Tomgram: Chalmers Johnson, Nemesis on the Imperial Premises

January 31, 2007

The dream of the Bush administration -– eternal global domination abroad with no other superpower or bloc of powers on the military horizon and a Republican Party dominant at home for at least a generation — long ago evaporated in Iraq. A midterm election and subsequent devastating polling figures tell the tale. The days when neocons, their supporters, and attending pundits talked about the U.S. as the “new Rome” of planet Earth now seem to exist on the other side of some Startrekkian wormhole.

And yet the imperial damage remains everywhere around us. Give the Bush administration credit. They moved the goalposts. They created the sort of dystopian imperial reality (as well as a mess of future-busting proportions) that a generation of relative sanity might not be able to fully reverse. The facts on the ground — the vastness of the Pentagon, the power of the military-industrial complex, the inept but already bloated Homeland Security Department (and the vast security interests coalescing around it), the staggering alphabet (or acronym) soup of the “Intelligence Community” — all of this mitigates against real change, which is why we need Chalmers Johnson.

Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, the final volume of his Blowback Trilogy, is about to storm your local bookstore (and can be pre-ordered at Amazon now). It is a reminder of just how far we’ve moved from the sort of democratic America that the President is always holding up as a model to the rest of the world. As with Blowback and The Sorrows of Empire before it, Nemesis, Johnson’s grand, if grim, conclusion to our American tragedy, is simply a must-read. While you’re waiting for the book to arrive in your hands, you can get a little preview of its themes below. Tom

Empire v. Democracy

Why Nemesis Is at Our Door
By Chalmers JohnsonHistory tells us that one of the most unstable political combinations is a country — like the United States today — that tries to be a domestic democracy and a foreign imperialist. Why this is so can be a very abstract subject. Perhaps the best way to offer my thoughts on this is to say a few words about my new book, Nemesis, and explain why I gave it the subtitle, “The Last Days of the American Republic.” Nemesis is the third book to have grown out of my research over the past eight years. I never set out to write a trilogy on our increasingly endangered democracy, but as I kept stumbling on ever more evidence of the legacy of the imperialist pressures we put on many other countries as well as the nature and size of our military empire, one book led to another.

Professionally, I am a specialist in the history and politics of East Asia. In 2000, I published Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, because my research on China, Japan, and the two Koreas persuaded me that our policies there would have serious future consequences. The book was noticed at the time, but only after 9/11 did the CIA term I adapted for the title — “blowback” — become a household word and my volume a bestseller.

I had set out to explain how exactly our government came to be so hated around the world. As a CIA term of tradecraft, “blowback” does not just mean retaliation for things our government has done to, and in, foreign countries. It refers specifically to retaliation for illegal operations carried out abroad that were kept totally secret from the American public. These operations have included the clandestine overthrow of governments various administrations did not like, the training of foreign militaries in the techniques of state terrorism, the rigging of elections in foreign countries, interference with the economic viability of countries that seemed to threaten the interests of influential American corporations, as well as the torture or assassination of selected foreigners. The fact that these actions were, at least originally, secret meant that when retaliation does come — as it did so spectacularly on September 11, 2001 — the American public is incapable of putting the events in context. Not surprisingly, then, Americans tend to support speedy acts of revenge intended to punish the actual, or alleged, perpetrators. These moments of lashing out, of course, only prepare the ground for yet another cycle of blowback.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.


“We are slowly dying here”: Urgent Hunger Strike Update from Gitmo North

January 31, 2007

January 30, 2007


“We are slowly dying in here…”

Weekend Scare Underscores Very Real Danger of Sudden Death for Hunger Striking Detainees at Canada’s Guantanamo North

Still No Medical Monitoring After Two Months Without Food
JANUARY 30, 2007 — “We are slowly dying in here,” Mohammad Mahjoub says over the phone on day 67 of his hunger strike, day 56 for Mahmoud Jaballah and Hassan Almrei. “Our situation is very bad.”

The three men, held indefinitely under the much-criticized security certificate regime of secret evidence and deportation to torture, are kept at the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre (KIHC), dubbed Guantanamo North.

