Friday, June 3, 2011

Pakistan's Fractured Limbs Lessons From Shahzad's Murder By FARZANA VERSEY

Pakistan is the most dreaded place for journalists. The pronouncement has been made. Yet a Pakistani reporter, and a person with an insider view of the al Qaeda and Taliban, Syed Saleem Shahzad's brutal killing was not the top news on the websites of three prominent dailies in the country. The internet allows you to update stories. Since they have carried the news, it cannot be fear.

The media in Pakistan revels in the opinionated views of a handful that appear as knights to save Pakistan, to expose its warts and add to the jingoism of the failed state. Some call it a police state. A police state has order and the level of shackling is complete, except perhaps for underground movements.

Shahzad had been taken in by the Taliban in 2006 on suspicion of being a spy; he was released after seven days. He knew the perils of his profession and had also registered his fears with Human Rights Watch of Pakistan. He disappeared on Sunday, May 29. A police complaint was registered by his family. Did any human rights organisation do anything instead of being "disturbed" that a state agency might be involved? The media does have considerable influence and can approach government functionaries directly or interview them. Was any of that done? He had left that evening to attend a talk show on a television channel. Did the channel keep flashing the news about his disappearance?

Two days later, on Tuesday May 31, his body was found in Sarai Alamgir, a little over an hour's drive from the capital Islamabad, with ruptured face and ruptured ribs and a gun shot in the stomach. Curiously, his car was found earlier about 10 kms away with his ID card. The Express Tribune reports, "The Mandi Bahauddin police had conducted a post-mortem on a body fished out from a canal near Head Rasul, which ultimately turned out to be Shahzad's, before handing it over to Edhi for temporary burial. 'From the description given by the Mandi police and the recovery of his ID card, Islamabad police were certain it was Shahzad's body. However, the police wanted his family to confirm his identity,' said an Islamabad police official."

This is strange that the local police picks up a body, conducts a post-mortem that reveals torture, and hands it to a NGO that goes ahead and buries it. No questions asked. Later, the Islamabad cops and the local ones realise the identity matches that of Shahzad, which his papers would have shown anyway. His family had to seek permission to exhume his body to confirm his identity. How can an unidentified person be temporarily buried? There are mortuaries in hospitals and the police ought to have alerted the intelligence agencies.

The Pakistani media will in the coming days raise questions about the ISI, which really is the state of Pakistan today, as in what comprises the nation-state. To extricate the ISI from the other arms of Pakistani polity is to merely play a game of chess and move the pawns about. The chess board remains the same.

* * *

Shahzad's murder, instead of posing queries about the nature of reportage and its consequences, has resulted in self-pity. Behind the haze of smoke and from the perch of the towering Babel, many a potential martyr will be born. The Dawn had a feature story that had this amazing sentence, "And as the state of Pakistan allied itself optically with the US in the war on terrorism, it marked out the military, civil society and the media as enemies of al Qaeda and its fighting forces in Pakistan represented by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)."

None of these three have anything in common. If anything, Shahzad's report in Asia Times on the militant attack on the naval base at PNS Mehran, where security forces fought for 15 hours, reveals that a certain stripe of militancy is within the armed forces.

There are reports that say the immediate impetus for his killing was this expose on the infiltration of al Qaeda in the navy. Apparently, the militant group wanted those who were detained to be released. Talks failed. Therefore, this retaliation. It begs the question as to how and why the Pakistani forces can have discussions with a terrorist outfit at all. The members were from the lower cadre and except for creating some trouble would not have access to confidential information.

Shahzad elucidated the position when he quoted a senior navy official who said: "Islamic sentiments are common in the armed forces. We never felt threatened by that. All armed forces around the world, whether American, British or Indian, take some inspiration from religion to motivate their cadre against the enemy. Pakistan came into existence on the two-nation theory that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations and therefore no one can separate Islam and Islamic sentiment from the armed forces of Pakistan. Nonetheless, we observed an uneasy grouping on different naval bases in Karachi. While nobody can obstruct armed forces personnel for rendering religious rituals or studying Islam, the grouping [we observed] was against the discipline of the armed forces. That was the beginning of an intelligence operation in the navy to check for unscrupulous activities."

* * *

Pakistan's armed forces have regional affiliations. However, due to the increasing infiltration of the Taliban in the cities, its members inside the forces did get a boost after being subservient for long to the largely Punjabi cadre. The discipline of the army in Pakistan is nothing to crow about – it is hardly cohesive and besides taking its orders from its officers who might decide to take over, it also has to listen to the democratic government, and the two have not as uneasy a relationship as might appear. History tells us that it has been democratic leaders who have been crucial to the coups or to wrest power for themselves soon after a period of co-existence.

A point that needs to be emphasised here, even if it has been repeated, is that extremist forces cause havoc within. The deeper question is that none of these groups has shown any inclination to take over and rule Pakistan, although both its democratic movements and its military dictatorships have had their share of leaving several people dead in their trail. So, what do they get by creating chaos in a chaotic state? Is this to tell the government that they are anti-US? But so is much of civil society. No sensible person wants their country to be run over roughshod by NATO troops.

Isn't there a possibility that these forces that were scattered and had no single agenda or ideology are themselves pawns, however dangerous they might be? Pakistan probably suffers from the 'cry wolf' syndrome, or perhaps it has a big bad wolf that arranges its fearful walk through the forest to act as a cover-up.

The Pakistani media for the most part toes the western line. It creates these horribly demon-like creatures, projecting this terrible pictorial evidence of shame over lagging behind. Shahzad's photographs reveal a man who would not attempt such superficial westernised ideas even if he took on the terrorists. He had access to them and interviewed them.

In effect, his last reports were what the government was happy to flaunt – its image of fighting the militants. The al Qaeda members were also probably pleased to announce to the people that they had infiltrated the naval station. If they wanted to send a message through Shahzad's killing, then all they have managed is to do away with a man who was giving honest reportage. It has given the rest the opportunity to wonder about how safe journalists are. It is a fact that journalists are killed, but the terrorists target mosques, shrines, public places and a few other religious places. The numbers of these dead need to be counted, too.

* * *

Let us go through the list provided by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Here are the 20 Deadliest Countries for the media and the figures of the dead from 1992:

1. Iraq: 149
2. Philippines: 71
3. Algeria: 60
4. Russia: 52
5. Colombia: 43
6. Pakistan: 36
7. Somalia: 34
8. India: 27
9. Mexico: 25
10. Afghanistan: 22
11. Turkey: 20
12. Bosnia: 19
13. Sri Lanka: 18
14. Rwanda: 17
15. Tajikistan: 17
16. Brazil: 17
17. Sierra Leone: 16
18. Bangladesh: 12
19. Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory: 10
20. Angola: 10

87 per cent are local correspondents and the rest foreign. What is even more revealing are the beats covered by those who have been victims: 5 % - Business, 21% - Corruption, 14% - Crime, 10% - Culture, 14% - Human Rights, 39% - Politics, 3% - Sports, 34% - War. Political killings exceed those in war and corruption exposes account for more deaths than human rights.

Are the news and the theories behind the news more important than lives? Is the relaying of news a real threat when it does not alter anything? If news was sufficient, then there would be no need for WikiLeaks. There is also some sort of hierarchy in the media. When I had met Ardeshir Cowasjee for an interview to be used in my book, mainly because he is openly critical of the establishment despite belonging to the old school, there was cynicism. One media person told me, "It is easy for a Cowasjee to get away with it. Who will question a rich Parsi?"

It was this rich Parsi who was put in prison by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, whose party he had joined, because he knew too much. The role of a political cell of the Inter Services Intelligence came from an elected 'democratic' government. As he said, "The genesis of the cell was Mr Bhutto's idea. He created it in 1975 to suit his agenda. It turned out to be a bad move because he did not know when and how to stop it. No one has had the guts to curb the ISI till date."

* * *

In what might seem to be an unrelated discussion, following the theories behind Osama bin Laden's death, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had recently given a "clean chit" to the ISI; it was retracted soon after. In the interim, in what appears to be a conveniently coordinated move, Pakistan's former foreign secretary Shaharyar Khan, quite out of character, told an Indian television channel that there was a possibility of "low level" ISI functionaries being involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Right now David Coleman Headley is being investigated in the United States for his role and training with the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda as well as his financing by one Major from the ISI. America is tying up the loose ends and the tacit see-saw attitude towards the ISI is because it needs Pakistan as an ally, ergo the ISI.

Part of the dichotomy is also evident in the attack on Mehran. It was from the Karachi port that the Mumbai attackers started on their sojourn. The security forces fighting the al Qaeda members who were in the navy would make the Pakistan establishment seem less culpable. It has been kept behind a cage where people are clawing and killing one another. The bigger beast, though, may not even be within.

Of course, the Pakistani liberal media in "looking into ourselves" is obsessively closed. It will spew out a few words against the fundamentalists and be lauded for it. The fact is that they are not dealing with a country but parts of it. What is the national mindset? I had asked this to Cowasjee and his reply will hurt the liberal media the most: "I cannot understand this mindset, but first of all you have to find the Pakistani mind."

