Have you been following the latest news on Wikileaks? Some very interesting information has been coming out in the past two days. I’m beginning to understand why the Obama administration–along with some foreign governments were so anxious to arrest Julian Assange and shut down Wikileaks. Thanks to Bradley Manning and Assange, news organizations are revealing plenty about what our government was been up to in the 1970s.
Yesterday, the Guardian published a shocking expose of the U.S. torture and death squad operations in Iraq. The article reveals direct connections between the Pentagon and Iraqi “torture centers.” In addition, Guardian researchers showed how Iraq policy grew out of America’s “dirty wars” in Vietnam and Latin America with a veteran of those past outrages, retired Army Colonel James Steele, leading the way.
The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.
Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows.
After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.
A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding.
Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld.
Where did all this information come from? You guessed it.
The Guardian/BBC Arabic investigation was sparked by the release of classified US military logs on WikiLeaks that detailed hundreds of incidents where US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centres run by the police commandos across Iraq. Private Bradley Manning, 25, is facing a prison sentence of up to 20 years after he pleaded guilty to leaking the documents.
The Guardian also made available to a 51-minute documentary focused on “the mystery man of Iraq,” James Steele. It’s also posted on YouTube, so I’ve embedded it here. You can also watch it on the Guardian website. I watched it yesterday, and plan to watch it again.
If you can’t watch the whole thing right now, here’s a good summary and evaluation of the documentary by William Boardman at Op-Ed News.
As if that weren’t enough, today Wikileaks released “1.7m US diplomatic and intelligence reports covering every country in the world” in a searchable database called “Plus D.” The Daily Mail reports:
Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks today published more than 1.7million U.S. records covering diplomatic or intelligence reports on every country in the world. The data released today includes more than 1.7million U.S. diplomatic records from 1973 to 1976 – covering a traffic of cables, intelligence reports and congressional correspondence.
WikiLeaks described the Public Library of US Diplomacy (PlusD) as the world’s largest searchable collection of U.S. confidential, or formerly confidential, diplomatic communications.
Much of the work was carried out by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 41, during his time in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been staying since last summer….
The Ecuadorian Government has granted Mr Assange political asylum and has repeatedly offered Swedish prosecutors the chance to interview him at the embassy in Knightsbridge, central London.
Mr Assange said the information showed the ‘vast range and scope’ of U.S. diplomatic and intelligence activity around the world.
These cables weren’t even leaked! They came from the National Archives, but Wikileaks organized the material so that it could be used by news organization and individuals. According to News.com.au, Plus D is ‘What Google should be like’, says Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Some examples of tidbits from the database that have been published today:
The Australian News — WikiLeaks reveals US Thatcher memo
You can search the database yourself here.
Any of us that endured the Reagan years know of the horrific US policy in Central and South America that included propping up dictators at any cost. Reagan’s paranoia of leftist regimes led to the Iran-Contra Scandal which probably would have led to impeachable crimes had Reagan been in better mental health and George Bush lost the election. This Alternet article on leftist Argentinian mothers who were murdered is highly disturbing. It just shows the high human cost of our cold war mentality. Not only were these mothers murdered, but their infants were stolen and given to their murderers to raise. The disturbing article is called “What did Reagan Know about the Argentine Dictator’s Baby Thefts?”
An Argentine court has convicted two of the nation’s former right-wing dictators, Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, in a scheme to murder leftist mothers and give their infants to military personnel often complicit in the killings, a shocking process known to the Reagan administration even as it worked closely with the bloody regime.
Testimony at the trial included a videoconference from Washington with Elliott Abrams, then-Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, who said he urged Bignone to reveal the babies’ identities as Argentina began a transition to democracy in 1983.
Abrams said the Reagan administration “knew that it wasn’t just one or two children,” indicating that U.S. officials believed there was a high-level “plan because there were many people who were being murdered or jailed.” Estimates of the Argentines murdered in the so-called Dirty War range from 13,000 to about 30,000, with many victims “disappeared,” buried in mass graves or dumped from planes over the Atlantic.
