Posts Tagged occupation
The Berkeley Says NO to Torture Week began Sunday October 10 with a book talk by Andy Worthington who wrote The Guantanamo Files:The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, and Justine Sharrock, author of Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things. Even for people who have followed the US detention of men at Guantanamo, the stories of the real people involved; both those detained, and those who were part of the functioning, are eye-opening and heart-breaking.
Andy, who knows as much or more about the individual stories of the men detained at Guantanamo, reminded everyone of the reason we’re doing this Week in Berkeley: John Yoo is here teaching law at Cal, as he has been since 2004, when he returned from his two years spent in the Bush White House arranging the “legal” justification of torture and indefinite detention. Why stay on the issue of the closure of Guantanamo when, for the time being, it’s disappeared off the radar? “Just because something’s gone on for far too long, doesn’t make it less wrong,” Andy says.
He gave a quick overview of Guantanamo, 20 months after Barack Obama said he’d close it in 12 months. 598 men have been released with no charges, mostly by the Bush regime. 174 are left. Of those, the Obama administration plans to charge 35 and try them under the “new” military commissions. 48 are to be held indefinitely — no charges, no trials, no release, in legal limbo. The rest are all “approved for transfer,” a phrase this administration picked up from Bush, as opposed to “approved for release” which could indicate they were held without reason. Andy pointed out that the U.S. has prevailed on 15 countries to take detainees after release, but that the U.S. – the country which detained the innocent men – won’t take any.
The vast majority of the 774 men were not caught on the battlefield, as the Bush regime said at the time, but were bought for bounty. The US government didn’t know who they had, why, or what any of them might have done. General Dunleavy, the first general in charge in 2002 when Guantanamo opened, called a lot of them “Mickey Mouse” prisoners, held without reason. Nevertheless, while held, one in 6 of them got the “full treatment” of enhanced interrogation procedures, both physical and psychological that we now know to be the Bush/Yoo package of torture.
Andy did not confine his criticism to Bush, who came up with the term “enemy combatant,” but described for us what the Obama administration has done, and not done. The term is new: “unprivileged enemy belligerents.” They have habeas corpus rights, but still, many are not being released, much less given an apology or any sort of compensation. See a post from Andy on October 11, Former Guantánamo Prisoner, Tortured by Al-Qaeda and the US, Launches Futile Attempt to Hold America Accountable.
Justine Sharrock got to know four men who were involved in torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. She writes with much understanding, developed over time with the men, for how they have been destroyed by participating and being trained as part of dehumanizing package of detention and torture.
She read from her book about Chris Arendt, an anarchist, Jack Kerouac-reading punk from the Midwest who somehow ended up in a National Guard unit sent to Guantanamo. As he learned the pattern of detainee abuse, like the “frequent flyer” program where detainees were moved every few hours to a different cell for months, he began folding the order forms into origami birds which spilled over his whole desk. He tried to kill himself.
The jacket blurb reads: “Myths about torture abound: Waterboarding is the worst we’ve done. The soldiers were hardened professionals. All Americans now believe that what we did was wrong. Torture is now a thing of the past. Journalist Justine Sharrock’s reporting reveals a huge chasm between what has made headlines and what has actually happened. She traveled around the country, talking to the young, low-ranking soldiers that watched our prisoners, documenting what it feels like to torture someone and discovering how many residents of small town America think we should have done a lot more torture.”
Justine’s work on how torture was shaped, and has come to be accepted, is really important. She and Any will be speaking again at a program Wednesday about writers on torture.
Lauro Vasquez, a recent graduate of Dominican College read two of his poems. A member of the Revolutionary Poetry Brigade, he told how he started thinking in poems while working as a dishwasher at college. I’m going to ask him for the poems to post here.
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.
Sunday August 22, the Associated Press reported, “BAGHDAD — An American solider was killed in a rocket attack in southern Iraq on Sunday, the U.S. military said, marking the first American fatality since the last combat unit in Iraq pulled out of the country.”
