Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Two went to illegal war even if only one remembers

Already today, the Guardian's Lisa O'Carroll has been live blogging on testimony Jack Straw has offered:

10.54am: Straw denies that the discussions to go to war in Iraq in 2003 was influenced by Rupert Murdoch or his newspapers. "It would have been disgusting were it true," he says.
Straw was foreign secretary at the time of the invasion. He is asked about the three telephone calls between Murdoch and Blair in the runup to war.
Straw says he was vaguely aware of them at the time, but emphasises the speed of events in those weeks.
"Frankly who Mr Blair was talking to on the telephone was neither here nor there, unless it was about getting support for the [EU] second resolution."
He adds that it was certainly important to have newspapers onside, but that it was never part of his discussions around the war.

Straw was giving testimony to the Leveson Inquiry.  BBC reports, "The ex-foreign secretary denied Daily Mail claims that the UK would not have committed to war in 2003 without the backing of News International papers." The Leveson Inquiry is an inquiry into the UK phone hacking scandal.  British judge Brian Leveson is presiding over the inquiry.

In England, the Iraq War is never long out of the news.  In the US, except for the stupid bromides of Barack, it's rarely in the news cycle.  It's almost as though the Iraq War was a UK-led invasion and the US sat it out a la France.  It's amazing how much silence and denial there is in the US media.  The economy remains in the toilet and, all around the country, the effects of borrowing money to fight an illegal war can be seen.  But the Iraq War is a topic to be avoided.

War Criminal Colin Powell is attempting a celebrity makeover as he refashions himself into a motivational guru and the press doesn't question it.  We have (see the May 3rd snapshot and Sunday's "Hejira").  At Huffington Post -- the largest US outlet to question the makeover and revisionary history -- Jonathan Schwarz not only calls out the lies Powell served up to the UN but aslo the media gloss applied to Colin The Blot Powell.  More recently, the notion that Tony Blair might be trying to inject himself back into British politics stirred outrage.

In both the US and the UK, the Iraq War can still be used as a backdrop for a report or column from a major outlet, but see if you catch the difference in two random pieces in the current news cycle.  At the Guardian, Seumas Milne uses it to explore conflicts:

Libya was supposed to be different. The lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan had been learned, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy insisted last year. This would be a real humanitarian intervention. Unlike Iraq, there would be no boots on the ground. Unlike in Afghanistan, Nato air power would be used to support a fight for freedom and prevent a massacre. Unlike the Kosovo campaign, there would be no indiscriminate cluster bombs: only precision weapons would be used. This would be a war to save civilian lives.
Seven months on from Muammar Gaddafi's butchering in the ruins of Sirte, the fruits of liberal intervention in Libya are now cruelly clear, and documented by the UN and human rights groups: 8,000 prisoners held without trial, rampant torture and routine deaths in detention, the ethnic cleansing of Tawerga, a town of 30,000 mainly black Libyans (already in the frame as a crime against humanity) and continuing violent persecution of sub-Saharan Africans across the country.

No one should argue that the US press doesn't 'reflect' on the illegal war as well -- or, at least gush.  Like when David Rising (AP) opens with, "American military advisers in Uganda are drawing on lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan to help train African Union soldiers to fight Somalia's most powerful insurgent group, al-Shabab."  See, that illegal war, that cost millions of lives and billions of dollars, it was a wonderful test run -- that's how the US press treats it when referencing the war.  That's even more clear when Rising's article is run by non-US outlets and the title changes from "Americans train Ugandans for Somalia mission" to "Americans use Iraq lessons for Somalia mission training."  Americans use Iraq lessons for Somalia?  Oh, okay, that makes it all worth it!  The deaths, the library closings in the US, the public schools that can no longer afford a full time nurse on campus, the people who've lost jobs, the cuts to the safety net?  Suddenly it all seems worth it!

If you believe the US press which is still trying to stamp a happy face on an illegal war.

And as they continue to whore for that illegal war, they'll make sure not to inform about the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission and its findings of guilt. They'll insist it's not important because it didn't carry any legal consequence.  But strange, isn't it, the US press that lives to ridicule will work very hard to avoid ridiculing that tribunal . . . almost as if they fear giving it any publicity at all.

 And the 'alternative' press is no better than the corporate press in the US.  Robert Parry was once so brave and became a boot licker for Barack.  But I was told he gave a great speech at a conference in Germany last week.  I doubted it.  He sold his soul long ago. But I could be wrong.  Have been many times before and will be many times again.

But I was right.  Middle East Online posts the speech.  It's 81 paragraphs.  For those afraid Robert Parry's crush on Barack Obama would mean he didn't mention Barack, rest assured, he did mention in.  It was a blistering speech, calling out the press for many crimes including the Iraq War coverage and calling out several past US presidents as well.  Did Barack get called out?  Did the press get called out for fawning over Barack?  What do you think:

Upon taking office in 2009, President Obama saw little choice but to “look forward, not backward.” And, in all honesty, given the state of the American political/media process, it is hard to envision how he would have proceeded against what would have been a powerful phalanx of Establishment forces opposed to prosecuting Bush, Wall Street CEOs and their underlings.

That's paragraph 77 of an 81 paragraph speech and that's all the 'tough' 'criticism' Robert Parry had for Barack.  If he seems a little grumpy, apparently the conference woke in the midst of a wet dream.  He "saw little choice."  Poor Barack.  Who knew when Parry was whoring for him in 2008 that, if elected, Barack would be so powerless?  Poor little tyke.

Well at least he's not started new wars or upped the drone war -- Oh.  Right.  He has.  Well at least he's gotten Congressional authorization for those wars and -- Oh.  Yeah.  He hasn't.  Well at least whistle blowers are better off with him in office, especially when compared to Bully Boy Bush's days in -- Oh, right, the current administration goes after whistle blowers like they're foreign spies. 

Peter Van Buren works for the US State Dept.  He wrote We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.  He's a whistle blower.  And the administration has gone after him like crazy.  A friend asked that we note Kim Zetter's "ACLU Warns State Dept. Against Firing Worker Who Criticized Government" (Wired):

The American Civil Liberties Union has come to the defense of a former State Department employee who looks likely to be fired for blogging and writing critically about the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
The ACLU says doing so would violate the constitutional rights of veteran State Department employee Peter Van Buren, according to a letter the group sent the government on Tuesday.
The letter further accuses the government of unlawful retaliation against Van Buren for publishing critical comments about U.S. foreign policy on his personal blog last year.
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that public employees retain their First Amendment rights even when speaking about issues directly related to their employment, as long as they are speaking as private citizens,” and as long as they’re writing about matters of public concern, the ACLU wrote in its letter (.pdf). “There can be no dispute that the subject matter of Mr. Van Buren’s book, blog posts, and news articles – the reconstruction effort in Iraq – is a matter of immense public concern.”

Ivan Eland remains one of the last grown ups in the room.  From his "The Already Forgotten Iraq War" (

Of course, all this neglects what was best for the average Iraqi, which none of America’s, Iraq’s, or Iran’s leaders much cared about. As bad as the oppression was under Saddam, a foreign invasion followed by a violent insurgency and sectarian civil war probably ruined the social fabric of Iraq even more. Throughout history, wars — even good-intentioned ones — usually don’t make countries better places. The result of an increasingly fragmented postwar society portends ill for Iraq.
Remembering the similar effects of the Vietnam War, “the Vietnam Syndrome,” cooled American passions to remodel political systems of countries by armed force, but only for a time. Because the U.S. finally seemed to contain the Iraqi violence until it could get out and didn’t suffer an embarrassing all-out humiliation à la Vietnam, the “Iraq Syndrome” unfortunately has apparently been attenuated. Even while the Iraqi misadventure was trailing off, President Barack Obama couldn’t resist providing crucial air power to help rebels in Libya overthrow another old American nemesis, Moammar Gadhafi. With all the armed tribal militias running around that country now, a renewed civil war is also possible there. But as Bill Clinton before him learned from Somalia in the early 1990s, President Obama seems to have learned from Bush’s Iraq fiasco only that when meddling abroad, try to avoid a quagmire with ground troops.

The following community sites -- plus Adam Kokesh, FPIF, the Guardian, Reporters Without Border, Chocolate City, the World Can't Wait, and On The Wilder Side -- updated last night and this morning:

We'll close with this from ETAN:

10 Years after Timor's Independence, Where Is the Justice?

Contact: John M. Miller,

May 16, 2012 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) congratulated the people of Timor-Leste as they prepared to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the restoration of their country's independence on May 20. 

"This important milestone is the result of the persistent struggle and great suffering of the people of Timor-Leste," said ETAN's National Coordinator John M. Miller. "ETAN is proud to have played our part in supporting Timor's self-determination and now independence."

"The nation faces many challenges. With independence, its people are in a position to decide its future rather then have Indonesia impose its will on them," he added.

Timor's independence was prevented for nearly 25 years by the U.S. and other governments' support for Indonesia's illegal invasion and occupation. Yet, no senior officials of any country have been held accountable for the horrific human right violations and war crimes that took place.
 "The U.S., other governments and the United Nations must commit themselves to achieve justice for the victims and their families." said Miller. "ETAN will not rest until justice is done."

"Human rights violators from elsewhere have been prosecuted, often long after their crimes were committed. But Indonesia and others continue to obstruct holding accountable those who facilitated and carried out crimes during the occupation," he added.

“Ongoing impunity for the systematic Indonesian military and police crimes prevents the people of Timor-Leste and Indonesia from consolidating their democracies and moving on with their lives. While Timor-Leste is now independent, its people will not be able to overcome their tragic past without justice for what was done to them and their families,” said Miller.

Neither Congress nor the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have responded to the recommendations of Timor-Leste's Commission for Truth, Reception and Reconciliation, although many of them are directly addressed to the U.S. and other governments. These include the Commission's call for an international tribunal to try perpetrators of crimes against humanity during the Indonesian occupation, reparations from Indonesia and other countries that supported the occupation, and restrictions on foreign assistance to the Indonesian military. 

"The U.S. and others should press President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to immediately release all information that can help identify and locate those who were disappeared during the occupation,” said Miller.

The recent conviction of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for his support of rights violators in Sierra Leone should sound a note of caution for members of the Obama and former US administrations. This ruling provides a precedent for prosecuting those who arm, train and politically support those who commit the worst abuses, even if they do not directly organize or carry them out. 

"The Obama administration should restrict U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until the Indonesian generals and political leaders who organized and directed numerous crimes against humanity during the 24-years of illegal occupation are credibly tried," Miller added. Instead, the Obama administration is considering the sale of deadly Apache attack helicopters to the Indonesian military.


As detailed in declassified documents released by the National Security Archive and elsewhere, on December 6, 1975, then-U.S. President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger gave Indonesian dictator Suharto a green light to invade East Timor, which his military did the next day. The U.S. supplied 90 percent of the weapons used during the invasion. From Ford to President Clinton, successive U.S. administrations consistently backed Indonesia's occupation, providing Jakarta diplomatic cover and billions of dollars in weaponry, military training, and economic assistance. 

During more than two decades of occupation of Timor-Leste, Indonesian soldiers committed serious crimes with impunity, taking as many as 184,000 Timorese lives and torturing, raping and displacing countless others. Timor-Leste became independent in 2002.

Timor-Leste's Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation researched and documented the nation's experiences during the occupation. The Commission's comprehensive 2,500-page report recommended establishment of an international criminal tribunal and also advocated that countries (including the U.S.) which backed the occupation and corporations which sold weapons to Indonesia during that period should pay reparations to victims. The Commission urged the international community not to support Indonesia's military until it was thoroughly reformed and respectful of human rights.

Last year, ANTI (Timor-Leste National Alliance for an International Tribunal) demanded that the United Nations Security Council "cut the chain of impunity in Timor-Leste and other countries by establishing a credible International Tribunal in order to judge the principal perpetrators of serious crimes and crimes against humanity in Timor-Leste during the Indonesian occupation."

The UN-supported serious crimes process filed a number of indictments of a number of Indonesian officials and East Timorese militia leaders for crimes against humanity committed during the referendum on independence in 1999. 

ETAN was formed in reaction to the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre, when hundreds of peaceful demonstrators were gunned down by Indonesian troops carrying U.S.-supplied weapons. On May 20, ETAN members will be honored by the Timorese government with the Laran Luak medal for its contribution to the liberation of Timor-Leste. The U.S.-based organization, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last December 10, advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information see ETAN's web site: .
see alsoHuman Rights, Accountability & Justice page

ETAN at 20: Reflections and Reminiscences


Congratulations to Timor on 10 years of independence

Read about ETAN's 20 years of work for for human rights, justice and democracy: ETAN needs you support in 2012. John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: +1-718-596-7668 Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391 
Email: Skype: john.m.miller


Website: http://www.etan.orgBlog: @etan009

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