Archive for category 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.
“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.”
Rodrigo Guim is making a film of Malalai’s life. See a clip here and support it.
The 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.
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
For immediate release
21 August 2013
Contact: Debra Sweet 718 809 3803
Support Rallies in Response to 35 year Sentence for Whistle-Blower Bradley Manning
World Can’t Wait said today:
“On behalf of the millions affected by the illegitimate, unjust, immoral wars and torture carried by the Bush regime, and continued by the Obama administration, we are outraged at the 35 year prison sentence just put on Bradley Manning. In light of the complete refusal of the Obama administration to investigate or prosecute those responsible for torture, rendition and secret “dirty” wars, Manning’s sentence is an indication that people who expose such crimes must fear losing their lives, while those who conceive, legally justify and carry them out them receive immunity. We remain committed to supporting whistle-blowers Manning, Edward Snowden, and the work of Wikileaks and other journalists who courageously expose war crimes and injustice.”
For comments from Bradley Manning’s supporters on the 35 year sentence just announced in his court martial at Ft. Meade, see this list of events. Facebook event
Fort Meade: Press Conference with Manning attorney David Coombs 1:30 pm Location TBA see bradleymanning.org
Boston: 5pm MBTA Park Street Station Facebook Boston
Chicago: 6pm “The Bean” in Millennium Park Facebook Chicago
Crescent City, OK (Bradley’s home town) 8pm Central at Town Hall, 205 North Grand Facebook Event
Denver 7pm P&L Press 2727 West 27th Facebook Denver
Ft. Lauderdale: 7:30pm 299 E Broward Blvd. Facebook Event
Las Vegas: 5pm Federal Building 300 Las Vegas Blvd Event
Los Angeles: 5pm Downtown LA US District Court: 312 N Spring Facebook LA
Minneapolis: 4:30pm Federal Courthouse 300 S 4th St Facebook Minneapolis
Milwaukee: 6pm Milwaukee City Hall 200 E Wells Street Facebook Milwaukee
New York City: 5pm (47th & Broadway) Red Steps at Times Square, south of the TKTS Booth Facebook NYC
San Francisco: 5pm Bradley Manning Plaza (aka Ferry Plaza), at the foot of Market Street in San Francisco. Facebook SF
Seattle: 5pm Westlake Plaza 4th & Pine Facebook Seattle
Tallahassee 5pm United States Courthouse Facebook Tallahassee
Washington, DC: Rally 7:30pm White House Facebook DC March at 8:30 pm
When Barack Obama announced in early 2010 that he had put Anwar al-Awlaki on his hit list, I heard from people for whom the announcement was a breaking point in their support for the president.
World Can’t Wait published a statement titled Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them. It said
In some respects, this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly.
The ad got significant support in The New York Review of Books, and Rolling Stone. It was much more controversial when it went into The New York Times, on the anniversary of Bush’s bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, October 6, 2010. That paper, so far, has not published its opinion on the Obama administration’s killing of al-Awlaki and another American, on September 30, in an secret operation in Yemen, so we may assume it joins in supporting this crime by our government.
On October 2, they published an opinion by Jack Goldsmith, who you’ll remember as a lawyer for the Bush regime tainted by the torture scandal. Titled A Just Act of War, Goldsmith’s piece praises Obama’s aggression, because the Office of Legal Counsel came up with opinions justifying the killing by unmanned drone of al-Awlaki and another American citizen. For Goldsmith “what due process requires depends on context,” so it’s all good.
The assassination is hypocritical because America routinely criticizes (and justifiably so) such extrajudicial assassinations when they occur at the hands of another government.
The Bush-loving Washington Times, in a piece by Rowan Scarborough, whines that Al-Awlaki would have been difficult to try as a civilian. So just kill him.
“I think it’s pretty easy to understand why they didn’t take him alive. Would you want to deal with the hassle of trying to put him on trial, an American citizen that has gotten so much press for being the target of a CIA kill order? That would be a nightmare. The ACLU would be crawling all over the Justice Department for due process in an American court,” said a former military intelligence officer who worked with special operations troops to hunt down high-value terrorism targets.
