Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Brazil: The former guerrilla set to be the world's most powerful woman


Dilma Rousseff in her 1970 police mugshot, when she led a revolutionary group

Brazil looks likely to elect an extraordinary leader next weekend

By Hugh O'Shaughnessy
Sunday, 26 September 2010
THE INDEPENDENT

The world's most powerful woman will start coming into her own next weekend. Stocky and forceful at 63, this former leader of the resistance to a Western-backed military dictatorship (which tortured her) is preparing to take her place as President of Brazil.


As head of state, president Dilma Rousseff would outrank Angela Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State: her enormous country of 200 million people is revelling in its new oil wealth. Brazil's growth rate, rivalling China's, is one that Europe and Washington can only envy.

Her widely predicted victory in next Sunday's presidential poll will be greeted with delight by millions. It marks the final demolition of the "national security state", an arrangement that conservative governments in the US and Europe once regarded as their best artifice for limiting democracy and reform. It maintained a rotten status quo that kept a vast majority in poverty in Latin America while favouring their rich friends.

Ms Rousseff, the daughter of a Bulgarian immigrant to Brazil and his schoolteacher wife, has benefited from being, in effect, the prime minister of the immensely popular President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the former union leader. But, with a record of determination and success (which includes appearing to have conquered lymphatic cancer), this wife, mother and grandmother will be her own woman. The polls say she has built up an unassailable lead – of more than 50 per cent compared with less than 30 per cent – over her nearest rival, an uninspiring man of the centre called Jose Serra. Few doubt that she will be installed in the Alvorada presidential palace in Brasilia in January.

Like President Jose Mujica of Uruguay, Brazil's neighbour, Ms Rousseff is unashamed of a past as an urban guerrilla which included battling the generals and spending time in jail as a political prisoner. As a little girl growing up in the provincial city of Belo Horizonte, she says she dreamed successively of becoming a ballerina, a firefighter and a trapeze artist. The nuns at her school took her class to the city's poor area to show them the vast gaps between the middle-class minority and the vast majority of the poor. She remembers that when a young beggar with sad eyes came to her family's door she tore a currency note in half to share with him, not knowing that half a banknote had no value.

Her father, Pedro, died when she was 14, but by then he had introduced her to the novels of Zola and Dostoevski. After that, she and her siblings had to work hard with their mother to make ends meet. By 16 she was in POLOP (Workers' Politics), a group outside the traditional Brazilian Communist Party that sought to bring socialism to those who knew little about it.

The generals seized power in 1964 and decreed a reign of terror to defend what they called "national security". She joined secretive radical groups that saw nothing wrong with taking up arms against an illegitimate military regime. Besides cosseting the rich and crushing trade unions and the underclass, the generals censored the press, forbidding editors from leaving gaps in newspapers to show where news had been suppressed.

Ms Rousseff ended up in the clandestine VAR-Palmares (Palmares Armed Revolutionary Vanguard). In the 1960s and 1970s, members of such organisations seized foreign diplomats for ransom: a US ambassador was swapped for a dozen political prisoners; a German ambassador was exchanged for 40 militants; a Swiss envoy swapped for 70. They also shot foreign torture experts sent to train the generals' death squads. Though she says she never used weapons, she was eventually rounded up and tortured by the secret police in Brazil's equivalent to Abu Ghraib, the Tiradentes prison in Sao Paulo. She was given a 25-month sentence for "subversion" and freed after three years. Today she openly confesses to having "wanted to change the world".

In 1973 she moved to the prosperous southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, where her second husband, Carlos Araujo, a lawyer, was finishing a four-year term as a political prisoner (her first marriage with a young left-winger, Claudio Galeno, had not survived the strains of two people being on the run in different cities). She went back to university, started working for the state government in 1975, and had a daughter, Paula.

In 1986, she was named finance chief of Porto Alegre, the state capital, where her political talents began to blossom. Yet the 1990s were bitter-sweet years for her. In 1993 she was named secretary of energy for the state, and pulled off the coup of vastly increasing power production, ensuring the state was spared the power cuts that plagued the rest of the country.

She had 1,000km of new electric power lines, new dams and thermal power stations built while persuading citizens to switch off the lights whenever they could. Her political star started shining brightly. But in 1994, after 24 years together, she separated from Mr Araujo, though apparently on good terms. At the same time she was torn between academic life and politics, but her attempt to gain a doctorate in social sciences failed in 1998.

In 2000 she threw her lot in with Lula and his Partido dos Trabalhadores, or Workers' Party which set its sights successfully on combining economic growth with an attack on poverty. The two immediately hit it off and she became his first energy minister in 2003. Two years later he made her his chief of staff and has since backed her as his successor. She has been by his side as Brazil has found vast new offshore oil deposits, aiding a leader whom many in the European and US media were denouncing a decade ago as a extreme left-wing wrecker to pull 24 million Brazilians out of poverty. Lula stood by her in April last year as she was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer, a condition that was declared under control a year ago. Recent reports of financial irregularities among her staff do not seem to have damaged her popularity.

Ms Rousseff is likely to invite President Mujica of Uruguay to her inauguration in the New Year. President Evo Morales of Bolivia, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay – other successful South American leaders who have, like her, weathered merciless campaigns of denigration in the Western media – are also sure to be there. It will be a celebration of political decency – and feminism.

Female representation: A woman's place... is in the government

In recent years, female political representation has undergone significant growth, with dramatic changes occurring in unexpected corners of the globe. In some countries women are dominating cabinets and even parliamentary chambers. By comparison, the UK falls far behind, with only 22 per cent of seats in the Commons currently held by women.

Bolivia In the Bolivian cabinet, 10 men are now matched by 10 women. In 2009, women won 25 per cent of seats in the lower chamber, and 47 per cent in the upper chamber.

Costa Rica In 2010, women won 39 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Argentina In 2009, women won 39 per cent of seats in the lower chamber and 47 per cent in the upper chamber.

Cuba In 2009, women won 41 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Rwanda In 2009, women won 56 per cent of seats in the lower chamber and 35 per cent in the upper chamber.

Mozambique In 2009, women won 39 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Angola In 2009, women won 38 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Switzerland Has a female-dominated cabinet for the first time. In 2007, women won 29 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Germany In 2009, the cabinet had six women and 10 men. That year, women won 33 per cent of lower chamber seats.

Spain Nine women compared with eight men in cabinet. In 2008, women won 37 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Norway Equal numbers of men and women in the cabinet. Women won 40 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Denmark Nine women and 10 men in cabinet. In 2007, women won 23 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Netherlands Three women and nine men in cabinet. In 2010, women won 41 per cent of seats in the lower chamber.

Charlotte Sewell

Salute the Tenth Anniversary of Second Palestinian Intifada


Workers Daily Internet Edition
http://www.rcpbml.org.uk/wdie-10/d10-046.htm#lead

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the second Palestinian Intifada of September 2000, sometimes known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada. In that year the Palestinian people rose up to demand their rights to statehood and self-determination and in opposition to the occupation of their homeland by Zionist Israel, backed by the US, Britain and the other big powers. The Intifada of September 2000 had been precipitated by the failure of the Middle East Peace Summit at Camp David, which had been brokered by the US, and the provocative actions of the Zionist Israel, including the visit of Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. The Intifada continued for some five years, led to the loss of thousands of lives and eventually to the withdrawal of Zionist Israel from Gaza and some areas of the occupied West Bank.

On the tenth anniversary of the Second Intifada, it is significant that many of the conditions that led to the uprising of 2000 are still present in the Middle East. The Palestinian people are still denied their legitimate and inalienable right to self-determination; Zionist Israel continues to illegally occupy Palestinian land, to build settlements which have also been declared illegal under international law and to oppress the Palestinians by economic, military and other means; peace talks are being held, again brokered by the US, Zionist Israel’s greatest ally, and widely referred to as potentially crucial and perhaps heralding a significant breakthrough.

There is also an apparent international agreement that Israel should be criticised for its recent provocation, the refusal to extend the moratorium on the illegal building of settlements on occupied land. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, hypocritically declared that he was “deeply concerned” about the failure of Israel to extend the moratorium but also held talks with the Foreign Minister of Israel in which he mainly stressed that Britain was Israel’s friend and wished to continue to pressurise Iran over its nuclear programme. No such pressure has been applied to Israel, as the recent vote in the International Atomic Energy Authority illustrates. Indeed Anglo-American imperialism exerts no pressure on Israel for its illegal actions, for its war crimes in Gaza, nor its attack on the aid flotilla to Gaza, which the UN Human Rights Council has also recently declared illegal. Just as in 2000, the US, Britain and their allies claim that they are committed to a resolution of the problems in the Middle East but in fact continue to support Zionist Israel and its crimes and therefore to deny the Palestinians the right to their homeland.

Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas which constitutes the government of Gaza but is not represented in the current peace talks, has recently pointed out that there are always peace talks, which always end with no major advance for the Palestinians, while on the ground Zionist Israel builds more illegal settlements on occupied land. Such talks are held, he added, mainly to deflect public opinion and as part of the strategic plans of US imperialism throughout the Middle East and particularly in regard to Iraq and Afghanistan. He maintained that there is a requirement that Israel retreats to its 1967 borders, relinquishes East Jerusalem, and recognises the right of Palestinian exiles to return to their homeland. He explained that this was the compromise that the Palestinians had accepted as the basis for statehood and sovereignty. Israel has not only rejected this compromise but now backed by the US, Britain and the other big powers was trying to get the Palestinians to accept further unacceptable compromises. The view of Hamas is that not only is the armed resistance of the Palestinian people entirely legitimate and their cause just but that the time might soon come when the intervention of the US and its allies is completely exposed and rejected and the Palestinians rely on their own strength to achieve their liberation.

