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Inside Guantanamo

By JOHN LAFORGE | CounterPunch | December 20, 2013

Four more innocents were released from America’s Robben Island this month. Our offshore penal colony at Guantanamo Bay still holds 158 prisoners, 84 of whom have been cleared for release. The men sent home were never charged with a crime and were cleared four years ago.

The releases may give other prisoners a reason for hope if they heard the news. During hunger strikes last spring, some of which lasted over 80 days, the military raided the prison and put 100 strikers in solitary. No one knows how or what information passes to them.

At the time, when 100 of 166 prisoners were refusing food, the ACLU, the Center for Victims of Torture, Human Rights Watch and 17 other civic groups wrote to Pentagon boss Chuck Hagel that force feeding detainees was “cruel, inhuman and degrading” — the treaty definition of torture — and called for its immediate and permanent cessation. Hagel also got a letter from Jeremy Lazarus, the president of the American Medical Association, who charged that doctors helping force-feed prisoners against their will violated “core ethical values of the medical profession.”

From February to June, the White House presided over the torturous force-feeding of at least 21 bound prisoners, a choking and gagging experience in which plastic tubes are shoved through the nostrils and down the throat while one is cinched to a restraint chair.

Cooler Heads Pronounce, but Don’t Yet Prevail

In the midst of the hunger strike, a diverse group of legal scholars, constitutional lawyers and former high ranking government and military officials published a major report that said Guantánamo demonstrates “… the willingness of the United States to detain significant numbers of innocent people … and subject them to serious and prolonged privation and mistreatment, even torture.”

The nonpartisan Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment’s (CPTF) self-titled “most important” finding — made “without reservation” — was that “[I]t is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture,” and that “[I]t occurred in many instances and across a wide range of theaters.”

The 600-page study, two years in the making, explained “[T]his conclusion is grounded in a thorough and detailed examination of what constitutes torture in many contexts, notably historical and legal. The CPTF examined court cases … in which the United States has leveled the charge of torture against other governments. The United States may not declare a nation guilty of engaging in torture and then exempt itself from being so labeled for similar if not identical conduct.”

The CPTF declared that by authorizing torture, the government “… set aside many of the nation’s venerable values and legal principles.” I wouldn’t use such niceties as “set aside.” Government employees disobeyed, defied, denigrated and mocked the law, particularly the US Torture Statute, the US War Crimes Act and both the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture which are US law under the Constitution. Obama himself said on April 30 that Guantanamo was “a symbol around the world for an America that flouts the rule of law.” On Sept. 24, 2009, he said, “International law is not an empty promise, and treaties must be enforced.”

Constitutional Review Finds High-Level Culpability

The CPTF’s second major conclusion was that the “highest officials bear some responsibility for allowing — and contributing to the spread of — torture.” This bombshell puts the perpetrators in legal jeopardy considering US treaties governing torture. They hold that if an accused government — in this case the United States — fails to investigate and prosecute the credibly accused, other states or the International Criminal Court may be obligated to do so.

The CPTF noted that during a February 2012 visit to Guantanamo by its staff, the prison commander at the time, Rear Adm. David Woods, “was quick to point out the facility’s motto: ‘Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent.’” And I am Marie of Romania.

Karen Greenberg, founder of the Center on National Security at Fordham University’s law school, has said of Guantanamo’s hunger strikers, “They can’t tolerate it any more. It is despair…” Ten years of indefinite imprisonment without charges, and often without mail, phone calls or access to attorneys, is so psychologically devastating that the beleaguered inmates would rather have died than drift in oblivion. In May, prisoner Al Madhwani wrote to a federal court “… Obama must be unaware of the unbelievably inhumane conditions at the Guantanamo Bay prison, for otherwise he would surely do something to stop this torture.”

Obama has ignored torture allegations made against Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales and George Bush — who did prosecutors the favor of publishing an autobiographical confession. When asked if his administration would investigate, Obama said it would be unproductive to “look backwards.” It would also be self-incriminating, since Obama himself has authorized cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment at Guantanamo.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a nuclear watchdog and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, edits its quarterly newsletter, and writes for PeaceVoice.