You may remember that Reagan sent the CIA to Argentina to run a dirty, nasty, covert war.
After becoming President in January 1981, Reagan entered into a covert alliance with the Argentine junta. He ordered the CIA to collaborate with Dirty War experts in training the Contras, who were soon rampaging through towns in northern Nicaragua, raping women and dragging local officials into public squares for executions. [See Robert Parry’s Lost History.]
Yet, Reagan kept up a happy face, hailing the Contras as the “moral equals of the Founding Fathers” and heaping gratitude on the Argentine junta.
The behind-the-scenes intelligence relationship apparently gave the Argentine generals confidence that they could not only continue repressing their own citizens but could settle an old score with Great Britain over control of the Falkland Islands, what the Argentines call the Malvinas.
Reagan isn’t the only Republican linked to South American Death Squads. Bain Capital probably would not exist were it not for blood money coming out of El Salvador. BostonBoomer has pointed to this Salon article before but it’s worth remembering that the 1980s were basically a free for all for Republicans. Romney personally benefited from the Reagan-backed South American Dictators that violently suppressed civil uprisings.
A significant portion of the seed money that created Mitt Romney’s private equity firm, Bain Capital, was provided by wealthy oligarchs from El Salvador, including members of a family with a relative who allegedly financed rightist groups that used death squads during the country’s bloody civil war in the 1980s
Bain, the source of Romney’s fabulous personal wealth, has been the subject of recent attacks in the Republican primary over allegations that Romney and the firm behaved like, in Rick Perry’s words, “vulture capitalists.”One TV spot denounced Romney for relying on “foreign seed money from Latin America” but did not say where the money came from. In fact, Romney recruited as investors wealthy Central Americans who were seeking a safe haven for their capital during a tumultuous and violent period in the region.
Like so much about Bain, which is known for secrecy and has been dubbed a “black box,” all the names of the investors who put up the money for the initial fund in 1984 are not known. Much of what we do know was first reported by the Boston Globe in 1994 when Romney ran for U.S. Senate against Ted Kennedy.
In 1984, Romney had been tapped by his boss at Bain & Co, a consulting firm, to create a spin-off venture capital fund, Bain Capital.
A Costa Rica-born Bain official named Harry Strachan invited friends and former clients in Central America to a presentation about the fund with Romney in Miami. The group was impressed and “signed up for 20% of the fund,” according to Strachan’s memoir. That was about $6.5 million, according to the Globe. Bain partners themselves were putting up half the money, according to Strachan. Thus the Central American investors had contributed 40 percent of the outside capital.
Back in 1984, wealthy Salvadoran families were looking for safe investments as violence and upheaval engulfed the country. The war, which pitted leftist guerrillas against a right-wing government backed by the Reagan administration, ultimately left over 70,000 people dead in the tiny nation before a peace deal was brokered by the United Nations in 1992. The vast majority of violence, a UN truth commission later found, was committed by rightist death squads and the military, which received U.S. training and $6 billion in military and economic aid. The Reagan administration feared that El Salvador could become a foothold for Communists in Central America.
Here’s a few more details on the Baby Theft Scheme from the Altnet article.
General Videla also was accused of permitting – and concealing – the scheme to harvest infants from pregnant women who were kept alive in military prisons only long enough to give birth. According to the charges, the babies were taken from the new mothers, sometimes after late-night Caesarean sections, and then distributed to military families or sent to orphanages.
After the babies were pulled away, the mothers were removed to another site for their executions. Some were put aboard death flights and pushed out of military planes over open water.
One of the most notorious cases involved Silvia Quintela, a leftist doctor who attended to the sick in shanty towns around Buenos Aires. On Jan. 17, 1977, Quintela was abducted off a Buenos Aires street by military authorities because of her political leanings. At the time, Quintela and her agronomist husband Abel Madariaga were expecting their first child.