On the tenth anniversary of the Second Intifada, another boat is nearing the shores of Gaza in support of the Palestinian people and in defiance of the blockade imposed by Zionist Israel. The small boat is carrying eight activists of Jewish origin from Europe, the US and Israel, including one survivor from the Nazi holocaust. It is yet another illustration of the support that exists for the just cause of the Palestinians throughout the world. The tenth anniversary should be the occasion when all democratic people raise their voices in support of the just cause and struggle of the Palestinian people and their condemnation of Zionist Israel. At the same time, it must lead to a redoubling of efforts to oppose the machinations of Anglo-American imperialism and its allies throughout the Middle East.

Salute the Heroic Resistance of the Palestinian People!

Break the Siege of Gaza!

End Britain’s Backing of the Zionist Regime!


For Your Information
Reaffirming the Rights of the Palestinian People
September 27, 2010

CNN's Nic Robertson carried out the following interview in Damascus, Syria, with Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal. The text is taken from the CNN blog “Inside the Middle East” under the title “Talking to Hamas” with some minor editing.

Nic Robertson:

So when president Obama at the UN General Assembly says that next year we could have a Palestinian state announced, is that unrealistic?

Khaled Meshaal:

Is he the only US president who promised an independent Palestinian state? For years now and every time a US President comes in, every president and in his first term promises the Palestinians and the Arabs that he will work on making sure a Palestinian state will be formed in two or four years at the max and the outcome is always the same. Their presidential term is over and nothing happens; actually instead we get the very opposite. The Palestinian cause gets diminished and the Israeli leaders immerse themselves in building settlements changing the land’s identity, killing, arresting our people and biting off more of our Palestinian land. These are promises made for the US own domestic consumption and they do nothing but sell the Palestinians and the Arabs free and empty slogans so that they can have the Arab official policies be part of the American policy plan, and this way they can assist them with the other main issues like Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a trick that no one believes in anymore because if anyone wants to talk about a true Palestinian state, they need to provide the realistic means to create a Palestinian statehood. In order to do so, there should be a strong international determination led by the United States that will force Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders including East Jerusalem and make the Israelis acknowledge the right of return and the Palestinian rights. This is the only gateway to the true solution. So when an American president comes in and surrenders himself to the Israeli arrogance and refusal to stop the building of settlements and when the US president doesn’t speak clearly on the issue of East Jerusalem and the Palestinians’ right to have East Jerusalem as their capital, their right of return and the 1967 borders, all these promises end up having no value whatsoever.

Nic Robertson:

If Fatah made an agreement right now that accepted the 1967 borders and east Jerusalem as a capital would you accept that? And support that if that’s the agreement Fatah gets?

Khaled Meshaal:

Look, we do have a national public consensus since the result of the national accordance agreement in 2006 that any negotiation taking place must be first based on the rights of the Palestinian people which all factions already agreed upon as a joint political agenda back in 2006 – and these are the 1967 borders, East Jerusalem as its capital, the right of return, the dismantling of the settlements and total sovereignty on the ground – and therefore we know that the Palestinian negotiator must commit to these rights, then the results of the negotiations must be presented to the Palestinian people inside the territories and abroad for a referendum or let a newly elected Palestinian national council vote on it. This is the mechanism that we agreed upon and we are committed to these agreements for four years now. This is our first step but the problem that we are facing today is that Israel rejects all of this and the international community doesn’t pressure Israel so they can accept our rights. The United States despite the fact that they keep talking about a Palestinian state doesn’t want to do anything to pressure Israel to accept anything. Can you see the painful contradiction in terms? The international community demands the Palestinians and the Arabs to accept a compromise based on the 1967 borders. The Arabs and the Palestinians agreed. But Israel rejected that after we said yes. So instead, the international community started asking us for more instead of forcing the Israelis, the arrogant side who didn’t accept the compromise, and they started asking us for more compromises and they want to pressure the Palestinians and the Arabs so we can give up more of our rights. So instead of acknowledging that everyone should accept a compromise based on the 1967 borders, they want us to compromise even more in regard to the borders, in regard to east Jerusalem, the settlements, the right of return. Can you see the true injustice, the prejudice against us? This is bias and hypocrisy that only serves Israel and therefore it will never help in getting the negotiations to succeed and will not lead in my opinion to a true Palestinian state. And I say that to you, this may be very excruciating for the Palestinian people but the international community must realise that the Palestinian moment may get to that moment when they know that the policies of the international community will not bring them justice and will not force the Israelis to respect the borders; the Palestinian people will seek their rights on their own and let the whole world deal with the consequences of that Palestinian decision, and I can tell you that the Palestinian people are heading in that direction.


Nic Robertson:


What is Hamas’s strategy to bring about a situation where the international community puts pressure on Israel to change its position which is what you want? Your strategy so far seems to be shooting four Israeli settlers a few weeks ago... doesn’t that isolate you from the international community rather than win their support?

Khaled Meshaal:

Do you mean that right before the killing of the settlers in the West Bank, the American and western policy was any better and helping the Palestinian people and were there any true pressures on Israel whatsoever? Unfortunately not. To begin with, the Palestinian resistance is a natural way of expressing our way of confronting the Israeli occupation from one end and also from another perspective is a Palestinian reaction to that general feeling that the Palestinians and the Arabs have that relying on the pressure of the international community is a wrong and useless option because we all know that the international community isn’t capable or willing to force Israel to go for the true peace option in the West Bank, and this is why we rely on the option of the resistance because it is our legitimate right of defending our people and confronting the occupation.

Hamas is practicing its legitimate right; we are defending our own people. Why does the international community get upset when we kill illegal settlers on our land? The international community considers the lands of the West Bank and the Gaza district an occupied land and its occupation is illegal based on the international law and this is the international concept of occupation and since the building of settlements in the West Bank is illegal. Therefore it is clear that the presence of the settlers in the West Bank is illegal, so they get upset when the Israeli soldiers and the settlers must get out of the West Bank. The blame cannot be put on the Palestinian resistance when we are defending our own people. You know that there are a half million settlers in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, they are heavily armed, they kill the Palestinians kids, they are burning the olive trees, they violate the land, they desecrate the holy places. Theses settlers are behind every violation and we are only defending our people by confronting the Israeli killings and the constant violations whether carried out by the soldiers or by the settlers. Yes, it is true that we are so keen on managing and having a balanced relationship with everyone in the international community in Europe, including the United States, but managing and having these relationships with anyone in the international community will never be at the expense of the rights of the Palestinian people and our people’s right in determining its destiny in choosing the resistance option against the occupation and the settlers.

Nic Robertson:

What you are saying is your strategy is to continue to shoot and to kill?

Khaled Meshaal:

No. Hamas’ strategy is the following. Holding on to the national rights of the Palestinian people. Resisting the occupation since the resistance is a legitimate right, just like every country around the world confronted their occupiers in the name of the resistance, just like the American people who fought the British occupation, waging their independence war. Hamas’ strategy relies on reaching a way of determining our own destiny, taking back our land, defending our people against the occupation and the settlements and then working on establishing a true Palestinian state that will have true sovereignty. This is Hamas’ strategy, and at the same time we will continue dealing with the Arab and Islamic worlds and the international community and all the effective key players and demand them to stand by the Palestinian right and the just Palestinian cause. We just want them to be fair to us and we tell the international community very clearly and openly that you have two options ahead of you. Either you pressure Israel to withdraw from the Palestinian land to the 1967 borders, or if you fail to do so the Palestinian people will have one option and that is the resistance. We want the final product no matter what the way will be. If the Palestinians can be spared the sacrifices through an international determination to pressure the Israelis to withdraw, we will welcome that for sure. But if the international community stands in silence and does nothing while the Palestinian people suffer, while they get killed, and they get oppressed, right then, no one can ask us to stand by and not use our basic right to defend ourselves. The international community has the responsibility of its decisions and we want the easiest way to obtain our rights. If we can get that by peace, ahlan wa sahlan [welcome], but we cannot have peace and occupation. This is worthless. We want our rights and if we can only get them by the means of the resistance, this is our legitimate right and duty and no one can blame us. The true blame falls on the occupation, and those who defend and lie defending the occupation.

Nic Robertson:

Don’t you need to be realistic? Israel is far militarily stronger than Hamas. How can you convince the international community to support you and pressure Israel? Israel can outfight you.

