Watch Assange Vigil Live Tonight

An online vigil for WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange will be broadcast live on Consortium News Friday night from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. U.S. Eastern Standard Time.

Among the featured guests will CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. Watch it here beginning at 8 pm:




The Bushes’ ‘Death Squads’

George H.W. Bush was laid to rest on Wednesday but some of his murderous policies lived on through his son’s administration and until this day, as Robert Parry reported on January 11, 2005.

How George W. Bush Learned From His Father

By Robert Parry
Special to Consortium News

By refusing to admit personal misjudgments on Iraq, George W. Bush instead is pushing the United States toward becoming what might be called a permanent “counter-terrorist” state, which uses torture, cross-border death squads and even collective punishments to defeat perceived enemies in Iraq and around the world.

Since securing a second term, Bush has pressed ahead with this hard-line strategy, in part by removing dissidents inside his administration while retaining or promoting his protégés. Bush also has started prepping his younger brother Jeb as a possible successor in 2008, which could help extend George W.’s war policies while keeping any damaging secrets under the Bush family’s control.

As a centerpiece of this tougher strategy to pacify Iraq, Bush is contemplating the adoption of the brutal practices that were used to suppress leftist peasant uprisings in Central America in the 1980s. The Pentagon is “intensively debating” a new policy for Iraq called the “Salvador option,” Newsweek magazine reported on Jan. 9.

The strategy is named after the Reagan-Bush administration’s “still-secret strategy” of supporting El Salvador’s right-wing security forces, which operated clandestine “death squads” to eliminate both leftist guerrillas and their civilian sympathizers, Newsweek reported. “Many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success – despite the deaths of innocent civilians,” Newsweek wrote.

Central America Veterans

The magazine also noted that a number of Bush administration officials were leading figures in the Central American operations of the 1980s, such as John Negroponte, who was then U.S. Ambassador to Honduras and is now U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

Other current officials who played key roles in Central America include Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Central American policies at the State Department and who is now a Middle East adviser on Bush’s National Security Council staff, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a powerful defender of the Central American policies while a member of the House of Representatives.

The insurgencies in El Salvador and Guatemala were crushed through the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians. In Guatemala, about 200,000 people perished, including what a truth commission later termed a genocide against Mayan Indians in the Guatemalan highlands. In El Salvador, about 70,000 died including massacres of whole villages, such as the slaughter carried out by a U.S.-trained battalion against hundreds of men, women and children in and around the town of El Mozote in 1981. 

The Reagan-Bush strategy also had a domestic component, the so-called “perception management” operation that employed sophisticated propaganda to manipulate the fears of the American people while hiding the ugly reality of the wars. The Reagan-Bush administration justified its actions in Central America by portraying the popular uprisings as an attempt by the Soviet Union to establish a beachhead in the Americas to threaten the U.S. southern border.

[For details about how these strategies worked and the role of George H.W. Bush, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.]

More Pain

By employing the “Salvador option” in Iraq, the U.S. military would crank up the pain, especially in Sunni Muslim areas where resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq has been strongest. In effect, Bush would assign other Iraqi ethnic groups the job of leading the “death squad” campaign against the Sunnis.

One Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Perhmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with discussions,” Newsweek reported.

Newsweek quoted one military source as saying, “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving the terrorists. … From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”

Citing the Central American experiences of many Bush administration officials, we wrote in November 2003 – more than a year ago – that many of these Reagan-Bush veterans were drawing lessons from the 1980s in trying to cope with the Iraqi insurgency. We pointed out, however, that the conditions were not parallel. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Iraq: Quicksand & Blood.”]

In Central America, powerful oligarchies had long surrounded themselves with ruthless security forces and armies. So, when uprisings swept across the region in the early 1980s, the Reagan-Bush administration had ready-made – though unsavory – allies who could do the dirty work with financial and technological help from Washington.

Iraqi Dynamic

A different dynamic exists in Iraq, because the Bush administration chose to disband rather than co-opt the Iraqi army. That left U.S. forces with few reliable local allies and put the onus for carrying out counterinsurgency operations on American soldiers who were unfamiliar with the land, the culture and the language.

Those problems, in turn, contributed to a series of counterproductive tactics, including the heavy-handed round-ups of Iraqi suspects, the torturing of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and the killing of innocent civilians by jittery U.S. troops fearful of suicide bombings.

The war in Iraq also has undermined U.S. standing elsewhere in the Middle East and around the world. Images of U.S. soldiers sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners, putting bags over the heads of captives and shooting a wounded insurgent have blackened America’s image everywhere and made cooperation with the United States increasingly difficult even in countries long considered American allies.

Beyond the troubling images, more and more documents have surfaced indicating that the Bush administration had adopted limited forms of torture as routine policy, both in Iraq and the broader War on Terror. Last August, an FBI counterterrorism official criticized abusive practices at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more,” the official wrote. “When I asked the M.P.’s what was going on, I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment, and the detainee was not to be moved. On another occasion … the detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.”

Despite official insistence that torture is not U.S. policy, the blame for these medieval tactics continues to climb the chain of command toward the Oval Office. It appears to have been Bush’s decision after the Sept. 11 attacks to “take the gloves off,” a reaction understandable at the time but which now appears to have hurt, more than helped.

TV World

Many Americans have fantasized about how they would enjoy watching Osama bin Laden tortured to death for his admitted role in the Sept. 11 attacks. There is also a tough-guy fondness for torture as shown in action entertainment – like Fox Network’s “24” – where torture is a common-sense shortcut to get results.

But the larger danger arises when the exceptional case becomes the routine, when it’s no longer the clearly guilty al-Qaeda mass murderer, but it is now the distraught Iraqi father trying to avenge the death of his child killed by American bombs.

Rather than the dramatic scenes on TV, the reality is usually more like that desperate creature in Guantanamo lying in his own waste and pulling out his hair. The situation can get even worse when torture takes on the industrial quality of government policy, with subjects processed through the gulags or the concentration camps.

That also is why the United States and other civilized countries have long banned torture and prohibited the intentional killing of civilians. The goal of international law has been to set standards that couldn’t be violated even in extreme situations or in the passions of the moment.

Yet, Bush – with his limited world experience – was easily sold on the notion of U.S. “exceptionalism” where America’s innate goodness frees it from the legal constraints that apply to lesser countries.

Bush also came to believe in the wisdom of his “gut” judgments. After his widely praised ouster of Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001, Bush set his sights on invading Iraq. Like a hot gambler in Las Vegas doubling his bets, Bush’s instincts were on a roll.

Now, however, as the Iraqi insurgency continues to grow and inflict more casualties on both U.S. troops and Iraqis who have thrown in their lot with the Americans, Bush finds himself facing a narrowing list of very tough choices.

Bush could acknowledge his mistakes and seek international help in extricating U.S. forces from Iraq. But Bush abhors admitting errors, even small ones. Plus, Bush’s belligerent tone hasn’t created much incentive for other countries to bail him out.

Instead Bush appears to be upping the ante by contemplating cross-border raids into countries neighboring Iraq. He also would be potentially expanding the war by having Iraqi Kurds and Shiites kill Sunnis, a prescription for civil war or genocide.

Pinochet Option

There’s a personal risk, too, for Bush if he picks the “Salvador option.” He could become an American version of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet or Guatemala’s Efrain Rios Montt, leaders who turned loose their security forces to commit assassinations, “disappear” opponents and torture captives.

Like the policy that George W. Bush is now considering, Pinochet even sponsored his own international “death squad” – known as Operation Condor – that hunted down political opponents around the world. One of those attacks in September 1976 blew up a car carrying Chilean dissident Orlando Letelier as he drove through Washington D.C. with two American associates. Letelier and co-worker Ronni Moffitt were killed.