Over at the more “liberal” Washington Post, John Bellinger III settles for the administrations’ self-enforcing opinion:
the Justice Department reportedly prepared an opinion concluding that his killing would comply with domestic and international law. This is likely to be considered sufficient due process under U.S. constitutional standards.
Leaving aside this monstrous immorality — no government should be allowed to kill with impunity, much less from a distance, in secret, off a battlefield — there may be a price the U.S. pays for such actions. Even Jack Goldsmith acknowledges
Such caution, however, does not guarantee legitimacy at home or abroad. There are relatively few complaints in American society about the drone program, but drones are becoming increasingly controversial outside the United States on the ground that they violate international law.
The best piece on what line has been crossed here is Glenn Greenwald’s Friday piece in Salon. See The due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizens is now reality. Today, he says
This was absolutely the heart and soul of the Bush War on Terror: the President can do whatever he wants to anyone he wants — with no oversight, due process, or checks — because we’re at War and these are Bad Terrorists (says the President, unilaterally and in secret).
Don’t want a world like this? Protest on October 6, 7, 8, and keep at it. Ten years is way too long for the richest country to be destroying one of the poorest on the planet, Afghanistan.
October2011.org at Freedom Plaza. I’ll be there. Join us!
In the summer of 2005, people were starting to come out of their 6 month long depression over the outcome of the 2004 election. It was somewhat of a struggle to get people to stop blaming Bush voters, and grasp and grapple with the depravity of the Bush program, and the fact that two aggressive wars had been launched on the basis of lies.
Some of us already working to end the wars, torture, and in many other causes wrangled with the problem that, “fighting against each outrage and winning on important fronts — from immigrants rights to defending the right to due process, to defending abortion, evolution, against discrimination or to defend critical thinking on campus — is invaluable to making real change in a world that desperately needs it. But we are fighting each and every one of these battles on losing ground – ground that is rapidly disappearing under our feet.”
The future is unwritten…
A better outcome for the world required a mass movement of people united in acting to drive George Bush, “Dick” Cheney, and their illegitimate regime from office, and repudiating and reversing the program which had become to be identified with them, especially after 9/11/01. That movement needed to act independently and stop looking for a savior from the Democratic Party. It needed a spirit, call, and direction, which World Can’t Wait supplied in the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.
The Call was quickly distributed hand to hand in about a million copies nationwide starting that summer, and published in several full page newspaper ads in The New York Times, many local papers, and USA Today, with 40,000 people ultimately signing it. While it aggravated some, the points outlined in it captured what was coming down from the heights of power in a belligerent way, and moved many to act:
YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.
YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.
YOUR GOVERNMENT puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.
YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving each day closer to a theocracy, where a narrow and hateful brand of Christian fundamentalism will rule.
YOUR GOVERNMENT suppresses the science that doesn’t fit its religious, political and economic agenda, forcing present and future generations to pay a terrible price.
YOUR GOVERNMENT is moving to deny women here, and all over the world, the right to birth control and abortion.
YOUR GOVERNMENT enforces a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.
Over Labor Day weekend in 2005, as the waters of Katrina were covering New Orleans, 250 people gathered in New York City to found The World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime. Sunsara Taylor and I chaired the discussions. We took time out to march, with about 150 more joining us, around midtown, demanding, “rescue, not repression!” for New Orleans, which set a basic approach of immediate response to government action – or inaction.
Don’t Go to Work! Walk Out of School!
It was a bold call, and thousands followed it. On Thursday, November 2, 2005, on the year-anniversary of Bush’s re-election, tens of thousands marched around the U.S., inaugurating the effort to drive out Bush and Cheney, and reverse and repudiate the Bush program. Older people heeded a message from Gore Vidal to:
“join together in a popular movement dedicated to ending pre-emptive wars and restoring the nation to its traditional tax base which repaired levees, educated the citizenry and at regular intervals repaired the wall that Thomas Jefferson wisely put in place to separate church from state.”
