Irish Blog Whacked

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Pope Francis attends a prayer calling for peace in Syria, in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican today. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters
Pope Francis attends a prayer calling for peace in Syria, in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican today. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters
Pope Francis attends a prayer calling for peace in Syria, in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican today. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters
Pope Francis attends a prayer calling for peace in Syria, in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican today. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters
A sombre-looking Pope Francis made an impassioned appeal to avert a widening of Syria’s conflict today, urging world leaders to pull humanity out of a “spiral of sorrow and death”.
Francis, who two days ago branded a military solution in Syria “a futile pursuit”, led the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in a global day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, the Middle East and the world.
“Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death!” Francis said at the midpoint of a five-hour prayer service before tens of thousands of people in St Peter’s Square.
The United States and France are considering military action against Damascus to punish president Bashar al-Assad for a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 that killed hundreds of people. Assad’s government denies it was responsible.
The service was punctuated by music, prayer, the reciting of the rosary and long periods of silence in which the participants were asked to meditate on the need for peace to vanquish the destruction of war.
“We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death!” said Francis, who wore his simple white cassock instead of ceremonial robes to the service.
“At this point I ask myself: Is it possible to change direction? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace?”
He then asked “each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it!”
When he announced the prayer vigil last Sunday, Francis asked Catholics around the world to pray and fast and invited members of other religious to take part in any way they saw fit in the hope that a wider war could be averted.
“That’s very scary, very scary,” said Lennie Tallud, a clinical lab scientist visiting St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. Asked whether she thought prayers would make a difference, she said: “Definitely, for sure. No doubt. I think it would - 100 percent.”
Muslims pray with pope
Yaha Pallavicini, a leader of Italy’s Muslim community, attended the prayer service with other Muslims.
“Praying for the intention of peace is something that can only help fraternity and, God willing, avoid more war,” he told Reuters. “As Muslims who want peace we have to work so that the values of faith and dialogue prevail over the destruction of peoples.”
In his address, the pope, who for most of the service sat silently behind an altar on the steps of the largest church in Christendom, stressed the power of prayer to change the world.
“This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace!” he said.
“Let everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation,” he said.


Published on 6 Sep 2013 Abby Martin speaks to journalist, Chris Hedges about all updates about the lawsuit against the federal government regarding the National Defense Authorization Act's indefinite detention clause, remarking on the California Senate's rejection of the measure. They also discuss war on Syria and Hedges' views on NSA revelations. LIKE Breaking the Set @ FOLLOW Abby Martin @ Category Non-profit, Activism

Annie Machon

Gestapo Courts

A lot of sound and fury has been expended in the British media over the last few months about the Coalition government's proposal to enact secret courts via the proposed Justice and Security Bill - purely for terrorist cases, you understand. Which, of course, is OK as we all know terrorists are by definition the Baddies.
Except we need to drill down into the detail of the proposals, have a look at some history, and think through the future implications.
The concept of secret courts emerged from the official UK spook sector - MI5 and MI6 have been lobbying hard for such protection over recent years. Their argument revolves around a number of civil cases, where British victims of extraordinary rendition and subsequent torture have sued the pants off the spies through civil courts and received some recompense for their years of suffering.
The most notorious case was that of Binyam Mohamed, who was repeatedly tortured in a black prison in Morocco, with British spies allegedly contributing to his questioning. And we're not talking about a few stress positions, awful as they are. Mohamed was strung up and had his penis repeatedly slashed with a razor.
MI5 and MI6 are aggrieved because they could not defend themselves in the resultant civil actions brought against them, and they (and their former political master Jack Straw) are particularly worried about future cases around the MI6-organised Libyan renditionsexposed last year. The spies' argument is that having to produce evidence in their own defence would damage that ever-flexible but curiously vague concept of "national security".
Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?
The spooks have traditionally used the "national security" argument as the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card. It has never been legally defined, but it is unfailingly effective with judges and politicians.
We saw similar arguments during the post-9/11 security flap, when many terrorist suspects were scooped up and interned in high security British prisons such as Belmarsh on the say-so of faceless intelligence officers. No evidence needed to be adduced, nor could it be challenged. The subsequent control order system was equally Kafkaesque.
That's not to say that certain interned individuals might not have been an active threat to the UK. However, in the "good" old days (god, I sound ancient), suspects would have had evidence gathered against them, been tried by a jury, convicted and imprisoned. The system was never perfect and evidence could be egregiously withheld, but at least appeals were possible, most notably in the case of the Birmingham Six.
Since 9/11 even breathing the word "terrorist" has meant that all these historic common law principles seem to have been jettisoned. Even before the proposed enshrinement of "secret courts" in the new Bill, they are already being used in the UK - the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC) tribunals hear secret evidence and the defendant's chosen lawyer is not allowed to attend. Instead a special, government-approved advocate is appointed to "represent the interests" of the defendant who is not allowed to know what his accusers have to say. And there was no appeal.
But all this is so unnecessary. The powers are already in place to be used (and abused) to shroud our notionally open court process in secrecy. Judges can exclude the press and the public from court rooms by declaring the session in camera for all or part of the proceedings. Plus, in national security cases, government ministers can also issue Public Interest Immunity Certificates (PIIs) that not only bar the press from reporting the proceedings, but can also ban them from reporting they are gagged - the governmental super-injunction.
So the powers already exist to protect "national security". No, the real point of the new secret courts is to ensure that the defendant and, particularly in my view, their chosen lawyers cannot hear the allegations if based on intelligence of any kind. Yet even the spies themselves agree that the only type of intelligence that really needs to be kept secret involves ongoing operations, agent names, and sensitive operational techniques.
And as for the right to be tried by a jury of your peers - forget it. Of course juries will have no place in such secret courts. The only time we have seen such draconian judicial measures in the UK outside a time of official war was during the Troubles in Northern Ireland - the infamous Diplock Courts - beginning in the 1970s and which incredibly were still in use this year.
As a former MI5 intelligence officer, I am not an apologist of terrorism although I can understand the social injustice that can lead to it. However, I'm also very aware that the threat can be artificially ramped up and manipulated to achieve preconceived political goals.
I would suggest that the concept of secret courts will prove fatally dangerous to our democracy. It may start with the concept of getting the Big Bad Terrorist, but in more politically unstable or stringent economic times this concept is wide open to mission creep.
We are already seeing a slide towards expanding the definition of "terrorist" to include "domestic extremists", activists, single issue campaigners et al, as I have written before. And just recently information was leaked about a new public-private EU initiative, Clean IT, that proposes ever more invasive and draconian policing powers to hunt down "terrorists" on the internet. This proposal fails to define terrorism, but does provide for endemic electronic surveillance of the EU. Pure corporatism.
Allowing secret courts to try people on the say-so of a shadowy, unaccountable and burgeoning spy community lands us straight back in the pages of history: La Terreur of revolutionary France, the creepy surveillance of the Stasi, or the disappearances and torture of the Gestapo.
Have we learned nothing?