Farzana Versey is a Mumbai-based columnist and author of 'A Journey Interrupted: Being Indian in Pakistan'. She can be reached at

Her Empathy Touched Everyone Rachel By URI AVNERY

I had the unqualified blessing of living with Rachel Avnery for 58 years. Last Saturday I took leave of her body. She was as beautiful in death as she was in life. I could not take my eyes off her face.

I am writing this to help myself accept the unacceptable. I beg your indulgence.

If a human being can be summed up in one word, hers was: empathy.

She had an uncanny ability to sense the emotions of others. A blessing and a curse. If someone was unhappy, so was she. No one could hide their innermost feelings from her.

Her empathy touched everyone she met. Even in her last months, her nurses were soon telling her their life stories.

Once we went to see a film set in a small Slovak town during the Holocaust. A solitary old woman did not understand what was happening when the Jews were summoned for deportation to the death camps; neighbors had to help her to the assembly point.

We arrived late and found seats in the dark. When the lights came on at the end, Menachem Begin got up in front of us. His eyes, red from weeping, locked with Rachel's. Oblivious to everybody around, Begin walked straight up to her, took her head in his hands and kissed her on the brow.

In many respects we complemented each other. I tend to abstract thought, she to emotional intelligence. Her wisdom came from life. I am withdrawn, she reached out to people, though she valued her privacy. I am an optimist, she was a pessimist. In every situation, I sense the opportunities, she saw the dangers. I rise in the morning happy, ready for another day's adventures, she got up late, knowing the day would be bad.

Our backgrounds were very similar - born in Germany to Jewish bourgeois intellectual families, who believed in justice, freedom and equality, coupled with a profound sense of duty. Rachel had all these in abundance, and more. She had an almost fanatical sense of justice.

The first words Rachel ever spoke, when her family had fled the Gestapo to Capri, were "mare schon", Italian for sea, German for beautiful.

She never read nor wrote German, but learned the language perfectly from speaking with her parents - she even corrected my German grammar.

Rachel, alas, lacked Prussian punctuality. It was a constant source of friction between us. I feel physically ill if I am not on time, Rachel was always, but always, late.

Three times I met her for the first time.

In 1945, I founded a group to propagate the idea of a new Hebrew nation, integral to the Semitic region like the Arabs. Too poor to rent an office, we met at members' homes.

At one such meeting, a 14-year-old girl, the daughter of the landlord, came in to listen. I noticed fleetingly that she was beautiful.

Five years later I met her again when I was running a popular magazine aimed at revolutionizing everything, including advertising: girls instead of the usual dull text.

We needed a pretty girl for an ad, but there were no professional models in the new state. One of our editors ran a theater group. He introduced me to a member called Rachel.

We took some pictures by the sea, and I took her home on my motorcycle. We fell off in the sand and just laughed.

The third time was at the same experimental theater. There she appeared again, and at some point she tried to guess my age, pledging a kiss for every year she was wrong. She guessed I was five years younger than I was, and we made a date for settling the account.

We continued to date on and off. Once I was to meet her at midnight in a cafe. When I did not arrive, she went to look for me. She found a crowd outside my office, and was told I was in hospital. Some soldiers had attacked me and broken all my fingers.

I was helpless. Rachel offered to help me out for a few days. They lasted 58 years.

We found that living together suited us. Since we despised religious weddings (there being no civil marriage), we lived happily in sin for five years. Then her father fell seriously ill. To set his mind at rest, we married in a hurry, in the private apartment of a rabbi. We borrowed the witnesses and the congregation from another wedding, and the ring from the rabbi's wife.

That was the last time either of us wore a ring.

For 58 years, she inspected every word I published. That was not easy. Rachel had strict principles, and stuck to them. She covered some of my pages in red ink. Sometimes we had bitter arguments, but in the end, one of us usually conceded - generally me. On the rare occasions we could not agree, I wrote what I felt like (and more than once regretted it).

She struck out all personal attacks she considered unjust. Exaggerations. Every weakness of logic - she would spot contradictions that had escaped me. She improved my Hebrew. But mostly she added the magic word "almost".

I tend to generalize. "All Israelis know", "Politicians are cynical" - she would change that to "Almost all Israelis ", "Most politicians" We joked that she was sprinkling "almost"s on my articles as a cook sprinkles salt on food.

She never wrote an article herself. Nor gave interviews. To such requests she would respond: "What did I marry a spokesman for?"

But her real talents lay elsewhere. She was the ultimate teacher, a calling she pursued for 28 long years.

This happened quite unplanned, after she was sent on an army course for teachers.

Before the course finished, she was practically kidnapped by an elementary school principal. Long before she received her teacher's certificate, she was a legend. Parents with connections pulled strings to get their children into her class. There was a joke that mothers planned their pregnancies so that the child would be 6 years old when Rachel taught the first grade. (She agreed to teach only the first and second grade, as the last chance of shaping a child's character.)

Her pupils included the children of illustrious artists and men of letters. Recently, a middle aged man called to us in the street "Teacher Rachel, I was your pupil in first grade! I owe you everything!"

How did she do it? By treating children as human beings and nurturing their self-respect. If a boy couldn't read, she put him in charge of tidiness in the classroom. If a girl was rejected by prettier classmates, she would be the good fairy in a play. She drew satisfaction from seeing them open up like flowers in the sun. She spent hours explaining to backward parents their children's needs.

During the school holidays, her children were raring to get back to class.

She had a purpose: to instill human values.

There was the story about Abraham and the burial site for Sarah. Ephron the Hittite refuses money. Abraham insists on paying. After a long and beautiful exchange, Ephron winds it up: "The land is worth four hundred shekels of silver. What is that betwixt me and thee?" (Genesis 23). Rachel told the children that this is still the Bedouin way of doing business, leading up to the deal in a civilized manner.

After the lesson, Rachel asked the teacher of the parallel class how she explained this episode to her pupils. "I told them that this is typical Arab hypocrisy! They are all born liars! If he wanted money, why didn't he say so directly?"

I like to think that all of Rachel's children - or almost all of them - have turned out as better human beings.

I followed her experiments in education closely, and she my journalistic and political exploits. Basically we were attempting the same: she to educate individuals, I the public at large.

After 28 years, Rachel felt that she had lost her edge. She did not believe a teacher should continue after their eagerness has been blunted.

The final push came when I crossed the lines in Beirut in 1982 and met Yasser Arafat. It was a world sensation. With me were two young women on my editorial staff: a correspondent and a photographer. Rachel felt left out of one of the most exciting events in my life, and decided to change direction.

Without telling me, she took a course in photography. Weekslater, pictures of an event were laid before me. I chosethe best - which just happened to be hers. The secret was out. She became an enthusiastic photographer, with a remarkable creative talent - always focused on people.

In early 1993, when Yitzhak Rabin deported 215 Islamic activists across the Lebanese border, protest tents were erected opposite his office. We camped out for 45 wintry days and nights. Rachel, the only woman who was there the whole time, struck up a beautiful friendship with the most extreme Islamic sheikh, Ra'ed Salah. He really respected her. They joked together.

In these tents, we founded Gush Shalom. For her, the injustice done to the Palestinians was intolerable.

She was the photographer at all our events. She took pictures of hundreds of demonstrations, rushing around, taking shots in front and behind, sometimes in clouds of tear gas - despite her doctor's warnings. Twice she collapsed in the burning sun, crossing harsh terrain to protest against the Wall.

When the Gush needed a financial manager, she volunteered. Although it was completely against her nature, she became a meticulous administrator, with a Prussian sense of duty, working on the kitchen table late into the night. She much preferred her unofficial function - maintaining human contact with activists, listening to their problems. She was the soul of the movement.

She could be very abrasive, too. Far from being a starry- eyed do-gooder, she detested liars, hypocrites and people who did wrong.

She never liked Ariel Sharon, even during the years when we visited each other's homes to talk about the 1973 War.

Lili Sharon loved her, Arik liked her too. There is a photo of him spoon-feeding her with his favorite dish (food was unimportant for her). Rachel did not let me show anyone the picture. After the 1982 Lebanon invasion, we broke contact.

Once, Sharon's confidant, Dov Weisglas, whom she could notforgive his nasty remarks about the Palestinians, spotted me in a restaurant, came over and shook my hand. But Rachel left his hand dangling in the air. Embarrassing.

When she liked people, she showed it. She liked Yasser Arafat, and he liked her. We went to see him many times in Tunis and later in Palestine, and he treated her with utmost courtesy, allowing her to take pictures of him at any time, showering her with presents. Once he gave her a necklace and insisted on putting it on her himself. With his poor eyesight, he fumbled for a long time. It was a wonderful sight, but his official photographer did not react. Rachel was furious.

