Britain and the US used the so-called “rapprochement” with Gaddafi’s Libya to cultivate a fifth column and prepare the ground for war
Three years ago, in late October 2011, the world witnessed the final defeat of the Libyan Jamahiriya – the name by which the Libyan state was known until overthrown in 2011, meaning literally the “state of the masses” – in the face of a massive onslaught from NATO, its regional allies and local collaborators.
It took seven months for the world’s most powerful military alliance – with a combined military spending of just under $1 trillion per year – to fully destroy the Jamahiriya (a state with a population the size of Wales) and it took a joint British-French-Qatari special-forces operationto finally win control of the capital. In total, 10,000 strike sorties were rained down on Libya,tens of thousands killed and injured, and the country left a battleground for hundreds ofwarring factions, armed to the teeth with weapons, either looted from state armouries or provided directly by NATO and its allies. Britain, France and the US had led a war which had effectively transformed a peaceful, prosperous African country into a textbook example of a “failed state.”
Yet the common image of Libya in the months and years leading up to the invasion was that of a state that had “come in from the cold” and was now enjoying friendly relations with the West. Tony Blair’s famous embrace of Gaddafi in his tent in 2004 was said to have ushered in a new period of “rapprochement” with Western companies rushing to do business in the oil-rich African state, and Gaddafi’s abandonment of a nuclear deterrent apparently indicative of the new spirit of trust and co-operation.
Yet this image was largely a myth. Yes, sanctions were lifted and diplomatic relations restored; but this did not represent any newfound trust and friendship. Gaddafi himself never changed his opinion that the forces of old and new colonialism remained bitter enemies of African unity and independence, and for their part, the US, Britain and France continued to resent the assertiveness and independence of Libyan foreign policy under Gaddafi’s leadership. The African Oil Policy Initiative Group (AOPIG) – an elite US think tank comprising congressmen, military officers and energy industry lobbyists – warned in 2002 that the influence of “adversaries such as Libya” would only grow unless the US significantly increased its military presence on the continent. Yet, despite “rapprochement,” Gaddafi remained a staunch opponent of such a presence, as noted with anxiety in frequent diplomatic cables from the US Embassy. One, for example, from 2009, noted that “the presence of non-African military elements in Libya or elsewhere on the continent” was almost a “neuralgic issue” for Gaddafi. Another cable from 2008 quoted a pro-Western Libyan government official as saying that “there will be no real economic or political reform in Libya until al-Gaddafi passes from the political scene” which would “not happen while Gaddafi is alive,” hardly the image of a man bending to the will of the West. Gaddafi had clearly not been moved by the flattery towards Libya (or “appropriate deference” as another US Embassy cable put it) that was much in evidence during the period of “rapprochement.” Indeed, at the Arab League summit in March 2008, he warned the assembled heads of state that, following the execution of Saddam Hussein, a former “close friend” of the US, “in the future, it’s going to be your turn too…Even you, the friends of America – no, I will say we, we the friends of America – America may approve of our hanging one day.”
So much for a new period of trust and co-operation. Whilst business deals were being signed, Gaddafi remained implacably opposed to the US and European military presence on the continent (as well as leading the fight to reduce their economic presence) and understood well that this might cost him his life. The US too understood this, and despite their outward flattery, behind the scenes were worried and resentful.
Thus, the so-called rapprochement period was anything but. The US continued to remain hostile to the independent spirit of Libya – as evidenced most obviously by Gaddafi’s hostility to the presence of US and European military forces in Africa – and it now seems that they and the British used this period to prepare the ground for the war that eventually took place in 2011.
The US, for example, used their newfound access to Libyan officials to cultivate relations with those who would become their key local allies during the war. Leaked diplomatic cables show that pro-Western Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abdul-Jalil arranged covert meetings between US and Libyan government officials that bypassed the usual official channels and were therefore “under the radar” of the foreign ministry and central government. He was also able to speed up the prisoner release programme that led to the release of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group insurgents who ultimately acted as NATO’s shock troops during the 2011 war. The head of the LIFG – al-Qaeda’s franchise in Libya – eventually became head of Tripoli’s military council, whilst Abdul-Jalil himself became head of the “Transitional National Council,” that was installed by NATO following the fall of the Jamahiriya.
