The Phoenix Program Was a Disaster in Vietnam and Would Be in Afghanistan

The Phoenix Program Was a Disaster in Vietnam and Would Be in Afghanistan — And the New York Times Should Know that

Torture  The Phoenix Program Was a Disaster in Vietnam and Would Be in Afghanistan    And the New York Times Should Know thatAs best expressed in Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman’s seminal 1989 work, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, the New York Times, has been a consistent champion of U.S. militarism and empire over the course of at least the past half-century along with the neo-liberal free-trade policies driving its expansion. The paper hit a new low this past Friday in running an op ed by Mark Moyar, a professor at the U.S. Marine Corps University, in which he heralded the CIA trained Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRU) in Vietnam as a model irregular guerrilla force, which the U.S. should strive to recreate in Afghanistan in order to wage the war more effectively.

In actual fact, the PRUs served as one of the most brutal and corrupt colonial proxies of the United States in its history. They were notoriously ineffective in fulfilling American imperial ambitions and participated in the torture and killing of thousands of innocent civilians. The PRU’s were trained by the CIA and USAID’s Public Safety Division as “hunter-killer” squadrons to carry out the notorious Phoenix operation whose central aim was to eliminate the “Vietcong” infrastructure (VCI) through use of sophisticated computer technology and intelligence gathering techniques and through improved coordination of military and civilian intelligence agencies. Phoenix had its roots in earlier psychological warfare and police counter-terror operations designed to “bring danger and death” to “Vietcong functionaries.” It employed methods such as the use of wanted posters, blacklists, spies and disguises as well as violent acts of intimidation and terrorism.

Contrary to Moyar’s mythical view, which he presents in more depth in his 1997 book, Phoenix and the Birds of Prey, the PRU’s partook in indiscriminate brutality and failed to infiltrate the upper-echelon of the revolutionary apparatus. Phoenix was riddled by inaccurate reporting and bribery. South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu used Phoenix to eliminate political rivals, including the non-communists opposition. Internal reports on record at the National Archives point to the widespread corruption of PRU cadres who used their positions for revenge purposes and for shakedowns and extortion, threatening to kill people and count them as VCI if they did not pay them huge sums.

In part because defection rates were so high in the US-created South Vietnamese army, many of those recruited were criminals or thugs who used the program to advance their own agendas. Elton Manzione, a Phoenix operative noted that the PRU’s were “a combination of ARVN deserters, VC turncoats and bad motherfuckers; criminals the South Vietnamese couldn’t deal with who were turned over to us. Some actually had an incentive plan: If they killed X number of commies, they got x number of years off their prison term.”

Some model to follow for Afghanistan. Internal reports at the National Archives point to a proliferation of “atrocities” by “VC avenger units” including the mutilation of bodies and the killing of family members of suspected guerrillas by PRU’s, provoking mass reprisals. While the quantity of “neutralizations” was reported to be very high in many districts, the quality was “poor.” At best, those killed were low-level functionaries. High ranking officials like Robert “Blow-Torch” Komer, who called for a doubling of the size of the program, lamented that there was a high number of “phantom kills” which hampered good Phung Hoang statistics. There were also “flagrant” cases of report padding, which had occurred most egregiously in the province of Long An where Phoenix advisor Evan Parker Jr. noted in an internal memo that “the numbers just don’t add up.” Throughout the country, another memo noted, dead bodies were being identified as VCI, rightly or wrongly, in the attempt to at least approach an unrealistic quota.

In 1971, a comprehensive Pentagon study found that only 3 percent of the Vietcong killed, captured or rallied were full or probationary party members above the district level. Regional reports claimed that 1 percent or less of enemy neutralizations held key leadership posts in the VCI. Ralph McGehee, who served as the CIA chief in the Gia Dinh province and nearly committed suicide due to the guilt he felt over his actions, stated emphatically in his memoirs “never in the history of our work in Vietnam did we get one clear-cut, high-ranking Vietcong agent.” One key reason for the failure of Phoenix stemmed from the popular support enjoyed by the NLF leadership who had contacts in high places and infiltrated the government apparatus.

The most disturbing aspect was its inordinately high human costs. A Phoenix advisor commented, “It was common knowledge that when someone was picked up their lives were about at an end because the Americans most likely felt that, if they were to turn someone like that back into the countryside it would just be multiplying NLF followers.” In one publicized case, a detainee was kept in an air-conditioned room for four years to try and exploit his fear of the cold. His remains were later dumped at sea. K. Barton Osborne, a military intelligence specialist told Congress that he witnessed acts of torture including the prodding of a person’s brain with a six inch dowel through his ear, and that in his year and a half with Phoenix, “not a single suspect survived interrogation.” After being called before Congress to account for his actions, CIA Director William Colby conceded that Phoenix led to the deaths of 20,000 civilians. The South Vietnamese government placed the total at over 40,000. A Phoenix operative who had served in Czechoslovakia during World War II tellingly commented, “The reports that I would send in on the number of communists that were neutralized reminded me of the reports Hitler’s concentration camp commanders sent in on how many inmates they had exterminated, each commander lying that he had killed more than the other to please Himmler.”

