The CIA Torture Report and who Takes Responsibility

US Flat at Guantanamo Bay - Image credit Paul J Richards AFP/Getty Images

US Flag at Guantanamo Bay – Image credit Paul J Richards AFP/Getty Images

The CIA torture report, as discussed on Independent Online, on CIA torture practices is out and it’s a shocker. I suppose if it were a report about the Al Qaeda or the IS we wouldn’t be that shocked. After all you would expect this sort of action from the Muslim extremist groups. But from a Government Agency of the USA?

And it’s pointless for the US citizens to ignore this and to wash their hands off it. The CIA is government which means the people of the USA voted for the politicians who appointed the CIA Director. Their taxes pay their salaries.

It’s even more shocking if you consider that the USA considers itself to be a predominantly Christian society. What does it say about Christianity? About the same as what Christians say about Muslim extremists. Although in many cases the hate speech against Muslims extremists actually means Muslims in general. Murdering, torturing heathens.

What’s even more notable is the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a huge public outcry in the US about this report. Perhaps it’s because it’s no torture on Christians. Or perhaps because the tortured are mostly Muslims and they deserve it. Could also be because at the end of the day the end justifies the means and the USA is after all under threat of extreme terrorist attacks. Just go through airport security in the USA and you can see that fear.

Scary stuff.

Another war for America

Memorial Day in the USA. More and more grieving people.

Memorial Day in the USA. More and more grieving people.

Are the American people not tired of war? One wonders. And didn’t Obama loudly proclaim, in fact it was one of his winning promises during his first time around election spiels, that he would not have committed America to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Promises.

Yet here he is. Doing the big sales pitch to his government and the American and even the Russian folk hoping to persuade them into meddling in Syria.

There’s no disputing the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Or the effect it is having on the countries surrounding this warlocked state. 2 million refugees and more walking across borders every day. Civilian deaths, gas attacks and the shocking tally goes on.

Having said that. Bringing in a sophisticated strike force into this hot bed of guerrilla warfare is hardly going to work. Think Afghanistan, think Vietnam and the list goes on. Even Zimbabwe managed to outlast a supreme army and to wear them down in the end. Imagine Mugabe as head of that war and you can see how unlikely that seemed.

But besides the problem of trying to wage a war where one side kind of works along some sort of ethical rules if that is at all possible in war and the other side that fights dirty, throwing arms at a humanitarian crisis doesn’t seem to me a solution.

Of course the American arms industry is already gleefully rubbing its hands at the thought of all that spending about to happen. And I would imagine that Obama during the convenient G20 gathering happening right now will extract money from the developed world to pay for his little war mongering (not the first US president to play that card – thinking Desert Storm) so that a bunch of foreign exchange will help with the embattled US debt.

Kind of supplying a mercenary army to the world. In fact one wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the US army could consist predominantly of soldiers (PMCs) supplied by the Blackwaters of this world. Or whatever they are called now.

Besides the unlikelihood of actually winning this war, whatever a win might mean, throwing arms at a humanitarian crisis isn’t really a solution. More arms, more fighting, more civilian deaths.

But the biggest hurdle is really knowing what is going on and who is really behind the strife and how the conflict could be resolved. Nobody really knows who spread the chemical weapons. It does seem likely that a company in the UK supplied it though. Yup. Nasty, nasty developed world.

Whatever the US decides to do, armed intervention is not the right way of doing it. Just alone the fact that the Asians and Russians never mind China don’t want to know is an indication here. Keep out. Let them sort out their own problems. If you want to do something, send more aid to care for refugees. Give them the opportunity to settle in other countries if they wish.

Who is the enemy by the way? The rebels or the government. If the Syrian government is the rebel then isn’t the US aiding the overthrow of a legitimate government. Or at least the world accepted the government as legitimate until not so long ago. A whole new can of worms….

Unemployment is not always about no jobs being available

The United Nations brought out a report on domestic workers at the beginning of 2013. An interesting statistic was that Spain is one of the top employers of domestic workers and most of them are foreigners. Hey what? The country with one of the highest unemployment numbers in Europe imports labour. About 2 million of them. That could make quite a dent in the millions that are currently unemployed.

So why do Spaniards not want to work as domestic workers? Well who does, one might even want to ask. After all there are umpteen jobs out there that nobody wants to do. Like for instance clean the floors in a supermarket, or stack shelves, or serve behind a counter. How mindless is that? How many times a day do you want to grab sausages, weigh them, put them in a packet and slap a price tag on it? And toilet cleaning?

It’s obviously not anything any self respecting person wants to do, surely.

And so it comes as somewhat of a surprise to see that ranked in number 5 place of the all time best companies to work for in the USA in 2012 is in fact a grocery chain. Yip. Their staff turnover is a low 3.6%. People love to work there. Regardless of whatever they have to do, and cleaning of toilets must be one of the tasks surely, nobody leaves their job. Because they love working there.

So it’s not actually about the type of work that one has to do that makes one want to work at something. It is all about a whole bunch of other stuff. In fact some serious research into wages and salaries has brought up that high rewards are really only necessary if the rest of the situation is unbearable.

It is probably safe to say that the counter staff at Wegmans, number 5 in the best companies to work for, are not earning Investment Banker bonuses. And at a loss of 3.6% the excuse these execs sprout of having to keep good staff and hence the high salaries doesn’t actually cut it either.

Of course high skills and knowledge are something one has to pay for. Cheating others out of money obviously requires skills. Oh wait, Investment Bankers don’t steal money, they just shuffle it around. To deserving individuals. My bad. (I’m sure there are a ton of highly skilled ethical bankers out there too. Regrettably their good deeds generally go unnoticed.)

It’s a harsh world we live in

What makes me say that?

Obama has some partial agreement for his debt limit deal. And the Asian stock exchanges are celebrating. I am presuming that once London and New York open the same scenes of happiness will be shown by share price movement towards the heavens.

So why is this not good news? I suppose it’s good news for companies holding stocks in other companies and the big investors. The little guys have mostly had to leave the stock markets one would imagine after the serious ups and downs would have wiped most of the value from their shareportfolios. Especially the dramatic fall during the 2008 recession would have left the man in the street much poorer.

The debt limit deal does the following. No increases in tax. Just cuts to government spending that will involve thousands of programmes most of them dealing with services to the people. 1.8 trillion US dollars or more in deficit cuts will surely affect the poor and middle class the most.

After all the wealthy don’t need social services. And besides that they have gotten away unscathed in terms of paying more tax.

Of course to fix the situation in the immediate term the debt ceiling will be lifted by nearly one trillion US dollars. To pay it off, services will be cut.

And that’s what is so horrid. Many jobs will be lost, benefits to marginalised people such as disabled and disadvantaged folk will surely be cut, public parks closed down or run on shoestring budgets, museums left behind and the list will be a long one.

But the stock exchanges throughout the world see this as a good thing and are celebrating with upwardly moving share prices. They see it as creating more wealth for the investors while screwing over the little guy. Just doesn’t make sense to me.

The arms industry is doing very well in Germany

German tanker ‘Leopard’

At the end of the second world war Germany, as part of its punishment, was not allowed an arms industry or have a military force. That was in 1945. In the meantime this has changed somewhat.

In fact the change is remarkable. Germany is now the third largest arms manufacturer in the world after the USA and Russia. For some interesting data check SIPRI’s website.

A debate is raging in Germany at the moment. The discussion is around the order for German tanks. It’s the “Leopard” that has the military personnel of countries such as Saudi Arabia drooling at the mouth.

However, the human rights practices in Saudi Arabia are not exactly what the Germans would like to see. The great debate is therefore around the moral issue of supplying arms to a dictatorship.

It’s not only the fact that Saudi Arabia has no regard for human rights that’s the issue here. It’s the fact that Saudi Arabia supports its neighbouring countries to uphold their versions of dictatorships.

In other words Saudi Arabia is the enforcer in the Arabic world. It’s big Daddy who gives support when the despots’ thrones are being threatened because the citizens are no longer willing to take the abuse.

It’s an interesting question surely. Do you fill an order of arms to keep people in jobs or do you have a conscience and say no.

For me it’s a totally different one. I fail to see any value in supplying arms, besides that of making money of course. Arms of any nature are purchased in order to do harm to people. Whether your own as in the case of the Arabian civil unrest or on supposed enemies such as neighbouring countries with whom you have a dispute.

