Archive for July, 2007

Thousands held in horrific conditions in Iraqi prisons

July 28, 2007

War In Iraq

By: James Cogan on: 27.07.2007 [04:43 ] (113 reads)

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The Los Angeles Times on July 21 revealed some of the abuses taking place inside US-monitored, Iraqi government prisons. The article documented the plight of prisoners in a Baghdad facility, which has the Orwellian name of Forward Operating Base Justice.

The prison in the suburb of Kadhimiyah was intended to house just 300 detainees, but is currently holding close to 900. Journalists touring the facility saw as many as 500 men being held in a single hall. No attempt was being made to separate prisoners according to their alleged crime or age. Some were as young as 15. To sleep, prisoners were provided with only foam mattresses or cardboard boxes. The urinals and toilets were blocked. Prisoners were forced to defecate in a solitary shower and basin, and attempt to wash themselves under a broken water pipe.

According to US military policeman Colonel Daniel Britt, these conditions were “appalling,” but conformed to “international standards”. American personnel, who visit the prison nearly every day to advise the Iraqi jailors, turn a blind eye to systematic human right violations. An Iraqi police official told the Los Angeles Times that most of the prisoners were held for at least two months before being brought before a judge and formally charged. Under Iraqi law, they must appear before a judge with 72 hours.

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Bush’s international peace conference: A conspiracy against the Palestinian people

July 28, 2007

RINF.com, July 27, 2007

By Jean Shaoul

President Bush’s July 16 announcement that he will relaunch the Middle East peace process with an international conference in New York is an attempt to use the puppet regime of Mahmoud Abbas to rubber-stamp an agreement that leaves the Palestinian masses with nothing.

Washington calculates that the Arab regimes will not only endorse a settlement that traps the Palestinian people in militarised and impoverished ghettos in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but will join Egypt and Jordan in finally recognising Israel.

The heaviest price for any agreement will be paid in Gaza, where the Hamas government deposed by Abbas’s Fatah in a Western-backed constitutional coup is targeted for destruction.

The proposed conference is a unilateral assertion of US policy, which Washington announced independently of the other members of the Middle East Quartet—the European Union, the United Nations and Russia. It will be chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

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U.S. Soldiers Have Become Murderers

July 27, 2007

AlterNet

Accustomed to Their Own Atrocities in Iraq, U.S. Soldiers Have Become Murderers
By Chris Hedges, Adbusters.

Posted July 27, 2007

 

After four years of war, American Marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity. The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing.

 

 

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Photo Credit: Nina Berman.

 

All troops, when they occupy and battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in “atrocity producing situations.”In this environment, surrounded by a hostile population, simple acts such as going to a store to buy a can of Coke means you can be killed. This constant fear and stress pushes troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. This hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find.

The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed over time to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing — the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm — to murder — the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you. The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing.

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Dozens of Afghan civilians killed in air strikes

July 27, 2007

Reuters, July 27, 2007

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Dozens of civilians, including women and children, have been killed in two air strikes by foreign troops in southern Afghanistan, residents and a member of parliament from the region said on Friday.

One of the raids by NATO hit houses in the Girishk district of Helmand province on Thursday evening, killing up to 50 civilians, a group of some 20 residents reported to journalists in Kandahar, the main city in the south.

Wali Jan Sabri, a parliamentarian from Helmand, said he had credible information that between 50 to 60 civilians had been killed in a battle between the Taliban and NATO forces in Girishk.

He said most of the victims were killed in air strikes.

“Yes, there was a battle … and most of those killed were from NATO bombardment,” he told Reuters.

District chief of Girishk, Manaf Khan, said more than 20 civilians were killed in NATO bombing when they were trying to flee the battle.

“The fighting was fierce between Taliban and NATO,” he told Reuters. “Civilians began to flee and 27 or 28 of them were killed while fleeing NATO bombing. I do not have information about the wounded,” he said.

A spokesman for British forces in Helmand said there was an on going operation in the province, but denied there had been any civilian casualties around Girishk.

“We have no reports of any such incidents in Girishk yesterday at all. There have been no people taken to the hospital … in relation to anything around Girishk,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Charlie Mayo.

“Because the Taliban don’t wear uniforms like us, as soon as they are killed, they are called civilians, the key is are they male or female and if they are male, what age are they?”

Due to the remoteness of the region it was not immediately possible to verify the information.

Some 2,000 British and Afghan army forces have been conducting an operation in the Upper Girishk valley this week to clear Taliban insurgents from the area.

The second attack hit two houses in the Char Cheno district of neighboring Uruzgan late on Thursday afternoon and killed 15 civilians there, several villagers from the area told reporters by telephone.

Britain: Antiwar MP George Galloway suspended from parliament

July 26, 2007

World Socialist Web Site

By Chris Marsden and Julie Hyland

26 July 2007

The ejection and suspension of George Galloway MP from the House of Commons on July 23 is the result of a witch-hunt aimed at intimidating and silencing all opponents of the Iraq war.

Galloway’s sole crime was to defend himself against allegations assembled by the Parliamentary Committee on Standards and Privileges, first launched in 2003, which rehash previous failed attempts to prove that the antiwar MP was in the pay of Saddam Hussein.

For more than an hour Galloway attempted to refute the committee’s charges against him, but was prevented from doing so as a result of 17 interjections by the Speaker of the House who ruled out any questioning of the political motives and legitimacy of the parliamentary equivalent of a kangaroo court.

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Saudi Arabia: Two Leading Reformers Arrested

July 25, 2007

Human Rights News

Authorities Should Release Activists and Peaceful Protesters

(New York, July 24, 2007) – The Saudi domestic intelligence forces arrested two of the country’s most prominent reformers, casting doubt on the government’s promises of reform, Human Rights Watch said today. Dr. Abdullah al-Hamid, a lawyer, and his brother `Isa al-Hamid, were arrested on July 19, 2007, as were a group of five women who had been peacefully demonstrating for the speedy trial of their relatives, one of them a client of al-Hamid.

It’s deeply disturbing that Saudi intelligence forces feel free to arrest a lawyer for defending his client’s rights. The security forces should be protecting people’s rights to peaceful protest, not whisking them off to jail.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director

 

 

Saudi intelligence forces (mabahith) arrested Rima al-Juraish at her home in Buraida, capital of Qasim province, for having participated in a July 16 demonstration in front of the intelligence prison, where she and other women demanded that their relatives be brought to trial. The mabahith has held her husband, Muhammad al-Hamili, without charge or trial for between two and three years. When al-Hamili’s lawyer, Abdullah al-Hamid, demanded to see an arrest warrant, the mabahith also arrested him and his brother `Isa. They also arrested four other women who had demonstrated with al-Juraish: Manal al-`Umairini, Badriya al-`Umairini, Afrah al-Fuhaid, and Ashwaq al-Fuhaid.

“It’s deeply disturbing that Saudi intelligence forces feel free to arrest a lawyer for defending his client’s rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director. “The security forces should be protecting people’s rights to peaceful protest, not whisking them off to jail.”

Human Rights Watch has documented cases of detainees in mabahith detention without charge or trial in excess of three years, even though Saudi law stipulates that detainees must be brought to trial or released within six months of their arrest.

Saudi Arabia prohibits public demonstrations, although there is no explicit legal basis for such a prohibition. In August and September 2006, the mabahith twice detained Wajeha al-Huwaider for staging a one-woman demonstration for women’s rights. In October 2004, Saudi security forces detained hundreds of peaceful protestors in Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities, who demanded reform.

“Rima al-Juraish and her fellow protesters have the right to demonstrate peacefully,” Whitson said. “And their relatives in jail have the right to be charged with an offense and tried or be released.”

Abdullah al-Hamid spent 17 months in prison after he and two other reformers were arrested in March 2004 for writing a petition to then-Crown Prince Abdullah that called on the government to enact reforms with constitutionally guaranteed human rights.

A court sentenced him to seven years in prison, but Abdullah pardoned the three reformers upon acceding to the throne in August 2005. The government had also arrested their lawyer, `Abd al-Rahman al-Lahim, and supporters of the three detained reformers, including `Isa al-Hamid and Muhanna al-Falih, without charge but freed them eventually. In February 2007, Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to King Abdullah urging him to lift the arbitrary bans on foreign travel that the Ministry of Interior imposed on these peaceful reformers and their supporters after their release.

Prior to the latest arrests, the government had also imprisoned others demanding fair trials and an end to arbitrary arrests in Saudi Arabia. On February 2, the Saudi mabahith arrested another group of political and rights reformers in Jeddah, including former Judge Sulaiman al-Rashudi, who intended to sue the Ministry of Interior over its failure to charge and speedily try detainees in mabahith prisons. The government has not charged al-Rashudi and his fellow detainees who remain in mabahith detention, a relative told Human Rights Watch. Under Saudi law, it has until July 29, 2007 to do so, before it must legally release them.

Human Rights Watch called on the Saudi government to immediately release the men and women arrested in Buraida on July 19 and to release or formally charge those arrested on February 2. Furthermore, the government should ensure that law enforcement officers do not arrest persons for exercising their fundamental rights to peacefully demonstrate or express their opinion. It should also guarantee that lawyers for mabahith detainees have the opportunity to effectively challenge the lawfulness of their clients’ detention in a court of law.

Never Give A Life, or Take A Life, For A Lie

July 25, 2007

CommonDreams.org, July 24, 2007

By Michael T. McPhearson & Ying Lee

There are many kinds of betrayal in human affairs. But in the affairs of state, there is no greater act of disloyalty than to send young men and women to their deaths on the basis of fraud. No soldier should ever give a life, or take a life, for a lie.

All American ranking officers and commanders take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Their oath is a solemn obligation to the American people, especially to their own troops, to abide by the law. Our men and women in uniform place great trust in their superiors. They risk their lives in the belief that they will not be used falsely, illegally, or for ill-gain.

There is no group of Americans with greater interest in the enforcement of international law than American troops themselves. Our youth pay a heavy price when their own rulers plunge them into operations beyond international law. Immediately after the Abu Ghraib scandal, the infamous, retaliatory beheadings began.

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Is the US Preparing To Attack Pakistan?

July 24, 2007

LewRockwell.com

By Eric Margolis

The Bush Administration may be preparing to lash out at old ally Pakistan, which Washington now blames for its humiliating failures to crush al-Qaida, capture its elusive leaders, or defeat Taliban resistance forces in Afghanistan.

One is immediately reminded of the Vietnam War when the Pentagon, unable to defeat North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces, urged invasion of Cambodia.

Sources in Washington say the Pentagon is drawing up plans to attack Pakistan’s “autonomous” tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Limited “hot pursuit” ground incursions by US forces based in Afghanistan, intensive air attacks, and special forces raids into Pakistan’s autonomous tribal region are being evaluated.

This weekend, the US national intelligence chief and other intelligence spokesmen confirmed that strikes against “terrorist targets” in Pakistan’s tribal belt are increasingly possible. These warnings were designed to both further pressure Pakistan’s beleaguered strongman, President Pervez Musharraf into sending more troops to the tribal areas to fight his own people, and to prepare US public opinion for a possible widening of the Afghanistan war into Pakistan.

Pakistan’s 27,200 sq km tribal belt, officially known as the Federal Autonomous Tribal Area, or FATA, is home to 3.3 million Pashtun tribesmen. It has become a safe haven for al-Qaida, Taliban, other Afghan resistance groups, and a hotbed of anti-American activity, thanks mostly to the US-led occupation of Afghanistan which drove many militants across the border into Pakistan. Osama bin Laden is very likely sheltered in this region, as US intelligence claims.

I spent a remarkable time in this wild, medieval region during the 1980’s and 90’s, traveling alone where even Pakistani government officials dared not go, visiting the tribes of Waziristan, Orakzai, Khyber, Chitral, and Kurram, and meeting their chiefs, called “maliks.”

These tribal belts are always referred to as “lawless.” Pashtun tribesmen could shoot you if they didn’t like your looks. Rudyard Kipling warned British Imperial soldiers over a century ago, when fighting cruel, ferocious Pashtun warriors of the Afridi clan, if they fell wounded, “save your last bullet for yourself.”

But there is law: the traditional Pashtun tribal code, Pashtunwali, that strictly governs behavior and personal honor. Protecting guests was sacred. I was captivated by this majestic mountain region and wrote of it extensively in my book, “War at the Top of the World.”

The 40 million Pashtun – called “Pathan” by the British – are the world’s largest tribal group. Imperial Britain divided them by an artificial border, the Durand Line, which went on to become, like so many other British colonial boundaries, today’s Afghanistan-Pakistan border. When Pakistan was created in 1947, the Pashtun were split between that new nation and Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s Pashtun number 28–30 million, plus an additional 2.5 million refugees from Afghanistan. Pashtuns, one of the British Indian Army’s famed “martial races,” occupy many senior positions in Pakistan’s military, intelligence service and bureaucracy, and naturally have much sympathy for their embattled tribal cousins in Afghanistan. The 15 million Pashtun of Afghanistan form that nation’s largest ethnic group and just under half the population.

The tribal agency’s Pashtun reluctantly joined newly-created Pakistan in 1947 under express constitutional guarantee of total autonomy and a ban on Pakistani troops ever entering there.

But under intense US pressure, President Pervez Musharraf violated Pakistan’s constitution by sending 80,000 federal troops to fight the region’s tribes, killing 3,000 of them. In best British imperial tradition, Washington pays Musharraf $100 million monthly to rent his sepoys (native soldiers) to fight Pashtun tribesmen. As a result, Pakistan is fast edging towards civil war, as the bloody siege of Islamabad’s Red Mosque and a current wave of bombings across the nation show.

The anti-Communist Taliban movement is part of the Pashtun people. Taliban fighters move across the artificial Pakistan-Afghanistan border, to borrow a Maoism, like fish through the sea. Osama bin Laden is a hero in the region, and likely shelters there.

The US just increased its reward for bin Laden to $50 million and plans to shower $750 million on the tribal region in an effort to buy loyalty. Bush/Cheney & Co. do not understand that while they can rent President Musharraf’s government in Islamabad, many Pashtun value personal honor far more than money, and cannot be bought. That is likely why bin Laden has not yet been betrayed.

Any US attack on Pakistan would be a catastrophic mistake. First, air and ground assaults will succeed only in widening the anti-US war and merging it with Afghanistan’s resistance to western occupation. US forces are already too over-stretched to get involved in yet another little war.

Second, Pakistan’s army officers who refuse to be bought may resist a US attack on their homeland, and overthrow the man who allowed it, Gen. Musharraf. A US attack would sharply raise the threat of anti-US extremists seizing control of strategic Pakistan and marginalize those seeking return to democratic government.

Third, a US attack on the tribal areas could re-ignite the old irredentist movement to reunite Pashtun parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan into an independent state, “Pashtunistan.” That could begin unraveling fragile Pakistan, leaving its nuclear arsenal up for grabs, and India tempted to intervene.

The US military has grown used to attacking small, weak nations like Grenada, Panama, and Iraq. Pakistan, with 163 million people, and a poorly equipped but very tough 550,000-man army, will offer no easy victories. Those Bush Administration officials who foolishly advocate attacking Pakistan are playing with fire.

July 24, 2007

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada, is the author of War at the Top of the World. See his website.

Copyright © 2007 Eric Margolis

Israel’s illegal Occupation is violent and ongoing

July 24, 2007

ZNet, July 19, 2007

By Sonja Karkar
 

Women for Palestine

Six years ago almost to the day, the great intellectual Edward Said wrote an article(1) that could almost have been written today. Then he said, “Rarely have I seen such a concentration of Israeli mendacity received with such cringing servility by Palestinians, and all this while millions of Palestinians are suffering the worst possible collective punishment.” I have no doubt that he would have been even more scathing about the state of play now because it seems the Palestinian leadership (many of whom are still around) has learned nothing from the endless deception and betrayal carried out by Israel during all the years of peace talks. Only Israel has gained in this illegal occupation, and criminally so, at the devastating expense of the Palestinian people.

Unbelievably, little is being said about the Occupation in the current political drama. Instead, we are getting news reports of what Fatah said, what Hamas said, what Israel is prepared to offer or not offer and the usual farcical allusions to peace talks from the US. This plays right into Israel’s hands, particularly when a catatonic world is just beginning to wake up – when influential voices are accusing Israel of apartheid, when the dastardly effects of the Wall are beginning to be noticed and when respectable institutions are contemplating divestment and boycotts. And Israel is encouraging the pathetic play for power amongst some Palestinians all too willing to comply, so that public opinion will be deflected away from its crimes. It is in this political maelstrom, that the Palestinians under occupation are having to struggle just to live from day to day without even the remotest glimmer of hope for a life of freedom and peace, let alone the justice that has long been their due. Theirs is a struggle whose tragically epic proportions deserve much much more than the paltry news items and commentaries that barely get published or mentioned.

Ever since the Palestinians were catastrophically dispossessed of most of their homeland in 1948, their situation has gone from bad to worse to disastrous. No other conflict has had such intense involvement from a superpower as actor and broker in all that time and no other Occupying Power has had so much financial and political support as it flagrantly violates every aspect of international law and every UN resolution upholding the rights of the Palestinians. If Israel really wanted peace, it would have been easy to get the Palestinians to accept a state on 22 percent of their land after Arafat held out the olive branch and agreed to recognise Israel. It would have been easy after Oslo when the Palestinians agreed to just about everything, leaving only Jerusalem and the right of return for later discussions. But, while Israel was talking “peace”, it was still stealing Palestinian land, still building illegal Jewish settlements right in the heart of Palestinian territory, still herding Palestinians through their degrading grid of checkpoints, still arresting and torturing, still thundering into Gaza with its massive military arsenal, only to then begin building the infamous Wall, deep inside the Armistice line. Today, Israel’s apartheid policies and practices have taken on new dimensions with denial of entry, the creation of reservations, population transfers and ethnic cleansing a shocking reality.

Israel continues to pursue its unilateral decisions to secure final borders at the expense of a viable Palestinian state. It continues to demand huge increases in funding from the US for weapons and military hardware that wreak such bitter havoc on the people under its occupation. Yet, we are supposed to use the language of diplomacy and democracy instead of calling a spade a spade. The Fatah politicians talk about capacity and institution building, extract promises from Palestinians to forgo resistance and agree with Israel to round up anyone who might just have an association with Hamas. Never mind that Israeli soldiers continue their raids into Palestinian towns and continue their brutish violence against a terrified civilian population. Never mind that Gaza is being hermetically sealed from the outside world and the people are being forced to depend on the most basic aid. As the latest staged scenario plays itself out, it is apparent that the US no longer controls the situation, Europe is floundering, the UN is a lame duck , the Palestinian people are the hapless quarries, caged and almost beaten into submission and Israel takes what it wants. And all the while, the politicians smile, shake hands and talk about a “new future” with nary a word about the ordinary people suffering extraordinary hardships under the yoke of Israel’s violent occupation.

Edward Said’s words may have been written in 2001, but the thrust of his message is no less resounding: “. . . no matter the occasion, no matter the question, no matter the newspaper or TV or radio journalist, every question must first be answered with a few basic points about the military occupation . . . This is the source of violence, this is the source of the main problems, and it is the reason Israel can never have real peace. Our entire political position must be based on ending the occupation and this must take precedence over any and every other consideration. . .” It is the occupation, the occupation and the occupation over and over again.

(1) Said, Edward – Israel Sharpens its Axe, Counterpunch, 13 July 2001

Sonja Karkar is the founder and president of Women for Palestine and also a founding member of the steering committee of Australians for Palestine in Melbourne, Australia. See http://www.womenforpalestine.com and http://www.australiansforpalestine.com

Statement on Executive Order Interpreting Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to the CIA

July 23, 2007

Human Rights First, July 20, 2007

The Order contains fine sounding rhetoric that changes little and leaves dubious claims in place

More About Ending Torture

The following statement can be attributed to Elisa Massimino, Washington Director, Human Rights First:

Torture and cruel treatment by U.S. personnel happened, in the first place, because the administration applied such a flexible interpretation of the laws and standards against abuse that they became practically meaningless. That is how the United States got to Abu Ghraib.

The administration fought to get Congress to pass a law equating Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions with the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. Congress refused, because it feared that the administration would again interpret the legal bans in a way that would endanger the United States’ military personnel, now and in future wars.

Congress has reiterated, twice in the last two years, that the law absolutely prohibits torture and other forms of official cruelty. The interrogation techniques that have been authorized for the CIA program — the so-called “alternative set of techniques” — are prohibited under current law. Nothing in today’s Executive Order changes that.

But the Order fails to make clear whether interrogation techniques that had been authorized for use in the CIA program are still permitted. If the Order is interpreted by the CIA as authorization to use techniques such as waterboarding, stress positions, hypothermia, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation and isolation, it sends a powerful — and dangerous — message to the United States’ current and future enemies: that this country believes these techniques can lawfully be used against our own troops without violating Common Article 3. This is the reason why more than 50 retired generals and admirals, including several former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, urged Congress to reject the administration’s attempt to redefine the Geneva Conventions standard in this way. If the CIA uses this Executive Order as authorization for what Congress refused to permit, then Congress will have to act again. As Senator John McCain, one of the sponsors of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 cautioned when the Act was passed, “In interpreting the conventions in this manner, the President is bounded by the conventions themselves. Nothing in this bill gives the President the authority to modify the conventions or our obligations under those treaties. That understanding is at the core of this legislation.”

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Human Rights First and Physicians for Human Rights’ forthcoming report on the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” examines the medical consequences of those techniques and concludes that they are prohibited under existing law. For copies of the executive summary of the report contact Krista Minteer (minteerk@humanrightsfirst.org).


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