Britain and the Afghan war, 2003-2014


This video from Britain is called Kate Hudson, CND: The War on Terror Today; Confronting War Ten Years On 09 02 13.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Kate Hudson

Tuesday 28 October 2014

However you spin it, the story of British intervention in Afghanistan is a tragedy

In the thirteen years of our military involvement, tens of thousands of innocent civilians were killed and the lives of 453 British troops were lost

It’s strange how 13 years after we went to war on Afghanistan, the actual reasons for doing so seem to be almost entirely obscured. ‘Leaving the country in better shape’ seems a favourite – if anodyne – description, or perhaps making it ‘more stable’. Beyond that, we have assisting in nation-building, tackling the drugs trade, improving gender equality… the list of constructive and humanitarian-sounding tasks is a long one.

Does anyone now remember or refer to the actually stated reason – the War on Terror – declared by President Bush in the days following the 9/11 attacks on the United States? The war on Afghanistan was its first manifestation, inflicted on the people of Afghanistan by Bush and Blair on 7 October 2001. This was Operation Enduring Freedom – launched on the grounds that the Taliban government refused to hand over Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda operatives.

The stated goal was to continue the War on Terror until every terrorist group had been found, stopped and defeated. Whilst this goal may have found emotional resonance with many shocked by the terrible attacks on innocent civilians there were also many at the time who argued against the collective punishment of an entire people because of the actions of a foreign-originated terrorist cell. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have died as a result.

But the arguments made for alternative courses of action to bring the criminals to book fell on deaf ears. And though targeted alternatives were derided at the time, Bin Laden was eventually killed in Pakistan in 2011 by a team of US navy seals.

This was not so surprising as it turned out, for as time passed it became clear that the US had actually decided to overthrow the Taliban before the 9/11 attacks and spoke of regime change in other countries too. The tragedy of 9/11 was an opportunity to bring about the change in the region that the Bush administration sought. In that context, the illegal war on Iraq – following hard on the heels of Afghanistan – was made all of a piece in Bush and Blair’s War on Terror narrative. Many at the time rightly observed that there was no al-Qaeda in Iraq but that war would be the midwife of terrorism there. Over a decade on, that couldn’t be clearer as the region is engulfed in catastrophic and brutal conflict and attendant humanitarian crises. The shocking and seemingly unstoppable events of the last months are indeed part of the legacy of that opportunist and disastrous ‘War on Terror’.

The rebranding began some years ago. In April 2007, the British government announced that it was no longer using the term ‘War on Terror’. President Obama abandoned it in favour of ‘Overseas Contingency Operation’ as he sought to distance himself from the most extreme and unpopular policies of his predecessor, without making significant changes to the policy direction. In Britain, the shift was not surprising given the shattering impact of popular opposition to Blair’s War on Terror at home. The consequences of Blair’s lies continue to reverberate around the corridors of power and they have reshaped the politics and practice of military intervention for a generation.

In the meantime, the way we talk about our military intervention in Afghanistan has gone through a number of rationalisations. But whether we were supposed to be there to counter terrorism, to help the Afghans build a new society and democratic infrastructure, to support and advance the rights and opportunities of women and girls, or to tackle the drugs trade as it re-emerged post-Taliban, the reality is, we weren’t equipped for any of it and we just shouldn’t have been there.

In the thirteen years of our military involvement in Afghanistan, the sorry truth is that tens of thousands of innocent civilians were killed and the lives of 453 British troops were lost. Opium production is at record levels, providing around 90% of global supply. There has indeed been a rise in women’s rights – around 3 million girls now attend school – but these advances have been offset by a rise in gender specific violence including rape and acid attacks. These results have cost us anything between £20-£40 billion.

Whatever the narrative, however you describe it, the story of British intervention in Afghanistan is a tragedy – for our troops whose lives have been lost needlessly and for the people of Afghanistan who once again have to start rebuilding their lives. Let us hope that the lessons will be learned.

Bahraini torture prince in London, British government does nothing


This video is called Bahrain, capital of torture.

From the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy:

NGOs Call on Home Secretary to Remove Prince Nasser of Bahrain from the UK

London,  27 October 2014 –  The Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD), Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) and Redress UK expressed their disappointment to the UK Home Secretary last Friday 24 October, upon receiving information of Bahrain Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa’s arrival in London for an appearance at the 2014 British Invention Show. In a letter to the Home Secretary Theresa May, the rights groups pointed to a decision made by the UK High Court earlier this month, which ruled to quash the Prince’s functional immunity in the UK due to impending accusations of torture against him.

The rights groups expressed further disappointment in the UK’s recent engagements with the Prince, referencing the Prince’s recent visit to a Royal British Navy transport dock last week and a meeting with the British Ambassador to Bahrain only two days after the Court’s decision was announced. Sayed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at BIRD expressed his concern over the recent UK attitude, asserting, “the UK government should not undermine the decision by the High Court which quashed the Prince’s immunity on serious torture allegations”.

The letter urges Ms. May to act in coordination with the recent decision by the UK High Court, claiming Prince Nasser’s presence in the UK in spite of these accusations, to be in contradiction with UK policy, specified by the HMG’s Human Rights and Democracy Report of 2012 that “where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that an individual has committed human rights abuses they will not normally be permitted to enter the UK”. The rights groups called on May to arrange the removal of the Prince from UK territory and to impose a ban on his future travel to the UK. Husain Abdulla, Executive Director at ADHRB, echoed the call: “Due to impending accusations of torture, we urge UK Home Secretary Theresa May to advise an appropriate course of action for Prince Nasser’s expulsion from the UK.”

As Britain’s longest historical ally in the Middle East, UK policy towards Bahrain in spite of persistent violations of human rights in the country, has been a topic of ongoing criticism in past months. NGOs hope that a strong decision by the Home Secretary will relay an appropriate message to the government of Bahrain on Britain’s policy towards torture and torture perpetrators. Carla Ferstman, Director of Redress UK argues that “instead of allowing leaders of a regime notorious for torture to enter Britain at will, the UK Government ought to be putting maximum pressure on the Bahraini Government to stop torturing peaceful protestors, and to end impunity for torture. Britain should send a strong signal to the regime and exclude people like Prince Nasser from coming here”.

BIRD, ADHRB and Redress thus call together on the UK government to respect the decision made by the UK High Court and to act in accordance with this decision by demanding Prince Nasser’s immediate removal from UK territory.

See the letter below:

Rt Hon Theresa May
Secretary of State for the Home Department
Home Office
Direct communications unit
2 Marsham Street
London
SW1P 4DF

Dear Ms. May,

We write to you regarding the current visit of the Bahraini Prince Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa to the United Kingdom amidst serious allegations of torture and ill treatment. His visit coincides with the 2014 British Invention Show of which he is a patron.

On 7 October 2014, the UK High Court quashed a decision1 by the Crown Prosecution Service that the Prince had immunity from prosecution on torture allegations under Section 20 of the State Immunity Act 1978. Prince Nasser has been accused of taking part in individual acts of torture during the 2011 uprising in Bahrain. In 2012, the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights sent a detailed dossier of evidence regarding alleged practices of torture committed by the Prince. This included witness statements by members of Bahrain’s opposition who alleged that the Prince had personally engaged in acts of torture against them. Lord Justice Laws and Mr. Justice Cranston confirmed that “based on the evidence provided” in the hearing, the Prince would no longer be immune to investigation or prosecution for the alleged acts as required by UK and Bahraini commitments to the Convention against Torture.

Two days after this decision, the British ambassador met with Prince Nasser2 expressing a “keenness to strengthen ties with Bahrain.”

Similarly, the UK government invited the Prince to visit the Royal British navy transport dock in Bahrain last week.

These actions have shown the government’s disregard for the decision made by the UK High Court earlier this month, which considered evidence of torture claims against the Prince sufficient to strip him of his functional immunity in the United Kingdom.

The Prince’s undisturbed arrival in the UK reflects a compromising position of the UK government towards Bahrain. While the order of the High Court on Prince Nasser recalls the UK obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture, an unchanged attitude towards the Prince amidst serious allegations of torture puts to question the UK’s commitment to its international human rights engagements.

We express our disappointment with the decision to grant the Prince access to British territory whilst there are ongoing accusations against him. We call on the government to make it clear to the Prince that as a person accused of some of the most serious crimes, he is not welcome in the United Kingdom. I remind you of HMG’s Human Rights and Democracy Report 2012 which clearly states: “Where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that an individual has committed human rights abuses they will not normally be permitted to enter the UK.” We further call on the government to refrain from inviting the Prince onto public property, including for the inspection of sensitive military installations and urge you to take immediate steps to advise of an appropriate course of action for his dismissal from the UK.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Redress

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) express their concern over the Bahraini government’s ongoing campaign of targeting photographers, journalists and artists for documenting abuses and human rights violations committed by the government and security forces. The government arrested 17-year-old photographer Hussam Mahdi Suroor on 4 September 2014. His 26-years-old brother, artist Mahmood Suroor, was arrested and detained on 10 October 2014: here.

40 NGOs call on ’s allies to take action to free human rights defenders: here.

Bahrain: Halt deportation of individuals arbitrarily stripped of nationality: here.

Bahrain’s Ban on Main Opposition Prompts U.S. Policy Dilemma: here.

‘Thousands of German nazis recruited as United States spies’


This 2012 History Channel video from the USA is called CIA and the nazis, documentary.

From the New York Times in the USA:

In Cold War, U.S. Spy Agencies Used 1,000 Nazis

By ERIC LICHTBLAU

OCT. 26, 2014

WASHINGTON — In the decades after World War II, the C.I.A. and other United States agencies employed at least a thousand Nazis as Cold War spies and informants and, as recently as the 1990s, concealed the government’s ties to some still living in America, newly disclosed records and interviews show.

At the height of the Cold War in the 1950s, law enforcement and intelligence leaders like J. Edgar Hoover at the F.B.I. and Allen Dulles at the C.I.A. aggressively recruited onetime Nazis of all ranks as secret, anti-Soviet “assets,” declassified records show. They believed the ex-Nazis’ intelligence value against the Russians outweighed what one official called “moral lapses” in their service to the Third Reich.

The agency hired one former SS officer as a spy in the 1950s, for instance, even after concluding he was probably guilty of “minor war crimes.”

And in 1994, a lawyer with the C.I.A. pressured prosecutors to drop an investigation into an ex-spy outside Boston implicated in the Nazis’ massacre of tens of thousands of Jews in Lithuania, according to a government official.

Evidence of the government’s links to Nazi spies began emerging publicly in the 1970s. But thousands of records from declassified files, Freedom of Information Act requests and other sources, together with interviews with scores of current and former government officials, show that the government’s recruitment of Nazis ran far deeper than previously known and that officials sought to conceal those ties for at least a half-century after the war.

In 1980, F.B.I. officials refused to tell even the Justice Department’s own Nazi hunters what they knew about 16 suspected Nazis living in the United States.

The bureau balked at a request from prosecutors for internal records on the Nazi suspects, memos show, because the 16 men had all worked as F.B.I. informants, providing leads on Communist “sympathizers.” Five of the men were still active informants.

Refusing to turn over the records, a bureau official in a memo stressed the need for “protecting the confidentiality of such sources of information to the fullest possible extent.”

Some spies for the United States had worked at the highest levels for the Nazis.

One SS officer, Otto von Bolschwing, was a mentor and top aide to Adolf Eichmann, architect of the “Final Solution,” and wrote policy papers on how to terrorize Jews.

Yet after the war, the C.I.A. not only hired him as a spy in Europe, but relocated him and his family to New York City in 1954, records show. The move was seen as a “a reward for his loyal postwar service and in view of the innocuousness of his [Nazi] party activities,” the agency wrote.

His son, Gus von Bolschwing, who learned many years later of his father’s ties to the Nazis, sees the relationship between the spy agency and his father as one of mutual convenience forged by the Cold War.

“They used him, and he used them,” Gus von Bolschwing, now 75, said in an interview. “It shouldn’t have happened. He never should have been admitted to the United States. It wasn’t consistent with our values as a country.”

When Israeli agents captured Eichmann in Argentina in 1960, Otto von Bolschwing went to the C.I.A. for help because he worried they might come after him, memos show.

Agency officials were worried as well that Mr. von Bolschwing might be named as Eichmann’s “collaborator and fellow conspirator and that the resulting publicity may prove embarrassing to the U.S.” a C.I.A. official wrote.

After two agents met with Mr. von Bolschwing in 1961, the agency assured him it would not disclose his ties to Eichmann, records show. He lived freely for another 20 years before prosecutors discovered his wartime role and prosecuted him. He agreed to give up his citizenship in 1981, dying months later.

In all, the American military, the C.I.A., the F.B.I. and other agencies used at least 1,000 ex-Nazis and collaborators as spies and informants after the war, according to Richard Breitman, a Holocaust scholar at American University who was on a government-appointed team that declassified war-crime records.

The full tally of Nazis-turned-spies is probably much higher, said Norman Goda, a University of Florida historian on the declassification team, but many records remain classified even today, making a complete count impossible.

“U.S. agencies directly or indirectly hired numerous ex-Nazi police officials and East European collaborators who were manifestly guilty of war crimes,” he said. “Information was readily available that these were compromised men.”

None of the spies are known to be alive today.

The wide use of Nazi spies grew out of a Cold War mentality shared by two titans of intelligence in the 1950s: Mr. Hoover, the longtime F.B.I. director, and Mr. Dulles, the C.I.A. director.

Mr. Dulles believed “moderate” Nazis might “be useful” to America, records show. Mr. Hoover, for his part, personally approved some ex-Nazis as informants and dismissed accusations of their wartime atrocities as Soviet propaganda.

In 1968, Mr. Hoover authorized the F.B.I. to wiretap a left-wing journalist who wrote critical stories about Nazis in America, internal records show. Mr. Hoover declared the journalist, Charles Allen, a potential threat to national security.

John Fox, the bureau’s chief historian, said: “In hindsight, it is clear that Hoover, and by extension the F.B.I., was shortsighted in dismissing evidence of ties between recent German and East European immigrants and Nazi war crimes. It should be remembered, though, that this was at the peak of Cold War tensions.”

The C.I.A. declined to comment for this article.

The Nazi spies performed a range of tasks for American agencies in the 1950s and 1960s, from the hazardous to the trivial, the documents show.

In Maryland, Army officials trained several Nazi officers in paramilitary warfare for a possible invasion of Russia. In Connecticut, the C.I.A. used an ex-Nazi guard to study Soviet-bloc postage stamps for hidden meanings.

In Virginia, a top adviser to Hitler gave classified briefings on Soviet affairs. And in Germany, SS officers infiltrated Russian-controlled zones, laying surveillance cables and monitoring trains.

But many Nazi spies proved inept or worse, declassified security reviews show. Some were deemed habitual liars, confidence men or embezzlers, and a few even turned out to be Soviet double agents, the records show.

Mr. Breitman said the morality of recruiting ex-Nazis was rarely considered. “This all stemmed from a kind of panic, a fear that the Communists were terribly powerful and we had so few assets,” he said.

Efforts to conceal those ties spanned decades.

When the Justice Department was preparing in 1994 to prosecute a senior Nazi collaborator in Boston named Aleksandras Lileikis, the C.I.A. tried to intervene.

The agency’s own files linked Mr. Lileikis to the machine-gun massacres of 60,000 Jews in Lithuania. He worked “under the control of the Gestapo during the war,” his C.I.A. file noted, and “was possibly connected with the shooting of Jews in Vilna.”

Even so, the agency hired him in 1952 as a spy in East Germany — paying him $1,700 a year, plus two cartons of cigarettes a month — and cleared the way for him to immigrate to America four years later, records show.

Mr. Lileikis lived quietly for nearly 40 years, until prosecutors discovered his Nazi past and prepared to seek his deportation in 1994.

When C.I.A. officials learned of the plans, a lawyer there called Eli Rosenbaum at the Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit and told him “you can’t file this case,” Mr. Rosenbaum said in an interview. The agency did not want to risk divulging classified records about its ex-spy, he said.

Mr. Rosenbaum said he and the C.I.A. reached an understanding: If the agency was forced to turn over objectionable records, prosecutors would drop the case first. (That did not happen, and Mr. Lileikis was ultimately deported.)

The C.I.A. also hid what it knew of Mr. Lileikis’s past from lawmakers.

In a classified memo to the House Intelligence Committee in 1995, the agency acknowledged using him as a spy but made no mention of the records linking him to mass murders. “There is no evidence,” the C.I.A. wrote, “that this Agency was aware of his wartime activities.”

This article is adapted from “The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men,” by Eric Lichtblau, to be published Tuesday by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

See also here.

A new book published Tuesday, The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men, by New York Times journalist Eric Lichtblau, details the close relations developed by the US government with Nazi war criminals during and after the Second World War: here.