Blimp deflator: Letting out the gas

Zaoui’s story full of ‘holes’

Posted in uncategorized by Blimp deflator on April 26, 2009

I have received the following email about Ahmed Zaoui, the Algerian refugee, from a friend in New Zealand:

I’m in the other camp, I’m sorry to admit. Everything I’ve read or heard or seen leads me to conclude that he is “guilty” at some level. I cannot accept that three countries (France, Belgium & Switzerland) all refused him asylum on spurious political grounds. It seems to me, after a careful reading of all the material available, that there appear to be holes in his story large enough to drive an articulated lorry through. Naturally, I don’t choose to judge others, but I keep my distance from the man and his supporters, the whole kit & caboodle.

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Ahmed Zaoui in Palmerston North

Posted in uncategorized by Blimp deflator on April 25, 2009

Report from Manawatu Standard
For background information on “Palmerston North’s most famous new resident”, go to To sign up at Linkbee and monetize your links, go to

Israeli Forces ‘Can’t Clear Themselves’

Posted in uncategorized by Blimp deflator on April 24, 2009

By Jason Koutsoukis. Published on April 23, 2009, by The Age (Australia)

GAZA CITY – A coalition of Jewish and Arab human rights groups have criticised as inadequate an Israel Defence Forces investigation into its activities during the January offensive in Gaza.
The IDF’s internal investigation found that no Palestinian civilians were harmed intentionally by IDF soldiers during the 23-day offensive, which killed more than 1300 Palestinians and wounded more than 4000.

Defence Minister Ehud Barak hailed the report as further proof of the IDF’s moral stature.

“The IDF is not afraid to investigate itself and, in that, prove that its operations are ethical,” Mr Barak said.

When civilians were killed by IDF fire, the report found that this resulted from operational mistakes that were “bound to happen during intensive fighting”.

But a coalition of Israeli human rights groups, which includes B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights, Yesh Din, The Public Committee Against Torture and Rabbis for Human Rights, said the only way to truly investigate alleged war crimes was through an independent inquiry.

“Military investigation results published today refer to tens of innocent Palestinian civilians killed by ‘rare mishaps’ in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead,” they said in a joint statement.

“However, data collected by Israeli human rights organisations shows that many civilians were killed in Gaza not due to ‘mishaps’ but as a direct result of the military’s chosen policy implemented throughout the fighting.

“If the military claims that there were no major deficiencies in its conduct in Gaza, it is not clear why Israel refuses to co-operate with the UN investigation team, which requests an investigation of alleged violations of international law by both Israel and Hamas.”

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza also called on Israel to co-operate with the UN investigation team.

The IDF inquiry was conducted by officers not involved in Operation Cast Lead and focused on reports of civilians who been targeted intentionally, and also attacks on civilian infrastructure, UN facilities and the use of white phosphorus.

It said the worst example of mistaken fire was an attack on a family home in Gaza City’s Zeitoun district, which killed 21 members of the same family.

According to the IDF, their deaths were the result of an equipment malfunction.

Copyright © 2009. Fairfax Digital

‘Britain’s Jewish Problem’

Posted in uncategorized by Blimp deflator on April 23, 2009

[For those doing research into anti-Semitism: I have] a copy of Britain’s Jewish Problem, by M.G. Murchin (1939), which purports to put anti-Semitism on an intellectual, rational basis. It appears to be rare, as lists only one copy for sale — by at $US616. If there is any interest in this book among readers of this blog, I’ll try to find time to scan a couple of chapters into my computer and post them somewhere on the net. bannerClick on the banner to go to my secondhand bookshop at

Barack Obama, Torture Enabler

Posted in uncategorized by Blimp deflator on April 12, 2009

By Ted Rall. Published on April 10, 2009, by Ted

America is a nation of laws — laws enforced by Spain.

John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, William Haynes and Douglas Feith wrote, authorized and promulgated the Justice Department “torture memos” that the Bush Administration used for legal cover. After World War II, German lawyers for the Ministry of Justice went to prison for similar actions.

