December 2, 2007

Newt Nails It

Many of us on the right are increasingly dissatisfied with the Bush Administration's handling of the "war on terror". Most of us aren't even really happy with that term, and those of us who accept it tend to do so only because either they don't think it can be changed or because none of the other choices seem better.

The president started out strong after 9-11, and it seemed that there was a new sheriff in town. The rest of the world saw that after those attacks on our homeland we did not hesitate in quickly going to Afghanistan and routing the Taliban and al Qaeda there. A little over a year later we removed another cancer in the region by quickly smashing the Iraqi army and rolling into Baghdad.

The outlaw regimes of the world trembled and the rest of the world looked on in awe.

This is the type of respect that I want for our country. When Democrats, reporters, news anchors ask "how can the U.S. regain the respect of the rest of the world" they are looking for a politically correct answer along the lines of "pull out of Iraq, apologize for invading, and only do what the UN allows us to do". But that's appeasement, not respect (As a side note, why is it that no one thinks to ask "what can the rest of the world do to gain our respect?")

When Iraq turned out to be more difficult than anticiplated we stumbled, and in the years that followed slowly lost our way. I've detailed all this in numerous posts on this blog, but no one does it better than Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich is simply one of the most brilliant speakers there is. I heard him last year at CPAC

In an article posted the other day at Family Security Matters, he takes us through the genesis of our problem and how to fix it. Following are the most important excerpts, but I encourage you to read the whole thing

Our current problem is tragic. You have an administration whose policy is inadequate being opposed by a political Left whose policy is worse, and you have nobody prepared to talk about the policy we need. Because we are told if you are for a strong America, you should back the Bush policy even if it's inadequate, and so you end up making an argument in favor of something that can't work. So your choice is to defend something which isn't working or to oppose it by being for an even weaker policy. So this is a catastrophe for this country and a catastrophe for freedom around the world. Because we have refused to be honest about the scale of the problem. ...

What's the primary source of money for al Qaeda? It's you, re-circulated through Saudi Arabia. Because we have no national energy strategy, when clearly if you really cared about liberating the United States from the Middle East and if you really cared about the survival of Israel, one of your highest goals would be to move to a hydrogen economy and to eliminate petroleum as a primary source of energy.
...

So then you look at Saudi Arabia. The fact that we tolerate a country saying no Christian and no Jew can go to Mecca, and we start with the presumption that that's true while they attack Israel for being a religious state is a sign of our timidity, our confusion, our cowardice that is stunning.
...

So we accept this totally one-sided definition of the world in which our enemies can cheerfully lie on television every day, and we don't even have the nerve to insist on the truth. We pretend their lies are reasonable. This is a very fundamental problem. And if you look at who some of the largest owners of some of our largest banks are today, they're Saudis.
...

So we accept this totally one-sided definition of the world in which our enemies can cheerfully lie on television every day, and we don't even have the nerve to insist on the truth. We pretend their lies are reasonable. This is a very fundamental problem. And if you look at who some of the largest owners of some of our largest banks are today, they're Saudis.
...

We have created our own nightmare because we refuse to tell the truth. We refuse to tell the truth to our politicians. Our State Department refuses to tell the truth to the country. If the president of the United States, and again, we're now so bitterly partisan, we're so committed to red vs. blue hostility, that George W. Bush doesn't have the capacity to give an address from the Oval Office that has any meaning for half the country. And the anti-war Left is so strong in the Democratic primary that I think it's almost impossible for any Democratic presidential candidate to tell the truth about the situation.

And so the Republicans are isolated and trying to defend incompetence. The Democrats are isolated and trying to find a way to say, "I'm really for strength as long as I can have peace, but I'd really like to have peace, except I don't want to recognize these people who aren't very peaceful.
...

None of our enemies are confused. Our enemies don't get up each morning and go, "Oh, gosh, I think I'll have an existential crisis of identity in which I will try to think through whether or not we can be friends while you're killing me." Our enemies get up every morning and say, "We hate the West. We hate freedom." They would not allow a meeting with women in the room.
...

Now what do we need?

We need first of all to recognize this is a real war. Our enemies are peaceful when they're weak, are ruthless when they're strong, demand mercy when they're losing, show no mercy when they're winning. They understand exactly what this is, and anybody who reads Sun Tzu will understand exactly what we're living through. This is a total war. One side is going to win. One side is going to lose. You'll be able to tell who won and who lost by who's still standing. Most of Islam is not in this war, but most of Islam isn't going to stop this war. They're just going to sit to one side and tell you how sorry they are that this happened. We had better design grand strategies that are radically bigger and radically tougher and radically more honest than anything currently going on, and that includes winning the argument in Europe, and it includes winning the argument in the rest of the world. And it includes being very clear, and I'll just give you one simple example because we're now muscle-bound by our own inability to talk honestly.

Iran produces 60% of its own gasoline. It produces lots of crude oil but only has one refinery. It imports 40% of its gasoline. The entire 60% is produced at one huge refinery.
...

n the 28 years since the Iranians declared war on us, in the six years since 9/11, in the months since Gen. Petraeus publicly said they are killing young Americans, we have not been able to figure out how to take down one refinery. Covertly, quietly, without overt war. And we have not been able to figure out how to use the most powerful navy in the world to simply stop the tankers and say, "Look, you want to kill young Americans, you're going to walk to the battlefield, but you're not going to ride in the car because you're not going to have any gasoline."
...

We had better take this seriously because we are not very many mistakes away from a second Holocaust. Three nuclear weapons is a second Holocaust. Our enemies would like to get those weapons as soon as they can, and they promise to use them as soon as they can.

I suggest we defeat our enemies and create a different situation long before they have that power.

I don't think we're quite at the point where we need to take out that single Iranian refinery, or blockade their shipping, but we're getting close.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 13, 2006

The Pursuit of Justice Against Saudi Arabia

Long time readers of this blog may recall that over two years ago I first wrote about the case of the Europeans, mostly Britons, with one Canadian, who were unjustly arrested and imprisoned by the government of Saudi Arabia in 2001 on trumpted up charges of planting bombs in the capital city of Riyadh and other Saudi Arabian cities. They were tortured and eventually forced to "confess" on live TV. During their ordeal their loved ones pleaded with their governments do help, but to little avail.

The men had been working in Saudi Arabia for various firms when they were arrested.

While all were eventually released, they suffered various traumas and long-term physical ailments because of the torture and abuse that they endured.

The names of the men who were unjustly arrested and accused are James Cottle, Dr William Sampson(Canadian), Ron Jones, Sandy Mitchell, James Patrick Lee, Christopher Kottel, and Leslie Walker.

I became aware of all this through communication with Mary Martini, ex-wife of James Cottle.

You can read all of my posts on this case here.

Suing Saudi Arabia

Several of the men, including James Cottle and Ron Jones, have suits underway against the government of Saudi Arabia. Ron and Mary were kind enough to send me an update a few days ago.

Mary tells me that

Last year when Ron appealed in his landmark case (Ron leads because he started proceedings when the others were still locked up) they ruled he could sue the individuals, ie: the torturers not the heads of any state, then the saudis appealed against that and so this will be the result of the saudi appeal, this means things will proceed to London High Court if the saudis lose this, if they win we take it all to Starsburg and apply to use the European Court of Human Rights, that is something you cannot do in US.

The legal brief in the case of Ronald Grant JONES v The Ministry of the Interior Al-Mamlaka Al-Arabiya as Saudiya (The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) & Anor. and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs can be found here.

Sandy Mitchell is also an appellant, one of those listed as suing the KSA.

Following are some excerpts from the legal brief. There are two claims, or allegations of torture in this case

1. The first claim (No. HQ020X01805) is made by Mr Ronald Grant Jones against "The Ministry of the Interior Al-Mamlaka Al-Arabiya as Saudiya (The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)" as first defendant and against Lieutenant Colonel Abdul Aziz, described as "a servant or agent" of The Kingdom, as second defendant. It is common ground that the first defendant is a department of and to be equated with The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (which I will call "The Kingdom"). The claim against both defendants is for "damages including aggravated and exemplary damages for assault and battery, trespass to the person, torture and unlawful imprisonment". But its central element for present purposes consists in allegations of systematic torture during a period of 67 days? imprisonment in solitary confinement between 16th March to 21st May 2001. This is said to have occurred after the claimant, Mr Jones, was mildly injured in a bomb blast outside a Riyadh book store on 15th March 2001 and hospitalised for a day. Mr Jones alleges that, following his release and return to England, he has suffered damage in England, in the form of post traumatic stress disorder and depression necessitating treatment, and is unable to work.

2. The second claim (No. HQ04X00431) is made by three claimants, Sandy Mitchell and Leslie Walker (both Britons) and William Sampson (a Canadian citizen), against four Saudi Arabian individuals, Ibrahim Al-Dali and Khalid Al-Saleh, Colonel Mohamed al Said and Prince Naif. The claim is expressed to be for assault and also (in the case of the third and fourth named defendants) negligence.
...

3. All three claimants in this claim allege that they were the victims of broadly similar patterns of systematic torture in prison. They allege that the torture was inflicted by the first and second defendants to elicit confessions which were eventually made, but which were, it is said, entirely false (though they led, it appears, at one point to sentences of death being passed on Messrs. Mitchell and Sampson).
...

All three claimants allege that, following their release and return to England, they have suffered ongoing psychological damage in England as a result of being tortured

9. The appeals now before us in relation to these two claims raise two central points. First, is The Kingdom entitled to immunity in respect of Mr Jones�s claim, which it accepts has been served on it? Second, is The Kingdom entitled to claim immunity on behalf of its officials in respect of the claims made against those officials in both Mr Jones�s and Messrs Mitchell�s, Sampson�s and Walker�s claims?

There is much else in the brief but this provides the essential facts and issues of the case.

I wish Mr Jones and other others well in their lawsuit, and will provide updates as I receive them.

Wednesday Evening Update

Ron Jones has let me know that they lost their case in the House of Lords, who overturned the decision of the court of appeal. This means that they will have to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Posted by Tom at 8:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 23, 2006

Activism in the UK - A Lesson

Yesterday I received an email from a friend in the UK Mary Martini, who detailed what she and some others did that she gave me permission to share with you.

There are many lessons in what follows, so read carefully. The biggest two are 1) That the Saudis are not to be trusted, and are guilty of egregious human rights abuses, and 2) average people can get out and do something about it.

What Mary and some others did was to confront Saudi ambassador to the UK, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf, during his visit to Manchester a few weeks ago. Their purpose was to force him to confront the reality of torture of innocent victims in Saudi Arabia, and to raise public awareness of an incident that involved several Britons and Canadians a few years ago.

The short version is that in 2001 the Saudi government unjustly arrested several Britons, including her ex husband, and tortured them into making false confessions on Saudi TV. Details are below, but first, let's get on with the confrontation.

Here is Mary's description of what happened:

The Saudi delegation was in Manchester at the town hall, it was trade and investment, Saudi has $676 billion to invest in telecoms petrochemicals ect. I made a banner 6ft high and in big A4 size letter I had on it,

SAUDI ARABIA

ARE GUILTY OF TORTURE

HUMAN RIGHTS

NOT TRADE

At 08 30 the Saudi delegation came walking toward us lead by Nawaf the new ambassador they were all so embarrassed they thought we were greeting them until they read what was written, there was myself James cottle and Bill Sampson and les walker turned up, the TV and radio came, as I live in Manchester I thought it was an insult and an opprtunity to get him. The TV were good and went into the meeting on the pretence of talking about trade but hit the ambassador with the torture, his answer was it is safe in Saudi, the trade minister (UK) was a bubbling mess he didnt know what to say when caught on the hop, we are planning to do one at the saudi embassy but they wont know when. I also made up leaflets (below) to hand out to everyone going in, some of the business men didnt want to know and one pushed me when I confronted them with the human rights issue.

Here is what she had on the leaflets

SAUDI ARABIA TORTURES THE INNOCENT

You may not know what it is like to live in perpetual fear but several British men did when they were framed and tortured into making confessions. Imagine you are working in Saudi and you are arrested for no reason, you may have a family in the UK. you are thrown in prison and made to confess to crimes you know nothing about, you will not have contact with the embassy or anyone civilised you will not see a Lawyer for over a year. You will be deprived of sleep and beaten daily, you are unable to walk as your feet are black and blue and full of lumps from the falanga

(beating of feet) you want to die and think of ways of killing yourself.

You will be taken to a kangaroo court and sentenced, you are not told of your sentence and constantly goaded by the guards, so you wait and wait hoping the UK Government have a plan to get you out, NO they have no plan and left you to rot for over 2 years.

Weakness has set in and your skin becomes dry hangs from your bones,

depression sets in and when you finally see the British consul you are not free to speak.

If you are released, you will have no job no life and suffer from medical problems, Saudi Arabia will keep saying you are guilty and you get no redress for what has been done to you.

The only thing you can do is to warn others of the human rights abuses and advise no Brits to work in the Kingdom.

Lots of lessons here

1) Know where your target will be. Do your homework

2) Have a big sign or signs that no one can miss

4) Use the element of surprise

3) Educate passers by with leaflets so that they get your message

The Background

Mary and I "met" on the Internet through the comments section on a blog. As I recall it she told the story of the tortured Britons in comments on a blog somewhere and I sent her an email asking for details. She sent me many articles, and I wrote several posts about what happened.

Here's a summary of what happened, from my first post on this:

In June of 2001, James Cottle, 51, traveled to Saudia Arabia to work on construction contracts. Within a few short months he found himself falsely imprisoned, regularly beaten, and forced to "confess", live on Saudi television, in the style of the Moscow show trials of the late 1930's.

The Saudis claim that he and seven other Europeans were behind a series of terrorist bombings that occured in the "Magic Kingdom" during November of 2000. The charge was that western bootleggers were engaged in a turf war, and that Cottle and the others were participants. However, in typical Stalinist fashion, they never presented any evidence this claim other than the confessions.

After being arrested in June of 2001 Cottle and the others were subjected to Saudi-style interrogation. The first day they yelled at him and slapped him around. Things got worse very quickly. The second night they started beating his feet. Cottle says that he was beaten six to eigtht hours every night. He spent 11 months in solitary confinement while the interrogations and beatings continued. Eventually he was allowed to share a cell with one of the other Britons accused of the bombings.

British consular officials were able to secure visits to him in jail. Although the questioned the Saudi authorities, the Saudis didn't show them any evidence that he was involved in any bombings.

During all this, his ex-wife, Mary Martini, attempted to secure his freedom through the Foreign Office (the UK equivalent of the U.S. Department of State). She says that she didn't receive much help from them. Initially she followed their request to "stay silent" and not create a public stir. However, after more than a year with no results, she grew impatient.

That James Cottle, William Sampson, Ron Jones, Les Walker and the others are innocent is not disputed by anyone in the West. All of the relevant human rights groups, and I believe even the British government itself, have said flat out that there is no way that these men were responsible for planting bombs in Saudi Arabia (which continued to go off while they were detained).

After a year of confinement, James Cottle and the others realized that their only way out was to confess on Saudi TV, which they did.

Finally, on August 8 2003, Cottle and six others were released. Some were a royal pardon, but their convictions were not overturned. Cottle refused to sign the pardon paper so was granted a clemency, the latter not stating that he was sorry "for what he did." Their treatment at the hands of the Saudis had been so bad that Ms Martini said that "I really couldn't recognise the men at first, obviously because the picture of James they have shown was from when he was about 17 stone,"

Even though James Cottle is now a free man, Martini says that he still bears the scars of his imprisonment. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and relies on heavy medication and counselors. As quoted in the Guardian, Martini said that "James has been very affected by what he has been through. He gets tired from even from normal things like just walking. Making decisions also seems hard, even deciding what he wants to eat, simple things like that."

To the suprise of no one, the arrest and torture of Cottle and the others is typical of Saudia Arabia. Said Amnesty International, "Secrecy, torture and unfair trials are the hallmarks of Saudi justice."

You can find all of my articles on this situation and Saudi Arabia here.

The city of Manchster issued this press release on the visit, which Mary forwarded to me:

Manchester shows Saudi delegation why it's a great place to do business

A delegation of leading Saudi Arabian officials will be hearing about opportunities to do business in and with Manchester.

Delegates including Saudi ambassador to the UK Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf and Princess Loulwah Al Faisal are visiting the city on January 26 to highlight trade and investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia in a special forum at Manchester Town Hall.

But they will also be shown how much Manchester has to offer as a major international business and investment location.

The ambassador will host a private lunch on January 25, joined by Lord Mayor of Manchester Mohammed Afzal Khan, Sir Howard Bernstein, City Council chief executive and leading companies and partners. The ambassador will also meet local Muslim leaders and visit a number of key development sites in Manchester.

In the evening a reception will take place at the City of Manchester Stadium for the Saudi delegation, hosted by City Council leader Richard Leese and attended by 50 leading figures from Manchester's business community.

Lord Mayor of Manchester Mohammed Afzal Khan said: "I am delighted our great city has been chosen for this important event. I think it is fitting because Manchester has a long and proud history in world trade and is a major international business and investment location.

And yes you read that right. Apparently the mayor of Manchester is a Muslim from Pakistan. Here's his bio.

When released, Ron Jones filed a lawsuit against the individuals in Saudi Arabia responsible for his arrest and torture. Mr Jones has won the first round, obtaining the right to sue the Saudis. However, the Saudis have appealed, and the case will be heard this April. The British government has been of no help in this entire process, wishing it all to be swept under the rug so as not to interfere with "good relations".

Several of the others also have lawsuits pending.

I havent't seen much in the US press about this, although this article appeared in The Washington Times last June, (it is still available and is an excellent summary and background)

The Victims

Of those arrested, James Cottle, Sandy Mitchell, Bill Sampson, Les Walker, Peter Brandon, and Ron Jones have all been to the Parker Institute in Denmark and have proof of torture.

Glenn Ballard, Jimmy Lee, and Raf Shyvens were also unjustly arrested but they were not tortured.

Jim Cottle has written a long account of his ordeal which you can download here: Download file

Posted by Tom at 10:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2005

What Misperceptions?

How often do we hear that when two nations, or peoples, are at odds with one another that it is a problem of perceptions? Too often, I'd say. And while this is mainly an issue with the left, and their insistance on endless negotiations and student exchanges, others have picked up on this too.

Take this tidbit from today's Washington Times:

Karen Hughes, the Bush administration's top public diplomacy official, came to Saudi Arabia in a bid to improve the U.S. image, but her hosts turned the tables yesterday and asked her to help create better perceptions of Saudi Arabia in the United States. ... She sought an opportunity to explain unpopular U.S. policies that cause anger and resentment in the region.

Instead, she received an earful of complaints that the American people have wrong ideas about the Saudis and little is being done to correct those misperceptions.

And what, in particular, upsets the Saudis?

Earlier yesterday, students and professors from Dar al-Hekma College decried the way Saudi women are portrayed in the United States.

During a town-hall meeting with Mrs. Hughes at the all-women's college, one student noted "a very negative picture of Muslim women that is created by the American media and supported by the U.S. government."

How oh how might that picture have been developed? Maybe by the fact that women are at best second-class citizens in Muslim-ruled countries? Grrrr.

But wait, there's more. Sent to my by a friend in the UK who follows the Saudis closely:

From The Guardian:

If Downing Street bows to today's reported Saudi demands for concessions in the hope of a Eurofighter sale worth up to £40bn, it will face dissent from the Foreign Office, the Serious Fraud Office, and British Airways. There will also be anger from such expatriate victims of Saudi behaviour as Ron Jones, who is trying to sue the regime for falsely imprisoning and torturing him.

Whitehall sources point to the two Powell brothers, who they claim are enthusiasts for the deal. Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair's chief of staff, is said to be pro-Saudi. His brother Charles, now Lord Powell, also has access to Downing Street. He was Margaret Thatcher's foreign affairs adviser, and is now on BAE's payroll as a consultant, according to the current register of Lords' interests. BAE stands to make massive sums from a deal to sell the Eurofighter Typhoon to Riyadh.

I've written about Ron Jones before. He was among several Britons and others imprisoned by the Saudis in 2001 for allegedly planting bombs in their country. He and the others were working there as many westerners were when they were suddenly arrested and held incommunicado for several months. They were brutally tortured and forced to make false confessions on Saudi TV.

Unfortunately, they did not receive much if any help from their governments, who seemed more interested in maintaining good relationships with the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) than the welfare of their own citizens.

More on "our good friends" in the KSA, this time from the BBC (story again courtesy of my friend in the UK):

The Saudi Arabian authorities are refusing to reveal what action was taken against a diplomat suspected of sexually assaulting a child in London.

The man was arrested at the end of July last year but was released after claiming diplomatic immunity.

The Saudis say he will not be able to return to the UK, but have offered no information as to his fate.

The Foreign Office has refused to hand over papers on the case, despite a BBC freedom of information request.
...
The alleged assault against the 11-year-old girl generated anger in the newspapers when the Saudis refused a request by the British to waive the man's diplomatic immunity.

This left police unable to even question the man about the allegations.
...
The Saudis have steadfastly refused to comment on the case.

It was understood that the man would be dealt with by the Saudi justice system on his return. But the outcome of the Saudis' investigations remains unknown.

Still want more? Think that the Saudis are fighing against terrorism? If so, they're being mightly selective about it. Check out this latest from MEMRI:

Saudi Government Official on Iqra TV: All Muslims Must Support Jihad – Send Money to the Saudi Committee for Support of the Al-Quds Intifada, Account No. 98

An August 29, 2005 program on Saudi Iqra TV was devoted to supporting Jihad in Palestine. The program host began by telling all Saudis that they must donate and explained how to do so.

A caption then appeared on the screen: "Saudi Committee for Support of the Al-Quds Intifada, Account No. 98, a joint account at all Saudi banks." A moderator stated that "Jihad is the pinnacle of Islam" and explained that the funds would go directly to those waging Jihad, where it would "help them carry out this mission."

The program included the secretary-general of the Saudi government's Muslim World League Koran Memorization Commission, Sheikh Abdallah Basfar, who explained why it was an "obligation" for all Muslims to support Jihad. He also promised that "all of the funds sent via the known charities and organizations" would reach "your Muslim brothers." TO VIEW THIS CLIP VISIT: http://memritv.org/search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=843.

All all these are stories that have appeared in the press just recently. I didn't have to do any digging.

There are no "misperceptions", folks. We understand perfectly well what the government of the KSA represents.

Posted by Tom at 8:19 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 21, 2005

Saudi Arabia Torture update

From the Guardian;

Lawyers win right to seize Saudi assets

Mark Honigsbaum and Paul Kelso
Tuesday May 17, 2005
The Guardian

The court of appeal yesterday granted lawyers acting for three men who were tortured and detained in Saudi jails for more than two years permission to seize the kingdom's assets in this country, including Saudi commercial airliners.

The ruling follows a decision by the court of appeal last October giving the men the right to sue Saudi officials responsible for their torture in the British courts.

In October, the Saudi government decided it would not contest an order to pay the men's costs, yet has failed to do so. It has promised to take the case to the House of Lords.

Bindman and partners, lawyers for William Sampson, Sandy Mitchell and Les Walker, will now apply to the high court sheriff to seize sufficient commercial property to meet the costs, believed to be more than £100,000.

Bindman and partners have made clear they will send the sheriff in to seize Saudi property as soon as possible. They are not entitled to enter the Saudi embassy, as it is covered by diplomatic immunity and regarded as foreign territory.

However, any commercial property owned by the Saudi state in Britain is regarded fair game. That includes Saudi Arabian airlines, as well as houses and cars used for commercial purposes by Saudi officials or employees.

The Saudi embassy could not be reached for comment yesterday, but lawyers for the kingdom indicated in court that they would seek to overturn the order to pay costs by asserting immunity, setting the stage for further legal arguments.


I'll bet they didn't want to comment.

The article in the Guardian was sent to me by Mary Martini, ex-wife of one of James Cottle, one of the Britons who was unjustly imprisoned and tortured, and Ron Jones, who himself was unjustly imprisoned and tortured.

Kat over at the Middle Ground has been following this story also. Check out her blog posts here and here for additional details.

Let's keep up the pressure, folks.

For a timeline see the BBC story here.

My earlier posts:

A horror story of Saudi Arabia
Keep Quiet? Never!

Posted by Tom at 2:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 13, 2005

Saudi Arabia Torture Update

Some good news in the case of the Britons and other westerners falsely imprisoned by the Saudi Arabian government in 2001. I have received the following press release from Ron Jones, who was one of those falsely imprisoned and tortured;

Press Release

Ronald Grant Jones

V

Ministry of Interior Saudi Arabia & Anr

The above case has been listed for hearing before their Lordships in the House of Lords on 25th, 26th and 27th April 2006.

Best wishes for Mr. Jones in his case against Saudi Arabia. Those not familiar with the case should read my posts here and here on their ordeal. There's is the perfect example of what we get when we coddle dictators for the sake of short-term objectives, namely a secure supply of oil.

Victor Davis Hanson wrote an excellent piece that discussed very subject just last month.

I will report more on this story as updates arrive.

May 14 Update

Ron sent me a a story in the Daily Telegraph that helps to explain the situation:

A former City tax adviser who was tortured in Saudi Arabia has been told the Government will side with the Saudis against him in his fight for justice.

Ron Jones said he had a reassuring meeting with Foreign Office minister Lady Symons earlier this year at which she promised she would raise the issue at a top level meeting with Saudi ministers in February.

Lady Symons said the case would be raised again in March and wrote to Mr Jones to say she was hopeful that they could make "real progress".

But the 52-year-old has now received a letter telling him that the Government will intervene on behalf of the Saudis when the case is heard in the House of Lords.

Mr Jones, from West Sussex, is pursuing a £2.5 million claim for damages for wrongful arrest, torture, personal injury and loss of earnings.

His claim, which is seen as a test case for others, seeks to argue that the 1978 State Immunity Act is incompatible with the Human Rights Act and gives foreign states the right to shelter torturers.

His torture claims were bolstered by physical evidence found by doctors after his release following two months captivity in Saudi Arabia.

<>The Foreign Office consular division confirmed at the time: "[Mr Jones's] story was substantiated by evidence. Officials were in no doubt he was telling the truth."
...
He had been in Saudi Arabia for four months working for a petro-chemical company when he was injured by shrapnel in a bomb blast and taken to hospital where security forces dragged him from his bed and arrested him on suspicion of causing the explosion.
...
The men, who lived in constant fear of execution, spent two and a half years in Saudi jails - a year of which was in solitary confinement. They were released in August 2003.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 8:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 28, 2005

Saudi Deal with the Devil

It is said that a gaff is when someone gets caught saying what they really think. If true, then the Chief Justice of Saudi Arabia certainly got caught in a gaff the other day (hat tip lgf):

"If someone knows that he is capable of entering Iraq in order to join the fight, and if his intention is to raise up the word of God, then he is free to do so," says Sheik Saleh Al Luhaidan in Arabic on the October audiotape from a government mosque, obtained by NBC News.

While Luhaidan warns Iraq is risky because "evil satellites and drone aircraft" watch the borders, he stresses making the trip to fight Americans is religiously permissible.

"The lawfulness of his action is in fighting an enemy who is fighting Muslims and came for war," says Luhaidan.

"This statement shows the real face of the Saudi government," Saudi dissident Ali Al-Ahmed of the Washington-based Saudi Institute told NBC, noting Saudi officials, including Luhaidan, publicly oppose holy war in Iraq, but send a different message in private.

"He is telling Saudis it's OK to go to Iraq and kill Americans and Iraqis and they won't be punished for doing that," says Al-Ahmed.

When a Saudi spokesman denied the authenticity of the tape, the network contacted Luhaidan himself in Saudi Arabia to play the tape.

"Yes, this is my voice," the sheik confirmed in Arabic.

But Luhaidan said he meant to convey the message that it's "not worth it for young Saudis to go to Iraq and that the Iraqis are capable of fighting on their own," according to NBC.

Yeah right.

This is the result of the deal with the devil that the ruling Saudi family has made. When the kingdom was founded in the early 20th century, the Saudis essentially told the radical Wahhibist clerics "leave us alone and we'll keep you funded."

This "worked" for some time. But eventually the radicals grew bold enough to bite the hand that fed them. The defining moment was probably the presence of American troops on Saudi Arabia during and after the Gulf War. This was what caused Osama bin Laden to decide that America and the Saudi government would be his main targets.

As a result, the Saudis have suffered a spate of terrorist attacks over the past ten years or so. The situation appeared to be getting out of hand last year, but fortunately the Saudi government took action and appear to have the terrorists on the run now.

But even so, this does not correct the essential wrong within their country; that it is ruled by a corrupt dictatorship that is resistant to reform. And as I've said many times on this blog, it is to our detriment that we supported them for so long. It is high time that we call them to the carpet and demand basic reform. Sometimes Bush appears to be doing this, but othertimes he backtracks. As of now Bush is playing nicey-nice with them trying to get them to increast production to reduce oil prices, but his efforts have been in vain. It is high time we ended this short-term policy in return for one demanding basic reform.


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March 27, 2005

Back to the Magic Kingdom

While caught up in the tragedy of Terri Schiavo, the War on Terror, the formation of a new government in Iraq, the threat of a war with China, and about a million other news items, let's not forget the nature of the Saudi goverment, and some Britons who deserve justice.

I first wrote about this in May of 2004, and you can find a BBC timeline here, but the short version is that in 2000 Briton James Cottle and six other westerners, who were working in Saudi Arabia, were arrested on trumped-up charges. They were charged with setting off bombs in the Saudi capital as part of a bootlegger ring. After being tortured, they "confessed" on Saudi TV. Eventually they were released, and most have filed suit against Saudi Arabia for damages. The men also allege that their governments did little to help then during their captivity.

The latest in this story, sent to me by Mary Martini, ex-wife of James Cottle and his ceaseless advocate, is that British Foreign Minister Jack Straw had agreed to meet with him to discuss his case. At the last minute, however, the meeting was called off. The meeting had been scheduled for Thursday of last week. Cottle and Martini have been urging Straw to back their case.

Their case has been working it's way through the courts, for more see this October 2004 story.

The Lesson

I said it at the time I wrote first posts on this and I'll say it again: This is the fruit of our long coddling of the Saudi dictatorship. For too long we tolerated their repressive ways as long as they sold us their oil and provided military bases. We should have put them on notice some time ago that they needed to reform. After all, at this point they need us more than we need them. They cannot not sell us oil, while we do not need them for bases - anymore, at least.

To be fair, for a long time western policy makers felt they had no other choice. They remembered all too well the "Arab Oil Embargo of 1972" all too well. Determination to prevent a recurrance drove policy. And, the Saudis did, at times, provide us with valuable military bases (the 2003 invasion of Iraq would have been much harder without them).

But while we should be sympathetic to policy makers of the past, because the public would have screamed bloody murder had the oil spigot been shut off, we must call their actions short-sighted. And one terrible result of that short-sightedness was the horror of torture that James Cottle and the other unjustly accused men were put through. Neither the British nor the American government acted with the urgency and haste that they should have to get those men out of the hands of the Saudi police.

The Saudis are themselves the victims of their own repressive past, and of their own refusal to put a stop to Whahhabi radicalism. They suffered a series of terrorist attacks within their country last year that were only put down with much effort. And many of the jihadists that have come to Iraq are Saudi Arabians (not to mention the 9/11 terrorists).

President Bush has laid out a bold agenda for freedom in the Middle East. Although our efforts are concentrated on Afghanistan and Iraq, we must keep our attention on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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February 1, 2005

Saudi Arabia Publishes Hate Ideology

While the Iraqis go to the polls to vote in their own free government, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) continues to publish hate-filled propaganda here in the United States, according to the this report from Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom.

Among the key findings of the report;

  • Various Saudi government publications gathered for this study, most of which are in Arabic, assert that it is a religious obligation for Muslims to hate Christians and Jews and warn against imitating, befriending, or helping them in any way, or taking part in their festivities and celebrations;
  • The documents promote contempt for the United States because it is ruled by legislated civil law rather than by totalitarian Wahhabi-style Islamic law. They condemn democracy as un-Islamic;
  • The documents stress that when Muslims are in the lands of the unbelievers, they must behave as if on a mission behind enemy lines. Either they are there to acquire new knowledge and make money to be later employed in the jihad against the infidels, or they are there to proselytize the infidels until at least some convert to Islam. Any other reason for lingering among the unbelievers in their lands is illegitimate, and unless a Muslim leaves as quickly as possible, he or she is not a true Muslim and so too must be condemned.
  • Sufi and Shiite Muslims are viciously condemned.
Freedom House says that they undertook this project "... after many Muslims requested the Center’s help in exposing Saudi extremism in the hope of freeing their communities from ideological strangulation." That is very good news indeed. In additon to our War on Terror, there is a very real war within Islam between moderates and radicals. It is not completely clear to me that the moderates are winning. The elections in Iraq and that moderates went to Freedom House are good signs, however.

A copy of the 89 page publication can be downloaded from their website here. It makes for very disturbing reading.

Hat tip to G Gordon Liddy for making me aware of the Freedom House publication during his radio show.


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June 1, 2004

Keep Quiet? Never!

The story of James Cottle, William Sampson, and the others unjustly arrested and tortured by Saudi Arabia is one that can only fill any right-thinking person with horror. When traveling to a foreign country one assumes that, if there is trouble, your government will be there to help. "How can our government not go all-out to help us?" we ask. During Roman times, if a Roman citized was threatened by bandits all he had to do was cry out "I am a Roman!" Those who would do him harm knew that while they might get away with murder today, it was only a matter of time before the legions laid waste to their lands.

We should and must demand that our governments never allow a situation to develop again whereby one of our citizens is unjustly held and tortured. However, in order to correct the situation we must understand how we got to where we are now.

For the fact is that the United States, Great Britain, and other western democracies have long supported, or at least tolerated, certain dictatorships. We have done so for a variety of reasons. In the Second World War we allied ourselves with Stalin's Soviet Union to defeat Nazi Germany. When asked about the morality of such an alliance, Churchill replied that he "would ally myself with the Devil himself if it would defeat Mr Hitler."

During the Cold War we allied ourselves with many authoritarian regimes. South Korea, Taiwan(Republic of China), Iran under the Shah, various Latin American countries, the list is almost endless. And in southeast Asia we allied ourselves with the South Vietnamese government, no Jeffersonian democracy there.

We did this for the same reason that we allied ourselves with the Soviet Union during World War II; to defeat a greater evil. In the 1930's and '40s Nazi Germany presented a threat that would extend beyond it borders, while the Soviet Union was happy to murder it's own citizens. Likewise during the Cold War years; the Soviet Union represented an expansionist threat while the various dictatorships around the world were happy enough to repress their own citizens.

The justification in both instances is that there are different shades of evil, just as there are of good. Churchill was under no illusions about Stalin as he know him to be thoroughly rotten. But Hitler could destroy Britain and all of Europe, so he was the one to be defeated at the time. The government on Taiwan was not until recently a democracy, but the communist one on the mainland was infinitely worse.

This is the concept of relative evil. No one said that the dictatorships that we have tolerated or even supported were good. It is rather that they were less evil, or less of a threat, than the one or ones we were trying to defeat.

Which beings us to Saudi Arabia.

American and British governments are both reluctant to even gently critics the Saudis. It cuts across party lines in the U.S., as Bill Clinton's policies were no different than those of George Bush. While the far left believes, or rather, rants, that it is all due to "Bush family Saudi oil connections" and spins various conspiracy theories, more sober observers know that the truth is far more simple. And the simple truth is that Saudi Arabia is important to us for two reasons; oil and strategic military cooperation.

The oil part hardly needs elaboration. Petroleum is key natural resource. Right now, at our current state of technological development, it represents that most "bang for the buck" energy wise. We will no doubt move away from this dependency as time goes on, but to believe that we can do so quickly is environmental utopianism.

In order to understand the second part we must go back to our concept of relative evil. The fact is, Saudi Arabia was very helpful in defeating Saddam's Iraq. They provided much more help than was acknowledged at the time; bases, intelligence facilities, oil at bargain prices, and more. This cooperation started in it's present form during the Desert Shield operation in 1990. Without Saudi Arabia, we would not have been able to recover Kuwait.

When policy-makers are presented with a situation such as that which befell James Cottle, this concept of relative evil is no doubt the basis of their decision making. They seem quite willing to sacrifice individuals for the "greater good". And, sad to say, the story of James Cottle and the others falsely imprisoned is hardly the only human-rights abuse the Saudi government has committed against us.

American women who have, while living in their home country, married Saudi men have many times discovered to their horror that he has packed up the children one night and fled home. Worse, there is no way to get them back. Forget an appeal to one's own government, for they are not going to help. This has been extensively documented in National Review magazine, among other places.

But do policy makers face the same situation with regards to Saudi Arabia as that which occurred in our earlier examples?

They would answer "yes". And, on the surface, they have a point. We need their oil. Without it our economies would suffer greatly. And we need their cooperation in the War on Terror, they would say, for a variety of reasons I'll not list here.

I would argue that they are wrong. They need to sell us their oil as much as we need to buy it. The Gulf states depend almost entirely on oil revenues. They have no factories and produce nothing else of note. They can refuse to sell oil only for a short period before their economy would totally collapse as they have no other significant source of income.

Some might say "well, they can refuse to sell it to us, but still sell it to other countries." However, oil is a fungible commodity. One drop is as good as the next. When oil is sold it is done so on a world market, and the only important measurement is the total amount available worldwide. If they refuse to sell to us, but say, only to Japan, the Japanese would buy need to buy less from say, Indonesia. Indonesia would have a surplus that we could buy.

Regarding the War on Terror it should be obvious by now that the Saudis are perhaps the most vulnerable of all nations. They are Osama bin Laden's primary target. He sees them as not being worthy stewards of Islam's most holy cities, Mecca and Medina. He means to overthrow them and Al Qaeda has committed many bombings in that country.

So what should Americans, Britons, Canadians, and other like-minded citizens do when loved ones are unjustly imprisoned by the likes of Saudi Arabia?

During the Vietnam War, American wives of captured pilots were similarly urged to "keep quiet" about their husband's imprisonment. Initially they cooperated, but after several years of inaction they decided to speak out and bring the matter to the public's attention. To it's credit, the Nixon Administration finally decided that a harder line towards the Vietnamese was needed. Melvin Laird, Nixon's Secretary of Defense, decided that quiet diplomacy was unproductive and that more public efforts were needed. It was believed by many that it was the public campaign that finally led to productive negotiations.

We must therefore continue to put pressure on our governments to revise their attitude towards the Saudis. The current British policy of advising against "all but essential travel to Saudi Arabia", simply will not do. Exposure will embarrass them. They know that their government is fragile and they need all they help they can get from us. Put simply, they have more to lose than to gain by not reforming. Let's make sure they are forced to do so.

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May 24, 2004

A Horror Story of Saudi Arabia

On June of 2001, James Cottle, 51, traveled to Saudia Arabia to work on construction contracts. Within a few short months he found himself falsely imprisoned, regularly beaten, and forced to "confess", live on Saudi television, in the style of the Moscow show trials of the late 1930's.

The Saudis claim that he and seven other Europeans were behind a series of terrorist bombings that occured in the "Magic Kingdom" during November of 2000. The charge was that western bootleggers were engaged in a turf war, and that Cottle and the others were participants. However, in typical Stalinist fashion, they never presented any evidence this claim other than the confessions.

After being arrested in June of 2001 Cottle and the others were subjected to Saudi-style interrogation. The first day they yelled at him and slapped him around. Things got worse very quickly. The second night they started beating his feet. Cottle says that he was beaten six to eigtht hours every night. He spent 11 months in solitary confinement while the interrogations and beatings continued. Eventually he was allowed to share a cell with one of the other Britons accused of the bombings.

British consular officials were able to secure visits to him in jail. Although the questioned the Saudi authorities, the Saudis didn't show them any evidence that he was involved in any bombings.

During all this, his ex-wife, Mary Martini, attempted to secure his freedom through the Foreign Office (the UK equivalent of the U.S. Department of State). She says that she didn't receive much help from them. Initially she followed their request to "stay silent" and not create a public stir. However, after more than a year with no results, she grew impatient.

"Fifteen months later, I think we now really need demands by the Foreign Office, not questions asked", she told a BBC reporter.

"We asked Baroness Amos last year what would happen if we were here in another 12 months time and she said 'Well we hope we are not'." (Baroness Amos was dealing with this in her capacity as Minister for Trade and Industry)

"Well we still are - how much longer?"

She says that Baroness Amos told her that the Government thought it would put the mens lives at risk if she spoke to the media.

By his own admission, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw did not take a hard line with the Saudis. As quoted by the BBC, Straw "...defended the Foreign Office response, seen by some as "softly softly", as one which best served the prisoners, regardless of British trade interests."

Finally in January 2002 Martini decided to speak out. She contacted a British newspaper, The Guardian.

She says that she never intended to make a public flap, but that her family finally persuaded her that going public was the best course of action.

And indeed the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs quotes Minister Rammell (of the Foreign Office) as saying that: "our judgment, rightly or wrongly, was that the most effective way to secure the release of these men was to do that privately rather than raise the profile of the cause publicly." The committee concludes that "The evidence we have received on behalf of Mr. Cottle suggests that that judgment may have been wrong." Stronger retaliatory action was recommended in the future. The full report can be read here.

Martini appealed to the Foreign office asking for assistance. She says that the FCO (Foriegn and Commonweath Office) repeatedly lied to her. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office maintained that they were doing all that they could and that they visited with Cottle monthly.

While all of this was going on, bombs continued to go off in Saudi Arabia. Several news sources and human-rights groups investigated the matter and all concluded that the accused men were not responsible for the bombings. However, as of this writing, the "confessions" of several of the accused are still posted on a Saudi Arabian website.

In August of 2001 Cottle and two other Britons were forced to confess live on Saudi television. They were sentenced to 18 years in prison. Several others faced the death penalty, which in Saudi Arabia is by public beheading with a sword. Another, Sandy Mitchell, said that he was threatened with crucifixion.

Ron Jones was another Briton arrested for the bombings. After his release he had harsh words for the British government; "I have been tortured and my government will not stand up and condemn the Saudis for what they have done. Now why won't they do that?" Said the relative of another of the imprisoned men, "They didn't want to upset the Saudis. They wanted to keep it all nicey, nicey... They never put enough pressure on the Saudis."

Finally, on August 8 2003, Cottle and six others were released. Some were a royal pardon, but their convictions were not overturned. Cottle refused to sign the pardon paper so was granted a clemency, the latter not stating that he was sorry "for what he did." Their treatment at the hands of the Saudis had been so bad that Ms Martini said that "I really couldn't recognise the men at first, obviously because the picture of James they have shown was from when he was about 17 stone,"

Even though James Cottle is now a free man, Martini says that he still bears the scars of his imprisonment. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and relies on heavy medication and counselors. As quoted in the Guardian, Martini said that "James has been very affected by what he has been through. He gets tired from even from normal things like just walking. Making decisions also seems hard, even deciding what he wants to eat, simple things like that."

To the suprise of no one, the arrest and torture of Cottle and the others is typical of Saudia Arabia. Said Amnesty International, "Secrecy, torture and unfair trials are the hallmarks of Saudi justice."

_____________________________________________

*** This story was brought to my attention by Mary Martini. She supplied me with information and links that made this story possible

*** Coming Soon: Analysis and commentary on British and American relationships with "friendly" authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia.

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