Khaled Meshaal:

How did the Vietnamese people force you to withdraw from their lands? How did the colonial British forces withdraw from the United States and many other places around the world in defeat? How did people around the world fight for their freedom? How did the French stand defiant facing Hitler? How and how and how? This is a general rule or law. The people who get occupied resist their occupiers. They don’t have to be stronger than their occupiers, but because they have a noble cause. They have the right in facing the injustice of their occupiers. These people will end up winning their freedom even if they were weaker on the military level when they face the occupation. This is a basic human right that everyone knows. Therefore we rely on this. The Israeli occupation is unjust and illegal. We are the people of the land. We have a legitimate and just cause and therefore we will win no matter what. The proof was shown inside Palestine. Why did Sharon withdraw from Gaza? Why did the Israelis withdraw from Lebanon? Israel is stronger than Hamas, mightier than Hezbollah, but they had to retreat. Why did the 2006 war against Lebanon fail? Why did the 2008-2009 war against Gaza also fail despite the fact that Israel is stronger than us? Power is not the only answer in ending battles. I believe that today and after all its wars that Bush got the US involved in, America finally realised that power cannot resolve anything in the battlefields and in managing the conflicts among the people and the nations. There are various other angles that need to be considered and I say yes if the international community doesn’t realise that. And here I don’t only say Hamas but the whole Palestinian people will win in this just war. If the international community isn’t convinced that we will finally win, in five years from now we will meet again and there will be a new conviction that the international community will have and the United States and the international community will finally realise that Israel is nothing but a political and a moral burden on their shoulder and that the halo of that Israeli superpower in the region no longer exists. They proved to be incompetent in all of their wars, in the recent years and in the coming ones, God willing.

Khalid Meshaal said the following about captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip:

Of course his health situation is much better than that of the 8,000 Palestinian prisoners who are suffering in Israeli jails. By the way, yesterday there was a general strike in the Israeli enemy prisons and there is an anger raging in the Palestinian streets in the West Bank, Gaza and abroad because of the repulsive and harsh treatment of our Palestinian prisoners by the Israeli occupation. But when it comes to Gilad Shalit, I can assure you that we treat him very well based on our principles and our religious doctrines. Despite the fact that he is not a civilian, he is a soldier that we captured in a battle and not like the thousands of Palestinian civilians who were kidnapped by the Israelis, among them ministers, national council members, scholars, political figures and many others. But despite everything, we say that when it comes to Gilad Shalit, we are ready to hand him back over to his family but we demand that Netanyahu releases in exchange the numbers and the names that we previously demanded so we can release our men and women from Israeli prisons.



Monday, 27 September 2010

Venezuela's ruling party wins majority in legislative election


Supporters of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez react after learning the results of the polls in legislative elections early on September 27, 2010 in Caracas. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's party won most seats in key legislative elections, but strong opposition gains robbed it of enough votes to easily pass reforms, electoral officials said late on September 26. (Xinhua/AFP)

English.news.cn 2010-09-27 15:18:40

Video: Venezuela holds parliamentary election


CARACAS, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- Venezuela's Hugo Chavez's Socialist Party won a majority in the 165-seat parliament, electoral officials said on Monday.

With most votes counted, the Socialist Party won at least 90 of the 165 seats and the opposition won at least 59, said National Electoral Council (CNE) President Tibisay Lucena.

Yet the opposition claimed it had won a majority by getting 52 percent of the country's popular vote. The strong opposition gains made Chavez's party hard to pass reforms in parliament.

On Sunday, about 17.5 million Venezuelans voted to choose 165 deputies to the National Assembly and 12 representatives to the Latin American Parliament.

Chavez said that with these elections Venezuela would show the world it was a democratic country, underlining transparency, reliability and security of the electoral process.

The ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), with around 7 million members, had planned a congress of 772 members representing the country's 759 municipalities, and this election was seen as "a critical test for the president's rule."

The main opposition parties had boycotted the 2005 parliamentary election and withdrew just before the election day. In June 2009, the opposition parties planned to create Coalition for Democratic Unity (MUD), a coalition including all opposition parties which may select unique candidates for the 2010 elections.

By April 2010, the MUD had included about 50 political parties, of which 16 were national in scope

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Capitalism fractured

MORNING STAR
Friday 24 September 2010
John Wight

http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/index.php/news/content/view/full/95679

One of the few positives to come out of the global recession is the intellectual schism that it has opened up within capitalist debate.

While capitalism has yet to fracture completely, the hitherto unassailable neoliberal consensus which has dominated the world over the past 30 or so years has certainly ruptured.

This battle of ideas shows that a crisis of confidence now pervades governments, economic think tanks, the pages of the financial press and society in general in relation to the economic received truths which have and continue to underpin neoliberalism.

Evidence of the way in which this debate has reached the very heart of government was provided this past week with an advanced leak of the contents of Business Secretary Vince Cable's speech to the Lib Dem conference.

In what has to count as a unique event, the very word "capitalism" appeared on the front pages as a subject of debate, when it came to light that much of Cable's speech would be devoted to an attack on the banking and financial sectors responsible for the recession.

The significance of the leak was twofold.

First, the way it drew in CBI director-general Richard Lambert, who was prompted to ask Cable via the pages of the mainstream press if he had an alternative to capitalism.

Second, how Cable felt compelled to qualify his remarks and affirm his underlying belief in capitalism, citing Adam Smith in an effort to justify his criticisms of the practices of the City and its impact on the real economy.

This should be understood within the wider context of a coalition government which has increasingly been placed on the back foot by the rising tide of argument in support of a Keynesian alternative to its plans to unleash the deepest and most swingeing cuts of any British government since the second world war.

Much of the credit for this Keynesian counter-attack must go to Labour leadership contender Ed Balls, who is a shoo-in to become the next shadow chancellor under whoever wins the Labour leadership election.

His recent Bloomberg speech fired a massive economic shot across the bows of the deficit-cutting junkies on the right.

It was a speech which put the most coherent, intellectually robust and persuasive case for an alternative path out of recession of any that's been made by any mainstream political figure so far.

The analysis put forward by Balls, a key adviser to Gordon Brown during his tenure as chancellor and then prime minister, is backed up by such prestigious economic minds as Paul Krugman, professor of economics at Princeton University and Joseph Stiglitz, professor at Columbia University and former head of the World Bank.

Both the aforementioned US economists fall into the category of neo-Keynesians.

They advocate a demand-side solution to the economic crisis in the form of massive fiscal stimulus and progressive taxation in order to kickstart growth and offset the certain plunge into double-dip recession that will result otherwise.

Stiglitz in his book on the economic crisis Freefall takes the Obama administration to task for not injecting enough of a stimulus into the US economy two years ago, pointing out that the $800 billion that has been injected up to now constitutes only 3 per cent of US GDP.

Stiglitz writes: "While most economists were convinced that a stimulus was necessary and that it was working - even though a bigger stimulus would have been desirable - there were a few nay-sayers.

"Some conservatives have even been trying to rewrite history to suggest that government spending didn't work in the Great Depression.

"Of course it didn't pull the country out of the Great Depression - the United States didn't really emerge from the Depression until World War II. But the reason was that Congress and Roosevelt vacillated. The stimulus was not consistently strong enough.

"As in this crisis, cutbacks in state spending partially offset increases in federal spending. Large-scale peacetime Keynesian economics had never really been tried - the rhetoric to the contrary."

In Britain the widely respected Institute of Fiscal Studies recently released a devastating analysis of the government's proposed spending cuts, revealing that the cuts would have a disproportionate impact on people on low incomes, which forced Nick Clegg to come out and fight a political rearguard action across the media in defence of the government's plans.

The basis of Clegg and George Osborne's arguments on cuts is that without a drastic decrease in the deficit, investment will fail to pick up and government borrowing will become too expensive.

This is economic illiteracy on a grand scale. Investment in the British economy is just as likely to be deterred by a spike in unemployment and the attendant instability this will create as a consequence of swingeing cuts in spending.

In terms of borrowing, the lie has been propagated that the British economy risks the crisis currently unravelling in Greece and Spain.

But this is an argument which purposely ignores the fact that no comparison can be made between the British economy and those of the aforementioned nations in terms of diversification or underlying strength.

In addition the fact that sterling remains weak means that with government investment in manufacturing, the chances of an export-led recovery will increase.

Neither Greece nor Spain, both in the eurozone, has this option open to them.

Yes, the cost of borrowing will undoubtedly increase - which throws a light on the role of the international ratings agencies and the nature of their relationship to the IMF - but even so the multiplier effect of investment, if done wisely and boldly enough, would more than offset any such increase.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, the plunge in tax revenues, rise in benefit claims and downward pressure on wages that will occur as a consequence of a sharp rise in unemployment will do immense damage to the prospects of a recovery any time soon.

There is also the social cost of drastic cuts to consider. A spike in crime, stress-related illnesses, the break-up of families, homelessness, alcohol and drug use and abuse, all of these maladies will increase and have a corresponding impact on an already under-pressure NHS, social services, police and prisons.

The question for the left is whether to engage in this ongoing battle of ideas currently taking place within the dominant ideology, and how, or ignore it in order to focus on promoting the complete socialist transformation of the economic system as the only solution both in the short and longer term.

The answer to this question has ramifications which extend far beyond the purely intellectual or theoretical level.

Indeed, the ability of the working class to resist the Tory-led assault on services, jobs and communities will largely depend on the ideas with which they are armed in order to do so.

The schism which has opened up within capitalism provides the opportunity for meaningful engagement on both an intellectual and practical level. More and more people are asking questions about how the economy is run, about the huge disparity in incomes between rich and poor, about what the role of the government should be in protecting and creating jobs, communities and services. Questions on issues of social and economic justice are being asked as never before.

It is for this reason that the current crisis provides the left with an opportunity that should not be allowed to pass.

