International law under threat

Source

John Bolton

By Lawrence Davidson

Several recent events suggest that global warming is not the only thing threatening our future. As if they are running on parallel tracks, some of the modern institutions that help make for stable societies – the ones that hold back the rise of barbarism – are being weakened even as the atmosphere is heating up and the oceans swell. In pursuit of short-term state or personal interests, some national leaders are violating or ignoring international law and, by doing so, putting us all at long-term risk.

Example 1: Subverting the International Criminal Court

One of the most hopeful developments to follow the catastrophe that was World War II—the war that brought the world the holocaust, the blitzkrieg, the carpet bombing of Europe, and the use of nuclear bombs against large cities – was the extension and strengthening of international law. In 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations, seeking to give such laws real force, called for the establishment of an international criminal court. That call triggered resistance because such a court would necessarily impinge on nation-state sovereignty. It took 54 years before the court was finally convened in order to enforce laws against the committing of war crimes and other evils, such as genocide.

Still, there are some nations that refuse to recognise the court’s jurisdiction. Often these are the states most addicted to the barbaric behaviour that came close to destroying a good part of the globe during the 20th century. These governments now threaten the very workability of the court. Thus, on 28 January 2019 it was reported that “a senior judge has resigned from one of the international courts in The Hague” due to interference and threats coming from both the US and Turkey. The judge’s name is Christoph Flügge.

In the case of the United States, the problem began when the International Criminal Court at the Hague decided to investigate allegations of war crimes, specifically the use of torture, committed by US forces in Afghanistan. At that point President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton (who reminds one of a modern Savonarola when it comes to ideological enforcement), publicly threatened the court’s judges. “If these judges ever interfere in the domestic concerns of the US or investigate an American citizen,” he said, “the American government would do all it could to ensure that these judges would no longer be allowed to travel to the United States  and that they would perhaps even be criminally prosecuted.”

It must be said that (a) torturing Afghanis is not a “domestic concern of the US”, and, all too obviously, (b) Bolton is a deplorable one-dimensional thinker. Bound tightly by a life-long right-wing perspective, he has never been able to get past the concept of nation-state supremacy. This means his perspective is untouched by those lessons of history which have shown the nation-state to be a threat to civilisation itself. Thus, when in 2005, President George W. Bush appointed John Bolton ambassador to the United Nations, it was with the prior knowledge that the man felt nothing but contempt for this international organisation and would disparage it at every turn. At present Bolton has turned out to be just the kind of fellow who fits into the reactionary White House run by Donald Trump.

The leaders of the United States are not the only ones who can purposely undermine international courts. Christoph Flügge tells of another incident wherein the government of Turkey arrested one of its own nationals, Aydın Sefa Akay, who was a judge on the international court at The Hague. At the time, Akay had diplomatic immunity by virtue of his position, a fact that the increasingly statist government in Istanbul ignored. Akay’s crime was to be judged insufficiently loyal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Flügge and his fellow judges strongly protested against the Turkish actions, but they were not supported by the present UN secretary-general, António Guterres (who himself is a former prime minister of Portugal). And, without that support, Akay lost his position as judge and was, so to speak, thrown to the dogs of nation-state arrogance.

Upon resigning, Judge Flügge had some seminal words of warning about the fate of international law. “Every incident in which judicial independence is breached is one too many.” The cases of Turkish and US interference with the International Criminal Court set a fatal precedent “and everyone can invoke it in the future. Everyone can say: ‘But you let Turkey get its way.’ This is an original sin. It can’t be fixed.” Commenting on the threat levelled by John Bolton, Flügge said, “the American threats against international judges clearly show the new political climate… The judges on the court were stunned.” Yet, this behaviour was quite in accord with nation-state aggrandisement and American exceptionalism – national sovereignty stands above international law.

Example 2: Suborning of international police

It is not only the world’s international laws and international court that are being undermined, but also Interpol, the world’s international police force. Nation-state leaders, particularly the dictators who place their interests and preferences above even their own domestic law, now seek to suborn Interpol and use it as a weapon to silence their critics.

The latest example of this comes out of Bahrain. Bahrain is a wealthy monarchical dictatorship in the Persian Gulf. It is run by a Sunni elite minority which systematically represses the country’s Shi’i majority. By doing so, its major “achievement” to date has been to give the religion of Islam a bad name. It is also a staunch US ally, and the US Fifth Fleet is based in that country. If you want to know where much of the US naval forces supporting the Saudi destruction of Yemen come from, it is Bahrain.

So, how is the dictatorship in Bahrain corrupting the world’s international police force? One of the players on Bahrain’s national soccer team, Hakeem al-Araibi, vocally expressed his dissent over the way Bahrain is run. He was then framed for “vandalising a police station”, even though he was playing in a football match, broadcast on TV, at the time of the incident. He was arrested, beaten up in jail, yet still managed to escape to Australia, where he was granted asylum. At this point Bahrain managed to have Interpol issue a fraudulent arrest warrant. When Al-Araibi showed up in Thailand on his honeymoon, he was taken into custody and now awaits possible extradition back to Bahrain, where he may well face torture. By the way, it is a violation of international law to extradite someone to a country where he or she risks being tortured. So far Thailand has not taken advantage of this legal and moral reason to defy the Bahraini monarchy.

