World War III: A status update

A continuation of thoughts from World War III: A picture and earlier A Stateless War

Since the above articles in September 2012 and 2010, it has become abundantly clear that none of the world’s governments have any motivation or ability to stand up to the corporate multinational empires headquartered in the countries of the five eyes and their associates. The UN vote in support of Palestine in November of 2012 was a symbolic rebellion, but in the end only proved how ineffective that rebellion would be as Israel instantly paraded their complete contempt for the world’s opinion. As Israel and the US promised, the vote changed nothing on the ground. A relentless stream of new treaties and laws is entrenching the corporate umbrella that now has legal control over the world’s governments. Sovereignty is dead. Corporations are people and people are products.

People no longer accept, or even have any knowledge of, their governance or the laws controlling them. States no longer pretend that laws apply to them. Society worldwide is ruled purely by military coercion. The uprisings which began in 2010 were thoroughly co-opted in early 2011 and used to create unending massacres and division that terrify anyone interested in suggesting change. Government turnover is meaningless in any case as the resource corporations and their security militias and media retain power regardless of political change. We need focus.

Empire on parade

The NSA revelations, like the US state cables before them, proved that things are much worse than we even thought and resistance is more futile. This message has been drummed incessantly in the past years. Since the curtain fell and both sovereignty and governance by the people were proven to be an illusion, there is no longer any pretense of maintaining the illusion. The current propaganda seems instead bent on proving the futility of resistance.

I’ve been writing for the last several years on the empire’s military coming-out in the media and what it says about their progress. We are long past the point where any transparency about military might is intended to result in change, much less reduction or disarmament. Since Obama’s earliest speeches he has been bragging about the “finest fighting force the world has ever seen” and the expansion of its empire. These are not secrets. Like in the Republic of North Korea and every previous empire, the media parade of invincible military might is meant to impress and suppress pretenders to the throne. Julian’s long ago essay on conspiracy has been turned on the people as the NSA and others make activists terrified of voicing dissent much less acting upon it. The message is also for any pretenders from BRICS or elsewhere as the US regime forces the landing of a plane containing a head of state, strip searches a diplomat and spies brazenly on allies.

Complicit military propaganda is presented as brave and daring journalism, somehow achieved with full co-operation from the empire itself. Junta kingpin Erik Prince is not shy of journalists and not at all reticent in proclaiming his allegiance only to himself. These places are not where secrets lie. This pretense of exposing secrets covers for the lack of exposing real secrets: the unheard voices of victims of Shell Oil in the Niger Delta, Areva uranium mining in Khazakstan, Niger, Gabon and elsewhere, the myriad corporate predators of the Amazon, the Kachin and Rohingya people of Myanmar, the silence invariably present wherever the corporate mafia abuses are the most extreme. Noisy debates on government transparency cover the complete lack of debate on corporate transparency. Congratulations on the democratic permeability of circles of government power deflect from the impenetrable circle of corporate power.

When the most silent voices cannot be ignored they are represented by controlled channels through NGOs and media, claiming to speak for those they are really speaking over. With a few truly heroic exceptions, the NGOs selectively report abuses and channel funding to further the aims of their government and corporate funders and enablers. The US funded NGOs in the Amazon seek to disrupt government trade with China and other competitors and rebellious governments co-opt the message for their own NGO partners and shut down the competing voices. Meanwhile, the people affected are unheard and the corporations in one form or another continue their destruction.

As people circumvent their governments to reach past the nationalist othering and connect globally, global Thought Leaders are propped up and paraded around to direct traffic for The Revolution™. They roam the world issuing platitudes of despair and futility straight out of 1984. “They control everything. Resistance is futile. Don’t use Facebook.” ‘They‘ cannot be named as they are bankrolling both the Thought Leaders and their solutions. Ideas become ideology and ideologies are branded and polluted. Opportunists are promoted, realists are co-opted, idealists are frightened and radicals are shot, just as Stratfor taught they should be. When a billionaire as invested in the status quo as Pierre Omidyar says celebrity Thought Leaders are replacing organizations it is as much a command as a statement. Read the playbook. Don’t play.

The world needs real journalism. We are decades, even centuries, behind what we need to know about the people really in power, the corporate shareholders. They must become our new celebrities, the targets of so much gossip we will soon understand their relationships and weaknesses better than we understand those of reality TV stars. These are the people we are fighting, not the figureheads and militias they pay to stand between us.

War is Peace: The year of the aggressive peacekeepers

The 2013 War is Peace initiative saw the creation of the first ‘aggressive peacekeeping’ mandates, one in the Democratic Republic of Congo and one in Mali. It isn’t risking much to predict the same will happen in the Central African Republic and South Sudan. This carries group affiliation to the natural conclusion we saw in the 2006 creation of ‘murder by an unprivileged belligerent in violation of laws of war’ dubbed a war crime by the Guantanamo Military Commissions Act. In 2006, the US decreed that the US military could kill children, but it was a war crime for children to kill US Special Forces commandos. In 2013 the United Nations allowed UN peacekeepers to retain the protection of it being a war crime to kill them while simultaneously allowing them to initiate attacks on those they deem to be a potential (not immediate) threat. Not only has the UN put the right of all legitimate peacekeepers to protection at risk, they have established precedent by which a foreign army can invade and conquer a sovereign state and have citizens tried as war criminals if they resist. The international media has been happy to accept this with no question and obediently report the killing of ‘peacekeepers’ in both Mali and the DRC with no explanation that the definition of that word has been changed to mean its opposite.1.png


UNSC permanent members: United States, Britain, Russia, France, China.

