30 Mar 2011

Flunking Teachers Gives the Ruling Class a Pass

As the OIPOSDRU and the BDCCC middlemen (who, incidentally, are raking in ever higher fees for their much maligned "services"!) tell yet again the European Social Fund beneficiaries something that the beneficiaries themselves cannot pass onto their utilities' providers (telephony, energy, banks etc.) - namely, that they are supposedly doing "all they can" to get them their money (which, in the meantime, is acquiring interest in banks and/or being used for other, "more important" purposes than allowing these beneficiaries their rights to post-graduate research!), it may be interesting to have a look at what's happening in other parts of the world where such academic institutions are listed in the top 500 world universities...

By Bill Boyarsky

With all the evil people in the world, why are public schoolteachers being villainized? And how did they attract such powerful enemies?

Some of the country’s best-known mainstream powers are blaming the teachers for the troubles of the public school system. Bill Gates is a leader in this, as is President Barack Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan. So are some operators of multibillion-dollar hedge funds.

By putting the blame on teachers and their relatively modest salaries and benefits—compared with those of, say, a hedge fund entrepreneur—so-called reformers are evading the real cause of troubled schools: Business and political leaders, aided and abetted by the mass media, are unwilling to spend enough money to support public schools. Tax increases aren’t good for Microsoft, hedge funds or Obama’s re-election chances.

Espousing the slogan of education reform, these people want to sweep through schools like a CEO on a rampage after a hostile takeover—they want to fire teachers in much the same way that corporate leaders lavishly hand out dismissal notices in companies whose stock prices need a boost. They are, wrote UCLA education scholar Mike Rose, looking for “single-shot, magic-bullet solutions, solutions that are marketable and have rhetorical panache but are simplified responses to complex problems.”

Last week I visited a place in Los Angeles where teachers are valued, the UCLA Community School. It’s one of the six Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools, a complex on the site of the old Ambassador Hotel, where Kennedy was fatally shot in 1968. Each of the schools teaches the idea of social justice enunciated by the senator in his campaign for the presidency.

Karen Hunter Quartz, director of research at the UCLA education grad school, showed me around. Spare but inviting buildings house the schools, which are separated by courtyards and walkways. The campus has a feeling of openness and space. Small children were playing in one of the courtyards.

The students are from the Pico-Union and Koreatown neighborhoods, in a once-fashionable central Los Angeles area called Mid-Wilshire. They live in the most densely populated area in California. Eighty-four percent of the students are Latino, and 89 percent are low-income. Half are learning English. Any student from the neighborhood is welcome on the Kennedy campus.

We finished our tour and sat down to talk. In a departure from most traditional public schools, faculty members have considerable leeway to plan what goes on in the classroom, as well as to control their budgets, Quartz said. The teachers are union members. After long negotiations, the union agreed to a contract for the RFK schools with conditions more flexible than in other schools.

Teacher performance is assessed by a group of peers and by the principal, Georgia Lazo, who use classroom observations and interviews. The quality of assignments, and of the students’ work, is judged by an outside organization. Teachers have a one-year contract, which isn’t renewed if they flunk the evaluation process.

The process is different from what is advocated by the Bill Gates-Arne Duncan school of reformers.

Take, for example, the method of teacher evaluation favored by Gates and Duncan: the value-added system. A student who is average one year normally would be expected to be average the next. If that student’s test scores improve, the teacher is given credit for adding value to the student. If the score falls, the teacher is blamed. There is a substantial margin of error in the system, caused by factors such as students shifting classes or trouble at home or other outside influences.

The by-the-numbers advocates of value-added downgrade experience. “More experienced or better educated teachers are no more effective in the classroom than inexperienced teachers with only undergraduate degrees,” wrote Richard Buddin of RAND Corp., who did research for the Los Angeles Times series that published the value-added scores of L.A. teachers by name. The Times series was influential in hurting the image of classroom teachers.

The reformers also favor privatization of the public schools through establishment of charter schools, which are private schools supported by public funds and money they raise from foundations and corporations. They were highly praised in last year’s documentary “Waiting for Superman,” a film beloved by the media. But a 2009 study of charters around the country by Stanford University scholars found that just 17 percent provided educational opportunities superior to the public schools. Half provided the same-quality education and 37 percent were worse than the public schools.

In addition, businesses get a big federal tax break for investing in those schools. Juan Gonzalez reported last year in the New York Daily News and on “Democracy Now!” on something called a “New Markets tax credit.” This gives an “enormous federal tax credit to banks and equity funds that invest in community projects in underserved communities and it’s been used heavily now for the last several years for charter schools,” Gonzalez reported.

While boosting the privatized charter schools—and often profiting from them—reform advocates promote public education on the cheap. Education Secretary Duncan favors “modest but smartly targeted increases in class size.” As a parent, Duncan said, he’d much rather have his kids in a class of 26 with a really excellent teacher than in a class with 22 kids led by a mediocre teacher. Of course Duncan thinks the flawed value-added system should be used to measure the difference between excellent and mediocre.

Big media, big business and the Obama administration are a powerful combination. They have succeeded in making public school teachers the villains and scapegoats for schools that can be improved only with additional financial support and fairer taxes.

Obama’s Fatal Addiction

As the Wall Street's Emperor-elect, Obama is considering going the full hog by arming the Lybian rebels, we take a look at his impossibility to distance himself from his corporate genetic make-up...

By Robert Scheer

If it had been revealed that Jeffrey Immelt once hired an undocumented nanny, or defaulted on his mortgage, he would be forced to resign as head of President Barack Obama’s “Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.” But the fact that General Electric, where Immelt is CEO, didn’t pay taxes on its $14.5 billion profit last year—and indeed is asking for a $3.2 billion tax rebate—has not produced a word of criticism from the president, who in January praised Immelt as a business leader who “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.”

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

President Barack Obama applauds GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, right, before speaking to workers at the GE plant in Schenectady, NY on Jan. 21.

What it takes, evidently, is shifting profit and jobs abroad: Only one out of three GE workers is now based in the U.S., and almost two-thirds of the company’s profit is sheltered in its foreign operations. Thanks to changes in the tax law engineered when another avowedly pro-business Democrat, Bill Clinton, was president, U.S. multinational financial companies can avoid taxes on their international scams. And financial scams are what GE excelled in for decades, when GE Capital, its financial unit, which specialized in credit card, consumer loan and housing mortgage debt, accounted for most of GE’s profits.

That’s right, GE, along with General Motors with its toxic GMAC financial unit, came to look more like an investment bank than a traditional industrial manufacturing giant that once propelled this economy and ultimately it ran into the same sort of difficulties as the Wall Street hustlers. As The New York Times’ David Kocieniewski, who broke the GE profit story, put it: “Because its lending division, GE Capital, has provided more than half of the company’s profit in some recent years, many Wall Street analysts view G.E. not as a manufacturer but as an unregulated lender that also makes dishwashers and M.R.I. machines.”

Maximizing corporate profits at the taxpayer’s expense is what top CEOs are good at, and after all it was Immelt who presided over GE when it got so heavily into the subprime mortgage business that it needed a government bailout to avoid bankruptcy. This was before Obama made him a trusted adviser.

Back at the end of 2008, Bloomberg reported that the U.S. government had agreed to insure an additional $139 billion in GE Capital’s debt holdings, the second such intervention within a month, adding, “The company’s exposure to the deepest financial crisis since the 1930s has cut its market value by more than half this year.” A Washington Post exposé titled “How a Loophole Benefits GE in Bank Rescue” documented the power of Immelt’s lobbying operation in Washington. GE was not initially deemed eligible for the debt guarantee program offered to failing banks, “but regulators soon loosened the eligibility requirements, in part because of behind-the scenes appeals from GE.” And it worked; as the Post reported, “The government’s actions have been `powerful and helpful’ to the company, GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt acknowledged.” For the next two years, GE would still report enormous profits without paying taxes, adding insult to the injury that financial shenanigans had inflicted on ordinary taxpayers who bailed the company out.

On Feb. 6, 2009, Immelt sent a contrite annual letter to GE shareholders, admitting, “Our Company’s reputation was tarnished because we weren’t the ‘safe and reliable’ growth company that is our aspiration.” While conceding his own culpability in GE’s downturn, Immelt predicted a rosy future: “I accept responsibility for this. But, I think the environment presents an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Not, obviously, for the 50 million Americans who have either lost their homes or are deeply underwater in a housing market that is still in steep decline thanks to the lending practices of companies like GE Capital. Nope, the good times are in the offing only for corporations that know how to make the U.S. government a partner in their scams. As Immelt stated blatantly: “The global economy, and capitalism, will be `reset’ in several important ways. The interaction between government and business will change forever. In a reset economy, the government will be a regulator; and also an industry policy champion, a financier, and a key partner.”

