prisoners in Afghanistan’, ; ‘The Obama administration has won the legal right to hold its terrorism suspects indefinitely and without oversight by judges — not at Guantanamo or in Illinois, but rather at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan……..In a 3-0 decision, the U.S. appeals court in Washington ruled for the administration Friday and said the Constitution and its right to habeas corpus does not extend to foreign prisoners held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan because it is a war zone. The judges dismissed claims from three prisoners who were taken to Bagram from Pakistan and Thailand and have been held for as long as seven years.’

(18) = Human Rights Watch 20 May 2005 - ‘Afghanistan: Killing and Torture by U.S. Predate Abu Ghraib ',

(19) = NYT 20 May 2005 ‘In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths ’,

(20) = 11 Nov 2011 ‘Bagram: The other Guantanamo?’ ,;contentBody ; Today, there are more than 3,000 detainees at Bagram, or five times the number (around 600) when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. There are currently 18 times as many detainees at Bagram than at the U.S. military prison at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, whose prisoner population has dwindled from a peak of 780 to 170.

(21) = Al Jazeera 16 Nov 2009 ‘US unveils extended Bagram prison’,

(22) = 19 Sep 2011 ‘U.S. to build new massive prison in Bagram’ by Glenn Greenwald,

(23) = Amnesty International Australia 19 Mar 2009 ‘The Army Field Manual: Sanctioning Cruelty?’, ; ‘The amended Army Field Manual:Human Intelligence Collector Operations, has come under scrutiny by human rights organisations especially in relation to "Appendix M" which allows for isolation, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation. These methods do not comply with the international law regulations prohibiting torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.’

 (24) = Center for Constitutional Rights ‘Close Torture Loopholes in the Army Field Manual’, ; ‘Appendix M of the Army Field Manual - a new section introduced in 2006, applicable only to "unlawful combatants," the category applied to detainees in Guantanamo, at secret CIA prisons, and elsewhere - allows the use of techniques such as prolonged isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and inducing fear and humiliation of prisoners. These techniques, especially when used in combination as permitted by the AFM, constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and in some cases, torture. These techniques have caused documented, long-lasting psychological and physical harm and were condemned by a bipartisan congressional report released last month, as well as by the Bush-appointed head of the military commissions at Guantanamo.’

(25) = Basolou, Metin (2007) ‘Torture vs Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment’in Archives of General Psychiatry Vol. 64 No. 3, March 2007, pages 277-285, ; ‘Design and Setting  A cross-sectional survey was conducted with a population-based sample of survivors of torture from Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Banja Luka in Republica Srpska, Rijeka in Croatia, and Belgrade in Serbia……Conclusions  Ill treatment during captivity, such as psychological manipulations, humiliating treatment, and forced stress positions, does not seem to be substantially different from physical torture in terms of the severity of mental suffering they cause, the underlying mechanism of traumatic stress, and their long-term psychological outcome.’

(26) = Scientific American 23 Oct 2007 ‘Can a Lack of Sleep Cause Psychiatric Disorders?’, , ‘Study shows that sleep deprivation leads to a rewiring of the brain's emotional circuitry…In fact, psychologist Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley, says that "almost all psychiatric disorders show some problems with sleep.'' But, he says that scientists previously believed the psychiatric problems triggered the sleep issues. New research from his lab, however, suggests the reverse is the case; that is, a lack of shut-eye is causing some psychological disturbances.’

(27) = John McGuffin (1974) ‘The Guinea Pigs’ (a book on the torture of suspected Republicans in Northern Ireland in the 1970s by the British military using beating, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation - many were mentally ill for the rest of their lives as a result)

(28) = Professor Marilyn B. Young (1990) ‘The Vietnam Wars 1945-1990’, pages 212-213 of paperback edition

(29) = Professor Greg Grandin (2007) ‘Empire’s Workshop : Latin America, the United States and the Rise of Imperialism’, Holt Paperbacks, New York, 2007, Chapter 3, especially pages 90-91, 101 and 116-117

