Aletho News


The Torture Ban that Doesn’t Ban Torture

Obama’s Rules Keep It Intact, and Could Even Accord With an Increase in US-Sponsored Torture Worldwide

By Allan Nairn
January 25, 2009

If you’re lying on the slab still breathing, with your torturer hanging over you, you don’t much care if he is an American or a mere United States – sponsored trainee.

When President Obama declared flatly this week that “the United States will not torture” many people wrongly believed that he’d shut the practice down, when in fact he’d merely repositioned it.

Obama’s Executive Order bans some — not all — US officials from torturing but it does not ban any of them, himself included, from sponsoring torture overseas.

Indeed, his policy change affects only a slight percentage of US-culpable tortures and could be completely consistent with an increase in US-backed torture worldwide.

The catch lies in the fact that since Vietnam, when US forces often tortured directly, the US has mainly seen its torture done for it by proxy — paying, arming, training and guiding foreigners doing it, but usually being careful to keep Americans at least one discreet step removed.

That is, the US tended to do it that way until Bush and Cheney changed protocol, and had many Americans laying on hands, and sometimes taking digital photos.

The result was a public relations fiasco that enraged the US establishment since by exposing US techniques to the world it diminished US power.

But despite the outrage, the fact of the matter was that the Bush/Cheney tortures being done by Americans were a negligible percentage of all of the tortures being done by US clients.

For every torment inflicted directly by Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo and the secret prisons, there were many times more being meted out by US-sponsored foreign forces.

Those forces were and are operating with US military, intelligence, financial or other backing in Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Jordan, Indonesia, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Colombia, Nigeria, and the Philippines, to name some places, not to mention the tortures sans-American-hands by the US-backed Iraqis and Afghans.

What the Obama dictum ostensibly knocks off is that small percentage of torture now done by Americans while retaining the overwhelming bulk of the system’s torture, which is done by foreigners under US patronage.

Obama could stop backing foreign forces that torture, but he has chosen not to do so.

His Executive Order instead merely pertains to treatment of “…an individual in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government, or detained within a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States, in any armed conflict…” which means that it doesn’t even prohibit direct torture by Americans outside environments of “armed conflict,” which is where much torture happens anyway since many repressive regimes aren’t in armed conflict.

And even if, as Obama says, “the United States will not torture,” it can still pay, train, equip and guide foreign torturers, and see to it that they, and their US patrons, don’t face local or international justice.

This is a return to the status quo ante, the torture regime of Ford through Clinton, which, year by year, often produced more US-backed strapped-down agony than was produced during the Bush/Cheney years.

Under the old — now new again — proxy regime Americans would, say, teach interrogation/torture, then stand in the next room as the victims screamed, feeding questions to their foreign pupils. That’s the way the US did it in El Salvador under JFK through Bush Sr. (For details see my “Behind the Death Squads: An exclusive report on the U.S. role in El Salvador’s official terror,” The Progressive, May, 1984 ; the US Senate Intelligence Committee report that piece sparked is still classified, but the feeding of questions was confirmed to me by Intelligence Committee Senators. See also my “Confessions of a Death Squad Officer,” The Progressive, March, 1986, and my “Comment,” The New Yorker, Oct. 15, 1990,[regarding law, the US, and El Salvador]).

In Guatemala under Bush Sr. and Clinton (Obama’s foreign policy mentors) the US backed the army’s G-2 death squad which kept comprehensive files on dissidents and then electroshocked them or cut off their hands. (The file/ surveillance system was launched for them in the ’60s and ’70s by CIA/ State/ AID/ special forces; for the history see “Behind the Death Squads,” cited above, and the books of Prof. Michael McClintock).

The Americans on the ground in the Guatemalan operation, some of whom I encountered and named, effectively helped to run the G-2 but, themselves, tiptoed around its torture chambers. (See my “C.I.A. Death Squad,” The Nation [US], April 17, 1995, “The Country Team,” The Nation [US], June 5, 1995, letter exchange with US Ambassador Stroock, The Nation [US], May 29, 1995, and Allan Nairn and Jean-Marie Simon, “Bureaucracy of Death,” The New Republic, June 30, 1986).

It was a similar story in Bush Sr. and Clinton’s Haiti — an operation run by today’s Obama people — where the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) helped launch the terrorist group FRAPH, the CIA paid its leader, and FRAPH itsef laid the machetes on Haitian civilians, torturing and killing as US proxies. (See my “Behind Haiti’s paramilitaries: our man in FRAPH,” The Nation [US], Oct 24, 1994, and “He’s our S.O.B.,” The Nation [US], Oct. 31, 1994; the story was later confirmed on ABC TV’s “This Week” by US Secretary of State Warren Christopher).

