Monday, June 23, 2014

The Dangerous Myth of Football

 By Adrian Chan-Wyles

THE SOCIO--economic structure of world football is controlled by the vicious bourgeois institution of the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA), and the regional Football Associations it has spawned. 
The exploitative tentacles of FIFA spread far and wide into all poor and working class areas of the world.  It spreads the myth that all poor people, if they can kick a ball, can become multi-millionaires overnight, if only they tried hard enough! 
But e reality is very different. A very small number of working class men originating from advanced industrial, or industrialising nations, are chosen from a mass of applicants to be streamed into the exclusive training regimes that more or less ensure a job as a professional football player upon graduation. These men are taken out of their natural socio-economic (working class) conditions, and immediately thrust into a middle class, financial utopia, where they can earn millions of pounds a year working for just 90 minutes a week, and personifying a developmental, bourgeois myth. The reality is more brutal.
For a small number of working class men to be privileged in this manner, the majority of the working class and the oppressed around the world must be kept firmly in their place. The majority of the masses in the world actually finance this gigantic money-making machine that only benefits the minority – that is the ruling class –which reaps all the financial benefits. Even after paying the individual players millions of pounds, there is still a tremendous amount of money leftover, which flows only from the working class toward the ruling class, through a relentless process of accumulation.
 This process is maintained not only by the selling of associated merchandise such as football shirts, boots, flags, DVDs, CDs, and other paraphernalia, but relies heavily upon slave-labour, whereby very small children spend 12 to 16 hours a day, working in appalling conditions, in factories situated in the poorer areas of the world.  This highly exploited workforce sews the shirts, footballs, and flags together, which are then played with by the rich adults and children of developed countries as a matter of leisure.
  This exploitative situation is compounded by working class males (in developed countries such as Britain), who spend hundreds of pounds of their hard earned money per week, in attending football matches of teams occupying the Premier League.  The Premier League and others like it are the main money-making device that FIFA uses to drain the poor people of the world of their wages.  In Britain a ticket for a single football match can cost more than the national government believes a family should live for a week, when in receipt of state benefits!
 In this regard, supporting football becomes an addiction that paradoxically destroys the very same working class that its mythos claims to be saving.
Modern football evolved during the industrialisation process of Britain from an ancient game played in and around villages. The bourgeois wanted the working class controlled during every part of their day, and this extended to the regulation of their leisure time. 
As factories closed for Saturday afternoons, the working class males were encouraged to attend football matches held in purpose built stadiums, and spend a part of their earnings on the price of admission. Their wives and children were not yet welcome, and had to stay at home. The police patrolled the football stadiums ensuring that the euphoria of victory or the disappointment of defeat remained only amongst the working class, who were encouraged to fight amongst themselves.
  It was essential that this discontent never spread onto the streets. This harsh control was considered necessary wherever working class men congregated en masse, so as to prevent the possibility of the development of class consciousness, and of revolutionary fervour, as such a development threatened the overthrow of the bourgeoisie.
On the pitch 22 working class men confront one another in two teams of 11 each, moderated by a referee and two linesmen. The game is played for 90 minutes, with a 15-minute break for half-time, when the two sides change the half of the pitch they have to defend. The time of 90 minutes is purely arbitrary and together with the 15 minutes break, as well as the time it takes the paying audience to assemble for the start and disperse at the end is designed simply to waste time on a Saturday afternoon. There is nothing special about this time, and indeed, compared to contemporary sports, seems a ridiculous length of time for anything significant to happen, or effectively hold an audience’s attention.
  The football stadium and the pitch are microcosms of bourgeois society, within which the working class are allowed to exist providing they follow strict rules that benefit the bourgeois, but are detrimental to the working class.
  These rules, or “laws,” are taught as being beneficial for all, when obviously they are purely arbitrary and designed to maintain the highest level of exploitation. There is also the indication that all good laws originate with God, and have a mysterious origin, when in fact all these regulations emerge from the minds of fat capitalists who have probably never kicked a ball in their lives.
 The referee is the “judge” who must be obeyed, and he is assisted by two assistant-judges (or “linesmen”). A player who infringes a rule is “booked” – similar to how a police officer records a suspect’s details – and receives a “yellow” card which amounts to a “warning” or a “fine”, whilst the “red” card represents expulsion from the pitch, or the removal from society, as in being sent to prison or exiled.
 The message is simple within modern football; the authorities must be obeyed, or there will be punishment.
  Quite often the working class resent these measures, but aim their discontent at perceived foreigners, rather than at their middle class overlords. The ruling class allows and encourages this deception, as it takes the working class attention away from what is really going on – such is the seductive power of modern football.          
Football teams, with their distinctive, different coloured football kits, became the subject of a pseudo-regionalism that was used to infect the mind of the working class, and divert their attention away from the real enemy in society – the highly ruthless and exploitative bourgeoisie. It is the bourgeoisie that is the real enemy of the working class, but if working class men have their attention aimed at the supporting of a local football team, (a false construct), and pitching that support against another local football team, (another false construct), then true revolutionary knowledge is not developed. 
Modern football is used by the bourgeoisie to keep the working class in their place. This exploitation is more or less self-sustaining, just like any drug addiction.   On the world level the pseudo-regionalism of football is replaced with pseudo-nationalism.
 It is exactly the same psychological structure that expands its parameters out of regionalism, (in other words disliking others because they come from a different local place), into the hating of others because of their different ethnic and cultural origin – in other words racism.
  Modern football is both highly exploitative and addictive.  In the minds of its victims – the working class – like any addiction it is rationalised as the “beautiful game”, and its inherent racism is viewed as an aberration rather than as a foundational structure of its history.
  Modern football today, at either its local, national, or international levels, serves as the bedrock of racism and far-right political parties.  Aggressive young men meet at the football grounds to racially abuse other supporters or players, whilst exchanging extremist ideological information.
  FIFA knows that it can not stamp racism out of football, because to do so would destroy the highly lucrative financial structure that is in place.  It is up to the working class to develop their class consciousness, and break the addiction that is modern football, that viciously holds them in psychological and financial servitude.    
The English Premier League is a very successful capitalist enterprise – and this is exactly what it is meant to be. That it just so happens to be the game of football that is used to generate millions of pounds is irrelevant to the process of the accumulation of profit itself. As long as the money keeps flowing, the Premier League will be considered successful. 
Of course this measure of success is purely fiscal, in as much as this “success” has absolutely nothing to do with performance on the pitch. This explains why the financially “successful” Premier League, has not been able to produce eleven English footballers since its inception in 1992 that can dominate at the world level, for the simple reason that it does not have to.
  Playing well and winning games is irrelevant to the money-making process.  The only way the standard of play would increase is if there was a system-wide fall in financial income, created by people protesting en masse by not going to football matches.
  This scenario would generate a market force that would effect how the capitalists who run the Premier League, that is the English FA, approach the game, but it is unlikely to happen due to the sustained mirage of tribalism, which is reinforced on the terraces every week, through a false sense of achievement and failure.  The bourgeois system of modern football is designed from top to bottom to prevent the working class from joining together in solidarity. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Battle of Red Lion Square -- 15th June 1974

 By Caroline Colebrook

THIS COMING Sunday will be the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Red Lion Square – an important event in the history of anti-fascism in Britain in which Kevin Gately, a young anti-fascist student, was killed and many others anti-fascists were injured during what was effectively a police riot.
At the time the main fascist enemy on the streets was the National Front, notorious for its violence and its policy, put forward by Martin Webster, of “kicking its way into the headlines”.
It was winning some support on its strongly anti-immigration platform but not far beneath the surface, its hard core centre was solidly neo-Nazi – not only racist but out-and-out fascist.
The NF booked a meeting for 15th June at London’s Conway Hall. This was run by the South Place Ethical Society which had at the time a policy of free speech for all which allowed the extreme right wing a platform on the theory that spouting their poison would show themselves up and be more likely to turn people away from their policies. It was a naïve and mistaken view. Fascists rarely reveal their true nature from a platform; they lie about their real agenda.
Throughout London left-wingers – a diverse array including the Labour Party, the Communist Party of Great Britain and dozens of small groups of Trotskyists, Maoists, anarchists and others – there was an anti-fascist consensus that this NF meeting should be opposed and a march and a counter meeting, which were was organised by Liberation, formerly known as the Movement for Colonial Freedom to begin earlier than the NF meeting.
The plan was to fill the building and its approach so full of anti-fascists that the NF would be peacefully prevented from entering the Conway Hall. And although the event was organised by Liberation it was supported by many groups, including the Trotskyist International Marxist Group (IMG) and the International Socialists (who later became the Socialist Workers’ Party).
Police had other ideas and the counter meeting inside the Conway Hall was banned. As the anti-fascist marchers coming from Clerkenwell along Theobald’s Road turned into Old North Street and into Red Lion Square they were diverted by a huge police cordon, including mounted police and the Special Patrol Group, from turning left towards the Conway Hall.
Instead they were directed right to where the event organisers were setting up a platform for an open air meeting on the north side of the Square. The organisers included veteran campaigners Kay Beauchamp, Tony Gilbert and Labour MP Sid Bidwell.
As the march turned some of the younger Trotskyists and anarchists tried to challenge the police cordon and force a way through to the Conway Hall. They stood no chance. But one or two bottles and other objects were thrown at the police lines. Many suspect they came from police provocateurs.
The NF were not due for another hour or two and most anti-fascists did not see the point of picking a fight with the police at this point and time.
The thrown objects acted as a trigger for the police; the cordon advanced rapidly with mounted police using their truncheons vigorously to clear away all in their path. They did not hesitate to strike the veterans who had been setting up their platform and microphone as previously agreed with the police.
Soon it was mayhem, confusion and bloodshed everywhere. Some demonstrators were forced back up Old North Street; others fled towards Southampton Row.
Police forcibly cleared all demonstrators from the Square, including those who had been preparing peacefully for the open air rally.
Soon after this, word spread among the Liberation demonstrators that the NF were approaching. Many demonstrators regrouped at the junction of Vernon Place and Southampton Row where they were held back by a police cordon on the east side.
The National Front, accompanied by an Orange fife and drum band, marched down Bloomsbury Way to the west side of Southampton Row where another police cordon stopped them. Neither side attempted to breach the cordons that separated them.
After a few minutes mounted police came up Southampton Row from Red Lion Square and moved straight into the Liberation crowd without warning. Supported by foot police, they used truncheons indiscriminately on demonstrators.
Another police cordon behind the crowd effectively prevented their escape and a large number of arrests were made.
A large number of demonstrators were arrested. Photos show that many who were arrested had their hair pulled or were otherwise treated with what appeared to be excessive force by police. Some had faces covered in blood after being hit on the head by truncheons.
While this was happening the National Front were allowed to turn right into Southampton Row and escorted round the south side of Red Lion Square into Conway Hall.
Kevin Gately, a 21-year-old student from Warwick University, was not a member of any political group and this was his first attendance at a political event. He came with a group of friends attached to an IMG contingent and was caught up in the first clash in Red Lion Square.
Photos show Gately moving through the crowd, possibly trying to escape from the tight press of bodies during the pushing at the police cordon.
His unconscious body was found by police after the crowd was driven back and taken in an ambulance to University College Hospital.
Gately's fellow students only realised that he was missing when they met after the demonstration ended. A student who enquired at University College Hospital was shown Gately's body and asked to identify him.
A coroner's inquest at St Pancras Coroner's Court concluded that Gately's death was the result of a blow to the head from a blunt instrument. Many suspect this was a police truncheon. Police later claimed that Gately was found to have an unusually thin skull at certain points and that his death was a tragic accident.
Kevin Gately was the first demonstrator to be killed in Britain for 55 years.
The next Saturday, 22nd June 1974, a silent march retraced the route of the Liberation counter-demonstration from the embankment to Red Lion Square. The march was led by personal friends of Kevin Gately, followed by University of Warwick students and then by students from many other universities and colleges as well as contingents from many of the left wing groups that had taken part in the original march.
The Inquest into Kevin Gately's death was followed by a public inquiry headed by Lord Scarman, which considered a wide range of evidence from police and marchers. The IMG leaders on 15th June – Brian Heron and David Bailey – initially denied charging the first police cordon but later admitted doing so to the Scarman tribunal.

The sabbatical officers of University of Warwick Students' Union commissioned a Kevin Gately memorial painting which still hangs in the student union building. It was restored in 2004.
Tony Gilbert went on to write a book about the police riot, Only One Died: An Account of the Scarman Inquiry into the Events of 15th June 1974, in Red Lion Square, when Kevin Gately Died Opposing Racism and Fascism, published in London by Kay Beauchamp, 1975.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ghost planes over Havana

                                       By Neil Harris

AMERICA’S response to 9/11, the “War against Terror”, turned out to be wave of wars, assassinations, kidnappings, torture and illegal imprisonment. The kidnappings and torture became known as “Extraordinary Rendition” and were major undercover operations, involving chartered, civilian jets.
Opposition to this imperialist rampage produced some informal alliances between progressive campaigners and the quiet, non-political world of plane spotters, who had inadvertently recorded the comings and goings of the secret flights. That story isn’t over yet, with the hard work now turning into prosecutions in Germany, Switzerland, Poland and Italy as well as a civil action against Jack Straw, here in Britain.
The plane spotters taught people on the left how to make patient use of flight records and aircraft registration numbers, while the lefties provided a bit of tough, political experience. It became possible to chase the vapour trails left by these “ghost planes” and the secretive companies that operated them. It also left some of us with a lasting interest in the complex and shadowy world of CIA front companies and their “proprietary” airlines; apparently independent air companies which rely on the CIA for a part of their income.  
This New Worker investigation began after reviewing a Sunday Times story from 2007, which exposed unusual United States Air Force Europe (USAFE) missions in the Balkans. The reporters had noticed that for two years USAFE flights were occasionally using the civilian call sign “Juliet Golf Oscar” (JGO) for military flights. Call signs are rarely transferred and never shared. According to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), JGO was still the call sign of “JETSGO”, a Canadian budget airline which had gone bankrupt in 2005, leaving many thousands of Easter holidaymakers stranded.
Given that these flights were between Tuzla in Bosnia, Pristina in Kosovo, the joint US-Italian military airbase in Aviano, Northern Italy, and Ramstein in Germany (headquarters of USAFE) it was strange that they seemed be using civilian call signs. The explanation the Pentagon gave the paper was even more unlikely: that the code was used because the flights were part of “Operation Joint Guard (JGO)”, the Nato-led multinational intervention force SFOR, deployed to Bosnia and Herzegovina after the Bosnian war.
SFOR operated under the code names Operation Joint Guard (21st December 1996 – 19th June 1998) and Operation Joint Forge (20th June 1998 – 2nd December 2004) under UN Security Council resolution 1088.So by 2005, the military call sign “JGO”, had long gone, but the US still had planes flying over the Balkans using it.  Something wasn’t right. The planes were pretty mysterious too, the paper listed them as; “Lear jet 35 executive jets, C-130 transport planes and the MC-130P Combat Shadows, which are specially adapted for clandestine missions in politically sensitive or hostile territory”. We’ll never know what they were up to but the journalists found that “JGO” planes often seemed to meet other unusual flights which the [Sunday Times] speculated were involved in clandestine gun-running or rendition.
There the story ends, except that the New Worker noticed that until its bankruptcy, JETSGO also had a lucrative business flying charter passengers from Canada to Cuba. It may well have been a coincidence but it seemed a strange call sign for the US military to choose and so we decided to investigate charter flights to Cuba a little further.
American tourism to Cuba is illegal, although some travel by Cuban-Americans to visit relatives, or by groups for religious or cultural reasons is allowed but strictly controlled and licensed. Also controlled are the travel arrangements – scheduled flights are banned and all flights are via unscheduled charters. Travel providers must hold licences from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of the Treasury, as must individual passengers.  Breaches result in large financial penalties because America regards Cuba as a “terrorist” threat, a part of the “Axis of Evil” and subjects it to strict trade sanctions and blockade.
In July 2010, an official US delegation from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) travelled around Cuba, investigating travel arrangements for Americans but, of course, secretly investigating the airports they visited. As the US Interests office in Havana put it in their cable reporting to the US State Department: “Also listed is pertinent information gathered about each airport and which may be of interest to Cuba transition planners.” Those planners are the Americans planning for the overthrow of socialism on the island.
The cable also reported on the movements of Cuban-Americans and the presents they took for their relatives. Their baggage is transported at exorbitant rates and it generates a highly profitable income for the charter companies, in addition to the amounts they charge the travel companies for the flights. Some carriers even send the baggage in a separate plane to the passengers, to maximise revenue. The losers were the Cuban-Americans who were being ripped off and the Cuban Government, which the US Special Interests section noted with pleasure, gained little except for visa fees and airport taxes.
One air charter company benefiting from exploiting Cuban-Americans in this way is Vision Airlines, which provides charter aircraft to a number of Cuban Tour operators, flying out of New York and Miami.  For example, David Meers, their chief operating officer interviewed in [CubaNews] in March 2011, explained that Vision Airlines were flying an average 14 flights a week to Cuba for C&T Charters Inc. of Coral Gables, Florida, from Miami International airport alone.
It’s been a “rags to riches” story at Vision, call sign RBY (RUBY).  It began flying sightseers over the Grand Canyon in Dorniers, before moving up to flying gamblers from one casino resort to another. It has dabbled unsuccessfully in scheduled flights between American cities but has always relied on its charter business to survive and in tough times government business is always the most reliable.
Vision has a long history of government contracts; for many years they flew inmates from Clark County Detention Centre to the forensic psychiatric facility at Lakes Crossing. They have a number of employees with experience in law enforcement, which probably helped winning both that and the contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – deportation flights which are a much more comfortable version of the Department of Prisons “Con-air” and which take Vision Airlines planes to all kinds of exotic destinations.
Vision Airlines is unusual in operating some of its aircraft in plain white paint, with few identifying features. Even the registration numbers are often faded and hard to read. It’s unusual because most airlines and charter companies like to use their aircraft fuselage and tails as a free advertisement for the company. It’s been helpful to us though, as the sight of an unmarked aircraft guarantees to spark an interest amongst the plane spotting community.
The best example of “ghost planes” are what plane spotters refer to as the “Janet planes”. Nicknamed after the radio call sign used by the white planes flying out of McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, the “Janets” are a common sight ferrying civilian contractors and service personnel to remote military research stations in California and Nevada like Tonopah Test Range, the Naval Air weapons station at China lake, Edwards Air force base and, of course, the secret research base Groom Lake, known as “Area 51” to UFO fans.
For many years these flights were operated by a division of E, G and G, a local defence corporation that grew out of the Manhattan project to develop the nuclear bomb. Nowadays, the Department of Defence, which is the registered owner of the planes, has taken back direct control of the Janet flights after E, G and G was bought out.
By coincidence Vision Airlines flies some of its own plain white planes from nearby North Las Vegas airport, where its headquarters are based. For many years the company operated out of 2634 Airport Drive, Suite 106, North Las Vegas, before moving to 2705 Airport Drive, Suite 500.  It may also be just a coincidence that so many of its job advertisements specify that its staff require security clearance.
However, this quote from one of its pilots on the “Airline Pilots’ Central Forum” from August 2009 indicates it may be no accident: “Vision has done government contract work for years with 737s. Last year (or so) they switched to 767s and started the long process of moving the 73s to the overt side of the operation. We (as in the non-secret pilots) know little to nothing about the 767 operation. We share dispatchers, but that’s about it. If you want a job on that side of the operation, your guess is as good as mine as to how to go about it.”
It is puzzling how a corporation with so many contracts that require security clearance and with pilots who are often ex air-force also flies daily to Cuba. ICE for example, is part of the Department of Homeland Security, which has responsibility for “protecting” America from countries like Cuba. A visit to Cuba by an American would normally be considered a security risk.
It’s certainly not gone unnoticed in Miami, as “Cranky Concierge”, an air transport blog commented when two of Vision’s underused planes were used to start a new service: “Vision has two airplanes based in Miami. One, which flies Cuba charters, has a hole in the schedule on Friday that allows this flight to go. The other is used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and it doesn’t fly on Sunday. So these airplanes are in Miami already. Now you too can fly like a deported illegal immigrant . . .”
As they wouldn’t want to get ICE and Cuba charter planes mixed up, it avoids misunderstandings if there is no company name on the tail. The downside of this is that the “ghost planes” tend to be of interest whenever they arrive at a new airport; its big white Boeing 737’s certainly made an impression when they turned up at Bratislava in 2008; the spotters assumed they were CIA rendition planes. The Slovak Spectator broke the story just as the planes moved base to Romania;
“The 737 that was parked at Bratislava airport is operated by Vision Airlines, a Nevada corporation with bases in Las Vegas and Baghdad, whose main contractor is the US government. In 2006, according to European flight records, the plane was used on flights from Baghdad to Budapest and then Shannon Airport in Ireland and Washington. Other Vision Air aircraft flew between Kabul and Frankfurt.
The aeroplane was spotted by enthusiasts at Bratislava airport on several occasions last year. In November 2007 it was also spotted crossing Norwegian and Danish airspace, and was described by the Aftenbladet newspaper of Stavanger, Norway, as a CIA flight.
"My sources at air traffic control told me that the planes were flying mostly through Budapest and Bratislava, and mostly to and from Baghdad," said Jan-Petter Helgesen, the journalist who covered the story. "The owner of the plane [Wilmington] is a private company that works very closely with the CIA."
The Slovak Spectator was only partly right about Vision, although the aircraft leasing companies; Wilmington Trust of Delaware and the Wells Fargo Bank Northwest NA Trustees of Salt Lake City, do have a history of financing other operators of rendition planes. 
But in August 2009, the New York Times, reported that Kyle D Foggo, at that time head of the CIA’s main European supply base in Frankfurt, oversaw the construction of three CIA detention centres in Romania; “each built to house about a half-dozen detainees”. They added that “one jail was a renovated building on a busy street in Bucharest”.
More of the truth was revealed in January 2009 when a group of former employees sued the airline in what became a class action. Because the contracts were classified, the documents were sealed and hidden from public view by the District Court of the State of Nevada after only four days. Luckily, the New Worker has been able to track some of them down.
They reveal that from 2005 Vision was a subcontractor to the main contractor (originally Capital Aviation and then McNeil Industries) flying planes that made up part of the US “air bridge” to Bagdad and Kabul.
Vision flew twice a week to each destination, transporting various diplomatic and “other” personnel as well as cargo. A former Vision pilot, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Home News of Las Vegas that the passengers typically included: “CIA and State Department personnel along with employees of the private security contractor, Blackwater.”
All flights started at Frankfurt, stopping at Bucharest, Romania to refuel or make transfers, then in 2007 using Bratislava, Slovakia before moving back to Bucharest in 2008. As the final destinations were dangerous war zones, the US Government had been paying substantial “Hazard Pay” to the companies, on top of their charter fees, to be passed straight through to the crew. These had built up to $21 million over the period of the contract but unfortunately, the crew received nothing. The employees alleged that Vision had discovered it could pocket the money itself, after it had dismissed everyone who knew about the payments.
Helpfully for us, Vision then in turn counter-sued five of its former employees, revealing in the sworn pleadings that its workers had had to sign a “classified information nondisclosure agreement with the United States Government”. Vision also confirmed that it had aviation services contracts with three companies: Capital Aviation Inc, Computer Sciences Corp and McNeil Technologies Inc. All three were contractors providing security and other services to the US government in war zones.
A number of organisations, from the European Parliament to the Scottish National Party have tried to pin down the rendition flights, a task made harder by the CIA which has learnt from the mistakes made in the “Air America” and “Iran-Contra” years. Back then, it was all too easy to follow the trail left by proprietary air companies back to Langley, Virginia or to the Pentagon. Nowadays, it’s more subtle; registration numbers are changed at short notice, corporations come and go. Plane ownership can pass between a series of mock corporations or find a home in genuine ones. Often these rely on CIA subsidies, usually through being given opportunities to earn “legitimate” income in return for favours.
Despite all this contracts have to be put out to public tender and the planes themselves have to be owned and registered and all this has left a trail we can follow. In the second part of this article we’ll take a look where those trails lead...

THE CASE that Vision Airlines itself is a CIA proprietary company was still open because two of its Boeing 737’s definitely raised suspicions: N732VA, originally N34315 and N731VA. Both were part of the “air bridges” and both had also flashed up as possible rendition flights. 
The second plane started life as N368CE, another Boeing identified as a part of the extraordinary rendition programme by the “Contribution of the Rapporteur; Research on the planes use by the CIA”, prepared for the European Parliament. This published the full list of alleged rendition flights made by N368CE from 2002 to 2005 and in particular; Frankfurt to Baghdad and Kabul (both sites of notorious illegal detention centres) as well as another similar “air bridge” that operated between Frankfurt and Ashkhabad in Turkmenistan, which was serving the US Military presence there in support of the Afghan war.
The allegations were repeated in the British Parliament and in the Scottish National Party report on rendition flights passing through Scotland. In total N386CE had landed at British airports at least 18 times, according to a 2006 written answer from the Transport minister.
The New Worker view was still that the 737 would have made an unlikely rendition plane as, despite the report’s conclusions, the CIA always tended to use either Lear jets or Gulfstreams, both smaller and more discreet than the 737’s. Also there have never been any indications that the plane ever flew into Guantanamo Bay.
But many of its destinations were of real interest to us: Washington DC, Cyprus, Pakistan, Dubai, Ireland, Canada, Tunisia, Nigeria, Egypt, Bahrain, Greece, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Turkey and Jordan as well as the regular trips to Bagdad, Kabul and Ashkhabad. All had a role in the war against terror and the rendition/torture programme.
Shannon (Eire), Gander (Canada) and Larnaca (Cyprus) are refuelling stops as well as being useful airports to arrange transfers and handovers between planes where there are governments that are sympathetic to America. Eire and Cyprus have both been highlighted by the EU parliament or the Council of Europe as rendition “‘hubs”.
But Shannon is also the home of the now world famous “Shannonwatch”, where peace and environmental activists co-operating with local plane spotters, recorded those suspected rendition flights as they stopped off in Ireland.
Some round trips clearly carried the signature of the war on terror: on 13/6/04 N368CE flew Washington DC/Shannon/Cairo then 17/6/04 Amman (Jordan)/Shannon /Gander. It’s hard not to be suspicious of that itinerary or 14/6/03 when it flew Inverness/Gander then 18/6/03 Gander/Luton/Riyadh (Saudi Arabia/Larnaca/Shannon then 19/6/03 Shannon/Gander.

 In 2002 N368CE made some other interesting trips of which we only have space to list a few:

31/3/02 Athens/Shannon/Dubai (Arab Emirates)/Athens.
25/3/02 Islamabad(Pakistan)/Larnaca/Shannon/Washington DC.
24/5/02 Washington/Shannon/Larnaca/Karachi (Pakistan)/Larnaca.
14/9/02 Washington/Shannon/Larnaca/Islamabad.

While the most likely explanation is still that these were charter contracts ferrying civilian contractors to and from areas of US military presence, destinations like Amman, Karachi, Cairo, Dubai, Morocco and Islamabad were all notorious for their involvement in the torture programme.
It was when we started to look at events in Venezuela in April 2002, where an American-backed coup d’état resulted in the imprisonment of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the installation of a pro-US, pro-business regime for two days, that N368CE became really interesting.
Ed Vuilliamy, wrote in the Observer 21/4/02 how “Top coup plotters, including Pedro Carmona, the man installed during the coup as the new president, began visits to the White House months before the coup and continued until weeks before the putsch. The plotters were received at the White House by the man President George W Bush tasked to be his key policy-maker for Latin America, Special Envoy Otto Reich.”
Meanwhile Christopher Marquis, the Washington correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald reported on 26th April 2002 how “funds were provided by the National Endowment for Democracy, a non-profit agency created and financed by Congress…. the endowment quadrupled its budget for the country to more than $877,000. Of particular concern is $154,377 given by the endowment to the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity, the international arm of the AFL-CIO, the US union umbrella body, to help the main Venezuelan trade union advance labour rights. The Venezuelan union, the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, led the work stoppages that galvanised the opposition to Mr Chavez. The union's leader, Carlos Ortega, worked closely with Pedro Carmona Estanga, the businessman who briefly took over from Mr Chavez, in challenging the Government.”
All of this activity would have required trips to America, for discussions and meetings as well as training sessions for activists and those visits needed the kind of flexibility and secrecy that scheduled flights just can’t give. It is thanks to Stephen Grey, the journalist who wrote [Ghost Plane], and who pioneered the analysis of rendition flight records, that we know something about what happened. He traced the many suspicious charter flights to and from the US and Venezuela throughout 2002: “The first appearance of the planes was on 4th March 2002. On 5th March 2002, opposition leader Carlos Ortega signed a pact to remove controversial president Chavez. Another plane came in 13th March to take whoever back to JFK”. That plane was N386CE and as the coup took place on the 11th April, that’s quite a coincidence.
 It was transferred to Vision Airlines and became N731VA, N368CE was owned by “Premiere Aircraft Management Inc”, based at 2634 Airport Drive, Suite 106, North Las Vegas, which also just happened to be the home of Vision Air Inc, as it was then known.
Further, in a 1999 sworn application for a “‘Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity”, Vision Air’s Chair William S Acor and his brother, Vice President Steven S Acor, confirmed that between them they owned two thirds of the private corporation’s shares. In that application it was also revealed that: “Vision Air owns 20 per cent of Premiere Aircraft Management Inc, a part 125 operator of a Boeing Business jet (B737).”
In a 1999 sworn “Certificate of good Standing”, it said that William S Acor was the “President/Secretary of Premiere Aircraft Management Inc a part 125 operator of a Boeing Business Jet (B737)”. Which of course was N368CE.
Meanwhile the riches had been turning back to rags at Vision. The scheduled services between American cities haven’t worked out and most were quickly shut down. On 29th November 2012 Cuba reduced the number of American travel companies operating trips to the island, in particular terminating C-and-T, which happened to be Vision’s biggest customer.
It got worse: in February 2013 the state of Florida and Okaloosa County filed Grand Theft charges relating to public "passenger facility charge" (PFCs) fees that Vision had collected but failed to pass on, during the carrier's ill-fated attempt to create a hub at Northwest Florida Regional Airport. According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, Vision paid up the full $117,659.98 owed for 2010 to 2012, within 24 hours of the criminal charges being filed. The charges were dropped. Meanwhile Vision also lost the court case over the missing “hazard pay” and so far its appeals have failed. There are other creditors circling.
But, however bleak the prospects may be, it has always recovered before. Losing C-and-T may have been bad news but Vision has subcontracted planes into Cuba for other tour companies like Gulfstream Air Charters, Marazul Charters Inc, Sky King and Airline Brokers Company Inc. There is no reason to believe that Vision will be short of business in the future.
In any case its friends may be able to help it out again. On 9th July 2010 the US Government hired one of Vision Airlines underused Boeing 767’s to fly Anna Chapman and nine other alleged Russian spies to Vienna Airport, where a Russian plane was waiting with four American spies waiting to be exchanged. The return trip landed at Dulles International Airport which is, conveniently, only about 18 miles from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.
The question remains: how does this corporation survive? At any one time it usually has a fleet of about six medium sized Boeing jets, all capable of carrying over 100 people. It certainly can’t afford to run them by flying College football teams to games or taking customers to “Don Laughlin's Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino” which is the kind of business it normally generates.
Luckily the Latin American regimes that America doesn’t like are all in range of the Boeings and Vision usually has some available for hire. The flights to Kabul, Baghdad, and Venezuela, together with regular charters to Cuba, make up a good part of America’s recent wish list for regime change. Last year, Vision looked into the possibility of flights to the US pacific base at Guam and on to South Korea, which would be convenient for any American action against People’s Korea. In the case of Cuba, the “Cuba transition planners” referred to in the US Interests section cable from Havana, would definitely have Vision pencilled in as their carrier of choice, when the time comes.
 Vision is obviously sinister, there are other charter operators flying into Cuba which come from a more progressive tradition, or at least appear to. Tom Cooper, for example, has been organising flights on behalf of Gulfstream Air Charters Inc, (part of the Gulfstream International group now owned by Silver Airlines) since he founded it in 1989. Thomas L Cooper Senior, as he is known to his less progressive contacts, has been operating flights in the Caribbean since his days as a pilot for Continental and Eastern in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He was a pioneer of charter flights to Cuba and despite financial difficulties and a takeover, he is still a player.
When the US Interests section cabled the State Department about the Transport Security Commission delegation, “‘Tom Cooper” was its main source and he has always been happy to give press interviews, even to left wing papers. He’s also politically active, involved with a “progressive” think-tank; The Center for International Policy (CIP) which is "promoting a US foreign policy based on international cooperation, demilitarisation and respect for human rights”. Cooper has sponsored meetings and is happy to be an occasional financial supporter of this “left of centre” research and lobbying group. CIP grew out of a group of US Diplomats, Security and Foreign Service experts and activists loosely based around the Democratic Party in the Vietnam War years.
According to its Form 990 application for exemption from Income Tax for 2011, its largest contributor was NORAD, the Norwegian Foreign Ministry’s aid arm. Norway, like Germany, Austria, and the other Scandinavian countries with a social democratic tradition, have all used foreign aid to finance apparently progressive “Non-Governmental Organisations” as a means of destabilising communist and other progressive countries since the 1950’s. In 2011 NORAD contributed $1.8 Million out of CIP’s total grant income of $3.8 million.
NORAD itself has also been directly involved in “training” trades unionists in Cuba, something which it is able to do while the AFL-CIO (the American trade union centre) cannot, because it became too well known as a conduit for State Department funds.
CIP’s other financial backers that year included the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute (funded by the George Soros foundation) both of which have been heavily involved in funding “regime change” in support of American foreign policy. Other contributing funds with an interest in Cuba or South America are the Columbe Foundation ($125 000) and the Instituto Credito Oficial, Spain ($196 035).
CIP lobbies Washington for the removal of all travel restrictions to Cuba, as a means of bringing about the collapse of socialism on the island, more effectively (it hopes) than the discredited blockade promoted by the right. Cooper supports this and as a “liberal” democrat, involved in the business of flying Cuban-American charter passengers in and out of Cuba, this doesn’t seem out of place.
However Cooper’s business, Gulfstream international Airways, is not what it seems. Founded in 1989 and after briefly operating from Haiti, it was forced to relocate to the Bahamas where it started a regular service to Cuba. From its base in Fort Lauderdale it also has its charter flights between Cuba and America, whenever the US government has allowed them.
The Cuban charter trade always seems to throw together some unlikely partners; soon after it was formed GIA also won the sensitive contract to carry the weekly diplomatic pouch for the US interests section in Havana.
Even stranger, on 1st February 2005 the Computer Sciences Corporation announced that its DynCorp Technical Services division had won the contract for the operation and maintenance of the US Navy’s Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Centre (AUTEC) in the Bahamas. The contract will last up to 15 years and is worth an estimated $762 million.
AUTEC is a “top secret range and test facility base that provides both deep and shallow water test and training environments for the US Navy”. Its work would be very interesting to America’s enemies, not least to Cuba: its contractors need security clearance to work there. The Bahamas Naval base would also make a convenient and confidential starting point for any anti-Cuban provocation.
CSC/DynCorp is part of the lucrative world of private contractors to the US military and was fully involved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the rendition programme. It also contracted with Vision Airlines, amongst others, for the air bridge.
The AUTEC contract involves sites at far flung locations including Andros Island, the Bahamas, West Palm Beach, Cape Canaveral and Yorktown. Staff need to move between these sites and CSC has subcontracted all its air transport obligations to Tom Cooper’s Gulfstream International Airlines – that’s the outfit that has also been providing air charter flights in and out of Cuba for the last 25 years.
It is simply not possible that the sensitive, classified government contracts that both Vision Airlines and Gulfstream International Airlines have been able to win would be granted to organisations flying in and out of Cuba unless they were doing so with the support of the US government.
These two examples, from left and right, are probably just the tip of an iceberg; in reality most of the links between the US and Cuba are being used to subvert socialism in the island and the Cubans are well aware of it.
Spotting a few of the sources of potential attacks doesn’t stop the war; America has airlines to spare and most have financial problems that would benefit from a few profitable charter contracts, with no questions asked. When one is caught out, the planes get transferred or sold on. Sometimes that means it’s simpler just to keep them painted white.