Condemn FBI raids on anti-war and solidarity activists’ homes




Published Sep 24, 2010 9:02 PM

The International Action Center condemns the FBI raids on anti-war and solidarity activists homes on Sept. 24 and supports the right of all social justice activists to defend the rights of workers here at home and to be in solidarity with our sisters and brothers around the world resisting occupation and military dictatorship. The IAC urges full support of the activists targeted by the FBI and wide distribution of the statement below issued by activists targeted in the raids.

In solidarity, Sara Flounders, Co-director, International Action Center
http://www.workers.org/2010/us/fbi_raids_0930/


For Immediate Release
24 Sept. 2010
Contact: Tom Burke, 773-844-3612
Steff Yorek, 612-865-8234

Activists denounce FBI raids on anti-war and solidarity activists’ homes

Subpoenas, Searches, and FBI visits carried out in cities across the country.

We denounce the Federal Bureau of Investigation harassment of anti-war and solidarity activists in several states across the country. The FBI began turning over six houses in Chicago and Minneapolis this morning, Friday, Sept. 24, 2010, at 8:00 a.m. Central time. The FBI handed subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to about a dozen activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. They also attempted to intimidate activists in California and North Carolina.

"The government hopes to use a grand jury to frame up activists. The goal of these raids is to harass and try to intimidate the movement against U.S. wars and occupations, and those who oppose U.S. support for repressive regimes," said Colombia solidarity activist Tom Burke, one of those handed a subpoena by the FBI. "They are designed to suppress dissent and free speech, to divide the peace movement, and to pave the way for more U.S. military intervention in the Middle East and Latin America."

This suppression of democratic rights is aimed towards those who dedicate much of their time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war. The activists are involved with well-known anti-war groups including many of the leaders of the huge protest against the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN in September 2008. The FBI agents emphasized that the grand jury was going to investigate the activists for possible terrorism charges. This is a U.S. government attempt to silence those who support resistance to oppression in the Middle East and Latin America.

The activists involved have done nothing wrong and are refusing to be pulled into conversations with the FBI about their political views or organizing against war and occupation. The activists are involved with many groups, including: the Palestine Solidarity Group, Students for a Democratic Society, the Twin-Cities Anti-War Committee, the Colombia Action Network, the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera (a Colombian Political Prisoner).

Steff Yorek, a long-time antiwar activist and one of the activists whose homes was searched, called the raids “An outrageous fishing expedition.”

We urge all progressive activists to show solidarity with those individuals targeted by the U.S. Government. Activists have the right not to speak with the FBI and are encouraged to politely refuse, just say “No”.

Please contact info@colombiasolidarity.org or info@fightbacknews.org if you would like to provide support to the targeted activists.


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Friday, 24 September 2010

Wikileaks reveal CIA told media to promote women’s horror stories in Afghanistan


By Joyce Chediac


Published Sep 9, 2010
WORKERS WORLD
http://www.workers.org/2010/world/afghanistan_0916/

Recent WikiLeaks disclosures reveal just how low the U.S. government and its media mouthpieces will stoop to revive support for its occupation of Afghanistan.

A March 11 secret memorandum from the CIA’s Red Cell problem-solving group, now made public, suggests “promoting women’s horror stories” to bolster faltering support for the Afghan war, says John Gorenfeld in the Aug. 16 New York Observer.


Gorenfeld continues, “Subtitling their memo ‘Why Counting On Apathy Might Not Be Enough,’ the agents warned that sending more soldiers to Afghanistan threatened to outrage the French and German publics. ‘Indifference might turn into active hostility,’ they wrote, especially if soldiers and civilians die. The fix? Instead of using generals in desert camo [camouflage] as the face of the NATO mission, use oppressed Afghan women.

“These victims could make ‘ideal messengers,’ the analysts wrote, ‘in humanizing the ISAF [NATO International Security Assistance Force] role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory.’ The report also urged that these stories be pitched to TV shows with large female audiences.”

Surely the CIA knows that the reality is that under the U.S. occupation “women’s rights have actually deteriorated as a direct consequence of deliberate U.S. policy, including alliances with warlords hostile to women’s rights,” according to Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission of the International Humanities Center (Women’s eNews, July 26, 2009).

Taliban not the only culprits

Meanwhile, major U.S. media are enthusiastically following the CIA’s guidelines. That the U.S. occupation hurts Afghan women didn’t matter to Time magazine when it pictured on its Aug. 9 cover a woman whose nose had been cut off by a relative living under the U.S. occupation. Time wrongly blamed the mutilation on the Taliban, and implied that a Pentagon withdrawal from the country would be “abandoning” Afghan women.

But The Nation, a progressive magazine, blew the whistle in an article entitled, “Afghan Woman Have Already Been Abandoned” (Aug. 12). Ann Jones, who recently returned from Afghanistan, said the woman on Time’s cover, Bibi Aisha, told her that she had been mutilated by her father-in-law as a punishment, and the Taliban had nothing to do with it. But to the CIA and, it seems, to Time, what happens to Afghan women is irrelevant, as long as these women’s sufferings can be exploited to provide backing for the war.

There is another sordid revelation concerning this Time cover story. Its author, the magazine’s Afghanistan Bureau Chief Aryn Baker, did not disclose that she personally profits from the U.S. occupation. John Gorenfeld reports that Baker’s spouse, Tamim Samee, “is a board member of an Afghan government minister’s $100 million project advocating foreign investment in Afghanistan, and has run two companies ... that have solicited and won development contracts with the assistance of the international military, including private sector infrastructure projects favored by U.S.-backed leader Hamid Karzai.” (New York Observer, Aug. 12)

Time responded to the Observer investigation by moving Baker to another, undisclosed country, but continues to defend her specious article as a “straightforward reported piece.”

With the generous help of the establishment media, the U.S. government would have us believe that Afghan and Moslem culture is terrible and misogynist; and that Afghan women need to be “saved” from their culture and from men by a U.S. invasion. This is a false and racist bill of goods.

Afghan women can never find freedom under an occupying power. For women to have their rights, the very first need is for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan and stop interfering in its affairs.

Meanwhile, by relegating violence against women and forced sex with women and children solely to Middle Eastern and Muslim cultures, the major media downplay the situation of women here.

The National Organization for Women points out that there is “an epidemic of gender based violence and sexual assault” right here in the U.S., and the numbers, NOW says, are shocking. “In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner. That’s an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner.”

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control says that women experience about 4.8 million intimate-partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. The U.S. Department of Justice itself explains that a woman is beaten every 15 seconds and a woman raped every two minutes. The National Crime Victimization Survey of 2006 revealed that more than 600 women a day were raped or sexually assaulted in the U.S.

If Washington is so concerned about violence against women in Afghanistan, why isn’t it doing anything about violence against women in the U.S.? Why don’t the media start a campaign exposing the maiming and killing of women here by spouses and lovers?

The FBI also estimates that well over 100,000 children and young women are sexually trafficked in the U.S. today. They range in age from 9 to 19, with the average age being 11. This is sexual slavery of children — right here. Where are the media exposés?

Western priests rape thousands of children

When it comes to pedophilia, Catholic priests have repeatedly raped thousands of children in their charge for decades without punishment. In the U.S. “only a fraction of the perpetrators have been jailed and little been done to punish those who covered up the crimes.” (Agence France Press, April 4) The U.S. government did nothing while victims, mostly working-class boys, were intimidated into silence, and “abusive priests moved to unsuspecting parishes where they found new prey.”

When researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice were given access to church files, they “found that more than 4,392 Catholic priests and deacons sexually abused at least 10,677 American children between 1950 and 2002. Just 615 of those incidents had been reported to law enforcement and only 384 clergy members were criminally charged, resulting in 252 convictions. A further 3,091 abusive clergy and 4,568 victims were identified from 2004 through 2009, according to a report published [in February].”

Are cops the U.S. Taliban?

The press has reported many stories of Afghan women under the subjection of men with guns who kill and maim without being reported to police or government. That doesn’t happen here — or does it?

Barbara Sheehan faces 15 years to life for killing her spouse, a retired police officer, and will be tried in Queens, N.Y. For 20 years, her spouse, who carried two guns at all times, beat her black and blue, threatened to push her out of cars, humiliated her, pulled guns on her and taunted her. He told her that if she left him, he would kill her family and their children. He dared her to call the police. “I couldn’t call 911. He was 911,” Sheehan said. The police “would never have arrested him. And then what would happen when they left?” (Women’s eNews, July 13)

Women like Sheehan have no one to turn to and often nowhere to go. Many women’s shelters refuse to take in the abused wives and families of police for fear of retaliation by that cop and his buddies on the force.

“Domestic violence is two to four times more common in police families than in the general population,” according to Purple Berets, a group which advocates for victims of sexual assault. “In a nationwide survey of 123 police departments, 45 percent had no specific policy for dealing with officer-involved domestic violence. — The most common discipline imposed for a sustained allegation of domestic violence was counseling.” (purpleberets.org)

This is the U.S. version of the Taliban, and it’s a national phenomenon. The outcome can be very tragic. For example, Jeffery Grahn, a Clackamas County, Ore., sheriff sergeant, had been reported three times to his superiors in the police department for spousal abuse, including holding a loaded gun at his spouse’s head, and also for being “suicidal.” But an investigation by the police buried the matter, and allowed Grahn to keep his badge and gun. On Feb. 12 Grahn killed his spouse Charlotte, two of her friends, and then himself. (Women’s eNews, Aug. 4)

If Washington doesn’t stand up to this kind of violence against women here, how could it possibly stop violence against women in Afghanistan?

Next: Washington’s agent of salvation for Afghan women is the Pentagon. What is the Pentagon’s record on women?


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Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Real IRA says it will target UK bankers


The IRA bombed targets in the City during the 1990s. Now the Real IRA may use the same tactic. Photograph: Rex Features

Exclusive: Republican terror group vows to resume mainland attacks with banks and bankers now potential targets

Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 14 September 2010

AUDIO LINK - Real IRA target banks: 'They branded banks as criminals' "

Banks and bankers are now potential targets for the Real IRA, leaders of the dissident republican terror group have warned in an exclusive interview with the Guardian. Despite having only 100 activists they also said that targets in England remained a high priority.
In an attempt to tap into the intense hostility towards the banks on both sides of the Irish border they branded bankers as "criminals" and said: "We have a track record of attacking high-profile economic targets and financial institutions such as the City of London. The role of bankers and the institutions they serve in financing Britain's colonial and capitalist system has not gone unnoticed.

"Let's not forget that the bankers are the next-door neighbours of the politicians. Most people can see the picture: the bankers grease the politicians' palms, the politicians bail out the bankers with public funds, the bankers pay themselves fat bonuses and loan the money back to the public with interest. It's essentially a crime spree that benefits a social elite at the expense of many millions of victims."

But security sources in Northern Ireland point out say the Real IRA lacks the logistical resources of the Provisional IRA to prosecute a bombing campaign similar to the ones that devastated the City of London in the early 1990s or the Canary Wharf bomb in 1996. Although the Real IRA has access to explosives it has yet to carry out large-scale bombings.

The terror group stressed in a series of written answers to the Guardian's questions that future attacks would alternate between the "military, political and economic targets". It is the first time the Real IRA has engaged in such open anti-capitalist rhetoric or focused on the role of the banking system.

The leaders also threatened to intensify the group's terror campaign on all fronts.

"Realistically, it is important to acknowledge that we have regrouped and reorganised and emerged from a turbulent period in republican history.

"We have already shown our capacity to launch attacks on the British military, judicial, and policing infrastructure. As we rebuild, we are confident that we will increase the volume and effectiveness of attacks," the organisation said.

One element in the Real IRA's recent activity has been a wave of so-called "punishment" shootings and beatings of those they deem "antisocial elements" in nationalist working class areas. In Derry alone the Real IRA and other aligned groups have shot around two dozen men over the last 18 months.

The Real IRA's leadership was unapologetic over what its critics have described as "rough justice". The group believes such attacks are popular and can garner support in areas where the communities were previously alienated from the police.

"These actions are taken as a last resort to protect the community. We are an integral part of the community and the people in them are our eyes and ears. The fact is that the British police force is rejected by republican communities and people naturally turn to us for help.

"The vast majority of issues are resolved by negotiation, a small percentage require more direct forms of intervention including punishment shootings and expulsions," they said.

On the political front they dismissed Sinn Féin's claims that its electoral strategy would ultimately yield a united Ireland despite the majority of nationalists in Northern Ireland still voting for Sinn Féin and an overwhelming majority backing the peace process.

The Real IRA insisted, however, that support for them was building and they had turned away hundreds of young disaffected nationalists because they didn't have the capacity to absorb so many members.

"From the point of view of republican communities, there is still a heavily armed British police force that casually uses plastic baton rounds, CS gas and Tasers, carry out house raids, stop and search operations and general harassment.

"There's still a 5,000-strong British army garrison, a new MI5 HQ in Belfast, and a British secretary of state. Republican communities are still subjected to sectarian parades and the right to protest is being met with intimidation and violence."

On the subject of recent reports of talks between dissident republicans and the Dublin and London governments the Real IRA said: "There are no talks with either the British government or the Free State Administration.

"The IRA is not unwilling to talk, in fact there needs to be talks … however, talks need to deal with the root cause of the conflict, namely the illegal British occupation of Ireland. We are mindful, though, that the history of such approaches from the British has been characterised by a lack of integrity, a lack of willingness to address the causes of conflict, and has been motivated by a self-serving agenda." Northern Ireland's deputy first minister and Sinn Féin MP, Martin McGuinness, also came in for strong criticism. The former chief-of-staff of the IRA and key Sinn Féin negotiator recently claimed that he had knowledge that dissidents were holding secret discussions with the two governments.

"Martin McGuinness is a British Crown minister who has a vested interest in causing mischief among republicans. His job is to administer the Queen of England's writ in Ireland ... However, if he has any evidence to back up his claims, he should make it public," the Real IRA said.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/sep/14/real-ira-targets-banks-bankers


Real IRA meeting was like a scene from the Godfather

Terror group representative who made contact with the Guardian ensured stringent security measures were observed

Henry McDonald guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 14 September 2010

The Real IRA has become increasingly security conscious when dealing with the media. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

It was a little reminiscent of that scene in The Godfather when Al Pacino leaves a "mediation" meeting with his father's would-be killers to go to the lavatory in an Italian restaurant in New York chosen for peace talks aimed at averting an all out war. Unknown to those he is dining with the Corleone family have hidden a gun taped to the back of a toilet cistern.

The Real IRA took similar security measures to ensure that the Guardian received answers to a series of questions we had posed to the terror group. This had been the product of several months of contacts through intermediaries who contacted Real IRA members with a view to establishing a link.

It is the first time the terror group has spoken directly to a national UK newspaper.

In our final meeting at a location near the border in northwest Ulster the Guardian was advised to go into a public toilet and search around the back of the bowl for something. A USB memory stick was found wrapped up inside a surgical glove presumably to ensure that those who had passed it on left no finger prints on the device.

The move reflects how security conscious the republican dissidents have become when dealing with the media. This is in part due to an incident several years ago when the Garda Síochána arrested a number of suspected dissidents along with a BBC camera crew in Co Donegal.

The terror group's representative then suggested that the device be plugged into a laptop computer and a file containing a very detailed list of answers from the Real IRA's leadership be copied and pasted.

After the written answers were copied the device was taken out of the laptop, with the surgical glove still covering the USB stick. It was then handed over to someone who had their backs to the Guardian and presumably then taken away and destroyed.

Shortly afterwards the Real IRA representative left the location without another word. At no time during our meeting did the Real IRA representative indicate who they were or where they came from. Nor had the Guardian ever encountered him before. The one striking aspect of this encounter was that the person the Real IRA sent to talk to the Guardian was articulate, thoughtful and politically tuned-in. In our brief discussion they also talked about the latest Eta ceasefire in Spain and the political impact of the public sector cuts being imposed on Northern Ireland by Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

Irish trade unionists have warned that a savage cost cutting programme in the north of Ireland could create a new underclass and increase the ranks of the young unemployed. The unions have also issued a warning that such a well of disaffected, alienated young people – particularly in the nationalist community – will be fertile recruiting territory for republican dissidents. In our brief but illuminating conversation the Real IRA leadership's go-between did not disagree with that analysis.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/sep/14/real-ira-meeting-godfather-scene


Real IRA: Tapping anti-capitalist rage has not worked in the past

Track record of similar campaigns by other western European terror organisations does not bode well for the group

Henry McDonald guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 14 September 2010

Threats against banks by the Real IRA are the first time that any dissident republican terror group in recent years has deployed overtly anti-capitalist language. It reflects a desire to tap into widespread, burning discontent with the banks and the banking system on the island of Ireland as a means to gain new support.

Whether or not the Real IRA would or could take its bellicose warnings against financial institutions a lethal step further remains to be seen. But its pointed attack on banks and bankers is the first time in years that any western European terror organisation has singled out any key sector of the capitalist system.

The track record of European terrorist groups who indulge in anti-capitalist threats does not bode well for the Real IRA. Back in the early 1990s, the third generation of ultra-leftist terrorists that were inspired by the Baader-Meinhof gang carried out a brief but bloody campaign of violence in reunited Germany. At a time when capitalism seemed triumphant after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Red Army Faction (RAF) mark three targeted business executives associated with the privatisation of vast sectors of East German industry.

The strategy of the resurgent RAF was to exploit anger in east Germany over the activities of the Treuhand agency, whose privatisation of former state enterprises was putting tens of thousands of people out of work.

The targeting and murder of a number of leading business figures, however, did not precipitate any revolutionary situation in the former East Germany. Rather, the campaign was widely condemned and led to the defeat of the RAF and its eventual disbandment. Disaffected workers in the east did not flow into the arms of revolutionary ultra-leftists in the early years of reunification.

Basque terror group Eta's armed campaign over the last decade is probably more akin to the Real IRA's "war" than Germany's RAF. Both Eta and the Real IRA target institutions and representatives of what they see as occupying powers in a series of on/off campaigns of sabotage and assassination. Indeed, Eta's violent campaign has been petering out of late due to security co-operation between French and Spanish police. Eta activists have been arrested on both sides of the Pyrenees, while police in Portugal earlier this year closed down a major Eta arms base. Eta has recently declared a ceasefire from a position of weakness.

The Real IRA has shown a capacity to recover from heavy losses of personnel and the international opprobrium heaped upon it after the 1998 Omagh bomb massacre. Its targets over the past 18 months have included British soldiers preparing for a tour of duty in Afghanistan; Catholic police officers; young men allegedly engaged in so-called antisocial behaviour in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland; off-duty British Army officers; and MI5's regional headquarters in Holywood, County Down. If the organisation was to go a step further than just hostile rhetoric, it would mark a whole new level in terrorist strategy.

