Guantanamo MUST Be Closed Now!

Speech from the January 9, 2014 event at All Souls Church in NYC

There are two pertinent questions which demand answers if we are to force the U.S. to close the illegal torture camp at Guantánamo, and go on to end indefinite detention by the United States.

Why did the Bush regime open it in 2002 in a U.S. military base set in Guantánamo Bay on a colonized piece of Cuban land seized from Cuba at the culmination of its war of independence from Spain, known here as the Spanish-American War, in 1898?

And why are sections of the U.S. ruling class holding onto this prison so tightly, even expanding its infrastructure, that Obama’s six year old promise to close it has become a cruel joke to most of the men who were there when he campaigned in 2008?

In the frenzy of the so-called “war on terror” framed for public consumption by the Bush Regime, those of you over 25 or so remember some things we saw in 2001: sweeps of men who appeared to be Muslim off streets from Brooklyn to Karachi, deported and detained.

What was then invisible was a quickly thrown together network of U.S. secret prisons across Eastern Europe, Asia and the Middle East, with “ghost” CIA planes rendering men grabbed in one country to be tortured or disappeared in another.  Men from dozens of countries were moved around the world secretly; we know of more than 100 killed in U.S. custody from Afghanistan to Abu Ghraib.

“Dick” Cheney, Bush’s vice president and henchman, talked of a war that would last “generations,” and said the U.S. had to be ready to go to the “dark side” using, “basically, any means necessary to achieve our objectives.”

Less than four months after 9/11, the Bush regime announced that it was opening a prison camp at its base in Cuba to house the “worst of the worst,” enemies of the United States.

Almost 800 men were sent there, most haphazardly as a result of the U.S. offering $5,000 bribes to warlords and others to turn in pilgrims, farmers, and some would-be fighters (including some originally trained and funded by the U.S. against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan).  Three of these prisoners were 13-15 years old.

Thanks to Chelsea Manning for leaking the Guantánamo Detainee Assessment Briefs, and to Andy Worthington for analyzing them, we know with certainty that very few of the men should ever have been taken by the U.S., much less held for twelve years now without any justice.

Why Guantánamo Bay?  Because the U.S. government considered it “outside U.S. legal jurisdiction” ― meaning that the laws and rights supposedly guaranteed to prisoners, including “prisoners of war,” would not apply.

While they imprisoned many more men, and tortured and killed secretly in Bagram, Afghanistan and black sites around the world, the U.S. needed a place to openly defy international norms.  CIA operatives “joked” that the name for Guantánamo’s prison should be “Strawberry Fields” because the U.S. could hold prisoners there “forever,” as the Beatles song goes.

Sometime during the Bush years, World Can’t Wait activists were in an African American high school class in Chicago, speaking about Guantánamo.  The teacher asked the students, “Why do you think Bush set up Guantánamo?”  One of the activists told me recently that a kid in the back of the room raised his hand, and said, “LYNCHING.”

When the teacher asked why he made that comparison, he answered, “When Black people were lynched in the South, it wasn’t so much what any one person had done.  Lynching was done to terrorize everyone and keep the system of Jim Crow in place.”

So from that wise young man, himself living in the epicenter of mass incarceration, with the U.S. being Jailer #1, we get the essence: Guantánamo the prison camp was intended not just to imprison captives but to send a message to the entire world that the U.S. could do whatever it wants to whomever it wants. 

Guantánamo was not a “mistake” of Bush going too far, and it’s not something that can be moved or mended with reforms.  The word Guantánamo has become synonymous with torture, unjust detention, brutality, and inhumane degradation.  Some forces in the U.S. ruling class are fine with that; others like Obama may find it inconvenient or embarrassing.  But it’s a system problem, not a politician problem.

But why? A friend who works every day on closing Guantánamo asked me about a month ago, why, really, it’s not being closed.  She said, “I know it’s not being kept open just to enrich private contractors. Do you think it has something to do with imperialism?”

Yes, ma’am, I do.  The U.S. has global ambitions and interests – not the same as our interests – which demand extension of its empire of capitalist-imperialist globalization to massively exploit billions around the world.  This is what the huge military is to protect; this is what the mirage of “democracy” covers for.  Controlling the Middle East, and keeping other powers from controlling it, is key to their strategy.

The U.S. and its wars are reacting to the increasing instability in the Middle East/Central Asian regions. The spread of Islamic fundamentalism is a destabilizing pole of opposition to U.S. empire ― and an ideology putting itself forward as an alternative to U.S.-led capitalist globalization and bourgeois democracy.

These Islamic forces ― which are completely reactionary and represent the old order, both feudal and bourgeois ― don’t fundamentally oppose foreign capital, and they are horrible for the people, especially women, but their interests clash in various ways, and often sharply, with the U.S. and its regional clients.

To be clear, the U.S. itself has done far more damage, with its little weekly 9/11s in the region, with every drone strike and with the destruction of two whole countries.  The wars fought to destroy Iraq & Afghanistan, and which are spreading into Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and further into Africa, are illegitimate, unjust and immoral, utilizing torture and indefinite detention as a way of terrorizing whole populations.

As we’ve learned seven months ago, they are backing this up with vast surveillance of whole populations, without apology.

But why hasn’t Obama followed through on his promise to close the camp?  It may even be that the promise was genuine, in that Guantánamo doesn’t fit with the image, in opposition to Bush, of a multicultural, diverse imperialism.  But we know Obama has had no trouble ordering targeted killing, whether or not Congress agreed (and they do).

One reason Obama essentially ignored the status of Guantánamo for so long — until the hunger strike of 2013 — is because he has directed U.S. policy to focus on killing, not capturing, those targeted by the U.S. as opponents ― especially through the use of drones.

John Bellinger, himself a war criminal and an official in the Bush administration who helped draw up the initial U.S. policy on use of drones, recently said, “This government has decided that instead of detaining members of al-Qaida [at Guantánamo], they are going to kill them.” And these drone strikes during the years of Obama’s presidency have killed thousands of people, many of them civilians, including children.

Whatever their needs, we should NOT back off on demanding Obama and Congress release ALL the cleared prisoners immediately, so that Guantánamo doesn’t remain a Yemeni detention center.  We should continue to demand that those men whom the administration says they will neither charge, try, nor release — and we know this is because they were tortured — should be charged, given fair trials, or released.

We demand an end to indefinite detention in our name.  And those secret military commissions — the tribunals Obama says were an improvement on the Bush commissions — are no damn good, either!

I must add a note, based on discussion with many students who are cynical after having lived only during the Bush & Obama years.  All societies do not torture.  Torture is not a part of a non-existent “human nature.”  Human societies can do better, and outlaw it, and never use it, for real.

Reading from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, Draft Proposal, in a long section on the rights liberties of the people, this promise of a new society — from Bob Avakian’s party, the Revolutionary Communist Party, says, on page 74: “Cruel and unusual punishment, including torture, shall be prohibited.”  This document also abolishes the death penalty, and envisions not mass incarceration, but a system of liberation.

Contrast that with a system where in the White House, leaders discuss what extremes — like cutting the penis of Binyam Mohammed — they can get away with.  Where the president makes lists of who gets killed, and runs a system of plausible deniability when thousands of civilians are killed.  Where this revolting mass popular culture idolizes an NYC born actress who plays a CIA agent on Homeland, and where millions hung on every episode of 24 — and which is coming back on air.

12 years after the prison camp/torture center was founded, the message the world is receiving from Guantánamo is not of the American empire’s invincibility, but of its limitless cruelty.

The 100 plus men hunger striking on the verge of death, strapped into chairs with tubes shoved into and yanked out of their bodies, locked in cages in a remote prison camp, have brought to millions a focused picture of the hideous features of American “justice.”

They have shown that even in the most arduous and unbearable of circumstances it is possible to stand up to the swaggering might of the American military.

The real interests of the vast majority of people in this country are to oppose the crimes of the U.S. empire ― to stop thinking like Americans and start thinking about humanity, and to act on that conviction.

We are not giving up on the mission of closing this open insult to humanity that is Guantánamo.

Speaking for World Can’t Wait, we will unite with everyone — with those who worked for the U.S. government as lawyers, guards, and soldiers, but who criticized and broke with the torture state;

with revolutionaries & others consciously working to bring about a different world;

with those so young that they don’t remember the Bush years;

with those prisoners locked in the American gulag who know all too well the torture of solitary confinement,

and with the billions around the world who really know that the world can’t wait.

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How an Inventive, Imperialist (Evil) System Uses Drones

Thanks to Medea Benjamin, Code Pink, Reprieve, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the attention and energy of 400 who gathered this past Saturday at Georgetown Law School, we were able to consider Drones Around the Globe: Proliferation & Resistance.  It was a very worthwhile weekend which will impact how people act on and respond to U.S. use of drones.

Most movingly, we heard from three people who traveled from Yemen to speak of U.S. drone strikes. Kevin Gosztola on Faisal bin Ali Jaber’s calm, deliberate description of the attack that killed his brother and nephew, just after his own son’s wedding:

Five men were gathering behind a local mosque in their village of Khashamir in southeast Yemen when a US drone launched Hellfire missiles at them. Four of the men were instantly killed, their bodies blown into pieces. The fifth man was killed as he tried to crawl away.

The attack took place on August 29, 2012. Yemen’s Defense Ministry initially claimed that three members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) had been killed. Two of the individuals killed, according to a Human Rights Watch report, turned out to be Salim bin Ali Jaber, “a cleric and father of seven,” who “had long preached against AQAP’s violent methods.” Another man killed was Walid bin Ali Jaber, “one of the village’s few police officers.” They had been participating in a meeting because “three alleged AQAP members” wanted to meet with him about a recent “strong denunciation of AQAP at the local mosque.”

Marjorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, presented on the claim that the U.S. drone programs violate international law.  She recounts in Voices from the Drone Summit:

Baraa Shaiban, a human rights activist who works with REPRIEVE, revealed that 2012 was a year that saw “drones like never before” in Yemen. He described the death of a mother and daughter from a drone strike. “The daughter was holding the mother so tight, they could not be separated. They had to be buried together.”

Two members of Al Qaeda were in Entesar al Qadhi’s village, one of the most oil rich areas of Yemen. Villagers were negotiating with the two men. A drone killed the chief negotiator, scuttling the negotiations and leaving the village vulnerable to Al Qaeda. “The drones are for Al Qaeda, not against Al Qaeda,” al Qadhi said.

Former military intelligence Analyst Daniel Hale told us that he was 14 on 9/11/01.  When he reported to work in 2012, he passed constant photos of 9/11, aimed at directing his “mission” to kill terrorists.  He related an incident in 2012 where the military’s qualification for a drone strike was whether the target was “of military age.”  “This struck me as ridiculous” he said, that children were considered targets.  My tweeted note: “Hale had thought he was defending US interests, told terrorists were cowards, but began to think US military shooting drones are cowards.”

Pardiss Kebriaei and Mary Ellen O’Connell joined Cohn in speaking about the legal challenge to drone strikes, exposing the Obama/Bush administration’s legal justification as very basically counter to the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter (which themselves are effectively U.S. law).

Very interesting to me was a presentation by Dalit Baum (@dalitbaum) on the use of autonomous weapons by Israel.  Baum described unmanned bulldozers knocking down homes.  Why? The Israeli military needed to remove human operators because 1) they might talk afterward, and 2) they might lose their nerve.  Baum also showed a chilling video clip of a drone killing of several Bedouin youth near the Wall in Gaza by Israeli drones.  We learned that the major drone producing countries are the U.S., the U.K., and Israel, with Israel producing 41% of the world’s drones.

There’s more.  We worked hard on Sunday on how to spread opposition to drones way beyond the existing too tiny movement.  Monday night, The Illuminator and Granny Peace Brigade lit up midtown:

November 18, 2013: Midtown message against US drone war: Did You Make a Killing Tonight?  Drones Kill

November 18, 2013: Midtown message against US drone war: Did You Make a Killing Tonight? Drones Kill

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Tribute to Jane Kronholtz

Jane was a supporter of World Can’t Wait and dear friend of all of us who worked with her.  She joined with us in the Bush-Cheney years to fight against the wars, the torture, to close Guantanamo and all the secret prisons around the world.  What stood out about her is she truly hated all the crimes of this government.  She was uncompromising in her opposition to those crimes and uncompromising in her support for World Can’t Wait, who she was thrilled to find because she knew there had to be a mass movement to oppose all that.  The other thing she liked about World Can’t Wait—and I say this to say what it tells us about her—is that we were not afraid to struggle with people about their views ad thinking.

This came out when she helped organize and attend a World Can’t Wait event at Cooper Union when the Military Commissions Act was passed setting up those kangaroo courts at Guantanamo prison.  The full page ad in the New York Times promoting demonstrations around this said, “Torture + Silence = Complicity.”  She was very definitely NOT into complicity with war crimes and thought that people should be politically struggled with who were being silent.

Now here is something that tells us about her morality and steadfastness in it.  When Obama was elected and began doing many of the same things Bush did—continuing the wars, not closing Guantanamo and using drones on a much larger scale that Bush—Jane stuck to her principles and she stuck with World Can’t Wait.  We had a slogan that concentrated the stand that was needed: “Crimes are Crimes No Matter Who Does Them” and added in a full page ad in New York Review of Books in 2010 “Crimes under Bush are crimes under Obama and must be resisted by anyone who claims a shred of conscience.”

This was controversial, to say the least!  But Jane thought it was right.

As she struggled with her illness, she continued to come to the office to discuss and contribute her thinking as to what we should do.  It was very important to her that she continue to fight against all the injustice and crimes in the world.  And to us, she continued to inspire us and it was a delight to have her to talk to all the way until she was not able any longer.

This period I’m talking about is only a short time in her life and we look forward to hearing from others about what she did in the earlier periods.  There is much to learn from how she lived her life.

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The Dirtiness of U.S. Drone War

Almost 5 years after the spike in U.S. use of targeted killing of people via drone by the Obama administration (thousands have been killed), the United Nations, or rather its special rapporteur Ben Emmerson, has released a report saying these drone strikes by the United States have killed civilians by the hundreds, or more, and should be carried out in accordance with international law.

Anyone wanting a ringing condemnation of how utterly wrong it is for the United States to use killer robots flown from 8,000 miles away, attacking people on the basis of suspected patterns of behavior (a “signature” drone strike) and on the President’s order will read this and be outraged.  The personal stories of family members obliterated in seconds, with only parts to be buried, shock the conscience, as war crimes do.  But let’s speak the truth and call them war crimes, not just cry for “accountability.”

Joining the United Nations in criticizing U.S. drone strikes – to a point – are Amnesty International “Will I Be Next?” and Human Rights Watch, “Between a Drone and al Qaeda“  each of whom issued their own reports this week.  These reports come out just ahead of a debate at the U.N. Friday October 25 on the use of drones, and of the visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Sharif, who told Obama today to end the drone strikes in Pakistan, while no doubt also appealing to him for more military aid.

Kevin Gosztola describes the Amnesty report in Drone Victims Recount Horror of Follow-Up Strikes Launched Against People Rescuing Wounded.  Actual reporting and documentary footage  are beginning to show us the victims.  See Madiha Tahir’s Woulds of Waziristan and Robert Greenwald/Brave New Films Living Under Drones.

I agree with David Swanson, who wrote today in A New Kind of War Is Being Legalized:

Human Rights Watch looked into six drone murders in Yemen and concluded that two were illegal and four might be illegal.  The group wants President Obama to explain what the law is (since nobody else can), wants him to comply with it (whatever it is), wants civilians compensated (if anyone can agree who the civilians are and if people can really be compensated for the murder of their loved ones), and wants the U.S. government to investigate itself.  Somehow the notion of prosecuting crimes doesn’t come up.

There is more compelling evidence of the dirtiness of drone war from Brandon Bryant, the former U.S. Air Force drone pilot who quit in 2011 after almost six years on teams carrying out targeted killing and surveillance in Afghanistan and Iraq, mostly from drone control consoles at U.S. bases.  He was told that during his 6,000 hours of flight time, 1,626 targets were killed, which made him “sick to his stomach.”  In an interviewed published today in GQ magazine by Matthew Power, Confessions of a Drone Warrior:

In the early months Bryant had found himself swept up by the Big Game excitement when someone in his squadron made “mind-blowingly awesome shots, situations where these guys were bad guys and needed to be taken out.” But a deep ambivalence about his work crept in. Often he’d think about what life must be like in those towns and villages his Predators glided over, like buzzards riding updrafts. How would he feel, living beneath the shadow of robotic surveillance? “Horrible,” he says now.

CNN reports that:

Bryant says that during his time monitoring drones’ cameras and aiming its laser targeting system, he became numb and carried out the job in “zombie mode.”  When he left the Air Force in the spring of 2011 — after nearly six years — he says he turned down a $109,000 bonus to continue operating the drones.

Some children wounded by drone strikes will be in Congress Tuesday October 29 telling their stories, although Shazad Akbar, their attorney, has not been given a visa to come.  We shall see what happens with that testimony, which I hope reaches the people living here, as it will be lost on those in this Congress, Democrat and Republican, who revel in their dirty wars.

I heard David Swanson speak Wednesday in NYC, where he said

The primary problem with weaponized drones is that the weapons murder people.  And they murder people in a way that looks more like murder to a lot of observers than other forms of military murder do — such as murder by indiscriminate bombing or artillery or infantry or dropping white phosphorous on people.  When President Obama looks through a list of men, women, and children at a Tuesday terror meeting, and picks which ones to murder, and has them murdered, you can call it a war or not call it a war, but it begins to look to a lot of people like murder.

Murder carried out by a murderous system.

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The Extreme Program of Those Behind the Shutdown: Why We Call Them Racists & “Fascists”

1.  Why we call the Tea Party and their leaders in Congress racist:

a. Destruction of voting rights & open promotion of white supremacy.  See The Tea Party’s Legacy of Racism by Robert Parry

To this day, much of the American Right has refused to come to grips with the idea of non-whites holding U.S. citizenship. And, there is now a palpable fear that the demographics of democracy might finally eradicate white supremacy in the United States. It is that last-ditch fight for white dominance – as much as anything else – that is driving today’s Tea Party.

b. Support for Anti-immigrant laws.  See Peter King’s remarks at Anti-Immigration Rally Kicks Off Push to Block Law Change

c.  Slavery was ended through a civil war 150 years ago.  That promotion of the Confederate flag argues for a different outcome of that war should be self-evident.

"Veterans Support" rally, addressed by Sarah Palin & Ted Cruz moved in front of White House.

 rally, addressed by Sarah Palin & Ted Cruz moved in front of White House.

 

 

 

 

2.  The term “fascist” should not be used just because you personally don’t like someone and are trying to deliver the ultimate insult, or because you don’t agree with their opinion. We use it instead, and in this case, to describe the Republican Party’s hard core based on the society they are working to bring about, one where power and rule of law will reside only with those who promote that agenda; wealth will become even more concentrated, and dissent suppressed through vast surveillance.  The most aggressive of the Republicans want a government which provides no social services, leaving people to the mercy of the market, repressive laws and so-called “traditional” values.

Revolution describes the

extreme remaking of U.S. society called for by the section of the ruling class identified with the Republican Party.  To them, church and the family—and traditional fundamentalist Christian religion and draconian, repressive family values—must assume a radically greater role in the functioning of society. God, guns (in the hands of racists, anti-immigrant vigilantes, and fascists), and religion are asserted with a vengeance…virulent dog-eat-dog, look-out-for-#1-individualism, as they rail against “big government.”

Dennis Loo in Reaping What You Sow: the Radical Right, Fascist Norms, and the Future describes the current government shutdown as

a foretaste of the radical right’s deadly serious agenda to take sole power, irrespective of their increasing unpopularity and irrespective of the supposedly sacrosanct rules, principles, laws, and customary ways of doing things in this country. Their targets for overthrow include the Constitution’s separation of church and state as well as all of the institutions and arenas of society. This is their attitude, about which they are entirely sincere: “We want it all and we are not going to stop until we get it, because God’s on our side and anyone who stands in the way will be beaten to a pulp because we are the lambs of Jesus.”

Henry Giroux in The Ghost of Authoritarianism in the Age of the Shutdown describes the last few decades when

it has become clear that those who wield corporate, political and financial power in the United States thrive on the misery of others. Widening inequality, environmental destruction, growing poverty, the privatization of public goods, the attack on social provisions, the elimination of pensions and the ongoing attacks on workers, young protesters, Muslims and immigrants qualify as just a few of the injustices that have intensified with the rise of the corporate and financial elite since the 1970s.

Naming fascism for what it is does not mean fascism will happen here, or that it is inevitable.  It means we should face the reality that the forces who brought the shutdown are very dangerous, and do all we can to create a political situation where society goes in another direction altogether.

In The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need To Repolarize… For Revolution, part of the challenge – to act with a different morality -  is captured here:

There is the basis to fight for and live a different morality—a morality based on ending and getting beyond exploitation and the narrow calculations of “me against the world,” one based on emancipating all humanity—a morality of putting one’s life and energies to that and daring to say “this is morally right—and the morality that either reinforces or leaves untouched a world based on exploitation and filled with oppression is wrong.”

World Can’t Wait’s 2005 Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime said “YOUR GOVERNMENT enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.”  Eight years later, it is even more correct.

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Obama Adopting Targeted Killing AND Interrogation on U.S. Naval Ships?

What’s coming out of the Obama administration on its intentions re targeted killing v indefinite detention of suspects is getting more complicated.  Obama, in a stirring defense of empire disguised as something else, told the world two weeks ago at the United Nations

The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.

Obama’s May 23 speech, the one he was forced to delay because of the Guantanamo prison hunger strike, Obama set out broader parameters for those who could be targeted — as he argued, legally — for killing.  Obama defended broad executive authority to kill targets, perhaps even more widely than he has previously. His speech amounted to an argument for, and announcement of a permanent infrastructure for assassination. As the McClatchy newspaper put it,

“In every previous speech, interview and congressional testimony, Obama and his top aides have said that drone strikes are restricted to killing confirmed ‘senior operational leaders of al Qaida and associated forces’ plotting imminent violent attacks against the United States.

“But Obama dropped that wording Thursday, making no reference at all to senior operational leaders. While saying that the United States is at war with al Qaida and its associated forces, he used a variety of descriptions of potential targets, from ‘those who want to kill us’ and ‘terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat’ to ‘all potential terrorist targets.’”

Saturday U.S. forces grabbed one of the FBI’s most-wanted suspects in Libya, abu Anas al-Libi.  The Libyan government, which the U.S. installed through its 2011 “humanitarian intervention” may or may not have been involved, but is now raising protests that the rights of tge prisoner are not being respected, because he’s being interrogated on a U.S. ship away from the reach of Libyan, or international, law.

The Associated Press asks, Did Obama swap ‘black’ detention sites for ships? saying, “Questioning suspected terrorists aboard U.S. warships in international waters is President Obama’s answer to the Bush administration detention policies that candidate Obama promised to end.”  Further

“It appears to be an attempt to use assertion of law of war powers to avoid constraint and safeguards in the criminal justice system,” said Hina Shamsi, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union and the director of the civil rights organization’s national security project. “I am very troubled if this is the pattern that the administration is setting for itself.”

John Bellinger in Lawfare notes

Because Article 22 of the Third Geneva Convention states that prisoners of war “may be interned only in premises located on land,” Obama Administration lawyers must have concluded that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to Warsame and al-Libi, or that they are not POWs, or that they are not being interned.

Whatever the mix of targeted killing, indefinite detention, or rendition-like interrogations in international waters, the course set by the Obama administration of using “all elements of our power” remains one running counter to international law and due judicial process.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the New York Public Defender’s Office is demanded that, after 3 days, al-Libi, who has already been indicted on charges, get counsel and be brought immediately before a judge, as the law provides.  But,

The first round of interrogations, expected to last several weeks according to US newspapers, will be to extract intelligence. Only after that will he be offered a lawyer and questioned in connection with the case for which he has already been charged.

The process here, of targeted killing, indefinite detention, now mixed with a variant of rendition where the subject is hidden from the legal system while the FBI has a go — is no better, but perhaps more sophisticated, than what the Bush regime practiced.

Note: on October 14, BBC reports that al-Libi is in New York City, to be formally charged in federal court.

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More Talk About Closing GTMO, While Prisoners Treated Abysmally

What’s going on in Guantanamo is still outrageous.  Obama renewed promises to close Guantanamo, although so far, only 3 prisoners have been released since 2010. Last week, a prisoner who the U.S. military has known was mentally ill for over a decade, was released.

Another figure from the Democratic establishment, lawyer Paul Lewis, has been named to work in the Defense Department with responsibility to close Guantanamo.  We shall see where that goes, as we learn more about the lengths the administration/military has gone to subvert the rights of the prisoners and their lawyers, as Andy Worthington writes in: At Guantanamo, a Microcosm of the Surveillance State.

At Guantanamo last week, a pre-trial hearing in the military commission trials of five men allegedly involved in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, descended into chaos when Air Force Col. Karen Mayberry, the chief defence counsel for the Office of Military Commissions, explained how the Defence Department’s computer network was so untrustworthy that 540,000 supposedly confidential emails, between defence lawyers, had been made available to the prosecution, and seven gigabytes of the lawyers’ files had disappeared.

Shaker-petition

Shaker Amer, held for six years now after he’s been cleared for release, is seeking an independent medical evaluation, having lost over hundred pounds on hunger strike, and still being brutally abused by guards.  Andy Worthington publishes his attorney’s statements.

In support of Mr. Aamer’s claim, his lawyers note that, in the eleven years of his imprisonment, “he has been subjected to numerous abuses by his captors,” including “physical and psychological coercion associated with interrogations, prolonged solitary confinement, deplorable sanitary conditions, refusal to treat Mr. Aamer’s various medical conditions properly, and punishment and retaliation in response to Mr. Aamer’s current peaceful hunger strike.”

Ramzi Kassem, who represents Shaker, filed this horrifying account of what happens to Shaker, on CloseGuantanamo.org

9. While in solitary confinement, Mr. Aamer is only allowed out of his cell for two hours a day, which he spends alone in a recreation cage. Each day in solitary, Mr. Aamer stages a peaceful protest, refusing to leave the recreation cage and, each day, he is forcibly removed from the cage by an IRF team. Mr. Aamer is typically beaten and sometimes choked in the process.

10. As Mr. Aamer recounted to me on June 28, 2013, the process typically begins with six IRF members rushing at Mr. Aamer and slamming him face down to the floor. Four of the guards grab his arms and legs, a fifth grabs his head, and a sixth oversees the entire operation, often as others watch and even record what is happening with a handheld video-camera. After handcuffing Mr. Aamer from behind with cutting restraints, they subject him to a humiliating body search.

11. Once the IRF team has forced Mr. Aamer back into his cell, they again slam him face down to the floor, pressing his arms and crossed feet together behind his back with their cumulative weight against his arms, feet, and back. The lead IRF member then holds Mr. Aamer’s crossed feet and arms pressed down together against Mr. Aamer’s back in a single point, against which the other five IRF members again bear down with their cumulative weight.

The London Guantanamo Campaign, a very active support group for Shaker, the only remaining British resident at the prison, and other prisoners, carries on regular protest in London.  See the campaign to Free Shaker Amer to find ways you can act.

In encouraging U.S. response, another group of academics are challenging the legitimacy of U.S. forced-feeding: Health Professionals Who Participate in Force-feeding Prisoners on Hunger Strike at Guantanamo Bay Should Lose Professional Licenses, New Study Reveals.

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Malalai Joya: The U.S. Occupiers Should “Get Lost” from Afghanistan

What a fascinating series of events here in NYC with Malalai Joya.  She spoke to students at CUNY and NYU; at the UN, to anti-war activists, and in conversation with Eve Ensler of V-day.

Malalai Joya October 4, 2013 New York City

Malalai Joya October 4, 2013 New York City

“There are countless NGO’s in Kabul,” but Malalai spoke of the situation in Afghanistan as disastrous for women.  Joya follows the stories of individual women, including young women raped, killed, and deprived of rights through a combination of religious superstition, war-time brutality, and subjugation to international empire.  She refers constantly to the “justice-loving” people of the world, and to the people of Afghanistan as those she tries to represent.

Joya lays blame for this whole disaster with three sources: the Taliban, created by the U.S. in the 70′s; with the warlords supported first by the Soviet Union, and now by the U.S, and most importantly with the U.S. occupation which tends to reinforce the Taliban and the warlords.  She calls them all enemies of the Afghan people, and says very strongly, the U.S. occupiers should “get lost” so that the Afghan people can struggle on their own for what kind of society they will have.

We heard some examples; of the massacre in Farah province, her home province, where 150 were killed by a U.S. airstrike, with evidence of the use of white phosphorous by the occupiers. “$2,000 bloody dollars is how they count a life,” referring to the payments by U.S. military to families.  They urinate on corpses, and people are “fed up” with them.

A man in one of the audiences told me afterward of his experience in the U.S. military in Afghanistan, at a Forward Operating Base.  A women had come begging at the gate to be let in and protected from family and villagers who wanted to punish and perhaps kill her for a real or imagined violation of tribal law.  But the soldiers didn’t let her in, saying they did not want to piss off the tribal elders or get involved in local disputes.  The man told me of his outrage at her situation, and his comrades’ reaction.  If he would have been at the gate, he would have let her in and taken the consequences, but admitted that they general tenor of U.S. forces was not to protect the people.

At the same time, there is a big source for hope in the actions of people working for a just society.  Specifically, she said, there are people collecting evidence of war crimes for future prosecutions by the International Criminal Court (of which the U.S. is not a member).   Afghans want an end to the occupation, and, if they go from the frying pan into the fire after the U.S. leaves, “at least the corrupt puppet mafia regime in power won’t have U.S. to keep them in power any longer.”

Go see Malalai on her U.S. tour this month.  Follow her on Facebook or on her website.

Rodrigo Guim is making a film of Malalai’s life.  See a clip here and support it.

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Not a “Good War” — A Disaster in Afghanistan

Thousands of people have been killed by the US in AfghanistanThe U.S. War on Afghanistan — I refuse to call it the “Afghanistan war” because Afghans didn’t start it — is now 12 years old.  Longer than the official American war on Vietnam; it’s gone on half a generation, or more.

In 2001, on October 6 (a Sunday) George Bush announced the attack on Afghanistan.  Some perceived the action as revenge for 9/11, though that was just a pretext for an action Rumsfeld, Cheney and other neo-cons had planned for years.  On the morning on 9/11, Rumsfeld said it was time to “go massive.”  “Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”

US destruction went massive, leaving one of the poorest countries in the world, already torn up by an occupation by the Soviet Union, with a brutal civil war between war lords, still impoverished, threatened by continued U.S. domination, Islamic fundamentalism, and the same warlords having been enriched by U.S. billions.

Join our conference call discussion Thursday:

People born after 1990 don’t really remember a time when there wasn’t a US war on Afghanistan. Many people think the war is “over” or “ending” thanks to Obama.

Will it be over in 2014?  What does “over” mean, and have any of the promises the US made come true for the people of Afghanistan?

We’ll talk reality, history, share what people think, and what plans we are making to stop this crime of our government. Register for dial-in info.

We’ve culled the comprehensive section on worldcantwait.net about Afghanistan.  These articles paint a picture that no NATO or U.S. general can successfully cover over with words about “winning hearts and minds.”

Kathy Kelly, Afghanistan: The Ghost and the Machine

Glenn Greenwald, Another Afghan Family Extinguished by a NATO Airstrike

Kevin Gosztola, Reflecting on the Afghanistan War Logs Released by WikiLeaks

Larry Everest, Made in America: The Gardez Massacre

Gareth Porter, U.S. Night Raids Killed Over 1,500 Afghan Civilians in Ten Months

Dennis Loo, Afghanistan: When is “Withdrawal” an “Enduring Presence”?

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The United Nations… of Drones?

This week World Can’t Wait joins kNOwdrones.com and Granny Peace Brigade in ambitious outreach across Manhattan to protest U.S. drones for warfare & surveillance.  We have 3 replica drones and volunteers of all ages.  We talk about how drones are used in targeted killing.  Each lunch hour we’re in key parts of the city, talking to people about why secret, dirty, wars employing horrific technology should be opposed.  The campaign, which is being launched while the U.N. General Assembly meets here in NYC, includes a demand for a world ban on weaponized and surveillance drones.

Protesting drone war at the UN

Protesting drone war and surveillance at the U.N. this week

The outrageous use of drones by the U.S. is in news this week, as the U.N. meets:

Baraa Shiban, an investigator for Reprieve who was returning from Yemen to the U.K. was detained at the airport under the infamous British Anti-Terrorism Act, questioned by an un-named suited interrogator.  He recounts in The Guardian

“So,” he asked, “does your organisation have anything to do with terrorism in Yemen?”

I replied, “My organisation addresses counter-terrorism abuses inside the country.”

“Exactly!” He said. “Why doesn’t your organisation do something about the terrorism that happens in your country, instead of focusing on the counter-terrorism abuses?”

What could I reply? Of course I oppose terrorism. But I also oppose the secret air war in my country – waged by the US, apparently with covert support from the UK and others. The drone war in my homeland has claimed innocent lives and terrorised civilians. It operates wholly outside the law, and serves only to fuel anti-western sentiment.

These are considered views. I formed them in conversations with dozens of witnesses, victims, and officials across Yemen. I was not about to apologise for them to this interrogator.

Glenn Greenwald tied this to NSA documents UK detention of Reprieve activist consistent with NSA’s view of drone opponents as ‘threats’ and ‘adversaries’

Top secret US government documents obtained by the Guardian from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden characterize even the most basic political and legal opposition to drone attacks as part of “propaganda campaigns” from America’s “adversaries”.

Excerpts of those documents, straight from the horses’ mouths, are published by The Guardian.  My friend John Hanrahan, a former Washington Post reporter, nailed the role of ruling-class media in fostering the actual government propaganda campaign against drone critics by the un-named government sources in Why is the New York Times enabling a U.S. government smear campaign against reporters exposing the drone wars?

There is great concern that U.S. pressure will affect the report coming on October 25 from Ben Emmerson, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism.  Substantial evidence has been presented to Emmerson that this secret program is extensive and dangerous to Yemenis. From Alkarama, the Swiss human rights organization: “Drones War in Yemen”: Report presented to UN experts:

From the first air strike in November 2002 until the month of May 2013, there have been between 134 and 226 U.S. military operations in Yemen, including strikes by aircraft, drone missiles, or attacks launched from warships stationed in the Gulf of Aden. The number of deaths due to these targeted killings is estimated at 1150.

…not only is the definition of ‘terrorist’ or ‘combatant’ problematic but these high-profile targets in fact only represent 2% of the individuals who have died because of these ‘targeted’ air strikes.

In more repression of those working to expose the drones, Shazad Akbar, a Pakistani attorney who works with Reprieve to expose the U.S. drone war in Pakistan, and seeks reparations for its victims, has been denied a visa to enter the U.S. to testify at a hearing convened by U.S. Representative Alan Grayson about drone killings.  In Obama administration blocks drone victims’ lawyer from testifying in congress, Akbar says:

Failing to grant me a visa silences the 156 civilian drone strike victims and families that I represent. These families, who have lost children, parents, and siblings, are now trying through legal means to achieve justice. They have powerful stories to tell in their own voices, but will not travel without me, their legal representative.”

Robert Greenwald just produced a short film which focuses on one of the families Akbar represents, and who would come along to the U.S. to testify in Congress if the visa is granted to him.

Greenwald says you can help get Mr. Akbar into the country (as our protests did in 2012):

  1. Call the State dept. directly at 202-647-4000
  2. Follow up with an email demanding the State Dept. issue a visa for Shahzad

Importantly, the Bureau for Investigative Journalism has a huge new project: “Naming the Dead” — those killed by CIA drones in Pakistan. The project (thebureauinvestigates.com/namingthedead) will list the known names of those reported killed by drones together with as much biographical information as can be gathered.

No one who pays any attention to world news can say they don’t know, now, about the US secret drone war of targeted killing.  Our mission is to ignite outrage among people in whose name this illegitimate, unjust, immoral enterprise is conducted.

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