As the “last” combat brigade left Iraq, President Obama prepares to give a major speech this week. He probably won’t claim victory; that would be laughable. He will claim that the U.S. is taking responsible action, now that the Iraqis are ready to “step up” and run “their own” country. This is the same plan the Bush regime had, but framed and re-branded, Obama-style, to cover a thoroughly illegitimate occupation.
Jeremy Scahill said on Democracy Now earlier this month, that the combat role is shifting to the State Department which “has plans to remake some US bases into what they call ‘enduring presence posts,’ EPPs. And so, you’ll have these outposts around the country that are essentially—what is essentially unfolding here is a downsized and rebranded occupation, Obama-style, that is going to necessitate a surge in private forces. The State Department is asking for MRAP vehicles, armored vehicles, for Black Hawk helicopters and for these paramilitary forces. So, yes, you can say that officially combat has ended, but in reality you’re continuing it through the back door by bringing in these paramilitary forces and classifying them as diplomatic security, which was Bush’s game from the very beginning.”
But don’t think the military is really leaving. General Ray Odierno, who’s in charge in Iraq, says they’ll stay or come back at the discretion of the administration. More troops left Ft. Hood this morning, see below.
There are still 50,000 troops “advising” the Iraqi government which rules through US backing; the biggest embassy in the world ever; civil society in shambles, and no stability for the people. Adil E. Shamoo, a professor of ethics, writes in What You Will Not Hear About Iraq, ” Iraq has between 25 and 50 percent unemployment, a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums. The killing of innocent people has become part of daily life. What a havoc the United States has wreaked in Iraq…For the past few decades, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the percentage of the urban population living in slums in Iraq hovered just below 20 percent. Today, that percentage has risen to 53 percent: 11 million of the 19 million total urban dwellers.”
Chris Floyd in The Peace Laureate’s Prayer: War Without End, Amen
So while the “last full U.S. combat brigade” have left Iraq, just under 50,000 soldiers from specially trained heavy, infantry and Stryker brigades will stay, as well as two combat aviation brigades …
There are seven Advise and Assist Brigades in Iraq, as well as two additional National Guard infantry brigades “for security,” said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Craig Ratcliff. …
The Army selected brigade combat teams as the unit upon which to build advisory brigades partly because they would be able to retain their inherent capability to conduct offensive and defensive operations, according to the Army’s security force assistance field manual, which came out in May 2009. This way, the brigade can shift the bulk of its operational focus from security force assistance to combat operations if necessary.
Stephanie Tang from World Can’t Wait joined anti-war veterans Josh Stieber and Ethan McCord on the Lettieri & Poole show, KGO Newstalk Radio (San Francisco) Saturday August 21, for a talk about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and WikiLeaks.
Josh and Ethan were in Iraq with Bravo Company 2-16, the unit whose Apache helicopter attack on civilians is now known to the world thanks to the Wikileaks “Collateral Murder” video. Ethan is seen in that video, carrying a wounded Iraqi child to find a medic. After returning from Iraq, Josh and Ethan wrote An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People: From Current and Former Members of the US Military.
|Scott Trent answers an article, “Eight things Obama has done to make the world a more peaceful place” with The Truth About Obama’s “Accomplishments” and the Need to Build a Mass Movement|
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?”
For immediate release December 17, 2009
Contact: Elaine Brower 917-520-0767
Anti-War Protest at Army’s New Chambers St. Recruiting Center
What: Picket line / Speak-out / Photo op
Where: 143 Chambers Street @ West Broadway
When: 12:00 pm, Friday December 18, 2009
In response to the opening today of the Army’s new recruiting center in downtown Manhattan, opponents of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq announced a protest tomorrow.
World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, Veterans for Peace and members of Military Families Speak Out/NY will be protesting.
Elaine Brower, mother of a US marine who has been deployed to both war zones, said.
“We know that President Obama wants to increase the size of the military by 92,000. The current military is tired and war-weary. They can’t keep sending these same guys back four times. They’re going nuts. The Army needs to fill those spots, and they will get them any way they can, whether it’s through teaching kids to play violent video games that simulate the killing of other human beings at the Army Experience Center trial project in Philadelphia or setting up near a college where kids are graduating with so much debt and no jobs.”