A look at the UN Security Council provides a clue to the escalating violence despite UN attempts to ‘establish peace’. Peace will never be produced by those invested in war. China is the fastest growing arms exporter of the past decade. Canada’s current government was incensed at being refused a seat on the UNSC just as their arms sales soared. Arms dealers are the obvious winners in the current economy. While an international peacekeeping force used at the discretion of the assembly of United Nations may once have seemed a good idea for humanity, the UNSC as run by the global war masters is just good corporate marketing strategy, enabling endless discussions about men with guns killing other men with guns and arguments over which side needs more guns.2.png


Professional militias, weapons dealers and would-be kingpins have hijacked every attempt at governance reform. Particularly, the gates of Libya and Syria were opened and militias and weapons are pouring at an even greater rate into Africa as they have for years into South America. Any thought of protest against most governments is a thought of horrific civil war as drugs, guns, militias, poverty, child soldiers and extremist propaganda are joined in an explosive mix of threatened instability just below every veneer. The gun culture in the United States is greater than anywhere on earth but the military and prison systems of the most industrialized states all retained the ability to obliterate any dissidents too close to home.3.png


The international media and entertainment industries provide non-stop advertising for the arms industry. Every conflict, real or Hollywood, is reported as ‘good guys’ killing ‘bad guys’, an endless parade of men with guns and flashy military equipment with no time for the stories of those working for peace. Men with guns is one of the most boring topics to keep covering as they are always doing the same thing, killing people, but the entire narrative is always men with guns and politicians with an occasional stat about the number of women raped. ‘There are no good guys’ say men reporting on men with guns, apparently unable to see the people illustrating their own report. The propaganda that men with guns can only be defeated by support for other men with guns has eliminated everyone else from negotiations as generals sit down to discuss peace and refuse a seat to anyone not making war. “In Congo, war has been largely fought on women’s bodies,” but power over peace is given to the men who fought. Efforts to build society are ignored or blocked, efforts to destroy it are rewarded with power.

“Guns don’t kill people!” shrieks the industry building autonomous drones. “Drugs kill”, however. Really, it’s all about who is importing and who is exporting. The idea of disarmament for peace now seems quaint and old-fashioned in most of the world, while in the country most dependent on the weapons industry it produces hysterical rage. Militias for peace have been formed all over the world, killing people to save lives. If there was the slightest chance of these weapons disturbing real power they would be abolished immediately but these freedoms are to enable the mass slaughter of those without power. Peace once meant disarmament. Now disarmament is only mentioned as an excuse for war.

As competing corporation/governments move increasingly aggressively into all continents, all sides of corporate money and media create so-called ‘ethnic’ or ‘religious’ unrest to destabilize dissidents and competitors. Any land dispute between corporations and residents is rewritten as an ethnic dispute to distract from the real aggressors and pitch people against each other instead. Extremist ideologies inciting genocide are promoted by corporate interests. Western media reports wars in foreign countries in graphic sensationalist detail and always framed as ethnic or religious, inciting civil war instead of economic reform. Media no longer obsessively cover teen suicides or anorexia because of concern over copycats, but coverage of men with guns is exempt from the responsibility to protect. “Freedom of the press!” chant those so completely coerced by cradle to grave propaganda they have lost even the perception to know when it controls them. As we have seen, freedom of speech is only accepted when only a few are allowed to speak, it loses favour quickly when all voices are allowed. If money and media removed the focus from men with guns, the world would cease to be run by them.

For any student of history, this is the preferred formula for dealing with every uprising, the reason regimes can be flipped over and over again with no change at all in the society. The United States Constitution’s first and second amendments have been inflicted on the entire world because both have been extremely useful for keeping corporate interests in power. There is now a slight possibility to push freedom of speech to the point where it can be used by everyone if we work very hard to pull up all voices that need to be heard and give them the amplification to drown out corporate propaganda. Freedom of speech for the powerless is far more important than freedom of speech for corporate media.

The solutions to peace will be found among the people trying to raise children, grow food and build society, not men with guns. ‘Foreign aid’ has been used for decades to tip the balance of power from one group of men with guns to another. It doesn’t bring peace. If all that financial control was given directly to those in the refugee camps, there would be change. This revolution is not about men with guns vs other men with guns. It is between creators and destroyers, peaceful people and the corporate mafia controlled militias, worldwide. If someone bothered counting bodies globally instead of chanting about regional unrest, this would be more evident.

The mafia won

In 2010 I wrote “There are only two possible explanations for a sovereign nation to bankrupt its own citizens and its government in order to set up a huge international surveillance and military system, “the finest fighting force the world has ever seen” that they do not actually own or control. One, everyone is completely insane, or two, it has not been a sovereign nation for a long time.”

In 2012 I wrote “The US does not actually control their own military or intelligence and the private corporations that do, do not operate from patriotic loyalty and are available to the highest bidder.”

It is time to stop pretending most governments of the world have anything to say about anything. Corporate mercenaries are in control worldwide. The only governments with control are the ones where the state is the corporations. Not only do people like Erik Prince and assorted other mafia bosses control the military and intelligence services of the world, he is (with China this time, sorry US nationalists) in sub-Saharan Africa with Frontier Resource Group (did you know you were a frontier, Africa?) investing in “energy, mining, agriculture and logistic opportunities”. He once more has his own private army. Prince will be facing off against other mafia militias in Africa, most notably his own creation Academi, formerly Blackwater. There are small and large militias doing the same in most of the world, still with a veneer of legal structure in the northern hemisphere but only because the mafia was allowed to write the laws.

While you are petitioning the US government to restrain the NSA, Erik Prince and friends are battling with other people’s lives for control of the world’s coltan (your phones). The corporations that already control your military and your intelligence have decided it is more expedient to just expand their security militias rather than deal with your governments. They are also continuing to rewrite the laws worldwide to exempt themselves from any accountability and turn people into commodities with no societal rights. As long as people refuse to accept that capitalism has failed, trade economy is tyranny, and the right to bear arms is the right to rule by mafia, they will continue to expand.

