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The Invisible Army: trafficked humans make the war machine go

July 8, 2011 

Sarah Stillman wrote an excellent article in the New Yorker about the “invisible army” of foreign workers or “third-country nationals” (TCNs) staffing U.S. military bases in war zones. She reports that “armed security personnel account for only about sixteen per cent of the over-all contracting force. The vast majority—more than sixty per cent of the total in Iraq—aren’t hired guns but hired hands.”  These TCNs tell horrific tales of abuse and exploitation, but also of resistance.  Trafficked humans and modern slavery make the war machine go.   Here are some excerpts from the article:

The Invisible Army

For foreign workers on U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, war can be hell.

by Sarah Stillman June 6, 2011

More than seventy thousand “third-country nationals” work for the American military in war zones; many report being held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by subcontractors who operate outside the law.

The article follows two Fijian women who were recruited to work in Dubai. They were tricked and found themselves working for the U.S. military bases in Iraq:

Soon, more than fifty women were lined up outside Meridian’s office to compete for positions that would pay as much as thirty-eight hundred dollars a month—more than ten times Fiji’s annual per-capita income. Ten women were chosen, Vinnie and Lydia among them. Vinnie lifted her arms in the air and sang her favorite gospel song: “We’re gonna make it, we’re gonna make it. With Jesus on our side, things will work out fine.” Lydia raced home to tell her husband and explain things to her five-year-old son. “Mommy’s going to be O.K.,” she recalls telling him. “Dubai, it’s a rich country. Only good things can happen.”

On the morning of October 10, 2007, the beauticians boarded their flight to the Emirates. They carried duffelbags full of cosmetics, family photographs, Bibles, floral sarongs, and chambas, traditional silky Fijian tops worn with patterned skirts. More than half of the women left husbands and children behind. In the rush to depart, none of them examined the fine print on their travel documents: their visas to the Emirates weren’t employment permits but thirty-day travel passes that forbade all work, “paid or unpaid”; their occupations were listed as “Sales Coördinator.” And Dubai was just a stopping-off point. They were bound for U.S. military bases in Iraq.

Lydia and Vinnie were unwitting recruits for the Pentagon’s invisible army: more than seventy thousand cooks, cleaners, construction workers, fast-food clerks, electricians, and beauticians from the world’s poorest countries who service U.S. military logistics contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Filipinos launder soldiers’ uniforms, Kenyans truck frozen steaks and inflatable tents, Bosnians repair electrical grids, and Indians provide iced mocha lattes. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is behind most of the commercial “tastes of home” that can be found on major U.S. bases, which include jewelry stores, souvenir shops filled with carved camels and Taliban chess sets, beauty salons where soldiers can receive massages and pedicures, and fast-food courts featuring Taco Bell, Subway, Pizza Hut, and Cinnabon. (AAFES’s motto: “We go where you go.”)

The expansion of private-security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is well known. But armed security personnel account for only about sixteen per cent of the over-all contracting force. The vast majority—more than sixty per cent of the total in Iraq—aren’t hired guns but hired hands. These workers, primarily from South Asia and Africa, often live in barbed-wire compounds on U.S. bases, eat at meagre chow halls, and host dance parties featuring Nepalese romance ballads and Ugandan church songs. A large number are employed by fly-by-night subcontractors who are financed by the American taxpayer but who often operate outside the law.

The wars’ foreign workers are known, in military parlance, as “third-country nationals,” or T.C.N.s. Many of them recount having been robbed of wages, injured without compensation, subjected to sexual assault, and held in conditions resembling indentured servitude by their subcontractor bosses. Previously unreleased contractor memos, hundreds of interviews, and government documents I obtained during a yearlong investigation confirm many of these claims and reveal other grounds for concern. Widespread mistreatment even led to a series of food riots in Pentagon subcontractor camps, some involving more than a thousand workers.

Amid the slow withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, T.C.N.s have become an integral part of the Obama Administration’s long-term strategy, as a way of replacing American boots on the ground. But top U.S. military officials are seeing the drawbacks to this outsourcing bonanza. Some argue, as retired General Stanley McChrystal did before his ouster from Afghanistan, last summer, that the unregulated rise of the Pentagon’s Third World logistics army is undermining American military objectives. Others worry that mistreatment of foreign workers has become, as the former U.S. Representative Christopher Shays, who co-chairs the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting, describes it, “a human-rights abuse that cannot be tolerated.”

The women working in these bases are often sexually assaulted:

Late one night in early April, 2008, I knocked on the door of Lydia and Vinnie’s shipping container to find Lydia curled up on the floor, knees to chest, chin to knees, crying. Vinnie told me, after some hesitation, that a supervisor had “had his way with” Lydia. According to the two women’s tearful account, non-consensual sex had become a regular feature of Lydia’s life. They said the man would taunt Lydia, calling her a “fucking bitch” and describing the various acts he would like to see her perform. Lydia trembled, her normally confident figure crumpled inward. “If he comes tonight, you have to scream,” Vinnie told Lydia, tapping her fist against the aluminum siding of the shipping container. “Bang on this wall here and scream!”

The next day, I dialled the U.S. Army’s emergency sexual-assault hot line, printed on a pamphlet distributed across the base that read, “Stand Up Against Sexual Assault . . . Make a Difference.” Nobody answered. Despite several calls over several days, the number simply rang and rang. (A U.S. Central Command spokesman, when later reached for comment, noted, “We do track and investigate any report of criminal activity that occurs on our military bases.”)

“Treat others how you want to be treated” The abuses of human rights have grown so egregious that workers uprisings have sprung up and spread:

In the three years since Vinnie and Lydia returned from Iraq, thousands of third-country nationals have tried to make their grievances known, sometimes spectacularly. Previously unreported worker riots have erupted on U.S. bases over issues such as lack of food and unpaid wages. On May 1, 2010, in a labor camp run by Prime Projects International (P.P.I.) on the largest military base in Baghdad, more than a thousand subcontractors—primarily Indians and Nepalis—rampaged, using as weapons fists, stones, wooden bats, and, as one U.S. military policeman put it, “anything they could find.”

The riot started as a protest over a lack of food, according to a whippet-thin worker in the camp named Subramanian. A forty-five-year-old former rice farmer from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Subramanian worked twelve-hour days cleaning the military’s fast-food court. Around seven o’clock on the evening of the riot, Subramanian returned to the P.P.I. compound and lined up for dinner with several thousand other workers. But the cooks ran out of food, with at least five hundred left to feed. This wasn’t the first time; empty plates had become common in the camp during the past year. Several of the men stormed over to the management’s office, demanding more rice. When management refused, he recalls, dozens more entered the fray, then hundreds, and ultimately more than a thousand. Employees started to throw gravel at the managers. Four-foot pieces of plywood crashed through glass windows. Workers broke down the door to the food cellar and made off with as much as they could carry.