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Subject: [UK-911-Truth] MI5 whistleblower Annie Machon - Gestapo Past and

Last week I was on holiday with my lovely Dutchman in Cologne on the
Rhine in Germany, a city steeped in history and now chiefly famous
for its Gothic cathedral, widely reputed to be pretty much the last
building left standing in the city at the end of WW2.  Easily
resisting both this religious hotspot and, with slightly more
difficulty, the  siren calls of the brauerei, we decided on a bit of
culture, some museums and a stroll along the river.
However, it turns out that not one but two buildings had survived WW2
in their entirety.  Tucked away on a backstreet, we found the second
survivor: the Gestapo HQ, which had been preserved as it was found at
the end of the war to serve as a ghastly warning to history.
Well, as someone who regularly speaks at conferences across the world
about human rights, totalitarianism and encroaching police states, I
felt I had to have a look.  The building is a nondescript office
block that looks perfectly innocent from the outside.  Three floors
are open to the public.  On the first is the museum, with the history
of the rise to power of the Nazis.  It was hideously fascinating to
read how freedoms and rights were incrementally eroded as the state
slipped ever more from democracy.  The majority of the German people
went sleep-walking into national socialism.  As soon as Hitler had
any sort of political power his attack-dogs, the SS, used
disproportionate, sudden, and shocking violence against Germany's own
citizens to crush any nascent resistance.  So from 1933 onwards the
population was terrorised, as "undesirables" were routinely snatched
from their homes for questioning, torture and imprisonment.
And the propaganda in the media that was on display.....  Shall I
just say, even more unsubtle than that which is used against us
today.  I suppose these dark arts have developed over the intervening years.
But it was the lower floors that packed the strongest punch.  The
basement, just below street level, held the cells - tiny, dank spaces
where as many as 30 people had been herded together.  And the walls
are covered in graffiti in all the languages of Europe - sad,
desperate messages to the future from people who were "disappeared".
They seemed to want to leave a record of the fact simply that they
had existed: they had loved, they missed their families, they were
trying to hold their heads high despite the agonies inflicted daily,
they were innocent, they were about to die......
There was one more level - the reinforced rat hole deep underground,
which served both as the air-raid shelter for the Gestapo officers
(the prisoners were left upstairs in their cells during the raids),
and as the torture rooms.  Considerately, the Gestapo carried out
their most brutal interrogations underground, so that the screams
could not be heard at street level.
As we emerged, somewhat silent, from this museum, I noticed that we,
and many other visitors, all turned to stare at this building: it
looked so bland and innocuous from the outside.  But then people
would inspect the basement windows that hid the cells.  The smokers
in the group all sparked up as soon as they were outside, dragging
hard on their cigarettes.  Others just stood silently.
So the museum does its job.  It is a powerful warning from the
grave.  Homo homini lupus: man is wolf to man, ever has been and ever
will be, absent adequate legal restraint.  This is why the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights was put in place in 1948, to prevent such
atrocities from happening again.
Yet, at the risk of sounding sententious, such abuse is going on
around the world right now, particularly in the cause of the endless,
nebulous "war on terror".  We have been lazy, blind and foolish,
letting our basic rights slide away.  People are disappeared,
extraordinarily rendered, to foreign prisons and tortured for
years.  Assassination lists have been drawn up by US intelligence
agencies; suspects face kangaroo, military-style courtrooms, where
they face the death penalty but are not allowed to know the full case
against them; our governments aggressively, illegally, invade other
countries, and yet the politicians who lie to take us into these
wars, thereby causing the needless death, poisoning, maiming and
displacement of millions of people, are not called to account for
their crimes, as they should be under the Nuremberg Principles, the
Rome Statute, and the International Criminal Court.
We, the citizens of still just-about-functioning democracies, should
be ashamed.  We need to re-remember our history and take a stand -
before it's too late.
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which
alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
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The Geheime Staatspolizei (German for Secret State Police, abbreviated “Gestapo”) was the secret police of Nazi Germany, and its main tool of oppression and destruction, which persecuted Germans, opponents of the regime, and Jews. It later played a central role in helping carry out the Nazi's "Final Solution."