Despite last Thursday’s visit by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, who did not meet with the detainees, there has been no negotiation with the men, and no effort to end a critical situation that could turn deadly at any time.


Indeed, the detainees’ lives are on the line as staff at the facility play a dangerous game of roulette: despite considerable medical literature spelling out the need for daily medical checks of hunger strikers who have passed day 10 without food, medical staff have NOT conducted a single physical check on any of the detainees, who are subsisting on water and juice. The need to check weight, pulse, blood pressure, respiration, electrolytes, and sodium and potassium levels, among other standards, is essential in preventing the kind of traumatic incident that occurred this past weekend.

On Saturday, January 27, Mr. Jaballah reports that he felt dizziness at about 3:15 pm, pressed the emergency button, and someone finally saw him at approximately 4 pm. He was very weak and unable to walk, and requested that if he needed to be taken to another area for medical help, that this be done with a wheelchair or cart. He was informed that a cart would arrive at 6 pm. He again felt quite ill, pressed the emergency button, fell down, and was rendered unconscious, only waking up in another section of the KIHC. He reports experiencing great pain that left him screaming, and a complete lack of control over his body, with uncontrollable shivering and shaking.

“Because there has been no daily monitoring of blood, pulse, weight, or other vital signs, it is hard to pinpoint the exact cause of this incident, but our consultation with a Toronto-area physician who has attended to one of the men during a prior hunger strike says that low potassium or sodium could be one cause, coupled with dehydration and possible heart arrhythmia,” says Matthew Behrens of the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada. “Needless to say, all of these can lead to a sudden life-threatening drop in blood pressure that could place any of the men in a coma.”


Daily calls from the detainees indicate they are so weak that they spend most of the day lying down. One has blood in his urine. Another is suffering the severe effects of high blood pressure. Another has broken out in severe skin rashes causing incessant itching, while a severely swollen tongue has not been dealt with either. All are weak and dizzy from two months without food. And there is no end in sight.

The detainees, their families, and friends and supporters are concerned that Stockwell Day used his trip to KIHC to justify his preconceived notion of the situation, rather than use the occasion as an opportunity to actually learn the real reasons behind the hunger strike.


Stockwell Day did not get a full picture when he visited Guantanamo North.

He was unable to taste the daily humiliation the men face at the hands of guards, nor to hear what it is like to be denied medical treatment for things like Hepatitis C, blood in the urine, or a double hernia. Day needed to hear what it is like to be held indefinitely, without charge, on secret evidence, for upwards of seven years, as these men are living through, to understand that having a microwave and a TV in your facility does nothing to ease the pain of lengthy separation from families, the mental torture of being held on secret ‘evidence’ neither you nor your lawyer will ever get to challenge, and the daily fear of deportation to torture in Syria or Egypt.


Day also did not get a taste of what it’s like when there is no oversight agency or ombudsperson to deal fairly with complaints, a key reason for the hunger strike that was in fact flagged by the federal government’s 2005/2006 Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator, which concluded “The transfer of detainees from Ontario facilities to the Kingston holding centre means that the detainees will lose the benefit of a rigorous ombudsman’s legislative framework to file complaints about their care and humane treatment while in custody. The Office of the Correctional Investigator is concerned that the detainees will no longer have the benefits and legal protections afforded by ombudsman legislation. Pursuant to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, a non-profit organization with no legislative framework, such as the Red Cross, is unlikely to meet the protocol’s requirement for domestic oversight.”

(See below for full text of relevant section of the report)


Mahmoud Jaballah explains that despite initial hope that things might be better at KIHC than they were at Metro West Detention in Toronto, the punitive, mean-spirited atmosphere that has taken hold of the facility, especially after they initially raised minor complaints about guards’ behaviour, has become intolerable. Guards are regularly slamming cell doors, making rude comments, and making daily life difficult for the men, who are not allowed to speak to pre-approved media without those same guards present.

The threat they feel to their personal safety, and the even greater fear of false allegations being made against them, means they are now trapped in an Orwellian nightmare that could cause them their lives.

The men are told that health care, which used to be available to them in their living unit, can now only be delivered in the next building. The men say they do not feel safe going to the next building without a supervisor present so there is a witness to possible false allegations that could harm their chances for bail. [The facility is top-heavy with staff, including two directors, two secretaries, seven supervisors, 12 guards — all for the three men] So unless they comply with petty and unreasonable prison rules, they are denied a basic human right.


Last week, a group of some 70 health workers across Canada challenged the lack of ethical standards at KIHC, and campaign representatives point out that the World Medical Association Declaration on Hunger Strikers (adopted by the 43rd World Medical Assembly Malta, November 1991 and editorially revised by the WMA General Assembly, Pilanesberg, South Africa, October 2006) states at point #5 that “Physicians attending hunger strikers can experience a conflict between their loyalty to the employing authority (such as prison management) and their loyalty to patients. Physicians with dual loyalties are bound by the same ethical principles as other physicians, that is to say that their primary obligation is to the individual patient.”

As each minute ticks by, the spectre of the Criminal Code of Canada looms larger, which defines as criminally negligent anyone who “in doing anything or, in omitting to do anything that it is his duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons.”


1. WRITE /CALL/FAX Day, Finley and Harper. It is crucial that public pressure continue to be felt in Ottawa. It is such pressure that forced Day to go to KIHC; such pressure will be required to get negotiations going.

Specific points to raise:

a. The men be should provided with immediate and daily medical care in their living unit.

b. If the Kingston Immigration Holding Centre will not send in health care staff (something they did before September), the government must allow an independent outside doctor in to check on the men.

c. The federal government must immediately appoint a neutral mediator to deal with the problems, and set up a system to deal with ongoing issues that is balanced and fair (as per the concerns raised by the federal government’s own Office of the Correctional Investigator)

d. The men should not have to die for a little bit of dignity.
*Stockwell Day, MP

House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Phone: (613) 995-1702

Fax: (613) 995.1154



NOTE: Stockwell Day is the Minister responsible for the Canadian Border Services Agency (which runs the KIHC). Demand that he meet immediately with the detainees or appoint a neutral party to immediately resolve the crisis at KIHC.

*Diane Finley, MP

Phone (866) 496-3400 (Simcoe constituency office).
NOTE: Finley is the new immigration minister. Ask that, as one of the two ministers responsible for signing security certificates, she meet with the families of the detainees (who have requested a meeting) and that she also take action to meet the reasonable demands of the detainees.

* Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada

Phone: (613) 992-4211

Fax: 613-941-6900


Write a support card to the detainees (let us know at if you have so we can monitor if mail is getting through). Mohammad Mahjoub, Mahmoud Jaballah, and Hassan Almrei can be reached:

Kingston Immigration Holding Centre

c/o CSC RHQ Ontario Region

440 King Street West

PO Box 1174

Kingston, Ontario K7L 4Y8

Further info: Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada, (416) 651-5800,, <>


Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator, 2005/06 (with respect to Kingston Immigration Holding Centre)

The second policy issue that concerns my Office is the situation of individuals detained pursuant to national security certificates. A national security certificate is a removal order issued by the Government of Canada against permanent residents and foreign nationals who are inadmissible to Canada on grounds of national security. A recent decision has been made by the federal government to transfer security certificate detainees held under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act from Ontario facilities to a federal facility, pending their removal from Canada.

In Ontario facilities, the detainees could legally file complaints regarding conditions of confinement with the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman. That Office had the jurisdiction to investigate complaints filed by the detainees pursuant to the Ontario Ombudsman Act.

The Immigration Holding Centre has been built in Kingston within the perimeter fence of Millhaven Penitentiary. The Canadian Border Service Agency entered into a service contract with the Correctional Service to provide the Border Service Agency with the physical detention facility and with security staff. The Border Service Agency has a contract in place with the Red Cross to monitor the care and treatment of detainees in immigration holding centres, including the new Kingston holding centre.

The Red Cross, a non-government organization, has no enabling legislation to carry out a role as an oversight agency. The transfer of detainees from Ontario facilities to the Kingston holding centre means that the detainees will lose the benefit of a rigorous ombudsman’s legislative framework to file complaints about their care and humane treatment while in custody.

The Office of the Correctional Investigator is concerned that the detainees will no longer have the benefits and legal protections afforded by ombudsman legislation. Pursuant to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, a non-profit organization with no legislative framework, such as the Red Cross, is unlikely to meet the protocol’s requirement for domestic oversight. (full report available at

Harper’s letter dismisses Kyoto as a ‘socialist scheme’

January 31, 2007

Prime Minister Stephen Harper once called the Kyoto accord a “socialist scheme” designed to suck money out of rich countries, according to a letter leaked Tuesday by the Liberals.


How the US spread bomb-grade fuel worldwide – and failed to get it back

January 31, 2007

As per the link below, Truthout provides an interesting history of the world-wide proliferation of American enriched uranium under the US Atoms for Peace program and the several decades-long effort to secure this uranium (as well as Russia’s) before this uranium could fall in the hands of terrorists. (There is even a Canadian angle with a Taiwanese effort to produce plutonium.)

It’s a long article but definitely worth reading. Anton Wagner, Toronto Hiroshima Day Coalition.

Part I: An Atomic Threat Made in America

Sam Roe of the Chicago Tribune writes a two-part series to chronicle America’s failed quest to retrieve uranium. Roe obtained exclusive access to the government archive provided by scientist Armando Travelli, which contained thousands of records never before publicly reviewed. Roe reviewed Congressional testimony, previously classified records, foreign and US research papers, and reports by government agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Roe also interviewed Travelli and others for this report.

Toronto: Feb.5th: Forum on Quebec Student Strike

January 31, 2007

Public Forum: STUDENTS FIGHT BACK… Lessons from The 2005 QUEBEC STUDENT STRIKE *******************************************

Monday, February 5th 6 PM 35 St George St., Galbraith Building(Just north of College) Room: 220 *******************************************

With: ·Xavier LaFrance, ASSÉ (L’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante) (the association for student union solidarity) ·Chris Ramsaroop, APUS (Association of Part-Time Undergraduate Students)/ Toronto Activist ·Azada Rahi, OPIRG/ Student Activist

The 2005 QUEBEC Student Strike was part of popular opposition to the Liberal Charest government. It was led by thousands of students of CEGEPs and universities taking to the streets, and shutting down business as usual in Quebec. Students went on strike to protest budget cuts of $103 million in the Grants and Loans Program. At the height of the strike over half the entire student population (230,000 out of 450,000) of Quebec was on strike simultaneously!

In ONTARIO: The Liberal McGuinty government recently announced a lift on the tuition freeze. Tuition is expected to increase by as much as 36% over the next 4 years. This coming February 7th has been called as a Day of Action Against Tuition Fee Hikes. Students from across the province will be descending in Toronto to march on Queen’s Park to demand that this government increase funding and reduce tuition fees.

COME OUT ON FEB.5th to hear from Student activists from Quebec and Ontario about how Students have fought back and won.

COME OUT FEB.7th: 11:30 AM at Convocation Hall @ the University of Toronto and Join with the OPIRG and APUS contingent.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY OPIRG – TORONTO and APUS For more info contact: VISIT:

Iraq and Lebanon

January 31, 2007

Another one of the many tragic consequences of the Iraq war, as Mohamad Bazzi reports from Beirut, is that blowback from Iraq is now fueling Lebanon’s slide toward civil war as increasingly fearful Lebanese Sunnis are striking back at Shiites, spurred to violence by Iran’s growing regional influence.

It’s remarkable how quickly everyone remembered the patterns set during Lebanon’s long civil war. When violence suddenly erupted in Beirut on the afternoon of January 25, people rushed to stock up at grocery stores, businesses quickly shut their doors and traffic was snarled throughout the city as everyone hurried home.
…. (Read more)

Let’s ban cluster bombs

January 31, 2007
January 30, 2007

Urge Canada to join the movement to ban cluster bombs

Watch the CBC report on cluster bombs on YouTube.

Dear Annamarie,

I just got off the phone with our colleagues at Mines Action Canada, and I could hardly believe my ears.

They told me that our government cannot decide whether to support an international ban on those terrible weapons: cluster bombs.

Doesn’t our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, know that 98% of the victims of cluster bombs are innocent civilians? And that one third of those victims are children?

Canada led the world in banning landmines, and Canada should not hesitate to rid the world of these indiscriminate weapons too.

Please go to, right now, and add your name to a letter to Stephen Harper urging him to add Canada’s name to the list of 30 other countries that have already decided to work toward a ban on cluster bombs.

In peace,

Steven Staples

P.S. I am attaching an article from today’s Ottawa newspaper below. For more information on cluster bombs, visit Mines Action Canada.

Israel likely ‘misused’ American cluster bombs, U.S. admits:

Anti-personnel weapons litter Lebanon

The Ottawa Citizen, 30 Jan 2007
By Steven Edwards

UNITED NATIONS – In a rare public split with Israel, the United States yesterday said that Israeli forces “likely” violated arms agreements between the two countries when they dropped American-made cluster bombs on populated areas during the recent war in Lebanon.

The comment by the U.S. State Department is based on preliminary findings that hundreds of U.S.-made cluster bombs are among thousands of unexploded munitions carpeting the south of Lebanon.

Studies show that 98 per cent of the worldwide victims of cluster bomb explosions over the past three decades have been civilians — almost one-third of them children. The U.S. sells the weapons in part on the condition that they will be used only against organized armies or defined military targets.

But while any ruling of Israeli misuse would present U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration with having to consider sanctions against one of its closest allies, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack also emphasized, “This is not a final judgment.”

Mr. Bush, meanwhile, has discretion under U.S. law over whether to impose punitive measures on Israel, which receives more than $3 billion U.S. in military aid from Washington annually — the most of any U.S. ally.

The controversy had no effect on an Israeli air force announcement yesterday that it will buy smart munitions kits from Seattle-based aerospace company Boeing for an estimated $100 million U.S.

Focus on Israel’s cluster-bomb use came as Canada yesterday continued to delay a decision on whether to join a Norwegian-led effort to develop an international treaty banning cluster bombs.

A three-day gathering will get under way Feb. 21 in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, and among countries organizers say have expressed “a great deal” of interest are Britain and France, two of the world’s leading arms manufacturers. The U.S. is expected to attend at least as an observer. Canada remains undecided.

“The invitation is still under consideration and no decision has been taken at this point,” said Canadian Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Catherine Gagnaire.

Activist groups, such as Mines Action Canada, which backed Canada’s leadership in the development of a treaty to ban landmines, have expressed alarm that Canada is not doing the same over cluster bombs.

“The Israeli-Lebanon conflict showed there are a lot of problems with the use of this weapon,” said Paul Hannon, executive director of the group, in an interview from Oslo. “In fact, this weapons system is the most in need of international prohibition.”

Canada has said it is phasing out its small stock of the weapon, whose threat to civilians stems from the fact that 10 per cent to 15 per cent — and sometimes as many as 80 per cent — of the hundreds of bomblets each contains fail to explode immediately.

Israel launched the July 12 to Aug. 14 offensive in Lebanon in what proved to be an unsuccessful bid to drive the Iranian-backed Islamist militia Hezbollah from the southern part of the country, from where Hezbollah operatives have launched cross-border raids for years in violation of UN resolutions.

Israel said it used cluster bombs only after attempts to directly target Hezbollah operatives failed to stop rocket attacks.

Israel repeatedly said civilians were not being targeted, and that Israeli aircraft always dropped leaflets ahead of any attacks warning people to flee the area.

“We have taken the concerns raised by the Americans extremely seriously …” said Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “We are also having our own internal investigation into this matter.”

Following the conflict, Chris Clarke, the UN official in charge of bomb disposal in the south, said the region had suffered the “worst … cluster bomb contamination I have ever seen.”

Post-conflict explosions have killed at least 27 people, and injured more than 140.

Human Rights Watch was among groups that drew attention to Israel’s cluster bomb use. “The issue is not whether Israel used the American cluster munitions lawfully, but what the U.S. is going to do abut it,” said Steve Goose.