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The citizens in Aldhous Huxley’s Brave New World were encouraged by their government to take the sadness-erasing drug Soma to ease the fulfillment of their lives in a superficial society. In his later lectures he predicted that our future society would mimic that of his fictional novel in its use of scientific methods for population management. A recent psychological study with the element, Lithium, now appears to perhaps bring Huxley’s vision one step closer.

The report by researchers in Japan appears to confirm that low levels of Lithium in drinking water may lead to lower levels of suicide in a consuming population. The study, carried out by a team from the universities of Oita and Hiroshima in the prefecture of Oita has recently been published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.[1]  In areas where the levels of the element were highest, the risk of suicide appeared to be significantly reduced.

Lithium has been associated with mental health for many years, used in high levels to promote mood stabilisation for individuals suffering from Bipolar disorder. The levels of the element used in the Japanese trials however, varied between 0.7 and 59 milograms; hundreds of times lower than traditionally used in a clinical context.[2] At these levels, scientists claim that the drug would seem to be too diluted to offer any medicinal benefit.

However, they point to a previous trial which demonstrated that people suffering from Bipolar who did not respond to Lithium emotionally, were still less likely to attempt suicide. Scientists believe that although the levels of the element remain low, over time they may accumulate in the body and produce a diagnosable result.

An earlier study conducted in the United States also suggested the beneficial mood altering effects of Lithium. This research, carried out in 27 Texas counties between 1978-1987 found that not only were levels of suicide reduced with Lithium treatment, but other socially undesirable patterns also fell.[3] At levels between 70-170 milograms there was a direct inverse correlation with incidences of rape, robbery and burglary.

The element also appears to have produced an effect in drug addictions, especially with harder drugs. Arrests for possession of Opium and Cocaine raw substances and derivatives fell significantly in the study.  Subject to further controlled evaluation the report makes the following recommendation:

“increasing the human lithium intakes by supplementation, or the lithiation of drinking water is suggested as a possible means of crime, suicide, and drug-dependency reduction at the individual and community level.”[4]

Experts interviewed in connection with the Oita research have given similar statements, citing the results as evidence of the need for further clinical trials prior to possible drinking water lithiation. Although further research and debate is necessary, ‘the eventual benefits for community mental health may be considerable.’[5]

American psychiatrist Peter Kramer, who is best known for his work Listening to Prozac, raised the possibility of public health authorities supplementing water supplies at a conference in Germany earlier this year. He argues that this study may mark the onset of a ‘public health revolution’ in which pharmaceuticals may be added to water supplies in order to further the ‘common good’.

He has been joined in his recommendations by Dr. Archelle Georgiou, a recognized American physician, who argues that the success of the Fluoride experiment should make further fortification attempts more acceptable.[6]

This well publicised effort with Fluoride first began in Grand Rapids, Michigan on 25th January 1945, when H. Trendley Dean launched the campaign to fortify the drinking supply. Advocates point to reductions in tooth decay and improved oral health which have since reduced public health costs in the long term. The United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has since described this program as, “one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the twentieth century.”[7]

This program though, has not been without its critics, both from medical and ethical standpoints. Mainstream physicians have questioned the possible toxicity of prolonged exposure to Fluoride in the body. Political activists have also raised their criticisms at a policy they regard as “un-democratic”, since it removes public choice from the equation.[8]

The bioethicist and medical historian, Jacob Appel, dispels these claims, arguing that the availability of bottled water means that those opposed to the policy can seek non-fortified alternatives. “There is nothing unreasonable about placing the burden not to drink,” he asserts, “on the resistant minority.”[9]

 The opportunities to beneficially impact the public health of the populace with this method outweigh the protests of those few on the margins.

Appel claims that any changes to public health policy should be democratic and consultative. It appears however, that the extent of the democratic debate he calls for is that, “the public ought to be informed which pharmaceuticals have been added to the water and should choose what to imbibe accordingly.” The public are hence accorded the generous right to make their informed choice after policy has been made, and presumably after they have also paid their water bill.

Like Kramer and Georgiou, Appel sees this current study as pointing to a future in which the common water supply can be harnessed to deliver health altering treatments at a low cost. Regardless of whether Lithium is eventually adopted there are other therapies on the horizon which may be just as influential. Statins, which reduce cholesterol and increase life-expectancy in otherwise healthy individuals, may be a possibility. If a chemical can be isolated which successfully blocks pleasure pathways involved in the use of narcotics, this might be an opportunity to deter addictions.

When considering the risks of hypothyroidism, nephrotoxicity and weight gain with Lithium, and those of muscle breakdown with Statins, such advocates suggest that the “risks should be minimised”, or that susceptible individuals should be identified in advance.[10] In the rush to implement these nationwide technological ‘wonder therapies’ however, it is unclear whether these loose controls will be implemented stringently enough to avoid these or other unknown adverse side effects. Whether the supplemented medication is known as Soma or not though, it seems likely that it will not be long before behaviour altering drugs can be administered nationwide.

Chris Bowles 


[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8025454.stm 

[2] http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2009/05/lithium-in-drinking-water-has.html 

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1699579 

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1699579

[5] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8025454.stm 

[6] http://thedailybite.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/neoconservative-think-tank-considers-adding-lithium-to-public-water-supply-to-control-crime-using-suicide-reduction-as-excuse/

[7] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-m-appel/beyond-fluoride-pharmaceu_b_398874.html

[8] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8025454.stm

[9] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-m-appel/beyond-fluoride-pharmaceu_b_398874.html

[10]http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jacob-m-appel/beyond-fluoride-pharmaceu_b_398874.html

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A report published by the charity Physicians for Human Rights has documented illegal medical experimentation carried out on prisoners detained on suspicion of involvement in terrorism whilst being held in CIA custody[1]. The report, entitled Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program, outlines numerous instances of illegal testing carried out on prisoners in violation of both medical ethics and international treaties.

Among the experiments performed were tests to analyse how detainees would cope with subjection to prolonged periods of sleep deprivation, and experiments which involved adding a saline solution to the water used to simulate drowning during waterboarding sessions in order to prevent complications related to dilution of the blood.

Members of Physicians for Human Rights spent two years carefully analysing declassified but redacted documents pertaining to the treatment of detainees suspected of terrorism who were taken into custody following the attacks of September 11th 2001. The group has called for a congressional investigation into the allegations contained in its report, and has called on the White House to investigate.

