Monday, July 28, 2014
Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Last night, Native Affairs screened an important piece by Jon Stephenson investigating the aftermath of a 2010 revenge raid by the SAS in Afghanistan in which civilians were killed (apparently by a trigger-happy US helicopter crew). Our government has consistently refused to acknowledge any civilian deaths during the raid, despite the Afghan Human Rights Commission and their own ISAF allies reaching the opposite conclusion. Its pretty obviously a self-serving position designed to protect the reputation of the NZDF and toady to its American "friends", who define any dead Afghan as an "insurgent" (meaning civilian casualties are zero by definition). But the result is that then-defence Minister Wayne Map and now Prime Minister John Key (who signed off on the mission) have lied to us about our military's involvement in civilian deaths.
When given a choice between believing John Key, who wasn't there, and the Afghans who were and have the photos of the dead and scars on their bodies to prove it, I think its a no-brainer. Our government should acknowledge its role in this war crime. And it should acknowledge the dead and compensate their families. Its the lest we can do. And if we don't, we can blame John Key when the terrorists come knocking.
Monday, May 26, 2014
Over on KiwiPolitico, Pablo suggests a good idea: that New Zealand take a leadership role in the fight against US drone-murders by unilaterally renouncing the use of lethal drones:
At the end of my remarks I proposed that we debate the idea that New Zealand unilaterally renounce the use of lethal drones in any circumstance, foreign and domestic. I noted that the NZDF and other security agencies would oppose such a move, as would our security allies. I posited that if implemented, such a stance would be akin to the non-nuclear declaration of 1985 and would reaffirm New Zealand’s independent and autonomous foreign policy.
Alternatively, New Zealand could propose to make the South Pacific a lethal drone-free zone, similar to the regional nuclear free zone declared by the 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga. I noted again that countries like Australia and Chile would oppose the move (both have drone fleets and do not discount using them in anger), but that many of the Pacific Island states would likely welcome the idea.
(Note: lethal drones. Unarmed drones are a different matter, and have countless civilian applications)
He also suggests extending the ban to intelligence cooperation, and letting the New Zealand public decide the matter through a referendum.
I support this idea. Armed drones are used to murder people without trial. In Pakistan and Yemen, they are basically being used to indiscriminately wage war on civilians. We should have no part of either. New Zealand should renounce these weapons, ban our intelligence services from passing information to countries which use them, and organise the world against them. Obviously, that's not going to happen under our current extrajudicial-murder-supporting government. But surely one of our opposition parties could make it policy?
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
Since the revelation that a kiwi had been murdered by the US in a drone-strike, John Key has been open in his support for the US's policy of extra-judicial assassination. But what's that support based on? Certainly not any legal analysis. Today in Question Time, Key was asked if he'd even sought legal advice on the consistency of the US drone program with international law. His answer was simple: "no":
Hon David Cunliffe: Has the Prime Minister sought or received any advice on whether remote operations such as drone strikes against non-combatants or in non-declared conflicts are compatible with international law?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Which is an appalling position when you remember that he has committed NZ spies to sharing information with this legally dubious program. You'd think he'd check first, if only to ensure that he wasn't exposing either himself or GCSB staff to future war crimes charges, but no. It's just "don't ask, don't care".
There's an obvious followup question that needs to be asked: has Key ever sought legal advice on the consistency with the BORA-affirmed right to life of sharing information which may be used in drone-murders? sadly, I expect the answer to that will also be "no", simply because he doesn't want to be told that what he is doing is illegal.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
John Key was grilled in the House today about the GCSB's involvement in US drone-murders, and his answers were troubling. First, as is clear from his comments before Question Time, he supports the US drone murder programme, even when it leads to civilian deaths. But he shouldn't be so comfortable. The UN considers these drone strikes to be an ongoing war crime. And that means that those who provide intelligence support for them are co-conspirators, liable under both international and New Zealand law. That's something we need a full public inquiry into, followed by prosecutions if necessary.
But more troubling was Key's attitude to the murder of kiwis. He clearly supports it, and when asked if he would instruct the GCSB to place conditions on the intelligence they share with their US "partners" that it could not be used to murder kiwis (as the Germans do for their citizens), his answer was simple: "no".