That’s the essential blueprint for Obama’s restructuring of the economy, as the president put it in selecting Immelt to replace Paul Volcker as head of his outside team of economic advisers. Volcker had become increasingly critical of the corporate high rollers. Obama, although noting the suffering of ordinary Americans, clearly believes that such populism is now beside the point. As the president put it in announcing Immelt’s appointment on Jan. 20, 2011: “The past two years was about moving our economy back from the brink. Our job now is putting our economy into overdrive.”

But overdrive, with CEOs like Immelt shifting the gears, is what brought us so close to the brink. Once again Obama seems fatally addicted to the notion that the heavy hitters who got us into this mess are the very folks to be trusted to get us out of it. What he seems incapable of grasping is that while they are personally very good at avoiding the precipice, the rest of us are hardly passengers in their limos.

BDS - Global Day of Action 30th of March 2011

Campaigners for Palestinian rights from all over the world are today taking action against Israeli Aparthied

24 Mar 2011

EXCLUSIVE: CIA Psychologist's Notes Reveal True Purpose Behind Bush's Torture Program

by: Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye, t r u t h o u t
Investigative Report

Dr. Bruce Jessen's handwritten notes describe some of the torture techniques that were used to "exploit" "war on terror" detainees in custody of the CIA and Department of Defense.

Bush administration officials have long asserted that the torture techniques used on "war on terror" detainees were utilized as a last resort in an effort to gain actionable intelligence to thwart pending terrorist attacks against the United States and its interests abroad.
This diagram was included in a paper written by Dr. Bruce Jessen's and shows his view of the conflicting psychological pressures bearing down on a prisoner who is held captive by an enemy.
Jason Leopold interviews Jessen's former SERE colleague, retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns

But the handwritten notes obtained exclusively by Truthout drafted two decades ago by Dr. John Bruce Jessen, the psychologist who was under contract to the CIA and credited as being one of the architects of the government's top-secret torture program, tell a dramatically different story about the reasons detainees were brutalized and it was not just about obtaining intelligence. Rather, as Jessen's notes explain, torture was used to "exploit" detainees, that is, to break them down physically and mentally, in order to get them to "collaborate" with government authorities. Jessen's notes emphasize how a "detainer" uses the stresses of detention to produce the appearance of compliance in a prisoner. 

Indeed, a report released in 2009 by the Senate Armed Services Committee about the treatment of detainees in US custody said Jessen was the author of a "Draft Exploitation Plan" presented to the Pentagon in April 2002 that was implemetned at Guantanamo and at prison facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. But to what degree is unknown because the document remains classified. Jessen also co-authored a memo in February 2002 on "Prisoner Handling Recommendations" at Guantanamo, which is also classified.

Moreover, the Armed Services Committee's report noted that torture techniques approved by the Bush administration were based on survival training exercises US military personnel were taught by individuals like Jessen if they were captured by an enemy regime and subjected to "illegal exploitation" in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Jessen's notes, prepared for an Air Force survival training course that he later "reverse engineered" when he helped design the Bush administration's torture program, however, go into far greater detail than the Armed Services Committee's report in explaining how prisoners would be broken down physically and psychologically by their captors. The notes say survival training students could "combat interrogation and torture" if they are captured by an enemy regime by undergoing intense training exercises, using "cognitive" and "exposure techniques" to develop "stress inoculation." [Click here to download a PDF file of Jessen's handwritten notes. Click here to download a zip file of Jessen's notes in typewritten form.]

The documents stand as the first piece of hard evidence to surface in nine years that further explains the psychological aspects of the Bush administration's torture program and the rationale for subjecting detainees to so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques."

Jessen's notes were provided to Truthout by retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns, a "master" SERE instructor and decorated veteran who has previously held high-ranking positions within the Air Force Headquarters Staff and Department of Defense (DoD).

Kearns and his boss, Roger Aldrich, the head of the Air Force Intelligence's Special Survial Training Program (SSTP), based out of Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington, hired Jessen in May 1989. Kearns, who was head of operations at SSTP and trained thousands of service members, said Jessen was brought into the program due to an increase in the number of new survival training courses being taught and "the fact that it required psychological expertise on hand in a full-time basis."

"Special Mission Units"

Jessen, then the chief of Psychology Service at the US Air Force Survival School, immediately started to work directly with Kearns on "a new course for special mission units (SMUs), which had as its goal individual resistance to terrorist exploitation."

The course, known as SV-91, was developed for the Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) branch of the US Air Force Intelligence Agency, which acted as the Executive Agent Action Office for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Jessen's notes formed the basis for one part of SV-91, "Psychological Aspects of Detention."

Capt. Michael Kearns (left) and Dr. Bruce Jessen at Fort Bragg's Nick Rowe SERE Training Center, 1989 (Photo courtesy of retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns)
Special mission units fall under the guise of the DoD's clandestine Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and engage in a wide-range of highly classified counterterrorist and covert operations, or "special missions," around the world, hundreds of who were personally trained by Kearns. The SV-91 course Jessen and Kearns were developing back in 1989 would later become known as "Special Survival for Special Mission Units."

Before the inception of SV-91, the primary SERE course was SV-80, or Basic Combat Survival School for Resistance to Interrogation, which is where Jessen formerly worked. When Jessen was hired to work on SV-91, the vacancy at SV-80 was filled by psychologist Dr. James Mitchell, who was also contracted by the CIA to work at the agency's top-secret black site prisons in Europe employing SERE torture techniques, such as the controlled drowning technique know as waterboarding, against detainees.

While they were still under contract to the CIA, the two men formed the "consulting" firm Mitchell, Jessen & Associates, in March 2005. The "governing persons" of the company included Kearns' former boss, Aldrich, SERE contractor David Tate, Joseph Matarazzo, a former president of the American Psychological Association and Randall Spivey, the ex-chief of Operations, Policy and Oversight Division of JPRA.

Mitchell, Jessen & Associates' articles of incorporation have been "inactive" since October 22, 2009 and the business is now listed as "dissolved", according to Washington state's Secretary of State website.

Lifting the "Veil of Secrecy"

Kearns was one of only two officers within DoD qualified to teach all three SERE-related courses within SSTP on a worldwide basis, according to a copy of a 1989 letter written by Aldrich, who nominated Kearns officer of the year.

He said he decided to come forward because he is outraged that Jessen used their work to help design the Bush administration's torture program.

"I think it’s about time for SERE to come out from behind the veil of secrecy if we are to progress as a moral nation of laws," Kearns said during a wide-ranging interview with Truthout. "To take this survival training program and turn it into some form of nationally sanctioned, purposeful program for the extraction of information, or to apply exploitation, is in total contradiction to human morality, and defies basic logic. When I first learned about interrogation, at basic intelligence training school, I read about Hans Scharff, a Nazi interrogator who later wrote an article for Argosy Magazine titled 'Without Torture.' That's what I was taught - torture doesn't work."

What stands out in Jessen's notes is that he believed torture was often used to produce false confessions. That was the end result after one high-value detainee who was tortured in early 2002 confessed to having information proving a link between the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, according to one former Bush administration official.

It was later revealed, however, that the prisoner, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, had simply provided his captors a false confession so they would stop torturing him. Jessen appeared to be concerned with protecting the US military against falling victim to this exact kind of physical and psychological pressure in a hostile detention environment, recognizing that it would lead to, among other things, false confessions.

In a paper Jessen wrote accompanying his notes, "Psychological Advances in Training to Survive Captivity, Interrogation and Torture," which was prepared for the symposium: "Advances in Clinical Psychological Support of National Security Affairs, Operational Problems in the Behavioral Sciences Course," he suggested that additional "research" should be undertaken to determine "the measurability of optimum stress levels in training students to resist captivity."

"The avenues appear inexhaustible" for further research in human exploitation, Jessen wrote.

Such "research" appears to have been the main underpinning of the Bush administration's torture program. The experimental nature of these interrogation methods used on detainees held at Guantanamo and at CIA black site prisons have been noted by military and intelligence officials. The Armed Services Committee report cited a statement from Col. Britt Mallow, the commander of the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF), who noted that Guantanamo officials Maj. Gen. Mike Dunleavy and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller used the term "battle lab" to describe the facility, meaning "that interrogations and other procedures there were to some degree experimental, and their lessons would benefit [the Department of Defense] in other places."

What remains a mystery is why Jessen took a defensive survival training course and assisted in turning it into an offensive torture program.

Truthout attempted to reach Jessen over the past two months for comment, but we were unable to track him down. Messages left for him at a security firm in Alexandria, Virginia he has been affiliated with were not returned and phone numbers listed for him in Spokane were disconnected.

A New Emphasis on Terrorism

SV-91 was developed to place a new emphasis on terrorism as SERE-related courses pertaining to the cold war, such as SV-83, Special Survival for Sensitive Reconnaissance Operations (SRO), whose students flew secret missions over the Soviet Union, Eastern Bloc, and other communist countries, were being scaled back.