In Phoenix and the Birds of Prey, Moyar tried to refute claims about the program’s brutality by claiming that K. Barton Osborn and other veterans who testified about torture and abuse were psychological scarred from their experience fighting in Vietnam and hence not credible witnesses. This is a common tactic of the swift boat crowd which is simply not true. Deborah Nelson and Nick Turse’s work, based on their survey of hundreds of declassified files at the National Archives, shows that the army in fact investigated many of the allegations of atrocities by antiwar veterans which turned out to be almost all accurate. My Lai was the tip of the iceberg. My own research and that of Jerry Lembcke has shown that the stereotype of the psychologically scarred veteran embraced by Moyar is a construct of right-wing politicians, the mass media and Hollywood. With regards to Osborn, William Colby himself stated that much of what he had said was “likely to be true.”

In the face of all the available evidence, Moyar’s claims simply do not stand up to scholarly scrutiny.Moyar’s argument about the need to replicate the success of the Phoenix program and train the Afghan equivalent of the PRU’s is a-historical, morally debased and intellectually worthless. The New York Times accordingly has done a disservice to its readers by publishing him as an authority on this topic, particularly given the paucity of antiwar and anti-imperialist views represented in the paper. The Times ironically ran a number of well-documented exposes on Phoenix and the draconian character of the South Vietnamese prison system in the early 1970s. More than anything else this latest decision reflects its own ideological bias and complicity in the major crimes against humanity now unfolding in Afghanistan.

Jeremy Kuzmarov

Jeremy Kuzmarov is assistant professor of history at Tulsa University and author of The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs. He spent months pouring over the files of the public safety division and phoenix program in Vietnam for a book he is currently working on, Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation-Building in the American Century.

Republished with permission from the History News Network.

The ghost fleet of the recession

The ghost fleet of the recession

By Simon Parry

The biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history lies at anchor east of Singapore. Never before photographed, it is bigger than the U.S. and British navies combined but has no crew, no cargo and no destination  –  and is why your Christmas stocking may be on the light side this year

The 'ghost fleet' near Singapore

The ‘ghost fleet’ near Singapore. The world’s ship owners and government economists would prefer you not to see this symbol of the depths of the plague still crippling the world’s economies

The tropical waters that lap the jungle shores of southern Malaysia could not be described as a paradisical shimmering turquoise. They are more of a dark, soupy green. They also carry a suspicious smell. Not that this is of any concern to the lone Indian face that has just peeped anxiously down at me from the rusting deck of a towering container ship; he is more disturbed by the fact that I may be a pirate, which, right now, on top of everything else, is the last thing he needs.

His appearance, in a peaked cap and uniform, seems rather odd; an officer without a crew. But there is something slightly odder about the vast distance between my jolly boat and his lofty position, which I can’t immediately put my finger on.

Then I have it – his 750ft-long merchant vessel is standing absurdly high in the water. The low waves don’t even bother the lowest mark on its Plimsoll line. It’s the same with all the ships parked here, and there are a lot of them. Close to 500. An armada of freighters with no cargo, no crew, and without a destination between them.

Simon Parry among the ships in southern MalaysiaSimon Parry among the ships in southern Malaysia

My ramshackle wooden fishing boat has floated perilously close to this giant sheet of steel. But the face is clearly more scared of me than I am of him. He shoos me away and scurries back into the vastness of his ship. His footsteps leave an echo behind them.

Navigating a precarious course around the hull of this Panama-registered hulk, I reach its bow and notice something else extraordinary. It is tied side by side to a container ship of almost the same size. The mighty sister ship sits empty, high in the water again, with apparently only the sailor and a few lengths of rope for company.

Nearby, as we meander in searing midday heat and dripping humidity between the hulls of the silent armada, a young European officer peers at us from the bridge of an oil tanker owned by the world’s biggest container shipping line, Maersk. We circle and ask to go on board, but are waved away by two Indian crewmen who appear to be the only other people on the ship.

‘They are telling us to go away,’ the boat driver explains. ‘No one is supposed to be here. They are very frightened of pirates.’

Here, on a sleepy stretch of shoreline at the far end of Asia, is surely the biggest and most secretive gathering of ships in maritime history. Their numbers are equivalent to the entire British and American navies combined; their tonnage is far greater. Container ships, bulk carriers, oil tankers – all should be steaming fully laden between China, Britain, Europe and the US, stocking camera shops, PC Worlds and Argos depots ahead of the retail pandemonium of 2009. But their water has been stolen.

They are a powerful and tangible representation of the hurricanes that have been wrought by the global economic crisis; an iron curtain drawn along the coastline of the southern edge of Malaysia’s rural Johor state, 50 miles east of Singapore harbour.

Fisherman Ah Wat

‘We don’t understand why they are here. There are so many ships but no one seems to be on board,’ said local fisherman Ah Wat

It is so far off the beaten track that nobody ever really comes close, which is why these ships are here. The world’s ship owners and government economists would prefer you not to see this symbol of the depths of the plague still crippling the world’s economies.

So they have been quietly retired to this equatorial backwater, to be maintained only by a handful of bored sailors. The skeleton crews are left alone to fend off the ever-present threats of piracy and collisions in the congested waters as the hulls gather rust and seaweed at what should be their busiest time of year.

Local fisherman Ah Wat, 42, who for more than 20 years has made a living fishing for prawns from his home in Sungai Rengit, says: ‘Before, there was nothing out there – just sea. Then the big ships just suddenly came one day, and every day there are more of them.

‘Some of them stay for a few weeks and then go away. But most of them just stay. You used to look Christmas from here straight over to Indonesia and see nothing but a few passing boats. Now you can no longer see the horizon.’

The size of the idle fleet becomes more palpable when the ships’ lights are switched on after sunset. From the small fishing villages that dot the coastline, a seemingly endless blaze of light stretches from one end of the horizon to another. Standing in the darkness among the palm trees and bamboo huts, as calls to prayer ring out from mosques further inland, is a surreal and strangely disorientating experience. It makes you feel as if you are adrift on a dark sea, staring at a city of light.

Ah Wat says: ‘We don’t understand why they are here. There are so many ships but no one seems to be on board. When we sail past them in our fishing boats we never see anyone. They are like real ghost ships and some people are scared of them. They believe they may bring a curse with them and that there may be bad spirits on the ships.’

Two container ships tied together in Sungai Rengit, southern Malaysia

Two container ships tied together in southern Malaysia, waiting for the next charter

As daylight creeps across the waters, flags of convenience from destinations such as Panama and the Bahamas become visible. In reality, though, these vessels belong to some of the world’s biggest Western shipping companies. And the sickness that has ravaged them began far away – in London, where the industry’s heart beats, and where the plummeting profits and hugely reduced cargo prices are most keenly felt.

The Aframax-class oil tanker is the camel of the world’s high seas. By definition, it is smaller than 132,000 tons deadweight and with a breadth above 106ft. It is used in the basins of the Black Sea, the North Sea, the Caribbean Sea, the China Sea and the Mediterranean – or anywhere where non-OPEC exporting countries have harbours and canals too small to accommodate very large crude carriers (VLCC) or ultra-large crude carriers (ULCCs). The term is based on the Average Freight Rate Assessment (AFRA) tanker rate system and is an industry standard.

A couple of years ago these ships would be steaming back and forth. Now 12 per cent are doing nothing

You may wish to know this because, if ever you had an irrational desire to charter one, now would be the time. This time last year, an Aframax tanker capable of carrying 80,000 tons of cargo would cost £31,000 a day ($50,000). Now it is about £3,400 ($5,500).

This is why the chilliest financial winds anywhere in the City of London are to be found blowing through its 400-plus shipping brokers.

Between them, they manage about half of the world’s chartering business. The bonuses are long gone. The last to feel the tail of the economic whiplash, they – and their insurers and lawyers – await a wave of redundancies and business failures in the next six months. Commerce is contracting, fleets rust away – yet new ship-builds ordered years ago are still coming on stream.

World shipping is tracked by satellite service Vesseltracker

World shipping is tracked by satellite service Vesseltracker

Just 12 months ago these financiers and brokers were enjoying fat bonuses as they traded cargo space. But nobody wants the space any more, and those that still need to ship goods across the world are demanding vast reductions in price.

Do not tell these men and women about green shoots of recovery. As Briton Tim Huxley, one of Asia’s leading ship brokers, says, if the world is really pulling itself out of recession, then all these idle ships should be back on the move.

South China Sea map

‘This is the time of year when everyone is doing all the Christmas stuff,’ he points out.

‘A couple of years ago those ships would have been steaming back and forth, going at full speed. But now you’ve got something like 12 per cent of the world’s container ships doing nothing.’

Aframaxes are oil bearers. But the slump is industry-wide. The cost of sending a 40ft steel container of merchandise from China to the UK has fallen from £850 plus fuel charges last year to £180 this year. The cost of chartering an entire bulk freighter suitable for carrying raw materials has plunged even further, from close to £185,000 ($300,000) last summer to an incredible £6,100 ($10,000) earlier this year.

Business for bulk carriers has picked up slightly in recent months, largely because of China’s rediscovered appetite for raw materials such as iron ore, says Huxley. But this is a small part of international trade, and the prospects for the container ships remain bleak.

Some experts believe the ratio of container ships sitting idle could rise to 25 per cent within two years in an extraordinary downturn that shipping giant Maersk has called a ‘crisis of historic dimensions’. Last month the company reported its first half-year loss in its 105-year history.

Martin Stopford, managing director of Clarksons, London’s biggest ship broker, says container shipping has been hit particularly hard: ‘In 2006 and 2007 trade was growing at 11 per cent. In 2008 it slowed down by 4.7 per cent. This year we think it might go down by as much as eight per cent. If it costs £7,000 a day to put the ship to sea and if you only get £6,000 a day, than you have got a decision to make.