What do you call a Prime Minister who is willing to sacrifice the lives of the people he's supposed to represent to suck up to a foreign power? A lickspittle and a quisling. And the sooner we vote him out of office, the better.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
The International Criminal Court is investigating the UK for war crimes in Iraq:
Allegations that British troops were responsible for a series of war crimes after the invasion of Iraq are to be examined by the international criminal court (ICC) at The Hague, the specialist tribunal has announced.
The court is to conduct a preliminary examination of what have been estimated to be 60 alleged cases of unlawful killing and claims that more than 170 Iraqis were mistreated while in British military custody during the conflict.
British defence officials are confident that the ICC will not move to the next stage and announce a formal investigation, largely because the UK has the capacity to investigate the allegations itself.
They're probably right. However, it does mean that there will be a lot of scrutiny on those investigations, which in turn is going to limit their ability to whitewash their crimes. The Iraq Historic Allegations Team will actually have to investigate, rather than make excuses, and the Attorney-General will have to grant permission to prosecute, rather than block it to defend Britain's reputation. The ICC won't be delivering justice itself, but their oversight will force the UK to deliver it for them. And that is how the system is supposed to work.
Monday, April 07, 2014
Thursday, March 20, 2014
In the dying days of the British Empire, British soldiers murdered 24 unarmed villagers in Batang Kali. Subsequent governments methodically covered up the crime. Now, the UK Court of Appeal has finally opened the door to a proper investigation:
Relatives of unarmed rubber plantation workers killed by British troops in Malaysia said on Wednesday they would appeal to the supreme court after three senior UK judges said they had "forged the first link in the chain" in their campaign for an independent inquiry into the massacre.
The appeal court ruled that precedence forced them to dismiss their case. However, Lord Justices Maurice Kay, Rimer, and Fulford, in effect invited the Malaysian families to pursue their case in Britain's highest court. They added that it was probable that their case would succeed in the European human rights court in Strasbourg.
The judges described initial British investigations into what is known as the massacre of Batang Kali in December 1948 as woefully inadequate.
So, a long way to go yet, but the British government will almost certainly be forced to investigate, just as they were over their war crime sin Iraq. Meanwhile, what does it say about a government that it resists well-founded demands for such investigations? Is protecting the reputation of a dead empire really more important than justice?
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Back in 2004, British soldiers mutilated the bodies of Iraqi resistance fighters and tortured and murdered captives after the battle of Danny Boy. When the UK media highlighted the story in 2008, the British military dismissed it on the basis that the case had been "thoroughly investigated by the RMP [Royal Military Police]" who had "found no evidence to support these allegations". They were lying:
Senior army officers "slammed the door" to block a military police investigation into the treatment of prisoners captured after a fierce battle in Iraq, and then tried to deny having done so, a public inquiry into the incident has heard.
Lucy Bowen, a military police special investigations officer, described how commanders of 1 Battalion Princess of Wales Royal Regiment (1PWRR) stopped her from questioning soldiers after the Battle of Danny Boy – Danny Boy was a British checkpoint near Majar al-Kabir, north of Basra – on 14 May 2004, in which at least 20 insurgents were killed and others were wounded and captured.
The inquiry counsel, Jonathan Acton Davis QC, said: "The door was slammed in your face?" Bowen replied: "Yes … they would not allow us to investigate."
This is how the British military protects its "honour": by covering up serious allegations of torture, murder, and war crimes. The question is, will the current inquiry actually get to the truth, or will it just be more of the same?
Monday, February 17, 2014
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Glenn Greenwald has launched a new news site, The Intercept, "to aggressively report on the disclosures provided to us by our source, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden". its first major story? The NSA's secret participation in drone-murders:
The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.
According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using.
...which is why these drone murders turn out to be utterly indiscriminate and kill civilians: they pay no attention to who is nearby (or simply assume that they are "terrorists" too), and just target a phone rather than a person. Which is why the UN considers these strikes to be war crimes.
Meanwhile, the US government is currently considering murdering one of its citizens without charge or trial by drone strike. This is where their "war on terror" has taken them: back to a feudal power of a monarch to murder their subjects. So much for American being "a nation of laws, not men".
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Is GCHQ's mass surveillance legal? No, according to legal advice provided to the UK Parliament's all-party parliamentary group on drones:
The advice warns that Britain's principal surveillance law is too vague and is almost certainly being interpreted to allow the agency to conduct surveillance that flouts privacy safeguards set out in the European convention on human rights (ECHR).
The inadequacies, it says, have created a situation where GCHQ staff are potentially able to rely "on the gaps in the current statutory framework to commit serious crime with impunity".
At its most extreme, the advice raises issues about the possible vulnerability of staff at GCHQ if it could be proved that intelligence used for US drone strikes against "non-combatants" had been passed on or supplied by the British before being used in a missile attack.
"An individual involved in passing that information is likely to be an accessory to murder. It is well arguable, on a variety of different bases, that the government is obliged to take reasonable steps to investigate that possibility," the advice says.
There's more, and its pretty damning. But this being the UK, the government will no doubt announce a whitewash "inquiry" then demand that the public "move on", while government lawbreaking continues unabated.
Meanwhile, that final point about passing on information used in drone strikes also potentially applies to New Zealand. We have a right to life in New Zealand, which all branches of our government must respect. Passing information to a foreign power which will be used to kill non-combatants breaches that right, and cannot be claimed to be a "justified limitation". And we know its happened - Nicky Hager's Other People's Wars reported that GCSB staff were posted to Afghanistan and walked into positions in the US headquarters, plotting targets for US drones to kill. That makes them accessories to those killings. Those drone strikes BTW are increasingly being regarded as war crimes for their indiscriminate targeting of civilians; GCSB co-operation with the NSA has exposed our government to complicity in those crimes.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
"Secret law" is considered one of the hallmarks of tyranny. So naturally, the US national security state is using it to defend its illegal, unaccountable drone program from public scrutiny:
Congress has moved to block President Obama’s plan to shift control of the U.S. drone campaign from the CIA to the Defense Department, inserting a secret provision in the massive government spending bill introduced this week that would preserve the spy agency’s role in lethal counterterrorism operations, U.S. officials said.The clause was inserted by the Appropriations Committee; most of Congress never read it, or even had any idea it existed until they read about it in the newspapers. But they voted for it anyway - in the process voting for secret laws to protect an unaccountable executive's covert murder program. America's founders must be rolling in their graves!
The measure, included in a classified annex to the $1.1 trillion federal budget plan, would restrict the use of any funding to transfer unmanned aircraft or the authority to carry out drone strikes from the CIA to the Pentagon, officials said.
The provision represents an unusually direct intervention by lawmakers into the way covert operations are run, impeding an administration plan aimed at returning the CIA’s focus to traditional intelligence gathering and possibly bringing more transparency to drone strikes.
[Hat-tip: Secrecy News]
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Since 2004 the CIA has been conducting a campaign of terror in Pakistan, using remotely operate drones to murder Pakistanis they believe to be associated with terrorism. Their standard for such association is low, and the drone strikes have killed a large number of innocent civilians. Amnesty International believes this indiscriminate use of force is a war crime.
The strikes are (naturally) deeply unpopular in Pakistan. And now the PTI, a party led by former cricketer Imran Khan, has . In the process, they've exposed the CIA's Islamabad station chief:
The political party led by the former cricket star Imran Khan claims to have blown the cover of the CIA's most senior officer in Pakistan as part of an increasingly high-stakes campaign against US drone strikes.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party named a man it claimed was head of the CIA station in Islamabad in a letter to police demanding he be nominated as one of the people responsible for a drone strike on 21 November, which killed five militants including senior commanders of the Haqqani Network.
John Brennan, the CIA director, was also nominated as an "accused person" for murder and "waging war against Pakistan".
The Guardian refuses to name the accused (perhaps for fear of another visit from the government with a power-sander), but other media does: he is Craig Peters Osth. Cryptome has more on him (including his past mentions in US diplomatic telegrams) here. As for the legal situation, as The Hindu notes,
The Peshawar High Court has already declared such drone strikes illegal and a violation of Pakistani and International laws in its judgment. Ms Mazari stated that Craig Osth is currently residing and operating from the United States Embassy situated in the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad, which is a clear violation of diplomatic norms and laws as a foreign mission cannot be used for any criminal activity within a sovereign state. CIA Station Chief is not a diplomatic post therefore he does not enjoy any diplomatic immunity and is within the bounds of domestic laws of Pakistan.