We’ve known about Yoo et al.’s crimes for years. Yet — unlike their victims — they’re free as birds, fluttering around, writing op/ed columns … and teaching. At law school!

Obama has failed to match changes of tone with changes in substance on the issue of Bush’s war crimes. “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards,” he answered when asked whether he would investigate America’s worst human rights abuses since World War II. Indeed, there’s no evidence that Obama’s Justice Department plans to lift a finger to hold Bush or his henchmen accountable.

“They should arrest Obama for trying to impersonate a President,” one wag commented on The San Francisco Chronicle’s website.

Fortunately for those who care about U.S. law, there are Spanish prosecutors willing to do their job. Baltasar Garzón, the crusading prosecutor who went after General Augusto Pinochet in the ’90s, will likely subpoena the Dirty Half Dozen within the next few weeks. “It would have been impossible to structure a legal framework that supported what happened [in Guantánamo]” without Gonzales and his pals,” argues the criminal complaint filed in Madrid.

When the six miscreants ignore their court dates (as they surely will), Spain will issue international arrest warrants enforceable in the 25 countries that are party to European extradition treaties. All hail King Juan Carlos I!

Which brings us to a leaked report by the Red Cross, famous for its traditional reticence to confront governments. Which means that physicians are enjoined to do no harm. Doctors are prohibited by their ethical code of conduct from attending, much less participating in, torture. (What does this have to do with Bush’s lawyers? Hold on. I’m getting there.)

The Red Cross found that CIA doctors, nurses and/or paramedics “monitored prisoners undergoing waterboarding, apparently to make sure they did not drown. Medical workers were also present when guards confined prisoners in small boxes, shackled their arms to the ceiling, kept them in frigid cells and slammed them repeatedly into walls,” reports The New York Times.

“Even if the medical worker’s intentions had been to prevent death or permanent injury,” the report said, they would have violated medical ethics. But they weren’t there to protect anyone but the CIA. They even “condoned and participated in ill treatment … [giving] instructions to interrogators to continue, to adjust or to stop particular methods.” Charming.

Since 1945, at least 70 doctors around the world have been prosecuted for participating in torture. But not Bush’s CIA torture facilitators. Not by this president. Asked to comment on the Red Cross report, a spokesman for CIA director Leon Panetta replied that Panetta “has stated repeatedly that no one who took actions based on legal guidance from the Department of Justice at the time should be investigated, let alone punished.” (There’s the lawyer connection.)

Which is similar to what Obama said about the torturers: “At the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering up.” Don’t you just hate being micromanaged when you’re torturing people?

Ah, the great shell game of American justice. You can’t prosecute the torturers because their lawyers advised them that torture was OK. You can’t prosecute the lawyers because all they did was theorize–they didn’t torture anyone. You can’t prosecute the president and vice president who ordered the torture because they have “executive privilege” and, anyway, who would put a head of state on trial? What is this, Peru?

What’s the flip side of a victimless crime? A perpless crime?

It’s a neat circle, or would be if it fit, but drink some coffee and let the caffeine do its thing and it soon becomes apparent that it doesn’t come close. The trouble for the Bushies, and now for Obama–they’re his torturers now — is that lawyers are bound by a higher code than following orders.

Yoo, Bybee, Addington, Gonzales, Haynes and Feith were asked by the White House to come up with legal cover for what they knew or ought to have known were illegal acts under U.S. law, international law, and treaties including the Geneva Conventions (which were ratified by the U.S. and therefore hold the force of U.S. law). Since they don’t deny what they did — indeed, they continue to justify it — their presumed defense if they wound up on trial in Europe would be that they were just following orders.

However, the decision in the 1948 trials of German attorneys immortalized in the fictionalized film “Judgment at Nuremberg” makes clear that a lawyer’s duty is to the law — not his government. And not just his own country’s law — international law.