December 20, 2013 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Goodbye Miliband; Don’t Come Back

By Stuart Littlewood | Palestine Chronicle | March 28, 2013

The tears shed by assorted media at the news of David Miliband’s departure from British politics for a new life in New York had me reaching once again for the sick-bag.

“British politics will be a poorer place without David,” said brother Ed, leader of the Labour Party.

Will it? I’m pleased to see Peter Oborne’s straight-talking piece in The Telegraph putting Miliband D in his place.

“We are, after all, talking about someone who was at best a minor politician, no towering colossus,” writes Oborne. “After Labour’s 1997 election victory he was the poster boy of a new ruling elite which seized control of the commanding heights of British politics. Anti-democratic, financially greedy and morally corrupt, this new political class has done the most enormous damage. Since David Miliband was its standard-bearer, his political career explains a great deal about what has gone wrong with British public life, about why politicians are no longer liked or trusted, and about how political parties have come to be viewed with contempt.”

Oborne makes the point that Miliband set the pattern so many others, including his brother Ed, have followed. “Obsessed by politics at university, he has never had even the faintest connection with the real world. From life in think tanks he became a Labour Party researcher and special adviser, before being parachuted into the north-eastern constituency of South Shields as an MP.”

Miliband wrote Labour’s vacuous 1997 and 2001 election manifestos and was at the heart of the Labour machine when it generated the now notorious falsehoods over Iraq. Oborne also notes the irony of Miliband’s new job heading a humanitarian organisation “when the government of which he was such a loyal member created so many of the world’s disasters”.

We are reminded that Miliband was inexperienced and had no idea how the world worked, so was out of his depth when promoted to the Foreign Office. “During his short, undistinguished career, Mr Miliband has done grave damage to British politics. He is part of the new governing élite which is sucking the heart out of our representative democracy while enriching itself in the process… David Miliband has belittled our politics and he will not be missed.”

And having gone, many will be praying the Miliband brat won’t be back.

He will be forever remembered as the British foreign secretary who shamelessly apologized to Israel’s gangsters for the risk they ran of being arrested if they set foot in London. Back in 2009 Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and retired general Doron Almog, cancelled engagements in London for fear of ‘having their collar felt’. Israel complained bitterly and Miliband promised Lieberman that UK laws relating to ‘universal jurisdiction’ would be changed. He asked Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Justice Minister Jack Straw for urgent action.

When the general election ousted him from the Foreign Office, Miliband’s groveling promise was eagerly taken up by his replacement, William Hague, another fanatical ‘friend of Israel’, who declared that a situation where politicians like Mrs Livni could be threatened with arrest in the UK was “completely unacceptable… We have agreed in the coalition about putting it right, we will put it right through legislation… and I phoned Mrs Livni amongst others to tell her about that and received a very warm welcome for our proposals.”

Never mind that the arrest warrants were issued to answer well-founded criminal charges. Never mind that under ‘universal jurisdiction’ all states that are party to the Geneva Conventions are under a binding obligation to seek out those suspected of having committed grave breaches of the Conventions and bring them, regardless of nationality, to justice. And never mind that there should be no hiding place for those suspected of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Human rights activists resorted to private arrest warrants because the government was in the habit of shirking its duty under the Fourth 1949 Geneva Convention and dragged its feet until the birds had flown.

Bringing a private prosecution for a criminal offence is an ancient right in common law and, in the words of Lord Wilberforce, “a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of the authority.” Lord Diplock, another respected Lord of Appeal, called it “a useful safeguard against capricious, corrupt or biased failure or refusal of those authorities to prosecute offenders against the criminal law”.

And the beauty of the private warrant was that it could be issued speedily.