The Army says it chose the Chambers Street location to be near the Borough of Manhattan Community College and Stuyvesant High School, both located further west on the street.
– 30 –
On Saturday, December 12, 2009, an antiwar rally was held at Lafayette Square Park by the White House. Speakers included Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader, Chris Hedges all speaking out against the recent escalation of troops into Afghanistan and against Obama’s wars. This is my speech.
Americans may think that after Obama’s speech at West Point Academy to call for 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and after Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech,which laid out clear guidelines for waging a just war and how those guidelines will be followed during the oncoming surge in Afghanistan, there is no reason for Americans to voice their disapproval of the war.
However, a coalition of antiwar organizers, peace and justice advocates, and citizens of conscience disagree and are not willing to accept Obama’s efforts to deflect criticism and tamp down outrage toward the Afghanistan War. Hundreds if not thousands of people will be in Lafayette Square nearby the White House in Washington, D.C. today at 11 am ET.
Rally organizers have put together a roster of speakers that include consumer advocate Ralph Nader, Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, former Sen. Mike Gravel, Kathy Kelly, Chris Hedges, David Swanson, Gael Murphy, Debra Sweet, and others opposed to current U.S. war policies in the Middle East.
The rally will directly call for vigorous opposition to the military escalation in Afghanistan and a rejection of defeatist thinking and futile rationales, which have been hampering the anti-war movement in America.
Laurie Dobson, a lead organizer of the rally believes it is the peace community’s responsibility “to focus on peace and justice for the world’s people and for our people. And the reason she and others are taking action is because the peace movement must be the consciences for our leaders” especially when they choose expansion of war rather than a phased withdrawal of war.
Speakers will directly challenge Obama’s bizarre justifications for continuing the war in Afghanistan especially the idea that expanding a war is the best way to prepare for a withdrawal.
For example, Ralph Nader recently wrote in his In the Public Interest column, “To say as Obama inferred in his Oslo speech that the greater plunge into Afghanistan is self-defense, with proportional force and sparing civilians from violence is a scale of self-delusion or political cowardliness that is dejecting his liberal base.”
There is no real way to gauge right now how disenchanted liberals and progressives might become with Obama but if he stays the course, this surge could create a trap for Democrats in this country.
Cynthia McKinney says in Congress Republicans may be willing to support Obama and vote for his war legislation now but come 2012 they will put up their own candidate. She suspects that voters will remember Obama’s actions on U.S. wars and Obama could be in trouble.
Elaine Brower, who is with Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) and who will be speaking at the rally, thinks many didn’t expect Obama to do this because his rhetoric suggested he would act differently when elected president.
Brower suggests people of this country look past his rhetoric and see the politician. She says Obama is trying to sell the American people a war that isn’t really a war because we aren’t really fighting anybody; we are really just waging a massive occupation that is resulting an enormous loss of human lives.
Those participating in the rally see this as a way of reigniting the fire within a movement that unfortunately chose to temper their opposition during Obama’s presidential campaign and now his first year in office.
For those wondering why they should be participating in any actions that allow people to show they oppose the Afghanistan War, Matthis Chiroux, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War who will be speaking at the rally, thinks the Nobel Peace prize speech Obama gave should give people reason to oppose this war.
Chiroux hopes all would resist this war because “Americans did not elect Obama to wage war but to wage peace instead.”
Kathy Kelly, a peace advocate who has visited and witnessed firsthand the impact of conflict in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Sarajevo is convinced that “if the U.S. public can recognize the folly of the war in Iraq, followed by the folly of the war in Afghanistan, and then recognize the folly of maintaining 700-900 bases around the world” then we will be able to stop these wars.
She hopes people that are retired and still have a lot of energy will “use their twilight years to ensure that there will be an inhabitable world for those grandchildren.” And she hopes parents who love their children will begin to recognize the choices ahead, engage in the community, change their lifestyle, and let the elected leaders know Americans won’t accommodate their ruthless warmongering behavior anymore.
Chris Hedges, Truthdig.com columnist and author whose most recent book is The Empire of Illusion, will also be a speaker at the rally and suggests that, “A lot of this is about doing something rather than doing nothing and attempting to influence events because it’s clear the Democratic Party has betrayed us.”
Hedges understands no antiwar organizer or leader can promise it will work but “if we do nothing, we’re guaranteeing that the imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will go on for years.”
“It’s all we have left,” says Hedges. “Unless people get out in the street and actively build grassroots opposition against the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s going to be never-ending war.”
“So let us reach for the world that ought to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.”
-President Barack Obama, December 10th, 2009, from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech
When Obama remarked on young protestors awaiting the brutality of their government, he probably wasn’t thinking about the hundreds of Afghan university students who have been rallying against a U.S.-led raid earlier this week, an act of brutality that resulted in civilian deaths. He probably wasn’t referring to how four civilians protesting the raid were gunned down by Afghan troops, which NATO and the U.S. are using to successfully wage war and occupation in Afghanistan.
How does one reconcile the acceptance of a peace prize with the deployment of 30,000 more troops to a country for a war? How does one rationalize the continued use of NATO forces and Afghan security forces to further destabilize and ruin one of the poorest countries in the world with rhetorical flourishes that reference historic peace advocates like Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr.?
A new coalition of antiwar organizations, peace and justice advocates, and citizens of consience in America aim—the End U.S. Wars Coalition—aims to address such questions and will come together this weekend for a rally on Saturday, Dec. 12th, in Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. Not far from the White House, they will challenge the Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama and his administration to halt the escalation in Afghanistan and stop the war crimes being committed in countries throughout the Middle East by U.S. forces.
Laurie Dobson, a lead organizer for the rally, intends to make sure Obama knows there is a consequence for his decisions. Dobson wants leaders from Congress to the White House to know the antiwar movement will respond to decisions for escalation or expansion of U.S. wars.
Organizers behind this End US Wars Rally also seek to engage and energize fellow citizens to challenge this “war party mentality” and also reject defeatist thinking and futile rationales, which have had a demobilizing effect on the antiwar movement in the past year.
Lynne Williams, a Green Party candidate for governor in Maine who will be speaking at the rally, says, “There’s a need for visibility.”
Williams explains, “A lot of people including a lot of progressive democrats really believed Barack Obama’s rhetoric and thought, ‘Let’s give him a chance. It can’t be worse than Bush and Cheney.’ Yeah, it can. It can be at least as bad if not worse. And the way it can be worse is not because Barack Obama does not have perhaps more of a moral compass but because so many people in the movement at least until recently” were not out visibly protesting war because Obama is president.
National World Can’t Wait leader Debra Sweet, who will be speaking at the event, explains that World Can’t Wait is participating in the first national rally since Obama announced the surge of the troops to Afghanistan because his campaign promise to make Afghanistan into a good war and increase U.S. forces should not be tolerated.
Sweet, along with other organizers, are compelling all Americans, from those who didn’t vote for Obama to those who still believe in the power of Obama to bring peace to the world, to come and join in the antiwar movement’s action this weekend.
“I really welcome the people who voted for Obama and in a sense the people still hoping for the best to be a part of it,” says Sweet. She adds, “Those of us who did not vote for Obama and were concerned for this very thing—We have to stick to our principles and keep making a noise about it and pull as many people into reality if we can.”
Sweet and others speaking and organizing for this rally believe the time is now for Americans to assess the reality of the situation. The people of this country should be educating their friends and neighbors on the situation in Afghanistan and at home. They should be providing information for understanding the true implications for expanding the Afghanistan War.
“Whether Obama stated something in his campaign or not, that doesn’t mean we fall behind his campaign promises whether they went in a certain direction or not. We have to hold him to account to be the best representative of the people that we can,” says Dobson. “The campaign is over but the process of becoming a respectable president has begun and he has fallen so short and it has become apparent to even the most hardened Democrats that he never was a true antiwar candidate.”