(30) = BBC News 16 Dec 2000 ‘New image for US 'torture school'’,

(31) =  see and sources for it

(32) = BBC News 07 Dec 2005 ‘US does not torture, Bush insists’,

(33) = CNN 05 Oct 2007 ‘Bush: 'This government does not torture'’,

(34) = NPR 10 Dec 2008 ‘Rice Says Successor Hillary Clinton Will 'Do Great'’, ; ‘And Guantanamo wasn't sort of the only issue that tarnished the U.S. image. There is also the treatment of terror suspects, waterboarding, other methods of torture ...Well, you know that I'm going to have to object, because the United States has always kept to its international obligations, which include international obligations on the convention on torture. The United States, the president, was determined after Sept. 11 to do everything that was legal and within those obligations, international and domestic laws, to make sure that we prevented a follow-on attack.’

(35) = see this link and sources listed and linked to on it

(36) = BBC News 11 May 2010 ‘Red Cross confirms 'second jail' at Bagram, Afghanistan’,

(37) = NYT 28 May 2009 ‘Afghans Detail Detention in ‘Black Jail’ at U.S. Base’,

(38) = HRW 01 Jun 2010 ‘The Bagram Detainee Review Boards: Better, But Still Falling Short’, ;. ‘And recent reports of abuse have come from former detainees who claim to have been held at another detention site at Bagram, a detention facility the US has denied exists. It is only by reading between the lines of carefully worded US government statements that it becomes clear that there is indeed another facility at Bagram, which the US considers a transit center and not a detention facility. And so, while human rights observers watched mostly open proceedings in Parwan, a largely secret prison still operates just down the road.’

(39) = AP 08 April 2011 ‘AP Exclusive: Terror Suspects Held Weeks in Secret’,

(40) = BBC News 15 Apr 2010 ‘Afghans 'abused at secret prison' at Bagram airbase ’, ; ‘But witnesses told the BBC in interviews or written testimony that abuses continue in a hidden facility….Sher Agha and others we interviewed complained their cells were very cold.”… But sleep, according to the prisoners interviewed, is deliberately prevented in this detention site. "I could not sleep, nobody could sleep because there was a machine that was making noise," said Mirwais, who said he was held in the secret jail for 24 days. "There was a small camera in my cell, and if you were sleeping they'd come in and disturb you," he added. The prisoners, who were interviewed separately, all told very similar stories. Most of them said they had been beaten by American soldiers at the point of arrest before being taken to the prison. Mirwais had half a row of teeth missing, which he said was from being struck with the butt of a gun by an American soldier.’…In the new jail, prisoners were being moved around in wheelchairs with goggles and headphones on. The goggles were blacked out, and the purpose of the headphones was to block out all sound. Each prisoner was handcuffed and had their legs shackled.’

(41) = Panetta Open to Tougher Methods in Some C.I.A. Interrogation, ; ‘Leon E. Panetta, the White House pick to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, on Thursday left open the possibility that the agency could seek permission to use interrogation methods more aggressive than the limited menu that President Obama authorized under new rules issued last month… In his testimony, Mr. Panetta said that under the rules issued by Mr. Obama, the C.I.A. is still allowed to detain and question terrorism suspects before transferring them to a military jail….

(42) = NYT 19 Mar 2006 ‘In Secret Unit's 'Black Room,' a Grim Portrait of U.S. Abuse ’, ; ‘In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball…… The story of detainee abuse in Iraq is a familiar one. But the following account of Task Force 6-26, based on documents and interviews with more than a dozen people, offers the first detailed description of how the military's most highly trained counterterrorism unit committed serious abuses. ….Task Force 6-26 …Originally known as Task Force 121, it was formed in the summer of 2003, when the military merged two existing Special Operations units, one hunting Osama bin Laden in and around Afghanistan, and the other tracking Mr. Hussein in Iraq. (Its current name is Task Force 145.)….. Unmarked helicopters flew detainees into the camp almost daily, former task force members said. Dressed in blue jumpsuits with taped goggles covering their eyes, the shackled prisoners were led into a screening room where they were registered and examined by medics….. In early 2004, an 18-year-old man suspected of selling cars to members of the Zarqawi terrorist network was seized with his entire family at their home in Baghdad. Task force soldiers beat him repeatedly with a rifle butt and punched him in the head and kidneys, said a Defense Department specialist briefed on the incident…. Jailers often blared rap music or rock 'n' roll at deafening decibels over a loudspeaker to unnerve their subjects…. In January 2004, the task force captured the son of one of Mr. Hussein's bodyguards in Tikrit. The man told Army investigators that he was forced to strip and that he was punched in the spine until he fainted, put in front of an air-conditioner while cold water was poured on him and kicked in the stomach until he vomited. Army investigators were forced to close their inquiry in June 2005 after they said task force members used battlefield pseudonyms that made it impossible to identify and locate the soldiers involved. The unit also asserted that 70 percent of its computer files had been lost.