Howard Zinn issued a call to students. High school students at more than 200 schools across the country left school and walked out, sometimes for miles, to join organized political protest in unprecedented ways. Protests took place in more than 60 cities, and involved at least 40 college campuses, in addition to the high schools. The outpourings of people all over the country had many faces. Local office holders came out and spoke at New York, Chicago and San Francisco rallies with mothers of soldiers who died in Iraq. Prominent public intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities gave their support to this effort to actually drive out the Bush regime.
In San Francisco, Latino day laborers joined with thousands at the Civic Center as Cindy Sheehan, California State Senator Carol Midgden, and others spoke from the stage. Statements of support came from artists and figures such as Jane Fonda, Harold Pinter and Gore Vidal, who signed on to the Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime.
In the dead of winter, as 2006 broke, and Bush gave his State of the Union address, people gathered in 68 cities to “drown out” the lies with street protests – then traveled to Washington, DC to protest in cold rain February 4, 2006, demanding Bush step down. The Bush Crimes Commission held hearings with testimony from people like former Brigadier General Janis Karpinsky and former UK ambassador Craig Murray on the crimes that the Bush regime was actively carrying out. In October of 2006 more than 200 cities across the country held mass protests of thousands. With heart and courage, thousands of us came together to make a powerful and precious political statement against a truly dangerous and repressive government. More on driving out a regime.
Next week: stopping torture as a key expression of the Bush program – spreading a culture of resistance through the Declare It Now: Wear Orange campaign and wearing orange jumpsuits.
The world still can’t wait for people in this country to take responsibility and STOP the crimes of your government. World Can’t Wait, and its projects War Criminals Watch, Fire John Yoo, and We Are Not Your Soldiers, deserve and need your support. Become a sustaining supporter here.
I find a number of perplexing contrasts between the US war from 1961 to 1975 (to the Vietnamese people it was the “American” war, and to us the “Vietnam war”) and the wars the U.S. is fighting now in the Middle East.
One is the quality of news coverage. Starting in the mid 1960s, though there was much less news coverage, you could reliably get some coverage of the war. Even though L.B.J. saw “light at the end of the tunnel” and Nixon could lie well too, reporters on U.S. networks often said enough that you could learn to read between the lines. The images of Vietnamese civilians’ suffering and of American casualties were seared into our consciousness. 45 years later, with constant “news” generated, you can find hardly any mention of the most extensive occupation carried out since 1945 – the American war against Iraq.
Another paradox: it was incredibly difficult to communicate with the Vietnamese peoples’ resistance then. I remember a women’s conference in Toronto in the early 70s where women from Vietnam came to speak. Friends drove across this country to get there. It was extremely difficult to get into North Vietnam; not because their government didn’t want visitors from the anti-war movement, but because of travel restrictions on this side. Jane Fonda did it famously… and some people still want to kill her for it. Joe Urgo – who will be marching with us Saturday at the White House – was the first Vietnam war veteran to get there on a peace mission. But they were exceptional. It was difficult for us to get to know people our government was killing.
This time around, quiet as it’s kept by major media, there are visits to Afghanistan and Iraq by peace groups. It’s quite possible, with an internet connection, to “meet” the victims of the war. For example, Voices for Creative Non-Violence has the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers project “Live Without Wars.” Over New Year’s weekend, they had a Global Listening Project where one could Skype or call in to speak with the volunteers… something we could never do in 1968.
The paradox is that people living in this country are now more ignorant, all the way around, of what this country is doing in its wars.
Two women I know have been listening to the people in Afghanistan. What they say applies to the U.S. wars on Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia as well.
Kate Kirwin may be making her first visit to Afghanistan this week. She recently spoke to a Afghan friend there, a conversation which prompted her to write An Open Letter to Obama:
Our phone connection was not clear, but I thought I heard him say something akin to: I never thought I would hear myself say that the Afghan people need hope now more than they need peace. What I know I did hear him say clearly shortly thereafter was: “The people have nothing to lose now. They are being killed anyway.”
Kate, an international human rights attorney, finished her message to Obama with:
Your only possible contribution to peace in Afghanistan can be to get out of the way of the only people capable of creating peace there. Simply get out of the way, for peace will never come. choices can never be made… while you murder and maim, while you occupy, destroy and desecrate a people whose hope you have stolen.
The other woman is a Westerner who has lived in Afghanistan for 8 years, trying to represent a different face to the Afghan people than the military. She writes to me about the change in her thinking as the occupation has escalated. She no longer thinks that U.S. forces can do good there.
Afghans are an incredibly hospitable nation, you have to really make an effort to make them hate you enough to wish to kill you. In most other countries, all our sanctimonious throats would have been slit already a long time ago, unless our governments had managed to evacuate us beforehand.
Their ‘hearts and minds’ originally were open to us. Of course since then, our armies have done absolutely everything under the sun to destroy that positive attitude by systematically intimidating the innocent civilian population and labeling all Muslims as ‘terrorists’, while on the whole, we could learn a lot from most of them in the way of forgiveness and willingness to reconcile.
But for that it takes two (at least) while our side evidently lacks true commitment. Numerous Afghans of course have also plenty killing to account for, particularly during the civil war, but that can never ever justify our compounding that tragedy by continuously deepening local rifts instead of helping to mend them.
One of the most frequently asked questions we in World Can’t Wait get asked is, “but if the U.S. pulls its troops out of [Iraq] [Afghanistan] won’t things just get worse?” My correspondent has grappled with this, and concludes:
With what is going on now in the way of escalation, cover-ups and doing absolutely everything to stop this country from recovering while instead plunging it deeper and deeper into tragic turmoil, I now have come to the point where I truly think that the quicker those military ‘stabilizers’ leave, the better. A new civil war seems rather inevitable, but as the ‘average Afghan’ is thoroughly fed-up with war and aspires to peace and quiet more than anything else, there might be hope that the conflict would be mitigated by that.
The longer our armies and politicians are allowed to increasingly (was that still possible?) fuel latent conflicts, the more divided the population will be and therefore the more cruel a next war. As for the announcement of the US staying on beyond 2014, that is no surprise at all. They have been building dozens of military bases all along the Iranian and Pakistani borders – and probably not only there -, and from what I hear, they are very solidly built to last several decades, not temporary quickies.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced last week that the U.S. isn’t setting a date to leave Afghanistan, not even in 2014, the last “pull-out” date thrown out to us by President Obama. While troops have been moved from Iraq to Afghanistan, there are still 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, 17 permanent bases, and the largest US Embassy on the globe. They aren’t leaving, and won’t leave unless the people in this country act as if they must.
We are protesting 8 years of U.S. war this weekend in 40 U.S. cities. Find out more.
On March 2, the U.S. military announced 22 more charges against Bradley Manning, the accused Army Private imprisoned in solitary confinement since May 2010. One of the new charges, “aiding the enemy,” is potentially punishable with death. This a most outrageous development, echoing the months of right-wingers screaming for his death. View the charges. Word comes that Brad is now held naked overnight, and forced to stand at attention that way.
The system holding him is nakedly unjust!
The charges themselves expose the extent to which the U.S. military is spread across the world is involved in actions with names like “Operation Hammer,” detailed in tens of thousands of reports stored in the internet. I am not the first to point out the irony that the Obama administration offered praise — growing fainter by the day — to those protesting in streets in Egypt and Tunisia with outrage fueled by the very revelations Manning faces death for exposing.
These new charges only increase our anger at the treatment of Bradley Manning, as it grows clearer by the day how much blood is on the hands of those who accuse him. The very same day charges were being signed, March 1, nine children were killed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. As a high school student asked me yesterday, “why did they shoot and kill children?” An apology was quickly issued by General David Petraeus, no doubt to quell protest in Afghanistan. But these killings are part of a systematic pattern. The Collateral Murder footage, which the Army specifically indicts Manning for leaking, “12 JUL 07 CZ ENGAGEMENT ZONE 30 GC Anyone.avi” is in reality, an indictment of U.S. rules of engagement and war-fighting.
Kathy Kelly, who goes to Afghanistan, wrote in Incalculable:
Families rely on their children to collect fuel for heat during the harsh winters and for cooking year round. Young laborers, wanting to help their families survive, mean no harm to the United States. They’re not surging at us, or anywhere: they’re not insurgents. They’re not doing anything to threaten us. They are children, and children anywhere are like children everywhere: they’re children like our own.