The riot spread through the vast camp. At one point, as many as fourteen hundred men were smashing office windows, hurling stones, destroying computers, raiding company files, and battering the entrance to the camp where a large blue-and-white sign reads “Treat others how you want to be treated. . . . No damaging P.P.I. property that has been built for your comfort.” (According to an investigation conducted by K.B.R., “P.P.I. employees . . . became agitated after being told they’d experience a delay while additional food was prepared.” “Upon full assessment of the incident,” a company spokesperson relayed in a written statement, “K.B.R. notified P.P.I. management of the need for changes to prevent any recurrence and worked with the subcontractor to implement those corrective actions.”)

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

U.S. backs Saudi military intervention in Bahrain

June 17, 2011 

The U.S. has a keen interest in suppressing the popular uprising in the tiny Persian Gulf island kingdom of Bahrain.  Since WWII, the U.S. has stationed its 5th Fleet in Bahrain and has  propped  up the ruling family, which is Sunni and allied with Saudi Arabia. But the Bahraini population has traditionally been Shia and aligned with Iran.   Seeing the uprising against the ruling family as Iranian influenced, the U.S. has given tacit support to Saudi military intervention and violent repression of the protests. Here is a recent report from Russia Today:

 

 

Rhetoric Versus Reality: US Involvement in Bahrain

by grtv

While NATO continues bombarding Libya, they have quite a different approach with other countries–take for instance Bahrain. The country’s crown prince was in Washington DC last week and made a statement at a briefing with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “We are committed to changes and to find out ways to closer work with the US. We are a very important ally to the US,” said the prince.

Clinton expressed support for Bahrain, stressing it was a very important for the US. While they were talking about reforms, however, dialogue out of Bahrain shows that that is very far from the case overseas.

Michel Chossudovsky, the director of the Center for Research on Globalization, joins RT to talk about the matter.

Bahrain is a very interesting place with a tortured history of invasion and conquest spanning millennia. But this history has made the people and culture quite diverse, cosmopolitan and tolerant. There are many parallels that remind me of Hawai’i. The name Bahrain, like Kailua, means “Two Seas”. The pearl industry was a major industry in Bahrain as it was in Ke Awalau o Pu’uloa (Pearl Harbor) during the early-1800s. Like Hawai’i, Bahrain is strategically located, making it a coveted location for a military base and a prime target for war between competing powers. Like Hawai’i, “prosperity” and “modernization” has meant the destruction of the environment and loss of traditional ways of living.

In his article “Bahrain: U.S. Backs Saudi Military Intervention, Conflict With Iran” March 16, 2011, Rick Rozoff describes the U.S. interests in Bahrain:

That Saudi military forces entered Bahrain two days after Secretary Gates left would lead any sensible person to draw the conclusion that the Pentagon chief had discussed more than Iran and Libya with the kingdom’s top two government and defense officials. Though discussions on Iran would not have been unrelated to those concerning a U.S.-backed deployment of Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council forces to Bahrain, as some 70-75 percent of Bahrain’s population is Shi’a Muslim by way of confessional background although the ruling family is Sunni.

A Bahraini protester quoted by Reuters on March 15 commented on the Saudi-led military incursion this way: “It’s part of a regional plan and they’re fighting on our (land). If the Americans were men they would go and fight Iran directly but not in our country.”

The U.S. Fifth Fleet, one of six used by Washington to patrol the world’s seas and oceans, is headquartered near Manama, where between 4,000-6,000 American military personnel are stationed. Unlike Tunisia and Egypt, U.S. military partners but not hosts of American bases, Bahrain is vital to U.S. international military and energy strategy, and allowing a doctrinal affinity to in any manner augment Iran’s influence in its Persian Gulf neighbor is anathema to the White House, State Department and Pentagon.

The Fifth Fleet’s area of responsibility encompasses 2.5 million square miles of water, including the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean as far south as Kenya. [4] Aircraft carriers, destroyers and other warships are assigned to it on a rotational basis and the fleet is the naval component of U.S. Central Command, sharing a commander and headquarters in Bahrain with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. Central Command’s purview stretches from Egypt in the west to Kazakhstan, bordering Russia and China, in the east.

The Fifth Fleet has approximately 30,000 personnel stationed across the region.

The geopolitical importance of Bahrain was demonstrated when the U.S.’s top military officer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, visited several nations in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa last month: Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Djibouti and Kuwait, with a last-minute stop in Bahrain not listed on his itinerary.

[...]

The day after Saudi and Emirati military forces arrived in Bahrain, several thousand protesters descended on the Saudi embassy to demonstrate their opposition to the intervention. As the Reuters news agency reported, “Bahrainis are concerned that their tiny island could become a proxy battleground for a wider stand-off between the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab countries, all U.S. allies, and Shi’ite-ruled Iran, a U.S. foe.”

In March, when troops fired on peaceful demonstrators, commentator George Galloway discussed “War on Libya, Saudi Arabian Invasion of Bahrain”:

Army violated Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations regarding Depleted Uranium

April 28, 2011 

The Army appears to have violated Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations by conducting activities to remove and disturb depleted uranium contamination in the Schofield Range on O’ahu.  A letter from the NRC to Lieutenant General Rick Lynch, dated 4/5/11 “APPARENT VIOLATION OF U.S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION REGULATIONS AND REQUEST FOR PREDECISIONAL ENFORCEMENT CONFERENCE” states:

On March 4, 2010, a resident of Hawaii filed a request with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to take enforcement action against the Army if the NRC found that the Army had possessed or released depleted uranium (DU) to the environment without a license. The NRC reviewed this request pursuant to 10 CFR § 2.206, the process by which an individual may petition the NRC to take an enforcement action.

Based on the NRC’s review of the information in its possession, it appears that the Army is in violation of 10 CFR § 40.3, “License Requirements,” in that it appears that the Army is in possession of DU at multiple installations without proper NRC authorization in the form of a specific or general license issued by the NRC. It also appears that the Army performed decommissioning activities at the Schofield Barracks installation without NRC authorization.

As a result:

The described apparent violation is being considered for escalated enforcement action in accordance with the NRC Enforcement Policy.

A “Predecisional Enforcement Conference” will be held on May 10th, which the public may observe by toll free number and online:

The NRC will be holding a Predecisional Enforcement Conference with the US Army Installation Management Command on Tuesday May 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm CST in the NRC’s Regional office in Arlington, Texas. The purpose of the Predecisional Enforcement Conference is to discuss apparent violations of NRC requirements involving possession of source material (depleted uranium from Davy Crockett spotting rounds) without a license.

The public is invited to observe this meeting and will have one or more opportunities to communicate with the NRC after the business portion, but before the meeting is adjourned.

Interested members of the public can participate in this meeting via a toll-free teleconference and view presentations via a website. For details, please contact the individuals listed in the attached Meeting Notice.  The Meeting Notice is also available at the NRC’s website at: http://www.nrc.gov/public-involve/public-meetings/index.cfm

Below are a series of email correspondence between Cory Harden and the NRC.

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From: prvs=092cb6278=Dominick.Orlando@nrc.gov [mailto:prvs=092cb6278=Dominick.Orlando@nrc.gov] On Behalf Of Orlando, Dominick
Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 11:45 PM
To: Cory (Martha) Harden
Cc: Michalak, Paul
Subject: RE: Predecisional Enforcement Conference with US Army IMCOM

Ms. Hardin

Attached is the letter to the Army regarding the apparent violation.  I think this would be the most useful for your review as it will be the basis for the discussion during the Predecisional Enforcement Conference.

Dominick Orlando

From: Cory (Martha) Harden [mailto:mh@interpac.net]
Sent: Wednesday, April 27, 2011 4:42 AM
To: Orlando, Dominick
Subject: RE: Predecisional Enforcement Conference with US Army IMCOM

Hello Dominick Orlando,

Thank you for the notice. Can you recommend any documents on ADAMS that would be good to read beforehand? Amy ML numbers you have would be helpful.

Thank you,

Cory Harden
PO Box 10265
Hilo, Occupied Hawai’i 96721
808-968-8965
mh@interpac.net

From: prvs=0909e5355=Dominick.Orlando@nrc.gov [mailto:prvs=0909e5355=Dominick.Orlando@nrc.gov] On Behalf Of Orlando, Dominick
Sent: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 7:46 AM
To: mh@interpac.net; panghi@hawaii.rr.com; Geomike5@att.net; imua-hawaii@hawaii.rr.com; ja@interpac.net; lanny.sinkin@gmail.com; Honerlah, Hans B NAB02; russell.takata@doh.hawaii.gov
Cc: Michalak, Paul; Burgess, Michele; McConnell, Keith; Summers, Robert; McIntyre, David; Klukan, Brett; Sexton, Kimberly; Joustra, Judith; Roberts, Mark; Lipa, Christine; LaFranzo, Michael; Rodriguez, Lionel; Spitzberg, Blair; Evans, Robert; Schlapper, Gerald; robert.cherry@us.army.mil
Subject: Predecisional Enforcement Conference with US Army IMCOM

Good Morning

The NRC will be holding a Predecisional Enforcement Conference with the US Army Installation Management Command on Tuesday May 10, 2011 at 2:00 pm CST in the NRC’s Regional office in Arlington, Texas. The purpose of the Predecisional Enforcement Conference is to discuss apparent violations of NRC requirements involving possession of source material (depleted uranium from Davy Crockett spotting rounds) without a license.

The public is invited to observe this meeting and will have one or more opportunities to communicate with the NRC after the business portion, but before the meeting is adjourned.

Interested members of the public can participate in this meeting via a toll-free teleconference and view presentations via a website. For details, please contact the individuals listed in the attached Meeting Notice.  The Meeting Notice is also available at the NRC’s website at: http://www.nrc.gov/public-involve/public-meetings/index.cfm

Thank you

Dominick Orlando, Senior Project Manager
Special Projects Branch
Decommissioning and Uranium Recovery Licensing Directorate
Division of Waste Management and Environmental Protection
__._,_.___

Attachment(s) from Cory (Martha) Harden
1 of 1 File(s)
ARMYPEC.pdf

Peace Crimes

September 12, 2010 

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

John F. Kennedy, 1962

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Source: http://www.truth-out.org/peace-crimes62612

Peace Crimes

Sunday 12 September 2010

by: Diane Lefer, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Hector Aristizábal lay on a table in Medellin, Colombia, his head covered with a black cloth. Twenty-eight years had passed since he was taken from his home by the US-trained military, secretly detained and tortured. Now, he had returned to his birthplace after years in exile in the US to spend a month working with peace and justice groups, and this night he was not in custody, but on stage. “Nightwind,” the play we created in 2004 about his experience and his brother’s abduction, torture and murder by a death squad, has toured the US and the world, including Afghanistan, to raise global opposition to the practice of torture. Performing it for the first time in Medellin, the city where the atrocities took place, Hector was nervous. He worried about the effect on the audience, people who had experienced these horrors first hand, but as he lay with his eyes covered, unable to see, he also felt vulnerable and worried for himself. Every day in Colombia, 20 people are disappeared. Massacres continue, as do right-wing paramilitary links to the Army and to high government officials and to the cocaine trade. Anyone could be in the audience – members of the military or paramilitary, that go on killing with impunity, and any one of them might decide, “This guy thinks he’s going to survive again. Not this time. Let’s finish the job.” Hector believed for the moment he was going to die.

While Hector was sweating it out on stage, I was back in Los Angeles and I was worried, too, because I was reading the text of Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, in which the Supreme Court on June 24 decided that training people in nonviolent conflict resolution and international human rights law can lead to 15 years in a federal prison for providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

The case was brought because retired administrative law Judge Ralph Fertig wanted to be sure he wouldn’t be prosecuted under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 and the later provisions of the Patriot Act for continuing his longstanding work in nonviolence with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and in helping that group prepare a case to bring to the United Nations. The Carter Center joined with an amicus brief as much of Jimmy Carter’s work in monitoring elections and entering conflict zones could be ruled criminal. Court after court agreed Judge Fertig’s work was legitimate and protected, but the Obama administration appealed, with Elena Kagan (then solicitor general) offering the argument. The Roberts court once more managed to ignore the Constitution and at the same time overreach. According to Judge Fertig, who spoke to the American Civil Liberties Union in Santa Monica in July, the chief justice chastised Kagan for not arguing the case strenuously enough. The decision went even further than the government’s argument sought in its chilling effect on free association and speech.

In Medellin, I guess it is material support for terrorism when to enter the poorest, most marginalized neighborhoods bus drivers and taxi drivers are forced to pay a “vacuna” – vaccination against getting killed – to the illegal paramilitaries who seek to control who gets in and who gets out alive. Thanks to the Supreme Court, zones where peacemaking is most needed are now off limits. As Ahilan Arulanantham, director of immigrant rights and national security for the ACLU of Southern California, has pointed out, if the decision in Holder v. HLP had come down in 2004, the provision of disaster relief to tsunami-devastated civilians in the Tamil Tiger-controlled region of Sri Lanka would have been a crime.

I sat with the decision in my hands and thought about Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who intends to introduce a legislative fix, and will no doubt endure a continuation of the personal attacks on him and his Muslim faith.

I thought a good argument can be made (by me, not by the Roberts court) that the US government’s real fear is not of terrorists, but of the “interference” of citizen diplomacy and humanitarian NGOs that provide alternatives to the default military response in conflict zones.

I thought that, as a US taxpayer, I’ve provided material support to state-sponsored terrorism and torture.

I thought of the “Nightwind” performance and discussion Hector and I offered in Los Angeles at a mosque that has been under attack because it was built with Saudi support, and two of the 9/11 hijackers at one time worshiped there. Were there any radical Islamists present? I doubt it, but I rather hope so. What a perfect audience for us to reach with a play that shows a torture survivor ultimately refusing the option of violence.

I thought of the work Hector has done on the West Bank to bring Israeli rabbinical students and Palestinian activists together. Did he first screen the participants to make sure there was no link to Hamas? I don’t think so.

I thought about how tired I am of hearing the Palestinian people blamed for not having produced a Martin Luther King Jr. or a Gandhi. In 1983, clinical psychologist Mubarak Awad established the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence. Five years later, when his work training people in the philosophy and practice of nonviolent civil disobedience was having an effect and showing success, an alarmed Israeli government had him deported from the occupied territories.

Meanwhile, in Medellin, the performance continued as Hector carried the audience with him through his pain, his desire for violent revenge and his transformation of that passion and energy into the commitment to work peacefully for justice.

The performance ended, but not the experience. Trained as a psychologist as well as an actor and director, Hector had audience members join him in a workshop he designed to allow them to express their emotions and release pain. People cried, screamed, remembered friends and family members who had been killed or disappeared.

“We need this,” said one of the event organizers. “All of us need healing but the programs we have here now bring together paramilitaries (from the AUC, designated by the US a foreign terrorist organization) and guerrillas (including from the FARC, designated by the US as a foreign terrorist organization) and we ask people to tell their terrible stories. Then everyone goes home devastated. They go home alone.”

If you reopen the wound, you have to offer medicine. We want to return to Colombia next year to offer medicine, but if we do that, are we facing criminal prosecution when we return home?

As Hector says in our book, “The Blessing Next to the Wound: A Story of Art, Activism and Transformation,” “I like to think the work I do now is preparing me to go back to Colombia one day and sit in the same room with a worker, a peasant, a military person whose institution tortured me, a paramilitary like the ones who killed my brother, a guerrilla who would probably want to kill me because of how I criticized his movement and a CEO from a big company that I’ve called evil and we will talk about how we can all work together to rebuild our country.” I guess that makes Hector a terrorist.

I guess governments have figured out it’s easy to justify violence against a violent opponent and a terrorist is, therefore, the preferred adversary. Especially when the terrorist is the nonperson we must treat as radioactive and never talk to.

To governments like our own in thrall to the military-industrial complex and the illusion of military victory and the desire for top-down control, there’s only one reason nonviolent mass movements pose a threat: They work.

Diane Lefer is an author, playwright and activist whose books include “The Blessing Next to the Wound: A Story of Art, Activism and Transformation” (Lantern Books, 2010), co-authored with Colombian exile Hector Aristizábal and the short-story collection “California Transit” (Sarabande Books, 2007), which received the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. She is a frequent contributor of articles to LA Progressive.

Pentagon hunting for Wikileaks founder and Arrest of Alleged Leaker of “Collateral Murder” video

June 18, 2010 

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/17/wikileaks_whistleblowers

With Rumored Manhunt for Wikileaks Founder and Arrest of Alleged Leaker of Video Showing Iraq Killings, Obama Admin Escalates Crackdown on Whistleblowers of Classified Information

Pentagon investigators are reportedly still searching for Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, who helped release a classified US military video showing a US helicopter gunship indiscriminately firing on Iraqi civilians. The US military recently arrested Army Specialist Bradley Manning, who may have passed on the video to Wikileaks. Manning’s arrest and the hunt for Assange have put the spotlight on the Obama administration’s campaign against whistleblowers and leakers of classified information. We speak to Daniel Ellsberg, who’s leaking of the Pentagon Papers has made him perhaps the nation’s most famous whistleblower; Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a member of the Icelandic Parliament who has collaborated with Wikileaks and drafted a new Icelandic law protecting investigative journalists; and Glenn Greenwald, political and legal blogger for Salon.com.

Read More…

Another activist with Hawai’i ties injured, still detained by Israel

June 4, 2010 

Ken O’Keefe is an ex-marine who was very active in environmental and Hawaiian sovereignty issues when he lived in Hawai’i.  He delivered blistering testimony against the Army’s bombing and desecration of Makua.  What was so powerful about his testimony is that  he attacked the premise of the training.  As a vet, he had the authority to condemn the mission, much the same way that decorated veteran Smedley Butler called it: “I was a gangster for capitalism”.

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http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20100604/NEWS01/6040345/Israel+detains+activist+O+Keefe

Posted on: Friday, June 4, 2010

Israel detains activist O’Keefe

Son of Hawaii resident involved in airport scuffle while being deported

By Eloise Aguiar

Advertiser Staff Writer

A man with connections to O’ahu’s North Shore who was among volunteers on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla is still in Israel after a scuffle at the airport during the deportation of the activists to Istanbul, according to his mother.

Pat Johnson, who operates the Hale’iwa shop Deep Ecology, said her son, Ken O’Keefe, was badly beaten in Wednesday’s fray, suffering a gash on the forehead and possibly cracked ribs.

Johnson said she learned about the incident from O’Keefe’s partner, who lives with him in London.

“The general atmosphere was quite chaotic and a scuffle broke out over an injured man who was being manhandled by Israeli officials,” Johnson said. “A number of people got involved, including Ken.”

The Associated Press reported that about a dozen female activists scuffled with security officers at the airport but were quickly subdued by authorities. Israeli officials said no charges would be filed and the women were to be deported as planned.

Israeli commandos took over a six-ship flotilla that was taking humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine and detaining an estimated 500 people. Israel maintains the commandos opened fire as a last resort after they were attacked.

The flotilla was attempting to break the three-year-old Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Israel says the blockade is necessary because it prevents missile attacks against Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

O’Keefe and Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel who lives in Hawai’i, were among the detainees. Some 466 people were deported to Istanbul on Wednesday.

Johnson said her son was able to call his partner and tell her that he had refused medical attention and gone on a hunger strike because he was denied access to a lawyer after the airport fray.

Johnson said she is concerned for her son but understands his commitment to support this effort.

O’Keefe, 40, is compassionate and has a passion for the things he does, she said.

While starting the dive shop business with his mother in 1998, his concerns were for the ecology and the sea turtle. He would sponsor reef cleanups and go out to rescue turtles tangled in fishlines and floating debris, she said.

According to his website, O’Keefe was a Marine who served in the 1991 Gulf War but in 2003 he started Human Shield, an effort to stop bombings in Baghdad when the United States was about to invade Iraq. The effort was somewhat successful but on a much smaller scale than he had anticipated.

In fall 2008 he was a captain and first mate with the Free Gaza Movement that sailed two boats into Gaza.

In February 2009 he founded Aloha Palestine in hopes of providing ship service between Cyprus and Gaza.

“He has a great deal of passion … for people and animals that can’t really stand up for themselves,” Johnson said, adding that she’s not sure what will happen now. “I know he’ll stand with his principles above everything. There’s no doubt.”

Henry Noa, who has known O’Keefe for about seven years, said he wasn’t surprised that O’Keefe would be on the ship to Gaza.

His commitment is unwavering and what he does, he does with full involvement, Noa said.

“He believes in justice,”he said. “I believe that his commitment to the Palestinian movement is something that he’s accepted and will continue until there’s some resolve to it. He believes that the Palestinian people are humans and the treatment they’ve been undergoing is below inhumane.”

Reach Eloise Aguiar at eaguiar@honoluluadvertiser.com.

China strikes back with report on U.S. human rights record

March 20, 2010 

China has issued a report on U.S. human rights record. Here’s a relevant excerpt followed by the full article.  There’s links at the bottom of the article to the full text of the human rights report and China’s own human rights plan.  Here’s an excerpt from the report:

VI. On U.S. Violations of Human Rights against Other Nations

The United States with its strong military power has pursued hegemony in the world, trampling upon the sovereignty of other countries and trespassing their human rights.

As the world’s biggest arms seller, its deals have greatly fueled instability across the world. The United States also expanded its military spending, already the largest in the world, by 10 percent in 2008 to 607 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 42 percent of the world total (The AP, June 9, 2009).

According to a report by the U.S. Congress, the U.S. foreign arms sales in 2008 soared to 37.8 billion U.S. dollars from 25.4 billion a year earlier, up by nearly 50 percent, accounting for 68.4 percent of the global arms sales that were at its four-year low (Reuters, September 6, 2009). At the beginning of 2010, the U.S. government announced a 6.4-billion-U.S. dollar arms sales package to Taiwan despite strong protest from the Chinese government and people, which seriously damaged China’s national security interests and aroused strong indignation among the Chinese people.

The wars of Iraq and Afghanistan have placed heavy burden on American people and brought tremendous casualties and property losses to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. The war in Iraq has led to the death of more than 1million Iraqi civilians, rendered an equal number of people homeless and incurred huge economic losses. In Afghanistan, incidents of the U.S. army killing innocent people still keep occurring. Five Afghan farmers were killed in a U.S. air strike when they were loading cucumbers into a van on August 5, 2009 (http://www.rawa.org). On June 8, the U.S. Department of Defense admitted that the U.S. raid on Taliban on May 5 caused death of Afghan civilians as the military failed to abide by due procedures. The Afghan authorities have identified 147 civilian victims, including women and children, while a U.S. officer put the death toll under 30 (The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 9, 2009).

Prisoner abuse is one of the biggest human rights scandals of the United States. A report presented to the 10th meeting of Human Rights Council of the United Nations in 2009 by its Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism showed that the United States has pursued a comprehensive set of practices including special deportation, long-term and secret detentions and acts violating the United Nations Convention against Torture. The rapporteur also said, in a report submitted to the 64th General Assembly of the United Nations, that the United States and its private contractors tortured male Muslims detained in Iraq and other places by stacking the naked prisoners in pyramid formation, coercing the homosexual sexual behaviors and stripping them in stark nakedness (The Washington Post, April 7, 2009). The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has begun interrogation by torture since 2002. The U.S. government lawyers disclosed that since 2001, CIA has destroyed 92 videotapes relating to the interrogation to suspected terrorists, 12 of them including the use of torture (The Washington Post, March 3, 2009). The CIA interrogators used a handgun and an electric drill to frighten a captured al-Qaeda commander into giving up information (The Washington Post, August 22, 2009). The U.S. Justice Department memos revealed the CIA kept prisoners shackled in a standing position for as long as 180 hours, more than a dozen of them deprived of sleep for at least 48 hours, three for more than 96 hours, and one for the nearly eight-day maximum. Another seemed to endorse sleep deprivation for 11 days, stated on one memo (http://www.chron.com). The CIA interrogators used waterboarding 183 times against the accused 9/11 major plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and 83 times against suspected Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah (The New York Times, April 20, 2009). A freed Guantanamo prisoner said he experienced the “medieval” torture at Guantanamo Bay and in a secret CIA prison in Kabul (AFP, London, March 7, 2009). In June 2006, three Guantanamo Bay inmates could have been suffocated to death during interrogation on the same evening and their deaths passed off as suicides by hanging, revealed by a six-month joint investigation for Harpers Magazine and NBC News in 2009 (www.guardian.co.uk, January 18, 2010). A Somali named Mohamed Saleban Bare, jailed at Guantanamo Bay for eight years, told AFP the prison was “hell on earth” and some of his colleagues lost sight and limbs and others ended up mentally disturbed (AFP, Hargisa, Somali, December 21, 2009). A 31-year-old Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay who had been on a long hunger strike apparently committed suicide in 2009 after four prior suicide deaths beginning at 2002 (The New York Times, June 3, 2009). The U.S. government held more than 600 prisoners at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. A United Nations report singled out the Bagram detention facility for criticism, saying some ex-detainees allege being subjected to severe torture, even sexual abuse, and some prisoners put under detention for as long as five years. It also reported that some were held in cages containing 15 to 20 men and that two detainees died in questionable circumstances while in custody (IPS, New York, February 25, 2009). An investigation by U.S. Justice Department showed 2,000 Taliban surrendered combatants were suffocated to death by the U.S. army-controlled Afghan armed forces (http://www.yourpolicicsusa.com, July 16, 2009).

The United States has been building its military bases around the world, and cases of violation of local people’s human rights are often seen. The United States is now maintaining 900 bases worldwide, with more than 190,000 military personnel and 115,000 relevant staff stationed. These bases are bringing serious damage and environmental contamination to the localities. Toxic substances caused by bomb explosions are taking their tolls on the local children. It has been reported that toward the end of the U.S. military bases’ presence in Subic and Clark, as many as 3,000 cases of raping the local women had been filed against the U.S. servicemen, but all were dismissed (http://www.lexisnexis.com, May 17, 2009).

The United States has been maintaining its economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba for almost 50 years. The blockade has caused an accumulated direct economic loss of more than 93 billion U.S. dollars to Cuba. On October 28, 2009, the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on the “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba,” with a recorded vote of 187 in favor to three against, and two abstentions. This marked the 18th consecutive year the assembly had overwhelmingly called on the United States to lift the blockade without delay (Overwhelming International Rejection of US Blockade of Cuba at UN, www.cubanews.ain.cu).

The United States is pushing its hegemony under the pretence of “Internet freedom.” The United States monopolizes the strategic resources of the global Internet, and has been retaining a tight grip over the Internet ever since its first appearance. There are currently 13 root servers of Internet worldwide, and the United States is the place where the only main root server and nine out of the rest 12 root servers are located. All the root servers are managed by the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which is, by the authority of the U.S. government, responsible for the management of the global root server system, the domain name system and the Internet Protocol address. The United States has declined all the requests from other countries as well as international organizations including the United Nations to break the U.S. monopoly over the root servers and to decentralize its management power over the Internet. The United States has been intervening in other countries’ domestic affairs in various ways taking advantage of its control over Internet resources. The United States has a special troop of hackers, which is made up of hacker proficients recruited from all over the world. When post-election unrest broke out in Iran in the summer of 2009, the defeated reformist camp and its advocators used Internet tools such as Twitter to spread their messages. The U.S. State Department asked the operator of Twitter to delay its scheduled maintenance to assist with the opposition in creating a favorable momentum of public opinion. In May 2009, one web company, prompted by the U.S. authorities, blocked its Messenger instant messaging service in five countries including Cuba.