When we served as a human shield for the besieged Palestinian President, Arafat kissed her on the brow and led her by the hand to the entrance.

Few people knew that she carried an incurable disease - Hepatitis C. It lay like a sleeping leopard at her doorstep. She knew that it could wake up any minute and devour her.

The unexplained infection was discovered more than 20 years ago. Every doctor's appointment could have meant a death sentence. She collapsed five months ago. There were many signs of this approaching, which I ignored but she clearly saw.

During these five months, I spent every minute with her. Every new day was like a precious gift for me, though she was inexorably sinking. We both knew, but pretended that everything was going to be alright.

She had no pains, but increasing difficulty eating, remembering, and, towards the end, speaking. It was heart- rending to see her struggling for words. For two days she was in a coma, and then she slipped away unconsciously and painlessly.

She had insisted that nothing be done to prolong her life artificially. It was a terrible moment when I asked the doctors to stop their efforts and let her die.

In accordance with her wishes, her body was cremated, against Jewish tradition. Her ashes were scattered on the Tel Aviv seashore, opposite the window where she had spent so much time gazing out. So the words of William Wordsworth, which she loved and often repeated, do not strictly apply:

"But she is in her grave, and oh, The difference to me."

Once, in a moment of weakness exploited by a film-maker, she complained that I had never said "I love you". True enough: I find these three words incurably banal, devalued by Hollywood kitsch. They certainly are not adequate for my feelings towards her - she had become a part of me.

When she was fading, I whispered "I love you". I don't know if she heard.

After she died, I sat for an hour with my eyes fixed on her face". She was beautiful.

A German friend sent me a saying which I find strangely comforting. It translates as:

"Don't be sad that she left you, Be glad that she was with you for so many years."
Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch's book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

An Open Letter to Monsanto Three Generations of Agent Orange By LEN ALDIS

24 August 2011
Board of Directors
Monsanto Company
800 North Lindbergh Boulevard
St Louis. MO 63167
c/o David F. Snively. Secretary

Ref: 10 August 1961 – 10 August 2011

Dear Mr Snively,

Fifty years ago this August, United States Forces began spraying an herbicide manufactured by your company over South Vietnam. During the ten-year period, eighty million litres were sprayed. Agent Orange is the commonly known name of the herbicide.

You may not be aware of the part played by your company in this criminal act, but there have been many protests here in the UK and many other countries at the use of Agent Orange on Vietnam. I have called in at your office in Ho Chi Minh City in the hope of meeting the director and inviting him to the Peace Village at Tu Du Hospital where he would have seen as I have seen the results of your product in jars containing unborn babies, a sight not many people could stomach seeing.

I would have then taken him to see the living victims of Agent Orange, the children with various deformities, no eyes, minus one or two limbs, twisted bodies etc etc etc, due to your product Agent Orange. Unfortunately he used the excuse that he would be out of the city when I was due to arrive, a pity, because he would have had the opportunity to speak to the doctors and nurses who give these youngsters their love and care, trying to help them live a normal life. And if he did not grasp the point, I would have told him that the youngsters were born many years after the war ended in 1975.

Mr Snively, you do not have to travel to Vietnam to see the people who have been affected by your company's product Agent Orange. In the US there are thousands of Vietnam Veterans suffering from illnesses and disabilities, as are their children, contact the various veterans' organisations in the US.

In Vietnam there are near to four million such victims, of all ages, many not able to be treated in a hospital or a clinic. Many live at home, in small towns and communes throughout the country. These tragic victims and their parents need our help and the help of your company that made profits running into $billions in manufacturing Agent Orange.

On leaving the peace village I would have asked your colleague in Ho Chi Minh City: "what does it feel like working for a company that has caused this to happen to the children of your country? I ask you the same question. Yes Mr Nively, there are many American children suffering from Agent Orange.

On 29th July I shall arrive in Ho Chi Minh City to see again these youngsters, and to have meetings, then on 6th August will fly up to Hanoi for an international conference being held on 8th, 9th and 10th, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the use of Agent Orange, while there I shall, along with other international delegates, visit more victims.

In the speech I intend to make at the conference I shall call upon the companies such as yours to accept its responsibility for the horrific damage it has done to the people of Vietnam, and to make compensation to the victims, to fund the building of small clinics, to build respite homes in the communes where the parents can rest from their 24 hour caring of their sons/daughters.

I need not tell you or your board members that many thousands of Vietnamese have died in the past fifty-years and until Monsanto, Dow Chemicals, DuPont and the other companies accept responsibilities, many more thousands will die, those who survive birth in the coming years will suffer as today's victims are suffering. The effects of Monsanto's Agent Orange have gone into the third generation of the Vietnamese. Soon, if not already, it will enter into the fourth.

When you place this letter in front of your board members, I hope it will be met with a positive response, not only for them to accept responsibility for the damage done to the people and land of Vietnam, but also to give financial and practical support to the victims and their families.

Such a response will be appreciated.

Look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely
Len Aldis

Len Aldis is Secretary of the Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society.

Journalist Tortured in Bahrain Nazeeha Saeed's Ordeal By PATRICK COCKBURN

Bahrain is seeking to stage the Formula One motor race, whose organizers meet today in Barcelona to decide where it will take place, despite police arresting and abusing a quarter of the local staff of the event. The race was postponed in February because of pro-democracy protests and the government is eager to have it rescheduled in Bahrain later this year to show that life in the island kingdom is returning to normal.

In the run up to the decision on Formula One police patrols have sought to prevent any demonstrations and controversial trials of pro-democracy protesters have been postponed. Ayat al-Gormezi, the 20-year-old girl poet, who was to be tried by a military tribunal on a charge of stirring up hatred and insulting the king, has had her trial put off until June 6.

Of the 108 local staff of the government-owned Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), which hosts Formula One, some 28 were detained and mistreated according to a source in Bahrain close to the event. All of those arrested are Shia and have since been sacked. Five of these are still in prison including the chief financial officer Jaafar Almansoor, an employee of BIC told Reuters news agency.

“They made us beat and kick each other,” said the employee, who did not want to be named, describing their 20 days in detention. “They said they’d rape us. They tried to touch you in various places to make you think it’s going to happen.” The prisoners were insulted for being Shia and, on being released, were told not to talk to the media.

Nobody, however prominent in business or otherwise appears safe from arbitrary arrest. Ghazi Farhan, an executive in a property company who also owns three restaurants and a riding stable, was arrested in his office car park on 12 April by plain clothes police and since then has only had two brief telephone conversations with his family. His wife, Ala’a Shehabi, has been prevented from leaving Bahrain despite repeated representations by the Foreign Office.

Details of mistreatment of women in custody are often difficult to obtain because victims of abuse are ashamed to admit they were threatened with rape or otherwise humiliated. One of the most graphic, which also illustrates the Bahraini authorities’ wish to intimidate journalists, comes from Nazeeha Saeed, the Bahraini correspondent of France 24 television and Radio Monte Carlo in testimony given to Reporters Without Borders.

“Summoned to a police station on 22 May Nazeeha was accused by a female officer of ‘lying’ in her reports and having links to the Lebanese Shia Hezbullah TV station al-Manar and the Iranian Arabic station Al-Alam. She was grabbed by the jaw, slapped, punched and kicked by four police women, one of whom screamed ‘Your must tell the truth.’ Another took off her shoe and forced it into Nazeeha’s mouth saying “you are worth less than this shoe.”

She was then dragged to another office and forced to kneel on a chair, facing the back of the chair, exposing her back and the soles of her feet which were beaten with flexible black plastic tubing. She was accused of lying and ‘harming Bahrain’s image’.

During a later interrogation session Nazeeha was blindfolded and told to bray like a donkey and walk like an animal. She was beaten again. At this point one police woman held a plastic bottle against her mouth and shouted ‘drink, it’s urine.’ Nazeeha knocked the bottle aside and it fell to the floor but the police woman picked it up and poured what was left in the bottle on her face. She says she is not certain the liquid was urine but it stung her skin.

After a further round of beating, she was sent back to wait in a room with other women. They were allowed to go to the toilet and brought food. Later the head of the police station asked to see Nazeeha and, claiming not to know that she had been interrogated, allowed her to phone her mother and go home."

How to explain the ferocity of the Bahraini al-Khalifa royal family's assault on the majority of its own people? Despite an end to martial law, the security forces show no signs of ceasing to beat detainees to the point of death, threaten schoolgirls with rape and force women to drink bottles of urine.

The systematic use of torture in Bahrain has all the demented savagery of the European witch trials in the 16th and 17th centuries. In both cases, interrogators wanted to give substance to imagined conspiracies by extracting forced confessions. In Europe, innocent women were forced to confess to witchcraft, while in Bahrain the aim of the torturers is to get their victims to admit to seeking to overthrow the government. Often they are accused of having treasonous links with Iran, something for which the New York-based Human Rights Watch says there is "zero evidence".