‘Yet at the same time, the supply of container ships is growing. This year, supply could be up by around 12 per cent and demand is down by eight per cent. Twenty per cent spare is a lot of spare of anything – and it’s come out of nowhere.’

These empty ships should be carrying Christmas over to the West. All retailers will have already ordered their stock for the festive season long ago. With more than 92 per cent of all goods coming into the UK by sea, much of it should be on its way here if it is going to make it to the shelves before Christmas.

Large ships off the coastline close to Sungai Rengit

Lights from the fleet of ships illuminate the night-time horizon

But retailers are running on very low stock levels, not only because they expect consumer spending to be down, but also because they simply do not have the same levels of credit that they had in the past and so are unable to keep big stockpiles.

Stopford explains: ‘Globalisation and shipping go hand in hand. Worldwide, we ship about 8.2 billion tons of cargo a year. That’s more than one ton per person and probably two to three tons for richer people like us in the West. If the total goes down by five per cent or so, that’s a lot of cargo that isn’t moving.’

The knock-on effect of so many ships sitting idle rather than moving consumer goods between Asia and Europe could become apparent in Britain in the months ahead.

‘We will find out at Christmas whether there are enough PlayStations in the shops or not. There will certainly be fewer goods coming in to Britain during the run-up to Christmas.’

Three thousand miles north-east of the ghost fleet of Johor, the shipbuilding capital of the world rocks to an unpunctuated chorus of hammer-guns blasting rivets the size of dustbin lids into shining steel panels that are then lowered onto the decks of massive new vessels.

As the shipping industry teeters on the brink of collapse, the activity at boatyards like Mokpo and Ulsan in South Korea all looks like a sick joke. But the workers in these bustling shipyards, who teem around giant tankers and mega-vessels the length of several football pitches and capable of carrying 10,000 or more containers each, have no choice; they are trapped in a cruel time warp.

There have hardly been any new orders. In 2011 the shipyards will simply run out of ships to build

A decade ago, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung (who died last month) issued a decree to his industrial captains: he wished to make his nation the market leader in shipbuilding. He knew the market intimately. Before entering politics, he studied economics and worked for a Japanese-owned freight-shipping business. Within a few years he was heading his own business, starting out with a fleet of nine ships.

Thus, by 2004, Kim Dae-jung’s presidential vision was made real. His country’s low-cost yards were winning 40 per cent of world orders, with Japan second with 24 per cent and China way behind on 14 per cent.

But shipbuilding is a horrendously hard market to plan. There is a three-year lag between the placing of an order and the delivery of a ship. With contracts signed, down-payments made and work under way, stopping work on a new ship is the economic equivalent of trying to change direction in an ocean liner travelling at full speed towards an iceberg.

Thus the labours of today’s Korean shipbuilders merely represent the completion of contracts ordered in the fat years of 2006 and 2007. Those ships will now sail out into a global economy that no longer wants them.

Maersk announced last week that it was renegotiating terms and prices with Asian shipyards for 39 ordered tankers and gas carriers. One of the company’s executives, Kristian Morch, said the shipping industry was in uncharted waters.

As he told the global shipping newspaper Lloyd’s List only last week: ‘You have a contraction of oil demand, you have a falling world economy and you have a contraction of financing capabilities – and at the same time as a lot of new ships are being delivered.’

Demand peaked in 2005 when, with surplus tonnage worldwide standing at just 0.7 per cent, ship owners raced to order, fearing docks and berths at major shipyards would soon be fully booked. That spell of ‘panic buying’ has heightened today’s alarming mismatch between supply and demand.

Keith Wallis, East Asia editor of Lloyd’s List, says, ‘There was an ordering frenzy on all types of vessel, particularly container ships, because of the booming trade between Asia and Europe and the United States. It was fuelled in particular by consumer demand in the UK, Europe and North America, as well as the demand for raw materials from China.’

Cranes at Singapore Dock stand idle, waiting for work

Cranes at Singapore Dock stand idle, waiting for work

Orders for most existing ships to be delivered within the next six to nine months would be honoured, he predicted, and the ships would go into service at the expense of older vessels in the fleet, which would be scrapped or end up anchored off places like southern Malaysia.

But, says Wallis, ‘some ship owners won’t be able to pay their final instalments when the vessels are completed. Normally, they pay ten per cent down when they order the ship and there are three or four stages of payment. But 50 to 60 per cent is paid on delivery.’

South Korean shipyard Hanjin Heavy Industries last week said it had been forced to put up for sale three container ships ordered at a cost of £60 million ($100 million) by the Iranian state shipping line after the Iranians said they could not pay the bill.

‘The prospects for shipyards are bleak, particularly for the South Koreans, where they have a high proportion of foreign orders. Whole communities in places like Mokpo and Ulsan are involved in shipbuilding and there is a lot of sub-contracting to local companies,’ Wallis says.

‘So far the shipyards are continuing to work, but the problems will start to emerge next year and certainly in 2011, because that is when the current orders will have been delivered. There have hardly been any new orders in the past year. In 2011, the shipyards will simply run out of ships to build.’