With the help of American friends in high places, the two former dictators have fended off prison until now. However, Pinochet and Rios Montt have become pariahs who are facing legal proceedings aimed at finally holding them accountable for their atrocities.

[For more on George H.W. Bush’s protection of Pinochet, see Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

One way for George W. Bush to avert that kind of trouble is to make sure his political allies remain in power even after his second term ends in January 2009. In his case, that might be achievable by promoting his brother Jeb for president in 2008, thus guaranteeing that any incriminating documents stay under wraps.

President George W. Bush’s dispatching Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to inspect the tsunami damage in Asia started political speculation that one of the reasons was to burnish Jeb’s international credentials in a setting where his personal empathy would be on display.

Though Jeb Bush has insisted that he won’t run for president in 2008, the Bush family might find strong reason to encourage Jeb to change his mind, especially if the Iraq War is lingering and George W. has too many file cabinets filled with damaging secrets.

This is how this article originally appeared on Consortium News.

The late investigative reporter Robert Parry, the founding editor of Consortium News, broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His last book, America’s Stolen Narrative, can be obtained in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

If you value this original article, please consider making a donation to Consortium News so we can bring you more stories like this one.

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The Fate of Julian Assange: Chris Hedges Interviews Consortium News Editor-in-Chief Joe Lauria

On his program “On Contact,” journalist and author Chris Hedges interviews Joe Lauria, CN editor, on the moves to prosecute Julian Assange using the Espionage Act; the media’s cravenness and the latest on Assange’s condition in London.




National Exclusive: Former Sen. Barbara Boxer’s Son and California Powerbroker Found Bilking Indian Tribe

Darius Anderson and his business partner, Douglas Boxer, preyed upon Native American clients who were too intimidated by their political connections to seek recourse, writes investigative reporter Peter Byrne.

Judges Find Breach
of Contract and Trust

By Peter Byrne

Darius Anderson is one of California’s most powerful men. He promotes himself as a champion of liberal social causes, a philanthropist, a public servant, a man of integrity who cares about his community—especially racial minorities.

That image has not survived judicial scrutiny. A panel of arbitration judges has found that a company controlled by Anderson and his partner, Douglas Boxer, the son of former Senator Barbara Boxer, defrauded its Native American clients in a Bay Area casino deal. The partners convinced the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria to buy undevelopable swamp land in which they themselves held a large interest. They then made a secret deal with a Las Vegas gambling corporation in which they benefited at the Graton tribe’s expense.

The two-month long judicial proceeding took place behind closed doors at the San Francisco office of JAMS, a high-profile group of legal mediators formerly known as Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services. A final binding arbitration award issued in April by the judging panel was confirmed by Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer on June 1. That outcome has drawn almost no publicity. The only media to report on the findings of fraud against Anderson and Boxer is the North Bay Bohemian, a local alternative weekly newspaper.

For decades Anderson has advised and raised campaign funds for prominent state Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Jerry Brown, governor of the west coast state.

Another of his high-profile clients is Barbara Boxer, the longtime U.S. senator from California who retired in 2017. Her son Douglas partnered with Anderson in what judges found to be acts of fraud and deception against the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria that began after Sen. Boxer pushed through legislation restoring the tribe’s sovereignty and granting it the right to run a casino.

The case raises comparisons with the 2005 Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal, in which powerful consultants charged exorbitant fees to Indian clients seeking to develop casinos on their reservations. As such it adds another installment to the history of white men breaching trust with Native Americans for economic gain that began with European settlement of this continent.  This case has a happier ending than is usual.

Local Empire

Anderson, 53, oversees a restaurant and media empire in Napa and Sonoma Counties, 40 miles north of San Francisco. He owns a culinary school called Ramekins and he is the managing member and chairman of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and its affiliate publications, which includes most of the newsprint media in the two-county region. In September, the Press Democrat reported a 900-word story about the arbitration findings that portrayed the tribe and Anderson as having settled a contractual “dispute”—the “fraud” word was not mentioned and the details of the deceptions were not exposed.

Anderson is much more that a restaurateur and newspaper publisher. His California-based lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors, advertises that it generates “billions of dollars in work for our clients” by navigating their deals through mazes of local, state, and federal government bureaucracies. Another of his companies, Kenwood Investments, is developing upscale housing and yacht havens on Treasure Island, a fabulously valuable island in the San Francisco bay built in 1939 as a World’s Fair site.

The business name that is key to this story is Kenwood Investments No. 2. Three retired state judges in the arbitration process declared in April that Anderson and his partners in “Kenwood No. 2” defrauded the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria of millions of dollars between 2002–03 and committed many acts of deception. They ordered Anderson’s investment firm to pay three quarters of a million dollars to the tribe to cover its lawyer’s fees and arbitration costs.

According to the judges, Anderson breached his consulting contract with the tribe, which now owns the Graton Resort & Casino in Rohnert Park. The judges found that Anderson and his associates “fraudulently induced” and “breached” an agreement to assist the tribe in developing a Las Vegas-style casino business.

The ruling, by retired Superior Court judges William Cahill, Read Ambler and Richard A. Kramer, concludes a long legal battle that was instigated not by the wronged party, but by Anderson, as he sought to further enrich his business at the tribe’s expense.

In a settlement arrangement, Kenwood No. 2 agreed not to appeal the judges’ findings. Anderson’s firm will pay less than the dollar amount of the award, says Joel Zeldin, the tribe’s arbitration counsel. There are no charges of criminal fraud pending against Kenwood No. 2, but the three judges, one of whom was chosen by Anderson’s firm, did their best to restore justice: “Even if the Tribe was willing to overlook Kenwood No. 2’s unethical behavior, the courts and these arbitrators will not.”

Summary of Violations

The 53-page arbitration report details how Darius Anderson and the senator’s son, Douglas Boxer, harmed the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria over the course of several years. In summing up their findings, the judges’ panel found that Anderson and Boxer had violated their duty to be loyal to the tribe in the following ways:

Anderson and Boxer represented that Kenwood No. 2 had experience and abilities that it in fact lacked.

Kenwood No. 2 breached its contract when it bought an option on wetlands without telling the tribe, and then promoted the land to the tribe for the casino site despite its unsuitability for development.

Anderson and Boxer sent out bid solicitations for a casino manager that benefited Kenwood No. 2 at the expense of the tribe and without telling the tribe of the existence of the “requests for proposals” or RFPs.

They rejected a proposal that was the most favorable to the tribe without telling the tribe or informing it of that bidder’s reservations about irregularities in the contractual terms proposed by Kenwood No. 2.

They entered into undisclosed consulting agreements “to the detriment” of the tribe, some of which involved conflicts of interest.

• “Despite causing major problems and providing virtually no effective assistance to the Tribe,” Anderson claimed that it was the tribe that had breached the consulting agreement with Kenwood No. 2. Anderson’s pursuit of his “unmerited” claim against the tribe caused it to spend significant amounts of money and to “suffer business risks and distractions.”

The judges ordered Kenwood No. 2 to pay the tribe’s attorney fees and costs of $725,657.48, and to receive nothing for itself.

Anderson did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Boxer’s Role

Boxer was involved as a lobbyist for Platinum Advisors and as Anderson’s partner in Kenwood Investments No. 2. His mother, the now-retired U.S. senator, in 2000, wrote federal legislation that restored the national sovereignty of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria and authorized the tribe to establish a casino business.