As with all armed insurgent groups success is always built in the end on the support they can draw from the indigenous population. There is some evidence that the Real IRA has been receiving help and assistance from younger people in the alienated nationalist underclass. None the less, the vast majority of nationalists both in Northern Ireland and the Republic are fed up with conflict and are fully behind peaceful, democratic solutions to divisions on the island.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/sep/14/real-ira-anti-capitalist-rage

Billy Wright report says murder down to official incompetence not conspiracy


Loyalist Volunteer Force leader Billy Wright in 1997 Photograph: PA

Review blames MI5, prison service and RUC for various failings but rules out state collusion in loyalist commander's killing

Henry McDonald and Owen Bowcott guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 14 September 2010

THE RAT IS DEAD - VIDEO

Prison service incompetence rather than state-sponsored conspiracy led to the death of the loyalist leader Billy Wright in the Maze jail in 1997, an official report concluded today.

The report found there was no evidence to support the allegation of Wright's family that MI5 conspired in the death of the founder of the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

Wright was shot dead on 27 December 1997, at a critical stage of the Northern Ireland peace process, by inmates belonging to the Irish National Liberation Army. He was being transferred to a visitors hall in the top-security prison to meet his girlfriend.

The 704-page report, released this afternoon, highlights a catalogue of security failures but has unearthed nothing to suggest there was official connivance in the murder of Wright, a hardline opponent of the peace process.

Special branch, the Northern Ireland prison service and MI5 are all subject to varying degrees of blame for neglecting to take sufficient precautions against the shooting inside the Maze prison.

The inquiry cost £30m and ran for five years, but the report's authors admitted they still did not know how the guns used to kill Wright ended up in the Maze.

"To our regret, no explanation emerged in the evidence as to how the two firearms were introduced into the prison and put into the hands of his INLA murderers," they concluded.

On claims of MI5's role in a plot, the report said: "The panel reject the charge of collusion made by the Wright family against the security service."

But the report said it was "most unfortunate" that MI5 officers did not communicate intelligence about a threat to Wright from the INLA as far back as April 1997.

Wright's father, David, who campaigned over the last 13 years for a public inquiry, is likely to issue a legal challenge to its findings. David Wright still claims there is sufficient evidence to point to collusion.

Instead, the report detailed a long list of security failings in and around H-Block 6, the section of the Maze that housed prisoners from the INLA and the LVF.

On all failings, the Billy Wright report concluded that this was "negligence not intentional".

Among the security lapses, each of which the authors said "facilitated" the death of Wright, were:

• The failure to identify two of Wright's killers, Christopher McWilliams and John Kenneway, as a threat.

• The failure to strengthen the roof of H-6, which the INLA gang climbed on to before dropping down into the exercise yard towards Wright, who was held in a minibus prior to a prison visit.

• The failure to lock down INLA prisoners for the night inside H-6.

• The failure to spot that the INLA inmates had cut a hole in the security fence of H-6 giving them access to the roof.

The report also criticised the Royal Ulster Constabulary for failing to pass on intelligence from agents within the INLA that the republican terror group had discussed killing Wright months before the murder.

Criticism was levelled at the Police Service of Northern Ireland for failing to provide lists of agents within the INLA who may have had prior knowledge of the planned murder.

Northern Ireland prison service officials came under criticism for believing the INLA's promises to have a "no strike policy" against loyalists.

"The panel agree with the view expressed by Sir Richard Tilt [one of the counsels in the inquiry] that a 'no first strike' deal was a wholly inadequate substitute for proper security and control."

Among the report's main recommendations was the suggestion that the Northern Ireland prison service be subjected to a root-and-branch reform programme, similar to that carried out by the former Tory chairman Chris Patten and his team which led to the evolution of the RUC into the PSNI.

In its conclusion the report states: "We have been critical of critical of certain individuals and institutions or state agencies, some of whose actions did, in our opinion, facilitate [Wright's] death. We were not, however, persuaded that in any instance there was evidence of collusive acts or collusive conduct."

Many of the relevant security files, it emerged, had been initially withheld or previously destroyed.

A "series of failures in the management of the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS)" was identified.

No risk assessment was carried out before Wright was transferred to the Maze despite intelligence that there were republican threats against his life. Placing both LVF and INLA prisoners in the same wing of the Maze "was a wrongful act that directly facilitated the murder of Bill Wright", the inquiry found.

A Red Cross report in November 1997 that described the Maze as a "powder keg" was not properly considered by the prison service, the inquiry's report said.

One long-standing complaint of the Troubles surfaced in criticism that the RUC's special branch did not share information with the rest of the force. "There was a culture of secrecy and confidentiality that was endemic", the report said.

Jane Winter, of British Irish Rights Watch, said she was disappointed by the findings. "Weeks before it happened, prison officers in H6 told the prison service that INLA would come over the roof of the wing and kill Wright," she said. "There's a form of collusion where you sit back and let things take their course. Given that there had been previous warnings by the staff, I would say it was collusion."

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Did 9/11 make us all go mad? Nine years, two wars, hundreds of thousands dead - and nothing learnt

By Robert Fisk
The Independent
Saturday, 11 September 2010
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-nine-years-two-wars-hundreds-of-thousands-dead-ndash-and-nothing-learnt-2076450.html

How fitting, in a weird, crazed way, that the apotheosis of that firestorm nine years ago should turn out to be a crackpot preacher threatening another firestorm with a Nazi-style book burning of the Koran.

Or a would-be mosque two blocks from "ground zero" – as if 9/11 was an onslaught on Jesus-worshipping Christians, rather than on the atheist West.

But why should we be surprised? Just look at all the other crackpots spawned in the aftermath of those international crimes against humanity: the half-crazed Ahmadinejad, the smarmy post-nuclear Gaddafi, Blair with his crazed right eye and George W Bush with his black prisons and torture and lunatic "war on terror". And that wretched man who lived – or lives still – in an Afghan cave and the hundreds of al-Qa'idas whom he created, and the one-eyed mullah – not to mention all the lunatic cops and intelligence agencies and CIA thugs who failed us all – utterly – on 9/11 because they were too idle or too stupid to identify 19 men who were going to attack the United States. And remember one thing: even if the Rev Terry Jones sticks with his decision to back down, another of our cranks will be ready to take his place.

Indeed, on this grim ninth anniversary – and heaven spare us next year from the 10th – 9/11 appears to have produced not peace or justice or democracy or human rights, but monsters. They have prowled Iraq – both the Western and the local variety – and slaughtered 100,000 souls, or 500,000, or a million; and who cares? They have killed tens of thousands in Afghanistan; and who cares? And as the sickness has spread across the Middle East and then the globe, they – the air force pilots and the insurgents, the Marines and the suicide bombers, the al-Qa'idas of the Maghreb and of the Khalij and of the Caliphate of Iraq and the special forces and the close air support boys and the throat-cutters – have torn the heads off women and children and the old and the sick and the young and healthy, from the Indus to the Mediterranean, from Bali to the London Tube; quite a memorial to the 2,966 innocents who were killed nine years ago. All in their name, it seems, has been our holocaust of fire and blood, enshrined now in the crazed pastor of Gainesville.

This is the loss, of course. But who's made the profit? Well, the arms dealers, naturally, and Boeing and Lockheed Martin and all the missile lads and the drone manufacturers and F-16 spare parts outfits and the ruthless mercenaries who stalk the Muslim lands on our behalf now that we have created 100,000 more enemies for each of the 19 murderers of 9/11. Torturers have had a good time, honing their sadism in America's black prisons – it was appropriate that the US torture centre in Poland should be revealed on this ninth anniversary – as have the men (and women, I fear) who perfect the shackles and water-drowning techniques with which we now fight our wars. And – let us not forget – every religious raver in the world, be they of the Bin Laden variety, the bearded groupies in the Taliban, the suicide executioners, the hook-in the arm preachers, or our very own pastor of Gainesville.

And God? Where does he fit in? An archive of quotations suggests that just about every monster created in or after 9/11 is a follower of this quixotic redeemer. Bin Laden prays to God – "to turn America into a shadow of itself", as he told me in 1997 – and Bush prayed to God and Blair prayed – and prays – to God, and all the Muslim killers and an awful lot of Western soldiers and Dr (honorary) Pastor Terry Jones and his 30 (or it may be 50, since all statistics are hard to come by in the "war on terror") pray to God. And poor old God, of course, has had to listen to these prayers as he always sits through them during our mad wars. Recall the words attributed to him by a poet of another generation: "God this, God that, and God the other thing. 'Good God,' said God, 'I've got my work cut out'." And that was just the First World War...

Just five years ago – on the fourth anniversary of the twin towers/Pentagon/Pennsylvania attacks – a schoolgirl asked me at a lecture in a Belfast church whether the Middle East would benefit from more religion. No – less religion! – I howled back. God is good for contemplation, not for war. But – and here we are driven on to the reefs and hidden rocks which our leaders wish us to ignore, forget and cast aside – this whole bloody mess involves the Middle East; it is about a Muslim people who have kept their faith while those Westerners who dominate them – militarily, economically, culturally, socially – have lost theirs. How can this be, Muslims ask? Indeed, it is a superb irony that the Rev Jones is a believer while the rest of us – by and large – are not. Hence our books and our documentaries never refer to Muslims vs Christians, but Muslims versus "The West".

And of course, the one taboo subject of which we must not speak – Israel's relationship with America, and America's unconditional support for Israel's theft of land from Muslim Arabs – also lies at the heart of this terrible crisis in our lives. In yesterday's edition of The Independent, there was a photograph of Afghan demonstrators chanting "death to America". But in the background, these same demonstrators were carrying a black banner with a message in Dari written upon it in white paint. What it actually said was: "The bloodsucking Zionist government regime and the Western leaders who are indifferent [to suffering] and have no conscience are again celebrating the new year by spilling the red blood of the Palestinians."

The message is as extreme as it is vicious – but it proves, yet again, that the war in which we are engaged is also about Israel and "Palestine". We may prefer to ignore this in "the West" – where Muslims supposedly "hate us for what we are" or "hate our democracy" (see: Bush, Blair and a host of other mendacious politicians) – but this great conflict lies at the heart of the "war on terror". That is why the equally vicious Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to the atrocities of 9/11 by claiming that the event would be good for Israel. Israel would now be able to claim that it, too, was fighting the "war on terror", that Arafat – this was the now-comatose Ariel Sharon's claim – is "our Bin Laden". And thus Israelis had the gall to claim that Sderot, under its cascade of tin-pot missiles from Hamas, was "our ground zero".

It was not. Israel's battle with the Palestinians is a ghastly caricature of our "war on terror", in which we are supposed to support the last colonial project on earth – and accept its thousands of victims – because the twin towers and the Pentagon and United Flight 93 were attacked by 19 Arab murderers nine years ago. There is a supreme irony in the fact that one direct result of 9/11 has been the stream of Western policemen and spooks who have travelled to Israel to improve their "anti-terrorist expertise" with the help of Israeli officers who may – according to the United Nations – be war criminals. It was no surprise to find that the heroes who gunned down poor old Jean Charles de Menezes on the London Tube in 2005 had been receiving "anti-terrorist" advice from the Israelis.

And yes, I know the arguments. We cannot compare the actions of evil terrorists with the courage of our young men and women, defending our lives – and sacrificing theirs – on the front lines of the 'war on terror". There can be no "equivalence". "They" kill innocents because "they" are evil. "We" kill innocents by mistake. But we know we are going to kill innocents – we willingly accept that we are going to kill innocents, that our actions are going to create mass graves of families, of the poor and the weak and the dispossessed.

This is why we created the obscene definition of "collateral damage". For if "collateral" means that these victims are innocent, then "collateral" also means that we are innocent of killing them. It was not our wish to kill them – even if we knew it was inevitable that we would. "Collateral" is our exoneration. This one word is the difference between "them" and "us", between our God-given right to kill and Bin Laden's God-given right to murder. The victims, hidden away as "collateral" corpses, don't count any more because they were slaughtered by us. Maybe it wasn't so painful. Maybe death by drone is a more gentle departure from this earth, evisceration by an AGM-114C Boeing-Lockheed air-to-ground missile less painful, than death by shards from a roadside bomb or a cruel suicider with an explosive belt.

That's why we know how many died on 9/11 – 2,966, although the figure may be higher – and why we don't "do body counts" on those whom we kill. Because they – "our" victims – must have no identities, no innocence, no personality, no cause or belief or feelings; and because we have killed far, far more human beings than Bin Laden and the Taliban and al-Qa'ida.

Anniversaries are newspaper and television events. And they can have an eerie habit of coalescing together to create an unhappy memorial framework. Thus do we commemorate the Battle of Britain – a chivalric episode in our history – and the Blitz, a progenitor of mass murder, to be sure, but a symbol of innocent courage – as we remember the start of a war that has torn our morality apart, turned our politicians into war criminals, our soldiers into killers and our ruthless enemies into heroes of the anti-Western cause. And while on this gloomy anniversary the Rev Jones wanted to burn a book called the Koran, Tony Blair tried to sell a book called A Journey. Jones said the Koran was "evil"; Britons have asked whether the Blair book should be classified as "crime". Certainly, 9/11 has moved into fantasy when the Rev Jones can command the attention of the Obamas and the Clintons and the Holy Father and the even more Holy United Nations. Whom the gods would destroy...

11 Sep 2001
The World Trade Centre and the Pentagon are hit by aeroplanes hijacked by al-Qa’ida terrorists. George Bush says that America will stand with “all those who want peace and security in the world”.


7 Oct 2001

The US and Britain launch air strikes against Afghanistan.


13 Nov 2001
The Northern Alliance liberates Kabul from the rule of the Taliban.


11 Jan 2002
The first prisoners arrive at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.


9 Jan 2003

Top UN weapons inspector Hans Blix tells reporters that “we have now been in [Iraq] for some two months and? we haven't found any smoking guns”.


15 Feb 2003
Protests are held across the world against impending war in Iraq.


20 Mar 2003
US-led coalition launches invasion of Iraq.


9 Oct 2003
Toppling of statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad is taken as symbol of coalition triumph.


11 Mar 2004
A series of bombs explode within minutes of each other on four commuter trains in Madrid, killing 191 people and wounding a further 1,841.


29 Apr 2004
Photographs emerge showing the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib, inflaming anti-US feeling.


2 Oct 2004
Video footage appears of British hostage Kenneth Bigley being beheaded by Iraqi militants.


2 Nov 2004
Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh is murdered after making a film about violence against women in Islamic societies.


7 Jul 2005
Four suicide bombers kill 52 passengers and injure almost 800 others in a series of attacks on London’s transport network.


30 Sep 2005
A series of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohamed are published in a Danish newspaper. The pictures are reprinted elsewhere amid widespread outrage and violent protests in the Muslim world.


30 Dec 2006
Saddam Hussein is hanged in northern Baghdad for crimes against humanity.


21 Sep 2009
A leaked report by Gen Stanley McChrystal, commander of US forces, suggests that the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan could be lost within a year unless there are significant increases in troops.


29 Nov 2009
A ban on building minarets is voted in by the Swiss public, reflecting a hostile attitude to the country’s rising Muslim minority.


21 Jan 2010
43 per cent of Americans say they feel some negative prejudice towards Muslims, according to a poll by Gallup.


1 Sep 2010
At the end of a month in which 295 civilians were killed by violence, Barack Obama declares that the US combat mission in Iraq is at an end.

Union leaders warn of strikes to oppose cuts

Unions plan for co-ordinated action and civil disobedience with job loss total already at 150,000

Polly Curtis and Hélène Mulholland guardian.co.uk, Sunday 12 September 2010 20.15

Union leaders had hoped to avoid talk of a winter of discontent - reminiscent of 1979 when uncollected rubbish piled up in the streets. Photograph: Rex Features/Brian Harris

The government will face co-ordinated industrial action and civil disobedience once the true scale of its budget cuts becomes clear, union leaders warned today as they claimed 150,000 public sector job losses are already in the pipeline.

Police forces, councils, courts and hospital trusts are laying off workers even before the bulk of the spending cuts are announced in October's comprehensive spending review, research by the GMB union suggests.

And in a sign that mainstream Labour's attitude towards the cuts is hardening, Harriet Harman, the deputy leader, said the party felt "militant" against extreme cuts. She defended unions' right to strike, though she insisted that nobody wanted to see people's lives disrupted.

Union leaders at the TUC conference, which opens tomorrow, were tonight talking about the inevitability of industrial action after next month's spending review, when the scale of the coalition's cuts will become clear. The unions will debate plans that would see them mandated to "support and co-ordinate campaigning and joint union industrial action" to fight the cuts, under pressure from the more radical unions to demonstrate that they will stand up to the government.

Union leaders in Manchester had hoped to avoid talk of a winter of discontent in order to gain public support once the cuts begin to bite into people's services, welfare payments and housing bills in the spring. But tonight the TUC was struggling to contain anger over the cuts, with some unions pushing to act sooner to see off job losses and changes to their members' pensions.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said industrial action was inevitable, adding that unless unions fought back together the future would be "bleak". "Over 100,000 civil service jobs have been cut over the past six years and we are now being hit by closures and cuts even as the sword of chancellor George Osborne hangs in the air.

"We ain't seen nothing yet. People are very worried and demoralised and are just waiting for things to get worse."

Bob Crow, general secretary of the Rail Maritime and Transport union, said a campaign of civil disobedience was needed to fight spending cuts.

"Maybe we need Batman climbing up 10 Downing Street, Spider-Man on Buckingham Palace as part of peaceful demonstrations of civil disobedience. This is an opportunity for the entire trade union movement to come together and mobilise support. Unions should also link up together, because we are confronting the same enemy. Otherwise they will be picked off one at a time."

However, Les Bayliss, who is hoping to be general secretary of Unite, said public sector strikes would only deprive vulnerable people of services they needed, and the ones the Tories wanted to cut.

Bayliss said: "Strikes will also change the victims – our members – into the villains of the piece. The story will get changed from government savagery to union militancy."

The GMB research, a survey of its officers to document the number of jobs they are defending up and down the country, identified 19,198 jobs under threat in Scotland, 8,680 in the south-east, 8,604 in the West Midlands and 8,176 jobs in the south-west region. NHS trusts are planning 36,000 job losses, the courts 15,000, and individual councils and police forces have also announced waves of redundancies.

