domingo, 5 de abril de 2009

Point of order

It’s Arab League summit in Doha, and the Qatari Emir is just finishing his opening address when - khhzzzrrk, Brother Leader Qadhafi grabs the mike. As the assembled stare in wonder, he goes off on a long garbled rant (video) accusing the king of Saudi Arabia of being a British-American puppet on his way to the grave, as a belated follow-up to a public spat they had six years ago. Then in the next second he changes his mind and declares that, well, that’s all in the past and he’s now ready to make up. During the whole monologue, the Qatari chairman can be heard chirping in the background: “Oh, Brother Mouammar? Brother Mouammar! Brother Mouammar, a point of order please? A point of order!”

Since Brother Mouammar clearly isn’t listening, the organizers resort to cutting his mike instead. Qadhafi angrily remarks that this is no way to treat the foremost Arab leader, the King of Kings of Africa and Imam of the Muslims; he then storms out of the meeting, and apparently somehow ends up spending his afternoon at the Islamic Art Museum of Qatar. All in a good day’s work.

People sometimes ask, is Qadhafi crazy or is he just acting? There’s something to be said for the theory that he is playing up his eccentricity for political purposes — that he must be, considering how long he’s been in power and how much influence he still has in the neighbourhood. But moments such as these lead me to believe that, granting a certain ruthless instinct of self-preservation, he’s just mad as a hatter.

Iran & Western Sahara (translation)

As you know, Morocco recently cut diplomatic ties with Iran, presumably to curry favor with Washington and Riyadh by appearing their most faithful ally in the power-struggle with Teheran. However, that doesn’t necessarily play well with ordinary Moroccans, who arguably agree more with Iran’s radical foreign policy than with Rabat’s own pro-US variety. So, to remove attention from the sphere of politics and portray Iran as having attacked those quintessentially Moroccan values of God, Country, King, the foreign policy establishment has gone into overdrive trying to conjure up alternate excuses. Reasons cited for the diplomatic rupture include claims of Iranian Shiite subversion of Islam in Morocco, to make it a religious rather than political dispute, and an alleged Iranian project of anti-Arab expansionism (dovetailing nicely with the wahhabi paranoia prevailing in Riyadh). Less prominently, but still, there is the question of Western Sahara, around the Moroccanity of which there is a strong shared consensus of state and people. Consequently, speculation on Iranian ties to the pro-independence POLISARIO Front and its main backer, Algeria, is being played up in the media.

Below the fold is an example, a translated piece from el-Massa’, which brings up the story of an official Iranian visit to POLISARIO in … 1984. Clearly, this Iranian scheme to undermine Morocco has been going on for some time. (The article also, as you’ll notice, highlights POLISARIO’s disgracefully cruel treatment of its former Moroccan prisoners-of-war.)

Khomeini’s foreign minister visited Tindouf
and insulted Morocco’s state and political parties

Ali Nejab met him in 1984 as a prisoner in the Rabouni internment camp

By: Idriss el-Kenbouri

Is it possible that the Iranians, in their attempts to counter Morocco after diplomatic ties were cut, will provide support to POLISARIO? This is a question often heard these days. Some underline the importance of the matter by pointing to the visit that Ahmadinejad, the president of the Islamic Republic, conducted to Algeria in August 2007. The exclusion of Morocco from that trip had a political content that necessitates analysis, and there is a certain distancing towards Morocco among the Iranian functionaries that truly rule the country. Prime among them is the Guardian Council [?], whose members brought the era of Mohammed Khatami and openness, to its end like a passing summer cloud, to come in its stead the opposite, Ahmadinejad.

Iran’s rivalry with Morocco is old. Ali Nejab is a Moroccan pilot who spent 25 years as prisoner-of-war with POLISARIO in the dark prisons of Tindouf between 1978 and 2003. He tells us that Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign minister in Khomeini’s era, visited the Tindouf camps in 1984 by invitation of the POLISARIO leadership, in the framework of cooperation between the parties that then existed, in defiance of the late King Hassan II. (I)

The POLISARIO leaders brought the Moroccan POWs to the Iranian top functionary as a sort of proof of their victory over Morocco. Nejab had spent eight months of the year 1973 in military flight training in southern Teheran, as part of the coordination with the Shah’s regime. For this reason, the POLISARIO leaders brought him to Velayati as one of the Moroccans who had been trained in Iran before the revolution, which kindled the interest of the former Iranian foreign minister, who asked to meet him. He was accompanied by el-Idrissi Bilali, a former POLISARIO foreign representative who would later join Morocco.