The servile Miliband’s action disgusted those who will never forget that Tzipi Livni, Israel’s former foreign minister, was largely responsible for the terror that brought death and destruction to Gaza’s civilians during the blitzkrieg known as Operation Cast Lead. Showing no remorse, and with the blood of 1,400 dead Gazans (including 320 children and 109 women) on her hands and thousands more horribly maimed, Livni’s office issued a statement saying she was proud of it. Speaking later at a conference at Tel Aviv’s Institute for Security Studies, she said: “I would today take the same decisions.”

Any British government minister who brings this degree of obsequiousness to his job and is prepared to undermine our justice system in order to make the UK a safe haven for the likes of her, deserves to be judged harshly.

Miliband is also remembered for not having the guts to visit Gaza, or even Iran, while in office. Yet he managed to reach Gaza in 2011 with Save the Children. “I had not been able to visit while in government for security reasons,” he said in an article in The Guardian. What nonsense. The only danger would have been from an air-strike by his psychopathic friends in Tel Aviv or a Mossad assassin. Those risks go with the job. You can’t be an effective foreign secretary wrapped in cotton wool.

He said the purpose of his eventual trip to Gaza was “to get a sense of life… to get a glimpse, albeit brief, of life for the people”. A pity he didn’t do that earlier instead of wielding his ministerial power in ignorance

While David Miliband headed up foreign policy it was frankly embarrassing to be British. What magical transformation has this pipsqueak recently undergone to make him the ideal candidate to run an organization like the International Rescue Committee? With the likes of Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice, Colin Powell, and Henry Kissinger on board, you might wonder about the IRC’s presence in vulnerable countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

No-one is about to forget Albright’s infamous remark about the human misery caused by the intervention and mayhem in Iraq, that “the price is worth it”.

Stuart Littlewood’s book Radio Free Palestine, with Foreword by Jeff Halper, can now be read on the internet by visiting http://www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk.

March 29, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Occupied Lives: They terrorize us in our homes

PCHR | October 3, 2012
Haniya, in her home in al Nussairat.

On Monday, 10 September, 2012, Israeli warplanes launched 2 missiles at a vast tract of land in the west of al-Nussairat refugee camp in the Middle Area of the Gaza Strip. As a result, 2 rooms and a container on the land were destroyed. 10 olive trees and 23 houses were also damaged. Additionally, 7 Palestinian civilians, including 4 children and 2 women, were wounded. This attack targeted civilian objects which is a violation of international law.

Haniya Abdul Hadi Kabaja (60) is one of the women who sustained minor injuries on the night of the attack. She recounts that: “At around 2.00am in the night, we woke up to the sound of shelling. We were all very scared but we went back to sleep. 15 or so minutes later, we heard more shelling and shrapnel hitting surfaces outside. Something hit my face and, when I touched it, I felt myself bleeding. My son, Anas, saw this and he started screaming for his brothers to come and help me. After they offered me first aid, we heard my ten-year-old granddaughter, Reema, crying, and that is when we noticed that she had also been wounded, in her leg.”

An ambulance arrived after a while, and Haniya and her granddaughter were taken to Al Aqsa Martyrs hospital. Their wounds were moderate and they were discharged soon after.

Until now, Haniya and her family have unanswered questions with regard to the attack. They do not know what the exact target was: “All of us were terrified, because the missiles were launched about 100m from where we live. Other people in the neighborhood also got injured by the shrapnel from the missiles. Some windows were smashed and there is clear damage to some of the asbestos roofs. In this area, there have been no incidents since Cast Lead. Nobody really knows why they launched missiles on an empty piece of land, and so close to where people live.”

Since the attack, Haniya’s family has been living in constant fear of further attack. This has had a particularly negative impact on the children: “The attack has really frightened the children. They used to go out after dark to play or to visit relatives who live in neighboring houses. Now, they do not even step outside after darkness falls because they are too scared. They are not the only ones who are scared. Even we, the adults, feel the same way. At the same time, we know that there is nothing we can say against the Israeli occupation. We cannot do anything about it either.”

