The five anarchists arrested on Wednesday have been imprisoned without bail. They appeared in Madrid court on ‘promoting terrorism’ and other charges – that is, just saying things in favour of ETA separatists on their Facebook identities pages. According to the police the five charged are ”Kete Follen, Pakete Bomba, Cadenas Libertarias, Eskupe Metralla and Indio Apache Barcelona” (these are all fake names). The police statement relating to items allegedly found during raids on the flats of those arrested is given as an appendix, below.
Of these five we only found the Facebook page of Eskupe Metralla still available. This page seems like thousands of other Facebook pages by radical young anarchists supporting animal rights, prisoners, punk bands, occupy, anti-fascist action, etc… Perhaps this is another police ‘mistake’. We saw no threats to politicians or royals in his/her 1370 photos; some do advocate violence, but were put on her/his wall by others, so the crime would be ‘not deleting a criminal photo from your Facebook timeline’… Eskupe has not posted since Wednesday, when the arrests took place.
The second great crime they are accused of is a photo collage on Facebook of the King of Spain shot in the head, later modified to show various right and left Catalan politicians. This is in the context of a ‘huge amount of anarchist propaganda’. The police document that has resulted in the five being sent to prison without bail has listed their crimes as: threatening the Royals, Politicians, and the Security Forces and Financial Institutions (banks). We couldn’t find images on Facebook that related to these ‘crimes’.
More seriously, the charge sheet says ”these threats had a concrete outcome” in respect to damage to National police vehicles in an ”anti system” demonstration in Barcelona during the General Strike of 14th Nov 2012, as well as ”attacks against capitalist interests in the Barcelona area”. This seems like another vague accusation of causing others to carry out attacks.
None of those arrested in the Sabadell Anarchist Centre raid had anything to do with the centre, according to the various groups, including the 15M movement and the CNT anarcho-syndicalist union, who use the place, though all have offered solidarity with the arrested. Also, all agree the police simply used the presence of the five as an excuse to raid and pillage the centre.
Also the group Bandera Negra of the Madrid Young Anarchist Movement (FIJL) have no connection with those arrested. (Though they too showed solidarity with the accused.) The police statement said ‘Bandera Negra’ instead of ‘Kolectivo Bandera Negra’, which is the group to which those accused of the ”crimes” belong.
Finally, the greatest crime is what they allegedly found when the police raided the flats of those arrested: see photos. The police claim to have found a ”storeroom of explosives and munitions”, but the photos show some commercially available fireworks and rockets (firework season is approaching in Catalonia), a can of petrol, some plastic tubes they claim are ‘rocket launchers’, lots of punky black clothing, an anarchist banner, an anti fascist patch, etc. The full set of photos (and charges) can be seen here .
Also two of the arrested – the couple JJ and YF – are accused of possessing a large amount of Ecstasy (MDMA)
The judge gave their names, which we don’t publish here until its clear they wish them to be publicised. They’re three men and two women.
The ‘Facebook Terrorists’, as they are now being dubbed, are charged under laws originally created to suppress the Basque separatist movement. This is ‘thought crime’, pure and simple, for which it is possible to spend many years in prison.
Source: comrades in Barcelona
Detinguts 5 membres d’un grup criminal per enaltiment del terrorisme i per incitar a la violència urbana i desordres públics.
Avui han estat traslladats a l’Audiència Nacional per passar a disposició del jutge.
Agents de la Policia de la Generalitat-Mossos d’Esquadra han detingut cinc persones, tres homes i dues dones, i realitzat tres entrades i perquisicions, en el marc del l’operació “BANDERA NEGRA”, instruïda pel Jutjat Central d’Instrucció número 1 de Madrid. L’operació, que es va desencadenar dimecres passat, 15 de maig, continua oberta i no es descarten més actuacions policials.
Avui, divendres 17 de maig, els detinguts han estat traslladats a l’Audiència Nacional per passar a disposició del jutge.
L’operatiu de dimecres es va desenvolupar durant el matí a les poblacions de Sabadell (Vallès Occidental ) i d’Avinyonet del Penedès (Alt Penedès). Els Mossos van escorcollar l’Ateneu Llibertari i una casa ocupada de Sabadell i un domicili d’Avinyonet del Penedès.
Dels cinc detinguts, dos homes i una dona estan acusats dels delictes d’enaltiment del terrorisme, Contra els drets fonamentals i llibertats públiques, amenaces, pertinença a organitzacions i grups criminals i delicte contra la salut pública, concretament tràfic de substàncies estupefaents; una detinguda està acusada d’un delicte contra la salut pública, i un altre per enaltiment del terrorisme, Contra els drets fonamentals i llibertats públiques, Contra la Corona, Amenaces, Pertinença a organitzacions i grups criminals.
Fruit d’aquesta operació policial, els Mossos van intervenir:
o Sis kilograms de fluoranfetamina, substància estupefaent de recent implantació.
o 350 grams de marihuana
o Material informàtic i documentació diversa
o Garrafes de benzina i objectes incendiaris i pirotècnics dels utilitzats en episodis de violència urbana
o Llançacoets modificats de PVC
o Claus punxa-rodes que presumptament s’utilitzen en manifestacions violentes per rebentar les rodes dels furgons d’ordre públic
o Màscares antigàs
o Un tirador amb rodaments d’acer, dels que s’han intervingut en alguna ocasió en manifestacions violentes.
o Propaganda anarquista
La investigació es va iniciar amb el seguiment de diferents xarxes socials relacionades amb entorns antisistema on s’incitava a la lluita al carrer, emprant la difusió o distribució continua de cartells i comunicats amb missatges radicals vinculats amb l‘anarquisme insurreccional, al comunisme revolucionari i el seu braç armat GRAPO, així com campanyes d’enaltiment d’ETA i els seus presos.
L’anàlisi d’aquestes xarxes socials va permetre detectar un nou col·lectiu denominat Bandera Negra que va continuar amb la línia marcada per l’anterior amb diverses vessants:
o anarquista i d’incitació a la subversió al sistema democràtic mitjançant la violència urbana, sobretot en grans manifestacions.
o de recolzament a integrants de GRAPO i el seu braç polític PCE(r)
o de recolzament a altres organitzacions terroristes com ara Resistència Galega
L’activitat a la xarxa del Kolektivo Bandera Negra ha estat la de difusió continua i adoctrinament difonent gran quantitat de cartells i publicacions diàriament, incitació a participar a campanyes pròximes als seus ideals com son les campanyes a favor d’ETA i els presos, altres campanyes en favor d’organitzacions terroristes així com campanyes pròpies d’altres col·lectius antisistema. Destaquen diverses crides a la violència urbana i als desordres públics en dies immediatament anteriors a jornades de mobilitzacions ciutadanes, com podien ser els casos de les darreres vagues generals.
Una escissió del grup va servir per conformar les Células Autónomas de Combate que en els darrers mesos han impulsat campanyes i accions concretes tals com una amenaça de mort contra el Príncep d’Astúries mitjançant la publicació d’una fotografia seva en la que es simulava un tret al cap. Aquest fet també es va repetir respecte el president de la Generalitat i el secretari general del PSC, Pere Navarro.
Is Bradley Manning the Oskar Schindler of the digital age? An odd question, at first glance – but consider this… Daniel Ellsberg recently stated that Bradley Manning was responsible for ‘saving thousands of lives’ (details below). Oskar Schindler personally rescued over a thousand Jews from concentration camps during World War Two. Manning and Schindler were very different in how they operated, but the results were the same. The impact of digital interventions in the 21st Century is yet to be fully appreciated. And many people still can’t get out of the habit of expecting governments or the United Nations to provide support when genocide or massacres are threatened or war crimes are obvious. A reminder of an old Jewish saying: ‘Save the life of one person and you save the whole world”. In that case, Bradley Manning has saved the world ten thousand-fold. So why is he languishing in a military jail and not being honoured by his country?