Today, leaked documents suggesting that the coalition has considered another £2.5bn in benefit cuts drew further fury from charities. But the letters, from June, were played down by the government, which said the plans had moved on.

Paul Kenny, the GMB general secretary, said: "Current job losses already announced in the public sector of nearly 150,000 are just the top of the iceberg heading for our services and our economy when the comprehensive spending review finally hits home next month. Unemployment and cuts in public services follow the appointment of a Tory-led government like night follows day.

"The ideology of the Tory party is for a smaller state and they are hellbent on using the recession to impose these needless and ideologically driven cuts in public spending."

Harman told the BBC: "Well, we feel very concerned indeed, yes, about threats to jobs, and we don't accept the argument that somehow this is entirely necessary to cut the deficit at this speed. We think it's actually a threat to the economy. And the arguments that the big society can take the place of public services we think are disingenuous. So to that extent, yes, we do feel militant about it. We're concerned about the effect on people."

She said that no one wanted to see strike action, but unions had the right to strike. She added: "But as far as actual public services are concerned, I think we will see trade unions campaigning alongside local communities when vital public services are threatened."

Tonight the government would not confirm whether Osborne and David Cameron would be meeting union leaders before the spending review announcement in October.

A spokesman said: "We're not seeking confrontation, we're working constructively and we've consulted widely with public-sector frontline workers whose work we value. We think often union leadership isn't always representative of its entire membership. There's significant public understanding of what we're trying to do in the spending review."


http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/12/union-strikes-industrial-action-cuts

Saturday, 11 September 2010

George Osborne's secret plan to slash sickness benefits


George Osborne plans to cut the welfare bill by £2.5bn. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Chancellor plans to slash welfare bill by £2.5bn for people who are disabled or too ill to work

Toby Helm guardian.co.uk, Saturday 11 September 2010


Secret plans to slash the welfare bill by £2.5bn for people who are disabled or too ill to work are being up drawn up by the chancellor, George Osborne, documents leaked to the Observer reveal.

Details of the plan, spelled out in a confidential letter from Osborne to Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, sparked a furious row as Labour accused the coalition government of targeting "the most vulnerable people in the country" with "shocking, arbitrary cuts".

The letter, written by Osborne on 19 June to Duncan Smith and circulated to David Cameron and Nick Clegg, will fuel mounting concerns that the government's assault on spending – and particularly Osborne's determination to slash the cost of welfare – will hit those on the lowest incomes the hardest.

Despite official insistence that no decisions have yet been made on where the axe will fall, Osborne stated in the letter – written three days before his emergency budget – that agreement had already been reached to impose deep cuts on the budget for employment and support allowance (ESA) – the successor to incapacity benefit. ESA is paid to those judged unable to work because of illness or disability.

Osborne told Duncan Smith: "Given the pressure on overall public spending in the coming period, we will need to continue developing further options to reform the benefits as part of the spending review process in order to deliver further savings, greater simplicity and stronger work incentives.

"Reform to the employment support allowance is a particular priority and I am pleased that you, the prime minister and I have agreed to press ahead with reforms to the ESA as part of the spending review that will deliver net savings of at least £2.5bn by 2014-15."

In a further extraordinary development, sources within Duncan Smith's department turned their fire on the Treasury, insisting nothing had been decided and suggesting Osborne's department may have leaked the letter to bounce them into accepting the plan.

With under six weeks to go before Osborne's comprehensive spending review, senior ministers are growing increasingly sensitive to charges of unfairness. Last week, Nick Clegg sought to dispel anxieties by pointing out that the cuts would not fall at once, but over five years. And, in an article for the Observer, Cameron insists that the government's commitment to devolve power from Whitehall to the people is driven at least in part by the quest for greater "fairness".

"There's the efficiency argument – that in huge hierarchies, money gets spent on bureaucracy instead of the frontline. There's the fairness argument – that centralised national blueprints can entrench unfairness because they don't allow for local solutions to major social problems. And there's the political argument – that centralisation creates a great distance in our democracy between the government and the governed," the prime minister argues.

A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions said Duncan Smith, who is battling with the Treasury over potentially costly plans to improve incentives to get people off welfare and into work, would agree to nothing that would hit the vulnerable. "We are looking at a range of options for welfare reform and any decisions will be made in the context of the spending review. Our reforms will ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected."

The leak provides an explosive backdrop to the political conference season, which opens tomorrow with the start of the Trades Union Congress in Manchester. The TUC will unveil a report on Monday claiming to show that the Conservatives have betrayed their election promise to introduce cuts fairly and protect public services, as the unions prepare a co-ordinated response to the measures.

Government insiders admitted that limits to the time that people could spend on ESA were being considered, as were plans to means test recipients. But they insisted nothing would be done that would affect those who were judged as having no potential future chance of getting into work.

Jim Knight, the shadow employment minister, said: "The budget was already going to hit most ESA claimants hard; according to government figures, by over £900 if they are also on housing benefit. Now we see the Tories and Lib Dems are conspiring to take thousands of pounds from the most vulnerable.

"This exposes George Osborne's rhetoric about living on benefits as a 'lifestyle choice', as being a smokescreen to hide vicious cuts on the poorest. It also shows that Iain Duncan Smith will cave in to the Treasury rather than deliver the sensible long-term reforms he talks about."


http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/11/george-osborne-slash-sickness-benefits

Thursday, 9 September 2010

US soldiers 'killed Afghan civilians for sport and collected fingers as trophies'



Andrew Holmes, Michael Wagnon, Jeremy Morlock and Adam Winfield are four of the five Stryker soldiers who face murder charges. Photograph: Public Domain

Soldiers face charges over secret 'kill team' which allegedly murdered at random and collected fingers as trophies of war

Chris McGreal in Washington The Guardian, Thursday 9 September 2010


Twelve American soldiers face charges over a secret "kill team" that allegedly blew up and shot Afghan civilians at random and collected their fingers as trophies.

Five of the soldiers are charged with murdering three Afghan men who were allegedly killed for sport in separate attacks this year. Seven others are accused of covering up the killings and assaulting a recruit who exposed the murders when he reported other abuses, including members of the unit smoking hashish stolen from civilians.

In one of the most serious accusations of war crimes to emerge from the Afghan conflict, the killings are alleged to have been carried out by members of a Stryker infantry brigade based in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan.

According to investigators and legal documents, discussion of killing Afghan civilians began after the arrival of Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs at forward operating base Ramrod last November. Other soldiers told the army's criminal investigation command that Gibbs boasted of the things he got away with while serving in Iraq and said how easy it would be to "toss a grenade at someone and kill them".

One soldier said he believed Gibbs was "feeling out the platoon".

Investigators said Gibbs, 25, hatched a plan with another soldier, Jeremy Morlock, 22, and other members of the unit to form a "kill team". While on patrol over the following months they allegedly killed at least three Afghan civilians. According to the charge sheet, the first target was Gul Mudin, who was killed "by means of throwing a fragmentary grenade at him and shooting him with a rifle", when the patrol entered the village of La Mohammed Kalay in January.

Morlock and another soldier, Andrew Holmes, were on guard at the edge of a poppy field when Mudin emerged and stopped on the other side of a wall from the soldiers. Gibbs allegedly handed Morlock a grenade who armed it and dropped it over the wall next to the Afghan and dived for cover. Holmes, 19, then allegedly fired over the wall.

Later in the day, Morlock is alleged to have told Holmes that the killing was for fun and threatened him if he told anyone.

The second victim, Marach Agha, was shot and killed the following month. Gibbs is alleged to have shot him and placed a Kalashnikov next to the body to justify the killing. In May Mullah Adadhdad was killed after being shot and attacked with a grenade.

The Army Times reported that a least one of the soldiers collected the fingers of the victims as souvenirs and that some of them posed for photographs with the bodies.

Five soldiers – Gibbs, Morlock, Holmes, Michael Wagnon and Adam Winfield – are accused of murder and aggravated assault among other charges. All of the soldiers have denied the charges. They face the death penalty or life in prison if convicted.

The killings came to light in May after the army began investigating a brutal assault on a soldier who told superiors that members of his unit were smoking hashish. The Army Times reported that members of the unit regularly smoked the drug on duty and sometimes stole it from civilians.

The soldier, who was straight out of basic training and has not been named, said he witnessed the smoking of hashish and drinking of smuggled alcohol but initially did not report it out of loyalty to his comrades. But when he returned from an assignment at an army headquarters and discovered soldiers using the shipping container in which he was billeted to smoke hashish he reported it.

Two days later members of his platoon, including Gibbs and Morlock, accused him of "snitching", gave him a beating and told him to keep his mouth shut. The soldier reported the beating and threats to his officers and then told investigators what he knew of the "kill team".

Following the arrest of the original five accused in June, seven other soldiers were charged last month with attempting to cover up the killings and violent assault on the soldier who reported the smoking of hashish. The charges will be considered by a military grand jury later this month which will decide if there is enough evidence for a court martial. Army investigators say Morlock has admitted his involvement in the killings and given details about the role of others including Gibbs. But his lawyer, Michael Waddington, is seeking to have that confession suppressed because he says his client was interviewed while under the influence of prescription drugs taken for battlefield injuries and that he was also suffering from traumatic brain injury.

"Our position is that his statements were incoherent, and taken while he was under a cocktail of drugs that shouldn't have been mixed," Waddington told the Seattle Times.