A simpler motive for the across-the-board repression of the Shia, who make up 70 per cent of the Arab population of Bahrain, is that it is a crude assertion of power by the Sunni ruling class backed by Saudi Arabia. The aim is simply to terrorize the Shia into never again demanding civil and political rights as they did during peaceful demonstrations which started on February 14 in emulation of protests in Egypt and Tunisia.

The tragedy of Bahrain is that none of the present toxic developments were necessary even from the egocentric point of view of the al-Khalifas. Of all the uprisings which have taken place during the Arab Spring, Bahrain had the most ingredients for compromise between protesters and the powers-that-be. The demand of the main opposition was not an end to the monarchy, but greater democracy, less discrimination and an end to the policy of naturalizing Sunni immigrants in a bid to change the demographic balance against the Shia.

In practical political terms a deal between government and opposition would have required the king to dismiss his prime minister, Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has held his job for 40 years and is famous for his vast wealth and extensive ownership of property in Bahrain.

It never happened. Instead the al-Khalifas panicked, probably thinking they would be the next regime to go down after Tunisia and Egypt. The US, despite having its Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain, suddenly appeared to be a shaky supporter. Saudi Arabia and the monarchs of the Gulf wanted what they saw as a Shia uprising crushed.

The government played the sectarian card, portraying the Bahraini Shia as pawns of Iran and frightening the Sunni minority on the island. It bulldozed Shia mosques and prayer houses. Attending the most peaceful pro-democracy rally before the crack down started on March 15 was portrayed as treason and those that had not demonstrated have been forced to confess that they did.

In the short term, the al-Khalifas' strategy has worked and the opposition is cowed, but the price may be permanent hatred of the majority of Bahrainis for the monarchy. The regime may try to change the demographic balance by driving thousands of Shia from the island by intimidation and firing. Inevitably it will have to rely on Saudi Arabia to an even greater degree than in the past, making the island little more than a Saudi protectorate.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of "Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

"I'M Fired" Springtime at the IMF By VIJAY PRASHAD

May 27 - 29, 2011

Alexander Cockburn
America's Top Hypocrites

Michael Hudson
Breakup of the Eurozone?

Mike Whitney
Save the Economy, Hike the Deficit!

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May 26, 2011

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May 25, 2011

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May 24, 2011

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The Resistance in Obama Time: Over 2,600 Activists Arrested in US Since Election

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NATO's Feast of Blood: Dispatch From Tripoli

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Website of the Day
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May 23, 2011

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Was the American Revolution Fought to Save Slavery?

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When Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite

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Tom H. Hastings
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Website of the Day
Geoffrey O'Brien on Duke Ellington

May 20 - 22, 2011

Alexander Cockburn
Was DSK Stitched Up?

Jeffrey St. Clair
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How Obama Demolished Palestinian Chances for Statehood

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Who's the Next Enemy?

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Peirce for the Defense: 30 Years Fighting Govt. Terrorism Cases

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What Changed in the Arab Spring

David Macaray
Massey's Death Traps

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Obama's "Original Sin" Against Morality

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Can the Greek People Teach the Central Bankers Economics?

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The Spat-Upon Vet Revisited

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Unity is Not Compromise

Harvey Wasserman Nuclear Rapture? Fukushima's Apocalyptic Threat

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Beyond the Law

Medea Benjamin / Charles Davis
Obama's Hollow Platitudes on the Middle East

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These Tales of Constant Sorrow

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Josh Eidelson
Labor Board Rules for Workers, Conservatives Freak Out

Richard Javad Heydarian
Arab Spring, Turkish Summer?

Sheldon Richman
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Peter Certo
Blood on the Trackpads: Inside Apple's Chinese Factories

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Cuba's Revolutionary Dream of International Medicine

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Fast Cars, Women and Five-Pound Pies

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Missing the Rapture: Confessions of a Stand-In Jesus

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Masters as Slaves: Roth, Arnie, Kahn and Sexual Ageism

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May 19, 2011

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Who Ordered the Kent State Shootings? Obama Justice Dept. Refuses to Investigate New Evidence

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Dr. Doom and the Chinese Economy

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Destroying Democracy in Pakistan

Tanya Golash-Boza
What the Alleged Rape of a Guinean Immigrant by the Head of the IMF Tells Us About "Secure Communities"

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May 18, 2011

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May 17, 2011

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May 16, 2011

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Anti-Shia Pogroms Sweep Bahrain

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Why They Hated Dominique: Bankers Cheer as IMF Head Faces Sexual Assault Charges

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May 13 - 15, 2011

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Anne McClintock
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Douglas Lummis
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May 12, 2011

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Frozen Bank Accounts and Free Speech in the US

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May 11, 2011

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Japan Junks New Nuclear Plants: Will Obama Follow Suit?

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May 10, 2011

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Marjorie Cohn
Assassinating Bin Laden: Why It Violated International Law

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Robert Lipsyte
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Turning Mexico Into a Graveyard

May 9, 2011

Gareth Porter
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Kathy Kelly
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American Muslims in a Post-Bin Laden World

Uri Avnery
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What This Year's May Day Demostrations Told Me About France

All his tactics are dictated
By problems he himself created.

-- Auden.

A photograph from South Korea during the 1997 Asian financial crisis captured the prevailing mood about the International Monetary Fund: a white collar worker held up a sign that read, “I’M Fired.” The habits of “sound money” and “austerity” had become the Fund’s orthodoxy since the 1980s, and, as the Greeks now know, it is unchanged.

Since 2003, the Fund had become less relevant. Countries of the South had come to rely increasingly on the private sector, and to investments from the new giants, principally China (in 2005, the IMF lent just over $1 billion whereas private flows totaled $491 billion). The Fund operated as a kind of credit rating agency, giving its blessings to a country, which would then be able to borrow money from the private market. The Fund smuggled in its orthodoxy, but now no longer in the flamboyant way that it had done so in the high-days of Structural Adjustment. The appeal of China’s finance was that it came absent the IMF orthodoxy.

The apotheosis of Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) was premised on his ostentatious attempt to bring the Fund back to center-stage. DSK had to deal with two major challenges to the Fund: (1) the lack of democracy in the management at the Fund, (2) the discredited ideology of the Fund. The Fund recovered its profile, but it has operated largely unchanged. That was the legacy of DSK: neoliberalism with a French accent, néolibéralisme.

Democracy at the IMF

One of the myths of the IMF is that the voting shares in the IMF’s executive board are indexed to the investment of individual countries in the Fund. Since 1968, the Fund has fully recompensed its creditors. Just after that date, the other countries began to clamor for a more democratic board. Currently, the United States has the largest bloc of votes in the board (16.80 per cent), with Japan in second (6.25 per cent). By “convention” the IMF has been headed by a European (hence the rapid consensus that the next head should be the French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde). But the Europeans do not control the IMF. In 1997, the New York Times let slip that the IMF “acts as the lapdog of the U. S. Treasury.” Because of the “consensus” system, the U. S. effectively has a veto (in 1987 and in 1991, the U. S. overruled the Fund’s attempt to strengthen conditions on loans to Mubarak’s Egypt).

After the credit crunch of 2007, the Group of 8 and the IMF pleaded with the locomotives of the Global South to put some of their surplus capital into the IMF. The BRICS states – Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa – complied. They put billions of dollars into the Fund, and the G8 countries shifted 6 per cent of the voting shares to them (the U. S. used to control 17.11 per cent, for instance). But even then the voting shares in the BRICS states are very limited (they total 14.18 per cent, less than the U. S. alone): Brazil (1.72 per cent), Russia (2.40 per cent), India (2.35 per cent), China (3.82 per cent) and South Africa (0.77 per cent). China now has the second largest economy in the world, and according to the IMF’s World Economic Outlook for 2011, it is poised to overtake the U. S. by 2016, if not sooner.

Since the 1980s, the funds disbursed by the Fund have largely come not from the North but from the South itself. Income from debt servicing payments provided the down payment for the Fund’s disbursements. The slogan from the Global South is familiar: no taxation without representation.

Ideology at the IMF

The economic disorders provoked by IMF policy are now legion. Little divides the ill-effects of IMF policy whether one looks at India or Zambia. In 1996, the World Bank reported that on average the debt service payments from Sub-Saharan Africa amounted to about 5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product; spending on health was about 2 per cent. “The burden of debt service payments on the provision of social services becomes starkly obvious,” the Bank reported (Taking Action for Poverty Reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa). Health is less important than bond ratings.

The United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report (2010) contains new data on poverty using the Multidimensional Poverty Index. What it shows is that eight Indian provincial states contain more poor people than twenty-six of the poorest African countries. Since 1991, when India opened the door to liberalization, social distress has increased dramatically. It is only old-school racism that retains “Africa” as the symbol of poverty; the global poor house is overrun by Indians.

These are the social consequences of the IMF’s orthodoxy as far as the Global South is concerned. The Fund’s “science” of economic growth never applied to the United States itself. Between 1997 and 2005, half a trillion dollars of hard-earned reserves went from South to North as debt servicing and reserve accumulation. The Atlantic banks leveraged this money into the financial sector, building up the huge ponzi scheme that masquerades as a stock market. Into this mix came Alan Greenspan’s “put,” the injection of liquidity into the system to protect (that is, inflate) asset prices, to create the bubbles that would explode first in 2000 (the dotcom bubble) and then in 2007 (the housing bubble).

The IMF’s self-study of the debacle found that it had “praised the United States for its light-touch regulation and supervision that permitted the rapid financial innovation that ultimately contributed to the problems in the financial system” (Independent Evaluation Office of the International Monetary Fund, IMF Performance in the Run-up to the Financial and Economic Crisis, 2004-07, January 10, 2011). Mirroring Greenspan, the IMF “recommended to other advanced countries to follow the U. S./U. K. approaches to the financial sector,” and remarkably, “did not sufficiently analyze what was driving the housing bubble or what roles monetary and financial policies might have played in the process.” Neither the IMF nor the Federal Reserve warned against the lack of leverage limits and the lack of risk management. Few complained about the dangerous inflation of the asset bubbles by Greenspan. High rates of inequality in the United States combined with high rates of financial manipulation by the banks created a toxic environment that had to collapse.

DSK appeared on the scene with a few bromides about inequality and de-regulation. But he did not try to shift the course of the Fund. It was all rhetoric. This was clear in southern Europe, where the Fund stood with the creditors, keeping money “sound” and asking the people to undertake “austerity.” The code-words are the same.

Creativity is the order of the day. Pedro Páez, a former minister of the government of Ecuador, proposes to decouple the world’s economies “from the dollar’s crisis logic.” The “commercial dependency (and intra-firm trade) with the North is sky high,” Páez noted. He proposed a series of Regional Monetary Arrangements and regional currencies. If these came into effect, the South could reduce “the artificial need for dollars in the regional trade, financial markets, and therefore, the technical need for reserves through the deployment of intra-continental system of settlements.” Such a project would bring countries within regions closer together and prevent distant climes from complete capitulation to the wiles of the U. S. Federal Reserve Bank and the gargantuan banks of Wall Street, the City of London and the Finanzplatz. Páez’ ideas take us some way from the ancient rubbish heap of IMF thought. Better late than never.

Vijay Prashad is the George and Martha Kellner Chair of South Asian History and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT His most recent book, The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World, won the Muzaffar Ahmad Book Prize for 2009. He can be reached at:

The Most Dangerous Country in the World? Mexico's Failed War on Drugs By MICHAEL McCAUGHAN

The scale and cost of Mexico's failed war on drugs has become painfully apparent as the death toll reaches 40,000; the four main drug cartels have grown to twelve and extended their reach beyond Mexico's borders, as evidenced by the recent carnage in Guatemala where 27 headless corpses were discovered on a ranch. The rising violence has increased mobility in the ranks of the cartel with new leaders adopting a less ostentatious lifestyle while spending lavishly to buy the complicity of politicians and police. State institutions have become more corrupt with an estimated one in four police officers on the cartel payroll, an alarming figure given that Mexico has half a million police, the third highest in the world per head of population.

Mexico's National Migration Institute has been purging its ranks, suspending 550 employees (15% of the workforce) as a perverse practice has come to light- the 'sale' of hundreds of migrants, the most vulnerable people of all, to drug gangs who in turn sell women into prostitution or extort money in return for their release. The cost of safe return for kidnapped migrants can be up to $3,000, a golden business opportunity when an estimated 500,000 people cross the Guatemala-Mexico border each year. In September 2010, rogue migration officials beat and robbed a group of 100 migrants as they got off a train in Oaxaca. The migration officials have an endless supply of cheap, disposable lives, of men, women and children who cease to exist once they enter Mexico in clandestine conditions. Over three hundred corpses have been recovered in ranches close to the US-Mexico border this year, victims of such massacres.

Mexico has also become the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a journalist, with twelve casualties in the past year.

Perhaps the greatest long term damage inflicted by the war has been the destruction of the nation's social fabric. The statistics don't tell the full story. The casual nature of the brutality and the impunity enjoyed by its perpetrators have diminished trust and provoked an existential crisis. Citizens live in a state of defenselessness as violence now threatens everyone. Mexicans in affected areas retreat into silence just as the Argentinian and Chilean people did during the dictatorship era. The media has toned down its coverage of the drug gangs with some newspapers taking the drastic step of publicly calling on the cartels to advise them where to draw the line to prevent reprisals. Meanwhile the Mexican army has become deeply involved in the war, increasing the atmosphere of terror. 'soldiers kick down doors, arrest anyone they feel like, wearing ski masks and carrying powerful weapons, people don't know who they are' said Jose Hernandez, director of Independent Human Rights Commission in Morelos state. This picturesque state just outside Mexico City was once a sleepy weekend retreat for Mexico's wealthy elite. In the past year however 335 bodies have been found scattered along its highways and towns, without a single arrest or even a suspect.

Everyone has an anecdote from the war. In april a family from Mexico City visited Acapulco and went to eat at a restaurant. A bottle of whiskey suddenly appeared at their table. 'That senor over there sent it' said a waiter. A few minutes later the whiskey man asked the father for permission to dance with his daughter, aged fifteen. The father refused. 'Listen carefully' he said, 'this young woman is mine.' The family left the restaurant, returned to their hotel, packed their bags and headed home. An hour later their car was intercepted, their daughter kidnapped at gunpoint. The young woman has not been heard of since. This story was one of 70 testimonies recounted at the Zocalo in downtown Mexico on March 8th during the national March for peace with its unequivocal slogan 'estamos hasta la madre; no mas sangre' 'we've had it up to here. No more bloodshed.'

There are an estimated 10,000 'disappeared' in Mexico, men, women and children, taken by persons unkown, for reasons unknown, their whereabouts unknown, their relatives and friends living in perpetual anxiety. Neither dead nor alive. And the Mexican state is incapable of finding any of them. If a tsunami or hurricane had swept 10,000 people into some remote wilderness the government would presumably declare a national emergency and divert every possible resource toward finding the missing people.

In Sinaloa state some 700 people have been killed so far this year as violence spirals out of control and local police are accused of collaborating with the cartels. Rather than face up to this crisis the state government has come up with two initiatives of its own; the first is to ban restaurants and bars from playing 'narcocorridos' the popular ballads which extol the exploits of drug traffickers. These ballads, unpleasant as they are, did not inspire the drug trade, nor do they sustain its criminal gangs. I have yet to meet anyone in Mexico who honestly believes, as the official announcement suggested, that this soundtrack to crime 'promotes antisocial conduct'. They merely reflect it. In Zapatista rebel villages this reporter has often heard such ballads blasting from local homes, the racy tunes and exaggerated exploits regarded as harmless fun.

In the absence of effective policies and honest officials, the banning of the drug ballads is the nearest thing to a 'victory' in the drug war. Twenty years ago a previous government banned any song with references to the drug trade from being aired on radio. Soon after Los Tigres del Norte, a band with a bigger support base than the local government, released an album, 'Corridos Prohibidos' which broke all sales records and earned the band a platinum sales disc.

Last month (may) the governor of Sinaloa once more waded into the battlefield, this time declaring war on Ralph Lauren polo shirts, the uniform of choice of the drug traffickers. This time the governor said he was 'enormously worried' at the manner in which disaffected youth were seduced by the glamour of expensive brands, adding that he wished they would wear clothes with images of national heroes like Emiliano Zapata. The irony of this declaration will not be lost on the Zapatista movement which sparked a renaissance of Zapata's ideals in 1994, demanding peace, justice and democracy. The government responded with tanks, warplanes and bullets. It was all very well to wear a t-shirt of Zapata but the prospect of indigenous rebels implementing the dream of land and freedom was met with army and paramilitary violence. The Zapatista movement challenged Mexicans to rethink society, mobilizing millions and forcing the ruling party (in power for 70 years) to open up the electoral system. However Mexico's civil society failed to rise to the challenge of cleaning out public life and the result has been a steady moral disintegration which has shattered faith in the country's political parties, including the centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

Citizen confidence in the country's authorities is so low and fear of reprisal so great that most relatives don't even bother registering lost loved ones as missing persons. This appalling reality became apparent when Javier Sicilia, a poet whose son was murdered in march, sat down outside the offices of the state government in Cuernavaca, Morelos, for a week. An avalanche of people came forward, registering 1,200 disappeared and 3,500 deaths. Out of this sit in came the national citizen movement for peace and for the rebuilding of the nation. Sicilia finds himself thrust into the position of spokesperson for indignant Mexico, his citizen movement for peace gathering steam and fresh ideas as it travels around the country. In some way Sicilia has taken up the baton left behind by the Zapatista's 'otra campana', in which rebel leaders attempted to unite Mexico from below, with little success.

