Victory! Cuban 5 are reunited and free at last [Workers World]

Posted in CIA, Cuba, Honduras, Obama, Panama, US Agency for International Development, US imperialism, USA, Venezuela on December 20, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

by Cheryl Labash

Dec. 18, 2014

Dec. 17 — The government of the United States has done what it repeatedly swore it would never do: It has freed the last of the Cuban 5. Today Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Gerardo Hernández were finally released from U.S. jails after more than 16 years of unjust imprisonment. René González and Fernando González had already served their full prison terms and returned to Cuba.

Those whom René González termed “the jury of millions” — who had organized, picketed, written letters, signed petitions, collected money for newspaper ads, investigated, inveighed on parliamentarians, climbed mountains, rode bicycles, tweeted, wrote poems, plays, songs and more in every corner of the globe — rejoiced. The steadfast Cuban people joyfully welcomed their heroes: the five men who sacrificed so much to protect them from terrorist attacks launched from U.S. territory during the 1990s.

We can only imagine the joy of their families. A Miami court and the U.S. government had expected Gerardo to die in prison after he was sentenced to two life terms plus 15 years.

Today, says the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, “Gerardo has now been reunited with Adriana, Ramón is back with Elizabeth and his three beautiful daughters, and Antonio is with his mother Mirta, the 84-year-old tireless inspiration of this struggle, who feared she would die before she saw her son back in Cuba.”

Workers World Party and many dedicated organizers in the U.S. share this awesome and joyous moment of victory.

Opening the prison doors for the Cuban heroes was only part of the top story today. In a broadcast speech, President Barack Obama outlined “charting a new course on Cuba,” and asserted, “Today, we are renewing our leadership in the Americas.” Washington has its eye on the April Summit of the Americas in Panama.

Yet a bill imposing sanctions on Bolivarian Venezuela is sitting on Obama’s desk. Will he veto it, as part of this new course? The Obama administration recognized the coup government in Honduras that has driven thousands of children to flee violent repression. Will it stop engineering coups and dictatorships in Latin America? What about the U.S. role in destroying the Mexican economy and turning it into a killing field? And, especially, will the U.S. end its blockade of Cuba?

For more than two years, the pressure for this moment has been building in the United States. Reflecting this pressure, seven New York Times editorials in recent months have advocated a change in U.S. policy toward Cuba. The Associated Press ran a series that exposed Alan Gross, the contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development — often used as a cover for CIA operations — who was convicted by a Cuban court of having secretly and illegally installed military-grade communications devices on the island in violation of Cuba’s sovereignty and laws.

Cuba released Gross as soon as the Five were returned home, citing humanitarian reasons.

The AP continued its investigation of failed U.S. regime-change antics, including the “Cuban” twitter site Zunzuneo — another USAID program — and the recent infiltration of Cuban hip hop artists in an attempt to use them as unknowing instruments to undermine Cuba’s self-determination.

Polls have shown that sentiment in Miami now favors changing U.S. policy toward Cuba even more strongly than in the rest of the U.S. Since 1992, the U.N. General Assembly has voted almost unanimously every year for the U.S. to end the blockade.

As Obama himself admitted in his speech, the U.S. for more than five decades has tried “to push Cuba toward collapse.” And, he testified, it didn’t work.

* Development despite imperialist hostility *

Development in the hemisphere has been moving forward despite the machinations of the U.S.

Latin America and the Caribbean, including Cuba, have forged many interlocking levels of continental unity through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. At the same time, the U.S. is still unable to recover from its 2007-2008 economic collapse, especially in regard to employment. Longshore union members report that the port of Tampa, Fla., is underutilized, while Cuba’s new automated container port in Mariel is ready to handle huge ships from Asia.

As long as the blockade is fully in place, it is U.S. trade with Cuba that suffers, while trade between Cuba and other countries continues, just 90 miles away. How long will European banks continue to pay U.S.-imposed fines for handling Cuban financial transactions? The old system of sanctions imposed by Washington has become untenable.

The people of the U.S. have also suffered from the blockade. They have been prevented from knowing the Cuban reality: that it is possible to do so much, even with scarce resources, when the power of the people is freed from capitalism.