Nejab tells el-Massa’: “When Velayati stood before me he started, without posing any questions, to insult Moroccan institutions and parties and the Moroccan state generally. I lost my cool and cursed at him. One of the men accompanying him told me that we were brothers in religion, to which I responded that I don’t want to be your brother in religion, I want to be your brother in politics. They understood that I wanted to say to him that they should support our position on the Sahara, and I said that if Khomeini is Islam then I will leave Islam. Velayati immediately cut short the visit. As soon as he left the area close to Rabouni (II), and vanished from sight, the POLISARIO men started beating me with kicks and punches, finally leaving me covered in my own blood.”

As punishment he was put in solitary confinement next to Ali Jouhar, one of the Moroccan officers that had been captured by POLISARIO. The two remained there for eleven months, given a small piece of dry bread and a litre of water every 24 hours. After that, says Nejabi, a POLISARIO leader asked him to write a two-page letter “condemning Hassan II’s treatment of the Moroccans”, which he refused. He was punished with 48 hours of torture – like Sisyphus in Greek mythology – by an order to move, together with Ali Jouhar, a pile of rocks each weighing about 15 kilograms, a distance of 200 meter. This was in Rabouni, where Nejab spent his POW years in the Hamdi Ba Cheikh center, the main prison center of POLISARIO, known also by the name of the “Red Center” for being built of red mud. (III)

Some remarks:

(I) Iran began supporting POLISARIO after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when the Shah’s regime fell, as part of its break with western-backed Arab states and in line with the new regime’s general support for third world liberation movements. The Shah had had good relations with King Hassan, and lived for some time in Morocco after his downfall, contributing to Iranian ill-will towards Morocco. Iranian support for the Sahrawis was never important, however, essentially some verbal political backing and a formal recognition of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, their government-in-exile. However, as Iranian politics turned more realist over the 1980s, the distant Western Sahara issue became a function of Teheran’s relations with POLISARIO’s main sponsor, Algeria. Support for POLISARIO therefore ended in 1992-1993 when Iran’s relations with Algeria broke down, after the Algerian military quashed an Islamic electoral win and blamed Iran for supporting Islamist rebels. After Algerian-Iranian ties were restored, Iran has been more or less neutral on the conflict, trying to please both Moroccan and Algerian officials by tailoring their message to the audience.

(II) Rabouni is a base camp in the Tindouf province, serving as the main HQ for POLISARIO and housing various government institutions.

(III) The last Moroccan POWs — originally a couple of thousand — were released by POLISARIO in 2005, following increased attention to their case by human rights groups. Numerous people remain “disappeared” in the conflict, however, the vast majority of them Sahrawi civilians abducted by Moroccan police/army forces in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mauritania, Qadhafi, and the Arab world

At The Moor Next Door, MPR’s fearsome strongman, Kal, adds up the results of Muammar el-Qadhafi’s recent visit to Nouakchott, where he tried to mediate the Mauritanian crisis by unreservedly siding with the putschists. This didn’t quite pan out, and his blatant partisanship surprised those who had seen Libya’s previously intensive and consistent effort to come across as a possible bridge-builder — the deposed president Abdellahi was given a head-of-state welcome in Sirte, and so on, to signify that Qadhafi was on good terms with both sides.As Kal argues — and I agree — the end result of Libya’s move from the middle to the fringe seems to be that the US/European position is strengthened. Washington has been militantly against the coup, while Europe under French leadership was equally vocal, but also hinted openly at a search for whatever pragmatic exit existed. If they would pool their resources to push hard for a solution alongside those local players that agree, they could probably make a real difference.