Sicilia has urged the government to acknowledge the country is in a state of emergency, devastated by a 'badly planned and poorly executed' war which has brought the country to its knees. Sicilia has railed against the incapacity of the government and lamented its perverse attempt to criminalize victims of violence by insinuating that they must have been involved in something. This aberrant logic allowed Argentinians to look the other way when thousands of young people were kidnapped, tortured and murdered by security forces in the 1970s. The government has become, says Sicilia, 'managers of misfortune', lacking initiative and imagination, focused only on an endless body count.

In his landmark open letter to politicians and criminals, Sicilia linked the rise in drug trafficking to the dominant economic ideology of self interest, competition and 'limitless consumerism'. Sicilia has called on the political class to set aside petty differences and the pursuit of power to forge an alliance around an agreed plan of action. With elections looming next year, Sicilia urged parties to agree on a candidate of unity committed to a constitutional conference which would redraw the boundaries of political life, incorporating the recall referendum and other mechanisms of citizen power.

As President Calderon enters the twilight phase of his six year term he has attempted to turn the drug war into a patriotic crusade, calling on citizens, media and politicians to rally round the army and police. In his growing delirium Calderon has taken to comparing himself to Winston Churchill, Britain's wartime leader who led the fight against the Nazis. The comparison is disproportionate. Calderon declared war on an invisible enemy without calculating the consequences or even determining what victory might look like. Nor did he make an adequate survey of the battlefield or measure the moral and military capacity of his troops. President Calderon is fully committed to a war in which the rising body count is taken as evidence of success in what is fast becoming a macabre dance of death.

The key problem however, as Sicilia noted, is that the enemy 'is inside as well as outside' of polite society. One of the most immediate obstacles to winning the war or securing the peace is Calderon's right hand man, Genaro Garcia Luna, the country's super cop who runs the Ministry of Public Security (SSP). During the Vicente Fox administration (2000-06) Garcia Luna created and ran the Federal Investigative Agency (AFI) which was disbanded in 2006 as it had become thoroughly infiltrated by the drug cartels. Garcia Luna took up his current post in 2006 and has remained in charge despite repeated allegations of links to drug cartels (2008) based on recorded telephone conversations and emails. Discontent grew within the ranks and security officials have accused Garcia Luna of naming corrupt police to top positions while a journalist investigating his sudden acquisition of wealth received death threats.

Javier Sicilia, the moral conscience of a weary nation, is about to embark on a national mobilization. The main objective is to launch a six point Agreement for Peace And The Reconstruction of the Country, beginning symbolically in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico's capital city of violence. The Pact calls for an end to corruption and a shift from the military-led fight against organized crime to one where citizen safety comes first. In addition, the document demands official recognition for the victims of violence, promoting 'active memory' through public testimony and tributes in public spaces. A revised drug strategy would follow the money trail and clamp down on the arms trade while taking steps to reconstruct the social fabric through policies promoting education and employment for youth and the exercise of active citizenship, through revocation of mandate and other reforms.

Michael McCaughan has reported extensively from Latin America for the Irish Times and the Guardian, among others. He is author of True Crimes: Rodolfo Walsh, the Life and Times of a Radical Intellectual and The Battle of Venezuela.

US Remains Stuck in the Past Cuba Changes By SAUL LANDAU and NELSON VALDÉS

President Obama and his advisers share with most of the mass media the same visual weakness when it comes to Cuba: they don’t see the obvious, the crucial facts and context that stare them in the face.

As Cuba begins to undergo basic changes to its economy and governmental structure, the reporting from western media follows predictably context-free and thus irrelevant standards.

For more than a half-century, most writers and radio and TV producers have had a conscious or unacknowledged stake in the failure of the Cuban revolution. To think otherwise, reporters and advisers have learned, would be a bad career move. In order to invalidate Cuba’s attempt to change the social relation of its society and spread its word to the rest of the third world the western media has consistently failed to place a context around the events that led up to the revolution. Instead, Washington and the stenographers called “the press” judge Cuba’s revolution by U.S. standards and in the U.S. context. Cuba must always perform according to what the media assume are standards of democratic perfection. This criteria for judging, beyond its vagueness, leads one to wonder about values and priorities.

For example, on May 24, typical Earthlink headlines contained the following back-to-back leads:

“NATO hits Tripoli; US says rebels can open office.”

“Alley has lost 38 inches since 'Dancing' debut.”

Kristie Alley – for those “outsiders” – has become featured as an actress with weight problems. “When Kirstie Alley performs on the "Dancing With the Stars" season finale,” the AP story begins, “she'll do it in a much smaller dress.”

That this item gets featured as a news headline – and would not appear in the Cuban media – epitomizes the U.S. free press, which argues that it must serve its readers’ interests. But the media has helped create vicarious living (“I identify with Kirstie,” say thousands of overweight women), just as the media has encouraged shopping and watching sports on TV as the essence of spiritual life (along with the rising porn industry and experiencing vicarious thrills from reading about the sinful sexuality of the rich and famous). "Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death," wrote Neil Postman (Amusing Ourselves To Death).

When journalists judge Cuba they inevitably apply different standards than they do to the rest of the Caribbean and Latin America where “the veneration of crap” (Postman) continues to dominate.

Cuba has threatened Washington and its servile media not by being the model for education and health (many European countries are far better), but by being disobedient and cultivating different values. The vast majority of media makers have gone to report on Cuba with a conscious or unacknowledged stake in the failure of the Cuban revolution. They place no context around the events that led up to the revolution, and barely acknowledge Uncle Sam’s large boot on Cuba’s throat for 50 years. Then, they judge it by those vague standards of democratic perfection that they don’t apply to the Dominican Republic or the other neighbors.

Cuba has begun its changes, but neither President Obama nor the mass media have acknowledged them. U.S. policy demands, of Cuba, a “civil society,” while refusing to acknowledge the wide implication of the government’s initiatives with the Catholic Church. Add up the steps taken, Cuba’s cooperation with the Church carries wide implications for religious freedom and the broadening of traditional civil society.

Few U.S. media reports listed the vast increases of religious visits to and from abroad. Havana now permits public religious processions and religious blogs. The state has made scarce resources available to refurbish churches and in the last two years permitted the building of new churches and seminaries. Cuban leaders regularly show up at religious activities and allow churches to provide services to people in prison.

The Catholic Church now has radio time and its high officials have become interlocutors on matters involving prisoners, dissidents and even in foreign policy. The number of Protestant churches opening in Cuba has dramatically increased. The State no longer promotes Atheism. But these facts remain unreported as “significant change.” Indeed, every religious institution has called for an end to the U.S. embargo and the normalization of relations. The U.S. government appears to have grown deaf to the needs of religious people of the island.

Cuba is changing. U.S. policy remains stuck in its half century obsession to remove the only government Cuba has ever had that insists on retaining independence and sovereignty.

Saul Landau’s new film WILL THE REAL TERRORIST PLEASE STAND UP is distributed by CounterPunch published his BUSH AND BOTOX WORLD

Nelson P. Valdes is Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico

Autumn of the Autocrats? The Determination of the Arab Revolutions By ESAM AL-AMIN

After the relatively swift triumphs of the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions in deposing their dictators earlier this year, other Arab dictators drew a different set of lessons than their populations did.

Fed up with decades of repression, corruption, and the break down of state institutions, as well as the complete loss of faith in any meaningful political or social reforms in their societies, people across the Arab world this spring have waged simultaneous mass movements to force sweeping changes.

Arab autocrats, sustained for decades by the powerful security state, were shocked and startled as they observed in horror the dismantling of the security apparatuses in Tunisia and Egypt, facing fearless populace willing to sacrifice their lives to liberate themselves from the yoke of tyranny and regain their freedoms and dignity.

To their credit, in both the Tunisian and Egyptian models, the armies refused to shoot at their people after the failure of the security forces to clamp down. The popular uprisings spread across each country with incredible determination and zeal as the fear barrier of the ruthless regimes completely broke down.

Shortly after the fall of the Egyptian dictator, people across the Arab world took to the streets in peaceful uprisings against their long time repressive rulers. The concurrent massive demonstrations were especially widespread in Yemen, Libya, Syria, and Bahrain, against the decades-old repressive regimes of Muammar Gaddhafi in Libya (41 years), Ali Saleh in Yemen (33 years), the Assad family in Syria (Bashar and his father before him- 40 years), and the minority Al-Khalifah dynasty in Bahrain (230 years.)

The primary lesson learned by the Arab masses watching the revolutions unfold in Tunisia and Egypt was that the people’s collective power and determination can ultimately triumph in the face of isolated regimes that have been ruling them with an iron fist.

However, the authoritarian regimes drew different lessons from the Tunisian and Egyptian experience. They did not see the power and determination of the people but the weakness of the regimes and fragility and indecisiveness of its leaders.

In each case, though engulfed in its own particular circumstances and distinct features, the overall framework of how each regime dealt with its own popular uprising is strikingly similar.