The people united will never be defeated

We have no idea whether that slogan we rediscovered in 2011 is true as we have never put in any effort to even reach all the people much less unite them. The first right of all people must be the right to communicate, directly. Without direct communication for all there is no way to see past the corporate propaganda and hear the voices with workable solutions. Revolutionary movements that could care less about all the people not at the table will not be building a new paradigm, they are simply seeking to replace the leaders at the top with themselves. Those that would rather amplify celebrities than people at risk are increasing power for the powerful and refusing to empower those who need it. If the people are ever going to be united, we must put far more energy into reaching down for those at the bottom instead of attempting to climb up to those on the top.

The propaganda which teaches that ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’ can perform the same actions and still be on separate sides has been highly useful in misdirecting anger. This fight is between those who commit atrocities and those who do not. Our actions define us, not our company. All war coverage that is pitched as ‘ethnic’ or ‘religious’ is a lie. The conflict is between the idea of peace and society and the idea of war and dictatorship. We do not need leaders or affiliations, if we follow the ideas we agree with we will have the company we need. If we show solidarity by ideas, not the borders that divide us into economic markets, we can still win. If no one in China cares who is paying Erik Prince’s gang of thugs and buying his pillaged resources, if no one in Canada cares that their courts are shielding 75% of the world’s resource corporations from human rights prosecutions and no one in Australia cares that refugees from their own corporate plunder are being drowned at sea and imprisoned if they make it to Australia, then we lost long ago.

Empire is simply a concept. Laws, governing principles, property and wealth are all concepts. We are being enslaved by our acceptance of these concepts. If we remove everything between the sociopaths in power and the people they are tormenting – remove the militias, the media, the money, the governments, the corporations, the laws that protect corporations, the NGOs, thought leaders, celebrities, distractions and group affiliations – there is nothing left but a very few, very ordinary people.

We need to start the trials.


The biggest stories of 2014

Yes, of course we can decide that now. Barring near complete planetary destruction, we can decide what we want the biggest stories to be in advance and just get them on the front pages. Those in power have been doing that forever, focusing exclusively on celebrities, celebrated for their ability to distract, sell propaganda and model rampant consumerism, politicians, those not-too-bright replaceable figureheads standing in for the real powerful who never change and are never in the news, and men with guns, presented as both our greatest fear and our greatest hope to keep the general population in a mood of infantile dependence and insecurity. If citizen journalism is worth anything it should be able to create focus of its own. These are my suggestions for 2014.

The corporations

Truly an endless source of material. Practically every story on the front pages right now can lead straight back to a corporation, although they almost never do. Every conflict presented as ‘ethnic’ or ‘religious’ has also an economic and resource based aspect. Every island in dispute has a seabed of corporate interest. Militias are hired, trained and armed by corporations. Trade deals revolve around corporations. International laws are created for corporations. The NSA and other intelligence agencies spy for corporations. International banking is completely intertwined with other corporations. Infrastructure is contingent on resource corporation development. Laws against so-called eco-terrorism and even other terrorism are created and advertised by governments in support of resource corporations. Every environmental story has a resource corporation or several behind it.

The real celebrities

The people behind the corporations are equally fascinating since they are also the people that run the governments, the financial world bodies, the international courts and the trade deals or they are connected to them. The web of what they own, what boards they sit on, who they are related to and who they are allies or enemies with is endlessly intriguing and dictates the course of our lives. In our personality driven world it is not enough to have a logo as the subject of a story and nor should it be. The CEO’s and presidents currently hired to front stories with their faces need to be replaced with the faces of the owners, those actually controlling and benefitting the most from the corporations’ activities.

Why do school children learn the names of dead Presidents and Prime Ministers instead of the names of the billionaires who control their media and their lives? Why is there about 444,000 Google search results for “Mother Theresa controversy” and only 80,700 results for “Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation controversy” (the biggest private foundation in the world)? Why are there no Wikipedia pages (or mainstream news coverage required to create them) for most of the world’s most powerful?

We need a database of all of the holdings of these people, what boards they sit on and who they are related to as friends, families and business associates. Celebrity gossip is crucial information but we have misdirected it. These celebrities are far more interesting than the ones we are being trained to focus on.

The money trail

We need longer trails to put stories in context. Instead of just pointing at laws, we need to show who is behind proposing the laws and who is benefiting from them. What corporations (and owners) are benefiting from TPP and other trade treaties? What foundations and celebrities are making their funding in African countries contingent on the spread of homophobia and homophobic laws? Instead of just a non-stop advertisement for war products featuring the latest in fighter jets and killer drones, we need to see all of the people who benefit from the sale of each piece of equipment purchased for a war zone and where that equipment and the trained militias end up. Illegal sale of weapons, drugs and resources go to fund legitimate governments, armies and corporations. Illegal militias are hired as security for resource corporations and others. Hostages tortured for ransom in the Sinai, refugees sold as slaves, the booming human trafficking industry, all have financial trails that do not fit into 500 word articles but are essential to follow.

The other people

We need to overcome the overwhelming nationalism and other group affiliations that still makes some voices far more equal than others. As we have seen repeatedly, people are valued more as they are seen more. Getting media to show atrocities being committed is less necessary (or reliable) for verification than it is for generating an emotional response and a direct human bond from other people. Everyone needs direct amplification when needed, not as props for western saviours or products to promote NGOs but to tell their own stories and establish their own direct support networks. We need to continue the fight against communication blackouts, not just by Internet shutdowns but also by refusal of Internet access to prisoners and others and by our own nationalism and other group affiliations refusing to amplify all voices equally. It is absurd to feel that someone you don’t know dying is vastly more important than someone else you don’t know dying. The focus on some lives as more important than others greatly benefits corporations and governments who do not want any coverage of their activities outside their home base.