The Gestapo was formally organized after the Nazis seized power in 1933. Hermann Göring, the Prussian minister of the interior, detached the espionage and political units of the Prussian police and proceeded to staff them with thousands of Nazis. On April 26, 1933, Göring became the commander of this new force that was given power to shadow, arrest, interrogate, and intern any "enemies" of the state. At the same time that Goring was organzing the Gestapo, Heinrich Himmler was directing the SS (Schutzstaffel, German for “Protective Echelon”), Hitler's elite paramilitary corps. In April 1936, he was given command of the Gestapo as well, integrating all of Germany's police units under Himmler.

Later in 1936, the Gestapo was merged with the Kriminalpolizei (or “Kripo,” German for Criminal Police). The newly integrated unit was the called the Sicherheitspolizei (or “Sipo,” German for Secret Police). In 1939, during the reorganization of the German armies, the Sipo was joined with an intelligence branch of the military known as theSicherheitsdienst (“SD,” meaning Security Service). After this merger, the Sipo became known as theReichssicherheitshauptamt (“RSHA,” meaning Reich Security Central Office), and was headed by Reinhard Heydrich. Because of these frequent changes, the functions of the Gestapo became blurred, and often overlapped with those of the other branches of the German forces.

During World War II, the Einsatzgruppen ("Task Force", mobile killing squads) was formed, and came to be an integral part of the Gestapo. It was the Einsatzgruppen's job to round up all the Jews and other “undesirables” living within Germany's newly conquered territories, and to either send them to concentration camps or put them to death.

At the end of 1940, when the Jews in Eastern Europe were interned in ghettos, the Gestapo was charged with guarding and supervising the ghettos, imposing forced labor, and causing starvation and disease in an effort to decimate the ghetto inhabitants. After the invasion of Russia in 1941, the decision was made to kill all the Jews of Europe in gas chambers and the Gestapo was called upon to supervise the dispatch of the Jews to the camps specially adapted or constructed for the program of mass murder.

The Gestapo units excelled in their unabated and premeditated cruelty, in their ability to delude its intended victims as to the fate that awaited them, and in the use of barbaric threats and torture to lead the victims to their death, all as part of the "Final Solution." The units were taught many torture techniques, and were also taught many of the practices that German doctors in Dachau tested on the inmates of concentration camps. During its tenure, the Gestapo operated without any restrictions from the civil authority, meaning that its members could not be tried for any of their police practices. This unconditional authority added an elitist element to the Gestapo; its members knew that whatever actions they took, no consequences would arise.

After the war, very few of the important members of the Gestapo were caught and brought to trial.

Sources: Gutman, Israel. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. “Gestapo.” Volume 1: A-K. NY: Simon and Schuster. 1990.

Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved. “Gestapo.”

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The role of the SA

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In 1921 Hitler set up a group within the NSDAP that would protect his political meetings from attacks by rivals. It gave a military look, feel and discipline to the party. This group was known as the ‘stormtroopers’ (Sturm Abteilung – SA) or ‘Brownshirts’.
Many members of the SA were former soldiers unemployed since the end of the war. As the SA grew in size, rather than simply protecting Hitler and Nazi meetings from opponents, they began to disrupt the meetings of rival political groups.
As the Nazis gained power through democratic means, the SA gained a reputation as a well-organised gang of violent thugs. This frightened and put many off Nazism, but others were attracted by the organisation and discipline of a uniformed group.