Having arms is an easy way out of resolving a conflict. In fact it’s always considered the tool of lesser evolved humans to settle disputes using excessive force. Don’t agree with me? Step outside and we will have it out with our fists and any other weapons we can find.

Of course one can’t say that weapons cause wars. But having weapons makes it easier to get nasty and do a lot more harm than if you only had fists. It’s the same principle with gun control in the USA. If no weapons were allowed, either to be manufactured or to be owned, there would be much less vicious violence.

Violence of the sort that shoots down 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School just wouldn’t be possible. And you wouldn’t need to fish out the old argument that it’s every person’s right to protect themselves and their family. You wouldn’t need a gun anymore because nobody else would have one either.

At the end of the day in Germany it will boil down to money. This arms deal will go through. Germany will end up selling their tankers to Saudi Arabia. Or if not there, to somebody else. The arms industry world wide is only about making money. It has nothing to do with peace keeping, dispute settlement, law enforcement and any other morally good sounding reason.

One of the best police forces in the world, the one in the UK, does not use weapons in it’s daily policing of the nation. But put one of those lethal things into the hands of police with limited education and training such as Zimbabwe and you have major problems. In fact even in the hands of a more educated force such as in the US guns lead to umpteen deaths that could have been avoided.

Well you might say that the German arms industry keeps 80 000 people employed and isn’t that a good thing? Well that argument has been around for a while. Does the end justify the means? Do the means justify the end.

Either way you look at it, it’s a problem. And it must be something of concern to the 80 000 people too surely? You are making bullets to kill people. Is this not a moral issue? One wonders.

High birth rates surely contribute to drought

Once more Ethiopia, Somalia and its neighbours face a horrific drought. Watching some clips on BBC news I was struck by the numbers of children surrounding each woman. It made me check population growth figures and Ethiopia is at a whopping 5.4 while Somali is on 6.4.

On average a woman in Ethiopia has 5.4 children. And see the figure for Somalia above. It’s a staggering number. If this is the average what sizes are some of these families?

In a predominantly agrarian society the family will want to live off the land as much as possible. This includes tapping into natural water supplies such as wells, but also affects the shrub and tree density as these resources are depleted to allow the family to cook its food and warm themselves in the cold weather.

Add to this the additional foods that have to be grown, the extra grazing for livestock and so many more contributing factors and one can see that this mass of humanity is seriously affecting the situation and contributing to the conditions that lead to droughts.

It’s not that I am not sympathetic to the plight of these people. I can think of nothing worse than not being able to care for my family. I cannot imagine the horror of seeing ones children die of hunger and thirst in front of ones eyes. Unimaginable.

And there is also no doubt that the disaster facing the Horn of Africa is most certainly caused by low or no rain fall. But a lower population growth would have been able to cope better, work towards mitigating the effects such as planting drought resistant crops and conserving the meager water resources more effectively.

But at some stage Ethiopians and their neighbours will need to take responsibility for what they are doing. The West will again bail out the people with emergency food supplies, refugee camps, temporary school facilities, shelter etc. Isn’t it time the Horn of Africa started working towards their own solution.

And the main focus needs to be on women. What assistance and guidance can be given to help women have less children? More education and legal rights for women to be able to determine their own destiny might be a long term solution. Better health clinics to allow women access to birth control and other health related services in the short term.

Whatever can be done one thing is certain. Focus on the women and help them to improve the lives of their families. It will make a huge difference to people of the Horn of Africa. Let’s face it the predominantly male run governments are certainly not doing enough to look after their citizens.

Of course this could be considered a drop in the ocean. Something that will not make much of a difference. Who can fight against natural disasters. And other arguments. Well, human beings are resourceful given the right resources. Give women an education and you will see the situation change dramatically. It’s done it for Europe and America. Let it happen in Africa too.

There be dragons

Well actually it is more like ‘There be Monsters’.

Towards the end of May I wrote about the Monster that we the consumers have bred. The Media. We, who have a voracious appetite for bad news, terrible news about famous people, scandals and disasters, have ensured the media delivers just that.