The official patch of the Special Survival Training Program. (Photo courtesy of retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns)
SSTP evolved into the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), the DoD's executive agency for SERE training, and was tapped by DoD General Counsel William "Jim" Haynes, in 2002 to provide the agency with a list of interrogation techniques and the psychological impact those methods had on SERE trainees, with the aim of utilizing the same methods for use on detainees. Aldrich was working in a senior capacity at JPRA when Haynes contacted the agency to inquire about SERE.

The official coin of the Special Survival Training Program. (Photo courtesy of retired Air Force Capt. Michael Kearns)

The Army also runs a SERE school as does the Navy, which had utilized waterboarding as a training exercise on Navy SERE students that JPRA recommended to DoD as one of the torture techniques to use on high-value detainees.

Kearns said the value of Jessen's notes, particularly as they relate to the psychological aspects of the Bush administration's torture program, cannot be overstated.

"The Jessen notes clearly state the totality of what was being reverse-engineered - not just 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' but an entire program of exploitation of prisoners using torture as a central pillar," he said. "What I think is important to note, as an ex-SERE Resistance to Interrogation instructor, is the focus of Jessen's instruction. It is exploitation, not specifically interrogation. And this is not a picayune issue, because if one were to 'reverse-engineer' a course on resistance to exploitation then what one would get is a plan to exploit prisoners, not interrogate them. The CIA/DoD torture program appears to have the same goals as the terrorist organizations or enemy governments for which SV-91 and other SERE courses were created to defend against: the full exploitation of the prisoner in his intelligence, propaganda, or other needs held by the detaining power, such as the recruitment of informers and double agents. Those aspects of the US detainee program have not generally been discussed as part of the torture story in the American press."

Ironically, in late 2001, while the DoD started to make inquiries about adapting SERE methods for the government's interrogation program, Kearns received special permission from the US government to work as an intelligence officer for the Australian Department of Defence to teach the Australian Special Air Service (SAS) how to use SERE techniques to resist interrogation and torture if they were captured by terrorists. Australia had been a staunch supporter of the invasion of Afghanistan and sent troops there in late 2001.

Kearns, who recently waged an unsuccessful Congressional campaign in Colorado, was working on a spy novel two years ago and dug through boxes of "unclassified historical materials on intelligence" as part of his research when he happened to stumble upon Jessen's notes for SV-91. He said he was "deeply shocked and surprised to see I'd kept a copy of these handwritten notes as certainly the originals would have been destroyed (shredded)" once they were typed up and made into proper course materials.

"I hadn't seen these notes for over twenty years," he said. "However, I'll never forget that day in September 2009 when I discovered them. I instantly felt sick, and eventually vomited because I felt so badly physically and emotionally that day knowing that I worked with this person and this was the material that I believe was 'reverse-engineered' and used in part to design the torture program. When I found the Jessen papers, I made several copies and sent them to my friends as I thought this could be the smoking gun, which proves who knew what and when and possibly who sold a bag of rotten apples to the Bush administration."

Kearns was, however, aware of the role SERE played in the torture program before he found Jessen's notes, and in July 2008, he sent an email to the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Sen. Carl Levin, who was investigating the issue and offered to share information with Levin about Jessen and the SERE program in general. The Michigan Democrat responded to Kearns saying he was "concerned about this issue" and that he "needed more information on the subject," but Levin never followed up when Kearns offered to help.

"I don't know how it went off the tracks, but the names of the people who testified at the Senate Armed Services, Senate Judiciary, and Select Intelligence committees were people I worked with, and several I supervised," Kearns said. "It makes me sick to know people who knew better allowed this to happen."

Levin's office did not return phone calls or emails for comment. However, the report he released in April 2009, "Inquiry Into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody", refers to SV-91. The report includes a list of acronyms used throughout the report, one of which is "S-V91," identified as "the Department of Defense High Risk Survival Training" course. But there is no other mention throughout the report of SV-91 or the term "High Risk Survival Training," possibly due to the fact that sections of the report where it is discussed remain classified. Still, the failure by Levin and his staff to follow up with Kearns--the key military official who had retained Jessen's notes and helped develop the very course those notes were based upon that was cited in the report--suggests Levin's investigation is somewhat incomplete.

Control and Dependence

A copy of the syllabus for SV-91, obtained by Truthout from another source who requested anonymity, states that the class was created "to provide special training for selected individuals that will enable them to withstand exploitation methods in the event of capture during peacetime operations.... to cope with such exploitation and deny their detainers useable information or propaganda."

Although the syllabus focuses on propaganda and interrogation for information as the primary means of exploiting prisoners, Jessen's notes amplify what was taught to SERE students and later used against detainees captured after 9/11 . He wrote that a prisoner's captors seek to "exploit" the prisoner through control and dependence.

"From the moment you are detained (if some kind of exploitation is your Detainer's goal) everything your Detainer does will be contrived to bring about these factors: CONTROL, DEPENDENCY, COMPLIANCE and COOPERATION," Jessen wrote. "Your detainer will work to take away your sense of control. This will be done mostly by removing external control (i.e., sleep, food, communication, personal routines etc. )…Your detainer wants you to feel 'EVERYTHING' is dependent on him, from the smallest detail, (food, sleep, human interaction), to your release or your very life … Your detainer wants you to comply with everything he wishes. He will attempt to make everything from personal comfort to your release unavoidably connected to compliance in your mind."

Jessen wrote that cooperation is the "end goal" of the detainer, who wants the detainee "to see that [the detainer] has 'total' control of you because you are completely dependent on him, and thus you must comply with his wishes. Therefore, it is absolutely inevitable that you must cooperate with him in some way (propaganda, special favors, confession, etc.)."

Jessen described the kinds of pressures that would be exerted on the prisoner to achieve this goal, including "fear of the unknown, loss of control, dehumanization, isolation," and use of sensory deprivation and sensory "flooding." He also included "physical" deprivations in his list of detainer "pressures."

"Unlike everyday experiences, however, as a detainee we could be subjected to stressors/coercive pressures which we cannot completely control," he wrote. "If these stressors are manipulated and increased against us, the cumulative effect can push us out of the optimum range of functioning. This is what the detainer wants, to get us 'off balance.'"

"The Detainer wants us to experience a loss of composure in hopes we can be manipulated into some kind of collaboration..." Jessen wrote. "This is where you are most vulnerable to exploitation. This is where you are most likely to make mistakes, show emotions, act impulsively, become discouraged, etc. You are still close enough to being intact that you would appear convincing and your behavior would appear 'uncoerced.'"

Kearns said, based on what he has read in declassified government documents and news reports about the role SERE played in the Bush administration's torture program, Jessen clearly "reverse-engieered" his lesson plan and used resistance methods to abuse "war on terror" detainees.

The SSTP course was "specifically and intentionally designed to assist American personnel held in hostile detention," Kearns said. It was "not designed for interrogation, and certainly not torture. We were not interrogators we were 'role-players' who introduced enemy exploitation techniques into survival scenarios as student learning objectives in what could be called Socratic-style dilemma settings. More specifically, resistance techniques were learned via significant emotional experiences, which were intended to inculcate long-term valid and reliable survival routines in the student's memory. The one rule we had was 'hands off.' No (human intelligence) operator could lay hands on a student in a 'role play scenario' because we knew they could never 'go there' in the real world."

But after Jessen was hired, Kearns contends, Aldrich immediately trained him to become a mock interrogator using "SERE harsh resistance to interrogation methods even though medical services officers were explicitly excluded from the 'laying on' of hands in [resistance] 'role-play' scenarios."

Aldrich, who now works with the Center for Personal Protection & Safety, in Spokane, did not return calls for comment.

"Torture Paper"

The companion paper Jessen wrote included with his notes, which was also provided to Truthout by Kearns, eerily describes the same torturous interrogation methods US military personnel would face during detention that Jessen and Mitchell "reverse engineered" a little more than a decade later and that the CIA and DoD used against detainees.

Indeed, in a subsection of the paper, "Understanding the Prisoner of War Environment," Jessen notes how a prisoner will be broken down in an attempt to get him to "collaborate" with his "detainer."

"This issue of collaboration is 'the most prominent deliberately controlled force against the (prisoner of war)," Jessen wrote. "The ability of the (prisoner of war) to successfully resist collaboration and cope with the obviously severe approach-avoidance conflict is complicated in a systematic and calculated way by his captors.

"These complications include: Threats of death, physical pressures including torture which result in psychological disturbances or deterioration, inadequate diet and sanitary facilities with constant debilitation and illness, attacks on the mental health via isolation, reinforcement of anxieties, sleeplessness, stimulus deprivation or flooding, disorientation, loss of control both internal and external locus, direct and indirect attack on the (prisoner of war's) standards of honor, faith in himself, his organization, family, country, religion, or political beliefs ... Few seem to be able to hold themselves completely immune to such rigorous behavior throughout all the vicissitudes of long captivity. Confronted with these conditions, the unprepared prisoner of war experiences unmanageable levels of fear and despair."