In early 2002, Anderson and Boxer approached the tribe’s chairman, Greg Sarris, a novelist and professor of creative writing and Native American studies at Sonoma State University. They proposed that the newly empowered tribal nation hire Platinum Advisors to help it acquire reservation land and start a business to make it self-sufficient. Anderson and Boxer told Sarris that Platinum Advisors had “significant real estate development experience and connections with local, state and federal politicians,” according to the arbitration award. They proffered a platform of consulting services for a monthly retainer of $1,000, with payment deferred and contingent upon success.

Sarris trusted Boxer because the lobbyist’s mother had sponsored the legislation that re-established the tribe’s sovereignty. After Anderson presented a promise-filled PowerPoint to the tribal council, it voted to hire Platinum Advisors, ultimately paying it $1.2 million.

Fifteen years later, arbitrators declared that Anderson and Boxer had breached their contract to deliver adequate professional services in the tribe’s interest, damaging the casino project’s prospects. According to the arbitration document, the Graton Rancheria was afraid to expose these actions when it discovered what Anderson was doing in 2003, fearing political retaliation by the consultants.

The story only came to light because in November 2013, Anderson demanded that the Graton Rancheria pay Kenwood No. 2 a percentage of the projected revenue from its recently opened casino. Anderson insisted that the tribe pay his firm $43 million; he threatened to compel arbitration if it refused.

The tribe refused. It sued Kenwood No. 2 in state superior court, claiming that its sovereign immunity prohibited Anderson from compelling arbitration of his claim.

In November 2015, the court ruled that the tribe had waived its sovereign immunity defense in its contract with Anderson. In 2017, that judgment was affirmed by the appellate court, and the JAMS arbitration commenced.

Anderson claimed 2.5 percent of the Graton Resort & Casino’s net revenue for the first seven years of its operation, despite the fact that after 2005, the tribe had ceased doing business with his company. Insisting that the Graton Rancheria had “unjustly enriched” itself at the expense of his firm, Anderson demanded that it pay his attorney fees, too.

But it was the tribe, not Anderson, that had been wronged, the retired judges ruled. After months of sworn testimony, the panel ordered Kenwood No. 2 to pay the tribe’s attorney fees because it was Kenwood No. 2 that had breached the consulting contract, and Anderson’s claims to the contrary “lacked merit.”

The two trials generated thousands of pages of testimony, depositions and exhibits. The court record of the arbitration award was partly redacted and relabeled at Anderson’s request, according to Zeldin, the tribe’s arbitration counsel.

Anderson’s and Boxer’s names are replaced by “Person A” and “Person B,” respectively. “Platinum Advisors” is replaced with “Company 1.” “Kenwood No. 2” replaced “Kenwood.” The names of politicians and descriptions of their actions are blacked out. But who they are and what they did is clear from the narrative context and from contemporaneous news reports.

How It Began

In March 2002, the Graton Rancheria signed a contract with Platinum Advisors as its “exclusive agent” to provide it with “strategic advice and consultation” and to develop “political visibility.” The contract granted Platinum a right of first refusal to “partner with the tribe in any business opportunity it pursued.” The idea was to attract investors.

From the get-go, Boxer worked to convince the tribe how “‘much of a home run a casino would be’ rather than organic food processing, grape growing, strip mall, or senior assisted living facility,” according to the arbitration award. It did not take much convincing. Casinos are famous magnets for cash. Even as Anderson and Boxer worked with the tribe on a public relations campaign to further a casino project, they were making secret deals to benefit themselves, the arbitrators found.

According to a declaration filed by Anderson in 2015, he, Boxer, Jay Wallace of Platinum Advisors and Stuart Sunshine, a San Francisco city official, created Kenwood Investments No. 2 LLC in January 2003.

The arbitration judges ruled that Anderson’s new company shadowed Platinum Advisors’ tribal consulting activities, while serving a hidden agenda to make money for its principals—at the tribe’s expense.

Without informing Sarris or the tribe, Anderson and Boxer struck a deal to buy 1,736 acres of tidal wetlands near Highway 37, a major road connecting San Francisco to the nearby city of Oakland.

Kenwood No. 2 paid $100,000 for an option to purchase the swampy property, eventually billing the tribe $750,000 for it.

As Kenwood No. 2 was secretly securing the option, Platinum Advisors was advising the tribe to select the Highway 37 site for its casino, even though it was a politically impossible place to pour acres of concrete.

The site was part of 50,000 acres of tidal wetlands that conservationists had been trying to protect and restore since the 1970s,” noted the arbitration judges, who were incredulous that Anderson had suggested it. The attempt to locate the casino on the wetlands site proved to be a public relations and monetary disaster for the tribe.

As Anderson and Boxer were negotiating to buy the swampy land in late 2002, they were also negotiating casino-management deals with several Las Vegas–based casino operators, including Station Casinos, Harrah’s, Maloof and MGM, without telling the tribe.

In February 2003, Anderson sent a request for proposals to potential casino operators. The proposal represented Kenwood No. 2 as the “exclusive development partner” and “financial advisor” for the tribe. The RFP stated that Kenwood No. 2 would evaluate the bid proposals and select the casino manager for the tribe.

Kenwood No. 2 had no contractual relationship with the Graton Rancheria when it issued the RFP. The tribe’s contract was with Platinum Advisors.

According to the arbitration award, “the evidence established that the Tribe was unaware that Kenwood No. 2 had sent an RFP to operators and had not approved the contents of the RFP drafted by Kenwood No. 2.”

Strange Bidding Terms

The trial revealed that Anderson’s RFP instructed potential casino operators to bid their services on the basis of several unusual assumptions:

The operator would commit to buying Kenwood No. 2’s option to purchase the Highway 37 land and then buy the land from the seller on behalf of Kenwood No. 2, which would be the “titleholder.” The RFP assumed that the casino would be built on the Highway 37 site controlled by Kenwood No. 2 and that there were no other possibilities.

The operators could charge the tribe 20 percent of the casino’s net revenues and were to “assume a management fee to Kenwood No. 2 of 10 percent of net gaming revenues.”

The operators would pay Kenwood No. 2 “development fees” of $2.5 million up front to purchase the option on the Highway 37 site, and another $2.5 million when the tribe took over the site—$5 million total.

• “Lastly, operators were required to pay Kenwood No. 2 ‘pre-development fees’ of $8.4 million ($200,000 per month) for advisory and consulting services.”

The operators were not required by the RFP to make upfront cash payments to the tribe, or to provide any specific amounts of money for the tribe’s maintenance costs (i.e., its ability to maintain its existence until the casino began generating revenue).

Anderson received and evaluated four responses to the RFP, which he did not share with the tribe. Notably, Harrah’s proposed to take up to 24 percent of the net gaming revenue as its management fee. Improving on the terms of the RFP itself, Harrah’s offered to pay $100,000 a month to the tribe for its operating expenses, along with a $4 million pre-development fee. Harrah’s also offered to donate $100,000 per year to set up an educational scholarship fund for tribal members. And it offered to make a one-time $25 million “quality of life” loan to address tribal citizen’s needs for housing and medical care.

Harrah’s declined to pay a percentage of net revenues to Kenwood No. 2, although it offered to pay Anderson $50,000 a month in consulting fees, if the tribe approved of the arrangement. Harrah’s pointed out that such an arrangement with a consultant was not a normal business practice; it would have to be approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Harrah’s expressed concern about the legitimacy of Anderson’s claim to be representing the tribe’s interests. It asked to be put directly in touch with the tribal council before proceeding further. Anderson rejected Harrah’s proposal without consulting with Sarris and the tribal council or informing them of the proposal’s existence.

Watch Peter B. Collins interview Peter Byrne on Boxer, Anderson fraud (Article continues below):

A Better Deal—For Anderson

Station Casinos’ response to the RFP was far more favorable toward Anderson. It suggested that Kenwood No. 2 and Station Casinos partner to manage the casino. It proposed divvying up 30 percent of the casino revenues—20 percent to Anderson’s firm, 80 percent to Station.

The Las Vegas–based corporation offered to pay Anderson $10 million cash up front and $15,000 a month for consulting services. It offered $100,000 a month for tribal operations, but it did not offer the tribe any pre-development fees, scholarships or loans.

On March 7, 2003 Anderson and Boxer asked the Graton Rancheria to assign the Platinum Advisors contract to Kenwood No. 2, and claimed it would not change the terms of the agreement.

But the assignation did change the terms of the agreement. The new arrangement gave Kenwood No. 2 new authority to act as the tribe’s exclusive agent. Kenwood No. 2 was allowed to negotiate a cut of the casino operator’s management fee for itself. And, importantly, the tribe agreed to waive its sovereign-immunity defense in the case of a contract dispute—a concession it later regretted.

Anderson and Boxer had been negotiating with gaming corporations since the fall of 2002. They first told Sarris and the tribe that they had issued RFPs on March 11, 2003.

Brian Campbell, a tribal member doing legal work for the tribe, got wind of the RFP and asked Boxer for a copy. Boxer gave Campbell a copy but did not tell him about the responses that had been received.

Boxer later testified under oath that he had given drafts of the RFP to the tribe before it was sent out in 2002. The tribe’s witnesses testified that Boxer did not do that. Campbell testified that he was surprised that Anderson had asked for 10 percent of the gaming revenues and $5 million in upfront fees in the RFP.

On March 14, 2003, Anderson told the tribal council about the existence of RFP responses. He did not disclose Harrah’s offer to the tribe of tens of millions of dollars in cash.

Anderson told the tribe that Station Casinos had made the best proposal for “superior overall economics.”

Even as members expressed outrage at Anderson’s self-dealing behavior, the tribal council accepted his recommendation that Station Casinos be selected as its casino operator.

Time to Hire Lawyers

Suspecting that Anderson was more motivated to benefit himself than the tribe, the Graton Rancheria hired attorneys from California Indian Legal Services to watch over its interests. These lawyers noted that it was a conflict of interest for Anderson to negotiate with Station on behalf of the tribe while he was also negotiating with Station on his own behalf for a cut of the management fees. Anderson agreed that he would not negotiate a separate deal.

On April 22, 2003, the tribe signed the revised agreement with Kenwood No. 2. It provided that Anderson’s company would receive 4 percent of the net gaming revenues for seven years (later reduced to 2.5 percent). Anderson agreed to donate $25,000 annually to the UCLA College of Indian Law Program. (UCLA declined to confirm if the donations were made.)

The next day, according to trial exhibits, Anderson secretly made a separate consulting agreement with Station Casinos, despite his promise that he wouldn’t. 

Kenwood No. 2 contracted to assist Station Casinos “maintain its relationship” with the tribe. Station Casinos agreed to pay Anderson $20,000 per month and it bought the option on the Highway 37 site for $750,000, netting Kenwood No. 2 a $650,000 profit. (The tribe later reimbursed Station for the option payment).

Station Casinos agreed to pay Anderson a total of $9.5 million for achieving various “milestones” as it helped the tribe to navigate the bureaucracy of getting its casino up and running.

Anderson did not tell the tribe about his side deal with Station Casinos. “The evidence indicates that Kenwood No. 2 intentionally kept information regarding the Station/Kenwood No. 2 agreement secret from the Tribe,” the arbitrators found. “[Exhibit] 490 [Douglas Boxer] notation: ‘don’t tell Sarris: negotiation.’”

Boxer did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In fact, the tribe did not learn of the secret side agreement’s existence until June 2003, when Station Casinos included a copy of the side agreement in the paperwork accompanying its negotiations with the tribe, the arbitrators found. Station Casinos declined to comment.

Picking on the Wrong Wetland

On the same day they signed the side agreement, Station Casinos and Anderson announced that the Graton Rancheria planned to develop the Highway 37 site for a casino. A coalition of environmental groups that supported the Bay Delta Restoration Plan to restore local wetland habitats enlisted local, state and federally elected officials to vehemently oppose erecting the casino.

The tribe’s attempt to “appease these groups by offering to restore hundreds of acres of wetlands on the property” was a non-starter. After Diane Feinstein, a U.S. senator from California, “threatened to redraft the Tribe’s restoration language to obstruct the Tribe’s ability to open a casino anywhere,” the Graton Rancheria backed down and nixed the wetlands as a possibility.

The tribe ended up paying for and donating the Highway 37 wetlands to the Sonoma County Land Trust, which has restored it. The wetlands debacle ended up costing the tribe about $5 million, which included paying for the unusable land and for Kenwood No. 2’s profit on the land-purchase option.

Without Anderson’s assistance, Sarris and the tribe went looking for an alternative site to build their casino, and eventually bought 270 acres in Rohnert Park for $100 million, which it borrowed from Station Casinos. The tribe had little or no contact with Anderson and Boxer after 2005, when it stopped using their services.

Boxer testified that Kenwood No. 2 did significant work for the tribe prior to 2006. The trial record reports that in 2004 Boxer “‘killed’ a bill” in the state assembly that would “require gaming tribes to negotiate with local governments to mitigate the impact of casinos.”

Boxer said at trial that he had designed publicity and lobbying campaigns for the tribe; helped it to create a financial budget and to find office space; and “assisted tribal members in securing personal loans.”

The arbitrators determined that lobbying on the tribe’s behalf violated California law because Kenwood No. 2 was not a registered lobbying firm. Regardless, the judges found that Anderson and Boxer did not materially assist the tribe in jumping through the complicated governmental, environmental and financing procedures necessary to obtain a gaming compact and open the casino.

Sarris testified that the tribe felt that “Kenwood No. 2 was providing little or no value . . . and the Tribe wanted to sever its relationship with [Anderson and Boxer] but was afraid that if it did so, [they] might retaliate and use [their] political connections against the Tribe.”

The tribe estimated that it ended up paying Kenwood No. 2 $10,000 an hour for the services it did receive before the contract ended.

Nonetheless, the tribe invited Anderson and Boxer to attend the opening party for the Graton Resort and Casino on Nov. 5, 2014. That same day, Anderson demanded that the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria wire a payment of $43 million to his bank account.

A version of this story was first published on Bohemian.com as “Graton Expectations.”

Northern California-based journalist Peter Byrne combines investigative reporting with science writing. In 2017, Peter’s 11-part series in the Point Reyes Light “Busted: Breast Cancer Money and the Media” won the top science writing award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has received national, regional, and local recognition for investigative work, writing style, and in-depth profiles of politicians and scientists. Peter reports on terrorism and its twin, counter terrorism, from epicenters of violence such as Mosul, Iraq and Orange County, California. He has written highly regarded books on quantum physics and writes for many publications, including Scientific American, New Scientist, Quanta, American Consequences, Mother Jones, and the North Bay Bohemian. He can be found at www.peterbyrne.info.




Et Tu, RT? Amplifying Western Disinformation on Rwanda

The great lie about the Rwandan bloodbath opened the door to a far larger genocide in Congo and helped justify U.S. military interventions in Libya and Syria, argues Ann Garrison.

By Ann Garrison
Black Agenda Report

During a recent campaign event, Florida Senator Bill Nelson said, “That story of Rwanda is very instructive to us because when a place gets so tribal that the two tribes won’t have anything to do with each other, and that jealousy turns into hate—we saw what happened to the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda, it turned into a genocide. A million people hacked to death within a few months. And we have got to watch what’s happening here.”