Some complaints were ignored or played down in a unit where a conspiracy of silence contributed to the overall secretiveness.

The task force was a melting pot of military and civilian units. It drew on elite troops from the Joint Special Operations Command… General McChrystal, the leader of the Joint Special Operations Command, received his third star in a promotion ceremony at Fort Bragg on March 13.

(43) = HRW 22 Jul 2006 ‘"No Blood, No Foul" - Soldiers' Accounts of Detainee Abuse in Iraq’,

(44) = Esquire 19 May 2009 ‘Who the Hell Is Stanley McChrystal?’, - interviews former members of McChrystal’s unit who told interviewers McChrystal guaranteed the ICRC would never get access to prisoners held by units at Camp Nama under his command

(45) = see (40) above

(46) = see (42) – (44)  above

(47) = The Public Record 19 Oct 2009 ‘Report: Drone Strikes Increased Dramatically Under Obama’,

(48) = thenews (Pakistan) 03 Jan 2011 ‘Drones killed 59pc civilians, 41pc terrorists’,

(49) = 07 Oct 2010 ‘Obama's enthusiasm for drone strikes takes heavy toll on Pakistan's tribesmen’,

(50) = Bureau of Investigative Journalism 18 Jul 2011 ‘US claims of ‘no civilian deaths’ are untrue’,

(51) = Guardian 22 Nov 2009 'US pours millions into anti-Taliban militias in Afghanistan',

Treating Palestinians as if they were all equivalent to Al Qa’ida

 (52) = Amnesty International 02 Jul 2009 ‘Impunity for war crimes in Gaza and southern Israel a recipe for further civilian suffering’, , ‘The scale and intensity of the attacks on Gaza were unprecedented. Some 300 children and hundreds of other unarmed civilians who took no part in the conflict were among the 1,400 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces……Most were killed with high-precision weapons, relying on surveillance drones which have exceptionally good optics, allowing those observing to see their targets in detail. Others were killed with imprecise weapons, including artillery shells carrying white phosphorus – not previously used in Gaza - which should never be used in densely populated areas….. Amnesty International found that the victims of the attacks it investigated were not caught in the crossfire during battles between Palestinian militants and Israeli forces, nor were they shielding militants or other military objects. Many were killed when their homes were bombed while they slept. Others were sitting in their yard or hanging the laundry on the roof. Children were struck while playing in their bedrooms or on the roof, or near their homes. Paramedics and ambulances were repeatedly attacked while attempting to rescue the wounded or recover the dead.’

(53) = Amnesty International Mar 2009 ‘ISRAEL/GAZA - OPERATION ‘CAST LEAD’: 22 DAYS OF DEATH AND DESTRUCTION’,

(54) = See and the sources listed and linked to in it on the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections and Israeli government responses to them

(55) = Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs ‘Victims of Palestinian Violence and Terrorism since September 2000’,

Obama’s temptation to use war on Iran as a distraction – and end up with a disaster worse than Iraq

(56) = Takeyh, Ray (2006), ‘Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, Times Books, New York, 2006 - pages 170-174 (on Ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard officers persuading Khomeini to make peace with Saddam in 1988 out of fear US forces were joining war directly on his side)

(57) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(2004), ‘The Persian Puzzle', Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 231-233 (on Ayatollahs and Revolutionary Guard officers persuading Khomeini to make peace with Saddam in 1988 out of fear US forces were joining war directly on his side)

(58) = Nye , Joseph S. & Smith , Robert K. (1992), ‘After the Storm' , Madison Books , London , 1992 , - pages 211-216 (on Saddam having chemical warheads for his scud missiles in 1991 but not using them)