This is not an isolated problem. The watchdog organisation Fair Trials has documented multiple cases of the corruption and abuse of Interpol by governments which do not feel themselves bound by the rule of law.

Conclusion

There is little doubt that the 21st century has begun with an assault on both the climatic and legal atmosphere that underpins the world’s stability.

Before 1946 the world was a mess: one hot war after another, economic recessions and depressions, imperialism, colonialism, and racism galore. All of this was grounded in the nation state and its claim of sacred sovereignty. The world experienced a sort of climax to this horror show in the form of Nazi racism and the holocaust, the use of nuclear weapons, and Stalinist Russia’s purges, mass starvations and Gulag exiles.

After World War II, things got better in a slow sort of way. The trauma of the recent past spurred on the formation of international laws, international courts, a universal declaration of human rights, civil rights movements and the like. We also got the Cold War, which, for all its tensions, was a big improvement on hot wars.

Now things are falling apart again, and rest assured that US leaders and their less savoury allies abroad are doing their part in the devolution of peace and justice. Shall we name just a few US names? Well, there is President Trump and his minion John Bolton. They go gaga over thugs passing themselves off as presidents in such nation-states as Egypt, the Philippines and that pseudo-democracy, Israel. There is also Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who has turned into the US version of Cardinal Richelieu when it comes to Washington’s South America foreign policy. He is the one pushing for the overthrow of the legitimate government in Venezuela while simultaneously calling for close relations with the new fascist president of Brazil.

And the list goes on. How do we do this to ourselves? Is it short memories of the wretched past or almost no historical memory at all? Is it some sort of perverse liking for group violence? This is an important question and a perennial one. But now, with global warming upon us and lifestyles soon to be under threat, things are going to get even more messy – and messy social and economic situations are usually good news for barbarians. More than ever, we are going to need uncorrupted international laws, courts and police.

Advertisements

Ex Guantanamo prisoner recounts ordeal and displays GITMO-prisoners’ art

Source

February 09, 2019

Here is an interview of Mansoor Adayfi:

Tales of torture from israel’s prisons

Tales of Torture From Israel’s Prisons

As Israel prepares to worsen conditions for Palestinian prisoners, we asked six former inmates about their experiences.

by &
Palestinian boys raise up their hands with chains, during a protest to show their solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, May 4, 2017 [File: Hussein Malla/AP)

Palestinian boys raise up their hands with chains, during a protest to show their solidarity with hunger striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, May 4, 2017 [File: Hussein Malla/AP)

Earlier this month, Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced plans to “worsen” already horrific conditions for Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s jails.

According to the Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer, there are nearly 5,500 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including 230 children and 54 women. Of that number, 481 prisoners are held without trial – under the guise of an unlawful practice known as “administrative detention”. 

Speaking to reporters on January 2, Erdan disclosed some aspects of his plan, but a sinister context was missing from the story.

The minister said the prisoners will be denied “cooking rights”, yet failed to mention that many prisoners, especially during the first stage of their detention, are tortured and denied food altogether. “The plan also includes preventing members of the Knesset from visiting Palestinian detainees,” Erdan added but did not mention how hundreds of Palestinian prisoners are already denied access to lawyers and family visitations on a regular basis.

There is no reason to doubt the Israeli minister’s words when he vows to worsen conditions for Palestinian prisoners. However, the horrific conditions under which thousands of Palestinians are held in Israeli jails – which itself is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention – are already at a stage that can only be described as inhumane as they fail the minimum standards set by international and humanitarian laws.

No one is as qualified to describe Israeli prison conditions as Palestinian prisoners, who experienced every form of physical and psychological torture, and have spent years, sometimes decades, fending for their humanity every hour of every day.

We spoke to six freed prisoners, including two women and a child, who shared their stories with us, with the hope that their testimonies would help the world understand the true context of Erdan’s latest plan.

I was only 16 when I decided to wear an explosive belt and blow myself up among Israeli occupation soldiers. It was all I could do to avenge Muhammad al-Durrah, the 12-year-old Palestinian child who was brutally killed by Israeli soldiers in front of television cameras in September 2000. When I saw the footage of Muhammad huddling by his father’s side, as soldiers showered them both with bullets, I felt powerless. That poor child. But I was arrested, and those who helped me train for my mission were killed three months after my detention.

Wafa’ Samir Ibrahim al-Bis was born in the Jablaiya refugee camp in Gaza. She was 16-years-old when she was detained on May 20, 2005. She was sentenced to 12-years in prison after she was convicted of attempting to carry out a suicide mission targeting Israeli soldiers. She was released in 2011 in a prisoner swap between the Palestinian Resistance and Israel [Courtesy of Ramzy Baroud and Abdallah Aljamal]

I was tortured for years inside the Ramleh prison’s infamous Cell nine, a torture chamber they designated for people like me. I was hanged from the ceiling and beaten. They put a black bag on my head as they beat and interrogated me for many hours and days. They released dogs and mice in my cell. I couldn’t sleep for days at a time. They stripped me naked and left me like that for days on end. They didn’t allow me to meet with a lawyer or even receive visits from the Red Cross.

They had me sleep on an old, dirty mattress that was as hard as nails. I was in solitary confinement in Cell number nine for two years. I felt that I was buried alive. Once they hanged me for three days nonstop. I screamed as loud as I could, but no one would untie me.

