Revealed: US and Britain Launched 1,200 Drone Strikes in Recent Wars


Published on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

by Chris Woods and Alice K Ross
An MQ-9 Reaper returns to Kandahar from an Afghan mission. (USAF/Tech Sgt Chad Chisholm)Recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq have seen almost 1,200 drone strikes over the past five years, according to new data released to the Bureau.

The information, much of it classified until now, shows that US Air Force drones carried out most of the 1,168 attacks. However British crews are also responsible for a significant portion of the strikes in Afghanistan.

The Bureau has obtained data from the US armed forces, Nato and the UK’s Ministry of Defence. It reveals, for example, that more than a quarter of all armed Coalition air sorties in Afghanistan are now carried out by drones.

While only a fraction of those missions result in strikes, drone strikes in Afghanistan are now taking place on average five times each week.

NB: Libya figures are to September 2 2011; conflict ended on October 31. Yemen figures are confirmed drone strikes only; dozens of further strikes are reported but unconfirmed. Click the graph to see the data.

Afghanistan – the US’s most intense conflict
The US’s secret drone campaign in Pakistan and elsewhere is now in its eleventh year and is attracting increasing scrutiny, including academic studiescourt casesand, soon, a UN investigation. Ironically, less is known about the use of drones in conventional theatres of war.

The US military and its allies have carried out almost 1,200 drone strikes since 2008 in Afghanistan, Libya and Iraq. When the Bureau first approached the US military in August seeking drone data for recent conflicts, we were told the information was classified. Central Command (Centcom) later relented after the Bureau argued there was a strong public interest in releasing the information.

Centcom now says it is committed to publishing statistics on the number of missiles fired by drones in Afghanistan, as part of its monthly reports.

The newly declassified figures provided to the Bureau show armed drones flown by the Coalition have carried out 1,015 drone strikes in Afghanistan since 2008. This is three times more than the 338 attacks the CIA has carried out in neighbouring Pakistan over the same period.

Of more than 7,600 armed drone missions flown by Coalition forces between January and October 2012, ‘kinetic events’ – drone strikes – occurred 245 times, a ratio of about one strike for every 30 missions flown. In Iraq, however, only one in every 130 armed drone missions in 2008 resulted in a strike.

For context, there were an additional 1,145 attacks by conventional aircraft in Afghanistan during that period, official figures show. The proportion of airstrikes carried out by drones has risen steeply to 18%, up from 11% in 2009.

While no British drones went to Libya, the MoD has revealed British pilots had flown US drones in the campaign.While Coalition drones fly thousands of armed sorties in Afghanistan, drone strikes are ‘the exception, not the norm’, a Centcom spokeswoman told the Bureau.

The number of strikes has increased steadily year-on-year – but there is ambiguity over who is carrying them out. The majority are by the US Air Force, with the remainder by the British military and – possibly – US Special Forces. Here there is some confusion.

A senior US Army spokesman said: ‘Of the thousands of UAS [unmanned aerial systems] we have, only a very small number (well less than 100) are armed.’

But another senior US military official, speaking on background terms, said: ‘The Army doesn’t have UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] in service that carry munitions… Any UAVs that can carry munitions are/were under the charge of the Air Force in Afghanistan and Iraq.’

Military officials were unable to explain the discrepancy between the two statements. The Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has its own classified fleet of Reaper drones, however, which may account for the apparently contradictory statements.

Britain’s small, active fleet
‘In Afghanistan drone strikes are ‘the exception, not the norm:’ US Central Command spokeswomanThe UK’s drone fleet in Afghanistan is small compared with that of the US – Britain will shortly double its number of Reapers from five to ten aircraft.

Yet British-piloted aircraft launched a high proportion of the total missiles fired from drones.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has released new data on the number of missiles fired in each of the past five years. In 2011, almost four missiles of every ten fired by drones in Afghanistan were the work of UK forces, the new figures indicate. In 2010 and 2012 the proportion was over a quarter. An MoD spokesman pointed out that the rate of missiles released in comparison to total hours flown had fallen significantly from its peak in 2008.

The MoD refused to reveal the number of strikes it had carried out, and indicated it would be inaccurate for the Bureau to infer a number of attacks by comparing British data with Centcom’s more complete numbers, ‘because of differing rules of engagement’.

Click the image to see an interactive and download the data

The missing numbers
‘Protecting civilians is the cornerstone of our mission. The use of all Afcent weapons and methods are tightly restricted, carefully supervised, and applied by only qualified and authorised personnel.’ US Air Force spokeswomanThe US has so far refused to release casualty data for its drone campaigns, although an Air Force spokeswoman insisted that ‘protecting civilians is the cornerstone of our mission’. She added: ‘The use of all Afcent weapons and methods are tightly restricted, carefully supervised, and applied by only qualified and authorised personnel.’

Only Britain has issued estimates of the non-combatants it has killed. According to officials at the Ministry of Defence, four civilians have died in UK-piloted drone strikes in Afghanistan – although campaigners such as Drone Wars UK have questioned this figure.

David Cameron visits troops in Afghanistan, December 2010 (Corporal Mark Webster/MoD)A ministry spokesman said: ‘Every effort, which includes in some circumstances deciding not to release weapons, is made to ensure the risk of collateral damage, including civilian casualties, is minimised.’

Although Britain has not officially estimated the number of militants killed, prime minister David Cameron told reporters in December 2010 that by that point UK drones ‘killed more than 124 insurgents’. More than 200 missiles have been fired by British drones since that date.

Libya: a short, bloody campaign
In contrast to the long-running Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, figures supplied by Nato and the Pentagon on last year’s Libyan air campaign give an insight into the brutal intensity of that short conflict.

Nato provided the Bureau with figures for the operation, first published in a letter to the head of the UN’s investigation into Libya in January 2012. Differences in how data is recorded makes it difficult to draw a comparison  between Libya and other recent campaigns. What is clear is that armed drones played a small yet significant role.