Another key figure groomed by the US in the years preceding the invasion, was Mahmoud Jibril, head of the National Economic Development Board from 2007, who arranged six US training programmes for Libyan diplomats, many of whom subsequently resigned and sided with the US and Britain once the rebellion and invasion got underway.
Finally, the security and intelligence co-operation that was an element of the “rapprochement” period was used to provide the CIA and MI6 with an unprecedented level of information about both Libyan security forces and opposition elements they could cultivate that would prove invaluable for the conduct of the war.
Thus rapprochement, whilst appearing to be an improvement in relations, may actually be a “long game” to lay the groundwork for naked aggression, by building up intelligence and sounding out possible collaborators, effectively building up a fifth column within the state itself. This is what the neo-conservatives in the US Congress opposing Obama’s “thaw” in Iranian relations apparently fail to understand. Thankfully, it is likely that the Iranians understand it perfectly well.
– Dan Glazebrook is a political writer specialising in Western foreign policy. He is author of Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis.
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By SASCHA BERCOVITCH, JUL 29TH 2013.
Caracas, July 29th 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The consolidation of a system of “popular government” will be the primary goal of the second stage of Venezuela’s Street Government initiative, President Nicolas Maduro announced yesterday during a ceremony at Caracas’ Mountain Barracks, where the coffin of Hugo Chavez is being held, to honor the birthday of the late president.
In his speech, Maduro listed ten other objectives that the program would focus on moving forward.
Regarding the issue of insecurity, Maduro spoke of the strengthening of the Plan Secure Homeland, in which members of the military patrol crime-ridden areas. He also called for peace among Venezuelan youth, adding that numerous armed groups would soon turn in their weapons to be incorporated into various social programs.
Further objectives focused on restoring the supply of basic products and exchange rate controls to combat inflation; detecting and prosecuting cases of corruption; and stabilizing the country’s system of electricity, which occasionally leaves blackouts in some regions of the country.
Maduro also expressed support for the Military Street Government program, an initiative launched under new Defense Minister Carmen Melendez.
“Don’t stop: continue with your plans to visit barracks, military units, academies, and schools to strengthen and improve them. You know that you can count on me as President of the Republic and as commander in chief of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces,” he said.
Since being launched at the end of April, Maduro’s Street Government has approved 2,450 projects, which arose from over 2,000 popular assemblies and other activities held throughout the country. Maduro stated that the outreach had allowed the government to interact with over 3,483,000 citizens.
“It’s a contact from the people to the people,” Maduro said, “because we too are the people. Here, the bourgeoisie, the bigwigs of the right, are not governing. The working class people are governing.”
At an earlier event yesterday in Sabaneta, Barinas state, the hometown of Chavez, Maduro indicated that the second phase of the Street Government would begin “very soon … from Sabaneta, through all of Venezuela.”
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By: Brad Michelson, Global Research, August 05, 2013
The CIA was smuggling weapons from Libyan weapons depots to the Syrian rebels during the 2012 attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. According to a report by CNN, an unnamed source has leaked that the alleged cover-up of the circumstances around the attack is to hide the reality of the smuggling, which occurred before the escalation of the Syrian civil war. This shows that the CIA has been arming the Syrian rebels since at least September 2012. The agents were running the operation out of the Benghazi “annex,” which has been reported as a secret safehouse of the CIA in the city, not far from the embassy.
This development emerges just one day after reports of CIA intimidation on employees and foreign ground assets.
In an exclusive published by CNN, a source has revealed an “unprecedented” effort to keep anyone with information on the Benghazi embassy attack from speaking with the media or Congress. Survivors of the attack were asked to signed non-disclosure agreements, reports Fox News.