Christopher Palsson, a senior consultant at London-based Lloyd’s Register-Fairplay Research, believes the situation will worsen before it gets better.

‘Some ships will be sold for demolition but the net balance will be even further pressure on the freight rates and the market itself. A lot of ship owners and operators are going to find themselves in a very difficult situation.’

The current downturn is the worst in living memory and more severe even than the slump of the early Eighties, Palsson believes.

‘Back then the majority of the crash was for tankers carrying crude oil. Today we have almost every aspect of shipping affected – bulk carriers, tankers, container carriers… the lot.

‘It is a much wider-spread situation that we have today. China was not a major player in the world economy at that time. Neither was India. We had the Soviet Union. We had shipbuilding in the United Kingdom and Europe.

‘But then, back in those days the world was a very different place.’

Partition Puzzle: Role Of British Policy

[SEE: FREEDOM AT MIDNIGHT By Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre]

Partition Puzzle: Role Of British Policy

In the midst of the whole debate, the British get away with the cake. As such they not only took all the measures, implemented all policies which were divisive but also accepted all the demands which led to partition. In the process they ensured that even after they leave, the interests of imperial powers, UK-USA, in the Middle East remain safe and secure. This ensured that they continue to dominate the area and retain their military and political base in the region. While the mini battle, Jinnah versus Nehru-Patel is on, the role of the major culprits of partition, the Colonial powers of yesteryears and the imperialist power of today is generally not being brought under scrutiny. – Ram Punyani

By Ram Puniyani
12 September, 2009

Jaswant Singh in his recent book on Jinnah has praised the secular nature of Jinnah and has held Nehru-Patel responsible for Partition of India. Many people from Pakistan are praising Jaswant Singh?s book to the sky, while here in India there is a mixed reaction. Most strong one came from BJP President Rajnath Singh who hinted that any praise of Jinnah, will be met with strict action. The problem with such formulation, Jinnah was secular, Nehru-Patel were responsible for partition, is that it is an extremely superficial analysis and does not look at the complex multilayered phenomenon of partition tragedy. It totally by passes the role of British rulers and the different interests of diverse classes during freedom movement. The response to the book is either at emotive level, our leader versus your leader, or how dare you speak against our icon!

In the midst of the whole debate, the British get away with the cake. As such they not only took all the measures, implemented all policies which were divisive but also accepted all the demands which led to partition. In the process they ensured that even after they leave, the interests of imperial powers, UK-USA, in the Middle East remain safe and secure. This ensured that they continue to dominate the area and retain their military and political base in the region. While the mini battle, Jinnah versus Nehru-Patel is on, the role of the major culprits of partition, the Colonial powers of yesteryears and the imperialist power of today is generally not being brought under scrutiny.

If we look at the British polices, right from the beginning there were germs of divide and rule. They saw Indian society as divided along religious lines, underplaying the fact that the real divisions were not along religious lines but along class and caste lines. Shaken by the massive revolt of 1857, their subtle policies of ?divide and rule? started becoming more overt and articulate. In 1858 Lord Elphinstone, Governor of Bombay Province, in his communication to The East India Company?s executives wrote, ?Divide et Impera? (Divide and Rule) was old Roman motto and it should be ours.? In return Charles Wood, Secretary of State for India wrote that, ?The antagonism of Indian races was an element of strength to the British India. Therefore ?a dissociating spirit? should be kept up, for if India was to unite against us, how long could we maintain ourselves.?

Both these quotes amply indicate towards shape of policies in times to come. As a foundation of these polices, ?doctoring of mass consciousness? along religious lines began through specially sponsored History books. The two major ones? in this direction were Six Volume ?History of India as told by her Historians? by Elliot and Dawson and History of India by James Mill, who periodized the Indian History into Hindu Period, Muslim Period and British period. This periodization gave the impression that history?s period is determined by the religion of the king. Needless to say that the medieval administration of Kings was never based along religious lines; their court officials and chain of Landlords were belonging to both the religions. These British sponsored accounts of History argued that Muslims Rulers had enslaved India and now British have come to end the misrule of Muslim Kings. Such an account became a convenient tool in the hands of Hindu communalists, Hindu Mahsabha and RSS, to play their part of divisive politics amongst masses. The Muslim League turned it around to say that Muslim rulers were glorious and great.

This communalization of minds was the fertile soil on which the communalists could plant their narrow agenda of Muslim Nation and Hindu Nation. Another British Historian Sir T.W. Holderness in his book Peoples and Problems of India mooted the idea that Hindus and Muslims regard themselves as separate nations. This book came out in 1923 and in the same year Savarkar came out with his book, ?Hindutva or Who is a Hindu??, where the same formulation was presented in a different way.

