Archive for category afghanistan
A federal judge in New York sentenced Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to 86 years in prison today. Her trial earlier in 2010, on charges of assault against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, was a travesty. Obviously mentally distraught, having suffered isolation and alleging torture at the hands of her American captors, but remarkably perceptive and witty, Dr. Siddiqui was convicted of attempting to shoot U.S. special forces who were interrogating her.
Convicted murderers in the U.S. get 25 years, sometimes life. People who shoot others get years in prison. Those who commit war crimes generally don’t even get prosecuted, but that’s another story. Aafia gets 86 years, but was not even charged with actually harming anyone, and certainly did not, as the defense showed in the trial. She was shot in the stomach, and brought to the U.S. while still recovering form her wounds. She is a victim of the Bush regime’s so-called “war on terror, ” as I wrote at the time in Victim of the War of Terror: Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.
There were mass protests in Pakistan, Siddiqui’s country of origin, at her prosecution, forcing the Pakistani government to pay for her defense in U.S. courts. We probably will never know the intrigues behind the scenes, as the U.S. dominates and threatens Pakistan, while it’s also dependent on Pakistan’s ISI to contain the Islamic fundamentalist movement along the border with Afghanistan. The U.S. bombs civilians in Pakistan — a country with which it’s not at war, but supplying huge amounts of weapons to — while, according to Seymour Hersh, important sections of the Pakistani military support the Taliban.
In the midst of all this, thousands of Pakistanis are disappeared, and a woman like Dr. Siddiqui, herself disappeared for several years, has no chance of justice from either government.
Dr. Siddiqui asked supporters not to raise funds for an appeal. The Guardian reports
Before the sentencing, Siddiqui repeated her claim that she had been abducted and held at a “secret prison” for several years. She said she only wanted peace in the world. “I do not want any bloodshed. I do not want any misunderstanding. I really want to make peace and end the wars.”
“Killing Club” in Afghanistan
While Dr. Siddiqui’s trial went on in New York, with the prosecution bringing in her military interrogators to say how traumatized they were by her actions, their compatriots back in Afghanistan were preparing the “surge.” Civilian and US military deaths began increasing; indeed 2010 already has more military deaths than any year of the U.S.’ longest war.
Part of that story is beginning to come out with the prosecution of U.S. Army Stryker Brigade members for targeted murders of Afghani civilians. Real News interviews the Seattle Times reporter Hal Bernton who is following the case.
U.S. Soldiers Charged with Targeting Afghan Civilians: Did U.S. Soldiers Create Afghan Killing Club?
Only because one soldier had misgivings about what his unit was doing, the military started a criminal investigation in May 2010. 5 soldiers are charged with killing civilians, and 7 with covering up the killings. The Washington Post reported earlier this month, Members of Stryker Combat Brigade in Afghanistan accused of killing civilians for sport.
In charge sheets obtained from the US Army, Staff Sgt Calvin Gibbs, Cpl Jeremy Morlock, Pte First Class Andrew Holmes, Specialist Michael Wagnon and Specialist Adam Winfield are accused of murdering male Afghan civilians with grenades and firearms.
Other soldiers were accused of stabbing an Afghan corpse, taking or possessing photographs of casualties and beating other men in an effort to keep them from talking to investigators.
The soldiers were attached to the Army’s Fifth Stryker brigade, which deployed to Afghanistan last year and has seen heavy fighting around Kandahar. They were based in Washington state.
The reports get worse. The Army Times, in a candid piece on September 13, describes rampant hashish consumption and alcohol binges in the unit, while writing these crimes off essentially as “isolated incidents”.
The charges only came about because a member of the unit complained to his father that he was being threatened because he opposed the killings. In the New York Times blog today, his father, Chris Winfield, charges that the Army ignored his warnings, made before some of the later killings in May 2010, just as General McChrystal was being replaced. Father: Army Ignored Complaints Of Afghan Slayings
The whole U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is illegitimate, unjust, and immoral. The U.S. military is being led to commit war crimes.
The population of the United States is being directed to fear Muslims, who face political targeting and prosecution. See Project SALAM.
As the anniversary of the U.S. attack on Afghanistan approaches, October 6, we should step up the loud and visible protest, demanding that the U.S. get out now.
