Archive for February, 2008

Disturbing New Photos From Abu Ghraib

February 29, 2008

By Wired.com Staff : Disturbing New Photos From Abu Ghraib

02.28.08 | 12:00 AM
NSFW: VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.As an expert witness in the defense of an Abu Ghraib guard who was court-martialed, psychologist Philip Zimbardo had access to many of the images of abuse that were taken by the guards themselves. For a presentation at the TED conference in Monterey, California, Zimbardo assembled some of these pictures into a short video. Wired.com obtained the video from Zimbardo’s talk, and is publishing some of the stills from that video here. Many of the images are explicit and gruesome, depicting nudity, degradation, simulated sex acts and guards posing with decaying corpses. Viewer discretion is advised.
1 – 10 of 10 images

Abu Ghraib Prison Turned Soldiers Evil by Design: Researcher

February 29, 2008

MONTEREY, California – The very design of Abu Ghraib in Iraq turned good soldiers into evil tormentors that humiliated and brutalized prisoners, a famed social psychologist said Thursday.0229 02

Stanford University professor Philip Zimbardo described a “Lucifer effect” as he flashed shocking images of Abu Ghraib horrors for those at an elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in California.

“If you give people power without oversight it is a formula for abuse,” Zimbardo said to a stunned audience the included famous actors, entrepreneurs and politicians.

“Abu Ghraib abuses went on for three months … Who was watching the store? Nobody, and it was on purpose.”

Zimbardo, 75, is renowned for the 1971 Stanford prison experiment in which students on summer break play roles as guards or prisoners in a mock prison in the basement of a building on the university’s campus in Northern California.

The pretend guards grew so sadistic and the prisoners so cowed that the experiment was halted prematurely out of concern for the students.

Zimbardo detailed stark parallels to abuses of suspected terrorists by US soldiers at Abu Graib prison in Iraq, and how environment can turn people into heroes or demons.

“I was shocked when I saw those pictures but I wasn’t surprised,” Zimbardo said of the images he was privy to while a member of a legal defense team for a sergeant charged in connection with prison abuses.

“Because I had seen those cells before at Stanford. The power is in the system. It’s not bad apples, but bad barrel makers.”

Zimbardo, wearing a black T-shirt with a picture of a devil flanked by two angels, paced the stage as images of horrors flashed on large screens. He lays out his conclusions in a recently released book titled “The Lucifer Effect.”

“There is an infinite capacity to make us behave kind or cruel, or make some of us heroes,” Zimbardo said, convinced that environment dictates the outcome far more than people’s characters or personalities.

“The Stanford prison experiment shows the power of institutions to change behavior. We took good apples and put them in a bad situation.”

As a witness for a US military police reservist that was a guard at the Abu Ghraib interrogation center when abuses occurred, Zimbardo got access to records and pictures gathered in the case.

The guards were told to “soften” prisoners to make them more cooperative with military intelligence interrogators, according to Zimbardo.

Photos showed naked and hooded prisoners beaten bloody and being made to commit humiliating acts such as human pyramids or simulating homosexual sex. Soldiers posed proudly with battered corpses and nude, injured prisoners.

A picture shows a soldier firing a bullet into a camel’s head at point blank range.

“They took pictures of everything,” Zimbardo said.

A “hero” at Abu Ghraib turned out to be a lowly private that called for abuses there to be stopped, according to the professor.

“Heroism is the antidote to evil,” Zimbardo said. “Let’s focus on justice and peace, which sadly our administration has not been doing.”

© 2008 Agence France Presse

Causes and Consequences of Our Foreign Policy in the Middle East

February 29, 2008

What It Means for Americans

Karen Kwiatkowski | Information Clearing House, Feb. 28, 2008

The following is the text of a speech given at Virginia Tech on February 12, 2008.

I want to thank the Libertarians at Virginia Tech, the Political Science Club and the Institute for Humane Studies for the kind invitation to speak to you tonight.

I want to talk about the “Causes and Consequences of our Foreign Policy in the Middle East and What it Means for Americans.” The original title of this speech was “Causes and Consequences of our Foreign Policy in the Middle East and What it Means for Libertarians.” But I interchanged Americans for Libertarians. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy in Berlin, 1963, in times like these, when the American dream seems overwhelmed by what has become known as the American empire, perhaps we are all libertarians.

Let me start first with the consequences of our foreign policy in the Middle East, circa 2008.

  • We are nearly five years past the moment where George W. Bush declared “Mission Accomplished.”
  • 400,000 to 1.2 million Iraqis are dead by our decisions and actions. Over two million are internally displaced, and over two million Iraqis have fled the country.
  • 5,000 Americans are dead (soldiers and contractors) as a result, 30–50,000 physically injured, and over 100,000 mentally disturbed, receiving or awaiting treatment.
  • Army and Marines are morally and physically bankrupt – and burdened by executive pressure for more forces in Afghanistan, Pakistan and trouble in Iran.
  • A trillion dollars has been spent, another trillion to be spent before we are finished – and if McCain has his way, we will never be finished, and we will bleed ourselves for the duration of the 21st century.
  • Beyond Iraq, we have Secretary of Defense Bob Gates alternately screaming in an empty room and crying in despair because NATO won’t pick up the slack of propping up our preferred government in Kabul.
  • The one republic with nuclear weapons and a means to deploy them is led by an unstable dictator, threatened by his own subordinates, at odds with his very powerful and well-funded intelligence arm, and disliked by the majority of his citizens. And in case you were wondering, I am talking about Perez Musharraf.
  • Jordan, once reliable and trustworthy, is feeling the heat of over two million unemployed and impoverished Iraqis swelling their refugee camps.
  • Syria – who helped us with torture and renditions after 9-11 – has been both accused and attacked by her neighbor, our other nuclear-armed friend in the region.
  • Lebanon suffered a silly war in the summer of 2006 – a war that was considered an embarrassing defeat for Israel, and a war that Washington, D.C. collaborated on and quietly cheered.
  • Our steadfast friends, the House of Saud, don’t understand us anymore.
  • We publicly threaten Iran for all kinds of reasons, even though Tehran is signatory to and compliant with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and even as we happily work with all kinds of Iranian-backed interests in southern Iraq.
  • Four key undersea communication cables get cut in a week, isolating and seriously degrading much of the banking and communication traffic for our friends in the region, including in Dubai, which just bailed out some of our banks and credit card companies. Instead of decrying bad cable construction, and offering to send our own teams to help repair these cables in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, our government has said nothing. The entire region thinks we did it, either to send a message, test a military strategy, or to funnel information into a channel our vast intelligence bureaucracy can monitor.
  • The price of oil, adjusted for inflation, is not yet at the level of the 1979 oil crisis. But it is within 10% of that. Given the drastic increase in global demand for oil today, relative to that in 1979, our foreign policy in the Middle East might be said to be harmful, but not disastrous. But you must consider two things – the amount of oil the United States imports from the Middle East is around 10–15% of all the oil we import – but interfering with the free market in this region costs the American taxpayer billions and billions every year in maintaining a large overseas military presence, military and economic aid to major and minor allies in the region, the costs of periodic off-the-book interventions, like Iraq, and the costs involved with protecting your countrymen from people who hate you enough to want to kill you and topple your tall buildings.

Such is the state of the Middle East, and such indeed are the consequences of our foreign policy.

Continued . . .

US Vets Break Silence on War Crimes

February 29, 2008

U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are planning to descend on Washington from Mar. 13-16 to testify about war crimes they committed or personally witnessed in those countries.

By Aaron Glantz | RINF.com, Feb. 29, 2008

“The war in Iraq is not covered to its potential because of how dangerous it is for reporters to cover it,” said Liam Madden, a former Marine and member of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War. “That’s left a lot of misconceptions in the minds of the American public about what the true nature of military occupation looks like.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War argues that well-publicised incidents of U.S. brutality like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the massacre of an entire family of Iraqis in the town of Haditha are not the isolated incidents perpetrated by “a few bad apples”, as many politicians and military leaders have claimed. They are part of a pattern, the group says, of “an increasingly bloody occupation”.