An 11-min. German documentary, just translated to English, captures both the horror of Collateral Murder, and the injustice done towards Manning, through interviews with a friend of Manning, and anti-war activist and former CIA briefer Ray McGovern. Ethan McCord, who can be seen in the leaked video rescuing children wounded by the 2007 Apache helicopter operation, talks about that day, and his support of Manning.
It’s important to recognize the escalation represented by these new charges against Manning. Glenn Greenwald in Bradley Manning Could Face Death compares Manning to Daniel Ellsberg, 40 years ago. Greenwald was interviewed on Democracy Now March 3:
The charge of aiding the enemy is really quite disturbing, because what that requires is passing information or disseminating intelligence to, quote-unquote, “the enemy.” And although the charging document doesn’t say who the enemy is here, it’s only two possibilities, both of which are disturbing. Either, number one, they mean WikiLeaks, which is accused of giving intelligence to or classified information to, which would mean the government now formally declares WikiLeaks to be, quote-unquote, “the enemy,” or, number two, and more likely, what it means is that by disseminating this information to WikiLeaks and other news organizations that ultimately published it, it enabled the Taliban and al-Qaeda to read this information and to access it, which would basically mean that any kind of leak now of classified information to newspapers, where your intent is not to aid the Taliban or help them but to expose wrongdoing, is now considered a capital offense and considered aiding and abetting the enemy, in that sense. And that’s an amazingly broad and expansive definition of what that offense would be…
it’s now been 10 months where, despite being convicted of absolutely nothing, he’s been held in 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement under the most repressive conditions, not being allowed to exercise in his cell. The one hour a day when he’s allowed out, he walks around shackled in a room by himself and is immediately returned to his cell when it stops. Although the commander of the brig was recently fired and replaced, those conditions have not changed. So they’ve gone on for 10 months. They’re likely to go on for many more months, because the court-martial proceeding is not likely to take place for at least another six months or so, while these proceedings work themselves out. And certainly, someone held under those conditions for that long is going to be seriously psychologically and physically deteriorated, perhaps irreparably so.
Democracy Now also reported newly abusive treatment of Manning:
New information has come to light about the prison conditions of accused U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning, who is being held at the Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia. According to his lawyer, Manning was stripped of all his clothes on Wednesday and then forced to remain naked in his cell for seven hours. Manning’s clothes were returned only after he was forced to stand naked outside his cell during an inspection. Manning’s attorney described the treatment as inexcusable and an embarrassment to the military justice system. The incident occurred just hours after the military filed 22 additional charges against Manning for having allegedly illegally downloaded hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. military and U.S. Department of State documents that were then publicly released by WikiLeaks. One of the new charges, “aiding the enemy,” could carry a death sentence.
All of this argues for a large and determined protest on Sunday March 20, outside the brig at Quantico, VA where Manning is imprisoned. Join us! From Courage to Resist:
Rally at the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia to support accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower Army Pfc. Bradley Manning on March 20th! Supporters will gather for a 2pm rally at the town of Triangle (map: intersection of Main St. and Route 1), then march to the gates of the Quantico Marine Corps Base. Bradley has been held at the Quantico brig in solitary-like conditions for six months. We stand for truth, government transparency, and an end to our occupation wars… we stand with Bradley! Event endorsed by the Bradley Manning Support Network, Veterans for Peace, Courage to Resist, CodePink, and many others. Buses from Washington DC have been chartered for this event (departing Union Station at 12:30pm)–reserve your seats today for only $10 RT. The day before, on Saturday, March 19th, in Washington DC, we will be joining the noon rally at Lafayette Park and march on the White House to “Resist the War Machine!”
On Tuesday January 25, at the same moment Congress gathered for the State of the Union address from Barack Obama, almost a hundred people gathered to discuss “Torture, Guantanamo and Accountability” at DePaul University Law School in Chicago. It’s been difficult over the last 2+ years to fill a room for such a discussion, so we were heartened by the participation of 40 law students and attorneys. Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, a distinguished research professor emeritus at the law school, and founder of the International Human Rights Law Institute; and Candace Gorman, who represents two men imprisoned at Guantanamo, spoke with me on the panel.