The Arab world, with a couple of prominent exceptions, remains negative or indifferent to the junta. Mauritania has gained some rare popular acclaim among Arabs for cutting ties with Israel, but on balance it didn’t help to swing Arab states. Among the so-called ‘radical’ Arab states, Algeria (not terribly radical, under Bouteflika) was already firmly invested in the anti-coup camp, while Syria and Sudan have been too preoccupied with their own troubles to notice, and are unable to extend any help anyhow. (Yemen is also habitually railing against Israel, but I don’t think Mauritania can expect any financial contributions from there…) It gained some limited applause from Qatar, and now there is this with Libya, although it’s not obvious that the cut ties with Israel were behind Qadhafi’s swing to full-blown partisanship. Among the so-called ‘moderate’ Arab states, the non-Qatari Gulf crowd, where the money is, all viewed this radical grandstanding very negatively, since they are presently under KSA leadership engaged in promoting a compromise line on Israel. For Egypt and Jordan, it’s an absolute embarrassment — it increases pressure on them to break their own ties with Israel. In Morocco, the government must have been quietly upset about the cut ties with Israel, given the back-breaking acrobatics that Rabat is presently performing to please Riyadh & Washington. But the government is, like Algeria’s, much too invested in the situation to change sides or even punish the junta for the move.

Summing the Arab scene up, it’s possible that Mauritania’s Israel move was designed only to gain Qadhafi’s total backing. If so, it seems to have succeeded (for what it’s worth). If the embassy closure was designed to break its larger isolation, it’s a failure, since it further alienated the West and a couple of Arab heavyweights, and didn’t bring about change anywhere else. Finally, however, one shouldn’t ignore the domestic factor: the Mauritanian public has opposed Israel’s embassy since the day it opened, and despite the segmented nature of the Mauritanian polity, there’s still a good political buck in wielding the Israel card.

At any rate, Qadhafi’s first international action as head of the African Union ended in a serious anti-climax for him, depriving Libya of the swing role it had hoped for but adding a semi-powerful — if double-edged — support for the junta. With Qadhafi at the head of the AU, its previously stiff legalistic stand on the coup could also be in danger, given the flimsyness of its institutions and the Brother Leader’s general disregard for, precisely, institutions. This could prove important, since the AU has so far been used as the international community’s sanction canary, moving one step ahead of the rest. (About the AU, see also Ibn Kafka on MPR detaling the world of difference between a coup and a coup.)

Now, the ball is in the court of the US and Europe, and the quest to find another mediator is on. Let me guess that someone will sooner or later call on either Qatar, the UN or some African country to step in and work something out. It’s either that or to wait for another coup, which given today’s logjam would risk seriously destabilising the country, and also spoil the slim but intriguing chance that there could actually be a day when an African/Arab coup is overturned peacefully by foreign and internal pressure.

Fake faith and epic crimes

1 April 2009

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger describes a worldwide movement that is 'challenging the once-sacrosanct notion that imperial politicians can destroy countless lives and retain an immunity from justice'. In Tony Blair's case, justice inches closer.

These are extraordinary times. With the United States and Britain on the verge of bankruptcy and committing to an endless colonial war, pressure is building for their crimes to be prosecuted at a tribunal similar to that which tried the Nazis at Nuremberg. This defined rapacious invasion as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”. International law would be mere farce, said the chief US chief prosecutor at Nuremberg, Supreme Court justice Robert Jackson, “if, in future, we do not apply its principles to ourselves”.

That is now happening. Spain, Germany, Belgium, France and Britain have long had “universal jurisdiction” statutes, which allow their national courts to pursue and prosecute prima facie war criminals. What has changed is an unspoken rule never to use international law against “ourselves”, or “our” allies or clients. In 1998, Spain, supported by France, Switzerland and Belgium, indicted the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, client and executioner of the West, and sought his extradition from Britain, where he happened to be at the time. Had he been sent for trial he almost certainly would have implicated at least one British prime minister and two US presidents in crimes against humanity. Home Secretary Jack Straw let him escape back to Chile.

The Pinochet case was the ignition. On 19 January last, the George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley compared the status of George W. Bush with that of Pinochet. “Outside [the United States] there is not the ambiguity about what to do about a war crime,” he said. “So if you try to travel, most people abroad are going to view you not as ‘former President George Bush’ [but] as a current war criminal.” For this reason, Bush’s former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who demanded an invasion of Iraq in 2001 and personally approved torture techniques in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, no longer travels. Rumsfeld has twice been indicted for war crimes in Germany. On 26 January, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, said, “We have clear evidence that Mr. Rumsfeld knew what he was doing but nevertheless he ordered torture.”

The Spanish high court is currently investigating a former Israeli defence minister and six other top Israeli officials for their role in the killing of civilians, mostly children, in Gaza. Henry Kissinger, who was largely responsible for bombing to death 600,000 peasants in Cambodia in 1969-73, is wanted for questioning in France, Chile and Argentina. Yet, on 8 February, as if demonstrating the continuity of American power, President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, James Jones, said, “I take my daily orders from Dr. Kissinger.”

Like them, Tony Blair may soon be a fugitive. The International Criminal Court, to which Britain is a signatory, has received a record number of petitions related to Blair’s wars. Spain’s celebrated Judge Baltasar Garzon, who indicted Pinochet and the leaders of the Argentinian military junta, has called for George W. Bush, Blair and former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar to be prosecuted for the invasion of Iraq - “one of the most sordid and unjustifiable episodes in recent human history: a devastating attack on the rule of law” that had left the UN “in tatters”. He said, “There is enough of an argument in 650,000 deaths for this investigation to start without delay.”

This is not to say Blair is about to be collared and marched to The Hague, where Serbs and Sudanese dictators are far more likely to face a political court set up by the West. However, an international agenda is forming and a process has begun which is as much about legitimacy as the letter of the law, and a reminder from history that the powerful lose wars and empires when legitimacy evaporates. This can happen quickly, as in the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of apartheid South Africa – the latter a spectre for apartheid Israel.

Today, the unreported “good news” is that a worldwide movement is challenging the once sacrosanct notion that imperial politicians can destroy countless lives in the cause of an ancient piracy, often at remove in distance and culture, and retain their respectability and immunity from justice. In his masterly Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde R.L. Stevenson writes in the character of Jekyll: “Men have before hired bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation sat under shelter ... I could thus plod in the public eye with a load of genial respectability, and, in a moment, like a schoolboy, strip off these lendings and spring headlong into the sea of liberty. But for me, in my impenetrable mantle, the safety was complete.”

Blair, too, is safe – but for how long? He and his collaborators face a new determination on the part of tenacious non-government bodies that are amassing “an impressive documentary record as to criminal charges”, according to international law authority Richard Falk, who cites the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul in 2005, which heard evidence from 54 witnesses and published rigorous indictments against Blair, Bush and others. Currently, the Brussels War Crimes Tribunal and the newly established Blair War Crimes Foundation are building a case for Blair’s prosecution under the Nuremberg Principle and the 1949 Geneva Convention. In a separate indictment, former Judge of the New Zealand Supreme Court E.W. Thomas wrote: “My pre-disposition was to believe that Mr. Blair was deluded, but sincere in his belief. After considerable reading and much reflection, however, my final conclusion is that Mr. Blair deliberately ands repeatedly misled Cabinet, the British Labour Party and the people in a number of respects. It is not possible to hold that he was simply deluded but sincere: a victim of his own self-deception. His deception was deliberate.”

Protected by the fake sinecure of Middle East Envoy for the Quartet (the US, EU, UN and Russia), Blair operates largely from a small fortress in the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem, where he is an apologist for the US in the Middle East and Israel, a difficult task following the bloodbath in Gaza. To assist his mortgages, he recently received an Israeli “peace prize” worth a million dollars. He, too, is careful where he travels; and it is instructive to watch how he now uses the media. Having concentrated his post-Downing Street apologetics on a BBC series of obsequious interviews with David Aaronovitch, Blair has all but slipped from view in Britain, where polls have long revealed a remarkable loathing for a former prime minister – a sentiment now shared by those in the liberal media elite whose previous promotion of his “project” and crimes is an embarrassment and preferably forgotten.

On 8 February, Andrew Rawnsley, the Observer’s former leading Blair fan, declared that “this shameful period will not be so smoothly and simply buried”. He demanded, “Did Blair never ask what was going on?”. This is an excellent question made relevant with a slight word change: “Did the Andrew Rawnsleys never ask what was going on?”. In 2001, Rawnsley alerted his readers to Iraq’s “contribution to international terrorism” and Saddam Hussein’s “frightening appetite to possess weapons of mass destruction”. Both assertions were false and echoed official Anglo-American propaganda. In 2003, when the destruction of Iraq was launched, Rawnsley described it as a “point of principle” for Blair who, he later wrote, was “fated to be right”. He lamented, “Yes, too many people died in the war. Too many people always die in war. War is nasty and brutish, but at least this conflict was mercifully short.” In the subsequent six years at least a million people have been killed. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is now a country of widows and orphans. Yes, war is nasty and brutish, but never for the Blairs and the Rawnsleys.

Far from the carping turncoats at home, Blair has lately found a safe media harbour – in Australia, the original murdochracy. His interviewers exude an unction reminiscent of the promoters of the “mystical” Blair in the Guardian of than a decade ago, though they also bring to mind Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times during the 1930s, who wrote of his infamous groveling to the Nazis: “I spend my nights taking out anything which will hurt their susceptibilities and dropping in little things which are intended to sooth them.”

With his words as a citation, the finalists for the Geoffrey Dawson Prize for Journalism (Antipodes) are announced. On 8 February, in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Geraldine Doogue described Blair as “a man who brought religion into power and is now bringing power to religion”. She asked him: “What would the perception be that faith would bring towards a greater stability... [sic]?”. A bemused and clearly delighted Blair was allowed to waffle about “values”. Doogue said to him that “it was the bifurcation about right and wrong that what I thought the British found really hard” [sic], to which Blair replied that “in relation to Iraq I tried every other option [to invasion] there was”. It was his classic lie, which passed unchallenged.

However, the clear winner of the Geoffrey Dawson Prize is Ginny Dougary of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Times. Dougary recently accompanied Blair on what she described as his “James Bondish-ish Gulfstream” where she was privy to his “bionic energy levels”. She wrote, “I ask him the childlike question: does he want to save the world?”. Blair replied, well, more or less, aw shucks, yes. The murderous assault on Gaza, which was under way during the interview, was mentioned in passing. “That is war, I’m afraid,” said Blair, “and war is horrible”. No counter came that Gaza was not a war but a massacre by any measure. As for the Palestinians, noted Dougary, it was Blair’s task to “prepare them for statehood”. The Palestinians will be surprised to hear that. But enough gravitas; her man “has the glow of the newly-in-love: in love with the world and, for the most part, the feeling is reciprocated”. The evidence she offered for this absurdity was that “women from both sides of politics have confessed to me to having the hots for him”.

These are extraordinary times. Blair, a perpetrator of the epic crime of the 21st century, shares a “prayer breakfast” with President Obama, the yes-we-can-man now launching more war. “We pray,” said Blair, “that in acting we do God’s work and follow God’s will.” To decent people, such pronouncements about Blair’s “faith” represent a contortion of morality and intellect that is a profanation on the basic teachings of Christianity. Those who aided and abetted his great crime and now wish the rest of us to forget their part - or, like Alistair Campbell, his “communications director”, offer their bloody notoriety for the vicarious pleasure of some – might read the first indictment proposed by the Blair War Crimes Foundation: “Deceit and conspiracy for war, and providing false news to incite passions for war, causing in the order of one million deaths, 4 million refugees, countless maiming and traumas.”

These are indeed extraordinary times.

Marroquíes: unos vienen en patera... y otros en su avión

No todos los marroquíes que vienen ilegalmente a Europa lo hacen igual. Unos vienen en patera ... pero otros lo hacen en su propio avión. Lo malo es que a veces la Fuerza Aérea interrumpe la excursión. Es lo que le ha ocurrido al misterioso personaje que vino en avión desde Marruecos y fue interceptado por la fuerza aérea portuguesa. Un personaje que, según mis fuentes, es un sujeto importante de la dinastía alauita.

La noticia aparece en la prensa portuguesa del día 27 de marzo. El diario Público de Portugal publicó la siguiente noticia:

Piloto de aeronave civil interceptada por la Fuerza Aérea está fugado

27.03.2009 16'38h
Idálio Revez, Romana Borja-Santos, Mariana Oliveira

El piloto de la avioneta forzada a aterrizar en el Algarve por una de las aeronaves de combate F-16 de la Fuerza Aérea Portuguesa consiguió escapar.
De acuerdo con una fuene militar citada por la agencia Lusa, la aeronave civil fue interceptada por "sospecharse que transportaba droga" y fue obligada por la Fuerza Aérea Portuguesa (FAP) a aterrizar en el aérodromo de Playa Verde, en el sotavento algarvino. Según averiguó Público de fuentes de la Policía Judicial, "la aeronave entró en el espacio aéreo nacional sin haber pedido previamente autorización para hacerlo y sin haber presentado el plan de vuelo". La Policía Judicial habría buscado en el avión pero no se encontró ningún producto ilícito, refirió la misma fuente.

A pesar de eso se sabe que fueron las autoridades españolas, acostumbradas a esta forma de transporte de droga, las que dieron la alerta sobre la situación y que el individuo, proveniente de Marruecos, tendría apoyo en tierra esperándole. A dos kilómetros del lugar pasa una carretera principal adonde es probable que se haya dirigido el sospchoso.

La FAP actuó siguiendo una alerta dada por las autoridades españolas del ámbito de la defensa aérea integrada para Europa de la OTAN Según el sistema de defensa aérea español, Portugal tendría en su territorio una situación sospechosa con una aeronave civil que "habría venido del norte de África y, después de haber volado por el espacio aéreo español, se dirigía hacia el espacio aéreo portugués, estando acompañada de aviones de combate Eurofighter españoles, se lee en un comunicado de la Fuerza Aérea Portuguesa.

De acuerdo con la misma nota, la aeronave fue seguida por radares españoles y portugueses y, cuando entró en territorio nacional, la FAP "activó las aeronaves de combate F-16 que están de alerta permanente en la Base Aérea de Monte Real" y que forzaron a los sospechosos a aterrizar en el aeródromo de Playa Verde, cerca del Monte Gordo.

De acordo com a mesma nota, a aeronave foi seguida por radares espanhóis e portugueses e, quando entrou em território nacional, a FAP “activou as aeronaves de combate F-16, que estão de alerta permanente na Base Aérea de Monte Real” e que forçaram os suspeitos a aterrar no aeródromo da Praia Verde, perto de Monte Gordo.

Según el teniente coronel Paulo Gonçalves, citado por la agencia Lusa, la avioneta primero entró en el espacio aéreo español, habiendo "maniobrado en aquél territorio" y después se dirigió hacia Portugal, momento en elaque se envió la alerta. Después del aterrizaje de la aeronave en la pisa de tierra batida del aérodromo de Playa Verde, con cerca de 730 metros de pista, el piloto de la avioneta huyó del aparato, lo que llevó a las autoridades a cercar aquella región.

Según el Correio da Manha, la avioneta era una Cessna 212 com registo español.

La noticia me parece importante.
Sin embargo, a los dos días... la noticia desapareció de los medios.
¿Por qué?

Existe una hipótesis. Según una fuente confidencial el sujeto huido sí fue capturado por la Guardia Nacional Republicana, pero no me ha precisado si después del 27-28 de marzo.
Y, lo más interesante, el sujeto que pilotaba la avioneta era.... el hermano de Mohamed VI, el príncipe Mulay Rachid, que volaba junto a una joven a la que quería dar un paseíto en avión.

Si esta fuente está en lo cierto, estaríamos ante un hecho asombroso: y es que la dinastía alauita considera el sur de Europa como su lugar de recreo. Mientras los pobres ven en la tierra y el mar del sur de Europa el lugar donde salir de la miseria... para la dinastía alauita el espacio aéreo de ese mismo lugar es ocasión de entretenimiento.... Eso sí, tanto los de las pateras como el de la dinastía alauita vienen sin avisar. Vamos, como si estuvieran en su casa.