In the U.S. a new militant movement led by Black and Brown youth is challenging the racism and repression embedded in capitalism. Don’t they want to learn how first-rate education and health care can be made available without throwing youth and workers into debt? They really want to see how a different world is possible. And couldn’t Detroit benefit from what Cuba has to offer?

The Cuban people, and particularly the Cuban Communist Party, are committed to socialism — making the goal of social production the needs and welfare of human beings, not profits for a few. They are well aware and capable of dealing with any challenges to come. Now there are five additional leaders, tested by long years of U.S. imprisonment, who can help chart this new future.

Volvieron! They have returned!

Cheryl LaBash has been an organizer with the International Committee to Free the Cuban 5 since 2006 and is a co-chair of the National Network on Cuba.

Article link: http://www.workers.org/articles/2014/12/18/victory-cuban-5-reunited-free-last/

Articles copyright 1995-2014 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

US stokes conflict with DPR Korea over Sony hacking [World Socialist Website]

Posted in Anti-China propaganda exposure, Anti-communism, Assassination, China, CIA, Corporate Media Critique, DPR Korea, Iran, Israel, Kim Jong Un, Korean War, Media smear campaign, NSA, Obama, Saudi Arabia, US drone strikes, US imperialism, USA, USA 21st Century Cold War on December 20, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Patrick Martin

19 December 2014

The US government is preparing to retaliate against [DPR] Korea for its alleged role in the hacking attack on Sony Pictures, Obama administration officials said Thursday. While declining to go on the record placing responsibility on [DPR] Korea for the hacking — likely in part because they can produce no evidence — several top officials suggested that US cyberwarfare countermeasures were already in preparation.

White House press spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that he would not name North Korea as the perpetrator of the Sony hacking in advance of investigations by the FBI and Justice Department, but added that the cyberattack was an example of “destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor.” US officials considered the hacking a “serious national security matter” and “would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response,” he said.

The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, told a television interviewer Thursday morning that the administration was “actively considering a range of options that we’ll take in response to this attack.” He did not rule out military force, although Earnest’s reference to a “proportionate response” was portrayed by the US media as a threat of some form of electronic sabotage, rather than a direct military attack on North Korea.

The last two days have seen the transformation of the Sony incident from a corporate scandal — with the private information of tens of thousands of current and former employees dumped onto the Internet — into a far more sinister affair, involving US threats against both [DPR] Korea and China.

Beginning November 24, anonymous hackers, calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” have made several dumps of internal Sony information on the Internet, demanding the studio shelve its film The Interview, a comedy whose plot is based around the CIA hiring two American journalists (played by Seth Rogen and James Franco) to assassinate Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

This week the affair escalated with vague threats of violence against theaters that showed the film, scheduled to open on December 25. On Wednesday morning, the four largest US theater chains cancelled the premieres, citing the threats, and Sony then withdrew the film from circulation entirely.

The US National Security Council then issued its first formal statement, not naming [DPR] Korea, but noting that the White House had offered Sony Pictures its support against the apparent cyberattack. The statement declared: “We know that criminals and foreign countries regularly seek to gain access to government and private sector networks — both in the United States and elsewhere … The US government is working tirelessly to bring the perpetrators of this attack to justice and we are considering a range of options in weighing a potential response.”

Obama administration officials made unattributed statements to the US media Wednesday asserting that [DPR] Korea was responsible for the attacks on Sony, setting off a media frenzy, including speculation about possible cyberwarfare or military responses against the regime in Pyongyang. This was accompanied by suggestions that Iran was a co-conspirator in the cyberattacks, in retaliation for US and Israeli cyberwarfare against Iran’s nuclear energy facilities.

No evidence of any kind has been produced, with press reports limited to suggestions that some of the code in the malware used to infect Sony’s corporate computer system had been written in Korean, and that the code resembled that used in previous cyberattacks in South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

The United States, moreover, is heavily invested in cyberwarfare measures, particularly targeting China. Earlier this year, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed extensive offensive cyberwarfare measures, including attacks on government and military targets.

There is evidence as well that the US is whipping up conflict with [DPR] Korea in several arenas simultaneously. The escalation of the Sony Pictures affair coincided with the issuance of a report Tuesday by a United Nations committee recommending that…Korean officials be referred to the International Criminal Court for human rights violations.

