26 December 2014



Three months after the 2009 coup d’état in Honduras and the forcible exile of Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president sneaked back into the country and took up residence at the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa.
The Honduran military deployed around the perimeter of the compound and busied itself preventing the entrance of potential dual-use items such as ballpoint pens, peanuts, shoelaces, tamales, and the Bible. Nighttime activities included shining lights into the embassy and blasting rock music, army songs, and recordings of pig grunts. . . .
In light of the Honduran army’s role as junior partner to a US military that has long viewed the country as its own personal launch pad, the mimicry of American tactics is not surprising. Even less so, perhaps, since they had already been showcased nearby.
Twenty-five years ago in Panama, the invading US military played Van Halen and other selections at top volume in an attempt to drive Panamanian leader (and former CIA asset) Manuel Noriega out of the Vatican embassy where he had taken refuge. It had to do with more than the songs, of course, but Noriega was out in ten days.
Although the incorporation of music into the imperial arsenal predated the war on terror, the musical torture of detainees from Abu Ghraib to Guantánamo has brought the arrangement to a new, more sinister level. READ MORE AT JACOBIN.

20 December 2014

Our plan in Havana

Al Jazeera America

For an island nation of only 11 million people, Cuba has a continued knack for landing in the media spotlight. First there was last week’s Associated Press revelation about covert U.S. efforts to co-opt the Cuban hip-hop scene as a means of promoting regime change. And now Washington has surprisingly announced it’s restoring ties with the country, after more than 50 years.

As part of the sudden reversal of policy, the U.S. released three alleged Cuban spies, who were arrested in the United States while investigating Cuban exile groups accused of terrorism. U.S. intelligence has its own history in Cuba, to say the least. By 2006, the Central Intelligence Agency had mulled 638 assassination schemes against former Cuban President Fidel Castro, ranging from a simple exploding cigar to strapping a mollusk with explosives to catch him while scuba diving.

But times have apparently changed, and as part of the thaw with the United States, Cuba has released an American prisoner of five years, Alan Gross, whose preincarceration activities on the island are the subject of a recent Newsweek piece by former Washington Post deputy foreign editor Peter Eisner.

Gross, writes Eisner, was part of an intelligence operation run by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that involved the “illegal transmission of funds to front companies that had spent millions of dollars to subvert Cuba, covert action in Cuba and third countries and the illegal licensing and export of sensitive telecommunications material.”

USAID was incidentally also the force behind the United States’ attempted hip-hop revolution. So when the White House says, as it did in its official press release on Wednesday, that the U.S. “is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba,” does this mean putting a stop to subversion attempts? READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

19 December 2014

The Islamic State Might Be Going Green


The Islamic State (IS) could be having a green moment — and, no, that's not a reference to all the cash flowing into the newly formed caliphate from oil sales and ransom.

According to a recent tweet from Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center, IS may be dabbling in environmentalism. Lister circulated an image of two alleged IS posters. The first prohibits logging in Iraq's Nineveh province, the other dynamite fishing in the Syrian city of Deir ez-Zor.

The apparent interest in Earth-friendly policies raises the question of what IS believes it might achieve by protecting the environment, as the posters seem to indicate.

"IS clearly want to be seen like a state," Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Middle East Center told VICE News, "and if the photos are genuine, this seems to confirm the same pattern — that is, of IS assuming the normal bureaucratic functions of government departments."

The show of environmental authority, Sayigh said, could also be based on a continuation of previous government policies. In jihadi-controlled areas, IS has obligated local functionaries and former government administrators to resume the activities they undertook while under Iraqi or Syrian government rule. In this way, the anti-logging and -dynamite fishing signage could be a reflection, he said, of "these people doing what they were already doing before IS took over, albeit now in IS's name." READ MORE AT VICE NEWS.

16 December 2014

Twisted morals in Lebanon

Middle East Eye

Earlier this year, the Lebanese Internal Security Forces (ISF) - the country’s primary police force - were the subject of a public relations campaign that inundated Lebanon’s thoroughfares with billboards depicting male and female uniformed ISF officers cradling babies. The images were accompanied by a pledge of devotion to the Lebanese populace.
Driving down the highway, one could not help but feel that there was something very wrong with this picture.
And indeed, a very different picture of the ISF emerges from a 2013 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report entitled “‘It’s part of the job’: Ill-treatment and torture of vulnerable groups in Lebanese police stations.”
The “it’s part of the job” bit is a direct quote from the head of a police station in Beirut, referring to the idea that “it’s normal for a police officer to slap a detainee around”. This analysis was incidentally issued in response to a complaint filed by an HRW researcher regarding harassment and intimidation that she had been subjected to by the ISF.
The report focuses on the particularly abhorrent treatment of persons detained for suspected “immoral” criminal activity such as drug use, sex work, or homosexual behaviour - for whom it appears torture, rape, and humiliation are simply par for the course. Detainees variously describe being beaten, doused with cold water, suspended from the ceiling in painful positions, chained to desks and other items, and having body parts broken. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

Kazakhstan’s illusion of progress

Al Jazeera America

Three years ago today — Kazakhstan’s independence day — at least 15 striking oil workers in the western Kazakh city of Zhanaozen were killed by state security forces while they peacefully protested low wages and dangerous working conditions. More than 100 others were left seriously injured, with many more detained and tortured.
One of the strike’s leaders described being suspended by her hair, sexually humiliated and having plastic bags placed over her head. At least one other died in police custody.
More than a year and a half later, Amnesty International lambasted the Kazakh government for the relative impunity still enjoyed by the perpetrators of the Zhanaozen massacre and related crimes as well as for Kazakhstan’s use of torture and other forms of prisoner abuse.
The United States has also voiced repeated criticisms of widespread human rights violations in the Central Asian nation — tempered, of course, with praise from the State Department for Kazakh “progress in creating a favorable investment climate.” A 2014 State Department fact sheet even claims that the dictatorship of Nursultan Nazarbayev is developing as a “democratic … partner,” while specifying that the bulk of U.S. aid to Kazakhstan (more than $14 million in 2013) goes to furthering “peace and security.”
Apparently, this entails such activities as providing “training to Kazakhstan’s security forces in peacekeeping operations” and developing “maintenance and sustainment programs for U.S. equipment.” Reportedly on the sceneat the Zhanaozen massacre were American-supplied Humvees. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA AMERICA.

07 December 2014

The 'anti-terror' law: Israel outdoes itself… again

Middle East Eye

There is approximately one bright side to the current Israeli approach to the Palestinians - and it is that satirists will never want for inspiration.
Israel’s latest contribution to global absurdity is an “anti-terror” law proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and targeting Palestinian citizens of Israel and residents of the West Bank and Jerusalem. If passed, it will criminalise holding a Palestinian flag at demonstrations.
A host of other measures are also prescribed. According to the summary of the bill on Israel’s Ynetnews website, these include the following:
  • “Those killed during their attempt to conduct a terror attack will not receive a funeral” (their bodies will instead “be buried in an unknown location;”)
  • “Terrorists’ houses will be destroyed within 24-hours [sic] of the attack;”
  • “Families of terrorists will lose their citizenship and will be deported to Gaza should they express support for their relative's deed.”
Ynetnews goes on to note that, in view of the bill’s drafters, terroristic “[s]upport… can be expressed through public or social media.” READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.

06 December 2014

'Concerning Violence': Fanon lives on

Al Jazeera

In one of the more haunting scenes from Swedish documentary director Goran Hugo Olsson'Concerning Violence: Nine Scenes From the Anti-Imperialistic Self-Defense, a young Mozambican woman with a stump of a right arm breastfeeds a baby with a stump of a right leg.

Like the rest of the footage in the film, the scene was unearthed from Swedish television archives dating from the era of African anti-colonial struggles. The woman and child were recorded in the immediate aftermath of an aerial bombing raid in 1972, one of Portugal's many responses to the Mozambican desire for liberation.

In typical fashion, the Portuguese and their imperial colleagues instead portrayed the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) as violent terrorists, despite the merely reactive nature of anti-colonial violence to centuries of oppression.

After all, violence is the prerogative of empire. READ MORE AT AL JAZEERA.

01 December 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Curse of the Achille Lauro: A Tribute to Lost Souls

Middle East Eye

For many people, the words “Achille Lauro” - the name of the Italian cruise ship hijacked in 1985 by members of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) - connote a wickedness so pure that the suggestion of possible rational motivations for the affair is itself seen as a criminal offence.
According to the US - and Israeli-backed narrative, the hijacking incident - in which a 69-year-old disabled American Jew was killed and thrown overboard - was simply the latest manifestation of the Palestinians’ firm commitment to bloodthirsty terrorism.
While undeniably terrible, the murder of Leon Klinghoffer did not occur in a vacuum nor was it the intended goal of the botched PLF operation, which had been to engage Israeli troops when the ship reached Israel and to thus draw attention to the Palestinian cause.
It is in many ways, thanks to the fanatically pro-Israel bent of the western media, that events like these provoke a level of horror never elicited by Israeli behaviour, despite Israel’s far superior qualifications in the business of terrorism. READ MORE AT MIDDLE EAST EYE.