Haniya’s son, Mohammed (32), hopes to see an end to the attacks on unarmed civilians and calls for the respect of everyone’s rights. “I just want to see the situation change and an end to the Israeli occupation. We are unarmed civilians, yet they follow us and continue to attack and terrorize us in our homes. They hurt my mother and my daughter, yet they had not even done anything. We have not caused problems for anyone and the only thing we demand is our rights, our land and our freedom. We are peaceful people and we want it to remain that way. After all these years of being attacked, we will not stop demanding our rights. Even if they kill all of us and only 10 people remain, we will still demand for those rights.”

The direct targeting of a civilian object constitutes a war crime, as codified in Article 8(2) (b) (ii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Similarly, under Article 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the destruction of private property is prohibited unless rendered absolutely necessary by military operations. Intentionally launching an indiscriminate attack constitutes a war crime as defined in Article 8 (2) (b) of the Rome Statute of the ICC.  Furthermore, according to the principle of proportionality, which is codified in Article 51 (5) (b) of Additional Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions, an attack that may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects or a combination thereof is considered excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

October 4, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Occupied Lives: They terrorize us in our homes

BBC Censors Video Showing Syrian Rebels Forcing Prisoner to Become Suicide Bomber

By Paul Joseph Watson | Infowars | August 23, 2012

The BBC has sensationally censored a news story and a video showing Syrian rebels forcing a prisoner to become a suicide bomber, a war crime under the Geneva Conventions, presumably because it reflected badly on establishment media efforts to portray the FSA as glorious freedom fighters.

The video, a copy of which can be viewed above (the original BBC version was deleted), shows Free Syrian Army rebels preparing a bomb that is loaded onto the back of a truck to be detonated at a government checkpoint in the city of Aleppo.

The clip explains how the rebels have commandeered an apartment belonging to a Syrian police captain. The rebels are seen sneering at photos of the police captain’s family while they proclaim, “Look at their freedom, look how good it is,” while hypocritically enjoying the luxury of the man’s swimming pool.

The video then shows a prisoner who the rebels claim belonged to a pro-government militia. Bruises from torture on the prisoner’s body are explained away as having been metered out by the man’s previous captors. The BBC commentary emphasizes how well the rebels are treating the man, showing them handing him a cigarette.

However, the man has been tricked into thinking he is part of a prisoner exchange program when in reality he is being set up as an unwitting suicide bomber. The prisoner is blindfolded and told to drive the truck towards a government checkpoint.

“What he doesn’t know is that the truck is the one that’s been rigged with a 300 kilo bomb,” states the narrator.

The clip then shows rebels returning disappointed after it’s revealed that the remote detonator failed and the bomb did not explode.

The BBC narrator admits that forcing prisoners to become suicide bombers “would certainly be considered a war crime.”

New York Times reporters who shot the video claim they had no knowledge of the plot. A longer version of the clip is posted on the New York Times You Tube channel. The title of the clip glorifies the rebel fighters as “The Lions of Tawhid”.

Within hours of the story being published, it was subsequently sent down the memory by the BBC. Attempts to reach the original article URL are greeted with a 404 Not Found page.

In addition, a You Tube version of the same video originally posted on the official BBC News 2012 channel was also removed. Although the You Tube page for the video states that it was removed after a “copyright claim by British Broadcasting Corporation” this is a bogus reason, because the video was not uploaded by a third party, it was posted on the official BBC channel, as the screenshot below proves.


“Copyright claim” is a bogus reason for the video’s removal because it originally appeared on the official BBC News Channel, and was not uploaded by a third party.

It seems clear that the only reason for the video to be removed would be because senior BBC news editors felt the story reflected badly on the propaganda campaign to characterize the Syrian rebels as venerable and proud freedom fighters, when in reality as we have documented they have been guilty of massacres, kidnappings, torture and other acts of brutality.

This represents a clear effort to hide evidence of Syrian rebels, who the Obama administration recently pledged to support with taxpayer dollars, engaged in war crimes.