Omar Khadr: War criminal, child soldier… or neither? (French)


Par Heather Marsh

Prises de vue de l’interrogatoire d’Omar Khadr. Via Flickr

Lundi, Omar Khadr a fait sa première apparition devant un tribunal canadien. Après un périple de onze ans qui l’a mené de Bagram à Guantánamo, puis à la prison canadienne de Millhaven, ce natif de Toronto est désormais détenu dans la prison fédérale d’Edmonton. Il avait 15 ans quand il a été capturé et torturé à Bagram. Il a fêté ses 27 ans jeudi dernier.

Si vous n’avez jamais entendu parler de l’affaire, voilà, en gros, ce qui s’est passé : quand les Américains ont arrêté Omar en Afghanistan, on l’accusait d’avoir lancé une grenade ayant causé la mort d’un soldat américain. Il a clamé son innocence pendant huit ans, jusqu’à ce qu’il signe un accord, en 2010, qui lui a permis de sortir de Guantánamo. Cinq chefs d’accusation de crimes de guerre ont été retenus contre Omar, des chefs d’accusation qui n’ont pas été reconnus comme tels dans le reste du monde – dont le Canada.

Le cas d’Omar est particulièrement complexe. Même si le soldat américain qu’il est accusé d’avoir tué a certainement été victime d’un jet de grenade, il n’existe aucun élément prouvant que c’est Omar qui l’a lancée. Même si Omar a certainement confessé ces crimes, c’était au bout de huit ans de torture et après qu’on lui a laissé le choix entre camper sur ses positions et rester à Guantánamo ou avouer ses crimes et rencontrer un juge au Canada. Les conditions de sa confession et la confession elle-même posent problème.

Cela mérite d’être relevé, d’autant que le récent recours Hamdan aux États-Unis – en référence àl’ancien chauffeur d’Oussama Ben Laden, relaxé après avoir fait face à plusieurs chefs d’accusation pour terrorisme – a montré que les crimes de guerre jugés par la Commission devaient faire l’objet d’un accord international. Cette jurisprudence pourrait être exploitée dans l’affaire Omar Khadr.

La Cour Suprême canadienne est arrivée à la conclusion que le gouvernement américain avait violé les droits d’Omar, mais a laissé la décision au gouvernement Harper qui bien entendu a botté en touche.

Le Premier ministre Stephen Harper n’a pas mâché ses mots quant à l’issue souhaitée du jugement, le jour même du procès, dans une tentative non dissimulée d’influencer les délibérés. Harper a juré de régler cette affaire « vigoureusement », en utilisant des tournures de phrase très similaires à celles de Steven Blaney, ministre de la Sécurité publique du Canada.

L’avocat d’Omar, Dennis Edney, s’est présenté devant le tribunal pour plaider en faveur du transfert de son client d’une prison fédérale à une institution provinciale. Il a argué de l’âge de l’accusé au moment des faits. Dans un exercice troublant de double discours judiciaire, l’accusation soutient qu’Omar n’a pas vraiment été condamné à huit ans, mais plutôt à cinq peines de huit ans purgées en même temps. Le vice-président de la Cour Suprême, J.D. Rook, a remis son jugement à une date ultérieure encore indéterminée.

La journaliste Heather Marsh était présente au procès d’Omar lundi et nous a écrit sur le sujet.

Un essaim de journalistes autour de l’avocat d’Omar Khadr après le procès de lundi. Photo : Heather Marsh

Lundi, le tribunal semblait rempli de soutiens à Omar Khadr. Nombre d’entre eux étaient habillés en orange ou portaient des rubans orange. J’ai parlé à plusieurs d’entre eux. Une lycéenne qui séchait probablement les cours, des étudiants qui avaient pourtant des examens la semaine suivante, et des gens de tous âges et de toutes ethnies. Les journalistes ont dû être transférés dans le box des jurés et le public encouragé à se serrer : environ 120 personnes étaient présentes dans la salle, et une retransmission en direct était diffusée dans une salle annexe.

Un vigile a dit à l’avocat d’Omar qu’il pourrait s’exprimer dans une salle privée en dehors du tribunal, mais Dennis Edney a rétorqué que c’était une séance ouverte et qu’Omar avait le droit d’être présent. Après une courte altercation, Omar a pu entrer.

Contrairement à ce qu’ont déclaré certains médias le décrivant comme un « géant », Omar est un homme de taille moyenne avec une carrure de joueur de foot et une barbe soigneusement taillée. Quand il est rentré au pays l’année dernière, il a écrit à Seger M., un de ses soutiens, âgé de 11 ans : « Moi aussi je joue au foot, mais je ne pense pas être aussi bon que toi. Normalement, je joue en défense ou dans les buts. » Il parle au présent, même si, depuis son retour au Canada, il vit en cellule, dans un isolement quasi complet.

Heather Marsh : « Le juge dans l’affaire Khadr est vice-président de la Cour Suprême, il s’est auto-assigné l’affaire qui repose sur de multiples condamnations, consécutives ou simultanées. »

Col. Morris Davis : « @GeorgieBC (Heather Marsh) Sur les pages 4891-92 de son compte-rendu du procès, il est clair qu’il s’agit de 8 ans au total pour l’ensemble de ses délits. »

L’auteur discutant de l’inanité des arguments de la Cour avec l’ancien procureur général d’Omar, quand il était à Guantánamo.