The Nuremberg tribunal acknowledged that Nazi Germany was an absolute dictatorship in which everyone answered to Adolf Hitler and could be shot for disobeying. Nevertheless, the court ruled, “there were [German] restrictions for Hitler under international law.” Despite his total legal authority within Germany, Hitler “could issue orders [that violated] international law.” Obeying a direct order from Hitler, in other words, was illegal if it violated international law. And German lawyers went to prison for doing just that.

The six lawyers about to face charges in Spain didn’t have to worry about Nazi firing squads. They were rank opportunists trying to advance their careers in an Administration that viewed laws as quaint, inconvenient obstacles. Here’s how not scared they are: Feith recently penned an op/ed in The Wall Street Journal daring — double-daring — Obama’s Justice Department to go after him.

“If President Barack Obama and the prosecutors see a crime to be prosecuted, they can act,” Feith wrote.

One can only hope. In the meantime, we’ll always have Spain.

© 2009 Ted Rall

Lawyers schemed to make torture legal

Posted in uncategorized by Blimp deflator on April 12, 2009

‘The challenging task set before these [Bush era] lawyers was to somehow “make legal” a set of [interrogation] techniques that had originated in a program developed expressly to prepare [US] soldiers for techniques that were illegal’. From The Red Cross Torture Report: What It Means, by Mark Danner, published on April 10, 2009 by The New York Review of Books. Click for full article. See also ‘These People Fear Prosecution’: Why Bush’s CIA Team Should Worry About Its Dark Embrace of Torture.

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Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls

Posted in uncategorized by Blimp deflator on April 12, 2009

Topp Twins: NZ cultural icons

Topp Twins: NZ cultural icons

This is the first film I have seen, I think, that captures the essence of New Zealand, albeit mainly the New Zealand of the 1980s. It was a decade of social protest and change in which I, too, played a small part. There were marches and demonstrations against the rugby tour by the Springboks from (apartheid) South Africa, and against visits to this country by US nuclear-powered warships. There was also a sustained, and ultimately successful, campaign for homosexual law reform, which was where the Topp twins, an irrepressible pair of lesbian singers/entertainers, came in. Alas, the era of social activism came to an end in 1991, with the passage of the Employment Contracts Act — a law that “reduced the legislative backing for unions, and … served to strengthen the direct relationship between employees and their employers” (Executive Summary, New Zealand Parliament). This introduced an element of insecurity into the workplace, and thus into people’s lives, and helped, in my opinion, to promote the “every-man-for himself” philosophy that is prevalent today.

Murder suspect a Sunday school teacher

Posted in uncategorized by Blimp deflator on April 12, 2009

[Sunday school teacher Melissa Huckaby, 28, is arrested in Tracy, California, on suspicion] of murdering 8-year-old Sandra Cantu. What would the Islamophobes be saying if the suspect had been a Muslim imam? (Comment on NBC News report dated 5.09 p.m. ET April 11, 2009.)

Status of women in Iraq worsens under US occupation

Posted in uncategorized by Blimp deflator on April 11, 2009

Electrical engineer Ghadah Mahuk in Baghdad

Electrical engineer Ghadah Mahuk in Baghdad

One of the consequences of the US invasion of Iraq was a catastrophic decline in the status of women in Iraqi society. As National Geographic noted in January 1985: “Iraqi women, among the most progressive in the Arab world, constitute 25 percent of the country’s work force and are guaranteed equality under Baath Party doctrine.” Since then, of course, everything has changed — to such an extent that the scene shown on the left, in which a casually dressed female electrical engineer directs a male colleague, is unthinkable today. As in other Muslim countries, such as Afghanistan, foreign intervention, whatever its professed aims, has unleashed the forces of a particularly vicious form of fundamentalism, which believes in putting women “in their place”. This photograph, presumably from 1984, will be incorporated in a feature I am planning on Iraqi women at Click here for my feature on the decline in the status of women in Afghanistan.

Sex in Japan

Posted in sex by Blimp deflator on April 11, 2009

Japanese wife to husband: ‘Let’s be a clean couple, and live without sex.’ Japanese husband to wife: ‘Sure, I’ll get off on porn.’

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