“In the past few weeks, it has become common knowledge that Barack Obama has openly ordered the assassination of an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, because he is suspected of participating in plots by Al Qaeda. Al-Awlaki denies these charges. No matter. Without trial or other judicial proceeding, the administration has simply put him on the to-be-killed list. ”
So begins the text of a paid ad in The New York Review of Books May 27 issue which arrives on newsstands Thursday. The statement, under the headline “Crimes Are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them” poses the challenges:
What would we have done if President George Bush had publicly ordered the assassination of a citizen? And what should we do now as a fever pitch of media calls for the drones to “take out” Al Awlaki?
The New York Times went front page Sunday with a long profile titled “Imam’s Path From Condemning Terror to Preaching Jihad.” The article covers al-Awlaki’s speeches and advocacy of ideas, providing no evidence that he’s committed crimes. But this is the newspaper that front-paged Judith Miller’s reporting on Iraq having “weapons of mass destruction.” I’m not convinced that because something appears in the “paper of record” it’s either true, or that it should inform U.S. foreign policy.
My understanding of Obama’s order is that Al Awlaki is to be killed by whatever means necessary, wherever he is found, on sight, or within the scope of a drone or sniper’s rifle. As in Eric Holder’s statement Sunday May 9 that the Obama administration’s effort to set aside Miranda rights in cases of interrogations of suspected terrorists is a “very big deal,” so is ordering the killing of someone suspected of a crime, but not convicted.
If the president is judge, jury, executioner, and there is no check, no appeal, what exactly protects people from being killed for any reason, speech, idea, or even un-uttered thought?
Glenn Greenwald wrote in February when this policy was first made public:
“it’s so dangerous — as well as both legally and Constitutionally dubious — to allow the President to kill American citizens not on an active battlefield during combat, but while they are sleeping, sitting with their families in their home, walking on the street, etc. That’s basically giving the President the power to impose death sentences on his own citizens without any charges or trial. Who could possibly support that?”
Post-colonial rebellions and uprisings around the world reached the U.S. in response to the American-backed, funded and organized assassinations of Patrice Lumumba; Salvador Allende; repeated attempts to kill Fidel Castro and countless abuses such that in 1976, after intense struggle in Congress on the Church Committee, Gerald Ford issued an executive order prohibiting such assassinations. Under the Bush regime, and justifications of the so-called “Global War on Terror” international law, and U.S. laws, were set aside, but not as openly as they have been by the Obama administration.
One of the signers of the NY Review ad, Bill Quigley, wrote May 10 on Common Dreams, “Assassination of US Muslim Cleric is Illegal, Immoral and Unwise,”
“A simple committee of unelected individuals from one branch of government, no matter their subject matter expertise, should not have the power to assassinate an American citizen.”
Even FOXNews.com ran a piece, by Mohamed Elibiary, against the assassination order, It’s a Mistake to Assasinate Anwar Al-Awlaki. Elibiary warns the U.S. not to become identified historically with the Nasser regime in Egypt, which in 1966 executed Syed Qutb, as Islamic scholar, merely for his speech.
“The public perceived injustice, witnessing a military execution without any recognized due process inflicted upon a man for simply speaking and writing his mind. It led to the violent radicalization of tens of thousands.”
A comment on Facebook about the assassination order said, “The ease with which Obama did that, and the easy acceptance by the US public, is quite frightening.” I agree. Jeremy Scahill,writing in February:
There has been almost universal silence among Congressional Democrats on the Obama administration’s recently revealed decision to authorize the assassination of a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki.
That hideous war criminal Ronald Reagan once “joked” when he didn’t realize he was on a live mike, “My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in 5 minutes.” There was international condemnation.
On May 1, President Obama made news — but was not widely condemned as far as I’ve seen — for this “joke:”
Obama declared a warning to the Jonas Brothers, who attended the affair. “Sasha and Malia are huge fans but, boys, don’t be getting any ideas. I have two words for you: predator drones.”
This is the president who launched more predator drones into Pakistan and Afghanistan in one year than George Bush did in 8 years. A week later, PressTV reported that 20 civilians had been killed in a drone bombing in Pakistan, saying,
A total of 300 people have so far lost their lives in 42 drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal belt this year.
I am proud of those who signed this ad, and all those who paid for it in advance of its publication. Sign it yourself, and send your donations so this message can spread! We should all be raising our voices to say “Crimes ARE crimes! No matter WHO does them!”
Hundreds have signed already. Here are the signers appearing in the New York Review of Books ad:
Rocky Anderson • Edward Asner • William Ayers • William Blum • Fr. Bob Bossie • Elaine Brower • Matthis Chiroux • Noam Chomsky • James Cromwell • Carl Dix • Daniel Ellsberg • Jodie Evans • Hester Eisenstein • Donald Freed • Ann Fagan Ginger • Mike Gravel • Stephen Hays • Chris Hedges • Dahr Jamail • Kathy Kelly • Uzma Khan • Joyce Kozloff • Emily Kunstler • Sarah Kunstler • Dennis Loo • Peter McLaren • Ray McGovern • Ann Messner • Tom Morello • Tomás Olmos • Bill Quigley • Michael Ratner • Rev. Dr. George F. Regas • Mark Ruffalo • Cindy Sheehan • Jed Stone • Frank Summers • David Swanson • Debra Sweet • Sunsara Taylor • Cornel West • Andy Worthington • Ann Wright
Seven years of U.S. war and occupation of Iraq were marked with varied protests in the U.S. last weekend. There were more of us than last year, in 2009, when people widely believed the election of Barack Obama was going to end these wars. It’s important we’re out there to go against the tide.
Today, Obama is in Afghanistan, on dark-of-night unannounced trip to twist the arms of Hamid Karzai, the president who didn’t win the recent election, but nevertheless is the US’ best hope to secure Afghanistan firmly under the domination of the U.S. empire. Even Fox News notes today that
Both of Karzai’s vice presidents are former warlords whose forces allegedly killed thousands of people in the civil war of the 1990s that paved the way for the rise of the Taliban.
Few people, including those against the wars, are paying attention to the US offensive in Marja, Afghanistan, which is now being spread north to Kandahar. The U.S. is already warning people there to leave, or else they will be considered Taliban sympathizers…in the second largest city in the country! Where should people go? It’s impossible not to kill civilians in an occupation, as reported Friday in Tighter Rules Fail to Stem Deaths of Innocent Afghans at Checkpoints.
“The people are tired of all these cruel actions by the foreigners, and we can’t suffer it anymore,” said Naqibullah Samim, a village elder from Hodkail, where Mr. Yonus lived. “The people do not have any other choice, they will rise against the government and fight them and the foreigners. There are a lot of cases of killing of innocent people.”
Yes, Obama and General Stanley McChrystal report the occupation is now “winning” even while they tell us to expect more casualties. While the headline is US deaths double in Afghanistan as troops pour in, the news is that more people in the US support the offensive than in December 2009
After a summer marked by the highest monthly death rates of the war, President Barack Obama faced serious domestic opposition over his decision in December to increase troops in Afghanistan, with only about half the American people supporting the move. But support for his handling of the war has actually improved since then, despite the increased casualties.
The latest Associated Press poll at the beginning of March found that 57 percent of those surveyed approved his handling of the war in Afghanistan compared to 49 percent two months earlier.
The Washington Post today polls 53% in favor of Obama’s policy in Afghanistan, so Obama feels he can get away with telling the troops in Afghanistan that people at home support the war there. I think that support is shallow, and temporary, and that we have a great responsibility to bring reality to people on why the U.S. is occupying Afghanistan. See A War for Empire – Not a “Good War” Gone Bad by Larry Everest.
The Iraq War was Illegitimate from Bush’s Invasion On
The Bush regime’s war on Iraq was, and remains, completely illegitimate by all measures. Yet, too few people, even those against the wars, stop to look at how the Iraq war began. As we said in Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime in 2005, “YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in its sights.” Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Tenet and the whole cabal openly lied about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction and a link to al Qaeda and 9-11 in an attempt to bully other countries into joining the invasion.
The Bush regime carried out the destruction of civil society in Iraq. The electrical, educational, sewage, water, and security systems. In the process 1.2 million, displaced more than 4 million, tortured unknown numbers directly in detention, and made the country unlivable. The Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war amounted to a war crime on its face, of aggressive war.
Should we stop talking about that? Much of this country thinks the war is a) over or b) ending because Obama is withdrawing troops, even though private contractors are still pouring in for a permanent US military occupation. Foreign policy is gone from the headlines, except for that minor problem Obama has with Netanyahu.