That got a lot of headlines even though U.S. ethnicity is binary only if seen as white vs. everybody else. Whatever Sen. Nelson meant, those who do see it that way have certainly gained prominence since Trump took the White House.

That was a newly minted reference to the Rwandan genocide in U.S. discourse, however. Rwanda is most often remembered in urgent calls for “humanitarian intervention,” a.k.a. war, to stop another genocide. We’re told that the U.S. failed to stop Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, so we’re now obliged to “intervene” anytime and anywhere another genocide is underway. That’s why, we’re falsely told, the U.S. and its NATO allies had to bomb Libya into ongoing chaos in 2011. That’s why Lockheed Martin had to step up production of cruise missiles to drop on Syria. That’s why Sens. Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren, both 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, became initial co-sponsors of an Orwellian bill to “enhance” our government’s ability to “prevent genocide and mass atrocities” with military force: Senate Bill 1158, the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act of 2018.

More soberly, given the lies we’ve all been told in order to start wars, doesn’t it seem likely that this story—that the U.S. failed to stop the Rwandan genocide—is one more? Not that the genocide didn’t happen and not that it wasn’t a terrible tragedy, but the story we were all told and Bill Clinton’s crocodile tears about his “worst mistake” are a lie. In fact, the U.S. and United Kingdom backed Gen. Paul Kagame’s invasion of Rwanda from Uganda on Oct. 1, 1990, and prevented a United Nations intervention until he and his army had massacred their way to Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, to seize power on July 4, 1994.

Just over three weeks later, on July 28, The New York Times reported that the “U.S. Is Considering a Base in Rwanda for Relief Teams.” Kagame has been a key U.S. ally and “military partner” ever since. He not only collaborated with the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) but also invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo, left millions dead, and thus created new opportunities for U.S. mining corporations.

Professor Edward S. Herman and researcher and author David Peterson deconstructed the propaganda about Rwanda in The Politics of Genocide and Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide 20 Years On.” In “Enduring Lies,” they wrote:

“The institutionalization of the ‘Rwandan genocide’ has been the remarkable achievement of a propaganda system sustained by both public and private power, with the crucial assistance of a related cadre of intellectual enforcers. The favorite weapons of these enforcers are reciting the institutionalized untruths as gospel while portraying critics of the standard model as ‘genocide deniers,’ dark figures who lurk at the same moral level as child molesters, to be condemned and even outlawed.”

Ed Herman and I had many conversations about this before his death in November 2017, including one on KPFA Radio’s “Project Censored Show” on New Year’s Day 2016. The transcript was published by the San Francisco Bay View, Black Agenda Report and Global Research.

More recently, former Agence France Presse and Radio France International journalist Judi Rever broke down the simple story of Tutsi victims, Hutu perpetrators in her book In Praise of Blood: Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front.” Here’s some of what she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation after the book’s publication:

Judi Rever: He [Kagame] did not stop the genocide because at the same time that ethnic Tutsis were being killed in Hutu-controlled zones, his Tutsi troops were killing with equal zeal and organization. And in every zone that the Rwandan Patriotic Front and its army entered, they killed massively and in an organized way.

CBC: Killed Hutus?

Judi Rever: Killed Hutus. They also fueled the genocide against the Tutsis. They infiltrated the Hutu militias very successfully, and they baited the violence. They egged on the violence, but they also—some of their commandos—participated in the slaughter of Tutsis at roadblocks.

Kagame knowingly ordered and encouraged Tutsi massacres to build a storyline that would justify his Tutsi minority dictatorship after he’d seized power and control of the country’s electoral apparatus. Had he proceeded to real elections, as mandated by the Arusha Accords signed to end the war, the Hutu majority would have elected a Hutu president. Former Rwandan Foreign Minister Jean-Marie Ndagijimana tells the same story from a different standpoint in How Paul Kagame Deliberately Sacrificed the Tutsi.” Most of these victims were poor Tutsis who had been left behind when the wealthy and aristocratic Tutsis fled to Uganda during the Hutu Peasant Revolution of 1959-1961.

Rever’s conclusions are based on years of research and interviews, many of them with RPF troops who were tormented by memories of what they had done and felt compelled to confess. Her book also includes accounts of how she, her husband, and even her children were threatened while she was researching it, and how Belgian security operatives accompanied her everywhere during a research trip to Brussels to interview political exiles and refugees.

In an email released by WikiLeaks, a Stratfor intelligence analyst said thatRwandans are cold ass mofos and detailed Rwandan operatives’ transnational assassinations and assassination attempts. Their targets are almost always high-profile figures who, like Rever, challenge the story of Tutsi victims and Hutu perpetrators that is so essential to Kagame’s survival and international stature.

I myself haven’t feared for my life at the hands of Rwandan operatives, but I did file an assault complaint after a dustup with Kagame’s contingent at Sacramento State University’s 2011 Third International Genocide Conference.

Et Tu, RT?

Despite all this, the propaganda has been so effective that the standard story of Tutsi victims, Hutu perpetrators, and Bill Clinton’s failure remains all but unassailable in mainstream media. It’s in the Wikipedia, where a host of “edit alerts” assure that any attempt to change it starts a tireless “editing war” that Wikipedia moderators will finally shut down with no changes made. It’s at the heart of former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power’s interventionist bible, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.” It’s in Obama’s 2011 Presidential Study Directive on Mass Atrocities and “Mass Atrocities Response Operations: A Military Handbook,” which was produced by the Pentagon and Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights with help from Pierre Omidyar’s Humanity United Foundation. And it’s in the template of every Reuters and AP newswire that ever touches on the subject.

I was nevertheless surprised when RT repeated the standard propaganda as well. Mightn’t one expect RT to dig a little deeper into a narrative used to justify the U.S. war in Syria among others? RT asked me to comment on a news story about the recent appeal of a French court’s ruling that French soldiers were not criminally complicit for failing to protect Tutsis massacred at Bisisero, Rwanda, in 1994. I agreed, so they called me on Skype, but the host and I proceeded to frustrate one another, and most of what I said was left on the cutting room floor. CIUT 89.5 FM-Toronto host and former ICTR investigator Phil Taylor sent me a consolation note saying, “I felt for you, Ann. I saw the item in real time and slapped my forehead. The cutting was done with shears.”

Basic journalistic ethnics and not wanting to be misrepresented compelled me to write about why this interview turned into such a hot mess after beginning with the usual false recitation:

“The genocide in Rwanda lasted just over three months and left nearly a million people dead. . . . The genocide was committed mainly by the Hutu government and its backers against the ethnic minority Tutsi tribe. Allegations of the French government’s support for the Hutus, who carried out most of the slaughter in the genocide, have been rough on the French government’s relations with the Rwandan government for years. But the French, although they admit that they’ve made mistakes, they say they have no complicity in the genocide that took place there.”

I told RT that the context of the 1994 Bisesero massacre was a four-year war that began on Oct. 1, 1990, when a detachment of the Ugandan Army led by then General, now President, Paul Kagame invaded Rwanda from Uganda. I said that those Ugandan troops were Rwandan Tutsis or the children of Rwandan Tutsis  who had fled to Uganda between 1959 and 1961, when the Hutu majority finally liberated themselves from centuries-long domination by the Tutsi minority.

I said that focusing on this single tragic incident, the Tutsi massacres at Bisesero, imposed the propaganda narrative about the Rwandan genocide on their story.

I said that France’s Operation Turquoise had created a humanitarian corridor for civilians fleeing to Congo in terror of Kagame’s advancing army, so it was a distortion to discredit the French troops over this one incident in which they were accused of failing to act even though it wasn’t clear they had a mandate. (UN Security Council Resolution 929 (1994) gave the operation the aim of “contributing, in an impartial way, to the security and protection of displaced persons, refugees, and civilians at risk in Rwanda.”)

I considered quoting Ed Herman, David Peterson, and Judi Rever, but ran out of time. That was more complexity than RT appeared to want added to their news story. They had already built it on the widely received account of what happened in Rwanda before calling me. Having produced radio news, I know the show must go on at the scheduled hour even if it could be improved. Had they nevertheless considered that there might be something wrong with their premises? I’m only encouraging them to review this Western narrative as they do so many others. 

This article was originally published on Black Agenda Report.

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at ann@anngarrison.com.




COMMENTARY: US Intel Will Bring Assange to US in Chains

It appears increasingly likely Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange will wind up in the clutches of the U.S. government, says Ann Garrison.

United States Will Bring
Assange to US in Chains

By Ann Garrison

It appears increasingly likely Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange will wind up in the clutches of the U.S. government.

It’s hardly surprising, given that in ten years’ time, Wikileaks published more classified information than all other media combined. It exposed human rights abuses, government spying, torture, and war crimes on an unprecedented scale.

WikiLeaks put government, corporations and even the Pentagon, the FBI, the CIA and other intel agencies on notice that they could no longer count on operating in secret.

It created a trove of primary source material that serious journalists and researchers will mine for years to come. Its publications are accessible to readers who prefer primary sources to mostly mediated news.

Wikileaks so infuriates the USA’s most violent, corrupt, and criminal institutions that Hillary Clinton half-jokingly suggested drone-bombing Assange. Other U.S. politicians called for his execution by other means.

California’s 28th District Congressman Adam Schiff, who became the chair of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats reclaimed the House, said he would speak to Assange “when he is in U.S. custody, not before.”

Schiff is a vociferous and supremely self-righteous leader of the Democratic Party’s “Resistance,” which sullies the name of the underground movement formed in France during World War II to fight Nazi Germany’s occupying forces and the collaborationist Vichy government.

The “Resistance” tolerates only one truth and one loyalty: Russia is the enemy, interfering in Syria, the Ukraine and even U.S. elections. Russia elected Trump with Wikileaks’ help, it says. Russia dares to position missiles on its own borders, it says, to respond to NATO’s missiles on the other side. The U.S. must build more missiles, more drones, more nuclear weapons, and every other sort of weapon to defend the European world against Russia and its ally China.

Moral and Racial Superiority

Moral and racial superiority entitles the U.S. to occupy the world with military bases, ringing any nation that challenges its hegemony with military aircraft, battleships, assault vehicles, and military surveillance. Moral and racial superiority entitles its spy state agencies to shut down access to information deviating from its narratives and therefore to arrest and extradite Julian Assange.

The Republican Party shares the same supremely intolerant nature as the Democrats, but differentiates itself by insisting that, although Russia is the enemy, Donald Trump did not collude with Russia to steal the 2016 presidential election.

The Republicans also want to silence the founder of Wikileaks and find a way to shut the organization down. Trump’s former CIA director, and now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has called Wikileaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia” and vowed to hunt Assange down.

Has Time Run Out?

Assange has been an asylee in Ecuador’s London Embassy for more than six years—since August 2012. Ecuador and the UK, however, are no closer to an agreement that would allow him safe passage out of the embassy. In a recent video conference, #Unity4J organizer Suzie Dawson said she fears Assange and those working to free him are running out of time:

“Right now time is not on our side. And I had someone today complaining because they want us to do a big, big action day march. When you do those types of actions it takes two or three months to organize. You need to have an organizing committee, you need to wallpaper the town, you need to have one date that you do it on, you need to do a ton of advertising. You need to get all the unions and various other organizations to sign on board, and then you have this one action day.

“Well, there’s a couple of problems with that. First of all, I don’t think we have three months right now. If we schedule a February giant march in support of Julian, I honestly don’t think we have until February. I hope I’m wrong. I hope that the actions we take in the short term, in the next days and weeks, will buy us that much time for Julian, but I don’t see it.”

CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who spent two years in prison for exposing the agency’s official use of torture, said if Assange walks out of the embassy without a guarantee of safe passage, he will be extradited to the U.S. in chains:

“We all know why the British have that embassy ringed. It’s to snatch him and to turn him over to the United States. If that happens, the CIA and the FBI are both going to be on that plane and they’re both going to be at least attempting to interrogate him all the way back home. They will bring him back to the United States in chains because that’s what they do.“

Dawson feels the FBI and CIA will interrogate and torture Assange to try to obtain information that would allow them to bring Wikileaks down. She has no doubt he’s been preparing for this eventuality for years. She believes he will have made sure the organization has adopted security codes and measures he himself doesn’t know and therefore can’t reveal—even if he’s tortured.

“They want to know about security files for example. They want to know about the inner processes and workings of Wikileaks. They want access to the knowledge that’s inside Julian’s brain. And they will torture him. And they will interrogate him in order to attempt to get that.

“Now I trust Julian to be smart enough to have made sure that even he doesn’t possess a lot of that knowledge. In my personal opinion, Julian has spent years planning for these various eventualities, but it won’t stop them from trying.”

Dawson aded intelligence agencies are eager to punish him: “At the end of the day they want to punish him for outing their corruption and their crimes. They’ve been waiting eight years to do it, and they will be rubbing their hands together with glee at the prospect of the UK detaining him and extraditing him to the USA.”

Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at ann@anngarrison.com.

If you enjoyed this original article please consider making a donation to Consortium News so we can bring you more stories like this one.




Yemeni War Deaths Have Been Underestimated by 5 to 1

Civilian casualties in the three-year horror in Yemen has been vastly underestimated by mainstream organizations, reports Nicolas Davies.

Total Deaths in Yemen
Top More Than 100,000

By Nicolas J. S. Davies

An NGO responsible for reporting on war deaths in Yemen has acknowledged that it has underestimated the casualties in the three-year-old conflict by at least five to one.

Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project had originally estimated that about 10,000 people had been killed in the war in Yemen, roughly the same number reported by the World Health Organization. WHO surveys are regularly cited as estimates of war deaths in Yemen by UN agencies and the world’s media.  But ACLED now estimates the true number of people killed in Yemen is probably between 70,000 and 80,000.

ACLED’s estimates do not include the thousands of Yemenis who have died from the war’s indirect consequences, such as starvation and preventable diseases like diphtheria and cholera. UNICEF reported in December 2016 that a child was dying every 10 minutes in Yemen, and the humanitarian crisis has only worsened since then.  At that rate the total of all deaths caused directly and indirectly by the war must by now be more than one hundred thousand.

Another NGO, the Yemen Data Project, revealed in September 2016 that at least a third of Saudi-led airstrikes, many of which involve U.S.-built and (until Friday U.S.-refueled warplanes) using U.S.-made bombs, were hitting hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, and other civilian targets. This has left at least half the hospitals and health facilities in Yemen damaged or destroyed, according to the Yemen Data Project, leaving them hardly able to treat the casualties of the war or serve their communities, let alone to compile meaningful figures for the WHO’s surveys.

Even comprehensive surveys of fully functioning hospitals would capture only a fraction of the violent deaths in a war-torn country like Yemen, where most of those killed in the war do not die in hospitals. And yet the UN and the world’s media have continued to cite the WHO surveys as reliable estimates of the total number of people killed in Yemen.

Dramatically Wrong

In a three-part series for Consortium News in April, I claimed that such estimates of civilian deaths in U.S. war zones were likely to be  dramatically wrong  because that is what epidemiologists have found whenever they have conducted serious mortality studies based on well-established statistical principles in war zones around the world.

Epidemiologists recently used some of the same techniques to estimate that about 3,000 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Studies in war-ravaged Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been widely cited by Western political leaders and the Western media with no hint of controversy.

Some of the same public health experts who had worked in Rwanda and Congo used the same methods to estimate how many people had been killed as a result of the U.S. and U.K.’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. In two studies they published in the Lancet medical journal in 2004 and 2006, they found that about 600,000 people had been killed in the first three years of war and occupation.  

Broad  acceptance of these results would have been politically disastrous for the U.S. and UK governments. It would also have further discredited the Western media that had supported the invasion of Iraq and were still blaming the Iraqi victims of the illegal invasion of their country for the violence and chaos of the occupation.  The British Defence Ministry’s chief scientific advisor described the Lancet studies’ design as “robust” and their methods as “close to best practice,” and British officials admitted privately that they were “likely to be right.  The U.S. and UK governments nonetheless launched a concerted campaign to discredit them.

No Scientific Basis

In 2005, as American and British officials and their acolytes in the corporate media discounted his work, Les Roberts, the lead author of the 2004 study, told the UK media watchdog Media Lens, “It is odd that the logic of epidemiology embraced by the press every day regarding new drugs or health risks somehow changes when the mechanism of death is their armed forces.”  

Roberts, at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health at the time of the 2004 study and now at Columbia, accurately said there was no legitimate scientific basis for the objections being raised to his work and its results. But it was not so odd that embattled political leaders would use all the tools at their disposal to try to salvage their careers and reputations—and to preserve the U.S. and UK’s future freedom of action to destroy countries that stand in their way. 

By 2005, most Western journalists in Iraq were hunkered down in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, reporting mainly from the CENTCOM briefing room. If they ventured out, they were embedded with U.S. forces traveling by helicopter or armored convoy between fortified U.S.bases. Dahr Jamail was one of a few brave, un-embedded Americans reporting from Iraq. (He later named his book about his time there Beyond the Green Zone.) Dahr told me he thought the true number of Iraqis killed might well be even higher than the Lancet studies’ estimates and that it was certainly not much lower, as the Western propaganda machine insisted it was.

Unlike Western governments and the Western media in the  Iraq case, and UN agencies and the same Western media in Afghanistan and Yemen, ACLED does not defend its earlier, inadequate estimates of war deaths in Yemen. Instead, it is conducting a thorough review of its sources to come up with a more realistic estimate of how many people have been killed. Working back from the present, it now estimates that 56,000 people have been killed since January 2016.   

Andrea Carboni of ACLED told Patrick Cockburn of The Independent newspaper in Britain that he believes ACLED’s estimate of the number killed in three and a half years of war on Yemen will be between 70,000 and 80,000 once it has finished reviewing its sources back to March 2015, when Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and their allies started the war.  

But the true number of people killed in Yemen is inevitably even higher than ACLED’s revised estimate. As I explained in my Consortium News report, no such effort to count the dead by reviewing media reports, hospital records, and other “passive” sources, no matter how thoroughly, can ever fully count the dead amid the widespread violence and chaos of a country ravaged by war.

This is why epidemiologists have developed statistical techniques to produce more accurate estimates of how many people have really been killed in the world’s war zones. The world still waits for that kind of genuine accounting of the true human cost of the Saudi-U.S. war in Yemen and, indeed, of all America’s post-9/11 wars.

A earlier version of this article appeared on CounterPunch.

Nicolas J.S. Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. He also wrote the chapter on “Obama at War” in Grading the 44th President: a Report Card on Barack Obama’s First Term as a Progressive Leader.

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WATCH: Peace Congress, Veterans for Peace Seek to End U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad

The No Trump Military Parade coalition of 250 organizations held a Peace Congress in Washington, D.C., on Saturday in place of the Trump military parade, which they helped to stop. On Sunday, veterans and military families marched to commemorate Armistice Day. Consortium News live streamed both events.

In a historic show of opposition to the glorification of war and waste of millions of public dollars, the coalition has gone beyond a traditional peace group to include anti-poverty, housing, the environment and more.

The Peace Congress is bringing together organizations and activists working to build a stronger peace movement that seeks to end the wars both at home and abroad.

The Peace Congress recognizes the following:

  • Budgeting federal dollars for the Pentagon translates to less funds for necessities such as education, health care, transit, housing and more.
  • The foundations of United States foreign policy are racism, violence and colonialism, which play out in our schools and communities.
  • U.S. imperialism fuels suffering and death around the world that rebounds as hatred towards the U.S. and greater insecurity.

Saturday’s Peace Congress event opened with a panel featuring Ajamu Baraka of Black Alliance for Peace, Angela Bibens of the Standing Rock Legal Collective, Bernadette Ellorin of BAYAN USA, Cheri Honkala of the Poor People’s Economic and Human Rights Campaign, Eli Painted Crow, a veteran and mother of veteran sons, Joe Lombardo of the United National Antiwar Coalition, and Netfa Freeman of the Institute for Policy Studies, who works on issues of African solidarity and police violence.

After the panel, which focused on the current environment and building the peace movement, the Congress ran as a general assembly for the rest of the day. Movement leaders and activists identified obstacles to building a stronger and more effective peace movement, opportunities, goals and next steps.

The event seeks to build a movement to end U.S. wars at home and abroad. In the recent midterm election, despite record federal spending on wars and militarism as well as never-ending wars, the issue of ending war was absent from the political debate. That is because both the parties in power are beholden to the weapons industry, military contractors, and security state, and the industries that benefit from their existence.

Along with the Peace Congress, there was a solemn march on the Washington, D.C., mall on Sunday, led by veterans and military families to commemorate Armistice Day.

The veteran occupation, concert and protests will be held at McPherson Square on Saturday and Sunday. See here for details.

Saturday, Nov. 10

Peace Congress

The Peace Congress was held at Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church, 201 4th St., SE, Washington, D.C., Fellowship Hall.

9 a.m.: Registration and breakfast

9:30 a.m.: Opening Panel challenges and opportunities for building a movement to end U.S. wars at home and abroad.

11 a.m.: General Assembly on challenge and opportunities.

12:30 p.m.: Lunch box lunches provided

1:30 pm: General Assembly on areas for collaboration and next steps

5:00 p.m.: Peace Congress adjourns

Sunday, Nov. 11

March to Reclaim Armistice Day

This is a solemn march led by veterans and military family members. All are welcome to march to honor all victims of wars, soldiers, civilians and resisters. White poppy wreaths will be left at each site. Taps will be blown.

9 a.m.: Gather in the grassy area near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Look for the Veterans for Peace white flags.

9:30 a.m.: March begins. March route will include the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Women’s Memorial, World War II Memorial.

11 a.m.: World War I Memorial




The West is Failing Julian Assange

While media focused on Julian Assange’s cat rather than his continuing arbitrary detention, evidence shows Britain worked hard to force his extradition to Sweden where Assange feared he’d be turned over to the U.S., as Stefania Maurizi explains.

By Stefania Maurizi
Special to Consortium News

Let’s start with the cat. You never would have thought one of these beloved felines would play a crucial role in the Julian Assange case, would you?

And yet look at the latest press coverage. The mainstream media’s headlines weren’t about a man who has been confined to a tiny building in the heart of Europe for the last six years with no end insight, they were about orders from Quito to feed his cat.