The Americans will no doubt try and hustle their agent out of the country. Otherwise they're looking at a very public and very embarrassing trial. Either way, now that he's been named, he should find it quite difficult to work in such positions in future.
Friday, October 25, 2013
So, it turns out that despite routinely denouncing US drone strikes, it turns out that the previous Pakistani government actively colluded with the Americans in the bombing of their own people:
Despite repeatedly denouncing the CIA’s drone campaign, top officials in Pakistan’s government have for years secretly endorsed the programme and routinely received classified briefings on strikes and casualty counts, according to top-secret CIA documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos.
The files describe dozens of drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal region and include maps as well as before-and-after aerial photos of targeted compounds from late 2007 to late 2011, in which the campaign intensified.
Markings on the documents indicate that many of them were prepared by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Centre specifically to be shared with Pakistan’s government. They tout the success of strikes that killed dozens of alleged al-Qa’ida operatives and assert repeatedly that no civilians were harmed.
We know that the latter is a lie; the US simply claimed that anyone killed was a terrorist, regardless of the actual facts. Meanwhile their bombing has been so indiscriminate that Amnesty International and Human Rights watch are calling it a war crime and demanding prosecutions.
The Pakistani political reaction is likely to be unpleasant. There are very ugly words for government officials who collude with foreign powers to murder their own people - "quislings" and "traitors" among them. President Sharif was elected six months ago on a platform of ending drone strikes. He should start by putting the collaborators on trial for conspiracy to murder.
(Meanwhile, there's a lesson here for those collaborating with the US: your secret will come out, either through leaks, journalism, or a sordid Washington power play. And when that happens, you'll be exposed to the wrath of your own people, whether electoral, judicial, or worse. If you want to avoid that wrath, don't collaborate. It's that simple).
Thursday, October 24, 2013
Another day, more British war crimes in Afghanistan:
Three Royal Marines carried out the "execution" of a suspected insurgent as he lay badly wounded after being hit by helicopter cannon fire in Afghanistan, a court martial was told on Wednesday.
Footage of the helpless, bloodied man being dragged across a field and the moment a sergeant bends down and apparently shoots him in the chest at close range was shown in court.
The sergeant, who can be identified only as Marine A, is allegedly heard telling the man: "There you are, shuffle off this mortal coil, you cunt. It's nothing you wouldn't do to us."
A few moments later Marine A is allegedly heard telling colleagues: "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere fellas. I've just broken the Geneva convention."
The footage was captured on a camera fixed to the helmet of another of the men, Marine B, who is accused of helping Marine A carry out the murder.
There's more sickening details in the article, and they clearly show intent to murder a wounded prisoner and cover it up. The soldiers even argued over who got to kill him. And then the British wonder why people join terrorist groups against them. If they didn't behave like this, then they'd rob their enemies of one of their greatest recruitment tools.
Monday, October 21, 2013
On 30 January 1972, the British Army murdered 14 unarmed Irish civil rights protesters in the Bloody Sunday massacre. Now, 41 years later, the soldiers who pulled the triggers may be about to face trial for their crimes:
The British soldiers who killed 14 people on Bloody Sunday in Derry may be arrested and charged with murder or attempted murder.
The Sunday Times of London report says that up to 20 retired soldiers are likely to be arrested and questioned by police for murder, attempted murder or criminal injury over the shootings more than 40 years ago.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence has already started to hire lawyers to represent the soldiers, most of whom are now in their 60s and 70s.
They will be questioned under criminal caution about their roles in the shootings when soldiers who opened fire on participants in a Civil Rights march.
Good. Soldiers who murder civilians need to be held to account and treated like the criminals they are. The British government was forced to finally acknowledge the truth in 2010 with the Savile inquiry, but that's not enough: there needs to be justice as well.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Six years ago last month, a group of US helicopter gunship pilots murdered at least eleven people in Baghdad, including war correspondents Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen. The pilots have never been prosecuted for their crimes. But Bradley Manning was just sentenced to 35 years in jail for telling people about it.
I can't think of a better example of the injustice of the US's national security state. War criminals go free, while people seeking to hold the US to its laws and values are persecuted and imprisoned. America is a sick, sick nation.