Your Own Personal Jesus: Drone Flights & Christianity

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“There’s nothing that complex about cold-blooded murder”
– The International

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The Borgia’s, an ambitious,powerful and thoroughly corrupt 15th Century Italian family. Headed up by Pope Alexander VI who fathered four children, the most infamous of whom ditched the priesthood for marriage and military domination.

Now, the Borgia’s I get, you see these were prominent and powerful aristocrats, to them the the ecclesiastical honours of Rome were really all about the acquisition of military and political power. What they chose to do in their roles as Popes and Cardinals had nothing to do with the grass roots version of Christianity that say, St Frances of Assissi, would’ve promoted .

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Now, to me the Borgias are reassuring, because for them being a Christian was incidental to pursuing whatever carnal, venal, intrigue filled, self-aggrandizing agenda they had.

I for one, have no difficulty being at ease with folk who are fond of the preaching and teaching so long as it doesn’t interfere with their right to wield a machine gun or rob the poor. Spiritual hypocrites are reassuringly predictable, one can know in advance how low they will sink. Not so with folk who honestly pursue what they mistake for honourable causes.

Take for example, Liberty University, located in Lynchburg, Virginia and founded by Jerry Falwell, a televangelist. Training ‘Champions for Christ’ since 1971, it is one of America’s top military friendly schools, training chaplains who then go on to serve in the armed forces.

Liberty also has a school of aeronautics sited off-campus and training its students in the art of flying umanned aerial vehicles (that’s drones to you and me).

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As a result of its online courses of study, Liberty is the largest Christian University in the world. A truly influential academic and spiritual institution that is training a significant proportion of its students to fly weaponised drones in the theatre of war.

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Now, visualise this, it’s a sunny Monday morning in Virginia and you are on your way to work having just attended a splendiforous bible study given by young Jed Arbuckle. Jed a well scrubbed, baby faced, church elder, inspired you no end with his take on the story of ‘the good samaritan’.

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Jed himself, a devout believer and university graduate, is inspiring. Especially when you compare him to young Buck who has just been released from a federal facility and hasn’t worked a day in his life and very likely never intends to.

Would you be nearly as inspired by Jed if you knew that he had recently graduated from a four year Drone Program; and now holds a job in which, on average, he will kill ten Pakistani civillians AND one militant (terrorist) each day he climbs into his ‘virtual’ cockpit?

The Borgia’s knew they were mocking Christian values to be what they were and do all they did they had to know it. But Jed? He honestly believes he’s doing his country (and Jesus) a service.

That has to be as sad and ironic as President Obama taking time out to visit Robben Island whilst doing little or nothing about the plight of the Guantanamo Bay Detainees.

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Miscarriages of Justice- Rebuilding A life

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“I have been out of prison for seventeen years and I’m still angry. What you [the families] get back is a shell of a person who went in, the only thing you learn in prison is confrontation.”
– Paddy Hill (Birmingham Six)

To be imprisoned for a criminal offence you didn’t committ and then to find that the legal system you’ve placed your trust in doesn’t work, is nobody’s nightmare; simply because nobody would dare think let alone dream that such a thing could happen to them.

Paddy Hill was one of six men arrested after the Birmingham pub bombings. Up until then Birmingham had pretty much been his home from home. But on the 21 November 1975 all that was to change.

After food and sleep deprivation, twelve hour interrogation sessions and police beatings, Paddy Hill and five other men were charged with murder and conspiracy to cause explosions . On the 15 August 1975 each of the men were sentenced to twenty-one life sentences.

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In June 1975, fourteen prison officers were charged with assaulting the six men whilst they were in prison awaiting trial; all fourteen men were acquitted at a trial presided over by Justice Swanwick. And this despite the testimony of a prisoner who had been released two weeks after the Birmingham six had arrived at HMP Winson Green.

In 1991 Paddy Hill was released from prison and his convictions subsequently quashed and that was when his struggles really began.