According to witnesses who later testified before a government truth commission, Quintela was held at a military base called Campo de Mayo, where she gave birth to a baby boy. As in similar cases, the infant then was separated from the mother.
What happened to the boy is still not clear, but Quintela reportedly was transferred to a nearby airfield. There, victims were stripped naked, shackled in groups and dragged aboard military planes. The planes then flew out over the Rio de la Plata or the Atlantic Ocean, where soldiers pushed the victims out of the planes and into the water to drown.
I guess as long as they weren’t killing zygotes, Reagan and krewe must’ve been fine with all this.
I have some excellent reads to share with you today.
Tomorrow is a big day for Mitt Romney. He’ll be in the Hamptons attending a series of fund raisers hosted by members of the top 1% of the top 1%, and he’s expected to collect $3 million by the time it’s all over.
Mr. Romney is expected to pull in $3 million from an event at the Creeks, the estate of Ronald O. Perelman, the billionaire financier and Revlon chairman, where tickets range from $5,000 for lunch to $25,000 for a V.I.P. photo reception. Another will be held at the home of Clifford M. Sobel, an ambassador to Brazil under President George W. Bush, and a final dinner will take place at the Southampton estate of the billionaire industrialist David H. Koch, where the going rate for entry is $75,000 a couple and $50,000 a person….
At Mr. Koch’s estate, the guests will be treated to one-of-a-kind scenery as they wait for face time with a possible president. Tucked into the Southampton dunes, Mr. Koch’s home is valued at about $18 million by the real estate Web site Zillow, which reports that it has seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms. Its backyard is the sea.
But the jewel of the day is Mr. Perelman’s. With 9 fireplaces, 40 rooms and an expansive wine cellar, his estate makes the Koch spread look modest by comparison. Sitting on 57 acres, it was built for the painter Albert Herter in 1899, and when it last went up for sale in 1991 (for $25 million), The New York Times described it as “the largest and most spectacular estate in the Village of East Hampton, with more than a mile of frontage on Georgica Pond and a view of the Atlantic Ocean beyond.” That article also said that an American Conifer Society Bulletin — for tree enthusiasts — had called its grounds “the eighth wonder of the horticultural world” and “the most outstanding private conifer collection in the United States, a living work of art.”
I wonder how that will go over in Ohio? The article says that Obama is skipping the ostentatious Hamptons fund raisers this year, but it provides descriptions previous ones hosted by Democrats. The Dems definitely attract better musical artists. But Republicans say they don’t need entertainment–they’re already excited by the prospect of throwing Obama out of the White House.
Justin Rubin of MoveOn.org has a piece at HuffPo about the Koch fundraiser. Some “progressives” plan to crash the party.
Mitt Romney may want to hide his Koch problem with the help of his super PACs, but all the cash in the world won’t be enough to stop our people power from exposing the truth. More than 7 million MoveOn members will be working hard every day between now and November to pull back the curtain and expose Romney’s 1% habit.
This Sunday, we’re staging our latest intervention. As Romney’s limo pulls up in front of David Koch’s Hamptons estate — where each $50,000 ticket will cost more than most people make in a year — our members will be there to greet him. We’ll band together with organizers and allies from a diverse array of groups united by our concern about the pernicious effects Koch cash is inflicting on our democracy.
No intervention is complete without a banner, and MoveOn’s 99airlines plane will be at the Hamptons fundraiser too, flying a banner overhead that points out the simple truth: “Mitt Romney has a Koch problem.” As more Americans find out, Romney’s Koch problem will just get worse.
At the Atlantic, Derek Thompson explains How the Richest 400 People in America Got So Rich. As you might have guessed already, they didn’t do it by actually, you know, working hard.
The New York Daily News has learned that Romney is already practicing for the first presidential debate, which is still 13 weeks away.
Romney sources told the Daily News that during a three-day retreat he hosted late last month for big-time Republican contributors and party mandarins at Park City, Utah, the candidate also found time to squeeze in the first two rounds of what staffers call “debate prep.”
