Former Guantanamo Detainee Exposes MI5 Role in Rendition

The Confession: The Story of Moazzam Begg

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

In this horrifying documentary, Moazzam Begg, who spent a year at Bagram prison and two ears at Guantanamo relates the history of his kidnapping and rendition from Islamabad (Pakistan), his rape and torture in both prisons, his release without charge in 2005 and his ongoing demonization by Islamophobic police, MI5 agents and British media.

Begg, the son of Pakistani immigrants, was born and grew up in the UK (Birmingham). After several beatings by skinheads, he paid a visit to Bosnia, where foreign Islamic fighters were supporting local Muslims during the NATO war against Yugoslavia. A short time later, he quit his job to open an Islamic bookshop in Birmingham. It was at this point he began to have regular contacts with an MI5 agent named Andrew.

In mid-2001, he was arrested under the Terrorism act, and British police raided his home and bookshop. The charges were dropped, and following his release, he moved his wife and three children to Afghanistan, which at that point was ruled by the Taliban.

Following the US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11, he and his family fled to Islamabad. On Jan 21, 2002, a group of English-speaking men came to his home, kidnapped him and flew him to Kandahar prison in Afghanistan. There, after being threatened with rendition to Syria or Egypt for further torture and/or summary execution, he signed a confession admitting to membership in Al Qaeda. He reasoned that signing it would keep him alive long enough to stand trial.

Following the US invasion of Iraq, he was transferred to Bagram prison and from there to Guantanamo.

After his January 2005 release, he was briefly in custody in the UK and released without trial. It took three years to get his passport back. He then traveled to Egypt, Tunis, Libya and Turkey seeking further evidence of the US/UK rendition program. Under this process,  Muslim intellectuals were routinely kidnapped and “rendered” to totalitarian regimes (mainly Libya, Syria and Egypt), where they were tortured and forced to confess to Al Qaeda-related crimes.

In 2014, British police arrested him for the third time and he spent seven months in Belmarsh prison on a charge of training Syrian rebels and supplying them with an electrical generator. The case collapsed for lack of evidence. He believes this arrest stemmed from pure MI5 maliciousness for his efforts to expose their role in rendition and torture.

The video can’t be embedded for copyright reasons but can be viewed free at Confession: Story of Moazzim Begg

 

 

The Rohyngya Crisis: Is Myanmar the New Syria?

For nearly a year now, the western media has been flooding us with images of Muslim Rohingya fleeing Rakhine state in Myanmar. Since October 2017, an estimated 700,000 (roughly half the Rohingya population) have fled into Bangladesh where they live in primitive refugee camps or in the open air on the roadside. Most of are women fleeing the Myanmar army, which has been burning their villages, gang raping them, killing their husbands and, in some cases, their children. Since 2016, some of the 700,000 Rohingya who remain in Myanmar having been living in camps (some under military force – others voluntarily for protection from Buddhist vigilantes).

We read occasional vague references to the current “civil war” in Rakhine state. And listen to hysterical rants by Amnesty Internationali spokespeople condemning Myanmar president Aung San Suu Kyi for her failure to speak out against the army’s brutal treatment of Rohingya Muslims. AI is also calling for Burmese leaders in the International Criminal Court – which is impossible as Myanmar isn’t an ICC member.

Is a New Proxy War Brewing in Myanmar?

In most cases, the western media tells us virtually nothing about the civil war that is the root cause of the current Rohingya refugee crisis. Why not? In exploring non-western media accounts, I get the uncomfortable inkling I am witnessing a burgeoning proxy war in Myanmar, similar to the civil war in Syria, with Saudi Arabia and possibly other US client states supporting the Rohingya rebels. Obviously this background in no way justifies recent terrorism by the Myanmar army against Rohingya civilians. At the same time, the world is growing weary of the US and their allies using human rights violations as justification for military intervention. In Myanmar, as in Syria, the only sustainable solution is a political settlement, ie an international agreement that protects Rohyngya autonomy and human rights while ending interference by foreign players.

Myanmar’s 70-Year Civil War

The current Rohyngya crisis was triggered in August 2017 when the Arakanii Army (AA) and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a new extremist group, launched a concerted attack on Myanmar army and police. The government of Myanmar has been fighting armed Rohingya separatists since it first won independence in 1948. During World War II when Japan occupied Burma, local Buddhists supported the Axis forces and the Bengali Muslims remained loyal to the British crown. Tens of thousands died during mass mutual reprisals. As Burma negotiated independence from the UK, Muslims in northern Arakan appealed to East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to annex this area. When the both Burmese independence hero Aung San and Pakistan’s founder Muhammed Ali Jinnaha rejected this appeal, Arakan Muslims launched a mujahideen insurgency

Simultaneously fighting communist and ethnic insurgencies among the Karensiii, the Kachensiv and other marginalized groups, the Burmese army could only control major cities and towns in Arakan. The mujahideen controlled large parts of rural Arakan, leading many Buddhist villagers to flee to the southern part of the state.

It wasn’t until late 1954 that the last mujahideen camps fell to the Burmese army, with most insurgents retreating into East Pakistan. The Burma/East Pakistan (Bangladesh) border has always been extremely porous (like the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan) with Rohingya militants moving in and out of northern Burma to launch attacks on police and army outposts.

Two years after Burma’s 1962 military coup, Muslim youth from rural Arakan formed an underground movement called the Rohingya Independence Force (RIF). In 1998 various RIF factions united to form the Arakan Roningya National Organization (ARNO). It was at this point they began receiving financial and material support from the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), which operates out of Saudi Arabia.

The Rise of the Arakan Army

The 2004 downfall of Prime Minister Kihn Nunt and the collapse of his military intelligence network would result, in 2012, in the emergence of the Arakan Army (AA). Recruiting Rakhine laborers working in Phakant jade plants in Kachine state, the AA agreed to open a new western front in Rakhine state when the ceasefire between the Myanmar military and the Kachine Independence Army (KIA) broke down in 2013, Between March 2015 and April 2016, the AA killed 13 Myanmar troops, which, in turn, captured 57 AA troops.

At present, the government estimates there are 300 AA and ARSA troops operating along the Myanmar-India-Bangladesh border and another 200 fighting with the KIA. They enjoy strong support from the civilian population. Rohingya refugees describe young villagers picking up clubs, knives and sticks to join attacks against Myanmar police and military.

Saudi Support and the Methamphetamine Trade

According to the Muslim World League website, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to support the Rohingya with financial and material support. According to International Crisis Group, Rohingya separatists also get major financial support from wealthy Rohingya refugees living in Saudi Arabia.

Rohingya militants also seem to be involved in methamphetamine smuggling, with the army seizing 26.7 million meth tabs from suspected militants in 2015 and 37.7 million tablets in 2017. There are also concerns they may have links with the Pakistani Taliban and possibly Islamic State militants.


i Amnesty International is increasingly playing a cheerleading role for US military intervention in Syria and non-aligned countries exhibiting “human rights” violations. See Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War . . . Again

ii Arakan (now known as Rakhine state) is a historic region bordering the Bay of Bengal to its west, Bangladesh to its north and Myanmar to its east.

iii The Karen, Kayin, Kariang or Yang people encompass a number of individual Sino-Tibetan language speaking ethnic groups, many of which do not share a common language or culture. These Karen groups reside primarily in Karen State, in southern and southeastern Myanmar.

iv The Kachins are a coalition of six tribes whose homeland encompasses territory in Yunnan, China, Northeast India and Kachin State in Myanmar.

I originally published this article in OpEd News

(Image by Tasnim News Agency [CC BY 4.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Pipelinestan: The Taliban, Unocal and 9-11

Taliban Oil

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

Taliban Oil is a documentary about secret negotiations between Unocal and the Taliban to build a pipeline transporting natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India – via Afghanistan. It features interviews with the former president of Unocal (who entertained Taliban leaders in his home in Sugarland Texas), a female Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) operative who lost her security clearance for a report warning the Clinton administration for a against US collaboration with the Taliban.

This film contradicts the conventional wisdom that the US invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban refused to build the Unocal pipeline. Filmmakers maintain it was Unocal who canceled the pipeline project. Already by the late nineties, Afghanistan was suffering the ravages of a 20-years of civil war – the Taliban were extremely keen to use the $400 million/year transit fees for reconstruction. The Clinton administration was also heavily promoting the pipeline deal, arranging for Taliban leaders to meet with the State Department, CIA and NSA.

Unocal reportedly withdrew from the deal in 1998, after suicide bombers blew up US embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania. Clinton blamed the suicide bombing on Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden, who was operating jihadist training camps in Afghanistan.

In addition to attacking various training camps with cruise missiles, Clinton made 30 separate requests for the Taliban to extradite bin Laden to the US. Although supreme Taliban leader Mullah Omar opposed the training camps, bin Laden was a national hero for his role in expelling the Soviets. It would have brought great shame on the Taliban leadership to hand him over to the Americans. .

In 2001 George W Bush and Dick Cheney reiterated the requests for bin Laden’s extradition, while simultaneously making deals for their own petroleum companies to build the pipeline.

Rejecting the Taliban’s offer to expel bin Laden to a third country, in summer 2001 the Bush administration made plans to invade Afghanistan in mid-autumn. One source* quoted in the film states the jihadists were aware of the impending attack and decided to launch a preemptive strike on the Twin Towers.


*For documentation filmmakers provide an old YouTube clip from Adam Gaddan, the Jewish-born “American” al-Qaeda spokesperson. Gaddan has long been suspected of either Israeli or US intelligence links.

Has Democracy Failed Women?

 

Has Democracy Failed Women?

by Drude Dahlerup (2018)

Book Review

This book challenges conventional wisdom that Greece was the birthplace of democracy, as it totally excluded women from participation in the political process.

Has Democracy Failed Women? starts with a brief review of women’s long difficult battle for the right to vote. New Zealand was the first to grant women a vote in national elections in 1893. Other English-speaking countries, including Britain, enacted women’s suffrage following World War I. Catholic countries, including France, Italy, Chile and Argentina waited till World War II ended. It was 1971 before women could vote in national elections in Switzerland.

It’s well established that democratic assemblies with inadequate female representation, are incapable of addressing the continuing oppression women experience under capitalism.* Yet more the 100 years after first receiving the right to vote, women (who comprise 52% of the population) are still denied full representation in the institutions of power. In the West, only two parliaments have granted women full parity (40-60% representation). In the global South, only Rwanda and Bolivia have as many women as men in their assemblies.

Dallerup blames the “secret garden of politics,” the failure of most political parties to select candidates in a transparent or democratic process, for women’s failure to receive fair representation in government. In most places, party officials limit their candidate pools to well-established old boy networks.

In general, only countries with Proportional Representation (see The Case for Proportional Representation) are likely to achieve more than 25% female representation in their national governing bodies. Countries (like the US, UK and Canada) employing a Plurality/Majority (winner- takes-all) voting system based on geographic districts have the most difficulty achieving adequate female representation. In these countries, a woman usually has to defeat a male incumbent to win a seat.

I was very surprised to learn that 57% percent of countries have achieved better female representation by imposing gender quotas. Pakistan was the first in 1956 (though they have subsequently rescinded the quota), Bangladesh in 1972 and Egypt in 1979. Scandinavian countries took a big step towards gender parity via voluntary party quotas

As of 2015, only three countries had no women at all in government: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Trump has only two female cabinet members, the lowest since the 1970s.

In an era in which the power of elected assemblies is being systematically eroded by multinational corporations, Dallerup feels it’s also really important to ensure strong female representation on corporate boards and the regional and international bodies they control. Spain, Iceland, Belgium, France, Germany, India and Norway all have laws requiring a minimum of 40% representation on corporate boards (a move consistently linked with higher profits.


*Interventions Dallerup views as essential to ending women’s inequality and oppression include

  • redistribution of money and resources, eg to single mothers for maternity care and maternity leave
  • actions against the feminization of poverty
  • public services: care for children, the elderly and disabled
  • housing and public transportation
  • an independent judiciary without with gender biases; intervention against domestic violence; anti-discrimination regulations, ie on equal pay and equal treatment; and affirmation action (ie gender quotas)
  • support for men’s role as caregivers, eg paternity leave
  • protection from sexual violence and harassment in peace and war and the inclusion of women in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconciliation

Also published in Dissident Voice

Israel’s Secret 40-year War with Iran

The Secret with Iran: The 30-Year Covert Struggle for Control of a “Rogue” State

by Ronen Bergman

Translated by Ronnie Hope

Oneworld (2009)

Book Review

This is a very depressing book. The “secret war” referred to is the covert war Israeli intelligence has fought with Iran over the last [40] years. Most of The Secret War with Iran is an endless chronology of lawless tit-for-tat revenge killings, car bombings, kidnappings and extrajudicial assassinations Israeli intelligence and Hezbollah* impose on one another.

While most of the narrative seems historically accurate, the author’s clear pro-Zionist bias results in a number of troubling inconsistencies. Examples include persistent claims about Iran’s mythical nuclear weapons arsenal – despite verification by US intelligence (see Iran Doesn’t Have a Nuclear Weapons Program) that their nuclear weapons program ceased in 2003; a clear attempt to minimize the role of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine in generating and perpetuating Middle East violence; repeated claims that Iran (rather than Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the CIA) was the key player in the birth of Al Qaeda; and an erroneous assertion that Saddam Hussein expelled UN nuclear inspectors in 1998 (Bill Clinton had them recalled so he could bomb Iraq – see Clinton’s Worst Crimes).

Despite these weaknesses, the book provides valuable insight about the Israeli origin of Iran bashing recently taken up by Trump and the Republican Congress. The book also contains important historical background on Ruhollah Khomeini and the 1979 Iranian revolution to overthrow the ruthless CIA-backed Shah. Prior to reading this book, I was unaware of the role Yassar Arafat and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) played in training Iran’s Revolutionary Guards nor the role of Iran in training, arming and funding Hezbollah, the Shi’ite militia group operating on the Israeli border in southern Lebanon.

After 1948 when the new state of Israel forcibly evicted millions of Palestinians from their lands, a sizeable proportion fled to southern Lebanon where they’re housed in refuge camps to this day. It was these camps that gave rise to the PLO.

After their UN-mandated expulsion from Lebanon in 1987, many PLO fighter returned to Palestine – where they launched the first Intifada.


*Hezbollah is a Shi’ite Islamist political party and milita group based in Lebanon. They enjoy strong support from Lebanon’s civilian population owing to their programs offering health, education and social services the Lebanese government is too poor to provide.

The Invisible War in Kashmir

Kashmir: Born to Fight

Al Jazeera (2017)

Kashmir, a majority Muslim state, has been demanding independence from India since the late 1980s. They were promised a referendum on independence in 1947, when India was first divided from Pakistan. After 70 years, they’re still waiting.

The majority of Kashmiri seek full independence, though some seek unification with Pakistan.

The region is currently under Indian military occupation (Kashmir is the most militarized region in the world) and virtual martial law. Kashmir’ civilian population is routinely subjected to rape, torture, extrajudicial killings, raids on civil homes and the shutdown of local newspapers.

This documentary profiles a 13 year girl who was arbitrarily beaten and blinded after being shot by Indian security forces. Their brutality against women, children and the elderly is having a clear radicalizing effect on young Kashmiri males.

The End of Oil

end-of-oil

The End of Oil

by Paul Roberts

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (20014)

Book Review

Although fourteen years old, The End of Oil offers an invaluable historical analysis about the absolute link between cheap fossil fuels and the development of industrial capitalism. Roberts starts his analysis with the first century Persians who first distilled surface petroleum for use as lamp fuel. According to Roberts, widespread use of oil as a fuel was impossible until drill technology became available in the 19th century to drill for it at deep levels.

Roberts identifies coal mining as the first really capital intensive industry requiring extensive external funding. Building the infrastructure to mine and process all three fossil fuels is always extremely capital intensive. The fact that a coal or gas-fired power plant takes three or four decades to pay off is one of the main reasons fossil fuel companies, and the banks and governments that subsidize them, are so reluctant to replace them with renewable energy infrastructure. The End of Oil also emphasizes the absolute importance of cheap fossil fuel to the economic health of industrialized countries, Between1945 and 2004 (when the book was published), there were six big spikes in the price of oil – each was accompanies by a major economic recession.

Roberts maintains the cheap, easily accessible oil is all used up, explaining its steady price increase since the late 70s. Russian oil, which is fairly costly to mine, only became economically viable when the price of oil hit $35 a barrel in 1980.

Prior to the final chapters, which review the economics of various forms of renewal energy, the book also discusses the geopolitics of oil. Roberts leaves absolutely no doubt that the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an effort by neoconservatives Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz et al to control the volatile price of oil and the devastating effects of this lability on the US economy. Although the US wars in Libya, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen occurred after the book’s publication, Roberts’s analysis left me with no doubt whatsoever they were driven by similar geopolitical objectives.

Roberts also discusses the geopolitical threats posed by China, India and Southeast Asian countries as their growing middle classes put pressure on a finite supply of oil. He also explores the threat the growing political/military alliance between Russian and Iran creates. Between them, the two countries control half the world supply of natural gas. He leaves no doubt, in other words, that the current US military threats against China, Russia and Iran are also about fossil fuel security, just like the war on Iraq.