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“When you come out, the pace of living has accelerated so much [that] mentally you’re not equipped to deal with any of it”

Dr Iain Stephens, a psychologist who has counselled many prisoners has highlighted the fact that prisoners serving time (repeating the same structured day over and over) can have a hard time on release, getting used to being back in society, but at least they receive preparation for it.

Prisoners who are the victims of miscarriages of justice receive no such preparation; once the Court of Appeal hands down its decision in their favour, they are released. And though they may feel euphoric on their release, the euphoria doesn’t last long. For in the words of John McManus, the project co-ordinator for the miscarriages of justice project, :-

“They don’t realise all the skills they’ve lost whilst in prison”

As a rule people who have their convictions quashed receive minimal support from the state, fifty pounds in total, for immediate needs, rising to 80 pounds for those seeking an overnight stay in London,

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“Many find themselves couped up in a tiny flat, dulling any feelings of depression or anger with alcohol or drugs…financial compensation for the injustices they have suffered may take many years to come…”

The Common Weal Housing Project seeks to provide both housing and support to prisoners who have been released as a result of the work of the Criminal Case review Commission on miscarriages of justice.

But they would rather the government funded such work; as would the Miscarriages of Justice Organisation founded by Paddy Hill.

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The previous Labour Government’s Minister of Justice was examining the likelihood of setting up such a scheme. It remains to be seen whether the current minister, Mr Grayling, would be able to find space in his budget for such a measure.

Given the Legal Aid cuts he has introduced, one would hope that would be the case. For there is every likelihood that with a reduction in the quality of advocacy brought about by his budget reductions, miscarriages of justice may become prolific.

Just For Kids & the Law

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Meet Shauneen Lambe, the Executive Director of ‘Just For Kids Law’ a charity set up to help kids on the brink of being involved in the justice system, and needing both help and justice.

The charity she runs is dependant to a significant degree on government funding.

At the moment they are engaged in challenging those elements of the youth justice system which they believe are not ‘fit for purpose’ and often breach the UN Convention on the rights of the child.

One of those elements is the introduction of secure docks in all youth courts across England and Wales. Secure docks which prevent children from sitting with their lawyers and thus from being able to participate effectively in legal proceedings.

Proceedings which even the European Court of Human Rights has acknowledged a child should be able to fully comprehend since the outcome of those proceedings will have life altering consequences.

The charity recently worked with a child who had been charged with robbery. As a result of legal aid provision they were able to represent the child and the charges against him were dropped.

After seeking further funding they were also able to get him statemented as suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome and then find a place for him in a school on a reduced time-table. However, as a result of the reductions in the legal aid budget the work being done by charities like ‘Just for Kids Law’ will be significantlycurtailed.

In the words of Ms Lambe ‘Just for Kids Law’ ensures that kids don’t wind up ruining their lives with a custodial sentence and thus place a needless financial burden on the tax payer. In other words they provide value for money, that’s something Mr Grayling would approve of surely?

When Justice On A Budget Isn’t Justice

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Chris Grayling is the MP for Epsom and Ewell;he is also the Justice Secretary. Yes, dear readers, this is the man who has:-

1) Withdrawn entitlement to legal aid for prisoners wishing to challenge their treatment in prison.

2) Imposed a residency test excluding (amongst others) victims of human trafficking (the Roman Catholic Church has condemned the above).

3) And introduced a system for competitive price tendering, ensuring that in all likelihood the company that supervises your imprisonment, may also be the company that defends you in court.

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His justification for all these cuts to justice for the impoverished?

“The drop in crime and cases going through the courts, has not been matched by a drop in costs, competitive price tendering should remedy this and is a financial necessity”

And so the 1,600 legal aid contracts that fund legal representation for the poor, have been reduced to 400 radically reducing the defendant’s ability to choose a ‘good’ lawyer.

Just to make sure they get the point, the Ministry of Justice is removing a defendant’s right to choose their lawyer, they are now to take what they’ve been given. after all it’s not as if they’re going to be saddled with the bill is it?

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Many may say that Grayling has a point, after all the economy can no longer afford to be a feeding trough for fat cat bankers much less fat cat lawyers.

Though many lawyers will tell you that if you’re looking for real money you’d be better off qualifying as a corporate lawyer or a property lawyer since that is where the real money is.

Those lawyers representing defendants in the courts are nowhere near making that kind of money. These are the experienced, overworked, lawyers who may well find themselves either looking for another area of law in which to practice, or simply wind up working for a subsidiary of G4S.

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COME FLY WITH ME …..THE DAY THE ACLU HELPED KICK SOME ASS

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‘Because freedom can’t protect itself’
-ACLU Motto

“What was Uncle Timmy doing in the bathroom with Aunty Tisha?”

“Why ain’t Marla’s Mom home nights?”

“Why does Daddy smoke? My teacher says cigarettes kill”

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How often do parents look at the large, enquiring eyes of their off-spring desperately wondering how to answer the importunate and slightly awkward ‘adult’ questions they ask? And how often do they stave off lying by replying “When you’re older I’ll tell you”.

When you’re older I’ll tell you. If you’re a kid you expect to get that kind of evasive reply, adults are never straight up about the things that count. But governments should be and to give those you govern, the same answer you would a child, just won’t do.

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The phrase ‘a matter of national security’ appears to be the perceived cure-all for every human rights abuse the UK and the U.S governments don’t care to divulge.

“MI5 collusion with ‘gung ho’ CIA torturers?”
“No comment. It’s a matter of national security”
“Erroneous renditions?”
“No comment, it’s a matter of national security”
“What about the death of innocents, in detention centres thousands of miles away from where they were picked up?”
“National Security”

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The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) refusing to let the United States Government and its’ associates, get off ‘Scot-free’ with kidnapping and torturing innocent men, filed a civil suit against a company (a subsidiary of Boeing) which operated the planes that carried the kidnapped men to the detention centres where they were then tortured.

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The claimants in this case were men who had been rendered, detained and tortured and then subsequently released without charge. The only exception being Ahmed Agiza who it is suspected failed to receive a fair trial prior to his being imprisoned in Egypt (though he was also subsequently released).

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The ACLU didn’t have a hope in hell of winning the law suit, not against the argument that hearing the case could lead to a breach of ‘national security’ but then they would have known that. Just as surely as they would have known that the stories of these five ‘inconsequential’ men may never have been heard had that law suit not been filed.

Using Jeppesen Dataplan the ACLU tried and failed to hold the American Government and its allies to account, for a war that appears to have no territorial boundaries, no moral limit.

Where the ACLU, Wiki-Leaks, Human Rights Watch, Liberty and many others have succeeded is in enabling the grass roots to walk on through the doors they’ve partially opened and do some ass kicking themselves.

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People who did not know what the governments they had elected were getting up to in their name now do, and they are vocalising their opposition to the nefarious goings on in every legitimate way they can think of and then some.

4:48 Psychosis – The Tribulations of Binyam Mohamed

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Caught at the airport trying to pass off a fake passport as the genuine article? The minimum prison sentence is supposedly six months, the most you can get for this fraudulent act is ten years in prison.

Even in Pakistan they may simply deport you after you have served somewhere between say, eighteen months for your first offence.

Binyam would have expected little more than that at best and deportation back to his Ethiopian homeland at the worst.

Instead he was kidnapped by the C.I.A as an alleged terrorist, detained at ‘The Salt Pit’ prison located in Bagram, Afghanistan and tortured.

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Binyam stated that

“It was pitch black no lights on in the rooms for most of the time…They hung me up.
I was allowed a few hours of sleep on the second day, then hung up again, this time for two days.
My leg had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb… There was loud music, [Eminem’s] ‘Slim Shady’ and Dr Dre for 20 days….[Then] they changed the sounds to horrible ghost laughter and Halloween sounds.
[At one point, I was] chained to the rails for a fortnight….The CIA worked on people,including me, day and night…Plenty lost their minds.
I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.”

Unlike the ‘others’ he described, Binyam was still very sane, maybe this was due to his experiences as an Ethiopian Asylum Seeker, and the hardships he would have had to adapt to and even survive living in England.

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In 2004 he was transferred to the Guantanamo Detention Camp and made subject to a ‘Combatant Status Review Panel Tribunal’ where, it was submitted that he had admitted training at the AL-Qaeda terrorist training camp AL Farouq.

In 2005 Binyam was placed in Camp V, a super maximum facility where uncooperative detainees are held. There he was told that he would be required to testify against other detainees.

In November of 2005 Binyam was charged with ‘conspiracy to committ an act of terrorism’ but help was on the way (finally).

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The Supreme Court produced a ruling which effectively stated that the U.S President lacked the authority to create military commissions outside the regular judiciary system, and that these military commissions were unconstitutional, as a result Binyam Mohammed’s trial was halted.

Attempts to put him on trial before a military commission were resumed in late 2008 after ‘restructured’ military commissions were introduced. However, the charges against him were eventually dropped and he was returned to Britain on 23 February 2009.

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In 2010 despite the opposition of the then Labour Government, the Court of Appeal ordered the government to release evidence of MI5 & MI6 complicity in the torture of Binyam Mohammed, overruling the wishes of the Foreign Secretary, David Milliband.

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To conclude, Binyam received £1 million pounds in compensation, in settlement, from the British Government. Binyam Mohammed was one of the few ex-detainees to be awarded compensation, he was also one of the few ex-detainees of the ‘dark prison’ who lived to tell about it.

The ‘Secret Courts’ Bill-On the QT & Very ‘Hush Hush’

The Justice & Security Act was granted the Royal Assent in April and that has to be a good thing. After all who wouldn’t want the government to ensure that the democracy and freedoms we enjoy are safeguarded? None of us ever wants to hear about or see the consequences of another 7/11, so doesn’t it make sense for the government to enact yet another piece of legislation, in support of our security services ensuring that?

But that’s not what’s really bothering all the Barristers and Queen’s Counsels who might potentially be asked to present cases under this legislation. And it isn’t what both MPs and Members of the House of Lords have objected to, and sought to amend. CMPs, that’s what the lawyers and indeed all of us should be concerned about. The extension and the casual proliferation of CMPs.

Now, to what can I liken a CMP?
Well, I guess you could say it was the equivalent of being arrested, and then charged with murder. You know what you’ve been charged with, but your lawyers have received very little evidence supporting those charges. In fact, all your lawyers have received is a brief summary of the evidence being used to support the charges against you.That is because the prosecution has decided, that to provide full disclosure to the defence counsel would not be a very good idea, and what is more the judge has agreed.

A CMP (Closed Material Procedure hearing) is what counsel for the government can request in extradition hearings: deportation hearings: hearings where the complainant is seeking damages for their mistreatment at the hands of MI6/MI5, in short any civil proceedings in which evidence pertinent to National Security might be disclosed. In the words of one UK civil liberties pressure group this creates a state of affairs whereby,

“The credibility of the civil justice system is impaired, due to one party being routinely favoured over another in these hearings.”

For example,with the advent of CMPs hearsay evidence and indeed claims made by the security services can be presented in court, just not to defendants. As for those facing deportation or extradition, without the evidence adduced against them being disclosed, they’d be effectively defending themselves with one arm tied behind their backs. 57 Barristers, Special Advocates linked to this procedure, have argued that despite the intention to give those subject to a CMP a summary of the evidence against them, these hearings would remain fundamentally unfair. According to these lawyers it would represent,

“A departure from the foundational principle of natural justice, that all parties should be entitled to see and challenge all the evidence relied upon before the court and to combat that evidence by calling evidence of their own.”

Ironically these practitioners argue that a less restrictive regime is currently being employed in America, with a measure of success. When Binyam Mohammed returned from his lengthy vacation, courtesy of Her Majesty’s secret service and the U.S government, he was able to successfully sue the British Government for the collusion of the secret services in his torture by the C.I.A.The government tried to suppress evidence vital to Mr Mohammed’s case, on the grounds of National Security, it failed. Had his case taken place under the shadow of this new legislation, in spite of the injustices he suffered, the British government would have had the upper hand.

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