Dr. Bassiouni described the “chasm” between the promises made by Obama while campaigning and the actions of Obama as president, regarding the rule of law as represented by the United States. Candace told the story of one of her clients, still in Guantanamo. He is apparently one of the 48 who will be detained indefinitely, bringing some of the students to tears of frustration. We’ll have more on the program soon. Listen to Dr. Bassiouni and Ms. Gorman in an excellent hour-long discussion on Chicago public radio WBEZ.
Our colleague Andy Worthington, about to tour Poland with former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, took the time to describe the Obama’s administration’s plans for those imprisoned at Guantanamo in Obama’s Collapse: The Return of the Military Commissions:
This year the President’s bitter surprise for the prisoners (which has encouraged a widespread peaceful protest at the prison, as reported here) was two-fold. The first was his failure to veto a military spending bill passed by Congress, which contained cynical and unconstitutional provisions preventing the transfer of any prisoner to the US mainland, in which lawmakers also demanded the power to prevent the release of prisoners to countries regarded as dangerous…
The second bitter surprise for the prisoners was the announcement last week, first mentioned by the New York Times, that, although federal court trials have effectively been suspended, specifically derailing the administration’s stated intention to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in federal court, the administration is preparing to push ahead instead with trials by Military Commission for at least some of the 33 men recommended for trials by Obama’s Task Force.
No, none of those plans were part of the State of the Union address. Those of you listening for “real change” in Obama’s direction on the wars Tuesday night were disappointed. Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, and an opponent of torture, spoke on Democracy Now January 26 about the speech:
He didn’t mention human rights at a time when he has assassination lists for the first time in our nation’s history, that include U.S. citizens. No due process—we don’t just have indefinite detention anymore; we just go out, put their name on a list, and kill them. The invocation of state secrets, it’s absolutely obliterated any notion of checks and balances. Our courts have been removed from that equation, by and large, when it comes to torture, when it comes to warrantless wiretapping by our government. No discussion about that, of course. And we’re seeing, really, an institutionalization by this president of some of the worst abuses and what we, a lot of us, thought were just aberrations during the Bush years.
I’d like to note what Obama did say:
…because we’ve begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored. Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high. (Applause.) American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end. (Applause.)
…We’ve also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.
Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home. (Applause.)
Last I heard, the Defense Department is balking at even a 2014 pull out date of Afghanistan. The unjust, immoral, illegitimate occupations continue, and with them, the “war on terror” against civilians across the region. It’s up to us to bring out that reality to people.
I saw John Boehner pinch up his face when Obama obliquely mentioned the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” As much as the reactionaries howled against letting gays be out in the military, I have to say that any gay person who actually decides now to enlist has lost their mind. Just because one can now serve openly does not mean the whole enterprise of occupying countries and killing civilians should involve you! I say, “don’t ask, don’t tell….no — DON’T GO!” It’s a bad thing, as several professors have written me, that because DODT is being repealed, colleges are now planning to open the doors once again to military recruiters.
I’ll see you in Washington D.C. on March 17-19 as we step up the visible protest on the anniversary of the Iraq war.
Over an intense week protesting the beginning of the 10th year of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, I continued to learn more. The situation for the 173 men there is changing, though not towards a just resolution.
After nine years, it got through to me that use of the word “detainees” indicates something impermanent, as if one is “detained” doing an errand. The men have been imprisoned; they are prisoners. So we shall call them prisoners and released prisoners.
Many thanks to Andy Worthington for coming to the U.S. last week, speaking and talking with all us involved in trying to end the U.S. regime of indefinite detention, based on torture begun by the Bush regime. His attention to the cases of 774 men, and grasp of the prison’s history is remarkable. You can see and support his work here.
Protests last week centered on the demand that Guantanamo be closed, with justice. A statement still circulating to that effect is here. Groups in other cities, and 100 fasters around the country, continue to speak out. World Can’t Wait in Chicago is sponsoring an event January 25 at DePaul University with Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, attorney Candace Gorman, and myself.
Thanks to Witness Against Torture, leading an ongoing fast for justice through January 22, two years from the day Barack Obama promised to close Guantanamo. Thanks to the attorneys who have defended the prisoners, too numerous to name here, and who shared their sense of outrage with us. And to the Center for Constitutional Rights and Amnesty International for a dramatic and intense protest Tuesday January 11 in front of the White House, and later at the Department of Justice.
The voices of the former prisoners — who of course could not be with us at the protest, as they are still considered “enemy combatants” though they were never charged — came through. Omar Deghayes, who speaks so movingly in the film Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo, sent a message read in front of the White House by Kathy Kelly:
…This past December 19th just marked three years to the day that I tasted freedom again and was released from Guantánamo to the warm embrace of my family and the community who fought so hard for my freedom. But not a day has passed since in which my thoughts and prayers have not remained with the 173 men who continue to languish in Guantánamo, detained without trial, most of them not facing any charge, and entering their tenth year of being separated from their loved ones. 90 of these men have actually been cleared for release long ago…
Andy Worthington explained to the hundreds of people standing in the street before the White House, what’s happened to the 173 men left. In a piece that summarize the pace of closure, Guantánamo Forever? makes the case that the Obama administration, as indicated back in May 2009, is making indefinite detention a permanent feature:
…it is reasonable to propose that Guantánamo is now a permanent institution for a variety of reasons. The first concerns a number of cynical moves by lawmakers in recent months, inserting provisions into a military spending bill that are explicitly designed to keep Guantánamo open — a ban on using funds to transfer Guantánamo prisoners to the U.S. mainland to face trials, a ban on using funds to buy or build a prison on the U.S. mainland to hold Guantánamo prisoners, and a ban on the release of any prisoner cleared for release by the President’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force (composed of representatives of government departments and the intelligence agencies) to countries considered dangerous by lawmakers — including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen…
Andy looks further into this situation in Nine Years Later: The Political Prisoners of Guantanamo, showing some of the complex factors behind the paralysis. An even larger group of prisoners are held in Bagram, at the U.S. air base, in what the U.S. argues is a “war zone” so that the prisoners may not have habeas corpus, echoing the Bush regime of 5 years ago. Military tribunals, or “commissions” have been widely derided as unjust. Obama says some of the prisoners are “too dangerous to release” or to try. Is it that what would come out in court would be too revealing of the illegitimacy of the war on terror? And concludes
Until these problems are solved and the Guantanamo prisoners are either tried or released, President Obama’s contribution to this bitter legacy of the Bush administration is to be presiding over the unthinkable: a prison where, however the prisoners have been designated, they are almost all held in indefinite detention and are, indeed, political prisoners.
Over the next year, we will experience the ten year anniversaries of 9/11, the PATRIOT Act, the attack on Afghanistan, and the opening of Guantanamo. We have something to say now, and over the next year, about whether the outrages associated with the Bush years continue along, or are sharply opposed by more and more people.
World Can’t Wait began its Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime in 2005 with:
YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.
YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.
YOUR GOVERNMENT puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.
And we ended it with, “The future is unwritten. Which one we get is up to us.”
Glenn Greenwald interviewed Nir Rosen today, on his book Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America’s Wars in the Muslim World.
Listen to it here.
I urge people to think about the questions he’s posing here. The reasons behind “Enduring Freedom,” for the US occupying two countries, has been that the population will be “saved” and safer; and will welcome its liberation. The million + troops who’ve been deployed to those countries know that’s not true. The people themselves know it. It’s reported now that the great majority of Afghans want the U.S. to leave, according to a poll in The Washington Post last week.
That’s why I’ll be outside The White House with Veterans for Peace on Thursday, for the “largest veteran-led civil resistance action” in years.
“I am shamed by the actions of my government and I will do everything in my power to make it stop killing innocent people in my name,” said Leah Bolger, a leader of Veterans for Peace.
Veterans plan to chain themselves to the White House fence on December 16 to deliver the message, “Mr. Obama: End These Wars. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Now!”
Daniel Ellsberg, a vocal defender of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and of Bradley Manning, who the U.S. military has charged with leaking documents, will speak and participate. Chris Hedges, author of Death of the Liberal Class, called on his readers to join him in going to the D.C. jail for the protest.