"Specific (torture resistance) techniques," Jessen wrote, "taught to and implemented by the military member in the prisoner of war setting are classified" and were not discussed in the paper he wrote. He added, "Resistance Training students must leave training with useful resistance skills and a clear understanding that they can successfully resist captivity, interrogation or torture."

Kearns also declined to cite the specific interrogation techniques used during SERE training exercises because that information is still classified. Nor would he comment as to whether the interrogations used methods that matched or were similar to those identified in the August 2002 torture memo prepared by former Justice Department attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee.

However, according to the Senate Armed Services Committee report "SERE resistance training ... was used to inform" Yoo and Bybee's torture memo, specifically, nearly a dozen of the brutal techniques detainees were subjected to, which included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, painful stress positions, wall slamming and placing detainees in a confined space, such as a container, where his movement is restricted. The CIA's Office of Technical Services told Yoo and Bybee the SERE techniques used to inform the torture memo were not harmful, according to declassified government documents.

Many of the "complications," or torture techniques, Jessen wrote about, declassified government documents show, became a standard method of interrogation and torture used against all of the high-value detainees in custody of the CIA in early 2002, including Abu Zubaydah and self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, as well as detainees held at Guantanamo and prison facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The issue of "collaborating" with one's detainer, which Jessen noted was the most important in terms of controlling a prisoner, is a common theme among the stories of detainees who were tortured and later released from Guantanamo.

For example, Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen who was rendered to Egypt and other countries where he was tortured before being sent to Guantanamo, wrote in his memoir, "My Story: the Tale of a Terrorist Who Wasn't," after he was released without charge, that interrogators at Guantanamo "tried to make detainees mistrust one another so that they would inform on each other during interrogation."

Binyam Mohamed, am Ethiopian-born British citizen, who the US rendered to a black site prison in Morocco, said that a British intelligence informant, a person he knew and who was recurited, came to him in his Moroccan cell and told him that if he became an intelligence asset for the British, his torture, which included scalpel cuts to his penis, would end. In December 2009, British government officials released documents that show Mohamed was subjected to SERE torture techniques during his captivity in the spring of 2002.

Abdul Aziz Naji, an Algerian prisoner at Guantanamo until he was forcibly repatriated against his wishes to Algeria in July 2010, told an Algerian newspaper that "some detainees had been promised to be granted political asylum opportunity in exchange of [sic] a spying role within the detention camp."

Mohamedou Ould Salahi, whose surname is sometimes spelled "Slahi," is a Mauritanian who was tortured in Jordan and Guantanamo. Investigative journalist Andy Worthington reported that Salahi was subjected to "prolonged isolation, prolonged sleep deprivation, beatings, death threats, and threats that his mother would be brought to Guantanamo and gang-raped" unless he collaborated with his interrogators. Salahi finally decided to become an informant for the US in 2003. As a result, Salahi was allowed to live in a special fenced-in compound, with television and refrigerator, allowed to garden, write and paint, "separated from other detainees in a cocoon designed to reward and protect."

Still, despite collaborating with his detainers, the US government mounted a vigorous defense against Salahi's petition for habeas corpus. His case continues to hang in legal limbo. Salahi's fate speaks to the lesson Habib said he learned at Guantanamo: "you could never satisfy your interrogator." Habib felt informants were never released "because the Americans used them against the other detainees."

Jessen's and Mitchell's mutimillion dollar government contract was terminated by CIA Director Leon Panetta, in 2009. According to an Associated Press report, the CIA agreed to pay - to the tune of $5 million - the legal bills incurred by their consulting firm.

Recently a complaint filed against Mitchell with the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists by a San Antonio-based psychologist, an attorney who defended three suspected terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo and by Zubaydah's attorney Joseph Margulies. Their complaint sought to strip Mitchell of his license to practice psychology for violating the board's rules as a result of the hands-on role he played in torturing detainees, was dismissed due to what the board said was a lack of evidence. Mitchell, who lives in Florida, is licensed in Texas. A similar complaint against Jessen may soon be filed in Idaho, where he is licensed to practice psychology.

Kearns, who took a graduate course in cognitive psychotherapy in 1988 taught by Jessen, still can't comprehend what motivated his former colleague to turn to the "dark side."

"Bruce Jessen knew better," Kearns said, who retired in 1991 and is now working on his Ph.D in educational psychology. "His duplicitous act is appalling to me and shall haunt me for the rest of my life."

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

No Laws, No Secrets: The Anarchist Creed of Julian Assange

by Christopher Ketcham

AP / Akira Suemori

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange reacts behind the heavily tinted window of a police van.

About the only intelligent thing the U.S. government has said to date about Julian Assange is that the man is an “anarchist.” A State Department spokesperson lamented in December that said anarchist is “trying to undermine the collaboration, the cooperation, the system by which we engage with other governments, cooperate with other governments and solve regional challenges.” More precisely, Assange is undermining the system by which we don’t cooperate at all, or pretend to cooperate, or force cooperation by bombing, killing, lying, cheating, smiling and smiling while villainous—all in service of “solving regional challenges,” which is to say in service of the imperial state.

For exposing state secrets unfiltered for all people to read, Assange is also called a terrorist and a destroyer. Perhaps he is—in the anarchist tradition of Mikhail Bakunin, who trusted in the “eternal spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unsearchable and eternally creative source of all life. The urge to destroy is also a creative urge.” Also from Bakunin: “Universal peace will be impossible so long as the present centralized states exist. We must desire their destruction in order that, on the ruins of these forced unions ... there may arise free unions organized from below by the free federations of communes into provinces, of provinces into nations. ...”

The centralized state apparatus, wherein the powerful seek to manufacture consent from the irksome citizenry, depends on operational and informational “security,” which we can define as secrecy, non-accountability and freedom from citizen interference—freedom from pesky fellows like Assange. “Leaking is basically an anarchist act,” Assange himself has said. This is because it is an implicit attack on the functioning of the state apparatus. If everyone leaked, there would be no “security” for government, but for my money—literally, since taxes pay for the apparatus—there is a different kind of security in knowing what the government is actually up to. It’s the due diligence any man burdened with a tax on his labor would want for the investment in the public, which is really an investment in his fellow man, the expectation of return (at the very least) being that the common good will get a cash-jolt infusion, roads will be maintained, sewers will keep floating our feces to the sea, the lights will stay on in the streets; and perhaps, too, that some help will come to the weak, the lost, the confused, those without homes, without work, without soundness of body or mind. We want a spreadsheet for our payouts, certainly to know the exact coordinates where the money goes to burn villagers 6,000 miles away and render grown men into screeching creatures with children now legless or burned half to ash.

Barred from this birthright of knowledge as citizens, we are told that the children are burned in our name, the government as proxy though far from our control; while at the same time it is said that we the people are the boss, the ones to whom the predatory government answers. The singalong of by/for/of the people is administered like the usual anesthetic. We are told Julian Assange breaks laws established by government for the protection of the people. We forget the words of our homegrown anarchist Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Good men must not obey the laws too well. ... Wild liberty develops iron conscience.”

Those of iron conscience are of course misfits, crazy, candidates for long years in prison. Thus Bradley Manning, the Army private who allegedly leaked many of the offending documents to Assange. Thus Assange: probably soon to be nailed to a wall not far from Manning, who is currently held in conditions as close to torture as his handlers can manage without revealing themselves as the psychopaths they are.

Assange’s dumping of secrets, in particular without the proper vetting by “experts,” is said to endanger the republic because it threatens security. Yet the experts too often appear in our midst as editorial board members tending the gateway institutions of the mass media, in close conversation with government, under its influence at dinner or over drinks, the wives in the kitchen swapping recipes or pills. Baseball bats to the experts!—let them crow that the “process” of “authoritative review” has been monkey-wrenched. We say: less security in exchange for more liberty—Ben Franklin’s old bargain at the founding.
What commentators on Assange don’t seem to get is that he is channeling Thomas Paine, who declared without bounds his trust in humankind as smart enough, sensible enough, to absorb complexity and hold it up to the light of reason and to make the right judgments—without the dictates and the circumscriptions of government. Paine, in the anarchist tradition, wrote that it was “the natural constitution of man” to organize in society with “order and decorum”—which is to say that man at his best could juggle the myriad pieces of information in society and make something functional out of the surfeit. At the same revolutionary moment in which Paine was writing—when Americans in the 1770s rose up against tyranny—Adam Smith made a comparable point in the realm of classical economics: People naturally wanted to associate, sharing free and open information in the marketplace, shorn of top-down control. And with that shared information, promised Smith, a dynamic society would be built.

The antipodal tradition in which the U.S. government operates, to borrow from the Grand Inquisitor of Dostoevsky, sees mankind as benighted, weak, stupid: Mystery, Magic and Authority will serve to keep the mob in line. The centralized state in collusion with business offers much mystery and much magic, and wars and economic turmoil unfold for reasons offered to the public that have little relation to reality. Man does not want freedom, says the Grand Inquisitor, because freedom implies choice, agency, thoughtfulness, and these are painful burdens. Such burdens are to be borne not by the average man, but by the elect—the implied message of our government. Tom Paine answers: “Notwithstanding the mystery with which the science of government has been enveloped, for the purpose of enslaving, plundering and imposing upon mankind, it is of all things the least mysterious and the most easy to be understood.” He adds: “Nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense” is necessary to shatter the mystery.

Assange has offered the facts, plain as day, and only those without common sense can ignore them. In this regard, WikiLeaks is an act of profound optimism, the anarchist optimism that posits human freedom as more important than the sanctity of governments. Under the mandate of the centralized state, such optimism must be crushed.

Christopher Ketcham, a freelance journalist in New York City, writes for Harper’s, Vanity Fair, GQ and many other magazines. Find more of his work at www.christopherketcham.com or contact him at cketcham99@mindspring.com.

Be Consistent—Invade Saudi Arabia

By Robert Scheer

AP / Jerome Delay
Fallout: During a Tuesday trip organized by Libyan authorities, a supporter of Moammar Gadhafi salutes amid the wreckage of what was described as a maintenance warehouse hit by two missiles Monday evening. The site was at a naval base near Tripoli.

It’s the black gold that drives nations mad and inevitably raises the question of whether America and the former European colonial powers give a damn about human rights as the basis for military intervention. If Libya didn’t have more oil than any other nation in Africa, would the West be unleashing high-tech military mayhem to contain what is essentially a tribal-based civil war? Once again an American president summons the passions of a human rights crusade against a reprehensible ruler whose crimes, while considerable, are not significantly different from those of dictators the U.S. routinely protects.

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that Moammar Gadhafi must now go not because his human rights record is egregious but rather because his erratic hold on power seems spent. After all, from the London School of Economics to Harvard, influential foreign policy experts were all too happy until quite recently to accept Libyan payoffs in exchange for a more benign view of Gadhafi’s prospects for change under the gentle guidance of what Harvard’s Joseph Nye celebrated as “soft power.”

But that revisionist appraisal of Gadhafi suddenly became an embarrassment when this nutty dictator—whom few in the world could ever understand, let alone warm to—was exposed by defections from his own armed forces to be akin to rotten fruit destined to drop. Libya’s honeymoon with the West, during which leaders led by Tony Blair and George W. Bush thought Col. Gadhafi might finally prove to be a worthy partner more concerned with reliably exporting oil than ineffectively ranting against Western imperialism, has suddenly been abandoned as no longer necessary. As with former U.S. ally Saddam Hussein before him, the Libyan strongman now seemed an awkward relic of a time that had passed him by, and easily replaceable. Not so the royal ruler of Saudi Arabia and the surrogates he finances in Yemen and Bahrain; their suppression of their peoples still falls within acceptable limits because of the vast resources the king manages in a manner that Western leaders have long found agreeable.

But this time, in the glaring light of the democratic currents sweeping through the Mideast, the contradictions in supporting one set of dictators while toppling others may prove impossible for the U.S. and its allies to effectively manage. The recognition, widely demanded throughout the region, that even ordinary Middle Easterners have inalienable rights is a sobering notion not easily co-opted. Why don’t those rights to self-determination extend to Shiites in the richest oil province in Saudi Arabia or for that matter to Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza?

The fallback position for U.S. policymakers is the “war on terror” standard under which our dictators are needed to control super-fanatic Muslims. That’s why the U.S. trained the Republican Guard, led by a man who is the son of the despised ruler of Yemen and also is the counterterrorism liaison with Washington. On Tuesday it was the tanks of the lavishly U.S.-equipped Republican Guard that stood as the final line of support surrounding the Presidential Palace as calls for departure of Yemen’s dictator increased in intensity. The U.S. was still following the lead of Saudi Arabia, long a financier of the Yemeni ruler.

The Saudi lead was made clearer in the kingdom’s support for the royal family in neighboring Bahrain as Saudi troops were sent in along with forces from the United Arab Emirates to suppress Bahraini democracy advocates claiming that freedom would enhance the power of the majority Shiite population. The fraud here is to locate Shiite Iran as the center of terrorism when it was the Sunni monarchies that were most closely identified with the problems that gave rise to al-Qaida. Not only did 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 come from Saudi Arabia but Saudi Arabia and the UAE, along with Pakistan, were the only countries to diplomatically recognize the Taliban regime that harbored al-Qaida. In Bahrain the majority Shiite population is dismissed as potentially under the sway of the rulers of Iran without strong evidence to that effect. Once again it is convenient to ignore the fact that Iran, as was the case with Saddam’s Iraq, had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack that launched the U.S. war on terror.

All of which elevates the question of how long will the U.S. and its allies ignore the elephant in the room posed by an alliance for human rights and anti-terrorism with regimes in the Middle East that stand for neither? While the jury is still out on whether the West’s attack on Libya will prove to be a boon for that nation’s population, at the very least it should expose the deep hypocrisy of continuing to sell huge amounts of arms and otherwise supporting Saudi Arabia and its contingent tyrannies.

21 Mar 2011

The Link is Broken

By David Held

Globalisation expert David Held on the future of social justice

DIE ZEIT: Professor Held, since the economic crisis it could hardly be said that social justice has enjoyed a political resurgence. In Germany, the parties have not been able to agree on Hartz IV; in the UK, the government is cutting welfare like never before; in the USA, despite the devastating economic slowdown, there is stiff resistance to any extension of unemployment benefit…

David Held: Do you mind if I take a slighter wider perspective? We should look not only at the past three years, but go back much further, to the nineteenth century. At that time, there was a strong feeling of mutual dependence between factory owners and workers. Whether in the USA or Great Britain or Germany, industrialists were also philanthropists who invested their money in the community, for example, funding public libraries or concert halls. At the same time, workers felt jointly responsible for their factories in which they often worked their whole lives. Since the end of the twentieth century we have had to deal with the fact that this link has been broken.

DIE ZEIT: You talk about globalisation…

David Held: … since the emergence of which there has no longer been this close link between industrialists and workers. Our lifestyle is built on whatever can be bought most cheaply, wherever that might be. Retail chains procure their supply wherever it suits them best, while the financial markets organise cross-border trade and production. Relations between these capital owners and particular local population groups are purely instrumental.

DIE ZEIT: No one is calling for the return of the charitable industrialist. Since the economic crisis voices have rather been raised in favour of a rebirth of strong welfare states…

David Held: Yes, but we shouldn’t forget that the welfare state came into being as an important connecting link in this form of social contract between labour and capital. It helped to preserve this reciprocity within a national framework. That is no longer the case today. Workforces are still localised and bound to the nation-state, but not capital: owners always have the option of threatening to move to another country. As a result, power relations have changed dramatically over the past 30 to 40 years. In such circumstances, it isn’t surprising that notions of social justice or social welfare are no longer very high on the agenda.

DIE ZEIT: Is it your argument that politicians who might want to pursue a more social policy are powerless against capital?

David Held: German companies are currently shifting their operations to eastern Europe on a large scale; even high tech companies from Silicon Valley have already gone to China. There are no longer any robust links between employment security and the social responsibility of the state. The big break probably began with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. But above all it was Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the social democratic imitators of the Third Way in Europe who declared that we now live in a new global era. It is the task of the state to ensure the competitiveness of the population.

DIE ZEIT: Was the courting of foreign investors really the sole reason for reforming welfare states? In some countries, an underclass that was completely dependent on the state solidified as early as the 1970s. That didn’t work either.

David Held: Yes, and here in Great Britain the underclass was also a major issue for Blair and Brown. The social policy of both basically consisted of getting as many people as possible into work: to that end, they introduced measures to help employers, expanded job creation schemes and brought in the minimum wage. All of a sudden, a completely new concept of social security was being applied: there is social justice when people have a job. It is socially unjust when people are excluded from the market.

DIE ZEIT: And are you critical of that?

David Held: I believe that this policy of the »new social democrats« or of the »Third Way« worked only in a certain historical context, which went on longer than usual. For Tony Blair in Great Britain, Bill Clinton in the USA and also for the German Social Democrats under Schröder it initially looked like a stroke of genius. The loosening of capital market regulations in the 1980s resulted in a flood of capital throughout the world and every time the markets threatened to founder the central banks helped out with interest rate cuts. This drove globalisation forward; export-oriented industries and services boomed; but it was primarily the middle classes who benefited from it, playing a major role as employees or investors. At the margins, however, among workers and the unskilled this new age was primarily one of growing uncertainty.

DIE ZEIT: Not any more, since the financial crisis.

David Held: The situation was confused even before that. Look at the French »non« vote against a European Constitution in 2005, which was partly directed against global capitalism. In Germany, similar worries are expressed, despite the fact that Germans find themselves in a rather different position to many other countries in Europe: thanks to its enormous export success Germany has been able to cushion the shock of the financial crisis.

DIE ZEIT: Do you think that German worries about globalisation are unfounded?

David Held: No, I don’t believe that. These developments which led to this enormous bubble before the financial crisis also have other and more far-reaching consequences, which have by no means been resolved. Our world is changing extremely quickly. The enormous amount of capital has allowed new superpowers to grow large, especially China and India. Europe in particular is under pressure on all sides, more so than the USA. Suddenly, our states look more vulnerable and can no longer offer us much protection. Consequently, people are worried.

DIE ZEIT: These worries are increasing, although for the past 15 years we have been concerned about the competitiveness of Western companies.

David Held: The irony is that we have lowered our barriers by liberalising trade and the financial markets. The new emerging economies have, to some extent, been doing the opposite. There are state controls on the introduction of capital into China; companies have to work in partnership with domestic firms; and imports are tightly restricted. This has frustrated Western economists and runs counter to Western interests to a considerable extent. We now have a host of successful state companies as competitors.

DIE ZEIT: If the big rethink on the role of the nation-state in the economy ever gets under way, do you see any chance of a renaissance of the traditional welfare state?

David Held: At least in the short term, interest seems to have reawakened in national politics and in the state itself, as well as a backlash against the period of neoliberalism. As far as I can see, this new debate is being conducted primarily by social democrats in Europe: there is no trace of it in practical politics. Recently, I met a couple of financial market traders from the City and asked them what had changed for them in the past two to three years. They replied »nothing at all«.

DIE ZEIT: Is a renaissance of the welfare state even conceivable, then?

David Held: That’s a very difficult question. Can we have a concept of social justice and implement it without there being a certain agreement on social justice at a global level? Europe is trying to find an answer to that by creating a common framework for a particular group of countries. Beyond that, however, we need a reformed global system which can really tackle global injustices. At the moment, we have a set of institutions – the UN, the World Bank – which are still based on the distribution of power of the old world which emerged after 1945, financed according to a kind of voluntary code. On this basis one couldn’t even run a country, let alone a new world order.

DIE ZEIT: In other words, you’re saying that until we secure our competitiveness we cannot concern ourselves with the reorganisation of the welfare state?

David Held: Naturally, we have to give some thought to competitiveness, even today. India and China are catching up in every area in which we have traditionally been strong. How will Europe survive in the long term?

DIE ZEIT: Do you have an answer?

David Held: On the one hand, we must immediately strengthen our education system from primary school to university. In my view, in particular the German higher education system has a great deal to do. Internationally, however, we need strong institutions which address the externalities of globalisation and find solutions which individual states cannot implement on their own. That applies especially to social policy. Without such a policy at the global level, it seems to me that we will witness an accelerating polarisation between rich and poor throughout the world.

DIE ZEIT: Applying European ideas throughout the world seems like a distant goal.

David Held: And do you know what? Sometimes moments come along when a breakthrough can be made. It may be that we had one a couple of months ago. The USA was weak, the dollar fell, Asia’s ascent is still work in progress. Europe and European ideas about economic and social policy could have had their moment; we could have had a major impact. And what did we do? We slid into a crisis and got to grips with it much too late. I would say that we let slip a historic opportunity.

This interview was first published in German by DIE ZEIT on 17th February 2011

20 Mar 2011

Libya: Popular Uprising, Civilian War, or Military Attack?

by Grégoire Lalieu and Michel Collon / March 19th, 2011

[This interview took place before the imperialist invasion of Libya, but it provides a requisite background to understanding why this invasion is taking place. -- Eds]

Over the last three weeks there have been confrontations between troops loyal to Colonel Gaddafi and opposition forces based in the east of the country. After Ben Ali and Mubarak, will Gaddafi be the next dictator to fall? Can what is happening in Libya be compared to the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt? What can be made of the antics and u-turns we have seen from the Colonel? Why is NATO preparing for war? How do you tell the difference between a good Arab and a bad Arab? Mohammed Hassan replies to questions from Investig’Action.

Grégoire Lalieu & Michel Collon: After Tunisia and Egypt, has the Arab revolution reached Libya?

Mohammed Hassan: What is happening at the moment in Libya is different. In Tunisia and Egypt, the lack of freedom was flagrant.However, it was the appalling social conditions which really drove young people to rebel.The Tunisians and Egyptians had no hope for the future.

In Libya, Muammar Gadaffi’s regime is corrupt, monopolises a large part of the country’s wealth and has always severely repressed any opposition. But the social conditions of Libyan people are better than in neighbouring countries. Life expectancy in Libya is higher than in the rest of Africa.The health and education systems are good.Libya, moreover, is one of the first African countries to have eradicated malaria.While there are major inequalities in the distribution of wealth, GDP per inhabitant is about $11,000 – one of the highest in the Arab world.You will not therefore find in Libya the same objective conditions that led to the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

GL&MC: How then do you explain what is happening in Libya?

MH: In order to understand current events properly, we should place them in their historic context. Libya was formerly an Ottoman province. In 1835 France took over Algeria. Meanwhile Mohamed Ali, the Egyptian governor under the Ottoman Empire, was implementing ever more independent policies. With the French installed in Algeria on the one hand, and Mohamed Ali in Egypt on the other hand, the Ottomans were fearful of losing control of the region. They sent their troops to Libya.

At the time the Senoussis Brotherhood was highly influential in the country. It had been founded by Sayid Mohammed Ibn Ali as Senoussi, an Algerian who, after studying in his own country and in Morocco, went to preach his version of Islam in Tunisia and Libya. At the start of the 19th century, Senoussie began to attract numerous followers, but he was not much appreciated by certain of the Ottoman religious authorities who criticised him in their sermons.After spending some time in Egypt and in Mecca, Sennoussi decided to exile himself permanently in Cyrenaica, in the east of Libya.

His Brotherhood grew there and organised life in the región, levying taxes, resolving disputes between tribes, etc. It even had its own army and offered its services escorting merchants’ caravans passing through the area. Finally his Senoussis Brotherhood became the de facto government of Cyrenaica, expanding its influence even as far as northern Chad. But then the European colonial powers installed themselves in Africa, dividing the sub-Saharan part of the continent. That had a negative impact on the Senoussis.Libya’s invasion by Italy also seriously undermined the Brotherhood’s regional hegemony.

GL&MC: In 2008 Italy paid compensation to Libya for the crimes of the colonialists.Was colonisation as terrible as all that?Or did Berlusconi want to be seen in a good light in order to be able to conclude commercial contracts with Gaddafi?

MH: The colonisation of Libya was dreadful. At the beginning of the 20th century, a fascist government began spreading propaganda claiming that Italy, which had been defeated by the Ethiopian army at the battle of Adoua in 1896, needed to re-establish the supremacy of the white man over the black continent. It was necessary to cleanse the great civilised nation of the affront inflicted on it by the barbarians. This propaganda claimed that Libya was a country of savages, inhabited by a few backward nomads and it would be good for Italians to install themselves in this pleasant region with its picture postcard beauty.

The invasion of Libya arose out of the Italian-Turkish war of 1911 – a particularly bloody conflict which ended in victory for Italy a year later. Nevertheless, the European power only gained control of the Tripoli region and met with fierce resistance in the rest of the country, especially in Cyrenaica.The Sennousi clan supported Omar al-Mokhtar who led a remarkable guerrilla struggle in the forests, caves and mountains. He inflicted serious losses on the Italian army, although the latter was much better equipped and numerically superior.

Finally, at the beginning of the 1930s, Mussolini took radical measures to wipe out the resistance.Repression became extremely brutal and one of the main butchers, General Rodolfo Graziani, worte:“Italian soldiers were convinced that hey had been entrusted with a noble and civilising mission … They owed it to themselves to fulfil this humane duty at whatever cost … If the Libyans cannot be convinced of the fundamental benefits of what has been proposed to them, then Italians must wage a continual struggle against them and can destroy the entire Libyan population in order to bring peace, the peace of the cemetery …”

In 2008, Silvio Berlusconi paid compensation to Libya for these colonial crimes. Of course it was based on ulterior motives. Berlusconi wanted to get himself into Gaddafi’s good books in order to facilitate economic partnerships. Nevertheless, one can say that the Libyan people suffered terribly under colonialism. It would be no exaggeration to speak in terms of genocide.

GL&MC: How did Libya win its Independence?

MH: While the Italian colonists were suppressing the resistance in Cyrenaica, the Senoussis leader, Idriss, exiled himself in Egypt in order to negotiate with the British.After the Second World War, the European colonial empire was gradually dismantled and Libya became independent in 1951.Supported by Britain, Idriss took power. However, part of the Libyan bourgeoisie, under the influence of Arab nationalism that was developing in Cairo, wanted Libya to become part of Egypt. But the imperialists did not want to see a great Arab nation formed.They therefore supported the independence of Libya by putting their puppet, Idriss into power.

GL&MC: Did King Idriss go along with all this?