On Thursday, just as the White House spokesman was threatening a “proportionate response” to the Sony hacking, the UN General Assembly approved the referral of [DPR] Korea to the ICC, sending it on to the UN Security Council, where Russia and China are expected to block further action.

The role of Sony Pictures also deserves serious scrutiny. The studio has a documented close relationship with the CIA, having made the film Zero Dark Thirty in 2012, in direct collaboration with the agency, portraying CIA torture of prisoners as vital to the targeting of Osama bin Laden by a Navy Seals death squad the previous year. The film served as a sort of video rebuttal-in-advance of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, which was completed in the summer of 2012 but delayed for two years by the Obama White House, until it was made public, in heavily redacted form, last week.

The decision to make a film that climaxed in the assassination of Kim Jong-un was peculiar, to say the least. As the New York Times wrote, “To depict the killing of a sitting world leader, comically or otherwise, is virtually without precedent in major studio movies, film historians say.” If North Korea, Iran or Russia had produced a similar film about a plan to murder Obama, complete with grisly images of the president being obliterated by a missile (the final scene in The Interview ), the US government and media would have raised an uproar.

Moreover, given the Obama administration’s claim that the president has the right to order drone missile assassination of any individual on the planet, including US citizens, at his own discretion, the depiction of such an attack by a major American film studio could well be seen as a veiled threat. There is no doubt that there were elements in the American government, aware of the mounting crisis and isolation of the North Korean dictatorship, who fully expected the film to be interpreted in that way in Pyongyang…

Excerpted/edited by Zuo Shou

Full article link: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/12/19/nkor-d19.html

US torture report exposes European powers’ involvement in CIA crimes [World Socialist Website]

Posted in Albania, Austria, Belgium, CIA, Croatia, Czech Republic / Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, George W. Bush, Germany, Greece, Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, Iceland, Italy, Libya, National Security Agency / NSA, NATO, NSA, Poland, Police State, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Torture, Turkey, U.K., U.K. War Crimes, Ukraine, US "War on Terror", US Government Cover-up, US imperialism, USA on December 14, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Alex Lantier
12 December 2014

The publication of the US Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture has exposed the European powers’ complicity in ghastly crimes of US intelligence. Even though European states’ complicity in CIA torture and rendition operations has been documented for nearly a decade, no European officials have been held accountable.

In 2005, the Council of Europe tasked former Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty with preparing a report on secret CIA prisons in Europe. He released two reports, in 2006 and 2007, documenting the complicity of dozens of European states in setting up facilities for illegal CIA rendition and torture. The states involved included Britain, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Austria, the Czech Republic, Croatia and Albania.

The existence of approximately 1,000 CIA flights and of secret prisons in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in Bucharest (Romania), Antavilas (Lithuania), and Stare Kiejkuty (Poland) has since been confirmed.

Nonetheless, after the US Senate recognized CIA use of the grisliest forms of torture — including murder, sexual assault, sleep deprivation and forcing inmates to stand on broken limbs —officials across Europe reacted by insisting that they should enjoy immunity.

Top officials of the Polish government, which is appealing a July ruling against it over its role in CIA torture by the European Court on Human Rights, denounced the report. “Certain secrets should stay that way,” said Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak.

Polish prosecutors have been investigating the case for six years, including a two-year investigation of former Polish intelligence chief Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, without bringing any charges. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks, was waterboarded as soon as he arrived at Stare Kiejkuty. One medical officer there noted: “We are basically doing a series of near-drownings.”

Other detainees at Stare Kiejkuty, which housed Saudi, Algerian and Yemeni detainees, were subjected to mock executions with a power drill while standing hooded and naked.
Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski lamely claimed that CIA officials did not explain how they planned to use their secret prisons in Poland. “It was a question as we saw it only of creating secret sites,” he said, adding that he closed down the facility in 2003 because “the Americans’ secret activities began to worry” Polish authorities.
Lithuanian officials confirmed that the black site named “detention center Violet” by the US Senate report appears to be the Lithuanian detention center near the capital, Vilnius, identified in a 2009-2010 parliamentary investigation. Lawmaker Arvydas Anusauskas told Reuters, “The US Senate report, to me, makes a convincing case that prisoners were indeed held at the Lithuanian site.”

Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi detainee now kept at Guantanamo Bay, has stated that he was kept and tortured at the site. Washington paid the Lithuanian government $1 million to “show appreciation” for operating the prison, according to the US Senate report, though the funds were reportedly paid out through “complex mechanisms.”

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius has asked Washington to confirm whether or not the CIA tortured prisoners at its secret prisons in Lithuania.

British Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed the issue of torture and Britain’s role in rendition flights to countries including Libya, saying that it had been “dealt with from a British perspective.” He told the public to trust British intelligence to police itself, as official investigations had “produced a series of questions that the intelligence and security community will look at … I’m satisfied that our system is dealing with all of these issues.”

In fact, the CIA torture report has revealed the advanced state of collapse of democratic forms of rule not only in the United States, but also in Europe. What has emerged across Europe since the September 11 attacks is the framework of a police state far more technically powerful than even the most ruthless dictatorships of twentieth-century Europe. The methods deployed as part of the “war on terror” will also be used against opposition in the working class to unpopular policies of austerity and war.

European governments participate in the digital spying on telecommunications and Internet activities of the European population, carried out by the US National Security Agency and its local counterparts, as revealed by Edward Snowden. They also are planning joint repression of social protests, based on talks between German federal police, France’s Gendarmerie, and other security forces with the European Commission.

“During my investigation, people called me a traitor and said I was making things up,” Marty told the Tribune de Genève. “The Europeans disappointed me. Germany, the United Kingdom, and many others blocked the establishment of the truth. In fact, most European countries actively participated in a system that legitimated large-scale state crimes.”

“I think we must recall, and it is very important, that this operation, this anti-terrorist policy, was decided and carried out under the aegis of NATO,” Marty told Swiss television channel RTS.

“The United States invoked Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which says that if one member of the alliance is attacked militarily [e.g., as Washington claimed, on September 11], all NATO members are required to come to its aid,” Marty said. Once this was accepted, he added, “there were a whole series of secret accords between the United States and European powers. And all the European countries pledged to grant total immunity to CIA agents, which is manifestly illegal.”

The European powers’ participation in the CIA torture program underscores the utter hypocrisy of the humanitarian pretensions used to justify operations ranging from NATO wars in Syria and Libya to this February’s NATO-backed, fascist-led putsch in Ukraine.

The ferocious opposition of the European ruling elites to attempts to bring this criminality to light is the clearest indication that the democratic rights of the population cannot be secured by appeals to any section of the state. The defense of the population’s democratic and social rights is a question of the revolutionary mobilization of the working class in an international struggle against European capitalism.

Article link: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/12/12/euto-d12.html

UN officials call for criminal prosecution of US torturers [World Socialist Website]

Posted in Bourgeois parliamentary democracy, CIA, George W. Bush, Obama, Torture, US "War on Terror", US Government Cover-up, US imperialism, USA on December 12, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Thomas Gaist
11 December 2014
The US is legally obliged to prosecute all high-level government officials involved in organizing the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) torture programs, top UN human rights officials said Wednesday. The torture programs violated international law, UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights Ben Emmerson said.

Responding to the release of the Senate report on CIA torture, Emmerson said in an official statement Wednesday that the report left no doubt that systematic torture programs set up by the US government led to massive violations of the 1994 UN Convention Against Torture.

Emmerson called on the US Attorney General to “bring criminal charges against those responsible” for torture. There is “no excuse for shielding the perpetrators from justice any longer,” he said.

“As a matter of international law, the US is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,” said Emmerson. “The UN Convention Against Torture and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances require States to prosecute acts of torture and enforced disappearance where there is sufficient evidence to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction. States are not free to maintain or permit impunity for these grave crimes.”

Bush administration policies, “orchestrated at a high level,” led to “systematic crimes and gross violations of international human rights law,” he added.

The involvement of officials at the highest levels only makes criminal prosecutions all the more necessary, the UN official said.

“The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the US government provides no excuse whatsoever,” Emmerson said. “Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.”

Individuals involved in torture at all levels must be held accountable. “It is no defense for a public official to claim that they were acting on superior orders,” he said.

“However, the heaviest penalties should be reserved for those most seriously implicated in the planning and purported authorization of these crimes, Emmerson said. “Former Bush administration officials who have admitted their involvement in the programme should also face criminal prosecution for their acts.”

In a separate statement, UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein similarly called for US government officials involved in torture to be prosecuted. Top US officials “cannot simply be granted impunity because of political expediency,” al-Hussein said.

“The Convention lets no one off the hook – neither the torturers themselves, nor the policy-makers, nor the public officials who define the policy or give the orders.”

An opinion piece published in the Los Angeles Times Tuesday, “Prosecute the torturers: It’s the Law,” by Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor and dean at the UC Irvine School of Law, similar argued that the CIA’s torture programs violate US and international law.

“Torture is a federal crime, and those who authorized it and engaged in it must be criminally prosecuted.” Chemerinsky writes, citing the Federal Torture Act (FTA). The Senate report “leaves no doubt” that the torture programs also violate the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Chemerinsky wrote.

The FTA states that even if the acts are committed “outside the United States,” anyone who commits torture should receive a 20-year prison sentence at minimum, and possibly the death penalty, Chemerinsky notes.

In light of the new report, President Obama’s decision not to prosecute officials from the Bush administration is now “clearly unacceptable,” he wrote.

“The debate should not be about whether the torture worked. The federal criminal law and the treaty have no exception for effective torture,” Chemerinsky wrote. “Those responsible should be held accountable, and President Obama should announce that criminal investigations and prosecutions are beginning immediately.”

These reports, coming from pillars of the political and academic establishment, confirm that the entire US ruling elite, including both big business parties and their representatives in Congress, is implicated in historic and unspeakable crimes.

Within the US official political and media circles, such demands for criminal prosecutions against US government torturers are nowhere to be found. Neither Senator Feinstein nor any other member of the Senate Intelligence Committee saw fit to demand criminal prosecutions against officials they know to have organized torture. The 528-page executive summary proposes not a single action or punishment for the crimes it documents exhaustively.

The Obama administration has extended and deepened the open repudiation of international law by the Bush administration. The failure of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Obama administration to hold accountable torturers who acted on behalf of the US government is itself a violation of international law.

By shielding officials who have admitted to setting up torture programs, including then-President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and adamantly refusing to carry out any investigations of officials involved in torture, the Obama administration and leading senators now act as direct accomplices of torture.

Article link: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/12/11/unre-d11.html

The Police in America Are Becoming Illegitimate [Rolling Stone]

Posted in Police State on December 10, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

“The crooked math that’s going to crash American law enforcement if policies aren’t changed”

by Matt Taibbi

December 5, 2014

Article link: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-police-in-america-are-becoming-illegitimate-20141205

Millions Spent Bombing Syria while Refugees Starve [The Intercept]

Posted in Genocide, Iraq, Pentagon, Syria, Uncategorized, US "War on Terror", USA on December 9, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

By Murtaza Hussein

3 Dec. 2014

***

Does the objective of international intervention in Syria have anything at all to do with helping Syrians?…

Excerpted; full article link: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/12/02/millions-spent-bomb-syria-refugees-starves/

Richard Wolff on the State of the Economy [FAIR / Counterspin]

Posted in Corporate Media Critique, Economic crisis & decline, US Government Cover-up, USA, Wall Street on November 6, 2014 by Zuo Shou / 左手

Superb interview, you might want to jump directly to Wolff’s segment. I like his idea that deceptive capitalist ruling class media such as what’s being exposed not only falsifies reality but contains an element of psychological cruelty directed towards the oppressed majority whose experiential realities are suppressed in the official narrative. – Zuo Shou

Oct. 17, 2014

This week on CounterSpin: In the past few years, as some economic indicators have suggested a recovery is under way, US media have generally responded with celebratory reporting. But according to polls, Americans aren’t so sure. According to a recent NBC poll, just 18 percent say the economy is excellent or good. How can we best understand an economy that seems to be serving some but slighting others?

Today we’ll feature a special extended interview with economic professor Richard Wolff on how to reconcile mixed messages about the health of the economy.

Link: http://fair.org/counterspin-radio/richard-wolff-on-the-state-of-the-economy/

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