“The problem that we face in Iraq is that policymakers in leadership have set a precedent of lawlessness where we don’t abide by the rule of law, we don’t respect international treaties, so when that atmosphere exists it lends itself to criminal activity,” argues former U.S. Army Sergeant Logan Laituri, who served a tour in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 before being discharged as a conscientious objector.

Continued . . .

German Jewish leader urges Merkel to back Israel’s stance on Iran

February 29, 2008

Haaretz.com, Feb. 29, 2008

By DPA

Munich – The leader of Germany’s Jewish community called on the German government Thursday to support Israel in the dispute over Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

Israel’s intelligence community has information about a threat posed by Iran that strongly contradicted the “loose” assessment of the United States, said Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

The council expects German to support the Israeli view that a hard line needs to be taken against Tehran, Knobloch said after a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to a new Jewish center in Munich.
Advertisement

Merkel said there were suspicions that Iran’s nuclear program “does not conform to the rules of transparency and one cannot be certain, therefore, that it serves peaceful purposes.”

The chancellor, who plans to visit Israel with members of her cabinet in the middle of March, said Germany had a special responsibility towards the Jewish state.

Knobloch said after the meeting that Merkel told her she believed the United Nations Security Council could tighten sanctions against Iran, despite diverging views among its members.

Continued . . .

Hamas calls for demonstrations after deadly Israeli raids

February 29, 2008

AFP, Feb. 29, 2008

GAZA CITY (AFP) – – Hamas called on Palestinians and Arabs to hold demonstrations after Friday prayers to protest at Israeli raids that have killed 30 people in two days in its Gaza Strip stronghold.

“Hamas calls on the Palestinian people to organise massive marches immediately after Friday prayers to denounce the Israeli crimes against our people,” the Islamist movement that seized control of Gaza more than eight months ago said in a statement.

“We also call on the masses in Arab and Islamist countries to march in solidarity with the Palestinian people after Friday prayers,” it said.

About 30 Palestinians, including six children, have been killed since early Wednesday in Gaza by Israeli military raids launched in response to rocket fire from the territory. One Israeli civilian was also killed in a rocket attack.

America Loves Peace? Odd, Since We’re Always at War

February 28, 2008

By David Michael Green, AlterNet. Posted February 28, 2008.

We’ve been in conflict for about half the period between World War II and the present, but consider ourselves a “peace-loving” nation.

Americans love to think that we’re a peaceful people, and that we fight wars only when we must.

Unfortunately, you can count in nanoseconds how long those assertions hold up when exposed to such insidious commie dirty tricks as the application of logic or the examination of empirical history.

Sure, any war can be spun as some necessity against some Very Bad Person, preferably of brown skin, slanted eyes and/or differing deity. Not only can any war be so spun, probably every war there ever was has been, at least since the days when governments had to start offering some justification or another for their little foreign adventures.

But pick your barometer — any one will work — and you’ll quickly see who the militant folks on the planet really are. For America, it turns out — gulp — to be that bloated, frightened meth-addict staring back at us in the mirror, not some overseas evil emperor du jour.

For example, suppose you wanted to measure comparative national warlike tendencies by simply counting wars. Since World War II, the United States has messed around, in ways big and small, in Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, Iraq, Panama, Colombia, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Haiti, Afghanistan again, and Iraq again. No country in the world can begin to match this record in the last half-century. And I’m not even listing here the covert operations (almost everywhere), including the ones that toppled democratically elected governments (Iran, Guatemala, Chile, etc.), the long-term occupations of Latin American countries by the U.S. military, the gunboat diplomacy of the American Navy around the world, the aiding and abetting of other killers (Saddam invading Iran, for example, apartheid South Africa or the Israeli occupation of Palestine), the militarization of the oceans and of space, or the myriad other ways in which the United States leads the planet in aggressive tendencies. (For a whole century’s worth of overseas fun — not even counting the big stuff — Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow is highly recommended reading.)

Continued . . .

More troops for Iraq and Afghanistan, Defense Department says

February 28, 2008
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey gestures during an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Captiol Hill in Washington, DC.
Dennis Cook/AP

An Army general warns of strain on deployed troops.

By David Montero | The Christian Scinece Monitor, February 26, 2008
         

The Defense Department says it needs more troops to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. But an Army general warns that troops already in the fight are under too much strain. The warning comes as violence in Afghanistan – unlike Iraq, where violence is down – is expected to increase.

The Defense Department announced that by July 2008, it will have more troops on the ground in Iraq than when the “surge was announced last January, while troop levels in Afghanistan will be at their highest since 2001, the Associated Press reports:

Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, operations chief for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that by July, the troop total [in Iraq] is likely to be 140,000. That compares with 132,000 when President Bush approved orders to send an additional five Army brigades to Iraq to improve security and avert civil war.

Ham also announced that the Pentagon believes U.S. force levels in Afghanistan will stand at 32,000 in late summer, up from about 28,000 currently. The current total is the highest since the war began in October 2001, and another 3,200 Marines are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this spring.

As that announcement comes, “Gen. George Casey, the Army chief of staff, told a Senate panel that the Army is under serious strain from years of war-fighting and must reduce the length of combat tours as soon as possible,” the Associated Press reports.

“The cumulative effects of the last six-plus years at war have left our Army out of balance, consumed by the current fight and unable to do the things we know we need to do to properly sustain our all-volunteer force and restore our flexibility for an uncertain future,” Casey said.

USA Today adds that Casey pointed out that stress in the Army has added to these concerns:

“Discipline. Desertions and unexcused absences have increased,” Casey said. “You’re seeing folks not showing up for deployments.”

Divorce and suicide. Divorce rates spiked in 2004 but have leveled off, he said. Suicides have increased, however. “That is a disturbing trend,” he said. He maintained that the Army, while stressed, is resilient and able to meet its commitments. “It’s not broken; it’s not hollow.”

Continued . . .

The Arab-Israeli Conflict

February 28, 2008
Global Research, February 25, 2008
Freud would not have been surprised at the continuing conflict in the Middle East. He predicted as much 70 years ago.

We can predict Freud’s response because of a letter he wrote to Dr. Chaim Koffler in 1930.

In February 1930 Freud was asked, as a distinguished Jew, to contribute to a petition condemning Arab riots of 1929, in which over a hundred Jewish settlers were killed. This was his reply:

Letter to the Keren Hajessod (Dr. Chaim Koffler)

Vienna: 26 February 1930

Dear Sir,

I cannot do as you wish. I am unable to overcome my aversion to burdening the public with my name, and even the present critical time does not seem to me to warrant it. Whoever wants to influence the masses must give them something rousing and inflammatory and my sober judgement of Zionism does not permit this. I certainly sympathise with its goals, am proud of our University in Jerusalem and am delighted with our settlement’s prosperity. But, on the other hand, I do not think that Palestine could ever become a Jewish state, nor that the Christian and Islamic worlds would ever be prepared to have their holy places under Jewish care. It would have seemed more sensible to me to establish a Jewish homeland on a less historically-burdened land. But I know that such a rational viewpoint would never have gained the enthusiasm of the masses and the financial support of the wealthy. I concede with sorrow that the baseless fanaticism of our people is in part to be blamed for the awakening of Arab distrust. I can raise no sympathy at all for the misdirected piety which transforms a piece of a Herodian wall into a national relic, thereby offending the feelings of the natives.

Now judge for yourself whether I, with such a critical point of view, am the right person to come forward as the solace of a people deluded by unjustified hope.

Your obediant servant,

Freud

Since Wednesday: Palestinian death toll climbs to at least 16

February 28, 2008
Al Bawaba, 28-02-2008
     
 
   

 

clashes,-gazaIsrael killed three Palestinian activists in air strikes in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Thursday, said Palestinian sources and hospital officials. According to Reuters, those killed in Thursday’s air strikes were a fighter from Hamas movement and two from the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) armed group.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said the air force had mounted an attack on Palestinian gunmen.

 

 

In the West Bank city of Nablus, two Palestinian activists were killed early Thursday when Israeli forces raided Balata refugee camp. Another activist was injured.

The two were identified as members of al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the military wing of Fatah movement.

On Wednesday Israel killed at least 11 Palestinians, ten of them from Gaza Strip, and one in Nablus.

© 2008 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)