When I was in prison, I felt so lonely. Then one day, I saw a little cat walking among the rooms, so I kept throwing her food so that she would be my friend. Eventually, she started coming inside my cell and would stay with me for hours. When the guards discovered that she was keeping me company, they slit her throat in front of me. I cried for her more than I cried for my own fate.

A few days later, I asked the guard for a cup of tea. She came back and said: “stick your hand out to grab the cup”. I did, but instead she poured boiling water on my hand, causing third-degree burns. I have scars from this incident to this day and I still need help treating my hand.

I cry for Israa’ Ja’abis, whose whole body has been burned yet she remains in an Israeli jail.

I often think of all the women prisoners I left behind.

In May 2015, I wanted to visit my family living in the West Bank. I was missing them terribly as I hadn’t seen them for years. But as soon as I arrived to the Beit Hanoun (Eretz) Crossing, I was detained by Israeli soldiers.

My ordeal on that day started at about 7:30 in the morning. Soldiers searched me in such a humiliating way. They probed every part of my body. They forced me to undress completely. I stayed in that condition till midnight.

In the end, they chained my hands and feet, and blindfolded me. I begged the officer in charge to allow me to call my family because they were still waiting on the other side of the crossing. The soldiers agreed on the condition that I use the exact phrase: “I am not coming home tonight,” and nothing more.

Sana’a Mohammed Hussein al-Hafi was born in the West Bank. She moved to the Gaza Strip after meeting her future husband. She spent 10 months in prison and a further five months under house arrest for transferring money to a ‘hostile entity (Hamas)’ [Courtesy of Ramzy Baroud and Abdallah Aljamal]

Then more soldiers arrived. They threw me in the back of a large military truck. I felt the presence of many dogs and men surrounding me. The dogs barked and the men laughed. I was so scared.

I was taken to the Ashkelon military compound, where I was searched again in the exact same degrading manner, and placed in a very small cell with a dim light. It smelled terrible. It was very cold although it was early summer. The bed was tiny and filthy. The covers too. The soldiers took all of my possessions, including my watch.

I couldn’t sleep, as I was interrogated every few hours. I would sit on a wooden chair for long periods of time to be subjected to the same routine, filled with shouting and insults and dirty language. I was kept in the Ashkelon compound for seven days. They allowed me to shower once, with very cold water.

At night, I heard voices of men and women being tortured; angry shouts in Hebrew and broken Arabic; doors slamming in a most disturbing manner.

At the end of that week, I was transferred to HaSharon prison, where I was relieved to be with other Palestinian female prisoners, some minors, some mothers like me, and some old ladies.

Every two or three days, I was taken out of my cell for more interrogation. I would leave at dawn and return around midnight. Occasionally, I was put in a large military truck with other women and taken to military court. We were either chained individually or to each other. We would wait for hours only to be told that the court session had been postponed to a later date.

In our cells, we struggled to survive under harsh conditions and medical neglect. Once an old woman prisoner collapsed. She had diabetes and was receiving no medical attention. We all started screaming and crying. Somehow, she survived.

I was in prison for ten months. When I was finally released from prison, I was put under house arrest in Jerusalem for another 5 months. I missed my family. I thought about them every hour of every day. No words can describe how harrowing that experience was, to have your freedom taken away, to live without dignity and without rights.

No words.

The day I saw my mother
Fuad Qassim al-Razam

I have experienced both psychological and physical torture in Israeli jails, which forced me to confess to things I did and didn’t do.

Fuad Qassim al-Razam was born in the Palestinian city of Jerusalem. He spent 31 years in prison for killing an Israeli soldier and an armed settler among other charges [Courtesy of Ramzy Baroud and Abdallah Aljamal]

The first phase of detention is usually the most difficult because the torture is most intense and the methods are most brutal. I was denied food and sleep and I was left hanging from the ceiling for hours. At times I was left standing in the rain, naked, tied to a pole, with a bag on my head. I would be left in that condition the whole day, while occasionally getting punched, kicked and hit with sticks by soldiers.

I was forbidden from seeing my family for years, and when I finally was allowed to see my mother, she was dying. An ambulance brought her to Beir Al-Saba’ prison, and I was taken in my shackles to see her. She was in terrible health and could no longer speak. I remember the tubes coming out of her hands and nose. Her arms were bruised and blue from where the needles entered her frail skin.

I knew it would be the last time I would ever see her, so I read some Quran to her before they took me back to my cell. She died 20 days later. I know she was proud of me. When I was released, I was not allowed to read verses from the Quran by her grave as I was deported to Gaza immediately after the prisoner exchange in 2011.

One day I will visit her grave.

‘They burned my genitals’
Mohammed Abul-Aziz Abu Shawish

I was arrested by Israel seven times; the first time I was six-years-old. That was in 1970. Then, they accused me of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. I was arrested again when I was a teenager. That time I was beaten up and an Israeli officer lit a match under my genitals. They stripped my clothes off and placed my underwear in my mouth to muffle my screams. I felt pain when I tried to use the bathroom for many days after that incident.

Mohammed Abul-Aziz Abu Shawish was born in the Nuseirat Refugee camp in Gaza in 1964. His family is originally from Barqa, a village in southern Palestine that was ethnically-cleansed in 1948. He spent 9 years in prison after being charged with possessing a weapon and being a member of the Fatah movement [Courtesy of Ramzy Baroud and Abdallah Aljamal]

My last imprisonment was the longest. I was detained on April 23, 1985, and remained in jail for 9 years to be released after the signing of the Oslo Accords.

