August 15, 2012

UK Government Takes Gold in 100 Meter Hypocrisy

Reuters, today:

Ecuador said on Wednesday the British government had threatened to raid its embassy in London if WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is not handed over, and that Quito would make its decision on his asylum request on Thursday.

"Today we've received a threat by the United Kingdom, a clear and written threat that they could storm our embassy in London if Ecuador refuses to hand in Julian Assange," Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters.

The text of a letter from UK authorities to the Chancellor of Ecuador is available in Spanish here.

Statement by UK Foreign Minister William Hague in response to a violation of the UK Embassy compound in Tehran by Iranian students, November 29, 2011:

"It amounts to a grave breach of the Vienna Convention which requires the protection of diplomats and diplomatic premises under all circumstances.

"We hold the Iranian Government responsible for its failure to take adequate measures to protect our Embassy, as it is required to do."

Posted at 08:13 PM | Comments (22)

August 13, 2012

Let's Remember Elliott Abrams Is an Apologist for Torture and Decapitation

Who's advising Paul Ryan on foreign policy? One of the people is Elliott Abrams:

Ryan has been receiving briefings from Elliott Abrams…

Abrams told The Daily Beast on Saturday that he found Ryan’s views in line with the mainstream of the Republican Party today, saying Ryan was "relaxed, serious, funny, very smart, and knows more about foreign policy than people may think, in view of his concentration on the economy."

The few Americans who pay attention to U.S. foreign policy usually remember Elliott Abrams for pleading guilty to lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal, or for helping to cover up the El Mozote massacre of at least 800 unarmed peasants by the Salvadoran government in 1981. (He collaborated on this with Thomas Enders.) Some may recall he was one of the main organizers of the attempted overthrow of the elected Hamas government in Gaza in 2006. Or that his wife feels Palestinian children are "Devil's spawn." Or that his mother-in-law straightforwardly explained that we invaded Iraq not "for sweetness and light" but for oil. Or that his brother-in-law's opinion is that "the tactical mistake we made in Iraq was that we didn't kill enough Sunnis," so we probably should have killed all "Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35."

Sadly, though, Abrams' support for torture and decapitation in Panama is almost completely forgotten. This is from Dark Alliance by Gary Webb:

When they found Dr. Hugo Spadafora in September 1985, they found everything but his head. The rest of him had been tied up in a U.S. mail sack and dumped under a bridge on the border of Costa Rica and Panama.

His body bore evidence of unimaginable tortures. The thigh muscles had been neatly sliced so he could not close his legs, and then something had been jammed up his rectum, tearing it apart. His testicles were swollen horribly, the result of prolonged garroting, his ribs were broken, and then, while he was still alive, his head had been sawed off…

Spadafora was one of Manuel Noriega's main political opponents. And so back in 1985 before Noreiga became our enemy, that meant, as the book Overthrow describes, Elliot Abrams felt everything done to Spadafora was perfectly fine:

[Spadafora's] stomach was full of blood that Spadafora had swallowed as his head was being slowly cut off…

Noriega was at a dermatology clinic in Geneva when Spadafora was killed, undergoing treatment that he hoped would repair his deeply scarred face. There he received an urgent telephone call from Major Luis Cordoba, head of the unit that had captured Spadafora. Evidently neither man realized that American intelligence agents were eavesdropping.

"We have a rabid dog in our hands," Major Cordoba told his commander.

"And what does one do with a rabid dog?" Noriega asked in reply.

That was the go-ahead soldiers needed in order to begin the long night of torture that ended in Spadafora's decapitation...

During this period, Noriega [] endeared himself to the Reagan administration by agreeing to help the Nicaraguan contras…

After Noriega forced President Barletta out of office, the American ambassador in Panama, Everett Briggs, wanted to begin increasing American pressure on him. His boss, Undersecretary of State Elliot Abrams, a vigorous supporter of the contras, overruled him

As this became clear to Panamanian opposition figures, they began looking for other ways to influence American policy. One of them, Winston Spadafora, a brother of the murdered dissident, flew to Washington and managed to persuade Senator Jesse Helms…to hold hearings on Panama…Abrams called Helms and asked him to cancel it. He said that Noriega was "being really helpful to us" and was "really not that big a problem."

Later, of course, Noriega became more trouble than he was worth and he had to go.

TREASON!: After Roberto Diaz Herrera, a top Panamanian military official, accused Noriega of responsibility for the murder of Spadafora, Noriega accused Diaz Herrera of "high treason." As in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S., the definition of "treason" in Panama is "telling the truth."

LET'S NOT FORGET: Those al Qaeda people sure are barbarians, what with their massacres and decapitations and all.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 10:52 PM | Comments (13)

August 04, 2012

You're Under Arrest

One of the positive things about our giant economic collapse has been an outbreak of honesty among the billionaires who run America. Now they seem to feel free to express how they truly feel about the rest of us.

Here are the views of David Siegel, timeshare mogul and star of the new documentary Queen of Versailles. He and his wife Jackie first got national attention for their attempt to build the largest house in America, a 90,000-square foot Versailles replica:

David and Jackie have been surprised by the criticism of their lifestyle. “So much negativity. You would think they would be happy for someone living the American dream,” Jackie says. … As for the notion that the divide between the wealthy and everyone else is grotesquely wide, David says: “There’s always been rich and poor, the 1 percent and the 99 percent.” And then he adds, “It’s like a prison. If you only have prisoners and no guards, you’d have chaos.”

So that's pretty straightforward: America is like a prison, and all non-billionaires are the prisoners. (Also, the prisoners should be happy for the guards.)

But it's not just this honesty for which we can thank David Siegel. There's also this:

A lot of people are wondering how much influence a few rich businessmen will have on the presidential election. The rich businessmen might be wondering, too. But mostly they’re not talking about it. There’s one exception: David Siegel…In [The Queen of Versailles], Siegel says that he was personally responsible for the election of George W. Bush in 2000…

Here’s Siegel’s account of how he swung the election in Bush’s favor: “Whenever I saw a negative article about [Al] Gore, I put it in with the paychecks of my 8,000 employees. I had my managers do a survey on every employee. If they liked Bush, we made them register to vote. But not if they liked Gore. The week before [the election] we made 80,000 phone calls through my call center – they were robo-calls. On Election Day, we made sure everyone who was voting for Bush got to the polls. I didn’t know he would win by 527 votes. Afterward, we did a survey among the employees to find out who voted who wouldn’t have otherwise. One thousand of them said so.”

In the movie Siegel says he isn't sure whether what he did was legal. I wonder too, especially about using corporate resources to support candidates. Fortunately we don't have to worry about illegal election manipulation anymore, since now nothing's illegal.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 05:19 PM | Comments (17)

August 03, 2012

BREAKING: Top Iranian Torturer and Assassin Had Plan to Nuke America

Well, probably. It's the kind of thing those people would do, so I don't think we need to check.

In unrelated news that's barely worth mentioning, a top U.S. torturer and assassin definitely had a plan to use nuclear weapons on Iranian soil. He was Defense Undersecretary "Blowtorch Bob" Komer, who previously ran the Phoenix Program in Vietnam (a giant campaign of political torture and assassination that killed tens of thousands of Vietnamese). This is from the new book The Twilight War by Pentagon historian David Crist:

In December 1980, Undersecretary Komer released a study on the potential use of nuclear weapons to defend the Persian Gulf. … Komer approved three options for employing nuclear weapons against the Soviets in Iran. The first two options used nuclear weapons only within Iran, with the objective to block Soviet forces by destroying the mountain passes on the Iran-Soviet border … If Soviet troops were already in Iran, American bombers would hit Soviet rear echelon units entering Iran, while the U.S. Army's tactical artillery nukes would devastate frontline ground forces … small nukes were to be buried and set with a variable yield, which could create either a relatively small explosion to destroy a large tunnel or a massive detonation to collapse an entire mountain pass.

The one downside, Komer noted, was that this strategy necessitated the first use of nuclear weapons. … No one reflected on how the Iranians might view such a scenario.

This of course was shortly after the Carter administration had given Saddam Hussein a "green light" to invade Iran. More recently, top U.S. officials have spoken of their extensive plans to "completely obliterate Iran," "drill them back to the fourth century" and "crush them" like "ants." Before he retired, Defense Secretary Robert Gates emphasized U.S. willingness to engage in the first use of nuclear weapons against Iran, a policy that was "a decision by the president [Obama]."

However, in fairness to Blowtorch Bob Komer and his fantastic nickname, his plan was not to use nuclear weapons against Iran, merely within Iran. This is a crucial distinction that Americans would certainly understand if some country used nukes within but not against the U.S. "Please, detonate as many nuclear weapons in America as you need," we would say. "Our casa es su casa."

ALSO: Top Iranian generals probably would want to threaten to use nuclear terrorism to prevent a superpower like the U.S. from intervening in the mideast, so there's no reason to notice that top Israeli generals actually did this.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at 11:51 AM | Comments (4)