Transfer of Remains Ceremony for the return of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Libyan embassy employees (Getty Images)
According to the report, a nearly unheard of slew of polygraph testing has been conducted against CIA employees and on-ground assets with information regarding the attack, which resulted in the death of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Typically, the agency will only conduct one test over three or four years. Right now they’re subjecting these people to the tests one or twice a month. This rate of polygraph testing is rare, to say the least.
CNN’s source claims that this is a trend of intimidation that the agency is carrying out. In an exclusive communications in the CNN report, one insider writes, “You don’t jeopardize yourself, you jeopardize your family as well.” Another says, “You have no idea the amount of pressure being brought to bear on anyone with knowledge of this operation.”
A new source told CNN that there were “dozens of people working for the CIA […] on the ground that night, and that the agency is going to great lengths to make sure whatever it was doing, remains a secret.”
The source said that the number of assets was 35, and as many as seven were wounded. Some of those were injured seriously. Although the source did not specify how many of them were CIA, he or she did say that 21 American were working in a building called the “annex,” which is believed to be run by the CIA.
This lack of transparency has begun to concern members of Congress. This list includes Frank Wolf, whose distract includes Langley, Virginia, which houses the CIA headquarters. He has gone as far as alleging the government is involved in a “cover-up.”
“I think it is a form of a cover-up, and I think it’s an attempt to push it under the rug, and I think the American people are feeling the same way. We should have the people who were on the scene come in, testify under oath, do it publicly, and lay it out. And there really isn’t any national security issue involved with regards to that.”
U.S Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) (Getty Images)
Wolf attempted to contact people were had close ties with people who had information about the event and wanted to talk. Then they stopped taking his calls.
“Initially they were not afraid to come forward. They wanted the opportunity, and they wanted to be subpoenaed, because if you’re subpoenaed, it sort of protects you, you’re forced to come before Congress. Now that’s all changed.”
Other reports of cover-ups and conspiracy theories have been emerging since the event last September. In May, Dick Cheney said that Obama is involved in a Benghazi cover-up. Also in May, Slate reported a “smoking gun” indicating a systemic administration cover-up. Some outlets have even claimed and presented evidence that Ambassador Stevens died in the attack “because Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered him there,” supposedly on purpose with prior knowledge of the attack.
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By: WorldTribune.com, July 25, 2013
The United States has been paying thousands of Syrian police officers who deserted the regime of President Bashar Assad.
Officials said the administration of President Barack Obama has approved tens of millions of dollars to pay the salaries of police officers who joined the rebels. They said the officers were working to maintain order in rebel-controlled territory, mostly in northern Syria.
Syrian police armored vehicle in Homs. /AFP/ Anwar Amro
“There are literally thousands of defected police inside of Syria,” Assistant Secretary of State Rick Barton said. “They are credible in their communities because they’ve defected.”
In an address to the Aspen Security Forum on July 19, Barton, responsible for State Department stabilization operations, did not say how many Syrian police deserters were on the U.S. payroll. He said the officers were receiving about $150 per month, a significant salary in Syria.
The address marked a rare disclosure of direct U.S. aid to Sunni rebels in Syria. Congress has approved more than $50 million for the Syrian opposition, much of which has not been spent.
Barton said the police officers remained in their communities despite their defection from the Assad regime. He said the U.S. stipend was meant to ensure that they stay on the job.
“We’d rather have a trained policeman who is trusted by the community than have to bring in a new crowd or bring in an international group that doesn’t know the place,” Barton said.
Barton said the rebel movement was awaiting a range of non-lethal U.S. equipment. He cited night vision systems and medical supplies.
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By: Prof Michel Chossudovsky, Global Research, May 25, 2013.