I am still thinking about the piece in the Christian Science Monitor by Michael Ollove, reporting on the war from York, PA
After seven years in Iraq and nine in Afghanistan, residents of York, Pa., talk about how the wars have become like a screen saver: always there but rarely acknowledged.
So, that’s why our visible protests are important. A survey of the ways in which people protested:
Cindy Sheehan set up Camp OUT NOW on the national mall as part of the ongoing Peace of the Action effort to have continuous protest in Washington until the wars end. The action resumes April 6.
The Iraq War Memorial came to the Washington Monument, stopping thousands of tourists with the names of those killed in Iraq, both US military and Iraqis.
ANSWER Coalition 7,000 rallied and marched around the White House, depositing symbolic coffins at the offices of Haliburton (where an effigy of Dick Cheney was trampled); the offices of the Washington Post and Veterans Administration; and in the front of the White House. Cindy Sheehan, Elaine Brower, Matthis Chiroux and 5 others were arrested for not moving from in front of the White House, held for 48 hours, and banned from the White House area for six months. Read AP report. Watch the AP video. Flickr Gallery.
Iraq and Afghanistan veterans marched along with military families. While speaking at the rally, Elaine Brower, a leader of World Can’t Wait; Robynn Murray, an Iraq veteran, and Matthis Chiroux, an Afghanistan veteran and Iraq war resister, said the American flag stands for empire, and burned one. See The Nightmare Will End When We Wake Up! Watch the video.
Marches in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle:
Thousands marched. See Stephanie Tang of World Can’t Wait: Obama’s War is Killing the Afghan People, not Saving Them.
In San Francisco, Daniel Ellsberg spoke to a rally of thousands on the importance of protest:
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers study of the Vietnam War and is the subject of the recent documentary film, “The Most Dangerous Man in America,” likened the protest and others like it around the country Saturday to a day of demonstrations organized against the conflict in Vietnam in 1969.
“They thought it had no effect,” he told the crowd in San Francisco, referring to the 1969 protesters. “They were wrong.”
Ellsberg said President Richard Nixon was planning to escalate the war around that time, but held off.
In Los Angeles, thousands also marched, including a We Are Not Your Soldiers contingent carrying a banner signed by many more youth pledging to resist military recruiters.
Friday, March 19, John Yoo made two speeches at the University of Virginia, and was disrupted at both by questions and objections to his authorship of the Bush torture memos; his promotion of aggressive war; and his theory of presidential powers. 150 people protested outside. See David Swanson, John Yoo: A President Can Nuke the United States for an account, photos & video.
Their words and actions are enough to undo any illusions about the U.S. occupation.
Does anyone think we’re getting a true picture of what’s happening in Helmand Province during the US/NATO offensive in Marjah?
General David Petraeus, who runs the whole Euro/Asian military occupation “overseas contingency operation” as head of CENTCOM, says this battle is an “initial salvo” in a military campaign of 12 – 18 months. So much for U.S. forces leaving Afghanistan in mid-2011. This is just a start of the U.S. offensive.
Petraeus, on Meet the Press yesterday was being interviewed on the offensive, and made a fascinating digression into the military price the US military has paid for “expedient measures,” i.e. torture:
I have always been on the record, in fact, since 2003, with the concept of living our values. And I think that whenever we have, perhaps, taken expedient measures, they have turned around and bitten us in the backside. We decided early on in the 101st Airborne Division we’re just going to–look, we just said we’d decide to obey the Geneva Convention, to, to move forward with that. That has, I think, stood elements in good stead. We have worked very hard over the years, indeed, to ensure that elements like the International Committee of the Red Cross and others who see the conduct of our detainee operations and so forth approve of them. Because in the cases where that is not true, we end up paying a price for it ultimately. Abu Ghraib and other situations like that are nonbiodegradables. They don’t go away. The enemy continues to beat you with them like a stick in the Central Command area of responsibility.
So, in “living our values” so far, the US/NATO forces killed dozens of civilians during this offensive, including 27 yesterday when they bombed a truck convoy of people fleeing the fighting.
The Telegraph UK reported in Afghan government condemns Nato air strike that killed 27, and noted also that
Last Thursday, a Nato bombing raid in the northern province of Kunduz killed seven Afghan policemen, according to hospital and government officials.
On Feb 15, Natro acknowledged that five civilians were killed accidentally and two others wounded in an air strike in southern Afghanistan.
While Petraeus tries to prepare the U.S. public for increasing loss of U.S. troops’ lives, I must note that the loss of Afghan civilian’s lives is 1) much greater than the number of US troops killed, and 2) usually of no consequence at all to US war planners, except when they become “nonbiodegradable” (huh?) which the enemy “continues to beat you with a stick” over.
Kevin Gostzola takes this on in The Lying Language of Occupation: Murdered Civilians in Marjah are Human Beings, not “Human Shields”
military commanders claim civilian deaths are happening because the Taliban are using civilians as “human shields.” They are framed as purveyors of evil despite evidence and reports from organizations like Amnesty International which indicate that U.S. and NATO forces engage and have engaged in indiscriminate attacks (which are just as bad as using civilians as “shields”).It is uncertain how long this “surge” will last. The U.S. and NATO seem to be taking action to create the illusion that there is, in fact, justification for waging war and occupation in Afghanistan.No matter how long this lasts, civilians will pay the highest price.
Larry Everest gives the history of the US occupation in Surge of Violence: U.S. Launches Massive Offensive in Southern Afghanistan and concludes that
The U.S. position in Afghanistan is precarious. The war has bled into neighboring Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, which now faces its own growing Islamist insurgency and other deep and volatile internal and external contradictions. And the U.S. is facing real obstacles and challenges to its dominance in the Middle East (such as Iran) as well as globally. It is responding to these challenges by escalating its violence against the people.
Where’s the outrage in the U.S. for civilian casualties? Some of it should be on display this week when anti-war groups mark the 1,000 U.S. death in Afghanistan. (The total today is 999).
The best gift to humanity would be to create the situation the people of the Netherlands have. The Dutch government collapsed this weekend because of mass opposition to Dutch troops being in Afghanistan at all. Their troops are leaving by the end of this year.
Even as President Obama is pressuring European governments to send more troops, people around the world are fed up with this occupation. And we should be, too!
As people who follow World Can’t Wait know, we’ve been opposed to Barack Obama’s plans to expand the US occupation of Afghanistan since the 2008 campaign began. Now that Obama has expanded the US occupying forces beyond 150,000 (not including all the contractors outside the US military) and is pressuring European allies to send more troops, how is the occupation going?
Reminders: Obama kept Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has promoted the expansion into Afghanistan. He’s expanded Bush’s quiet drone war, and is now has two unmanned drone programs (run by the military and the CIA), making far more attacks than Bush ever did. The administration endorsed the “election” of Hamid Karzai over widespread, incontrovertible evidence of massive fraud in it.
So how is all that working? I had a chance to hear Anand Gopal speak Monday night, at a Brooklyn for Peace event. I hope his talk will be broadcast, but in the meantime, I’ll report from my notes.
Anand Gopal gave us important information with “America’s Secret Afghan Prisons,” a piece based on 24 interviews with detainees and families of those held at Bagram Air Force Base, called “Obama’s Gitmo.” See a ten minute interview by Russia Today (who surely has an interest in counter-insurgency operations in Afghanistan) with Gopal.
Gopal stated that the Taliban had virtually been removed from Afghanistan in 2001-02 with the US invasion, relatively easily. Now, they once again dominate 1/2 of the country.
The main reason for this he cited was the civilian casualties caused by US/NATO attacks. He said that the Taliban also kills civilians, directly or indirectly, but that the civilian population thinks the US occupation is what’s responsible for the deaths. There have been major protests in all the cities, and every time that a group of civilians are killed by NATO or US forces, with American flags and effigies of Obama burned. People are very angry.
Another reason the US occupation will fail, Gopal said, is that they are supporting the “corrupt and predatory” Karzai government, which is viewed as the enemy by much of the country. During the 1990′s civil war, the Northern Alliance, and other warlord groups now allied with Karzai were responsible for horrific treatment of women. In areas they controlled, girls not married by the age of 12 were raped,
When the people protested the treatment of women, so bad that in 2003 hundreds of women drowned themselves rather than be raped by the Northern Alliance, the Karzai government did nothing, because Karzai needs the warlords to hold onto power. Because people in the country are preyed upon by the warlords, get no help from the Karzai government or the U.S. government, they have turned increasingly to the Taliban, despite the crimes against people they have committed.
Another reason for the U.S. lack of success in “winning hearts and minds” of the Afghan people Gopal cited is the “lack of reconstruction.” He said that 85% of the billions marked for reconstruction goes to US contractors. Of the remaining 15% much goes to the warlords. He said the major Kabul-Kandahar highway built by the Bush regime a few years ago is falling apart from shoddy construction.
Gopal said the only solution for the people of Afghanistan is the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
The Toronto Star reported Sunday February 7 in Afghans flee ahead of planned NATO offensive
Mohammad Hakim, a 55-year-old tribal leader in Marjah, said fear has risen over the past two weeks and he knows at least 20 families who had left. He himself planned to take his wife, nine sons, four daughters and grandchildren to live with relatives in Lashkar Gah.
“Everybody is worried that they’ll get caught in the middle when this operation starts,” he said in a telephone interview.
Hakim said he was worried about the length of the operation.
“I can stay for one or two weeks,” he said. “But if I have to leave my agriculture land for months and months, then how will I feed my family?”
Since March of 2009, Barack Obama’s administration is no longer using the term “Global War on Terror.” The phrase the Defense Department replaced it with is “Global Contingency Operation.”
The Obama administration has ordered an end to use of the phrase “Global War on Terror,” a label adopted by the Bush administration shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.
In a memo sent this week from the Defense Department’s office of security to Pentagon staffers, members were told, “this administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT.] Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’”
World Can’t Wait has always referred to the actual impact of the GWOT as the global “war of terror” on the people of the Middle East. It occurs to me that we are missing a huge opportunity if we don’t parody Obama’s new term in the cause of bringing out the truth of what’s being done to the world.
So…”overseas genocide operation”? “overseas conquering operation”? I’m sure you can do better. I think we need a contest…
This question of terminology came to me today as a I read today’s very good editorial in the Tufts Daily, “A Policy with Troubling Implications.“ It begins
For those who have been following the U.S. government’s War on Terror, or “Overseas Contingency Operation” as it is now called, it should be apparent that President Barack Obama has not thus far initiated the drastic changes that many of his supporters believed he would, based on promises he made during his campaign. For example, in his first year in office, Obama ordered more drone missile attacks in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region than former President George W. Bush ordered in his last three, and he added 30,000 more troops to the area. In addition, America has continued to abduct foreign suspects and transfer them to prisons in countries that allow torture without charging those suspects of any crime.
Whatever it’s called, the long, global war of occupation and torture on the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, now spreading to Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen…is illegitimate, and wrong. And we, the people living in the United States, must raise our voices and take action to stop it.
Note: On February 4, Dr. Siddiqui was found guilty of all charges. This was not justice. See a piece by Petra Bartosiewicz who was in court for its duration.
The U.S. government’s case against Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani who holds an advanced degree from MIT in neuroscience, will go to the jury Monday in federal court here in New York City. I’ve been in the courtroom, and several times in the overflow room with dozens of supporters and reporters.
Even when we are only watching the trial through cameras in the overflow rooms, we are forced to give ID to enter, all to bolster the impression that Dr. Siddiqui is a dangerous terrorist, and that we are dangerous for caring what happens to her. Everyone entering the courthouse goes through airport style security screening, but to go into her trial, one must be searched again.
Petra Bartosiewicz wrote for Time magazine in A Pakistani on Trial – With No Pakistani Reporters:
Although Siddiqui is not charged with any terrorism-related crime,security concerns are paramount though the procedures seem to be unevenly enforced. During the lunch break on the first day of the Siddiqui trial a group of Muslim men praying in the waiting areas outside the courtroom were afterwards asked to leave the floor. That prevented them from securing a place in line for the afternoon session. Several Muslim women in hijabs were also given similar instructions, but others in the same area, dressed in business attire, including this reporter, were permitted to stay. On the second day of the trial metal detectors were posted outside the courtroom and individuals were asked for photo identification and their names and addresses were logged by court security officers. At the close of proceedings on Thursday defense attorney Charles Swift protested the practice. “The suggestion is that the gallery may be a threat,” said Swift, calling the measure “highly prejudicial.”
Judge for yourself whether the New York Daily News, which calls Siddiqui “Lady al Queda” (absent any evidence produced at trial), or The Washington Post which headlines “Government: Let al-Qaida-linked scientist testify” is part of the prosecutor’s team.
Petra, who is writing a book on US terrorist prosecutions, has been in the trial every day, blogging and linked at CagePrisoners.com. Her article in November 2009 Harper’s The intelligence factory: How America makes its enemies disappear is a deeply researched piece going behind the US government’s public case against Siddiqui, and, more broadly, the existence of a network of secret detentions and prisons the US operates. On Aafia Siddiqui:
When I first read the U.S. government’s complaint against Aafia Siddiqui, who is awaiting trial in a Brooklyn detention center on charges of attempting to murder a group of U.S. Army officers and FBI agents in Afghanistan, the case it described was so impossibly convoluted—and yet so absurdly incriminating—that I simply assumed she was innocent. According to the complaint, on the evening of July 17, 2008, several local policemen discovered Siddiqui and a young boy loitering about a public square in Ghazni. She was carrying instructions for creating “weapons involving biological material,” descriptions of U.S. “military assets,” and numerous unnamed “chemical substances in gel and liquid form that were sealed in bottles and glass jars.” Siddiqui, an MIT-trained neuroscientist who lived in the United States for eleven years, had vanished from her hometown in Pakistan in 2003, along with all three of her children, two of whom were U.S. citizens.
The complaint does not address where she was those five years or why she suddenly decided to emerge into a public square outside Pakistan and far from the United States, nor does it address why she would do so in the company of her American son. Various reports had her married to a high-level Al Qaeda operative, running diamonds out of Liberia for Osama bin Laden, and abetting the entry of terrorists into the United States. But those reports were countered by rumors that Siddiqui actually had spent the previous five years in the maw of the U.S. intelligence system—that she was a ghost prisoner, kidnapped by Pakistani spies, held in secret detention at a U.S. military prison, interrogated until she could provide no further intelligence, then spat back into the world in the manner most likely to render her story implausible. These dueling narratives of terrorist intrigue and imperial overreach were only further confounded when Siddiqui finally appeared before a judge in a Manhattan courtroom on August 5. Now, two weeks after her capture, she was bandaged and doubled over in a wheelchair, barely able to speak, because—somehow—she had been shot in the stomach by one of the very soldiers she stands accused of attempting to murder.
Dr. Siddiqui, whose brother Mohammed and many supporters are following the trial closely, is not on trial for terrorism charges, but for, as the government puts it, what happened in the “3 minutes” inside the Afghani police building on July 18, 2008. She denied, on cross examination last week, picking up a gun, or shooting it.
From what I can observe, and have read, Dr. Siddiqui is deeply traumatized and has reason to be distrustful of the courts, the military, the FBI, who questioned her without introduction while she was in hospital recovering from the gunshot wounds. She said, several times in court — and was removed for breaking the rule because she did so — that she was held in a secret prison, and her children were disappeared, and that she was tortured.
I saw reporters snicker at that. Isn’t that a delusional idea, that a Pakistani could be held in a secret prison? Remember George W. Bush, and Barack Obama as well: “We do not torture.” She must be crazy, and guilty, to assert such a thing.
Then comes this piece by Anand Gopal, reporting for The Nation this week, Obama’s Secret Prisons:
Sometime in the last few years, Pashtun villagers in Afghanistan’s rugged heartland began to lose faith in the American project. Many of them can point to the precise moment of this transformation, and it usually took place in the dead of the night, when most of the country was fast asleep. In the secretive U.S. detentions process, suspects are usually nabbed in the darkness and then sent to one of a number of detention areas on military bases, often on the slightest suspicion and without the knowledge of their families.
This process has become even more feared and hated in Afghanistan than coalition airstrikes. The night raids and detentions, little known or understood outside of these Pashtun villages, are slowly turning Afghans against the very forces they greeted as liberators just a few years ago.
Andy Worthington reports on a new report from the United Nations, UN Secret Detention Report Asks, “Where Are the CIA Ghost Prisoners?”
“While the report spreads its net wide, the US administration’s response to its findings about the Bush administration’s legacy of “disappeared” prisoners, and its focus on the gray areas of Obama’s current policies, is particularly anticipated. So far, however, there has been silence from US officials, and only the British, moaning about “unsubstantiated and irresponsible” claims, have so far dared to challenge their well-chronicled complicity in the secret detention policies underpinning the whole of the war on terror, which do not appear to have been thoroughly banished, one year after Barack Obama took office.”
How delusional are Dr. Siddiqui’s claims that she was tortured in a secret prison?
Dr. Siddiqui was found, disoriented, in Grazni Afghanistan, having disappeared from her home in Pakistan five years earlier. No one has said where she was. Pakistani human rights organizations, and some at the trial, have urged me to mention, and look into the disappearance of thousands of Pakistanis at the hands of the secret police, ISI, who are paid many millions by the US government to be part of the so-called “war on terror”.
These disappearances and deaths, this police state, are the responsibility of the US government, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, by funding, by political support and pressure to do the dirty work that amounts to the “war on terror” while the US chooses to say “we do not torture.”
But this is an administration which has dramatically the use of unmanned drones to target alleged “terrorists,” thereby killing hundreds of civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and now Yemen and Somalia. A poll last year in Pakistan, by al Jazeera found only 9% of adults supporting the drone attacks, because of concerns that they are killing innocent civilians.
Sebastain Abbot in the Huffington Post:
“The U.S. government doesn’t even suggest what the proportion of innocent people to legitimate targets is,” said Michael Walzer, a renowned American scholar on the ethics of warfare. “It’s a moral mistake, but it’s a PR mistake as well.”
As part of this “war on terror”, the US prosecutors have produced no physical evidence that Dr. Siddiqui held or fired a gun on July 18, 2008. As Dr Siddiqui said, “I walked towards the curtain. I was shot and I was shot again. I fainted.”
I don’t expect justice for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui this week. Even if she were to be found not guilty on all charges — which the evidence supports — what will her future be? Where are her children? Will she get back the lost years and be able to tell her story?
And I don’t expect an end to the illegitimate “war OF terror” until people living in the United States reject the dangerous direction their government is taking, against the interests of humanity.
See Aafia Siddiqui and the ongoing war on terror by Sadia Ahsanuddin on Connie Nash’s blog, One Heart for Peace.
The Fast for Justice led by Witness Against Torture began today, on the 8th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, with 50 people here in Washington, and another 75 around the U.S. Fasters marched in orange jumpsuits in front of the White House, and then performed guerrila theater. “Bush Justice” turned into “Obama Justice.” Guanatanmo became Bagram, and Guantanamo, Illinois.
Attorney Pardiss Kebriaei from the Center for Constitutional Rights, told of visiting her clients several times with good news. In June 2008, she told them U.S. courts were allowing them to file suit. In November 2008, a new president who campaigned on closing Guantanamo was elected. In January 2009, he made an Executive Order closing Guantanamo. Some of her clients have been cleared for release, meaning that the U.S. government has no intention finds they do not need to be held further.
Yet her clients are still sitting in Guantanamo. What is good news worth?
A reporter asked if the Guantanamo lawyers are angry at the delays. “We are increasingly disillusioned, and angry too” she said.
Attorney Steve Truitt stood holding a sign with his
client’s name, Hani Abdullah, a Yemeni. He can complete corporate deals, but not get this client sprung.
It’s a messed up situation, as a high school student visiting the scene from Maryland told me. Last night, together with the people about to fast, we watched Andy Worthington’s film about the lives of the detainees. The room was silent for awhile after it ended, as the weight of the injustice and years of detention settled. But then we got to talking. A friend and playwright, along to participate in all this, remarked on two things I noticed about Omar Deghayes’ comments in the film. At one point he described that the guards, after four or five months would mostly come to understand the injustice of the prison. But then, they would get rotated out, and they would get another round of them who had to be once again educated.
The other thing Omar said that hits everyone who watches is that it’s not the loss of his eye, his broken ribs, the sexual humilitation and degradation that is the worst. It was losing the years of his son’s young life, the joy of seeing him as so innocent, that he will never get back.
Omar was at the press conference this afternoon, via live video conference. You can also see a Q&A with him and Moazzam Begg, another released detainee in October, discussing those still remaining in Guantanamo.
Last night Clare from Ithaca raised the point that even if Guantanamo is moved to Illinois, there already is torture in US prisons, in the Special Housing Units, where total isolation and sensory deprivation is practiced on people who live in America.
I was glad to say that the guerilla posters which appeared today on bus shelters in the San Francisco area made the connection, saying “Shut Down Guantanamo…Bagram…Pelican Bay. Torture is a War Crime!”
Witness Against Torture posted a report on the Jan 11 activities. Respect to them for a very effective and moving day yesterday, and to Center for Constitutional Rights for bringing the voices of the released detainees and lawyers for the detainees!