The United States is using a global interception system named “ECHELON” to eavesdrop on communications worldwide. A report of the European Parliament pointed out that the “ECHELON” system is a network controlled by the United States for intelligence gathering and analyzing. The system is able to intercept and monitor the content of telephone calls, fax, e-mail and other digital information transmitted via public telephone networks, satellites and microwave links. The European Parliament has criticized the United States for using its “ECHELON” system to commit crimes such as civilian’s privacy infringement or state-conducted industrial espionage, among which was the most striking case of Saudi Arabia’s 6-billion-dollar aircraft contract (see Wikipedia). Telephone calls of British Princess Diana had been intercepted and eavesdropped because her global campaign against land-mines was in conflict with the U.S. policies. The Washington Post once reported that such spying activities conducted by the U.S. authorities were reminiscent of the Vietnam War when the United States imposed wiretapping and surveillance upon domestic anti-war activists.

The United States ignores international human rights conventions, and takes a passive attitude toward international human rights obligations. It signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 32 years ago and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 29 years ago, but has ratified neither of them yet. It has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities either. On Sept. 13, 2007, the 61st UN General Assembly voted to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which has been the UN’s most authoritative and comprehensive document to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. The United States also refused to recognize the declaration.

The above-mentioned facts show that the United States not only has a bad domestic human rights record, but also is a major source of many human rights disasters around the world. For a long time, it has placed itself above other countries, considered itself “world human rights police” and ignored its own serious human rights problems. It releases Country Reports on Human Rights Practices year after year to accuse other countries and takes human rights as a political instrument to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, defame other nations’ image and seek its own strategic interests. This fully exposes its double standards on the human rights issue, and has inevitably drawn resolute opposition and strong denouncement from world people. At a time when the world is suffering a serious human rights disaster caused by the U.S. subprime crisis-induced global financial crisis, the U.S. government still ignores its own serious human rights problems but revels in accusing other countries. It is really a pity.

We hereby advise the U.S. government to draw lessons from the history, put itself in a correct position, strive to improve its own human rights conditions and rectify its acts in the human rights field.

>><<

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2010-03/12/c_13208120.htm

China strikes back with report on U.S. human rights record

English.news.cn 2010-03-12 15:07:03

BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) — China Friday retorted U.S. criticism by publishing its own report on the U.S. human rights record.

“As in previous years, the (U.S.) reports are full of accusations of the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions including China, but turn a blind eye to, or dodge and even cover up rampant human rights abuses on its own territory,” said the Information Office of the State Council in its report on the U.S. human rights record.

The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009 was in retaliation to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009 issued by the U.S. Department of State on March 11.

The report is “prepared to help people around the world understand the real situation of human rights in the United States,” said the report.

The report reviewed the human rights record of the United States in 2009 from six perspectives: life, property and personal security; civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; racial discrimination; rights of women and children; and the U.S.’ violation of human rights against other countries.

It criticized the United States for taking human rights as “a political instrument to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, defame other nations’ image and seek its own strategic interests.”

China advised the U.S. government to draw lessons from the history, put itself in a correct position, strive to improve its own human rights conditions and rectify its acts in the human rights field.

This is the 11th consecutive year that the Information Office of China’s State Council has issued a human rights record of the United States to answer the U.S. State Department’s annual report.

“At a time when the world is suffering a serious human rights disaster caused by the U.S. subprime crisis-induced global financial crisis, the U.S. government still ignores its own serious human rights problems but revels in accusing other countries. It is really a pity,” the report said.

SPYING ON CITIZENS

While advocating “freedom of speech,” “freedom of the press” and “Internet freedom,” the U.S. government unscrupulously monitors and restricts the citizens’ rights to freedom when it comes to its own interests and needs, the report said.

The U.S. citizens’ freedom to access and distribute information is under strict supervision, it said.

According to media reports, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) started installing specialized eavesdropping equipment around the country to wiretap calls, faxes, and emails and collect domestic communications as early as 2001.

The wiretapping programs was originally targeted at Arab-Americans, but soon grew to include other Americans.

After the September 11 attack, the U.S. government, in the name of anti-terrorism, authorized its intelligence authorities to hack into its citizens’ mail communications, and to monitor and erase any information that might threaten the U.S. national interests on the Internet through technical means, the report said.

Statistic showed that from 2002 to 2006, the FBI collected thousands of phones records of U.S. citizens through mails, notes and phone calls.

In September 2009, the country set up an Internet security supervision body, further worrying U.S. citizens that the U.S. government might use Internet security as an excuse to monitor and interfere with personal systems.

The so-called “freedom of the press” of the United States was in fact completely subordinate to its national interests, and was manipulated by the U.S. government, the report said.

At yearend 2009, the U.S. Congress passed a bill which imposed sanctions on several Arab satellite channels for broadcasting contents hostile to the U.S. and instigating violence.

HEGEMONY UNDER PRETENCE OF “INTERNET FREEDOM”

The United States is pushing its hegemony under the pretence of “Internet freedom”, the report said.

There are currently 13 root servers of Internet worldwide, and the United States is the place where the only main root server and nine out of the rest 12 root servers are located, according to the report.

The United States has been intervening in other countries’ domestic affairs in various ways taking advantage of its control over Internet resources, it said.

The United States has a special troop of hackers, which is made up of hacker proficients recruited from all over the world, according to the report.

When post-election unrest broke out in Iran in the summer of 2009, the defeated reformist camp and its advocators used Internet tools such as Twitter to spread their messages, it said.

The U.S. State Department asked the operator of Twitter to delay its scheduled maintenance to assist with the opposition in creating a favorable momentum of public opinion, it said.

In May 2009, one web company, prompted by the U.S. authorities, blocked its Messenger instant messaging service in five countries including Cuba, according to the report.

RACIAL DISCRIMINATION A CHRONIC PROBLEM

Racial discrimination is still a chronic problem of the United States, the report said.

Black people and other minorities are the most impoverished groups in the United States.

According to a report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Census, the real median income for American households in 2008 was 50,303 U.S. dollars, but the median incomes of Hispanic and black households were roughly 68 percent and 61.6 percent of that of the non-Hispanic white households.

And the median income of minority groups was about 60 to 80 percent of that of majority groups under the same conditions of education and skill background, the report added.

Ethnic minorities have been subject to serious racial discrimination in employment and workplace, the report said.

Minority groups bear the brunt of the U.S. unemployment. According to news reports, the U.S. unemployment rate in October 2009 was 10.2 percent. The jobless rate of the U.S. African-Americans jumped to 15.7 percent, that of the Hispanic rose to 13.1 percent and that of the white was 9.5 percent, the USA Today reported.

The U.S. minority groups face discriminations in education. According to a report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Census, 33 percent of the non-Hispanic white has college degrees, proportion of the black was only 20 percent and Hispanic was 13 percent .

Racial discrimination in law enforcement and judicial system is very distinct. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, by the end of 2008, 3,161 men and 149 women per 100,000 persons in the U.S. black population were under imprisonment.

And a report released by New York City Police Department said that of the people involved in police shootings whose ethnicity could be determined in 2008, 75 percent were black, 22 percent were Hispanic; and 3 percent were white.

Ethnic hatred crimes are frequent. According to statistics released by the U.S. Federal Investigation Bureau, a total of 7,783 hatred crimes occurred in 2008 in the United States, 51.3 percent of which were originated by racial discrimination and 19.5 percent were for religious bias and 11.5 percent were for national origins.

WIDESPREAD VIOLENT CRIMES

Widespread violent crimes in the United States posed threats to the lives, properties and personal security of its people, the report said.

In 2008, U.S. residents experienced 4.9 million violent crimes, 16.3 million property crimes and 137,000 personal thefts, and the violent crime rate was 19.3 victimizations per 1,000 persons aged 12 or over.

About 30,000 people die from gun-related incidents each year. According to a FBI report, there had been 14,180 murder victims in 2008, the report said.

Campuses became an area worst hit by violent crimes as shootings spread there and kept escalating. The U.S. Heritage Foundation reported that 11.3 percent of high school students in Washington D.C. reported being “threatened or injured” with a weapon while on school property during the 2007-2008 school year.

ABUSE OF POWER

The country’s police frequently impose violence on the people and abuse of power is common among U.S. law enforcers, the report said,

Over the past two years, the number of New York police officers under review for garnering too many complaints was up 50 percent.

In major U.S. cities, police stop, question and frisk more than a million people each year, a sharply higher number than just a few years ago.

Prisons in the United State are packed with inmates. About 2.3 million were held in custody of prisons and jails, the equivalent of about one in every 198 persons in the country, according to the report.

From 2000 to 2008, the U.S. prison population increased an average of 1.8 percent annually.

The basic rights of prisoners in the United States are not well-protected. Raping cases of inmates by prison staff members are widely reported, the report said.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, reports of sexual misconduct by prison staff members with inmates in the country’s 93 federal prison sites doubled over the past eight years.

According to a federal survey of more than 63,000 federal and state inmates, 4.5 percent reported being sexually abused at least once during the previous 12 months.

POVERTY LEADS TO RISING NUMBER OF SUICIDES

The report said the population in poverty was the largest in 11 years.

The Washington Post reported that altogether 39.8 million Americans were living in poverty by the end of 2008, an increase of 2.6 million from that in 2007. The poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, the highest since 1998.

Poverty led to a sharp rise in the number of suicides in the United States. It is reported that there are roughly 32,000 suicides in the U.S. every year, double the cases of murder, said the report.

WORKERS’ RIGHTS NOT PROPERLY GUARANTEED

Workers’ rights were seriously violated in the United States, the report said.

The New York Times reported that about 68 percent of the 4,387 low-wage workers in a survey said they had experienced reduction of wages and 76 percent of those who had worked overtime were not paid accordingly.

The number of people without medical insurance has kept rising for eight consecutive years, the report said.

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showed 46.3 million people were without medical insurance in 2008, accounting for 15.4 percent of the total population, comparing 45.7 million people who were without medical insurance in 2007, which was a rise for the eighth year in a row.

WOMEN, CHILDREN FREQUENT VICTIMS OF VIOLENCE

Women are frequent victims of violence and sexual assault in the United States, while children are exposed to violence and living in fear, the report said.

It is reported that the United States has the highest rape rate among countries which report such statistics. It is 13 times higher than that of England and 20 times higher than that of Japan.

Reuters reported that based on in-depth interviews on 40 servicewomen, 10 said they had been raped, five said they were sexually assaulted including attempted rape, and 13 reported sexual harassment.

It is reported that 1,494 children younger than 18 nationwide were murdered in 2008, the USA Today reported.

A survey conducted by the U.S. Justice Department on 4,549 kids and adolescents aged 17 and younger between January and May of 2008 showed, more than 60 percent of children surveyed were exposed to violence within the past year, either directly or indirectly.

TRAMPLING UPON OTHER COUNTRIES’ SOVEREIGNTY, HUMAN RIGHTS

The report said the United States with its strong military power has pursued hegemony in the world, trampling upon the sovereignty of other countries and trespassing their human rights.

As the world’s biggest arms seller, its deals have greatly fueled instability across the world. The United States also expanded its military spending, already the largest in the world, by 10 percent in 2008 to 607 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 42 percent of the world total, the AP reported.

At the beginning of 2010, the U.S. government announced a 6.4-billion-U.S. dollar arms sales package to Taiwan despite strong protest from the Chinese government and people, which seriously damaged China’s national security interests and aroused strong indignation among the Chinese people, it said.

The wars of Iraq and Afghanistan have placed heavy burden on American people and brought tremendous casualties and property losses to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the report.

Prisoner abuse is one of the biggest human rights scandals of the United States, it said

An investigation by U.S. Justice Department showed 2,000 Taliban surrendered combatants were suffocated to death by the U.S. army-controlled Afghan armed forces, the report said.

The United States has been building its military bases around the world, and cases of violation of local people’s human rights are often seen, the report said.

The United States is now maintaining 900 bases worldwide, with more than 190,000 military personnel and 115,000 relevant staff stationed.

These bases are bringing serious damage and environmental contamination to the localities. Toxic substances caused by bomb explosions are taking their tolls on the local children, it said.

It has been reported that toward the end of the U.S. military bases’ presence in Subic and Clark, as many as 3,000 cases of raping the local women had been filed against the U.S. servicemen, but all were dismissed, according to the report.

Full Text of Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009

Full Text: National Human Rights Action Plan of China (2009-2010)

U.S. Torture – It’s Not Over Yet

March 1, 2010 

US Torture–It’s Not Over Yet

Washington’s Wars and Occupations:

Month in Review #58
February 28, 2010
By Rebecca Gordon, War Times/Tiempo de Guerras

February was not a good month for U.S. torture victims or their supporters. A British court released documents detailing the tortures suffered by Binyam Mohamed, whom the U.S. had shipped to Morocco for months of torture. The Obama Administration responded by threatening to stop sharing security information with Britain. The Justice Department overruled its own Office of Professional Responsibility’s conclusion that John Yoo and Jay Bybee, authors of the famous 2002 “torture memo” had violated professional standards. And the Administration has failed to keep its promise to shut down the prison at Guantánamo.

Guantánamo

Within days of his inauguration in January 2009, President Obama issued executive orders intended to close down the U.S. prison in Guantánamo and put an end to this country’s use of torture. Unfortunately, it has proven to take more than a presidential order to put an end to a practice with such a long history and entrenched infrastructure.

More than a year after Obama’s executive order, Guantánamo remains open, and close to 200 prisoners remain in limbo there. These “illegal enemy combatants” as the Bush Administration named them, have never had trials or been convicted of crimes. Over the years, plans to try them in military tribunals (later sanitized as “commissions”) have dissolved as U.S. courts repeatedly ruled such proceedings unconstitutional. Among the unsung heroes of this shameful period are the military lawyers who insisted on fair trials for Guantánamo’s prisoners.

Why are these men still in Guantánamo? At least in part because they have nowhere else to go. Some cannot be repatriated to their home countries, where they face new persecution at the hands of their own governments. Members of Congress and local government officials have prevented others from being housed in U.S. prisons. A few have been taken in by other countries, like the 13 Uighurs who have settled in the Pacific island nation of Palau.