Prime minister David Cameron in December 2010 said UK drones ‘killed more than 124 insurgents’. Since then more than 200 missiles have been fired by British drones.In April 2011, the US announced it was sending Reaper and Predator drones to Libya as part of Operation Unified Protector. ‘They are uniquely suited for urban areas,’ Marine General James Cartwright, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a press conference at the time.

While no British drones went to Libya, the MoD later revealed British pilots had flown US drones in the campaign.

Nato aircraft – piloted by the US, France and UK – flew around 18,000 armed sorties during the brief campaign, firing 7,600 missiles.

A tiny proportion of these armed missions – 250 in total – were flown by drones. US Predators flew 145 strike sorties, according to a Department of Defense briefingpublished in October 2011. A Nato spokesman explained ‘strike sorties’ is the term used for ‘identifying and engaging targets’, while armed sorties could also be for surveillance, and carrying weapons for self-defence.

The Pentagon confirmed to the Bureau that US-piloted drones carried out 105 strikes between the start of April and September 2, 2011. This figure does not reflect the full campaign, which continued until October 31. However, it does indicate a very high ratio of strikes to armed sorties – more than one in three total armed missions led to a strike – reflecting the intensity of the Libyan conflict compared to the more drawn-out wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where drones often fly armed missions without firing weapons.

Following the end of the campaign, in November 2011 Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen claimed: ‘We conducted our operations in Libya in a very careful manner, so we have no confirmed civilian casualties caused by Nato.’

But the following month, a New York Times investigation reported 40-70 civilians died in Nato bombings. The findings were supported by an Amnesty Internationalinvestigation published in March 2012, which named 55 civilians including 16 children and 14 women – all killed in strikes on urban areas, including in Tripoli, Zlitan, Majer and Sirte.

‘We conducted our operations in Libya in a very careful manner, so we have no confirmed civilian casualties caused by Nato.’ Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen But it is not clear how many – if any – of these deaths were caused by drones.

Iraq: a rapid wind-down
The Bureau has also obtained previously classified details of US drone strikes in Iraq for the final years of the conflict.

These demonstrate how swiftly the US Air Force scaled down its drone strikes as withdrawal approached.

The number of armed drone sorties dropped steadily between 2008 and December 2011, when US forces finally withdrew.

Actual drone strikes – or ‘kinetic events’ – collapsed by more than 90% between 2008 and 2009, Obama’s first year in office, from 43 strikes to four. In comparison, the CIA carried out 55 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2009.

There were no US Air Force drone strikes in Iraq in 2010, and just one in 2011. All US military drone sorties in the country have now ceased.

 

No, Banning “Innocence of Muslims” Is Not the Solution #mustread #mustshare


 

Posted: 09/17/2012 , Huffingtonpost
  Chair, Muslims for Progressive Values Canada

Once again we Muslims take centre stage in the arena of world politics, our “anger” dominating the headlines over a poorly made YouTube video, called “Innocence of Muslims.” And though the video is poor, both in content and production quality, the title alone is excellent.

As a Muslim, resident of North America my entire life, I have never heard the word “innocence” placed next to “Muslims” so many times by the media. So to the “Innocence of Muslims” creators, on this point alone — thank you.

Today’s blog post is dedicated to my fellow Muslims, with one exception.

The exception consists of the less than one per cent of Muslims who are engaging in violent anti-American demonstrations in a number of countries.

Why? Because that part of the community, that less than one percent of Muslims, does not have the time nor the heart for this message.

No, that less than one percent of the community, is working hard to destroy whatever efforts their fellow (mostly Muslim) citizens have made towards democracy in the Muslim world in an effort to replace it with another dictatorship, made up of salafi extremists. (Please note it appears there are no violent demonstrations taking place in the Gulf States likely because the would-be demonstrators there already compose the governments.)

To my fellow Muslims — the 99 per cent who are peaceful — here is my message. Online articles, information and resources, including amateur video productions, are everywhere.

On the topic of Islam, extreme interpretations of our scriptures backed up by sources many of us regard as inauthentic or out of date, receive millions of hits. Some of the information is posted by non-Muslims, but much is posted by those who call themselves Muslim, as well.

And amateur video productions on sites like YouTube and others are a thriving industry all over the world. From the diversity of amateur video production we see that people all over the world have a range of opinions on what is right and wrong, indecent and acceptable, not only in relation to religion, but regarding other matters as well.

And we cannot always “police” all of what is “out there” online. We cannot “police” it in North America. We cannot “police” it abroad. In fact, law enforcement all over the world seems to have difficulty literally policing truly offensive, criminal material, such as child pornography.

“Policing” opinions on religious matters is unrealistic in most instances. But some of you say “Innocence of Muslims” is a special case and should be banned. Personally, I disagree. “Innocence of Muslims” should not be banned, nor should any video that one finds disturbing because of its anti-Islamic, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian or anti-religious content.

Why? For a number of reasons.

First of all, in relation to “Innocence of Muslims” we must take into account the following factors:

1. Merely because the depiction is suggested doesn’t make it true;
2. Because there is no coercion allowed in Islam according to the Holy Quran, human beings are free to believe as they choose; and
3. Our Prophet Muhammad practiced a virtually super-human degree of patience, which we are supposed to emulate.

Second, in respect to anti-religious material in general, history and current policies show that when governments police the opinions of citizens the result is a dictatorship or at the very least a country that upholds injustice by censoring the criticism against it.

And when people are prohibited from making poor quality amateur YouTube videos, also at stake is the freedom of expression to speak out against the injustice of governments and others in a peaceful, constructive manner.

It means religious minority rights, women’s rights, queer rights — human rights — become endangered further. It means any opposition to those rights may more easily result in violence against minorities. It means that violence against minority groups may be then condoned by governments who do not have the constitution, the resources, and/or the expertise to enforce protections for their minority inhabitants.

It means humanity suffers more not less. What else can be done?

My fellow Muslims — our community has been under a magnifying glass for some time now. But in the past decade, great changes have taken place.

Though there remain many issues we must resolve among ourselves we are no longer afraid to discuss them today in the open.

Our Muslim community leaders — who now hail from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities, young, old, queer, straight, male, female, single, and married, are more confident now to express a variety of views, than previous generations, despite opposition and conflict, which at times originates from both inside and outside the mosque.

And unlike the previous generation, our reaction to the insanity of salafist and wahabi extremists, is swift and just — as shown by the statements issued last week by a host of Muslim organizations in North America, condemning the violence at the American embassies and conveying condolences upon the death of Chris Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and members of his staff.

It is in stark contrast to what we watched, particularly, those of us growing up in North America, decades ago, when the reaction to the fatwa pronounced against British Muslim author Salman Rushdie, endangering his life and stifling free expression among Muslims, was relatively muted, or worse. (And we must speak out now to ensure Rushdie is safe, considering the fatwa’s recent renewal).

We know now, as Muslims, we cannot remain silent in the face of injustice, particularly when the perpetrator claims to be Muslim and acts out in the name of our faith. But though we, as a community, may have matured, the media and public perception has not necessarily caught up with us at every turn.

Though there are plenty of pundits acknowledging we differ from the violent extremists who are taking advantage of the Arab Spring, there are others who continue to paint us all with the same monolithic, bigoted brush.

The words “Muslim Fury,” “Rage in the Muslim World,” are used without regard to the scant number of the demonstrators in relation to the entire global Muslim population.

And there are others hoping to screen “Innocence of Muslims” to a theatre audience — perhaps to bring some of the extremists in our midst, out into the open and create a perception that their numbers are greater.

My fellow Muslims, we live in difficult times. My fellow Muslims what is the solution? Must the problems of the entire Muslim world be a burden that constantly rests upon our shoulders?

Perhaps the answer is yes. Perhaps our generation must rise to the challenge of our era, remembering the words of the great late Martin Luther King Jr who said:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

And perhaps we must examine our community at home and abroad, with extreme Islamic love. Perhaps we must react not only to deflect the negative light others throw on our faith but consistently, together shine one on those injustices regularly taking place in the Muslim world.

Perhaps we must ask ourselves, not only why American (and other western) embassies are being attacked but why there are places in the Muslim world where there is poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, forced marriage, child marriage, female genital mutilation, honour killings, gender apartheid, persecution of religious minorities, homophobia, torture and murder of citizens by governments and war.

And perhaps we must ask ourselves what we must do, from where we stand, to peacefully, create a world of difference. And again remind ourselves of the words of the Holy Quran that now resonate so forcefully in the collective soul of our generation that — “Allah will not change a nation unless it changes what is in their hearts.”

 

Resist Silent Emergency!-‘People’s Hearing on FABRICATED CASES’-Sept28-29


Dear Friends,

Sub: Invitation to a ‘PEOPLE’S HEARING ON FABRICATED CASES’

Venue: Constitution Club, New Delhi

Dates: September 28 – 29, 2012, Friday, Saturday.

The nightmare of the infamous Emergency of Mrs. Indira Gandhi was supposed to be over in 1977 when it was lifted after two years due to large scale public protest. Political parties, institutions and individuals who defended Emergency were discredited. The sigh of relief evoked a hope for a functioning democracy in India.

But today, we are entering into a similar phase of authoritarian governance without any formal declaration of Emergency. This Silent Emergency has regulated, controlled and restricted all space for democratic public protests against ruling governments. Custodial deaths and encounter killings have become a routine phenomenon. Rape, murder, loot, torture and arrests in Manipur, Nagaland and other north eastern states as well as Kashmir have even crossed the excesses of the Emergency period. Many discriminatory laws have been enacted to silence the Media without a censorship. Several discriminatory laws were enacted to enhance and strengthen the power of the State over civil society and crush dissent.

Laws to facilitate the corporate control and loot over the resources of people are being enacted. This has also become a major reason for the human rights violations against adivasis, dalits, minorities, farmers, fisher people, workers, activists and human rights movements. The human rights defenders who take up burning issues of the people are being targeted. False cases are being fabricated against activists, people’s movements, media, theatre activists, minorities, self-determination movements, dalits and adivasis in a major way. Thus thousands of innocent people are languishing in Indian jails without any trial.

In this context of the Silent Emergency in our country we would like to invite you to attend the ‘PEOPLE’S HEARING ON FABRICATED CASES’ which has the following objectives:

1. To defend fundamental rights, human rights and the Indian Constitution to preserve our democracy

2. To popularize some of the most brazen cases of fabrication of false charges against political dissidents and members of the Muslim, dalit and adivasi communities

3. To facilitate further legal action for freedom of these innocent people

4. To generate pressure on the mainstream media to play a more socially responsible role

5. To generate pressure on the institutions of Indian State for the release of undertrials.

The Programme:

The organizers expect the participation of around 50 victims, their family members or friends whose testimonies will be heard by a jury comprising of judges, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and artists. After listening to all the presentations the Jury will report their observations and conclusions with clear recommendations for various institutions of the Indian State.

Organisers: Solidarity Youth MovementKerala, Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF, PUCL, AISA, SIO, Right to Food Campaign, KSMTF (Kerala Swathantra Matsya Tizhilali Federation), PPSS (Anti Posco Movement), ICR, Focus on the Global South, Justice for Maudany Forum, Visual Search, Moving Republic, SAHELI, Pedestrian Pictures, National Campaign Against Fabrication of False Cases, http://www.fabricated.in, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Assiciation, Jamia Student Solidarity Forum, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, National Adivasi Alliance, Kabani – The Other Direction, Human Rights Alert, Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM) – Kerala, Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity, Action for Social Equality, INSOCO – Indian Solidarity Committee for freedom democracy & human rights, Center for Harmony and Peace – Varanasi, PUDR, Socialist Front, Student of Resistance.
People’s Hearing on Fabricated Cases

Sept 28-29 Constitution Club, New Delhi

Programme Schedule

28-09-2012, Friday

Inaugural Session: 10am – 11.30am

11.30am – 1.30pm
Issue
Speaker

1
Koodankulam Anti Nuclear
P K Sundaram

2
Anti POSCO Struggle
Abhay Sahoo

3
Jaitapur Anti Nuclear
Vaishali Patil

4
Farmers Group, Madhya Pradesh
Dr. Sunilam

LUNCH BREAK

2.30pm – 6pm
Issue/Case
Speaker

5
Journalist Mhd Ahmed Kazmi
Shauzab Kazmi

6
Soni Sori
Himanshu Kumar

7
Gujarat Fabricated Cases
Zakiya Soman

8
Faseeh Mahmood
Sabih Mahmood, Manisha Sethi

9
Journalist Shahina KK
Shahina KK

10
Seema Azad, UP
Seema Azad

11
Jharkhand
Dayamani Barla

12
Odisha
Prafulla Samantara

13
Chattisgharh
Ajay T.G

14
DHRM, Kerala
Suresh

15
Email Surveillance Victims, Kerala
T. Mohammed Vellom
29-09-2012, Saturday

10am – 1.00pm
Issues
Speaker

16
Kashmir & North East
Anjum Zamrud Habib, Babloo Loitongbam, Kaka D Iralu, Neena Ningombam

17
Abdul Nasar Maudany
Dr. Sebastin Pol, Omar Mukhtar
LUNCH BREAK

2.00pm – 3.30pm
Issues
Speaker

1
Prisoners Issue
SAR Geelani

2
Repressive Laws
Preeti Chauhan, PUDR

3
Increasing repressive state under neoliberalism
Colin Gonsalves
3.30pm – 6.00pm

Concluding Session: Comments from the Jury

Jury:
Justice Rajindar Sachar
Dr. Binayak Sen
Saba Naqvi
Ajit Shahi
Dr. Ram Puniyani
K Satchidanandan

A call for support from PPSS Odisha


 

 

As you know, under the banner of POSCO Pratirodh Sangarm Samiti (PPSS), our people are making a relentless struggle against the establishment of integrated steel plant and captive port by POSCO, a South Korean company. We have been opposing this project for the last seven years and have chosen peaceful, democratic forms of struggle to express our resistance to this project and our refusal to give up our lands and livelihoods for it mostly because we all know that our resources fish, betel leaves and rice does not only feed us , but also will continue to feed all our generations to come.

There have been number of undemocratic tactics used by the POSCO company and the state government to break our democratic struggles. Instead of acting as a welfare state , the state government is very much interested for the welfare of POSCO thereby depriving the land and livelihood of more than 22,000 people.  The state police in collusion with the Posco sponsored goons have launched an assault on the peaceful protesters who have been fighting an exemplary democratic struggle for their survival (Jal, Jangal, Jameen) over the last seven years. After inflicting severe physical injuries on people, old and young, the administration has slapped numerous fictitious cases and booked a large number of them on these fictitious grounds.

 

We came to know from the media that our Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured the South Korean government that construction of the project would resume from July 2012 and had directed the state government to complete the initial formalities, including land acquisition for the project, at the earliest.

The ground situation is already grave. Both the state administration and POSCO are now making dirty tricks to trap and divide the villagers. Our villagers have exposed this plan and caution the administration to refrain from making attempts to create divisions among the villagers.

However, at any point of time, the government police force will forcefully enter into our area and there is every possibility of blood-shed in the villages as the villagers are determined not to leave from their habitats.

At this juncture, we would like to request to you to provide a financial support to sustain the movement.  The support will help in  the following activities

1.  There is an urgent demand for medicines and doctors in the area. 3-4 days medical camp is needed to treat serious health problems. People, especially women, children and the elderly are suffering the effects of seven years of restricted medical access, and various gynecological problems, arthritic conditions, parasitic infections, skin diseases etc. are rampant.

The list of medicines which are needed: Azilla 500, Taxim 200, Norcofloxin T.Z, Daiclofenial, ceflimin-200, other antibiotics, paracetamols, cough syrups, antaacids, Betadin Ointment, pmol syrup ( for children), medicines for dysentery etc.

2. Organising lawyers to defend the activists being charged under false criminal offences. Till now 2 persons are in the jail, more than 200 false cases have lodged against the villagers and warrent order has been issued against more than 1500 people out of which 500 are women.

Here is a quick estimate of the of the money required for securing bail for the cases A sum of around Rs 1000-2000 is needed for securing bail in the session/ district courts. Rs-5000-10,000 is needed for the a bail for a person in the High court, while tens of comrades are under threat of getting arrested and each passing day the police is filing on false cases against activists and villagers.

3. Organising people at the community level in the areas related to proposed port, water and mining through promotion, meetings and mass protests. Particularly, at the face of current targeted threats by the police, goons of POSCO backed by administration and political touts to the villagers of Govindpur, PPSS initiated a ‘Campaign to Save Govindpur’ – which will have several meetings, rallies including a massive rally and meeting of 20,000 people.

 

We sincerely hope – you will consider our request and extend your valuable contribution to the movement.

Kindly forward it to Girija as we don’t have his mail id.

Expecting a positive response,

In Solidarity,

Prasant Paikray,

Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti

Mobile no-09437571547

E-Mail – prashantpaikary@gmail.com

 

Tentative. Budget Requirements from July 2012 –  June 2013

1. Legal expenses Like Lawyer’s fees, petitions etc. Rs. 2,00,000

 

2 Medical aid   Rs. 1,00.000

 

3. Organizing people against plant, and port Honorarium for 10 workers

( Rs.3000 per month  x 10 worker x 12 months )

Rs. 3,60,000

 

 

    Total budget requested Rs. 6,60,000

 

 

 

What’s Going to Last =Juan Claudio Lechín #Sunday Reading #Bolivia


What’s Going to Last

Chellis Glendinning interviews Juan Claudio Lechín
May 31, 2012

The Bolivian writer Juan Claudio Lechín on the conditions that predicate fascism and the morality of anarchism.

GURENICA, a magazine on arts and politics   guernicamag.comDescription: http://cdn4.guernicamag.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/0601_int_Juan01.jpg

Photo courtesy of The Mercury

Juan Claudio Lechín is Bolivian by blood—and by history. Juan Lechín the elder’s dedication to insurgence against the feudal oppression of Bolivian workers paved the way for the Revolution of 1952 and some of the most radical labor laws ever attempted.

Lechín junior is normally a writer of fiction, film, and theater. His play Fernando, el caótico took El Premio Nacional 98 José Machicado, and La gula del picaflor won El VI Premio Nacional de Novela in 2003. But Lechín’s interest in politics is a life-long endeavor, dating back to the education he garnered growing up in the midst of national labor struggles, in exile three times in Venezuela and Peru during the dictatorships of the 1960s and ’70s, as well as from a decades-long study of Marxism that began in childhood.

In recent years, Lechín has grown preoccupied with the perception that fascism may be returning to Bolivia. In 2005, following years of fierce social movements, voters successfully elected the country’s first indigenous president, former coca farmer and union leader Evo Morales Ayma. Morales and his Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party—which includes his vicepresidente, ex-guerrilla fighter Álvaro Garcia Linera—promised to heal South America’s poorest nation with a creative blend of state socialism and indigenous values. But, in contrast to the hope that so many nurtured in 2005—including anti-globalization activists, leftists, environmentalists, and Bolivians themselves—the Morales adminstration has forged a “proceso de cambio” featuring a new constitution that opens the way for endless reelection, blatant diminishment of freedom of the press, full-tilt industrialization including massive dams, new oil, gas, and lithium excavations, as well as high-tech corridors blasting through indigenous eco-reserves, and a tendency to dismiss, or in some cases violently repress, the nonstop protests that have arisen across the country. Las máscaras del fascismo: Castro, Chávez, Morales (in Spanish by Plural Editores), Lechín’s new book, audaciously compares the laws and political strategies that Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, and Morales himself have employed to congeal power with those of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco.

The interview with Juan Claudio Lechín that follows took place on a day that a peaceful march to the capital initiated by indigenous communities was threatened by members of the MAS party wielding clubs and dynamite. Stationed between them, 900 policemen in full riot gear blocked passage, as officially stated, “to prevent violence,” although many citizens suspected the situation was a government setup to suppress the march. The issue? Native groups were exercising their constitutional right to protect sixty self-sufficient, sovereign communities and an ecology boasting thousands of plants and animals, including eleven endangered species, in their Territorio Indígena Parque Nacional Isiboro Sécure (TIPNIS)—in protest against the industrial superhighway the MAS government was constructing through their reserve. It was against this backdrop that Juan Claudio Lechín talked about governance in Latin America.

Chellis Glendinning for Guernica

Guernica: In the beginning of Las máscaras del fascismo, you speak of your fear to publish such a radical analysis. Can you explain that fear?

Juan Claudio Lechín: Yes, it was a double fear: interior and exterior. I come from the Left. I studied Marxism from the age of twelve because, at the time, it gave an answer to my feelings, to my thirst for freedom and a vision of equalitarian society. But, after years, I started to get disappointed by the Soviet Union and to no longer believe certain magical aspects of the theory. I started to watch reality instead. I studied colonial history, and I began to lose many of the dogmas that Marxism had installed. Then, one day in 2006, a group of citizens made a hunger strike against Evo Morales’s imposition on the national assembly to ratify a new constitution—which, of note to us, would give him the right to run for countless reelections—even though the required 66 percent vote was impossible to attain. Some Morales supporters started to shout that they were going to hang us! They threw dynamite into the Basilica de San Francisco cathedral, and we had to escape.

We human beings are structured by a certain flow of ideas that get installed in our souls. When somebody breaks that flow—in order not to be empty—we tend to become unsettled.

At that moment I realized that there could be a correlation between what was unfolding in Bolivian and European fascism, so I studied fascism for four and a half years. It was an existential fear—to leave a corpus of ideas and jump into the emptiness in order to make sense of reality.

The external fear was to lose friends. Maybe my close friends of the Left would feel my book as an aggression, a punch. We human beings are structured by a certain flow of ideas that get installed in our souls. When somebody breaks that flow—in order not to be empty—we tend to become unsettled.

Guernica: So what are these ideas that could unsettle people?

Juan Claudio Lechín: I make two premises: one, that fascism is a pragmatic model of taking absolute power, and two, that twelve conditions exist to detect the presence of fascism. I go on to analyze six characters: Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco in Europe; Castro, Chávez, and Morales in Latin America.

To my surprise, the correlations among them are extremely high. All of these leaders destroy a political system—the parliament, the judicial system, the laws, the army, media, all the freedoms that, at least in Latin America, the crowds fought for two centuries to capture. Free unions, free elections, free political speech.

Whether fascists use one tool, like eliminating freedom of speech, or another, like they will kill you, they aim to drive the leader and his party to absolute power—whereas in a liberal society and with autonomous regions or federalism, the division of power offers a path toward diminishing concentration. At least, people have a means for fighting for justice because, in fascism, protest becomes impossible.

Guernica: Can you give examples?

Juan Claudio Lechín: There’s the issue of reelection. In the Sierra Maestra, Castro touted the constitution of 1940 as a tool of both freedom against Batista and future social reorganization. But as soon as he took power, he followed Franco, working toward a more daring document that was finally launched in 1976. In it, Castro would hold power indefinitely, without being burdened by elections.

In 1999, a year after Chávez took power, he initiated a new constitution, and one of its purposes was to guarantee unchallenged, continuous leadership. It was denied—but seven years later Evo Morales made the same effort, imposing 51 percent majority rule over the former 66 percent. Even in Cuba you need two-thirds.

Then there’s freedom of the press. Fifty years ago, Castro began a process to allow only government newspapers, TV stations, and the like. Today the world has become more complex because instant communications have made it smaller, so you cannot do that so easily. Instead, Chávez installed 800 government-controlled broadcast stations in order to diminish private media presence. The only one he couldn’t fight was Radio Caracas, so he closed it down. The Venezuelan government also started to shrink the available frequencies so that whenever the license of an unwanted radio or TV station expired, the station had to close.

In 2011, the same was imposed in Bolivia with this new telecommunications law. As soon as he gained power, Evo put in 400 new radio stations, acquired equipment for a state-run TV station, bought up newspapers, and little by little decreased freedom of expression while enlarging the presence of government-controlled media.

Guernica: A national uprising by the press and journalism departments of the universities occurred in 2010 and 2011. They were fighting against the government’s new laws clamping down on freedom of expression. One law opened the way for closing down media venues based on criteria to be judged by the government. There were protest marches, national petitions, placards written in their own blood, caskets into which microphones and writing tablets had been thrown, microphones hung from nooses to mourn the death of journalism.

Juan Claudio Lechín: Yes, a sort of “spring rebellion,” that was—with the same result as the one in Prague: defeat. Sadly, the protests were politically ineffective. They had good intentions, of course, and lots of passion, but there was no possibility of stopping the government and no internal direction to organize alternative proposals for freedom of speech.

In the end fascists will even take control of culture, of music, art, writing; the power never stops its expansion.

We could go over and over this administration’s attempt to control every institution—judicial, legal, parliament, autonomies, political parties, the army, police. I put charts in the book to show the parallels in policies between European fascist states and these governments in Latin America. In the end fascists will even take control of culture, of music, art, writing; the power never stops its expansion.

Guernica: Have you personally had experiences that add to your insights?

Juan Claudio Lechín: Many. For instance, in 2005 I went to Venezuela to present a novel. A close friend of mine who works in the parliament told me that Hugo Chávez wanted to meet with me, given that my father was a famous political figure in Bolivia. I sent the message back that I was on a more personal visit. My friend reported that Chávez was insistent. “Don’t be surprised,” he said, “if he calls you at three in the morning.”

He never called.

Weeks later I learned, through my friend’s father, that the secret service had uncovered something they considered threatening: I had signed a letter against the 2003 Cuban execution of three citizens for trying to escape. It’s now common knowledge that the secret service in Venezuela is Cuban; the headquarters for Venezuelan passports, IDs, and security checks even resides in Havana.

But, at the time, I was astonished. I didn’t want to believe it.

Guernica: Given that survival in a world of nation-states demands participation in a race for military and economic power, authoritarian governments grow out of the necessity for controlling society in order to compete in that contest. This is a political pressure. Fascism’s rise sociologically can also be seen as an extension of the mechanization required to maintain the mass technological society that has resulted from imperialist expansion. What’s your understanding of how the drive to absolute power emerges?

Juan Claudio Lechín: I see it as a product of the clash between the onrush of modernity and the familiarity of feudalism. I believe that, over the last four centuries, two political philosophies have been at battle. One is monarchy, whether it’s feudal, absolutist, or whatever; the other is liberalism that can be constitutional, presidential, etc. These two systems have been waging a constant war, on the one side for the centralization of power, and on the other, for redistribution of power.

Yes. I’m an anarchist because I’ve lived my life with a high level of freedom… and when I say freedom, it’s not what is understood in the U.S., like freedom to buy in Saks or at Bloomingdale’s.

The rest, like communism or fascism, are in-between forms that some societies acquire in the transition between these two. The moment in which fascism appears is when the values and institutions of liberal society have not yet been fully installed and there exist masses boasting a traditional mindset. Fascism emerges from a social unconscious intent on re-establishing mentalities that people are familiar with—and this installation carries the novelty of being realized by a caudillo and leaders from the common people using a revolutionary discourse.

Guernica: Reading your book, one may become confused. The system you present as a backdrop for sanity against fascism is liberalism. Yet in the North many progressive activists have long since rejected liberalism, and certainly neoliberalism. What do you mean by liberalism?

Juan Claudio Lechín: Liberalism is a complex system. It has its political side, with its emphasis on liberties and deconstruction of power. But then there is the economic side: capitalism with its two opposing faces, the small owner and the transnational. Liberalism has its failures, of course. I am not a liberal! But, from my position living inside dictatorships and military juntas in Latin America, I have witnessed that liberalism offers a better chance for people to succeed at protest than this shell of feudalism called fascism or communism. In it, nothing is possible. Too, liberalism is a young system; it’s still being created. One can intervene, propose, make it happen.

Guernica: Yet, in the book, you show your outrage at the excesses occurring in Latin America with illustrations that appear to favor rightist political agendas. What are your politics?

Juan Claudio Lechín: I’m not from the Right or the Left. In fact, while the right wing of liberalism is part of the system, so is the left wing. This is an ancient confrontation. To my mind, the big mistake of most of twentieth-century political philosophy has been to consider communism as the Left and liberalism as the Right, when liberalism actually originated as the revolutionary system that confronted the monarchic concentration of power. And communism, as it’s existed, fosters concentration of power and destruction of liberties.

At this point, I think that there are very few left or right wings in Latin America. The two are overlapped, mixing speech and beliefs, traditions and impulses. The Right in Bolivia is petty, has no vision, and occupies a place of false importance in order that the Left can have its scary enemy. The Left is filled with small, egotistical fascists trying to solve their personal darknesses of childhood with adrenaline addiction, while playing knights against its heretics in what, in the midst of global modernity, amounts to an unimportant country. And the poor? The indígenas? They are just stairs to climb on.

For me, political thought precedes any actions I take. If I am mistaken in my choices, at least I can be honest with myself.

Guernica: So, would you call yourself an anarchist?

Juan Claudio Lechín: Yes. I’m an anarchist because I’ve lived my life with a high level of freedom. I make decisions not because of self-interest, but because I feel morally compelled. I’ve never worked in any government although, in the last thirty years, I’ve been asked to join every one of them. Like Tuto Quiroga’s. Even Evo Morales invited me to run as the MAS candidate for Prefect of La Paz.

Politically speaking, anarchism has taken many forms. In all of them it’s a statement against authority and for freedom—and when I say freedom, it’s not what is understood in the U.S., like freedom to buy in Saks or at Bloomingdale’s. It’s a freedom of being, of becoming towards a life based on solidarity and love.

Guernica: Given your thoughts about anarchism and freedom, it’s appropriate that you dedicate Las mascaras del fascimso to your father. Who was he?

Juan Claudio Lechín: My father was a union leader for over forty years. During his era, the unions inside Bolivia had all the political tendencies—communists, anarchists, liberals, Maoists, Trotskyites, nationalists. And all kinds of Bolivians were members—peasants, taxi drivers, women, blind people, miners. It was a rough time. We had dictatorships, and for survival other unions throughout Latin America were intertwined with international powers like corporations and governments.

For his efforts, my father was imprisoned and exiled and prosecuted. But always, he had two quests. One was to maintain a united union. The other was to gain true citizenship for the people.

At his funeral an old woman embraced his coffin, crying and shouting, “He taught us what vacations are! What social security is! He taught us to be humans!” At that point I saw that, for all the ideological in-fighting, what was going to last was that people were able to fight for their rights and their dignity.

 

Chellis Glendinning lives in Bolivia. She is a psychotherapist specializing in recovery from traumatic stress and the author of five books. Her Off the Map: An Expedition Deep into Empire and the Global Economy and Chiva: A Village Takes on the Global Heroin Trade both won the U.S. National Federation of Press Women book award in nonfiction.

Immediate Release–New list of Enemies of the Internet


English: A map showing the level of Internet c...

Image via Wikipedia

REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS

Beset by online surveillance and content filtering, netizens fight on

Eritrea is among the list of “countries under surveillance”

Read more on Eritrea on http://en.rsf.org/eritrea-eritrea-12-03-2012,42060.html

More information on the full report on 12mars.rsf.org

To mark World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, Reporters Without Borders is today releasing its new list of “Enemies of the Internet” and “countries under surveillance.” This report updates the list released in 2011.

Two countries, Bahrain and Belarus, have passed from the “countries under surveillance” to the “Enemies of the Internet” category. Venezuela and Libya have been dropped from the “under surveillance” category while India and Kazakhstan have been added to it.

“The changes in this list reflect recent developments in online freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Netizens have been at the heart of political changes in the Arab world in 2011. Like journalists, they have tried to resist censorship but have paid a high price.

“Last year will be remembered as one of unprecedented violence against netizens. Five were killed while engaged in reporting activity. Nearly 200 arrests of bloggers and netizens were reported in 2011, a 30 per cent increase on 2010. These unprecedented figures risk being exceeded in 2012 as a result of the indiscriminate violence being used by the Syrian authorities in particular. More than 120 netizens are currently detained.

“On World Day Against Cyber-Censorship, we pay tribute to the ordinary citizens who often risk their lives or their freedom to keep us informed and to ensure that often brutal crackdowns do not take place without the outside world knowing.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “As online censorship and content filtering continue to accentuate the Internet’s division and digital segregation, solidarity among those who defend a free Internet accessible to all is more essential than ever in order to maintain channels of communication between netizens and to ensure that information continues to circulate.”

Social networks and netizens versus filtering and surveillance

The last report, released in March 2011, highlighted the fact that the Internet and online social networks had been conclusively established as tools for organizing protests and circulating information in the course of the Arab world’s mass uprisings. In the months that followed, repressive regimes responded with tougher measures to what they regarded as unacceptable attempts to destabilize their authority.

At the same time, supposedly democratic countries continue to set a bad example by yielding to the temptation to put security above other concerns and by adopting disproportionate measures to protect copyright. Technical service providers are under increasing pressure to act as Internet cops. Companies specializing in online surveillance are becoming the new mercenaries in an online arms race. Hactivists are providing technical expertise to netizens trapped by repressive regimes. Diplomats are getting involved. More than ever before, online freedom of expression is now a major foreign and domestic policy issue.

Two new Enemies of the Internet – Bahrain and Belarus

Bahrain and Belarus have joined Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam in the “Enemies of the Internet” category. These countries combine often drastic content filtering with access restrictions, tracking of cyber-dissidents and online propaganda.

Bahrain offers an example of an effective news blackout based a remarkable array of repressive measures: keeping the international media away, harassing human rights activists, arresting bloggers and netizens (one of whom died in detention), smearing and prosecuting free speech activists, and disrupting communications, especially during major demonstrations.

As Belarus sinks further into political isolation and economic stagnation, President Lukashenko’s regime has lashed out at the Internet in response to an attempted “revolution via the social media.” The Internet was blocked during a series of “silent protests,” the list of inaccessible websites grew longer and some sites were the victims of cyber-attacks. Internet users and bloggers were arrested or invited to “preventive conversations” with the police in a bid to get them to stop demonstrating or covering demonstrations. And Law No. 317-3, which took effect on 6 January 2012, gave the regime additional Internet surveillance and control powers.

India and Kazakhstan added to “under surveillance” list

Since the Mumbai bombings of 2008, the Indian authorities have stepped up Internet surveillance and pressure on technical service providers, while publicly rejecting accusations of censorship. The national security policy of the world’s biggest democracy is undermining online freedom of expression and the protection of Internet users’ personal data.

Kazakhstan, which likes to think of itself as a regional model after holding the rotating presidency of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in 2010, nonetheless seems to be turning its back on all its fine promises in order to take the road of cyber-censorship. An unprecedented oil workers strike helped to increase government tension in 2011 and led to greater control of information. The authorities blocked news websites, cut communications around the city of Zhanaozen during unrest, and imposed new, repressive Internet regulations.

Venezuela and Libya dropped from “under surveillance” list

In Libya, many challenges remain but the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime has ended an era of censorship. Before his removal and death, Col. Gaddafi had tried to impose a news blackout by cutting access to the Internet.

In Venezuela, access to the Internet continues to be unrestricted. The level of self-censorship is hard to evaluate but the adoption in 2011 of legislation that could potentially limit Internet freedom has yet to have any damaging effect in practice. Reporters Without Borders will nonetheless remain vigilant as relations between the government and critical media are tense.

Thailand and Burma may be about to change places

If Thailand continues further down the slope of content filtering and jailing netizens on lèse-majesté charges, it could soon find itself transferred from the “under surveillance” category to the club of the world’s most repressive countries as regards online freedom.

Burma, on the other hand, could soon leave the “Enemies of the Internet” list if takes the necessary measures. It has embarked on a promising period of reforms that have included freeing journalists and bloggers and restoring access to blocked websites. It must now go further by abandoning censorship altogether, releasing the journalists and bloggers still held, dismantling the Internet surveillance apparatus and repealing the Electronics Act.

Other subjects of concern

Other countries have jailed netizens or established a form of Internet censorship. They include Pakistan, which recently invited bids for a national Internet filtering system that would create an Electronic Great Wall. Even if they are not on these lists, Reporters Without Borders will continue to closely monitor online freedom of information in countries such as Azerbaijan, Morocco and Tajikistan.

Marie Colvin Killed in Syria, and the Story She Paid With Her Life to Tell


Peter Bouckaert

Published in:  The Daily Beast, FEBRUARY 22, 2012

She took to wearing a black patch over the eye she lost when shot in the civil war in Sri Lanka in 2001, and always seemed to have a notepad and a pen in her hand. She was inevitably in the midst of war’s chaos before the rest of us got there, proudly filing,as she did on Tuesday, as “the only British newspaper journalist” at the scene. She was a legend to all of us who cover conflict, and universally beloved for her inspiring courage and deep commitment to the work of reporting.

On Tuesday, after she filed her horror-filled account from Homs for her paper, The Sunday Times, she got in touch on Facebook to tell me just how horrific the situation in Homs was. We had worked closely together in Libya for the past year, strengthening an occasional friendship over the years into a deep and affectionate bond. As she was preparing to enter Syria last week, we compared notes several times, looking at the routes into the besieged city of Homs and assessing the risks she would face. Her drive and determination to report—to witness—overcame all of her fears, and she was absolutely determined to get in, somehow.

Our conversation reminded me of what a unique person Marie Colvin was—an amazing journalist for sure, always first on the scene, but also a deeply caring human being who was never overcome by the cynicism and egotism that plagues the world of war reporting.

Her story for The Times was behind a pay wall, so many could not read her powerful account of atrocities in Syria. She first encouraged our Facebook group of conflict journalists and rights reporters to post her latest story from Homs, saying she wasn’t technically competent enough to do it, and saying that she’d face “the firing squad” at her paper for the lost revenue, explaining “I don’t often do this, but it is sickening what is happening here.” Many of us commended her for her courage, and then a journalist, believing she had already left Homs, expressed his relief that she was safe. She responded in her usual funny fashion, relishing the dark humor of war correspondents:

“I think the reports of my survival may be exaggerated. I’m in Babo Amr. Sickening, trying to understand how the world can stand by and I should be hardened by now. Watched a baby die today. Shrapnel, doctors could do nothing. His little tummy just heaved and heaved until it stopped. Feeling helpless. As well as cold! ….

Read more here

 

No to War on Iran ! Don’t make Delhi Blasts an Excuse !


 

NO TO WAR ON IRAN !
DON’T MAKE DELHI BLASTS AN EXCUSE !!

The US-Israel machinations in the Middle-East are taking a dangerous turn. The hypocrisy of calling American and Israeli nuclear weapons “responsible” and arm-twisting on Iran’s unproven nuclear capabilities is self-evident. SInce that has not become a convincing case for attacking Iran, now efforts are afoot to brand Iran as a terrorist country and resort to same pre-emptive destruction that we have seen in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. After the recent unfortunate blast in New Delhi, the Israeli establishment has immediately started incriminating Iran and beating war-drums without any investigation.

India has historically maintained good relations with Iran and can not afford to jeopardise our ties, which are also crucial for our oil supplies, for the imperialist agenda. The Indo-Iran strategic cooperation is also crucial to maintain regional peace & stability. The fact that India has refused to abide by the US-EU-Israeli sanctions on Iran & in fac,t India & Iran have recently agreed to trade in Rupee terms & under a barter system has undoubtedly worried & enraged the Western powers.

We demand:

1. An impartial and transparent investigation into the recent New Delhi blast.
2. Israel, the US and international media must refrain from incriminating Iran without such an investigation.
3. Israel has send its own investigation team to New Delhi immediately after blasts, which we entirely oppose. This investigation must be carried out strictly as per international norms, without violating India’s sovereignty and affecting India’s own investigation in any manner.
4. War-drums against Iran must stop. The current impasse should be resolved only through dialogue and peaceful negotiations.

Please sign the petition here