UK Remains Silent as Al-Khalifa Court Confirms Death Sentences on Social Media

UK Remains Silent as Al-Khalifa Court Confirms Death Sentences on Social Media

By Staff, Agencies 

Amid sounding silence from all over the globe, Bahrain’s highest court has upheld death sentences against pro-democracy protesters, Mohammed Ramadhan and Hussein Moosa.

The two men, who were both tortured by security services and convicted on the basis of torture confessions, could now be executed at any time.

Mohammed’s wife Zainab reported that she was denied entry to the courtroom. The verdict was announced by the Bahraini Public Prosecutor’s Office on Instagram and Twitter.

The UK Government had declined to make public representations to Bahrain ahead of the Court of Cassation’s verdict, despite demands from MPs and peers of all parties to intervene. 

Sir Peter Bottomley, Father of the House, wrote to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab asking him to “urgently call for the quashing of Mohammed and Hussein’s death sentences.” More than 4,000 people wrote to their MPs asking them to raise the cases.

Since 2012, Britain has provided £6.5 million of technical assistance to Bahrain, including training the Bahraini Ombudsman and Special Investigations Unit [SIU], two institutions which failed to properly investigate Ramadhan and Moosa’s torture.

The two men were granted a case review, and their original death sentences overturned, after they made credible revelations that they had been tortured. In January 2020, Bahrain’s high court re-imposed their death sentences, stating that the SIU investigation had shown that Moosa’s confession, implicating Ramadhan, was not obtained through torture and could be relied upon.

An assessment by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims [IRCT] concluded that the SIU’s investigation “fails to meet the minimum professional standards and minimum international legal standards to which the Kingdom of Bahrain is subject” and raised additional concerns the SIU is neither independent, nor impartial. The IRCT also found that the 2020 court judgment was “critically flawed.”

In declining to take action before the verdict, UK’s Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly committed to raise the cases if the death penalty was handed down, telling the House: “I assure her that if the death penalties are upheld through the Court of Cassation process, the UK will publicly and loudly remind Bahrain of our opposition to the death penalty, and we will continue to seek to have it set aside.”

Reprieve Director Maya Foa said: “What more evidence does the UK Government need that its soft-touch approach to protecting human rights in Bahrain has failed? The UK must now loudly and publicly intervene to save Mohammed and Hussein’s lives, as promised, and call for their sentences to be commuted. Now is the moment to make clear that the Government cannot and will not continue to fund institutions that whitewash torture and enable death sentences.”

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said: “Today’s verdict is yet another dark stain in the struggle for human rights in Bahrain, demonstrating the regime’s iron grip over the country’s corrupt judiciary. This horrendous injustice could not have happened without the tacit acceptance of Bahrain’s western allies.”

SECRET FILES REVEAL TURKISH INTELLIGENCE OPERATIONS IN GERMANY, DENMARK, THE NETHERLANDS AND SWEDEN

South Front

18.05.2020 

Secret Files Reveal Turkish Intelligence Operations In Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands And Sweden
The headquarters of Turkey’s national intelligence organization

Several documents marked “secret” which were obtained by Nordic Monitor have revealed details of illegal surveillance activities of critics based in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden carried out by Turkey’s intelligence services.

The documents, dated 19 March 2019, show that Turks resident in the countries have been closely monitored due to their critical views of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The intelligence was used by Turkish authorities to initiate criminal prosecutions against critics, prepare extradition requests and file Interpol notices.

Turkey has been accused of abusing Interpol’s law enforcement mechanisms to silence Erdoğan critics from all segments of Turkish society. According to related reports, Turkey had sought Red Notices for around 60,000 individuals in 2016. Turkish police have also been accused of manipulating Interpol’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (STLD) database for political purposes, filing fraudulent missing, lost or revoked passports and travel documents to invalidate the papers of critics and opponents of the Turkish government.

Consequently, Interpol prohibited the use of its communications channels to interact on any issue that concerned the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey because it contravened the provisions of Article 3 of Interpol’s constitution. Article 3 “strictly forbids the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.”

Critics of the Erdoğan government, especially members of the Gülen movement, have been facing surveillance, harassment, threats of death and abduction since at least 2014, when then-Prime Minister and now President Erdoğan began to suspect the group of being involved in plots to overthrow the government. In turn, Erdoğan’s critics accuse him and State officials of inventing false plots and filing fraudulent charges against opponents to cover up or distract media attention from their own errors and troubles, ranging from claims of widespread corruption (including among the president’s family and closest political and business associates) to Turkey’s dangerous and disastrous decision to support of at least some of the terrorist groups that have been ravaging the northern parts of Syria.

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SAA Units Find Weapons, Caves & Tunnels in Cleanup; Erdogan’s Terrorists Breach CoH 19 Times

 

weapons and munition found by the SAA in a former clothing factory
Imagine a western clothing factory stripped of equipment & turned into a bomb-making plant.

SAA units cleaning up areas liberated from al Qaeda terrorists have, as usual, found large stashes of weapons, stolen manufacturing plants having equipment replaced with bomb-making, and more caves and tunnels. Erdogan’s takfiri have breached the Cessation of Hostilities agreement in the Idlib de-escalation zone nineteen (19) times since 00:01 6 March — though Team Erdogan only listed one (1).

Among the breaches by the Erdogan regime takfiri savages announced on 7 March, were four rockets fired into the villages of Hazarin and Aldar-Alkaber, southern Idlib countryside. The result of the bombings were only material damages.

Also on 7 March, the swamp drunk Trump regime illegally delivered another military shipment to al Qaeda in Syria; from SANA: “The US occupation forces on Saturday sent a new convoy of trucks loaded with military and logistical reinforcements to the Syrian territories in another breach of international law.

“Local sources said that the 10 trucks have entered Syrian territories, coming from Iraq through al-Waleed illegal crossing point, and moved from al-Ya’aroubyia to the US occupation base at Kharab-Aljer airport in al-Malkyia area in Qamishli countryside.”

Kelly Craft, American diplomat who breached both the UN Charter and international law in her recent visit to Turkey and her illegal entry into Syria, bragged that the US had spent 10 billion (with a “b”) dollars in the SAR since the beginning of the NATO Spring against the Levantine country, adding another $108 million to the kitty. At the time of Clinton’s SoS tenure, the Obama administration had sent almost one billion in aid to the terrorist ‘rebels.’

American infrastructure is collapsing. People CrowdFund for medical bills. Homelessness is epidemic. Nonetheless, US has spent $10 Billion to destroy Syria.

After ridding neighborhoods of human pathogens, Syrian military units — including sappers — must do a thorough cleansing of the regions, to safely remove the gifts of landmines and IEDs the savages always leave behind, before civilians can safely return to their homes, or what may be left of them.

On 6 March, another large cache of NATO weapons — including US TOWs — was found in the recently liberated Saraqib.

Army units discovered three takfiri savages hideouts in the Kafr Hamra region of Aleppo countryside, on 6 March. Where once there had been clothing and textile dyeing factories, had been deformed into weapons manufacturing sites, looted of all original equipment (the human pathogens have been looting Syrian infrastructure and selling equipment cheaply, to Turkey, since 2012) and now abandoned. Large quantities of missiles, mortars, IEDs, and even the Jahannam [hell] cannons were found where once sewing machines and textile equipment once existed.

In order for those who never heard of the Hell Cannon, we share a video from 2016, which shows how dear freedom is to NATO’s beloved rebels, how only three of its bombs destroyed a six floor apartment building while an Islam-hating Wahhabi blasphemes as though he were in a particular throe:

Some of our readers may recognize a terrorist flag stamped on one of the buildings; Syria News screengrabbed it for a side-by-side group photo showing diversity among al Qaeda factions of human pathogens, not one of which would be tolerated in any NATO country:

Also on 6 March, not long after the CoH went into effect, Syrian air defenses destroyed two drones in Jableh, which were headed to the military base in Hmeimim.

— Miri Wood

Related News

117 Physicians From 18 Countries Demand Assange’s ‘Torture’ be Ended ‘Before It’s Too Late’

by Mohamed Elmaazi

Julian Assange has been tortured, according to experts, and has yet to receive the proper medical attention he requires despite his fast approaching extradition hearings. The WikiLeaks publisher faces up to 175 years in prison in the US and there is concern that his condition will prevent him from properly participating in his defence.

The pre-eminent medical journal The Lancet has published a letter from 117 physicians and psychologists from around the world demanding an “end to the psychological torture” of Julian Assange.

“Since doctors first began assessing Mr. Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2015, expert medical opinion and doctors’ urgent recommendations have been consistently ignored,” the letter, organised by a group of medical professionals known as Doctors for Assange and published on 17 February, says.

In May 2019 UN torture expert Nils Melzer, along with two other medical experts who specialise in assessing torture victims, concluded that the WikiLeaks founder exhibited symptoms of “psychological torture”.

​Melzer has made clear that psychological torture “is not torture light” and he is due to submit a report on psychological torture to the UN by the end of February.

Assange’s first set of substantive extradition hearings will begin on 24 February and is expected to be held in Woolwich, South London near Belmarsh maximum security prison where he is being held. Until recently the publisher was kept in solitary confinement in the medical wing of the prison, though lobbying by his lawyers, campaigners and fellow prisoners resulted in him being recently transferred to a populated wing at Belmarsh.

The medical experts “condemn the torture of Assange” and the continued denial “of his fundamental right” to appropriate healthcare.

“This politicisation of foundational medical principles is of grave concern to us, as it carries implications beyond the case of Julian Assange. Abuse by politically motivated medical neglect sets a dangerous precedent, ultimately undermining our profession’s impartiality, commitment to health for all, and obligation to do no harm”, the letter reads.

Marise Payne, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, was also sent a copy of the letter. This coincides with the arrival of Australian MPs Andrew Wilkie and George Robert Christensen and who travelled to the UK to visit Assange, speak to the UN torture expert and UK MPs and lobby for Assange’s release. The covering letter to Minister Payne called on her to “act decisively now” to secure Assange’s release.

“Our appeals are simple”, the authors of the letter published in The Lancet write, “we are calling upon governments to end the torture of Mr. Assange and ensure his access to the best available healthcare, before it is too late”.

They also call out to other medical professionals to join them.

Assange faces up to 175 years in prison in the US on Espionage related charges relating to his role in publishing classified documents. The publications, notably the Iraq and Afghan war logs, revealed war crimes, committed by US-led troops, along with other forms of criminality and corruption.

Historic US Bill Would Outlaw «Israel» Aid Used To Abuse Children

15-11-2017 | 15:59

Ten members of Congress are cosponsoring a bill to bar the US from financially supporting human rights abuses of Palestinian children by the “Israeli” military.

Palestinian boy arrested by

The Promoting Human Rights by Ending Military Detention of Palestinian Children Act, introduced on Tuesday, is the first ever bill to prioritize the human rights of Palestinian children as a condition for US support, according to campaigners.

The bill requires the Secretary of State to annually certify that no US funds allocated to the “Israeli” entity will have been used to “support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children.”

The legislation would block funds used by the entity to inflict “torture or cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment,” “physical violence, including restraint in stress positions,” “hooding, sensory deprivation, death threats or other forms of psychological abuse.”

It would also target solitary confinement, administrative detention, denial of access to parents or lawyers during interrogations and “confessions obtained by force or coercion.”

It add that while “children under the age of 12 cannot be persecuted in ‘Israeli’ military courts,” the “Israeli” military has in the past detained children under that age for interrogations lasting hours. The sponsors rely on information from Human Rights Watch and the United Nations, as well as on the State Department’s annual human rights report.

They note that the State Department’s 2016 report mentioned “a significant increase in detentions of minors” and accused the “Israeli” authorities of having Palestinian minors sign confessions written in Hebrew, which most of them could not read.

The bill sends a clear message to “Israeli” officials “that widespread ill-treatment of Palestinian child detainees must end and is a direct challenge to the systemic impunity enjoyed by ‘Israeli’ forces” in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Parker told The Electronic Intifada.

The legislation was proposed by Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, who in 2015 wrote a letter asking the previous secretary of state, John Kerry, to take action on the detention of Palestinian minors.

“‘Israel’s’ military detention of Palestinian children is an indefensible abuse of human rights. I hope this letter results in State Department pressure on the Government of ‘Israel’ to end this systemic abuse immediately,” McCollum wrote.

A number of members of Congress who signed that letter in 2015 have now joined as co-sponsors to McCollum’s legislation. They include House Democrats Earl Blumenauer (Oregon), Peter DeFazio (Oregon), Danny Davis (Illinois), John Conyers (Michigan) and Raul Grijalva (Arizona).

The fact that the legislation drew support from 10 Democrats overall, before being formally introduced in the House, is seen as a sign of success for pro-Palestinian activists in the United States, even if the legislation does not pass in the end.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team

Crimes Against Humanity: The British Empire

Source

By Paul Gregoire,

First published by Sydney Criminal Lawyers and Global Research in July 2017.

It was the largest empire ever to have existed. And as the saying used to go, the sun never sets on the British Empire. At its height in 1922, the colonial power was lording it over a fifth of the world’s population and for many of them, the sun never rose again.

Under the policies of British colonialism, people around the globe were subjected to mass famines, atrocious conditions in concentration camps, and brutal massacres at the hands of imperialist troops. The Brits also played an integral role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Although the atrocities of the British Empire are well documented, the myth of the noble colonising power continued into recent decades.

The Migrated Archives

During proceedings in the British High Court in 2010, University of Warwick historian David M Anderson submitted a statement referring to 1,500 files that went missing from Kenya as British rule in the region was coming to an end.

This led the British government to concede that they had hidden or disposed of those files, and many others at a high-security facility north of London. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was hiding around 600,000 historical documents in breach of the 1958 UK Public Records Act.

The stash included around 20,000 undisclosed files from 37 former British colonies. Indeed, it’s common knowledge that as the British colonial edifice was disintegrating, administrators of the colonies were told to either burn their documents or try and smuggle them out.

The legal proceedings where Mr Anderson made his revelations related to a case brought against the British government by three elderly Kenyans who claimed they’d been tortured and abused by the colonial authorities during the British occupation of their country.

The British gulag in Kenya

The British first moved into East Africa in the late 19th century, and Kenya was declared a Crown colony in 1920. In the 1940s, after half a century of British occupation, a small group of Kikuyu people – the country’s largest ethnic group – formed the Mau Mau movement and vowed to oppose colonial rule.

As word spread, Mau Mau resistance grew and they began knocking off colonial officers and local loyalists. In October 1952, Governor Evelyn Baring declared a state of emergency, which held until 1960.

In 1964, the colonial army began erecting a network of concentration camps. Historians estimate that 150,000 to 1.5 million Kikuyu people were detained. Conditions within the camps were atrocious, and people were systematically beaten and sexually assaulted during questioning.

The grandfather of Barack Obama, Hussein Onyango Obama suffered severe mistreatment in the camp where he was held, which included having pins forced under his fingernails.

The British government, after being continually defeated in the High Court, agreed to settle the Mau Mau case in 2013.

On June 6 that year, then UK foreign secretary William Hague announced 5,000 survivors would each receive £3,800 payment, and he also expressed the nation’s sincere regrets to Kenyans who were subjected to “torture and other forms of ill-treatment at the hands of the colonial administration.”

The desecration in India

It’s said that India was the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. The British East India Company began making avenues into the subcontinent in the 17th century, and India was established as a Crown colony in 1858.

The British Raj systematically transferred the wealth of the region into their own coffers. In the north eastern region of Bengal, “the first great deindustrialisation of the modern world” occurred.

The prosperous two centuries-old weaving industry was shut down after the British flooded the local market with cheap fabric from northern England. India still grew the cotton, but the Bengali population no longer spun it, and the weavers became beggars.

India suffered around a dozen major famines under British rule, with an estimated 12 to 29 million Indians starving to death.

The Orissa famine occurred in north eastern India in 1866. Over one million – or one in three local people – perished. As the region’s textile industry was destroyed, more people were pushed into agriculture, and were dependent on the monsoon.

That year, the monsoon was weak. Crops didn’t grow and many starved to death. The colonial administration didn’t intervene as the popular economic theory of the time reasoned that the market would restore proper balance, and the famine was nature’s way of responding to overpopulation.

When the British finally got out of India, they simply drew a line down the map and partitioned the subcontinent into India and Pakistan. The move led to the mass migration of around 10 million people, and when it escalated into sectarian violence an estimated one million lost their lives.

A southern invasion

The British began invading Australia in 1788, under the pretext that it was terra nullis: a land with no owners. The High Court of Australia abolished the legal fiction of terra nullius in its 1992 Mabo versus Queensland (No 2) ruling.

It was a landmark decision, but not everyone was surprised that the court found that there were actually sovereign people living on the land prior to the arrival of the British. At that time, there were an estimated 750,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living across the continent.

The First Fleet arrived in the vicinity of what is now the city of Sydney in 1788. Around 15 months later, at least 50 percent of the local Aboriginal population was dying due to a smallpox epidemic.

Some historians put the outbreak down to contact with the Macassans from Sulawesi in the far north of the continent. However, others argue that bottles of smallpox were brought across on First Fleet ships, and the disease was then released, either accidentally or with clear intent.

Dozens of massacres of Indigenous people were carried out by the British right up until the 1920s. On June 10 1838, the Myall Creek massacre occurred near Inverell in NSW. This tragedy is well-known as it was the first time Europeans were brought to justice for such an atrocity in Australia.

At the time about 50 Aboriginal men were working for stockmen in the area. One evening the stockmen rode into the local people’s camp, tied up 29 men, women and children, and beheaded them. Seven of the perpetrators were eventually brought to trial and hanged.

Today, in Australia, the colonial legacy continues. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the most incarcerated population on earth.

As of March this year, there were 11,288 Indigenous adults detained in the Australian prison system. First Nations peoples account for only 2.5 percent of the overall Australian adult population, yet they represent 28 percent of the adult prisoner population.

A bloody trail

But these are only some of the crimes perpetrated by the British as they carried the greatest land grab the world has ever seen.

There were the concentration camps in South Africa, where tens of thousands of the Boer population were detained in the first years of the 20th century. The Irish potato famine occurred in the 1840s, leading to the deaths of well over a million people.

There were the torture centres in Aden in the 1960s, where nationalists were kept naked in refrigerated cells. When the Empire was facing communist insurgents during the Malaya Emergency of the 1950s, they simply decided to imprison the entire peasant population in detention camps.

And the list goes on…

Featured image from Sydney Criminal Lawyers

USA considers itself as a leading expert on “human rights” while threatening to leave UNHRC

Russia rejects US-led human rights

Tue Apr 4, 2017 7:38AM
The photo shows UN Security Council in session. (Photo by AFP)
The photo shows UN Security Council in session. (Photo by AFP)

Russia has opposed a US bid to hold a UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting on human rights as a major cause of global conflicts later this month during the American presidency of the 15-nation body.

On Monday, the Security Council approved April’s agenda without including the Washington-proposed debate on human rights, with Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Petr Iliichev saying the Security Council is not the venue for such discussions.

The Russian diplomat argued that “just a general statement that international peace and security are threatened by human rights violations is not true.”

He further argued that other UN bodies, including the General Assembly and the UNHRC already deal with human rights.

“Why are we taking everything to the Security Council?,” he asked. “Then those bodies should be dismantled.”

US Ambassador Nikki Haley, whose country holds the council’s rotating presidency this month, later insisted that Washington “fully expects” to hold the debate on April 18.

“If you look at the conflicts we have in the world, they always go back to the human rights issues on the ground within those countries,” Haley said.

“It will be a broad debate, not intended to single out any countries, but more just to talk about the topic and how that relates to conflict and if there are things that we can be doing going forward,” Haley further told UN member states on Monday.

US Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley listens to a question during a press briefing at the United Nations headquarters on April 3, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by AFP)

Washington has accused the UN’s Geneva-based Human Rights Council (UNHRC) of being biased against the Israeli regime. The US ambassador also questioned whether the body served any value “except for this that sit on it that protect themselves.”

The development came a day after the administration of US President Donald Trumo hinted that it would not publicly criticize Egypt’s human rights record during President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s Monday visit to the White House.

Meanwhile, UN diplomatic sources said China has also expressed reservations over the debate, which would be the centerpiece of the US council presidency, along with a meeting on peacekeeping to be held Thursday and another one on North Korea on April 28.

When asked about the proposed meeting, China’s Permanent UN Representative Liu Jieyi said, “We are trying to work that out.”

Iliichev has also said Moscow would call for a rare procedural vote to block the move should the US fail to reach an agreement with Russia and China and presses ahead with the meeting.

A procedural vote needs nine votes for passage, and vetoes cannot be cast by Permanent council members — Russia, China, the US, France or Britain.

Washington has threatened to quit the UNHRC, while Haley stated on Thursday that her team was reviewing what the body had done well and “everything that they’ve done that’s just absurd.”

“If we don’t see changes, then yes we’ll pull out. But I think they deserve to know what we expect of them,” she added.

Saudi Regime Hands in Corpse of Young Citizen after Detention

Local Editor

MartyrThe Saudi regime authorities handed in the corpse of the martyr Makki al-Arid who was arrested a month ago at a checkpoint in al-Safwa in Qatif, two days before they tortured and killed him.

The circulated images show how the corpse of the young Saudi is influenced by the torture committed by the regime police who claimed that Arid died due to psychological problems.

Martyr Arid’s family rejected the regime’s extortion to sign a document that indicates that natural reasons was behind his death, asserting that he was martyred due to the severe beating and torturing he suffered at the jail.

Awamiya town and Arid’s family bade farewell to the martyr amid a widespread public anger, knowing that the authorities is still detaining the corpses of a number of martyrs including that of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Source: Al Manar TV

31-03-2016 – 19:08 Last updated 31-03-2016 – 19:08

 

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Life in America under the Zionist jackboot, minors sentenced to life imprisonment without parole

US still has more than two thousand juvenile offenders serving life-without-parole sentences — a punishment no other country in the world imposes on minors.”

Twenty-First Century Barbarism

The US is the only country in the world that sentences minors to life without parole. The consequences are devastating.

Adolfo Davis, who was sentenced to life without parole at fourteen years old. Alyssa Schukar / New York Times

Adolfo Davis, who was sentenced to life without parole at fourteen years old. Alyssa Schukar / New York Times

It is a wet, dreary day in Chicago when a group of thirty-five people gather at Precious Blood Church on the southwest side of Chicago to make the long drive to Menard Correctional Center. The prison is at the southern end of the state, a six- or seven-hour drive from Chicago, depending on traffic.

Julie Anderson has made the trip, on her own, with a friend or with her husband, five times a month — the maximum number of visits a prisoner is allowed — every month for the past twenty years. Her son Eric was fifteen when he was convicted of a double homicide and given a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

“I never knew my life was going to be like this,” Julie tells me. “What I once thought of the criminal justice system has completely changed. I used to believe in it — I don’t anymore.”

People have their bags, suitcases, and blankets, and they’re beginning to congregate in front of a large bus, donated by Northwestern University School of Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic. This is the fourth annual trip, coordinated to help family members visit their loved ones, many of whom were sentenced to life without parole when they were juveniles.

For some, this bus trip will be the only time this year they will be able to go to Menard, since many don’t drive and wouldn’t be able to afford a hotel stay. Ray Joiner, whose son is incarcerated at Menard says, “They put these prisons so far away for a reason. It makes it so difficult for family to visit. That makes it hard on these guys, not getting to see your family. It’s like they want to break you. And that’s exactly what they do — they break you.”

A minister says a prayer before we leave. As he steps off the bus, someone says, “This is the party bus.” People chuckle as the bus pulls away.


Of the 3,400 prisoners housed at Menard, seventeen will get visits over the two days we’re there.

Julie will be seeing her son’s cellmate, Michael, because her own son is presently at Cook County Jail, awaiting a resentencing hearing. “He’s a wonderful person,” she says of Michael, “and I feel bad because he doesn’t get visits very often. He’s been such a good influence on Eric. They’ve become very close. And he’s so smart. He helps a lot of people in there.”

Julie sends as much as she can to both Michael and Eric, so they can share items they buy from the commissary. Julie’s mission is to bring her son home. Since she can’t do that right now, she’ll instead bring as much home to him as she can. That’s why she makes this long trip five times a month — she is Eric’s lifeline.

Like the other juvenile offenders at Menard who were given mandatory life without parole sentences, Eric has had a stroke of luck. Because of the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in Miller v. Alabama, it is no longer constitutional to sentence people who were juveniles at the time of their alleged crime to mandatory life without parole sentences. In 2014, Illinois became one of several states to determine that the Supreme Court ruling should be applied retroactively.

Each of the eighty prisoners still incarcerated in Illinois who were given a mandatory life without parole sentence as juvenile offenders will get a resentencing hearing. Each one will come before a judge, who will decide if the sentence was correct or if it should be reduced.

In theory, a judge could listen to a prisoner’s appeal and determine that he or she has already served enough time and vacate the sentence. That’s what Julie and the other family members are holding out hope for.

Unfortunately, the Miller decision didn’t do away juvenile life sentences. Going forward, judges can still impose this barbaric punishment, even for a juvenile. But now they will be required to take “mitigating circumstances” into account: defendants’ age at the time of the crime, their life circumstances, and that juveniles have less impulse control and are more vulnerable to peer pressure because their brains are still developing.

The US still has more than two thousand juvenile offenders serving life-without-parole sentences — a punishment no other country in the world imposes on minors.


Resentencing has begun in Illinois, and that has Julie very much on edge — especially considering how the first case went: that of Adolfo Davis.

Back in 1990, when Adolfo was fourteen years old, he agreed to be the lookout for his fellow gang members in a crime that resulted in the death of two people. He was arrested and put on trial as an accomplice, but the courts treated him as responsible, as if he had pulled the trigger. When he was convicted, he was given a sentence of life without the possibility of parole — even though he didn’t actually kill anyone.

Earlier this year, Adolfo, now thirty-eight years old, came before Judge Angela Petrone for his resentencing. The hearing lasted eleven hours. One of the moms of an Illinois prisoner described what a grueling day it was:

[Petrone] let the prosecutors talk for four hours, and they just kept saying the same thing over and over again, and dramatically pointing at Adolfo. She only gave us a two-minute bathroom break, and then you had to be back in the courtroom. Some people couldn’t even get downstairs to the bathroom in time.

Petrone re-imposed the original sentence, stating in her opinion: “This sentence is necessary to deter others. It is necessary to protect the public from harm. The defendant’s acts showed an aggression and callous disregard for human life far beyond his tender age of fourteen.”

Julie was in the courtroom to support Adolfo. She was stunned by Petrone’s ruling. “She didn’t even give any credence to the new findings on brain science that were presented at his hearing,” Julie said. “The judge said it was only speculative. But the Miller ruling specifically talked about the brain science. It’s not speculative! She had her mind made up as soon as she came in there.”

Julie described watching Adolfo — who has already spent almost two-thirds of his life locked up in prison — when he heard he had been re-sentenced to life without parole. “It was awful,” Julie said. “He just broke down. His shoulders were heaving as he sobbed. I was so angry. I just went home, and I thought: Really? Really?”

Julie said Adolfo wasn’t even in the room when the judge entered and began to read out her seven-page decision. His lawyer had to interrupt to stop her so he could be found. “She wasn’t even aware that he wasn’t here,” Julie said. “She wasn’t even going to look at him. She’s throwing away his life, and she isn’t even going to look at him. He wasn’t even a person to her.”


On the bus, someone puts on a movie, a few folks chat quietly with each other, and others stare out the window at the endless miles of flat, open land on each side of the highway.

Julie tells me I won’t be able to take pictures of Menard. “No, they don’t let you. They don’t even allow photos of the prisoners.” She pulls up a picture of Eric on her phone. Beaming out is a young, slim, handsome boy of fifteen. “This is Eric when he was fifteen,” she says proudly, “but that’s it. I don’t have anything current.” Even though Eric is now thirty-five, there is nothing to depict him over the years or to chronicle his visits with his family. “It’s just cruel — another form of humiliation.” Julie says of the policy.

Gladys Weatherspoon is talkative and friendly. She is traveling with her mother Maxime to visit her brother, Fred Weatherspoon, who has served twenty-two years in prison. He was also charged with accountability. “I’ve been on three of these trips, and I just hope we don’t have to make it again,” she says, referring to her hopes that Fred’s sentence will be vacated at his hearing.

Gladys has two kids of her own, who are grown and out of the house. She talks about some difficulties in her own life. “I live with my mom now,” she says. “I haven’t worked in three years.” She talks about hopeful job prospects and of maybe being a nursing assistant.

I overhear her ask Ray if he believes in God and then if he believes in hell. Ray says he does, and Gladys is incredulous. “Like all that fire and heat and stuff?” she asks.

Throughout the bus ride, people share similar stories of the awful conditions inside prison, starting with the petty and cruel restrictions. Julie recounts one incident:

Remember when the woman visited, and they told her she couldn’t leave with the candy bar she bought? She didn’t see the signs, and she had bought the candy bar from the commissary, so she thought she could bring it out with her. They were so mean. They were just screaming at her: ‘No! YOU CANNOT BRING THAT OUT!’

So the girl just sat there and opened up the wrapper, and she just shoved the candy bar all into her mouth, and just munched on it right in front of them. She just stared at them as she munched on it. They were so mad. She got banned from visiting for that.

Another family member talks about the routine shakedowns inside the prison. While their cells are searched, the men are brought into a main area, their hands are shackled, and they’re made to squat down and put their foreheads on the wall. They aren’t allowed to move, and they might have to stay there for hours. Some defecate on themselves, and others fall over or pass out.

When I ask why they’re made to do this, Julie answers: “Because it’s prison. Because that’s what they do.” Others nod in agreement.


We pull into the convent where we will be staying before 5 PM, and the nuns — all of them white and most of them elderly — are waiting for us and start to fuss over us immediately: “How was the drive? You must be hungry? Come in and have something to eat.”

Everyone will have a room of their own, with a dresser and internet; every three people will share a bathroom. The nuns show us to our rooms down the expansive corridors, where our names are handwritten on each door. The nuns refuse to take any money for our two-day stay, and they insist on feeding us several meals while we are there.

Emmanuel Andre is the tall, elegant man who co-organizes this annual event with Julie. Outwardly, they are a study in contrasts: Julie is short, white, and gregarious; Emmanuel is tall, black, and reserved. But both care a great deal about these families and the prisoners, and they convey respect when talking with each of them.

A certain amount of dignity is stripped away from family members when a loved one is in prison. How do you tell your friends that you are taking a three-day trip to downstate Illinois to visit your son, who is locked up in prison and may die there? Emmanuel wants to give back family members their rightful dignity.

Emmanuel is a practicing attorney who knows the inside of the criminal justice system and helps break down the legal jargon for people. Each night, he pulls people together in a circle to share what is on their mind. We each take a turn responding to the questions he poses: “What are you most looking forward to on this visit?” “What is it that you feel you need most right now?”

Mary Hicks, who will be visiting her son Keon, says how happy she is to be seeing him. Unlike the family members of others in the circle, Keon is not eligible for resentencing. “My son missed it by a year.” She expresses her gratitude to everyone. “It just feels so good to be with you all,” she says, smiling broadly.

Many people give thanks and recognition to God, and one mom says, “I know God is going to see us through this.”

When Gloria Jackson speaks of visiting her son Demetrius, she breaks down. Between sobs, she talks about how isolating it was before she met the other family members in the room. “It was just so hard,” she says. “I just cried so much. I felt so alone, and I didn’t think I could do it. You all helped me.”

Sitting next to her, Gloria’s daughter is also crying as she tells us how happy she is to be seeing her brother. Demetrius, like Eric, will be getting a resentencing hearing. He was also found guilty of accountability.

The Guerra family — a mom, brother, and sister — are in the circle for the first time. Maria, the mother, talks about how frustrated she is with the criminal justice system. “They twist everything you say,” she says. “You say one thing, and they twist it around like it was something else.” Anita, the sister, says, “My brother didn’t do anything wrong. He shouldn’t be in there.” Daniel, the brother, remains silent, fidgeting nervously with his hands.


The next day, we go in two shifts to Menard. People are dressed up like they are going to church. Gloria has on a white denim pantsuit. Vera has her hair done up nice and is wearing a striking purple shirt.

Approaching Menard is like approaching a fortress. It’s a huge facility, perched on top of a hill. We are processed and assigned seats in the small visiting room, which looks like a workplace lunchroom — there are twenty or thirty small tables with chairs that are bolted to the floor. Signs listing various rules are hung around the room (e.g., prisoners aren’t allowed to get up from the tables once they sit down).

This will be my first time visiting Jamie Jackson. I came to know him from working alongside his mother Marva in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty’s Chicago chapter. Even though Jamie didn’t get the death penalty, his “life until death in prison” sentence is essentially the same thing. Marva and other moms wanted a place to fight for their sons too.

Julie is excited I will be able to visit with Jamie. Marva is getting older, and it’s difficult for her to make the trip. “I’ve called her a few times, begging her to come, but I just can’t convince her,” Julie says. “I just love Marva. She is the sweetest thing. She’s always praying for me.”

Jamie is late in arriving, so I sit and watch as others greet their loved ones, hug, laugh, begin chattering. We call out to each other, and some introduce me. I comment more than once, “He looks just like you!” Even though we can’t go to each others tables, there is a sense of camaraderie about the visit.

Ray, who lives in the Englewood neighborhood, is the only dad making the visit. He’s here to see his son Robert, who is serving a forty-year sentence and is also not eligible for resentencing. In the group circle later that night, Ray identifies the atmosphere in the room that day. “It was a good visit,” he says. “It had a good energy in the room. I’ve been on other visits, this was a good one.”

Finally, Jamie comes out. We exchange a hug. His smile is warm, and he’s upbeat.

He tells me the guys were calling him pops for a while because he had a long beard until just a few days ago. “Then I just cut it all off,” he says. His head is bald, too. “I shave it,” he says. “Does it look good?” He tilts his head back to show me. He has an easy laugh, oftentimes from the belly.

He wants to know how the ride down was, what it’s like at the nun’s place. I tell him about how I took a walk around the grounds surrounding the convent and got lost. “I walked toward a barn I saw,” I say, “and a whole family was eating at a picnic table out back. I walked towards them, and they all turned to look at me, surprised to see me there, while I apologetically asked them if they could point me in the direction of where the nuns live.” Jamie says, “Good thing you weren’t black.” He leans back in his chair laughing, and so do I.

There aren’t many black people around this area. The majority are confined inside Menard. This area has a reputation of being Klan country.

Jamie tells me of his work at Menard. He works in the kitchen six days a week, six hours a day. He and a crew of guys clean the food trays, wash and stack them again. It’s very physical labor, for which he gets paid $19 a month.

He talks about how he once had a job stocking items for the commissary: “I really liked that, and I was good at it. I had to figure out how much to order of something, and I always changed it up. Like I always had a different pair of sneakers, not the same ones. I would figure out what was selling and what wasn’t and always changed it up a bit.”

Jamie was convicted of robbing and killing a store clerk in 1991, when he was seventeen. His punishment was life without the possibility of parole. But his sentence doesn’t quite fit under the Miller decision, as the judge who imposed it wasn’t required to do so under mandatory sentencing. “But he may as well have,” says Jamie. “He really didn’t take anything into account, like the fact that I had no prior record.”

Jamie and his lawyer believe that the Miller decision will have ramifications that will eventually help Jamie, too. Presently, he has a petition before the court for a new trial, and he is also pursuing resentencing in light of Miller.

Jamie went to prison when he was eighteen. He just turned forty-two last month.


At the circle that night, people share how happy they were to see their loved ones.

“It just felt so good to give him a hug,” LaToya Jackson said of visiting with her brother Demetrius. Vera Wages enthused over her visited with her brother Michael, and Esther Clark was beaming about her visit with her son Javell.

I was embarrassed when it was my turn, and I cried. I felt overwhelmed by the injustice of it all — to look around and see them visiting, chatting, all dressed up, and seemingly so happy in such an impossible, sad situation that has pushed their relatives so far away, maybe for the rest of their lives. I choke out: “I hope we can get more people like me to visit, to be involved, to help make this invisible injustice visible.”

Sarah Silins, who used to help organize these events, drove down on her own with her ten-year-old son. She has brought him before, and he likes the whole experience. “This is good for him,” she says, “it’s good for him meet these family members and prisoners.”

Sarah notes how family members have been deprived of seeing their loved ones in social situations. “They never get to see them interact with other people,” she says. It’s something that you can see that Sarah treasures, as she watches her young son’s interactions with family members and prisoners.

These parents, these brothers and sisters — they’ve never gotten to see their family members hang out with their peers, or interact with a coach or a teacher or a workmate. So the very brief moments in the visiting room — when we call out to each other across our tables, “Oh you look just like your mom!!” “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.” “How are you doing?” — for just a very few precious moments, it’s almost kind of normal.

The next day’s visit goes equally well. Jamie is in a good mood. He wants to talk about his case, and what he feels needs to be done to help him get out of prison. Again, the time goes by too quickly, and I’m getting up to leave. I can see the tears welling up in his eyes. “You’d better send pictures,” he yells as he stays seated on his bolted seat, while I line up with the others to leave.

Shortly after arriving home, I get a letter from Jamie. The judge has ordered him to court, and he isn’t sure why. In a few days, I learn that the judge has agreed to consider his petition for a new trial. Jamie and his lawyer now have sixty days to prepare the best case they can.

Hope leaks out of his letter. “I’ve just spent so much time in here,” he writes. “I’m ready for the next part of my life to begin.”

Adapted from Socialist Worker.

Gilad Atzmon interviewed by Shareef Aleem on KGNU 2015 May

May 11, 2015  /  Gilad Atzmon

USA refuses UN access to their Guantánamo torture gulag

US denies UN investigator chance to interview Guantánamo detainees:

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/15/pentagon-un-torture-investigator-interview-guantanamo-detainees

Official confirms Juan Méndez, the UN’s special rapporteur on preventing torture, was invited to visit detention center but there are restrictions

Juan Méndez
Méndez told reporters last week that he had spurned what he considered hollow offers by the US to visit Guantánamo, citing unacceptable restrictions on his ability to examine the facility. Photograph: Martial Trezzini/AP

Shortly after the Pentagon took a battery of pro-Guantánamo US senators for a tour of its infamous detention center, it confirmed that it will deny the United Nations’ torture investigator interviews with Guantánamo Bay detainees.

Juan Méndez, the UN’s special rapporteur on preventing torture, “has been invited to visit Guantánamo; however, he will not be permitted to interview detainees”,Army Lieutenant Colonel Myles Caggins, the Pentagon’s detentions spokesman, told the Guardian.

Méndez told reporters in Geneva last week that he had spurned what he considered hollow offers by the US to visit Guantánamo, citing unacceptable restrictions on his ability to examine the facility for himself.

“I am not allowed to have any unmonitored or even monitored conversations with any inmate in Guantánamo Bay,” Méndez said, according to AFP.

Méndez, who has been in fruitless negotiations with the Obama administration over touring Guantánamo since 2010, has said he considers indefinite detention “itself a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”. Forced feedings, which can include the insertion of tubes, used by Guantánamo officials to break detainee hunger strikes – and defended by Barack Obama – “in some cases can amount to torture,” Mendez’s office has said.

Caggins said via email the US had offered multiple UN special rapporteurs, including Méndez, “a degree of access to its detention facilities at Guantánamo under conditions consistent with the nature of those facilities (eg, facility visits do not include private meetings with detained enemy forces), although no one has accepted the offer.”

On Friday, Guantánamo Bay opened its gates to five newly elected Republican senators, including Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican who at a February hearing said the remaining 122 detainees could “rot in hell”.

“After visiting today, I remain firm in my belief that this facility should not only remain open – but that we should not shy away from increasing the number of prisoners held there,” Cotton said in a Saturday press release.

The Pentagon permits the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to Guantánamo, to include visits to detainees. By tradition, the ICRC does not publicly discuss its visits to prisons and wartime detention centers.

“Due to its special role under the law of war, the ICRC has full access to the detainees at Guantánamo, including private meetings, and maintains an ongoing dialogue with the United States regarding conditions of confinement and the detainees’ overall wellbeing,” Caggins said.

Laura Pitter of Human Rights Watch said denying Méndez access to the detainees was consistent with the Obama administration’s “continued policy of secrecy” overhanging Guantánamo.

“Yes, the US gives the ICRC access but that access is subject to strict confidentiality. If the US is truly treating detainees humanely at Guantánamo and it [is] proud of the detention conditions there, why not open the facility up for inspection by the UN special rapporteur, who has access to other prisons all over the world,” Pitter said.

Though Obama has pledged to close the detention facility at Guantánamo, the general he placed in charge of US Southern Command, which is ultimately in charge of the detention facility, has enforced a press blackout on the hunger strikes and the force feedings. The Guardian is part of a lawsuit seeking the disclosure of videotaped force-feedings at Guantánamo – which the administration is fighting after a judge ordered their release last fall.

Asked at a Pentagon press conference on Thursday if the detention center at Guantánamo would close, Marine General John Kelly of Southern Command said: “I don’t know. Certainly, the president wants to close it.”

Cori Crider of the human-rights group Reprieve supported Méndez in refusing to take what she called a “Potemkin Village tour” of Guantánamo.

“If the Obama administration is really committed to transparency, it ought to put up or shut up, let respected UN experts interview detainees, and release the force-feeding tapes,” said Crider, who represented former Guantánamo detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab in the federal case resulting in the feeding-tapes disclosure decision.

Crider said: “Barring the UN’s torture expert from talking to prisoners is just the Pentagon’s latest effort to keep a tight lid on the grim realities of life at Gitmo: the desperation, the pain of force-feeding, the abuse.

“And the reason they won’t let Mr Méndez interview detainees is the same reason that the administration is fighting to suppress the videotapes of my client Abu Wa’el Dhiab being strapped into a restraint chair and force-fed – the authorities don’t want Americans to see the stomach-turning truth about Guantánamo today.”

Méndez’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“American Sniper”: Humanizing and Glorifying a Mass Murderer for the Empire

Global Research, February 03, 2015

american sniperI saw Clint Eastwood’s movie American Sniper the other night. It is the story of U.S. Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, based on his autobiography. Kyle fought in Iraq between 2004 and 2009 when the U.S. was occupying the country. (In February 2013, Kyle was killed at a gun range by another former soldier, reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).)

American Sniper has been nominated for six Oscars, including best film and best leading actor; it has broken box-office records for war movies, and it’s generating heated debate.

Many who are praising the film say the movie is about him, not about the politics of the Iraq war. “It’s a movie about a man, a character study,” said lead actor Bradley Cooper. “The hope is that you can somehow have your eyes opened to the struggle of a soldier, as opposed to the specificity of the war.” Others argue American Sniper is “both a tribute to the warrior and a lament for war,” as the Associated Press reviewer wrote.

BS . Regardless of the intentions of those making these claims, BS.

This is a profoundly reactionary movie. American Sniper humanizes and glorifies Chris Kyle, an unrepentant Christian fundamentalist mass murderer who killed 160 Iraqis (supposedly the most “kills” by any U.S. soldier in history). Meanwhile, the movie demonizes and dehumanizes every single Iraqi (with the possible exception of one family), portraying them as evil terrorists and “savages” who deserve to die.

By telling this story through Kyle’s eyes and purported experience (and prettifying that story), American Sniper weaves a fable about the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its role in the world: America is a force for good. Whatever its mistakes, the U.S. sends its military to places like Iraq to try to protect the innocent and destroy evil. It promotes the outlook that only America and American lives count and anything goes to “defend” them. This is the big lie on the big screen.

The U.S. Military: A “Bloody-Jawed Wolf”—Not the “Sheep Dog” of the World

Chris Kyle is shown growing up in Texas, a good-old boy from a traditional white, patriarchal, and patriotic Christian family, who hunts. According to the film, the arc of Kyle’s life is defined early on by his father. There are three kinds of people, he tells his sons: most are sheep who are afraid and go along; then there are wolves who prey on the sheep; and then there are the sheep dogs who protect the sheep from the wolves. And his kids better damn sure be the sheep dogs, or they’d get the strap.

Kyle starts out as a wannabe cowboy, but he’s adrift. Then—according to the film—he’s jolted into supposed clarity by the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by al-Qaeda, Islamic jihadists, which killed hundreds of people. He enlists in the Navy SEALs. His resolve is hardened when he and his wife watch the Twin Towers come crashing down on 9/11. He’s going to be the “sheep dog” protecting America and its sheep from the terrorist Islamic wolves.

His unit is deployed and American Sniper cuts directly and wordlessly from 9/11 to Fallujah, Iraq, around 2004. The clear impression is that the two were directly linked. Kyle says the people the U.S. is fighting in Iraq are the ones who attacked the U.S. on 9/11. And the Iraqis are pretty much all portrayed as terrorists out to kill Americans.

The theme that Kyle and the U.S. military are “sheep dogs” in the world runs throughout the whole movie. But sorry—the U.S. and its military aren’t sheep and they aren’t sheep dogs. They are, as Malcolm X put it, like “bloody-jawed wolves,” with the blood of the people of the world dripping from their fangs.

 

What the Hell Was the U.S. Doing in Iraq? What the Hell Was—and Is—It Doing in the Middle East?

American Sniper is an exercise in training people to see the world through the eyes of the empire. First, the story that it chooses to tell is one of a particularly fanatical and murderous soldier. Why not one of the antiwar Iraq vets who threw their medals away and condemned the war crimes they carried out? Second, telling the story of the “warriors”—the soldiers—is not the most valid and truthful way to understand what a war is about. You can’t truthfully tell the story of one individual detached from (or by falsifying) the context they’re in; and the story of one individual can’t serve as an overall summary of historical events.

In American Sniper, Kyle jumps from his wedding to the battlefield in Iraq. The film’s explanation is that this is in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. But what the hell was the U.S. doing in Fallujah? What the hell has it been doing in Iraq? And what the hell was—and is—it doing in the Middle East, long before 9/11? Pretending the story starts in 1998 or on 9/11, and that the thing you really need to know is the “heroism” of Kyle and his comrades, is telling a story alright—a reactionary fable.

Before the 2003 U.S. invasion, Iraq was ruled by a tyrant, Saddam Hussein. But Iraq was not involved in 9/11. There was no Islamic jihadist presence in Iraq to speak of. And Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons), as the Bush-Cheney regime claimed it did. These were all deliberate lies to justify invading and conquering Iraq.

Why, then, did the U.S. attack Iraq? Because the U.S. imperialists wanted to strengthen their stranglehold on Iraq and the whole Middle East. The U.S. has controlled this region since the 1950s—through invasions, coups, assassinations, bombings, despotic torturers like the regime in Egypt, and turning Israel into a regional attack dog. The U.S. imperialists have used Middle Eastern oil to dominate the world economy and other powers dependent on it, and have made untold billions in profit off it as well. Controlling the Middle East means controlling vital trade routes and a strategic military crossroads between Africa, Europe, and Asia. It is a key pillar of their whole global empire of exploitation. Millions and millions of lives have been crushed to enforce this order—including at least 500,000 Iraqi children, who died as a result of the U.S.-UN sanctions imposed on Iraq in the 1990s. (And the U.S. has been intervening in Iraq since the 1920s.)

But the U.S. grip on the region was fraying and Saddam Hussein had gotten in their way, so he had to go. The U.S. planned to take over Iraq and turn it into an outpost for advancing their grand plan for an all-powerful global empire.

 The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq wasn’t some noble effort to get justice for 9/11. It was an unjust, immoral, and illegal war of naked imperialist aggression. It resulted in the murder of over 120,000 Iraqis and the deaths of over 600,000 more. It has devastated Iraq and driven more than five million people from their homes. It has put vicious oppressors in power and fueled reactionary Islamic fundamentalism. The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was a towering war crime. One person’s “narrative” about his own experience doesn’t trump this history and reality. And how could anyone make an honest or truthful movie about the U.S. war in Iraq without in some way at least touching on, recognizing, or acknowledging this broader picture? (See “The U.S. Legacy 10 Years After Invading Iraq: Death, Disease, Devastation, Displacement”)

 

U.S. War Crimes in Fallujah

While one person’s story cannot define the goals and nature of a war, Kyle’s story does tell you a lot about the immoral and predatory nature of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In an early scene set in the city of Fallujah, Kyle is setting up on a rooftop in a battle zone. The streets are full of rubble, many buildings are destroyed, and most everyone left seems to be a jihadist combatant. The message many people will take away—especially since the U.S. ruling class and its media have carefully censored and suppressed real pictures and real coverage of what the U.S. has done in Iraq—is that this is just how Iraqis live, that Iraq is just a disgusting, fucking mess. In fact, this is what Kyle and other U.S. soldiers say repeatedly. Kyle: Iraqis are “savages.” His brother, also deployed to Iraq, as he’s leaving: fuck this place.

But American Sniper doesn’t show why Fallujah was devastated. Beginning in April 2004, the U.S. laid siege to the city, forcing most of the population to evacuate, then shelled and bombed it—including with white phosphorous and cluster bombs. White phosphorous can melt skin and flesh right down to the bone. U.S. soldiers called it “shake and bake.” Its use is generally considered a war crime because it’s an indiscriminate killer. “I need another heart and eyes to bear it, because my own are not enough to bear what I saw. Nothing justifies what was done to this city. I didn’t see a house or mosque that wasn’t destroyed,” a member of Iraq’s Red

Crescent Society told journalist Dahr Jamail in 2004 after visiting Fallujah. (Democracy Now!, November 8, 2005)

 Kyle zeros in on a mother and her young son in his sniper scope. They’re coming into the street in front of a U.S. convoy. He thinks he sees a grenade, but he hesitates to make sure and then get the OK. As portrayed in American Sniper, he clearly doesn’t want to shoot women and children. But then he has to execute one, then the other—because it turns out they really did have an explosive and were intent on killing American soldiers. Later, in one scene U.S. officers question Kyle about complaints from Iraqis about their relatives being killed. But Kyle dismisses it; he shoots people when they have weapons. The implication is that these complaints are just lies by a bunch of lying Iraqis, and that the bureaucrats who believe them are putting the troops in harm’s way.

In reality, according to eyewitnesses, American snipers in Fallujah shot anything that moved. They shot ambulance drivers and medical workers. They shot people trying to claim the bodies of relatives lying in the streets.

“They try to kill anybody who works in humanitarian aid. They attack any humanitarian aid worker, doctor, or ambulance to kill him,” a Fallujah resident told Inter Press Service. A doctor told Jamail, “I remember once we sent an ambulance to evacuate a family that was bombed by an aircraft. The ambulance was sniped—one of the family died, and three were injured by the firing.”

There is an extensive record of U.S. military savagery in Iraq, far beyond the scope of this article. In a 2007 trial of U.S. snipers operating in Iskandariya, south of Baghdad, it was revealed that the U.S. had a strategy of “baiting” Iraqis by placing out detonation cords, plastic explosives, and ammunition so snipers could then kill them, and that sometimes the snipers planted such evidence on the bodies of those they shot down—like U.S. cops sometimes plant guns on their victims. The video Collateral Murder (http://www.collateralmurder.com/), based on video leaked by Chelsea Manning (who is now serving a long prison term for that heroic act) shows a U.S. helicopter murdering civilians and journalists. Two courageous soldiers who were part of that unit, unlike Kyle, later apologized to the Iraqi people for their actions. (Read an interview with one of them, Ethan McCord)

 

When an occupying power carries out collective punishment and murders civilians, these are war crimes and crimes against humanity. Google “war crimes Fallujah” and you’ll find entry after entry, including YouTube videos of U.S. forces in action.

These aren’t the actions of a “sheep dog,” but to paraphrase Malcolm X, of a “bloody-jawed wolf,” with blood dripping from its fangs as it yammers on about “freedom,” “democracy,” and “good and evil.”

American Sniper hides and rewrites the true history of the U.S. in Iraq with a fog of imperialist propaganda, myth-making, and lies.

 

Chris Kyle and the U.S. Military: Embodiments of the Putrid Values and Immorality of the System They Served

 

What kind of a military would use such weapons, and carry out such atrocities? What kind of military would joke about using weapons like white phosphorous—calling firing these horrific weapons “shake and bake”? An oppressive, imperialist occupation force which considers the local population as its enemy and aims to terrorize and suppress them.

 

The way the U.S. fought the war in Iraq, and the way it indoctrinated its troops, reflects the totally unjust nature of the war.

 

In American Sniper, Chris Kyle embodied this “America is good, everyone else is evil, only American lives count” outlook. He’s totally unapologetic about killing scores of Iraqis. American Sniper deceitfully portrays all his victims has having had it coming. After he is “forced” to shoot down the mother and her son who are fighting the U.S. occupation, he sums up that he’s never seen such evil as he’s seeing in Iraq. There is only one Iraqi in the whole

 

Kyle’s autobiography is even more revealing (director Clint Eastwood’s film prettifies him). Kyle wrote that everyone he killed deserved it, that he hated Iraqi “savages”, that he didn’t give a damn about Iraqis, and that he loved what he did—killing “bad guys.” He had a cross tattooed on his arm because he wanted people to know he was a Christian. He bragged about going to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and killing 30 “looters”—in other words, desperate people in New Orleans, Black people in particular, trying to survive. (Apparently this and other claims he makes in the book are lies.) Why would anyone not only choose to make a movie about someone who spouted this racist shit, but sanitize him on screen as well?

 

When NBC correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin dared criticize American Sniper, he received hundreds of vicious and racist death threats. Others who’ve spoken out against the film have received similar threats. This reaction points to the outlook, values, and social base being whipped up by the film.

 

Supporting the Troops IS Supporting the War

 

American Sniper concentrates a key way the U.S. rulers have undercut the widespread unease and opposition to the ever-shifting mosaic of wars the U.S. is fighting in the Middle East, first Afghanistan and Iraq, then drones in Pakistan and Yemen, now back into Iraq and Syria, with upheaval and instability continuing to grow by leaps and bounds with no end in sight. They are working at this by focusing attention on the suffering, sacrifices, and “valor” of the troops carrying out their wars. Kyle is portrayed as complex and a humanitarian in many ways. He is willing to sacrifice himself for his buddies, to protect others. He even goes on patrols against the wishes of some in the chain of command; he doesn’t just hide in buildings and on rooftops. He’s shown having qualms about executing women and children.

The wrenching emotional, and humanizing, scenes are those between Kyle and his wife and Kyle and his buddies—never of any Iraqis—they’re just ciphers (dehumanized objects). In the warped and twisted logic and immorality of this movie, the tragedy isn’t that literally millions of Iraqis have either been killed or have had—and are continuing to have—their lives destroyed! It is that those who carry out this slaughter have their lives shattered. The tragedy is supposedly the suffering of the military occupying Iraq.

 

The message: Whatever one thinks of the war, the U.S. troops are good guys and everyone should support them. But this is just putting a human face on mass murder for empire. War criminals may love their families (or their pets). So what?

 

Let me pose it this way: A rapist may also love and “protect” his family—does that justify rape?

What does “supporting the troops” mean? It means supporting what they do. Why should anyone with a conscience support people who carry out war crimes in service of the obscene goal of violently maintaining a system of global exploitation, including the very system that shoots Black and Latino youths down in the streets and degrades and abuses women in a thousand ways?

 

Whatever their background or personal lives, these are not “our” troops—they’re cogs in a global military machine, the troops of the U.S. imperialist system. Whatever the soldiers thought they were doing—and no doubt the military hierarchy forcefully breaks down and brainwashes the troops and no doubt many are crippled mentally and/or physically by the war’s toll—the fact is they were carrying out an unjust and bloody war of conquest, suppressing any opposition, installing a new reactionary regime, and trying to turn Iraq into a neo-colony.

 

Those who, for whatever reason, have become part of that military machine should learn about its actual history and purpose, and repudiate and oppose it. Some heroic veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have done this. They’ve spoken out against and exposed the crimes committed by the U.S. military, and repudiated the war, including by some throwing their medals away. Why aren’t major movies being made about them? There are fleeting glimpses of antiwar sentiments in American Sniper, but the focus is on Eastwood’s portrayal of Chris Kyle—and he’s the polar opposite of the vets who’ve spoken out against the war and who’ve had real feelings for the people of Iraq.

Eastwood’s movie comes at a time of the explosive rise of reactionary Islamic fundamentalism and great peril and difficulty for the U.S. imperialists, in the Middle East in particular. Whatever his intent or understanding (in one interview he claimed showing the suffering of American soldiers is antiwar), American Sniper is a movie that whips up ideological and political support for America’s ongoing crimes against the peoples of that region.

Larry Everest is a correspondent for Revolution newspaper, where this article first appeared, and author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda (Common Courage, 2004). In 1991, he traveled to Iraq following the Persian Gulf War and shot the award-winning video Iraq: War Against the People. In 2005, he testified at the culminating session of the World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul, Turkey.

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Amnesty International Report – Iraq: Yezidi women and girls face harrowing sexual violence

SYRIA 360°

Escape from hell- Torture, sexual slavery in Islamic State captivity in Iraq

A girl in Khakhe camp who was a victim of abuse by the armed group calling itself Islamic State.

A girl in Khakhe camp who was a victim of abuse by the armed group calling itself Islamic State.

© Amnesty International

Torture, including rape and other forms of sexual violence, suffered by women and girls from Iraq’s Yezidi minority who were abducted by the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS), highlights the savagery of IS rule, said Amnesty International in a new briefing today.

Escape from hell- Torture, sexual slavery in Islamic State captivity in Iraq provides an insight into the horrifying abuse suffered by hundreds and possibly thousands of Yezidi women and girls who have been forcibly married, “sold” or given as “gifts” to IS fighters or their supporters. Often, captives were forced to convert to Islam.

“Hundreds of Yezidi women and girls have had their lives shattered by the horrors of sexual violence and sexual slavery in IS captivity,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor, who spoke to more than 40 former captives in northern Iraq.

“Many of those held as sexual slaves are children – girls aged 14, 15 or even younger. IS fighters are using rape as a weapon in attacks amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

The women and girls are among thousands of Yezidis from the Sinjar region in north-west Iraq who have been targeted since August in a wave of ethnic cleansing by IS fighters bent on wiping out ethnic and religious minorities in the area.

The horrors endured in IS captivity  have left these women and girls so severely traumatized that some have been driven to end their own lives. Nineteen-year-old Jilan committed suicide while being held captive in Mosul because she feared she would be raped, her brother told Amnesty International.

One of the girls who was held in the same room as Jilan and 20 others, including two girls aged 10 and 12, told Amnesty International: “One day we were given clothes that looked like dance costumes and were told to bathe and wear those clothes. Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself. She was very beautiful; I think she knew she was going to be taken away by a man and that is why she killed herself.”  The girl was among those who later escaped.

Wafa, 27, another former captive, told Amnesty International how she and her sister attempted to end their lives one night after their captor threatened them with forced marriage. They tried to strangle themselves with scarves but two girls sleeping in the same room awoke and stopped them.

“We tied the scarves around our necks and pulled away from each other as hard as we could, until I fainted… I could not speak for several days after that,” she said.

The majority of the perpetrators are Iraqi and Syrian men; many of them are IS fighters but others are believed to be supporters of the group. Several former captives said they had been held in family homes where they lived with their captors’ wives and children.

Many Yezidi survivors are doubly affected as they are also struggling to cope with the loss of dozens of their relatives who either remain in captivity or have been killed by the IS.

Randa, a 16-year-old girl from a village near Mount Sinjar was abducted with scores of her family members, including her heavily-pregnant mother. Randa was “sold” or given as a “gift” to a man twice her age who raped her. She described the impact of her ordeal to Amnesty International:

“It is so painful what they did to me and to my family. Da’esh (the IS) has ruined our lives… What will happen to my family? I don’t know if I will ever see them again.”

“The physical and psychological toll of the horrifying sexual violence these women have endured is catastrophic. Many of them have been tortured and treated as chattel. Even those who have managed to escape remain deeply traumatized,” said Donatella Rovera.

The trauma of survivors of sexual violence is further exacerbated by the stigma surrounding rape. Survivors feel that their “honour”, and that of their families, has been tarnished and fear that their standing in society will be diminished as a result.

Many survivors of sexual violence are still not receiving the full help and support they desperately need.

“The Kurdistan Regional Government, UN and other humanitarian organizations who are providing medical and other support services to survivors of sexual violence must step up their efforts. They must ensure they are swiftly and proactively reaching out to all those who may need them, and that women and girls are made aware of the support available to them,” said Donatella Rovera.

Such services should include sexual and reproductive health services as well as counselling and trauma support.

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The Torture Report and the End of US Exceptionalism

By Ajamu Baraka

It could be fortuitous or just another example of the utter contempt for international sensibilities that just a day before International Human Rights Day, the U.S. Senate released, its long suppressed report on the systematic violations of the human rights of hundreds of people it captured and tortured as part of its ‘war on terror’. However, in light of the behavior of the U.S. government since 9/11, I suspect that government officials did not consider the timing of the report. Especially since the limited summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report on the torture methods employed by the Bush Administration did not suggest an end to the impunity of government officials involved in the illegal program, but a continuation of it.

The fact that top officials in the Obama Administration and the leadership of the democratically-controlled Senate were aware of the criminal acts being perpetrated yet chose to prevent the release of the report and not prosecute officials responsible for those acts, demonstrates a bi-partisan cover-up and contempt for the law.

It is important to note that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is not a rogue operation. The actions it took were in response to directives from Bush officials to produce “actionable” intelligence, like the “intelligence” it was under pressure to produce to justify attacking Iraq. That is the role the CIA plays in service of the Executive Branch, the branch of the U.S. Government most responsible for advancing the interests of the capitalist class as a whole.

With that mandate, the Obama Administration was an active collaborator in a bi-partisan effort to cover up these crimes. We know this for this simple reason: although members of Congress and the Justice Department were in possession of evidence that human rights violations and transgressions of U.S. law had taken place, the only government officials who were prosecuted were those who brought information about governmental criminality to the attention of the public.

The bi-partisan claim that national security trumps U.S. and international law and all standards of human decency was the rationale that drove the decision by the Obama Administration to close out investigations into criminal activity during the Bush period.

Waterboarding, anal rape with a feeding tube, beatings, sleep deprivation, mock executions – these acts were all carried out on people who were ‘disappeared’ from their communities, families and nations with no regard for rights and humanity. Yet attempts by victims and their families to secure accountability and reparations for their abuse were systematically blocked by officials in the Obama Administration on the grounds of ”national security.”

That is why the sanctimonious posturing by Democrat members of the Senate Committee who are pretending to be outraged by the findings of the report is particularly galling in light of the fact that the conspiracy to cover up these crimes involved both parties. And the crimes continue. The Obama Administration continues to contract out torture through the program of “extraordinary rendition” that is buttressed with state murder in the form of its drone kill program. The criteria for who lives and dies on Pres. Obama’s ‘Tuesday morning kill list’ remain a mystery – though Attorney General Eric Holder ‘assures’ us that U.S. citizens are given their “due process” before the U.S. Government murders them.

U.S. officials don’t operate from the same set of standards as other states. As Pres. Obama repeats, over and over again, the U.S. is “exceptional.” And indeed it appears so. Successive administrations have engaged in the most egregious human rights abuses imaginable – illegal wars that kill hundreds of thousands, torture, arming of terrorists, overthrowing of governments, incarcerating more of its citizens than any other state on earth – yet still claims to be the world’s leader of human rights.

Today, the entire country – and the world – is being confronted with the glaring evidence of the systematic violation of the human rights of working class and poor black, Latinos and whites by a brutal and militarized police apparatus in the U.S. and the extent of torture perpetrated by agents of the U.S. government, with the approval of its elected ‘leaders’. I hope that on this Human Rights Day, the people of the world finally reject once and for all the lie that is U.S. exceptionalism.


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ICC to Examine UK Troops Abuses during Iraq Invasion

Source

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is reportedly expected to look into hundreds of new cases accusing British soldiers of abusing civilians in Iraq between 2003 and 2008.

troops

The Hague-based court will review the cases which detail torture techniques such as rape, sexual assaults, electrocution, sleep deprivation, beating and hooding used by British forces in Iraq during interrogations in the period, the Independent reported on Sunday.

The cases, which have been presented by lawyers and human right activists, accuse UK troops of abusing Iraqi children, women and men aged between 13 and 101.

In one of the cases, an Iraqi policeman died after British soldiers “forced his head into a bucket of cold water a number of times. He stopped breathing and died. His wife and children witnessed the soldiers killing him.”

The Independent report comes ahead of the publication of an official report into allegations that British forces mistreated and unlawfully killed Iraqis back in 2004.

The report, due to be released on Wednesday, is likely to fuel anger against the British government, which reportedly was aware of the torture techniques by the US spy agency CIA.

Source: Websites

14-12-2014 – 13:51 Last updated 14-12-2014 – 13:51

 

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The United States of Torture

It’s who we are

by , December 10, 2014

Justin Raimondo is in the middle of a major storm, without power, so he will have no Friday column. His column will return Monday, rain or shine. His most recent column is below.

Dianne Feinstein was the canary in the coalmine. If even the senior Senator from California, as stalwart an ally of the CIA and the National Security State as one is likely to find, was upset enough to make such a fuss about the Senate torture report then it had to be pretty awful. The release of the 600-page report summary confirmed our worst suspicions.

After a very Feinstein-ish introduction, filled with self-exculpatory finger-wagging and written in first-person high-drama mode, we learn:

1) It didn’t work. Out of at least 119 detainees held at secret CIA dungeons 39 were tortured: 7 of these produced no intelligence. None produced any intelligence that couldn’t have been gotten by legal means. Alan Dershowitz is going to be very disappointed to learn that, as the report puts it,

“At no time did the CIA’s coercive interrogation techniques lead to the collection of imminent threat intelligence, such as the hypothetical ‘ticking time bomb’ information that many believe was the justification for the use of these techniques.”

2) They tortured innocents. Much of the public support for the torture program comes from the false impression that all of these people were “bad guys” who were out to hurt Americans, but the Senate report reveals that’s just not the case. Twenty-six out of 119 prisoners were held “wrongfully.” As the report puts it: “Detainees often remained in custody for months after the CIA determined that they did not meet the [legal] standard. CIA records provide insufficient information to justify the detention of many other detainees.”

3) Interrogations were “brutal and far worse” than the CIA maintained.One interrogator played “Russian roulette” with a detainee – holding a gun with one bullet in the chamber to the prisoner’s head and periodically pulling the trigger. Sexual torture was employed, with special attention to the rectal area (it’s apparently a CIA thing). Threats to sexually torture and/or murder relatives were employed to get information out of detainees. Although there were probably torture techniques that were used without the knowledge of the Senate committee, among the ones they caught were: sleep deprivation (as long as a week), the “attention grasp“, walling, (slamming detainees face first against a wall), “facial hold,” facial slap, cramped confinement, wall standing (prisoner “stands about four or five feet from the wall, with his feet spread approximately to shoulder width. Arms are stretched out in front of him, with fingers resting on the wall. The fingers support all the body weight, and he is not allowed to move”) various other stress positions, waterboarding, use of diapers, use of insects, and mock burial.

4) The worst of the worst were key to the torture program. Although much is being said about the “incompetence” of the CIA in assigning highly problematic personnel to their deepest darkest covert operation, this assumes it wasn’t intentional – an unwarranted assumption in my view. After all, who would be better qualified to implement Dick Cheney’s sadistic fantasies than “a number of personnel whose backgrounds include notable derogatory information calling into question their eligibility for employment, their access to classified information, and their participation in CIA interrogation activities”? In short, it was a free-for-all at Torture Headquarters, with “untrained CIA officers at the facility” going all Marquis de Sade with their “frequent, unauthorized, and unsupervised interrogations of detainees using harsh physical interrogation techniques that were not—and never became—part of the CIA’s formal ‘enhanced’ interrogation program.”

Here the lesson is basic libertarianism, 101: government attracts the worst of the worst. Yes, there were some at the CIA who disputed the legality and morality of what was being done, and the report makes this clear, but in any statist society these people in government are a distinct – and usually powerless – minority. The sadistic punks and sociopathic perverts who inflicted torture on helpless prisoners merely reflected the mindset of their superiors, who ordered the torture and tried to distance themselves from their own handiwork as much as possible. In short, the torturers represented “the dysfunction, disorganization, incompetence, greed and deception” of the American political class in the latter days of the empire: these words were used byNew York Times reporter Scott Shane to describe the Senate report’s depiction of the CIA program, but they fit our rulers to a tee (and not just the Bush gang).

As the Senate committee report states:

“In nearly all cases, the derogatory information was known to the CIA prior to the assignment of the CIA officers to the Detention and Interrogation Program. This group of officers included individuals who, among other issues, had engaged in inappropriate detainee interrogations, had workplace anger management issues, and had reportedly admitted to sexual assault.”

Imagine the staff meetings!:

First Spook: “Hey, I can’t find a dildo big enough – do you think we have some bigger ones somewhere in stock?”

Second Spook: “I’ll send Smith to go see – I think he gets a charge outta that kinda thing.” [Snicker] “So are you getting the hang of it now?”

First Spook: “Oh yeah. That Raphael Patai book has been waaay helpful. The Arab Mind sure is a dirty mind. Turns out these guys are all faggots, they just won’t admit it. Speaking of which, could you send over a couple of rapists with those dildos?”

5) The CIA lied to everyone about everything. The report says the CIA engaged in “numerous factual inaccuracies” when dealing with the public, Congress, and even the White House. They lied about the effectiveness of torture: the report examines 20 instances in which the CIA claimed to have gotten valuable intelligence from “high value” detainees that “saved lives.” The Senate committee found that in exactly noneof these instances was this the case: indeed, many of these alleged “plots” were never operational – or else completely imaginary to begin with. The secrecy surrounding the torture chambers was so thick that they didn’t even tell the White House – never mind US ambassadors in relevant countries – where the overseas “black sites” were located. They lied about what they were doing, to whom they were doing it, and indeed about every single aspect of this program, including to the FBI and the CIA’s own Inspector General.

6) The CIA carried out a “coordinated” leakage of “classified information to the media.” Their purpose was to cover up their lies and “spin” the effectiveness of the torture program – just like they’re doing at this very moment to tamp down the outrage that accompanied the release of the report summary. I guess we’ll just have to wait until the entire Senate report is released – i.e. never – to get all the names of the guilty parties in the media, but it seems to me – based on their history as essentially stenographers for the government – that all of the “mainstream” media is guilty until proven innocent.

Our spooks used the President to mouth their talking points, inserting their lies into a2006 speech by Bush that claimed the CIA’s torture tactics had “saved lives” and facilitated the capture of important terrorist leaders – a contention directly contradicted by the CIA’s own records. Speaking of President Bush: the claim is that he was out of the loop until the autumn of 2006, but one wonders how that’s possible. And the Senate report doesn’t say who else in the White House was (or wasn’t) briefed early on, although I’ve yet to comb through all 600 pages of the report to absolutely confirm that.

Evidences of institutional insanity exposed in the Senate report range from physical atrocities to the purely intellectual variety. An example of the latter: utilitarians will be less than thrilled to learn that the CIA’s legal eagles invented a “novel” application of the “necessity defense” in order to justify the torture program, calculating that the harm to the few would be ameliorated by benefits to the many whose lives would be “saved.”

Looking for a model, the CIA’s aspiring professional sadists looked to methods utilized by countries that never recognized the Geneva conventions, such as North Korea: a training program designed to prepare US military personnel for enduring prison conditions in these countries was simply turned on its head.

The sickness gets sicker as we wade into the tall weeds: there’s the story of “Grayson Swigert” and “Hammond Dunbar,” pseudonyms for the psychologists put in charge of the torture orgy. Neither had any experience interrogating anyone. They didn’t know Al Qaeda from Al Jolson. However, these two did have experience with the program, mentioned above, that trained US soldiers to withstand torture: it was they who designed the specific torture techniques that would be used against detainees. They also “carried out inherently governmental functions,” according to the Senate report, “such as acting as liaison between the CIA and foreign intelligence services, assessing the effectiveness of the interrogation program, and participating in the interrogation of detainees held in foreign government custody.” Yet they weren’t just fulfilling a governmental function but also an entrepreneurial one on their own behalf: this duo established a private company to which the CIA contracted out its torture chambers. The contract was quite profitable, according to the Senate committee:

“In 2006, the value of the CIA’s base contract with the company formed by the psychologists with all options exercised was in excess of $180 million; the contractors received $81 million prior to the contract’s termination in 2009. In 2007, the CIA provided a multi-year indemnification agreement to protect the company and its employees from legal liability arising out of the program. The CIA has since paid out more than $1 million pursuant to the agreement.”

Yes, we bail out torturers as well as bankers, big insurance companies, and the auto industry.

It’s a measure of just how ridiculously unaware of their own absurdity people like Dianne Feinstein and her fellow Senators are that the names of these two torture profiteers – James E. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen – were revealed years ago and are well known, and yet the Senate report insists on referring to them by two silly-sounding pseudonyms.

That’s because our lawmakers live on another planet from the rest of us. Or, rather, they inhabit another dimension, otherwise known as Bizarro World – where up is down, black is white, crimes aren’t punished but those who expose crimes are relentlessly pursued, and the leader of the “Free World” condemns in others practices it routinely engages in.

The idea that “this isn’t who we are,” as President Obama has said, and that we have to expose this so that it “never happens again,” as Sen. Feinstein put it, is pure nonsense. This is indeed who we are: it is what we became once we acquired a global empire. Waterboarding is nothing new for Americans: we did it to the Philippine rebelswhen we decided to “liberate” them from the Spaniards. We did worse in Vietnam. What’s more, our proxy armies – the Nicaraguan contras, the Afghan mujahideen during the 1980s, the Syrian rebels today – have engaged in torture worldwide. And don’t forget the many authoritarian regimes we’ve propped up with aid, arms, and diplomatic support, while they torture their own people.

You can’t hold the whole world in subjection without a little torture: and given the arrogance and blatant immorality of our political class, you can bet it will be more than just a little.

Want to abolish torture by US government agents? Then abolish the American empire. There’s no shortcut, no way to ensure that “national security” won’t trump elementary ethics in the future – not unless we permanently ditch our imperial ambitions and restore our old republic. Until then we’ll remain the United States of Torture.

An added note: With all that’s been happening lately I’ve been so busy that I’ve neglected to thank our readers and supporters for making our Winter fundraising drive such a roaring success. So please allow me to rectify that oversight, however tardily and inadequately.

Without your support we just wouldn’t be here: it’s as simple as that. And yet you’ve come through once again, just as you’ve been doing for the past 18 years or so, and that for me is just so gratifying – such a validation of what we’re doing here at Antiwar.com – that I can hardly express my gratitude. An odd confession for a writer to make, but that should give you some idea of the sheer scale of my gratitude. Thank you one and all – we are working every day (yes, including Sundays!) to live up to the vote of confidence you’ve just given us.

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10 Most Harrowing Excerpts from CIA Torture Report

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CIA cites Israeli model to justify torture

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (C), a Democrat from California, speaks to reporters about the committee’s report on CIA interrogations at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, December 9, 2014. AFP/Saul Loeb

By: Ali Haydar

Published Friday, December 12, 2014

This is no joke. The United States relied on Israeli precedents and Tel Aviv’s violation of human rights to justify the torture of detainees by its own intelligence agencies, as was revealed in a report issued by the US Senate Intelligence Committee. Israeli media outlets have published highlights of the report.

Revelations about the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) use of torture are not over. A report issued by the US Senate Intelligence Committee reveals new information that was published yesterday by the Times of Israel website, stressing that torture is legitimate and legally based on the Israeli torture of detainees.

This is how Israel became an international legal authority that the CIA referred to in order to legitimize the torture it was practicing. According to the Times of Israel website, after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the CIA started looking at legal justifications for coercive interrogation techniques. Despite previous findings that these methods were ineffective because they could “result in false answers,” a memo issued by the CIA in November 2001 referred to the Israeli model, which justifies torture under the pretext that it is “necessary to prevent imminent… harm…, when there is no other available means to prevent harm.”

The CIA invoked the Israeli High Court ruling issued in 1999 allowing interrogators from Israel’s internal security service – the Israel Security Agency (ISA), aka Shin Bet or Shabak – to use certain techniques as long as they were a by-product of the interrogation and not a means in and of themselves.

More importantly, the court ruled that interrogators who exceed designated limits during interrogations, could avoid legal prosecution by invoking “necessity defense,” which is a common-law principle allowing one to break the law in urgent situations, such as an impending attack that might result in a large number of casualties.

The Israeli website pointed out that this ruling overturned the findings of the 1987 Landau Commission which recommended that Shin Bet interrogators be allowed to use “a moderate measure of physical pressure” under supervision and in certain cases where interrogators assume that the detainees have knowledge of impending attacks.

The Times of Israel added that in 2005, facing pressure from Congress over interrogation techniques, a CIA attorney working in the Director of National Intelligence office referred to the Israeli High Court ruling on the “necessity defense,” under the pretext that it is justified in the case of ticking-bomb scenarios.

The Israeli website indicated that two years later, an internal CIA memo argued that enhanced interrogation techniques are “authorized and justified by legislative authority,” based on rulings issued in Israel, according to the Senate report. It also revealed that the CIA looked to Israeli precedents to provide a legal and legislative cover in this regard. It argued that “‘several… techniques were possibly permissible, but require some form of legislative sanction’ and that the Israeli government ‘ultimately got limited legislative authority for a few specific techniques,’” stated the report.

In an attempt to mobilize more justifications, but from a security standpoint, the report indicated the CIA claimed that information extracted from detainees “provided a wealth of information about al-Qaeda plots,” including the mastermind behind the September 2001 attacks who divulged a “terrorist plot in Saudi Arabia against Israel.” The Israeli website, however, pointed out that Senate investigators accused the CIA of practicing torture beyond legal limits and of deceiving the nation with stories about interrogations that supposedly saved lives but that actually were not corroborated, not even by US intelligence records.

Former CIA officials and Senate Republicans challenged the findings of the report and accused Democrats of inaccuracies, sloppy analysis and cherry-picking evidence to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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Israel teaches brutality to your security agencies

REHMET

Early this year, in Denver (Colorado) ex-Israeli soldier Eran Efrati, explained how Israel Occupation Force (IOF) have militarized foreign law enforcement agencies in countries like the US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Turkey, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, India, etc.

Israeli soldiers are intensely trained for a war, whilst their actual military duties are to subdue and control Palestinians,” he said.

Watch video below.

Currently, every Jewish-controlled media is talking about the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture practices that includes “interrogators threatened to rape a detainee’s mother, forced others to stand on broken feet, and inserted hummus into one’s rectum“, something routinely applied on Palestinian youth by Israeli interrogators. According to Karen Greenburg, a leading American national security expert,

After 9/11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture. The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now we’re going to spread that into the fabric of everyday American life? It’s counter-terrorism creep. And it’s exactly what you could have predicted would have happened.”

Read more here.

In December 2011, American Jewish investigative reporter Max Blumenthal reported the total Israelification of US law enforcement agencies.

In the six month period from March 1, 2014 to August 31, 2014, eighty of London’s Metropolitan staff members took practical training course while watching Israeli military murdering over 2,300 civilians in Gaza including 550 children.

The British government routinely hires Israeli lobbyists to demonize British Muslims. The British government asked professor Alan Johnson, an Israeli lobbyist to write a report that examines journeys taken by young British Muslims ‘in and out of extremism’. He was also hired to develop strategies to counter so-called “radicalization” (being pro-Palestinian) among Muslim youth.

Professor Alexis Jay, another Zionist hag was the author of recent report on Pakistani/Bangladeshi Muslims involved in rapping over 1,400 British women (girlfriends and street women). In her report, Jay forgot to mention UK’s mostJewish Catholic paedophile James Savile. He was investigated for rapping nearly 400 men and boys in his BBC office.

On December 9, 2003, the UK’s Guardian reported that Israeli military officials are training US assassination squad in Iraq.

It is bonkers, insane. Here we are – we’re already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we’ve just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams,” said a military officer at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

Protesters in Missouri yelled at police,

You gonna shoot us? Is this the Gaza Strip?”

They were right to be concerned. Thousands of US law enforcement officers have trained in Israel or attended Israeli government-sponsored conferences to learn how Israel’s police and security forces prevent “terror attacks.” (Two law enforcement agencies deployed in Ferguson took courses in Israel, according to the Anti-Defamation League.) Israel can teach many lessons on how to dehumanize neighbors and crush dissent.

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Despite damning report, US officials unlikely to be prosecuted for torture

This August 14,2008 file photo shows a man as he crosses the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. AFP / Saul Loeb
Published Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Updated at 5:40 pm (GMT+2): The CIA’s use of torture between 2001 and 2009 was far more brutal than acknowledged, did not produce useful intelligence and was so poorly managed it lost track of detainees, a scathing US Senate report revealed Tuesday.
The report was hailed as a significant exposure of US crimes committed as part of its “War On Terror,” but the US Justice Department indicated that officials would not be prosecuted, leading to serious criticism about continued impunity for those accused of torture.
The Central Intelligence Agency also misled the White House and Congress with inaccurate claims about the program’s usefulness in thwarting attacks, the Senate Intelligence Committee said in its graphic report that revived the debate over interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.
Among the findings: a CIA operative used “Russian Roulette” to intimidate a prisoner and another – untrained in interrogation techniques – threatened to use a power drill.
Detainees were humiliated through the painful use of “rectal feeding” and “rectal rehydration.” One died of hypothermia while shackled, some suffered broken limbs.
CIA director John Brennan defended his agency’s adoption of tough tactics under president George W. Bush in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on US cities.
By 2009, Bush had ended many aspects of “Rendition, Detention and Interrogation” that he authorized after 9/11.
Brennan insisted that, while mistakes were made, brutal techniques “did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives.”
US President Barack Obama admitted some of the tactics detailed in the explosive report’s 500-page declassified summary were “brutal.”
“There are a lot of folks who worked very hard after 9/11 to keep us safe, during a very hazardous situation and a time when people were unsure of what was taking place,” he said in an interview with Telemundo.
“But what was also true is that we took some steps that were contrary to who we are, contrary to our values.”
Minutes after the Senate intelligence panel released details of CIA torture, Obama suggested the country should move on.
“Rather than another reason to refight old arguments, I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong – in the past,” said Obama, who banned the use of torture in interrogations after taking office in 2009.
The extensive detailing of the CIA’s interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects followed Obama’s admission in August that “we tortured some folks.”
‘Naked and shackled’
Feinstein told the Senate at least 119 detainees were held under the program, with many subjected to “coercive interrogation techniques, in some cases amounting to torture.”
The detainees were rounded up by US operatives beginning in 2001 after al-Qaeda destroyed New York’s World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon, and through to 2009.
They were interrogated either at CIA-run secret prisons in allied nations or at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
US embassies were on alert for reprisals as committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein pushed ahead with publication of the report, despite Secretary of State John Kerry warning it could provoke international anger.
Feinstein said some around the world “will try to use it to justify evil actions or incite more violence.”
“We can’t prevent that. But history will judge us by our commitment to a just society governed by law, and the willingness to face an ugly truth and say ‘never again.'”
While heavily redacted, the report is damning.
“The interrogations of CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the CIA represented to policymakers and others,” it said.
Conditions were particularly ghastly at a so-called black site nicknamed Cobalt, in an undisclosed country, where “at times detainees there were walked around naked and shackled with their hands above their head,” the report said.
The report indicated that sleep deprivation – sometimes for up to 180 hours, or seven and a half days – and prolonged physical restraint were used in Cobalt. One individual was reportedly kept shackled in a standing position for 17 days in a row.
Management of the program deteriorated so poorly in one country “that the CIA remains unable to determine the number and identity of the individuals it detained.”
The review of 6.3 million pages of documents concluded that use of the techniques “was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation.”
Seven of 39 detainees known to have been subjected to so-called “enhanced” interrogations “produced no intelligence while in CIA custody,” while others “provided significant accurate intelligence prior to, or without having been subjected to these techniques.”
And in several cases “the CIA inaccurately claimed that specific, otherwise unavailable information was acquired from a CIA detainee” as a direct result of the harsh interrogations.
A number of CIA employees who conducted interrogations were also known to have committed sexual assault and dealt with anger management issues prior to being assigned to their roles questioning detainees.
According to Israeli publication Haaretz, CIA lawyers had used rulings by Israel’s Supreme Court to build a legal case justifying torture in so-called “ticking time bomb” situations.
A draft memo by the CIA Office of General Counsel cited the “Israeli example” – referring to the 1987 Landau Commission – as a possible justification that “torture was necessary to prevent imminent, significant, physical harm to persons, where there is no other available means to prevent the harm.”
No officials will be prosecuted
A senior law enforcement official said the Justice Department has no plans to reopen a criminal investigation. That inquiry, which narrowed to two cases in which prisoners died in CIA custody, was closed in 2012 with no criminal charges.
Former Bush vice president Dick Cheney staunchly defended the program, telling The New York Times the interrogations were “absolutely, totally justified.”
“When we had that program in place, we kept the country safe from any more mass casualty attacks, which was our objective,” he said.
Rights advocates hailed the program’s exposure but criticized the Justice Department announcement that it will not prosecute any US officials implicated.
Criminal prosecutions of those who ran secret prisons and “enhanced interrogations” between 2002 and 2006, look unlikely despite renewed demands by civil rights advocates. So do efforts to hold to account politicians who authorized the CIA actions.
The CIA and its supporters have opposed criminal investigations, arguing their actions were legally authorized by the Bush-era Justice Department and the White House.
But accountability is needed, civil rights advocates say, to ensure that torture is not used in the future.
“It reopens the issue of accountability,” said Alberto Mora, who as the US Navy’s general counsel during the Bush administration, actively opposed the use of cruel interrogation practices at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
Mora said it has been “politically unthinkable” that Bush and his top advisers would be prosecuted, but the report’s publication means “The shield that has been provided … now may be no longer as effective as it was.”
The only civilian ever charged with wrongdoing in the CIA’s treatment of detainees after 9/11 is David Passaro, a CIA contractor convicted in 2006 of felony assault in the death of an Afghan prisoner.
“The CIA’s wrongful acts violated basic human rights, served as a huge recruiting tool for our enemies, and alienated allies worldwide,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Our response to the damning evidence in this report will define us as a nation.”
Romero said the Senate report provided a blueprint for possible prosecution. Romero also said that if Obama granted formal pardons to Bush administration officials, that would send a signal that torture prosecutions could occur in future.
“Either you prosecute those who committed the torture or you grant the pardons. You don’t pretend that the people who broke the law are not criminals,” Romero said.
Reactions
Germany said Wednesday the CIA torture amounted to “a gross violation of our liberal, democratic values” that must never happen again.
“What was then considered right and done in the fight against Islamist terrorism was unacceptable and a serious mistake,” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the top-selling Bild newspaper.
“It is now time to take action. The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed in today’s report must be brought to justice, and must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes,” Ben Emmerson, the UN Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights, said in a statement.
“The fact that the policies revealed in this report were authorized at a high level within the US government provides no excuse whatsoever,” Emmerson added. “Indeed, it reinforces the need for criminal accountability.”
Meanwhile, North Korea urged the UN Security Council Wednesday to censure the United States for its use of “inhuman torture” methods.
Discussing North Korea’s rights record while “shutting its eyes” to rights violations by one of its permanent members would confirm the Security Council’s “miserable position” as a “tool for US arbitrary practices,” a foreign ministry spokesman said.
As well as the “inhuman torture practiced by the CIA,” the spokesman cited the recent killings of African-Americans by white police officers as another “despicable” strike against the US’ human rights record.
“If (the Security Council) wants to discuss the human rights issue, it should … call into question the human rights abuses rampant in the US,” he said.
Moreover, Afghanistan’s new President Ashraf Ghani condemned the CIA report, saying the US’ actions violated “all accepted principles of human rights” and were part of vicious cycle of violence.
“The Afghan government condemns these inhumane actions in the strongest terms,” he said at a specially-convened press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul.
“There can be no justification for these kinds of actions and inhumane torture in today’s world.”
Ghani, who took office in September, said: “The reason I want to talk to my countrymen tonight is to explain our position on that report released by the US Senate.
“This report is 499 pages long and since downloading it from the Internet last night I have read every single word of it.
“This is a vicious cycle. When a person is tortured in an inhumane way, the reaction will be inhumane. And thus a vicious cycle of action and reaction is created.”
One of the “black sites” mentioned in the report, where practices such as “rectal feeding” and suspending inmates by the wrists, was a facility known as the “Salt Pit”, located outside Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base.
“Unfortunately this report shows that our Afghan countrymen have been subjected to torture and their rights violated,” Ghani said.
“Worse and even more painful is that it has been explained in this report that some of these people subjected to torture were completely innocent and it has been proven that they were innocent.”
The report was a years-long project of the committee’s Democratic members and staff. Republicans boycotted it, and on Tuesday they blasted it as a “political” assault on the CIA.
“We found that those biases led to faulty analysis, serious inaccuracies, and misrepresentations of fact,” Republicans led by Senator Saxby Chambliss said in their minority report.
But Republican Senator John McCain, a former prisoner of war who was tortured in Vietnam, praised the report’s release and said harsh interrogations did little to make Americans safer.
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence,” he said.
“This question isn’t about our enemies, it’s about us,” he added. “It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be.”
There was also international consternation at the findings, British Prime Minister David Cameron saying: “Those of us who want to see a safer, more secure world want to see extremism defeated. We won’t succeed if we lose our moral authority.”
There is the possibility of criminal probes outside of the United States. Some former Bush aides have been warned against travel to Europe. In 2012 Italy convicted, in absentia, 22 CIA officers and an Air Force pilot for kidnapping an Egyptian cleric off the streets of Milan.
Lawmakers spent months negotiating with the White House on redactions, an undertaking that caused deep friction between the intelligence community and senators and their staff.
The influx in “terrorist” attacks in recent years raises questions about the effectiveness of the US “War on Terror” launched by the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks, which included US-led invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, airstrikes in Pakistan and Yemen, and operations elsewhere.
A recent report by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) showed that the US campaign failed to eliminate or even reduce “terrorism,” showing instead a steady increase in the death toll over the last 14 years, from 3,361 in 2000 to 11,133 in 2012 and 17,958 in 2013.
Critics have pointed out that “terrorism” is a politically loaded term has often been used by governments to either delegitimize its opponents or justify its own rights violations. Restricting the definition of terrorism to non-state actors – as done in the IEP’s Global Terrorism Index – also has the effect of erasing acts of state “terrorism.”
The figures could rise dramatically in 2014 due to escalation of violence in the Middle East and Nigeria.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

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