Romney convened six to eight campaign aides around a conference table at the elegant Chateaux at Silver Lake. They sorted through a variety of topics sure to come up in the three Presidential debates, like the state of the economy and the war in Afghanistan, and kicked around the best “test responses” to questions they expect Obama and debate moderators will toss at the ex-Massachusetts governor.
More such encounters are expected over the summer, but what one source called “podium practices” with an Obama surrogate won’t happen for awhile — mainly because Romney doesn’t care for them all that much.
“There will be some role-playing but not as much as other Presidential candidates,” a Romney adviser said. “The traditional model doesn’t fit his style.”
Why doesn’t he just keep repeating that same non-response he used yesterday? That way he wouldn’t have to take a stand on anything.
If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, please go check out Joseph Cannon’s post on Romney’s ties to “Spooks and Death Squads.” I don’t know how else to express my reaction: I was gobsmacked by it!
If you’re fascinated by cults, as I am, you should read this lengthy article from the Hollywood Reporter on Katie Holmes’ breakup with Tom Cruise and her desire to keep her daughter away from Scientology. Here’s just a teensy taste:
Unlike [Nicole] Kidman, who kept quiet during her divorce from Cruise and has rarely commented publicly about it since, Holmes already has made a statement of sorts by filing her petition in New York and saying she wants full legal custody and primary residential custody of their Suri.
“Katie could blow Scientology wide open,” says [Marty] Rathbun, who was in the church for 22 years before leaving in late 2004. Rathbun, who calls himself an “independent Scientologist” and writes a candid blog popular with former members, was Cruise’s auditor and handled Cruise’s divorce from Kidman.
“If Tom’s smart, he won’t fight her on anything, even custody. He should just try to settle his way out of it,” says Rathbun. “She could press this sole-custody issue and litigate it, and that would be the biggest nightmare in the Church of Scientology’s history. It would be a circus they couldn’t survive.”
And speaking of cults, Alternet explains Mormon underwear–who isn’t curious about that? Are Mormon Underwear Magic Between the Sheets?
It’s hard to get a balanced sample from active Mormons, because the Garments, as I said, are sacred, and catering to the curiosity of prurient outsiders would violate a covenant sworn during the same temple ceremony in which a Mormon gets authorized to wear the Garment. Unfortunately those who have been fantasizing about a romp in which layers of white cotton create the perfect sense of mystery (or bondage), exMormons offer few words of encouragement. Discomfort seems to be the predominant theme.
I was continuously battling wedgies–often in public; how the people would stare as I would try to wrestle crumpled material out of my crack. Lady DB
If you have ever worn the modern ones you should appreciate the distance these have come. When I first got married they came in a one piece get up with a wide neck so you could step into them. The back had a split crotch (not the kind in kinky panties) but this huge wide sloppy split that would separate under your clothes, leaving a draft in your nether region much of the time. The little panel they sew into the ladies special part was so poorly designed that it would roll and twist till you felt like you were skewered by a roll of old toilet paper. Insanad
Of all of the things about Mo-dom, the thing I miss the least is the underwear. Zapotec
Theologically, Mormon undergarments are said to be symbols of a covenant between God and the believer. Initiates pantomime their own death should they violate this sacred trust. The underwear have sacred symbols drawn from the Masonic Order into which Joseph Smith was initiated shortly before he proclaimed God’s desire that people wear the Garment. True believing Mormons avoid allowing Garments to touch the ground. They may cut off and burn the symbols when a Garment itself is worn out.
There’s much much more info at the link.
At Truthdig, Robert Scheer writes about the LIBOR scandal: The Crime of the Century.
Forget Bernie Madoff and Enron’s Ken Lay—they were mere amateurs in financial crime. The current Libor interest rate scandal, involving hundreds of trillions in international derivatives trade, shows how the really big boys play. And these guys will most likely not do the time because their kind rewrites the law before committing the crime.
Modern international bankers form a class of thieves the likes of which the world has never before seen. Or, indeed, imagined. The scandal over Libor—short for London interbank offered rate—has resulted in a huge fine for Barclays Bank and threatens to ensnare some of the world’s top financers. It reveals that behind the world’s financial edifice lies a reeking cesspool of unprecedented corruption. The modern-day robber barons pillage with a destructive abandon totally unfettered by law or conscience and on a scale that is almost impossible to comprehend.
How to explain a $450 million settlement for one bank whose defense, in a plea bargain worked out with regulators in London and Washington, is that every institution in their elite financial circle was doing it? Not just Barclays but JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and others are now being investigated on suspicion of manipulating the Libor rate, so critical to a $700 trillion derivatives market.
Read the rest at the Truthdig.
I hope you found something here that appeals to you. Now what are your reading recommendations?
Well, it certainly is becoming more obvious as to why both the US and the UK want Wikileaks shut down. The latest cable releases from the disc carried out of the State Department by an anonymous source details some horrendous behavior in the small, developing nation of Bangladesh. The more I dig into the details of what’s going on in developing nations due to our greed and their lack of justice systems and laws just about has me weeping on my computer keys.
For one, we learn that the US pushed for reopening a mine that was the subject of protests by residents of the area.
US diplomats privately pressurised the Bangladeshi government into reinstating a controversial coal mine which had been closed following violent protests, a leaked diplomatic cable shows.
The US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, last year held talks with the country’s chief energy adviser, urging him to approve plans by the British company Global Coal Management (GCM) to begin open-cast coal mining in the country’s Phulbari area, in the west of Bangladesh.
GCM were forced to shut down operations in the country in 2006 after a grassroots demonstration turned violent. Three people were killed as soldiers fired at protesters, and several hundred were injured.
But the company has continued to maintain a strong presence in the country and has continued to lobby for rights to operate the coal mine ever since. Earlier this month, Steve Bywater, GCM’s chairman, said that a Bangladeshi parliamentary standing committee had recommended that the country moves towards extracting coal reserves using open-cut mining methods.
The Phulbari Coal project was supposed to turn the country into a coal-exporter by 2007. I found some information on the project and lo and behold, JP Morgan has financial interests. As you know, what’s good for the nation’s investment bankers is good for the country.
Major Institutional Shareholders (Over 3%)
- RAB Capital Special Situations
- LLP Framlington Investment Management Limited
- L-R Global Partners
- LP L-R Global Fund Limited
- Morgan Stanley Securities Limited
- Cambrian Mining Plc
There’s also some start up investment involvement with Barclay’s Capital. Some geologist is going to have to look at most of those slides in the presentation, but the financial interests and the start up project is right up my alley. A good place to start investigating the value to the country of the project is a site called the International Accountability Project.
In the Phulbari area of Northwest Bangladesh, communities have come together to raise their voices against the proposed Phulbari Coal Project–which threatens to turn this fertile agricultural region into an open-pit coal mine. If implemented, the mine would have devastating environmental impacts and ultimately displace up to 130,000 people.
Well, now we know why there were riots and if you look at the financials in that presentation, you can see why a few grubby folks want to go wreck the environment there. You may want to check the presentation slides for this little item. The mine life is only 30 years. The strip ratio is expected to be 6.1 waste bcm per tonne of coal. I took one course in geology as an undergraduate and mostly identified rocks and strata soI had go look up the exact implication of a strip ratio. I found a short explanation from Ernest & Young First, a low strip ratio is good because that means less has to be stripped out. Stripping costs seem to be the major cost for coal mines. You can see from the presentation that the type of mining employed is Opencast with Truck and Shovel.