At concrete level on the political chessboard, Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, partitioned Bengal (1904) with communal motivation and this was probably the first concrete experiment in communalizing the politics at big level. Curzon went on to declare that this is an attempt to invest in the Mussalmans of Eastern Bengal. Just a couple of years later (2006) the delegation of Muslim Landlords and Nawabs was received by Viceroy, where he declared that these Muslim elite to be the representatives of Muslim community. The delegation went to ask for separate electorate for Muslims, and these separate electorates introduced later acted as the trigger to polarize the nation along religious lines. Many a members of this delegation were also part of United India Patriotic Association, an organization of Hindu and Muslim landlords and Kings which had come up in the wake of formation of Indian National Congress. Indian National Congress was critical of British and in response, this association pledged to enhance the loyalty of the people to the British crown.

Thus Viceroy Minto subtly encouraged Muslim communalism, and later the same delegation members went on to form Muslim League. Lady Minto in her communication takes pride in what the Lord had done. She commented that what has happened, the receiving of delegation etc. will pull back sixty million people from joining the ranks of seditious opposition, meaning the rising national movement.

MacDonald?s Communal Award of 1932 was the next step, which enhanced the communal divides. Interestingly in 1939 Congress firmly told the British that they will not join the war efforts until they are guaranteed freedom in return. And lo and behold in 1940 Jinnah comes with the demand for Pakistan at Lahore Muslim League convention. Can such things be coincidental? Demand of Pakistan may have been a bargaining counter but its timing is interesting.

No doubt the Cabinet mission plan could have prevented partition, but it is debatable whether it would not have sown the fissiparous tendencies amongst the princely states and the states where Muslim League was in majority. The other necessity which made British to partition India, related to their strategic needs in the area. At the end of WWII, the global power equations changed. USA and USSR both emerged as major powers. US had posted its representative in India from 1942. With British deciding to leave India, freedom was imperative. The British calculation at this time was that an Undivided India with leadership of Congress will not let Britain continue with its military bases in the area. With USSR coming up in a big way, Mao Tse Tung rising in China and section of Congress leadership impressed by socialism, UK-USA were sure that India will not side with them in their global designs of countering USSR militarily and in continuing their oil plunder in middle east. Here comes the Radcliff Line, which runs in the areas adjacent to Iraq, Afghanistan and Sinkiang. British diplomats had the job cut out for them, to make Jinnah accept moth eaten Pakistan and to make Congress leadership to accept the partition.

Somehow the plans of imperialists were immaculate. And in times to come Pakistan, where Mr. Jinnah wanted to have religious freedom, was converted into a land ruled by Mullahs, Army and American Ambassador. It was the same Pakistan which was supported to the hilt on the Kashmir issue; the idea was that US strategic interests are safe with this arrangement. It is a matter of great relief that Pakistan is struggling to come out from the vice like grip of Army, but can it shed its client state type status vis a vis US, is the million rupee question. The people of Pakistan have been big victim of Imperialist designs all through while Pakistan military has been having all the green pastures for itself.

In partitioning India, colonialists reaped rich harvest at the cost of the people of the subcontinent, millions dead, a single entity India, divided into Pakistan, India and Bangla Desh. These countries keep on spending a major part of their budgets in investing in armaments and fattening of their armed forces, something which could have been meaningfully invested for the growth and development of the region. We need to wake up from the blame game and see the real culprit.

Brazilian Parliament recommends freezing out Israelis from third largest export market

“This decision is an enormous blow for Israel’s economy and foreign relations”, says Jamal Juma’ of the Stop the Wall Campaign.

The Brazilian Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Relations and National Defense has recommended that the parliament should not ratify the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Mercosur and the State of Israel until “Israel accepts the creation of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders”.

This decision is an explicit act of pressure on the Israeli government to comply with international law, and a rejection of years of incessant Israeli lobbying, pressuring for a vote to ratify the agreement.

The Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign and the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC)*, issued a joint statement today outlining the call by Brazilian Parliament for the freeze of the Israel-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement.

This decision is an enormous blow for Israel’s economy and foreign relations. It poses a massive stumbling block for the enactment of the agreement, which since its signing in 2007 has been stalled due to a lack of ratification by Mercosur member countries. The Mercosur is one of the world’s most quickly expanding markets and the fifth largest economy in the world. Israeli exports to the Mercosur amounted nearly 600 million dollars in 2006.

Israel has invested heavily in pushing for the agreement, focusing particularly on Brazil, the Mercosur’s largest economy and most powerful political player. Brazil alone, even without an FTA, is Israel’s third largest export destination. In 2005, Ehud Olmert, the trade minister at the time, visited Brazil to get President Lula’s support for the agreement. A little over a month ago, Israeli minister of foreign affairs, Avigdor Liberman traveled to Brazil to urge the ratification of the agreement.

Since the beginning of the negotiations of the FTA, Mercosur civil society summits have rejected the trade deal. On behalf of the Palestinian National BDS Committee (BNC), the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign has worked together with Brazilian intellectuals, social movements, parties and politicians to block the ratification of the FTA. The Front for the Defense of the Palestinian people and the Parliamentary Front against the ratification of the FTA were formed to back the Palestinian call against the FTA. In January a letter by the BNC was handed over to President Lula.

As a result, the Commission agreed to listen to a public hearing before the voting process yesterday.