This article, which describes how genetically modified seeds granted as “food aid” was instrumental in triggering famine. It was first published in The Ecologist in September 2000. It was one the first articles published on Global Research in September 2001. It was also published as a chapter in the second edition of Michel Chossudovsky’s “Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order
The “economic therapy” imposed under IMF-World Bank jurisdiction is in large part responsible for triggering famine and social devastation in Ethiopia and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, wreaking the peasant economy and impoverishing millions of people.
With the complicity of branches of the US government, it has also opened the door for the appropriation of traditional seeds and landraces by US biotech corporations, which behind the scenes have been peddling the adoption of their own genetically modified seeds under the disguise of emergency aid and famine relief.
Moreover, under WTO rules, the agri-biotech conglomerates can manipulate market forces to their advantage as well as exact royalties from farmers. The WTO provides legitimacy to the food giants to dismantle State programmes including emergency grain stocks, seed banks, extension services and agricultural credit, etc.), plunder peasant economies and trigger the outbreak of periodic famines.
Crisis in the Horn
More than 8 million people in Ethiopia – representing 15% of the country’s population – had been locked into “famine zones”. Urban wages have collapsed and unemployed seasonal farm workers and landless peasants have been driven into abysmal poverty. The international relief agencies concur without further examination that climatic factors are the sole and inevitable cause of crop failure and the ensuing humanitarian disaster. What the media tabloids fails to disclose is that – despite the drought and the border war with Eritrea – several million people in the most prosperous agricultural regions have also been driven into starvation. Their predicament is not the consequence of grain shortages but of “free markets” and “bitter economic medicine” imposed under the IMF-World Bank sponsored Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
Ethiopia produces more than 90% of its consumption needs. Yet at the height of the crisis, the nationwide food deficit for 2000 was estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at 764,000 metric tons of grain representing a shortfall of 13 kilos per person per annum.1 In Amhara, grain production (1999-2000) was twenty percent in excess of consumption needs. Yet 2.8 million people in Amhara (representing 17% of the region’s population) became locked into famine zones and are “at risk” according to the FAO. 2 Whereas Amhara’s grain surpluses were in excess of 500,000 tons (1999-2000), its “relief food needs” had been tagged by the international community at close to 300,000 tons.3 A similar pattern prevailed in Oromiya, the country’s most populated state where 1.6 million people were classified “at risk”, despite the availability of more than 600,000 metric tons of surplus grain.4 In both these regions, which include more than 25% of the country’s population, scarcity of food was clearly not the cause of hunger, poverty and social destitution. Yet no explanations are given by the panoply of international relief agencies and agricultural research institutes.
The Promise of the “Free Market”
In Ethiopia, a transitional government came into power in 1991 in the wake of a protracted and destructive civil war. After the pro-Soviet Dergue regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam was unseated, a multi-donor financed Emergency Recovery and Reconstruction Project (ERRP) was hastily put in place to deal with an external debt of close to 9 billion dollars that had accumulated during the Mengistu government. Ethiopia’s outstanding debts with the Paris Club of official creditors were rescheduled in exchange for far-reaching macro-economic reforms. Upheld by US foreign policy, the usual doses of bitter IMF economic medicine were prescribed. Caught in the straightjacket of debt and structural adjustment, the new Transitional Government of Ethiopia (TGE), led by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) – largely formed from the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (PLF) – had committed itself to far-reaching “free market reforms”, despite its leaders’ Marxist leanings. Washington soon tagged Ethiopia alongside Uganda as Africa’s post Cold War free market showpiece.
While social budgets were slashed under the structural adjustment programme (SAP), military expenditure – in part financed by the gush of fresh development loans – quadrupled since 1989.5 With Washington supporting both sides in the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war, US arms sales spiralled. The bounty was being shared between the arms manufacturers and the agribusiness conglomerates. In the post-Cold War era, the latter positioned themselves in the lucrative procurement of emergency aid to war-torn countries. With mounting military spending financed on borrowed money, almost half of Ethiopia’s export revenues was earmarked to meet debt-servicing obligations.