Guantánamo prisoners’ suffering–beatings, short-shackling, forced nasal tube feedings, incessant loud noise, sleep deprivation, and the special torment of total isolation–have been documented in the heroic reporting of journalists like Andy Worthington and scholars like Peter Jan Honigsberg.

These short-hand descriptions of torture barely touch the true horror of what has been done to human beings at Guantanamo. For example, the Center for Constitutional Rights has described “forced tube-feeding” as the daily full body restraint of a prisoner, while  tubes the diameter of a human finger are shoved up a nose or down a throat, after which as much a liter and a half of

U.S. soldier ‘waterboarded’ his own 4 year old daughter

February 10, 2010 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1249191/Soldier-father-accused-waterboarding-daughter-4-recite-alphabet.html

U.S. soldier ‘waterboarded his own daughter, 4, because she couldn’t recite alphabet’

By Mail Foreign Service

Last updated at 7:12 AM on 08th February 2010

A soldier waterboarded his four-year-old daughter because she was unable to recite her alphabet.

Joshua Tabor admitted to police he had used the CIA torture technique because he was so angry.

As his daughter ‘squirmed’ to get away, Tabor said he submerged her face three or four times until the water was lapping around her forehead and jawline.

Tabor, 27, who had won custody of his daughter only four weeks earlier, admitted choosing the punishment because the girl was terrified of water.

Human rights activists demonstrate waterboarding in front of the Justice Department. A soldier father stands accused of waterboarding his daughter because she couldn't recite the alphabet

Human rights activists demonstrate waterboarding in front of the Justice Department. A soldier father stands accused of waterboarding his daughter because she couldn’t recite the alphabet

The practice of waterboarding was used by the CIA to break Al Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo Bay. Detainees had water poured over their face until they feared they would drown. President Barack Obama has since outlawed the practice.

Tabor, a soldier at the Lewis-McChord base in Tacoma, Washington, was arrested after being seen walking around his neighbourhood wearing a Kevlar military helmet and threatening to break windows.

Police discovered the alleged waterboarding when they went to his home in the Tacoma suburb of Yelm and spoke to his girlfriend.

She told them about the alleged torture and the terrified girl was found hiding in a closet, with bruising on her back and scratch marks on her neck and throat.

Asked how she got the bruises, the girl is said to have replied: ‘Daddy did it.’

During a police interview Tabor allegedly admitted grabbing his daughter, placing her on the kitchen counter and submerging her face into a bowl of water.

Sergeant Rob Carlson said the punishment was carried out because the girl would not recite the alphabet.

Police have not revealed Tabor’s military service, but his base is home to units that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Tabor has been charged with assault and ordered to remain on his base and have no contact with his daughter or girlfriend, who has not been named. He is due to appear in court this week.

The girl has been taken into care. Her natural mother lives in Kansas but Tabor had been granted custody by a court.

+++

http://www.thenewstribune.com/partners/theolympian/story/1054799.html

Anger over alphabet ends in arrest

Charged: Man accused of dunking 4-year-old

JEREMY PAWLOSKI; Staff writer

Published: 02/03/1010:02 am | Updated: 02/05/10 7:49 am

A man is accused of holding his 4-year-old daughter’s head under the water in the kitchen sink at their Yelm home Sunday night because she would not recite the alphabet, according to police and court papers.

The Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed a charge of second-degree assault of a child against Joshua Ryan Tabor, 27, on Tuesday. His arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 16.

According to court records:

Yelm police responded to a disturbance Sunday night after Tabor’s girlfriend reported that Tabor, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier, “was irate, intoxicated and walking around the neighborhood with his Kevlar helmet threatening to break windows.”

Tabor’s girlfriend told Yelm police that Tabor beats his 4-year-old daughter and that the child’s back was covered in bruises. The girlfriend reported that the 4-year-old had locked herself in a closet because she was afraid of her father.

The girlfriend also reported that when the child wets herself, Tabor “makes her sit in the urine-soaked clothes” until he gives her permission to change.

The girl spoke to a Yelm officer, and he observed that she “had severe bruising on her entire back,” along with scratch marks and bruising on her neck, throat, chin, arms, legs and buttocks.

She “was asked how she got the bruises and she replied ‘Daddy did it.’”

Asked how or why it happened, the child would not reply, then said, “I don’t know why he did it.”

Tabor spoke to a Yelm police officer and said that he and his girlfriend had “held her down on the counter and submerged her head into the water three or four times until the water came around her forehead and jawline.” He said that she was face-up when her head was in the water. He added that they gave this punishment for the 4-year-old “refusing to say her letters.”

Tabor told police that his daughter is afraid of water “and was squirming around trying to get away from the water. Joshua did not act as though he felt there was anything wrong with this form of punishment.”

Yelm Police Sgt. Rob Carlson confirmed Tuesday that the alleged abuse occurred because the child would not recite her ABCs, according to police reports.

The police investigation has revealed that Tabor has had “serious anger issues in the past” and “has taken anger management classes.”

Tabor was released Monday from the Thurston County Jail after posting $10,000 bail. He is restricted to base at Lewis-McChord as a condition of his release.

He also cannot have contact with his girlfriend or children.

The child has been taken into custody by Child Protective Services, according to a police report.

Carlson said the child’s biological mother lives in Kansas. Yelm police have referred a potential criminal charge against Tabor’s girlfriend to the Thurston County prosecuting attorney, but she was not arrested Sunday night, Carlson said.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465

jpawloski@theolympian.com


Rape of Iraqi Women by US Forces as Weapon of War: Photos and Data Emerge (Warning Graphic)

October 3, 2009 

The Asian Tribune published three photographs of U.S. troops and military contractors raping Iraqi women prisoners.  These war crimes have not been seriously investigated and prosecuted.  Rape as a weapon of war is one of the most egregious violations of human rights by the U.S. military:

In March 2006 four US soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division gang raped a 14 year old Iraqi girl and murdered her and her family —including a 5 year old child. An additional soldier was involved in the cover-up.

One of the killers, Steven Green, was found guilty on May 07, 2009 in the US District Court of Paducah and is now awaiting sentencing.

The leaked Public Affairs Guidance put the 101st media team into a “passive posture” — withholding information where possible. It conceals presence of both child victims, and describes the rape victim, who had just turned 14, as “a young woman”.

The US Army’s Criminal Investigation Division did not begin its investigation until three and a half months after the crime, news reports at that time commented.

This is not the only grim picture coming out of Iraq U.S. forces being accused of using rape as a war weapon.

The release, by CBS News, of the photographs showing the heinous sexual abuse and torture of Iraqi POW’s at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison opened a Pandora’s Box for the Bush regime wrote Ernesto Cienfuegos in La Voz de Aztlan on May 2, 2004.

[...]

It is now known, Cienfuegos wrote in May 2004, that hundreds of these photographs had been in circulation among the troops in Iraq. The graphic photos were being swapped between the soldiers like baseball cards.