MH: Absolutely. At independence, the three regions that made up Libya – Tripolitana, Fezzan and Cyrenaica – found themselves united in a federal system. But it should be borne in mind that Libya is three times larger than France.Because of a lack of infrastructure, the borders of this territory could not be clearly defined until after the aeroplane had been invented.And in 1951, the country only had 1 million inhabitants. Furthermore, the three regions that had just been united had a very different culture and history. Finally, the country lacked roads linking the regions to facilitate communication. Libya was in fact at a very backward stage, and it was not a true nation.

GL&MC: Can you explain this concept?

MH: The nation state is a concept linked to the appearance of the bourgeoisie and of capitalism. In Europe in the middle ages, the capitalist bourgeoisie desired to spread its business interests on as wide a scale as possible, but was impeded in by all the constraints of the feudal system.Territories were divided up into numerous tiny entities which imposed on merchants a large number of taxes if they wanted to transport merchandise from one place to another. And this is without taking into account the various obligations they had to perform for the feudal lords.All these obstacles were removed by the capitalist bourgeois revolutions which allowed them to create nation-states, and big national markets, without obstacles.

But the Libyan nation was created at a time when it was still at a pre-capitalist stage. It lacked the infrastructure; a large part of the population was nomadic and impossible to control; divisions within society were very strong; slavery was still practised. Furthermore King Idriss had no plan for developing the country. He was entirely dependent on US and British aid.

GL&MC: Why did he receive the support of the US and Britain? Was it to do with oil?

MH: In 1951 Libyan oil had not yet been discovered. But the Anglo-Saxons had military bases in the country because it occupies a strategic position from the point of view of control of the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

It was only in 1954 that a rich Texan, Nelson Bunker Hunt, discovered Libyan oil. At the time Arab oil was being sold at around 90c a barrel. But Libyan oil was bought for 30c because the country was so backward. It was perhaps the poorest in Africa.

GL&MC: But money was nevertheless coming in thanks to oil.What was it used for?

MH: King Idriss and his Senoussis clan enriched themselves personally. They also distributed part of the oil revenues to the heads of other tribes in order to pacify tensions. A small élite developed thanks to the oil trade and some infrastructure was built, principally along the Mediterranean coast, the area of greatest importance for external trade.But the rural areas in the heart of the country remained very poor and large numbers of the poor began to flood into slums around the cities.This continued until 1969 when three officers overthrew the king, one of whom was Gaddafi.

GL&MC: How come the revolution was carried out by army officers?

MH: In a country deeply rent by tribal divisions, the army was in fact the only national institution. Libya as such did not exist except through its army. Alongside this, King Idriss’s Senoussis had their own militia. But in the national army, Libyans from the different regions could get to know each other.

Gaddafi had at first developed as part of a Nasserite group, but then came to understand that this organisation would not be able to overthrow the monarchy, so he joined the army. The three officers who overthrew King Idriss were very much influenced by Nasser. Gamal Abdel Nasser was himself an officer in the Egyptian army that overthrew King Farouk. Inspired by socialism, Nasser was opposed to the interference of foreign neo-colonialism and preached the unity of the Arab world.Moreover he nationalised the Suez Canal, which had until then been managed by France and the UK, which attracted the hostility of the West and bombing in 1956.

The revolutionary pan-Arabism of Nasser was a major influence in Libya, especially in the army and over Gaddafi.The Libyan officers who carried out the coup d’état in 1969 were following the same agenda as Nasser.

GL&MC: What were the effects of the revolution on Libya?

MH: Gaddafi had two options. Either he could leave Libyan oil in the hands of western companies, as King Idriss had done – with Libya becoming like one of the oil monarchies of the Gulf where slavery is still practised, women have no rights and European architects can indulge themselves in building all kinds of bizarre constructions with astronomical budgets supplied at the end of the day from the wealth of the Arab peoples. Or he could follow the road of independence from the neo-colonial powers. Gaddafi chose the second option. He nationalised Libyan oil, greatly angering the imperialists.

In the 1950s a joke went round the White House at the time of the Eisenhower administration, which under Reagan was turned into an actual political theory. How do you tell good Arabs from bad Arabs? A good Arab does was the US tells him. In return he gets aeroplanes, is permitted to deposit his money in Switzerland, is invited to Washington, etc. These are the people Eisenhower and Reagan called good Arabs – the Kinds of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the Sheikhs and Emirs of Kuwait and the Gulf, the Shah of Iran, the King of Morocco and, of course, King Idris of Libya. The bad Arabs? Those were the ones who did not obey Washington: Nasser, Gaddafi and later Saddam …

GL&MC: All the same, Gadaffi is not very …

MH: Gaddafi is not a bad Arab because he ordered the crowd to be fired on.The same thing was done in Saudi Arabia or in Bahrain and the leaders of those countries still receive all the honours the West can confer. Gaddafi is a bad Arab because he nationalised Libyan oil, which the western companies believed – until the 1969 revolution, to be their own. By doing this, Gaddafi brought about positive changes in Libya in what concerns infrastructure, education, health, the position of women, etc.

GL&MC: Well, Gaddafi overthrew the monarchy, nationalised oil, opposed the imperial powers and brought about positive changes in Libya. Nevertheless, 40 years later, he is a corrupt dictator which suppresses all opposition and who is once again opening his country to western companies. How do you explain that change?

MH: From the start, Gaddafi was opposed to the great colonial powers and generously supported various liberation movements throughout the world. I think he was very good for that reason. But to give the full picture, it is also necessary to mention that the Colonel was an anti-communist. In 1971, for example, he sent back to Sudan an aeroplane which was carrying Sudanese communist dissidents who were immediately executed by President Nimeiri.

The truth is that Gaddafi has never been a great visionary. His revolution was a bourgeois national revolution and what he established in Libya was state capitalism. To understand how his regime lost its way, we must analyse the context – which has gone against it – and also the personal mistakes made by Gaddafi.

First of all, we have seen that Gaddafi had to start from scratch in Libya. The country was very backward.There were no educated people at his disposal or strong working class to support the revolution. Most of the people who had received education were members of the élite who had bartered Libya’s wealth to the neo-colonial powers. Obviously these people weren’t going to support the revolution and most of them left the country in order to organise opposition from abroad.

Besides, the Libyan officers who overthrew King Idriss were much influenced by Nasser. Egypt and Libya sought to tie up a strategic partnership. But when Nasser died in 1970, this project was dead in the water and Egypt became a counter-revolutionary country aligned with the West. The new Egyptian president, Anwar Sadat, allied himself with the US, progressively liberalised the country’s economy and entered into an alliance with Israel. A brief conflict even broke out with Libya in 1977. Imagine the situation in which Gaddafi found himself: the country which had inspired him and with which he had been hoping to set up an important alliance had suddenly become an enemy!

Another element of the situation worked against the Libyan revolution: the major fall in oil revenues during the 1980s. In 1973, at the time of the Israeli-Arab war, the oil-producing countries decided to impose an embargo that caused the price of a barrel of oil to shoot up. This embargo brought about the first great transfer of wealth from the North in the direction of the South. But during the 1980s there also took place what one could call an oil counter-revolution orchestrated by Reagan and the Saudis. Saudi Arabia increased its production considerably and flooded the market, causing a massive drop in prices. The barrel went down from $35 to $8.

GL&MC: Wasn’t Saudi Arabia shooting itself in the foot?

MH: Of course this had a negative impact on the Saudi economy. But oil is not the most important thing for Saudi Arabia. Its relationship with the US matters most, because it is the support of Washington that allows the Saudi dynasty to stay in power.

This tidal wave affecting the oil price proved catastrophic for several petrol-producing countries who fell into debt. All this happened only 10 years after Gaddafi came to power. The Libyan leader, who came from nothing, was seeing the only means he had to build anything disappear like molten snow as the oil money dwindled.

It should also be borne in mind that this oil counter revolution also accelerated the collapse of the USSR which at the time was bogged down in Afghanistan. With the disappearance of the Soviet bloc, Libya lost its major source of political support and found itself isolated on the international scene, and moreover featured on the Reagan administration’s list of terrorist states and was subjected to a whole series of sanctions.

GL&MC: What were Gaddafi’s mistakes?

MH: As I have said, he wasn’t a great visionary.The theory developed in connection with his Green Book is a mix of anti-imperialism, Islamism, nationalism, state capitalism and other things. Besides his lack of political vision, Gaddafi made a serious mistake in attacking Chad in the 1970s. Chad is Africa’s 5th largest country and the Colonel, no doubt feeling Libya was too small to accommodate his megalomanic ambitions, annexed the Aozou Strip. It is true that historically the Senoussis Brotherhood had exercised its influence on this region. And in 1945 the French Foreign Minister, Pierre Laval, wanted to buy off Mussolini by offering him the Aozou Strip.1 But in the end Mussolini drew close to Hitler and the deal remained a dead letter.