There you have a man who is at serious risk of being arrested by the UK authorities, extradited to the U.S. and prosecuted for his publications. A man who has been cut off from any human contact, with the exception of his lawyers. A man whose health is seriously declining due to prolonged confinement without even an hour outdoors. Wasn’t there anything more serious to cover than the cat?

But there’s a story to be told behind Assange’s cat. One of the last times I was allowed to visit Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, before the current government of Lenin Moreno cut off all his social and professional contacts, I asked the founder of WikiLeaks whether his cat had ever tried to escape from the embassy given that, unlike his human companion, he can easily sneak out of the building without the risk of being arrested by Scotland Yard.

Assange didn’t take my question with the lightness with which it was intended, quite the opposite, he became a bit emotional and told me that when the cat was small, it had in fact made some attempts to escape from the building, but as it had grown, it had become so accustomed to confinement that whenever Assange had tried to give the cat to some close friends so the animal could enjoy its freedom, it showed fear of wide open spaces. Confinement has a deep impact on the behavior and health of all creatures, animal and human.

Strength

I have worked as a WikiLeaks media partner for the last nine years, and over these nine years I have met Assange many, many times, but only once did I meet him as a free man: that was back in September 2010, the very same day the Swedish prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for allegations of rape. Initially he was under house arrest with an electronic bracelet around his ankle, then he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London on June 19, 2012. Since then he has remained buried in that tiny embassy: a depressing building, very small, with no sunlight, no fresh air, no hour outdoors. In my country, Italy, even mafia bosses who strangled a child and dissolved his corpse in a barrel of acid enjoy an hour outdoors. Assange doesn’t.

In these last eight years, I have never heard Julian Assange complain even once: at least in my presence, he has always reacted to the enormous stress he has been under with strength and whenever I have contacted his mother, Christine Assange, she has never wished to discuss the details of her personal feelings and concerns about the conditions of her son.

But for all his strength, this harsh situation is seriously undermining Assange’s physical and mental health. In an op-ed in The Guardian last January , three respected physicians, Sondra S. Crosby, Chris Chisholm and Sean Love, tried to draw attention to this problem, yet nothing has changed. Assange remains buried in the embassy in extremely precarious conditions due to the complete lack of cooperation from the UK authorities which have always refused to offer him safe passage to enjoy his asylum in Ecuador.

This lack of cooperation from the UK authorities – which can be reasonably interpreted as a deliberate effort to make Assange feel helpless, to break him down, so he’ll step out of the embassy and they can arrest him – has helped create this Catch-22 situation, with Ecuador attempting various options to find a solution, like giving Assange diplomatic status so he can leave the embassy protected by diplomatic immunity. But at the end of the day there is very little a small country like Ecuador can do, and with Lenin Moreno in power, Ecuador’s interest in protecting Assange seems to be fading to the extent that Ecuador is considering stripping Assange of his Ecuadorian citizenship, one of the most important shields protecting the WikiLeaks founder from extradition to the U.S..

The UK’s Special Interest?

Having spent the last 3 years fighting in four jurisdictions – Sweden, the UK, Australia and the U.S. – to access the full documentation on the Assange and WikiLeaks case under FOIA, I have acquired a few documents which leave no doubt as to the role played by UK authorities in contributing to create the legal and diplomatic quagmire which is keeping Assange confined to the embassy. Why have the UK authorities done this? What special interest, if any, do they have in the Assange case?

I mention a “special interest” because documents reveal that from the very beginning of the Swedish case, the UK authorities advised the Swedish prosecutors against the only investigative strategy that could have led to a quick solution of the preliminary investigation against Assange: questioning the WikiLeaks founder in London rather than extraditing him to Stockholm. It was this decision to insist on extradition at all costs that led the Australian to take refuge in theEcuadorian embassy, fighting tooth and nail, convinced that if extradited to Sweden he could end up extradited to the U.S.

Documents reveal that the UK authorities referred to the Assange case as not an ordinary one from the very beginning. “Please do not think that the case is being dealt with as just another extradition request,” they wrote on January 13, 2011 to the Swedish prosecutors. A few months later, a UK official added: “I do not believe anything like this has ever happened, either in terms of speed or in the informal nature of the procedures. I suppose this case never ceases to amaze.” What is special about this case? And why did the UK authorities keep insisting on extradition at all costs?

At some point even the Swedish prosecutors seemed to express doubts about the legal strategy advocated by their UK counterpart. Emails between UK and Swedish authorities I have obtained under FOIA show that in 2013 Sweden was ready to withdraw the European Arrest Warrant in light of the judicial and diplomatic paralysis the request for extradition had created. But the UK did not agree with lifting the arrest warrant: the legal case dragged on for another four years, when finally on the May 19, 2017, Sweden dropped its investigation after Swedish prosecutors had questioned Assange in London, as he had always asked.

Although the Swedish probe was ultimately terminated, Assange remains confined. No matter that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention established that the WikiLeaks founder has been arbitrarily detained since 2010, and that he should be freed and compensated. The UK, which encourages other states to respect international law, doesn’t care about the decision by this UN body whose opinions are respected by the European Court of Human Rights. After trying to appeal the UN decision and losing the appeal, Britain is simply ignoring it. There is no end in sight to Assange’s arbitrary detention.

Silence and Suspicion

There are two more suspicious elements: the fact that the UK authorities destroyed the emails regarding the Assange case, as they admitted in my litigation before the UK Tribunal, and the fact that they have always refused to provide me with any information as to whether they have communicated with the U.S. authorities on the Assange case, because they sustain that confirming or denying it would tip Assange off as to the existence or non of an extradition request from the U.S..

If there is or will be an extradition request from the U.S., the UK authorities want to be able to extradite Julian Assange for his publications just like any other criminal.

The risk of an editor or publisher being extradited for his publications should raise red flags and public debate in our democratic societies, yet we don’t see any debate at all.

Julian Assange’s situation is very precarious. His living conditions within the embassy have become unsustainable, and his friends speak as if there is no hope: “When the U.S. gets Julian”, they say, as if it is a foregone conclusion that the U.S. will get him and no journalist, no media, no NGO, no press association will do anything to prevent it.

In the last six years that Assange has been languishing in the embassy, not a single major Western media has dared to say: we shouldn’t keep an individual confined with no end in sight. This treatment of Julian Assange by the UK – and, more in general, by the West – is not only inhumane, but counterproductive.

In these years, the Russian state-funded network RT has continued to cover the Assange case intensely. It isn’t hard to understand why Russia is so ecstatic about the Assange case. The case provides Russia with the evidence to affirm that while the West is always preaching freedom of the press and aggressive journalism, it in fact crushes journalists and journalistic sources who expose state abuse at the highest levels. Chelsea Manning spent seven years in prison, Edward Snowden was forced to leave his country and seek asylum in Russia, Julian Assange has spent the last six years confined to a tiny building and in seriously deteriorating health. It’s time to stop this persecution.

Stefania Maurizi works for the Italian daily La Repubblica as an investigative journalist, after ten years working for the Italian newsmagazine l’Espresso. She has worked on all WikiLeaks releases of secret documents, and partnered with Glenn Greenwald to reveal the Snowden files about Italy. She has also interviewed A.Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani atomic bomb, revealed the condolence payment agreement between the US government and the family of the Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto killed in a US drone strike, and investigated the harsh working conditions of Pakistani workers in a major Italian garment factory in Karachi. She has started a multi-jurisdictional FOIA litigation effort to defend the right of the press to access the full set of documents on the Julian Assange and WikiLeaks case. She authored two books: Dossier WikiLeaks. Segreti Italiani and Una Bomba, Dieci Storie, the latter translated into Japanese. She can be reached at stefania.maurizi@riseup.net

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