According to the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based non-governmental organisation, such experiments – illegal under the Nuremburg Code and Geneva Conventions – were carried out with complicity on the part of CIA-appointed doctors, psychologists and other medical staff. PHR accuses the US government of having used such professionals to shield itself from criminal liability and charges that the physicians involved were complicit in “the routine practice of torture”. Page 9 of the 30 page report states that the experiments undertaken, “had no direct clinical health care application, nor [were they] in the detainee’s personal interest nor part of their medical management”.

The report observes that the illegal experimentation carried out, “appears to have been used primarily to enable the Bush administration to assess the legality of the tactics, and to inform medical monitoring policy and procedure for future application of the techniques”. Page 10 informs that, “US government lawyers used… observational data collected by health professionals… to inform legal evaluations regarding the risk of inflicting certain levels of harm on the detainee, and to shape policy that would guide further application of the technique on other detainees”.

The report reveals that medical professionals under the authority of the US government observed and analysed the effects of sleep deprivation on more than a dozen prisoners in 48, 96 and 180-hour increments. Scott A. Allen, MD, a PHR medical advisor and lead medical author of the report remarked that, “Any health professional [that] violates their ethical codes by employing their professional expertise to calibrate and study the infliction of harm disgraces the health profession and makes a mockery of the practice of medicine”. He stated that any medical practitioner who participated in “unethical human subject research… should be held to account”[2].

Frank Donaghue, Physicians for Human Rights’ Chief Executive Officer, affirmed that it appears that the CIA violated, “accepted legal and ethical standards put in place since the Second World War”, which are designed to protect detainees from inhumane experimentation. Donaghue described the abuses detailed in the group’s report as “gross violations of human rights law” and “a grave affront to America’s core values”[3].

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano responded to the allegations on behalf of the agency, stating that PHR’s report is “just wrong”, and that the CIA did not carry out “human subject research on any detainee or group of detainees”[4].

President Barack Obama officially outlawed the practice of waterboarding not long after taking office, but has controversially preserved an undefined number of “black sites” or clandestine prisons situated in countries whose governments collaborate with the United States, and has preserved the practice of rendition whereby those suspected of broadly defined terror offences can be taken to such sites and “interrogated” with no judicial oversight.

Upon releasing four top secret Bush-era memos, which permitted the CIA to use torture against terror suspects, in April of 2009, President Obama guaranteed immunity to those who had been responsible either for encouraging and authorising such acts or for directly carrying them out. Obama called it a time for “reflection, not retribution”[5], and to date not a single member of the Bush administration has been prosecuted despite overwhelming documented evidence that torture was routinely used against people who had not been charged with any crime.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the administration of George W. Bush in 2002 had authorised the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”, including but not limited to: waterboarding, subjecting detainees to extremes of temperature, forced nudity and forcing detainees to maintain stress positions. Such techniques were allowed providing medical staff present ensured prisoners did not endure “severe physical and mental pain”. This arbitrary proviso was widely derided at the time, with critics maintaining that this essentially gave US interrogators, who in many cases were devoid of experience and even basic training, a free hand to administer any type of punishment they saw fit with little interference from the upper echelons of government.

Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony Romero, commented that, “President Obama’s assertion that there should not be prosecutions of government officials who may have committed crimes before a thorough investigation has been carried out is simply untenable”, with the ACLU characterising the legal basis for torture as “spurious”.

One memo declassified by the Obama administration, dated 1 August 2002, lists permissible techniques, which include: attention grasp, walling (pushing the detainee into a wall), facial hold, facial slap, cramped confinement, sleep deprivation, food deprivation, wall standing, placing a detainee with a fear of insects in a confined box containing insects, and waterboarding.

A secret 2004 US army investigation into allegations of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib military prison in Baghdad, Iraq, uncovered evidence of sustained and repeated mistreatment of prisoners held in US custody. The report revealed a damning catalogue of inhumane behaviour which included the following abuses[6]:

  • Sodomising a male detainee with a chemical light and possibly a broomstick
  • Threatening detainees with a charged 9mm pistol
  • A male military police guard having sex with a female detainee
  • Using military working dogs, without muzzles, to intimidate and frighten detainees; in at least one case biting a detainee and causing severe injury
  • Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid onto detainees
  • Beating detainees with a broom handle and chair
  • Pouring cold water on naked detainees
  • Punching, slapping & kicking detainees
  • Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall of his cell
  • Threatening male detainees with rape
  • Jumping on detainees’ naked feet
  • Videotaping and photographing naked male and female detainees
  • Forcibly arranging detainees in numerous sexually explicit positions in order to photograph them
  • Forcing detainees to strip naked and depriving them of clothing for days at a time
  • Forcing naked male detainees to wear women’s underwear
  • Forcing groups of naked male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed & videotaped
  • Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and jumping on them
  • Positioning a naked male detainee on an MRE box with a sandbag on his head, and attaching wires to his fingers, toes and penis and electrically shocking him
  • Placing a dog chain around a naked male detainee and having a female soldier pose for a photo
  • Taking photographs of dead Iraqi detainees

The report´s author, Major General Antonio Taguba, later confirmed that photographic evidence from Abu Ghraib which the Obama administration declined to release depicts “sexual assaults on prisoners with objects including a truncheon, wire and a phosphorescent tube”. Taguba described the photographs as providing categoric evidence of “torture, abuse, rape and every indecency.” “The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it”, he added[7].

Senior figures in the Bush administration came in for heavy criticism as it emerged that abuses amounting to torture were widespread both in Iraq and at US-controlled detention facilities in other countries. US Justice Department official John Yoo drew consternation from anti-torture advocates when he endorsed the sexual torture of terror suspects’ children in front of their parents as an acceptable method of extracting a confession[8].

Douglass Cassel, professor at Notre Dame Law School, quizzed Yoo in December of 2005 about an August 2002 memo he had authored, asking, “If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?” “No treaty”, replied Yoo, who in addition to writing many of the memos which cemented the practice of “enhanced interrogation” as accepted policy also wrote extensively in favour of domestic surveillance and wiretapping of citizens of the United States without warrants. Cassel pressed the South Korea-born attorney further, “Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.” “I think it depends on why the President feels he needs to do that,” was Yoo’s now infamous response.

Tom Kavanagh


[1] Experiments in Torture: Human Subject Research and Evidence of Experimentation in the ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Program, http://phrtorturepapers.org/?dl_id=9

[2] Evidence Indicates that the Bush Administration Conducted Experiments and Research on Detainees to Design Torture Techniques and Create Legal Cover, http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/library/news-2010-06-07.html

[3] Evidence Indicates that the Bush Administration Conducted Experiments and Research on Detainees to Design Torture Techniques and Create Legal Cover, http://physiciansforhumanrights.org/library/news-2010-06-07.html

[4] Physicians group accuses CIA of testing torture techniques on detainees, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-torture-20100608,0,1471800.story

[5] Obama releases Bush torture memos – Insects, sleep deprivation and waterboarding among approved techniques by the Bush administration, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/16/torture-memos-bush-administration

[6] Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade, http://www.npr.org/iraq/2004/prison_abuse_report.pdf

[7] Abu Ghraib abuse photos ‘show rape’, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/5395830/Abu-Ghraib-abuse-photos-show-rape.html

[8] Meek, mild and menacing, http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/blumenthal/2006/01/12/alito_bush/

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a meeting of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee in Washington D.C. on Tuesday evening that the call from the international community for Israel to temporarily freeze settlement construction in territory it has been illegally occupying since 1967 was an “illogical and unreasonable demand”.[1] Netanyahu’s comments came after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had called on the Zionist state to make “difficult but necessary choices”, a reference to Israeli plans to construct around 1,600 new homes in illegally occupied East Jerusalem which were announced during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s recent visit to the country.

Clinton used her appearance at AIPAC to underscore her “rock solid” dedication to “Israel’s security”, saying that this is “more than a policy position for me. It is a personal commitment that will never waver”. She went on to say, however, that Israel’s continuing settlement expansion “undermines mutual trust” between the two nations.[2] Such tame chastisement came less than 24 hours after Netanyahu had told his cabinet that, “As far as we are concerned, building in Jerusalem is like building in Tel Aviv”.

According to international law, however, there is a clear distinction. Israel has resisted repeated United Nations Security Council resolutions to withdraw from all territory it occupied in 1967, and has continuously expanded illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which have more than doubled in size since the failed Oslo peace accords of 1993. The total number of inhabitants of Jewish-only settlements in illegally occupied territory currently stands at over 650,000.

Despite the fact that the construction of settlements in territory acquired by war is roundly condemned by the international community and the practice is forbidden by international law, the BBC insists on including the concession that “Israel disputes this” whenever settlements’ legal status is mentioned, further clouding the issue and giving the illusion of legitimate contention where there is none.

Aside from their outright illegality, settlements are routinely constructed in strategic areas which give their inhabitants preferential access to scarce supplies of water and arable land to the detriment of the impoverished Palestinian communities who live on their margins. A network of roads and highways administered by Israel cuts through the West Bank, in many cases isolating Palestinian villages from one another and making travel between towns just a few miles apart unfeasible.

Settlements in East Jerusalem have been constructed so as to “ring-fence” the portion of the city under illegitimate occupation, with Israel claiming the whole of Jerusalem as its “eternal and indivisible” capital. The location of such settlements makes any transfer of sovereignty over East Jerusalem to a Palestinian government under a future peace deal practically impossible should the current inhabitants be allowed to remain where they are. The dominant forces within the international community have steadfastly refused to take collective action against Israel’s repeated and flagrant violations of internationally accepted practice in refusing to withdraw from territory it acquired following the 1967 war, and have thus undermined any genuine prospect of peace between the two sides.

British arms sales to Israel skyrocketed under Tony Blair’s stewardship and currently stand at their highest ever level. The prospect of a potential future Conservative government bringing pressure to bear on the Zionist state looks remote to say the least: a Channel 4 programme entitled Dispatches: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby, screened in late 2009, found that roughly 80% of Tory MPs are members of Conservative Friends for Israel. The United States currently sends Israel, a nation with a population of just over 7 million, around US$3 billion in foreign aid annually, more than to any other single country and more than to every country in Sub-Saharan Africa combined.

Speaking at AIPAC on Tuesday, Netanyahu said that illegal settlements in East Jerusalem were an “inextricable” part of Israel and would remain so under any subsequent peace deal. Incredibly, he went on to state that their construction, “in no way precludes the possibility of a two-state solution.”[3] President Barack Obama appeared to agree with Netanyahu’s position in September of 2009, when he dropped an official demand for Israel to cease illegal settlement construction.[4] Even more bizarrely, this humiliating capitulation was reported by CNN as if it were a major step in bringing the two sides together.

Quite how Obama and the United States manage to retain any credibility whatsoever as neutral peace brokers in this conflict is a testament to the power of the mainstream media upon which the majority of Americans and Britons rely for information about world affairs. Obama, who had won glowing praise from the Israeli press for a now infamous performance at AIPAC prior to his victory at the polls in late 2008, effectively extinguished any faint hopes of positive action from Washington on the matter when he appointed former IDF volunteer Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff shortly after being elected. Emanuel is widely acknowledged to be one of the most potent figures in Obama’s administration, and it is against this backdrop that any call by the United States’ government for peace talks to resume can be discarded as fading rhetoric.

Clinton at AIPAC: Iran threatened once again

Speaking on behalf of the planet’s foremost nuclear power, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the latest contribution to the burgeoning collection of threats targeted at Iran by political figures from the United States and Israel, calling for “sanctions that bite” against the Persian nation and stating that the United States is “determined to prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons”. Clinton was greeted by applause from the 7,500-strong audience, comprised of members of arguably Washington’s most powerful political lobby representing the interests of a foreign nation, no less than 25 times during Monday’s speech. She called Iran’s mythical quest to procure nuclear weaponry “unacceptable to the United States, unacceptable to Israel and unacceptable to the region and the international community”.

Russia and China have hitherto resisted proceeding with sanctions against Iran, while the U.S. began a programme of sanctions during the presidency of Secretary Clinton’s husband Bill which were dutifully extended by President Obama shortly after the latter took office early in 2009.

The double standard underpinning the frequently recited mantra that Iran is not entitled to obtain nuclear armaments and should be considered a pariah if it wishes to do so is palpable: not only does the U.S. have the world’s most formidable nuclear arsenal; it stands apart from the other members of the coveted nuclear club, having used such weapons to devastating effect against the civilian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

In addition, Israel is believed to have several hundred nuclear warheads and senior Israeli politicians have been repeatedly threatening military action against Iran in recent years. Israel allowed “cursory inspections” of its nuclear facilities once a year between 1962 and 1969, going to great lengths to conceal underground areas of its sites which contained incriminating evidence of the country’s clandestine nuclear weapons programme.[5]

When covertly taken photographs and information regarding Israel’s secret nuclear weapons facilities were released to The Sunday Times in October 1986, Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was kidnapped in Rome before being flown to Israel where he served years in prison, spending longer in solitary confinement than any known prisoner in modern history. Iran, meanwhile, denies categorically that it is seeking to enrich uranium for the purpose of weapon development and maintains that its intentions are purely peaceful.

Tom Kavanagh


[1] Benjamin Netanyahu says Mid-East talks face new delay, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8583589.stm

[2] Hillary Clinton warns Israel faces ‘difficult’ choices, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8579766.stm

[3] Netanyahu reaffirms ‘right to build’ in Jerusalem, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8582190.stm

[4] Obama drops demand that Israel freeze settlements, http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/09/22/us.mideast/index.html

[5] Israel’s Nuclear Weapons, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/cpc-pubs/farr.htm

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The acceleration of the war in Afghanistan by the new administration is well publicised, representing a greater surge in the war against terrorism, with the use of unmanned drones playing an increasing role. What is slightly less known is the use of these technologies in neighbouring Pakistan.

The first Predator was rushed to Afghanistan just four days after September 11th 2001 as part of the U.S.’s remarkably rapid mobilisation. Since then unmanned aircraft have become integral to U.S. efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now increasingly, in Pakistan. Military claims of greater accuracy and technological superiority, together with likely benefits in reducing military casualties, have resulted in drones gradually replacing F-16’s over the battlefield.

The Air Force is currently spending $3 billion a year in procurement and operation of the aircraft, and now holds more than 7000 units in its arsenal.[1] The most commonly used drones are the Predator and the Reaper; both equipped with hellfire missiles and manufactured by General Atomics.[2] Operated from ground bases in either Afghanistan or the United States, pilots have access to multiple computer screens displaying live video feeds, high definition cameras and various other logistical intelligence. These capabilities, according to military analysts, allow pilots to be a lot more accurate in their strikes and reduce civilian casualties.  This claim may possibly explain why the Obama administration has carried out more attacks with the technology in its first ten months than the previous administration did in its last three years.

Since the first U.S. invasion force landed in Afghanistan in late 2001, insurgent forces have sought shelter in the bordering state of Pakistan, particularly in the inaccessible regions of North Waziristan.[3] The issue of preventing raids and attacks from outside the field of war has understandably been a difficult one for coalition forces. Without a remit for war against the Pakistani state, justifying ground force troop deployment has been impossible. Instead, the United States has been forced to use its relations with the government to ensure that the Pakistani military exerts pressure against Al-Qaeda strongholds. This method has had at best, mixed success.

The U.S. therefore simultaneously launched its own covert offensive against Al-Qaeda suspects in Pakistan using drones. The avoidance of ground troops in this programme enables greater detachment from issues of legality, as well as allowing the United States to fluidly adjust the pace of its campaign. Success on this new front has been praised by news outlets for killing scores of militants over the last few months, including 12 in a single attack recently on what was once a religious school. The total estimated death toll runs as high as 700 for this campaign in Pakistan, with many questioning the proportion of these which are connected to Al-Qaeda.

Whilst the government in Pakistan has been co-operating to a certain degree with the United States, the reactions of its citizens has made the relationship difficult. As attacks under the Obama administration have increased, the Pakistani government has increased its demands, both public and private, to the Americans. A surge in attacks at the start of this year lead to public Pakistani pressure for its own drone force to defend against militant incursions.[4] [5] Privately, certain analysts argue that the U.S. has been able to maintain its campaign by adding to its list of suspects, enemies of the Pakistani government.[6]

The inability to confirm such assertions is maintained by the fact that the Pakistan drone offensive is not directed by the U.S. Air Force, but instead by the C.I.A. . As such, the list of suspect targets is confidential, together with the terms of what constitutes a militant target. As the government has also justified its use of force in this region as the only direct method of tackling the militancy, some might also ask where they are gaining the intelligence on which to base their attacks, if not from ground sources.

The attacks are justified under the legal framework of the Bush Administration, which sidestepped the U.S. ban on assassinations. Instead, terrorism was re-classified from a crime, to an extension of war, enabling forces to retaliate to attacks anywhere as a new front in their war on terror.

The C.I.A.’s lack of experience in direct military offensives, together with the ease with which these new aircraft can be piloted, has led to significant outsourcing within their campaign. Some of the practical operations have been assumed by civilian contractors, raising significant questions of legality in the assassinations of foreign nationals.

The drone war in Pakistan certainly represents a novel development in the field of warfare, it remains to be seen whether the costs of subduing suspected militancy outweigh the ‘complications’ of civilian casualties.

Chris Bowles


[1] Drone pilots have a front-row seat on war, from half a world away

http://www.latimes.com/news/nation-and-world/la-fg-drone-crews21-2010feb21,0,5789185,full.story

[2] U.S. drone crashes over Pakistan

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/01/us-drone-goes-down-over-pakistan-again/

[3] U.S. Unleashes Unprecedented Number of Drone Attacks in Pakistan

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,293,583001,00.html

[4] Zardari asks US to transfer drone technology to Pakistan

http://news.rediff.com/report/2010/jan/08/zardari-asks-us-to-give-drones-to-pak-forces.htm

[5] U.S. to supply Pakistan 12 drones

http://www.thehindu.com/2010/01/23/stories/2010012359791000.htm

[6] Jane Mayer on Predator Drones and Pakistan

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2009/10/jane-mayer-predators-drones-pakistan.html

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Last week the Indian government secured Cabinet approval for a new agreement which aims at promoting greater privatisation of agricultural services and increased collaboration between American agribusiness and the Indian farm sector.[1]

The agreement comes as one of a package of six pacts signed between the two countries as part of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).  Most publicised for its focus on counter-terrorism, the MoU also covers issues as diverse as education, health, green development and in this instance, agriculture. Viewed as representative of stronger links between the two nations, Obama has described their growing relationship as, “one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century.”[2] Indeed P.M. Manmohan Singh’s reception in Washington as the first foreign leader hosted as the State Guest by the 10 month old administration acknowledged his country’s heightened significance.

The proposed Indo-U.S. pact on agriculture is intended to widen the opportunities for private investment in the farm-sector and reciprocal trade. The agreement includes a bilateral policy dialogue and agribusiness-to-business collaboration between the two countries. Practically, this will involve assistance in weather forecasting in order to improve crop management and marketing, and food security co-operation. This latter focus will be increasing the quality and quantity of “diversified and fortified foods”. Greater co-operation in technological and expertise exchange through private enterprise and international agribusiness partnerships should allow for modernisation and efficiency benefits in the farm sector. The nature of this technological exchange will be in the form of the commercialised extension of genetically modified foodstuffs.[3]

There have already been those who have raised their concern at these developments.  Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign has argued that although farmers would benefit from enhanced weather prediction models, the MoU will also give the U.S. access to the great genetic diversity ofcrop plants for commercialization in their interests. “The opening of food security policy dialogue is also a matter of concern as it will impose on India the U.S. model of agribusinesses and vertical integration of food chain, impacting diversity and consolidating monopolies,”[4]

These fears appear to be borne out by the one-sided appearance of the agreement. The various arrangements on the subject of agriculture appear to almost exclusively benefit India. The receipt on the part of the farm sector of greater technology, expertise and developmental intelligence is unlikely to come without significant reciprocal exchange. It would be naïve to assume that the donation of such assistance would not be part of a program of investment intended to deliver returns.

The investment by U.S. firms in the Indian farm sector has been growing since the turn of the 21st Century. Monsanto first released its pest-resistant BTCotton in 2002 and both Monsanto and Cargill have been on the board of the U.S.-India Agricultural Knowledge Initiative (AKI) since 2008. The firms have played a strong role in the collection of data on crop performance and the publication of reports on the benefits of GM seeds through the channels of the AKI and state departments.[5]

Despite the distinguished reports coming from official levels, the development of BTCotton in particular appears to have somewhat less success on the ground. Commercial cultivation throughout the six states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu revealed low levels of performance when compared against non-GM strains. The average yield of Bt cotton was found to be lower in all categories of land holdings, whether they were irrigated, good quality soils or poor quality red soils in the rain fed areas. In fact, 60 % of the farmers cultivating Bt cotton were not even able to recover their investment and incurred losses averaging Rs. 80 per acre.[6] Added to this have been reports that prescriptions requiring barriers of non-GM crops surrounding BTCotton fields have been ignored. This may result in insects developing resistance to the anti-pest gene, and hence becoming a greater threat to farmers.

Monsanto has become a name associated in both North America and Europe with the powerful marketing of inefficient and sometimes dangerous crops, and vigorous law-suits against farmers who breach their patents.  Their poor performance history in the Indian market to date will be little to belay fears of a continuation of their domestic commercial practices.

Chris Bowles


[1] http://news.outlookindia.com/item.aspx?670025

[2] http://news.outlookindia.com/item.aspx?670025

[3] http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article112297.ece

[4] http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article112297.ece

[5] http://www.fas.usda.gov/icd/india_knowl_init/AKI_bdmtg6_042008.asp

[6] http://www.genecampaign.org/Publication/Article/BT%20Cotton/Failure_Monsanto-BtCotton.pdf

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22 Executives and Employees in the private military industry were recently arrested under charges of attempting to pay bribes to secure foreign contracts, in a joint US and UK operation.  The FBI claims that the accused attempted to pay a sizeable “commission” to an agent posing as the defence minister of an un-named African country. The various executives were each seeking to win a portion of a lucrative $15m contract to arm the country’s “presidential guard”.[1] The arrests, with the exemption of one, were all made in Las Vegas where the accused were attending the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show and Conference (S.H.O.T. show), billed as “the world’s premier exposition of combined firearms, ammunition, archery, cutlery, outdoor apparel, optics, camping and related products and services.”[2]

Comprising the end of a two-year investigation, the sting itself began just over 6 months earlier on 13th May at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami. A former executive in the military equipment industry acted as the contact through his previous business relations with all the accused. He introduced each of them to FBI agents posing as the foreign minister for an African country, and his sales procurement officer. According to the FBI, all the defendants agreed to pay a 20% commission on a shopping list which included grenade launchers, rifles and ammunition,, despite being told that half of it would go directly to the ‘foreign minister’ .[3]

The 22 individuals were charged in the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) largest investigation and prosecution in history in enforcement of the 1977 Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The law, “prohibits U.S. persons and companies, and foreign persons and companies acting in the United States, from bribing foreign government officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business.”[4]

American pro-gun groups and lobbyists have attacked the move, claiming that it represents an offensive against gun owners. The anti-government website Prison Planet features an article titled “Obama Justice Department Decapitates Gun Industry” which laments, “Since the election of Obama the main question for gun owners has been, ‘when will Obama come after the guns’? It looks like that question has been answered!”[5] Despite the fact that the action focused on foreign trade, rather than domestic transactions, some believe that this is simply a further attempt by the Obama administration to stifle the US gun industry. That the embarrassment caused by the arrests was as a direct result of alleged illegal corrupt practices may not be enough to satisfy some.

The investigation has been lauded as one of the first of its kind in involving international co-operation to target corporate bribery. However, although the investigation did involve one executive from Smith & Wesson, and one sales-agent from the UK, the prosecutions were largely confined to smaller US firms.[6] The investigation significantly did not involve the bigger international defense giants such as Lockheed, Boeing and BAE who have previously been embroiled in sizeable corruption scandals, and who are all involved in military supply contracts to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The FBI investigation comes at a time of business expansion in both these regions, with international figures such as the UK’s Lord Mandelson urging, “companies to ‘seize the opportunity’ of investing in Iraq.”[7] The British Business Secretary recently embarked on a trade mission to the country with representatives of 23 British companies, including Rolls Royce, BP and Shell and encouraged UK defense firms to bid harder for contracts (some of which have already been as large as $300m). With competition between firms in this lucrative market growing, together with the notorious corruption records of both countries, the DoJ should not relax after its success.

Chris Bowles


[1] http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/21/headlines

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/business/21sting.html

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/21/business/21sting.html

[4] http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/January/10-crm-048.html

[5] http://www.prisonplanet.com/obama-justice-department-decapitates-gun-industry-fbi-arrest-21-gun-industry-executives-in-las-vegas-to-attend-gun-show.html

[6] http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2010/January/10-crm-048.html

[7] http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/iraq/2009/04/iraq-090407-irna01.htm

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In the last hours of 2009 a US judge dismissed all charges against 5 Blackwater employees held in connection with the Nisoor Square masacre in September 2007. The case centred on claims that guards from the private security firm shot at random at unarmed civilians as their convoy passed a junction, killing 17 and injuring dozens more. The firm, which has changed its operating name to Xe services, argues that their employees we’re responding to an ambush by insurgents.

The case has acted as a focusing point for Iraqi resentment at the presence and immunity of private security contractors within the country. Many civilians claim that their behaviour has long been conducted with a disregard for Iraqi sovereignty, and that this recent victory for Blackwater’s defence highlights the impression that they are able to operate free from prosecution. Five of the six men charged in the case have been released while the fate of a sixth remains unclear due to his guilty plea.

Blackwater is one of the largest and most controversial of the private contractors operating with the Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although it has been formerly banned from Iraq by the national government, expectations that private staff will soon comprise 50% of armed forces capacity in Afghanistan will likely lead to further growth of its operations. The practice of contracting private firms for security and the protection of expatriates was hugely accelerated after 9/11, but has since seen employees embroiled in numerous cases regarding human rights and improper conduct.

During the Abu Ghraib investigations it was found that more than a third of the guards involved in abuse were employees of Blackwater. Following the Nisoor Square masacre, a 2007 House of Representatives report on the conduct of the company found several more issues. This House Oversight and Government Reform Committee found that between 2005 and 2007 there had been 195 reported incidents in which employees had fired weapons. Despite its legal remit to use only defensive force in the protection of State Department officials, it was found that in 80% of the cases Blackwater guards had fired first (often from a moving vehicle). Their reputation for over-zealous force was not assisted by further revelations that 122 people from their 800 strong operating capacity in Iraq had been fired from employment, due mostly to weapons-related incidents and substance abuse. Xe Services claims this figure represents its firm commitment to the highest standards within its workforce.

In the case brought by the Justice Department against the 6 employees, the judge dismissed the case on the grounds of improper practice, claiming that their prosecution was, “contradictory, unbelievable and lacking in credibility”. District Judge Ricardo Urbina pointed to flaws in the collection and presentation of evidence. Sworn testimonies were collected from all 6 of the accused under specific terms from the State Department. These were obtained after threatening the men’s employment if they chose not to co-operate and under the formal understanding that they could not be used in legal proceedings. As government contractors, the guards were obligated to give an immediate report to State Department officials, but since the Constitution prevents the government from requiring a defendant to testify against himself, these statements could not be used in a prosecution.

It was on these grounds that Urbina dismissed the case, citing the fact that the testimonies had been used to obtain warrants, been presented to the jury, and had been leaked to witnesses. He was able to crush the case before trial without any reference to its merits from a criminal perspective. Although the Justice Department has 90-days from the date of dismissal to appeal the decision, they are unlikely to seek this. Due to the fact that the indictments sought by the department were so heavily dependent on information gained from the forced testimonies, it will prove difficult to pursue their case without them.

Iraqis and many human rights organisations have accused the U.S. justice system of deliberately avoiding an opportunity to secure accountability in its operations. Many argue that this ‘surprise’ action by Judge Urbina is reflective of the U.S.’s wish to avoid bringing its actions into public focus.

However the flaws in the Justice Department’s case have led others to question the practice of the prosecution. The errors made in the collection and handling of evidence should have meant that Urbina’s decision on December 31st came as no surpise. These errors, unacceptable under even normal legal practice, become more pronounced after claims that prosecutors ignored advice from senior department lawyers. These officials in the “taint team” warned the prosecution about the serious legal issues in their case, yet to no avail. Attorney Kenneth C. Kohl, who led the prosecution, has over 20 years experience and would have been expected to have foreseen the issues arising from the accuser’s testimonies.

Critiques of the Justice Department case claim that prosecution lawyers knowingly and deliberately sabotaged their own case in order to protect a politically sensitive issue from gaining legal examination. In his final assessment of the case, Judge Urbina himself provides perhaps the most damning indictment from this perspective:

“The only conclusion the court can draw from this evidence is that Kohl and the rest of the trial team purposefully flouted the advice of the taint team when obtaining the substance of the defendants’ compelled statements, and in so doing, knowingly endangered the viability of the prosecution.”

 

 

Chris Bowles

 

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A human skull and two large bones owned by the secretive Skull and Bones society based at the prestigious Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut are expected to fetch up to US$20,000 when they go on offer at Christie’s auction house in New York later this month.

Along with this memorabilia, the lot also contains a small black book containing the names of Skull and Bones members or “Bonesmen” up until 1971. The auction house states that the collection of articles “provides a rare glimpse into the society which has been linked to many influential figures and leaders at Yale University and in this country”[1]

The elite society selects 15 members for entry every year from among Yale’s students, and remained exclusively male until 1991. CBS’s 60 Minutes notes that the secret society’s membership list includes “some of the most powerful men of the 20th century… and has included presidents, cabinet officers, spies, Supreme Court justices, captains of industry, and often their sons and lately their daughters”, calling the secret society, “a social and political network like no other.”[2]

Both the former President George W. Bush and his Democratic rival in the 2004 presidential election, Massachusetts senator John F. Kerry are Skull and Bones members, and Bush and Kerry were both asked about their membership during the 2004 campaign by the late Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Russert remarked to Bush “You were both in Skull and Bones, the secret society”, to which Bush retorted “It’s so secret we can’t talk about it”[3], before stammering awkwardly when probed on the significance of the two candidates’ societal connection. Bush selected fellow Skull and Bones member and Nixon-era Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs William Donaldson as head of the Securities & Exchange Commission in early 2003.

When Kerry appeared on the programme a few months earlier, Russert had asked him “You were both members of Skull and Bones the secret society at Yale, what does that tell us?”, with the Democratic candidate replying “Uhh… Not much ‘cause it’s a secret”. Russert continued, “Is there a secret handshake? Is there a secret code?… 322, a secret number?”. Kerry evaded the question, replying, “Ahh there are all kinds of secrets, but one thing is not a secret, I disagree with this president’s direction that he’s taking the country, we can do a better job and I intend to do it.”[4]

Tim Russert fared better than student Andrew Mayer who was dragged to the ground by 6 police officers and tasered for asking Kerry a similar question relating to his Skull and Bones membership in September 2007 at the University of Florida[5]. Mayer was seized upon by police to applause from the audience immediately after he brought up Kerry’s connections to the Yale-based secret society, having already asked Kerry about why he refused to contest the 2004 election result despite evidence of disenfranchisement of black and Latino voters and widespread electoral fraud in several states. Mayer was subsequently arrested, having been tasered as he lay on the ground, surrounded by police officers[6].

Skull and Bones selects its annual intake of 15 members every year from Yale’s student body as part of Yale University’s “Tap Day”. Members meet every Thursday and Sunday evening in their final year of college[7], before becoming patriarchs of the society and lifetime members when they graduate. The headquarters of the society, based on the Yale University campus, are known as The Tomb.

Skull and Bones is, according to Christie’s, “thought by many to be one of the oldest and most prestigious secret societies in the United States”, with its reputation attributable to the names who have been initiated since the society’s foundation in 1832. In addition to George H.W. Bush and son, prominent Democratic politician, banker and businessman W. Averell Harriman, son of railroad tycoon E H Harriman, was a Bonesman, as was former CEO of the H. J. Heinz Company, Henry John Heinz II.

Both of George W. Bush’s grandfathers, George Herbert Walker and Prescott Bush, were also Skull and Bones members, and Prescott is a particularly polemic figure due to his involvement as “director and shareholder of companies that profited from their involvement with the financial backers of Nazi Germany”. Prescott Bush was a director of Union Banking Corporation which represented the U.S.-based interests of German industrialist and early Nazi supporter Fritz Thyssen, and continued in this position even after the United States entered the war against Germany[8].

Prescott also worked for Brown Brothers Harriman, the oldest privately owned bank in the United States and the world’s largest private investment bank at the time. He had been an initial partner of BBH along with fellow Skull and Bones member W. Averell Harriman, who served as a Senior Partner of the bank. Brown Brothers Harriman’s assets and assets belonging to other companies held by the bank, including Union Banking Corporation, were seized by the United States government under the Trading with the Enemy Act in late 1942. In December 2003, the Anti Defamation League issued a press release defending Prescott Bush and calling the accusations made against him for his involvement in financing Nazi Germany, “untenable and politically motivated”[9].

Prescott Bush, a vocal supporter of population control groups The American Birth Control League and Planned Parenthood, serving as treasurer for the latter, would go on to become a Republican senator, representing the state of Connecticut for over ten years until January 1963. The controversy surrounding the grandfather of Barack Obama’s predecessor is not limited to his extensive Nazi connections, however.

In June 2009 Obama’s government asked the Justice Department to dismiss a lawsuit brought by descendants of famous Native American Apache warrior Geronimo, whose remains were stolen from his tomb in 1918 or 1919, reportedly by a group of Skull and Bones members which included Prescott Bush[10]. Proceedings were filed against President Barack Obama, Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and Secretary of the Army Peter Geren in their capacity as federal officials in February of 2009. Yale University and the Skull and Bones Society were also named as defendants in the suit.

The descendants of Geronimo, who was buried in Oklahoma in 1909, wish to bury him in his native land – located in the state of New Mexico. The lawsuit alleges violations of a 1990 law designed to protect the right of Native Americans to their family members’ remains. It is alleged that bones stolen from Geronimo’s resting place have been kept in the secret society’s Yale University headquarters. The government of Barack Obama has countered that it has sovereign immunity from prosecution under the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act.

Tom Kavanagh


[1] A SKULL-AND-BONES BALLOT BOX, http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?intObjectID=5286778

[2]Skull And Bones – 60 Minutes – CBS, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/10/02/60minutes/main576332.shtml

[3]Bush Admits Skull and Bones, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiisokDGbfA

[4] John Kerry Admits Skull and Bones Membership, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yOF713wOD4&feature=related

[5] Student hit with Taser at John Kerry speech, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1563486/Student-hit-with-Taser-at-John-Kerry-speech.html

[6]University of Florida student Tasered at Kerry forum,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bVa6jn4rpE

[7]The evolution of Tap Night, http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/features/2009/04/17/the-evolution-of-tap-night/

[8] How Bush’s grandfather helped Hitler’s rise to power, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworldwar

[9] Prescott Bush’s Alleged Nazi “Ties”, http://www.adl.org/Internet_Rumors/prescott.htm

[10] US seeks to stop Geronimo lawsuit, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8112051.stm

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The government of the United States has announced it will seek the death penalty for alleged 9/11 conspirators due to be put on trial in New York city. Among the five Guantanamo detainees due to be transferred to the site of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre is the “self-confessed mastermind of the September 11th attacks”, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, according to The Guardian1.

President Obama affirmed that he is “absolutely convinced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be subjected to the most exacting demands of justice. The American people insist on it, and my administration insists on it”.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who has been held in legal limbo at the United States’ Guantánamo Bay prison on the island of Cuba since his capture in March of 2003, has been subjected to indefinite detention without trial and prolonged periods in solitary confinement in violation of both the U.S. Constitution and internationally accepted standards covering imprisonment.

The New York Times reported in April 2009 that a 2005 Justice Department legal memorandum revealed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been subjected to waterboarding 183 (one hundred and eighty three) times in just one month – March of 20032. The memorandum did not mention whether or not Mohammed had been subsequently subjected to additional waterboarding, although the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”, a term favoured by key members of the Bush administration as an alternative to “torture”, is widely acknowledged to be prevalent at Guantánamo Bay.

The New York Times evidently does not see the irony in confirming that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed endured simulated drowning 183 times in one month – equating to more than five times each day – before referring to him as “the self-described planner of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks” in the very same paragraph.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who made the announcement that the death penalty would be sought in the civilian trial of Mohammed and four others, said of the decision to bring the suspects to New York to face trial, “Today’s announcement marks a significant step forward in our efforts to close Guantánamo and to bring to justice those individuals who have conspired to attack our nation and our interests abroad”3. The reference to U.S. “interests abroad” is an apparent reference to Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, due to be tried for the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen.

Al-Nashiri, however, will not stand trial with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and will instead be tried by military commission. This controversial practice, introduced by the Bush administration in November of 2001 before being reintroduced as the Military Commissions Act in 2006, allows for trial in complete secrecy by a panel of judges appointed by the executive branch, followed by execution if a guilty verdict is passed. Barack Obama provoked outrage in May of 2009 when he clarified that he “supports the idea of the military commissions but opposes the version of the law that had been governing such trials in recent years”4.

Following the passage of the Act in 2006, The Center for Constitutional Rights observed that, “[a]mong other shortcomings”, the Military Commissions Act, “rejects the right to a speedy trial, allows a trial to continue in the absence of the accused, delegates the procedure for appointing military judges to the discretion of the Secretary of Defense, allows for the introduction of coerced evidence at hearings, permits the introduction of hearsay and evidence obtained without a warrant, and denies the accused full access to exculpatory evidence”5.

Remarkably, The New York Times and other prominent newspapers have characterised the announcement that some of those to face trial would be tried in civilian courts as a “major policy shift from the Bush administration, which contended that suspected Al Qaeda members should not be treated like — nor given the rights of — ordinary criminals”6.

Such a statement by no means sets The New York Times apart from other mainstream media outlets and is extremely misleading, belying the fact that, as reported in the same article, the Obama administration is in reality preserving and endorsing the previous administration’s contentious policy of trying “terror suspects” in secret by military tribunal. Quite how such a blatant continuation of a policy widely derided as inhumane and in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution constitutes a “major shift” from the Bush doctrine on terrorism stretches the limits of credibility.

Geoffrey Robertson, writing in the Comment is Free section of The Guardian‘s website under the heading “A nobler, trickier path to justice for 9/11”, states that “This is a trial that must be seen to be fair… Much will depend on the choice of judge, who must be conspicuously independent and of sufficient steel to reject evidence obtained by torture – there is no doubt that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has been waterboarded”7.

Robertson goes on to remark that “Obama has taken the more difficult, but more principled, path”, before directly contradicting himself in the very next paragraph by stating that “It is regrettable that the non-9/11 defendants still in Guantánamo are to face military trial… If jury trials are appropriate for the 9/11 conspirators, then they should be afforded to all prisoners whom American prosecutors wish to execute or to incarcerate for the term of their natural life.”

What is truly regrettable is that such obvious double standards dominate the mainstream press’ coverage of last week’s announcements regarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his fellow co-defendants. It is an astoundingly callous display of bravado on the part of an administration which consistently parades itself as an alternative to the human rights abuses and civil rights erosions perpetrated by its predecessor to pursue the death penalty for a man who has admittedly been repeatedly tortured in order to extract from him a confession of guilt.

Furthermore, Obama & Co.’s decision to preserve the abhorrent practice of trial by secret military tribunal is lamentable, and does little to assuage the concerns of those who see his administration as distinct from that of George W. Bush in terms of nothing but rhetoric. This trial will also bring us no closer to understanding who is really responsible for what happened on September 11th 2001; even if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and all who stand charged alongside him are convicted and put to death it will be obvious to anyone who bothers to take more than a passing interest that justice has not been done and that Obama is merely carrying on where his predecessor left off.

Tom Kavanagh

19/11 accused Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to be tried in New York court, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/13/911-accused-new-york-trial

2Waterboarding Used 266 Times on 2 Suspects, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/20/world/20detain.html?_r=2&hp

3Accused 9/11 Mastermind to Face Civilian Trial in N.Y., http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/14/us/14terror.html

4Obama resurrects military trials for terror suspects, http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/05/14/obama.military.tribunal/index.html

6Accused 9/11 Mastermind to Face Civilian Trial in N.Y., http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/14/us/14terror.html

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  It was announced last night that 6 Chinese nationals landed in the Pacific territory of Palau to settle in their new home. The 6 are part of a total group of 17 Chinese held in Guantanamo bay since 2001.[1]  From the far western, largely Muslim, province of Xinjiang, the men were captured by bounty hunters after reportedly fleeing repression. Initially travelling to Afghanistan, where American sources claim they received terrorist training, they attempted to move into Pakistan when the war began and were handed over to coalition forces.[2]

  Despite being held in the detention centre since 2001, no charges have been passed against the men, and their innocence has been confirmed by various bodies. As early as 2003, the Pentagon quietly decided that the men posed no risk to the U.S. and their classification as ‘enemy combatants’ was inaccurate. Five of the men were found to have merely been, ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time,’ and entirely innocent, whilst the other 12 were alleged to have sought weapons to fight the Chinese government.[3] It should be noted that even the charges against these 12 have been denied by all of them and judgements have never been passed against them.

  Although top U.S. officials realised 6 years ago that the men could viably be released, it was not until June of this year that the first of the group left the detention centre. The men testified that they refused a Chinese delegation to Guantanamo Bay which sought to repatriate and imprison them. These claims are borne out by reports from U.S. officials who claimed that to return the men would be to risk their torture or even execution. [4] Instead they have languished in prison, enduring the same standards applied to other suspects including being chained to the floor with shackles.[5]

  The plight of the men had become an embarrassing element to the continuing saga of the controversial camp for a number of years. State Department officials had reportedly begun as early as 2003 to search for an appropriate country willing to receive the men. Events took a more sudden turn in late 2008 when a Washington court ruled that the men should be brought in to the U.S. so they could be formally released on U.S. soil.[6] The release of a party of innocent men, held for 7 years in the nation’s capital was an understandably embarrassing prospect.  The Justice Department of the Bush Administration filed emergency requests overnight to revoke the order, claiming that the court did not have the right to admit aliens.[7] The appeal was granted, ignoring the fact that the Justice Department is the only party with the authority to allow entry for trial.

  In February of this year, the case took a more disappointing turn, when the appeal was heard a Federal Appeals Court. The 3 judge team found in a 2:1 majority that there was, ‘no legal or constitutional authority,’ for the immediate release of the men, even though they were, ‘unlawfully detained.’ That such a legal loophole can be conveniently created, is testament to the desperation of the U.S. authorities to avoid embarrassment to their counterterrorist operations. The men have continued to suffer from a smear campaign in both public and press spheres. Despite official reports confirming their innocence, the government continued to criticize their prospective freedom as a threat to national security.[8] Other flimsy arguments have been contrived including the claim that the re-offending of other released prisoners undermines the Chinese group’s alleged innocence.[9]

  In June 2009 Bermuda’s Prime Minister Ewart Brown agreed to take some of the men temporarily before they could be found a more permanent home.[10] Even for this modest concession, he was forced to stand against the UK government. As a crown dependency, whose foreign policy falls to UK authority, Bermuda was operating unconstitutionally. Especially since the UK had refused entry for the Chinese nationals within Britain.

  The location of Palau as a possible final home for the men seems slightly more hopeful. The territory is one of only a handful of countries around the world which still refuse to recognise China (instead recognizing Taiwan).[11] As such their offer of refuge to the men will give them a political victory, and hopefully an incentive to maintain their safety. This may finally end the embarrassing story for U.S. officials and provide the men with an opportunity to recover their lives.

 Chris Bowles


[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/01/uighurs-guantanamo-palau

[2] http://edition.cnn.com/2009/US/02/18/gitmo.detainees/index.html

[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/23/AR2005082301362.html

[4] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/01/guantanamo-china

[5] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/23/AR2005082301362.html

[6] http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/10/08/court.chinese.muslims/index.html

[7] http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/10/08/court.chinese.muslims/index.html

[8] http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/10/08/court.chinese.muslims/index.html

[9] http://edition.cnn.com/2009/US/02/18/gitmo.detainees/index.html

[10] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jun/11/guantanamo-detainees-china-demands-return

[11] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/01/uighurs-guantanamo-palau

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