In today’s Thailand — a country that hardly comes to mind when most people think of torture — special police and militaries get US gear and training for things like “target selection” and then go out and torture Thai Malay Muslms in the rebel deep south, and also sometimes (mainly Buddhist) Burmese refugees and exploited northern and west coast workers.

Not long ago I visited a key Thai interrogator who spoke frankly about army/ police/ intel torture and then closed our discussion by saying “Look at this,” and invited me into his back room.

It was an up to date museum of plaques, photos and awards from US and Western intelligence, including commendations from the CIA counter-terrorism center (then run by people now staffing Obama), one-on-one photos with high US figures, including George W. Bush, a medal from Bush, various US intel/ FBI/ military training certificates, a photo of him with an Israeli colleague beside a tank in the Occupied Territories, and Mossad, Shin Bet, Singaporean, and other interrogation implements and mementos.

On my way out, the Thai intel man remarked that he was due to re-visit Langley soon.

His role is typical. There are thousands like him worldwide. US proxy torture dwarfs that at Guantanamo.

Many Americans, to their credit, hate torture. The Bush/Cheney escapade exposed that.

But to stop it they must get the facts and see that Obama’s ban does not stop it, and indeed could even accord with an increase in US-sponsored torture crime.

In lieu of action, the system will grind on tonight. More shocks, suffocations, deep burns. And the convergence of thousands of complex minds on one simple thought: ‘Please, let me die.’

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December 11, 2009 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | Comments Off on The Torture Ban that Doesn’t Ban Torture

House chairman Brad Sherman calls on UC Irvine to throw out Muslim Student Union for raising money for Gaza

By Philip Weiss – December 11, 2009

Your Israel lobby at work. Brad Sherman is a liberal Democratic congressman from California and populist on Wall Street issues. He is also chairman of a House subcommittee on terrorism. With the applause (and likely the urging) of the Zionist Organization of America, he has sent out three letters to federal officials, urging investigations directed at Viva Palestina, the George Galloway group that is devoted to bringing aid to besieged people of Gaza– for allegedly supporting a terrorist organization, Hamas. The letters are to the IRS, to the Justice Department, and to Hillary Clinton.

In a fourth letter, written last week to the chancellor of the University of California at Irvine, Sherman accuses the Muslim Student Union at UC Irvine of soliciting funds for a terrorist organization because it hosted Galloway last May. Once you have determined these facts in your internal investigation, Sherman says, you should bar the Muslim Student Union from the campus.

The ZOA, a right-wing pro-settlers group, says that it brought the Galloway event to Sherman’s attention earlier this fall and pressed for an investigation. Here, the Muslim Student Union at Irvine describes how it has been harassed by the ZOA:

The truth of the matter is that ZOA has been attempting to defame, censor and essentially eradicate the MSU for years now. This is only the most recent attempt to silence the MSU and restrict its constitutional right to freedom of speech, religion and association. Although this is not the first time the organization has made such claims against the MSU, the complaints continue to receive attention. This is surprising, considering all previous claims the organization made against MSU have been proven to be groundless. In 2004, ZOA claimed that the green stoles MSU members wear during graduation were a symbol of support for Hamas.


December 11, 2009 Posted by | Aletho News, Civil Liberties, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | 13 Comments

New York City Erases Bike Lanes to Appease Hasidic Men Who Object to Seeing Women in Bike Shorts

New York Post
December 8, 2009

Groups of bicycle-riding vigilantes have been repainting 14 blocks of Williamsburg roadways ever since the city sandblasted their bike lanes away last week at the request of the Hasidic community.

The Hasids, who have long had a huge enclave in the now-artist-haven neighborhood, had complained that the Bedford Avenue bike paths posed both a safety and religious hazard.

Scantily clad hipster cyclists attracted to the Brooklyn neighborhood made it difficult, the Hasids said, to obey religious laws forbidding them from staring at members of the opposite sex in various states of undress. These riders also were disobeying the traffic laws, they complained.

PALE RIDER: Bikers repainted bike lanes (above) in Williamsburg after they were wiped out amid Hasidic complaints.

Brian Branch Price

Two cycling advocates were apprehended by the Shomrim Patrol, a Hasidic neighborhood watch group, as they repainted a section of bike lane at 3:30 a.m. yesterday, but when cops arrived, no one was arrested and no summonses were issued, police said.

“These people should apply for a job at the DOT,” neighborhood activist Isaac Abraham said of the repainting. “You put it on, they take it off — and they will probably do this again.”