Oscar Daniel Jadue, vice-president of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, intervened and called for the rejection of the bill. He argued that the ratification of the agreement is a violation of international law, to the benefit of a country that does not respect the human rights of Palestinians.

“I invite reflection on what would reward the government of Israel and opens of the Latin American market to a country that annihilates the Palestinian people”, said Jadue.

Arlene Clemesha, professor of Arab History at the University of São Paulo (USP) and part of the United Nations Coordinating Network on Palestine, argued against the tokenism of ratifying the agreement with the exclusion of settlement products, warning that it is impossible to separate the two as Israel has a history of marketing settlement products as Israeli ones. Instead, she said, the path to peace requires international forces to compel Israel to end the military occupation of Palestinian territory.

The members of the parliamentary commission agreed with Clemesha and Jadue and recommended the freezing of the agreement as a means of political pressure.

“It will be a small contribution, but be specific. The agreement can only be valid if approved by the Mercosur countries. As Uruguay has already approved, we will work with Argentina and Paraguay. The Lula government has been courageous and it has to say publicly that the agreement is frozen until the resumption of peace negotiations”, said Mr Nilson Mourão (PT-AC).

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign comments:

“After years of campaigning, we are extremely happy with this decision. It is a major victory that has been made possible only by large and determined civil society support in Brazil.”

He continued, “This decision has shown that Latin America’s democratic governments are allies for justice and are ready to take up a principled stand on Palestine, even when under Israeli pressure. Lieberman’s delegation tried to lure Brazil with the illusion they could become ‘mediators’ in the region if they would proof ‘impartial’ and backed Israeli interests with the FTA. However, Brazilian politicians did not fall into the trap.”

Juma’ added, “We now ask the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority to ensure that the ‘No’ to the FTA will be a priority for their regional foreign policies.”

The struggle against the FTA is not over yet; the project will still be analyzed by the commissions on Economic Development and Trade and Industry, and the parliament. It will then head to the senate. However, yesterday’s decision is unlikely to be reversed and has turned the ratification process of the FTA by Brazil and other Mercosur into an effective instrument of pressure on Israel.

Photo: from left to right during the public hearing: Daniel Jadue, Arlene Clemesha, MP Marcondes Gadelha (PSB) who called for the public hearing, Dr. Rosinha (PT), president of the Mercosur parliament at the time the agreement was signed. Photo credit: Luiz Alves.
*Current members of the BNC are: Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI), Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall), Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), General Union of Palestinian Workers, Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition, Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities’ Professors and Employees, General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW), Charitable Organizations Union, Independent Federation of Unions – Palestine (IFU), Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU), National Committee for the Commemoration of the Nakba, Civil Coalition for Defending the Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem, Coalition for Jerusalem, Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations, Palestinian Economic Monitor, Union of Youth Activity Centers – Palestinian Refugee Camps (UYAC)

UN: Gaza water supply could collapse in wake of Israel war

The Gaza Strip’s underground water supply is in danger of collapse due to overuse and contamination, exacerbated by Israel’s offensive there in December, the United Nations said Monday.

A report released at the Nairobi headquarters of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) warned that it could take centuries for damage to Gaza’s aquifer to be reversed unless action was taken now.

“Many of the impacts of the recent hostilities have exacerbated environmental degradation that has been years in the making,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.

Alternative water sources need to be found in order to rest the aquifer, which provides drinking water for Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, UNEP said.

Salt water intrusion and pollution from sewage and agricultural runoff are serious concerns, putting infants in the Gaza Strip at risk of nitrate poisoning, said the report, based on an assessment carried out earlier this year.

Other environmental concerns for Gaza include 600,000 tonnes of rubble created by the Israeli offensive, UNEP said.

The hostilities also saw refuse collection suspended, the build up of hazardous medical waste at landfill sites due to more injured and the release of pollutants such as fuel into the soil, UNEP said.

According to UNEP, more than 1.5 billion dollars could be needed over the next 20 years to restore the aquifer.

Around 1,400 Palestinians died in the offensive, which the Israel Defense Forces launched to stop Hamas and other militant groups firing rockets into Israel.

Happy Decline of Religious Dictatorship

Happy Decline of Religious Dictatorship

Three months after the electoral coup, since when the Islamic Republic has become a military scene, and the Islamic Passdaran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has set aside the pleasantries of the past thirty years in favor of direct involvement in politics, prominent Iranian intellectual, Abdolkarim Soroush sent an open letter to the leader of the Islamic state ayatollah Khamenei. In the letter, he calls for celebrations for the “end of violent methods” of rule, adding that the leader’s confession that the “regime’s dignity had been harmed” as the happiest news he had heard in his life.

Here are some excerpts of Dr. Soroush’s letter.

“The bloody wedding has ended and the fake groom entered the bridal chamber. Ballot boxes shook in fear and monsters danced in the dark.  Victims awaited in white burial robes and prisoners clapped with amputated hands.  The world escorted the groom with rage in one eye and hatred in the other.  The eyes of time cried and blood was splattered on the balcony of the republic.  Satan laughed.  Stars turned dark and wisdom went to sleep.