Even in prison, our fight for our rights never ceased. We fought through hunger strikes and they fought us back with isolation and torture. As soon as the prison administration would concede to our demands, to end our strike, they would slowly deprive us from everything we had achieved. They would withhold food, prevent family visitations, even prevent us from meeting with our own prison mates. They often confiscated our books and other educational materials for no reason whatsoever.

When I was released on January 8, 1994, I joined the prisoner rehabilitation unit in the Labour Ministry. I tried my best to help my fellow freed prisoners. Since I retired, I wrote a book entitled: Before My Tormentor is Dead, detailing the years of my imprisonment.

I am not a trained writer, I just want the world to know of our plight.

‘They detained my family’
Shadi Farah

I was arrested on December 30, 2015, when I was only 12-years-old. I was released on November 29, 2018. At the time, I was the youngest Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails.

Shadi Farah was arrested in his home in Jerusalem at the age of 12. He was accused of trying to kill Israeli soldiers with a knife they found at his house [Courtesy of Ramzy Baroud and Abdallah Aljamal]

My interrogation took place in the Maskoubiah prison in Jerusalem, specifically in Cell number four. After days of physical torture, sleep deprivation and severe beating, they imprisoned my whole family – my mom and dad and sisters and brothers.

They told me that my family was held captive because of me and they would only be released if I confessed to my crimes. They swore at me with profanity I cannot repeat. They threatened to do unspeakable things to my mom and sisters.

After each torture session, I would return to my cell so desperate to sleep. But then soldiers would wake me up by slapping my face, kicking me with their boots and punching me in the stomach.

I love my family, and when they used to prevent them from visiting me, it broke my heart.

‘Prisoners are heros’
Jihad Jamil Abu-Ghabn

In prison, my jailers tried to break my spirit and take away my dignity, not just through violence, but also through specific techniques meant to humiliate and demoralise me.

Jihad Jamil Abu-Ghabn spent nearly 24 years in Israeli jails for participating in the first Intifada and for being involved in the killing of an Israeli settler. He was released in 2011 [Courtesy of Ramzy Baroud and Abdallah Aljamal]

They often placed a bag with a most foul smell over my head, which led me to vomit repeatedly inside the bag. When the bag was removed, I would be left with a swollen face and a massive headache from the intermittent deprivation of oxygen.

Throughout my interrogation (which lasted for months), they had me sit on a chair with uneven legs for hours on end. I could never find a comfortable position, which left me with permanent pain in my back and neck.

At times they would introduce ‘prisoners’ to my cell, claiming to be genuine members of the Palestinian Resistance. I would later discover that these prisoners were actually collaborators who were trying to trick me into confessing. We called these collaborators assafir (birds).

Palestinian prisoners are heroes. No words can describe their legendary steadfastness and unfathomable sacrifices.

Yousef Aljamal contributed to this article.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance. 

Press TV issues statement on anchor’s detention in US #FreeMarziehHashemi

Press TV Issues Statement on Anchor’s Detention in US

Iranian English-language television news network Press TV has released a statement with regard to the detention and imprisonment of its anchorwoman Marzieh Hashemi in the United States.The statement is as follows:

PressTV would like to hereby express its strong protest at the recent apprehension and violent treatment of Ms. Marzieh Hashemi, born Melanie Franklin in the United States, who is currently serving as an anchor for the English-language television news network.

A female African-American international journalist, a mother and a grandmother, Ms. Hashemi has traveled to the United States to visit her family members, including her brother, who is suffering from cancer. She was, however, arrested at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in St. Louise, Missouri on January 13, 2019 by US police, and transferred by FBI agents to a detention center in Washington, DC.

Ms. Hashemi has told her family in a phone conversation last night that she has been subjected to violent and abusive treatment from the very onset as described below:

Ms. Hashemi is yet to be arraigned or given a reason for her detention and imprisonment. She, herself, is at a loss to know why she should ever face apprehension.

Her family members were kept completely in the dark about her situation for two straight days following the arrest.

Immediately after arrest, she was forced to remove her hijab (the head covering for Muslim women) even though the authorities knew about her being a Muslim. They allowed her only a T-shirt to wear, with her forearms being exposed against Islamic law. She was even photographed in that state.

The authorities running the detention facility have paid no heed to her religious preferences, despite her repeated protests.

She has been forced to use another T-shirt to cover her head so as to remain observant of Islamic values.

She has been denied halal food (food permissible under Islamic law), being offered only pork as meal and not even bread, which she has requested to avoid the meat. Ms. Hashemi has had nothing to eat other than a packet of crackers since her apprehension. The resulting malnutrition, compounded by cold weather conditions, has made her weak and infirm.

Her current feeble health condition necessitates urgent medical attention.

The United States government is accountable for any potential harm or hazard that would affect Ms. Hashemi’s mental or physical condition.

Accordingly, as part of the media community, we expect that all international media outlets set about relaying this affair without delay.

We, further, call for the immediate and unconditional release of Ms. Hashemi, and for the US government to apologize to both the journalist and the international media community for her treatment.

#FreeMarziehHashemi

#Pray4MarziehHashemi

The Saudi Engine of Repression Continues to Run at Full Speed

 

David Ignatius

One hundred days after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pressing ahead with anti-dissident campaigns and remains in regular contact with Saud al-Qahtani, the media adviser whom the CIA believes helped organize Khashoggi’s killing, according to US and Saudi sources.

The Saudi crown prince, far from altering his impulsive behavior or signaling that he has learned lessons from the Khashoggi affair, as the Trump administration had hoped, appears instead to be continuing with his autocratic governing style and a ruthless campaign against dissenters, the US and Saudi sources said this week.

“Domestically, he feels very confident and in control. As long as his base is secure, he feels that nothing can harm him,” says one American who met recently with MBS, as the crown prince is known. One of Britain’s most experienced Saudi-watchers agreed: “He’s completely un-chastened by what has happened. That is worrying for Western governments.”

MBS has been contacting Qahtani and continuing to seek his advice, according to the US and Saudi sources. A Saudi source said Qahtani had also met recently at his Riyadh home with his senior deputies from the royal court’s Center for Studies and Media Affairs, the cyber-command post he ran until shortly after Khashoggi’s death. “I’m being blamed and used as a scapegoat,” Qahtani is said to have told his former aides.

“Qahtani holds a lot of files and dossiers,” says the American who met recently with MBS. “The idea that you can have a radical rupture with him is unrealistic.” A Saudi who is close to the royal court agrees: “There’s stuff [Qahtani] was working on that he may have to finish, or hand over,” he said.

One indication that MBS hasn’t altered his Qahtani-style Internet bullying tactics is an aggressive social media campaign launched this week to attack Khashoggi and Omar Abdulaziz, a dissident living in Canada.

An Arabic hashtag on Twitter surfaced Thursday claiming to offer “Fact” about the two men’s alleged involvement in anti-Saudi conspiracies funded by Qatar. One English-language post showed pictures of the two men with the caption “Jamal and Omar: Qatar’s Agents.”

Also appearing on Twitter was a slick video titled “Qatar System Exposed,” apparently produced by a company with the same name as a Dubai-based studio. The video includes English subtitles alleging that Khashoggi was involved in a plot to “create a new destabilizing Arab Spring to unsettle Arab countries, mainly, Saudi Arabia.”

Another new video argues that The Post shouldn’t have given Khashoggi a platform as a columnist when he was also receiving editing advice on his columns from the head of the Qatar Foundation International, a Qatar-funded group based in Washington.

Ironically, the main evidence offered to support these charges of Khashoggi’s links to Qatar is a Dec. 22 article in The Post by Souad Mekhennet and Greg Miller. The Qatar Foundation link was hardly a secret; I mentioned it in a long column about Khashoggi that appeared on Oct. 12, 10 days after he disappeared in Istanbul.

Even MBS’s strongest supporters in the United States appear concerned by the new social media campaign. Ali Shihabi, the head of the Saudi-backed Arabia Foundation, commented in an email to me Thursday:

“I have no idea who is behind this new campaign, but it certainly does not seem wise.” He argued that despite a “concerted campaign funded by Qatar and others . . . the kingdom’s media organs had so far exercised great self-control since the Jamal tragedy, and I would hope that continues.”

The videos and Web postings in the new campaign all have the professional feel of modern media studios in Dubai. According to a Saudi source, Qahtani recently made two trips to the United Arab Emirates, even though he is supposedly under house arrest in Riyadh. The trips couldn’t be confirmed independently.

The Treasury Department said Nov. 15 in imposing sanctions on Qahtani that he “was part of the planning and execution of the operation” that led to Khashoggi’s death.

The American who recently visited MBS said he cautioned him that top US military and intelligence officials were weighing whether the crown prince was a dictator, like Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, nominally committed to modernization but unreliable, or a solid ally of the United States. “As long as you keep Qahtani, people will say you’re more like Saddam,” this visitor warned.

Senior Saudi officials who have discussed MBS’s continuing contact with Qahtani have urged US patience. “If I try to ban him, [Qahtani] will find another channel,” a senior prince is said to have advised the administration. Meanwhile, the Saudi engine of repression continues to run at full speed.

Source: WP, Edited by website team

Related Articles

The U.S. Has Always Backed Dictators. Trump’s Support for MBS is no Different

In his steadfast support for MBS, Trump is following a long tradition of US support for Arab autocrats, which in turn is used as the reason for violent terrorist organisations to target the US

By Madawi Al-Rasheed

December 14, 2018 “Information Clearing House” –   Last week, US President Donald Trump announced that the close US-Saudi partnership will continue, even after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and a CIA report that pointed the finger at Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) as the one who ordered the killing.

A longstanding US tradition

The president’s statement cited a combination of geostrategic and economic reasons to justify continuing his close alliance with a regime that had practised utter brutality at home and abroad. Trump highlighted the lucrative financial dividends of this partnership to the US economy, based on MBS’s promise of $450bn investment, including $100bn-plus of arms purchases.

The president also asserted that Saudi Arabia was central to containing Iran’s expansion in the Middle East and achieving peace with Israel.

Despite its shockingly frank nature, the president’s statement does not represent a major departure from previous US foreign policy but rather maintains a longstanding principle of supporting Arab dictators for specific strategic and economic reasons. What is different from previous US presidents is Trump’s uncomfortably explicit calculus.

No previous US president has flagged hard cash as the rationale for maintaining close ties with and even support for the Saudi leadership.

But rhetoric aside, Trump is remaining faithful to a longstanding tradition of US foreign policy that privileges economic and strategic interests over moral and ethical issues, sometimes referred to as realpolitik.

In the past, the US has occasionally expressed concern over severe human rights violations by their proteges but few would seriously expect President Trump to be troubled by the crimes of the Saudi regime.

Even if he admits that no one should condone such a murder, he was apparently comfortable endorsing the far-from-credible Saudi explanation for what happened at the consulate. He even provided a possible exit strategy for the Saudis when he said that the murder could be the work of“rogue killers”, thus providing a potential out for MBS, the de facto head of state and the security apparatus in Saudi Arabia.

Empowering dictators

Trump’s latest statement, that business as usual with Saudi Arabia is to be maintained, even if MBS “may or may not” have ordered the murder of Khashoggi, is certainly shocking for some American audiences. But for Arabs in general and Saudis in particular, the statement was expected, to say the least.

It confirmed their strong belief that the US prefers to work with autocrats than encourage them to democratise or at least restrain themselves from suffocating their people with draconian measures ranging from detention to murder.

US support for Arab dictators has been asserted as the casus belli by the most violent terrorist organisations to target the US. Osama bin Laden’s justification for hitting the “far enemy”, namely the US that supports the Saudi regime only echoed previous slogans of Arab nationalists, socialists and pro-democracy forces that blamed the US for the excesses of their regimes.

In their logic, US support empowers dictators not only through the transfer of the technology of death, surveillance and torture, but also morally and globally.

Even Trump himself admitted that without US support, the Saudi regime will collapse in two weeks. Former US intelligence officer Bruce Riedel confirmed that without US and UK support, the Saudis will not be able to continue the war in Yemen.

The likes of Bin Laden strongly believed this narrative long before it was uttered by the US president. Consequently, his network diverted its struggle against the near enemy to the far one and precipitated a global terrorist crisis that keeps resurfacing under different names. The Islamic State group (IS) was the most recent incarnation of this phenomenon but may not be the last.

Many Americans understandably feel uncomfortable with the president’s blunt words as they cling to a myth that American foreign policy should reflect American values, especially when a high-profile murder by a close partner is concerned.

However, like so-called ‘American exceptionalism’, American values, in the form of respect of civil, political and human rights, have not been an obvious principle guiding American foreign policy in the Arab world.

Also, such values are being eroded and undermined in the US itself under the ultra-nationalist and populist rhetoric of the current president.

The wrath of the people

Previous US presidents may not have liked Arab dictators but nonetheless lent them support, often in the form of military sales and assistance. The list is long.

Many Arab autocrats had the full support of previous American administrations despite the fact that domestically they violated their own peoples’ rights, including Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Zine Abedine Ben Ali of Tunisia, King Hamad bin Al-Khalifa of Bahrain, and at one moment Muammar Qaddafi of Libya came close to being an ally just before he faced an uprising in 2011

Until his fall in 1979, the US granted the Shah of Iran its ultimate support by making him the “policeman of the Gulf” to ward off and contain the spread of communism and nationalism at the time. His dramatic fall at the hands of his own people was shocking for both the US and its Western allies.

The message to the US at the time could not have been clearer: no amount of US support can protect a dictator from the wrath of his own people when the right moment comes. In fact, the US could not even protect its own Tehran Embassy where over 50 diplomats were held hostage for 444 days, an incident that four decades later still shapes and haunts US thinking about Iran.

Yet unconditional US support had always been the privilege of Saudi monarchs. The love affair with Saudi kings is based on expediency and interest rather than passionate conviction. US support was neither shaken nor reconsidered, at least in public, even after 15 Saudi hijackers attacked the Twin Towers in New York on 9/11

The US administration at the time meandered and left it to the US media and civil society to pressure the Saudi regime to change its policy of spreading lethal religious interpretations that had inspired a whole generation of Muslims across the globe and justified terrorism.

It is a cruel irony for the victims of this attack that Trump now considers the Saudi regime an indispensable partner against terrorism.

The face of Saudi Arabia

Even if Americans are not entirely comfortable with their government’s foreign policy of complete neglect for human rights and even direct support for MBS, despite his latest murderous adventure abroad, this is as nothing compared with Saudis living under the reality of one-man rule.

As MBS became the sole face of Saudi Arabia, in control of economic, military, security and social dimensions of government, he has exhibited complete disrespect for the basic semblance of tolerance towards critics, dissidents and activists.

Saudi Arabia has hardly been a safe haven for dissent but the magnitude of MBS’s ambition to reach the top of the royal hierarchy has turned Saudi Arabia into a murderous nightmare for anyone associated with dissent.

Under his orders, potential rival princes were detained, and a nascent feminist movement was stifled and its remaining advocates imprisoned and tortured according to a recent Amnesty report. Intellectuals and religious clerics were also imprisoned.

Prisoners of Conscie@m3takl_en

SEVERE TORTURE in the prison has caused lately the death of:
Shiekh Suleiman al-Dweesh
Journalist Turki al-Jasser
We warn of a possible deterioration and a possible death of one of the female activists who were tortured and sexually harassed !

97 people are talking about this
Vague charges such as communicating with foreign agents, treason, and undermining the image of the state are mentioned as justification for detention. These charges are more reminiscent of Stalin’s terror than a benevolent monarchy that Saudi propaganda would have us believe it is.

Almost all detained Saudi intellectuals are charged with treason and of being agents of foreign governments. From Salman al-Odah to economist Essam al-Zamil and feminist Lujain al-Huthloul, the word treason looms large and may lead to the death penalty. In fact, the Saudi public prosecutor called for such punishment to be inflicted on those detainees. The infamous office of the public prosecutor is also in charge of the investigation of Khashoggi’s murder.

Seeds of terror

Being “an enemy of the state” – to use Trump’s reiteration of what Saudi officials had told him about Khashoggi – is now a common crime investigated by appointed judges who enjoy no independence whatsoever. Trump seems comfortable with such a statement. Perhaps “enemy of the state” reflects or mirrors his own thinking about anybody who criticises a president, a king or a crown prince.

Saudis know very well that US support for MBS will not waiver as they are fed on propaganda that money buys everything – from mighty fighter jets used against their poorest Yemeni neighbours, to the US president’s silence over one of the most horrific crimes committed against a journalist.

Trump will cling to MBS even if the latter becomes more burdensome. If there is a chance for so-called “American values” to become relevant to foreign policy, it is the US Congress that will have to push for a reconsideration of the age-old US support for dictators. This should spring not out of concern for the safety and security of the Saudi people, but for their own American national security.

Congress must know that under the dark and repressive cloak of MBS, the flamboyant and illusory economic plans, and the veneer of social liberalisation, the seeds of terror are sown. In the past this terror has spilled over and reached the US itself. For the present, there is little to assure the American public that it won’t happen again.

– Professor Madawi al-Rasheed is a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics. She has written extensively about the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalisation, religious transnationalism and gender. On Twitter: @MadawiDr

This article was originally published by Middle East Eye” 

The Bushes’ ‘Death Squads’

The Bushes’ ‘Death Squads’

George H.W. Bush was laid to rest on Wednesday but some of his murderous policies lived on through his son’s administration and until this day, as Robert Parry reported on January 11, 2005.

How George W. Bush Learned From His Father

By Robert Parry
Special to Consortium News

By refusing to admit personal misjudgments on Iraq, George W. Bush instead is pushing the United States toward becoming what might be called a permanent “counter-terrorist” state, which uses torture, cross-border death squads and even collective punishments to defeat perceived enemies in Iraq and around the world.

Since securing a second term, Bush has pressed ahead with this hard-line strategy, in part by removing dissidents inside his administration while retaining or promoting his protégés. Bush also has started prepping his younger brother Jeb as a possible successor in 2008, which could help extend George W.’s war policies while keeping any damaging secrets under the Bush family’s control.

As a centerpiece of this tougher strategy to pacify Iraq, Bush is contemplating the adoption of the brutal practices that were used to suppress leftist peasant uprisings in Central America in the 1980s. The Pentagon is “intensively debating” a new policy for Iraq called the “Salvador option,” Newsweek magazine reported on Jan. 9.

The strategy is named after the Reagan-Bush administration’s “still-secret strategy” of supporting El Salvador’s right-wing security forces, which operated clandestine “death squads” to eliminate both leftist guerrillas and their civilian sympathizers, Newsweek reported. “Many U.S. conservatives consider the policy to have been a success – despite the deaths of innocent civilians,” Newsweek wrote.

Central America Veterans

The magazine also noted that a number of Bush administration officials were leading figures in the Central American operations of the 1980s, such as John Negroponte, who was then U.S. Ambassador to Honduras and is now U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

Other current officials who played key roles in Central America include Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Central American policies at the State Department and who is now a Middle East adviser on Bush’s National Security Council staff, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a powerful defender of the Central American policies while a member of the House of Representatives.

The insurgencies in El Salvador and Guatemala were crushed through the slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians. In Guatemala, about 200,000 people perished, including what a truth commission later termed a genocide against Mayan Indians in the Guatemalan highlands. In El Salvador, about 70,000 died including massacres of whole villages, such as the slaughter carried out by a U.S.-trained battalion against hundreds of men, women and children in and around the town of El Mozote in 1981.

El Mozote massacre. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Reagan-Bush strategy also had a domestic component, the so-called “perception management” operation that employed sophisticated propaganda to manipulate the fears of the American people while hiding the ugly reality of the wars. The Reagan-Bush administration justified its actions in Central America by portraying the popular uprisings as an attempt by the Soviet Union to establish a beachhead in the Americas to threaten the U.S. southern border.

[For details about how these strategies worked and the role of George H.W. Bush, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.]

More Pain

By employing the “Salvador option” in Iraq, the U.S. military would crank up the pain, especially in Sunni Muslim areas where resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq has been strongest. In effect, Bush would assign other Iraqi ethnic groups the job of leading the “death squad” campaign against the Sunnis.

“One Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Perhmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with discussions,” Newsweek reported.

Newsweek quoted one military source as saying, “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving the terrorists. … From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.”

Citing the Central American experiences of many Bush administration officials, we wrote in November 2003 – more than a year ago – that many of these Reagan-Bush veterans were drawing lessons from the 1980s in trying to cope with the Iraqi insurgency. We pointed out, however, that the conditions were not parallel. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Iraq: Quicksand & Blood.”]

In Central America, powerful oligarchies had long surrounded themselves with ruthless security forces and armies. So, when uprisings swept across the region in the early 1980s, the Reagan-Bush administration had ready-made – though unsavory – allies who could do the dirty work with financial and technological help from Washington.

Iraqi Dynamic

A different dynamic exists in Iraq, because the Bush administration chose to disband rather than co-opt the Iraqi army. That left U.S. forces with few reliable local allies and put the onus for carrying out counterinsurgency operations on American soldiers who were unfamiliar with the land, the culture and the language.

Those problems, in turn, contributed to a series of counterproductive tactics, including the heavy-handed round-ups of Iraqi suspects, the torturing of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, and the killing of innocent civilians by jittery U.S. troops fearful of suicide bombings.

The war in Iraq also has undermined U.S. standing elsewhere in the Middle East and around the world. Images of U.S. soldiers sexually abusing Iraqi prisoners, putting bags over the heads of captives and shooting a wounded insurgent have blackened America’s image everywhere and made cooperation with the United States increasingly difficult even in countries long considered American allies.

Beyond the troubling images, more and more documents have surfaced indicating that the Bush administration had adopted limited forms of torture as routine policy, both in Iraq and the broader War on Terror. Last August, an FBI counterterrorism official criticized abusive practices at the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more,” the official wrote. “When I asked the M.P.’s what was going on, I was told that interrogators from the day prior had ordered this treatment, and the detainee was not to be moved. On another occasion … the detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.”

Despite official insistence that torture is not U.S. policy, the blame for these medieval tactics continues to climb the chain of command toward the Oval Office. It appears to have been Bush’s decision after the Sept. 11 attacks to “take the gloves off,” a reaction understandable at the time but which now appears to have hurt, more than helped.

TV World

 

George W Bush as an infant with father George HW Bush at Yale University. (George Bush Presidential Library)

Many Americans have fantasized about how they would enjoy watching Osama bin Laden tortured to death for his admitted role in the Sept. 11 attacks. There is also a tough-guy fondness for torture as shown in action entertainment – like Fox Network’s “24” – where torture is a common-sense shortcut to get results.

But the larger danger arises when the exceptional case becomes the routine, when it’s no longer the clearly guilty al-Qaeda mass murderer, but it is now the distraught Iraqi father trying to avenge the death of his child killed by American bombs.

Rather than the dramatic scenes on TV, the reality is usually more like that desperate creature in Guantanamo lying in his own waste and pulling out his hair. The situation can get even worse when torture takes on the industrial quality of government policy, with subjects processed through the gulags or the concentration camps.

That also is why the United States and other civilized countries have long banned torture and prohibited the intentional killing of civilians. The goal of international law has been to set standards that couldn’t be violated even in extreme situations or in the passions of the moment.

Yet, Bush – with his limited world experience – was easily sold on the notion of U.S. “exceptionalism” where America’s innate goodness frees it from the legal constraints that apply to lesser countries.

Bush also came to believe in the wisdom of his “gut” judgments. After his widely praised ouster of Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001, Bush set his sights on invading Iraq. Like a hot gambler in Las Vegas doubling his bets, Bush’s instincts were on a roll.

Now, however, as the Iraqi insurgency continues to grow and inflict more casualties on both U.S. troops and Iraqis who have thrown in their lot with the Americans, Bush finds himself facing a narrowing list of very tough choices.

Bush could acknowledge his mistakes and seek international help in extricating U.S. forces from Iraq. But Bush abhors admitting errors, even small ones. Plus, Bush’s belligerent tone hasn’t created much incentive for other countries to bail him out.

Instead Bush appears to be upping the ante by contemplating cross-border raids into countries neighboring Iraq. He also would be potentially expanding the war by having Iraqi Kurds and Shiites kill Sunnis, a prescription for civil war or genocide.

Pinochet Option

There’s a personal risk, too, for Bush if he picks the “Salvador option.” He could become an American version of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet or Guatemala’s Efrain Rios Montt, leaders who turned loose their security forces to commit assassinations, “disappear” opponents and torture captives.

Like the policy that George W. Bush is now considering, Pinochet even sponsored his own international “death squad” – known as Operation Condor – that hunted down political opponents around the world. One of those attacks in September 1976 blew up a car carrying Chilean dissident Orlando Letelier as he drove through Washington D.C. with two American associates. Letelier and co-worker Ronni Moffitt were killed.

With the help of American friends in high places, the two former dictators have fended off prison until now. However, Pinochet and Rios Montt have become pariahs who are facing legal proceedings aimed at finally holding them accountable for their atrocities.

[For more on George H.W. Bush’s protection of Pinochet, see Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

One way for George W. Bush to avert that kind of trouble is to make sure his political allies remain in power even after his second term ends in January 2009. In his case, that might be achievable by promoting his brother Jeb for president in 2008, thus guaranteeing that any incriminating documents stay under wraps.

President George W. Bush’s dispatching Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to inspect the tsunami damage in Asia started political speculation that one of the reasons was to burnish Jeb’s international credentials in a setting where his personal empathy would be on display.

Though Jeb Bush has insisted that he won’t run for president in 2008, the Bush family might find strong reason to encourage Jeb to change his mind, especially if the Iraq War is lingering and George W. has too many file cabinets filled with damaging secrets.

The late investigative reporter Robert Parry, the founding editor of Consortium News, broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. His last book, America’s Stolen Narrative, can be obtained in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

%d bloggers like this: