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 views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

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