A Department of Transportation spokesman said: “We will continue to work with any community on ways we can make changes to our streets without compromising safety.”

A source close to Mayor Bloomberg said removing the lanes was an effort to appease the Hasidic community just before last month’s election.

Abraham contends the bike lanes put children at risk of getting hit by cars or bicycles as they exited school buses.

But Baruch Herzfeld, who has tried to bridge the gap between hipsters and Hasids with a bike-rental program, said safety is not the issue so much as xenophobia.

“They don’t want the hipsters in their neighborhood,” he said. “It’s like in Howard Beach back in the day when they didn’t want black people in the neighborhood.”

The cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives has not taken sides in the dispute.

But bike lane or not, “cyclists have a right to be on Bedford Avenue,” said Wiley Norvell, a group spokesman.

Additional reporting by Maggie

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Civil Liberties | 26 Comments

Carbonphobia, the real environmental threat

Written by Atheo – Aletho News – December 19, 2009
(photo credit – Bloomberg)

The proposed construction of a new generation of nuclear plants is just one aspect of the environmental threat posed by cap and trade or carbon taxes. This report addresses yet another threat, biomass energy generation. Wood chips and wood pellets are exempt from European Union permit rules for carbon emissions, ostensibly because the chipped trees recently absorbed carbon from the atmosphere. The fact that the trees would have sequestered the carbon for centuries if left as living natural habitat and soil regenerative decomposing matter is conveniently overlooked.

Energy legislation in the U.S. has yet to be passed, but current bills similarly promote the wholesale clearing of forests for combustion. Bloomberg describes it as energy sprawl:

More forests, deserts and grasslands in the U.S. will be used to produce energy under a proposal to cap greenhouse gases, an unintended consequence of efforts to fight global warming, according to a Nature Conservancy report.

A bill that boosts energy from wind turbines and biofuels will increase the amount of land needed for energy development as much as 48 percent, or almost 100,000 square kilometers (38,600 square miles) during the next 20 years, said Robert McDonald, a scientist with the Arlington, Virginia-based Nature Conservancy environmental group.

America’s publicly owned national forests will be made available for this new private industry if Obama appointee Tom Tidwell, Director of the U.S. Forest Service, gets his way. Biomass electric power generating plants can consume as much as one semi-trailer truck load of chipped forest every ten minutes. While harvesters may be required to re-plant the stripped landscapes they leave behind, it should be remembered that mono-crop plantation forests are not ecosystems and also that massive quantities of herbicides are needed to prevent weeds from overtaking the seedlings.

The health of surrounding communities is put in jeopardy as well. In a position paper called Biomass Position Statement, the American Lung Association of New England outlines the concerns: “Biomass emissions contain fine particulate matter, sulfur oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and various irritant gases such as nitrogen oxides that can scar the lungs. Like cigarettes, biomass emissions also contain chemicals that are known or suspected to be carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and dioxin.”

Extraordinary conjecture is utilized to rationalize the removal of our forests:

“… many of our Western forests are at risk of turning from a carbon sink to a carbon source,” Tom Tidwell, the head of the Forest Service, told a Senate subcommittee on Nov. 18 in a hearing on forest management and climate change.

“Projections indicate that while these forests continue to sequester more carbon in the short-term, in 30 to 50 years, disturbances such as fire and insects and disease could dramatically change the role of forests, thereby emitting more carbon than currently sequestering.”

So on the one hand, the scientific community considers forests to be carbon sinks, and, when convenient, forests are presented as a  carbon threat by government officials.

Professors at Oregon State University are unconvinced, and suggest that clearing forests for biofuel could potentially release more carbon through transport and processing than if the material simply burned in the woods.

Portland’s Oregonian presents further ‘carbon sequestration’ rationalizations for logging our forests:

Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican from Wyoming, said to maximize carbon capture, forests should be logged and turned into lumber, which would store the carbon in the form of two-by-fours and other long-lived wood products.

The Wyoming senator’s view is supported by analysis done by Elaine Oneil at the University of Washington’s forestry school.

Oneil said more carbon is released into the atmosphere by producing wood alternatives like concrete and steel, outweighing the carbon benefit of leaving forests standing. “The best thing to do, in terms of a carbon benefit, is to manage these forests on fairly rapid rotations,” Oneil said of Oregon’s wet, west-side forests… cut more often and plant fast-growing young forests.