Well, at the recent debate at the Frontline Club on Manning it was argued that Daniel Ellsberg eventually was seen as a hero partly because the American people turned against Nixon, but that it takes time for Americans to realise that a Democrat president can conduct, say, war crimes or bring in totalitarian surveillance measures, and should be impeached just as Nixon was. Also, the current US Administration conducted from the outset and with the help of a compliant media a propaganda war against Manning (and Wikileaks) which saw the person revealing war crimes and corruption portrayed as a traitor. Interestingly, a member of the audience at the Frontline Club debate poignantly asked, just when will the campaign to support Manning begin to turn the tables on the US Government and reveal the true guilty party – for the prosecution of Manning should never have happened in the first place.
It’s all about removing the blinkers and changing perception – radically. For example, if Manning had been an Iranian living in Iran and was imprisoned for making public details of Iranian war crimes, you can bet the US Government would be the first to demand his release, and other countries in the West would follow suit. Likewise, if Manning had been British, it is likely he would not have been prosecuted (or, at worst, got a dishonorable discharge) and, instead, a public inquiry would have been instigated to examine the war crimes revealed. But in the USA (as with the cases of Jeremy Hammond, Barrett Brown and the late Aaron Swartz, as compared to the recent sentencing of LulzSec hackers in the UK) it’s all about extreme punishment of the kind you would expect from North Korea or the Stalinist days of the Soviet era.
And if Manning is found guilty at his forthcoming show trial (where he, presumably, is not allowed to call instigators or victims of war crimes in his defence) and is punitively sentenced, it will be nothing less than the greatest travesty of justice in the last one hundred years. The American people have to take a stand: do they want truth, or a cover-up? If they make do with the latter, then they can kiss goodbye to their liberties.
Below, we provide examples of 21st Century digital ways of saving lives via not just Bradley Manning but also via Anonymous. Also, an Appendix showing what Oskar Schindler and similar heroes of World War Two did to save lives.
Saving lives in the digital age
A. Bradley Manning
It is acknowledged that the information Manning released re. war crimes and corruption led to the early withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and so saving hundreds if not thousands of US lives. Manning’s heroic actions are characteristic of what can be done in the digital age. Possibly the main difference here between Manning and those quoted in section ‘B’ below, apart from the methodology, is that the lives saved were mostly US military, though the US withdrawal may have contributed to the reduction in Iraqi civilian fatalities.
In an article in Advocate it was relayed that Daniel Ellsberg explained how Manning’s release to WikiLeaks of a State Department cable that revealed U.S. knowledge of an American atrocity (which the government denied had actually occurred) but without leading to any prosecution of the perpetrators, had forced Iraq prime minister Nouri Maliki — who had been inclined to allow President Obama to keep 10,000 or more American troops in Iraq beyond the end-of-the-year deadline agreed by Bush — to insist there be no immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts for American troops remaining. Obama then realised he couldn’t keep American troops there — to be accused, perhaps correctly, of atrocities — without immunity and that he had to pull them all out.
Ellsberg gave that as an example of how Manning’s actions saved lives, rather than causing harm to thousands… “There were 10,000 to 20,000 American combat troops who would be in harm’s way in Iraq at this moment, and some of them would already have died, if our president had had his way. It was due to Manning’s revelations that they are not in Iraq right now. And hundreds of thousands of American troops had been put in harm’s way. Over 4,000 had died, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis because no Bradley Manning in 2002-03 had existed at a high level to do what he did in telling the truth about ongoing policy, which was then lying us into a wrongful war.”
There are many examples of Anonymous stepping forward where governments fear to tread, resulting in hundreds and possibly thousands of lives being saved. Here are just four…
Last July, Anonymous intervened in Syria after massacres had taken place. Their action is best summed up by their communique… “While the United Nations sat back and theorized on the situation in Syria, Anonymous took action. Assisting bloggers, protesters and activists in avoiding surveillance, disseminating media, interfering with regime communications and networks, monitoring the Syrian internet for disruptions or attempts at surveillance – and waging a relentless information and psychological campaign against Assad and his murderous and genocidal government. When world governments would not send so much as a single band aid worth of medical supplies to the protesters in Syria, it was a team of six European Anons who donned back-packs and walked almost 400 pounds worth of medical supplies over the border (along with ten pounds of chocolate candy for the children) and into Syria – risking their very lives to assist our dear freedom seeking brothers and sisters inside Syria. And as long as the tyrant remains defiantly in power, Anonymous will continue to work relentlessly day and night – from every country and every timezone, to assist the courageous freedom fighters and activists in Syria.”
Last November, Israel attacked Gaza disproportionately. Anonymous stepped forward to assist the people of Gaza, bringing down, literally, hundreds of Israeli websites, including the Bank of Jerusalem, the Israeli Parliament and Israeli Police HQ. Other major websites attacked included the Israeli Defense Forces, the Prime Minister’s office, airlines and security companies. In total, they took down over 700 Israeli websites. This disruption may well have thwarted any further offensives planned by the Government of Israel against Gazans.
In March, this year, Anonymous intervened on learning of a threat of a third wave of massacres of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. Anonymous launched two campaigns and most Myanmar Government websites were taken down. The attacks dissipated (though many Rohingya still face, today, further possible attacks and many are imprisoned in camps or put to sea).
Earlier this month communications were taken down in Syria – this included phone (landline and mobile) communications as well as the Internet. During the first few hours of the blackout several massacres took place in villages in the Tartous region. The mainstream media did not reported these. The hactivist network of anons and Telecomix helped restore Internet communications for the Syrian people. Had they not done so, there may have more massacres.
Message to San Francisco Pride board
Appendix: Saving lives the 20th Century way
Oskar Schindler rescued 1200 Jews (men, women and children) by employing them in his factories, but in doing so bankrupted himself. On his grave, the Hebrew inscription reads: “Righteous among the Nations”, an honorific used by the State of Israel to describe non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust to save Jews from extermination by the Nazis. The German inscription reads: “The Unforgettable Lifesaver of 1200 Persecuted Jews”
Nicholas Winton organized the rescue of 669 mostly Jewish children from German-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport. Winton found homes for them and arranged for their safe passage to Britain. Winton kept quiet about what he had done, but years later it all came out. Subsequently he received multiple honours. In the 2002 New Year Honours, he was knighted in recognition of his work on the Czech Kindertransport. In 2003, Winton received the Pride of Britain Award for Lifetime Achievement. He was awarded Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, Fourth Class, by the Czech President in 1998. He was also nominated by the Czech government for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize. The minor planet 19384 Winton was named in his honour by Czech astronomers Jana Tichá and Miloš Tichý. In 2010, Winton was named a British Hero of the Holocaust by the British Government.
Raoul Wallenberg rescued one hundred thousand Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary during the Holocaust from Hungarian Fascists and the Nazis during the later stages of World War II. While serving as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest between July and December 1944, Wallenberg issued protective passports and sheltered Jews in buildings designated as Swedish territory. Wallenberg was captured by the Russians, imprisoned and executed. Israel designated Wallenberg as one of the Righteous among the Nations. On July 26, 2012 he was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress “in recognition of his achievements and heroic actions during the Holocaust.”
Gertruida (Truus) Wijsmuller Meijer was a Dutch war hero and resistance fighter. She was recognized as Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem. From the Thirties onwards she arranged children’s transports for the Committee for Special Jewish Interests, saving 10,000 Jewish children from Germany and Austria on a route via the Netherlands to the UK. She holds numerous awards, including Officer in the Order of Orange-Nassau.
From comrades in Barcelona we have been informed that five members of ‘Black Flag’ have been detained in dawn raids on the anarchist-syndicalist CNT centre in Sabadell near Barcelona, Spain. They are accused of belonging to a terrorist group. The Police broke into and searched the Anarchist Workers Centre (Ateneo Libertari) in Sabadell. The operations included another raid and search in Sabadell and two more in other municipalities in Catalonia, one of them in Avignon (Bages County). On the same day police evicted the Can Piella ‘Land and Liberty’ squat. International solidarity is requested.
UPDATE 1: a statement from the FIJL (Federation of Iberian Libertarian Youth) has been released and is published below at end of article.
Thirty Mossos police have now taken over the anarchist centre in Sabadell, after smashing down the door down before 9.00 a.m. according to a member of the CNT union that occupies part of the premises with Bandera Negra (‘Black Flag’). The ‘Mossos’ – whose origins are military – have a long history of carrying out beatings in police stations and it is hoped comrades will not be harmed.
Ateneo & CNT office, Sabadell
The Ateneo de Sabadell, which is owned by the CNT, is a space open to all working people of Sabadell, which many groups and people from Sabadell and elsewhere have used for recreational, cultural and social events over many years. Other citizens of the city, including the 15M Take The Streets movement and Occupy, make use of the building and have begun demonstrations in support of the five arrested. The premises at Sabadell have now been sealed off.
The five arrested people are scheduled to appear before the Audiencia Nacional in Madrid on Friday. In addition to Sabadell, sources close to the anarchist movement say that Catalonian regional police are launching further raids at the behest of the Audiencia Nacional in other towns in Catalonia.
The following statement has been received regarding reports of five anarchists arrested on ‘terrorism’ charges after a raid by Mossos police, yesterday, on the premises of the Ateneo Llibertar in Sabadell, near Barcelona, Spain.
Statement of solidarity
From ‘Black Flag’ (FIJL – Madrid):
Today, the information our group has received through Catalan comrades is that the High Court has issued several arrest warrants, five in all, but when we write this statement , they can confirm only one. The media, meanwhile, have been devoted to half-truths. Because the name of our group (and the link to our old blog) has been widely reported in the media and social networks (and using our seal and other graphic allusions to our group) we want to clarify that the Madrid ‘Bandera Negra’ (Black Flag) Group are part of the Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth, though for obvious geographical reasons we have nothing to do with the group in Sabadell that were kidnapped by police on Wednesday 15. This is surely obvious to anyone who pauses to compare the information – at least to see that the territorial scope of our group is limited to Madrid.
That said, we give our complete solidarity with the arrested person (we insist that we know that so far there is only one) as well as any others who are involved with Llibertari Ateneo de Sabadell and who have been kidnapped by the Mossos d’Esquadra by order of the Court. As far as we know, this whole mess is due to a fragile Facebook page and consequent charges of praising terrorism. This has served as an excuse for the state mercenaries to enter the Libertarian Ateneo de Sabadell and steal various materials as well as sow fear and doubt in the Catalan anarchist movement and the rest of the state territory. This the State shows its hard face again and treats us to a show of force to remind us that it retains its full power and repression, ready to fall on anyone who questions the logic of this system and dares fight back.
The media has followed a recognisable pattern in recent years in trying to criminalise anarchism with arrests and the slandering of anarchist militants. A constant barrage of press and television reports has described us as terrorists so as to provide targets and so legitimise repression in the eyes of the public. Press, police and judges act in unison to isolate, criminalise and persecute the anarchist ideal.
Again, the National Court exposes its fascist, totalitarian origin, pursuing dissidents against the authoritarian regime in which we live. For over a year, harassment and arrests by the Spanish State have been carried out against the anarchist movement and this harassment has increased exponentially. With regard to the many arrests that have happened in Barcelona since the strike of 29-M, all arrests and fines have been against anarchists. Therefore, we continue to denounce repressive actions of the state and its tools in its attempts to exercise ever greater social control, such as via schooling (which is also an indoctrinating element), via the magistrates, via the police and via the media. We will continue to denounce their repressive role and continue to fight for the freedom of all prisoners and against any authority.
For us repression is the logical reason behind these threats. But we refuse to accept the role of helpless victim and pretend to be perfect citizens who have never broken a plate. We are anarchists and we put our emphasis on propaganda and cultural diffusion, but we also believe in the need to fight against all that oppresses us, outside parliament and other institutions of the system. Solidarity and direct action are both theoretical and practical approaches with which we function day to day. We will not bow down. We will respond.
Black Flag Group – Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth
Revolutions are slow affairs, taking many forms. History has shown that the quicker the revolution, the more likely they are appropriated – taken over – by an authoritarian tendency that ends up entrenched, so creating a counter-revolution. The classic example is the role of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution, who were ruthless in dealing with their opponents, particularly the anarchists who demanded a revolution organised from below with no leaders and no centralisation. It is not surprising, therefore, that today, in Spain, the people are approaching radical social change from a multitude of directions: via the revolutionary unions such as the CNT, via occupations of workplaces and town halls, via mass demonstrations in the cities, and via the creation of alternative economies. Crucial too, are the local assemblies – democratic, consensus based locals, often meeting in expropriated halls or just open spaces such as squares. Last weekend, all across Spain, a flowering of these assemblies – ‘agoras’ – were seen. And there was much, much more…
On Sunday thousands took to the streets of the main cities of Spain to protest the government and financial system. The biggest demonstrations were in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. There were also massive demonstrations in Almeria, Bilbao, Gijon, Leon, Palma de Mallorca, Seville and Zaragoza. Those demonstrating urged uprisings across Europe.
Most of the main squares in central Madrid and Barcelona were liberated as ‘agoras’ – open spaces, democratic assemblies – see photo below. These agoras are examples of revolution in action. Discussions take place at the agoras on ways of organising, of strengthening local communities and on issues of mutual aid.
On May 9th, Spain saw also saw a nationwide strike by students and teachers. Thousands of teachers and students took to the streets across Spain to protest against spending cuts that are destroying the country’s public education system. The protests coincided with a one-day strike by teachers, students and support staff that affected all levels of education.
Madrid, 12 May
Also, on May 9th, a day of action against the nationalized bankrupt BANKIA in Spain went viral with hundreds of branches closed, occupied, attacked, etc.Swindled customers of all ages appeared to demand their savings back. Dozens of branches were closed due to “breakdowns” and “technical problems” throughout the country.
At yesterday’s Frontline Club debate on Bradley Manning (a Darker Net representative was in attendance) it was revealed that members of the Welsh Assembly are exploring ways in which Bradley Manning can be helped (he spent most of his teenage years in Wales and his mother is Welsh). A reference was also made to how Manning’s revelations led directly to the early withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and so, as Daniel Ellsberg recently stated at the farcical SFPride Board meeting (see below) Manning ‘saved thousands of American lives’ (and not, as was alleged, put them in danger). A review of the Frontline Club debate is given here…
The Frontline Club debate was chaired by Richard Gizbert of Listening Post. Speakers included Chase Madar (lawyer and journalist), David Leigh (former Investigations Director, The Guardian) and Naomi Colvin (Bradley Manning support activist). Note: the first 30 seconds of the video is silent.
For a detailed critique of what David Leigh had to say, see this excellent article by m_cetera.
Points raised by the speakers during the debate:
• Farcical situation in America whereby there appears to be a higher classification of documents by the US authorities, while at the same time allowing over one million people access to Top Secret documents.
• David Leigh bizarrely described the ‘Collateral Murder’ incident as a mistake, yet it is clear from the commentary that it was more to do with bloodlust.
• Leigh described Wikileaks material as being of ‘low value’, yet the Guardian chose to make it front page news, day after day.
• Madar argued that the role of the media has been crucial to the persecution of Manning in that poor media coverage in the USA in particular and the way that media has characterised Manning has contributed to his persecution; moreover it has a crucial role to play in Manning’s fate as political not legal factors will be the prime determinant.
• Madar and Colvin observed that there appears to be more people, at every level, in the UK who are aware of Manning than in the US, which suffers from a near media blackout or where people are more prepared to adopt the patriot stance and condemn Manning without knowing the facts.
• Madar and Colvin emphasised that international pressure on the US Government is essential if Manning is to receive a fair deal.
Audience members made the following points:
• Emphasised how the US involvement in Iraq was cut short because of material provided by Manning and published by Wikileaks – in particular re. a certain incident in Ishaqi, followed by a cover-up (see Notes section below).
• With the campaign to support Manning, unfortunately the US Government has been allowed to set the agenda – instead, the campaign should have gone on the offensive from the beginning and prosecuted the US Government for war crimes.
• A member of Plaid Cymru at the Welsh National Assembly stated how very recently her fellow AMs have been enquiring on how Manning – a UK citizen who lived for much of his teenage years in Wales and whose mother still lives in Wales – can be helped by the Assembly.
• Ann Clywd (Labour MP, Welsh constituency) stated how she has been trying to get Manning on to the UK political agenda.
• Several times David Leigh was criticised by members of the audience: he was accused of siding with Julian Assange’s detractors and of indulging in character assassination of Assange. It was also pointed out that the Guardian benefited (sales, etc) considerably from the material passed to it by Wikileaks and Manning but have done little to support either (apart from the Greenwald articles).
Notes re. early withdrawal of US troops from Iraq
In an article in Advocate it was relayed how Daniel Ellsberg explained how Manning’s release to WikiLeaks of a State Department cable that revealed U.S. knowledge of an American atrocity, which the government had denied had actually occurred but without leading to any prosecution of the perpetrators, forced Iraq prime minister Nouri Maliki — who had been inclined to allow President Obama to keep 10,000 or more American troops in Iraq beyond the end-of-the-year deadline agreed by Bush — to insist that there be no immunity from prosecution by Iraqi courts for American troops remaining. Obama then realised that he couldn’t keep American troops there — to be accused, perhaps correctly, of atrocities — without immunity. He had to pull them all out. Ellsberg gave that as an example of how Manning’s actions saved lives, rather than causing harm to thousands…
“There were 10,000 to 20,000 American combat troops who would be in harm’s way in Iraq at this moment, and some of them would already have died, if our president had had his way. It was due to Manning’s revelations that they are not in Iraq right now. And hundreds of thousands of American troops had been put in harm’s way. Over 4,000 had died, along with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis because no Bradley Manning in 2002-03 had existed at a high level to do what he did in telling the truth about ongoing policy, which was then lying us into a wrongful war.” Daniel Ellsberg.
“That description from CNN of the cable’s contents is, unsurprisingly, diluted to the point of obfuscation. That cable was released by WikiLeaks in May, 2011, and, as McClatchy put it at the time, “provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.” The U.S. then lied and claimed the civilians were killed by the airstrike. Although this incident had been previously documented by the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the high-profile release of the cable by WikiLeaks generated substantial attention (and disgust) in Iraq, which made it politically unpalatable for the Iraqi government to grant the legal immunity the Obama adminstration was seeking. Indeed, it was widely reported at the time the cable was released that it made it much more difficult for Iraq to allow U.S. troops to remain beyond the deadline under any conditions.”
Postscript re SF Pride
Meanwhile, more details have emerged from those attending the notorious ‘closet’ meeting at SF Pride offices, which SF Pride abandoned once it became clear they were losing the argument. (Since the meeting SF Pride issued a statement on Facebook, making it clear that they had no intention of changing their decision re Manning and that their ‘rescheduled’ meeting would not take place until after this year’s parade – in other words they have now fully committed themselves to corporate and military interests in opposition to their own constituency.)
In parts of the world thousands of people are starving or are being killed in acts of genocide. They need all the intervention we can organise. Now and then, though, the plight of one person touches our hearts and we stop and realise that this suffering is close to home too. This is the story of Stephanie Bottrill, a loving mother in the West Midlands of England who, when confronted with the hated bedroom tax, adding a further cut to her already meagre income, she reached rock bottom and took her own life. But let’s be clear: this was not suicide. This was murder. And the guilty are surely those in Government who are waging all-out class war, ensuring their mate’s – toffs – are the ones that benefit. It is Thatcherism – pure and simple – with a vengeance…
Parts of Britain now resemble a Third World country. Houses boarded up, shops the same. Youth unemployment at 25%. People despairing. They rely on handouts. Some are too proud to seek help and so starve. Others consider suicide. Stephanie Bottrill was not able to work because she suffered from a crippling illness. With all the welfare cuts imposed by the Nasty Party, she was struggling to make ends meet. Then the hated Bedroom Tax was introduced. Iain Duncan Smith, it’s architect, is the main guilty party here. Just over a week ago 53-year-old Stephanie killed herself after being hit with an £80 a month bill for the two spare bedrooms in her council house.
Today her son Steven demanded that Prime Minister David Cameron scrap the tax to stop anyone else committing suicide. Currently an online petition calling for the Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Duncan Smith to examine Stephanie’s death has gained hundreds of thousands of signatures, such is the widespread anger that is abroad the country.
Steven said: “The man who can change things is David Cameron. I think my mum wanted to get it out there what happened. Hopefully now someone will listen. Someone will realise what has gone on and change things. They are all sitting in an office in London thinking of ideas how they can make money, but Mr Cameron has to give the seal of approval. They haven’t thought it through properly, how it will affect people. For my mum £80 a month is a huge amount of money, but for people who are on huge salaries who have gone to Eton it is a different world. She was struggling already, it was a lot to ask for.”
He added that his mother was so poor she used hot water bottles instead of her central heating. “All the winter she didn’t have the heating on. She wrapped up warm, she had hot water bottles even when she was watching the telly. In 2013 in Britain you can’t imagine this. To live like that…”
Stephanie threw herself in front of a speeding lorry. She had been given a £80a month bedroom tax after Steven and his sister Laura, 23, had left home. In her suicide note to her son, she wrote: “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”
Stephanie, of Solihull, had the auto-immune system deficiency, Myasthenia gravis – an illness which weakens muscles. She was on constant medication. Steven said his mother had wanted to work, but could not as the doctors told her she was too ill. She had never registered as disabled, so had no disability benefit. She had wanted to downsize her home, but the council had nothing smaller available.
Steven: “I last saw my mum the day before it happened. She had phoned me up crying and said she couldn’t go on and that there’s too much pressure. She was asked to find another £20 week, but she just didn’t have it. The system failed her at every stage.” Stephanie died in the early hours of May 4 on the M6 motorway. She had visited neighbours before killing herself, telling them: “I can’t afford to live.”
Undoubtedly, there will be more like Stephanie. But the guilty are not only untouched, but laughing themselves silly as they quaff their next glass of Dom Perignon in their country mansions in the shires.
For the Nasty Party are the entrenched establishment, immune to protest, to petitions and their digital age equivalents; heartless, selfish, and who will only be defeated when revolution deals with their kind mercilessly as they have done to the poor for centuries.
The evidence against the US Government for war crimes during the Iraq War and the Afghanistan conflict has been gathered and – at the risk of being accused of prosecutorial overreach – we have expanded the charges from eight to forty-one, which are summarised with links, below, to cover related conflicts largely contiguous to the (second) Iraq War. The next logical step is for some of these charges to be used as a basis for either a prosecution of the US Government, or for a commission of inquiry (which could be virtual). Either of these options could take place prior to, after, or – even better – in parallel with the show trial of Bradley Manning, which is due to commence June 3. A third option could see all those accused of war crimes – Bush, Obama, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Steele, etc – plus, on the defence side, 141 representatives of the thousands tortured – subpoenaed to appear at the Bradley Manning ‘trial’.
In 10 or 20 years from now, historians and journalists (assuming they have not been criminalised, or paid off) will look back on the first fifteen or so years of the 21st Century with astonishment and ask: just how did the US Government pull off the biggest con in recent history by fooling the gullible, including the mainstream media, into believing that one man – Bradley Manning, a third time Nobel Peace Prize nominee – was a traitor for merely revealing crimes against humanity, while the real perpetrators – the US military, the US Administration, its contractors and its allies – escaped prosecution? Well, history need not be recorded that way if those guilty of these crimes are arraigned and prosecuted. This should be the moral objective of anyone concerned with exposing truth and ensuring that such crimes are harder to commit in years to come.
Bradley Manning has become a symbol of this moral challenge that is being waged against the amoral practices of nation-states, led by the USA in its bid to ensure its dominant position in the world. Whatever Manning’s fate, we must ensure he is freed sooner than later.
Below is a leaked audio of his testimony in court; above is a video of one section of that testimony,
The main charges, as listed below, relate directly to the Iraq War and the conflict in Afghanistan, with the bulk of evidence emanating from files uploaded to Wikileaks by Bradley Manning. Additional footnotes are provided where possible.
Charge #1. US authorities failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and even murder by Iraqi police and soldiers whose conduct appears to be systematic and normally unpunished. The “Iraq War Logs” published by WikiLeaks revealed that thousands of reports of prisoner abuse and torture had been filed against the Iraqi Security Forces. Medical evidence detailed how prisoners had been whipped with heavy cables across the feet, hung from ceiling hooks, suffered holes being bored into their legs with electric drills, urinated upon, and sexually assaulted. (1) For more, click here .
Charge #2. The “Iraq War Logs” also revealed the existence of “Frago 242,” an order implemented in 2004 not to investigate allegations of abuse against the Iraqi government. This order is a direct violation of the UN Convention Against Torture, which was ratified by the United States in 1994. The Convention prohibits the Armed Forces from transferring a detainee to other countries “where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.” According to the State Department’s own reports,the U.S. government was already aware that the Iraqi Security Forces engaged in torture. For more click here .
Charge #3. The Guantanamo Files describe how detainees were arrested based on what the New York Times referred to as highly subjective evidence. For example, some poor farmers were captured after they were found wearing a common watch or a jacket that was the same as those also worn by Al Queda operatives. How quickly innocent prisoners were released was heavily dependent on their country of origin. Because the evidence collected against Guantanamo prisoners is not permissible in U.S. courts, the U.S. State Department has offered millions of dollars to other countries to take and try our prisoners. According to a U.S. diplomatic cable written on April 17, 2009, the Association for the Dignity of Spanish Prisoners requested that the National Court indict six former U.S. officials for creating a legal framework that allegedly permitted torture against five Spanish prisoners at Guantanamo. However, “Senator Mel Martinez… met Acting FM [Foreign Minister] Angel Lossada… on April 15. Martinez… underscored that the prosecutions would not be understood or accepted in the U.S. and would have an enormous impact on the bilateral relationship”. (2) For more click here .
Charge #4. US special-operations forces have targeted militants without trial in secret assassination missions, and many more Afghan civilians have been killed by accident than previously reported, according to the WikiLeaks Afghanistan war document dump. For more click here .
Charge #5. The “Collateral Murder” video released by Wikileaks depicted the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad,including two journalists working for Reuters. The Reuters news organization has repeatedly been denied in its attempts to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act.(3) The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters photographer and his rescuers. Two young children who were present in the attempted rescue were also seriously wounded. Ethan McCord, a U.S. army soldier who can be seen in the video carrying wounded children to safety, has said that whoever revealed this video is a “hero.” An internal U.S. military investigation concluded that the incident was consistent with the military’s “Rules of Engagement.” For more click here .
Charge #6. The Obama administration worked with Republicans during his first few months in office to protect Bush administration officials facing a criminal investigation overseas for their involvement in establishing policies that some considered torture. A “confidential” April 17, 2009, cable sent from the US embassy in Madrid obtained by WikiLeaks details how the Obama administration, working with Republicans, leaned on Spain to derail this potential prosecution [by Baltasar Garzon] . For more, click here .
Charge #7. U.S. defense contractors were brought under much tighter supervision after leaked diplomatic cables revealed that they had been complicit in child trafficking activities. DynCorp — a powerful defense contracting firm that claims almost $2billion per year in revenue from U.S. tax dollars — threw a party for Afghan security recruits featuring boys purchased from child traffickers for entertainment. DynCorp had already faced human trafficking charges before this incident took place. According to the cables, Afghan Interior minister Hanif Atmar urged the assistant US ambassador to “quash” the story. These revelations have been a driving factor behind recent calls for the removal of all U.S. defense contractors from Afghanistan. (4) For more, click here .
Charge #8. There is (despite government claims to the opposite) an official tally of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even though the Bush and Obama Administrations maintained publicly that there was no official count of civilian casualties, the Iraq and Afghanistan War Logs showed that this claim was false. Between 2004 and 2009,the U.S. government counted a total of 109,000 deaths in Iraq, with 66,081 classified as non-combatants. This means that for every Iraqi death that is classified as a combatant, two innocent men,women or children are also killed. (5 & 6) Note… A respected British medical journal published a set of figures indicating not just thousands of Iraqi casualties but closer to a million – a genocide in both name and fact, that is only now becoming apparent. For more, click here.
Other (contiguous) charges
Further charges – not necessarily war crimes – are listed below, some with footnotes that provide sources of evidence; some relate to files uploaded by Bradley Manning to Wikileaks; some are tangential to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; others unconnected to those wars.
9. Leaked diplomatic cables show that in 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince pushed then-Haitian President Rene Preval to come out in support of powerful textile manufacturers who sought to block a popular minimum wage increase. These factory owners, who produce apparel for large brands like Nike and Nautica, had benefited from recent free trade agreements that had severely lowered wages and working conditions in Haiti. A series of cables show that the US Embassy closely monitored the movements and activities of student protestors supporting the $5/day minimum wage bill. The bill’s supporters had argued that the increase was justified in light of rising inflation and food costs that had led to widespread starvation. According to the leaked cables, the U.S. delegation dismissed the proposed minimum wage increase as nothing more than a populist measure aimed at appeasing “the unemployed and underpaid masses.” Ultimately, the U.S. delegation succeeded in their efforts when President Preval agreed to block the increase. (7)
10. The Tunisian people were already well aware of the corruption plaguing the autocratic ruling family, which for decades had abused their rights. However, the United States government had long presented a public image of strong support for the Ben Ali regime. The U.S. campaign of unwavering public support for President Ali led to a widespread belief among the Tunisian people that it would be very difficult to dislodge the autocratic regime from power. This view was shattered when leaked cables exposed the U.S. Government’s private assessment that the U.S. would not support the regime in the event of a popular uprising. While extreme economic hardship and popular discontent with rights abuses had already set the stage for an uprising, this new information played a critical role in transforming the landscape of political possibilities in Tunisia. The Tunisian people finally realized that, contrary to the U.S. Government’s public relations efforts, they weren’t really up against the full force of the world’s superpower. Within one month, Ben Ali became the first Arab leader to be swept from power in the ongoing democratic movements in the region. (8)
11. According to a leaked diplomatic cable from Cairo, the head of Egypt’s notorious State Security Investigative Service (SSIS) thanked FBI Deputy Director John Pistole for the “excellent and strong” cooperation between the two agencies. In particular, the FBI’s training sessions in Quantico, Virginia, were of “great benefit” to his interrogators. Another cable documented what the US embassy considered “credible” allegations of human rights violations by the SSIS, including torturing prisoners with “electric shocks and sleep deprivation to reduce them to a ‘zombie state’” (8). After the autocratic Mubarak regime was driven from power in the recent Egyptian revolution, protestors stormed the “Amn Dawla” headquarters of the SSIS to uncover further evidence of torture and abuse. They posted these documents on their own site, known as “Amn Dawla Leaks.” (9)
12. According to the “National Humint Collection Directive,” a secret document that was signed by Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and published by WikiLeaks, US diplomats were authorized to collect “biometric” and other sensitive information from top UN officials, as well as UN representatives from other nations. The leaked documents show that “biometric data” specifically included samples of the officials’ DNA, among other forms of personally identifying information. They also ordered diplomats to collect credit card information and secure passwords. These activities contravene the 1946 UN Convention.(10)
13. A cable from December 2008 showed that officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency had warned the Japanese government about the danger posed by potential seismic activity in the area. The official stated that Japan’s “safety guides for seismic safety have only been revised three times in the last 35 years.” It was also noted that the Japanese government had fought against a court order to close down another nuclear facility that was not adequately prepared for an earthquake. After being ignored by the Japanese government, the IAEA official also warned the U.S. ambassador to Japan about the looming threat from possible earthquake damage. These warnings went unheeded. The International Atomic Energy Agency has now ranked the Fukushima disaster as severe as Chernobyl. (11)
14. Since December 2009, President Obama has authorized a secret drone bombing campaign in Yemen. A year later, WikiLeaks revealed that Yemen’s President Saleh had agreed that his regime would “continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.” These drone strikes have killed large numbers of civilians. One of the strikes that occurred shortly before the cable in question was written had killed 55 people, 41 of whom were classified as civilians (21 of these were children) according to a report by Amnesty International. This US military operation in Yemen, which persists to this day, has not been officially acknowledged by the US government.(12)
15. The U.S. Army considered WikiLeaks a national security threat as early as 2008, according to documents obtained and posted by WikiLeaks in March, 2010, demonstrating that the intention from the beginning was to outlaw a publishing house that merely intended to promote greater transparency and accountability.
16. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his top commanders repeatedly, knowingly lied to the American public about rising sectarian violence in Iraq, beginning in 2006, according to the cross-referencing of WikiLeaks’ leaked Iraq war documents and former Washington Post Baghdad Bureau Chief, Ellen Knickmeyer’s recollections.
17. Iran’s military intervened aggressively in support of Shiite combatants in Iraq, offering weapons, training and sanctuary, according to an October 2010 WikiLeaks release of thousands of secret documents related to the Iraq war.
18. Afghan President Hamid Karzai freed suspected drug dealers because of their political connections, according to a secret diplomatic cable. The cable, which supports the multiple allegations of corruption within the Karzai government, said that despite repeated rebukes from U.S. officials in Kabul, the president and his attorney general authorized the release of detainees. Previous cables accused Karzai’s half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, of being a corrupt narcotics trafficker.
19. Pakistan’s government has allowed members of its spy network to hold strategy sessions on combating American troops with members of the Taliban, while Pakistan has received more than $1 billion a year in aid from Washington to help combat militants, according to a July, 2010, WikiLeaks release of thousands of files on the Afghanistan war.
20. A stash of highly enriched uranium capable of providing enough material for multiple “dirty bombs” has been waiting in Pakistan for removal by an American team for more than three years but has been held up by the country’s government, according to leaked classified State Department documents.
21. Five years ago, the International Committee of the Red Cross told U.S. diplomats in New Delhi that the Indian government “condones torture” and systematically abused detainees in the disputed region of Kashmir. The Red Cross told the officials that hundreds of detainees were subjected to beatings, electrocutions and acts of sexual humiliation, the Guardian newspaper of London reported.
22. The British government has been training a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organizations as a “government death squad”, leaked US embassy cable revealed. Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has been held responsible for hundreds of extra-judicial killings in recent years and is said to routinely use torture, have received British training in “investigative interviewing techniques” and “rules of engagement”.
23. Secret U.S. diplomatic cables revealed that BP suffered a blowout after a gas leak in the Caucasus country of Azerbaijan in September 2008, a year and a half before another BP blowout killed 11workers and started a leak that gushed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.
24. Saudi Arabia’s rulers have deep distrust for some fellow Muslim countries, especially Pakistan and Iran, despite public appearances, according to documents from the late November, 2010, WikiLeaks U.S. diplomatic cable dump. King Abdullah called Pakistan’s then president Asif Ali Zardari “the greatest obstacle” to the country’s progress and he also repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program to stop Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon.
25. Iranian Red Crescent ambulances were used to smuggle weapons to Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group during its 2006 war with Israel.
26. The United States was secretly given permission from Yemen’s president to attack the al Qaeda group in his country, that later attempted to blow up planes in American air space. President Ali Abdullah Saleh told John Brennan, President Obama’s counter terrorism adviser, in a leaked diplomatic cable from September 2009 that the U.S. had an “open door” on terrorism in Yemen.
27. Contrary to public statements, the Obama administration actually helped fuel conflict in Yemen. The U.S. was shipping arms to Saudi Arabia for use in northern Yemen, even as it denied any role in the conflict.
28. Saudi Arabia is one of the largest origin points for funds supporting international terrorism, according to a leaked diplomatic cable. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged U.S. diplomats to do more to stop the flow of money to Islamist militant groups from donors in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government, Clinton wrote, was reluctant to cut off money being sent to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Pakistan.
29. A storage facility housing Yemen’s radioactive material was unsecured for up to a week after its lone guard was removed and its surveillance camera was broken, a secret U.S. State Department cable released by WikiLeaks revealed. “Very little now stands between the bad guys and Yemen’s nuclear material,” a Yemeni official said in a cable.
30. Israel destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007,constructed with apparent help from North Korea, fearing it was built to make a bomb. In a leaked diplomatic cable obtained by the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, then-US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice wrote the Israelis targeted and destroyed the Syrian nuclear reactor just weeks before it was to be operational.
31. Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks indicate authorities in the United Arab Emirates debated whether to keep quiet about the high-profile killing of a Hamas operative in Dubai. The documents also show the UAE sought U.S. help in tracking down details of credit cards Dubai police believe were used by a foreign hit squad involved in the killing. The spy novel-like slaying, complete with faked passports and assassins in disguise, is widely believed to be the work of Israeli secret agents.
32. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Al Jazeera network that some of the unpublished cables show “top officials in several Arab countries have close links with the CIA, and many officials keep visiting US embassies in their respective countries voluntarily to establish links with this key US intelligence agency. These officials are spies for the U.S. in their countries.”
33. Of the 500 or so tactical nuclear weapons in the U.S. arsenal, it is known that about 200 are deployed throughout Europe. Leaked diplomatic cables reveal that dozens of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons are in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.
34. The Libyan government promised “enormous repercussions” for the UK if the release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, was not handled properly, according to a leaked diplomatic cable. The Libyan government threatened “harsh, immediate” consequences if the man jailed for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 died in prison in Scotland.
35. Pope Benedict impeded an investigation into alleged child sex abuse within the Catholic Church, according to a leaked diplomatic cable. Not only did Pope Benedict refuse to allow Vatican officials to testify in an investigation by an Irish commission into alleged child sex abuse by priests, he was also reportedly furious when Vatican officials were called upon in Rome.
36. Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness carried out negotiations for the Good Friday agreement with Irish then-prime minister Bertie Ahern while the two had explicit knowledge of a bank robbery that the Irish Republican Army was planning to carry out, according to a WikiLeaks cable. Ahern figured Adams and McGuinness knew about the 26.5 million pound Northern Bank robbery of 2004 because they were members of the “IRA military command.”
37. Anglo-Dutch oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, has infiltrated the highest levels of government in Nigeria. A high-ranking executive for the international Shell oil company once bragged to U.S. diplomats, as reported in a leaked diplomatic cable, that the company’s employees had so well infiltrated the Nigerian government that officials had “forgotten” the level of the company’s access.
38. Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe-appointed attorney general announced he was investigating Mugabe’s chief opposition leader on treason charges based exclusively on the contents of a WikiLeaks’ leaked cable. The cable claimed Zimbabwe opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, encouraged Western sanctions against his own country to induce Mugabe into giving up some political power.
39. Mexican President Felipe Calderon told a U.S. official that Latin America “needs a visible U.S. presence” to counter Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s growing influence in the region, according to a U.S. State Department cable leaked to WikiLeaks.
40. A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable depicts the leader of Mexico’s army “lamenting” its lengthy role in the anti-drug offensive, but expecting it to last between seven and 10 more years. The cable says Mexican Defense Secretary Gen. Guillermo Galvan mistrusts other Mexican law enforcement agencies and prefers to work separately, because corrupt officials had leaked information in the past.
41. McDonald’s tried to delay the US government’s implementation of a free-trade agreement in order to put pressure on El Salvador to appoint neutral judges in a $24m lawsuit it was fighting in the country. The revelation of the McDonald’s strategy to ensure a fair hearing for a long-running legal battle against a former franchisee comes from a leaked US embassy cable dated 15 February 2006.
Actor and film director, Leslie Howard, despised the Nazis and made it his mission to do all he could through his films to persuade the Americans to join in the war against Germany and its allies. In doing so, he paid with his life. Howard was aware of the plots to assassinate Hitler and sought out a known anarchist to offer help. He also engaged that anarchist in one of his anti-Nazi propaganda films (which, reportedly, influenced Raoul Wallenberg, who went on to save thousands of Jews). It is also claimed that Howard played a part in ensuring that Spain, under Franco, remained out of the war. Hilda Monte was an undercover agent for the anti-Nazi resistance. When Howard and Monte’s paths crossed they found they had much in common. Below is the story of what happened…
1. Within this series the term ‘secret anarchist’ means either a) someone who was an anarchist but who was not known for being one, b) someone who secretly worked with anarchists or c) someone who was known as an anarchist but whose activities only became fully known after death.
2: The above video shows the final five minutes of the film, ‘Pimpernel Smith’. Howard’s speech is possibly one of the finest anti-war speeches ever made.
3: This article is based on a mix of research and anecdotal material via personal contacts: there will be, inevitably, gaps.
Leslie Howard was born 3 April 1893 of a Jewish Hungarian father and a Christian English mother. Howard was a lifelong friend of Humphrey Bogart (who, of course, starred in another famous anti-Nazi film, ‘Casablanca’, which some argue was influenced in its politics by Howard). Howard was probably best known for his role as Ashley Wilkes in ‘Gone with the Wind’. But Howard was also active in anti-Nazi propaganda and was reputedly involved with British or Allied Intelligence during the war. His three most famous wartime propaganda films were ’49th Parallel’, ‘The First of the Few’ and ‘Pimpernel Smith’.
In January 1938, on a skiing holiday in Kitzbuhl, Leslie Howard met a painter named Alfons Walde who told him “disquieting stories of friends liquidated by the Nazis.” In the wake of this meeting, imagining an escape story for this painter “was to become the germ of the idea for the film ‘Pimpernel Smith’.”
Howard not only starred in ‘Pimpernel Smith’ but directed and produced it. The film was about a bumbling, misogynist and eccentric archaeology professor who takes his students on excursions to (pre-War) Germany to carry out excavations. This is a cover, for in reality Smith is smuggling dissidents out of Germany. The Nazis do not suspect that Smith is the culprit, but towards the end of the film they finally work it out. One of the finest moments in the film is in the scene in the video above when Smith confronts the lead Nazi (who is clearly Hermann Goering) and makes fun of him. ‘You are doomed, Captain of murderers’, Smith tells him. ‘You are all doomed.’
When he was making the film, Howard wanted it to be as authentic as possible and so decided that the dissidents would be anarchists. Moreover he wanted a real anarchist to be in the film. It was then that he sought out Albert Meltzer. Meltzer was a lifelong anarchist, who was brought up in the East End of London and prior to the war had made contact with an anti-Nazi underground group, based in Germany, that had carried out an audacious attempt on the life of Hitler when he was attending the opera (all went to plan until the last moment when the gun jammed).
From Albert Meltzer:
“The Schwarzrotgruppe (Black and Red Group), originally based in Dusseldorf, was the first and most persistent of groups advocating and planning the assassination of Hitler. They felt that the mistake made in the Reichstag Fire was the involvement of a man of Dutch origin, bearing in mind the hatred of foreigners presumed to be growing in Germany with Nazi brainwashing (though in a totalitarian country one is inclined to think that everyone else is thinking and acting the same). They twice set up near-successful attempts… Those concerned fled to Glasgow (where they were given shelter by the late Frank Leech, a well-known anarchist, in whose house I met them in 1937).”
British Intelligence, however, decided that Albert was too dangerous to be allowed his liberty, so interned him (ironically he was imprisoned with mostly conscientious objectors). It was during this internment period, a year into the war, that Howard sought out Albert, who had acquired fame in his own right, and arranged that he be freed so he could play his part in the film.
This is how Stuart Christie put it….
“Albert appeared briefly in Leslie Howard’s Pimpernel Smith, an anti-Nazi film that did not follow the line of victory but rather of revolution in Europe. The plot called for communist prisoners, but by the time Howard came to make it, in 1940, Stalin had invaded Finland, and the script was changed to anarchist prisoners. Howard decided that none of the actors playing the anarchists seemed real and insisted that real anarchists, including Albert, be used as extras in the concentration camp scenes. One consequence of this meeting was Howard’s introduction to Hilda Monte, a prominent but unsung hero of the German anarchist resistance to Hitler, which may have contributed to his subsequent death en route to Lisbon.”
‘Briefly’ is an understatement: Albert said one line. So why did Howard go to all that trouble only to have Albert speak one line? The answer lies in the next section…
The Hilda Monte connection
Hilda Monte was the name by which she was known in “Intelligence” circles. Her real name was Hilde Meisel. She also used several other names: Hilde Olday, Selma Trier, Helen Harriman and Eva Schneider. Hilda was born in Vienna in 1914 of Jewish parents, Ernst and Rosa (‘Pink’) Meisel, but spent much of her childhood in Berlin. When age 15 she began writing articles for the magazine of the International Socialist Combat League (ISK).
Albert Meltzer takes up the story…
” [Hilda,] …was disappointed that the Schwarzrot people had not used her (they felt her Jewish origin would be exploited by the Nazis, as it certainly was in the later case of Herschel Grynszpan, whose assassination of vom Rath led to the notorious ‘Crystal Night’ pogrom). In order to work more freely, she became a British subject, by the device of marrying a gay activist, John Olday, who, though a German resident from birth, had a British passport through a Canadian father.”
Monte first moved from Germany to London in 1933 and there attempted to make contact with opponents of National Socialism (Nazis). In the following years she made several journeys to Germany, transporting news, books, and letters. She then returned briefly to England in 1939, but intended to go back to Germany to continue the struggle.
Monte soon became involved in another plot against Hitler (for this purpose Olday obtained financial assistance from George N. Strauss, a millionaire industrialist and Lab. MP for Vauxhall) and initially sought help from council-communists in Paris and Amsterdam and with anarchists in Birmingham (UK). She also mixed with the (mostly German) Socialist Vanguard group (Luxembourgists), though she and Olday also had support from Fenner Brockway of the ILP (later Lab. MP and Lord). To carry out her mission (to kill Hitler) Monte decided to ask British anarchists, through Olday, to find yet another backer. It was at that point, however, she found herself interned: when the war began Monte was viewed with suspicion by British Intelligence (she had recently entered the country, there was also her citizenship by marriage to a husband with whom she didn’t live and she was reportedly a Jewess wanting to go back to Germany!).
Olday, via Meltzer, eventually found another backer: Leslie Howard, who not only arranged Monte’s release from internment, but also persuaded British Intelligence to let her return to Germany on her “mission”.
An assassination attempt was indeed made. It was led by Georg Elser, who for 30 nights, while evading guards, had hollowed out a pillar in the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich, where Hitler was scheduled to give his annual speech commemorating the Nazi Putsch of 1923. Concealing his work with an ingeniously designed door cut into the wainscoting, Elser meticulously assembled not one, but two time bombs in the pillar. They went off precisely as planned, at 9:20 p.m. on November 8, 1939 – normally the mid-point in Hitler’s speech. But because of a last-minute change of plans, Hitler had left the hall 13 minutes earlier. Elser almost made it to the border with Switzerland but was spotted, imprisoned and tortured then executed some five years later, just before the end of the war.
What Monte’s role was in this assassination attempt, is unclear. What is known is that she remained largely incognito within the underground movement for the next three years or so, presumably causing trouble of one sort or another.
At the age of thirty, after returning from a meeting with Austrian resistance members, this ‘unsung hero’ was shot dead by the SS after just crossing the Swiss-German border. A museum is named after her in Israel.
The Raul Wallenberg connection
When ‘Pimpernel Smith’ finally arrived in Sweden in November 1943 the Swedish Film Censorship Board decided to ban it as it was feared that it could harm Sweden’s relationship with Germany. Raul Wallenberg did, however, manage to see the film at a private screening, together with his half sister, Nina Lagergren. She recalled that on their way home after the screening, “he told me this was the kind of thing he would like to do.”
In August 1944, Wallenberg was sent to Budapest as First Secretary to the Swedish legation, assigned under secret agreement between the US and Swedish governments to organise a rescue program for the Jews, following the mass deportations that had started in April 1944. By issuing “protective passports”, which identified the bearer as Swedish, and housing them in 32 buildings that he rented and declared Swedish territory, he managed to rescue tens of thousands – some believe up to 100,000 – from the German death camps.
Wallenberg’s ‘protective passports for escaping Jews
Controversies surrounding Howard’s death
Howard died in 1943 under circumstances that led many to believe his death was an execution. He was travelling from Lisbon to Bristol when his plane was shot down by the Luftwaffe. His plane was a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines/BOAC Flight 777. The aircraft was a “G-AGBB” Douglas DC-3. It was shot down by a Luftwaffe Junkers Ju 88C6 maritime fighter aircraft over the Bay of Biscay. Howard was among the 17 fatalities, including four ex-KLM flight crew.
It should be explained that Portugal was neutral during the War. Lisbon was one of the few capital cities in Europe where people, including military, diplomats and spies, could congregate without fear of harm. Indeed there had been no military excursions by the Axis powers or the Allies on or over Portuguese soil or within Portuguese waters. The BOAC DC-3 Ibis had been operating on a scheduled Lisbon–Whitchurch route throughout 1942–1943 that did not pass over what would commonly be referred to as a war zone. The passengers were all civilians, like Howard. However, it was known that Germany had placed Howard on its Kill List. It is also known that Hitler had seen ‘Pimpernel Smith’, Howard’s satire on the Nazis. There is no absolute proof, of course, that this was an execution, but the circumstantial evidence was strong.
Two books focusing on the final flight, ‘Flight 777′ by Ian Colvin, 1957, and In ‘Search of My Father: A Portrait of Leslie Howard’, by Ronald Howard, 1984, concluded that the Germans shot down Howard’s DC-3 for the specific purpose of killing him. Ronald Howard’s book demonstrates how there were written German orders to the Ju 88 Staffel, based in France, assigned to intercept Howard’s aircraft, as well as communiqués on the British side that verify intelligence reports of the time indicating that a deliberate attack on Howard had been planned.
According to Ronald Howard…
“Goebbels’ hatred of [Leslie Howard] for making fools of the Germans in Pimpernel Smith and for his truculent, anti-Herrenvolk broadcasts. He was, after all, Goebbels’ principal propaganda opponent in Britain. And to this the insidious Goebbels would not be slow in adding the racial element, perhaps the lynchpin of his hatred. […] Though Leslie’s point of view was scarcely predominantly Jewish he was tainted, in Goebbels’ eyes, by the fact that he had a Hungarian-Jewish father.”
” News of the death of Leslie Howard was given special prominence in Goebbels’ newspaper Der Angriff. It was celebrated almost like a victory. Under banner headlines, larger than those accorded ‘the strategic withdrawal’ of Hitler’s armies in Russia, the front page bore the words: ‘Pimpernel Howard has made his last trip!’”
In a 2008 book by José Rey Ximena it is claimed that Howard’s trip to Portugal was no ordinary one but that he had been on a top-secret mission: to dissuade Francisco Franco, then four years into his dictatorship, from joining with the Axis powers. Howard succeeded, but at a terrible cost, of course, not only for himself but for Spain as a whole. Keeping Franco from joining forces with Hitler and Mussolini was crucial in the war against fascism, though it meant that Spain was allowed to go its own way. Had, instead, Britain and other countries armed the anti-Francoists, then there may well have been another country that would have joined the Allies in the fight against the fascism. It should also be added that during much of World War Two, anarchists who hid in Spain or had escaped to France from the Falangists took it upon themselves to work with the French Resistance to smuggle Allied troops to safety across the Spanish-French border to Portugal, from where they would be be returned to Britain.
In summary, both Leslie Howard and Hilda Monte secretly worked with anarchists to achieve certain objectives, held in common, and in doing so lost their lives and possibly helped change history.
Note: a separate article on John Olday will be published next in this series.