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Polish report
by Euro Reporter
2014-01-28 12:19:43
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Poland was bribed to turn blind eye to torture

According to a blockbuster Washington Post report, in 2003 two CIA agents handed $15 million in cash stashed in two cardboard boxes to the number two man at Poland's intelligence service. In exchange, they received access to a secluded villa in which they could store and torture captured al-Qaeda operatives, including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. "The CIA prison in Poland was arguably the most important of all the black sites created by the agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks," the Post's Adam Goldman wrote. The decision to allow the presence of a CIA black site has been stirring up controversy in Poland for years, but the Post report has added further fuel to the fire, with outraged commentators declaring the report put a price tag on Poland's past willingness to turn a blind eye to torture on its soil. "For $15 million, the government violated the constitution." Senator Jozef Pinior, who closely monitors the issue, told Foreign Policy. The case has been a thorn in the side for every Polish government since its cooperation with the U.S. intelligence agency was first revealed in 2005. Despite a constant flow of new evidence, Polish politicians from all major parties have denied allegations that elected officials were aware of such detention sites. Leszek Miller, who was prime minister in 2003 when the site was established, dismissed arguments that he had to have known about the CIA operation that happened under his nose. "To me this is funny, it sounds like a Hollywood screenplay....No PM should ever know about something like this," he said in a television interview, noting that the "secret services' power lies in the clandestine character of their work." Referring to the money handed over by the CIA, Miller saw no problem: "There would be a problem for Polish authorities if there were some unclear and undisclosed expenses, but if the secret services got some money -- super."

poland_400Adam Bodnar, a lawyer from the Helsinki Human Rights Foundation, said in an interview with the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza that "if someone who was the prime minister and still aspires to the highest political posts in Poland says that a prime minister in a democratic country shouldn't know about the activities of the secret services, then the question is whether this person was at all competent to be prime minister in the first place." The current Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, also disagreed with Miller. "I hope there were no ambiguous financial transactions that would serve foreign security forces on Polish soil," he said at a press conference Friday. Tusk emphasized that his government would not allow any ally, no matter their size, to implicate Poland in a situation that could jeopardize the country's reputation. Marek Rybarczyk, a journalist for the Polish edition of Newsweek, had even harsher words. "In 2003, Poland took a bribe from the Americans for turning a blind eye to the torture of al Qaeda prisoners on its own territory," he wrote on the magazine's web site. He also described the affair as "trading in torture." The decision to do so, Rybarczyk argued, was especially troubling given Poland's long-history of serving as a doormat to the imperial powers on its borders. "We are a country that has suffered during the time of its partitions, that has lost its soul, lost millions of victims in world wars, a country that housed Gestapo slaughterhouses and Stalinist dungeons," Rybarczyk wrote. "Poland should shudder at taking money for torture."

Newsweek is conducting a poll alongside Rybarczyk's article asking whether Poland is a "banana republic that allowed torture on its territory in exchange for bribes and a favourable relationship with the U.S." As of Friday afternoon, 67 percent of respondents to the non-scientific poll had answered "Yes. Selling human rights for dollars is humiliating for Leszek Miller's government," Pinior told FP. "It's a humiliation for Polish democracy that it functions like non-democratic countries." The Post revelations are currently competing for top billing on the homepages of all major Polish news services with updates from the pro-European protests in neighbouring Ukraine. For Pinior, the timing of the revelations are particularly embarrassing for Poland, a country that prides itself on being a model democracy and as an example for its struggling neighbour. Defenders of the decision to welcome the CIA prison in Poland argue that the country was obligated to do so in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Citing images of the burning World Trade Centre towers, journalist Tomasz Wolek told a morning radio program that "it was a battle against terrorism, after all." Roman Imielski, an editor at the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, said Poland's long-standing relationship with the United States was another reason why the CIA ended up placing its black site there. U.S. support to Poland's democratic opposition during the Cold War and its additional aid to the country after the fall of communism created a sense of indebtedness, Imielski argued. That feeling grew after Washington helped Poland gain entrance to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1999. Poland, in turn, sent troops to aid the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan.

Prosecutors have spent the past five years investigating the CIA's use of torture in Poland, but critics argue that the government purposefully declined to hold anyone accountable and has slow-rolled the inquiry. In December, two of the black site detainees -- Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah -- sued Poland in the European Court of Human Rights for violating their human rights. Pinior thinks the Post revelations could help the two men win their case -- an outcome that would mean potentially stiff financial penalties for the Polish government -- and hopes it will spur Poland to move faster on its investigation into the CIA facility. If Poland gets a hefty bill for the black site, the CIA might perhaps chip in with a few more boxes of cash.


Poland's jobless rate rises to 13.4 percent

Government statistics show that Poland's jobless rate rose to 13.4 percent in December from 13.2 percent the previous month, mainly on seasonal loss of outdoor jobs.

The Main Statistical Office said on its website Monday that some 2.16 million people in this nation of 38 million were without a job at the end of December, or 42,000 more than a month before.

It was also 21,000 more than at the same time last year.


The Polish Church’s Gender Problem

“Gender” has been chosen as the 2013 word of the year in Poland. In making their selection, scholars from the University of Warsaw and the Polish Language Foundation passed over other buzzwords like “wiretapping” and “Euromaidan.” Since the fall of Communism and integration into the West, gender has become an established concept in Poland, along with the feminist and L.G.B.T. movements. Many universities have Gender Studies programs, and numerous books on the subject have been published. And, as a European Union member, Poland is obligated to follow a policy of so-called gender mainstreaming. In any case, the English word “gender” is hardly new to Poland. Academics have managed to make it standard in Polish humanities, and the country has had time to get used to it. Why, then, has gender suddenly become a hot topic? The first sign that something strange was happening emerged this past summer at a debate I participated in with one of Poland’s best-known bishops, Tadeusz Pieronek. We were at a summer culture festival at a resort in Swinoujscie, on the Baltic coast. All of a sudden, Bishop Pieronek blurted out, “I would like to add that the ideology of gender presents a threat worse than Nazism and Communism combined.”

Bishop Pieronek, considered part of the liberal wing of Poland’s Catholic Church, seemed to be reciting memorized talking points. In any case, he didn’t have more to say about his statement, nor could he name any victims or give the number of people killed or maimed by the threat of gender. He did, however, repeat his statement, while adding that gender ideology is at odds with nature and natural law. The clergy always protest that in vitro fertilization, abortion, civil unions for gays and teaching sex education are at odds with nature. Yet priests’ lifestyles, namely their celibacy, are hardly a textbook product of the theory of evolution.  Because politicians in Poland fear the church, all of the above activities are either banned or heavily restricted by the law or, as in the case of compulsory sex education, ignored by the authorities. But exist they do, on more or less the same scale as in any Western country. In this way, freedom has been privatized in Poland, and access to it depends on social class, and therefore on the contents of one’s wallet, level of education and place of residence.

Bishop Pieronek’s statement touched off a series of ever more perplexing actions by the church hierarchy. Posters have appeared in schools proclaiming, “Protect Your Child Against Gender.” (The newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported that young children have begun to ask their parents how they can be vaccinated.) Almost every day there are new pronouncements warning against gender ideology, for example, as when a priest commented in a talk in Poznan that “gender leads to the devastation of families” and “is associated with radical feminism, which advocates for abortion, the employment of women and the detention of children in preschools.” Lining up behind the church fight, conservative politicians have convened a parliamentary group, “Stop Gender Ideology,” consisting of one woman and 15 men. The bishops voiced their official opinion in a pastoral letter posted online entitled, “Threats to the Family Stemming from the Ideology of Gender,” which proclaimed that “the aim of gender education is the sexualisation of children and young people.” According to Poland’s Catholic Church, the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence is promoting “nonstereotypical sexual roles” and is breaking down the educational system by requiring education on homosexuality and transsexuality. In their letter the bishops also went after the World Health Organization, writing that it “promotes, among other things, masturbation by preschool-aged children, encouraging them to seek joy and pleasure in touching their own bodies and those of their peers.” The bishops warned that “as a consequence of the education implemented by youth sexual educators, young people become regular customers of pharmaceutical, erotic, pornographic, paedophile and abortion enterprises.” The letter, perhaps not surprisingly, was replaced with a toned-down version less than two hours after it was published, according to Gazeta Wyborcza. Even so, the bishops announced that both versions were legitimate, but that the original was for pastoral use, and the second version for the laity.

The church hierarchy claims none are immune to the influence of gender. It might be that even the Polish Church itself is threatened. “Church” was originally a feminine-declined noun (from the Greek “ecclesia”). And it is traditionally personified by the image of a woman. In Polish, however, this same word is masculine. Is the Catholic Church also having gender issues? A more serious question many in Poland are asking is, Why is this anti-gender paranoia happening now? If “gender ideology” were such an apocalyptical threat, it should have wiped out a significant part of the Polish population before our church’s recent wake-up call.  For two decades, the church hierarchy exhibited no interest in the “ideology of gender” until suddenly one day it began to speak of little else. The reasons behind such an orchestrated action might be found in the church’s recent problems. Poles have been outraged by the large-scale financial fraud carried out by the commission tasked with the reprivatisation of church property that had been seized by the Communist government. Poles also continue to be disturbed by increasingly common disclosures of paedophilia within the church.  In Poland, politics is the one area in which the church does not need any lessons. And in today’s politics, when a party finds itself in trouble, its best bet is to change the subject with a media campaign. Necessity is the mother of invention, and thus arose the church’s new invention, the “ideology of gender.” This seems to be working wonderfully, since “gender” has become the word of the year, handily beating not just “wiretapping” and “Euromaidan,” but also “paedophilia” and “property commission.”


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