Omar m’a écrit lorsqu’il a été rapatrié au Canada, à l’automne dernier : « Au moins, nous avons un système juridique digne de ce nom. » Cette semaine, il a aussi confié à un autre correspondant que ce serait sa première comparution devant « un vrai tribunal ». Il semblait calme et heureux tout au long de la procédure, et adressait de fréquents sourires à la foule. La majeure partie des discussions que j’ai pu entendre lors des pauses tournait autour de son apparence et de son comportement, et non des arguments légaux. Omar et son groupe de soutien étaient tout autant stupéfaits de se rencontrer enfin, après onze ans et demi.

Au cours de l’après-midi, un homme a interrompu les débats en déchirant sa chemise et en hurlant : « Ça suffit ! Il avait 15 ans ». Il s’est fait sortir sans qu’Omar ou le reste de la salle ne lui prête attention. Àla fin de la journée, après le départ du juge et la sortie sous escorte d’Omar, un déchaînement spontané a envahi la salle, des gens faisaient des signes de la main et criaient : « Bravo, Omar ! » et « Sois fort ! »

Après l’audience, Dennis Edney est allé à la rencontre des journalistes à l’extérieur du tribunal et leur a dit qu’Omar aurait beaucoup plus de chance d’être libéré sur parole dans un centre de détention provincial, où il aurait accès à des programmes de réinsertion, en contact avec la société. « S’il reste dans un pénitencier fédéral où il passe le plus clair de son temps enfermé, où sa vie est en danger, il ne sortira jamais. »

Une manifestante en faveur d’Omar Khadr, en 2009. Via WikiCommons.

Tant qu’Omar restera dans une prison fédérale, il sera maintenu dans la solitude pour sa propre sécurité. Il a écrit la chose suivante à un ami, à propos de Millhaven : « Ma nouvelle prison est complètement différente. Les gens sont gentils en général, mais ils ont plein de mauvaises habitudes. La vie ici t’oblige à vivre comme un animal parce que c’est comme une jungle. Je dois changer un peu pour pouvoir me défendre, mais ne pas perdre mon humanité et mon identité. »

Afin d’être éligible à la liberté sur parole, Omar doit prouver qu’il peut évoluer parmi les personnalités que notre société considère comme les plus intolérables. Au cours de son procès, il a été répété à plusieurs reprises qu’il ne pourrait pas être libéré parce qu’il avait « baigné dans le djihad » en tant que prisonnier de Guantánamo et à Bagram lors de ses années de formation. Ça devient du Kafka.

Il est de notoriété publique que le Canada a violé les droits d’Omar Khadr en l’interrogeant pour le compte des États-Unis tout en sachant pertinemment qu’il venait de vivre trois semaines de privation de sommeil et autres « techniques d’assouplissement » avant l’interrogatoire. Pendant huit ans, on a aussi refusé de lui fournir ne serait-ce qu’une paire de lunettes pour préserver l’acuité visuelle restante dans son œil encore valide ou de lui dispenser la moindre éducation afin de lui permettre, éventuellement, de se réinsérer. S’il n’a reçu aucune éducation formelle au-delà de l’école primaire, il a récemment décroché un diplôme de niveau première de l’État d’Ontario, avec plus de 90 %de bonnes réponses dans tous les sujets, anglais, maths, histoire, géographie et sciences.

L’isolement cellulaire est considéré par beaucoup comme de la torture, et plusieurs années de recherches ont montré les dommages permanents qui pouvaient en résulter. Après onze ans de solitude presque totale, Omar semble être l’une des exceptions à la règle. Il réussit même à tirer du positif de cet isolement. En avril, il a écrit à Aaf Post, aux Pays-Bas : « On ne prend pas souvent le temps de profiter des choses simples. On croit qu’elles nous sont dues. C’est en perdant ces choses, comme ouvrir une fenêtre le matin, prendre un bon bol d’air frais ou entendre le gazouillis des oiseaux, qu’on les apprécie vraiment. Même si je suis en prison, il y a toujours un tas de belles choses autour. Voir le soleil briller ou se coucher, voir la neige tomber. »

« Comme tu l’as dit, c’est merveilleux d’être de retour au Canada. Aussi difficile que soit ce changement, ça en vaut la peine. Il y a trop de belles choses dans cette vie pour s’inquiéter ou se soucier des mauvaises choses. Les choses sont ce que nous en faisons. La prison peut être une privation de liberté ou une occasion de gagner en sagesse. Pour moi, c’est la deuxième option. »

L’auteure tient à remercier l’association Free Omar Khadr pour l’aide apportée dans ses recherches.

Suivre Heather sur Twitter : @GeorgieBC.

Omar Khadr: War criminal, child soldier… or neither?


Previously published on VICE

Frames from Omar Khadr’s interrogation. via Flickr.

Omar Khadr made his first appearance in a Canadian court on Monday. After an 11-year journey from Bagram to Guantánamo to Canada’s Millhaven Institution, the Toronto-born man is now in Edmonton’s federal prison. He was 15 when he was captured and tortured at Bagram. He turned 27 last Thursday.  

If you’re not familiar with the case it goes loosely as follows: When the Americans first arrested Omar in Afghanistan, he was accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American solider. For eight years he maintained his innocence, until he signed a plea deal in 2010 that got him out of Guantanamo. Omar was then convicted of five counts of war crimes for his actions, which were not recognized as such anywhere else in the world including Canada.  

Omar’s case is wildly complex. While the American solider he is accused of killing was certainly killed by a grenade, there is no evidence showing that Omar ever had or threw one. While Omar certainly did confess to these crimes, it was after eight years of torture and given his option to either insist he’s innocent and stay in Gitmo, or confess to the crimes and see a judge in Canada, it certainly sounds like the terms of his confession were problematic at best.

All of this is important to note, especially in light of the recent Hamdan appeal in the US—which refers to the case of Osama Bin Laden’s former driver whose terrorism charges were thrown out—that pointed out war crimes tried by the Commission must be internationally recognized. This verdict may end up being leveraged effectively in the Omar Khadr case.

The Canadian Supreme Court has even ruled that our government violated Omar’s rights, but left the remedy up to the Harper government who of course declined to provide any solution.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been making strong statements on the preferred outcome on the day of the trial, in an apparent attempt to influence the court proceedings. Harper has vowed to fight the case “vigorously,” and used almost the same phrasing as that of Steven Blaney, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety.

Omar’s counsel, Dennis Edney, was in court to argue that he should be transferred to a provincialinstitution from a federal institution due to his age when the alleged crimes took place. In a confusing instance of legal doublespeak, the Crown’s prosecutors are arguing that Omar has not really been sentenced to eight years, but rather to five eight-year sentences served at the same time. Associate Chief Justice J.D. Rook has reserved judgment to a currently undetermined future date.

Heather Marsh, a journalist, was at Omar’s trial on Monday and wrote about it for us.

The media swarming Khadr’s lawyer outside of Monday’s hearing.
 Photo by the author.

On Monday, the court was filled with what seemed to be exclusively supporters of Omar Khadr. Many were wearing orange or orange ribbons and I spoke to several of them. There was a high school student who said she was done for the day, students from several different universities skipping class even though they had exams next week, and people of all ages and ethnic groups. After the media were moved to the jury box and people were encouraged to squeeze up, 120 people were in the court room and a live feed was set up for more in an overflow room.

A security guard told Omar’s counsel that Omar would be available to talk to them in a private interview room outside—but Edney insisted it was an open court and Omar could appear. After a brief altercation he was allowed to be present.

Contrary to earlier media reports depicting him as a “giant,” Omar is an average sized man with a soccer player build and a neatly trimmed beard. When he came home last year he wrote to Seger M., an 11-year old supporter, “I play soccer too, but I don’t think I’m as good as you. I usually play defense or goal keeper.” He looks it, although since he came home he has been almost entirely in solitary confinement instead.

The author discussing the insanity of the crown’s arguments with Omar’s former chief prosecutor from Guantanamo.

Omar wrote to me when he was finally transferred back to Canada last fall, “At least we have a proper legal system,” and he told another correspondent this week that this would be his first appearance in “a real court.” He seemed composed and happy throughout the proceedings, smiling frequently at people. Most of the discussion I overheard during the breaks was regarding his appearance and demeanor, not the legal arguments. Omar and the gallery of supporters seemed equally amazed that they were finally meeting after 11 ½ years of hearing about each other.

During the afternoon, a man interrupted proceedings to rip off his shirt and say “Enough! He was 15,” and object to the endless paper shuffling and statute citing. He was escorted out with no acknowledgement from Omar or the rest of the court room. At the end of the day, after the judge had left and as Omar was being led away there was a spontaneous outburst from the room with people waving and calling “Good job, Omar!” and “Stay strong!”

After the hearing Edney met with media outside and told them Omar’s chances of parole would be much greater in a provincial institution as he would have access to the programs and the society he needs to rehabilitate himself. “If he remains in a federal penitentiary, where he doesn’t get any programs, where he spends most of his life locked away, where his life was threatened, he’ll never get out.”

An Omar Khadr protester in 2009. via WikiCommons.

As long as Omar is in federal prison he will probably be in solitary as necessary protection. As he wrote a friend last February about Millhaven, “My new place is different definitely. People are generally nice, but with a lot of bad habits. Life here compels you to live like an animal because it is like a jungle. I have to change a little to defend myself, but not lose my humanity and who I am.”

In order to be eligible for parole, Omar must prove he can thrive among those our society has deemed most unacceptable. During his trial the point was repeatedly made that he could not be released as he had been supposedly “marinated in jihad” as an inmate of Guantanamo and Bagram during his formative years. The catch-22 continues.

Canada famously violated Omar Khadr’s rights by interrogating him for the US when they knew he had been subjected to three weeks of severe sleep deprivation torture and other ‘softening up techniques’ prior to questioning. They also refused for eight years to provide even a pair of glasses to preserve the vision remaining in his one good eye or to provide any education for him to rehabilitate himself. After receiving no formal education past elementary school, he recently passed Ontario’s Grade 10 high school equivalency exams with more than 90 percent in all subjects, English, math, history, geography and science.

Solitary confinement is widely recognized as torture, and many years of studies have shown the permanent damage that can result. After over 11 years of almost entirely solitary, Omar appears to be one of the exceptions. He can even find benefit in the deprivation of experience, education and companionship. In April he wrote to Aaf Post in the Netherlands, “Usually we don’t appreciate the small things. We take them for granted. Once you lose these things like opening your window in the morning and taking a breath of fresh air or seeing a bird chirping, you really appreciate these things. Even though I’m in prison there are still a lot of small beautiful things around us. Seeing the sun rise or set or to see the snow fall.”

“Being back in Canada is, as you said, a wonderful thing. As big or difficult as change may be, it’s worth it. There are too many good things in this life (as hard as it might be) to worry or even care about the bad things. Things are what we make out of them. Prison can be a deprivation of freedom, or a time to enlighten ourselves. For me it is the latter.”


The author would like to thank the Free Omar Khadr group for research assistance. 

Follow Heather on Twitter: @GeorgieBC

Twitter conversations of note

Twitter conversations I found interesting enough to save via Aaron’s Twitter Viewer. Will be updated.

2013/05/16 Regarding Nigeria military’s human rights violations:

2013/03/13 HRW’s Ken Roth, Rwanda Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo regarding Bosco Ntaganda’s escape to Rwanda

2013/01/11 Rape of men by women

2012/12/30 Women stereotyping and opressing heterosexual male nerds. Yep.

2012/11/19 What happened to every single Gaza tweet.

Approval Economy: In Practice

Approval Economy background.

I have talked a lot in this blog about money and society and the need for new solutions. My opinion from years of volunteering is that money ruins every volunteer effort. As soon as a need receives funding, it becomes a noun and a product instead of an action. As soon as a project is allowed to fundraise, there is a need to manufacture scarcity, to withhold work until payment is received and to continue the need for the project. And as soon as a project receives money, the motives of the person receiving money are suspect.

I do not want to go to a ‘crowd funding website’ and ask a centralized go-between to stand between me and anyone who chooses to support me. I do not want to waste my time creating glossy videos and applications to explain to strangers what you already know, my work. I do not want to ally myself with corporate media or NGO’s, I am trying to make both obsolete. I do not want to develop a persona, tell you all about my personal life, appear on panels and talks to become a character and a brand; I am an action not a noun and I value my right to privacy.

I do not want to be the designated official person for any action I initiate, I want to be free to let others take my place whenever I find people willing. I want to continue to promote others instead of seeking to enhance my own reputation for a livelihood. I want to give freely my ideas and work to anyone who can use them instead of hoarding them to myself for profit.

I do not want to ask you to support every action I take. I will not delay my work waiting for approval or funding. Most of what I work on are things that nobody knows of or supports, that is why I give them my priority. I do not want to jump on popular, widely supported causes to gain support. I want to continue to speak even when everyone disagrees with me as they very frequently do. I want to speak for Gaza when the world says it is anti-semitic to do so, I want to speak for the DRC when the west doesn’t know or care where that is, I want to speak for the Rohingya when no one believes me. I want to criticize democracy, consensus, peer to peer economies, libertarianism and Marxism when everyone I know supports them. I want to advocate for people who have no supporters or funding behind them and tell people about things they may not want to know about.

I do not want to sell you a book, a talk, art, advocacy, a button or a T-shirt, anything I do is available to you as always, for free. But I want it recognized that what I do is not ‘unemployment’, that I am a contributing and valuable member of society entitled to the benefits of society. I want to have the human dignity of societal approval and recognition. I want to be able to support myself and others in society without any of us becoming a product.

If you do approve of the actions I have taken in the past and the work I do, if you trust that I am a valuable member of your community and I would not take more than I require, and if you agree that my time is better spent on my work than in trying to justify my work to strangers, please consider supporting me. If you are unable to support me directly please vouch for my work to others who may be able to.

My work

For those that do not know me well, following is some of what I have done, since 2010, under this name, online. I also do a very above average amount of community and individual support offline, and I have done this work for many years, under a variety of names. I have worked for many years to amplify voices of those unheard in society and to create political change that would prevent the abuse of power.

I wrote a book about you.

I ran the Wikileaks news site, Wikileaks Central from 2010 to 2012. I acted as sole administrator and editor and I wrote half the content on the site. The content I did not write, I sought out, edited and fact checked. I found stories and interviews for others, did background work, and taught writers, most of whom had not used html, did not speak English well, or were not accustomed to writing to a professional standard. I taught basic security procedures to both writers and sources. I did all the work on the site which was not writing, including sysadmin, correspondence, spam control and community building. I worked with activists around the world to organize mass protests under the Action section. I dealt with a daily stream of people with proposals or communications for Wikileaks and forwarded those that I had vetted. I created connections between many people that resulted in action of significant political consequence.

I promoted News, Analysis and Action. After I found stories and did all the background research into them, I then promoted action taken where necessary. I worked with a huge variety of groups to promote peaceful and legal action on stories, from grass roots supporters, lawyers, NGO’s, Anonymous and anyone else willing to act, on stories from Wikileaks and Tunisia in 2010 to Gaza, DRC, Rohingya and Gabon recently.

I advocated for individuals such as Abdul Ilah Shayi, Ai Wei Wei, Marc Emery, Tal al-Mallouhi, Rudolf Elmer, and many more.

I advocated for movements such as Day of Rages, Hope Riders, Jasmine Revolution, Take the Square, Occupy and Anonymous.

I have deeply researched documents such as the US State cables and the Palestine papers to tie information not widely known to the current news.

I have covered human rights and political news extensively and attempted to move the news conversation from personal gossip to the news we require in order to govern ourselves.

I have supported and promoted the actions of any group or individual fighting for the same results as I am, from human rights organizations and journalists I find effective to grass roots campaigns such as Cryptoparties, the Bradley Manning campaign or Guantanamo action groups. I worked with Balkanleaks and Bivol to promote their work in Bulgaria, recommended them to Wikileaks as a media partner and helped amplify their work on Wikileaks Central. I used the news site to help amplify many other individuals and organizations working towards the same goals, including whistleblowing sites.

I have worked for years to get the facts of Omar Khadr’s case to Canadians and the rest of the world and to expose the extreme corruption and complicit media coverage which has surrounded his case.

I have worked to expose corruption in governance and justice systems and biased media coverage.

I attempt to create immediate global action on urgent humanitarian causes that the mainstream media is misrepresenting and ignoring, such as the openly announced plan to attack Gaza, originally billed as Operation Cast Lead 2, the M23 crisis in the DRC which the world’s largest UN peacekeeping force declined to stop, and the Rohingya genocide in Burma/Myanmar.

I have done extensive research into human trafficking, paedosadist rings, slavery and ritual killings, including initiating and providing all the background research and connections for the OpGabon campaign.

I have worked to create action for social change with many international movements, on Mumble, mailing lists, irc, skype, and every other communication venue, in every time zone, for years. I have worked with Spanish indignados movements and MENA day of rages to create solidarity in the US and Canada. I have helped run many collaborative pages, pads, ops, events, twitter accounts, etc.

I have tried to develop a methodology for collaboration that would work on a global scale. I hope to finish this series in the next few months and publish it as an e-book for activists who wish to take the discussion further. This incomplete work has been translated and used in online courses, social movements and discussion groups internationally already, so I am hopeful it will be useful.

I have worked to expand access to communication from areas left out of the global conversation. I have networked with activists in many African countries, indigenous South American groups, China, and South East Asia to encourage increased global communication. I am working with Tribler and others to create a free software peer to peer platform for global collaboration to enable both discussion and collaborative research.

For all of the work described above and much much more, I have never received any funding at all. I truly believe that to seek funding attached to any of this work would create a motivational conflict and make a product of both me and the people I work with. Since we are still in a world which requires currency to participate in society, I would like to suggest we start using that currency as a confirmation of approval instead of exchange. I can no longer continue my work without assistance; I am seeking your approval to allow me to participate in society.

Through Paypal
Regular donations through Gittip

Random media quoting me:

Sydney Morning Herald about Occupy
BBC about Global Square
VICE about Rohingya
Daily Dot about Rohingya
Daily Dot about Gabon
GlobalPost about Rohingya
GlobalPost about Gabon
VentureBeat about Rohingya
The Diplomat about Omar Khadr
Global Post re fracking protest and OpSWN research.

The Rohingya movement, as seen by a journalist in Burma

Children at an unregistered Rohingya refugee Camp in South East Bangladesh. Photo by no_direction_home.

Previously published by VICE

Heather Marsh is an activist working within the #RohingyaNOW movement.

Last Sunday, the Internet was temporarily shaken up by a campaign designed to highlight the plight of the Rohingya people of Burma. On Twitter, the hashtag #RohingyaNOW was aworldwide trend for more than two hours, peaking at the top spot. Two in-person demonstrations were held (and livestreamed), one for several hours in front of the CNN building in LA. Plus, an article about the campaign made the front page of Reddit.

Most dismissed it all as a cute trick, a one-day initiative amplified by the Anonymous and Occupy collectives and human rights activists around the world wanting to raise awareness. Instead, it was a milestone in a campaign that has been running for many months, an idea we have had for years and an introduction to our next phase.

Since the second Rohingya massacre in October, the Burmese people have watched the world ignore or misrepresent what many experts are calling a genocide. President Thien Sien has been on a world tour where he has been met with open arms, receiving a 21 gun salute in Australia and $5.9 billion of international debt cancelled. Canada has opened its first ever Burmese embassyand multinational resource corporations are queuing for contracts. No one is in the mood to bring up genocide, even when a third massacre was openly planned for this month.

The difference social media can make in public awareness was highlighted last fall as violence in Gaza was covered in great detail, and violence in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burma almost not at all. The activists behind the latest campaign believe in grass roots journalism where everyone speaks their own story. If a population of 800,000 people are in refugee camps and villages that look like concentration camps and are completely cut off from communication, what then? They die silently? Not if the Internet can help it.

On March 10, we started a crowdsourced campaign to help boost grassroots journalism from Burma. We have used crowdsourced funding to purchase airfare for two established independent journalists familiar with the Rohingya story. They flew there and we are now working to get as many long distance interviews with locals set up as possible. In the last week, the campaign for the Rohingya has expanded against violence in the rest of Burma as well.

I spoke with journalist Assed Baig about why we felt it was necessary for him to go to Burma in person and what he has seen.

“As a ‘westerner’ I have certain privilege and protection,” says Baig. “I am working with local journos. Using their expertise and crediting them without landing them in jail. We need to report in context, socially, historically and take in the balance of power. We shouldn’t wait for death to take place before we report, we should shine a light on shit that is going to go down. Call power to account. Be the voice of the voiceless. Sounds cheesy, but it is true.”

Baig says he is “of Kashmiri origin, working class background, had to work damn hard to get where I am today. My mum still doesn’t speak English!” and he has experienced media bias. It is important to give people their own voices. “They report themselves and we listen. They are not ‘poor brown people’ these are real people, with names, lives, feelings, and they have a right to be heard.”

Baig is referring to Meiktila refugees who fled to Mandalay to escape the violence. He was given pictures of the massacre in Meiktila by people who were there, from their own cameras. “There are pictures of charred remains. People driving and walking past. Their family members have fled so there is no one to bury them or even identify them.” Baig also spoke to a fourteen year old who saw people beaten to death, and then burnt, as he and others hid in some houses and watched the slaughter.

A 17 year-old student told him about running for his life in Meiktila. He told him: “We saw the younger children falling over, the older kids had to help them. “I’m not sure where some of my other friends are.” Baig showed him the pictures he had from a local journalist. Some were teenagers. Two had massive gashes on the back of the neck, as if hit by a machete. They all had been lying out for three days before someone took the picture. The boy touched the screen and struggled to speak. “That’s my friend,” he said “and this one, those are Osama and Karimullah.” The rest of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition.

These are the stories we set out to tell, but Baig has found others. A convoy led by monks has set out from Yangon and is en route to Meiktila. On board are students and others, Muslims and Buddhists together, bringing food, water and good will to the displaced people still camped in the Meiktila stadium and elsewhere. Buddhists and student groups from Mandalay city launched a rescue operation saving hundreds of lives in Meiktila when the violence started. People who have lived peacefully side-by-side for years are helping each other and standing up against extremism and intolerance.

Rights organizations and witnesses have accused the military of complicity or participation in the last two massacres. Many sources in Burma have worried the violence is being incited to justify a return to military rule, a spectre which reared its head this week with martial law surrounding Meiktila. Baig quotes a Muslim in Yangon who said: “the military want to assert their power, and want to prove they are the ones that can restore order. They are using us as to prove their point.”

Follow Heather on Twitter: @GeorgieBC

Follow Assed Baig on Twitter: @AssedBaig