As in the Tunisian and Egyptian models the first response of each regime was to rely on the security forces to put a quick end to the uprisings before they spread. When such attempts fail within the first few days, the next step is to try to contain the demonstrations by embracing the demands of the protesters while asking for a return to calm in order to implement reforms.

The problem with these initial steps is that they are perceived by the people as disingenuous and are almost always too late. Like Tunisia and Egypt before them, in each of the cases in Yemen, Libya, Syria, or Bahrain, the initial brutal response of the security forces had an adverse effect and did not stop the protests. In fact, the increasing casualties in the streets intensified the opposition and the revolts became widespread.

For instance, the initial demonstrations that started in Benghazi in mid-February to protest the arrest of a human rights lawyer quickly spread to western Libya, where they were met with repression. Similarly the protests in Yemen spread the same week from Sanaa to the rest of the country as Saleh’s security forces cracked down on the demonstrators. When the people of the southern city of Dar’aa in Syria protested in mid-March calling for freedom and reforms, the protests quickly spread as the Syrian army shortly thereafter surrounded the city killing dozens and arresting hundreds of protesters.

In the next phase of the confrontation between the people and the authoritarian regimes the dictators would call for dialogue and claim to have embraced the calls for reforms. For example, within days of the fall of the eastern city of Benghazi to the opposition, Qaddafi’s son, Saiful Islam, promised that if the protests ended then all demands were on the table. But then he asserted that no reforms or dialogue would be initiated unless the protests ended. President Saleh in Yemen made similar overtures to his people promising to form a national unity government and initiate political reforms if the protests ended.

In Syria the regime announced several steps for political reforms and the end of the state of emergency, which had been in place for almost a half century. The Syrian people held hope that their president would announce, and immediately take steps for far-reaching constitutional and political reforms.

But when the Syrian president addressed the parliament at the end of March it became clear that the reforms embraced by the regime were superficial and vague while requiring a significant amount of time to implement, a ploy that seemed designed to contain the popular uprising. Moreover, the party officials entrusted to propose and implement these reforms were themselves people known to defend the status quo that has favored them for decades.

As in Egypt, when the trick of calling for dialogue and the embrace of a reform agenda fails to attract the people and the opposition groups – mostly marginalized for decades- the regimes would then mobilize their supporters to mount counter-demonstrations.

However, many of the supporters of these regimes act like goons, bullies, and criminals, as they beat up and abuse the opposition. Such elements supporting the regimes include thousands of security officers or party loyalists roaming the streets in civilian clothes. They were called baltagies in Egypt, balatega in Yemen and Shabbiha in Syria. Their main role is to brutalize the people and punish them for their protests in a desperate attempt to halt them. But often times, the end result is the opposite as the people link these thugs to the regimes and become even more enraged.

As the casualties mount and international condemnations of the regimes become widespread, the dictators employ a new tactic by charging that there are armed “Islamic terrorist” groups tied to Al-Qaeda who are killing the protesters and wreaking havoc upon society.

Ultimately, the main strategy of each regime is to regain the initiative from the streets so they continue to use these different tactics in order to split the opposition or wear down the people. Endless promises, delay tactics, and old style propaganda techniques and maneuvers are utilized. President Saleh employed his infamous delaying schemes to wear down the opposition, thus promising to step down five different times as a result of the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative, only to renege each time. Eventually, the GCC itself completely abandoned its own initiative. The Syrian president officially lifted the state of emergency. Yet since then, over 1200 people have lost their lives and over 12,000 have been detained without trial. Electricity as well as water and phone lines were cut off from some cities that were under siege by the military for many days.

Watching Hosni Mubarak, his sons, and other high-ranking officials in Egypt dragged to prison and tried for political and financial corruption solidified in the minds of these regimes the fate that awaits them. In essence, the dictators and their cronies are fighting, not just to stay in power, but also to literally escape punishment for their crimes. But perhaps the most brutal and effective tactic to derail any peaceful revolution is to drag the country into civil war.

Regional players such as Israel and the Saudi ruling family, as well as other international players are very nervous about the popular discontent and the changes sweeping the region. The status quo has benefited these regimes and the international order for a long time.

People in the Arab world are instead determined to rely on themselves with an uncompromising will to continue their just struggle for freedom and dignity echoing the voice of another young leader in the Latin American jungles many decades ago, as Che Guevara reminded his comrades “Until victory always” but “better to die standing, than to live on your knees.”

Esam Al-Amin can be reached at

What Do Governments Fear Most? They Fear Us Dublin Wikileaks Cables Reveal Irish Govt. Groveling to the US By HARRY BROWNE

Ireland’s foreign-affairs minister assured the US ambassador in Dublin in 2006 that the Irish government was prepared to change the law that had allowed the acquittal of five anti-war activists for damaging a US Navy plane.

The revelation that a senior Irish official discussed possible amendments to domestic criminal law with the US ambassador is contained in a Wikileaks cable (see below) that has not been published or reported upon elsewhere, but which has been seen by Counterpunch.

At the time of the acquittal of the so-called Shannon Five, or Pitstop Ploughshares, in July 2006, the US embassy made a public statement expressing its disquiet about the verdict. The then foreign minister, Dermot Ahern, responded with what was seen as a firm public statement of his own, underlining the independence of the judicial system and stating that its verdicts were not a matter for discussion by government officials or between governments.

The cable reveals, however, that a few months later Ahern privately told US officials that the “the Irish Government Cabinet” had been greatly disturbed by the unanimous jury verdict. (The delay between the verdict and this meeting may have been caused by a change-over in US ambassadors.) Ahern told the Americans that the Cabinet had asked the justice minister, Michael McDowell, to examine how the Criminal Damage Act might be amended to close the “legal loophole” that allowed the Shannon Five to be acquitted, so that such a verdict could not happen again. A previously released cable from the same period quotes a senior foreign-affairs bureaucrat telling the Americans the verdict was “bizarre”.

The five, members of the Dublin Catholic Worker, were acquitted after a trial in which their lawyers relied on the statute’s defense of “lawful excuse” for defendants who damage property in the honest belief that doing so will protect life or property, as long as that belief is reasonable in the circumstances. The law does not explicitly require that the threat to life or property be “immediate”.

Justice minister McDowell, a notorious right-wing ideologue, lost his parliamentary seat and thus his government post in the election of May 2007, six months after Ahern told US officials McDowell would be seeking to change the law, which has remained unamended.

These November 2006 discussions of the legalities of the Shannon case are the latest in a series of Wikileaks revelations – some published last autumn, others being reported in Irish print and broadcast media this week – that show Irish officials at pains to help the US in its use of Shannon Airport for military purposes and, perhaps, CIA “extraordinary rendition” flights. Irish bureaucrats even asked US officials for their legal advice about why American planes at Shannon should not be inspected by police here, and said that such advice would be a guide for Irish policy.

Cables sent from the US embassy over a period of years show Irish officials specifically turning a blind eye to the possibility that rendition flights were landing in the west of this neutral country. Senior Irish politicians appear to have relied on vague assurances from US officials but repeatedly expressed concerns that they would be caught lying to the Irish parliament and people if a rendition flight were discovered at Shannon. In December 2004 Taoiseach (prime minister) Bertie Ahern (no relation to Dermot) told the US ambassador that he had been saying publicly that there were no such flights, and pleaded: “Am I all right on this?”

American and Irish officials freely acknowledged that the US use of Shannon as a stopover for troops and military equipment was unpopular with the Irish public, especially when the issue of renditions arose, but discussed ways that they could cooperate on managing media and public relations. After the Green Party joined Ireland’s governing coalition in 2007, it insisted on the setting up of a Cabinet sub-committee on human-rights issues, including those raised by Shannon. A US embassy cable correctly identified the subcommittee as a “sop” to the Greens that would cause no trouble to the Americans.

Like many of the cables from around the world, the Dublin cables so far revealed through Wikileaks show US diplomats effectively united with their local counterparts against a common enemy: the people – whether the people take the form of anti-war activists, jurors or voters in an upcoming election. Cables consistently praise the Irish government for its efforts “in the face of public criticism” on behalf of the US in Shannon, described by ambassador James Kenny in 2004 as “a key transit point for U.S. troops and materiel bound for theatres in the war on terror”.

A cable written by Kenny in 2006 and published by Wikileaks late last year admits that ”the airport [is] a symbol of Irish complicity in perceived U.S. wrongdoing in the Gulf/Middle East” and that “popular sentiment was manifest in the July 25 jury decision to acquit the ‘Shannon Five,’ a group of anti-war protesters who damaged a U.S. naval aircraft at the airport in 2003.”

Some of the Wikileaks revelations have received prominent coverage in Ireland, notably in the Irish Independent and Belfast Telegraph newspapers, which have partnered with Wikileaks for a series of well displayed and heavily advertised stories this week. However, neither the newspapers nor state broadcaster RTE, which obtained several Shannon-related cables and reported on them on Thursday evening, have been publishing the cables, merely reporting on extracts, and not always even including the reports on their websites.

Wikileaks typically itself publishes cables on its own website once they have been reported upon and redacted by its media partners, but at the time of writing only 18 Dublin cables have appeared on the Wikileaks site this week, perhaps delayed because of the newspapers’ print-only policy with many of the stories. I calculate, conservatively, that at least 30 different Dublin cables have been quoted so far this week, but the number is uncertain because they have often been used without specific dates being cited. Neither the print nor broadcast journalists have seen fit to report on the cable discussed above, though I understand both RTE and the Irish Independent have it in their possession.

The Wikileaks revelations over the last year or so – from the Iraq and Afghan war logs to the diplomatic cables – have revealed a great deal about the operations of governments. They have also revealed some of the profound failings of the mainstream media, which, when they are not denouncing Julian Assange and ignoring Bradley Manning, can be found squabbling over the “exclusives” that those men’s efforts have apparently brought us. There is a long way to go, in Ireland and elsewhere, before this information is truly free.

Harry Browne lectures in journalism at Dublin Institute of Technology. He is the author of HammeredBytheIrish, a book about the Shannon Five case, published by CounterPunch / AK Press. Contact

The Dublin Cables.

source:Embassy Dublin

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B. DUBLIN 1172
C. STATE 172627

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Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Jonathan Benton; Reasons 1.4 (B)
and (D).

1. (C) Summary. In a November 1 discussion, the Ambassador
and Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern did a tour d'horizon of key
bilateral issues. Ahern:

-- urged bilateral cooperation to avoid "surprises" regarding
U.S. military use of Shannon Airport;

-- noted that the Irish Cabinet had charged the Justice
Minister to review legal loopholes used by the Shannon Five
to avoid prosecution for damaging a U.S. naval plane in 2003;

-- said that he did not expect the Northern Ireland Assembly
to meet the November 24 deadline for nominating an Executive,
due to the impasse on oath/policing issues;

-- expressed disappointment with the failure of Northern
Ireland parties to engage directly on follow-through for the
St. Andrews Agreement; and,

-- observed that the Irish Government would continue to lobby
the USG to regularize the status of undocumented Irish
citizens resident in the United States.

2. (C) The Ambassador:

-- noted appreciation for U.S. military use of Shannon and
offered the USG's best efforts to avoid missteps;

-- emphasized the goal of preventing future actions by Irish
protestors to disrupt U.S. operations at Shannon;

-- underscored continued USG support for the Northern Ireland
peace process;

-- expressed gratitude for the scheduled November 9
extradition of U.S. citizen Frederick Russell, but cautioned
that failure to act on other extradition requests could give
Ireland the image of a criminal haven; and,

-- observed that movement on Irish concerns about
undocumented citizens in the United States would be
difficult. End summary.


3. (C) In a November 1 introductory discussion with the
Ambassador, Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern urged bilateral
cooperation to avoid "surprises" regarding U.S. military use
of Shannon Airport. Ahern recalled that the Irish Parliament
had required him to explain previous U.S. pre-notification
failures on Shannon transits involving weapons and U.S.
military prisoners. He was also scheduled to address the
European Parliament shortly on allegations that Ireland has
assisted in extraordinary rendition flights, which he planned
to rebuff on the basis of previous USG assurances on the
issue. Ahern conceded that the Irish Government was partly
to blame for missteps at Shannon, as the Department of
Transport had not previously sought full information on the
materiel/passengers in transit -- a shortcoming that Ireland
aimed to correct in the context of global terrorist threats.
The Ambassador expressed appreciation for U.S. military use
of Shannon, and he offered the USG's best efforts to avoid
missteps and to coordinate on any necessary media strategy.
Ahern noted that the Embassy's public outreach to explain the
June transit of a Marine prisoner had helped to diffuse
public criticism over the event.

4. (C) The Irish court decision to acquit five persons who
had damaged a U.S. naval plane at Shannon Airport in 2003
(the so-called "Shannon Five") had seriously disturbed the
Irish Government Cabinet, Ahern said (ref A). He explained
that while there were no means to overturn the jury decision,
the Cabinet had requested Minster for Justice Michael
McDowell to examine ways to close off legal loopholes
exploited by defense lawyers (who argued that the defendants
had sought to prevent loss of life in Iraq). The Ambassador
emphasized the goal of preventing future actions by Irish
citizens to disrupt U.S. military operations at Shannon.
Ahern replied that airport security had been upgraded
following the Shannon Five verdict and that the protest
movement appeared to be losing steam, as evident is a
sparsely attended October 28 rally at Shannon.

DUBLIN 00001284 002.2 OF 003

Northern Ireland

5. (C) Ahern said that he was "reasonably hopeful" about the
prospects for follow-through on the St. Andrews Agreement,
but he did not expect the Northern Assembly to meet by the
November 24 deadline to nominate the First Minister and
Deputy First Minister, given the impasse over the Executive
oath on policing. Ahern judged that unionists were
unreasonable to require a Sinn Fein pledge on policing before
the party as a whole had authorized this step. On the other
hand, Sinn Fein had been obstinate in declining to call a
party conference before November 24, observed Ahern. He
added that a further complication in negotiations was
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) reluctance to engage in
face-to-face discussions with Sinn Fein on the policing/oath
hurdle. This reluctance was a regression from late 2004,
when Sinn Fein and the DUP had substantive, direct contact in
pursuit of a devolution deal at that time. The Ambassador
underscored continuing USG willingness to support the peace
process in every possible capacity.

6. (C) The Irish Government had no illusions that progress
on policing as part of the negotiations would be "tortuous,"
Ahern observed. He recounted serious discrimination by the
former Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) against nationalists
across the border from his home county of Louth. He also
took note of remarks by DUP leader Nigel Dodds and others
expressing reluctance to allow "former terrorists" within the
republican community to participate in policing and justice
structures. Ahern pointed out that the ill-fated 2004
agreement had pushed the policing issue off to the future and
that parties remained stalled on this point, although Sinn
Fein had shown progress on policing cooperation over the past

Other Key Issues

7. (C) The Ambassador and Ahern also discussed briefly the
following issues:

A. Extradition. The expected November 9 extradition of U.S.
citizen Frederick Russell demonstrated Irish willingness to
work through U.S. extradition requests, said Ahern (ref B).
He observed that the Irish Government was precluded from
lobbying the Irish judiciary on extradition issues, making it
imperative for U.S. federal/state justice officials to
satisfy the courts' requests for thorough, uniform
documentation in such cases. He added that Ireland had been
innately reluctant to transfer criminal suspects to foreign
jurisdictions, particularly in the 1970-80s when republicans
involved in the Northern Ireland Troubles would cross the
border to evade British authorities. The Ambassador
expressed gratitude for Irish action on the Russell case, but
cautioned that failure to act on other extradition requests
could give Ireland the image of a criminal haven.

B. Undocumented Irish. According to Ahern, Irish officials
would continue to press the USG for measures to regularize
the status of up to 50,000 undocumented Irish resident in the
United States, while recognizing that this Irish segment was
part of a larger picture of illegal immigration. He said
that a recent proposal (floated by Irish parliamentarian Tom
Kitt) for a bilateral agreement that would ease mutual
entry/residence restrictions for Irish and U.S. nationals
deserved consideration. The Ambassador noted the
Administration's sensitivity to long-term undocumented U.S.
residents who were contributing to their communities, but he
added that the Congress seemed disinclined at the moment to
consider any form of amnesty.

C. Cuba. Ahern committed to discuss with Deputy Prime
Minister (Tanaiste) and Justice Minister, Michael McDowell,
the USG request for Ireland to resettle roughly 30 Cuban
migrants housed in Guantanamo who were determined by DHS to
have a well founded fear of persecution (ref C). Ahern noted
that Ireland had recently coordinated with UNHCR to accept
ten refugees resident in Malta, who had arrived as part of a
burgeoning flow of African migrants into southern EU Member

D. Lebanon. The Ambassador noted that 150 Irish troops had
arrived in Lebanon on October 30 as part of the expanded
UNIFIL force, and he expressed appreciation for Ireland's
contribution. Ahern replied that Ireland's experience in
UNIFIL and familiarity with local Lebanese communities had
obliged the Government to contribute troops, even though the
Taoiseach initially had opposed deployment in view of Irish

DUBLIN 00001284 003.2 OF 003

commitments to other UN peacekeeping operations.

E. IFI. The Irish Government, said Ahern, would lobby
Congress for continued U.S. support of the International Fund
for Ireland (IFI), which would help to advance the
generation-long process of community reconciliation in
Northern Ireland and Irish border counties. He cited
Ballymena in Northern Ireland as a community riven by
sectarianism, as seen in the recent murder of a Catholic
youth and the reluctance of local unionist politicians to
work with republican counterparts.


8. (SBU) In addition to Foreign Minister Ahern, Irish
participants included Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)
Secretary General Dermot Gallagher and the Minister's Special

Advisor, Ciaran O Cuinn. On the U.S. side, the DCM and
Pol/Econ Section Chief also took part.
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