In addition, the fact that the rebels, under the direction of Al-Qaeda fighters, are building bombs and carrying out terrorist attacks is something the NATO-aligned media is keen not to emphasize.

This is by no means the first time the BBC has been caught manipulating the news in an effort to propagandize for western military involvement in Syria.

Back in May we exposed how the BBC has used a years-old photo of dead Iraqi children to depict victims of an alleged government assault in the town of Houla.

The photographer who took the original picture, Marco Di Lauro, posted on his Facebook page, “Somebody is using my images as a propaganda against the Syrian government to prove the massacre.” Di Lauro told the London Telegraph he was “astonished” the BBC had failed to check to authenticity of the image.

Should the copy at the top of this article also be deleted, an alternate version of the BBC video with added commentary under fair use is embedded below.

August 23, 2012 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , , | Comments Off on BBC Censors Video Showing Syrian Rebels Forcing Prisoner to Become Suicide Bomber

Detention and Torture

Obama’s Plan for Indefinite Detentions

By JENNIFER VAN BERGEN and DOUGLAS VALENTINE | December 30, 2010

Author’s Note: With the news of President Obama’s plan to make indefinite detentions a permanent feature of our legal landscape, we thought it apropos to re-publish an updated, edited excerpt from a law review article we wrote in 2006 THE DANGEROUS WORLD OF INDEFINITE DETENTIONS: VIETNAM TO ABU GHRAIB.

Where you find administrative detentions, you are likely to find torture. This connection exists even where it is clear that investigations and screenings leading to such detentions are, as Alberto Gonzales put it, “not haphazard, but elaborate, and careful . . . reasoned and deliberate.”

This reason is simple and can be traced to the elements of administrative detention itself: the absence of human rights safeguards and normal legal guarantees such as due process, habeas corpus, fair trial, confidential legal counsel, and judicial review; vague and confusing definitions, standards, and procedures; inadequate adversarial procedural oversight; excessive Executive Branch power stemming from prolonged emergencies; and the involvement of the Central Intelligence Agency, or other secret, thus unaccountable, Executive Branch agencies.

Without such protections, justice does not work and human rights are jeopardized. As William F. Schultz, Executive Director of Amnesty International, put it:

“[W]e are witnessing not just a series of brutal but fundamentally independent human rights violations committed by disparate governments around the globe. [W]e are witnessing something far more fundamental and far more dangerous. [W]e are witnessing the orchestrated destruction by the United States of the very basis, the fragile scaffolding, upon which international human rights have been built, painstakingly, bit by bit by bit, since the end of World War II.”

This is a remarkable statement that was originally made about the Bush Administration, but it applies equally as well now to the Obama Administration. The system was intentionally broken by the Bush Administration, just as it was by the Johnson and Nixon Administrations during the Vietnam War. And now Obama plans to sanctify this wrong and make it a permanent feature of American law.

Obama’s indefinite detention follows, at least in idea, the precedent set by and codified in the PATRIOT Act, enacted six weeks after 9/11. Section 412, which is still on the books, provides for the “mandatory detention of suspected terrorists.” This section nowhere refers to the detentions as “administrative detentions,” which result from administrative (that is, Executive Branch), not judicial, determinations. Yet this is exactly what they are. And they have been used before. The U.S. government’s internment of Japanese immigrants during the Second World War is perhaps the most recognizable example.

Section 412(a) authorizes the Attorney General to take into custody any alien whom he certifies as a terrorist. The alien may be detained indefinitely, in renewable periods of six months, as long as the Attorney General determines that he is a threat to national security, or endangers some individual or the general public.

In addition to PATRIOT Act detentions, the November 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), which preceded the PATRIOT Act, has been used by the DOJ to justify administrative detentions.

Scholars have raised concerns about the PATRIOT Act detention provisions, as well as detentions under AUMF, which allow the Secretary of Defense to detain designated alien terrorist suspects without the restrictions that Section 412 contains. Additionally, military detentions of U.S. citizens Yaser Esam Hamdi, Jose Padilla, and Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri have raised concerns. President Bush, citing his power as Commander-in-Chief and the laws of war, unilaterally declared these individuals “unlawful enemy combatants” subject to indefinite detention without trial or access to an attorney and without providing for a status determination hearing by a competent tribunal, which is required by the Geneva Conventions. The central concern raised by qualified legal observers about these detentions generally involves the important issues of due process and other constitutional and/or human rights guarantees.

Administrative detentions — sometimes called preventive detentions — are, by definition and practice, sought only during “national emergencies.” The emergency is the rationale for depriving suspected terrorists of adequate due process or human rights safeguards. A declaration of a national emergency is generally made unilaterally by the President and, once declared, the administrative detention laws may stay on the books for decades. This is one of the primary reasons why they are so dangerous, for without any Congressional determination of the beginning or end of hostilities, these inherently anti-democratic laws may be used for purposes of political repression.

However, few legal scholars or government officials have discussed the historically established connection between administrative detentions and torture. The subject only came into public consciousness with the revelation that U.S. soldiers were torturing terrorist suspects at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, and the detention facilities at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba. Since then, American and foreign journalists and human rights activists began to raise suspicions, subsequently borne out, that U.S. soldiers and CIA officers were routinely torturing terrorist suspects at numerous detention centers around the world. Nonetheless, to date, nothing has been done to ameliorate concerns about these detentions.

The conjoining of administrative detentions and torture is sadly by no means new to U.S. Government policies and practices. Specifically, during the Vietnam War, the United States engaged in a massive program of indefinite administrative detentions in South Vietnam of persons considered “dangerous to the national security” that engendered widespread torture and deaths of terrorist suspects.

There are many similarities between the Vietnam detentions and those used in the War on Terror, and those similarities are found not only within the procedures themselves but in the rationales for and policies behind them and even in the conditions of fear that created them.The Vietnam detention procedures provide a clear and compelling flow chart of the web of connections between administrative detentions, intelligence laws, national security courts (i.e. courts intended to deal exclusively with national security concerns), violations of international law (particularly the Geneva Conventions), and torture. These components now also appear in U.S. law and policies in the War on Terror and are continued, codified, and sanctified in Obama’s intended executive order.

One would have thought that a nation which was in large part responsible for the rescue of tens of thousands of Concentration Camp survivors and was a judicial participant in one of the most significant war crimes tribunals in history, the Nuremburg trials, would know better. How American officials could justify the detention camps in Vietnam, knowing about the torture and murders of innocents in them, after having witnessed Hitler’s internment camps and learned of the horrors he perpetrated in them, is an unanswered question. But, after the revelations of Vietnam — which all came out in congressional hearings in 1971 that led to both the repeal of the EDA and ultimately by degrees to “reforms” of the CIA’s Phoenix Program, contributing to the end of that protracted War, — Section 412 of the PATRIOT Act, Bush’s Military Commissions and unlawful enemy combatant designations, and now, Obama’s executive order establishing permanent indefinite detention are inexcusable.

For the full law review article, click here.

Jennifer Van Bergen, J.D., M.S.I.E., is the founder of the 12th Generation Institute, and author of THE TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY: THE BUSH PLAN FOR AMERICA (Common Courage Press, 2004) and Archetypes for Writers: Using the Power of Your Subconscious (Michael Weise Productions, 2007). She is currently working under contract with Bucknell University Press on a biography of Leonora Sansay, an early American novelist who was involved in the Aaron Burr Conspiracy, and on a screenplay about the conspiracy. She can be reached at jennifer.vanbergen@gmail.com.

Douglas Valentine is the author of numerous articles and five books: THE HOTEL TACLOBAN (1984), THE PHOENIX PROGRAM (1990), TDY (2000), THE STRENGTH OF THE WOLF (2004), and THE STRENGTH OF THE PACK (2009) (the latter two are histories of federal drug law enforcement). See: http://www.douglasvalentine.com/.

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December 30, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment