Archive for category protest and resistance
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Amnesty International and the Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning Support Network initiated a petition on WhiteHouse.gov calling on Barack Obama to “grant clemency to Pvt. Bradley Manning.” The petition requires 100,000 signatures by September 20 for the White House to have to comment on it, or it will die. So far there are just over 24,000 signers.
We are almost 25% of the way to 100,000 signers, and must pick up momentum quickly. On Monday September 16, #PardonManning Day, will you sign the peititon, and do the work to be sure that 5 of your friends, family, or colleagues do so?
President Obama has already granted pardons to 39 other prisoners, and a White House spokesperson said he would give consideration to PVT Manning’s request. Showing public support for PVT Manning’s application is the best way to give her a real chance of being released in 3 years, or even sooner. Sign our petition on Whitehouse.gov, and then submit your photo with a personal message at pardon.bradleymanning.org
You can steal (copy + paste) tweets to promote the action here like this:
#PardonManning Day. 76,000 signers needed Now. Do the work to get 5 more to sign for justice 4 #Manning https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/restore-united-states%E2%80%99-human-rights-record-and-grant-clemency-pvt-bradley-manning/L7zHZv4r …
You KNOW how to reach your people. Let’s come together by Monday with a mass outpouring for Chelsea Manning’s freedom.
We’ve gotten some response that supporters of Manning don’t with to give the White House their email addresses. We are all for privacy rights. But have you read the news since June 5? The NSA via direction by the Obama administration already has so much more than your email address. Defense of Manning and Edward Snowden is exactly what’s called for in response to the government’s vast surveillance against whole populations.
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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
In arguing that Russia should send Edward Snowden back to the U.S. to face charges for exposing, from inside the NSA, a vast surveillance network on whole populations, Attorney General Eric Holder was in the ironic position of alleging that:
“I can report that the United States is prepared to provide to the Russian government the following assurances regarding the treatment Mr. Snowden would face upon return to the United States,” Holder wrote. “First, the United States would not seek the death penalty for Mr. Snowden should he return to the United States.” In addition, “Mr. Snowden will not be tortured. Torture is unlawful in the United States.”
Here are layers of irony, in brief:
1) Most countries in the world don’t have the death penalty, oppose it, and know the U.S. kills by far more people per per capita than any country, even including the countries which also use the death penalty.
So, for Holder to have to pledge that the U.S. won’t seek the death penalty for Snowden is quite an admission, but one masking the real horror of 1,340 killed since the 1976 when the U.S. Supreme Court made the death penalty legal again.
2) “Torture is unlawful in the United States,” says Holder, which shows you what the law is good for.
3). “Torture is unlawful in the United States,” says Holder, which is exactly why the Bush regime set up Guantanamo and a whole system of indefinite detention and torture outside U.S. borders.
Edward Snowden explained on June 10 that he knew what could happen at the hands of the U.S. and then elaborated on his knowledge of what had been done to Bradley Manning while in pre-trial custody, and before a huge outcry that forced the Obama administration to move him out of solitary confinement. We all fear for Snowden’s future, regardless of where he finds refuge, because as he said:
“You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk, because they’re such powerful adversaries that no one can meaningful oppose them. If they want to get you, they will get you in time.”
Here is someone who knows the risks, and chose to come forward so that the public could be informed about illegal surveillance by the U.S. government. In the process, over and over again, that same government must be exposed for illegitimate suppression of dissent and protest.
“I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son” said Barack Obama a day after the verdict of “not guilty” in the George Zimmerman trial. “we are a nation of laws, and the jury has spoken.”
Attorney General Eric Holder assured the NAACP that he is concerned about the case, and that “the Justice Department has an open investigation into it.”
The message here is that we — those righteously outraged at the stalking death of a black youth being justified by a jury — should remain calm. And we are told to wait on justice at the hands of a system built on slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration. Our protests are the problem, not the underlying injustice, particularly according to Democratic Party leaders, whose purpose is to keep us passive, while they appear to “handle” the problem.