Open cast coal mining recovers a greater proportion of the coal deposit than underground methods, as more of the coal seams in the strata may be exploited. Large Open Cast mines can cover an area of many square kilometers and use very large pieces of equipment. This equipment can include the following: Draglines which operate by removing the overburden, power shovels, large trucks in which transport overburden and coal, bucket wheel excavators, and conveyors. In this mining method, explosives are first used in order to break through the surface of the mining area. The coal is then removed by draglines or by shovel and truck. Once the coal seam is exposed, it is drilled, fractured and thoroughly mined in strips. The coal is then loaded on to large trucks or conveyors for transport to either the coal preparation plant or directly to where it will be used
As such, the process is very destructive to the surrounding environment. The region involved is now full of farmers in a country where food insecurity is still an issue. From the IAP:
The Phulbari coal mine would use 5,933 hectares (around 60 sq. km.) of land, 80 percent of which is used for agriculture. It would physically displace as many as 130,000 people, mostly farming and indigenous households. This uprooting and resettlement of entire villages is being planned in one of the world’s most densely populated countries. Project plans clearly state that agricultural land and other vital resources including fish ponds, timber, and bamboo trees, would not be replaced. In short, the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people would be irrevocably disrupted by a mining operation that would transform productive farmers into landless people with no clear prospects for other livelihoods or employment.
In a cable posted by WikiLeaks which was sent in July last year, Moriarty says he had urged Tawfiq Elahi
Chowdhury, the prime minister’s energy adviser, to authorise coal mining, saying that “open-pit mining seemed the best way forward”.
Later on in the cable, Moriarty privately noted: “Asia Energy, the company behind the Phulbari project, has sixty percent US investment. Asia Energy officials told the Ambassador they were cautiously optimistic that the project would win government approval in the coming months.”
However, in the cable Moriarty also notes that Chowdhury admitted the coal mine was “politically sensitive in the light of the impoverished, historically oppressed tribal community residing on the land”. Chowdhury, according to the cable, then agrees to build support for the project through the parliamentary process.
Well, that’s what our delightful government is doing in its spare time; protecting the investments of JP Morgan and ruining the lives of tens of thousands of indigenous Bangladeshis. But what about our cousins the Brits? This is from MSNBC.
The British government has trained a paramilitary force accused of hundreds of killings in Bangladesh, according to leaked U.S. embassy cables.
The Guardian newspaper said the cables described training for members of the Rapid Action Battalion as being in “investigative interviewing techniques” and “rules of engagement.”
One cable notes that U.S. training for the battalion in counterterrorism would be illegal under U.S. law because of human rights violations.
The newspaper said the battalion has been accused by human rights activists of being a “death squad” responsible for more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings since it was established in 2004. In March, the battalion’s leader said it had killed 622 people in “crossfire.”
The RAB’s use of torture has also been exhaustively documented by human rights groups, the Guardian said. In addition, officers from the paramilitary force are alleged to have been involved in kidnap and extortion, and are frequently accused of taking large bribes in return for carrying out killings.
However, the cables reveal that British and Americans officials favor bolstering the force to strengthen counter-terrorism operations in Bangladesh. One cable describes U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty as saying the battalion is the “enforcement organization best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
The British training began three years ago, The Guardian said, quoting the cables.
There is also this report from Democracy Now if you’d like to watch more coverage of the item. There’s your taxes at works folks!! Making friends around the world!!
No wonder they want to shut down the Wikileaks and jail its founder.
The United Nations is investigating a complaint on behalf of Bradley Manning that he is being mistreated while held since May in US Marine Corps custody pending trial. The army private is charged with the unauthorised use and disclosure of classified information, material related to the WikiLeaks, and faces a court martial sometime in 2011.
The office of Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture based in Geneva, received the complaint from a Manning supporter; his office confirmed that it was being looked into. Manning’s supporters say that he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day; this could be construed as a form of torture. This month visitors reported that his mental and physical health was deteriorating.
The Pentagon denies the former intelligence analyst is mistreated, saying he is treated the same as other prisoners at Quantico, Virginia, is able to exercise, and has access to newspapers and visitors.
He was charged in July with leaking classified material including video posted by WikiLeaks of a 2007 US attack in Baghdad by a Apache helicopter that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver.