Friday, February 27, 2009

Big surprise

Just if anyone had any doubts, Joe the Plumber continues to show his true colors.

Amnesty International: US-made white phosphorus weapons found in Gaza

Via Brenda Norrell's blog CENSORED NEWS:
Our research team recently found evidence of U.S.-made weapons in Gaza, including the misuse of white phosphorus munitions.

Urge Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to immediately call for an investigation into Israel’s use of U.S. arms in Gaza.

Investigate potential war crimes in Gaza

By Amnesty International
A new report released just hours ago reveals that U.S.-made white phosphorus artillery shells among other U.S. weapons were found throughout Gaza. When white phosphorus munitions are used in densely-populated civilian areas as Israel has, it violates international humanitarian law’s prohibition on indiscriminate attacks and amounts to a war crime.

In light of this new finding, we are urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to immediately call for: an investigation into Israel’s use of U.S. arms in Gaza
a suspension of U.S. military aid to Israel and to urge the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on all parties in the conflict

Samia Salman Al-Manay'a, 16 years old, was asleep in her home in the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza, when a phosphorus shell landed on the first floor of the house on January10th. Ten days later, from her hospital bed, she spoke to our delegation.

"The pain is piercing. It's as though a fire is burning in my body. It's too much for me to bear. In spite of all the medicine they are giving me the pain is still so strong."

Since 2001, the U.S. has been the largest supplier of arms to Israel. The U.S. has also provided considerable funding each year for Israel to buy arms despite U.S. legislation that restricts such aid to consistently gross human rights violators. Since 2002 Israel received over $21 billion in U.S. military and security assistance. Put simply, Israel's military intervention in the Gaza Strip has been equipped to a large extent by US-supplied weapons, munitions and military equipment paid for with U.S. taxpayers’ money.

Even after the start of the current conflict and reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in Gaza, U.S. authorities continued to authorize large shipments of U.S. munitions, including white phosphorus munitions, to Israel.

In January, Amnesty called for a suspension of all arms transfers to Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups until there is no longer a serious risk that such equipment will be used for violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses. The Department of State should lead the call for accountability. If we suspect our weapons are being used in attacks that are indiscriminately killing civilians, we must act.
Urge Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to immediately call for an investigation into Israel’s use of U.S. arms in Gaza and a suspension of military aid.

Last month you called for an independent investigation into all parties involved in the conflict in Gaza. We are happy to report that your voice was heard. Over 45,000 messages were sent to Secretary Clinton and UN Representative Susan Rice, who highlighted the importance of an investigation. Additionally, three Members of Congress, including the highest ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, visited Gaza and witnessed firsthand the humanitarian devastation.

Larry Cox
Executive Director
Amnesty International USA
The use of white phosphorus by Israeli forces is something I've brought to your attention before. The human consequences of that particular weapon are, to put it mildly, excruciating. The use of weapons that burn or melt away the flesh of our fellow human beings is something that we should not countenance, and those governments involved in such atrocities should be held accountable. I harbor no illusions that the Obama regime will do much, if anything, with regard to the genocide that is being perpetrated by the Israeli government. However, the point can be made crystal clear that there the near unanimous support of the holocaust occuring in what remains of Palestine doesn't extend beyond the Beltway.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I wonder

Will there be a blogswarm to mark the 6th anniversary of the current phase of the US war against and occupation of Iraq - much like last year's? Or did the election of the Pope of Hope usher in a new era of complacency? I wonder.

Quotable: Alice Miller on torture

From her article, The Origins of Torture In Endured Child Abuse:
The thirst for vengeance does not come from nowhere. It has a clearly identifiable cause. The thirst for vengeance has its origins in infancy, when children are forced to suffer in silence and put up with the cruelty inflicted on them in the name of upbringing. They learn how to torment others from their parents, and later from their teachers and superiors. It is nothing other than systematic instruction by example on how to destroy others. Yet many people believe that it has no evil consequences. As if a child were a container that can be emptied from time to time. But the human brain is not a container. The things we learn at an early stage stay with us in later life.

In my recent book "Die Revolte des Körpers" (The Body Never Lies) appeared in Germany in March 2004, I pointed out that in 22 American states children and adolescents can be beaten, humiliated, and sometimes exposed to outright sadism without this having any legal consequences. Such treatment is equivalent to genuine torture. But it is not called so. It goes by the name of education, discipline, leadership. These practices are actively supported by most religions. There is no protest against it, except on some Internet websites. But the Internet is also full of advertisements for whips and other devices for punishing small children and making them into God-fearing individuals so that God will approve of them and give them His love. The scandal in Iraq shows what becomes of these children when they reach adulthood. The perverted soldiers are the fruits of an education that actively instills violence, meanness, and perversion into young people.

The media quote psychological experts who contend that the brutality displayed by the American soldiers is a result of the stress caused by war. It is true that war unleashes latent aggression. BUT TO BE UNLEASHED IT HAS TO BE ALREADY THERE. It would be impossible for individuals who have not been exposed to violence very early, either at home or at school, to abuse and mock defenseless prisoners. They simply couldn't do it. We know from the history of the last World War that many conscripted soldiers were able to show a human face, even in the stress of war, if they had grown up without being exposed to violence. Many accounts of the war and the conditions in the camps tell us that even such extreme stress will not necessarily turn adults into perverted individuals.

Perversion has a long, obscure history invariably rooted in the childhood of the individual. It is hardly surprising that these histories are usually concealed from the eyes of society. People who have been taught to obey by having violence inflicted on them have very good reasons to avoid being reminded of the sufferings they went through in childhood and prevent the suppressed facts from ever emerging into the light of day.
H/t Arthur Silber from his other site, The Sacred Moment.

Change of regime in the US does not necessarily mean change for the better in Gitmo

Pardon me if I seem rather skeptical about the various promises about "change" when it comes to US perpetration of torture.

Cernig at Newshoggers:

Reuters reports complaints from Gitmo detainees via their lawyers that human rights abuses by guards at the camp have escalated since President Obama was elected and carried through on his campaign promise to order Gitmo closed.

Abuses began to pick up in December after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.

...He stressed the mistreatment did not appear to be directed from above, but was an initiative undertaken by frustrated U.S. army and navy jailers on the ground. It did not seem to be a reaction against the election of Obama, a Democrat who has pledged to close the prison camp within a year, but rather a realization that there was little time remaining before the last 241 detainees, all Muslim, are released.

"It's 'hey, let's have our fun while we can,'" said Ghappour, who helped secure the release this week of Binyam Mohamed, a British resident freed from Guantanamo Bay after more than four years in detention without trial or charge.

Reuters also notes that Admiral Patrick Walsh, the author of a recent report saying that Guantanamo Bay is fully in compliance with the Geneva Conventions, looked at 20 allegations of abuse - 14 of which were substantiated. "Fully" now means 25%, when the fox is asked to exonerate its own doings in the henhouse and has no real fear of being held to account.

Ghappour said he had spoken to army guards who, unsolicited, had described the pleasure they took in abusing prisoners, whether interrupting prayer or physical mistreatment. He said they appeared unconcerned about potential repercussions.

Of course they don't. They've been assured by Holden and Pannetta that there will be no prosecutions for those who just followed orders, no matter how gleefully they did so!

Meanwhile, Prof. Mark Denbeaux and the folks at Seaton Hall Law are now blogging from Gitmo. In their most recent post they discuss the implications of the Supreme Court's refusal to allow innocent Uighur detainees to be released onto US soil.

Perhaps the single most distressing aspect of the Uighur decision was a footnote, seemingly gratuitously added into the decision which says that Obama may need the permission of congress to release detainees to American soil.

The entire Guantanamo Bay Bar spent the night talking about the implications. The group contained a number of pessimists and almost the same number of optimists. The distinction seems to be consistent with age. The older of us feel as if we have seen this situation before and that somehow the United States comes through someway.

Some of that discussion involved a statement attributed to Churchill which said that America always makes the right decision when all other options have failed.

The younger lawyers recognized the fact that if it was true that the Courts could not order detainees who had won their habeas corpus decisions to be released to US soil, and we either could not or would not find appropriate other countries, then the decision in Boumediene was a meaningless gesture because it provided no remedy against unauthorized detention.

...Almost everyone believes that the Uighurs are the key. They are concededly not dangerous, can’t go home to China and have no other place until the war on terror is over and no one believes that that war, whatever it is, has an end in sight.

Despite Obama's closure order all is still very far from right in that American corner of Cuba.

Lenin's Tomb puts it a bit more bluntly:
And, though he has thankfully ordered the closure of that Guantanamo hellhole, the fact that he insists it is a humane institution should cast some doubt on his statement that "the United States of America does not torture". This is being treated as a promise, but it sounds like denial. In fact, it is the exact wording Bush used in his denials, while the US was in fact torturing prodigiously. And given that renditions will continue, and that most of the secret prisons are being maintained, there is no reason to believe that the global gulag will stop mutilating genitals, much less waterboarding.
Richard, at American Leftist adds his own two cents:
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is still proceeding with plans to expand a detention facility at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, so that so that it can increase the number of people imprisoned there from 700 to 11,000.


Similarly, the administration also authorized the continuation of renditions. But don't worry, incoming CIA director Leon Panetta is going to make sure that these detainees aren't going to be subjected to torture like Mohammed. Hence, in the new Orwellian world of Obama progressivism, given the prohibition of such practices in his executive order, we can obviously conclude that there's no need to provide them with access to the courts either.

Let's just say the obvious: Obama is smarter than Bush, and doesn't want to undertake travels abroad with his family under a cloud of war crimes charges after leaving the White House, so he's creating a paper trail to create a defense of plausible deniability. After all, you wouldn't want them to be afraid to enjoy themselves in Madrid, Barcelona, Paris or London, would you? A few weeks after he leaves office, the media will then feel free to expose the horrors of what he permitted on his watch.

Change you can believe in? Give me a break!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In his own words

Binyam Mohamed, who was recently released from the Guantánamo Bay gulag:
"I have been through an experience that I never thought to encounter in my darkest nightmares.

"Before this ordeal, torture was an abstract word to me. I could never have imagined that I would be its victim.

"It is still difficult for me to believe that I was abducted, hauled from one country to the next, and tortured in medieval ways - all orchestrated by the United States government."

The difference between Bu$hCo and Obamarama

That's your sliver when it comes to Iran.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fiddling while rural Alaska freezes (and starves)

This article is a few weeks old, but it does highlight the structural violence experienced by rural Alaska residents and the crisis their communities have experienced this winter. The stories shared in that one article are truly heartbreaking.

I know that the blog The Mudflats has been covering the story which includes their governor's lack of tangible action, save perhaps to blame the victims and once more expose herself as an ignoramus (Writing Raven is a bit too charitable in dismissing concerns about racism on the part of Palin, which is something that fundamentally central to the story of the grinding poverty experienced by surviving First Nations peoples).

Nice idea though I sincerely doubt it'll go far enough

Senate Chairman says he'd investigate Democrats who backed Bush policies:
In a little noticed one-line remark on Sunday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) endorsed the investigation of Democrats who approved of President George W. Bush's policies as president that he aims to review as part of a "truth commission."


Speaking to the New York Times' Scott Shane, "Mr. Leahy said he has learned that the temptation to abuse powers in a crisis is bipartisan and the commission’s review should include the role of Democrats in Congress in approving the Bush policies. The work should be done in one year, he added, to avert accusations that it was being dragged out for political gain."
H/t Avedon Carol. I'm not surprised that Obama has been tepid toward the whole truth commission idea. I'm sure that there are plenty of other Dems who would be potential targets unhappy about it as well. Needs to be done. Should have been done much earlier, like when the abuses (and that's understating things considerably) began, and I'm sure if such an investigation actually does transpire that it won't go nearly as far as it should (the ruling classes usually have no problem sacrificing one or two of their own to appease the masses, but they won't countenance a direct challenge to their legitimacy to rule).

Ultimately, it boils down to "my tribe is better than your tribe"

That, sadly, is what passes for discourse in the US, as one is reminded time and time again.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Let's hope this bill dies with minimal struggle

Looks like old Corny is up to his usual anti-civil liberties shenanigans:
Republican politicians on Thursday called for a sweeping new federal law that would require all Internet providers and operators of millions of Wi-Fi access points, even hotels, local coffee shops, and home users, to keep records about users for two years to aid police investigations.

The legislation, which echoes a measure proposed by one of their Democratic colleagues three years ago, would impose unprecedented data retention requirements on a broad swath of Internet access providers and is certain to draw fire from businesses and privacy advocates.

"While the Internet has generated many positive changes in the way we communicate and do business, its limitless nature offers anonymity that has opened the door to criminals looking to harm innocent children," U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said at a press conference on Thursday. "Keeping our children safe requires cooperation on the local, state, federal, and family level."
Call it Big Brother forcing you to be Big Brother too.