Turning your attention back to 2009, Barack Obama took office in the wake of — and because of — the disaster of the Bush regime laying waste to whole countries, attacking civil liberties, and establishing a system of indefinite detention, black sites, rendition and torture which affected tens of thousands of prisoners. Obama famously said he wanted to “look forward, not backward,” and starkly disappointed people who were under the illusion that justice would be served on the Bush regime — or at least someone in charge of torture — by the new administration.
Obama and Holder did make some promises which turned out to be aimed at pacifying critics. The Justice Department “investigated” the CIA torture in Guantanamo, captured on videotape, allowing the perpetrators to get away with destroying the tapes. They decided not to release the photos of the military torture at Abu Ghraib. The Justice Department, presumably, looked into the legal justification, practice, and individual orders and responsibility for a wide range of illegitimate actions, known to be against international law, involving thousands of victims.
And then, snooze, they found nothing really wrong, or at least nothing they would prosecute. See Justice Department Ends Investigation on Alleged Use of Torture by CIA.
It’s the same old story. The rights of people under the empire don’t matter. And Trayvon Martin, to quote the 1857 Dred Scott Decision of the US Supreme Court, will likely be found to have “no rights the white man was bound to respect.”
I am not exaggerating here. WHEN has a federal investigation brought justice in a situation where crimes have been carried out, supported, or excused by government?
We indict the U.S. government. Example: For the mass incarceration of over 2.4 million people in the United States, mainly Black and Latino, a program with a genocidal impact against these groups, including torture, solitary confinement, and unjust executions.
Is it true that “protest for justice doesn’t do any good?” No, a thousand times, no.
People in groups, in the streets – or in state houses screaming — articulating a strong political message changes the terms of how people see things, bringing out viewpoints that are not given voice in managed debate in ruling class media. People arguing passionately for a cause and sometimes putting their lives on the line – especially when their message hits deeply at a sharp fault-line underlying conflict in a society – can change how whole societies view whether what a government is doing, or not doing, is legitimate.
Street protest is not the only element needed for major social change, but it’s the one feature of mass political mobilization that’s essential. It’s so essential that people in most of the world know to gather together, raise demands, and make noise, marching together to show determination and urgency.
Two recent examples from within the United States:
One. In spring 2012, when the news spread that 17 year old Trayvon Martin had been shot in the heart by a vigilante, wanna-be cop named George Zimmerman, and that no charges had been filed in the killing, it struck a nerve. Was the life of a young black man really worth… nothing and of no consequence? Hundreds, then tens of thousands rallied, marched, made popular a hoodie as a symbol of protest, and demanded Zimmerman be charged.
That is the only reason there’s a trial going on now in Florida. And if the prosecution failed to put on a case convincing the jury beyond a reasonable doubt to convict, there better be more protest (see stopmassincarceration.org).
Two. Texas legislators tried to push through a law against abortion after 22 weeks, which would close down most of the women’s clinics, and enforce motherhood for thousands of women. Wendy Davis filibustered, and women — I know because I have friends who did this — jumped in their cars and drove from all over the state to fill the State House in support. This support for abortion galvanized others to stay up all night, and led to much different headlines. The bill, at that point at least, was stopped.
Just as important, people began to feel like the troops had finally come out to change the terrible direction of anti-abortion legislation, finally, and are echoing it elsewhere (see stoppatriarchy.org).
There is no substitute for determined protest against the outrages which come at us. The actions of a few can ignite the outrage of many. Otherwise, the status quo holds, and people conclude “there is nothing you can do.”
And it’s particularly important to come out at certain moments when days and hours matter.
Such as when the government of the world’s largest empire revokes the passport of a whistle-blower who happens to have exposed vast criminal surveillance of whole populations by that government, and threatens the governments of any country who might provide him asylum.