A Policy Framework Paper (PFP) stipulating the precise changes to be carried out in Ethiopia had been carefully drafted in Washington by IMF and World Bank officials on behalf of the transitional government, and was forwarded to Addis Ababa for the signature of the Minister of Finance. The enforcement of severe austerity measures virtually foreclosed the possibility of a meaningful post-war reconstruction and the rebuilding of the country’s shattered infrastructure. The creditors demanded trade liberalization and the full-scale privatization of public utilities, financial institutions, State farms and factories. Civil servants including teachers and health workers were fired, wages were frozen and the labor laws were rescinded to enable State enterprises “to shed their surplus workers”. Meanwhile, corruption became rampant. State assets were auctioned off to foreign capital at bargain prices and Price Waterhouse Cooper was entrusted with the task of coordinating the sale of State property.
In turn, the reforms had led to the fracture of the federal fiscal system. Budget transfers to the State governments were slashed leaving the regions to their own devices. Supported by several donors, “regionalization” was heralded as a “devolution of powers from the federal to the regional governments”. The Bretton Woods institutions knew exactly what they were doing. In the words of the IMF, “[the regions] capacity to deliver effective and efficient development interventions varies widely, as does their capacity for revenue collection”. 6
Wrecking the Peasant Economy
Patterned on the reforms adopted in Kenya in 1991 (see Box 9.1 ), agricultural markets were wilfully manipulated on behalf of the agribusiness conglomerates. The World Bank demanded the rapid removal of price controls and all subsidies to farmers. Transportation and freight prices were deregulated serving to boost food prices in remote areas affected by drought. In turn, the markets for farm inputs including fertiliser and seeds were handed over to private traders including Pioneer Hi-Bred International which entered into a lucrative partnership with Ethiopia Seed Enterprise (ESE), the government’s seed monopoly.7
At the outset of the reforms in 1992, USAID under its Title III program “donated” large quantities of US fertilizer “in exchange for free market reforms”:
[V]arious agricultural commodities [will be provided] in exchange for reforms of grain marketing… and [the] elimination of food subsidies…The reform agenda focuses on liberalization and privatization in the fertilizer and transport sectors in return for financing fertilizer and truck imports…. These program initiatives have given us [an] “entrée” …in defining major [policy] issues… 8
While the stocks of donated US fertiliser were rapidly exhausted; the imported chemicals contributed to displacing local fertiliser producers. The same companies involved in the fertiliser import business were also in control of the domestic wholesale distribution of fertiliser using local level merchants as intermediaries.
Increased output was recorded in commercial farms and in irrigated areas (where fertilizer and high yielding seeds had been applied). The overall tendency, however, was towards greater economic and social polarisation in the countryside, marked by significantly lower yields in less productive marginal lands occupied by the poor peasantry. Even in areas where output had increased, farmers were caught in the clutch of the seed and fertilizer merchants.
In 1997, the Atlanta based Carter Center – which was actively promoting the use of biotechnology tools in maize breeding – proudly announced that “Ethiopia [had] become a food exporter for the first time”.9 Yet in a cruel irony, the donors ordered the dismantling of the emergency grain reserves (set up in the wake of the 1984-85 famine) and the authorities acquiesced.
Instead of replenishing the country’s emergency food stocks, grain was exported to meet Ethiopia’s debt servicing obligations. Close to one million tons of the 1996 harvest was exported, an amount which would have been amply sufficient (according to FAO figures) to meet the 1999-2000 emergency. In fact the same food staple which had been exported (namely maize) was re-imported barely a few months later. The world market had confiscated Ethiopia’s grain reserves.
In return, US surpluses of genetically engineered maize (banned by the European Union) were being dumped on the horn of Africa in the form of emergency aid. The US had found a convenient mechanism for “laundering its stocks of dirty grain”. The agribusiness conglomerates not only cornered Ethiopia’s commodity exports, they were also involved in the procurement of emergency shipments of grain back into Ethiopia. During the 1998-2000 famine, lucrative maize contracts were awarded to giant grain merchants such as Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Cargill Inc. 10
Laundering America’s GM Grain Surpluses
US grain surpluses peddled in war-torn countries also served to weaken the agricultural system. Some 500,000 tons of maize and maize products were “donated” in 1999-2000 by USAID to relief agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP) which in turn collaborates closely with the US Department of Agriculture. At least 30% of these shipments (procured under contract with US agribusiness firms) were surplus genetically modified grain stocks. 11
Boosted by the border war with Eritrea and the plight of thousands of refugees, the influx of contaminated food aid had contributed to the pollution of Ethiopia’s genetic pool of indigenous seeds and landraces. In a cruel irony, the food giants were at the same time gaining control – through the procurement of contaminated food aid – over Ethiopia’s seed banks. According to South Africa’s Biowatch: “Africa is treated as the dustbin of the world…To donate untested food and seed to Africa is not an act of kindness but an attempt to lure Africa into further dependence on foreign aid.” 12
Moreover, part of the “food aid” had been channelled under the “food for work” program which served to further discourage domestic production in favour of grain imports. Under this scheme, impoverished and landless farmers were contracted to work on rural infrastructural programmes in exchange for “donated” US corn.
Meanwhile, the cash earnings of coffee smallholders plummeted. Whereas Pioneer Hi-Bred positioned itself in seed distribution and marketing, Cargill Inc established itself in the markets for grain and coffee through its subsidiary Ethiopian Commodities.12 For the more than 700,000 smallholders with less than 2 hectares that produce between 90 and 95% of the country’s coffee output, the deregulation of agricultural credit combined with low farmgate prices of coffee had triggered increased indebtedness and landlessness, particularly in East Gojam (Ethiopia’s breadbasket).
Biodiversity up for Sale
The country’s extensive reserves of traditional seed varieties (barley, teff, chick peas, sorghum, etc) were being appropriated, genetically manipulated and patented by the agribusiness conglomerates: “Instead of compensation and respect, Ethiopians today are …getting bills from foreign companies that have “patented” native species and now demand payment for their use.”13 The foundations of a “competitive seed industry” were laid under IMF and World Bank auspices.14 The Ethiopian Seed Enterprise (ESE), the government’s seed monopoly joined hands with Pioneer Hi-Bred in the distribution of hi-bred and genetically modified (GM) seeds (together with hybrid resistant herbicide) to smallholders. In turn, the marketing of seeds had been transferred to a network of private contractors and “seed enterprises” with financial support and technical assistance from the World Bank. The “informal” farmer-to-farmer seed exchange was slated to be converted under the World Bank programme into a “formal” market oriented system of “private seed producer-sellers.” 15
In turn, the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute (EARI) was collaborating with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in the development of new hybrids between Mexican and Ethiopian maize varieties.16 Initially established in the 1940s by Pioneer Hi-Bred International with support from the Ford and Rockefeller foundations, CIMMYT developed a cosy relationship with US agribusiness. Together with the UK based Norman Borlaug Institute, CIMMYT constitutes a research arm as well as a mouthpiece of the seed conglomerates. According to the Rural Advancement Foundation (RAFI) “US farmers already earn $150 million annually by growing varieties of barley developed from Ethiopian strains. Yet nobody in Ethiopia is sending them a bill.” 17
Impacts of Famine
The 1984-85 famine had seriously threatened Ethiopia’s reserves of landraces of traditional seeds. In response to the famine, the Dergue government through its Plant Genetic Resource Centre –in collaboration with Seeds of Survival (SoS)– had implemented a programme to preserve Ethiopia’s biodiversity.18 This programme – which was continued under the transitional government – skilfully “linked on-farm conservation and crop improvement by rural communities with government support services”. 19 An extensive network of in-farm sites and conservation plots was established involving some 30,000 farmers. In 1998, coinciding chronologically with the onslaught of the 1998-2000 famine, the government clamped down on seeds of Survival (SoS) and ordered the programme to be closed down. 20
The hidden agenda was to eventually displace the traditional varieties and landraces reproduced in village-level nurseries. The latter were supplying more than 90 percent of the peasantry through a system of farmer-to-farmer exchange. Without fail, the 1998-2000 famine led to a further depletion of local level seed banks: “The reserves of grains [the farmer] normally stores to see him through difficult times are empty. Like 30,000 other households in the [Galga] area, his family have also eaten their stocks of seeds for the next harvest.”21 And a similar process was unfolding in the production of coffee where the genetic base of the arabica beans was threatened as a result of the collapse of farmgate prices and the impoverishment of small-holders.
In other words, the famine – itself in large part a product of the economic reforms imposed to the advantage of large corporations by the IMF, World Bank and the US Government – served to undermine Ethiopia’s genetic diversity to the benefit of the biotech companies. With the weakening of the system of traditional exchange, village level seed banks were being replenished with commercial hi-bred and genetically modified seeds. In turn, the distribution of seeds to impoverished farmers had been integrated with the “food aid” programmes. WPF and USAID relief packages often include “donations” of seeds and fertiliser, thereby favouring the inroad of the agribusiness-biotech companies into Ethiopia’s agricultural heartland. The emergency programs are not the “solution” but the “cause” of famine. By deliberately creating a dependency on GM seeds, they had set the stage for the outbreak of future famines.
This destructive pattern – invariably resulting in famine – is replicated throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. From the onslaught of the debt crisis of the early 1980s, the IMF-World Bank had set the stage for the demise of the peasant economy across the region with devastating results. Now, in Ethiopia, fifteen years after the last famine left nearly one million dead, hunger is once again stalking the land. This time, as eight million people face the risk of starvation, we know that it isn’t just the weather that is to blame.
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By: Kevin Gosztola, The Dissenter, July 23, 2013.
Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who United States President Barack Obama had been keeping in prison, has been released.
Shaye was apparently given a presidential pardonthat requires him to remain in Sanaa for two years. This means he would be prohibited from traveling to many of the areas where US drone strikes have taken place while he was in prison or where they will take place over the next two years.
Journalist Iona Craig, a Times of Londoncorrespondent in Yemen who had covered Shaye’s case for two years, reacted, “Delighted to say, after two years of covering his case, jailed journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye is free. I can’t quite believe it.”
Craig acknowledged that Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi deserved credit for keeping his word and releasing Shaye. She also praised the organization, Index on Censorship, in the United Kingdom for calling attention to “Shaye’s long-running story” and the threat his imprisonment posed to freedom of expression.
Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni youth activist and writer who testified before Congress this year on the impact of US drone operations in his country,reacted, “After FOUR years of jailing him by order from Barack Obama, Yemeni government releases journalist Abdulelah Shaea.” He also said, “Only Barack Obama can compete with Yemen’s dictators (throughout history) in jailing journalists and killing civilians in Yemen,” and, “What a great Iftar Shaea’s kids might be having today; having their father back with them after 4 years in prison.”
The story of Shaye is told in detail by Jeremy Scahill in his book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield. Shaye went to the site of a US cruise missile attack in al Majalah where at least 21 children and 14 women were killed. He also tracked down US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki to interview him on how he could support the US Army medical officer Nidal Hasan, who went on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood and why he believed Umar Farouk Abdulumutallab, the Christmas Day underwear bomber, was justified to have targeted a “civilian airliner.”
His reporting made him a target the United States wanted to neutralize. According to his lawyer, Abdulrahman Barman, whom I interviewed in May 2012:
[Shaye] is one of those who got all of the information quickly and put it out there for the public. His work actually impacted the Yemeni government and US government in ways where they didn’t want to see it. The Yemeni intelligence were trying to actually recruit Shaye and have him work in the intelligence but he refused. So, after the attack on al-Majalah where so many civilians including women and children were murdered, Abdulelah was beaten up and kidnapped [in June 2010] by the national security agency and he was asked to shut up and be silent and not to talk about these kind of issues.
This did not stop Shaye from practicing journalism.
After he was abducted in July 2010 by Yemeni intelligence agents and went on television to share what had happened to him, US government officials, according to Scahill, began “privately telling major US media outlets that were working with Shaye that they should discontinue their relationships with him. The government alleged he was “using his paychecks to support al Qaeda.”
In August 2010, Barman told Firedoglake Shaye was kidnapped by national security agency people. He was beaten and dragged to “national security cars.” He was held for thirty-five days incommunicado while activists protested his detention in front of intelligence services and judicial system buildings. These agencies claimed they had not detained him, but he discovered his location through a released prisoner, who had seen him one of the cells. This led to the national security agencies transferring him to another location.
Barman eventually was able to be with him during interrogation and he said there was no evidence against him for the terrorism-related charges he faced.
Shaye was held in solitary confinement for a period, denied access to his lawyer, and subjected to psychological torture and abuse and appeared in a cage before a special tribunal on September 22, 2010. The judge read the charges he faced, which included “being the ‘media man’ for al Qaeda, recruiting new operatives for the group and providing al Qaeda with photos of Yemeni bases and foreign embassies for potential targeting.
According to Scahill, when Shaye heard the charges, he reacted, “When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan, when I revealed the locations and camps of nomads and civilians in Abyan, Shabwah and Arhab when they were going to be hit by cruise missiles, it was on that day they decided to arrest me…You notice in the court how they have turned all of my journalistic contributions into accusations. All of my journalist constributions and quotations to international reporters and news channels have been turned into accusations.” And, as he was dragged off by security, he shouted, “Yemen, this is a place where, when a young journalist becomes successful, he is viewed with suspicion.”
In January 2011, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison and two years of house arrest in his hometown.
Shaye went on hunger strike in November 2011 and support for his release increased. Yemeni activists protested in front of the US embassy and, finally, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the president of Yemen at the time, was willing to release him. But he received a phone call from President Obama who opposed his release.
In May of this year, Craig reported that Hadi had confirmed there was “an order from the president to release” Shaye “soon.” However, no details were given on when he would be released.
Craig recounted how the US Ambassador to Sanaa, Gerald Feierstein, had told her, “Haidar Shaye is in jail because he was facilitating al-Qaeda and its planning for attacks on Americans and therefore we have a very direct interest in his case and his imprisonment,” despite the fact that no evidence confirming this allegation had ever been presented.
She highlighted the effect of his imprisonment on Yemeni journalists:
Yemeni journalists have repeatedly expressed their lingering fear over America’s meddling in Shaye’s case. Many became afraid to report on air strikes. One Yemeni journalist, like Shaye a specialist on al-Qaeda, renamed himself an “analyst of Islamic groups” and refused to do TV interviews especially with Al Jazeera after what happened to Shaye.
It had been said by Scahill that Shaye was “rotting away losing his mind in a Yemeni prison.”
What effect his imprisonment will have on him as he resumes life obviously remains to be seen, but one hopes he has not lost his spirit and commitment to journalism and, despite restrictions on traveling outside of Sanaa, will eventually return to doing what he was doing before he was unjustly imprisoned at the behest of the Obama administration.
It takes courage to do what Shaye was doing before he was imprisoned in Yemen. Sadly, when he wound up in prison, US media outlets virtually abandoned him. He had contributed to outlets such as theWashington Post and ABC News but they apparently did not ever find it appropriate to raise their voices to get answers from the administration on why a journalist was being kept in prison.
In solidarity, it is good to see Shaye be freed. Obama owes Shaye an apology and reparations of some kind for depriving him of the years of his life that he spent in prison and could not be with his family or out in the field doing journalism. Unfortunately, as much as the administration may claim to support press freedom, it is pretty much a certainty that there will not be a peep from the Obama administration where they acknowledge it was wrong to keep Shaye jailed.