Gaddafi nevertheless wanted to annex this territory and engaged in a struggle against Paris for influence over this former French colony. In the end, the US, France, Egypt, Sudan and other reactionary forces in the region supported the Chadian army which defeated the Libyan troops. Thousands of soldiers and large quantities of arms were captured. The President of Chad, Hissène Habré, sold these soldiers on to the Reagan administration; and the CIA used them as mercenaries in Kenya and Latin America.

But the Libyan revolution’s biggest mistake was to have bet too heavily on its oil. It is human resources that are a country’s greatest wealth. You cannot succeed in a revolution if you do not develop national harmony, social justice and a fair distribution of wealth.

However, the Colonel never eliminated the discriminatory practices that had long been a tradition in Libya. How can you mobilise the population if you do not prove to the Libyans that whatever their ethnic or tribal backgrounds, all are equal and can work together for the good of the nation? The majority of the Libyan population is Arab, speaks the same language and shares the same religion. Ethnic diversity is not very important. It would have been possible to abolish all discrimination in order to mobilise the population.

Gadaffi was also incapable of educating the Libyan people in revolutionary matters. He did not raise the level of political consciousness of citizens and did not build a party to support the revolution.

GL&MC: Nevertheless, in accordance with his 1975 Green Book, he did set up people’s committees, a kind of direct democracy.

MH: This attempt at direct democracy was influenced by Marxist-Leninist concepts. But these people’s committees in Libya were not based on any political analysis, or any clear ideology.They failed. Neither did Gaddafi build a political party to support his revolution. In the end, he cut himself off from the people. The Libyan revolution became a one-man project. Everything revolved around this charismatic leader divorced from reality.And while a gulf opened up between the leader and his people, force and repression step in to fill the void. Excess began to follow excess, corruption expanded and tribal differences crystallised.

Today these divisions have come to the forefront in the Libyan crisis. There is of course a part of Libyan youth that is tired of the dictatorship and has been influenced by events in Tunisia and Egypt. But these popular sentiments are being taken advantage of by the opposition in the east of the country which is after its share of the cake, the distribution of wealth having been very unequal under the Gaddafi regime. It will not belong before the real contradictions see the light of day.

Moreover we don’t know a great deal about this opposition movement.Who are they? What is their programme? If they really wanted to wage a democratic revolution, why have they resorted to he flags of King Idriss, symbols of the time when Cyrenaica was the country’s dominant province? If you are part of a country’s opposition, and as a patriot you want to overthrow your government, you must try to do this correctly. You do not cause a civil war in your own country and you do not put it at risk of balkanisation.

GL&MC: In your view, it is no longer just a question of a civil war resulting from contradictions between different Libyan clans?

MH: It’s worse, I think.There have already been inter-tribal contradictions but they have never been so widespread. Here the US is fanning the flames of these tensions in order to be able to intervene militarily in Libya. From the very first days of the insurrection, the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was suggesting arming the opposition. From early on the opposition organised by the National Council refused all foreign interference on the part of foreign powers because they knew that any such interference would discredit their movement.But today some of the opposition are calling for armed intervention.

Since this conflict broke out, President Obama has called for all possible options to be considered and the US Senate is calling on the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Libyan territory, which would be a real act of war. Moreover the nuclear aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise, which was stationed in the Gulf of Aden to counter piracy, has travelled up to the Libyan coast. Two amphibian ships, USS Kearsage and USS Ponce, with several thousands of marines and fleets of combat helicopters aboard, have also been stationed in the Mediterranean.

Last week, Louis Michel, former EU Development and Humanitarian Aid commissioner, forcefully raised the question in a TV studio as to which government would have courage to make the case to its parliament for the necessity of military intervention in Libya. But Louis Michel never demanded any such intervention in Egypt or Bahrain.Why was that?

GL&MC: Is the repression not more violent in Libya?

MH: The repression was very violent in Egypt but NATO never sent warships to the Egyptian coast to threaten Mubarak. There was merely an appeal to find a democratic solution.

In the case of Libya, it is necessary to be very careful with the information that reaches us. One day there is talk of 2,000 deaths, and the next day the count is revised to 300. It was also being said from the very start of the crisis that Gaddafi was bombing his own people, but the Russian army, which is observing the situation by satellite, has officially given lie to that information. If NATO is preparing to intervene militarily in Libya, we can be sure that the dominant information media are going to spread their usual war propaganda.

In fact, the same thing happened in Romania with Ceausescu. On Christmas Eve, 1989, the Belgian prime minister, Wilfred Martiens, made a speech on television.He claimed that Ceaucescu’s security forces had just killed 12,000 people.It was untrue.The images of the famous Timosoara massacre also did the rounds all over the world.They were aimed at proving the mindless violence of the Romanian president.But it was proved later on that it was all staged. Bodies had been pulled out of morgues and placed in trenches in order to impress journalists. It was also said that the communists had poisoned the water, that Syrian and Palestinian mercenaries were present in Romania, or even that Ceaucescu had trained orphans as killing machines. It was all pure propaganda aimed at destabilising the regime.

In the end Ceausescu and his wife were killed after a kangaroo court trial lasting 55 minutes. Of course, the Romanian president, like Gaddafi, was no choir boy. But what has happened since? Romania has become a European semi-colony. Its cheap labour power is exploited. Numerous services have been privatised for the benefit of western companies, and they are financially out of reach for a large part of the population. And now every year there is no shortage of Romanians who go to weep on Ceaucescu’s tomb. The dictatorship was a terrible thing, but after the country was destroyed economically, it’s even worse.

GL&MC: Why did the US want to overthrow Gaddafi? For the last ten years or so, the Colonel has been quite amenable to the West and privatised a large party of the Libyan economy, benefitting western companies in the process.

MH: One must analyse all these events in the light of the new balance of forces in the world. The imperialist powers are in decline, while other forces are on the rise. Recently China offered to buy the Portuguese debt! In Greece, the population is more and more hostile to this European Union that it perceives as a cover for German imperialism. Similar feelings are growing in the countries of the East. Furthermore, the US attacked Iraq in order to get control of its oil, but in the end only one US company is benefiting; the rest of the oil is being exploited by Malaysian and Chinese companies.In short, imperialism is in crisis.

In addition, the Tunisian revolution really took the West by surprise. The fall of Mubarak even more so. Washington is attempting to regain its influence over these popular movements but its control is slipping away. In Tunisia, prime minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, a straightforward product of the Ben Ali dictatorship, was meant to control the transition, creating the illusion of change. But the people’s determination forced him to resign. In Egypt, the US was relying on the army to keep an acceptable system in place. But I have received information confirming that in very many military barracks around the country, young officers are organising themselves in revolutionary committees in support of the Egyptian people. They have even arrested certain officers associated with the Mubarak regime.

The region could well escape US control. Intervention in Libya would allow Washington to smash this revolutionary movement and stop it spreading to the rest of the Arab world and to Africa. Since last week, the young have been rising in Burkina Faso but the media are quiet about this. As they are about the demonstrations taking place in Iraq.

Another danger for the US is the possible emergence of anti-imperialist governments in Tunisia and Egypt. Should this happen, Gaddafi would no longer be isolated and could renege on the agreements concluded with the West. Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia could unite to form an anti-imperialist bloc. With all the resources they have at their disposal, especially Gaddafi’s large foreign reserves, the three of them could become a major regional power – probably more important than Turkey.

GL&MC: Yet Gaddafi supported Ben Ali when the Tunisian people rebelled.

MH: That goes to show to what extent he is weak, isolated and out of touch with reality. But the changing balance of forces in the region could change matters. Gaddafi could shift his rifle to the other shoulder – it wouldn’t be for the first time.

GL&MC: How could the situation in Libya pan out?

MH: The western powers and the so-called opposition movement have rejected Chavez’s offer of mediation. This means that they are not interested in a peaceful solution to the conflict. But the effects of a NATO intervention would be disastrous.We have seen what that did to Kosovo or Afghanistan.

Moreover, military aggression could encourage Islamic groups to enter Libya who might be able to seize major arms caches there. Al Qaeda could infiltrate and turn Libya into a second Iraq. Besides, there are already armed groups in Niger that nobody has been able to control. Their influence could extend to Libya, Chad, Mali and Algeria.By preparing for military intervention, imperialism is in the process of opening the gates of Hell.

To conclude, the Libyan people deserve better than this opposition movement that is plunging the country into chaos. They need a real democratic movement to replace the Gaddafi regime and bring about social justice. In any case, the Libyans do not deserve military aggression. The retreating imperialist forces seem nevertheless to be preparing a counter-revolutionary offensive in the Arab World. Attacking Libya is their emergency solution. But they will be shooting themselves in the feet.

1.This area is rich in uranium. [↩]

Grégoire Lalieu is an author associated with Investig’Action, a Brussels-based team of independent investigative journalists, directed by Michel Collon. Collon is a journalist, writer, and militant for peace. Read other articles by Grégoire Lalieu and Michel Collon, or visit Grégoire Lalieu and Michel Collon's website.