My subject was about Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) the then Chairman of the IMF who had been arrested for rape and tried and found guilty by the Media. The hysteria around this case caused the judge to initially deny bail meaning that DSK ended up for some time at one of the worst prisons in the USA.

Then with expensive and high-powered lawyers DSK managed to get some form of bail which involved full on house arrest as well as 24hr guarding which costs DSK had to pick up himself at a princely sum of $250 000 per month.

Not only that but with the hype of the Media DSK and his wife struggled to find an apartment as the Apartment Building Owner committees wouldn’t allow him to rent in their buildings. After all he was now a convicted criminal. So they were forced to spend even more on a house.

Even this blog had a comment questioning why I would consider him innocent. Well, for one he hadn’t had his day in court at the time. Isn’t that enough? Innocent until proven guilty is the law in the USA.

So I was not really surprised to read that DSK has been freed without bail.

It appears that the prosecution is now not so sure about the honesty of its one and only key witness. Her story has started to fall apart. Now the prosecution is scrambling to pick up some crumbs hoping to persuade DSK to plead guilty to some lesser charge. And good for him he is not playing ball.

It’s a pity that it is highly unlikely DSK will be able to make the Media accountable for this public lynching. In a matter of days the baying reporters wrecked this man’s future. After all he was a prime candidate to become the front-runner for the French elections.

Let’s just hope that he is able to pick up the pieces and find a way forward. He should have our universal sympathy and apology for what we have done to him. But regrettably it doesn’t work like that. We, the hardened public, will shrug our shoulders and move on to feast on the next scandal/disaster/public hanging. Reminds me of Madame Defarge. So much for evolved people. We haven’t changed at all it seems.

Shame on us.

Meddling in the affairs of others

There is an excellent article by the ex president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki on what went wrong in Cote D’Ivore. In a nutshell he states that the Ivory Coast was not ready for democratic elections due to the political set up in the country at the time.

He states the Ivorians held elections due to international pressure. The elections lead to political factions fighting each other. And the rest is history.

Now this might be true or it might not be. The point that I want to make is that if this were so that would mean the bloodshed and turmoil was due mainly to the interference of the international politicians.

Even if this were not the case and I can’t really comment on the reality of this as I haven’t been following developments in the Ivory Coast that closely, it is most certainly the case in other instances where external interference in a country’s matters has lead to bad outcomes. Worse outcomes than if the country had been left to sort out its own problems.

Of course it is understandable that external parties might want to help out. So to speak. And it is also understood that the West tends to beat itself up about not doing anything to stop the Rwanda genocide for instance. And there are many more atrocities performed by leaders against their own people. Cambodia for instance had the Khmer Rouge, South American nations went through a spate of dictators who outdid themselves in the crimes against their own people. There’s an endless list.

But there are also many instances where the international (read the West) fervour for installing their belief systems on a country has caused more harm than good.

Not every country needs democracy. And yes, this statement in itself can lead to a massive outcry and throwing of rotten eggs at the person who could possibly have this view point.

Vietnam works very well on a non democratic level. So does China. And yes there are some hidden and sometimes not so hidden evils that happen but then there have been some nasties in the USA and the rest of the so called developed world too.

Germany for instance allowed the USA to pick off Muslim citizens in its country after 9/11 if the US suspected they might be terrorists. No due process here. Just a straight forward kidnapping by CIA folk. Off the street in some instances. Tortured and locked up without trial for years. Just because their first name happened to be Muhammed.

This kind of mindless interference reminds me of this kind of scenario. Stoke up an unguarded fire in the fireplace with small kids in the house. The kids burn themselves. Then you spank the kids for going near the fire and burning themselves.

All I’m saying here is that the West should be a lot more cautious before insisting their belief systems are the correct ones and should be adhered to no matter what the circumstances. Bit like Aid. But that’s another story all on its own.

It’s not about dictators overstaying their welcome in the Middle East

its about poverty and hopelessness. I think the world is misreading the situation playing out in the Arab world. Well let’s put it rather that the Western world is getting it wrong.

We think democracy is something to fight for. Well. Not really. The freedom to vote for a bunch of wallies (to put it mildly) isn’t really on people’s hit list of desirable freedoms nowadays. Hence the low turnout at the polls in the developed world.

It’s not even about freedom of speech or association. Not about freedom of religious affiliation and whatever other good stuff gets written into fancy constitutions that are seldom upheld. Or women’s rights.

It’s about being able to earn a living to feed the family and give our children a safe and hopefully better future than we have ourselves. Bottom line.

This is a wish that every adult has. Even families without children wish this for their friends and relatives and in fact for any child on earth. My parents had it, I have it for my kids. Same wish.

That’s why the Arab world was in fact not prepared or ready for a military uprising and were caught off side when suddenly a war started all around them. They didn’t want political power or even to run the government. They just want a better life.

The fact that the anger is directed at the top leaders is understandable. They are the ones in charge. But they don’t necessarily have a substitution for those leaders sitting there for forty odd years.

Because it’s not about political change. This is not a South Africa where the ANC fought and lobbied the West for support and managed to get sanctions imposed against the White government. South Africa was ready for change. There was a well educated and politically astute new government sitting in the wings ready to take over.

This is not the case in the Middle East. The people taking to the streets to protest do not have anything else in mind but the fact that they want a better deal. That’s it.

So how does the sending of a now NATO organised military intervention fit into this scene? Well. Just about as badly as it did in Iraq where the local population hadn’t actually asked for the intervention that since 2003 has plunged their country into a war zone. Sure some people were happy to see Saddam toppled. But a lengthy war that displaced millions? Not really anybody’s first choice.

In the same way a handful of protesters in Libya had asked for a no-fly zone. Loudly via CNN. The same handful shown on a loop. But did anybody ask the general public that this is what they wanted? Did they want an all out war?

They wanted it as little as the people of the West wanted it. Best we go back to the drawing board and sort this mess out. Quickly!

Is this a good idea the bombing of Libya?

Interfering in the political set up of another country by sending in missiles just doesn’t sound like a good idea. Especially the entire might of the West – USA, UK and France amongst others. It’s like taking a baseball bat to kill an ant. What else gets destroyed along the way? Half the furniture? Or in this case much more serious stuff such as civilian lives, infrastructure and an entire system.

Why does the West always think it has to met out such enormous punishment? And especially as this is a leader/dictator they kind of tolerated for years on end. What has changed so much that suddenly the military powers are getting involved.

In fact what happened to the no fly zone story? According to the New York Times: -American and European forces began a broad campaign of strikes against the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Saturday, unleashing warplanes and missiles in a military intervention on a scale not seen in the Arab world since the Iraq war. Read the full article here.

What is with that?

It’s probably a few things such as it’s good PR to be seen to be doing something. It might just increase their popularity with the people of their countries. After all President Sarkozy who was the first to shoot, is hardly popular at home in France. Perhaps this flexing of small muscles in the little man might just turn the tide of public dislike.

Obama’s ratings are improving but the Republicans are still gaining. Perhaps he thinks by being the aggressor he will win back the vote of the folk who have migrated back into the Republican camp.

Cameron in the UK? He is trying to force through a bunch of very unkind new measures which will seriously and detrimentally affect the lives of his countrymen. Maybe he is trying to divert attention outside of the country while he messes up his homeland. And we are not even going to try to describe the dismal state of Merkel’s party in Germany.

Then there’s the impatience Europe might be having with the rioting happening across the pond called the Mediterranean. It’s been going on for too long. Too many people fleeing and crossing into Greece and Italy. They don’t know what to do with the thousands of refugees. Isn’t it easier to quickly sort out Libya so that this tide might be stemmed.

Maybe it’s also a matter of flexing the muscles and showing the East, those new brats on the block called India and China, that the power is still in the West. Of course this is an illusion. But then when have the Allied forces ever shown a semblance of clear thinking. Just look at Iraq and Afghanistan. Rest your case on those two examples alone.

Whatever the reason for this attack that started even before the UN resolution had been passed, shades of Iraq again, it’s not a good one. Attacking a country with full force just because there are some internal political upheavals is not enough reason. After all there have been internal conflicts that have not brought about such fierce attack. For instance the Ivory Coast has been left to it’s devices while the leadership, what leadership, fights over the spoils.

Ah. But then the Ivory Coast doesn’t have the ninth largest oil reserves in the world. Almost forgot to mention that one.