All of this was anticipated by Jeffrey St. Clair last summer upon Tidwell’s appointment by President Obama. As Regional Forester for the Northern Rockies Tidwell had a 32 year track record as a “facilitator of forest destruction“. In the excerpt below St. Clair describes Tidwell’s priorities:

During his tenure in Montana, Tidwell specialized in the art of coercive collaboration, a social manipulation technique that involves getting environmental groups to endorse destructive projects they would normally litigate to stop. Yet, when copiously lubricated with the magic words “collaboration” or “climate change” most environmentalists can be enticed to swallow even the most ghastly of clearcuts in the most ecologically sensitive sites, such as the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana to the fast-dwindling ponderosa pine forests of Oregon’s Blue Mountains.

One of Tidwell’s highest priorities will, it seems, be to turn the national forests into industrial biomass farms, all in the name of green energy. Under this destructive scheme, forests, young and old alike, will be clearcut, not for lumber, but as fuel to be burned in biomass power generators. Already officials in the big timber states of Oregon and Washington are crowing that they will soon be able to become the “Saudi Arabia” of biomass production. Did they run this past Smokey the Bear?

Of course, Smokey, that global icon of wildfire suppression, and Tidwell will, no doubt, find common ground on another ecologically dubious project: thinning and post-fire salvage logging. We’ve reached the point where old-fashioned timber sales are a thing of the past. Now every logging operation will an ecological justification — specious though they all certainly turn out to be.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, one of the few green outfits to consistently stand up against Democratic Party-sponsored depredations on the environment, sued Tidwell at least 20 times during his time as regional forester in Missoula. There’s no record of Tidwell being sued even once by Boise-Cascade, Plum Creek Timber or the Noranda Gold Mining Company.

Yet by and large, the mainstream environmental movement has muzzled itself while the Obama administration stocks the Interior Department with corporate lawyers, extraction-minded bureaucrats and Clinton-era retreads.

Update – Copenhagen framework:

Corporate lobbyists can pressure or bribe governments to rig the system in their favour

Johann Hari – The Independent – December 11, 2009

The first week of this summit is being dominated by the representatives of the rich countries trying to lace the deal with Enron-style accounting tricks that will give the impression of cuts, without the reality. It’s essential to understand these shenanigans this week, so we can understand the reality of the deal that will be announced with great razzmatazz next week …

A study by Stanford University found that most of the projects that are being funded as “cuts” either don’t exist, don’t work, or would have happened anyway. Yet this isn’t a small side-dish to the deal: it’s the main course …

Canadian, Swedish and Finnish logging companies have successfully pressured their governments into inserting an absurd clause into the rules. The new rules say you can, in the name of “sustainable forest management”, cut down almost all the trees – without losing credits. It’s Kafkaesque: a felled forest doesn’t increase your official emissions… even though it increases your actual emissions.


Also by Atheo:

January 9, 2012

Three Mile Island, Global Warming and the CIA

November 13, 2011

US forces to fight Boko Haram in Nigeria

September 19, 2011

Bush regime retread, Philip Zelikow, appointed to Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board

March 8, 2011

Investment bankers salivate over North Africa

January 2, 2011

Top Israel Lobby Senator Proposes Permanent US Air Bases For Afghanistan

October 10, 2010

A huge setback for, if not the end of, the American nuclear renaissance

July 5, 2010

Progressive ‘Green’ Counterinsurgency

February 25, 2010

Look out for the nuclear bomb coming with your electric bill

February 7, 2010

The saturated fat scam: What’s the real story?

January 5, 2010 – Updated February 16, 2010:

Biodiesel flickers out leaving investors burned

December 26, 2009

Mining the soil: Biomass, the unsustainable energy source

December 4, 2009

There’s more to climate fraud than just tax hikes

May 9, 2009

Obama, Starving Africans and the Israel Lobby

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Author: Atheo, Deception, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Video: Afghans’ anger at Obama’s Nobel peace prize win

Al-Jazeera English
December 9, 2009
From Kabul, Steve Chao reports

Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo – days after he ordered an escalation of US involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

In making Obama the third sitting US President to win the award, the Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Obama’s co-operative approach to global issues.

But for many Afghans, Obama’s strategy of even more troops does not fit into their vision of what will bring peace.

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Aletho News, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism, Video, War Crimes | 1 Comment

President Obama ‘creating torture impunity’

Press TV– December 11, 2009 06:20:21 GMT

A US civil rights group says that President Barack Obama by creating impunity is following his predecessor into allowing torture policies to continue in the country.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said on Thursday that the US president has failed to provide accountability on torture.

Director of ACLU’s National Security Project Jameel Jaffer said “the Bush administration constructed a legal framework for torture and now the Obama administration is constructing a legal framework for impunity.”

“We’re frustrated by the growing gap between (the) Obama administration’s rhetoric on accountability and the reality,” Jaffer added.

In April, Obama said that CIA interrogators who had used waterboarding on suspected militants would not face prosecution. He also released Bush-era memos specifying that the practice did not constitute torture.

Republicans, however, criticized Obama for leaving the door open for the prosecution of former Bush officials who authorized harsh CIA interrogations due to releasing the memos.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were among those accused of masterminding the Bush-era torture policy.

Jaffer noted that “on every front, the administration is actively obstructing accountability by shielding Bush officials from civil liability, criminal investigation and even public scrutiny for their role in authorizing torture.”

“It’s the last month of 2009, and not a single torture victim has had his day in court,” ACLU Attorney Ben Wizner said. “Not a single court in a torture case has ruled on the legality of the Bush administration’s torture policies.”

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on President Obama ‘creating torture impunity’

Israel seizes Bil’in anti-wall protest leader

File Photo – Maan Images

10/12/2009 21:49

Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized Abdullah Abu Rahmah, a member of the Popular Committee against the Wall ofthe village of Bil’in early on Thursday, according to Palestinian Authority police.

PA police said Abu Rahmah was seized from a house in the At-Tira neighborhood in Ramallah.

Iyad Burnat, the head of Bil’in’s Popular Committee confirmed that the arrest took place at around 2:30am. He said Abu Rahmah was likely taken to the military prison in the settlement of Ofer, on the outskirts of Ramallah.

Abu Rahmah is a high school teacher in the Latin Patriarchate school in Birzeit near Ramallah.

Last Thursday Palestinians in the village said the Israeli military seized Rani Najar, 23, from his house at 2am.

The villagers say the nighttime raids are an attempt to quash Bil’in’s weekly nonviolent demonstrations against the wall Israel is building across the town. Thirty-one people have been arrested from the village since June; 16 remain in prison.

“My client’s arrest is another blatant illustration of the Israeli authorities’ application of legal procedures for the political persecution of Bil’in residents,” said attorney Gaby Lasky, who represents many of the Bil’in detainees in a statement.

“The Bil’in demonstrators are being systemically targeted while it is the State [of Israel] that is in contempt of a High Court of Justice ruling; a ruling which affirmed that the protesters have justice on their side and instructed 2 years ago that the route of the Wall in the area be changed, which has not been implemented to date,” she added.

Three teenage boys were also detained by Israeli soldiers at the Huwwara checkpoint south of the city of Nablus on Wednesday night, the police said. The detainees were identified as Ayman Nehad Shaker Masheh, 16, Mussa Yousif Abu Abieh, 16, and Amir Abed Fawzi Sawalma, 16. The three are from Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus.

The Israeli military said it detained five “wanted” Palestinians in the West Bank overnight.

The military said a pistol and a homemade explosive device were found in the home of one of the people its forces detained, south of the city of Ramallah.

According to a report from the Palestinian Monitoring Group of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Israeli forces arrested 205 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in November alone.

The military carried out 677 raids the same month, the report said.

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on Israel seizes Bil’in anti-wall protest leader

Israeli vandals attack West Bank mosque

Press TV – December 11, 2009 13:26:45 GMT

Israeli extremists have attacked a mosque in the occupied West Bank, vandalizing the property and desecrating the holy book of Islam, the Qur’an.

Suspected hardline Israeli settlers stormed the holy site in the northern West Bank village of Yasuf at night, set fire to the mosque’s library and sprayed hate messages on the building.

Israeli security authorities said they had failed to arrest the attackers, adding that a probe had been launched into the incident.

Following the overnight attack, Palestinians in the locality rallied in protest at the attack and clashed with Israeli forces, who fired tear gas to disperse the angry protesters.

The incident is the latest in a series of anti-Muslim violence, which has also seen the eviction of Palestinians by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

In October, Israeli vandals attacked the Al-Aqsa Mosque — the Muslim world’s third-holiest site — in Jerusalem Al-Quds, which caused public outrage in the Muslim world and prompted condemnations from the international community.

The recent temporary freeze in construction of illegal settlements by Tel Aviv is believed to have stepped up the acts of violence by Israeli settlers.

The Israeli army had earlier voiced concerns that settlers may attempt to display their opposition to the 10-month settlement freeze by targeting the Palestinian population in the West Bank.

Palestinian officials in the region have expressed dismay over repeated settler attacks, saying Israeli security forces have done little to protect Palestinian civilians from the assailants.

December 11, 2009 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | 1 Comment