Mr. Khamenei,

In this shortage of wisdom and justice all complain about you, and I thank you… Not that I have no complaints.  I do, and I have plenty of them, but I shared them with God.  Your ears are so heavy with praise and cuddles of panegyrists that no room is left for voices of complainers.  But I am very thankful to you.  You said that “the regime’s dignity was harmed” and its respect vanished.  Believe me when I say that I have not heard such happy news from anyone throughout my life.  Congratulations to you for announcing the misery and baseness of religious dictatorship.

I am glad that finally the cries of early-risers reached the heavens and flamed God’s fire of revenge. You were willing to sacrifice God’s dignity to keep your own; for people to walk away from religion and piety but not your leadership; for religion, tradition and truth to be crumpled but your dictatorial garb remain crisp.  But God did not want it.  The broken hearts and the sewn lips and the shed blood and the amputated hands and the torn skirts did not want it and did not let it happen.  The pious and the wise and the prophets did not want it.  The deprived and the downtrodden and the oppressed did not allow it.

The crumbling and decaying of fear and legitimacy of the rule of the jurist was the greatest achievement of the uprising of honor over looting and awakened the sleeping lion of courage and strength… Religious dictatorship is ridiculed by both the pious and infidels. It is time to harvest the green farm of the movement.  We have prayed that to God and God is with us.

The turning of the tables has no sweeter and fresher evidence than the fact that your celebrations have all become funerals. Whatever made you laugh one day now makes your cry and shake.  The university that you wanted to praise you now is your nightmare.  Street protests, religious gatherings, Ramaddam, Moharram, Hajj, rituals and mourning have all become the symbols of your bad omen and work against your.

We are a lucky generation.  We shall celebrate the collapse of religious dictatorship.  A moral society and a non-religious government are on our green horoscope.”

Charles Darwin film ‘too controversial for religious America’

Charles Darwin film ‘too controversial for religious America’

11 Sep 2009 A British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American audiences, according to its producer. Creation, starring Paul Bettany, details Darwin’s “struggle between faith and reason” as he wrote On The Origin of Species. The film was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia. However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country [of morons] where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution.

Charles Darwin film ‘too controversial for religious America’

A British film about Charles Darwin has failed to find a US distributor because his theory of evolution is too controversial for American audiences, according to its producer.

By Anita Singh, Showbusiness Editor

Creation: Charles Darwin film too controversial for US

Paul Bettany plays Charles Darwin in Creation Photo: ALLSTAR
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Creation, starring Paul Bettany, details Darwin’s “struggle between faith and reason” as he wrote On The Origin of Species. It depicts him as a man who loses faith in God following the death of his beloved 10-year-old daughter, Annie.

The film was chosen to open the Toronto Film Festival and has its British premiere on Sunday. It has been sold in almost every territory around the world, from Australia to Scandinavia.

However, US distributors have resolutely passed on a film which will prove hugely divisive in a country where, according to a Gallup poll conducted in February, only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution., an influential site which reviews films from a Christian perspective, described Darwin as the father of eugenics and denounced him as “a racist, a bigot and an 1800s naturalist whose legacy is mass murder”. His “half-baked theory” directly influenced Adolf Hitler and led to “atrocities, crimes against humanity, cloning and genetic engineering”, the site stated.

The film has sparked fierce debate on US Christian websites, with a typical comment dismissing evolution as “a silly theory with a serious lack of evidence to support it despite over a century of trying”.

Jeremy Thomas, the Oscar-winning producer of Creation, said he was astonished that such attitudes exist 150 years after On The Origin of Species was published.

“That’s what we’re up against. In 2009. It’s amazing,” he said.

“The film has no distributor in America. It has got a deal everywhere else in the world but in the US, and it’s because of what the film is about. People have been saying this is the best film they’ve seen all year, yet nobody in the US has picked it up.

“It is unbelievable to us that this is still a really hot potato in America. There’s still a great belief that He made the world in six days. It’s quite difficult for we in the UK to imagine religion in America. We live in a country which is no longer so religious. But in the US, outside of New York and LA, religion rules.

“Charles Darwin is, I suppose, the hero of the film. But we tried to make the film in a very even-handed way. Darwin wasn’t saying ‘kill all religion’, he never said such a thing, but he is a totem for people.”

Creation was developed by BBC Films and the UK Film Council, and stars Bettany’s real-life wife Jennifer Connelly as Darwin’s deeply religious wife, Emma. It is based on the book, Annie’s Box, by Darwin’s great-great-grandson, Randal Keynes, and portrays the naturalist as a family man tormented by the death in 1851 of Annie, his favourite child. She is played in the film by 10-year-old newcomer Martha West, the daughter of The Wire star Dominic West.

Early reviews have raved about the film. The Hollywood Reporter said: “It would be a great shame if those with religious convictions spurned the film out of hand as they will find it even-handed and wise.”

Mr Thomas, whose previous films include The Last Emperor and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, said he hoped the reviews would help to secure a distributor. In the UK, special screenings have been set up for Christian groups.